Friday, 7 August 2009


Now that we're all safely back in Ipswich, it's time to reflect on our adventure in the form of an epilogue. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines epilogue as "n. Concluding part, appendix, of literary work; speech or short poem addressed to spectators by actor at end of play. Gk EPI (logos speech)." Which is an appropriate way to end the blog. This has been quite a trip. I don't think any of us realised just how demanding it was going to be. July and August are normally hot months in California and Nevada, but this year those temperatures have been even higher due to an unusual heat wave. Then there's the distances we've travelled. None of us normally ride for 300 miles a day on three or four consecutive days. Having said all that, we all feel a real sense of achievement at having done it and we have covered a large number of wonderful areas of the USA from the glitz of Las Vegas to the splendour of Bryce Canyon and the desolation of Death Valley. Each of these places deserve a longer stay to get the most out of them, but we got a fabulous sample of some of the greatest natural wonders in the World.

Some people wonder what the attraction of doing all this on a motorcycle is. Why not do it in the comfort of an air conditioned car? The answer can be found in Robert M. Persig's book "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance."

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

In that book, published in the same year as I got married (1974), the narrator is travelling across the Central Plains of the USA on a motorbike. In the very first chapter he sums up beautifully the appeal of travelling by motorbike.

"You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realise that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You're a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.

On a cycle the frame is gone. You're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming. That concrete whizzing by five inches below your foot is the real thing, the same stuff you walk on, it's right there, so blurred you can't focus on it, yet you can put your foot down and touch it anytime, and the whole thing, the whole experience, is never removed from immediate consciousness."

So there's your answer. I've also seen a T-shirt that sums it up in just a few words - "If you have to ask, you wouldn't understand the answer!"

Day 15 - Thursday 6 August 2009 - Pismo Beach to Los Angeles

Well here it is at last. The end of our adventure and we're all safely back in Los Angeles. Called in at Bartel's Harley Davidson dealership in Los Angeles to collect our chrome and then back to EagleRider to drop off the bikes. We now have a couple of days at the Residence Inn at Marriott in Manhatten Beach before catching our flight home on Saturday. Tonight we are across the road at Grunion's sports bar celebrating our achievement.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Day 14 - Wednesday 5 August 2009 - Monterey to Pismo Beach

Don't panic! Your computer hasn't gone wrong. I'm a bit behind with the blog, but wanted to let you know that we've made it to our last stopover and our "Farewell Dinner" at the Sandcastle Inn, Pismo Beach. Had a fabulous ride today along the Pacific Coast Highway, with spectacular views of the most dramatic coastline. Pictures will follow.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Day 12 - Monday 3 August 2009 - San Francisco

Today was a chance to explore San Francisco. So much to see and so little time. You could spend two weeks here and still not see all the sights. Shopping in Union Square, a boat trip to Alcatraz, a catamaran bay cruise, riding the famous cable cars, walking up Lombard Street with it's twists and turns,or maybe a little culture at the Museum of Modern Art. San Francisco has something for everyone.

Tonight we had a meal at a seafood restaurant - Neptune's Palace - at Pier 39 on Fisherman's Wharf. The occasion was my 60th birthday! The evening was full of surprises. I had expected a card and everyone singing "Happy Birthday" but that was only the half of it! The group presented me with a framed photo of all of us standing outside EagleRider, a signed T-shirt and best of all a superb Harley Davidson pocket watch and chain, inscribed on the back with the message "Mr T Happy Birthday from your Route 66 family." And to round off the meal we had a huge birthday cake. I was completely overwhelmed by the occasion. Can't think of a better way to spend my 60th birthday or a better bunch of people to spend it with. This has been a day to treasure.

Day 11 - Sunday 2 August - Yosemite to San Francisco

This part of the trip finds us in temperatures that are closer to summer temperatures in the UK, so everyone is relaxing a bit more and looking forward to spending some time in San Francisco. Food at the Cedar Lodge in El Portal had been a bit basic, so we loaded our cases into the support vehicle and set off for breakfast at the Happy Burger Diner, a superb 1960's style diner in nearby Mariposa.

