By Bryan Rogers
Isle of Man to Baja – Touring America on Honda’s clutchless NC750
Day 1, Wednesday
It’s always on the morning of a trip like this that I wake up fidgety!
Have I done this?
Have I done that?
Just do this….
Just do that…
If I did forget anything, worrying won’t change fortune…
A short time later I’m sat here in the departure lounge on the first leg of my journey, one beer down and an hours delay.. The pilot is on his way. Although some folks don’t look happy, it’s my holiday, and I just want to get going.
If it wasn’t for the zombifying effects of today’s electronic devices, and the alarm tweaking on the coffee shop grill, I think boredom would creep in.
People watching is always a fun pass time. Looking around the lounge, I wonder what all these people have going on in their lives? But as a good friend of mine once said…. NMFP!
Day 2, Thursday
Made it to Manchester last night, A little late but no real drama. I was relieved though,But I will miss being on the rock for a while. I guess that’s nerves, or excitement, I don’t know… Hale, and the hotel was quite easy to find. Well with the taxi drivers Sat Nav anyway. But looking around, I get the impression that both me and the hotel were a little ‘tired’
Last nights stroll around what I guess was a nice little village, now just a suburb of Manchester, was relaxing… That was after checking in and kicking off the bike boots along with my other bike gear which I’m wearing to cut down on luggage. Pizza and beer was all I needed to settle and waking this morning without an alarm. Roll on the Virgin jet and the promised land…
Until then, I best check out and grab that taxi to terminal 2.
Day 3, Friday
Wow, what a sleep!
I woke at 1am, however the body clock thought it was 6am!
The flight was ok, however having the seat next to the loo didn’t help with any peace! No drama, and an easy transfer onto the Killeen Texas flight, where my friends and hosts would be waiting. The smaller plane and window seat left me wishing i had my camera handy, the flight was chasing the most spectacular sunset.
On this trip I’m staying with some old friends, Dan and Tammy Moody, with Dan doing the honors of riding buddy and guide while Tammy has selflessly donated her bike to me for my US tour. I have never been made to feel more welcome than in the Moody household, even Winston the dog greeted me with his rope. My first day was quick to pass, with a tour of the local sights and bike shops. Taking a detour into a massive Camping and Outdoor store, tents, guns and crossbows, this place has anything you can imagine for a bike camping trip. What else could we need apart from lunch at a nice little Korean cafe. Whatever the soup was? mmmm! To top it all off, we spent the rest of the day letting me acclimatise to the time change, idle chit chat and a little map reading over a beer.
Day 4, Saturday.
A most pleasant day…
It’s amazing how a body clock can adjust with a good night’s sleep, even though Dan did let the 4 crazy dogs in to wake me! Mick the Boston terrier’s nose under the armpit will always do the trick.
Today was going to be the first ride on the bike, and an enlightening experience. Very impressed with Honda’s DCT gearbox, I now know why Tammy calls him Scooter! I can see this trip being a fun ride…
Day 5, Sunday.
Sunday was a lazy start,coffees on the patio then breakfast at ‘The Dead Fish Grill’. Thankfully October here is not jumper and scarf season, good job i listened to Dan before packing!
Back at the ranch, it was time to sort through the final packing, under the watchful eye of princess Gaia, on of the dogs! Wash kits and spares/tools, not so easy on someone else’s machine. Both Dan and I are used to packing for one so it was all done in no time. After a brief run through of the first aid kit, EpiPen and snake bite kit, and, as i was to find out later, the all important anti squits tablets!
It was time to hit the hot tub and sure enough, the same reaction to the Texan sun as last year! Lobster Bryan! I guess I’m more delicate than i thought.
This led to an early night and a full belly, Dan mastering the BBQ like a king! 08:30 start tomorrow, Dan has the SatNav and I’m riding tailgunner!
Day 6, Monday.
Leaving this early, we miss the traffic, having 490 miles on the cards today. Dan sets the pace and the road passes by quickly.
Lunch Break broke the monotony of the interstate, mile after mile of west Texan nothingness.The tarmac disappearing over the horizon, trails of terracotta dirt spurring of left and right into the distance. Some to ranches, some to anywhere and nowhere. All was going fine until I ran out of fuel, both of the previous tanks covered 150 miles each! But I guess with a strong headwind needing 5th gear and a full throttle this meant sputtering to a halt 10 miles short of Roswell and our camp for the night.
