Day 4
October 4th, 2009    
Fool Hollow State Park
Show Low, Arizona

About 4:30am the winds came in on my little camp site and rocked and pitched my Eureka, but it managed to stay up.  The wind rushing around me sounded like Niagara Falls (been there), "they weren't kidding when they said the wind would be up today."  I feared it was going to blow over the 1200 and any moment I'd hear it crash to the ground.  I could hear trees bending over and limbs snapping in the woods.  "I'm outta here soon as I have enough light to see."
The wind died down a little by daybreak, but it was still very tough rolling my tent, I couldn't it get to lay flat, and a couple of times it took off across the woods.

​Camp site- Fools Hollow State Park
Today is the day I start back East, it felt odd to be a days ride from California and not continue, but that's a ride for another day.  I'm not sure I'll call this a cross country ride or not, it qualifies- Alabama to Arizona then back to North Carolina is across the country, but we'll see.

After getting my tent stowed the rest was easy.  I put the Garmin in the cradle and powered it up while I finished securing the Moto Fizz bag.  Today I'm riding to Petrified National Park, then back into New Mexico, this time riding the mountains in the north and taking the famous "High Road to Taos" byway.  I've done it before, but not all of it.  This tour I plotted a few roads not been on yet to mix with the previous.  I was looking forward to some good riding.

I correctly guessed Petrified Park would not open to a 8am, so planned my departure accordingly.  It was cloudy and cool,- not far from cold, temp about 46.  I started the day with lined gloves, and 2 sweatshirts under the Roadcrafter
On the way out of the park I saw a sign, "Don't enter if flooded."  Well yeah, that might be a good idea!  This sign is like the fire department.  Every rule in the book, goes back to someone doing that, so this means some idiot tried to drive his car through the flooded ground and got washed away down river.  So now we have a sign, telling us NOT to do that. 

​Now why would a guy drive across this field if it was underwater?  But
somebody had to try it, and now we have a sign.

I'm running a custom route today, the starting point is north of Show Low on SR 61.  One of the best features of the Zumo is the ability to pick up the custom at a predestined starting point.  I don't custom route the first miles of the day.  When it asks if I want to be taken to the starting point I just tab yes.  I wanted to take control of the ride 50 miles out of Show Low, how I got there I didn't care.

I gassed up at a Conocco Con store on the north side of town, and followed the Garmin's directions on SR 61 to my custom route.  For the first time this tour I turned on the heated seat and grips.  The RT, with its excellent cockpit and heated accessories is a great cold weather bike right out of the crate.  The seat works especially well, and made this cold morning quite tolerable.  I much prefer it to my heated pants, the seat keeps me warmer and a lot less trouble.
It was a quiet Sunday morning on 61.  The fierce wind was at my back mostly and that really helped.  I rode past long fields dotted with bushes, as I left the mountains of the Show Low area.

 ​  Early morning on SR 61.
The wind pushed the clouds across the sky at a quick pace, I could see their shadows gliding across the countryside, even at 70 mph it took several minutes to chase them down.

I veered off on Alt 180 at Concho, this route effectively cuts off the need of going into St. Johns.  Back in the old days a guy rode east to St. Johns then north to the Park, but now we have this short cut.  There is a small Catholic Church Mission in Concho and it had a few cars parked out front for Mass.

A few miles later I went to U.S. 180 proper and now the gusty wind was a serious cross wind. It stood me up in the saddle, and a couple of times I thought it would yank the Arai off my head.  It slammed my faceshield down, and swept the RT across the road.  It tried to blow me off on the right shoulder, and I countered leaned at crazy angles.  I wasn't sure it would be enough, "geezus I'm gonna have to stop, any more lean I'll scrape the left peg."  Tumbleweeds shot across my bow like deadly missiles.  "If one of them gets lucky, it could take me out," I thought.

