Smartphones linked to Blindness – You’ll Never Guess Why!

People watching has become an enjoyable pastime for me lately. It once was that I would hate to sit still for any length of time, unless that time included a gripping book to read. Waiting in line seemed to fuel my impatience, driving my idle mind to grasp for straws, at the very least, straws with something to read whereby to occupy my thoughts.

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Enter stage left, the invention and acquisition of the smartphone. Such an incredible device, crammed with many features, both advertised and those which were not. Several megapixel camera, 3.2% faster than the latest model, a glossy screen to better glare in direct sunlight. Oh, and of course the new-found ability to simply let the submarine of my attention to dive into the app of the day, leaving behind all those potentially awkward small-talk conversations at the DMV. No longer did I have to sit aimlessly, glancing repeatedly over at the clock only to catch the phenomenon of the second hand freezing in place much longer than seemed necessary, time after time. Why, I could see what fun my friends on Facebook were having without me, instantly depress myself by perusing the news, or to the very delight of Visa, scroll through Amazon with boredom and shiftlessness priming an ever-itchy order trigger finger. Free Two Day Shipping! What could be better?

After one becomes enveloped in the cocoon that is mobile tech, there’s always an awakening feeling when you have to surface for air. For myself, I find myself paranoid that I was so intent on my device that I missed something around me that must have been of great importance. A sort of, “Oh, where was I?” Back to the world again. Is my flight boarding yet?

There it was, a nagging feeling that maybe, just maybe, I should leave the phone down every now and then to just take in my surroundings. Recalling my exasperation (vexation, I’ll admit it) at all the tourists and their “selfie sticks” at Bryce Canyon in Utah, turning their backs on the grandeur around them and returning immediately to their car, their reward captured, the best portrait with which to impress their friends, enemies, and possibly even attempt to woo an equally photogenic suitor. Missing all that nature had to offer by focusing their phones and their attention solely on themselves.

Slowly, I began to leave my phone in my pocket (or even in the truck) as I stood in line or waited for someone to arrive. I switched to analog mode, if you will. A dog would bark, and this time, I would notice. A woman would be wiping a tear as she held the phone and slumped behind the register at an airport bookstore. People would have the most unusual conversations. I noticed this.

In a small way, I began to feel myself wondering about the people surrounding me, those doing their best to conceal their emotions and those who were far beyond such reservations, and I started to empathize with them. Do I know their struggles, their triumphs? The source of their tears, their laughter, their cold and sullen indifference? No. Do I really need to, in able to be happy for them or to empathize with them? In the very least, have considered or thought about them?

I’m finding listening to others’ small-talk fascinating. Go ahead and take the jump sometimes yourself! You can meet the most interesting, incredible in the places you least expect. Just make the switch to analog, and you’ll likely be surprised at what you’ve been missing.

I’ve found that I have remember seemingly inconsequential moments, yet they serve as a snapshot of that small slice of life that I shared with random passersby. People I will likely never encounter again, etched into my memory.

See from the Istanbul Metro: a small playground, a girl sitting on one end of a see-saw, looking fruitlessly for someone to help the ride fulfill it’s name. I saw.

In the Atlanta airport: the man pacing in the TSA security line, suddenly finding the keys of the car borrowed from his brother still in his pocket. His wife panicking and him reassuring her while placing a call to his brother. The distraught look on their faces when informed they could not leave the security line.

From the courtroom today: the dejected shoulder slump of a lady just notified she’d be serving on the jury all week.

There are countless other examples, but the fact remains; had I been engrossed on that small 4.7” AMOLED screen, these moments would have passed by unnoticed. Are these moments great, life-defining? Monumental even? Hardly, but I wouldn’t trade them for any digital reward I might have reaped blindered in my tiny cocoon of technology.

Solo, but not Alone.

“Gold’s still out there, if’n you got the patience to stick at it” mumbled the man across the diner as he wiped his napkin across his mouth, missing the bit of home fries still in his moustache. “People just ain’t got what it takes to work anymore” replied his dining companion, somehow not regretting his choice to wear shorts on a 45 degree morning. “Food’ll be out in a bit, darling” was met with a chorus of “Thank you, Nancy” as the diner regulars awaited their platters of egg, bacon, and toast.

This won’t be your typical ride report. Instead of wrapping up my uneventful last day home, this is what you get. No bike photos, no descriptions of twisty nirvana, no maps. No food pictures or captured landscapes, solely what really held my trip together, makes for vivid recollections, and that which left an impression on me that no national park, tourist trap or secondary road ever could.

