Day Sixteen: Beatrice, Nebraska to Chillicothe, Missouri – 200 miles; Happy Father’s Day to all Fathers, and to the Mentors of Young Men; Nebraska – Missouri Backroads; Divine Providence; Traveling Mercies.

Yesterday, the Harley and I road lonely Highway 36 as it made its ways through the Midwest. Little towns, some under 100 population, where people have tried to make them look pretty and inviting, despite the difficulties of dwindling populations and closed businesses. God bless them. From a distance, a water tower usually signals you’re coming up to one. When you get to the prettified town you have the grain silos and elevators, seed and feed stores, maybe a gas station, along with a few churches competing for your attention. The fields were rich and verdant, but the roads were empty. I love it.

I started late yesterday morning, having stayed up a little too late watching the England women win a world cup match. I was at a sports bar connected to the motel and the excitement was palpable! (That’s just a joke because I was the only one watching.) But folks were friendly, and a few came up and told me their life stories. As today wore on, I found myself growing wearier and finally set my sights on Chillicothe. I wasn’t getting any nudges from Divine Providence (DP) otherwise.

Shortly after I arrived, the heavens let loose and the storm I had been trying to outrun finally struck. The winds started gusting and old Zeus was throwing his lightning bolts.

Today, Big Red and I plan to continue heading east, since I’ve had no course change suggestions from DP. Unfortunately, there’s a whole wall of bad weather ahead of me.

But it being Father’s Day, I want to give a shout out to all the dad’s out there. Love your children. Don’t hurt them. Teach them to respect women. The shout out also goes out to the many men who are not fathers but who serve as role models or mentors. Men like these unselfishly played a huge role in my upbringing.

So Big Red and I are heading out now. Wish us luck. Traveling mercies to us all.

Days Fourteen and Fifteen – Total Trip Miles 4549; Steamboat Springs, Colorado to Beatrice , Nebraska; Crossing the Rockies.

Day Fourteen: Steamboat Springs, Colorado to Sterling, Co. – 279 miles; Amazing Ride -Beautiful Highway 14 Across the Rocky Mountains; Bad Luck -Lost Vest; Subaru – State Car of Mountainous Colorado.

My free day in Steamboat Springs was primarily spent sleeping. Later I wandered around the town and walked by the fast-flowing river. I could live here.

The scenery on Day Fourteen was incredible! I took highway 14 and cut through the Rockies, crossing Cameron Pass at 10, 276 feet. Snow was still on the ground and the road was lined with conifers, pines and quaking aspen. A rushing, whitewater river ran alongside the highway. This was hands down my favorite ride so far. I found myself shaking my head in disbelief over the beauty of the countryside, and feeling immense gratitude. The road was challenging as well, with lots of sharp curves and switchbacks.

Somewhere along the way I lost my nice Harley vest. It was a present from my old riding partner, El Jefe. Called the restaurant I had stopped at and the place I topped up the air on the tires but no luck.

Subaru appears to the state car of the Colorado mountains. Jeep seemed to come a distant second.

Day Fifteen: Sterling, Co to Beatrice, Nebraska – 402 miles; Fate vs. Destiny

I took Hwy 6 out of Sterling and eventually switched to 34. I’m still trying to avoid the interstates. With rare exceptions, interstates are just soul-less roads to help you get through places quickly with meeting as few people as possible. Sometimes that’s what you want. But you’re not really ‘there’; you don’t get a feel for the place. The goal seems always to want to ‘be’ somewhere else, as if this place isn’t good enough for us. Often, it seems we do this with our lives as well.

I’m not great at staying in the present. I focus on the smells – lilacs, cattle, sheep, roadkill, water from a long armed irrigation rig (reminds me of drinking out of a green hose when I was little), something cooking (BBQ!). The meandering streams, the flat prairies, the way the deep cloud shadows drift across the rolling hills. The colors! But I can only do this for so long before I drift into the past or the future,  into praying and giving thanks, into just thinking about things.

Yesterday, it was fate vs destiny. What do you think?

Days Thirteen and Fourteen: Wendover, Ut to Vernal, Utah – 287 miles; Vernal to Steamboat Springs, Colorado – 164 miles; I found Colorado!; Tired.

I decided to take a day off in Steamboat Springs and I’m staying at the Nordic Lodge which is right on the edge of town within walking distance. I had been thinking of spending another day here when I went for breakfast this morning and the man behind the counter said he had heard I was spending another night. That was enough for me.

Leaving Wendover the other day was amazing because the Interstate went past miles and miles of pure white salt flats. And nothing else. Well except for the ponds from all the rain. No animals and no birds. It was eerily calming in a way, but I wouldn’t want to live there. I ducked under Salt Lake City on Hwy 201 and then re-caught the interstate and rode it down to Hwy 40 and Heber City. Had a wonderful banana milkshake at Dairy Keen – Home of the Train. Besides pictures and stories about trains there was a toy train running about the ceiling from room to room. I’m a sucker for trains.

