Hop Along's USITT Ride: Part 2

After a great visit in Los Angeles with friends, it was time to head to Long Beach for USITT.  The conference always seems to go by so fast... and here I'd been hoping to take a scenic ride along the coast.  So much for that.  It did have a great ending:  The annual Behind the Scenes raffle, and the KAZOO PARADE.  I'm a fan of the kazoo parade.  It reminds me of our shop's version of the birthday song:  Off-key and off-tempo.  But we'll do better next year, I'm sure of it.  The raffle went off superbly, except that I lost my raffle tickets.  Still haven't found 'em.  Needless to say, there were lots of great prizes donated and happy prize recipients.  And of course swag.  I'm not sure what the final number was, but it sure seemed like there was a large group.  I think next year Bill may need to find a taller platform to stand on.

Immediately after the raffle, it was time to pack the bike.  My buddy and I needed to hit the road Saturday and get a few hundred miles in.  Sunday would be the dreaded long-haul on I-40.  It took me a while to get the bike packed, I do have to confess.  With bolted on saddlebags and a  back pack to strap on, it just isn't as convenient as some others.  Once we finally got moving though, that same sensation came back... and a great big smile.  It helped of course to be riding in great weather and a sunny sky.  I even remembered to put on the sunscreen to keep my nose from burning.  Every stop we make, that is part of the routine: drink some water, put on sunscreen, adjust layers to warm up or cool off, maybe have a clif bar or beef jerky.  The evening ride goes quite well, we even manage to not head in the wrong direction.  Knowing the next day would be a long day we opt for a decent hotel room and a steak dinner in Kingman, AZ.  We also get to enjoy a little humour: a carload of our students is eating at the Inn-n-Out at the same exit, so we swing by to wave.  But we don't stop... we want to make sure we get to the steak restaurant before it closes.  Priorities.  At this point the discerning reader will realize: we are in central Arizona, and plan on actually arriving in central Oklahoma the next day?  Yep, it's a little daunting on the map.  It's a hard nights rest.  We wake up earlier than our intended wakeup time of 5am and instead are on the road by 5:10am. 

We had been leading a storm out of Long Beach, and sure enough we were still on the leading edge.  We didn't have rain or snow... but we sure had a wind.  I was actually surprised that my bike cover hadn't blown off overnight.  Breakfast was a clif bar and coffee.  Unfortunately it was chilly in the wind (but then it's always windy on a motrocycle right?).  Despite the benefits of heated handgrips (brilliant) and a heated jacket liner (absolutely brilliant), heavy leather chaps, jacket, and layers of clothes I was still cold.  Not a good way to start out a long day.  It took awhile after the sun was up for the temperatures to rise, but I sure was glad they did.  It didn't help that we were going up hill in Arizona to higher elevations, some areas still had snow pockets on the ground.  But seeing as we had about 1000 miles to do, we were also travelling at higher speeds.  That is one great thing about some of the western states, higher speed limits.  

All was going well, even the new tire on the Harley.  Our group of students were ahead of us a ways but called to give us a heads up: I-40 was closed ahead.  As in, all lanes closed, and traffic stopped.  Luckily we were at a gas stop 20 miles short of the hold up.  A Retiree who lived in the area had grim news: No way 'round it.  But good 'ol Google maps and a smartphone suggested we could at least bypass it a little ways, by riding Historic Route 66.  Which was great up until 66 rejoined I-40.  Here is where travelling the small roads and through the small towns gets fun: a local farmer, in dusty truck and all, asks if we are looking for a way 'round the traffic and offers to lead the way.  Of course we say yes... I'll take the long way if it keeps us moving, staying put in stopped traffic is just miserable.  And away we go, down a rough 2 lane road... that becomes broken pavement... and then 1 lane... and a dirt road just before it enters the free range cattle ranch... and promptly becomes washboard surface with sand blowing across, making it hard to see the cow dung that is in the road.  Our bikes scare a few groups of cattle, that thankfully run away from the road, instead of over it.  Other cattle watch us go by, and if I'm not mistaken... they're smiling.  I'm not sure how many miles this detour was.  I had too much fun taking it!  But soon enough, the detour is over and brings us to the detour on the main road, which is now all interstate traffic jammed on a small highway.  Joy.  The temperature is also rising and I'm actually getting uncomfortably hot.  A very different sensation than the morning, but welcome.  We stop to peel off a few layers after I lose a handwarmer in the road.  It's a favourite handwarmer, and I'm afraid I'll need it that night, so I go back for it. 

Once back to I-40 the directions are easy.  I-40 to OKC then south to home.  but we're still in New Mexico.  Texas just gets plain ol hot until we get near Oklahoma.  We can tell we are near a weather system: it is alternatingly cold, then hot.  I actually dress for cold weather while on a gas stop, and sure enough 20 miles later it's hot.  Funny thing how that works... not so funny when you don't want to stop.  We realize here too that we are down to 2 gas stops before getting home.  Of course, on a motorcycle gas stops happen more frequently due to the smaller gas tanks.  Still, we are looking at getting home around midnight.

Once the sun sets, we slow down.  Harder to see at night even with our extra lights on.  One of mine burned out the first day of the ride.  I think the other thing that has burned out at this point is our bums.  Yet we are still a good 3 hours away.  Sure enough we get home after midnight.  The details on this part of the ride are few and far between, centered on: ride, gas, repeat.  But it sure is great to be back.

I also hear about the progress of Moe's ride from USITT back to Baltimore.  The weather system we were ahead of seems to be what Moe is riding through: snow and rain, and still lots of wind.  He visits for lunch a day late, it's been a rough ride.  Weather can be a challenge, once you're wet the wind gets right to ya.  But Moe is in his usual good spirits, quick with a laugh.  We look forward to riding with him again this summer.