I’m speaking of those who make the world more than just a ball of rock, grass, and dirt. Geologists, forgive my simplicity. I refer, of course, to people. Friends, neighbors, strangers, foe, acquaintance, family. Answer D – all of the above.

When I planned this trip, I looked up routes, things to see, places to eat, but the one aspect of the trip I had no control over whatsoever was the people with whom I would cross paths, if but for a brief moment.

We live in an age of 4G LTE, WiFi in every restaurant, and we’re more connected than ever. Are we really? Go to a public place. Just people watch for a bit. Friends eating together all glued to their respective phones, taking photos of their food and selfies to further groom their personal online image. (I admit, I take food pictures, but…) Parents handing children tablets with cartoons on to shut them up for a bit. We don’t talk to those we don’t know and expect the favor to be returned to us. Our worlds revolve around us and everyone else is playing backup. The news is nothing but grim faced reporters discussing last night’s double homicide, and today’s economy disaster. What fresh danger is lurking in your house as you sleep unaware? Tune in at 11:00 for more.

This is a pretty bleak picture to paint, for sure, but is that where we as a world are stuck now? Is this what life is now? Is everyone else to be feared, judged, and avoided by us, just because the fear-mongering media tells us to stay in our tiny little comfort zones and “safe spaces”? Are there still people out there who are kind? Somebody who will help their fellow man out? Someone who inspires hope that we’re not autonomous self-bots just yet? Anyone?

Yes, they’re still around. I know. I’ve seen them, talked with them. Laughed, shook hands, shared a brief moment with them, parted ways, likely to never see them again, but now somehow a little different for having met them.

These people are some of the most vivid and best memories of my trip.

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Outshining the beauty of Glacier National Park, the man who came down from his house to reopen the gas station to sell four gallons of gasoline from a pump old enough that it tallied in nickels. Helping out the rider all the way from South Carolina, which really is a long ways from Dale, Oregon, he chuckled as he expounded on the history of the gas station, going back inside to bring back a postcard. “No charge,” he said. “Your middle name’s Dale, that’s good enough for me.”

Greater than the fun of ripping up the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, the scene that awaited at the top of the Beartooth Highway. A pulloff with a great view. A classic Cadillac. An elderly couple inside, his arm around her, her head on his shoulder as they sighed together and pondered life, just living in the moment, while they still could.

Oh, the advice you receive as a solo rider far from home. “Be safe out on that thing.” “Don’t try to hit any moose. They probably would win.” “Not saying you’re going to smuggle drugs into Canada, but if you do, ride a Goldwing. They never search those, not like the Harleys they climb all over. Don’t want to get in all the old guys’ stuff, I reckon.” “Keep it shiny side up” “Hope you had a good day spelunking. That’s some wild caving gear.” “Man, you should strap a kitchen sink on there yet.” “I wish I could fill up my car for that!” “Drink plenty of water out there, man. It’s hotter than a billy goat with a blow torch” (He didn’t have to tell me, I was sweating like Mike Tyson at a spelling bee)

Always a good laugh was the admiring and envious glances of those guys who longed to be on a bike, a tent on the back, and the open road ahead of them, when a elbow in the side from their significant other jolted them back to reality and lead them back into Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Kids love a biker. They come running, asking questions a mile a minute with the attending parent trying to catch them and apologizing. If they asked nicely, they could sit on the bike for a while or a photo. Their day = made.

People just love to approach a lone rider. It’s one of the reasons I like to travel alone. It adds a sense of vulnerability to which people can relate. I could always tell when someone just needed to talk to somebody, not really that I could do anything about it, they just needed to talk. It’s how I learned that Eileen* is trying to sell her RV in Phoenix because she worries about it while shes away 8 months of the year. That Ernie* is about to lose his job at the mining company and that he lost all his stock shares and he’s not sure how he can support his family, having moved them out to Wyoming just for that job. Or how Ethel’s* brother is going to be in a lot of trouble for texting and driving leading him to hit a herd of 100 cattle with his semi truck booking down the mountain at 65 MPH.

(*I’m not a names person. If I meet you, I’ll repeat your name once, promptly forget it, and refer to you as, “Hey, you” or just the general “ya’ll” until I either meet you enough times to remember or we go our separate ways)

Meeting other riders was always fun. Unless they rode up on Harleys, upon which point, they synchronized their genuine Harley DavidsonTM Genuine Accessories watches (made in China) and strutted past casting a deriding gaze at myself and the slightly filthy Jap Crap Honduh that had the gall to use metric bolts and be red with no chrome. (I love to poke fun at Harley buyers ((note I didn’t say riders, there are legit Harley riders out there that put me to shame)) so no hard feelings)

The couple in South Dakota, who’d rode from Miami in half shells and her in a tube top, him in nothing but shorts, skin like overdone leather, rolled up and hopped off their Harleys, offering route advice and places to eat.

