Arizona / California 2010 Road Trip

Road Trip Background

This Road Trip was essentially a chance for me to get out to California to see my sister. She was recently committed to a full care nursing home and I wanted to get out to Clearlake California to visit with her as it’s been over a year since I’ve had the chance. We decided to combine this trip with a stop there and back in Arizona to spend Thanksgiving and my daughter birthday with her in Arizona. This Road Trip story will be punctuated with a couple of pauses but I will record notes on each days travel as they occur.

No Spot tracking for this trip as the replacement SPOT device I received only worked for 3 weeks and then quit. Awaiting yet another replacement

Day 1 - Tuesday - Nov 16’ 2010

There aren’t many road trips that start off with a downpour of rain along with a cold front moving in to the area but this one was such a trip. As I opened the garage doors and exposed the Wing to it’s first look outside it was overcast, raining hard, windy and cold. I think the only thing missing was the lighting. So how exactly did this trip begin in such an ominous fashion? Well, it seems my significant other has grown tired of riding around in the rain and cold and no longer has any desire to take road trips when the cold and winter weather arrives. Go figure. For me I’m not a fan of riding in these conditions but if we were going to get back out to Arizona in time for my daughter’s birthday this was the last day we could leave and have the time to get there. Since I wasn’t about to go from Tennessee to Arizona and on to California in a cage the only solution was for her to drive the cage (truck in this case) and for me to take the bike regardless of what the weather was at the time and day we needed to leave.

I donned all my gear and set my mind to “poor road conditions” and pulled out the drive way and headed West to Arizona. It wasn’t very long before I was second guessing my decision to leave under these circumstances. Nevertheless, I persevered convincing myself that I could ride through it and that better weather was just around the next turn. Boy was that wishful thinking as it turns out. The storm stretched West for several states and although it was moving East fast there would be much rain to deal with on this day. As I caught up with Yong in the truck I could feel her thoughts as she peered out of the cage and at me on the bike thinking to herself “Now that guy is crazy riding in this weather”. Probably true but we made it to Fort Smith in Arkansas before packing it in for the day. Needless to say that hot shower was feeling pretty good after riding in the rain all day and there was a healthy amount of “I told you so” from the wife as well.

Day 2 - Wednesday - Nov 17’ 2010

We decided to push our departure times back some to allow for a least a little warming. Unfortunately, when the overnight highs were close to freezing and the predicted highs for the day were only in the hight 40’s there wasn’t much warm up that was going to occur. Fortunately, my heated vest was working overtime and for the most part my core body stayed pretty toasted. My hands and feet were another story but it was a tolerable cold and by late afternoon the sky had turned sunny as we finally had the storm behind us. We made it too Tucumcari New Mexico this night and rested.

Day 3 - Thursday - Nov 18’ 2010

With over 600 miles still to go to reach Buckeye Arizona and Yong wanting to be there before dark we continued West at a fairly rapid pace. Almost too fast at one point as I had the pleasure of feeling that police pursuit yet once again. Always unnerving to be cruising down the Freeway regardless of whether or not you are speeding and see a Highway Patrol car parked in the divide with a radar gun pointed in your direction. Immediately once I saw him I glanced down at the speedometer and confirmed I was only about 5-7 miles over the 75 mph limit but here he was coming up behind me fast in the rear view mirror. Turns out he was in pursuit of the truck next to me who had been coming up fast on me just prior to us reaching the patrol car. After a few seconds that seemed like an eternity it was clear he was after the truck and after getting up behind him directly he turned on the lights and pulled him over. Whew .... such a great sense of relief to find out is wasn’t me. We proceeded on to Buckeye, Arizona arriving safely at around 6:00 p.m.... approximately 1,625 miles.

