Thanks for Visiting, Parker

The first day of these trips is usually a bit of a slog since I usually find myself trying to make up for lost time because of a later than expected start. Throw in having to get used to spending long hours in the saddle again and covering roads I have done multiple times before and it’s easy to see why the excitement and anticipation of starting these road trips gets tempered quickly. This time was no different as I made my way across California over the San Jacinto mountains and down into Palm Desert before getting on Interstate 10 and then traversing the Colorado and Sonoran deserts on my way to Buckskin Mountain State Park in Parker, Arizona, just south of Lake Havasu.

I chose Parker, AZ as my destination as it was a natural halfway point to my next destination near Sonoma and it also happens to be my last name and I thought it would be fun to stay in a place which shares my surname. What I learned later was the town was named after Ely Parker, a Seneca Indian who served as a lieutenant colonel under General Ulysses S. Grant as his military secretary during the Civil War and later as President Grant’s head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Since U.S. Grant was a hero of mine as a kid, it made the decision to stay there all the more meaningful.

Temperatures on the ride were well over 90 degrees most of the way and for the last hundred miles or so, they were in the 105 to 109 degree range making for some uncomfortable riding. I got to the campground which was right on the Colorado River, hoping there would be some cool breezes off the river but all I found was the sound of speed boats and personal watercraft as day trippers made the best of the end of the weekend as it was late Sunday afternoon when I arrived. I set up camp and relaxed a bit but didn’t get too settled in as I was planning on getting up and out early in the morning to try to beat the heat.

For dinner, I was able to walk to the Sundance Saloon which was about a mile and a half away. It’s a local bar right on the river which has operated off and on since the early 1970’s. Based on the photos on the walls, it looks like it can get pretty raucous. On this night it was rather quiet considering the high temperatures, the fact that it was a Sunday night and many people were probably staying in due to COVID-19. The food was good and the drinks flowed. I chatted up a couple of the locals who assured me the place was normally a lot busier.

On my way back to camp, I walked along an abandoned road, (Riverside Drive), which had been closed due to numerous rockslides which littered the roadway. It was quicker and safer than walking on the highway in the dark. A quick internet search revealed the road has been intermittently closed and reopened since 2005. As I walked back, I came across a small memorial on the road for someone named Dave, who appears to have perished at this spot. Whoever built it did a nice job and even installed a solar powered lamp which lights it up in the night. A small motorcycle replica and the Yamaha logo painted on one of the rocks led me to believe it was a motorcycle fatality. These types of things are always quite sobering as I know I take a risk every time I get on the bike.

This made me wonder if Dave’s demise is one of the reasons this road is closed

Despite the heat, I got a decent night’s sleep and was able to hit the road early enough to get some miles in before the sun beat down on me again. As I was leaving town, I couldn’t help but notice the sign which welcomes you on one side is the same one which on the other side thanks you for visiting as you are departing. That should give you an idea of how small a town it is with just over 3,000 residents.

Southbound it looks like this and the view from the northbound side is just below.
As I took this picture, the old joke about the importance of good grammar came to mind. Just as there is a big difference between “Let’s eat, Grandma” and “Let’s eat Grandma”, I was tempted to get a red Sharpie and put a comma after the word “visiting” to add a bit of personalization that anyone with the name Parker would appreciate.

Managing Great Expectations

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” – Charles Dickens from A Tale of Two Cities

We all know how 2020 has turned out so far. COVID-19, despicable acts of police brutality, protests leading to violence and who knows what else will be forthcoming considering it’s only the beginning of October. I can relate to the Dickens quote under the title of this post in that it has been a rough year for many, but not so much for me. I have not gotten ill nor lost my job nor personally witnessed any of the violence that has been both the cause of and the outcome of widespread social unrest. Even full time working from home has provided me with the benefit of spending more time with my wife than I ever had before and we both have enjoyed each other’s company tremendously.