The couple on the BMW in Montana who shared a laugh with me as we watched the worlds slowest police chase, a distraught and befuddled Asian tourist in a rental car who was being followed by two units going code 3, creeping along at 2 MPH and not stopping until an officer got out, walked past and stood in front of the car, bringing the madness to a halt.

The couple in Montana who stopped to chat and revealed that they were from Australia, and were living their dream of riding across the US. They didn’t let the fact that they had to buy a bike, let alone learn to ride, stop them from riding cross country from NYC to Seattle. While I’d normally advise against that sort of thing, they were having the time of their lives.

The Canadians bicycling from Quebec who I waved down in Zion to show them a mountain goat ripe for picture taking. I don’t speak French, they didn’t speak English, but we shared that moment of watching a goat grazing the slopes.

The epic duo of Ed and Rachel on their C90s, doing what they do best.

Really, some of the little moments that make this trip would have gone unnoticed had I had a traveling companion or been glued to my phone/tablet/laptop/newspaper.

Stopping at a roadside burger joint in Nebraska and watching the owner’s mother beam with pride as her son tells me he won the best burger in town award. (That moment was better than the burger, which was exceptionally mediocre, but I digress)

Seeing a Dairy Queen worker’s first day jitters fade as she grew more confident in running the register.

The flagger operating one lane of traffic breaking into a wry grin as he exchanged jokes with the other end of the line by radio.

The woman in the wheelchair watching the sun sink into the Pacific Ocean from her van with a slight giddy grin on her face.

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That’s what it’s all about, people.

People.

Moments in ordinary lives, captured in my memory. No photos, but that’s fine. That’s the beauty of it all. People with joy, pain, excitement, and anger. People living out this life we’ve all been given. Your experiences differ greatly from mine, but that makes them no less valuable. We have more in common than we’re told. We have more to share and give than we think. Sometimes, all someone needs is another person with whom to converse. We’re all in this life together.

Are there terrible people that do terrible things? Sure, and there always will be. But why should we dwell on the terrible and let that rob us of being able to celebrate that which is good, right, and hopeful?

Help someone in need.

Smile.

Laugh.

Be there for someone.

Sit back and watch the world do it’s thing. No wires attached.

Live.

This is RD, signing out. Thanks for following.

(OK, fine, here’s a picture)

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Ferry Nice to Meet You

The waves slapped the shore slowly as the day began. The Texas morning sky was a brilliant blue with just a few clouds lingering to impede the sun that began to make its presence known. I parked near the water, soaking in the warmth, breathing in the salty spray, feeling the light breeze, and generally ready for the day ahead. Good morning Galveston, indeed.

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This makes the third saltwater view Vanessa and I have taken in together.

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Atlantic Ocean – Hunting Island, SC

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Pacific Ocean – Lincoln City, Oregon

Today was differentiated by the briny water which was soon to be under our respective wheels and feet.

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Preparing to board the Galveston-Bolivar ferry, only slightly curious as to how the speed limit was determined to be reasonable.

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In no time, we were underway, engines thrumming below deck.

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Much to the consternation of the ferrymaster, these people refused to quit tossing food to the seagulls, who, as seagulls do best, rained a shockingly steady stream of “sea-doo” onto those parked below. Boarding the ferry midships has its advantages. I maintain that seagulls are nothing but a colon with wings.

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Once back on the solid and sandy shores of the Bolivar Peninsula, I struck east, intent on making a few miles this day.

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That is, until, I got distracted by the beach. Let me tell you, the beach is not the VFR’s native habitat. Every inch I got, I fought for with this heavy bike and street tires. There were a few times the back wheel was buried in loose sand up to the lug nuts and I had to slip the clutch, stay on the throttle and walk my way out. Not one of my brighter moments. She got a good cleaning after that.

Once extricated from the beach itself, it was all back to business. On the home stretch of the trip and I’m about ready to get there. I stopped in Beaumont, TX to give TX barbeque one last shot at redemption.

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I chose Boomtown BBQ, and the food was pretty good, not great, but as I’ve said before, I’m a pork guy, not brisket. While I was eating, I got a recommendation from Pants that I should try a certain place in Lafayette, LA.

Two hours of I-10 later (nothing remarkable, other than the Buc ee’s truck stop which I enjoyed), I arrived in Lafayette, hoping that my lunch wouldn’t spoil an early supper at Prejean’s.