Pausing here - Family Birthday and Thanksgiving Week - schedule to continued on to California on Monday Nov 29th

Day 4 - Sunday - Nov 28’ 2010

Ok ... I should have my head examined for deciding to leave for California on the years most busy travel day but that’s been done before and no one can tell what’s inside my little pee brain that causes me to do crazy things. My biggest concern in getting up to the San Francisco bay area today from Buckeye Arizona was the rain and the cold but as it turns out it was the WIND and the traffic that did me in. Heading out interstate 10 the traffic was considerable but was able to proceed at a respectable rate however the closer I got to Los Angles area the worst it got. Finally around North Palm Springs I exited 4 lanes of stop and go traffic heading West and headed North on highway 62 which took me up through Apple Valley and Victorville and eventually over the mountain pass into Bakersville. I have to admit as I crossed that pass to get into the valley on Highway 58 at Tehachapi I actually saw a snow plow at one point who that was pushing snow from the shoulder of the road. Fortunately the road was clear but temps did drop to 32 degrees and the wind made it down right scary but I made it through ok. I finally hooked up with Interstate 5 heading North.

Seeing the amount of traffic heading North on Interstate 5 was depressing to say the least but it was moving. Well, it was moving for about 30 minutes then instant gridlock. I don’t think I have ever experienced gridlock of that magnitude on a freeway without there being an accident EVER. There were times the 2 lanes of traffic just stopped for 10+ minutes. Mind you this is a free way. Very depressing. Even the few exits I could manage to get to were essentially blocked with traffic as well. Had no choice but to continue on at a snails pace. Eventually I got to an exit I could actually exit on and found a motel. Resting tonight in Avenal, California about 135 miles short of my intended destination for tonight. Tomorrow will make it up to Tracy, California and spend the day with my best friend, Russ. That is assuming all those people on the freeway got home last night which remains to be seen.

Day 5 - Monday - Nov 29’ 2010

Well ... I had a nightmare last night that none of those thousands of people on the freeway last evening made it home and they all planned on getting up early and starting that gridlock on the freeway all over again. Fortunately, that made for a light sleep and caused me to get up early and get back on hopefully a clear interstate to continue North to Tracy, California. Unfortunately, early morning this time of year translates into cold temps but with the heated vest my core stayed warm as I easily made up the additional 150 miles in no time with mostly a clear freeway. Arrived at my best friend, Russ’ house around 9:30 a.m. and we spent the rest of the day relaxing with a short trip together around the Tracy hills in the afternoon. Russ has a Triumph motorcycle and it was nice for us to ride together although all to brief. We are both hopeful there will be a longer road trip in store for us together next year. Something we have both dreamed about since kids. I also managed to pick up some better boots today at a Bass Pro Shop. The ones I had were worn out and weren’t even waterproof. Got a good pair now that’s warm and waterproof .... let it rain now ... I’m ready. No more soggy feet when that happens. Resting at my buds house in Tracy, California tonight.

Day 6 - Tuesday - Nov 30’ 2010

Russ and I spent the morning catching up some on each others lives and that made for a late morning departure for Clearlake, California ... in particular Lakeport where one of my sisters was recently committed to a skilled nursing home due to some serious medical issues that prevents her for caring for herself. It’s a long sad story but suffice to say I wanted to spend some time with her so I was going to head up there and spend the rest of today and tomorrow morning with her.

Overcast day with temps only in the high 40’s you would think would make for some pretty crappy motorcycling riding .... but as the old saying goes and I’ll switch it around some. A bad cold blustery overcast day riding is better than a good day a work. I took the long way to get there continuing up I-5 to Woodland and then highway 16 to 20 into the Clearlake area. I spent many happy weekends and summers here growing up with my sister and the rest of my family. It’s a beautiful lake and wine country area but the lake has had serious issues with Algae for many years and from talking to some of the locals it still persist in the summer months. Here are some shots as I road around the Northern part of the lake. Don’t these pictures just look cold?
Clearlake, California - Mt Konocti and Buckingham Peak in the distance
The Sun gave it a good try but just couldn’t get through all those clouds

Haven’t been taking too many pictures on this leg of the journey. Guess when it’s cold and cloudy stopping and grabbing the camera aren’t foremost on my mind. Hoping to have more pictures on the return leg if the weather lets me hit the Pacific coast highway on the way back. Might be tough to do that as the weather is usually worse right along the coast and it is December afterall. I’ve ridden that road before and it’s awesome to say the least. Resting tonight in Upper Lake, California near Clear Lake. Will be moving on tomorrow to Vacaville for another family stop.