Made it to Vernal and knew it looked familiar. I had been here five years ago on a cross country trip. I looked it up on this blog to remind me what I had done and remembered it well, especially Little B’s bar. This time I just went to a sports bar, Wingers and watched a basketball playoff game. I continued the next day on Hwy 40 and I finally found Colorado! Most of the countryside was empty but the flora was beautiful in its own way. There were yellow, purple, and peach red wildflowers. Faded jade green scrub brush and the grass was various shades from jade to peridot green to ocher. There were confers, quaking aspen and cottonwood trees, the latter with their cottony seeds flying all around like snowflakes. The hills were undulating, and in the distance the mountains, some with snow, were misty, as in a Chinese watercolor.

I had been through Steamboat Springs on an earlier trip and had thought it was beautiful. I couldn’t wait to kick off the boots, change out of the Joe Rocket Ballistic motorcycle trousers and stroll about town. Of course, don’t worry, I did put on some jeans and some Saucony running shoes first.

Tomorrow, I hope to take Hwy 14 across the Rockies and the Continental Divide, but hey, anything can happen.

Days Eleven and Twelve: Bishop, California to Wendover, Utah; I Wasn’t Supposed to go This Way; Where Did Colorado Go?

Day Eleven -Bishop, CA to Eureka, NV; The Loneliest Road in America -279 miles.

I took Hwy 6 out of Bishop and headed toward Ely, NV. The sky was Carolina blue and the mountains tops were iridescent with snow and shadows. I was thankful to be alive and be on the bike again. I stopped in at the Tonopah, NV Brewing Company for some barbecue and a brew. Both were brilliant. Afterwards, I headed out toward Ely when I came upon a sign that said: 163 miles to the next gas station. I have a five-gallon tank that on a good day can do 175 -180 miles. I had already gone 10 miles and the wind was picking up. So, I decided to turn around and take 376 east. I took it to Hwy 50 – nicknamed “the loneliest road in America”. Then I headed toward Eureka and stayed at a lovely hotel: The Eureka Gold Country Inn. I moseyed down to the Owl Club Bar and Steakhouse. I met a guy there who was a few years older than me who was sad and for the next two hours shared his sadness with me. It was an honor. When leaving I said: God bless you. He looked startled: God bless you too, he replied.

We all need to bless each other more.

Day Twelve: Eureka, Ca to Wendover, Ut – 197 miles; How Can You Get Lost if You Don’t Know Where You’re Going? Ely – Nevada Northern Railway Museum; Trusting the Road.

Here I was on The Lincoln Highway, nicknamed The Loneliest Road in the USA, and all I had to do was go straight a couple hundred miles- don’t change roads- and I would be in Colorado. Pending no revelations or nudges from Divine Providence I had decided to head for Durango, Colorado. I wanted to take the road from there up through Silverton to Ouray. It had been labeled: One of the 12 most dangerous roads in the world. Why was it labeled that? Because It winds its way through three 11,000 ft mountain passes, with some 180 degree switchbacks, 500 ft drop offs and has no guard rails. But the route wasn’t meant to be for me this time.

My change in direction started in Ely when someone recommended the Flower Basket for coffee. There I met two gentlemen who told me their histories. As I was leaving one suggested I go to the Nevada Northern Railway Museum which was just down the street. When I’m in the Abandonment to Divine Providence (DP) mood I go where people suggest. Once, someone suggested I go up to Glacier National Park and I did it. It was only 1000 miles away. This suggestion was less than a mile. I got there as a steam engine was pulling into the station. I toured the interesting museum for about an hour and then hopped back on my trusty Harley, Big Red.

Now I was back on Highway 50 and heading for Durango. Except somehow, I got on a different road. Highway 93. I thought about stopping the bike, pulling out the atlas and seeing where I was going but I didn’t. Instead I thought that I’d just trust the road and DP. Next thing I knew I was on Alt 93, fully expecting Alt -Alt 93 to be next. The scenery changed from valleys to areas with bright white hard sand. After a while I realized I was next to the salt flats in Utah. I had missed Colorado! How do you miss Colorado? I mean, it’s a really, big state. Well, you can’t really say that I took the wrong road or that I was lost because those presume a destination I was deviating from. When you are in DP mode you give up choosing your destination. I thought about how in my life I’ve given myself such headaches and heartaches because I thought I was on the wrong road. Somehow, without questioning, I had accepted that there was this right road in life – right job, right salary, right town- right girlfriend- right weight- right whatever and wherever it was, I wasn’t on it. So much unquestioning misery followed. I do better when I challenge my assumptions and my expectations. Even if I can’t find Colorado, it’s better for me to just let go and trust the road.

