Adventure Story

Jan 2011 - South to Biloxi Mississippi and points Westward

Part 1

Road Trip Background

    What? I need a reason for getting the Wing back on the road in the middle of winter? Ok ... what about this one? My daughter Jessica, who is serving in the USAF, was selected for retraining recently and the Tech school for her new career field is located in Biloxi, Mississippi at Keesler AFB. Her class runs from January into February. Since this places her so close to our home in Dover Tennessee (525 miles away) I’m going to ride down on the Wing and spend a 3 day weekend with her. This worked out great because it gets me out of the house on the WIng and when I’m there we will be able to celebrate my 60th Birthday together. Unfortunately, Yong, can’t make it due to church commitment and my son, Jason, is stationed in Europe so I get to spend it with my special little girl :-) This trip will also give me a chance to see the AF base again. It seems 38 years ago to the month I was stationed at Keesler AFB also going to Tech school when I was just 22 years old after having joined the Air Force. Life is tricky - Who would have thought this many years later I’d be back here to see my daughter do the same. Should be a great trip down on the Wing if the cold air moves back north. Maybe even get in a father and daughter motorcycle ride together for old times sake.

Friday - January 14’ 2011

Nothing quite like starting a road trip when the temperature is 25 degrees outside but the only way to get to warmer temps and no snow were to brave the winter temps in Tennessee in January. The quickest way to Biloxi and south was to get down I-65 so I set my sights on getting over to the interstate and hoped my heated vest would save me from the elements. Unfortunately, I have been having problems with the vest maintaining a steady connection to the controller and only transmitting heat temporarily. I thought I had it fixed but that was not the case and I spent most of the ride today having to hold the connection with my left hand to keep the heat coming. Not a fun time but necessary if I didn’t want to become a frozen popsicle before getting out of this winter wonderland. Speaking of which I was amazed by how much snow was actually on the ground between Nashville and Birmingham, Alabama. Apparently the storms of the last few weeks had dumped a rather large amount of snow. Good news was that the freeways were pretty much clear except for a few spots in some lanes where the sun couldn’t reach.

Guess my pit stop for this trip will be at my daughters home in Buckeye, Arizona. Will need to replace the battery heating harness and connection and time for a full set of new tires again.

I made quick work of the miles and rolled into the Gulf coast little after sundown and on to Keesler AFB to see my daughter Jessica. She is here for training and I will spend the next three days with her here. Plan to resume trip and journal next week with plans to head west to Arizona.

My Jesy on the gulf coast at sunset spending time with her Dad on his 60th Birthday ... that was special.

Tuesday - January 18’ 2011

After a great 60th Birthday and visit with my daughter it was westward bound to Arizona to see my son-in-law, David and my grandson Travis. Dad was holding the fort back home while Jessica was getting her training done at Keesler. A visit from Granddaddy just seemed like a naturally good idea. Plus Granddaddy can get out of the Winter in Tennessee and ride in some warm 70 degree days of what passes for “winter” in Arizona.

I took one last walk and ride along the Gulf Coast through Gulfport in the morning and took a small break by the water before hitting I-10 and points west. Here’s my other baby.
This is how I like my Goldwings --> framed between two Palm Trees :-)

Plowing through the traffic and stop lights on highway 49 north to get over to I-10 west I couldn’t help but think how many times we literally put our lives on pause. i.e. we hit the pause button. We all do it every time we sit at a red light. I guess there is no alternative in a civilized society but to endure this annoying fact that we spend a great deal of idle time in this necessary endeavor.

Few parting shots of the Gulf Coast Beaches.
Zoom in on this pigeon. He only has one leg and he was still enjoying this beautiful day.
As I traversed west I ran into some pretty strong squalls of rain and wind and in fact had to pull over twice due to the amount and intensity of the rain. Both times I was fortunate to have been near exits and Gas Stations to take shelter. It was like a white out ... I couldn’t see hardly a thing. Don’t think I’ve seen it rain that hard since I was in the Florida Pan Handle on a different road trip. On the plus side it was easy to stop the rain ... all I had to do was pull over and put on my full rain gear and gloves and it was almost a guarentee I wouldn’t see any more rain the rest of the day. It worked pretty good and by the time I approached Houston’s gridlock It was sunny and mild. In fact the temp reached 72 degrees at one point today but average was around 60.

Weather tomorrow should be better across Texas but yet another storm heads deep into the south on Thursday bringing colder temps and crappy winter weather. Heck ... If go any further south to avoid the winter I’ll be in Mexico.

I’m resting tonight just outside of Houston Texas.

