Continental Divide Day 1 Albuquerque, NM to Cuba, NM

After spending 3 nights in Albuquerque, getting the new tires put on at the local BMW dealership, and doing a little sightseeing it was time to get started on the actual ride!

We had a meeting Friday night to discuss some stuff that I won’t go into here, but it basically came down to wheels rolling at 8:15.  So I got up too early, got ready too fast, and waited for about an hour.

We started the day with about 70 miles on the highway to get to Grant, NM, where, after a quick fuel stop, we hit the dirt. The trail there almost immediately pine forest, and riding through there was really great. We rode a while and stopped at a pretty amazing overlook, which my picture doesn’t really do justice. A bit more riding and unfortunately, we were out of the forest and into the desert.

The desert scenery really intrigues me, maybe because its so different from home. What doesn’t interest me so much was the trail conditions at times! There are some patches of really slick mud that currently are difficult for me to get through. We spent the majority of the day in the desert, but thankfully the mud sections weren’t as plentiful later in the day.

One of the things that we are doing is posting a person at intersections where it would be easy to lose the trail. When the next person rides to where you are you tell them to wait for the next person and which way the group went. At one of these points there had between some trouble behind me and I ended up sitting at an intersection for over a half hour. It was really cool just sitting out there by myself for a while. I took a couple of pictures while I was waiting.

I’m going to cut this short, I’m really tired. We made it to Cuba, grabbed a shower and had dinner at a local mexican restaurant. I don’t have internet access on the laptop, so no pictures, and we are camping out tomorrow and I dont know if I’ll have phone service to post, but I will try.

Total miles travelled: 1678
Altitude: 7000 something.

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Day 5 Amarillo, TX to Albuquerque, NM

After 4 days of riding, unloading into the hotel, researching the next day and getting out on the road things seem to be getting a bit easier. Too bad today was our last day on this part of the trip.

Made my mark on the Cadillac Ranch

We decided last night to get a little earlier start to try to avoid the heat around Amarillo, since the forecast for New Mexico seemed to be a bit cooler. There were several sites of interest to me on the western side of Texas, so we had to keep moving or get caught up in the heat again.

Our first stop was the Cadillac Ranch, an art installation from the 70’s, just on the outskirts of Amarillo. I’m not going to explain it here, lots of other sites do it much better than I would, but it’s 10 Cadillac cars buried nose first, tail up at an angle, in a line in a Texas pasture that people are allowed and encouraged to paint on, climb on, write on, whatever. We didn’t have any paint, but a Sharpie marker was along and used to create our marks.

Route 66 runs right next to highway 40, and since we were piling on miles again we stuck to the faster road. 70mph in Texas meant pretty quick coverage of the miles between sites. The biggest problem early today was the crosswinds. Seemed they were coming from the south, and with enough force that it caused us to have to lean the bikes into it quite a bit. I hope the GoPro video shows it.

Hi-Way Magnolia service station

Hi-Way Magnolia service station

Our next stop was a quick stop in Vega, Texas to look at the Hi-Way Magnolia station there. It’s a restored fuel station that has some old stuff inside, with a few placards that explain a little bit about the history of the station. One interesting thing that I learned here is that before there were fuel stations they used to just have the gas in 55 gallon drums behind a store our something, and they were delivered by train. People would use a hand driven pump to get the gas into their vehicles. We stayed long enough for me to read the cards and snap a few pictures, then we were on our way again.

The days second stop put us in Adrian, TX at the “midpoint” of Route 66, at the aptly named Midpoint Cafe. This cafe was the inspiration behind Flo’s cafe in the movie cars, and is known for it’s “ugly pie crust”. Even though it was only 10 am, it seemed wrong not to try it, so I had a peach cobbler. Not something I’d normally order, but it was fantastic! If you ever find yourself in the area you’d be doing a disservice to yourself to not stop and order something.

Glen Rio, TX

First / Last Motel in Texas in Glenrio

Leaving there and continuing, we stopped again in what is left of Glenrio, Texas. A casualty of the new interstate, nothing much remains of the old service stations and hotels that were here. I stopped in front of a few of them long enough to get a few pictures and look around little and we got back on the road.

