2010 Winter Tour
The direct link to this page is http://jkgraphics.com/Eagle/2010wintertour.html
Its that time where I head south in search of warmer weather and the perfect winter retreat. Glad I changed from Florida for this year, as they froze for one week in January! Let's hope they are thawed out.
I'll add to this page as I get time and an Internet connection, so check back now & then. Photos have been complied into Windows Media Movies by topic - just click to view and play full screen. The story so far:
Jan 19: Home to Knoxville, TN for 558 miles routine.
Jan 20: Knoxville to west of Little Rock, AK for 547 miles. Two traffic jams on I-40. Severe thunderstorm overnight!
Jan 21: Little Rock to Amarillo, TX for 577 miles. A must stop as The Big Texan, home of the 72 oz steak, is here! Eat it along with the appetizer, salad and fixins in under an hour and your meal is free! I opted for the 6 oz 'sampler' version, and compiled the Big Texan Video.
Jan 22: Amarillo to Roswell, NM for just 238 miles, battling a 50+ mph headwind and tumbleweed bushes everywhere! Driving was like playing dodge ball. Someone forgot to turn off the wind and turn on the temperature, but I found a beautiful campground at Bottomless Lake State Park, just twelve miles east of town. I've travelled 1920 miles from home and I'm tired, so I set up camp and called it a night.
Jan 23 dawned with rain, so I left the Wing in the RV and headed out in the truck for the Roswell Museum, which has a section devoted to Dr. Robert Goddard, the father of rocket science. Just down the street, I visited the UFO Center, where the alien space crash of July 1947 was documented. The UFO Center Video has the broadcast from the event - turn your sound on to hear it. I had dinner in town at El Toro Bravo, which was just ten dollars including dessert!
Jan 24: NFL Playoffs are on, so I spent the afternoon and evening at Farley's Sports Bar. As expected, the Colts and the Saints won with the latter game going into overtime. The Vikings squandered a chance to win late in the game, while the Colts shut out the Jets in the second half after being down by four.
Jan 25: The wind has died down, the sunshine has returned but it was just 28 degrees at dawn! The bath house is very nice with hot showers, but the building is not heated! So, by truck again, I headed out and toured Carlsbad Caverns. Pictures alone are not enough, as this has to be seen by your eyes. Heads up if you are over 60: Get a Senior Pass for $10 (I had one) and admission to this park is free! Your pass is a lifetime one and is good at all National US Parks.
Jan 26: Tuesday morning, I had the good fortune to awake just before sunrise. The first rays of the sun were bending to the park, giving light to the morning sky. I took out my camera and took pictures about five minutes apart. Enjoy Sunrise at the Park.
Jan 27: Departed at dawn for Tucson, AZ. 477 miles later, along with some rain, I arrived at the Davis Air Force Base in Tucson and the RV park was full. So, I set up in the overflow area since they have a nice office which is available for TV viewing and Internet access. I'm planning on seeing a fellow J&J retiree and revisiting the Heart Attack Grill while in Tucson.
Jan 28: Caught up with my friend from J&J - we both worked in research at Ortho Pharmaceutical in Raritan, NJ. Spent the day catching up, then went out to Carrabbas for dinner.
Jan 29: Set up a reservation for the Desert Eagle RV park @ Nellis AFB, then toured the Saguaro National Park - very beautiful!
Jan 30: Just north of Tucson is Biosphere2, a man-made, materially-closed ecological system which explored the possible use of closed biospheres in space colonization. The tour showed the living environment and the 'lung' used to equalize pressure from the sun heating the structure plus the cooling during the night. Being very hungry after the tour, I visited the Heart Attack Grill for a Triple Bypass Burger.
Jan 31: After some morning shopping on base, I visited Old Tucson City, a recreation of Tucson in the 1800's. Many westerns were filmed there, of which the best known is Rio Bravo with John Wayne. I took in a guided tour, a Can-Can show and a Western recreation of The Wild Wild West.
Feb 1: Pulled up stakes and traveled 440 miles to the Desert Eagle RV park at Nellis AFB. I had to detour around Hoover Dam - trailers not allowed. After a short time, my GPS picked up the alternate route, as I saw just the first two route numbers off my exit. Found out that I was on Pacific time, so I took care of an eye problem at the base hospital ER. Didn't get anything else done except leveling the RV and getting the electric hooked up - AH! heat!
Feb 2: Rise & shine campers - its Ground Hog Day! Looks like it is snowing back in PA. Here's what happens at this base: 6:30 AM Reveille sounds. 7:00 AM - planes take off. I won't need an alarm clock! Spent the day getting the Wing out & finishing the RV setup and getting organized. Already found a fellow camper with a Gold Wing - life is good!