Wednesday - January 19’ 2011

Early start this morning to get down the road a few miles to a place for breakfast in Sealy, Texas that was recommended by my friend Jim in Arizona. He remembered the exit off I-10 was for Sealy but not the name of the place. I found what I believed was the place and it was called Tony’s Restaurant. Their breakfast special was large, reasonably priced and delivered with a smile. Recommended to all if you’re down this way for a good place to stop for Breakfast right next to the freeway. Thanks Jim.

Speaking of the freeway ... Today was another all freeway day on the Wing. Many might say that would be boring. I’ve always found it interesting that many if not most motorcycle riders loath freeway riding and do all they can to avoid the multiple lanes of concrete slab that comprise our interstate system decrying its many faults and lack of originality not to mentions its continuing decay. Instead insisting the only true road worthy of a motorcycle are the winding twisting roads of the back country that are less travelled and more scenic. For myself I actually don’t mind the freeways all that much. Sure you’re going to find me on twisties way more times than not but I don’t shy away from the freeways when time and distance are the driving forces. With all the riding I do I find the freeways offers its own unique form of challenges not the least of which is to just avoid becoming road kill. To that end any day of negotiating a freeway that leaves me intact in one piece was a good one and this was such a day. I easily zipped west along 10 all day making my way to Van Horn on the western side of the very large state of Texas and this is where I’m resting tonight. The final push to Buckeye, Arizona will come tomorrow with only 600 miles left to gobble up with the Wing.

Weather today was superb (reaching well into the 70’s) and in fact this was the very first day of this current winter where I was actually able to reach what I call riding nirvana. That is when the outside temperature rises to the point where I don’t have to wear any gloves, chaps, winter coats or heated vests in order to feel comfortable while cruising down the road. I know the all the gear all the time crowd will groan but for me my choice is to “ride free” of those whenever I can and today in southern Texas it was warm enough to shed those and it truly started to feel more like summer time was here once again. Tomorrow may be a different story and with the arrival of yet another cold front I may have to bundle back up before entering the oven that is southern Arizona sometime tomorrow afternoon.

Warmer temps at last are finally in my sight ... my escape from the snowy winter in Tennessee may almost be complete. Here’s hoping the only snow I see for the rest of this winter will be on TV.

Thursday - January 20’ 2011

Up early this am and peeking out through the window of my motel room first thing to check out the Wing (I know you do it it too :-) I noticed a Harley Davison Electric Glide bike had pulled in last night and had the honor of parking in the parking space right next to world’s greatest touring motorcycle (my GoldWing). Little later as I was packing the owner made his appearance and conversation ensued. Barney was from Honolulu, Hawaii. Wow I thought ... had they finally built a bridge from the mainland to Hawaii that I didn’t’ know about? If so, I’m all over it. To my dismay this wasn’t the case and instead Barney had his bike shipped to the mainland. He was on his way to Florida where he was going to attend the Harley Davison Motorcycle school for wrenching. Cool! He said it was well over a year long and something he had always wanted to do. We chatted a little about how the riding was over in Hawaii and I asked don’t you get tired of riding in circles. He explained they ride on multiple island and catch ferries to move about. Cool .... got to want to break out every once in a while I thought. Think Barney was the first motorcyclist I’ve ever met on the road from Hawaii. Way cool.

The morning, weather wise, was questionable with a cold stiff wind and few low clouds trying without success to spit on me but it never happened. Proceeding up interstate 10 into and through New Mexico I was poised to enter the promise land. As I crossed down into the desert southwest of Arizona there was one thing in particular I was longing to see. Yes ... there it was ...... Cactus. Nothing speaks warmer weather than Cacti.
Temps were easily in the upper 60’s low 70’s with Blue skies and clear roads. What a difference maker the Wing can be. It had truly brought me to the promise land.

This afternoon riding felt Sooooooo good I can’t begin to explain. I just wanted the day to go on forever. I kept wishing the sun wouldn’t set and the night should be banished so this magical time would never end. As I approached Tucson I couldn’t help myself I had to detour into the Push Ridge, Ora Valley and Catalina area where I used to live from 2005 to 2007. Beautiful area and the old neighborhood looked nice ... here are some shots ...
Tearing myself away I started heading up toward the Phoenix area the back way as the sun was sinking into the desert sky. I still had a few more miles to cover to get to Buckeye. I miss judged where the short cut came into I-10 and had to back track some to go around the Phoenix area proper as to avoid traffic. I eventually headed out Interstate 8 to Gila Bend and then up to Buckeye where I’m resting tonight at my daughter and son-in-laws house.