Day 7 - Wednesday - Dec 1’ 2010

As often is the case any forecast you see on TV predicting the weather for the next several days is suspect at best. Today turned out to be a much better day that what was predicted even as little as 24 hours before. The rain was coming but it held off and I even had cool sunshine as I rounded Clearlake to the south and headed back over route 20 and then down highway 16 slowly making my way towards Vacaville where I have plans to visit my niece Vickie and her family.

It all started with a wave. The power of something so simple as a wave to a fellow traveler, or any person for that matter, can do wonders for expanding our circle of friends. Too ofter we stay in our shells going about doing “our thing” without much interaction with each other. Thankfully this would not to be the case today for me and Robert Laier. Robert pulled into the Cache Creek Canyon
Regional P
ark. along Highway 16 just a few minutes after I had arrived and had parked to take a short break. We waved at each other after he got out of his car and not long there after we were chatting it up like we had known each other for a lifetime. As is often the case the motorcycle is the first topic of conversation but we quickly moved on to a variety of topics and actually ended up talking for probably over an hour. Robert had a couple of days off and was out for a drive to enjoy the afternoon. Although his mode of transportation today was a cage (car) he too enjoys motorcycles but an injury to his neck has prevented him from continuing to ride. We exchange contact information and eventually tore ourselves away from conversation and re-entered back into our respective worlds. However, something had just happen that I think is very special. Our lives touched ever so briefly. For a short while we were engrossed in hearing about each other’s experiences and finding connection and similarities at almost every turn and not fretting over our own trials and issues that cloud our lives. This is proof in my opinion that if we all just took a little more time in our lives to engage those around us our list of friends would be infinitely larger. I have often said and believe we are who we are because of the people in our lives we have known or met along life’s journey. It was my pleasure today to add Robert to my friendship circle and as I drove away there was a warm feeling inside that confirmed for me the reality that every person we meet in life should be and in reality can be our friend and today I was a better person for having made a new one. I suspect Robert felt the same. So take the time to wave to others ... you never know what you’re going to get in return. Kind of like that box of Chocolates Forrest Gump laments about.

I continued on down highway 16 towards Vacaville marveling at the quaint rolling brown hills dotted with trees that lined the route as well as the cloud formations as they rolled in and I rolled on.
Resting tonight in Vacaville, California.

Day 8, 9 ,10 & 11 - Dec 2, 3, 4 & 5’ 2010

A wonderful visit with my niece and family which included a day of rest from riding was capped off by a run down to the San Francisco Bay area. I grew up in Berkeley, California and it was neat to ride through the parts of town I grew up in and see my old stomping grounds. Rain, wind, overcast clouds and cold temps tried to put a damper on things but it wasn’t too bad overall. The rain never materialized and the rest just didn’t matter after a while.

Eventually made it back over to Tracy for one more visit with my buddy Russ and then it was time to head South back to Buckeye, Arizona. Planned to take a couple of days to get there. Had wanted to go down the coast on Highway 1 but the weather just doesn’t look like it’s going to cooperate so it may end up being all interstate for the remainder of this leg of the journey.

