Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Motorcycle, Two Trains and Over a Thousand Miles of Fun!

It was a great day for a motorcycle ride, September 03 through September 13, 2015.  

Our ride lasted 11 days and we rode for 1,944 miles through 5 states, well 6 if you count the small portion of New Mexico at Four Corners.  We rode in temperatures in the low 40s, which we enjoyed, and in temperatures as high as 112-degrees which sucked.  It all made for an adventure that we’ll remember as being one of our best vacations ever, at least until we take our next one.  

The Open Road and Getting DRUNK in Arizona!

Oh good times, good times, but maybe not so much the next morning.  

Day 1 found us eager to hit the open road and meet whatever adventure came our way!  Our first rest stop came almost two hours into the ride in Glamis, CA.  

At the time, we didn’t realize the 101-degree heat was preparing us for our return ride home, we just thought, “Damn, it’s hot!” and sat in the shade chugging down some waters.   

The sand dunes were beautiful glimmering in the hot sun against a brilliant blue sky, but the smells of El Centro and the porta-pottie we had to use , not so much.  

We stopped for lunch at Denny’s in Blythe and noted the temperature was now 104-degrees.  The ride was rather bleak and hot until we crossed into Arizona and began climbing higher into the mountains towards our first nights destination.  By the time we reached Prescott (elevation 5,368’), the temperature had cooled to a comfortable 85-degrees and we were surrounded by junipers and pinyon pines.

The St. Michael Hotel in Prescott, Arizona was built in the early 1900s and is conveniently located right next to Whiskey Row, so no worries of drinking and driving!  I suppose we did what most tourists do who come to Prescott, we visited every bar on Whiskey Row. 

According to Prescott's website, there are only four bars on Whiskey Row, but I think they're wrong.  It seemed like we drank at at least 7 or 8 bars, but maybe that was the number of drinks I had, plus we visited the Whiskey Row Pub twice because we liked it better than the others. We lost count after a while and really didn't care at that point, because we were having fun!

Yavapai County Courthouse, Prescott, Arizona

While planning our vacation, I came across a photo of me standing in the courthouse plaza in 1996.  I was on the cutting edge of fashion back then and rocking that fanny pack!

And now, here I am again almost 20 years later standing in the exact spot.  I suppose I will have to buy another fanny pack and return in another 20 years to take an updated photo.

Wallaby poop, choo choo, and the Grand Canyon!

We didn’t have a long travel day, so we slept in and spent more time wandering through the historic district in Prescott, before heading to the nearby zoo.  

The Heritage Park Zoo & Sanctuary is a non-profit organization on ten acres just north of Prescott.  They don’t have a wide variety of animals, but the animals they do have, have all been rescued.  I thought it was definitely worth a visit, but be aware of the Wallaby Walkabout! 

The walkabout is nothing more than an open area with a few Wallabys and visitors must stay in a small roped off area to give the animals space.  

However, as we stood there (Robert watching and me taking pictures) a wallaby ran up to us and sat right at our feet.  It sniffed our shoes for a minute, took a big poop, and then hopped back to rejoin its friends lounging in the shade!  I laugh just thinking about it.  Of all the places to poop in that open area, he poops within a foot of our shoes!

Cassie, the tiger, arrived to HPZS in 2009 after the facility in Nebraska where she was born and raised closed down.   Robert is a wee bit hungover in the above picture, but I'm feeling okay.

Shash, the black bear, arrived in 1994 at only 3 months old.  His mother had been shot by a hunter.  

Our second nights destination was Williams, Arizona, so our ride for the day was only about 1-1/2 hours.  

We checked into Motel 6 (temperature: 70-degrees), although the inside of the room wasn’t the usual ugly dinginess that we've come to associate with Motel 6s.  It had modern furnishings and wood floors.  It was a nice surprise.  

Williams is on Route 66, so just about every gift shop had Route 66 memorabilia, but we weren’t there for shopping.  We were there to ride the Grand Canyon Railway!  

