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Motorcycle Adventure – Ep. 8 – Into the U.S. Southwest Part 1

Seattle, Washington to Farmington, New Mexico

And because it’s what I do, here my latest narrated video of this part of my trip if you prefer.

This episode covers nearly a month as I was quite busy recovering (and relaxing a bit) in Seattle from my excursion up to the Arctic Ocean and back, celebrating my Brother’s retirement from the Navy in Georgia, and moving household goods from Virginia back to Seattle.

So, after getting back into Seattle for a few days, Tracy and I flew cross-country to attend my Brother’s retirement ceremony from the U. S. Navy – 23 years!!  The ceremony was held at the chapel at the submarine base in King’s Bay, Georgia.  I was so proud of him and loved hanging with family and the other friends I knew from back home for a few days.

My Brother also humbled me by asking that I be his guest speaker.  It was a real privilege as I had both been in the Navy and a submariner. Very humbling!

Afterward, Tracy and I drove from Georgia up to our old home in Chesapeake to load all our stuff that had been hiding in storage.  I had some friends meet us at the storage unit to pack a U-Haul.  And it was one damned hot day, too, with the heat index around 110!  Whew! We had two large storage units and they quickly filled a 26-footer plus a trailer!

The next several days we averaged 450 miles a day crossing the country again back to Seattle.

Definitely not the same ride as my usual 2-wheeled mode of transport – it was like driving a whale! Crossing the country, however, no matter how I do it, cements in my mind that the U. S. really is a beautiful place, you just have to get out and see it! (But still not as nice when on the motorcycle!)

I was very happy to see real mountains again once we got into Montana heading west for the last few hundred miles.

Back in Seattle, we reversed the process and put almost everything back into storage with the help of some of Tracy’s sister, Wendy, and kids, and Tracy’s daughter Jacqui and her friends.

The next couple of days, I was preparing to get back on the road again.  I had to get the bike serviced again, including replacing a bit of plastic that had cracked somewhere along the way.  Other than that, I have had no problems with the bike.

It was hard saying goodbye this time as it will be some time before I see Tracy again.

The ride west from Seattle to the coast is beautiful, and it just keeps getting better as you enter Oregon. I think the Pacific Coast is one of the more beautiful places I’ve seen.

I spent one night in Lebanon, Oregon with Wendy’s family, another night in Montague, California with Tracy’s parents, and a third night in Reno, Nevada with Tracy’s brother, Kristian, all catching up with folks I’d not seen in a while.  They were very pleasant visits and I love that Tracy is closer to her family now.

Montague is right up next to Mount Shasta, which provides stunning views 360 degrees.

And riding south through Northern California, I visited Lassen National Park.  Wow!

Next, I was off to Yosemite National Park to camp.  As ridiculous as it sounds, I had to make reservation to camp here five months ago, but I did score what I thought was the very best campsite in the park, just at the foot of Half Dome!  The views in the valley are stunning, including El Capitan.

I spent several days there and one day took a ride up to Glacier Point, which provides an eye-popping view right down into the valley.

I headed east out of Yosemite over the Tioga Pass (9947 feet) and the geography really started to change east of the mountains, very dry, high desert like.

I spent a night in Tonopah, Nevada to get my bearings and plan out the days ahead.  From Tonopah east, I felt briefly like I was back in the Yukon in terms of running into other living beings.  I rode for a couple of hours before seeing another car or house.

The next night, I camped right up under Wheeler Peak (at 10000 feet) in Great Basin National Park.

It was very windy that night and so I didn’t sleep much, but the views were spectacular!

The Sierra Nevada mountains are interesting to me because they rise from desert scrubland and at altitude you have lots of Juniper’s and a thriving ecosystem.

My next goal was Moab, considered a center of the universe for adventuring, but I stopped short in Green River, Utah because it was the cheapest place I could find to stay the night. Moab, the next day, happened to be kicking off Labor Day weekend festivities and the place was packed – and expensive!  But, I stayed two days so I could take in Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park and just get a sense of this culture.

In Arches, I rode some of the dirt roads to get better views.

The soft sand beds that underlie this area, along with a huge vertical shift, nearly a mile, started what was to become this beautiful area.  With millions of years of water and wind erosion of the soft sandstone, cool buttes and arches formed.  It was surreal!

I also ran into Greg and Melanie Turp, who I met first back in Virginia at the Horizons Unlimited Meeting. They’ve been on the road and “homeless” for many years.  You can find them here:

After Moab, I made it over to Monument Valley just a few short hours south.  The park is on tribal lands but run very much like a national park. I camped right in the valley up against three amazing monuments.  I got lots of good pictures here.

My next aim point was Dixon, New Mexico to meet up with Ben Rainchild, co-owner and master craftsman at Green Chile Adventure Gear.  I spent 3 nights there riding with Ben, hanging out, and just sucking in the adventure spirit.

I even let him take the Beemer for a spin.

Heading back west again, I stayed in Farmington, New Mexico.  I’ve been developing some soreness in my right elbow, left shoulder, and now right knee that I wanted to give a rest, so I booked into a cheap hotel for three nights to take it easy.

The Southwest of the U. S. is far different than any place I’d been so far.  It was dry, hot, windy, and dusty (during my trip), but the scenery is so unique and beautiful.

All in all, it’s been a very busy few weeks, but I still have so much more to see in the southwest U. S. before getting to Mexico in just three short weeks, including Natural Bridges, Escalante, Zion, Bryce, and the Grand Canyon.

Lessons learned:

1/ Riding around like this is not all vacation.  In some ways, it’s like physical work, and you have to take breaks every now and again. Packing, riding, and unpacking every day is strenuous and I’ve gotten to the point after four and a half months that it has begun to take its toll on me.  I think I should do some sort of exercises to overcome the repetitive motion problems I think I’m having.

2/ I gave myself exactly one month to visit all the parks in the southwest and I think that’s about right. You can spend 2-3 days in places you need or want to, whereas many of the parks and sights can be drive-throughs.

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