Sometimes .. life just abounds with miracles. Granddaughters are born .. rain falls on arid soil .. remarkable feats of discovery and adventure are experienced .. while astronomical odds against certain events ever happening are foiled .. and they do occur. (Talk about “odds” .. read The Adventures of Indiana Joe – Issue 07: Odds) We can spend an eternity contemplating it all .. but the only “certainty” is that things do happen .. and the reasons for most of that will forever remain a mystery to us. The good news is .. we always have something to ponder when we saddle up our Iron Horse and ride off into the sunrise.
When I moved back to “The Olde Farmhouse” in Indiana a year ago .. my nephew (Brian Seward) asked me if I was ready to take off on another “adventure” together. You may recall .. we’ve ridden together on many trips over the years, and he’d leave his Harley in my garage in CA so he could fly out when the temps were below zero in Indiana and we’d go “explore” for a week or so. In the spring .. he’d fly out, we’d take a trip eastward and after awhile I’d head back to CA and he’d ride home. Now that that nice arrangement has changed .. we had to get serious about planning a complete trip.
We both have “favorite” places we’ve seen .. and Utah rose to the top of our favorite overall state in a list of many. The whole idea was to get away from the “urban” populated areas .. pick the hottest time of the year to ride .. and see how much ground we could cover in two weeks. All I really cared about was avoiding rain .. but you know as well as I that’s a coin toss. Through last winter, we did get to haul the bikes behind his motor coach in his enclosed trailer to Florida twice; South Carolina and North Carolina .. and rode the Blue Ridge Parkway when it appeared there was NO other traffic on the road whatsoever. Not a bad winter for me .. considering my first year back in Indiana greeted me with record snowfall amounts with bone-chilling cold and wind-chills reaching 60-below-zero! I was more than ready for some heat and Bosco wanted out of the barn!
For months .. Brian performed his magic with computer and Garmin and laid out an epic “asphalt adventure” that is now in the history books. Since the “Midwest” really doesn’t have the spectacular topography we prefer .. our ride “away from” and “back into” the urban congestion were of historic significance. We followed the Lewis & Clark Expedition route up through Glacier National Park into Idaho going “out” and “back” into the Urban Jungle on the southern route home via the Santa Fe Trail. The beauty of all points in between escape accurate description, and sadly enough, none of the 902 pictures I took along the way can come close to conveying the breath-taking beauty, splendor and pure awe that is “felt” by your soul when you’re there. I will try to pick a few pics that might help convey that point.
Some interesting facts that I “contemplated” as we journeyed westward, regarding the Louis & Clark Expedition, are worth revisiting .. should your recall of American history be fading as rapidly as my own: The Expedition was the first American expedition to cross what is now the western portion of the U.S. The perilous journey lasted from May 1804 through September 1806, and it’s primary objective was to explore and map the newly acquired territory (the Louisiana Purchase), find a practical route across the Western half of the continent, and establish an American presence in this territory before the British and other European powers tried to claim it. It was NOT, however, the first time that region had been traversed. Moncacht-Apé was a Native American explorer of the Yazoo tribe who may have made the first recorded transcontinental journey across North America in about 1700. Thomas Jefferson had a copy of the book detailing Moncacht-Apé’s itinerary in his library, and Meriwether Lewis carried a copy of it with him during the expedition.
Sakakawea was a Shoshone Indian woman who arrived with her French-Canadian husband, Toussaint Charbonneau, as he became the guide and interpreter for the expedition. A few weeks after they joined the party in January 1805, Sakakawea gave birth to a baby boy. The sight of a woman and her infant son would have been reassuring to some indigenous nations, and she played an important role in diplomatic relations by talking to chiefs, easing tensions, and giving the impression of a peaceful mission. On a hillside overlooking the Missouri River in Mobridge, South Dakota stands a huge monolith in her honor. The significance of its location is due to the fact that the expedition went up the Missouri River to its headwaters, then to the Pacific via the Columbia River. Their journey provided an accurate depiction of the relationship of those two rivers and the Rocky Mountains. On that same hilltop stands the tombstone and monument honoring Sitting Bull. The view from the top was spectacular.
The expedition also recorded more than 200 plants and animals that were new to science and noted at least 72 native tribes. To this very day, no U.S. exploration party is more famous, and no American expedition leaders are more instantly recognizable by name. As we rode along those rivers on a smooth surface of asphalt .. and I gazed into the “wilderness” .. the rocks .. the mountains .. the unknown .. I couldn’t help but lose myself in amazement as to what it must have been like, over two hundred years ago, for that courageous band of “adventurers” to walk into the darkness .. to take their boats as far as they could only to realize they could not cross the Rocky Mountains in them. The challenges .. the amount of pure grit and determination it would have taken to complete such an endeavor .. is practically unimaginable. Certainly .. it’s miraculous. And the fact that only one man died of appendicitis during that entire journey is also borderline unbelievable. These are the things I “contemplate” as ride Bosco in silence and absorb the energy that envelops us every day.
