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Day 13
June 17th, 2007                                             
La Quinta Motel Inn
Phoenix, Arizona

                               
At 7am it was already 91 degrees in Phoenix according to the ambient air gauge on the 1300, that over the years has proved to be accurate.  I was on the ground floor facing the pool and the Honda was off to the side, so I had to carry my bags farther then would have liked.

My plan today is church in Flagstaff, then Monument Valley.  One of the primary goals of the tour was to camp in the valley and witness the sunset.  I've learned over the years how much fun witnessing the benign can be.  Millions of people visit Monument Valley, but only a handful get to enjoy the sunset.  "If I get on the road by 7 am I should be good to do all I want today."  I estimated  a 350 mile day, not a lot of miles by design.
After loading the bike I went to the lobby to turn my key in, I skipped the "continental breakfast." which in these places means cereal and donuts.  It was Sunday morning and things were quiet, the desk clerks had just changed shifts.

The FI idled the Honda down and I got underway, heading north on I-17.  Of course not a cloud in the sky, and the sunlight was luminous.  I was on 2 bars but skipped filling up till I cleared the city.  Past experience taught me there were plenty of options in the suburbs north.

Phoenix is a big sprawling place, but well layed out, and the freeway system is not overly complicated.  I zipped through the fringes of city and was soon on the way to higher elevation, and cooler temps.  Traffic was nominal.

Very early on the tour I started skipping the speedometer on the Honda in lieu of the more accurate dial on the Zumo.  An indicated 80 on the ST, was a true 73 or 74.  I also have the gas gauge on the GPS calibrated to the Honda, but so far I hadn't ridden far enough on a tank to fire it off.  I was gassing up at 2 bars, and the Zumo doesn't fire off till 300 miles.  I came in to Cave Creek on 1 bar and topped off the tank at a mega con store.

It was a quick stop, and on the way out I saw a local cruiser light up a guy at a red light.  I don't know what he did wrong, looked innocent to me.
The I-17 is the main route from the city to the mountains, this time of year it is busy with city dwellers trying to get out of the valley to the cooler temps in the mountains, but it was Sunday morning and nobody was going anywhere- till this afternoon.  At that time the south bound lanes will swell with folks trying to get home.

The ride north gradually starts the long climb to the more Alpine areas of the state.  I began to see more trees, and yes, the temps dropped noticeably.

I saw 2 large touring bikes chugging in front of me, perhaps a half mile away, fully loaded their speed dropped on a long uphill climb.  This particular scenario has demonstrated to me many times the difference in a sport touring bike, and a full on touring bike.  I was cruising at 80-85, and judging by how fast I was closing on the 2 bikes I estimated their speed around 75, but they began to falter on the long ascent, their speed dropping to 65, whereas the Honda, with its high revving, long top end, and roll on power, barely flinched.  With just a little more throttle the Honda maintained 85 mph, and in a instant I was on the HD Road Kings and gone.

The run into Flagstaff was routine, but good.  The cooler temps and tress were a welcome relief after the last day and a half.  The GPS took me to I-40 where I took the second Flagstaff exit, and sifted my way through the city for the church.  "I'm early so I'll scope out the area, take a break, and by then it should be time for Mass."

Mass was at 10am at St. Pius X, so I doubled back through town to a Chevron station I noticed on the way in, and went to a pump to top off.  After filling up the 13, I went inside for a drink and chips to go with my Peanut butter and Jelly sandwich.  A table was outside, and though it was in the sun, it was comfortable.  

After checking email I spent some time with Debbie and called my niece.  I have 2nd  nieces in Alabama and one 1st in Virginia, I think the world of all of them.  Void of little ones in our life, Debbie and I enjoy them, especially because they are girls.  After a lifetime of boys, baseball, football, and that assorted behavior, the girls are a welcome respite.

I hung around the store about 30 minutes, "Got time to kill, might as well make a Wal Mart run."  Not that I really needed anything but I was low on toothpaste.  I knew the way because I went there last year looking for a memory stick for my Sony.