I had been looking forward to Cajun food, as the nearest thing we have in my part of South Carolina would be Bojangles. Now, if that’s not a stretch…

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At the waitresses suggestion, I ordered the crawfish enchiladas with rice dressing and a corn macque choux, and let me tell you, they were incredible. Hands down the best meal of the trip, if not of my distant memory. Top notch wait staff, food, I can’t recommend the place enough. I only wish I could get a little more of that around home.

Back on the road, it was hammer down until about 10 miles outside of Baton Rouge, when traffic crawled to a standstill. Why can’t lanesplitting be legal nationwide? It was rather warm out and it was quite a while later when, while crossing the big I-10 bridge over the Mississippi River, I noticed my temperature gauge was flashing. By the time I made my way off the next exit, it was flashing a very daunting 270F. No bueno.

It didn’t feel like it was that hot, the coolant reservoir was still full where I had left it, and the fans worked. I debated pulling off the side fairing in the parking lot, but decided that it had to be a coolant temperature sensor fault, not an actual overheating problem as there were no signs of airlock, coolant loss, or coolant boiling, as surely it would be at 270F. I eased back onto the road, keeping an eagle eye on the temp, but it never rose that high again. Who knows? I still don’t believe it was that hot.

Gulfport, Mississippi arrived with no more hassle, and knowing I couldn’t top my earlier Cajun feast, I grabbed off the cheap menu at Taco Bell and hit the sack early for the long day ahead.

Top Ten? Nah, but Whataburger…

The day began with a complimentary breakfast at the adjacent restaurant. The fare was rather standard, with a special free Days Inn menu consisting of 4 choices. No, problem, I’m a simple man. Give me pancakes and bacon. And crunchy peanut butter, but I digress.

This raises an interesting point. People feel divided by nationality, religion, genders, but what really divides us is how we prefer our bacon to be done. My perfect strip of bacon is done to the outer edges being crispy with soft pockets throughout. The cook at the restaurant was obviously of the “bacon fried limp enough to use for a bracelet” camp.

Suiting up, the skies were cloudy to the north, so I booked it out of Sonora and headed south on US 277 and then east on 55 to Rocksprings, TX.

While filling up in Rocksprings, a TXDOT driver struck up a conversation with me about how slow the gas pumps were. True, most pumps are measured in Gallons per Minute, not Ounces per Minute. When it takes 10 minutes to fill a 5 gallon tank, you pity those with 30+ gallon tanks and 8 cylinders. He asked if I was planning on riding those ranch roads, and when I responded in the affirmative, he cautioned me to watch out for all the sand in the road and “too many fools runnin’ around over their heads.”

His warning fresh in my mind, I set off towards Camp Wood and the number 1 ranked motorcycle ride in the US, according to motorcycleroads.com . The Three Sisters, or the Twisted Sisters, are a trio of rural Texas Ranch Roads, 335, 336, and 337, forming about a 95 mile loop.

Highly touted by most top ten lists, the Three Sisters are a big destination ride, home of many rallies. Getting close to Camp Wood, I was definitely entering Hill Country, an excellent reprieve from Flatistan (the rest of Texas). I see some green here and there on the sprawling ranches. Turning onto 337 at Camp Wood, the hills appeared and the road became a little less straight. Road is a little bit of a gracious term for what remained of the pavement that was, I can only assume, in decent condition at some point in the last century. It’s pretty rough going, but maybe the curves would take my mind off of the abrasiveness of tar snake I was riding along.

It turns out that I had a little more to worry about than potholes and gravel. The first major curve was an awakening to the new dangers I faced, farm trucks being driven at flat land speeds around blind corners across the double yellow.

At least the view was decent.

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Once in Leakey, I headed up on 336. I kept seeing signs warning of extreme danger to motorcyclists, and a current death toll over the last several years. It seemed a little bit overdone, but I guess if you only ride in Texas, these roads might be dangerous. To be fair, they did have a fair amount of elevation change and some challenging corners, but most of the danger must have been from riders being drunk or losing it on the terribly placed cattle guards that spanned the road, mid-corner. No clue why they couldn’t have been placed on a straightaway.

336 was my favorite of the trio, and then mostly because it was fun for its elevation changes. Not too many curves, but the up/down was fun. Cresting one hill, I read a sign on the side of the road announcing the opportunities to observe Texas wildlife.

Not to be a wasted sign, I rounded the next corner, only to immediately have to nail the brakes to avoid three does crossing the road. Just having recovered from dodging deer, I immediately had a squirrel dart past my front wheel while leaned into a sweeping right hander, then immediately afterwards, back on the binders to swerve around a dead hog that was taking most of the valuable real estate in the right lane. All this wildlife observation in a quarter mile. What Texas promises in animal sightings, Texas delivers.

