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October 2013 Club News

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Route 66, 2012

Trudy’s version with a little help from Chester

The number 66 on the road says it all.Joplin is a small city by American standards and there was not much to see from where we were staying. Last year a big tornado went through the city and district. 130 people were killed and there was heaps of damage.  You can still see areas that have yet to be cleared away. We didn’t venture too far for dinner tonight, finding an Italian restaurant  only a short stroll from hotel and then turned in early,

DAY 4
Oklahoma here we come. Just over 400 kms. First stop today the Kansas-Missouri border. Then it was on for 13 miles through and out of Kansas into Oklahoma. So if you blinked you missed it. We noticed a change in countryside as the farms had more fences and more cattle. We were now in Indian Territory. The town and street names were quite a mouthful, but we didn’t see any feathers or tomahawks. The Russians expected the locals to be wearing lap-laps and carrying bows and arrows.

Our main stop this morning was in Miami Oklahoma, where LaLa introduces us to members of the local chapter of BACA. (Bikers Against Child Abuse)  One of the members owns the local biker shop with heaps of bike clothes. Really cheap! The Brazilians got here first but we still got a few bargains. There was a fantastic museum attached with lots of old bikes and memorabilia about people like Evel Knievel and the Fastest Indian.

A special highlight was when half a dozen of the BACA crew joined us and escorted us out of town for about 20 miles. Both tour groups joined for this. The BACA mob would block the side roads (even a cop car) and send us through, then ride on to the next intersection and so on. They looked quite rough with all the gear and chains. I asked them what they did for a living apart from the bikes. They were plumbers and builders. They just loved playing the part of the tough bikers. A nice group of people.

Back on the road and into Tulsa. I think this place has the world’s biggest Harley shop. It was huge. We dined at the “5 & Diner” next door. It was just like in the movies with the juke box and staff in skirts with bobby socks. Chrome everywhere and lots of photos of years gone by. Pretty good tucker too. It was here that LaLa met a local biker who was really keen to talk about the town and its sights. He ended up taking our group on a detour to see a train museum that was being set up. There was going to be a Route 66 display as well.

It was a long drive from Tulsa to Oklahoma City. One of our riders, Ed, got pulled over by a local cop for going through a stop sign. One of our early lessons was about how we crossed an intersection as a group. We were supposed to all pull up behind the leader and then move as one across the road. The drivers were usually pretty understanding and stopped to let us all through. On this day, Ed let a bit of a gap form between the riders and that was it, the cop pulled him over. Ty was in the truck behind and started to get out of the vehicle when the cop turned to him and just said “Get back in the car”, so he did. Luckily Ed being a local was able to talk the cop out of taking it further. It shook a few of us up as the cop had been quite threatening.

Chester wondering why he wasn't invited to drink the
          bottles.We all stopped at the giant Soda bottle to wait for Ed and Ty to catch up. This was supposed to be a refreshment stop. Usually it is a lot hotter in this area by at least 20 degrees. LaLa was a bit concerned with the weather as the wind often starts up in the afternoon and the roads are very open from here to OK City. So the vote was taken to pass on the soda and head straight in to town. As we got closer to OK, the traffic became worse. People were coming from everywhere. Road works added to the problem and it was bumper to bumper for miles. We finally arrived at our hotel The Courtyard by Marriott. Pretty flash. It was alongside the Chesapeake Arena and the baseball stadium.

As we pulled in to the car park we saw half a dozen big prime movers with trailers parked at the hotel. They were decorated with giant pictures of the stars from Wrestle Mania, the equivalent of our World Championship Wrestling. There was a “performance” in the arena tonight and also a big baseball game. Hence all the traffic. When we set off in the morning all the trucks were gone. Probably left straight after the show.

For tea we went for a wander to Brick City. It is an area for dining and entertainment. It was Mexican tonight and we shared a tasting plate for 2 that would have fed four easy. On the walk back to the hotel over the canal we danced in the street to music from a live local band in a cantina.