After picking up toothpaste, bag of Twizzlers, free ATM, and a jar of jelly, I went back through town to St. Pius.  I parked near the side door next to a Yamaha Road Star.  They seem to be a popular bike with the cruiser crowd.  The main parking lot was loaded down with RVs, SUVs and mini vans, with tags from all over the country.  Instead of my usual bicycle shorts I had denim shorts under the Roadcrafter, so I just peeled off and went inside.  Catholic churches are mostly informal, and I like that.  The church was packed and I was sandwiched in between 2 families.  I don't know how many of the attendees were local, but I'm going to guess less than half.  

The service was good and dynamic, and by 10:45 I was back on the streets.  I was slipping the Roadcrafter back on when a young father came over to speak.  "I see you're from Alabama, where ya headin?"  "On my way to Monument Valley, then few days in Colorado, and eventually home."  "Alone?"  "Yeah, I prefer that way." "Special trip or just seeing the country?"  "Just seeing the country and riding."  He looked back over to his young kids, pulling on his wife's hands."  "Well, my time will come."  "I wouldn't complain bro, you have a nice family, good job I'm sure, just live it and be patient.  Been there myself.  This life chapter you're in is the longest, but it will eventually close, and then you have to decide if you want to go back and do the stuff you always wanted to do, or think of new dreams to go after."

I often receive those remarks from men in the life chapter of raising a family and providing.  Some delay that chapter until later, and do what I do in their 20s.  There is nothing with that approach, other then all that fun is tempered with the fact when the road trip is over, you have to go get a job and work for the next THIRTY YEARS.  Talk about taking the fun out of it.

Feeling good about myself, I dialed up the attractions menu on the Zumo, and found "Navajo Tribal Park, Monument Valley."  "That'd be ME," so tapped auto route and away I went on U.S. 89 north.

The Alpine area around Flagstaff disappeared as I rode north back into the desert.  The land was featureless except for a few cactus, sagebrush, and rocks.  The road streamed ahead of me, and I pursued it at 80 mph.

At the intersection of U.S. 160 l left 89 and rode on to Tuba City.  "Gonna eat lunch at the same Chinese place I ate at in 2001."  I entered the Navajo Reservation and rode hard.  The reservation is the largest in North America, almost the size of West Virginia, it takes up all of the Northeast Arizona.

In the 1800s Kit Carson drove the Navajo out of Arizona in retribution for raiding whites and other Indians in the area. A few years later, the survivors of the "Long Walk," returned to their native land.

I recalled Tuba City from 2001 as a sad place, but it seemed a little more active 6 years later.  I rode to the shopping center and the Chinese place was still there.  I was walking in the door when a Indian about my age came to me.  He had on a red bandana,  blue denim jeans with a bed roll under his arm.  The lines in his face were deep and sharp.  He spoke out to me-

'"brother can you spare a dollar or 2?"

"are you hungry?"

"yes not ate much in 2 days"

"well follow me inside and I'll buy ya something to eat."

Last year it was the younger version in New Mexico, this year it was this guy.  I don't know what it is that makes down on their luck men approach me so easily.  Probably because I'm alone, obviously a long way from home with a few coins, and middle age (so they don't worry about me being violent).

We both fixed a plate from the buffet and sat down at a table. 

"Navajo?"

"No, Apache"

"so what are ya doin here?"

"on my way back to Utah, I'm married to a Ute."

"I see, does she know you're here?"

"Not really"

"why not?"

"no way to contact her,  I told her I was going to see my daughter in Tucson, and that I'd be back in a few days.  Not spoke to her in 3 days, she's probably a little worried."

"does she have a phone?"

"yes"

"here use mine and call her"

"Thanks, but first I'm gonna eat."

He scarved down 2 plates and then asked for my phone.  He made his call and spoke in a native lanquage, so I had no idea what they talked about, but it seemed a pleasant conversation.