But then it died down to manageable levels, or shifted to the rear.  The screen was high, because it was cool. ( it stayed high most of the time in Az, NM, and Ok.)  Now that I didn't have to worry so much about keeping the control of the bike I was able to take in a few of views.  I was the only guy out, and it was good.  I had the highway to myself and enjoyed the solitude.  Some only ride in packs, or with a few others, that is not me, and it has become more pronounced over the last few years.  It is my belief, the truest sense of freedom can only be experienced solo.  But that's just me, some prefer the security of a group, I can only say I'm resourceful, if I need something I have people to call that will come to my aid, or I'll talk a local into something.  Neither approach is wrong, but a solo ride is a entirely different ride then a group.  After many consecutive days of solo riding I don't mind a group for a day or 2 of my close friends, but even that wears on me after a short while. 
The low oil light came on.  I know the light to be overly sensitive, but I also know the RT is not the Honda.  It will use a few ounces of oil between changes.  "I better check it visually sometime today."

The park gate came into view and I turned right and pulled to the office.  A nice looking, 40 something, friendly rangertte was staffing the entrance.  She pulled the window back, "Good morning."  

"hey how ya doin!"

"I'm good, where ya from?"

"Alabama!  How much is it sweetie?"

"I should have guessed talking like that, since you're on a bike only 5 dollars"

I fumbled in the wind trying to get my wallet out and helmet off.

"You wanna come in and get out of the wind?"

"that would be good"

Inside the small office we could hear the wind howl and whistle.

"is it always this windy out here?"

"the wind does blow alot but not like this"

"So you live around here?"

"about 25 miles away"

I parked my butt on top of a small desk to the side.  "So how long ya been with the Park Service?"

"Five years, steady work, and I like it.  How long ya been out this way? I'm asking because I see the helmet outline on your face"

"Few days, but I'm riding east starting now, back over the New Mexico Mountains into Oklahoma, and eventually the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, which are really nice this time of year."

"That sounds like a great trip"

"well we'll know in a few days if it was or not"


"I better get goin, I'm gonna take a pic of y'all's sign, wanna pose with my bike?"

"better not, the bosses might not like it"

"yeah you gotta point, the way things are nowdays, you never know what somebody might do with a pic and give the Park Service a bad name, you're wise to be cautious."

"Well you have a good trip, and please be safe out there.  Here's the park info it will tell you anything you want to know."

"Thanks don't work too hard"

Five minutes later I was out the door and riding off.  I did get my entrance pic though.

​  "I did get my entrance pic though."
​The road in the park was nice; smooth and a little curvy, it took me between and around the rock formations 
​ "it took me between and around the rock formations."
​The area was once semi tropical, now that line has moved much further south, and all that is left are these remains of the tropical forest.  These tree stumps were turned to rock millions of years ago.  At one time prospectors were dynamiting the rocks and hauling them out.  But all that stopped when the Feds took it over.  In fact they shake down vehicles on the way out to make sure no one leaves with anything, the only Park that I know of that does that.
​One of many petrified wood remains
​I stopped at several vistas and took pics, and walked among the quartz trees.  I was still battling the wind.  I took pics of the Painted Desert and enjoyed the views.  I've currently visited over 30 of the 56 National Parks.  I'm debating the issue if I want to go for all 56, which I think is a more significant milestone then riding all the lower 48.  The only problem with that are the parks in Alaska, a few of them are quite remote and I don't have the dual sport bike needed to handle that, I mean I could on one my bikes, but I'm not going to destroy one to accomplish the task.  I won't rule out buying a used dual purpose bike in Montana, ride up there, and ditch it when I get back.  But I don't know, I could retire before I get motivated to go for it.  I enjoy riding more when it doesn't have some kind of agenda.
​Painted Desert
​I stopped at Newspaper Rock and the Route 66 Memorial.  I'll let the pictures below tell that story.
​Newspaper Rock. If you look closely on the lower right of the boulder, you
can see the figures painted by Natives over a thousand years

​A few miles later, you can see this memorial left by 
modern Americans in honor of RT. 66.  The telephone line
marks the exact spot of the old road bed.  RT. 66 passed by
many American icons on its way west.

With the park visit completed, I took I-40 East and took off for New Mexico.  Now the wind was at my back, and it pushed me along.  With the throttle only cracked open, I was on 80 mph with the screen up, and no turbulence.  I set the cruise, put the suspension back on normal, and leaned back on the Moto Fizz. 
The ride was unusually stiff with the extra PSI in the rear, but I prefer that to mushy, I really hate a soft rear that wallows.

