Archives: 21st June 2001

Thursday 21st June 2001, Kanab UT

Only a fool would venture out into the desert on a motorbike, with temperatures in the 100’s, on mid-summer’s day. Oh well, they say “Mad dogs and Englishmen …”!

We felt it was time to move on from Las Vegas, and next on our itinerary was the Grand Canyon, in Theodore Roosevelt’s words, “the one sight every American should see”.

Our idea was to base ourselves in Kanab, UT, which Brigid had read somewhere was a centre for the National Parks of southern Utah and northern Arizona. These include (amongst others) Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon Northern Rim, and Grand Staircase.

After about 100 miles on I-15, we were both beginning to suffer from the heat. We left the Interstate at St. George, and stopped for a break at Hurricane. We were feeling so weak, that we asked the chap in McDonalds if he knew what the temperature was outside. When he left for work, an hour before, it had been 106 degrees!

After a considerable break, we consulted the map, and elected to take the scenic route to Kanab, through Zion National Park – away from the desert.

What a good decision! Quite apart from the stunning views, the road through Zion is in immaculate condition, with some great twisties – perfect for motorcyclists, despite the low speed limit. We were also strangely glad of the mile long tunnel, built in the 30’s, which provided a cool respite from the sun. Our $10 passes were valid for 7 days, so we made ourselves a promise to revisit the Park later in the week.

Wednesday 20th June 2001, Las Vegas NV

The previous evening Brigid had spotted a competition in the Harley Davidson Café, with a new Harley as a prize. She was determined to buy at least one drink in there, just to enter the draw. John was determined to lose some money in the Casinos – after all you can’t come to Las Vegas and not gamble, can you?

We made another attempt on the Ford Mustang, and collected another set of vouchers. We had another hamburger, more Margaritas, and cashed in a $50 token each for the slots.

John set the fanfare going by winning a ‘jackpot’ prize of $50. Unfortunately, neither of us had brought any ID with us, so we hastily switched seats while John beetled back to the motel to find our driving licences. Eventually the tinny music drove the supervisor mad and she relented, accepting my photo bank card as ID, just so that she could re-set the machine! Needless to say we spent our winnings on two more tokens. This time we came away with consolation prizes: two T-shirts and a travel blanket. (Terrific. Have you ever tried to stuff an acrylic travel blanket into an already bursting backpack!?)

Brigid did her best to lose $20 in a slot machine, but the machine didn’t seem to want to let her. After about an hour, she admitted defeat, coming away with $41 (making a $1 profit on the evening). Having lost a respectable amount of money at the Blackjack table, John decided it would be a good idea to visit Hoover Dam.

Donning helmets and gloves, but otherwise lightly-dressed, we jumped on the bikes and headed towards Boulder City. It was still very warm, but Brigid found that wearing a flimsy buttoned blouse, was not necessarily a good idea. As we picked up speed, the buttons nearly beat her to death, and seemed to encourage some unwelcome attention from passing motorists!

The Hoover Dam was, indeed, an awesome sight. But if you are looking for a good photo, check elsewhere. It is simply too big for an amateur photographer to get a good shot (not without some serious abseiling equipment anyway). However, in making the trip to the Dam at night, we had achieved one other recommended view of Las Vegas. As we came back into town, the whole valley was stretched out before us like a neon carpet. Again, not something we could easily photograph, but another awesome sight, none the less.

Tuesday 19th June 2001, Las Vegas NV

Had a late morning (having been kept awake by the rattling of the air-conditioning unit). When we eventually surfaced, it was still unbearably hot outside. However, we made it down to the local Post Office to post home more unwanted ‘stuff’. We also discovered the more ordinary side of Las Vegas. Running parallel to The Strip is Maryland Parkway, where the locals shop.

That evening we made sure we had our camera with us, when we went out. We also discovered a great way to eat cheaply. Outside The Tropicana hotel there was a stand offering a free spin on a slot machine, with the chance of winning a Ford Mustang. Each entrant was promised a prize. 2 tickets to a magic show or the Folies Bergères, or just some free vouchers. (No prizes for guessing what we won!)

Amongst the vouchers, was a two-for-one offer for a hamburger in the Hotel’s restaurant, a $1 frozen Margarita and a two-for-one cocktail from the bar. (No prizes for guessing what we had for dinner …!)

We killed some time at the Tropicana bar, playing video poker, and then went for another stroll. Even at midnight, the temperature did not drop below the mid-eighties. Today, we were determined to get some good photos, so we took a ride in the elevator to the top of the ‘Eiffel Tower’. The view, especially of the water show, was quite spectacular.