DAY 5
Early start again today heading for Amarillo, Texas. About 400kms. First stop this day was at the Cherokee Trading Post. The craftwork and gifts were amazing. We looked and admired it all, but where could we put it? Oh for a larger suitcase. Then it was on to the Route 66 Museum in Clinton Oklahoma. This was another fantastic stop. There is so much memorabilia displayed all along the route. We are really seeing the signs now of the Indian country. Our stop at Elk City was to have lunch at the Western Sizzlin. Huge buffet and it was yum!

The ride from here was on a lot of old road. It was pretty rough in places with lots of ruins of motels, garages and homes. Quite sad really seeing how people had just walked away from all they had owned. Our stop at the barbed wire museum (Devil’s Rope) was amazing. We saw so many sorts types of wire displayed really well with all the history. Australian wire even had a mention. There were also displays on farming with cattle horns everywhere.

The Ambassador Hotel was our stop in Amarillo, Texas. A special event was to dine at the Big Texan. We were picked up from the motel by a retired cowboy driving a huge limo that was sporting a decent set of horns on the bonnet. The cow’dy gave a good talk about the history of the place. All the drivers are volunteers and retirees. We arrived at the restaurant with the giant cowboy boot out front and went in to meet the whole crew seated at really long tables.

Trudy and Chester at the Hard Rock Cafe.It was done up in the old western theme with wooden balconies and stuffed animals on most of the walls. The menu was a giant $100 bill and everything is BIG. This is where you can order the 72oz steak. If you can eat with all the sides within an hour, you can have it for free. You sit upon a small stage in front of everyone. A bucket comes with the meal in case you don’t make it. Apparently some guy attempted the feat just before we arrived. Sadly he did not succeed. The record is 8minutes and 52 seconds.

It was at the Big Texan that disaster struck. Chester stood to tell everyone to pose for a photo from the balcony and almost went down as his knee gave way. He was in real trouble and obviously in a lot of pain. The Russians had to carry him out to the car and we headed back to the motel to start treatment. Trudy organised some ice from the vending machine and got out what drugs she had to doctor the injured man. While doing this she was wondering what was going to happen for the rest of the trip. Chester had been having a bit of trouble with his knee before we left home. He had been keeping up with the Celebrex and that allowed him to keep riding. Now the drugs were running out and there was a long way to go. There was no way he would be fit to ride the next day. Panic set in for Trudy. What are we going to do?

DAY 6
First thing in the morning, Trudy went downstairs to see the tour leaders to let them know what troubles we were having. It was decided that Chester should not attempt to ride that day and as the next day was a planned rest day, we could re-assess the situation then.

By this stage of the bike tour there had been a few problems with some of the bikes. Each group had a spare bike, but they were all in use. One Brazilian woman had lost her keys and another had a second flat tyre. Repairs had been planned to be carried out in Santa Fe, the next stop. So here we were with another spare bike and no room on the trailers. So we organised one of the Russians to ride Chester’s bike as he had the flat and Chester took his spot in the support vehicle. Trudy got on the back of the only Goldwing on our tour, sitting behind one of the Aussies. So all day Chester lay back on the seat with the beer esky… and used the ice on his leg.

Trudy’s day was so different to those behind Chester. She really missed the talking and Chester’s consideration when going over rough roads. But at least she can say she rode the whole way.

It was getting warmer now as we approached Santa Fe. The countryside was so like central Australia. It reminded us so much of Coober Pedy and the Breakaways and the Nullarbor. When we came to the New Mexico border it was amazing. You are riding along the flat bare country and all of a sudden the land just drops away to more flat bare country. There were ranges to the right and left and the road stretching out forever.

It was along this road that we stopped at the Cadillac Ranch. You may have heard about this place. A dozen Cadillacs are stuck in a row with their noses buried. All around were empty or almost empty spray paint cans left over from the graffiti works on the cars. Trudy found a can with a bit of paint and managed to put her initials on the flanks of one. Chester saw it from a distance.

Riding on we came to Mid Point, the official midway point of Old Route 66. This was not the halfway point of our trip, as we were doing a few side trips. It was at Mid Point that we met Flo. She was one of the characters from the “Cars” movie. The character was based on a real waitress. She now runs a small souvenir shop in a two-shop town.