Our last real diversion was Tucamnari, New Mexico. We followed the exit for historic route 66 from the interstate and drove through town. I wish we could have gone through at night, there are so many neon signs I’d imagine out to be quite amazing. This is the town that has the Blue Swallow motel, which I think also influenced the movie “Cars”. It’s notable because it has a ton of neon and because every room has it’s own garage to park in. Sadly, we didn’t get to see the lights on and just drove by. I’m hoping the GoPro got a picture, but it’s hard to go through the 9000 photos from the day on the tiny computer that I’m using.

Thats really about it for this section of the trip. We blasted the last 150 or so miles into Albuquerque (that word is really fun on a swype keyboard,btw) (yes, I’ve been entering the last 3 days posts on my phone) at 75mph, the speed limit in New Mexico. The scenery coming into town was really pretty cool, and it sure felt like the turbulence on the motorcycle from the wind was greatly reduced. I don’t know if it was the altitude and thinner air or the wind died, but it certainly made the riding much more enjoyable.

Tomorrow is “get the motorcycles some cool new tires” day, and a rest day, so I likely won’t be updating this. We leave for the Continental Divide on Saturday and I will update then, assuming I have some kind of internet and any energy left.

Abandoned building in GlenRio texas with my 2011 R1200GS

Abandoned Building in Glen Rio, Texas

Stats:
Max elevation: 7200ft
Max temp: only 100 today
Total miles traveled: 1440
Loads of laundry: 1

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Day 4 Oklahoma City, OK to Amarillo, TX

U Drop Inn in Shamrock, Texas

Hot. That was the word of the day. Damn hot. Ridiculously hot. Why are we here hot.

We got a decently early start, but it was already 92 degrees. It was that cool for about 10 minutes, then jumped into the 100s just on the outskirts of the city and stayed there all day.

So, knowing that it was super-hot,  we didn’t really see any interesting sites in our research, and route 66 isn’t so clearly marked in western Oklahoma, we decided just to make the miles today. Blasting along at 70mph on the highway isn’t my idea of a great time, but it did minimize the time we were baking out there. We could see the route 66 along the side of the highway so I don’t really feel we missed much.

We did find 2 interesting sites in Texas, however. We stopped in Shamrock, TX, at the U Drop Inn. It’s a really neat art,deco gas station and cafe that was the inspiration for Ramones in the movie “Cars”. I should have taken more pictures but it was just too hot!

Water tower in Groom Texas

Leaning Water Tower in Groom, Texas

The second site was the water tower in Groom,TX.  It’s the leaning tower of Texas I guess. It’s neat to see it off in the distance, even if you know it was made that way on purpose. We stopped on the side of the exit ramp long enough for me to jump off the bike, walk across the road, snap a couple of pictures and jump back on the bike.

We stopped for a quick drink at the Dairy Queen in Groom, then made the last 45 minute ride to our overnight stop in Amarillo.

More stats:
Highest temp: 110
Low: 92
Total miles to date: 1151
Most ‘e’s in Oklahoma pronunciation of BMW: 6 (est)

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Day 3, Miami, OK to Oklahoma City, OK

 

After 4 states touched yesterday, today was spent all in the same state. Despite that, today was a great riding day!

Route 66 original pavement

Last night at the hotel I was able to look ahead at our route and what upcoming attractions there were, and that helped a lot. We found out that we were really close to a section of what is billed as an “original”section of pavement. It’s only 9 feet wide, supposedly because the budget at the time was limited, so instead of making it half as long they just made it half as wide. Whatever the reason, it was a fun little distraction zipping over the gravel covered pavement for a little while. There wasn’t much of it left and we rode all of it.

The rest of route 66 in Oklahoma is more like what I hoped my ride would be. It’s a nice road, with decent speed limits (65!) between the towns, and there are several towns!

During my research I came up with a very complicated method for keeping track of what attraction we wanted to see in what town…a couple of note book pages stuck in my map pocket. Worked just fine.

Blue whale in Oklahoma on Route 66

Blue Whale on Route 66 in Oklahoma

We saw Totem Park, the Blue Whale, ate at the Rock Cafe, passed the Round Barn, and stopped at Pop’s.

Pops bottle wall Route 66

Pop's wall of bottles on Route 66 outside Arcadia

Pops is really just a gas station/gift shop/restaurant, but they’ve made it to be a modern-day Route 66 attraction. They claim to have 12,000 soda pop bottles in their collection, and I certainly don’t dispute it. The glass angular wall in the front is lined with them and it’s really neat to see. A guy sitting out front of the place told us that everything about the place is related to 66 somehow, like the sign out front is 66 feet high, the cantilever is 66 feet long, etc. I don’t know that to be true, but hey, it’s a neat idea.