Back in Leakey, I stopped and filled up the bike. Heading out of town, I stopped for lunch at Two Fat Boys BBQ. The brisket was decent, the tea not sweet. Texas food was hyped up pretty good, but I ended up ever so slightly disappointed, not that the food was bad, but more that it simply didn’t live up to my expectations or the rabid recommendations. What can I say, I’m more of a pork and mustard kind of guy.

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The Frio River. Not so Frio today.

337 to Bandera was a pleasant ride, once I got some more ice water for my pack. Interestingly, Bandera was the only place that I was charged to refill my hydration pack.

From San Antonio, I grabbed I-10 East to Galveston. On straight, flat, boring roads, audiobooks are one’s friend. Filling up once again in Galveston, I went inside the station just in time for an employee to come around the corner yelling, “I’m going to kill him! I’ve done time before, but I’ll do it again! I’m going put my hands around his neck and laugh as I choke the very last breath out of him!”

Unsure if I wanted to be a customer at this point in time, I sort of shuffled to the back to browse the assorted snacks until the roid rage simmered down a bit. It turns out it was the owner of the gas station and he was livid with the Budweiser delivery truck guy for ordering triple the amount of beer he usually stocked. Alright, I guess that’s justifiable homicide. I figured I’d leave before I used incorrect change that warranted a stabbing.

I was in Texas, so the rest of my evening went Whataburger and hitting the hay.

Sometimes things can be so highly hyped, you can’t help but be disappointed when you actually experience it. Texas is fine, perhaps, but maybe, just maybe, I was riding a high from the insane beauty of Montana, Oregon, Utah, and the like, and to be honest, Texas, simply doesn’t compare. Different stroke for different folks, I reckon. Whataburger was the highlight of this day.

Alone – Apart from that green man over there…

The Motel 6 parking lot was empty, prime for soaking up rays from the sun which crept higher into the sky whilst giving light and warmth to all below. Route 66 was mostly devoid of traffic minus the occasional local farm truck. The bike was where I left her, loaded, freshly shod with new rubber and ready for a long day of traveling. I swung a leg over the saddle, thumbed the starter, and the Honda awoke from her slumber, eager to devour the miles which lay ahead, flat and straight. The easiest prey, yet taxing on the rider, offering few challenges save for fighting off the constant scourge of boredom. The game was afoot.

Nosing out on ol’ Rt. 66, I wondered why I hadn’t planned to ride more of the iconic highway. Three miles westward, I turned back south, leaving Rt. 66 for another day down the road, when I could do it jsutice. While hardly comparable to traversing the sum of the remaining stretches of America’s most storied road, I did ride on it for 3 miles, so that’s got to count for something, right?

The day was cloudless, exceedingly bright, and oh-so-still. For miles I rode, passing no-one, and seemingly nothing. I’m sure there was life out there somewhere, but it was not making itself known as I motored down the road, reaching into the horizon as straight as a snake in a full body cast.

Traversing such desolate terrain leads to some interesting thoughts. First, the enjoyment of total solitude. You can really get a feel for what it would be like to be alone in the world, even if only for an hour. After a while, you begin to grow a bit uneasy, straining your eyesight for a farmhouse, a tractor, shoot, a cow, even. After miles more of bountiful nothingness, there comes a bit of anxiousness to spy evidence that humankind still exists; a gas station, a family-laden station wagon with strains of “Great Big Globs of Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts” wafting from the open windows, even a tourist trap for the world’s largest crocheted loincloth.

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It is in these times that, despite assertions to the otherwise, one really admits that they do crave a little human socializing. It’s what drives the lone rider to stop at the first fuel stop that materialized upon the horizon to strike up conversation with the dusty proprietor and whomever might straggle into the wayside station.

In a way, people seem to be drawn to a lone rider, especially once they notice a very out of state license plate, prompting questions. The same questions. Always. Three questions. I refer to them as the Travel Trio.

“You from South Carolina?”

“You ride that thing all the way out here?”

“Boy, I bet your butt’s sore, isn’t it?”

Those three. Always those three. Most ask more questions, some stick with just the tried and true Travel Trio. Despite their concern for my posterior, the Laam seat was doing a fantastic job. Very comfortable.

