Monday, June 30, 2008

Thom's Problematic Trip

On the way to Yellowstone, Thom lost a chain. It appears that the rubber stop that keeps the center stand off of the chain was not adequate. The bike spit the chain out near Coeur d'Alene. He got a tow (the driver would not take insurance - $90) and delivered Thom and the bike to a Honda shop. Thom rides a Suzuki. Additional cost of an unplanned stay at a motel. In the morning, the Honda service guy fixed him up with a chain that allowed him to reach a Suzuki dealer. New chain installed, Thom arrived at the north gate just a few hours behind schedule.

On his ride home, he stopped in Pullman to spend the night on a friend's couch. In the morning he found that the main wiring harness had been cut. Senseless vandalism. He made arrangements to borrow Ross' pickup to haul the bike home, filed an insurance claim (he should include a claim for the earlier tow) and hopes to get to work on time on Tuesday.

I enjoyed his visit, I hope he had a good time while in the park.

I spent a couple days in Glenns Ferry, ID, at a combination winery, golf course and RV park. It sounds lovely but the temperature reached 115 on Sunday - too hot to leave the air conditioned coach. I did play some golf and toured the winery. While there, my wireless card died. I'm back on-line now - better than ever.

I am in Pasco, WA, looking for a Honda dealer (maybe I should go to Cour d'Alene) to perform a 24,000 mile service on my bike. I have ridden over 8,000 miles in these four months.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The seventh hell of 6,390 steps

Thom forced me to accompany him to the bottom of Uncle Tom's Trail (maybe this was Big Tom's revenge - what did I ever do to him?).

Anyway, somehow we missed the sign that mentioned the 6,390 steps (maybe there were only 390, but still...). Foolishly we were wearing our leather motorcycle coats. Remember how heavy my coat is Mom? The steps go 3/4s of the way to the bottom of the canyon so you can get a good view of the lower falls. The steps are made of rusty old expanded steel. You may remember that I have a fear of heights. I gripped the railing and stared at Thom's shoes all the way.

Two things to remember in Yellowstone

The maximum speed in the park is 45. You're on vacation. Slow down and enjoy it. Thom and I grew tired of having California freeway drivers riding our rear tires through the park.

Don't get to close to the bison. They recommend 25 yards. On Thursday a 12 year old boy from Pennsylvania got tossed by a bull. The family was posing one or two FEET from the bull even though other park visitors told them to get away.

Enough soap box dissertation, I'll start posting pictures.

and then he was gone

Thom and I had a grand time riding in Yellowstone. He left Friday night. I miss him already.

I am staying in a little town east of Boise at a combination RV park, winery and golf course. I have to walk across the street to the winery to access wifi, so this will be a short note to say "Hi" and let you know I'm alive.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Erica meets Obama!

I'm in Cody, Wyoming for the night. The next four nights will be spent at Fishing Bridge inside Yellowstone National Park.

I like Wyoming. From south to north, east to west - I like it. They have over 300 clear sunny day every year. Of course some of those days are thirty or forty degrees below zero, but it's a dry cold.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


The names and places in the area have sounded familiar to me ever since I arrived in the valley - Wind River, Ethete, Fort Washakie (where Sacajawea is buried). I didn't remember why until I visited the library yesterday and browsed through the "honor books".

Margaret Coel.

I am a Tony Hillerman fan. I'm certain that I've read everything he's written. To pass the time between the issuance of his books, I've searched for similar work.

Margaret Coel and Father John O'Malley.

Her books are centered around the "Wind River Reservation" just outside of Lander. Father John runs the Jesuit mission and is always discovering bodies when he is not solving all of the problems of the people around him.

I head for Yellowstone tomorrow and meet Thom on Tuesday. I can't wait to see him.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Bronzes of Lander, Wyoming

On the short "must see" list when visiting Lander, Wyoming is a tour of the Eagle Bronze Foundry . The community, businesses and patrons have taken the opportunity to commission statues for the area. As you drive in to town from the south you pass this cowboy riding herd on three longhorns

From the north, you will see "Sweet Tooth" digging for honey in a rotten stump.

There are reproductions of sculptures by Remington, pronghorns are as plentiful in town as in the surrounding meadows, and the flower holding prairie dog is "cute".

My days are pretty lazy. I get up early, have some coffee at the local coffee shop (Folklore) and check my e-mail, then ride for a few hours before the heat of the day sets in. Most of the real "sights" are at the end of gravel roads - mining towns and ghost towns and wildlife sanctuaries. If the road isn't too rutted I give them a try. I spend the evenings making sure nothing has rattled loose on the bike. In the afternoon I read. The folks at the library have been nice about letting me borrow books without getting a card. The library closes at 4 on Friday, I have to go.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Too much help

Sorry I've been out of touch for a day or so. I am still unable to connect to the wifi server at the RV park. I made the mistake of mentioning this to the owner. He was sure he could make it work. I just got back to Lander from a computer shop in Riverton. My computer works again.