Day Ten: Heading Thataway; Abandonment to Divine Providence; Hwy 395 California; Sierra Nevada Mountains; Ask Rocinante; Bishop, Ca. 267 miles.

Since this is my fourth round trip to California and back to Georgia over the years I’ve hit all the roads I’ve wanted to – mainly the blue highways. I love the Pacific Coast Highway, but I have a soft spot for US. Hwy 395, mainly because of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Here’s a picture of what you can see for mile after mile. Takes my breath away.

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Mount Whitney, at 14,494 feet (1448 meters) is the highest in the lower 48 states, but there are also 12 other peaks over 14,000 feet along this road.  I just glance at the mountains as I ride and can’t help but smile. I’ve written about my journeys on this road in earlier blogs. If the mountains are too high for you, you can head east over to Death Valley and Badwater Basin, where it sits at 282 ft/ 86 m below sea level.

I am leaving my direction and roads up to Divine Providence, or God or the Tao, whatever term you want to use. I’ve done this before and you can read about it in previous blogs. Weird to set off in the morning and not know where you’re going. You rely on hunches, words from people you run into, various signs and portents. Sometimes I just ask Big Red, my Harley, which way I should go. I know this sounds a bit quixotic but what the hell. I figure its kind of like what Don Quixote did when he asked his horse Rocinante:

He now came to a road branching in four directions, and immediately he was reminded of those cross-roads where knights-errant used to stop to consider which road they should take. In imitation of them he halted for a while, and after having deeply considered it, he gave Rocinante his head, submitting his own will to that of his hack…

 

Last Resting Day; Beer Barrel Bar; Wet the Baby’s Head with Pappy Van Winkle’s; the Craic was Ninety: Sadness, Goodbyes and Rilke

The night before I left Los Angeles, I got to hang out with my son Rory and my son in law Bill. But before we went out there was another photo op – this time with my ex wife Sarah, my daughter and the new grandson, Henry Arthur. The emotions were starting to well up in me.

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We headed over to the Idle Hour, a bar shaped like a two story beer barrel, to ‘wet the baby’s head’ – celebrate the baby’s birth. I treated the guys to their first shots of Pappy Van Winkle’s, a rare, legendary bourbon. Two new pappys – Bill and me, grandpappy. The jokes were flying and the craic (Irish for fun,  conversation) was ninety (for some reason that’s the highest the craic can get.) But I could feel the sadness growing. It had been a year since I’d seen my son Rory, when…?

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Despite my tough, macho biker image (a joke), I couldn’t stop the tears as I rode off. So much newness, so many transitions, and now, what would the future bring? A few lines from the poet Rilke came to me and I looked up the lines later. …Our sadnesses … are the moments when something new has entered into us, something unknown; our feelings grow mute in shy perplexity, everything in us withdraws, a stillness comes, and the new, which no one knows, stands in the midst of it and is silent.

Resting Days: Wetting the Baby’s Head; Motorcycle’s Fixed; The Joys of Lyft; An Irish Traditional Music Session – I’m in Love with the Fiddle Player – the Lonesome Touch; Son Number 1 comes to Town – The Light-Years of an Embrace.

The day little Henry was born, I went  that evening to one of my favorite pubs, Timmy Nolans, to ‘Wet the Baby’s Head’. Wetting the Baby’s Head is a tradition in Ireland and the UK. It simply involves going to a pub and having a drink to celebrate a baby’s arrival (Just like when the baby’s head is wettened during a Christian Baptism). At Timmy Nolan’s I ran into Don and Janet who remembered me from my visit here last Christmas. Not because I’m that memorable but because I resembled a friend of theirs back in Indiana. Another man, Bryan, joined us, and we raised a toast to Henry Arthur! One other night at Nolans, they had their usual weekly Irish music session. A session is an informal gathering of musicians – often anyone can join – where one starts a tune, a jig or reel and if you know it, you join in. That night there was a flute player, tin whistle, guitar, bodhran (drum), and a fiddle. I fell in love with the fiddle player. Not because she was especially beautiful, but instead for her playing on the fiddle. She had the lonesome touch.

(My last girlfriend told me I had the loathsome touch but that’s for another blog. Uh, maybe not.)

It took a few days for the Harley folks in Glendale to track down the electrical problems with Big Red. She ended up with pretty much everything new in the charging/recharging system. Meanwhile, I experienced the joys of Lyft. I had drivers from the USA, Argentina, Venezuela, Cuba, Poland, and Mexico. I love to listen to people’s stories, so it was a treat for me. I got to talk with an actor from Poland about my week in Kutno, Poland coaching a little league team from Ireland.