Departed Russ’ house late morning and headed south on I-5 expecting a not so pleasant day of riding given the clouds, wind & cold and occasional rain falling outside the window at Russ’ house when I arose this day. Actually the temps weren’t that bad and some holes in the sky gave hope, although only slightly, that the sun was trying to break through and might do so in some spots. Definitely a hit and miss day. Trying to be optimistic I refused to don my Rain suit and hoped I wouldn’t regret that and have to stop later. As I slid southward on interstate 5 the Pacific Coast Highway just kept popping into my head. What if it was clear on the coast I thought to myself. Since it seemed like I was going to have a pretty good chance of catching rain sometime today why not be somewhere awesome. I’ve had the pleasure of riding down this road several times under better conditions but what would it be like on a day like today? Yes the roads would be slick and the skies dark and it could get hairy if I got caught in a downpour on some parts of that road but ... It would be an Adventure and that’s what being on the road is all about. So I bravely veered west over to Gilroy on highway 152 and then down 101 to Monterey and on to the highway of all highways.


Highway 1 out of Monterey, California ... should have been closer to the sign for this picture but I was too lazy to get off the bike and the ground unstable. Its says Motorcyclist Road next 74 miles or something to that affect. Riding out this way always reminds me about an old TV show called “Then Came Bronson”. For those that remember it was down this road in the open trailer for the show about a loner who travels the US on a bike. Only lasted for a few season but obviously made an impression on me. “Then came Bronson” “DonnieOnTheRoad” ... you be the judge.

The day didn’t turn out so bad and it fact I only had drizzle once or twice and the temps were really mild and for the most part the roads were kind of dry. Didn’t stop for many pictures but here’s a few.

By early evening I was moving into the LA area or better known as the belly of the beast. I hate the gridlock that is the LA area. After painful hours in that gridlock I finally emerged on the other side of the beast and stopped in Banning, California for the night ... only about 5 hours away from my daughters house in Buckeye, Arizona where I left one week ago to the day to ride up and visit my family in California.

I rolled into the driveway in Buckeye, Arizona around 1:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon .... Mission Accomplished as George Bush once famously said ..... 2,120 miles for this leg. This was kind of a Road Trip within a Road Trip as I still have the return leg back to Tennessee to complete in about a week from now. Resting tonight and this coming week with my family here. Will resume this trip log at that time.

Day 12, 13 & 14 - Dec 13, 14 & 15’ 2010 - A very Dicy Trip home to Tennessee

Well, after spending several weeks in Arizona and a week riding into and up to Northern California it was time to head home and get back to Tennessee. This was no easy task as winter was fast approaching and many parts of the Eastern US had already seen significant cold weather, including snow and extremely cold temps. Nevertheless, this was the last leg of this road trip and probably the last significant ride of 2010 so it was out the door on Monday - Dec 13th.

As I was packed and heading once again north out of Phoenix, Arizona I couldn’t help but think this was akin to parachutist jumping out of a perfect good airplane. Who in there right mind would do that? Here I was leaving a perfect day in the mid 70’s in the valley of the sun with blue skies and warm sunshine to head into what would surely be a dicy cold wintery ride in order to get to my home in Tennessee. I picked this day to afford me the best opportunity to make it with the least amount of questionable weather but as we all know ... NO one can predict the weather. Traveling interstate 40 all the way back was not the preferred route but would have to suffice in these types of conditions. The route looked doable (least before I left) with clear skies prevailing across most of the Southwest although temps would only be in the upper 40’s most of the way with even colder temps predicted as I neared Arkansas and into Tennessee on day 3.

First day made it over to Albuquerque, New Mexico without much problem. Generally this leg is where you’re going to find most of the bad weather this time of year due to the high elevations but aside from being cold the blue sky and sunshine at least mentality gave my confidence a boost I wasn’t totally crazy for being on the road on a motorcycle this time of the year. Next morning was cold but continued to be clear with temps starting out around 34 degrees and only managing into the low 50’s and high 40’s for most of the day. You have to remember when those weather guys predict a high temperature for a location it generally means it will reach that temp for at least a minute or two before heading back down so if you’re riding for 10+hours your temps will look nothing like the highs predicted so don’t be fooled and expect that temp all day.