Feb 3: Finished my jobs to get completely setup for the winter. While doing laundry, I ran into Wes, whom I met last winter in Florida. Turns out he's checked into the camp and will be on the Death Valley Ride. After lunch, I went shopping for a second table for the rear of the RV, then to the Commissary for food so I can make lunch and dinner. With the additional table, I now have my electric skillet and computer permanently set up; no more jockeying things around! I'm now cooking for myself. With all of the work done, we will ride tomorrow!
Feb 4: The first riding day was spectacular! Tom & Donna led this days' ride. Words and pictures cannot describe the rugged beauty of the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. After touring the park, we stopped for lunch at a wonderful local restaurant in Overton, then continued north on I-15 through the canyon in Arizona, an eleven mile stretch of interstate through a high walled canyon. Interstates are usually boring, but not this stretch! Coming home, we ran out of daylight and approached Las Vegas in darkness, until after passing over the last hill that blocked line of sight, we saw a sea of lights!
Feb 5: With a good chance of rain coming, I took the time to fix my computer and edit the pictures from yesterday, as well as catch up on various items for the RV and learn more about the base. Finding the Fitness Center, I gave my legs some much needed exercise.
Weekend: Rain in the desert? You bet! Still, this was better than the two feet of snow back home! Q: When will these brutal winters let up? A: When Al Gore returns his Nobel prize!
The sun broke out on Sunday morning, and I visited the local VFW for breakfast, followed by the Chili Cook-off and the Superbowl at the RV headquarters. Congrats to the Saints for winning on some gutsy calls, but the pick 6 interception sealed the game. However, as long as the Madden curse does not hit Pittsburgh, I expect to see the Steelers back in 2011.
Feb 8: Well, I've been here a week, so might as well connect the water and run the sewer line. Tom next door is a handy guy to have, and he gave me some tips on flushing the system first, then installing the anode rod. We finished the water and fired up the hot water heater. Since I'm using just the sink, just that was connected to the sewer.
Jobs done and lunch over, time for a ride! With just the afternoon left, I headed for Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam. Lake Mead was serene, but I had to force myself to view Hoover Dam [vertigo!]. I found someone to catch my feelings, as you can see in this video.
Feb 9: Monsoon day! Catch up on RV [house] work.
Feb 10: After the morning GPS presentation at the RV Park, a quick at the map showed Kyle Canyon Road leading to Mt. Charleston, just northwest of Las Vegas from Hwy 95. How scenic can that be? Well, very scenic and C-O-L-D! It went from 55 at the start to 35 at the summit! Photos were taken quickly so I could leave! OK, I've had my hour of winter for 2010. On to Pahrump, because I always wanted to visit a town with that name, and back to sunny Las Vegas. I have to go somewhere warm tomorrow, but here's the video.
Feb 11: Camp Host informed me that, if I relocate today, I can upgrade to a nicer site. Spent the day moving and setting up again. Now I have room to move!
In the close-up: Plenty of room for the motorcycle and RV. I brought the battery tender and hooked it up. In the expanded view, there is room to park my truck right by the site. Along the wall in the background, a walking path goes all around the site, allowing for exercise.
Feb 12 - 14: Weekend trip started Friday and ended Sunday, taking in the Extraterrestrial Highway [NV 375] stopping at Rachel, then a tour of Death Valley on Saturday and Sunday. I spent Monday making the videos and taking some downtime.
Feb 15: Freemont Street is billed as the ultimate Las Vegas experience, so we [Wes & I] headed out after sunset to see the lights. What we have is three blocks of downtown with pedestrian traffic only and a large half-circular roof that is a light show. After dinner at the Freemont Hotel & Casino, we strolled Freemont Street and at the top of the hour [10 PM] we were greeted by a spectacular overhead light show featuring the music of Queen. The show changes every hour. Too large to photograph, I've provided the link.
After Freemont Street, we headed down the strip to take in the lights and the water show at the Bellagio, where Oceans 11 had the parting scene near the end of the movie. I doubled my money by folding it over and keeping it in my wallet.
Feb 16: Fat Tuesday - have a doughnut! Took a ride southwest of Las Vegas to Red Rock Canyon. While not the size of the Valley of Fire, nonetheless, the views were spectacular.
Feb 17: I started the beginning of Lent by cleaning house, in this case, the RV. Did all the wash and cleaning, then took some flank steaks, cubed them and with a can of mixed vegetables and some seasoning, made a beef stew in the crock pot. Had dinner with my friend, Wes whom I met in Florida last winter, and planned some trips while we are here.
