Thursday, November 22, 2012

I Wish I Filmed That...

Wow! I’m sitting to blog about the last couple of days and I can’t remember where I was. It seemed like I crossed into 3 different states (AZ. NV. And UT.), and stayed in a couple of motels.

We left Phoenix late and only made it to Wickenburg on account of the smell of food in the air. We had a rough day so we made sure we had a hotel room with a Jacuzzi and a fridge (for the beer we brought). Michael had an accident on the KLR while trying to get it into the diesel truck for Alaska. He drove it up the ramp… way to fast, and couldn’t stop on the aluminum decking of the semi- truck container… he slid (going very fast) into the back end of the truck and into the tools. When he hit the wall, he flew into the broke the mirror off when he hit it with his chest. He banged up his shoulder, wrist and got a pretty good sized bite taken out of his chest. We chalked it up to a couple of thoughts: He was damn lucky; I wished I filmed it. 

Close to what he was trying to ride (Image:

What it looks like when a motorcycle mirror bites you.
We sat in the Jacuzzi and drank Kiltlifter and enjoyed stars, palm trees, a gentle breeze, and southwestern ambiance. The soaking helped his soreness.

Kilt Lifter by
 We left Wickenburg with coffee on the mind and rolled into Kingman, AZ. No coffee. Damn. We had breakfast at IHOP in Kingman on account of not being able to find the coffee shop the Iphone was claiming existed. The waitress sweetly suggested that I get the “senior” special when I said the portions were so big and I wasn’t that hungry… Michael snickered.

We left Arizona and rolled into Nevada. I once heard someone say the state bird of Nevada is the Walmart bag.. so true. The ugly eye sore of Vegas was soon upon us. My thighs were sore later that night from clenching the tank so hard as we drove through Vegas traffic. The drivers are nuts, and go so fast without looking. I wanted to live, and I was having a bad omen about this trip. We got through without a hitch.

We visited with Michael’s grandmother and uncle in St. George, Utah. They filled us up with butterfingers and coffee for the road (got to love relatives that do that). We wanted to get closer to Salt Lake, even though it was already dark, so we passed on the offer or a place to stay and continued on to Cedar City. 

We stopped for gas and reached for the electric start on my bike, and it was dead.
Damn. It was so cold, that I was running heated gear, charging my Iphone, heated grips, and the really nice lights from Tourtech. Way too much power draw.  Michael thinks we need to put a relay or something into the system. I find this happening to me frequently when I am maxing out power needs. We let the bike sit for a few minutes, shut everything off to basics. Michael was able to start the bike back up, but I rode without the extra lights in the dark all the way to Beaver, Ut.

We stayed in a hotel in Beaver, Utah (yes… this is really the name of the town). We rolled in late and nothing was in walking distance. We were cold, on account that we had been riding at the 6500 foot level. We both wanted soup and beer.  We recalled we left the good beer in the fridge in Wickenburg. We were now in Utah. Damn again.

We settled for coke and pizza (they delivered).

Monday, November 19, 2012

Kitt, Koffee (not), and Kurves

Me riding the road to Arivaca, AZ. nice curvy scenic drive... no cop stops.
We left Tubac and headed towards Arivaca for coffee. It was a bummer… the coffee shop is closed Tues-Thur. Those are nice hours… 3 days off a week. We sat at an outdoor table and had snacks and water. We continued rolling through the curves until we found ourselves at the foot of Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO). Just going up the mountain was worth the ride/view. We knew we were not timing the trip well enough to stay for the evening show, or even tour the telescopes.  I’m going to have to return for that. See,  the thing is, this place is out in the middle of nowhere on account of the light pollution from the cities. This means, when you leave the night presentation, you need to drive a fairly long distance in the dark. I don’t like to ride that far on a motorcycle on account of all the critters. One of these days I will come back in a car, but for now, I settled for the drive up the mountain.

Several of the telescopes on the drive up to Kitt.

Picked up Astronaut Ice Cream at Kitt.
Didn't look or taste much like ice cream.
 We spent some time enjoying the view, and looking to see what we could see.  KPNO, part of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), supports the most diverse collection of astronomical observatories on Earth for nighttime optical and infrared astronomy and daytime study of the Sun. Sharing the mountaintop site with the National Solar Observatory, KPNO, founded in 195 8, operates three major nighttime telescopes and hosts the facilities of consortia which operate 22 optical telescopes and two radio telescopes.  When we finished, we drove slowly down to the gate and headed back to Ajo, Az. then Goodyear. We rolled into the drive way with only 1 hour of night driving.

Squirrel had an "accident"
 This last weekend was spent packing up the house, moving stuff to storage, having a garage sale, and sending some items up to Alaska.  Aside from Michael’s tools and pedal bikes, we sent a KLR. The goal is to have two KLR’s up in Alaska to do some riding next summer. Michael has decided to come back to Alaska and work a bit in Anchorage.