My oldest son Rory came to town on business. I hadn’t seen him in over a year because he lives in London. I hugged him for what seemed like forever. Love can sometimes be measured in the light-years of an embrace. An immensely talented, modest young man (This Paranormal Life -British Podcast of the Year 2019 awards, RKG -Patreon/Twitter, Team RKT.) who takes after his mother. I was now with my daughter, my first son and little Henry, my first grandchild. It was all a bit much for me. I leave in two days.

Resting Days: Pregnancy Salad; New Baby; Bike Problems; Bike Miles -114,920.

The day after Big Red and I arrived in Los Angeles, I went with my daughter out to lunch. She wanted to go to this restaurant on Tujunga that was renowned for their special salad. I know that doesn’t sound like much but this salad, and particularly the dressing, was supposed to induce labor in pregnant women. When the waiter saw my daughter in her condition, he said: “You’ll be wanting the salad.” Indeed, on the menu it was listed as “The Salad”. After a while four more pregnant women walked into their place, all quite ready for “The Salad”.

A small journal was passed around where people had recorded their thoughts. One guy wrote about driving two hours to get this salad and that: “I want the baby out of her!” All in good fun.

Five hours later my daughter’s contractions began and less than 24 hours later she had delivered – Henry Arthur… Here’s a picture of me and the young whippersnapper!

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Meanwhile, heroic Big Red’s battery finally bit the dust. I had been having problems with the battery before I took off on the trip – not so much just the battery but the charging system. I had to jump start her twice since I’d gotten to LA. Today, after she failed to start, I had to get her towed over to the Harley dealer in Glendale. I’m at a Starbucks down the street, right now as I write. Hopefully, the bill won’t be too much.

Big Red and I both have still a few miles to travel left in us yet.

Day Nine: Barstow, California to Los Angeles; More Cold Weather, and Snow (Really? – Late May?!!!); Accumulation on the San Bernardino Mountains; Alternative Route; Reunion; Trip Total: 2384 Miles; Saddle Tramps.

When I woke up in Barstow, I couldn’t believe it when I went outside and it was again cold and rainy. Even the locals I had spoken to about the weather were astonished it wasn’t warm yet. I spoke to some motorbike riders from Montreal who had come through the San Bernardino mountains the previous day and they told me it had been snowing. The ride was treacherous, they said. Well, I’ve experienced enough treachery in my life, and I wasn’t about to ride voluntarily into more. I checked the weather. Sure enough there was a weather advisory about snow accumulation in the mountains. Temperatures were supposed to be in the mid 20’s (-4 Celsius). The Harley Road King Classic I ride is not an “adventure” – off road bike. It’s meant for touring – though I’ve been caught in the snow a few times before. So, I decided to take an alternate route, down Highway 58, which added another 50 or so miles to the trip. I still had to put up with freezing rain, but it was a better choice, even with tucking my gloved hands behind my knees to warm them. After a while I reached Santa Clarita and things started warming up. Eventually, I made it to my daughter and son in law’s apartment. She looked beautiful! They both looked beautiful. Hugs, and finally warmth, all around.

The Next Day: Now we’re waiting for the baby to come. We went to a restaurant today where, rumor has it, if you’re pregnant and eat this special salad, it will kickstart your labor. There were four other heavily pregnant women in the small restaurant!WP_20190523_12_43_59_Pro

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Hey, stay tuned to this blog – you can subscribe- and I’ll let you know how things go. At the very least remember: I’VE GOT TO GO BACK TO GEORGIA AT SOME POINT!

What could go wrong?

Thanks for riding along fellow saddle tramp.

Day Eight: Kingman, Arizona to Barstow, California, 206 miles, Trip Miles so Far- 2214 Miles; Just When You Think It Couldn’t Get Worse – Dust Storm.

I’m still trying to get over the ride. On Interstate 40, about twenty miles out of Barstow, a huge dust storm sprung up. Tremendous winds whipped dust and stones into the air, bringing visibility suddenly down to a few car lengths in front of me. The stones stung my legs and fingers. I tried to forge ahead but I couldn’t see. I slowed, then worried about a truck hitting me from behind, so I pulled off onto the shoulder. While still straddling the bike, I ducked down behind the windscreen hoping it would pass quickly. The wind was so powerful it was rocking the bike, so I couldn’t get off to hide behind it. Fifteen minutes of this went by before the stinging stopped, and the sky began to clear. I took off again, but two more storms appeared during the last few miles and I had to pull off the interstate again and duck behind the windshield.

When I got to my motel, my phone had a dust storm warning on it, indicating as well that the winds were between 40-60 mph. Seek shelter; stay off the road. I surveyed the damage: I had a few cuts on me from the stones; Big Red’s windshield is completely pockmarked and will have to be replaced. I’m afraid to look too closely at the Harley. I’m just grateful we made it. Just grateful altogether for my life; this ride.

Day Nine should finally get me to Los Angeles!