The year started off with high hopes of doing a lot of traveling. A two week cycling tour of cities along the Danube River and the second of two sabbaticals I earned at my job were scheduled. The trip to Europe was cancelled and what was supposed to be a five week sabbatical on my motorcycle had to be scaled back to two weeks due to cancellations and closures of places I had planned to visit. The highlights of this trip were a couple of days in Sedona, AZ, tracing some of the Mother Road, Route 66, in Arizona and California and four days at Grand Canyon National Park. You’ll also notice Penny is not on this trip as I recently bought another motorcycle better suited for long distance touring. You can learn more about it at the post titled An (Iron) Horse With No Name. As I was at the mercy of weak or non-existent internet connections while camping for most of the trip, all of the posts for Roadtrip 2020 are being done after the fact but while they are still fresh in my mind. Despite the challenges this year has presented, I remind myself to be thankful, (and to score a Dickens trifecta of references), I close with this quote from A Christmas Carol, “Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

An (Iron) Horse With No Name

The latest addition to the garage, (or maybe it’s a stable?), is a 2016 Indian Roadmaster. This bike is Indian Motorcycle’s touring model and it is a beautiful machine. I have toured a lot on my Harley Davidson Softail Custom, aka Penny, but have never been able to do any long distance riding with my wife Anita as it just isn’t designed for a passenger to be on it for extended periods of time. It also isn’t practical since the passenger seat on Penny is where I load my camping gear for these trips. I was contemplating sinking a few thousand dollars into Penny to give her some more power and grunt when Anita suggested I consider getting larger bike so she could ride more with me. She even went as far as to say I didn’t have to sell Penny since she knows how much I love that bike. There was only one catch. It had to be an Indian since she fell in love with the way they look when we test rode one a few years ago. Well, I didn’t need to be told twice to consider that option and I wanted to get it before she changed her mind.

I quickly went into search overdrive and found a beautifully maintained model located in Wyoming. I thought what better way to get accustomed to a big touring bike than to buy it and ride it home 1300 miles or so. The seller, a guy named Rick, was very accommodating and I immediately developed a rapport with him. He agreed to trailer it to the nearest Indian dealership to him, (which was about 100 miles away), located in Idaho Falls, ID. As luck would have it, there was a direct flight from San Diego to Idaho Fall so I flew there, got the bike checked out by the dealer and handed Rick the check. I took a couple of days to ride it to Lake Tahoe where I met Anita who flew into Reno, NV. We stayed with friends in Lake Tahoe for a few days and then rode it the rest of the way home.

Now that the backstory has been told, let’s get to the point of this post. As you may know, all of my modes of transport have a name. There is Penny and the Harley VROD which I named Marilyn. You can read about them here at the posts telling their story, aptly titled Penny and Marilyn. Usually the name for a bike comes to me pretty quickly but the name for this one has been pretty elusive. I’ve owned it since June and although I’ve had several ideas using Native American names, both real and fictional, none of them have stuck yet. I am hoping this road trip I am on will reveal the bike’s true character and I come away with an appropriate name for the newest member of my motorcycle family. In the meantime, to paraphrase the iconic ’70s soft rock band, America, “I will have been through the desert on an (iron) horse with no name.”

P.S. If you’re reading this and you think you have good idea for a name, let me know. You certainly wouldn’t be the first to name one of my vehicles.

Raison d’etre

This blog is mainly for me to go back and reflect upon the wonderful opportunities I have had to do some long distance motorcycle touring. The origin of its name is based on the name of my first motorcycle, a 2008 Harley Davidson Softail Custom nicknamed Penny for the copper color of the bike. I have since added a couple more motorcycles to the garage; a 2003 Harley Davidson VROD and most recently, a 2016 Indian Roadmaster. Although Penny doesn’t get ridden as much anymore and most of my touring going forward will be on the Roadmaster, I’ve decided to keep the name of the blog since Penny was my first bike and you never forget your first love.  You can follow me here or if you want to see the abridged version, you can check out my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pennyandmythoughts

Penny & Roadmaster 2
vrod

Pennythought of the Day – 13-Aug-2016

How do you know when you have met a genuine, card carrying “cat lady”?  I stayed at a campground that had an office/gift shop where you register for the night. The moment I walked in the distinct smell of cat urine assaulted my nasal passages. I had seen a black cat outside the building just prior to entering and another cat inside the shop. Trying to be friendly, I asked the name of the black cat I saw outside of the office and she asked which one and the woman who runs the place then proceeded to reel off the names and descriptions of five different “black” cats under her care. THAT is when you know you are dealing with the real deal as far as cat ladies go.

What’s in a name?

Ever since I got my first 10 speed as a kid, every vehicle I have owned has been commissioned with a name. Whether it was a bicycle, a car and now motorcycles, they all get referred to by their given name. Sometimes I came up with the name but other times they were coined by others who saw something about the wheeled mode of transport that reflected its personality in some way. The names have ranged the gamut and include Smokey, Old Yeller, Rosie, Blaze and Sally. Each has their own backstory and this section will give you some insight into how and why each of my motorcycles got its moniker.

