26 August 2009

Home Again Home Again

Well it has been a few days since the last blogpost, but after all the actual ride is over.

For those still interested, we had a nice night out at a local Mexican restaurant, not Jack and Linda's usual.

Saturday we spent giving BRed a thorough clean and chasing up a couple of people who had expressed interest in buying the bike. He came up surprisingly clean for the thousands of miles done in a few months. I attribute this to a couple of things, keeping it clean and polished as much as possible on the ride and mostly keeping away from major roads with their heavy vehicles throwing up all sorts of things.

Sunday was a rest day and we went and visited the Ballooning Museum and Old Town. For those unaware, Albuquerque is a major hot-air ballooning centre and every year has a Fiesta when hundreds of hot air balloon enthusiasts gather to fly. Even Jack and Linda regularly do ground crew and chase work for a local pilot.
Old Town is a well preserved section of the original Albuquerque, including a 300 year old church. Most of the shops are souvenir dealers and cafes.

After that we went out to Sadie's for the third time. This is Jack and Linda's favourite mexican food restaurant and the food here is excellent. Inexpensive, plentiful, and Hot. They do good margaritas as well. Here we met Bonny and Benito and had an excellent evening which ended with us getting "pinned" - a slightly risque ceremony.

Monday was pack up and leave day. First thing was take BRed down to the local Honda shop to be placed on show for sale. The Accessory Pit in Albuquerque does GoldWing accessories and trailers as well as trike kits, which are becoming very popular recently. So we will have BRed on sale as is for a while, but Rick the owner wants to trike it so that is a possibility as well.
Then it was load up the car and drive to the airport and say farewell and thank you to Jack and Linda who have looked after us so well these three months.

The flight home was what flights home are - boring and way too long. We had a two hour flight to LAX then spent a fair time trying to locate the VAustralia terminal - they'd moved it since we were last there. We met some old mates in the terminal which helped pass the time - swapping travel stories.

Sure was great to see Camo and Kath waiting in good old Brissie.

No. That's the New Mexico Gunfighters Club putting on a show in Old Town, Albuquerque

The 300 year old church around which the town sprung up.

Final mileage on BRed

Now all we have to do is get this back in the bags.

22 August 2009

Last Day for Billy The Kid - 276 miles

Well, Billy's last day was 128 years ago, but we visited him today.

Our last motel was very nice. They gave us a suite instead of just a room so no headache for the cat.
Jack and Linda arrived on the button of 8.00am and we departed Portales NM for "Home".
We were to travel all in New Mexico and the country reminds us very much of home. There were wide open spaces, long lonley roads and even a salt lake or two.

There were also trains. Lots of trains. Several of them were carrying UPS and FedEx semi-trailers. Hundreds of them.

We got to Fort Sumner and visited a Billy The Kid museum. It was good to see some of the artifacts from the times even if it was a little disturbing to know that some of the items are the same as some in our garage at home. Then it was a short ride out to the gravesite for a quick look.

Back on the road we saw more open country and more trains then stopped in at Willard, a small village. But it had a cantina which had a whole section for bike parking only. Nice. Inside was a bar and cafe. We had a bite to eat. I had a bowl of the hottest chili I have ever had. Certainly cleared up the sinuses.

Approaching Albuquerque, Jack took the lead and kept us off the I-40 superslab. It made for a pleasant ride being able to travel at "normal" speed and see the speedsters - cars and trucks - on the interstate nearby.

Then it was dive in to Albuquerque traffic until we rolled in to Jack and Linda's.

80 days of riding with only a couple of breaks was over. Now to clean up BRed, make him presentable and get ready for the trip home.

Just a few photos today:

Old jets are everywhere

Billy The Kid museum in Fort Sumner

The fore-runner to the Spyder?

An old Studebaker Champion. This is possibly a 1951/2, big change in design from the old bullet-nose 1950 design.

Does this mean I can go that fast?
Willard Cantina - makers of hot chili

This'd be scary in headlights

Approaching Albuquerque

Back "Home"

21124 miles - 33798 kilometres

21 August 2009

Jus' Travelin' - 312 miles

Not quite so hot today as yesterday. It started out warm, but by lunchtime had cooled down somewhat. Also the wind changed direction and later in the day was a nice tailwind.
Nice way to travel across Texas.