I was satisfied where I was at for the day, and my plan was lunch in Gallup.

The west bound riders I met were really catching hell in the headwind.  "Man it must be tough over there."  I was glad not to be one of them.

In Gallup I found a "Golden Corral" buffet.  I tend to avoid buffets especially with all the Swine Flu going around, but Goldens are better supervised, and they don't allow have their stuff out there in the open.

Anything not nailed down in Gallup was flying around like birds.  Paper, cans, plastic bottles etc.  I pulled the door open of the restaurant, and it was snatched from my hands. I thought the glass broke out from the thud, people turned and looked and I shrugged, "couldn't help it."  They turned back in full understanding.

"Better eat good, because I don't see a time or a place for supper."  I went to the restroom to wash my hands, where some joker was changing a baby's diaper.  It was awful.  "Why's he doin that in HERE?"  When he finished he left without washing his hands.  "Now he's gonna be out there handling the big spoons used to get stuff out."  After washing my hands, I used a paper towel on the handles.  I had a good appetite before, but now it was somewhat diminished.

The food was good, especially the chicken noodle soup, and when I finished I made my usual phone calls.  I used a slow Edge connection to check the radar and read the headlines.

After turning the switch on the RT to leave, I had the "light out" icon on the dash.  "Which one is it this time?"  I had just replaced the left low beam the day before departure, it had been out for weeks.  This time it is the right.  "I knew it."  I had no clue where to find a replacement outside of a BMW dealer, and I wasn't going looking for one now.  "I don't plan on any night riding this tour, I'll deal with it when I get home."

I went back out to the wind and continued East on I-40.  The 550 said my exit was not far, so I gassed up in Divide at a Chevron Station, from studying the map I knew it would grow desolate once I left I-40.  The best the station had was 89, but it didn't seem to affect the RT.

I left I-40 and rode north on SR 371, the land was barren and the temps warm, but I stayed with the leather gloves.  The route from here to my stopping point (a state park on SR 518 south of Taos) would be complicated.  I checked and rechecked the ride I created in Mapsource before leaving, I was confident all would be ok, but I can tell you a route created in your study, can be a lot different in the real world, but I now have the experience of riding in every large and small area in the country.  From looking at the atlas I can get a good feel of the geography.  I know a 400 mile day on New Mexico back roads is a lot easier to do, then the same ride in New England.  This is wide open country.
From 371 I went to SR 9.  My only concern was some of the roads I picked would turn out to be gravel when I got there.  The software said no, but when it comes to small, isolated, local roads, you can't be sure.

For miles and miles, I didn't see one thing that mattered on SR 9.  Ranch houses were very far between.  When I  spotted one, it was a mile from the highway, a mere dot on the land.  Not much you could do with this land, no crops, and it took many acres to graze one head of cattle, not much for them to eat.  I noticed 5 cows on probably 5 square miles of land was common.

I crossed the Continental Divide for the 3rd time today at Star Lake.  It was a unambiguous crossing.

 Somewhere on SR 9
The 550 directed me to SR 197 at a place called Torreon, really not much choice because SR 197 ends there.  I went to the GPS to check my direction, it was Northeast, "funny I gotta ride north to go south, but this is the only paved highway around here."

To ride these roads, you must be on a bike you have confidence in, because help is a long way from most any point on any of these roads.

I Kept a close eye on the gas situation, when it went to half tank, I started looking.

SR 197 pulled into the second place named Cuba for the tour.  Here I went south on U.S 550.  I was back in the mountains and the air was cooler, and the wind had finally died down.  Well it didn't really die down, I was just out of the system blowing it in.  "it'll be back tomorrow."

At the intersection of 550 and SR 4 I stopped to top off the tank.  A pick up came in to the pump beside me, and the man went inside to the restroom.  When I left 15 minutes latder.he was still in the bathroom with his ride blocking the pump.  After gassing up I snacked on a pretzel and Mountain Dew.  I bought beef jerky for supper tonight.