After breakfast we ride towards San Francisco, stopping for a brief rest along the way in the small town of Coulterville. It's only claim to fame is the gold-bearing ore that was transported by "Whistling Billy", (an 8 ton, short wheel base, wood burning locomotive), from the Mary Harrison mine south of town to the Potosi Stamp Mill west of town.

Then back on the bikes to ride to our lunch stop at Sausilito just north of San Francisco. We approached via Oakland and got our first sight of San Francisco as we rode over the Oakland Bridge. This took us down to the Ferry Building on Embarcadero and along the seafront to Fisherman's Wharf. Then we headed over the Golden Gate Bridge to the Paradise Bay restaurant in Sausalito for lunch. Coming back to San Francisco we stopped just before the Golden gate Bridge and rode up to the headland to get a better view of the bridge with San Francisco in the background.

Then we crossed the bridge for the second time and dropped down to Fisherman's Wharf and the Best Western Tuscan Inn on Northover Street where we were to spend two nights exploring San Francisco.

Day 10 - Saturday 1 August - Mammoth Lakes to Yosemite

We left Mammoth Lakes and headed north to the infamous Tioga Pass. Today was a chance to explore Yosemite National Park at our leisure. We were only 150 miles from our next overnight stop at La Portal, so we stopped to buy a picnic lunch just outside the entrance to the park and then entered in small groups and spent most of the day taking in the sights. Today we were at alitudes of 4,000 to 6,000 feet, so the temperatures were very pleasant compared to the extremes of temperature we encountered in Death Valley.

Every park we've been to on this trip has had it's own unique character and Yosemite is characterised by towering granite cliffs, spacious meadows, lakes, waterfalls and giant sequoias. Photographs can never convey the scale and grandeur of the place, but you can get some feel for the magnificent views that appeared around every bend in the road. This is a landscape that has been shaped by glaciers over millions of years.

The giant sequoia trees dwarf even the largest pine and fir trees that live among them. They can live for over two thousand years and their trunks can reach over 25 feet thick. One of the most bizarre sights in the park is the "Tunnel Tree." This is a giant sequoia which has had a tunnel big enough for a car to pass through cut into it's trunk. The tree can only be reached on foot, down a 1 mile path, and only a few of us decided to hike down to see it!

On leaving the park we rode 20 miles along Hwy 120 to reach the Cedar Lodge Hotel in El Portal.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Day 9 - Friday 31 July - Las Vegas to Mammoth Lakes

Our journey today took us across Death Valley National Park - the hottest place on Earth! I think for many of us we felt that this was going to be the most challenging day of the whole trip. But we were well prepared with plenty of sun block and regular stops for water. Our tour guide Dean Cognito was always reminding us that altitude is our friend, so today’s ride into Death Valley, which at Badwater is 86m (282 feet) below sea level, promised to be a very hot day. Incidentally, Badwater is the lowest geographical point in the USA.

We started our descent into Death Valley and the temperature rose steadily to 113F (45C). Along the way we stopped at Zabriskie Point to take in the view of three million acres of stone wilderness. (“Movie Moment” Michaelangelo Antonioni directed the cult classic “Zabriskie Point” in 1970.)

Then on to the Furnace Creek Ranch for lunch, some shopping, lots of water and to refuel the bikes before pressing on.

After this point we started to climb up out of the valley towards the Sierra Nevada mountain range and as we did the temperature began to drop. We climbed steadily passing through the towns of Lone Pine and Big Pine and by the time we reached Mammoth Lakes on the edge of the Inyo National Forest we were at an altitude of 9,000 feet and the temperature had dropped to a comfortable 70F (21C). In the distance we could see patches of snow on the peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains. What a difference in temperature in the space of about 90 miles. The Best Western hotel in Mammouth Lakes was our stopover for the night.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Day 8 - Thursday 30 July 2009 - Las Vegas

Today is a rest day and a chance to explore Las Vegas. So much to see and so little time.

