Elvira, the Bat Byk has now crossed the US 7 times and turned over 90,000 miles since I bought her new in 2001 and runs as well as the day it was new.
Day 1: the worst part of the trip
I left Cleveland on Sunday morning, January 22 at 7:00 getting my Saddlesore start-time forms signed by a witness at the fire department on Chester near 105th and was on my way. However, I was unable to make my shore-to-shore Saddlesore (Lake Erie to the Gulf of Mexico, 1,000 miles in a day) due to low temps followed by rain. The ride started out at 23 degrees F and stayed in the low to mid 20s until I got to Cincinnati where it rose to the mid 30s. Crossing into Kentucky the clouds opened up and dumped heavy rain at 37 degrees F. I was feeling the effects of hypothermia and starting to get very drowsy so pulled into a hotel in Elizabethtown, KY after only 400 miles.
Today, Monday, I completed 800 miles after sleeping late in the morning, but I am on the west side of Fort Worth so I won’t have to face Dallas or Fort Worth morning rush hour. I’ll easily make the 600 miles to El Paso on Tuesday, but probably not the 953 to Tucson.
So Sunday’s ride was almost certainly the most miserable ride I ever had, but Monday was just wonderful. Kentucky is beautiful, Tennessee is much more modern than I thought with lots of economic growth. Arkansas is, well, Arkansas. Lots of religious billboards and rice fields. Texas will be boring as dirt and all I want to do is get through it.
Day 3: The ride across west Texas
Tuesday the 24th was a great ride across Texas, temps in the mid-60s, sunshine all the way, and a 75 MPH speed limit. I made 700 miles today to end up in Deming, NM. It’s in the southwest corner of the state, only 650 miles from Tom’s apartment in Carlsbad, CA. If you ever need more mesquite for your barbecue, they grow it in West Texas. Thousands of acres as far as the eye can see.
New Mexico (better than the old one) is beautiful with the mountains, rocks and hills. The sunset behind the mountains was spectacular. Stopped in Deming, NM.
Woke up in the middle of the night to hear rain, and it is still raining this Wednesday morning. That’s okay, the temps are in the 60s, rising to the 70s as I get closer to Yuma, so the rain suit that I have will be fine. I should make Carlsbad this evening about 6:00.
So far this trip, I have 27 hours in the saddle, averaging 72 MPH. Saddle sore is the word to describe it. There are other words also. I stopped at a pharmacy and asked the pharmacist if he could recommend anything for my saddle sores and he diagnosed it as similar to :o diaper rash :o . He sent me to the baby aisle for Desitin and I started using that morning and evening every day thereafter. It works, but the behind still hurts after sitting for six or more hours.
Day 4: Raining in the Desert
Wednesday the 25th dawned rainy and bleak in Deming, NM, but the rain was intermittent and light. I checked the radar and satellite weather maps before leaving the hotel and saw two streaks of rain coming up from the Baja Peninsula: one in Deming where I was and the other near Tucson where I was going. I put on the rain suit (I learned a long time ago to put on the suit BEFORE it starts raining) figuring that by the time I got there, about 217 miles and three hours away, that the rain would be gone. It wasn’t.
Just a little east of Tucson it started raining heavily, which was just fine: just raise the windshield, lower the visor, watch the traffic and drop the speed. Then the crosswinds kicked in. I estimate they were gusting on the order of 25 to 35 miles per hour and started to push the bike toward the shoulder of the road.
This was by far the most technically challenging ride I’ve ever done: keep the bike in a straight line, in gusty crosswinds, in the rain with 18-wheelers in front and behind me. I needed to keep the bike leaning about 5 to 10 degrees to the left in order to keep it going straight. I have to say that the engineers at BMW did a remarkable job in balancing the bike and making it respond to wind in just the right way. After 45 minutes in this mode, we were out of the rain, the wind calmed down and the temp rose to about 73.
Interstate 8 out of Tucson takes you down to Yuma and runs almost parallel to the Mexican border after that. It takes you through the Imperial Valley (a few feet below sea level) and across the mountain pass (almost 5,000 feet elevation) between El Centro and San Diego, and touches the bottom of Cleveland National Forest and the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The curves and scenery provide a dramatic backdrop for a motorcycle ride.
The day culminated when I arrived in San Diego at the start of rush hour. I still had 49 miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic across 6 lanes of Interstate to get up to Carlsbad. Also this traffic congestion provides an interesting race track for those gunners who are always afraid of coming in last. I had selectively forgotten how aggressive some of these California drivers can be, and how clueless or asleep many of the others are. Ah well, motorcycles are allowed in the car pool lane and that’s where I stayed. I arrived in Carlsbad at 6:00 with nothing worse than the previously mentioned saddle sores.
Rich and Lindy Schermerhorn, my riding partners, will inaugurate their brand new LT (350 miles new!) as we leave on Friday morning through the Mojave Desert on our way to Death Valley. There is virtually no cell phone or internet service in the valley, so this will be my last post until Monday.
Day 5: Arriving in Death Valley
On Friday morning the 27th at about 11:00 Rich, Lindy and I left their house in Cardiff-by-the-Sea (just a little north of San Diego) headed up to the western entrance to Death Valley through the pass in the Panamint mountains and down to Furnace Creek Ranch, skipping our traditional ride through the Mojave. That was just 365 miles and 7 hours plus a stop of gas and lunch at the truck stop in Hesperia where US395 comes off I-15. Death Valley National Park is one of the largest parks in the US National Park system at 3.3 million acres, but Denali National Park in Alaska is over 6 million acres. Read about Death Valley NP at this site: http://www.maturango.org/DeathV.html
When we arrived at the hotel there were a well over 100 motorcycles there, mostly BMWs and a few others as well. A lot of big dirt bikes like the GS’s and others made the trip to take advantage of some really rough terrain in the hills of Death Valley. Of course you could overhear ride stories from almost every table in the restaurants at dinner. I had put on 3,080 miles since leaving Cleveland.