Feb 18: Since Wes had missed the Death Valley ride as his Wing was in the shop, we took off from Vegas at 8:30 for a 400 mile day trip. After the express ride to Beatty, NV, we took a leisurely trip through Death Valley, stopping at Stovepipe Wells, Furnace Creek and Badwater. Wes was happy to have the chance to take the ride, even though we returned at 8 PM in the evening.
Feb 19: With overcast skies and riding conditions in doubt, this was a day to catch up on my computer work for our church in PA, then go shopping at the Commissary. Hey - lobster tails on special! Stuffed salmon, meatloaf mix, ham steaks! I'll be eating very well for several days.
Feb 20: Wes & I took an afternoon trip touring the lower part of Lake Mead north to the Valley of Fire. I did not have the chance to ride along Lake Mead north from Vegas. If you do, there is construction from milepost 27 north for about 20 miles, so be prepared for gravel. The views were worth it. Seeing Valley of Fire for a second time was just as impressive. Afterwards, we rode north to Overton and had an early dinner at the Sugar Sports Cafe. Our timing was adjusted to allow a local shower to move around us.
Feb 21: Sunday. Day of rest. Four of us enjoyed breakfast at the local VFW and spent the day around the park.
Feb 22: Hearing there was a flyover scheduled for Rachel, Wes & I rode up the E.T. Highway, only to witness the end of the event. It was 50 something in Vegas, but 39 in Rachel! Good thing hot soup was on the lunch menu.
Feb 23: Having noticed a Wildlife Preserve north on US 95, I took the truck to investigate. What I found was unimproved road that requires four hours at 15 mph! Instead, I opted to view the outside exhibit and take a brochure describing the big horn sheep. This evening, I brought out the portable grill and made steaks for dinner. I know someone back home who would relish this!
Feb 24 - 25: Downtime for laundry, cleaning (takes 5 minutes!) and planning the two big trips. First, riding the Pacific Coast Highway around Big Sur. I've mapped out a route for the weekend, as Nascar is coming to Las Vegas and I'm told it is better not to be here. Having never understood the boredom of watching cars turn left and having your ears deafened, I'll be riding elsewhere. Later in March, Wes & I are planning a trip across Utah. By then, we will be closing in on St. Patrick's Day and planning the trip home.
Feb 26 - Mar 2: It was time to 'get out of Dodge' as the crowd was ramping up for the Nascar weekend. The Wing was loaded for a five day trip for just one purpose: Ride the Pacific Coast Highway north from San Luis Obispo to Monterey on Sunday morning. With the racing crowd coming in, Wes & I were enjoying coffee and planning to leave at 10 AM when we were informed that a courtesy lunch (i.e. free) was being served from 10 to 2. Well, we didn't want to be rude, so we stayed for an early lunch, after which Wes headed to LA and I to Bakersfield. On the way, I noted that historic Route 66 passed through Barstow, and that Peggy Sue's 50's Diner was along the way. The challenge on the first day was traveling through the wind farm just east of Bakersfield. Holy cow! Several hundred wind turbines were at the top of the canyon, and that means....wind blast! I was hit so hard I could not breathe! I found a semi going a safe, reduced speed and followed it until I was through the wind tunnel!
Rain was in the forecast for Saturday, so I put on rain pants along with thermal underwear & extra warm socks to make it through rain and mountain passes. On CA 46, I was just north of and skirting a downpour - I saw the heavy rain to my left, but I received a light misting. I was less fortunate when the GPS suggested taking a 'shortcut' to hwy 101 by taking CA 41. Now, had the day been sunny, CA 41 from CA 46 to hwy 101 would have been wonderful; there were many turns, one almost a full 360, but in the rain, this was not fun. When my GPS suggested a gravel road, I fired it for the rest of the trip and followed CA 41 to 101 south to San Luis Obispo, checking in to the motel. Later the skies cleared in time for dinner.