I played golf on Monday at the local course. It's only open 6 months out of the year and the back nine is closed if it rains. The front nine is much older and better established, the back nine is only a few years old and carved out of prairie land.

I should have made note of the warning signs. I was out of breath by the time I walked the four blocks and up the hill to the clubhouse, dragging my golf clubs along behind me. It was already hot, near 80, and muggy. I should have rented a cart and felt like a wimp instead of letting my male ego get the better of me. I walked all 18 holes, pulling my cart. Did I mention I haven't played golf for a while? I obviously have not been getting enough exercise. I wasn't sure I'd make it up the final hill from the 18th green to the clubhouse, but I knew that there would be cold refreshment and air conditioning waiting for me. An added bonus was watching the playoff for the US Open on the television in the bar.

I shot an 81 (ten over par) and survived the day. I doubt that I learned my lesson.

Saturday was spent at the Lander Brew Fest. Live music + fifteen local brewers = a good time. It was nice to see so many happy people gathered in one place.

Here is the view from the RV park:

Friday, June 13, 2008

Limited or zero connectivity

The RV park I eventually selected is very nice and is supposed to have wifi, but I'll be damned if I can get connected. Something to do with the IP address. So here I am in the local library checking e-mail and talking to you all.

Lander is a nice town situated in a lush green valley split by the Popo Agie River. The river disappears in to the side of the canyon at "the sinks" and reappears a half mile downstream at "the rise".

I got to town in time for a beerfest tomorrow at the city park and there is a golf course next door to the RV park. I've drug my clubs around for months, never swinging them in anger, so I think it's time I did.

I plan to be here until the 22nd. I hope I don't have to continue to visit the library for internet access. (I found a nice coffee shop with wifi, too)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cold, wind and snow

I guess I'm just not going to see everything on this trip. RV parks are scarce in northern Utah and their are only 51 in all of Wyoming according to the Wyoming Campground Association. Most are full of pipeline workers and wind farm workers, year round.

I almost got stuck trying to turn around to get out of a National Forest campground, found out that you need to make a reservation two days in advance at Steinaker State Park and I am getting very tired of driving in 30 mile per hour winds.

Highway 191 is a great road to drive or ride - but not in a motorhome. Running along the Flaming Gorge Recreation Area, it crosses the plateaus at 7,000 to 8,000 feet, the snow fences are blown over, with semis crawling up and down the 8% grades, but the vistas are amazing. A person can see forever - if your eyes can focus after all of the bouncing on the uneven pavement. I've learned to put things away and secure them. I saw two moose, a badger, snow geese and swan on my drive.

Today I'm in Fort Bridger at (oddly enough) the Fort Bridger RV Park. A nice, quiet park with wifi and cable television. There are no trees so the wind is bouncing the coach around. The snow has stopped falling.

I've already visited the old fort. Originally it was Jim Bridger's trading post on the Oregon Trail, then the Mormons bought it, then in 1858 it became a frontier fort. It was a stop for the Pony Express and the Overland Stage. It was abandoned in 1890 and all of the buildings sold off. In 1933 it became a historical landmark and the old fort was rebuilt. It is now the site of the mountain man rendezvous on Labor Day weekend.

I've made a reservation at a park in Lander, Wyoming for the next week or so. The weather is supposed to improve this weekend.

It's snowing again.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Off line

The RV park I stayed in last night was sub-par and the others are worse. Pipeline workers have taken up most of the spaces. I will continue north on 191 in search of space, but if I wind up at a state or national park I will temporarily be off-line. As I am addicted to the internet, this will be harder on me than you.

Monday, June 9, 2008

To my anonymous friends,

I appreciate your comments, I really do, but please give me a clue about your identity. Initials, nickname, anything.

A big thank you to the anonymous commenter that told my sister about the doctor in Bremerton.


p.s. I am in Vernal, Utah for the night. I'm looking for a place to spend a week, but this isn't it.

p.p.s. I hope there is no snow in Yellowstone.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Headed for Wyoming

I'll pull out tomorrow to make my rendezvous with Thom in Yellowstone on the 24th. Two weeks should be enough time. I'm hoping for a big improvement in the weather.

I like Kanab and this rv park. I may return.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park

Okay, I've found my favorite National Park so far. It's not just the park itself, but the drive to the park and area around the park. Just beautiful. I guess I've about worn that word out lately, maybe that's why it's "America the Beautiful".