On SR 4 I passed 2 pick ups, but it did me little good, a line of cars bogged me down 2 miles later.  The route took me up into the Jemenz Mountains.  The scenery and elevation was pleasing, and once I cleared the traffic areas the leaning was good.  I bumped the RT's suspension back to sport mode, and rode well.  I pulled to the side to zip the vents on the Stich in the cool mountain air but remained with leather gloves.  I like the leather AGV sport gloves, but they stiffen up in cold weather and making it hard to take them on and off.

​The riding was good in the Jemenz Mountains.
I changed views on the Garmin and now watched the screen with the time of day, elevation, miles to next turn, compass, and speed.  The Garmin put the elevation between 7-8000 feet, that feature is quite accurate and always within a few feet of any posted displays I saw along the way.

The route took me into Los Alamos, and because it was a Sunday afternoon things were slow.  Most of the nation's nuclear research goes on here so I had to pass a security check for the section of SR 4 that cuts across the campus of the research center.  The guard never left his seat and just waved me through.

Los Alamos seems like a nice to live.  Clean, organized, good weather, and active.  My software was dated because it told me to turn off a over pass to a road, only problem it was 30 ft below me.  "This overpass is new, but I see where I have to go."  I did it the old fashioned way by following the signs.

From Los Alamos I went to SR 502 a mostly 4 lane highway, with a designated "safety corridor," meaning we write so many tickets on this road we can make it even better by doubling the fines between here and there.  After that we just charge the regular fee."  If a 500 dollar fine prevents speeding and wrecks why not do it everywhere?  The answer is it doesn't, "but we scam them this section, and they won't say anything."

I picked up SR 76 further up the mountains.  The sun was waning, and long shadows crept across the desert floor as I looked down from the mountain tops.  I was in a lean on a  curve when I was faced with a car turning left, and a cattle grate across the roadway.  I got the bike out of the lean, and slowed down to check up on the car turning left, he saw me and made no move to come across.  I went over the grate without incident, but I asked, "I wonder how many long riders that thing has taken out over the years?  Those too fast and leaned to hard to come out."  Why I never ride fast or lean hard on roads I don't know well. 

But on this late afternoon run I acquitted myself well.  The RT is a great handling bike and it begs to tilted over.  It seemed fall in line with only the slightest input.  I leaned left then right as I went up the mountain, occasionally a slow vehicle would impede me, but I would dispatch it rapidly and continue.

"The sun was waning, and long shadows crept across the desert floor"
​It was a great afternoon ride on the "High Road to Taos."  I finally arrived at SR 518 and went south.   The sun was gone now and I was caught in the mountains where it grew darker by the mile.  I was wishing I had that extra low beam about now.  I was on 518 in 2006, but could only recall the road was twisty, no fine details.  I cursed my blown low beam, but even with one side out the RT has better lights then most anything else.
​Rocky Mountains in Fall.  Beautiful.
​Fall color was good on SR 518.
​The moon was shining above the mountains so I stopped to take a pic.  The scene was overpowering and I felt small.
​       Moon Rise over the Southern Rockies-SR 518
The zumo said I only had 30 miles to the end of the route, but I knew I ended it about 15 miles from the park, so once I reach the flag still a little more to go.

Deathly afraid of deer, I squatted behind a red pick up truck at 50 mph and let him escort me out of the mountains.  Down in elevation we came as I rode south.  The temps climbed and it felt good.

I met 3 lone headlights, one of the bikes was a K 1200 GT, I knew because of the intense blue Xeon light flanked by 2 sealed beams, a dazzling array of candlepower, he was lighting up the roadway like a football field on his low beam.  The K 1200 is the only bike I know with a stock Xenon light.  

It was full dark when I arrived in Mora, and saw the sign "Morphy State Park."  Not on GPS, I took the road and followed it for 5 miles.  I eased along the challenging road at 40 mph.   I came to a cross roads that had a few buildings and run down homes, where another sign pointed me down a even worse road.  "Can't be much further."  I took it and pressed on.  The road was terrible, half dirt, and half paved with holes.  I bounced along the narrow road a few more miles without seeing any sign of a state park.  The closest thing was a gate and fence, but no sign reading state park.  "I dunno if that's a park, or someone's house, better keep going."

