The Biker Babes – Grand Canyon and
This year was our biggest trip yet: 5,689.5 miles, covered in three weeks and a day, from
September 3, 2004, Friday:
We started out at about 3:15, with one last stop to mail a letter. Then we hit the highway. Apart from a lot of chilly fog, the ride was delightful. We stopped for breakfast at the same Iron Skillet in Rochelle where we had our first day breakfast on our very first big ride to Branson back in 2000. Once again, we had fun with the truckers!
We continued to push on to the Amana Colonies in
Alas, the Colonies were not worth the visit. They were much more commercialized than Mom and Terry remembered from a previous visit several years ago, and places that used to have informative tours were reduced to a few signs, no guides, and no interpretations. The woolens were beautiful, the signs told small parts of the story of the Colonies, but the overall impression was a disappointment.
We had some particularly fun moments along the way to
We continued on our way to
From Zook’s, we went on to the Living History Farms. Unfortunately for us, we arrived a little after 15:00, so we missed the last cart to the “300 year walk” through the three period farms themselves, the 1700 Ioway Indian Farm, and the 1850 and 1900 Farms. We were able to walk around
Terry also had fun in the gift shop, finding creamed cinnamon honey to ship home as gifts for friends. We were sorry to leave, especially without having seen the Farms, but I’m betting that we’ll be back someday. It’s not so far a trip!
Back home at the hotel, we took our swim and then planned for tomorrow – an eight-hour push to
September 4, Saturday:
This was mostly a pushing day, covering about 400 miles. We left our hotel – which, again reminiscent of our very first trip, was largely inhabited by Shriners! – about 8:10. We stopped for lunch at a Cracker Barrel in
Our only tourist stop on the run today was the Archway Memorial at
As you go up the escalator, you’re climbing a steep, rocky pass, and you go through the arch at the top even as the wide-screen film that’s running around you makes you feel as if you’re riding up in a prairie schooner. At the top, you’re in
As we were collecting our commemorative photo (shades of our cruising days: they take your picture in front of a map of the Great Platte River Road before you start up the escalator into the arch!), the young fellow selling us the pictures commented on our chaps (since we were making this stop on the fly, with the bike still fully loaded with our luggage, we couldn’t lock our gear in the bike; the ticket-selling lady kindly stored our jackets in the ticket cage, so we at least weren’t burdened with them). Turns out someone else at the Arch had recently acquired a sidecar outfit, so Terry wound up talking sidecars, first with the young man, and then with the sidehack owner. Terry was only the second sidecar driver the man had ever met, and he really appreciated the tips she passed on.
From the Arch, we ran another 90 minutes to our overnight home in
We reached our hotel around 19:00. It was still dry, but all signs pointed to a likely ride in rain on the next day.
At our hotel, I took a couple of irresistible pictures for my car-crazy carpoolmate John: side-by-side vintage Austin-Healys. The red convertible (a 1956 or 57; hey, old as I am!) had the license 1REDCAR, while the black convertible was RDUMCAR. Not hardly! They were both magnificently restored.
September 5, Sunday:
Something I forgot to mention about our ride yesterday: we crossed the
We started the day at St. Patrick’s Church in
We started the day wearing our rain pants. It had rained in the night, although not a lot. While the bulk of the storm had gone past us, we saw clouds building on the road ahead. It looked a lot better ahead of us than behind, but it still looked like rain. The poor Austin-Healy drivers were heading east, and needless to say, their rag tops were up.
We hit the road and found that we were running directly into the wind. That cut our speed and put our gas mileage in the dumpster. We made more gas stops than we would have needed under normal conditions.
We ran 80 until we reached 76. As soon as we reached the new road, the road quality dropped, and so did the volume of traffic. In
At an early gas stop, we put on the rest of our rain gear, and it was a timely choice: the raindrops were falling by the time we pulled out. It never fell very hard, but it was cold under the clouds and we were happy to have added our black fleece shirts along with our rain jackets.
The wind, the rain, the chill, and the stress of riding in rain gear made the run seem longer than it was. We caught lunch at a little Sinclair station with a small diner called The Overland Trail café, a fleck of humanity in the middle of a lot of nothing. At our last gas stop before
Our Hampton Inn was in the suburbs of
Some things we’d meant to do were off the table because of the Labor Day holiday. The Botanical Gardens and Art Museum were both closed, as was the Harley dealer where Terry had intended to take the bike for an oil change. But the
And we also looked forward to the treat of having dinner with our oldest sister Ruth, who would be in
September 6, Monday:
Today was our day to play tourist in
First stop was
Did you know that an otter has as much hair in one square inch of hide as a human – well-endowed! – has on his or her entire head?
There was a lot to do and see and learn and enjoy. Even though the tigers were being quiet at the moment, they had a hilarious video running showing them playing with balls, logs, and a bobbing watermelon in the water. These cats love to swim, and the staff gives them toys to keep them from getting bored. We all agreed that this museum was time and money very well spent. If you’re heading there, take your AAA card; there’s a discount.
