We were both recent college graduates with plans to start graduate school and work. This seemed to be a perfect time in our lives for a long trip. I have family in Florida and the many scenic routes from Utah made it a perfect destination. We started our trip on Saturday, June 27, 2009 at 5:00 a.m. Our destination for the day was Cortez, Colorado. Riding from our home to Moab, Utah, the roads were all familiar. Shortly after leaving Moab we stopped at Hole in The Rock. It was a tourist trap at its best, but still a fun, quick stop. The route from Moab to Cortez was beautiful! The prehistoric, red rock scenery quickly changed to flat, prairie-like, farm land. We arrived to Cortez by 1:30 p.m. We unloaded the bike, set up camp, and rode to Mesa Verde National Park to take a quick tour. Although we didn’t hike to any of the cliff dwellings, we were able to see a lot from the road tour. These dwellings are simply amazing! Why would someone build a house on the edge of a cliff? It sure made me appreciate our cozy little home. After our nickel tour we went back to our camp to relax and get ready for the next day.
(Hole in the Rock. A tourist trap at it's best!)
(One of the many Mesa Verda cliff dwellings)
For day two our destination was Roswell, New Mexico. We left our camp at 6:00 a.m. and rode through the brisk mountains. The temperatures got down into the 40s and it didn’t begin to warm up until after we had gone through Durango. Then, as we entered New Mexico and quickly descended in elevation the temperature got hot. Santa Fe was a nice city to drive through. The buildings were covered with southwestern artwork, and, except for the rush of traffic and a few wrong turns, the city was enjoyable. When we arrived at Roswell, it appeared as though we had entered a theme park. Everything, and I mean everything, was covered with aliens or UFOs. It was out of this world :P. We got to our camp spot, set things up, and returned to the city. To our disappointment, the city known for extra terrestrials closes at 5:00 p.m. Almost nothing was open! We were able to go into a few tourist shops and that was about it.
So, if you are traveling to Roswell, make sure you get there early. Our sleep in Roswell was restless, to say the least. What appeared to be a clear summer night at 9:30 p.m. turned into a desert monsoon that dumped gallons of water on us throughout the night. Soon after it quit raining, we hit the road again. Destination for day three was the Dallas, Texas area.
(Alienlandia! Everything was UFO or Alien themed.)
(The rainfall that kicked us out of our tent.)
Leaving early gave us the opportunity to have the road to ourselves. I have a rule about 40 miles before breakfast and the sunrise over the desert of New Mexico was amazing, but the beauty didn’t last too long. By about 11:00 a.m., we were back in that monsoon. The middle of the desert isn’t the best place to find shelter, so we put on our rain gear and kept going. This was definitely the heaviest rain I have ever motorcycled in, and the first time riding in the rain for my wife. When we finally got to a place where we could hunker down and wait out the storm, we did. After watching it rain from the inside of a gas station for an hour, and not show any signs of stopping, we decided we would just have to weather the storm.
When we arrived in the Dallas area, we check into a hotel to dry ourselves and all our gear out. It was a well deserved rest.
(Rain rain go away!)
The next day, day four, our destination was New Orleans, Louisiana. Again, we left early in the morning. The area outside of Dallas and throughout the “hill country” was clean and the people were kind. My wife and I both commented on how we could imagine ourselves living there someday. After about mid morning, the triple digit heat began to take a toll on us. When we finally arrived at New Orleans, I had heat rash across my chest and thighs. Normally we would have unpacked the bike and gone into town, but we decided that we would just soak in the swimming pool for the evening and spend the whole next day enjoying the French Quarters of “N’awlins”.
On day five, in the French Quarters, we didn’t do any motorcycling, so I won’t comment too much on how we spent the day, but I will say that everyone should try to get to the French Quarters at least once. It is definitely a bucket list location.
(Amazing roads/bridges while getting to New Orleans)
After a nice, well deserved, day of resting, we headed for Grandma’s house, in Dothan, Alabama. We don’t get to the south as often as we would like so there was no chance we would pass Alabama without stopping in for some good ‘ol southern cookin’!
(Never travel less than 40 miles before breakfast!)
(Open roads in Alabama at 6:00am)
We enjoyed our time with Grandma and Grandpa, but anxiously continued our voyage the next morning. I was especially excited to get back to Florida, my home state, and see my folks. In anticipation for the July 4th traffic, we, again, left very early in the morning, arriving at my folk’s house just in time for the hamburgers that were fresh off the grill. With friends and family already swimming in the pool, we quickly made ourselves at home.
With a week to spend with my family we had plenty of time to relax. We went to Disney, went out to eat at some fantastic restaurants and just caught up. While there, my good friends at KawaNOW.org, organized a get-together. We met-up at one of my favorite restaurants, Dixie Crossroads, and then enjoyed a ride through a national wildlife refuge. It was nice to finally put a real name and face with the profiles. Unfortunately, the following day, when I went out to the bike, it had a flat rear tire. At closer inspection I found two nails. I had all the tools to pull the rear tire except a jack, so I contacted my KawaNOW friends and, within just a few hours, I had one at my disposal and another couple had been offered.
(Can't got to Florida without a quick stop at Disney!)
(Lunch with KawaNOW buddies.)
(The culprit to my flat tire.)