Highways 89 and 12 from Kanab to Bryce Canyon are scenic drives - they aren't lying. Kanab has it's own canyon and it's very nice. Before you get to Bryce Canyon, you drive past the Corral Pink Sand Dunes and through Red Canyon.

Unlike Zion, you can drive from one end of the park to the other, or you can choose to ride the shuttle buses to about half of the view points. If you visit the park be sure to drive the 18 miles to Rainbow Point.

There are a number of trails that take you down amongst the hoodoos. They are well marked and not nearly as scary as the Grand Canyon trails. The brochure identifies the level of difficulty for each. I took an easy 1-1/2 mile hike down to the Queens Garden. It would have been easier without the leather coat, but I hadn't meant to go all the way to the bottom. Younger legs should come and explore all of the trails.

Our weak dollar is a boon to the foreign tourist. I have a hard time identifying US citizens in any of the parks. I met a busload of folks from Australia in Zion, a group of motorcycle riders from Argentina and I chatted up a couple of lasses from England. They like getting two dollars for one pound. They also said that they get about twice the food they would get at home for the same price and told me diesel is selling for about $10 per gallon there.

I saw two condors soaring in the park, riding the thermals. Huge birds, not pretty. Kind of like the turkey vultures in Arkansas.

Ebenezer Bryce said of the canyon, "It's a hell of a place to lose a cow". Come and lose yourself.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Let's talk about the weather

What the heck is going on up there? Snow in the passes! In June? It snowed in Yellowstone, too!

The weather is going to play a big part in a lot of planned events that are coming up soon.

I'm not going to come north to sit inside my rv while it rains outside. I am hooked on sunshine and warm temperatures.

Get the drum circle going and start the sun dance!

Zion National Park

What a difference. At the Grand Canyon I spent all of my time looking down over the edge, at Zion I spent all of my time looking up. You must ride in the shuttles provided by the park along the scenic road that runs up the bottom of the canyon. The shuttles stop at eight locations after departing from the visitor center. It was pleasant, but I was impressed much more by the Kolob Terrace Road that Dave told me to ride.

Maybe that's why I liked it more - I got to ride it instead of sitting in a bus. The road starts at the community of Virgin, Utah. It jogs in and out of the western edge of the park and covers a much more varied landscapes. I rode from a high desert to a high meadow and finally to the high mountain lake at 8,118 ft. Access to many of Zion's back country trails are from this road. The number of homes at the top of the road is very surprising.

If you get hungry while at Zion, I strongly recommend Oscar's in Springdale just outside the park. I had a huge garlic burger smothered in onions and mushrooms.

Uf da!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Grand Canyon, Day 2

I awoke to a much colder day on my second day at the Grand Canyon, but that meant I wouldn't be too uncomfortable as I continued my hike on the rim.

I had heard that the mules leave the barns at sunrise - don't believe it. I got to Angel Bright trail head at 6:30 and saw the mules standing in the corral waiting for their riders. I did check on the possibility of a last minute ride but was out of luck on two counts: none available and I weigh too much. As I waited for the mules to head out, I hiked down the upper portion of Angel Bright. I'm glad I didn't spend the money on the mule ride. I couldn't even get to the 1-1/2 mile rest house because of my fear of heights. More on that later.
I got back to the rim and listened to the wrangler explain what the rider was expected to do and what they would experience on their ride. Some were there for the one day ride, others were headed for Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon. The zig zag path in the picture is Angel Bright trail.

After watching the mule trains leave the rim, I continued my hike toward Hopi Point. Going west from the lodges, the trail climbs at a fairly steep grade. The path is still mostly paved, but there are many more steps. Maricopa Point is one of those rock fingers that sticks out into the abyss. The rock ledge is the same width as the trail with a sheer drop off either side. I made it to the end, but had to concentrate on the path and didn't enjoy(?) the view until I got to the safety of the guard rail at the end of the path. Then I had to turn around and get back to the safety of the rim trail.

By the time I reached Powell Point my nerve had returned and I inched my way out to the monument at the end of the path. Again I kept my eyes on my feet as I worked my way back off the point. Perhaps I have a touch of vertigo?

Near Hopi Point is the Orphan Lode Mine. It began life as a copper mine, with the miners going untethered over the side of the rim on wooden ladders to work the claim. Later they found uranium. The mine has been idle since 1969 and is still fenced off due to "higher than normal" radiation readings awaiting a plan to clean up the site.
After lunch the wind grew strong and the rain started to fall. I put the bike in the trailer just before the deluge began, then the thunder and lightning began. I learned how to operate the heater and ran the generator to keep the chill out and lights on for reading. The couple from Holland in the next space will return to a soggy tent.

