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I’m back at work after our “LA to LA and Back Again” (Lower Alabama to Los Angeles, actually Redondo Beach) vacation. I put 4,600 miles on my trike and saw the countryside up close. Most importantly, we had such a wonderful visit with the kids and grandson. We got to take him to the park, to the duck pond at another park, to the pier to see the agua, and had some really good food. (Too much good food – now its time to lose the weight put on during the trip)

I had no idea there was so much desert (basically useless in my opinion) land in the Southwest having only seen it when I flew to Vegas and took a couple of tours of the Grand Canyon some years ago. There were subtle changes in rock formations and plants as we traveled westward, averaging 500 miles per day, but a great deal of the landscape was rocks, sand, tumbleweeds, and cactus. That’s a lot of brown for someone use to grass and trees.

I was a little surprised to ride past a rather ticked off rattlesnake that was coiled up along the white line as we rode through the mountains. I suppose a car or animal had made it mad before we rode past because he was already in his angry posture.

I felt akin to the cowhands on the old cattle drives as tumbleweeds blew across in front of my bike. We rode through a sandstorm between Barstow and Pasadena which we later learned prompted the closing of the interstate sometime after we got through and experienced a rather intense but short-lived one on the return trip. Toward the end of the journey I noted a stick lodged between two cables on my bike deposited there by one or the other of the sand storms.

The worst part of the trip, for me, was having Native Americans constantly begging for handouts. We’d stop for gas and before we could get off the bikes they were there with their, “Nice bikes, can you help me out”, bit. I’m a tad claustrophobic and having strangers invade my personal space was a little like the movies when zombies close in on unsuspecting people. Having grown up being taught to take pride in my Native American heritage, I found their freeloading depressing, and their willingness to invade my personal space disconcerting. I constantly had to remind myself not to judge the many by the actions of what I hope were the few. The maid at El Rancho confirmed what I suspected by telling us those who were hitting up tourists for hand-outs were the ones who would only spend the money on drugs and/or alcohol and that we shouldn’t give them money.

Those getting rich off the Indian casinos while tribal members live nearby in hovels are going to have some explaining to do when they meet their maker.

We stayed at El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, New Mexico going out and that was an interesting change of pace. The Hollywood golden era stars stayed there while filming movies and photos of the “Who’s Who” list adorn the walls. The interior is dominated by a massive staircase going up to the second floor with wood construction like one would expect to find in an old lodge. The staff couldn’t have been friendlier. Lee Roy, a Native American who had been a Marine had quite a lot in common with Martin and gave us a choice room with a balcony overlooking the area.

The best meal we had the entire trip, for me at least, was probably the steak at Vern’s Steak House in Shamrock, TX. I understand it’s been around since the heyday of Route 66 fame and it was easy to see why after the first bite. At every opportunity we ate at the mom and pop type restaurants and only chose chains when there was no other recourse.

About four times I ran out of gas and switched to reserve because of the distance between gas stations. The only time that was really an issue was on the return trip. We’d been traveling east all day on I-40, on the heels of a storm moving east through Oklahoma. Note – this was just days after Moore, OK was hit by two deadly tornadoes a week apart. I had to go on reserve as we were catching up to the storm, and by the time we finally got to a station, I was literally coasting on fumes. I had no desire to be caught in a hail storm along I-40. The clerk at the hotel told us to park the bikes under the awning to protect them and we were grateful for her consideration.

We learned early on not to pass up a station because it was often 50 to 100 miles or so between available gas stations. Many attractions along Route 66 and I-40 closed years ago, but others had closed fairly recently making traveling by motorcycle interesting to say the least.

We spoke with riders along the way and met some interesting people, especially those from Germany and from Norway who were in the U.S. riding Route 66 from Chicago to California. We found one Norwegian gentleman especially friendly and had a nice conversation with him. He seemed a little disappointed that the new Harley-Davidsons that were supplied as part of their tour package had broken down several times on his tour.

We tried to come home on I-10 for a change of pace, but the first day the temp. was over 100 degrees with the next 3 days forecasted to be between 106 to 111 degrees, so we quickly gave that idea up and at Phoenix headed North to Flagstaff and got back on I-40 where we again enjoyed moderate temperatures and good weather.

In Phoenix, Martin stopped into the Victory dealership to have his fork oil changed. The staff went out of their way to be accommodating and made his repair immediately so we could get back on the road. We took my trike to a nearby antique mall to wander through while they did the repair and they called before we were 3/4 of the way through the mall saying we could pick it up any time. I highly recommend them if you happen to be in the area and interested in purchasing a bike or having a Victory serviced.

Photos will follow in a separate posting. I enjoyed the ride immensely, and enjoyed time with the family even more. I’m already looking forward to our next adventure.

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