A pretty decent day.

Total miles travelled: 883
Highest Temp today: 101
Lowest temp: 84
Armadillos: at least 2 dead ones

 

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Day 2 Collinsville, IL to Miami, OK

4 states in one day! Whew.

We got an earlier start today, leaving the hotel around 8:30 to try to avoid some of the heat. It didn’t work. It was already 87 degrees, and quickly rose to the mid-90’s before we reached one of our stops, Meramec Caverns.

It’s a tourist trap thats been in operation since the 30’s, and it of course features an amazing cave! We took an 80 minute walking tour and really enjoyed the cool cave temperatures. The size of many of the rooms and formations are pretty amazing. If you are ever in the area I would recommend taking the time to check it out.

Route 66 in Missouri seems to be the interstate now, so we did a lot of blazing down the road riding and rolled up some miles.we stopped for lunch at a combo restaurant/gas station/gift shop called Cookin’ From Scratch in Doolittle, Missouri. It’s the home of the ‘King of the road’ challenge which involves a 66oz burger, some fries, and 66 minutes. It looked like 3 people had actually completed it, but neither of us was brave (or foolish) enough to try it. I had an excellent ‘ Big Pig’ sandwich on the waitresses recommendation and it was really good.

After lunch it was more fast riding in the heat, which was now consistently topping 100 degrees, with our highest observed temperature 104. We’ve decided to call it good if we see the same reading on both of our GS’s, and they’ve been within 1 degree of each other the entire time. Same with the range indication display, which is a reported issue on some of the earlier model year R1200GS bikes.

Since route 66 runs through Joplin, we decided to follow it through there and see what we could see of the damage there. It wasn’t far off of route 66 where the devastated area is. They use that word a lot in the news but that is what it is. We were riding along and things were looking pretty normal when all of the sudden we came up where it happened. Everything was just gone. And it just kept going. I felt a little ghoulish about seeking out the area but I’m glad that I did see it, just because it made me think about how fast everything can change.

Once we cleared Joplin the road changed into the Route 66 that I’d pictures in my head before the trip. A nice 2 lane road with some turns and the occasional little town. That pretty much sums it up through Kansas. All of the maybe 20 miles of it.

Once out of Kansas and into Oklahoma, we made our made-up-along-the-way goal of hitting the 4 states in one day so we started looking for somewhere to stay. We hit Miami,OK and stopped for the night at the Hampton Inn, hit the pool, ordered pizza in.

Had another problem with the go pro movie project. Part way through the day the camera reported that the memory card was full even though i’d deleted the content from it. I guess I didn’t empty the trash before ejecting or something, it seemed to work tonight when I tried it. I formatted the card in the GoPro so I know it will be ok tomorrow.the card that I put in when the first card filled up isn’t recognized by the card reader in the eeepc that I have, but is by the MacBook air. Very strange.

Total miles traveled: 650ish (didn’t check before I came in, too damn hot)
Top temperature: 104

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Day 1 – Rockton To Collinsville, IL

Day 1 got off to a slow start, thanks to rain that was moving through the area. Our intended 10am start time got pushed back to noon to try to avoid the worst of the rain. Unfortunately, that put us in the middle of the heat.

The actual ride was pretty uneventful – most of the day was spent figuring out some little things again, what works, what doesn’t, etc. Working on the GPS settings is one thing. We ended up on some gravel road for a while, not a big deal, but took a little time. I had some problems with my GoPro and missed some photos due to a loose connection in my power source, but I think I got it fixed. A couple more little adjustments and I think I’ll be more organized.

We found route 66 in Lincoln, IL and rode along with it for a while before getting on the interstate to make up for our slowness earlier in the day. We made it to Collinsville, IL, the home of the worlds largest ketchup bottle. Ill have to fill in the pictures later.

Distance travelled: 306 miles
Highest temperature seen on MC: 100
Lowest temp seen 74
The temperature went from 74 in the rain to about 88 in the span of 2 miles.

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I’m all packed up, I’m ready to go

Well, planning time is over, for what it’s worth. Time for the rubber to hit the road, as they say.

I managed to get way too much stuff crammed in to way to little space.  It’s a bit like Tetris to get everything in there, but we did it. I just hope I can remember how when I have to unpack at the hotel tomorrow night.