The Bellagio flower garden

The Paris casino

The MGM Grand

New York, New York

Fremont Street

And, of course, a visit to the local Harley Davidson dealer for those "must have" bits of chrome.

Day 7 - Wednesday 27 July 2009 - Bryce Canyon to Las Vegas

Sorry for the delay in posting our latest news - no free wi-fi access!

Breakfast at 6am and on the bikes at 7am to ride into Bryce Canyon. Just when we thought we'd seen it all, some new landscape comes into view. Altitude is our friend and we're at 8,000 feet above sea level looking down into Bryce Canyon, so everyone is wearing jackets and gloves for this early morning sightseeing tour. As we ride through the park on our way to the canyon viewing points we pass deer grazing on the lush green grass. Then it's up to "Inspiration Point" (elevation 8,100 feet above sea level) for our first glimpse of the canyon.

Then back to our hotel to load our bags onto the support vehicle and set off to Zion National Park. By this time we are starting to run out of words to describe the natural wonders that we are seeing. Each park is more breathtaking than the previous one, yet each is magnificent in its own way. Pause for another group photo.

A young Morman rancher, whose homestead was right in the canyon near present-day Zion Lodge, named this place because its grandeur reminded him of a passage in the Bible about Zion, "A place in the mountains where the Lord's house shall be established."

From Zion National Park we start to descend towards Las Vegas and as we do, the temperature begins to rise. By the time we hit the freeway into Las Vegas the temperature has soared to 105F. So everyone is relieved to get to the Excalibur Hotel where we spend the next two nights on our Las Vegas stopover.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Day 6 - Tuesday 28 July - Monument Valley to Bryce Canyon

Just in case you wondered why these blog entries don't always appear on the same day as the events they describe, this is because not every hotel we stop at has free wi-fi access, so I'm not able to log into the blog and upload pictures and text.

Today was another day spent at altitude and cooler temperatures. We got up as high as 9,600 feet above sea level on today's ride from Mexican Hat via Glen Canyon and the Escalante Wilderness to Bryce Canyon. The continued hot weather in the region sparked off several spectacular thunderstorms and while we did get rained on briefly several times we always seemed to be on the fringe of the worst of the bad weather.

Our journey from Mexican Hat took us to an area known as the Valley of the Gods where Dean told us he had a little treat in store for us! As we rode towards the cliff face he told us we'd be riding up the mountain directly in front of us, but we couldn't see a road. This turned out to be 3 miles of narrow gravel road that snaked it's way up the sheer face of the mountain. Happily we all made it to the top without any mishaps and were very glad to be back on tarmac roads for the rest of the day.

The next 97 miles took us through some of the most amazing multi-coloured landscapes on Earth. The towering rock formations just took our breath away. Words can't do justice to the variety of shapes and colours of the mountains and even photographs don't convey the full splendour of this area.

One of the rock faces featured ancient drawing made hundreds of years ago by the native American Indians.

At one of the highest points on the ride we rode along a narrow ridge, known as "The Devil's Backbone", just wide enough for one lane of traffic in each direction and with sheer drops of several thousand feet on either side - and no crash barriers! Not a good time to discover that you are afraid of heights. No photographs of this due to the intense concentration needed to stay on the road.

This was a hard days riding covering 280 miles in total, so we were all very glad to reach Best Western's Ruby's Inn at Bryce Canyon in plenty of time to have a shower and meet for an evening meal.

Day 5 - Monday 27 July 2009 - Grand Canyon to Monument Valley

Our tour guide, Dean Cognito, tells us that "Altitude is our friend!" meaning that the higher above sea level we are, the cooler it will be. So today is a relatively cool day because we're staying at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon at 7,000 feet above sea level. We spent a leisurely morning sightseeing at the Canyon and a couple of us took a helicopter ride into the Canyon for a bird's eye view of this spectacular natural wonder.

Leaving the Grand Canyon we headed west and stopped off at the Cameron Trading Post selling craft items made by the local Navajo Indians and on to our lunch stop at Denny's overlooking the Powell dam.

After lunch we headed off towards another amazing natural phenomenon, Monument Valley, which is most familiar as the backdrop to hundreds of Western films, most notably starring John Wayne.