Back on the road, we headed for a real ghost town. Several motels and a garage all closed down. We walked through the ruins and could see nature taking over pretty fast. It was really red dirt like central Australia, but we waited to hear the sound of a rattle snake though we got to see some of their pretty big spiders.

Next stop was Tucumcari. An Indian town with tourist tepees and lots of motels. One of the old ones (The Blue Swallow) is being done up and looks fantastic. In the old days, each unit had its own lock up car port. They are now open with all sorts of murals painted in them.

The winds started to get quite strong here. It was really pulling at the helmets. It felt like our heads would be pulled off. The temperature was rising too 91 F. Because we were in Indian country, there were restrictions on the sale of booze. So we stopped at a small servo to get some beer for the sun-downer.

Santa Fe was not far away when we pulled into the ruins of an old Spanish church at Pecos. It was built in the 1600’s. It stood on the top of a hill with commanding views of the countryside. This was quite moving and interesting.

It was in Santa Fe as we were riding into the city that we had our first big split up. We had to wind our way through lots of turns and traffic lights. Some street rules threw us a bit too, but we eventually made it to the hotel in one group. Santa Fe has been kept in the old adobe style with dark timbers and brown stucco walls. The streets away from the traffic are narrow and the buildings don’t go over two stories. Our hotel was quite old and very Spanish. It was not far from the main Plaza where lots of locals and tourists gather.

Chester
          taking it easy. By the time we got to the motel, Chester had rested very well. His leg seemed a little better. We got up to the room fairly quickly and after a brief rest wandered down to the Plaza to have tea. We planned to do some sightseeing tomorrow if Chester was feeling better.

DAY 7
Laundry day had arrived. Trudy went with the American couple to have the washing done. They charge you by the pound to do it for you. It was only about $12 to get it all done. Great! Then Trudy got to see the biggest pharmacy she had ever seen. She was not impressed with the service, but managed to get a few supplies to help Chester along. Back at the hotel Chester was resting and getting ready to stroll about town a bit. His knee had improved remarkably. We think a bone fragment had been working its way off from the bone and had finally come away. Once that happened the knee seemed to settle.

We kept up all the treatment and did not push him too hard for the rest of the day. A stroll to the Plaza led us to the local hawkers peddling their beautiful pieces made from the local stone. We caught a ride on a local tour bus to see the city. It is funny how their timetables work. The buses leave when the driver is ready, irrespective of what time it is due to leave.

The old cathedral was spectacular and it was near here that we came across the old chapel with the mysterious staircase. The story goes that the nuns had no way to get to the choir loft and they prayed for a solution to their problem. Well along came a stranger who was a carpenter. He offered to build the staircase and did it using the old techniques (no nails or glue). Then once it was built, he disappeared. He didn’t wait to be paid, he just left. The strange part to the story is that no one knows how the staircase stands. It has no supports and just seems to hang there. We had lunch around the corner with a group from the tour. A lovely day to really relax.

Tea that night was an experience. There were about 8 of us. We went to a restaurant quite close to the hotel. Now the “rules” with tipping require you to pay a 22% fee if your party is more than 6. So when we started having problem with poor drink service, we thought that the staff had decided to slack off, because the tip was guaranteed. It went from bad to worse. Missing orders and doubling up of others. Grumbling waiters and just generally poor service. Well you can imagine we were not happy to pay the tip.

Our American friend was amazing. She complained to the manager and after a lengthy explanation of our grievances he removed the tip and gave us a free dessert. He hoped that we would be back later in our stay. Not very likely…. we were leaving in the morning.

Chester had a talk to the tour leaders about riding the next day. All the bikes had been fixed while we were in town and they suggested that Chester change bike to a Harley Soft Tail. It is a lot lower bike, and although not as comfortable for Trudy, it would be a lot better for Chester. They were right on with that. Riding was a lot better from here on.

DAY 8
Today we rode a part of the Turquoise Trail that follows Route 66. It was going to be a long ride to Gallup. It was getting warmer.

