October 5, 2008

Hello from the West

I'm writing you from my hotel room in Las Vegas, Nevada. Here is a quick update of the past weeks events:

Tuesday September 30th:
Left at 5:00 AM from Canon City to meet up with Dan and Julie Aguilar near Frisco Colorado, and then on to Vegas via I-70 through Utah. I've never been on this stretch of interstate or in this part of Colorado and enjoyed the trip immensely. The fall colors were beautiful, especially the aspens that could be seen encroaching towards the rocky peaks all around. After stopping in both Rifle and Grand Junction Colorado we continue on into Utah. I was not prepared for how uninhabited this area of the country is, nor how desolate. I loved it! Late in the day, though, trouble struck for Dan and Julie in the form of a flat front tire on the older RV they were driving. Thanks to a good insurance plan emergency help came and fixed the problem and we were on the road to the lay over in Richfield Utah.

Wednesday October 1st:
I spent the night on a spare bunk with Dan, Julie, and her son Skye. Little did any of us know that would be the last night that RV would host any of us. We left with no hint of further trouble that morning after Dan bought two new tires for the front of the RV. However, later that afternoon as we were descending towards Arizona the inside tire on the rear blew out violently and ripped a gas fill hose, propane tube, and many electrical cables in to bits. We were near Cedar City Utah and were able to get help there to continue our journey, but the RV would have to be left behind. In order to tow the trailer that contained their motorcycles a local rental car company just happened to have a full size SUV that just happened to have a receiver hitch which would permit them to tow their trailer. We got back on the road and I followed closely behind them all the way into Vegas where we spent the next two nights with Skye's former boss and good friend Jarrod. It was a most gracious act on Jarrod's part, and his wife Tiffany's, to host us on short notice. They were a Godsend.

Thursday October 2nd: We got up early and were at the track to register and clear our bikes in tech inspection. Next, we got down to the business of prepping for track day. Myself and Skye were in the novice group and began our first session very slowly following the instructor. By the end of the third of six sessions we were riding in front of the instructors and pushing our bikes as fast as we felt comfortable. After lunch we were allowed to pass on the outside of a rider on the straights only. I began accelerating hard into the front and back straights and once had to use the runoff area because I was too late in braking to make the hard right turn. We were all practicing the jockey style riding position allowing us to literally hang off the side of our bikes in a hard fast turn as real racers do. All of us scrubbed in our tires good and had little or no "chicken stripes" left. By the end of the day we were all exhausted and hungry.

Friday October 3rd:
Up early again to find a group of guys in downtown Vegas without a map. It was easy enough to find and the four of us set out on an epic journey to the wonders of Zion National Park. Ok, not that much drama, but when you cover 470 miles in 8 hours just to gander at the view you have to look really quick - you do the math. That one day spent what little energy I had left for anything and I ended getting a hotel room near the track just to recuperate. I highly recommend the Nellis Best Western Motel if you want a great hotel room for a decent price in Vegas. Because it is out so far from downtown it may not be very convenient for that, but if you are doing things near the race track and Air Force base it is super, duper convenient. I shall return.

Saturday October 4th: Ugh. I can't get up. My muscles, especially in my thighs were extremely sore and weak. I was sleep deprived for too long and needed the whole day to sleep and recuperate. I did, except for watching the Alabama football game while laying in bed. Go Bama! Later that night I caught up with tour buddies for dinner at the Golden Nugget Buffet. Al of American Sport Bikes picked up the tab for all of us for his "customer appreciation day". If you have a Buell, Ducati, or similar brand of sport bike see him online for great parts and service. Driving home from that I experienced what it is like to be in a sand storm for the first time: 40 mph gusts driving walls of sand that obscure your vision and taste gritty. People were actually walking around in it like they just forgot their umbrella!

Sunday October 5th:
After a leisurely paced morning I got ready to leave Vegas to head back to Colorado. The plan was to drive to Bryce Canyon and meet up with some fellow Buellers who were going to camp there. Well, without much more direction than that I did see their bikes there but didn't actually find them and since it was dark and I needed a place to stay I set about doing that...no easy task. The main lodge there wanted $145 for their cheapest room! All the other sleazy, cheezy motels in the area wanted at least $85! I payed $11 at a private campground to park the truck and sleep in it. It was freezing that night and all I really wanted to do was leave that tourist hell.

Monday October 6th: With my hands still numb from the cold night I tried once again to find those fellow Buellers and hopefully ride around the park with them. But forces conspired against me and I decided it was best to get out of town. I set out to drive to the Indian country of northern Arizona and hopefully see Monument Valley. The drive was slow at times but the country side was absolutely beautiful. This was the land of the fabled "Ponderosa Ranch", if I'm not mistaken. About a third of the way along the trees disappear and the desert and wild rock formations come into view. Glenn Canyon Dam is on this route and I stopped there for lunch and to take some pictures, what a cool place. No time to spare and I arrive in the Monument Valley area and once again the tourist trap catches me and leaves me with a bitter taste. I start driving out to where the actual monument area is and all you can see are tourist, especially European ones, stopping to take pictures every where like it was the zoo. All the ticky, tacky tourist development near the entrance spoils the whole affair and, though it was much cheaper than the Federal parks, there was entrance fee just to get to the visitors center! No thanks. I left but stopped further down the road to get some pictures from outside the monument area looking in. I called my father to tell him what I had found since he was interested. He certainly could hear the cynical tone of my voice before the reception grew too weak and we were disconnected. But not more than a few minutes later and this ancient Indian land offers the most wonderful reprieve: a simple sign and a gravel road leading off to the most gorgeous and unspoiled area I've seen in a long while. I had the park to myself as the sun had long ago set and the last of the day light fizzled out. No fee to camp. I could hear a lonely cricket from 3 miles away. The stars were in full glory and I reclined on a big boulder to stare at them for over an hour. Not one person drove by or could be detected anywhere around for miles all night! Heaven. At sunrise I got up and began taking pictures like crazy, some of them I believe did turn out real well, look for them in an upcoming photo album.

Tuesday October 7th: I need to get back home to Canon City, Colorado. With no time to really stop and take pictures along the way I settle in to absorb the views while driving. I'm not sure exactly how far the trip turned out to be but I'm sure it was over 400 miles. But the scenery was beautiful and slowly evolved from the desert monuments into the alpine peaks of Colorado. By supper time I was home.


Leanne said...

Sounds exhilarating!

Too bad about the RV though.

Jennifer said...

Jody you sound like your having so much fun! What a trip. Enjoy!