June 19th, 20th & 21st

June 19th

Left Show Low early because I didn’t realize the time had changed. I was up around 5:45 which was really 4:45AM. Since I was up in the mountains at 5,000′ + the air was cool and the sky was crystal clear. The route I decided on was through the National Forest, which again was beautiful. I stopped at a local bait/restaurant/general store and the guy behind the counter told me about a bear that was in their parking lot yesterday and the cougar that one of the locals bagged a few weeks ago. As I stated in my previous emails, I really like being at the top of the food chain vs. in the middle. So it didn’t take me long to mount up and take off. After cresting the mountain, the decent was inspiring. The only problem was that I couldn’t get off the bike to take pictures because I was on a downhill lie and I couldn’t secure the bike. The temperatures stayed moderate all the way to Payson, AZ where I could catch Rt. 87 south into Phoenix.

As soon as I got on Rt. 87 the road was graded at a 6-7% downhill slope and the temps immediately started to skyrocket. WIthin minutes, the temps went from mid 80’s to close to 95-100 degrees. I had forgotten to wet down my vest, so I found a small side road where I thought I saw some shade. Once I pulled onto the road I saw two cars off to the side with two young guys just talking. I pulled past them to turn onto a sloped driveway to access the shade, but it was gated. Then I decided to flip a U-turn. As I was making the U-turn, I looked back to the left and caught a glimpse of a car traveling at 30MPH and pulling around their two parked cars. I immediately hit the front brake which caused the bike to buck to the right. With the downhill slope I couldn’t brace the weight change with my right foot and the bike and I took a spill. The good new is I was fully geared up and my gloves, riding suit and boots took the impact. After I realized I was OK I jumped up and went to the bike to turn it off. I then assessed the situation in order to right the bike. Because the bike was on an incline it was at a 120 degree slant. There was no way I was going to be able to right the bike. In the meantime the two guys, which were no more than 20′ away were watching this unfold and never took one step towards me to help out. Not until I turned to them, raised my hands and said “can I get a little help” did they come over. I found it amazing that two adults could watch an accident happen 20′ from them and not have the brains to offer assistance. I guess the lesson I learned is, just because there are people around don’t expect to get help.

The accident reinforced the motorcycle acronym of ATGATT, which stands for “All The Gear All The Time”. If I didn’t have my riding gear on, I am sure I would have suffered some form of “road rash”. Because I was wearing the proper clothing, I only walked away with a new sense of respect for how quickly things can happen on a motorcycle.

I pulled into Phoenix and went to my friend and former riding buddy, Steve Bensman’s home. While we waited out the afternoon heat, we were able to catch up on the past. His son, Jason was staying with him and it gave me a good opportunity to get to know him better. The last time I saw Jason was many years ago, now he is an old and wiser man of 16 and a new driver! That evening Steve helped me do a quick repair to the highway peg that was damaged in the spill. A few twists of an allen wrenches and the bike was back to new, less the scrapes. Now the bike has some battle scars that can be claimed on this adventure.

June 20th

Today was a day slated to get things done for the trip. I needed to get my panniers repaired, ship my duffle bag that contains my camping gear, and get my Magellan GPS fixed. I had set up an appointment with Alissa at Jesse Luggage for the morning. Upon arriving I asked her if she knew where Fed Ex was located. She asked why and I told her about my need to send the bag onto Seattle. She immediately said to leave it with her because they use UPS so much that they could take care of it, at their corporate shipping rates!! Nothing like killing two birds with one stone. The best part was I didn’t need to get lost looking for Fed Ex and filling out paperwork, etc. which would have wasted an hour or so. They pulled off both bags and did a complete maintenance update on them. While the bags were being worked on I told her about the trip and our plans to go up the coast to Seattle, Washington. She immediately told me that she grew up in Oregon and gave me places to see, things to do and an ice cream shop in Tillamook, Oregon that I must go to. You just gotta love traveling and getting the inside scoop (pun intended) when meeting people like those at Jesse Luggage. It makes the trip.

On the way back from my errands I hit triple digits….temperature that is. The heat was so intense that it was cooler for me to ride with my helmet face shield in the down position than to have it opened and get the fresh air into the helmet. As Alissa said, it is like holding a hair blower in front of your face! I was back at Steve’s house around 1PM and we stayed inside until dinner time. I guess it is no different than January in Chicago, when we wouldn’t go outside in 10 degree weather to hang out. They don’t venture out in June, July and August.

Based upon the intense heat predicted for Friday June 21st, Steve suggested I get an early start to the day, 4AM! He said that by 10AM the heat is already building and I will be crossing the AZ and CA desert. Based upon his recommendation and my experiences with this unfamiliar heat I went to bed early and got up at 3:30AM the next day.