This morning we had a special treat. LaLa seems to know so many people, she is always chatting to the locals. It was one of these chats that led her to meeting a ranch owner who owns and runs a movie ranch.

Movie set - Main Street.We were invited to go out to the ranch. A movie was in production, so there were some restrictions on where we could go. There was a mock-up of a main street of an old west town. Filming had gone on late the night before and all was a bit quiet. Instead of strolling into the bar (out of bounds), we wandered over to the old church - so typical of many films and the cemetery too.

The ranch was used in movies dating back to the 1960’s. Gene Kelly and John Wayne had been involved in movies that were made here. It used to be 2000 acres, but now it is only about 135 acres. Movies like Silverado, Wyatt Earp, The Young Ones, Wild Hoggs and Smokin Joe were filmed here.

Maggie’s Diner - Madrid Wild Hogs.From here we rode on to Madrid and called in to Maggie’s Diner from the movie Wild Hoggs. It is a funny little place that has been taken over by tourism since the movie came out. The diner is now full of souvenirs and of course we bought another T-shirt. We will have to watch the movie again to see if we recognise the places.

Overlooking
          Sky City.There was no time to stop at Albuquerque, so we rode the outskirts and headed for Acoma Sky City for lunch. This was the first of the Indian Casinos that we saw. They are huge and stuck in the middle of nowhere. It was just near here that we crossed a section of desert and came to the foothills of Old Sky City.

The Indians have a pueblo (village) built on top of the table mountains. Here also we witnessed the US air force refuelling a helicopter from a huge fixed wing aircraft.  The whole area was amazing to see. Everything here is so big. You can see why the Americans brag about their country.

More desert and more Indian country. We stopped at a trading post that stood on the continental divide. It at this point that water flows both ways. Back-tracking a bit we headed for Gallup through some beautiful peaceful country. The local Indians have small holdings often with small adobe houses attached to the main houses.

There is not a lot to see in Gallup. We were all pretty tired so we decided to eat at the hotel. El Rancho was its name. A big white Spanish style building. It was quite dark inside. The walls were covered with hundreds of autographed pictures of all the old movie stars who have stayed there. We actually recognised a few.

Each room was named after a celebrity. Ours was Paulette Goddard. The Aussie blokes had Errol Flynn. Chester’s knee seems to be a lot better now. What with all the ice packs and hot baths and Trudy running around kicking the bike stand up or putting it down, we got on top of the problem.

DAY 10
Tour group at
          the Grand Canyon.Today we see the Grand Canyon. So it was ride - and ride fast as it was a long way to Flagstaff. But before the GC we visited the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert. Wow! This was amazing. We got delayed by a road crash at the freeway turnoff. We had to ride on for miles and then turn back to make the entrance from the other side.

Driving into the national park you see the odd big dark rock, not realising that they are parts of trees. LaLa sent us all on our first free ride. No chance of getting lost she reckoned. We had an hour to do the grand tour. There were spectacular views of the desert with all colours mixing in the sweeping sands. Some areas were covered with petrified logs. Huge trees that had fallen en masse and froze where they lay, turning into hard rock. We were really impressed with this spectacle.

We had to be at the Grand Canyon by 3.30 as the last helicopter flight left at 4. Not everyone wanted to fly, so the two groups were mixed together and split in two again. Those flying, rode hard and fast and up and up on our way to Flagstaff. We were at 8046 ft. We drove past Winslow, Arizona which is mentioned in a line from the Eagles song “Take it easy”. No time to stop.

We arrived at the airport just in time for the weigh-in. yes that’s right. We all got weighed and then got paired with others according to how heavy we were. Even to the detail of what seat we sat in.

Well we can tell you now… The Grand Canyon is BIG. Really BIG. As we flew away from the heliport, we were over forests and could not see much else. Then the land dropped away and there it was. Wow. It is so hard to describe. The canyon seemed to go on forever. The Colorado River runs through for over 280 miles. You could see specks down in the valley that were camp-sites and bridges.

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