Michael's  KLR packed for the ride.
 We are getting ready to roll out of Phoenix on the BMW’s. We have packed them fully loaded. The goal is to sneak into Salt Lake City, Utah around snowy passes and not have any weather issues. We were going to try to go through Page and see the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, but Linzy (my youngest daughter) has offered to cook us Thanksgiving Dinner. Not wanting to miss that or chance getting stuck in snow through the higher elevation, we are going around through Vegas. If snow hits further North in Salt Lake, we will park the bikes in storage in St. George, Utah and fly into Salt Lake.  Either way, we hope to be in Salt Lake for the holiday.

I catch a flight to Anchorage, on Friday. Michael is going to play and fly to New York and visit a friend. He has stand by tickets, so he can be flexible. He will show up in Alaska sometime in December. He already has a job lined up.

We will have the tracker on for the ride to Salt Lake City. We are hoping to find a really cheesy motel on Route 66 in Kingman, AZ.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Is that a Shit Truck I'm Following?

We left Oro Valley and headed towards the mountains. Mount Lemon is the highest peak in the range at 9,157 feet. We crossed the mountain a little further south on Redington Road. We winded through the suburbs of East Tucson until sprawl gave way to property with acreage. Soon we found ourselves back on the dirt and in the mountains.  I told Michael I wanted to get some pictures of us riding; most of the pictures I have are of the motorcycle or of the scenery, but none of us riding through the scenery.  We stopped at a place where a lot of switch backs made it possible to get a good view.  Since we were going to be there for a bit, Michael immediately went to the bathroom on the side of the road. I too needed to go, but woman don’t have it so easy.  Being an Alaskan though – also means we aren’t shy to go when we need to go. No sooner do I have my white butt in the wind when a car turns the corner.  It was a cop.

Apparently I'm a little "rough around the edges"...cop warns me not to pee in public...
 As soon as I heard the car, I tried to crab walk – scuttle behind my motorcycle – a site the cop probably won’t forget soon (probably scarred the guy for life). He pulls in behind us and turns on his flashing lights. Damn! I grin at Michael… he shakes his head. I point out it could easily have been him that was caught. We wonder if the cop would have bothered to stop if it was him. Michael recalled the last time we were riding not far from here we were patted down by the border patrol on account that we looked like smugglers.

The nice officer ran our plates and saw we were not wanted in twelve states for indecent exposure. The officer then approached me to let me know that Arizona does have restrooms, and I probably should be careful not to hang my butt out on the road… “It might offend people.”  I tried not to snicker, but it was hard… beings as Michael was snickering in the background.  He let me go with a warning and directions to the closest out house.  I suggested to the nice officer that he need not tell all his buddies about my butt scuttle during the next donut break… he grinned wide and said “What happens on Redington Road stays on Redington Road”… I waved goodbye to the nice cop.

Me waving goodbye to the ticket I never got...
 We continued up the mountain and over the top, the road degrading into rocky bumps that are not recommended in a two wheel drive car. We passed the outhouse about 10 miles up; we didn’t need to stop. We took a bagel break at the top and enjoyed the squirrel-free view. 

As we were leaving, the loose gravel took Michael by surprise, and the next thing we knew he had slide down on the bike taking a corner. He got the bike back up, with little damage… just that damn license plate holder needed to be repaired. We were on the road again.

Michael repairs the license plate holder on his bike
We finally hit the pavement in Benson. We pulled in right behind a large dump truck.  I'm riding and note the smell and then clumps fall out of the back. We swerve and avoid them.  It was a large dump truck carrying manure through the farming community. The truck continued to poop for miles... it was an obstacle course.

It took us longer to get to highway 83 than we anticipated: we had a dinner date in Tubac. We skirted through the town of Sahuarita and rolled in to Tubac with 30 minutes to spare.  A quick shower and change of clothes at Tubac Secret Garden B and B, and we walked into Elivera’s only 5 minutes late.
We met Foursquare friends Gary and Susan for dinner. Gary and I have been exchanging comments for almost two years now, and we thought it was a fine time to finally meet. Neither one of them looked like axe murders.. and we had a great dinner. We all ordered different flavors of margaritas and moles, and finished the evening with a shot of tequila. A great way to end the day.

Foursquare friends Gary and Susan meet us in Tubac for drinks

 Today we are off in the desert to get coffee in Arivaca, see Kitt Observatory, and make it home by dark.

NASCAR, Reunions, and the Road

I flew down to Phoenix and met up with Michael. Michael is coming back to Anchorage (yay).  While in Phoenix, I got the opportunity to see a NASCAR race. 
Michael’s family drove down from Utah and we all went to the races. What a riot. It was more exciting than I thought it would be; there were cars crashing all over the place (this is unusual apparently).