Then a short ride to our stopover at the Hat Rock Inn in Mexican Hat. The name derives from a rock formation that looks like a Mexican hat - surprise, surprise!

Monday, 27 July 2009

Day 4 - Sunday 26 July 2009 - Laughlin to Grand Canyon

A slightly delayed start today as Bill, the driver of the back up vehicle, managed to lock his keys in the van. Leaving Bill to wait for the locksmith we set off for the tiny town of Oatman with its gift shops, wild burros and gun fights staged for the tourists.

The whole of today was spent riding the longest continuous stretch of Route 66 all the way to the Grand Canyon. This stretch of road is considered to be "The Heart of Historic Route 66." Leaving Oatman the road twisted and turned up through the mountain with breathtaking views.

We climbed steadily throughout the day and consequently the temperature was cooler than yesterday. It was 90F (32C) when we stopped for a drink at Hackberry General Stores further along Route 66.

We headed off in a northern loop through the Hualapai Indian Reservation towards Seligman. After a late lunch stop in Seligman we rode to Williams

and our last water stop before riding the last 60 miles to the entrance to the Grand Canyon and our overnight stop at the Best Western Squire Inn.

Day 3 - Saturday 25 July 2009 - Palm Springs to Laughlin

An earlier start today but even so the temperature was 98F (36C) just after breakfast! We headed to Joshua Tree National Park to see the incredible rock formations.

Then a long descent towards Twentynine Palms across salt flats where the temperature soared to a brutal 110F (43C). Then we had our first taste of Historic Route 66 at Amboy were we stopped for water at Roy's Motel.

Frankie had brought his bike mascot "Animal" along on the trip so he introduced him to Route 66.

We stayed on Route 66 all the way to the gambling resort of Laughlin, a mini Las Vegas. The Tropicana Express hotel was our stopover for the night and the hotel's casino was packed with fruit machines of every kind. We had a drink in the casino bar and David bought us all a birthday drink. The birthday boy was then invited up on stage to be serenaded by Janit the resident entertainer.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Day 2 - Friday 24 July 2009 - LA to Palm Springs

At last the adventure has begun. We left the Marriott LAX at 10am and headed south on Hwy 405 for 60 miles. A necessary evil to get clear of LA. Then we headed east onto Hwy 74 and some wonderful winding roads up into the mountains, stopping off at the famous biker cafe of Hells Kitchen (which features a salad bar in a coffin!) before descending to Lake Elsinore.

The temperature falls slightly as we ride up into the mountains but builds up again back at sea level. More winding roads then took us into San Bernadino National Forest with a wonderful aroma from the resin in the pine trees. Rising up to a height of 4,000 feet, the road through the mountains twisted and turned with sheer drops only a few feet away. As we neared Palm Springs we stopped at a vantage point high up in the mountains looking down into the city. While taking photos we were approached by a woman who had been stranded for nearly an hour in the car park with a severe attack of vertigo. She asked if one of us could drive her and her V6 Hummer automatic down to Palm Springs. Ness volunteered and drove all the way down the twisting road with the woman sitting in the back seat, unable to even look out of the window on the way down.

The last leg of our journey took us into Palm Springs with possibly the highest temperatures of the whole day as we descended from the relative cool of the mountains. After checking into our hotel several of us headed for the shops to buy some light coloured long sleeve T-shirts for tomorrows leg of the journey. It's going to be too hot for even the lightest jacket. Then we sat down for an evening meal and toasted Bill and Carroll who celebrated their wedding anniversary today!

Thursday, 23 July 2009

A day at Manhattan Beach

Today was our last rest day before we pick up our bikes, so everyone went to the beach for the day. Swimming in the Pacific, dolphin watching, sunbathing and a fly past by some pelicans. Then back to our hotel for an evening B-B-Q around the pool with free wine and beer supplied by the hotel. Everyone is getting quite excited about getting on the bikes and heading for Palm Springs. California is in the middle of an unusual heat wave and temperatures inland are predicted to rise as high as 105F (40C!). Even higher in Death Valley. But our support vehicle is carrying plentiful supplies of water and our guide, Dean Cognito (yes, that really is his name), will make sure we don't get into difficulties.