Leaving Albuquerque on Tuesday this was my longest day as I wanted to get as close to the bad weather in the east as I could. There was a big cold wintery storm ahead of me and I was hoping it would continue to move east and I could come in behind it to sneak home the next day. Did 730 miles this day and it took me 13 1/2 hours of riding to get from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Fort Smith, Arkansas. Still clear skies but watching the weather news that evening I knew I was in for a rough time for the last leg into Dover, Tennessee on Wednesday. Apparently, what I didn’t count on was yet another winter storm dropping in quickly from Canada was heading straight down from Canada into the midwest and in particular Western Tennessee where Freezing Rain and icy conditions were predicted. Wonderful! (Nothin’easy - right Russ?) Figured I would just go to bed and get up in the morning and decide what to do.

As I arose for this last leg of the journey home it was overcast, windy and cold. I checked the weather again (I guess hoping what I had heard last night was all a bad dream). Unfortunately, it wasn’t and the outlook was anything but good for making it home on a bike. I figured I might as well get on the road anyway and go as far as I could. I figured if the conditions got to bad I would pull up and have to wait it out for a day or two more. Temp was around 38 degrees as I headed south and by the time I got to Little Rock it was starting to drizzle and occasionally light rain. Roads were manageable and I figured as long as the temps stayed above freezing I was going to continue to press homeward.

The Honda Goldwing has a temperature gage that tells your the outside temperature and I was keeping a close eye on it hoping it would not drop to freezing. I slowly plodded north to Memphis, Tennessee where the weather really started to get bad and I was questioning my own sanity. The temp continued to drop ... 36 degrees .... 34 degrees .... and finally it was 32 degrees as I reached to within 75 miles of being home. So close but yet so far away with these conditions. What to do? Even though the temp was 32 degrees and the light rain was starting to feel more like little ice pelts I plotted on anyway. The bike as still handling ok and I wasn’t experiencing any slippage although I was definitely babying it along and turning every so carefully following the car tracks of the cars ahead of me. I was now off the interstate which was even more distressing since I had no idea what the local roads were like. It dropped to 30 degrees and it stayed between 30 and 32 degrees for the remainder of the ride. As I neared to within 30 miles of home I was thinking Wow ... I’m really going to make it..... NOT to soon grasshopper I thought... This was going to be 30 miles I would never forget.

As I crossed over the Kentucky Lake bridge near my home on highway 79 I thought the worst was over. It wasn’t ... the more rural the road the more ice and snow spots that had not been treated and that was the case for Upper Standing Rock Road (the road I live on). This is a terrible road even under perfect conditions and here I was only miles from my home expecting to end up in a ditch any second. I did experience some slippage of the rear tire on several sections as I navigated along that icy road and I tell you there is no scary a feeling than that. Fortunately, the bike and I stayed upright although I’m not quite sure how I made it up and down some of those hills and tight turns on that road. The last obstacle was a gigantic hill leading up to my house and when I got to it I was thinking I shouldn’t try this but I took a deep breath and went for it anyway some how reaching the top and gently turning right and slowly rolled down the hill towards my garage. I parked the bike and took these pictures.

Frozen Ice on the windshield and snow welcomed me home.

Very next thing I did was to drop to my knees and gave a special prayer of thanks to the guy upstairs who obviously took pity on my stupidity and brought me home safely through unbelievable conditions no one should be out and about in ... let alone on a motorcycle. That was some of the most intense and challenging motorcycling riding I have ever done on the Goldwing ... or any motorcycle for that matter. I’ll be reflecting more on this experience on my blog in the coming days.

The odometer now reads 210,000 miles and she will probably be getting a well deserved break for the next couple of wintery months (Unless I get restless after being home for a few weeks and decide to head down to Key West in Florida on it). Even cold down there in Florida now with this crazy weather. This road trip could very well finish out my 2010 riding .... Can’t wait for Spring and next Summer 2011 to get here. I foresee a lot more riding next year with my first full year of retirement in full swing.

Take Care ...


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