Thankfully Dan, being organised, was carrying a full bottle on the bike so we didn’t loose much time. With a quick refuel in the town and a retracing of my foolishness, we entered the campground at Bottomless Lake National Park. So called because it’s fed by an underground waterflow, starting in the mountains over 70 miles away, a little out of place, sat in the New Mexico desert.That day’s lunch of fried chicken served us well, feeling the need for nothing more before climbing into the hammocks for the night. The early hours of the morning had me rudely awaken by some ungrateful git rattling the trash cans on the site! Damn Raccoons!!!!!!
Day 7, Tuesday.Breaking camp at first light, and finding the welcoming showers. Water warm enough to rinse of the desert dust that was blowing up last night. We headed off into Roswell, and damn these cafes are good, biscuits and gravy at the Country Cowboy. Served with coffee that could fuel a truck!
Whilst we were here it would be rude not to do the museum, replicas of the alien artefacts and copies of top secret documents, interpretations of what people saw.It’s well presented and informative, but they know how to cater to the tourists! Alien toilet paper anyone? The trip to Santa Fe was again mind numbing west Texan nothingness, only broken by unpredictable side winds. Just enough to keep you on your toes. We turned off the interstate, Dan riding from memory and trying to play with the SatNavs mind, we turned off onto some nice twisties.
Following an old and well used local road that gave the impression that it was responsible for carving the valley, not the river that it followed down below. I got a little confused at one point as we passed through what resembled Spanish villages and old impressive churches. So out of place. Lunch in Santa Fe was a late affair, hunting round for ‘Marias’, a must stop place if you’re in town!
Fed, feeling fat and happy, with another 60 mile left for today. It was a relief to get off the bikes, tonight’s resting place, Juniper campgrounds in the Carson National Forest above Los Alamos.
With a brew on the go and hammocks up, we sat in silence. Watching the sunset and listening to the wolves, howling in the hills!
Day 8, Wednesday.
Los Alamos – Alamosa – Durango, that is the plan for today…
Waiting in the woods for the sun to warm us surrounded by the smell of the trees and songs of the birds, what a way to start a day. It was yet another blissful night’s sleep thanks to the gentle breeze swaying the hammock.
We headed of into the town of White Rock following our noses. The aromas emanating from the ‘Pig and Fig’ told us that breakfast would be good ten onto Los Alamos, or Atomic City, as it’s known. Definitely high on security and intellect, for it was here the “Manhattan Project” built the A bomb!After a few days in New Mexico, Colorado definitely has a different feel. Rolling hills and snow capped mountains, separated by lush green hills.
The ride was amazing, as later in the day we made it to a famous stretch of road, Wolf Creek Pass.
With the edges of the road marked by snow poles and a summit over 8000ft. You wouldn’t want to tackle this in winter. Constantly battling between watching the ever more impressive scenery, and watching where I was going! Stopping at one of the overlooks, to admire the views and grab a few pictures, we knew we shouldn’t stay too long after spotting the largest and freshest bear poo ever!
I’m sure it was still warm. At the bottom of the pass we stopped for food in the little old picture postcard town of Pagosa Springs.
Quaint and friendly, but knowing we had to push on… definitely stop there longer in future.
Durango, the last stop of the day. We eventually found the KOA campsite after seeing the sign but not the road to it. We checked in and then hit Walmart for supplies, firewood and beers! With the embers of the fire dying, time for sleep. With no trees for the hammocks, it was the picnic table for me.
Laying there, I didn’t mind as it gave me the best view of the stars I could ever dream of.
Day 9, Thursday.
Last night must have been a cold one! But I didn’t fall off the table! Waking to find frost on the seat on the bike and a jacket like cardboard! We didn’t take long to pack.. after a brew of course.
We had a plan for the morning – The Durango to Silverton railway! As it leaves once a day we didn’t want to miss the impressive old steam loco.
Thank God for McDonald’s nearby, boy it was chilly in the hills. After breakfast and a nasty coffee we headed out of town. The real surprise of the day, and ancient American history, was a trip into the Mesa Verde National Park.
Words can not describe this place. After driving the 15 miles for the entrance, the the access road winding up and over the hills that surround the plateau we eventually came across the cave dwellings. Tucked down in the ravines and hidden from the world these were once the homes of ancient residents of this land… well before white man found it!