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Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Arrived safely in USA

What a long day! Left Tesco's at Copdock, Ipswich at 8am on Monday 20 July and arrived in LA at 6:30pm local time (2:30am Tuesday morning UK time). Our coach transfer turned up as expected at LA international airport (many thanks to Bill Hooker for organising to get 18 of us plus luggage to our hotel) and we checked into the Residence Inn by Marriott at Manhattan Beach for 3 nights. Then we all showered and headed out to a local sports bar for a drink and some food. Got back to our hotel at 11pm (7am Tuesday morning) for a well deserved nights sleep. Off to do some shopping in the morning - helmets and bike clothing mostly. We pick up our bikes on Thursday, so a chance to recover from our jet lag before we set off on our trip.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Our itinerary Days 9-15

Day 9 - Las Vegas to Mammoth Lakes (350 miles)
From Las Vegas we head west and our ride takes us across Death Valley, the hottest place on Earth! It's almost entirely devoid of shade and its sculpted rock layers form deeply shadowed, eroded crevices at the foot of sharply silhouetted hills, their exotic mineral content turning ancient mudflats into rainbows of sunlit iridescence. After an early lunch at Furnace Creek Ranch we ride a series of mountain curves, descending hundreds of feet below sea level and find ourselves in the basin of Death Valley. At 86m below sea level Badwater is the lowest geographical point in the US. We continue west and ride along Sequoia National Park up to Mammoth lakes.

Day 10 - Mammoth Lakes to Yosemite (150 miles)
Leaving Mammoth Lakes we continue our trip a little further north and then take the infamous Tioga Pass to cross Yosemite National Park. Riding through winding granite canyons and muscle flexing turns, the road demands all our attention as we enter the mother of all National Parks. Home to nearly 2,000 varieties of plants and animals, including giant sequoias, Yosemite conjures up thousands of images and raises expectations to dizzying heights and when you are there it is just as beautiful, wild, tame, rich as you'd expect. We ride over to El Portal where we overnight at the Cedar Lodge.

Days 11 & 12 - Yosemite to San Francisco (200 miles)
Today we ride along Yosemite National Park for a while and then head west towards San Francisco. We cross the San Rafael Bridge which takes us into Marin County, an unabashed introduction to Californian self-indulgence; a pleasure zone of conspicuous luxury and abundant natural beauty, with sunshine, sandy beaches, high mountains and thick redwood forests, often ranked the wealthiest county in the US. We ride south to Sausalito where we stop for lunch. Sausalito today is a very refined place that makes you feel as if you might be in the Cote d'Azure, but many years ago it was a hotspot for drunken sailors and bawdy saloons. After lunch we ride over the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco, our stop for the next two nights.

Day 13 - San Francisco to Monterey (118 miles)
Today we ride along the rugged coast and get our first taste of one of the best motorcycle rides in the world as we head south on legendary Pacific Coast Highway (Hwy 1) along the Pacific Ocean. Breathtaking views of the coves and inlets of the Pacific offer lots of photo opportunities. Monterey is home to the world famous Laguna Seca Automobile and Motorcycle Reactrack and the spectacular Aquarium of the Sea. We overnight at the Sand Dollar Inn in Monterey.

Day 14 - Monterey to Pismo Beach (152 miles)
We continue our ride on scenic Hwy 1 along the edge of the cliffs of the Big Sur Coast - 90 wild and undeveloped miles of rocky cliffs form a sublime landscape where redwood groves line river canyons and the Santa Lucia Mountains rise out of the blue-green Pacific. Roughly midway along the Big Sur Coast we come to Esalen, which is named for the long gone native tribes who once enjoyed its natural hot spring, situated on a cliff top high above the raging Pacific surf. We cruise past San Simeon (Hearst Castle), Cambria and Morro Bay until we reach the beautiful ocean resort of Pismo Beach where we overnight at the Sand castle Inn.

