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Part 3: The Final Leg Home

Part 3 – The Final Leg Home

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August 22: It rained last night and on and off for most of the day. I visited Mesa Verde where I took a lot of pictures (Figures 1, 2, 3 below). It is an amazing place and very beautiful. I was headed for Zion National park, but my map was wrong, so when I saw a sign for Grand Canyon, North Side, I headed for it along Rt. 98A. By the time I arrived at Marble Canyon, I was soaked due to the fact that 89A has almost no shoulder to pull over on in order to put on my rain gear. I found a motel that was nice and affordable, though the restaurant there was a bit pricey. I had planned to do my laundry the following day, but as my clothes were already soaked, I figured I might as well do it all tonight. I spoke with my cousins Bob and Sandy in Tucson who are looking forward to my visit with them. I met Mike from Florida at the motel. He rides a Yamaha that everyone mistakes for a BMW. I guess Harley is not the only brand whose styling is being copied. We decided to ride to the Canyon together tomorrow.

August 23: Mike is not an early riser, so I slept a bit later than usual, had breakfast and headed for The Grand Canyon shortly after 8AM. The sun was shining with no rain so far. We stopped at the sign for the National park to take some pictures and were asked by two couples in a car to take their pictures. They had California tags on the car. I asked where they were from, and they said Abington, PA, about thirty minutes from where I live. It is a small world. Mike and I toured the Canyon and took plenty of pictures, then went back to the bikes. As we approached the bikes, there was a loud clap of thunder. We put on our rain gear. Before we had travelled five miles, it started to rain, then stopped and started a few times. By the time we reached the motel, the rain had stopped and the skies had cleared, so we ditched the rain gear and headed for the twin bridges over the Colorado River. The new one is used by vehicles and the old one is just for pedestrian traffic. (Figs. 4, 5, 6, 7) We then headed for Lee’s Ferry Reserve. The place has very interesting rock formations. (Fig. 8) There are twenty ton boulders balanced on one or two ton boulders, sand and wind carvings on small mountains that show different colors as in the Painted Desert, as well as wind carved canyon walls. The Colorado River also runs through here, though it is clean and blue here, not muddy like it is under the twin bridges. Mike and I had dinner together, downed a couple of drinks and then headed for bed after exchanging our information and promising to stay in touch.

August 24: Today is mostly a travel day, though I am seeing my first cactus in a natural environment (Fig. 9). Arizona sure has a lot of desert. As I was a bit past my required maintenance mileage, I decided to look for a Harley dealer once I got to Tucson. Lo and behold, right on the main road into Tucson, I spotted the Tucson Harley Davidson dealership. I pulled in and asked if they could fit me in, especially as it was Friday afternoon. They were very accommodating and they are open all day Saturday. We decided that I would be able to pick up the bike Saturday afternoon, and they also talked me into replacing the rear tire after hearing about the route I planned to take home. (Read on to hear about that) I called my cousin Bobby, and he picked me up in his car. Things worked out for the best because I would never have found his little ranch without a GPS. (Fig. 10)

August 25: I awoke early as usual and enjoyed the sunrise, then woke Bobby at 8:00 AM. Bobby, his son Skyler and I headed for Saguaro National Park and museum where I took at least 100 pictures. We then headed for Old Tucson, the studio where Bonanza and some John Wayne movies were filmed. (Fig. 11) The museum was closed due to lack of customers, but I still found a way to take a few shots of the inside of it. We headed for Tucson HD as my bike was almost ready. From there I gave Skyler his first motorcycle ride. He loved it. I probably created a future biker. We arrived back at the ranch, got cleaned up and made dinner plans. We had some good “real Mexican” food, toured the area a bit, and then headed home for some good conversation. I am leaving for my homeward trip tomorrow. Bobby wanted me to stay another day or two, but I am running behind schedule.

August 26: I left Bobby’s house at 8:00AM and headed for Route 77 after deciding not to go farther south due to hurricane Isaac. I visited the petrified Forrest and Painted Desert National Parks with rain no more than ten minutes behind me and following me most of the time. (Figs. 12, 13) Strong crosswinds were pushing the bike around. Considering that between the bike, me and my luggage, we weighed in at nearly 1200 pounds, the winds were pretty strong. I rode through both The Apache and Navaho Reservations, and then spent the night in Albuquerque, NM.

I jumped on and off of Route 66 so that at least I can brag that I have ridden it. (Fig. 14) At a rest stop, I met a large group of bikers from the Netherlands who had flown into Chicago and, along with a Harley dealer, were riding Route 66 from Chicago to California. They were very friendly and wanted to know about Philadelphia. Most of them spoke fairly good English.

August 27: I left New Mexico at 7AM and rode through it as well as the Texas panhandle and half of Oklahoma. None were very scenic: mostly grass, sand, wheat and hay plus some cattle. I did learn to spell Muskogee properly and took a picture of the road sign. (Fig. 15)

I stopped at Oklahoma Harley Davidson to check it out, and then checked into Americas Best Value Motel for $50.00 a night. The room was great and even had a whirlpool tub in it. It got a lot of use that evening. It has been nice riding sans helmet, but after today, every state until I get back into Pennsylvania is a helmet law state. I had re-routed because of hurricane Isaac and am still worried about it. Should I run into it, I will have to rent a truck and put the bike in it. I have ridden through some nasty storms over the years, but I am not that big a hero to want to ride through a hurricane. Let someone else do it and brag about it.

August 28: On the road again at 7:30 AM. There was no rain again all day as I rode through Oklahoma and all of Arkansas. There were some nice views, but with no decent shoulders to pull over on I could not safely stop to take pictures.  I spent the night in Jackson, TN.

August 29: I left the hotel at 6:45 AM, crossed Tennessee and rode the Devil’s Triangle which is relatively easy to enter, but hell to find your way out of. I then rode The Cherohala Skyway, and The Tail of The Dragon. My tail is also dragging. (Figs. 16, 17) What great motorcycling roads they are: plenty of great scenery, curves and switchbacks. I stopped and ate some great brisket at Deals Gap, then headed for Robbinsville, NC. (Fig. 18) It was getting late and dark as I had slipped back into the Eastern Daylight Time Zone. The motels in town were fairly booked up, but I was able to get a room and slept like a baby that night.

August 30: I left the hotel at 7:45 and I picked up the Blue Ridge Parkway in Ashville, NC (Figs. 19, 20) and rode it into Virginia. I got rained on a few times, but all I had to do to get the rain to stop was to put on my rain gear. I stopped about fifty feet away from a black bear sitting on the wooden rail on the parkway when a little black ball of fur came bounding across the road after her. I saw a few herds of deer and gave them a wide berth and plenty of time to move on. The scenery is beautiful, but the overlooks are overgrown and the fog most of the day precluded me from taking the pictures I wanted. It was still an enjoyable, though slow ride. I checked into a motel in Roanoke, VA.

August 31: I left Roanoke at 7AM with foggy and hazy skies. The fog did not burn off until 9:30 AM. This being Labor Day Weekend, the cops were thick as flies all the way home. I ran between 70 and 75 miles per hour with no problems as I do not weave in and out of traffic and constantly change lanes. I hit Carlyle and picked up a PA map. The Turnpike route proved to be the shortest way home so I opted to make the run home on it. I don’t think a Pennsylvania State Trooper had the day off as they all seemed to be out in force. I arrived home at 1:15 PM. Both I and the bike need a good showering. My total mileage for the trip was 11,217 miles.

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