After the week with family in Florida, we decided it was time to hit the road and head north. We rode the interstate as far as Daytona (only about an hour) where we wanted to stop to take a picture of our iron stallion on Daytona’s famous beach. Unfortunately, we were too early and the gates allowing vehicles onto the sand were still locked. So instead we just parked the bike and walked onto the beach—reaching the shoreline shortly after the sun started to rise. The morning waves crashing on Florida’s white sand was an incredible site. We could have spent the whole day, just taking it all in, but we had miles to put behind us. We continued up the Florida coastline on the A1A, something that I had never done while I lived there. These roads from Daytona to St. Augustine are full of spectacular views, especially at 7:30 in the morning! After getting to St. Augustine, and seeing the lighthouse, we hopped back on the Florida turnpike and continued north. We made it as far as Jacksonville before we hit the first rainstorm of the day. We put our rain gear on and kept on riding. Every 30 minutes or so, the sun would come out long enough to trick us into thinking we could take our rain gear off but then, sure enough, as soon as we did, another rain cloud would find us.
We made it to our destination, Charleston, South Carolina, in the middle of the afternoon. We set up our tent under some tall pine trees, unloaded the bike, and then rode into town to find some dinner, and breakfast for the next day. After finding an acceptable meal, we came back to our mobile suite and just relaxed for the evening.
(Studying for Law School even while on vacation)
The next day, we were going to be riding to the Smokey Mountains! Although I currently live in a very mountainous region of the world, the Appellation Mountains in the east are very different from the Rocky Mountains back home; they are small and full of vegetation. Every tree, fence, power line pole, anything stationary really, had green vines growing on it. To me, it looked like a jungle. The roads throughout the area were tight and curvy, a motorcyclist’s dream. That would explain why every fifth vehicle was blessed with only two wheels. After making a few enjoyable wrong turns (should have gotten a GPS) and spending a few breathtaking hours on the Blue Ridge Highway, we finally made it to The Iron Horse Inn, a motorcycle resort about an hour from Deals Gap. Staying at the resort was entertainment by itself. A mini Buffalo Chip, so to speak.
The next morning, when we woke up, it was obvious how the Smokies got their name. The fog had come in and made visibility limited to just a few hundred yards. We packed up our damp gear and continued to Deals Gap, the motorcycle mecca. But then, just as we arrived, it started to rain again so we spent some time shopping and eating lunch, trying to wait out the storm, but to no avail. After three hours of waiting, observing all the different bikes and groups arrive, we noticed a speck of blue in the sky and took the chance to get back on the road. Fully geared, two up, and still in the rain, we rode all 318 turns of the 11 mile Tail of the Dragon. What a blast! After taming the Dragon, we continued to Nashville, riding with a nice group of riders along the way, where we checked into a hotel and dried out.
(Riding the dragon, in the rain, two-up, with lots of gear strapped on? FUN!!)
(Riding the Dragon)
(We made it without crashing)
The next day we headed toward the Gateway to the west—Saint Louis—where we would be staying with some friends. On our way there we rode through Tennessee, Kentucky, and Illinois which were enjoyable. We did make the mistake of riding through the city. We had to see the archway, right? Well, because of our city detour, we spent several hours only going a short distance, and by the time we got to our destination, we were exhausted.
At this point in the trip, the ending was in sight, only about 1,000 miles away and, for the most part, one road. The next day we took just a short trip though the beautiful state of Missouri, where we met up with some other friends on the west side of the state, in Kansas City. We spent two days with them, visiting some of the Amish villages, going fishing, and eating at the famous Arthur Bryant's BBQ.
(That's what I call horse power!!)
The following day was our longest day in distance traveled. We were planning on riding 640 miles to Longmont, CO, where some of my family lived. We left Kansas City area at 5:00 a.m., while it was still dark, and pointed the bike west. I-70 through Kansas was just the opposite of the Tail of the Dragon. It was 318 miles with only 11 swerves. I set the speedo at 80 and blasted through a state that, to me, had very little to offer someone traveling on a motorcycle. We did see about 20 signs advertising the OZ museum and a lot of beautiful corn fields, but that seemed to be about it.
(Leaving Kansas at 5:00 a.m.)
After spending two days in Longmont, we left for our last day of the trip. We saved one of the best rides for last—The Great Rocky Mountains. Traveling over the 12,000-feet-above-sea-level summit was incredible! At about 10,000 feet we rode through the clouds and came out on top of the world. We put on some of our warmer gear, because, even in July, it was quite chilly. We stopped a few times to enjoy the snow capped mountains and the elk and other wild life that made this National Park their home. After riding through the park, exiting on the west side, we rode though familiar territory and soon saw the familiar sign, “Welcome to Utah”. Traveling past the Dinosaurs in Vernal and the reservoirs that dot the Utah landscape, we soon found ourselves driving into our own driveway.
(Above the clouds)
The trip of all trips quickly came to an end. After all was said and done, we loved it and can’t wait to do the northern states!
Days on the road: 23 days, June 27-July 20, 2009
Nights camping: 6
Nights with family: 14
Night in a Hotel: 2
Days we traveled: 13
Traveled day with rain: 4
States we traveled through: Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas
Average Fuel Economy: 37
Highest Fuel Economy: 48mpg
Lowest Fuel Economy: 31mpg
Oil Changes: 1
Flat tires: 2 nails
Subs eaten: 11