The GPS continued to do her weird things though. We were to travel a fair bit on US70 but she decided that occasionally this road went the long way around and so took some back roads then later met up with 70 again. She did this a few times and it was with some trepidation that we followed the directions. She has been known to lead us, quite literally, up a garden path before.
However, these detours were actually quite pleasant and included a few corners - something in which Texas is a little wanting.

Not much else to report. Things are winding down for us and these last days are just getting us back to Albuquerque. We'll spend a couple of days getting the Big Red Motorcycle in tip top condition for some lucky buyer, then be on our way.

Charleen is still taking photos:

Camels!! We haven't seen camels for months.

Cotton - as far as the eye can see

A pink crane? We kept meeting this low-loader after our detours.

Lots of grains grown around here amongst the cotton.

Taste? Who needs it.

This defies description

Uh Oh - are we coming to the edge of the world?

The last state border for us - back home in New Mexico

And our overnight stop - apparently they knew we were coming

20 August 2009

New Old Turf - 276 miles

Leaving Texarkana under grey skies, we really expected rain. We put the wallet and phone away so if we get rained on it doesn't matter. Bring it on!!

But it didn't happen. The skies soon cleared up and we had a nice run along Hwy 82. Once again, we generally avoided the superslabs, 82 being mostly two-lane and through towns. But it looks like they are building it up slowly to be a town-bypassing super-slab. Pity.

We are now back in Texas, a state we have previously visited, but not the same roads.

You know, it is sometimes difficult to get a cup of coffee in this country. Oh yes, they have it in servos occasionally or there might be a Starbucks. McDonalds are everywhere and their coffee isn't too bad.
But if you look in any of the small towns for a cafe that might serve a cuppa and a snack, they are few and far between. You'd think they'd have a coffee cafe (tautology?) in a town called Paris, but no luck. There were three pharmacies, a few groceries supermarkets and heaps of antique shops, but no cafes. Dammit, I ended up promising Charleen we'd go to the real Paris one day, just for a decent sidewalk cafe. The things you have to do!!!

A couple of towns later we came across a Dairy Queen and that was good enough for now. I had an iced mocha (pronounced mow-ka here) which was pretty good considering the heat.

Just a hundred or so miles of high heat riding later - 102F on the dash - we got to our destination, Wichita Falls, to find Jack and Linda waiting. They had spent the morning in some great bookstores in a town nearby and decided to not face an afternoon slog into the west in 100+ heat. Sensible. Plus the motel has a pool, so no contest.

Todays shots:-

This crane was re-locating and things swinging wildly. Glad to wait.

Only water we saw all day - a change after Big River country

A lot smaller than the other one in Michigan

Some Coke history

But no sidewalk cafes

Even picnic spots look like oil wells

We're not sure what falls

19 August 2009

Getting In To The Finals - 210 miles

Slept in a lot today, almost didn't make the motel's breakfast hours.

Under way eventually, we did our final crossing of the Mississippi River. We've traveled near it for the last five days and crossed it a few weeks back. So it was a fond farewell. The River just rolls along.

In Arkensas, our final new state for the trip we traveled Hwy 82. A nice road through farmlands and small towns, mostly two-lane. Much nicer than the big slabs. Charleen even had a bit of a ride. However as soon as she started out, we came across roadworks and the thought of riding on gravel with me on the back as well as the trailer gave her second thoughts.

We sighted a Walmart and pulled in for a few items. In here we met Eddy Smith, a really nice bloke and WingRider. He is the happy owner of a 2000 GL1500 which he has triked as modern fuels and oils have made it too heavy as a bike!!?! That's his excuse anyway. Hi Eddy, don't forget to leave a comment.

We noticed that the Walmart did not have any beer and our esky was getting low in that department. There were no liquor shops in the vicinity either. So we continued on and after two more towns we found a roadside liquor store.

In we went and found the owners, Johnny and Vicki, to be a great couple. Honda owners of course. They tell us Arkansas has unusual liquor laws in that most towns are dry. Apparently alcohol consumption is supposed to be done behind trees. They can sell it because they are not in a particular town.
The short pump action shottie hanging from the shelves tells its own story about the safety of having liquor stores in lonely places.
So Hi also to Johnny and Vicki - Leave us a shout.

We also stopped at a small restaurant for a late lunch. It was also not in a town. It was run by a very lively group of ladies who laughed and talked a lot. We also had fun listening in to a group of four farmers talking about their livestock. Very hard to understand with their thick accents.