Enough about that, back on the road…

Things got interesting for a little while as I observed a PT Cruiser flat towing a 4WD Explorer and a Dodge Stratus flat towing a Grand Caravan. Maybe it’s just a mechanic thing, but I got a kick out of seeing what could be the two most unlikely tow rigs created struggling to transport their larger brethren. Knowing Chrysler’s, there were two transmissions lost in the line of duty that day, going above and beyond anything the manufacturers dreamed would be thrown at them. A moment of silence, as I pour a little ATF+4 out to commemorate the brave sacrifice of these unlikely beasts of burden. (Like I said, it’s a mechanic thing, if you don’t get it, it won’t make sense even if I explain it to you)

I rolled into Roswell around lunchtime. I chose Big D’s Downtown Dive, with a scrawled sign out front boasting “the famous World’s worst parking.” No problem for two wheels. I had the crispy pork belly sandwich and sweet potato fries, which were excellent. Air conditioning was also a welcome luxury as I ate, overlooking my humble steed, Vanessa, languishing in the New Mexico heat just outside.

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Back outside, I kept my eyes peeled for either a flying saucer or black Suburbans to whisk away anyone who might have seen said UFO. Neither appeared, only empty road once more. Continuing through Carlsbad (oh, for more time to see the caverns), I ran US 285 down through Pecos and into Fort Stockton, Texas.

This stretch is simply the worst road I have ever had the displeasure of riding. It runs smack-dab through the oil field, meaning dry, dusty conditions abound, trucks pulling out right in front of you, strong crosswinds, heavy truck traffic, and to top it all off, some of the worst pavement I’ve ever seen in America. I’m talking about potholes that bypassed being kettleholes and jumped straight to cauldron holes. I could just hear TXDOT incanting, “Double, double, toil and trouble, pavement crack and asphalt crumble.” The whole scene was almost post-apocalyptic, what with burned shells of vehicles left on the roadside. It was also the only time I’ve ridden over 100 miles without seeing a vehicle that wasn’t painted white. I kept looking down at the Viffer to make sure that other colors still existed in the harsh, drab, monotonous landscape in which I found myself.

Seriously, when you feel like you’ve won the road lottery by merging onto I-10, you know you’ve just come from something unspeakable. Miles piled on quickly, and I swung off the road in Sonora to find a cheap motel and crash. It’s a good thing I like Spanish music, because that’s all I heard booming from the parking lot party that spilled into the adjacent room until 1 AM. Buenas noches, gentlemen.

A-L-B-U-Quiere una llanta

Staying at motels costs considerably more than camping. By following logic, if one pays more for a night’s sleep, one should make the most of that night of sleep. That was my game plan, however, things weren’t as restful as I had hoped. I was awoken at 7 something AM to the sounds of loud screaming coming from the next room over. The paper thin walls did little to dampen the echoing wails. Having determined that I was not currently an auditory witness to some form of murder, I tracked the source to the housekeeping staff going room to room at 7 AM playing screamo death metal at volumes loud enough to resonate the wooden teeth straight out of George Washington’s mouth. Thankfully, the resonant frequency for my window was not chanced upon. Another day.

The goal of the day was to replace my front tire, which was rapidly approaching the point of needing Sharpie-drawn tread. I left out of Durango, heading east on US 160. Once in Pagosa Springs, a flash of blue at a Harley shop caught my eye, and I turned around to find, amidst a sea of black and chrome, a mostly stock Honda CB1. Really neat little bike with the 400cc inline-4. Much too small for me however.

Not taking much time to sightsee, I then turned onto US 84 and headed southward. Colorado soon gave way to New Mexico.

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Somewhere south of Los Ojos, the sky darkened and rain began to fall. I sped up and pressed on, hoping to outrun it. It actually worked! I got into the gap between the two rain fronts.

Forgive the terrible panorama, but here’s a view of the gap into which I managed to find myself.

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Kind of wild how the rain just stops abruptly at the edges. I loved the contrast between the bright blue sky ahead of me and the black rain clouds on either side.

After letting the rain pass a bit, back on the road I headed. I had called quite a few places in Santa Fe looking for a tire before it became apparent that I would have to ride to Cycle Gear in Albuquerque if I wanted a tire that day. I missed out on some good riding, but I really need to prioritize that tire.

Arriving in Santa Fe, I took 14 over to Albuquerque, arriving at Cycle Gear about an hour and a half before closing time. When I went to buy the new front tire (Michelin Pilot Power 3 2CT), they told me to pick up the tire the next day. Apparently, they have a 24 hour turnaround time on mounting a tire.

