Day 8
June 20th, 2005
St. George, Utah

Not much to report today.  There is really only 1 way from this locale to Phoenix.  South on I-15, and across Hoover dam.  I expected the day to be hot, and it was. 

Because I wanted to beat the morning commute in Vegas, I was on the road early.  I was booking south, before before the sun was up.  

I-15 was surprisingly fun nearing the Arizona state line.  The elevation was high, and the roadway twisted along the passes.  I gulped down cars and trucks on the steep hills in greedy chunks.   The 1300 leaned the fast sweeping curves in the warm dry air.

A thick shroud of haze hovered over the city ahead.  The air quality here really sucks. Vegas has a unique smell (bad) in the mornings. I noticed it in 2003 when I was here.

I was treated to a great sunrise in my mirrors, but had no place to stop for a picture.  Just too dangerous.  I'm kind of shy about taking the shoulder with cars zipping by at 90+.  One of things you need to maintain a accident free streak, is good judgment.  You eliminate a lot of potential tipovers and mishaps, by paying attention.  Always cut things off before they have a chance to test you.  Like speeding through a urban environment.  You remove about 80% of the stuff that can hurt you, when you learn to keep your speed under control.  An ST cruising along a boulevard entering a town, at 60 mph, does not FEEL fast, but don't go by "feeling" look at YOUR speedo.  

I can't tell you how many times people have pulled out in front of me, switched lanes, run red lights, and slammed on brakes, but because I was 5 under the speed limit, those incidents were not even close.  A sedate speed in urban areas also give you time time to scan the situation around you, looking for areas that will blind others from your presence.  You learn to have a feel for such things.  Spots you avoid because you know it will make you hard to see, we are hard enough to see as it is.  

A lot of those skills were put to the test when I came through Vegas.  It was chaos.  Traffic was moving, but congested.  I don't know the city well, and had to follow signs,  and at the same time keep watching everything around me.

For instance, a 6 wheel delivery truck is coming down the access ramp, and will need to merge into 80 mph traffic.  All lanes are moving briskly, I'm in the far left.   An 18 wheeler is in the far right, running along about 75 mph.  Traffic is thick and vehicles can NOT merge over to let the 6 wheel truck in.  The vehicle sports a bunch of logo, so you know its owned by some company, that probably has it governed down, and CAN'T go 80 mph.  I could see he was running out of room and something was going to have to give, if he comes over at 50 mph, might be a wreck because I could see the 18 wheeler closing down.

I processed all the above info in 1 second, sizing up the speed of the cars around me, and the looming prospect of a chain reaction wreck when the delivery truck runs out of room, and just busts in at 50 mph.  I KNEW my best bet was to get the hell down the road and leave this exit in the mirrors.  Because I was in the far left (where you should be when possible) I had no problem doing that.  I twisted the grip of the powerful 1300 and in seconds on the other side of any game of bump cars that might take place.

What or if anything happened, I don't know, like I said, I was long gone.  At best a bunch of cars had to get on the brakes and come down from 80, and at worst a wreck of some kind took place.

Construction zones were scattered all along the system.   I was moving among lanes trying to follow signs, and barricades.  I missed my exit to U.S. 93 when I was hemmed in by 2 SUVs and didn't have time to move over.  It frustrated me, but I stayed calm, and just rode it out.  No need to do something stupid, like put your flasher on and MAKE a space, hoping they are going to be kind.  No, I went 2 miles to the next exit, and doubled back.
It was time for peanut butter and jelly, but I wanted to clear Vegas before the celebration.  I made it to the far side of Henderson, and peeled off in a con store named "Rebel."  It had a good name so it was sure to have the right vintage Mountain Dew.

I came in off the surface street with the right signal on.  I could see my reflection in the glass windows.  I went to the side to get out of the way, and bought something to drink and made a sandwich.  I noticed my Goober strawberry peanut butter and jelly premix was kind of low, and looking bad.   I decided then to find small jelly packs, and just buy peanut butter, thinking it will keep better.  I'll just flirt with a waitress somewhere and get her to bring me a few from the kitchen.

Chris loves Vegas so I took a phone pic of the 1300, with the caption, "you're workin and I'm in Vegas, ridin the country."  About 10 seconds later my phone beeped with a text coming in.  It read, "shut up."
A short conversation with Debbie informed her where I was, and my plans for today.  She was busy and couldn't talk.  

Thirty minutes later I was back on U.S. 93 and moving on to Hoover Dam.  This would be my first trip over the dam.  Every one knows what a engineering marvel it is, so won't get into that here.

The highway serpentined down the canyon toward the river and dam.  Without this dam the Southwest could not prosper.  It supplies water all the way to LA, making the arid land hospitable.

A vehicle inspection is needed to cross the dam but I was waved through.  A lot of construction was going on, and signs said 30 minute delays were possible, but fortunately, none took place today.