I was bouncing along when a white dog big as a wolf jumped from the tree line barking and raising hell, it startled me so bad I almost went over.  A second look showed he was a behind a barbed wire fence that he could surely step through if he wished.  "dadgum, that was close."  I rode on a little further and gave up.

I stopped and went to the GPS this time to find a state park.  I found one called Coyote Creek, 25 miles away.  I saw the sign for it back in Mora.  Now I had to negotiate the awful road back down to the highway.  I went back pass the wolf dog, but this time he didn't scare me. 

After a cautious ride I was back in Mora, and weaved through the deserted town to SR 434.  The sign said it was a 16 mile ride to the park, and I wasn't sure what I was going to find when I got there.  "It could be another Morphy and then what? "  My left side said, and my right responded, "well whatever is there will have to do, I'm tired and I don't like being in these mountains at dark."  And the reason Long Riding is such an adventure.

On SR 434 I hovered around 40 mph, sometimes even less.  I bogged down a couple of cars, but they went around me safely.  "A deer is NOT going to take me out on this night". I said.  I kept my eyes moving and set out to find the park, 16 miles away, but this time I had GPS to help.

"I feel the temp dropping, I'm moving up in the mountains I suspect."  The lights of houses in the distance could be seen for miles.  "I wonder what they had for supper."  A guy thinks of the dumbest things while on a ride.

The crippled headlight on the RT was more then adequate on high beam, even with one bulb out, it is as good as the Honda's sans PIAA lights.  The roada few twists and banks and I kept focused.

It took me 45 minutes to get to the park, but I had no trouble locating it.  It was right off the highway, and the gate was up.
I rode inside and not one thing was moving about, the ranger office was long closed but that was not unusual.  The RV sites were empty, I followed the arrows to the tent area and same story.  "I'm the only joker in the place?" 
The road up to the campground was dirt and rutty.  I looked around and figured this was as good as it gets.  I was uncomfortable in such a unsecured place.  Remote is ok, if nobody can see you, but here it wouldn't take much to find me.  I questioned why I didn't have a gun.  Not that I'm against them, but it would be something else to keep up with, and I might get in trouble with it in some states like Massachusetts where they pretty much didn't want ANYONE to have a gun.

The headlight of the RT was shining all over the place, "Better park this thing before someone sees all the commotion."  I found a spot with a covered table and shut the RT off after a 563 mile day.  It was 10 pm.

I knew the wind I left behind would overtake me so I moved the table and set my tent up under the cover because it afforded protection on 3 sides.  After setting up the tent and bed I took the short stroll down the hill to the shower area.  I was using my new LED flashlight.  "Man I'm glad I bought this light."  It was eerily quiet, and the sound of my feet crunching the gravel sounded like bass drums.

All of that was locked up tight. The sign said it was closed for the season.  "Dang no wonder nobody is here."  My guess was no one was around for miles.  I went back to the tent.

I was checking a few things when I saw headlights down in the RV area.  There was also some kind of water body there.  I dashed my flashlight and held my breath.  "I hope that car doesn't come up this way."  He was heading out of the park, so he was here when I came in.  All kinds of weird things ran through my mind.  "If I see the lights coming this way I'm gonna hide in the bushes."  But it left the park and went down the highway.  "Prolly just a couple of kids parking."  If so they went a long way to find a spot, but it was a good one.

With nothing else to do I went in the tent.  It was hard to sleep with no shower and shave.  It was also hard because I was a little nervous.  Every little sound caused me to think a car was coming my way.  Coyotes cried in the dark.  "Guess that's why they call it Coyote State Park."

I tossed and turned, and now the wind was coming in, and it was getting cold.  I was glad I was under the covered area, and shielded.  Tall pines swayed in the wind and it was noisy, I spent most of the night just laying there.  I did manage to dose off about 3 times.

I kept thinking about the tomorrow night.  The Packers were playing the Vikings on Monday night and I planned on being in a motel with a TV and a bed, it would feel good after 4 straight nights of camping.
It was a long night.