Day 15 - Pismo Beach to Los Angeles (225 miles)
Today we take Hwy 101 and head towards Los Angeles. At Santa Maria we cut inland to enjoy the great back roads and scenery there. In Santa Barbara we get back on Hwy 101 and cruise straight into Malibu, the infamous beach colony. Twenty miles from here we come to Santa Monica and Venice. Venice Beach is probably the reason most people come to Venice - nowhere else does LA parade itself quite so openly as along the wide pathway of Venice Boardwalk. From here we ride over to Hawthorne, where EagleRider's headquarters are located. Now it's time to return our bikes and transfer back to our hotel for our "Good-bye Dinner".

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Our itinerary Days 1-8

Day 1 - Arrive in Los Angeles
Today we meet our EagleRider representative and pick up our bikes in preparation for an early start tomorrow.

Day 2 - Los Angeles to Palm Springs (190 miles)
After our Welcome Breakfast we head south and ride the winding mountain road to Lake Elinsore. After lunch, the cool air warms as we soar like an eagle through the roads of San Bernadino National Forest and further into Palm Springs, where we spend the first night.

Day 3 - Palm Springs to Laughlin (280 miles)
Today we take a loop through Joshua Tree National Park taking in the amazing colours and fantastic rock formations! At Twentynine Palms our trip gets legendary appeal as we enter Historic Route 66 in Amboy, which is our road all the way up towards Laughlin. We cross the state line into Nevada and arrive in Laughlin, where we overnight.

Day 4 - Laughlin to Grand Canyon (250 miles)
We continue our ride on legendary Route 66 into Arizona, stop for wild animals in Oatman and continue our ride to Kingman, which is considered to be "The Heart of Historic Route 66", as it's situated in the middle of the longest remaining stretch of the old "Mother Road." From Kingman we head for Seligman, another of the longest surviving stretches of Route 66, which heads off in a northern loop through the Hualapai Indian Reservation. After our lunch stop in Seligman we continue our ride towards the majestic Grand Canyon.

Day 5 - Grand Canyon to Monument Valley (200 miles)
After an early morning helicopter trip into Grand Canyon we're back on our bikes and cruise along the South Rim for a few miles and leave Grand Canyon National Park at the East entrance, heading for Monument Valley. The classic Wild West landscape of stark sandstone buttes makes you realise how much your perception of the Wild West has been shaped by this one spot.

Day 6 - Monument Valley to Bryce Canyon (340 miles)
From Kayenta we ride up to sleepy Mexican Hat, briefly a gold mining camp, which takes its name from a riverside sandstone hoodoo shaped like a sombrero. Then on to the Valley of the Gods and cross the Colorado River where it pours into Lake Powell. Riding along the southern tip of Capital Reef National Park, on to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, we roar on up to the Devil's Backbone and through the Escalante Wilderness en route to Bryce Canyon where we overnight.

Days 7 & 8 - Bryce Canyon to Las Vegas (250 miles)
Time to visit the amazing Bryce Canyon before we continue to Zion National Park. Besides seeing the most beautiful rock formations anywhere on Earth, we are in for a challenging ride over the switchbacks of Zion! From there it's a 140 mile ride into the gambling oasis of Las Vegas where we spend two nights. Time to catch a show in Las Vegas and perhaps visit the Hoover Dam.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Thursday, 18 June 2009

The journey begins

On Monday 20th July 18 members of the Fenlanders chapter of the Harley Owners Group (HOG) from the Ipswich area will fly with Virgin Atlantic to Los Angeles to start a 2,500 mile journey that takes in Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and San Francisco. The 16 day "Wild West Tour" is organised by Eaglerider. They supply the Harleys, plan the route, book the hotels and provide a road captain to lead the group. You can see a map of our route and find out details of the places we'll visit at

I'm told by Les and Sue that the idea for this trip began two years ago with a casual conversation about my trip to Sturgis in 2006. "Where are you going next?" they asked and off the top of my head I said that I really fancied riding Route 66. Before long several other people expressed interest and the planning started in earnest.