The mass of construction taking place diminished the scenic vista of the dam.  I crossed and took the second vantage point.  People behind me saw me exit, and followed suit.  Funny, 15 cars ahead me kept going, but the next 10 followed ME.  All people need is someone to make a decision, and they are sure to follow.  "Ralph I want to stop for pictures."   " I don't think you're allowed to, cant find place." Etc, etc.
​  Hoover Dam, from the Lake Meade vantage point
When I came into the parking lot, I noticed the slant of the surface. Backing the loaded 13 out would be hard, so I kind of pulled up and around, that way I could loop out.  I took my snapshots, and went back to my bike.  The empty parking lot I came into, was now jammed with busses and cars.  A guy parked next to me, effectively blocking me from my planned escape.  Several middle aged Asian tourists were standing around waiting for the bus driver.  I motioned for them, and using hand signals asked them to push the 1300 out.  Four of them obliged me, when I was ready I gave the signal.  Dayum brothers, they pushed so hard I thought I was going to do a flip off the back of the Honda.
​Looking back at Lake Meade.
I made a exit wave and headed for Phoenix.  

U.S. 93 is controlled access to I-40.  I Floated along at 10 over.  Temp was in the high 90s.  I loaded up the mental jukebox and started singing the same old songs, but I never tire of them. 

Dozens of mobile homes sat in the desert.  Invariably, they had 2-3 old cars about the yard (if you want to call it that), a broken down freezer, maybe a TV dish, and boxes.  They must feel like easy bake ovens inside.  Nothing for shade was anywhere close,  just those bush things you see out here.

Kingman, Arizona is famous in the fire service.  A huge BLEVE (an LP explosion) took place here in the mid 70s, killing several firefighters.  I remember watching the news tape (no such thing as a camcorder back then) in recruit school.  It is still talked about to this day.  I was thinking about that as I neared the city.

Time for a butt break and I found a good store near I-40.  I went inside and found something to drink.  A state trooper was writing a joker a ticket across the street.  "Man, I know that sucks," I noted mentally.
​Don't you HATE it when this happens
A Gold Wing came in with Alabama tags!  I went to speak with rider.  He was from Gadsden.  "My sister lives there." 

"Oh yeah?  How long?" 

"Long time."

His Wing is a 80s something model.  "I'm having cooling problems, but I think I can get it home.  Leaking somewhere around the head I think."  I wished him luck, and got back on the road.
​Always good to meet someone from Alabama
How people live here I don't know.  The absence of green wears on me sometimes.  And rain, believe it or not I was missing it.  An afternoon shower on a hot Alabama afternoon is one of life's simple, but yet more pleasant things.  The way it freshens the air, and that unique fragrance that remains after it moves through.  On more than one occasion I've been caught while on my bicycle or a run, and as long as it wasn't cold, I enjoyed it.  

But here, that doesn't happen.  Day after day of relentless sun.  No grass, no Oak trees, no fall leaves, just sand and rocks, and long open stretches of highways between isolated hamlets.  These folks must really like it here to continue. 

I motored on to Phoenix in 102 temps.  I had to keep the shield of the Arai down to prevent the blast of hot air from baking my face.  Cars and trucks fell before me as I whipped around them.  The highway is long and empty, and passing slower vehicles is no obstacle.

I was southbound and stuck behind a 18 wheeler for a few miles waiting on traffic to clear.  A long downhill lays before me, the northbound side has a truck lane for at least a mile, to allow passing on the long uphill.  I have the double yellow, but  unlimited sight for at least a mile, not a thing was coming.  So I took him.

At the bottom of the long hill, a state trooper was in the bushes, and came out behind me, but no lights.  He followed me almost 2 miles on the long hill.  I thought I was going to get off, but then he lit me up.  He was waiting for the turnout.  Obviously he's done this before.  At least we had a safe spot.  It had been 50k miles and 2 years since my last ticket, so I was due.  I ride a lot of miles, can't really complain.  I'm way ahead in the debit column.

He was a young guy and made a little small talk before asking for my paperwork.  I told him it was locked in the fairing and I would have to get it out.  I made sure to let him know what I was going to do.  

He took my paperwork and asked me if I knew why he stopped me.  I thought it was speeding, but said, " Don't really know."

"Passed on the double yellow back there."

"Yeah I did that, but before you write my ticket, let me say this.  I'd been behind that truck a few miles, and didn't like it.  In this heat, recaps are subject to fly off at anytime, all you have to do is look on the shoulders of this road, but you don't need to, been out here long enough to know that.  Plus, I can't see around or what might be coming out from under.  I had the double yellow, but a clear line of sight for at least a mile, it was a safe pass.  I reasoned if you're down the road, just going to cost me a few bucks, but if I stay back here, and one flies off taking me out, going to cost a lot more.  So I took him.  It is never good for a bike to stay behind a 18 wheeler, and I didn't know when I might have a chance to take him again.  We are taught in school and experience to stay from them when possible.  Not going to lie, I'd do it again, if presented with the same option."