We arrived fairly early in Texarkana where we had a room booked at the local Days Inn. This town spans the border with Texas (I think that explains the name) and we are on the Arkansas side of the street with Texas just over the road. probably due to the proximity to another state with more liberal laws regarding alcohol, Texarkana on the Arkanses side is anything but a dry town.

I've looked at Jacks SPOT and they are now exactly a day ahead of us.

Sadly, the bike is now up for sale. Here's the advert.

Today's few shots:

Final Big River crossing

The new bridge will open soon

Entering our Final new State

This ox-bow lake. Lake Picton, was the main channel of the Mississippi until about 600 years ago. The Aussie term would be Billabong.

Can anyone guess the song? It was a big hit in 1969.

Cat fish farms were everywhere here. Looks like airating the water.

And of course the ubiquitious cotton.

My face in the pillion spot, but not for long
A huge plywood and paper factory in Crossett.

Our once again daily dose of rain. This is how our trip started out. Only difference now is we are welcoming the rains and not bothering with wets. We're dripping wet most of the time anyway.

18 August 2009

20,000 Miles and Still Going - 187 miles

Lazy start to the day. The phone buzzed at 6am and we simply ignored it. Finally arose well after 7 and at the breakfast table by 8. Waffles!
Some motels have waffle makers in the breakfast room. Pour the mix in the iron, turn it over, wait two minutes and a big fresh waffle is born. Coat with maple syrup. Yum

Finally under way we set out on the Natchez Trace for a little while. The Trace is an ancient pathway from the lower Mississippi to near Nashville Tennessee. It was used by farmers who would float their produce down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, then walk back home along the Trace. Before that it was used by Indian tribes as a natural roadway. We even visited an ancient Indian Mound made before history. It covers 8 acres raised with ceremonial mounds on top of that.

We only did a small amount of the Trace before it turned away from the big river and we headed north to Vicksburg to visit a Civil War battlefield. It seems the Confederates took control of the Mississippi River and stopped the north from using it for trade. The North needed it back and the final battles were at Vicksburg, where the Confederates had the high ground. Under the command of General U S Grant, several assaults were made and repelled with the loss of thousands of men. Finally Grant besieged the town for 47 days with continual bombardment until the opposing General surrendered.

The battlefield is well preserved with hundreds of monuments placed where troops were stationed or fought. There were more than 70,000 combatants in a suprisingly small area. Apparently between skirmishes they would call out to each other. The monuments range from small stone plaques to giant cathedral-sized marble memorials. The road winds across two ridgetops held by each side. There is also a large museum containing a river gunboat that was sunk by torpedo and raised in the 1960s. Steam powered and heavily armoured, it weighed over 500 tons.

Included in the area is a National Cemetery with 17,000 Union troops as well as soldiers from every war up to Korea, after which the cemetery was closed for burials. The Confederate soldiers from the battlefield were buried in another place within the town. Also of note is that the surrender was on 4th July and subsequently the town did not participate in Independence Day celebrations for over 80 years after the Siege.

After spending several hours here, we parted company with Jack and Linda again for a couple of days. Jack wants to see some machinery in Dallas and we want to travel through Arkensas, so we will meet up again in Witcheta Falls, Texas for the final run home.

Should be a few pics for today:

Natchez Trace is similar to Blue Ridge Parkway in that it is only for tourism and no commercial vehicles allowed. Makes for a pleasant ride.

The mound apparently made by Indians in the distant past

The only remaining lodging house on the Trace, preserved by Nat Parks

At the Battlefield Park, Vicksburg, a range of cannons used in the Civil War

Mortar cannon. Short barrel, 10" ball.

One of many spires in the park

Cannons still in place

Large monument for the Illinois regiments

Inside the monument with list of casualties. Found some Lovells

Tribute to African American Union soldiers. It was mildly amusing to me that both sides were surprised that they made excellent fighting men. To me, they were fighting for far more than the average white enlisted man.

General U S Grant

Remains of the gunship Cairo which was sunk by torpedo. The metal armour was about 2" thick.

Graveyard Road. Along this ridge many hundreds of soldiers died in attempted assaults on positions.

Confederate emplacements were signposted in red.

Today, we turned up 20,000 miles for the trip so far

It is corn harvest time and these guys are on the road everywhere.