Preparations and Day One by Dave Schultheis
These notes comprise a journal documenting a road trip by motorcycle from San Jose to the Washington, D.C. area; to York, PA.; to Dorchester, IL.; and back to San Jose. Good trips are planned but not overplanned, and there was some flexibility along the way. Good thing, too, because "stuff happens," and sure enough, stuff happened.
The motorcycle is a States Blue Pearl 1996 Harley-Davidson FLHR-I Electra Glide Road King with sequential port injection. At the time of this trip I had owned and ridden it for about 16 months and had put about 12,000 miles on it.
The plan was to ride down the middle of California on CA 99 and into the southwest on Interstate 10, to visit relatives in the Phoenix area, to go up to Flagstaff on Interstate 17 and then east on Interstate 40 to Albuquerque, then north on Interstate 25 to Santa Fé to visit relatives, then back to I-40 and across the country to Tennessee, then north on Interstate 81 to the Washington, D.C. area. I was hoping to attend the annual Rolling Thunder rally at The Wall (the Vietnam Veterans Memorial) in Washington.
I had planned two dealer stops for oil changes along the way, one in Albuquerque, NM and one in Mt. Vernon, IL.
I had planned to visit the Harley-Davidson Final Assembly Plant at York, Pennsylvania, then return to U.S. Highway 50 and ride it back across the country, stopping to visit friends along the way, including an "in real life" meeting of Internet motorcycle enthusiasts called Meet In The Middle, in Illinois.
I had also planned to take some photographs on the trip, specifically for the Harley Owners Group's ABCs of Touring, in which a rider earns one point for each city visited (A through Z), each county (A through Z) [there is no X county], and each state. Since some letters are harder to get than others, I had noted where certain ones could be found. For example: Xenia, IL was right on my route.
[There are also points for National Parks, National Forests, HOG rallies and more. See each year's January-February issue of HOG TALES for more details.]
When I first mention a highway, I typically use the official name ("Interstate 5," "U.S. Highway 101," "CA[lifornia] 99," then use "I-5" or "Hy 101" on future references.
Saturday, May 19, 2001 - the day before Day One
With hundreds of other local riders, I attended the first annual Santa Clara Valley Peace Officers' Memorial Run from the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office in San Jose to Bolado Park, the San Benito County Fairgrounds, south of Hollister.
After arriving at Bolado Park, I backtracked a couple miles to get a picture of the U.S. Post Office at Tres Pinos, then returned to the festivities.
A small group of friends left Bolado Park and rode to Livermore Harley-Davidson by way of CA 156, CA 152, Interstate 5, Interstate 580 and Interstate 680, and then back to the San Jose area.
At the end of the day I refueled the Road King and packed things in my T-Bag until approximately 11:00 p.m., when I went to bed.
Sunday, May 20, 2001 - San Jose, California
I was awake at 5:20 a.m., got up, dressed and combed, attached the T-Bag to the bike and left home at 6:15 a.m.
I was greeted with overcast and then some fog. Shortly after stopping for a "Gilroy City Limits" photograph, I was also greeted with an unscheduled stoppage on U.S. Highway 101 at 6th Street in Gilroy at 6:55 a.m.
The California Highway Patrol ("CHP") was helping Pacific Gas & Electric Company and California Department of Transportation ("Caltrans") crews who were moving some wires that crossed the freeway. The CHP stopped traffic in both directions during the operation, presumably so that if a wire fell, nobody would be injured. I lost about 15 minutes time.
East of Gilroy, sunshine broke through as I got into the Pacheco Pass area on CA 152. The drive through the pass was uneventful. I passed under Interstate 5 and continued east on Hy 152, got a "Los Banos City Limits" photograph, continued east on Hy 152 and then south on CA 99 through the great central valley.
I pulled off the freeway at Shaw Avenue in Fresno and stopped a few blocks east at Harley-Davidson of Fresno for some photographs at 9:05 a.m.