Danica Patrick crosses the finish line in flames (Photo: NASCAR)
 I cheered for the only girl, Danica Patrick, and see finished 17th overall, even though she crashed on the final lap.

Michael enjoys NASCAR
 We spent the last couple of days getting the Phoenix house ready to turn over to property management; it was time for a quick 3 day motorcycle break. We headed to Tucson, the long way (via Globe, AZ). I spent the day getting used to my motorcycle again, I had not ridden Helly since I broke my arm last year. We wandered aimlessly stopping to confirm that all powers bars taste like cardboard regardless of brand. I was a little frightened near Superior on account of the winding climb that was recently coated with fresh oil, but all was well. The day ended with a beautiful drive down 77 which put us at the doorstep of our friends Dave and Vonda in Oro Valley.
Dave and Vonda had a personal goal of stuffing us with a great dinner waiting, cold beer, desert, and popcorn. We caught up on recent and old times.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Parka in Palmer

I was getting a little stir crazy around the house. I asked Kim if she wanted to go winter camping... she did. Off we headed.

You would think that winter camping would be pretty easy, but I had a couple of requirements. An outhouse... in case we needed to poop. A great view away from city lights to enjoy the darkness. I place where we could hang out and do something.. either a trail to hike, or a bar where we could drink a beer. That was it. Running water or heat was not necessary.

First on the list was going down to Seward to hike as far up the Harding Ice Field as possible. I called and found out the park road was closed. In addition, runoff had covered the trail freezing over in many areas, making glare ice and dangerous conditions. I had ice cleats, but Kim did not. Seward was out.

Talkeetna was second on the list. I called every campground on the map and they were all closed up for the winter. I have no issues with pitching my tent in a field, or in the trees off the side of the road, or on the banks of a river, but I could do that closer to Anchorage and not drive 240 miles round trip. In addition, the area had suffered some serious flooding, recently. Talkeetna was out.

We headed up to Eklutna Lake. It was a wonderful drive, the sky was clear blue. The lake not yet frozen over. The campground was closed. Wtf. We briefly considered pitching our tent right next to the sign that said no camping, but I didn't want to pay for a ticket (again). We walked to the lake and enjoyed the view and headed to Palmer, Alaska.

Image of Eklutna Lake in Alaska.
Eklutna Lake this weekend - Campground closed for winter.
The Knik Glacier is just 50 miles from Anchorage, on the northern end of the Chugach Mountains. The Knik Glacier feeds the 25 mile long Knik River, which drains into the Cook Inlet. That is a lot of Knik (pronounced Ka-nick). We pulled off right there at river access near the Old Glenn. We had the place all to ourselves.  Wind was low, temps were low teens. We figured the night time temps and the proximity to the water would put us at about 0 degrees for the night. Balmy temps. No outhouse, bar, or trail, but no ticket either.

Winter parka in Palmer.... Barrow rated.
We set up the tent, built a fire ring and set up the firewood. Night was upon us: the sunset is at about 4:45 p.m. this time of year (sunrise is about 8:40 a.m). We pulled out the jet boil and tried to have a nice hot spaghetti and veggie dinner with garlic bread and wine. Instead of candlelight we had headlamps. The dinner was hot when it hit the plates, but the veggies quickly froze, along with the bread. Kim was laughing at me because I tucked my bread inside my coat to keep it from freezing. I gulped the dinner down to have at least luke-warm food. The wine froze.

Image of cooking spaghetti while camping
Spaghetti via Jet Boil

The fire would not stay lit, and we soon lost interest in it anyway. Neither one of us are a fan of smores; we just ate chocolate. We had a discussion earlier on what would be warmer... A classic fur lined winter parka from Barrow, Alaska (Kim lived in Barrow for 15 years and her sister-in-law made it for her), or my synthetic and downed Mountain Hardware with silk lining. We crawled into the tent.

We read for a while (Kim brought along something about cool Android apps), I brought Buddhist literature. We chatted the night away and snuggled down into our bags.

Image of reading by headlamp
Kim reads  in the tent all about Android Apps in about 10 degrees... via headlamp.
At some point in the early morning hours Kim went out to go pee. She couldn't find her boots, so she wore mine (one whole size smaller - she must have been desperate). She said she was desperate enough to go outside in her stocking feet - which I said is the sign of a true Alaskan.

We got up early in the morning, the night sky still dark, the stars were gorgeous, the half-moon bright when no city lights interfere. We got everything packed in the truck... we had chocolate for breakfast and headed to the coffee shop for a cappuccino. Although I brought the French press, it was too cold to make coffee that way, and I knew Vagabond Blues was not too far away.

The view from our tent site. Winter camping near Knik River, Alaska.

P.S.; I didn't freeze while sleeping... she did.
She didn't freeze while standing in the wind for hours... I did.