So here I was, in the middle of Albuquerque, the sun setting, needing to make a decision. Tear the bike down and hope they could get it done before closing? Walk to a hotel, buy a room and wait for the next day? Buy the tire and strap it to the bike to install the next day somewhere down the road? No good options. I chose to risk it and tear the bike down in the parking lot. I’m getting better at teardown, as I had the wheel off in 7 minutes. Of course, the only person who does tires leaves on her lunch break (after 5PM) as soon as I get the wheel in. I went to a Subway for supper to distract me from worrying about whether I could get back on the road that night or not. I was trying not to let it get to me, but at that point, I was pretty stressed. They really could have mentioned the 24 hour turnaround when I called them from Pagosa Springs.

I walked back to the store five minutes before closing, and sure enough, they were just wrapping it up. I paid, threw the wheel back on, torqued everything down and decided to make up for some lost time by riding Interstate at night. I made it to Santa Rosa, 115 miles down the road before I decided to call it a night. It hadn’t been a great day of riding, hardly even a good day, but I accomplished that which I had intended. So, in that sense, it was a good day.

Roadblocks, Rain, ‘Rithmetic

Sand Island afforded a pretty good night’s sleep. Once I accustomed to the incessant racket made by the expansion joints being driven over on the US 191 bridge, that is. The first order of business? Checking out the Sand Island Petroglyphs several hundred yards away from my campsite.

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Speaking of campsites, I had a not so hot night. When I awoke, My sleeping bag and clothes were absolutely drenched. I first thought it had rained and come in through the hole I managed to rip in the tent floor back in Montana, but it was dry out. Using the extent of my forensic skills, I determined that being a total klutz, I had rolled in my sleep onto the bite valve of my hydration pack and effectively released 3 quarts of water throughout my small living quarters. I changed into dry clothes and got to finally use a piece of kit I made myself, something I have dubbed the Land Speed Velocity Drier.

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It’s simply a heavy duty mesh drawstring bag with sewn-on loops that allowed cinch straps to hold. I’d seen a company try to sell one similar for $45. The bag worked great, no flapping, it didn’t hang off unevenly, and it dried my clothes. Not bad for $4.

Now, where was I?

Oh, right, the petroglyphs. I had wanted to go see them the night before, but I decided to spend a little time reading instead. By some sheer stroke of luck, no one had made off with the sheer bluffs under the cover of darkness, so view them I could.

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They were fascinating. There really is no date established for their creation, but the very informational sign guessed them to be anywhere from 300-3000 years old. That’s quite a guess.

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While the petroglyphs lent themselves to a real sense of history and wonderment, the graffiti carved into the rock lent itself to a sickening disgust for the ruination of what should be respected and preserved. Custer died for your sins? Really? Was that worth defacing this great piece of history?

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The view helped me calm down a bit, and then it was back on the road for another day of riding.

Thankfully, clouds shielded me from the possibility of a blistering Utah sun as I leaned left onto US 191, heading south for Arizona. Once into Arizona, I turned east onto US 160 at Mexican Water and headed for Four Corners. I stopped at Teec Nos Pos for a quick road breakfast of a granola bar and a honey bun. The cloud cover became thicker and ominous as the winds picked up and I headed up towards Four Corners.

Arriving in Four Corners, I quickly decided not to pay an entrance fee, so I just turned out and took a quick picture firmly in New Mexico. For free. My kinda shot.

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New Mexico went by in a flash and I entered Colorado, staying vigilant watching the rain cascade on Ute Mountain and east of me over Mesa Verde. It’s a great experience, riding in “almost rain.” There’s a certain primitive delight in dealing with the uncertainties of Mother Nature that I think we have lost in modern life. With cars that shelter us from rain, have snow tires, air conditioning, electricity, heaters and headlights, we really don’t feel the true impact of weather with the exception of catastrophic events. On two wheels, you have to be in tune with your surroundings at all times, eagle eyed, ready for the wind gusts, the driving rain coming down the mountains, the unexpected early darkness. Being attentive to our situation is important, fun, and tiring all at the same time.

Weather can turn the most boring situation into one of dire urgency, mental calculations, and just plain luck trying to outrun rain, and when you fail, finding a place to don your rain suit and batten down the hatches. So it was in Cortez, CO. I would have loved to visit Mesa Verde, but the weather simply would not permit it, so I pressed on northward on highway 145. The views had changed dramatically from Utah to Colorado and I was fast approaching “classic” Colorado. The roads wet, steam rising from the asphalt, the creeks running clear and fast, elevation climbing, temperature dropping. Trees. Yes, trees. I even remembered what they were called. I wasn’t sure when I embarked into Nevada if I could remember general classes of flora on the flip-flop. Wonderful stuff.

