Day 11 – Tucson Arizona

We’ve spent the last three days in Arizona.  First we entered the Navajo nation and spent a day riding the bikes through monument valley.  I had no idea how spectacular it would be.  Monument valley is a highlight of the trip so far.  There is a 17 mile dirt road that is perfect to off-road bikes that winds through the rock formations.  We had a blast tearing up the dirt in a surreal landscape that could just as easily be Mars.

Just off the track, there was a ledge on which a skilled rider might be able to perch his bike for a photo opportunity.  Ted expertly took his bike up onto the ledge, posed for a picture that could be on the cover of Canadian Biker when we get back, and then zoomed down the other side.  After my experience in Kansas where I ditched my bike and caused some minor damage, I did not want to take any unnecessary chances so I elected not to try to get my bike up there.  I had this awful image of the bike tumbling over the other side of the cliff.  That would be a sure fire way of ending the trip prematurely.

On the other hand, Tom of course wanted to get his bike up onto the ledge.  He had already dropped his bike when he first scoped out the ledge (he fell sideways trying to back down from the ridge).  I think that this may have triggered the stubborn switch in him (although what I call being stubborn he calls determination).  He had to get his bike up there.  He couldn’t allow himself to be defeated.  He took off his panniers and gave it a go.  I just happened to have the video camera out, so I hit the record button.  We now have some great footage of the Kid attempting to manoeuvre his bike up a rise and onto the precariously narrow ledge.  Too bad he tried to put his foot down to stabilize the bike.  What he didn’t account for was that there was no ground to the left because the bike was already up on the ledge.  The end result was that the bike toppled hard off the ledge and the Kid had to jump clear. 

Immediately he wanted to try it again, this time taking off the duffel bag as well to further lighten the bike.  I think he was willing to keep trying until he destroyed his bike or hurt himself.  Stubborn tosser.  Fortunately he was successful on his second attempt.  Unfortunately the battery died just then, so the only footage we have is the clip of him crashing.  Oh well, that’s the more entertaining footage anyway.  Luckily the Odyssey wasn’t seriously damaged.  Right after the crash, the throttle was sticking and the brake light was permanently on.  However, this was easily fixed.  The only permanent damage was some new scratches on the front fender.

The day after Monument Valley, we made for the Grand Canyon.  It was impressive but much more touristy than Monument Valley.  From the Grand Canyon we headed south over a mountain range to Flagstaff, Arizona.  We were intending to find a campground somewhere along the highway, but to no avail.  We ended up setting up camp at the entrance to the visitor centre at Meteor Crater, in pitch darkness as per usual.

The next day we checked out the crater and made acquaintances with a Crater Nut called Johnny.  We first met him when he came to our “campsite” first thing in the morning to warn us not to pick up meteor rocks because he saw us digging.  We actually hadn’t been looking for rocks – we had been burying our melon skins from the morning’s breakfast.  We didn’t correct him.  At first we thought Johny was drunk on authority, doing patrols in his Meteor Crater uniform and making reports on his walkie talkie.  Later, when he told us stories about Meteor Crater for a half hour non-stop, we realized that he was just a Meteor Crater geek.   It turns out that some rich fool (Baringer) spent his fortune back in the early 1900s sinking mine shafts looking for the iron that should have been somewhere in the crater from the meteor.  In the end no large chunk of iron was ever found, and Baringer died broke while trying to get yet more investors to finance his search for the meteor.