Brian describes his Road Warrior as “an Electra Glide Standard with a hodgepodge of various components”. Trust me .. he’s got it dialed in as the perfect cross-country warhorse. But the coolest thing he got for it from Iron Aces was a Street Glide Mount and an IS7505 JamLink Lightning Connector Hardware Kit, which allows him to charge his iPhone and play audio through bike speakers. But since neither one of us believe in the distraction of a radio while trying to stay alive out there amidst the morons and madness .. he has the perfect visual of his route displayed at all times via the Garmin app. Every day had a route and our destination programmed .. and all but two nights of accommodations had already been reserved. If we needed the location of a Mexican Restaurant that served margaritas .. we had that too. I was so impressed with his preparation that it made every day a separate “adventure” .. and we usually hit the road between 5:30 – 6:30am.
After we made it to our farthest point in the northwest, and stayed in West Glacier .. sure, we’d already been through rain and mud .. but Logan Pass was still snowbound and they were working 24/7 trying to get it open for vacationers by the 4th of July. We’d gone up as far as possible from the east, then turned around to loop around the southern end of the park and back up as far as we could ride in from the west. We saw as much of it as we could, so we began our southern ride down through Montana, Idaho and Nevada. I was more than impressed with the entire ride along the Salmon River Scenic Byway .. and especially with Salmon Lake .. that entire ride down through Idaho was just as good as it gets. But after we’d entered Mountain Home going west on the 20, it turned into the 51 South and soon crossed the Snake River. Somewhere between the isolation and desolation of the Bruneau Dunes State Park and Grasmere we were faced with the shock of the trip .. and it couldn’t have been scripted any more bizarre for a Hollywood movie.
As we rolled along side-by-side at 75mph on the hot asphalt highway .. headed somewhat uphill in the “middle of nowhere” .. all we could see ahead was a huge cloud of dust .. or something .. enveloping the entire highway as we moved increasingly closer together. Within seconds, I think we both realized it was a semi-tractor who had somehow lost his trailer .. which was now completely perpendicular to the roadway immediately behind the tractor and barreling toward us in a cloud of dust. We stopped as fast as we could and I grabbed my camera while hoping this roadblock would soon come to a stop before I needed to turn around in a hurry and get away from the “runaway train”. It soon came to a halt and the dust began to clear .. we looked at each other in sheer disbelief.
As we approached the tractor the driver jumped out with his cell phone in hand .. Brian asked him if he was all right. He said “yes” .. but that he had no signal. There was barely enough room for us to ride our bikes past the overturned trailer .. and as we did we saw the carnage it left in its wake. The huge metal trailer had been hauling scrap metal and junk .. including a smashed auto. The crap was scattered all across the roadway and at one point there was barely four inches for us to aim our tires and get by the huge metal chunk. There was a furrow plowed into the soft, hot asphalt a hundred feet long and two feet wide .. and within a 1/4 mile down the road approached what seemed like a white utility pickup truck .. and we presumed it had a radio to contact help. Not far behind it came a few more vehicles .. as we waved and cautioned them to slow down immediately. The bad news for them is that there would be NO way for any vehicles to get around the mess until some major help arrived. We estimated the road would have been closed the rest of the afternoon. What came to us in “contemplation” of the bizarre event .. was the fact that had we been only seconds further down the roadway, directly in the path of that approaching wall of steel .. it may have re-written the ending to my story. Miracles do happen .. and events continue to go unexplained. All we could both agree upon was “what a rush!”
We continued south through Nevada on the 225 & 278 to spend the night in Eureka .. on Highway 50, “the loneliest road in America”. It was only about 111 – 115 degrees that day. (Adventures of Indiana Joe – Issue 12: Lonliness). From there, we rode into Utah and stayed the next night in Hurricane. As the southern part of Utah is our collective “favorite” riding area of the country .. we spent the next few days in complete wonder while riding the “Million Dollar Highway”, Glen Canyon, The Moki Dugway, Highways 12,14, 24,162,163,191, 262 and all parts in between. On the 4th of July we watched a lightning storm over the rocky plateaus from the front porch of the Lee’s Ferry Lodge in Vermillion Cliffs, AZ .. and to me it was better than a World’s Fair celebration.