June 21st

It’s dark at 4AM!! I snuck out of the house without waking them up at 4AM and headed over to I-10 West to LA. You just can’t believe the number of people out at that hour, where are they all going? As Steve promised the temps were very comfortable and I was able to make good time heading into the desert. I thought I would be all alone on the highway but I was wrong! There were trucks everywhere heading west. I’ve always heard the desert gets cool at night but didn’t realize how much the temps drop. About 45 minutes into my ride I needed to pull over to put on a windbreaker under my ventilated riding jacket. As I rode into the desert I paid particular attention to my gas situation and filled up when I hit 1/2 tank. There was only one time that I got to 1/4 of a tank with no gas stations in sight. I actually pulled off the highway at what was once a town, but is now deserted. There was one guy on the side of the road who was towing a boat and he told me that the next station is 20-30 miles to the west. I figured I had at least 70 miles of fuel so I was comfortable getting back onto I-10. I figured that even if I did run out of gas, I was better off on I-10 with a million trucks and cars. Just as he promised a Chevron Oasis appeared and I was able to refuel both bike and body, particularly with leaded coffee.

At this fuel stop, I realized that I was just a couple of miles away from the entrance to Joshua Tree National Park. Since I had made great time and the heat wasn’t so bad, based on the altitude of the area I decided to see what the park had to offer. The park is 30+/- mile driving loop that takes you through some of the most magnificent rock formations and cactus. Joshua Tree is located in the Pinto Mountains. In the 1930’s Minerva Hoyt, a community activist and desert lover persuaded President Roosevelt to proclaim Joshua Tree National Monument in 1936. In 1994 it was renamed to Joshua Tree National Park. The park is 794,000 acres and nearly three quarter of it is designated wilderness where the Mojave and Colorado deserts converge. It takes about 2 hours to drive the park and take pictures. I chose not to do any hiking, since I was in riding gear and have an intense fear of rattle snake and scorpions. You gotta pick your battles!

Once out of the park you end up in Yucca, CA. From there I rode to Redlands, CA to stay with Howard and Sue Zelener and their daughter Alex. I pulled in at around 2PM and settled in. Howard needed to run some errands because he coaches his daughter’s fast pitch softball team. When I say that he coaches that really doesn’t describe his intense love for the game or his team. He is fanatical to the point of recreating Billy Bean’s statistical analysis logarithms for the team.

Prior to dinner, Sue suggested we take a walk around the neighborhood while Howard filled out his lineup for tomorrow’s game. Before setting out for the walk she poured us two large glasses of wine for our trek. Only in California can you combine drinking good wine and exercise. Isn’t the west coast wonderful!! On our walk she showed me the local Mormon Temple (see photo, with wine glass, 1/4 full). I was told that the angel on the top of the building is Moroni and that he is presenting the golden calf to Joe Smith Jr., the founder who translated the plates into the Book of Mormon.

Observations from the Road:

I have now been traveling since May 28th (26 days) the back roads of our country from Chicago to Key West and from Key West to San Diego. I would like to share what I have noticed along the way. If you are thinking of your next investment, forget about Google, Microsoft, GM or any of those companies. I can, without question, state that the future of our country and the growth industry in the America is firmly entrenched in the following industries: fast food, tattoo parlors, liquor stores and gun/bait shops. Whenever I cruised into a city/town I couldn’t hit the first stop light (assuming they had one) or stop sign without seeing one of those for industries represented.

I am not sure how you are going to invest for the future, but I plan on developing a “kick ass” tattoo that I can patent and sell in every town across America!


Charles “Goode” Kuralt, for those old enough to remember him

Steve Bensman and me


At Joshua Tree National Park


At Joshua Tree National Park


Vista at Joshua Tree


Picture of Cholla Cactus at Joshua Tree Park


An actual Joshua Tree!!


Howard, Sue and I


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4 Responses to June 19th, 20th & 21st

  1. Julie Webb says:

    Spectacular views and stories! I just finished listening to Bob Seger (my dishwashing music of choice these days 🙂 ; when I heard “Roll Me Away” , of course I thought of you and Judi. What an incredible adventure to share with your life partner–I admire you both as individuals, and as a a vibrant couple. Safe travels!

  2. Michael Svoboda says:


    Just fabulous…..great reading. I hope to follow your path when I am more experienced.
    Absolutely fascinating…thought of writing for National GEO or HOG? Maybe BMW works for NG…maybe not for HOG

  3. Tim Gallagher says:

    Steve, are you on a bike or a Jet?? I can’t believe how much you have done, and how much ground you have covered already!!! Keep the blogg rolling. I feel like I’m right there with you. Great work!!

  4. Alycia says:

    What an amazing adventure…

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