What I managed to get into the 2 micatech panniers and my tank bag:

5 pairs of socks, underwear and t-shirts
1 pair of shorts
swim trunks
1 pair of riding pants
1 rain jacket
1 pair of rain pants
1 pair of shoes
1 pair of sandals
shower kit with towel
mesh jacket outer shell
1 CamelBak MULE hydration pack
1 extra dry bag (for when everything won’t go back in the panniers)
tarp for under the tent
electronics box containing a EEEpc, 500GB external HDD, camera battery charger, misc cables for stuff
GoPro camera accessories
Complete tool kit
air compressor and pressure gauge
tire repair kit
sweatshirt
tie-down straps
baseball hat
small first aid kit

I’m sure I’ve forgotten some stuff, but it’s getting late and it’s the night before we’re supposed to leave. I’ll try to get pictures of all the stuff when I have the time. I wimped out and shipped the tent, sleeping bag and air mattress ahead. I will likely be riding back with them on the top of the panniers.

I also have the GoPro camera mounted on the crashbar. I’m going to attempt to take a picture every 2 seconds throughout the trip and stitch them together into a really boring movie. We’ll see how that goes.

Tomorrows destination: Somewhere around St. Louis.

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Equipment

Any “adventure ride” is going to require sleeping outside at some point to make it a true adventure, so some equipment is probably going to be helpful. I decided that a tent, sleeping pad and bag were what I was going to use.

Coleman Phad X3

Coleman Phad x3

For my tent, I found a Coleman Phad x3 tent. It seems to be one of their “higher end” tents. Packs really small, has a small vestibule to put wet, smelly gear in so you don’t have to sleep with, and not crazily expensive. It’s also billed as a 3 person tent, but I think you’d have to be really small or really like the other 2 people in there with you.

Sleeping pad was next. I’ve used the rolled foam pads in the past, and frankly, they’re not the most comfortable for me. I wanted an inflatable pad, but one that I didn’t have to blow up with lung power or carry an air pump. I found the Exped DownMat 7 LW. The LW is for long and wide. This mat is plenty large for me at 77″ x 26″ x 2.8″ thick! It’s also got down stuffing in the pad, which helps insulate you from the ground on those colder spring and fall trips. It pack down to about 11 x 5″. The coolest part is that mat has a built-in inflation pump.

Big Agnes Hog Park sleeping bag

Big Agnes Hog Park Sleeping Bag

The last item I purchased was a sleeping bag. I pretty much got tired of doing research, found a bag that seemed like it would be good enough, and ordered it. I went with a Big Agnes Hog Park bag, and I really couldn’t be more impressed! It’s rated for 20 degrees. It’s a semi-rectangular bag, which means its a rectangular bag with a “hood” so it’s kind of like a mummy bag with more shoulder and hip room I guess. Big Agnes bags are made figuring you’ll use them with a mat anyway, and that the insulation on the bottom of the bag will just get crushed under you while you are sleeping and not do much good, so they don’t have any. They put a sleeve on the bottom into which you insert your camp pad. Pretty slick, keeps you warm, bags packs smaller, and you can’t roll off of the pad. This bag is really cool compared to all the older bags that I normally use. Of course, it costs a lot more than most of those bags too.

 

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All together now….almost

So, after a bunch of pictures of all the individual items and no pictures of the entire thing, I figured I should put at least one picture of the bike here as it currently sits. The only thing I’m currently missing is the installed crash bars. These pictures aren’t very good, I’ll have to get out somewhere interesting and get some taken.

My 2011 BMW R1200GS

My 2011 BMW R1200GS

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Farkles – Luggage

Micatech Pannier

Micatech Pannier

I need to carry some stuff with me when I go on my trip, so luggage was a requirement. There are so many different options available that it makes it a pretty tough decision. I decided to go with hard luggage over the soft bags for the waterproof quality and the security of leaving it locked on the bike when I’m parked.

With that decision made, it was just left to choose the manufacturer and model.

I had seen some the the Touratech bags previously, and was familiar with the Micatech brand of luggage. The Micatech bags are well made, very solid, and the mounting system is really low-profile when the bags are removed from the motorcycle. The Touratech bags are kind of the “standard” that you see on a LOT of these bikes. I decided that, for me, the side loading and simple mounting system for the Micatech bags was for me.

I chose the Micatech Pilot bags, with the optional “roof rack”, and liner bags.

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