Probably the very best meal we had along the way were barbeque pork spareribs at the Cottonwood Grill, in Bluff, Utah .. where for the first time in my life I couldn’t finish the whole slab of ribs! Brian couldn’t either. They were almost three inches thick and so tender they fell off the bones, and the homemade BBQ sauce was more than delicious. It was our second dinner there since we stayed at the neighboring Mokee Motel two nights. While talking to the owner of the Cottonwood, he noted that 85% of his entire business was from foreign travelers, in a little town of 800 people. Seeing so many of them there had prompted our questioning him about it. He explained that so many visitors coming to the U.S. fly into Las Vegas, rent a car and travel the scenic loop around southern Utah, taking in all the National Parks and scenic byways. No wonder foreigners think this country is so beautiful .. when what they see could very well be undiscovered land on the moon .. it’s just that majestic! Either that, or they’ve been to New York and LA and vow never to return.
When it came time for us to “return” .. we rode across the Colorado scenic highway 160 and picked up the Santa Fe National Historic Trail. After the U.S. acquisition of the Southwest ending the Mexican-American War, the trail helped open the region to U.S. economic development and settlement, playing a vital role in the expansion of the U.S. into the lands it had acquired. The route is commemorated today by the National Park Service as a highway route that roughly follows the original trail’s path from the southeast corner of Colorado and northern New Mexico through the entire length of Kansas. When we got into the congestion of Kansas City .. and then St. Louis .. the madness began and the treacherous road conditions only amplified the need to stay alert. When I finally rolled Bosco into his stall and covered him with his blanket .. I think we were both exhausted.
The week before leaving on the trip .. I put my 28th rear tire on Bosco. Brian put a new rear on his bike too .. and now mine’s rather shot again. The front’s in desperate need again, too .. so it looks like we got the full use of our rubber in just two weeks. From the time I pulled out until I got home, Bosco ran 6,330.3 miles .. an average of 452 miles/day. Some days were over 600 .. and a few others were only in the 300’s. Brian turned over 80,000 miles on his bike during the trip .. and as I arrived home, I’m 23.1 miles short of 200,000.
Just a couple days before I left, I received my new Earpro® Sonic Defender Plus earplugs from my dear friend in California, Denise Hennessey. She’s been a Surefire Rep for years and had me try some while I lived out there. I’ll have to admit .. I couldn’t have been any happier when they arrived. They made my trip so pleasant and enjoyable I can’t thank you enough Denise .. so Thanks again!
All in all .. we covered thirteen states; 25 National Parks, Forests & Monuments and a dozen or more Scenic Byways laced with countless National Historic Sights & Markers. I couldn’t be more proud of you, Brian, for having the same amount of determination and grit as those early explorers and adventurers. We dusted off the rain, hail, heat and minor hiccups as part of what’s expected on an “adventure”. You’re my hero .. Bosco and I will ride with you and your dependable warhorse anytime .. anywhere.
Always remember … “the heart will always remember what the head forgets …”
Until next time .. ride smart .. ride safe
and the Adventure continues …
Note: If you’d like to duplicate the ride of a lifetime .. here you go.
If nothing else .. and you ever get bored .. Google any of these places and be amazed!
The Roosevelt Natl. Park; Lewis & Clark Natl. Forest; Glacier Natl. Park; Flathead Natl. Forest; Rattlesnake Natl. Rec. Area; LoLo Natl. Forest; Bitterroot Natl. Forest; Salmon-Challis Natl. Forest; Sawtooth Natl. Rec. Area; Sawtooth Natl. Forest; Sawtooth Scenic Byway; Humboldt-Toiyabe Natl. Forest; Great Basin Natl. Park; Lehman Caves; Dixie Natl. Forest; Zion Natl. Park; Marble Canyon; Navajo Bridge; Kiabab Natl. Forest; Pipe Spring Natl. Monument; Bryce Canhyon Natl. Park; Million Dollar Highway (CO 12E); Vermillion Cliff Natl. Monument; Lake Powell & Page Dam; Grand Staircase-Escalante Natl. Monument; Capitol Reef Natl. Park; Glen Canyon Natl. Rec. Area; Natural Bridges Natl. Monument; Valley of the Gods; Navajo Twin Rocks; Moki Dugway; Hovenweep Natl. Monument; Manti-La Sal Natl. Forest; Mesa Verde Natl. Park; Cilff Dwellings; Chimney Rock Natl. Monument; Walsenburg Trail of Legends and the Santa Fe Trail.
Along that route .. we stayed at these incredible places:
Harlan Inn – Harlan, IA; Mo Rest Motel – Mobridge, SD; Mountainview Motel – Lewistown, MT; Vista Motel – West Glacier Natl. Park, MT; Lift Tower Lodge – Ketchum, ID; Sundown Lodge – Eureka, NV; Travel Lodge – Zion Natl. Park, Hurricane, UT; Mokee Motel – Bluff, UT; Lee’s Ferry Lodge – Vermillion Cliffs, AZ; Pole’s Place Motel – Boulder, UT; Flamingo Motel – Garden City, KS; Choice Motel – Highland, IL.