What fascinated us was the fact that most of them had no way in or out. Above ground, remains had been excavated of some of the ‘Pit Houses’ These are semi submerged in the earth, with pits dug down to protect the food and livestock from what would be oppressive heat in the summer months.
Leaving the park left us with more questions, mainly, where did they go! Riding on that day, we finished the night in Monument Valley, a littler later than planned but… at least I had another table to sleep on.
Day 10, Friday.
Sleeping like a baby on a picnic table, in temperatures hovering just above freezing must have agreed with me. I woke to the sunrise over Monument Valley. Watching the rocks change from the black of night to the deep reds and terracotta that gives the area it’s earthy feel!
Breakfast was in a nice little cafe, about half an hour down the road, McDonald’s was next door but always nice to eat where the locals go, and darn, were we the only white faces in there! A brisk ride took us through the barron Arizona deserts to the south rim of the Grand Canyon! Stopping for fuel we watched as the mandatory stray dog slept in the sun between the pumps, begrudgingly moving whenever a car pulled up!The south rim, is unbelievably spectacular, but a lot more touristy than the north rim that I visited last year! Amazingly you could fit the Isle of Man in there without it touching the sides! Marvelling at the millennia of erosion that carved it! Exposing the different coloured layers of rock.
After killing a little time, between watching Dan feed the squirrel, picky bugger liked the nuts and raisins but not the m&m’s! And of course the Japanese tourists with the obligatory selfie sticks it felt like time to move on. Leaving there we have headed south west towards Flagstaff, stopping 10 miles short and heading up into the forests and wild camping. We have fire, hammocks and a belly full of wine! Bliss, nice and quiet as the wood crackles and we listen to the wolves in the distance.
Caveman TV, and music from the iPods…
Day 11, Saturday.
Wild camping at its best! 8000ft above sea level and in the spruce treasure!
The pungent smell of the trees hanging in the mist. Last nights wine certainty went down well, although Dan did blame his sore head on the altitude.
The forecasted weather wasn’t as we expected and it has to have been the warmest night so far. Pretty quick decamp and then down the bumpy dirt track back to civilisation, on the hunt for breakfast. In town we could smell the cafe before we saw it. Having to wait for a table so I guess it should be good! Chilaquiles at MartAnne’s!
A steady old ride followed over to Phoenix Arizona, stopping at a bike shop on route to Dan’s sister’s place. His chain was about to give up the ghost, tbh! It was fooked!That evening left me with nothing much to do, so sitting there with a beer, I watched as he set to work on the BMW. With a shower and the laundry done we prepared to hit Mexico tomorrow! From the previous days waking up in freezing conditions at 8000 ft I wasn’t now expecting to be sat here in 40C heat!
Waking up on Michelle’s sofa I was still tired having woken a few times during the night convinced it was raining! The garden water feature in the Arizona desert had played havoc with my brain!It had also been a long run here through endless stretches of desert, massive dunes and parts of the unsustainable programme of desert irrigation drawing water from states away. Dotted also with RV parks for the over 55′s, or as they are also known, Snowbirds!
14:22pm El Centro, and lunch stop at In-n-Out burger! Both of us were feeling defeated by the food and the heat, it would be the last stop before a cash and supply before hitting the border crossing to Mexico. Feeling nervous at the prospect, mainly due to European and American media hype i guess. Not sure what to expect. My mood was eased soon after though as I caught Dan in the supermarket looking for factor “5 million” sunscreen “So you don’t burn your British ass on the beach!”
I was surprised how easily we made it through the border, wasn’t even asked for passports? Just rode through the maze of barriers and cameras, armed police watching with bored expressions on their faces.
It’s strange how things change the other side of a fence, Mexicali’s first impression is that of a run down border town with signs of poverty everywhere. And people just trying to make a living and get by. Some selling some buying, some just keeping out of sight! The run to San Felipe was brisk, catching a glimpse of the Sea of Cortez alongside the unfinished homes, random piles of rubble and roadside shrines!
In San Felipe, with bellies rumbling the first stop was food. Knowing we’d have to find the campsite in the dark. We headed for roadside food! Pork burritos cooked in front of us! Mmmm! Corn tortillas to die for! The lady taking pride in what she served.
Finding Pete’s place beach camp wasn’t too difficult, just turn toward the sea by the massive alligator!. Down the sandy track it was! Hammocks up, and a quick change out of the riding kit, we hit the bar! 3 bottles of tecate beer later, I was ready to await the sunrise!
To Be Continued…