"Damn, you oughta be a lawyer. You obviously know what you're doing, coming all the way from Alabama and all.  Just let me check ya out, and I'll put ya back on your way"


He went back to his car to check for warrants etc.  Then came back and returned my paperwork.
"Thanks, be safe out here man, you need to be around long enough to get YOUR pension."  

He laughed and got back in his car.

SR 93 carried me south with the temps rising.  I knew they would be the closer I came to the valley.  The landscape was typical desert, kind of boring.  I was glad to stop at the Cowboy Inn at Wickenburg for a for a late lunch.

I was directed to a booth in the back, and fell out.  I gave my order for a grilled (checking to make sure grilled meant grilled and not fried) chicken to the young girl, but she said she was just the hostess NOT the waitress.
The Cowboy Inn is decorated in a rodeo theme, it was the kind of establishment you see on TV anytime someone stops for bite in the southwest.

The message icon was on display on my Motorola, so I dialed in.  Uncle Phil called and said to him called him back.  "So where ya at?"  "Wickenburg, Arizona."  He checked his atlas, "not far from Phoenix I see."  "Yeah, but hot as hell, gonna get to the city and call it a day, find a room, campin in the desert ain't no fun."

I noticed the table had a tray of prepackaged jelly.  "Hey baby, reckon the boss will mind if I take some jelly? 

"Nah take all you want."  "Sure?  Cause I like peanut butter and jelly."  "Yeah its ok."

I stocked enough jelly for at least 10 sandwiches, grape and Strawberry.

U.S. 60 was the next route and it transported me the last 50 miles into Phoenix.  It was steaming hot.  Ultra heat blasts hit me from the road bed, and when I had to stop at a red light it was miserable.  My plan was to work my way to I-10 and get to the west side of the city before stopping for the day.

In Surprise traffic backed up and was not moving.  My heart sank.  A long line of cars were visible for at least a mile.  I crawled along with the temp at 112.  It was brutal.  I'm pretty heat tolerate but sitting in the desert sun, on 112 degree day on a 1300 with the fan blowing is HOT.  I'll say this, the 1300 is a hell of a motorcycle.  I crawled 1 mile in 30 minutes and the temp gauge never budged off 3 bars.  No matter how hard you try, you can't make this bike overheat. 

I might be from hot and muggy central Alabama, and have a high heat threshold, but even I can only take so much.  I felt sweat dripping down my back and legs.  I made a executive to decision to move up the left side.   I could see a small strip asphalt to the next intersection.  I went for it, if a cop sees me so be it, but I had to be proactive.  I moved up the left shoulder for a half mile, effectively cutting off at least 30 minutes.  

Traffic was backed up because we were all forced into one lane, and a intersection at the end had a faulty light.  It was on flash and only 1 car at a time could cross.  It was horrible.

I made it to the 101 by pass loop and got back up to highway speed.  The air rushing around me was paradise it felt so good.  The afternoon commute would be starting soon, and I needed to get where I was going.  I left on I-10 west and cleared the city with no problem, but man was it hot.

The Comfort Inn sign looked inviting and I have all kinds of discounts.  AAA and Choice Motel to name a few.  I checked into a 48 dollar room on the ground floor and turned the AC on.  I peeled down to a pair a shorts and took off for the pool, and had a nice swim.  

I rode 418 miles today.

No running today, the heat wore me down.  After swimming I went across the street and slammed a quart of Gatorade.  "Back to normal now," was my thought.

With things back to normal, the room was too cold, so I dialed the AC back up   The Canucks would have liked it though.

I took a long bath to relieve some tension.  It was nice.  A steakhouse was across the street so I took a short hike over for something to eat.  While waiting for my food, I made notes, edited pictures, and talked to my wife.

My memory stick was almost full, but a Best Buy was nearby, talk about good timing.  

Supper was baked chicken and and a baked potato, with lots of diet coke.  I was making sure to fully hydrate.  One thing about being a endurance athlete, you know your body, and what it needs to run well.  

When I finished eating I picked up a 256MB stick, and scanned the DVD section for something interesting, but nothing really caught my eye, so headed over to the con store for a muffin to munch back at the room.

Tomorrow I land in California.  I still have more desert riding to do, but will soon be in the mountains and on the way to meet  Jerrol Olson.  I'll be spending the night in Oceanside, and riding up the coast for a couple of days with Don "The Freestyle" Cortez et all.  I was looking forward to riding in Southern California, I've not been there before, and was excited about the good riding ahead.

The weather babe in Phoenix has the easiest job around.  Same forecast day after day.  I bet they get all excited around here if a rain cloud comes up.  No, this is not for me, I'll just take hot and muggy Alabama.  It rains often home, and like I said, I was missing it, and all the good stuff it brings, like LIFE.

She also confirmed the high in Phoenix was 112, just like the 1300 told me.  My gauge is on the money.

I fell asleep with the TV on, because I couldn't find the clicker, and was too sorry to get up and look for it.  Didn't matter, I slept well anyway.