After refueling in Fowler, my next stop was Visalia Harley-Davidson at 9:50 a.m. Unfortunately, there is no "Visalia" sign on the building, and since it was early Sunday morning, the gates were closed and locked. No photograph.
While I was stopped, a rider named Mike (who lives in Bakersfield), stopped his red 2001 Road King, which he'd had for about 8 months, to check on me. I explained that I was heading south and he offered to guide me to Bakersfield.
Mike set a conservative pace as we rode south about 80 miles down Hy 99, including a brief porcelain break, then rode into Bakersfield on CA 204 to Chester Avenue to 18th Street to Thorp's Harley-Davidson (closed), where Mike took my picture in front of the dealership and then headed for home with my thanks.
I took advantage of being in the county seat of Kern County, and got pictures of city and county buildings, then out H Street to CA 58 and then south on Hy 99.
Hy 99 merges right onto southbound Interstate 5 as the roadway increases altitude to ascend The Grapevine. It's several lanes wide with room for motorcycles and cars and trucks. Fortunately it was not too full of trucks.
It's a long way down The Grapevine with lots to look at but if you don't keep your eyes on the road, you're in trouble. There's a place where the southbound lanes and the northbound lanes split apart but are reversed from where you think they ought to be. It's somewhat strange but, oh, so southern California.
My next stop was at a gas station in Castaic at 12:50 p.m. As I tried to get off the Road King, I realized that I was suffering from a case of S.B.S. ("sore butt syndrome"). This was my longest ride in the seventeen months that I'd had the bike, and the dismount was not a pretty sight.
While at the gas station I talked briefly with a H.O.G. member fueling his sport-utility vehicle and saw another H-D rider fueling his bike on the next island.
Back on I-5, I continued another half hour and then took Interstate 210 to the south and east. It's a long drive to Interstate 10, and I took another S.B.S. break at 2 p.m., in the parking lot of San Dimas High School, just off Covina Avenue off I-10.
There was a lot of traffic and it was plenty warm, so I took another short break at a rest area, then pressed on. My thoughts at the time were, "this is a long freeway," and "I'm nearly to Banning, keep going."
My next stop was at the CHP office in Indio, just off the freeway, at 3:50 p.m., where I took a photograph and walked around in the heat. Unfortunately the building location is not on the sign, so it won't count. But I did get an Indio city limits sign just down the freeway.
At 4:00 p.m. I stopped for fuel at Indio, and while rehydrating I met a group of four riders who were on their way back from a charitable ride in Torrance, CA. They were planning to ride all the way to Phoenix, AZ that evening.
Cliff was on a Gold Wing, Dave was on a Yamaha (?), Fred was on a Honda Magna and Dennis was on a Gold Wing.
They said that it was only another 97 miles to Blythe, CA and there was a great buffet restaurant at a truck stop just east of there. And I was invited. So I followed.
It was a long, hot, and tiring 97 miles. Just a couple miles beyond the Blythe turnoff we stopped at the Flying J truck stop and pulled into "The Cookery" Restaurant at 5:55 p.m. We were in Ehrenberg, Arizona, just across the river from California, something over 140 miles from Phoenix.
It was a great dinner with good company and excellent motorcycle stories. While some of them went to the bathroom and others went outside to smoke, I took the opportunity and paid the dinner bill. [You never know when you might need a friend in Phoenix.]
The group got back on their bikes and continued to Phoenix with my best wishes. I rode across the parking lot and took a room at the Best Western. It was $44.95 but I could park the Road King right outside the window, plus they had a continental breakfast starting at 6 a.m.
I checked in at 7:20 p.m., unpacked the T-Bag and stowed it in the room, then went out to get photographs of the "Arizona" and "California" signs (had to go back across the bridge and return), then walked across the parking lot to the convenience store to get some juice and Mountain Dew for the next morning.
I was pleased that Sprint PCS had coverage in the motel room, so I checked voice mail and called my family to tell them how far I'd gotten.
Miles for the day = 608. Quite a long, hot day.
Tomorrow: more of sunny and warm Arizona, and my first unscheduled problem.