He asked me about my travels, and I gave him the synopsis of the last 6 years.  "You have a special spirit my friend, use it wisely."  I don't exactly know what that meant.

"look here I'm going to Utah, but I'm gonna spend the night in Monument Valley and then on to Colorado to meet a friend.  I'd give you a ride but I have no way to do that."  "That is ok, I will find a ride soon."  When I left he was on his way back for a 3rd plate of food.  

He never told me his name, and I never asked.

The ride across Navajo land was interesting.  In a classic scene a boy on a pinto pony herded a flock of sheep and goats across the highway, and a few miles later, a man wearing a straw stetson, guided a pair of horses tied at the neck Indian fashion.  With the white man giving up the economics of cow punching it looks like one day the role of cowboys and Indian could be reversed.

At Kayenta I changed routes to U.S. 163 and closed in on the Valley.  I don't know why, but I've been drawn to the Valley from the time I was a little boy.  On my first visit I just rode through, but this time I was going to stop and really see and learn.

The valley came into view as I topped the rise.  It is just a awe inspiring site, the way the tall rock formations stand alone in the otherwise empty valley.  I don't think any other spot in America captures the vastness and beauty of our country in such a compact snapshot.






























                                                                          The sweeping scene of Monument Valley


I followed the signs to the Tribal Park, paid my 5 dollar fee, and went to the parking lot.  I took my gear off and strolled around the visitor center.  To my dismay I learned the campground was closed for remodeling.  How do you remodel a campground?  Was my first question.

The monuments out in the valley begged for pictures so I obliged, then I went down to a small shack where 7-8 Navajo were standing about.  They operated the tour trucks that took visitors down into the valley close up.  I really wanted to do that, but couldn't work it out.































                       I took this picture  from the Tribal Park Visitor Center


"Look here, I want want y'all to ride me down in the valley. How much is it?"

"Just you?"

"yes"

"55 dollars, but if you wait till we get up enough for a group it will be 25"

I looked around and it didn't look any "group" would be forthcoming soon.  I asked the young Navajo (about 20) beside me, "y'all ain't busy, just put me in the truck with ya, and gimme the short version, and I'll give ya 20 bucks you otherwise wasn't gonna  make."

"If it were me ok, but the boss would not gonna go for it"

Disappointed about the campground, and the tour, I now had to go off and look for a campsite.  The Indians at the tourist stand suggest I go across the highway to Goulding, so I headed that way.

Goulding was founded by a guy who saw the valley for more then it what it was.  He settled in a nearby canyon, and set out to draw attention to the now famous landmark.  The local Navajo first thought him crazy but eventually grew to like him, as they traded and built a relationship. 
When the rumor got out John Ford was going to film a western on location, (unheard of in those days) he went to LA to him sell him on coming to the valley.  From there, you know the rest.

Goulding is a con store, motel, restaurant, trading post, and campground. I rode the ST to the front of the campground office and went inside to register, and a second later I had to gather myself.  There, behind the counter were 2 mesmerizing Indian girls.  They were stunning.  "Uh, uh, I need a place to put my tent."  "yes we have plenty of camp sites, just you?"  "yes, pick me out your best available ok baby?"  "Ok"  They other girl was on the internet.  "Y'all have broadband here?"  "Yes, and free wi fi."  

I handed over a 20 to pay my fee and after she counted my change I kind of stood there.  "Is there anything else?"  "Uh ah ah, where the showers??" 

"Down that hall."

"ok thanks."

It was mid afternoon and the temp was close 100 degrees, I was hoping the young lady picked out a nice site.  I need not have worried, it was perfect.  Shady, and quiet, I couldn't have picked it better myself.





















     
 The young Navajo girl picked out a nice spot for me


The Eureka went up quickly, "Not gonna put the rain flap on, it ain't gonna rain tonight." I had a good signal and started making a few phone calls. I picked up a voice mail from Uncle Phil.  He was on his way to Idaho and would be in Montrose as planned.