Unfortunately, due to the rain, the camera did not make many appearances. Left a little hungry after a small breakfast, I stopped at Sawpit Mercantile in Sawpit for some grub. I had the pulled pork sandwich which was pretty good and topped it with their homemade “Carolina Mustard” BBQ sauce. Now, let me get this straight. I love me some pulled pork, and while the pork is very important, equally important is the sauce. Like any civilized, educated, God-fearing person, I prefer a mustard base sauce, as is the norm for my area of upbringing in South Carolina, much to the chagrin of those in North Carolina who adulterate their pork with vinegar based sauces, those who prefer ketchup based sauce (it’s not a hotdog, c’mon), and (gasp) mayo based sauce favored somewhere where common decency and good taste must have been thrown out long ago. BBQ sauce is a serious matter. In fact, if civil war ever breaks out in the United States again, simple facts will show that it would be 27% likely to have been started by a dispute over sauce. So there you have it, forego civil war, eat mustard base.

Sawpit’s sauce was decent, but not great. Keep at it. Their Colorado Peach sauce was interesting, but ultimately not something I’d put on my barbeque.

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In Placerville, I caught 62 over to the 550, then dropped south to Ouray. The majestic Colorado peaks stood strongly in the low lying clouds, creating a beautiful scene.

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I stopped for fuel in Ouray and saw quite a few bikes go past, then when I was heading out of town, they were all coming back and flagging me down. Turns out Red Mountain Pass, the only way out of Ouray excepting the northern route I had entered upon, was closed for road construction. In a wild stroke of genius by CODOT, the pass was closed from 8AM-12PM and from 1PM-5PM. It was about 3PM and I had wanted to make it to Pagosa Springs, CO that night yet.

I rode back into town and found several Goldwings parked on the main drag, so I pulled in and we talked a while. One guy was all wound up and stressed out about having to wait, while his friend was taking it easy and telling him to enjoy the town since we were all stuck here anyhow. I walked up the street just wandering around when I came upon these bikes:

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I knew there had to be a good story behind this. It turns out that these crazy people riding Honda C90’s all over the western world were Rachel Lasham and Ed March. From England, they flew their bikes to Anchorage, Alaska then riding up to Prudhoe Bay, meanwhile riding the northernmost and westernmost road in the Americas. They then decided to head east to the easternmost road, riding across Canada in the winter, then down the east coast and from NC to Ouray on the TAT, an offroad trail. They are planning to head to Argentina. Hardcore. These are real riders, people.

We talked for a little while, and I lost track of time until I saw the Goldwing guys all rolling out of town to get in line to get over the pass. It was about 4:30, so I headed up after a bit. While waiting in miles of traffic, I got off the bike and walked back to a group of riders behind me and we struck up a conversation. The rider community is great that way. I can’t get out of a car in a traffic jam and just converse with fellow drivers, but on a bike, we’re all brothers. Traffic finally stated moving about 5:10 so I ran back to the bike and proceeded on to Silverton. So much traffic.

It took forever. From Ouray to Silverton is roughly 23 miles. It took me a little over 2 hours to traverse that distance. I pulled off in Silverton in hopes the traffic would disperse, but after waiting a while, trafffic failed to wane much, so back into the gridlock I went, heading for Durango on what’s been referred to as Colorado’s most scenic drive. Reaching over 12,000 feet with no guardrails, blind corners, semis and construction mud that’s slippery as eel snot all over the road, what could go wrong?

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It would have been much more enjoyable with less traffic and more daylight, but it was still pretty incredible.

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I don’t really have any good pictures because of having to deal with traffic on wet roads and there were no pull offs. The old mining equipment around Red Mountain was fascinating and I really hope to go back someday.

I found things getting really foggy, or was that smoke? Then the smell. You don’t have to be a mechanic to immediately recognize the pungent odour of hot brakes. Not over easy, but well done, burnt even. I rode in that hot metal smell and smoky haze for almost 12 miles before the driver finally saw flames coming from the trailer brakes of the generator he was pulling.

Traffic was slow. How slow, you ask? At one point, I pulled in my clutch and kept up with traffic for 5.6 miles solely relying on the propulsion of gravitational pull. I arrived in Durango right at nightfall, and as I had planned to be further down the road, I had no hotel lined up. I finally found one that was cheap and had a vacancy, so I parked, unloaded, and walked next door to Zia’s Taquiera next door. I like Chipotle, but this place blows the socks off Chipotle. Great food, reasonable price, locally sourced ingredients, the whole works. My burrito was excellent.

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What a day! Took some punches from Mother Nature, rolled with them, met some great people on the road, saw some beautiful sights, ate some great food and arrived safely. What more could I ask?