We arrived at the Train Depot the following morning and after watching a western shootout show, we boarded the train for our 10am departure! I could barely contain my excitement as I bounced around in my seat taking pictures of everything!  

We rode coach and were fortunate that our car wasn’t full and there were no children!  It made for a relaxing ride.  Big windows allowed great views during the 2-hour ride to the Grand Canyon.  

We spent several hours at the South Rim and ate lunch at El Tovar.  It rained a bit while we were there, but it didn't dampen our enthusiasm.  In fact, the clouds made for some great photography.

The Hopi House at the Grand Canyon

The Hopi House was built in 1905 and modeled after Hopi pueblo dwellings at Old Oraibi that used natural materials in their construction, such as sandstone and juniper.

One of my favorite photos of Robert.

We saw elk on the return trip and as I turned to point them out to Robert, I found everyone on the car had migrated to our side so they could see them out the windows!  Everyone was very excited as it was the only wildlife we’d seen from the train, but unfortunately my photos came out blurry.  We passed by the elk so fast I barely had time to aim and shoot.   

Another favorite picture of The Hubby in front of the Grand Canyon train.

Four Corners, archeological ruins, and another choo choo!

Goodbye Williams and hello to a long travel day!

The main reason for this vacation was to ride the train in Durango and adding the train ride to the Grand Canyon was just a bonus, so we had a couple nights between hotel check-ins that needed to be filled.  We spent those nights in Cortez, Colorado, a town we have visited before and a town we both like, but before we got there we stopped at Four Corners Monument.  

Four Corners marks the spot in the Southwestern United States, where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet.  

We’ve been to Four Corners before and weren’t too impressed, but decided to visit it again since I wanted some Indian Fry Bread.  Irritated! The fry bread booth was closed!  This will most likely be our last time visiting the monument as it’s really nothing more than a tourist trap.  

There was a line to stand in to take your picture where the four states meet that we didn’t want to wait in (it was really hot!), so we browsed the booths selling Native American wares.  We bought a few souvenirs, including a ghost bead necklace for me.  Our guide on the Grand Canyon train ride told us ghost beads are dried juniper berries and it’s believed that wearing these beads keep away evil spirits and negative energy, as well as protecting the wearer from nightmares.  

We then got involved in a conversation with a biker (Hells Angel, I believe), because he saw Robert’s bike and liked it.  He was very nice and took our picture.  We also met another guy from Julian (he owns an apple orchard there) who liked Robert’s bike.  It seems we can’t go anywhere without someone asking Robert about his bike.  While in Prescott, some guy wanted to take pictures of it because it looked like a “space ship.”  It’s a good conversation starter, I suppose.
We checked into the Travel Lodge in Cortez and spent our first night doing laundry.  The following day found us on the bike cruising through Mesa Verde National Park.   In the name of safety, we wore our helmets...

…but soon ditched them in the name of freedom and feeling the wind in our hair.

The weather was perfect and we saw a coyote, deer, a couple of wild horses, and lots of birds and squirrels.  We have been to Mesa Verde before and find the archeological sites fascinating.  There are over 5,000 known archeological sites in the park, including 600 cliff dwellings.  They are simply amazing!

A rough night as I awoke about 1am with a migraine.  I guess the long travel days, dehydration, and crappy diet over the past several days finally caught up with me.  

Fortunately, the ride to Durango was a short one (an hour at most) and after a handful of aspirin and copious amounts of water, I was feeling better.  We checked into our room at the Best Western and spent the evening walking around downtown Durango making sure we stayed hydrated.  

We realized in Durango that early September is the best time to travel.  Very few kids and the majority of the other tourists were older, like retirement age, and we liked that.  However, we didn't care too much for Durango. The area is absolutely beautiful, but the town itself was too upscale and touristy for our tastes.

Our train ride wasn’t until Thursday, so we decided to ride the bike, again sans helmets, to Silverton. 

Gold and silver were first discovered in Silverton in the 1860s, but it wasn’t until 1882 that the first train operated by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad rolled in to Silverton from Durango. The Railroad has been featured in a number of movies since then, including Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid (1969), How the West Was Won (1963), Night Passage (1967) and The Prestige (2006).  