We went down to the civic center area, near the capitol building, to catch lunch at the special event we lucking into, the Taste of Denver. What a crowd! You could buy 9 tickets for $5, and then trade the tickets for food at the various booths. We ate at the tent of the Lemongrass Grille, a Vietnamese place that took first place at the Taste this year. Meat eggrolls and either pork and shrimp or veggie spring rolls to dip into a delicious sauce topped with ground peanuts – yummy!
We went on to the
I was a little disappointed in the museum overall. The Ocean Journey made much more of an impression on us all.
Back at the hotel, we met up with Ruth and her co-worker Pat, and went out to a little Mexican restaurant practically across the street. We had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs, not to mention good food. Getting a chance to see Ruth was great.
Tomorrow will be a seriously pushing day, from Denver over the Rocky Mountains to Richfield, Utah, about 475 miles, I think – and they had snow in the highest pass last night, according to the morning news. We’re definitely traveling in turtlenecks and fleece under our leathers!
Oh – Terry made a young boy’s day. We met this young father in the swimming pool last night, coping with two infants plus this youngling. Today, while we were waiting for Ruth and Pat, Terry saw the family out at their van, parked beside the bike, with the little boy ogling the bike for all he was worth. Terry went out and invited the kid to hop onto the bike. He didn’t need much encouragement! He tried out the big driver’s seat, but decided that the sidecar was the best! Wouldn’t get any argument from Mom ...
September 7, Tuesday:
This was a first with the bike: crossing the
Terry worked hard today, getting the bike around lots of curves going both up and down. Ironically enough, we got the best mileage per gallon of the trip so far, courtesy of drafting semitrailers (trust me: when a big 18-wheeler blows past you, you can feel the bike leap forward, easily gaining 5 mph from the wind-tow off the truck!) and lots of freebie downward runs. About halfway into the upward climb, we had to stop at a rest area to change gloves because it was getting really cold, and although the rest of our bodies were well bundled in fleece and leather, the normal leather gloves just couldn’t provide any warmth. Terry plugged in her heated ones to the bike’s electrical system, and I felt a lot better in the big Gore-Tex storm gloves she’d passed on to me last year.
While we were tanking up in Eagle, Colorado, partway through the Rockies, we ran into a woman who was so excited about seeing us that she insisted on taking a picture of us – and since she didn’t have a camera, she borrowed mine. She just couldn’t get over seeing us, but in all her eagerness and delight, she didn’t leave me with her name or any way to send her a copy of the picture. She just seemed thrilled to know that a photo would exist! People are fun. That’s my only photo from the entire day. We didn’t really have the leisure to stop, and I can’t snap on the fly from the bike, so all the mountain images just stay in our minds’ eyes. Someday, a helmet camera ...
We caught lunch at a Village Inn in
Particularly spectacular was the transit of the Eisenhower Tunnel, up at the 11,013 foot elevation. I don’t know how long that tunnel was, but it was a marvelous piece of work. It was irresistible: Terry revved the engine once to bounce the sound off the walls, and we all had a good laugh.
Once we hit
We tanked up, drank our water, and then took the last 16 or so miles to our night’s home in
We caught a small dinner at a Taco Bell across the street, came back to the hotel, and tossed our t-shirts and jeans into the laundry while we went for a swim. This hotel took best pool of the trip thus far: large and immediately warm, close to the temp Mom and Terry keep the pool at home. There was also a nice circular whirlpool.
September 8, Wednesday:
We said goodbye to the nice pool and hit the road for Vegas. The drive was great again. We kept marveling at how abruptly and often the country around us changed. I actually missed seeing our big laugh of the day: there was one place where, amid highway construction, a prairie dog was sitting up right in the middle of the lane, as if he owned the road and had no concerns whatsoever about the traffic on it. Mom and Terry got a good chuckle, if a somewhat wry one, given the limited life expectancy of a prairie dog that bold (or that stupid).
By midday, it started to get really hot as we rode. We’d started out wearing the fleece because the morning was chilly, but by noon we were sweating. It wasn’t too bad while we were moving, but slowing down and sitting still were enough to start you panting like an overheated dog.
We caught a quick lunch at a Jack-in-the-Box right up the street, and then took the bike in to the Harley dealership (which boasts to be the world’s largest) for the oil change and new rear tire. Pulling in was fun, as usual, and provided a few laughs, especially when one of the service guys mounted the bike to drive it into the service bay. It was painfully obvious that the guy had never driven a sidecar rig before, and hadn’t a clue how to make tight turns. Terry debated offering her services as a ferry driver, but the fellow eventually got it turned around and aimed for the service doors. Then came the next funny: the doors, opened normally, weren’t wide enough for the outfit! They had to open a third, normally fixed panel to get the thing inside! Once inside, though, the service bay was huge.
It took about two and a half hours from start to finish, but that gave us time to plan our next day. I called my former neighbors Ron and Ruth, who live above Vegas in
When the bike was finished, we parked it back at the hotel, shed our leathers, and took the shuttle over to the Bellagio. We walked through the place (which was used during the filming of Ocean’s Eleven), lost a few bucks in the slots, missed the dancing waters show, and walked on. We stopped for dinner at the Harley-Davidson café. Terry and Mom decided that their barbecued ribs, which we’d split as an appetizer, weren’t nearly as good as the food at Tumbleweeds, their favorite barbecue stop in
We kept strolling down the Strip to
Read Part Two