Monday 18th June 2001, Las Vegas NV

We probably didn’t do ourselves any favours, leaving so late for Las Vegas. We stopped for lunch at the Mad Greek café in Baker. A bizarre place in the middle of the desert: all decked out in the Greek national colours, with pictures of sunny little Mediterranean ports, and Nana Mouskouri singing in the background. The café was serving traditional Greek food, but we played safe and opted for a couple of ‘Onassis burgers’. We were grateful for the very effective air conditioning.

When we arrived in Las Vegas, the thermometer in the street read 107 degrees. We weren’t terribly choosy about our lodgings, so when Brigid spotted a large neon Motel 6 sign beside the airport, we checked in. At $41.44 plus tax, and just off ‘The Strip’, it seemed like a good deal. To be fair it was quite comfortable. We had only two complaints. We could not access the Internet, because you needed to use a phone card to make anything other than the most local call. Also, Brigid found a dead cockroach on the bathroom floor … (But, as John said, “It’s dead, what’s the problem?”)

That evening we took a stroll up and down The Strip, taking in the lights. We dined in a replica French brasserie, ‘Mon Ami Gabi’, in a sort of Disney-type representation of Paris, complete with half-scale Eiffel Tower. (Other themed areas include New York, Monte Carlo and Venice.) The waiter distinguished himself by explaining ‘pommes frites’ as “French fries, only better”! We passed on the fries, choosing pommes dauphinoise to accompany our very excellent steak au poivre.

Saturday 16th June 2001, Ontario CA

Despite the scheduled 5.18am start (to miss the infamous LA traffic), we were given a slight reprieve. We left the hotel at about 6am, for the final leg into Santa Monica. The roads were relatively quiet, and by about 7am, the Rally was over. We parked up on Ocean Boulevard, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, within sight of Santa Monica Pier, to enjoy an al fresco breakfast of Starbucks’ coffee and doughnuts.

We both found ourselves somewhat emotional on our arrival. I don’t think we were alone in these feelings. Many friendships had been made along the 2,500 miles of Route 66. Now it was time to part company, and for everyone (except us) to head for home. Pat lead us in a short prayer of thanksgiving, remembering earlier travellers. We each told of one memorable moment from the trip. The Iron Butt Award was presently jointly to Mark (a New Zealander, suffering from palsy, who had ridden pillion all the way from Chicago) and Hugh (whose Harley Sportster bike was deemed to have the most uncomfortable seat). A special ‘Wally Award’ was presented to Joe Mirroballi (suffice to say that there were only 3 days when something didn’t happen to Joe!).

After the conclusion of the ceremonies on the seafront, we headed with Fred, Joe, Theo, Dirk, Brad, Mark, Hugh, and the two Ginas, to the Broadway Deli, for a more substantial breakfast.

Dirk made a phone call to wish his wife ‘Happy Birthday’. Realising that she was feeling low, alone at home, the phone was passed on to each of us so that we could all leave a birthday message on the answer phone. This prompted Brad to borrow Joe’s phone, to phone his mum. Again, the phone was passed around so that we could all say hello.

Then, Brad found the number for Joe’s wife. Joe wasn’t too worried, “She will be on the way to the airport by now”. Scrolling down the saved numbers, Brad found Mary’s mobile number. Joe put his head in his hands. Brad dialled … and we all got to tell Mary what a great guy Joe was, and how much we had enjoyed his company!

Suddenly, everyone remembered the bikes. They were, by now, parked illegally on Ocean Boulevard, and we had left all our travel documents in John’s tank bag. Mercifully, Danny had remained with the bikes while we ate breakfast. Only one or two had parking tickets, and all our belongings were intact.

After a short stroll on the pier, we said our final goodbyes and headed back to Ontario.

By this time it was mid-morning, and the LA traffic was back to its usual grid locked state. It must have taken us over 2 hours (in baking sun) to reach the motel.

Friday 15th June 2001, Ontario CA

The day started badly. Scheduled time for departure from the hotel was 5.15am, with the prospect of a long ride across the Mojave Desert. I don’t think anyone was particularly looking forward to this part of the Rally, save that, by that evening, we would be on the outskirts of LA – near our journey’s end. (That, in itself, brought mixed emotions.)