A great ride + beautiful weather + a day wandering through Silverton = FUN! Dinner back in Durango at the Palace, which was the most expensive and worst meal of our trip and then an evening of relaxation.

All aboard!  The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Train pulled out of Durango at 8am.  Riding this train was the reason for this entire vacation and we couldn't have been more excited! 

We rode in the Cinco Animas Car ( 21+ so again, no children!) and it was the last car on the train.  

The car was divided into two sections.  Our section had six small tables for a total of twelve people, plus it had an observation deck off the back where I was able to get some great pictures.  

The orange color on the rocks is from the 2015 Gold King Mine spill.  EPA personnel and workers for Environmental Restoration caused the environmental disaster by releasing toxic wastewater into the Animas River while attempting to add a tap to the tailing pond for the mine. 

At a top speed of 18mph, the 45-mile ride to Silverton took approximately 3-1/2 hours.  We had a two hour layover in Silverton, which we spent walking through town (although we had just visited it the day before) and had our best meal of the trip at Romero’s Cantina.  

Now we can cross off riding on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Train from Robert's bucket list! 

Burning to death in Las Vegas and HOME! 

When I originally made reservations in Durango I added an extra day to our itinerary for sightseeing, but after our train ride to Silverton, we realized there was nothing more to see and do, so we checked out early.  

The ride home was long and hot.  We wanted to take a different route home, so we headed back through Cortez and into beautiful Utah and headed north to Moab.  We thought briefly of riding through Arches National Park, but it was 95-degrees and there is no shade in Arches and we were feeling pretty miserable at that point.  

We tried to stay covered, so we wouldn't get sunburned as we cruised through Utah, but our heavy leather jackets just made it hotter.  All of our saddle bags were packed so there was no where to stow our jackets.

During Day 1 of our trip and somewhere in the California desert, we hit a bunch of bugs and they stayed with us the entire trip as Robert didn't wash the bike.  She was filthy by the time we got home, but she ran good with no problems.

We stopped at another Denny’s for lunch and continued north until we hit Interstate 70.  We turned west towards Richfield and that's where we spent the night.  After spending 6 hours on the road, we opted to order pizza to our hotel room and called it an early night.

Good morning and another long and extremely hot travel day!

Temperatures reached 112-degrees in Las Vegas and it felt as if our skin was burning beneath our clothes.  I kept my eyes closed because my eyeballs were melting.  I’ve never experienced such intense heat.  We stopped at Bass Pro Shop to escape the burning sun and ate lunch at Johnny Rockets at the food court.  

We definitely like Cabelas better, but there were none along our route.  Bass Pro Shops is the next best thing, but since our bags were jammed packed with clothes and souvenirs from our train rides, we didn't buy anything.

 After hydrating and cooling down, we reluctantly got back on the bike and continued our journey.  At this point the gauge on the motorcycle registered the temperature at 121-degrees!  Ugh.  We could do nothing, but grin and bear it.  

“Just adding to the adventure,” I told Robert, trying to be optimistic, but not really succeeding.  

We made it another 45 minutes down the freeway before stopping for the night at the Primm Valley Resort in Primm, Nevada.

Within 15 minutes of arriving at the hotel, the rain came!  We had just beat the storm.  

Neither of us are gamblers, but I dropped $5 into a Wheel of Fortune slot machine.  At one point, I had my winnings up to $15 and was ready to cash out, but Robert said to keep playing.  I came away a winner with 17-cents jangling in my pocket!

We wandered through the outlet mall, paid a visit to Cold Stone Creamery, and tiring of all the cigarette smoke, returned to our non-smoking room which smelled of stale cigarettes to watch TV and enjoy the air conditioning.  

Up the next morning at 6am to beat the heat on the ride home, but too late.  It was already 81-degrees.  A few quick breaks, lunch at Jack in the Box in Yermo, and a gas stop along the way got us into San Diego and home in good time.  

At 1235 hours we pulled into our driveway (temp: 86-degrees) and already started planning our next motorcycle trip.