I got my hotel room and slept like a log that night.
Ride to Beatty, NV
Saturday morning was the traditional ride to Beatty, Nevada for breakfast and less expensive gas. Naturally everything sold at Furnace Creek is imported and therefore more expensive. Gas, for example is $3.25 in Furnace Creek and $2.75 in Beatty, 40 miles away. Yes, we used almost 1.5 gallons to get there and back but we were in Beatty for breakfast anyway.
I took the scenic route back from Beatty, riding past Scotty’s Castle, Stovepipe Wells, down to Badwater and back to Furnace Creek.
The annual group picture was taken at the visitor center that evening, followed by the door prize drawing. Of course I won the “longest ride” award: a baseball hat from Marin BMW. Someone came up to me who used to live in Cleveland and said hello.
There was a group from Tucson; the South East Arizona Touring Riders (SEAT Riders; cute) who had set up a campsite and made a couple of gallons of beef stew. They invited me to their camp for dinner and storytelling, which I accepted. I got back to my room late and tired so just went to bed.
Death Valley to Phoenix
Sunday morning the 29th came and I slept late. By the time I was up and packed it was 11:00 and most everyone was already gone. Sorry I missed you. I headed 400 miles east to Phoenix through Pahrump, Las Vegas and over the Boulder Dam. Of course Homeland Security is stopping every vehicle before going over the dam so traffic was backed up for a couple of miles.
:wtf This is the leg of the trip where there were long stretches of two-lane road through the desert and westbound traffic was backed up several miles behind a caravan of RVs and semis. Someone in a Cadillac got too impatient to wait and decided to start passing several cars, semis and RVs. Apparently it didn’t matter to him that a motorcycle (mine) was coming in the opposite direction.
I had to pull off of my section of road onto the right shoulder in order to avoid being a bug on his windshield. Fortunately there was a shoulder on which to ride.
I passed huge sections of desert with hundreds of Saguaro cacti standing sentinel with their arms sticking up in the air. These are magnificent cacti with a symbiotic relationship with animals that depend on it for shelter and attracting edible insects.
Monday I left Phoenix en route to Pecos, TX, just 455 miles and halfway between El Paso and Odessa. Now you know exactly where it is. Nothing momentous, just miles of Texas highway and lots of dirt. There was a lot of wind, but it was warm and not raining so the trip was easy. Yes the speedometer does in fact read 90 MPH.
I passed through New Mexico (better than the old one!)
The worst hotel
On Tuesday the Pecos, TX to Monroe, Louisiana leg was 712 miles. Again there was a lot of wind and dust, with quite a bit of traffic through Fort Worth and Dallas. I arrived in Monroe and stayed at the Best Western Hotel near the airport. This was the absolute WORST hotel of the entire trip. No wireless internet, and no cables to hook up to the Ethernet port in the room. Torn bedspread, high prices. But the worst part was that at precisely 8:00 AM the jackhammers started tearing up the parking lot for some badly needed repairs. The night clerk neglected to mention that the night before.
This place actually has the gall to call themselves the “Twin Cities” of Monroe and West Monroe, almost as if they were two different places…
Thus began the longest ride of the trip: 1,069 miles from Monroe, LA to Cleveland, OH.
Finally: the Saddlesore ride
On Wednesday morning February 1 at about 9:00 I left Monroe, LA on I-20 that has a 70 MPH speed limit, except for the last mile before the Mississippi border, which they abruptly drop to 60 MPH. Fortunately I saw the sign and knew it was their last chance to extract money from tourists. I hit the brakes hard and slowed to about 59 MPH and came over the rise to see the highway patrol vehicle parked just ahead. He lit me up with his radar and we waved to each other as I passed on by and crossed the Mississippi River into Vicksburg, MS.
Believe it or not, Mississippi is only about 150 miles across at this point so I only spent a couple of hours in MS. I did stop for gas in Jackson.
In Alabama I turned north and got on route 65 in Birmingham. Somewhere in Alabama, the odometer turned 90,000 miles. From there it was straight north through Nashville, Louisville, Cincinnati, Columbus and up to Cleveland. It got cold in Ohio…again…and by the time I pulled into my garage at 2:30 AM on Thursday the 2nd I was shivering uncontrollably.
I made 1,069 miles in 17.5 hours on that ride. That was my third or fourth Saddlesore ride on this bike.
Overall trip stats:
Total miles: 6,162 through 12 states: OH, KY, TN, AR, TX, NM, AZ, CA, NV, LA, MS, AL.
Overall average traveling speed: 70.0 MPH for total of 88 hours in the saddle. Top speed was recorded on the GPS as 108 MPH.
Overall Mileage: 44.5 MPG, with a max of 49.5 MPG on one tank
Average price for gas across the whole trip was $2.57, with a low of $2.34 in Tye, TX, and a high of $2.90 in Marana, AZ. Total spent on gas: $355.41.
I averaged 220 miles per tank with a max of 290 miles on one tank.
Don't ell anyone, but I did this entire ride with a California plate that expired in January of 2005! Yes, I'm taking her downtown to get her registered in Ohio.