I got up this morning to a chilly 40 degrees, ate my bagel and banana and got the Minnie on the road to Kanab, Utah. I'm in a nice park with internet, television and free showers without a 7 minute time limit - heaven. It's a very pretty little town hard against the red rock cliffs. From here I will explore Zion and Bryce on my motorcycle.

Grand Canyon, Day 1

I arrived at the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park via the east entrance and got my first view of the canyon from Desert View. Overwhelming. Every time I turned my head a few degrees I was greeted with another postcard worthy view.

It's a beautiful day and I am anxious to unload the bike and visit all of the view points identified in the Grand Canyon Guide. I had hoped to get lucky and obtain a spot in Trailer Village where hook ups are available and rigs over 30' are allowed. Alas, the village is full. I continued to Mather Campground hoping that they could accommodate my RV and trailer (about 40'). They felt my pain and bent over backwards to get me and my stuff settled in for a couple nights. They allowed me to use a site normally saved for administrative purposes. I parked, unloaded the bike and headed back east to start my exploration of the canyon.

There is no rim trail to speak of east of Pipe Creek Vista. Parking areas are provided off Desert View Drive to allow access to the rim. At some wide spots in the road, there are well travelled unofficial trails to the edge. I tried them all.

I started my hike of the rim trail at Yavapai Observation Station and headed east to Pipe Creek Vista. A little over 2 miles of uneven mostly paved path. I need
shorts! I caught the free shuttle back to the parking lot where I left my bike and went back to the RV camp to get my shorts. Too bad I forgot my sunscreen for my knees. I returned to the Yavapai Observation Station and hiked the rim to the park headquarters and the Mather Amphitheater. There I listened to a series of ranger programs about the Condors and the fossils that can be seen in the area. I returned for another program in the evening. It was the perfect time to be under the stars - new moon and cloudless. Just beautiful.

My plan for the next day is to complete the hike of the rim trail to Hopi Point (the trail normally goes much farther to Hermits Rest but is closed for repairs) and see the mules.

Stay tuned. Remember that if you click on the photos you will get to see the picture full size. Then hit your back arrow and return to the blog.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Went there, did that, no shirt

Today I drove north on the Devil's Highway (old 666, now 491) so I could say that I have been to Four Corners. My brothers and sisters remember Four Corners as the tavern just south of the Hood Canal Bridge that Gram and Alec visited on a regular basis, but this is the only point in the continental United States where four states meet. It is a Navajo Park and the entry fee is $3 per person. It is also a place where the local Navajos can sell their jewelry, ceramics, arrows, T shirts and flat bread. After stretching my legs and looking at the vistas surrounding the monument, I drove Highway 160 along the southern edge of Monument Valley. Most of the "valley" is above 6,000 ft. It really is quite impressive and would require further investigation if I were younger, in better shape and most of it wasn't fenced off.
RV parks are far and few between around Tuba City, so I took what I could get and hope for better at the south rim of the Grand Canyon tomorrow. I plan to spend a few nights in the area, see if there is a stand-by list for mule rides and hike part of the Rim Trail.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Every day is a learning experience

Where have I heard that before? I think Duane points that out regularly.

What have I learned in the 12 weeks that I've been on the road? That I have good friends and a supportive family, that I don't mind being alone but appreciate the company of others, that I don't take up a lot of space and that I like sunshine.

I have no idea where I'll settle down or when, but it will be in a sunny place. I like being brown and warm. I like getting up in the morning and putting on shorts and not much else.

I look forward to seeing all of you in a month or so, but I'll be back down this way in the fall. Maybe not Albuquerque, although it's nice enough.

Where is that perfect place? Sunny but not too hot, enough rain to keep down the dust but not enough to make me blue, winters that aren't too cold with no snow, enough activities to entertain but not enough to draw too big of a crowd, enough trees to provide shade on a hot day but not so many that you can't see the horizon, close to family and friends, away from the maddening crowds, convenient to the interstate highway system but surrounded by roads meant for riding and driving.

I've learned that at times I'd like to have a vehicle other than a motorcycle for daily transport. Grocery shopping is a challenge. I have to gauge the volume of my saddlebags while wandering the aisles of the store. Perhaps another sports car... I have not learned how I could possibly take all the toys I'd like to have available with me on the road, but have learned that I don't need all of those toys.

I have learned that I enjoy being lazy. I may need to find something productive to do as some time, but for now I don't have to.

I bought some movies yesterday: "Wild Hogs" since I've been to most of the sites used in the shooting of the movie; "City Slicker" because it was only $5; and "Big Trouble in Little China" because we were talking about it. So, if my travels lead me to areas without television reception (like Chris and Don's yard), I'll have something to watch.

Time to start packing things away. I'll soon be on the road again.