213,879 on the odometer now with about 2,342 miles so far on this trip.

Plan is to stay in the Phoenix area for the next few weeks until the Death Valley Ride kicks off on Feb 19th. I’m planning on making that meeting of Goldwing riders on the left coast here and then head back to Tennessee sometime later Feb or early March. In the meantime you won’t see daily entires between then and now but I do plan to revisit many of the excellent riding locations here in Arizona during that time. I think I’ve ridden everywhere in this state but am always finding new roads.

Anyway I will be posting journals and pics from these local rides into this trip journal over the next few weeks so check back. If you’re out this way and want to hook up and ride with me let me know.
Riding day is done .... bummer ....

Saturday - January 22’ 2011

Here a picture of the my grandson Travis King .. the real reason I rode to Arizona :-)
Check out Granddaddy’s red face - from riding the Wing all day in the sun no doubt :-)

Monday - January 31’ 2011

A version of Murphy’s law might read ... If everything is going good in your life and better than expected ... expect your downfall to be imminent.

Almost exactly 24 hours ago I was dusting myself off in the early Buckeye, Arizona morning air having just tumbled from my Wing after coming to a stop on the shoulder of Highway 85. I had just departed my daughter’s house in Buckeye heading out for an all day Sunday ride with some new Arizona Goldwing friends I was supposed to meet in Tucson for a ride. It was still kind of dark but the sun rise was slowly coming up to the east as I pulled off the main part of the highway 85 and on to the shoulder to stop briefly to take a picture. Unbeknown to me the shoulder was graded rather sharply for the last few feet of it and as I slowed to a stop I was right on the cusp of the downturn. Consequentially, when I went to put my feet down there was only air on that right side and down she went hard. Damage was extensive particularly since the grade meant the bike fell past the horizontal and was actually pointed downward sightly. Crushed my right mirror, broke by my windshield and destroyed my Baker Air Wings. Oh yea .... plus I feel like an idiot. I guess with the early morning darkness and the black top visually I wasn't able to distinguish that the entire shoulder of the road wasn't flat as I had expected and thought it to be. Dumb expensive mistake and an assumption I will never make again.

As I surveyed the situation in disbelief I couldn’t help but think what a silly and unbelievably stupid thing I had just done. Unfortunately the self loathing and beating myself up for not paying closer attention to the shoulder’s grade would have to wait until later. Main task at hand now was to get the bike upright again. No easy task for a bike of this size especially since it had fallen pass the horizontal. I guess if push came to shove I may have gotten it up by myself with a herculean effort as it is possible following the right techniques to raise a bike of this size by yourself (some say even on an incline). However, with many passing motorist I figured surely someone would stop at my waving and give me a few minutes of their time to help me upright the bike. This didn’t happen right away with many cars just rolling by and looking but not offering to help. Eventually an elderly gentleman stopped and together we were able to right the bike and I hobbled back to the house with my tail between my legs feeling pretty bad.

Today I begin the sad task of ordering the parts needed to make the bike, and me for that matter, whole again. I guess over the next two weeks or so as i slowly replace the broken pieces this painful episode will pass or recede into my memory. The one thing I won’t forget is to never make an assumption about the shoulder of the road again. Problem is that comfort breeds complacency. I let my guard down and paid for it. Fortunately the price for this one is only going to be measured in THINGS that can be easily replaced.

May I never forget that this same type of complacency could have very well have cost me my life. With that in mind this was a lesson well worth having experienced if it makes me a more alert and cautious rider going forward.

Thursday - Feb 10’ 2011

Finally, my baby has been fixed and now we are both back to our prior riding form and ready for more miles. Put the last replacement parts on her today. I filed an insurance claim with Geico and they covered approx. $1,450 minus my $ 500 dollar deductible. Parts came to around $ 1,000 and another $ 150 for dealer labor so I wasn't out of pocket the full $ 500. I also went ahead and finally got my fog lights fixed. Going to get some guards for them this time to protect them. I'm also going to replace the oem front and rear speakers with the polk DB-501's all around. Hated having to experience this little mishap but a lot of things that needed replacement got replaced and it put a few personal things in perspective too.

Now I can put this incident behind me but l won't forget my lesson learned and that is to fight complacency at all times while riding and always check where my feet are going to land when the big girl comes to a rest

doorag Still looking to hook up with some local Arizona Wing riders to ride the local roads together. This coming Saturday will be an opportunity to do that followed by the Death Valley Ride coming up on Feb 19th. Bike is fixed ... weather is mid 70’s to 80’s this weekend .....

Yea ... Life is good.

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