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."

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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.