Marilyn

Most people have a definite image in their mind when they think of a Harley Davidson motorcycle. Big and beefy. Loud. Lots of chrome. Unless, of course, you are talking about the VROD which was manufactured from 2001 to 2017 and developed in partnership with Porsche. In many ways it is everything the typical Harley cruiser or touring bike is not. It’s fast. And sleek. It has a water cooled engine which is considered heresy among Harley purists. The Motor Company even listed the size of its engine in cubic centimeters, 1131 cc to be exact, rather than the traditional cubic inches like every other bike in their lineup. (Because as any red-blooded American knows, we don’t need no stinkin’ metric system.) I happen to own a 2003 100th Anniversary Edition VROD. You won’t read much about it here on this blog as it mainly serves as a commuter bike to get back and forth to the office but I thought it was important to tell her story as well.

I had always admired the VROD but when I spoke with Harley riders about it, most of them dismissed it as an anomaly. Something Harley had done to try to compete with the Japanese and European bikes while still retaining some of the Harley cache. In many ways, it was the proverbial red headed step child. Non-Harley riders, on the other hand, loved the VROD. I’ve heard many of them say, “if I was going to own a Harley, it would be a VROD”.

After I bought my VROD, I was explaining this phenomenon to a co-worker who owned a couple of bikes himself when it dawned on me that VRODs were just like the character Marilyn on the 1960’s television show The Munsters. For those of you old enough to remember, the Munsters was about a family with a father who looked like Frankenstein, a mother and grandpa who were vampires and a son who was a werewolf. And then there was their niece Marilyn. Blonde and attractive by normal standards but to the ghoulish looking family her appearance is an affliction. She even considered herself to be homely and attributed that to her inability to attract a boyfriend . (And not the fact that the rest of her family was so scary.) It was then that I realized Marilyn was the perfect name for my VROD. She is ugly to the immediate family, (Harley riders), yet attractive to those outside the family, (non-Harley riders), but still a bit scary because of who she is related to.

About me

Originally from New York, I moved to California in 2006 where the great beauty of the West inspired me to take up motorcycling. I’ve worked in the San Francisco Bay Area the majority of the time I’ve been here and currently live in the San Diego area with my wife Anita, a grey tabby cat named Spitfire and an Australian shepherd puppy named Mattie. In my spare time when I am not riding, I help Anita with her garden and spend time with our granddaughter.

I hope you enjoy the ride as much as I have and certainly welcome you to follow me as I tell you about Penny and My Thoughts.

Santa Cruz Bike #2

To contact me directly, you can email me at JBParker@BikeRider.com

Beartooth Highway

“The Beartooth Highway is the most beautiful drive in America.” – Charles Kuralt, host of CBS’ On the Road with Charles Kuralt

Screenshot_2016-08-08-21-40-22

The day started similar to how the previous day ended, with a thunderstorm and more rain. I was awoken by the sound of thunder and rain on my tent at about 6:30 AM. Except this time it wasn’t accompanied by the wind of the previous evening so I rolled over and fell back asleep until about 8:00 AM. I got up and broke camp so I could get on the road as there were still threatening clouds. I had routed my ride through Yellowstone National Park but had no plans to stop as I had been here just a couple of months ago and saw many of the sights already. This was just as well since it started to rain from the moment I entered Yellowstone. The roads were wet but not too slick and there was a fair amount of traffic so it moved along at a safe, albeit slow, pace. I ended up going from Idaho into Wyoming and then in and out of Wyoming into Montana three more times.

Entering Montana
Entering Montana

OK.... This is just the other side of the same signal
OK…. This is just the other side of the same sign

The highlight of the day was going to be the ride on US Hwy 212 better known as the Beartooth Highway. I was somewhat apprehensive as I knew it was a technically challenging ride and I was worried that rain and slick roads would make it more so. As  I approached Cooke City-Silver Gate which is considered the start of the Beartooth Scenic Byway, the rain started to dissipate and then as if the motorcycling gods had decided to smile down on me, I was on the Beartooth Highway with nothing but dry pavement. This road is a motorcyclist’s dream. For the first 20 miles or so, the road is a series of sweepers which means there are long sweeping curves, easy to naviagte at speed and so much fun to ride the bike through. After that, it becomes the twisties as you make your way up the ascent to Beartooth Summit at 10,947 feet of elevation. Although overcast and chilly, it was still the most beautiful ride Penny and I have done to date. I reached the top and then made my way down, again twisting through the switchbacks. I have poached a few pictures from the internet to give you an idea of what the road is like as anything I tried to capture with my phone does not do it justice. It definitely qualifies as a bucket list ride and I will cherish it for years to come.