I thought about going for a run, but to be honest I just didn't feel like it.  I was stiff, and I was sure it would've been more then bad, so I didn't.
My thoughts turned to the approaching sunset and what my plan would be to make the most of it.  "I'll take video along 163, and a few close up and distant digital pics."
































                     My evening in the Valley was a moving experience with 
                     scenes like this one.

A couple from Missouri entered the campground and set up shop right next to the rest rooms.  "Now why would they wanna do that?"  All that noise and light would aggravate me.  I asked the man where they were going and he said he wouldn't know till in the mooring because that was when his wife tells him.  "She sits there with the atlas and directs me on where to go."  "I see, and does that system work pretty good?"  "Yeah, so far."

He asked, "How bout you? Anything interesting this trip?"

"Well, I had someone that wanted me to adopt a cell phone in Montana, a boy in Oregon who said his car was gonna blow up, a strange white guy with 2 black kids in the Hotel California, a fire in Arizona, and an Apache that said my spirit was good."

"sounds like a good trip"

It was getting time so I packed my camera gear and went down the road to U.S. 163.  Not a cloud was in the sky, "this is going to be perfect,"  I said.





























 
 
                                My timing in the Valley was perfect.  The setting sun
                                turns the monuments a deep red this time of day.


What a great experience.  The sunset was everything I thought it would be.  The long shadows moved across the valley as the sun slipped down in the land.  I rode up and down the highway taking pictures and video.  The setting sun casts the formations in a deep red tint.  The colors and hues were unique.  I went to the side to watch the sun slip all the way down.  It was beautiful. 


























 
         " I went to the side to watch the sun slip all the way down"

I've seen so many beautiful things in my long riding career, and I have it all captured here on this web site.  The pictures and my thoughts.  My site, is the most valuable thing I own, I would not take a million dollars for it.   Who knows, perhaps in 150 years, people will view it (on whatever they will use) and see what America was like all those years ago.  They will learn about riding, exploring, and just out having fun in the 21st century!
The sun was gone, so I went back to Goulding.  At the intersection sits a high school with a football field and a very nice track, in full view of the monuments.  "How neat that would be to do my track work in Monument Valley?"  Talk about motivation.

The small road back to the campground could use some help.  It is rippled and in the late dusk bounced me up and down.

On the way in I stopped at the con store and filled up, then went back to the campsite.  It was almost dark when I idled up.  While I was gone 2 college boys were sitting up a tent few spots down from me.

They called out to me-"Hey how's it going?"

"Good! I was just out taking some pics and video, it was great out there this evening.'

"Man, I dunno about all that, but we just checked in"

"ohhhhhhhh so you were in the office?'

"YES, that was awesome. I told Mike we gotta make a excuse to go back"

"Well I'm fixin to head up there and take a shower"

I skipped supper, I was still full from lunch and not in the mood to eat believe it or not.

The night was cool, and the walk to the shower was good.  The 2 Navajo girls were still in the office when I came in.  Not knowing what else to say I said, "uh, gonna take a shower,"  "well okkkkk," the girl at the computer responded.

The place had a indoor pool, and a young family was hard at.  

Back at my tent site I walked over to the college boys from Kansas.  "Y'all ain't gonna keep me up playing crazy music tonight are ya?"

"noooooooooooo"

"man y'all are right, that office is awesome"

At a site across from me a couple with a young infant arrived to set up camp.  They were in a SUV, Oregon plates.  It was loaded down with camping supplies and food.  Reminded of the NY couple I saw in Moab, Utah in 2005  The husband set up a BIG tent while the mother tended the baby.  I guess keeping the SUV in gas meant they'd be no motels or steak dinners for them this trip.

It was a beautiful night inside the canyon, lots of stars with a crescent moon.
  
For the first time in a long time I listened to one of my Twilight Zone CDs.  It was the one about the ventriloquist.  I don't know about y'all, but I've ALWAYS found those dummies spooky.

It had been a great day.  It was days like today that make touring on a motorcycle so special.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.




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