Sunday was sunny and bright! After getting gas for the Wing and breakfast for myself, I headed out at 8 AM to the center of San Luis Obispo to pick up CA 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, north. Once out of town, the road became a freeway to Morrow Bay where I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time. Soon, the freeway ended an became a two lane road. At one point where the road was close to the ocean, the waves were crashing across a cement barrier and I had to time my ride to avoid being drenched with seawater. Later, I saw cars stopped along the road, so I parked in a pull off. It seams that many seals were out on land due to the rough sea - this was the day after the earthquake in Chile, and the sea was rough and high. Also nearby, a coyote was roaming among the seals, smart enough not to bother them. The first half of the trip continued with beautiful vistas, but then came the high elevations along the mountain with the sea very far below. Having vertigo, everyone will now understand why I rode north: I'm against the mountain. Had the turns not been many and sharp, I might have gotten a few pictures, but at this point my full attention was on the road. Before Big Sur, things did become easier and I was able to get some pictures and a video. At Big Sur, the road went through a pass with the terrain very similar to the mountains back home. One final leg along the sea, and I was in Monterey. My color returned! By noon, I had checked in to the motel. This video was worth it!
At check in, the woman at the front desk of the Monterey Motel 6 gave me a coupon for the Old Fisherman's Grotto. First, I took a ride around Monterey, home of Pebble Beach Golf Course. There are three small towns that blend into each other. After taking pictures, I parked at Fisherman's Wharf and had dinner. It was then that I found out the restaurant recommended to me was one of the top ten in the entire USA! Anyone who travels to Monterey: Old Fisherman's Grotto is a must!
Monday morning, I got a jump on traffic and traveled back to Bakersfield via hwy 101, El Camino Real. I made good time and upon arrival at the motel, there was a problem with rooms being ready. Simple solution: I had them move my reservation to another motel in Barstow and traveled an extra 120 miles, getting the wind tunnel out of the way. This time, the winds were gentle. After checking in, I found a wonderful Mexican restaurant, Gallardo's, at the top of the hill on US 66.
Tuesday was easy with just 150 miles left on the clock. After getting on the road again, I saw the signs for Peggy Sue's and stopped in for breakfast. If you like the 50's, this place is for you. Good food, good service and a collection of everything from the era, plus a 'diner-saur' park around the back. I made it back to the RV park by noon. One of my dream rides had gone off with wonderful results.
Week of March 8: Utah Trip
Wes & I spent five days touring the south to central parts of Utah. Leaving Monday, we headed out and toured Zion Park, ending up in Hatch just south of Bryce. However, the weather changed and snow (UGH!) came in overnight, creating a whiteout for Bryce and points north. With the map at breakfast, we rerouted our counterclockwise tour clockwise, heading south to Page on Tuesday. Here, we took a tour of Glen Canyon Dam under partly cloudy/rain conditions. This dam is second in height to Hoover Dam, but the bridge across the river is what Hoover Dam will have in about a year.
Wednesday, the sun had returned for the rest of the trip. Traveling across Arizona, we entered Utah on hwy 163 and viewed Monument Valley, stopping for photo ops. At Mexican Hat, named for a balancing rock of the same resemblance, we had lunch. Seeing a turn off for Rainbow Bridge, we turned left and ... I've seen those warning signs before! We were on UT 261 leading to the Moki Dugway and we said no way! So, back on route, we continued north seeing the 'Hole In The Wall', Wilson's Arch and ended up in Moab.
Thursday we spent most of the day touring The Arches, which has the Delicate Arch, a symbol on Utah license plates. From Moab, we traveled to Glen River to set the next day for the last leg, stopping at Dead Horse Point. Friday, we took UT 24 & 12 to Bryce. UT 24 led us to Capitol Reef Park with its scenic places. On to Bryce on UT 12, we passed over the most amazing mountain saddle, complete with turns, 14% grades and 1000 feet drop-offs. While I took pictures, this is something one just has to see. Shortly after that. we encountered a look off from which one could see the mountains in Arizona along with a magnificent view of the valley below. Making it to Bryce Park, we saw the views from the higher elevations looking southward towards Zion. Remember that storm? Bryce had over three feet of snow, but the roads were now open. The colors of the tall, needle like rock formations in Bryce are just amazing.
With daylight ending, we had just enough time to make it to the Interstate. However, bonus footage was ahead, as we passed through Red Rock Canyon and through two tunneled arches over the road.
We covered 1300 miles in five days, seeing the best of the southern part of the state. Enjoy the videos.
Utah/Arizona trip references:
Zion National Park Glen Canyon Dam Monument Valley Arches National Park Capitol Reef
Utah Highway 12 (1) Utah Highway 12 (2) Dead Horse Point Bryce National Park Red Rock Canyon
With one week left, Wes & I made some local trips, had a farewell dinner and one last Sunday morning breakfast at the legion. Spring is here. Time to pack up and make the trip home, as the warm weather is returning to the northeast until the next winter adventure, when I'll be on the road again. Hope you enjoyed the trip.
Epilog: Four days and 2562 miles and I'm home to beautiful weather, good roads, and trees!