Switchbacks galore!
Switchbacks galore!

ae6a3f105d69364d120db0e89c281f47

IMG_20160807_161141591

IMG_20160807_163421902

IMG_20160807_170654917_HDR

As I descended Hwy 212, I rolled into Red Lodge, Montana. I absolutely fell in love with this little town. It has a great little downtown and I could see my self retiring to a place like this. I stayed on the north side of town at the Alpine Lodge (www.alpineredlodge.com) It is run by a Larry and Trish whio take great pride in their small business. It’s very quaint with themed rooms, (mine was appropriately motorcycle themed), and has meticulously groomed grounds. There are motel rooms, small cabins and teepees. Free breakfast made to order by Larry and it is also very motorcycle friendly with a bike wash area and bike cleaning rags to wipe down your hog. After the previous day’s rain, I took advantage of it and gave Penny a much deserved bath. Overall, this place gets my highest rating and recommendation.

IMG_20160808_104741756

So, what started out as a day with some trepidation about the weather and road conditions turned into an absolutely stunning ride.

Custer’s Last Stand

“We did not ask you white men to come here. The Great Spirit gave us this country as a home. You had yours.We did not interfere with you. We do not want your civilization” – Crazy Horse, Sioux warrior

Screenshot_2016-08-08-22-20-13

Today’s ride out of Red Lodge, Montana is one of the shortest of the trip at around 140 miles. I was headed to the Little Bighorm Battlefield National Monument, site of the defeat of George Custer and the 7th Calvary. For those of us who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, the story the history books told was that the Sioux trips massacred Custer and his troops and generally painted the Native American warriors as savages. Fortunately, much has changed since then and the story told at this national monument is far more balanced. I found the area to be fascinating and some of the backstory of what happened to be quite interesting. The first thing I noticed about this park was the reverence with which the park employees treat the site. It is, in fact, considered a national military cemetary not only for the soldiers who lost their lives at the Battle of the Little Bighorn but also because there is a regular milatry cemetary on the grounds as well. The name of the park was changed in 1991 from Custer National Battlefield to Little Bighorn Battelfield to recognize that the Native Americans as well as US military personnel died there.

IMG_20160808_174842287

I will leave the opinions of why Custer decided to take on such a large Indian force when he was clearly outnumbered to the historians. I will however tell part of the story I find most fascinating. After the battle was over, the backup forces that came onto the site were devastated by the carnaage they saw. It was a couple of days after the battle had been fought and the summer heat had made the sight and stench of death that much more overwhelming. To make matters worse, it was nearly impossible to identify any of the enlisted men as they had been stripped of all clothing and possessions by the Sioux warriors as spoils of war. Only known officers, like Custer, were able to be identified. All of the dead were buried in shallow graves where they were found. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that the officers remains were disinterred and moved back to eastern military cemetaries. Custer’s remains were brought back and buried at the US Military Academy at West Point. Sometime after that, the rest of the dead were also exhumed and buried in a mass grave with a monument naming all of the casualties.

However, in a wonderful tribute to these fallen soldiers, a grave marker was placed in the spot where they had initially been buried with the words U.S. Soldier 7th Calvary Fell Here, June 25, 1876.

A single fallen soldier's marker
A single fallen soldier’s marker

 

Last stand hill where Custer met his demise
Last stand hill where Custer met his demise

Custer's markrr
Custer’s marker

The memorial atop the mass grave of the mostly unidentified soldiers
The memorial atop the mass grave of the mostly unidentified soldiers

Even the horses got a proper burial
Even the horses got a proper burial

Only a few of the markers have the name of the fallen, including Lt Joseph Sturgis, whose father, Samuel Sturgis is the namesake for the own of Sturgis, SD, home to the famed motorcycle rally I will be attending starting tomorrow.

Lt Sturgis' marker
Lt Sturgis’ marker

One of the other changes that has been made to the park is the recognition of the Native Americans that fought and died in the battle. Although not as numerous since no records have been kept, there are red granite markers for the Indians that also fell in battle. Additionally, a memorial to the Indians that fought has been erected.

IMG_20160808_162103053

Sculpture at the Indian memorial
Sculpture at the Indian memorial

Unlike some other chapters in American history that serve as dark marks on our past, I was glad to see that there has been an effort made to view this chapter not just through the lens of the conquerers.