From Meteor Crater, we went south on a “Primitive Road”.  It was a good feeling to know that the bikes could take us where most tourists could never go.  You’d need a 4×4 or an off-road bike to even attempt the road we were on.  Eventually we came out onto blacktop again, and headed for Phoenix.  We wanted to do change the oil on our bikes and buy some spare parts (chains, headlight bulbs, and oil plug washers).  We found a Kawasaki dealership in Mesa, just outside of Phoenix.  They guys initially were happy to help us – giving us an oil pan and a filter right away.  But their boss must not have liked the look of us, or saw that one of us was actually on a Suzuki and not a Kawasaki, or was just a clown and I’m pretty sure he told the guys not to help us because they suddenly needed the oil pan back “for a long time”.  We ended up buying an oil pan at WalMart.  After lubing up the chains and changing the oil, I guess we did make a bit of a mess.  But still, I wasn’t impressed that they wouldn’t help us out.  Too bad we weren’t filming when I changed my oil.  It was quite the gong-show.  I think I got more oil on the ground  than into my bike.

We’re now in Tucson buying some last minute supplies.  We intend to cross into Mexico later today.

I’ve managed to find a fast enough internet connection to upload a few pictures.  Check them out at http://photos.yahoo.com/tysonbrust.

Day 7 – New Mexico

I am in a dusty town called Gallup in the west of New
Mexico camping in a KOA. This is only the second
night of the entire trip that we’ve paid for camping.
And yes, it’s only the second shower we’ve had since
leaving Canada. After 728 km in the saddle today, the
hot water sure was a luxury.

We’ve been staying mostly in public parks. We stayed
in a park along lakeshore drive in Chicago. Despite
the drug deals going on in a nearby parking lot, it
was a great location with a fantastic view of the
Chrysler building and the Sears tower. The next night
we stayed in a public park in St. Louis.

Last night we pitched our tents in a public park in
Amarillo, Texas. The night before that we camped in a
playground on the side of the road in Davenport
Oklahoma, literally within a stone’s through of route
66. There’s story behind how we ended up camping in a
playground.

Our first attempt at free camping that night was
thwarted. We had spent most of the day on rough
gravel roads in the middle of nowhere in Kansas
because we had drifted too far north of route 66
(which can be hard to find). We were all exhausted
from our efforts of keeping rubber side down on the
loose rocks and deep ruts.

Some of us were more successful at this than others.
I went wide on a sharp corner and lost traction. The
bike went over and ended up facing backwards in the
ditch. Luckily I was going slow and was not hurt.
Rosa was not so lucky. She suffered some damage to
the rear rack (which was bent upward), the pannier
rack was benton the left side, and the left turn
signal was bent downwards. Most of the this we fixed
ont he side of the road, but there are still signs of
damage.

Anyway, When we finally reached Oklahoma, we were all
exhausted. However, we couldn’t stop and camp because
we were in the middle of a large Indian reservation
and did not want trespass on first nation territory.
By the time we were found our way off the reserve, it
was getting late and we were running out of daylight.
We left the highway, driving on a narrow gravel road
through the woods in search of a suitable camping
spot.

We passed by some questionable characters sitting on
living room furniture strewn outside on the grass.
They were staring blankly at us as we rode by. Who
sits on living room furniture outside? I guess if you
don’t have a TV, you might wait on your lawn all day
hoping somebody will drive down the dirt road in front
of your place.

I pulled up beside Ted and told him I wanted to turn
around because the “yokels” were “giving me the
creeps” (my exact words). We were in the middle of
nowhere. No one would ever find us if we were to go
missing somewhere in rural Oklahoma. Ted kind of
grinned, surely thinking I was being paranoid.

That is until a couple of the yokels jumped into a
jeep and chased us down. Ted pulled his bike over to
talk to the them. Meanwhile Tom and I rode quickly
ahead looking for a decent place to turn the bikes
around. It turned out the jeep was driven by a
stone-faced woman (who didn’t say a word). The guy in
the passenger seat was wielding a riffle. His right
hand was bandaged. It may have been a good thing that
his trigger finger was wrapped up.

Apparently the guy knew some folks who knew some folks
who owned the land we were on. It soon became clear
that we were not welcome because these other squatters
had found the place first. We were only to happy to
leave that enclave in our dust. By the time we found
our way back to the Mother Road (route 66), it was
pitch black. Setting up camp in a random playground
seemed a much better idea than plunging blindly down
some unmarked back road again.