Thanks to the inefficiencies of the Royal Mail, who had singularly failed to implement the re-direction of our mail at home, John spent 40 minutes, in the early hours, making frantic phone calls to the UK. In consequence, we spent the next few hours playing ‘catch up’ … and, as we all know, John does not do mornings! Definitely not the best start to the day.

We left the hotel 5 minutes after everyone else, to catch a quick breakfast at the nearby truck stop. However, by the time John had stood in line, waiting to pay for some batteries for the CBs, Pat Evans was already putting on his helmet. Brigid had ordered some coffee, but there was no chance of getting anything to eat. We hastily paid for coffee, and John went to buy a chocolate bar.

As he stood in a queue behind several truck drivers paying for fuel, the cavalcade moved out. By now in a rage, John abandoned the chocolate bars and jumped on his bike. Unfortunately, neither of us saw Pat and the others turn right out of the truck stop.

We set off in hot pursuit … in the wrong direction …

Five miles down the road, Brigid (who had been in the lead – and therefore responsible for navigation) pulled over and admitted that she might have got it wrong. After a quick glance at the map, John (getting more cross by the minute) roared off in search of Route 93 South … regrettably, he missed the turning and ended up going North instead. To cut a long story short, after 10 miles and 20 minutes, we ended up back where we started. At this point John suffered a major sense of humour failure, and started throwing his toys around – much to the distress of Brigid, whose mistake had already exacerbated his bad mood.

Then the cavalry arrived in the form of Fred, Joe, Ed & Karen, Doug, Rich, and Frank (who also apparently do not do mornings – having elected to leave an hour later than everyone else – and, fortunately for us, were also going in the wrong direction). They immediately did a U-turn, and we were thankful to tag along behind.

We had some fun on the twisty road up to the old mining town of Oatman. The road is closed to any vehicle over 40 ft, and it is easy to see why. When one comes across roads like this, it is hard to imagine how the early pioneers of Route 66 ever survived, with their open trucks, overloaded with all their worldly possessions.

In Oatman, we caught up with the main group (briefly). The town probably hasn’t changed much in 100 years. We spent a few minutes there, taking photos, and then carried on into the Mojave Desert.

Once past Needles, as far as the eye could see, the land was parched and barren, with no vegetation other than short scrub. It was hot, but we were blessed. I doubt the temperature exceeded 105 degrees at any time. Last year when the Rally crossed the desert, temperatures exceeded 116 degrees. Off the paved road, the ground was littered with rocks and boulders. It made one question how the early travellers ever made the trip with horse-drawn wagons.

Per the itinerary, we stopped at Roy’s Café at Amboy, CA. The stop was scheduled for 32 minutes, but the Café was closed. A few of the group took advantage of the ‘facilities’, then we doused ourselves with cold water from Ed’s coolbox, and carried on the old road through Ludlow to Newbury Springs, passing many rundown dwellings and businesses, long since abandoned.

Newbury Springs has one claim to fame. It is the site of the Bagdad Café, where the film of the same name was shot. The Café itself is a focal point for local characters and travellers alike, for whom it brings welcome relief from the heat.

Service is slow. But then no one who takes the time to call in is in a hurry. We were entertained by ‘General Bob’, a local octogenarian, who told us that he had been awarded 15 degrees by Oxford University in 1917. He also professed to have founded the United Nations. More believably, he claimed a friendship with the actor, Jack Palance, dating back to the 30’s

Back on the road, we stopped at the Roy Rogers Museum in Victorville, CA. Until his death a few years ago, Roy took a personal interest in the museum, spending several hours every day, meeting visitors and fans. The museum documents every detail of his and Dale Evans’ life, both on and off screen. In a slightly macabre scene, the horses from his show, Trigger and Buttermilk, and his dog, Bullet, and other pets, have been stuffed. All around are items of Roy’s clothing, guitars, guns, saddles, cars, and every other conceivable form of memorabilia. This museum is a Mecca for Roy Rogers fans of all ages.

That evening we stayed in Ontario, CA, some 70 miles outside Los Angeles. We enjoyed a last dinner at Rosa’s Italian restaurant opposite the motel. Nearly all the diners had been with us since Chicago.

Thursday 14th June 2001, Kingman AZ

Because of the forecast cold weather, Pat decided to put the start back to 7am. When we awoke, there was still frost on the bikes. Again, we decided to ride with Theo and Dirk. We set off following the map, in search of a stretch of original road. However, after a couple of wrong turns, we ended up on a dirt track on the road to nowhere, and decided to catch up with the group after all. After around 60 miles on I-40, Brigid indicated that she wanted to pull over. We were both freezing cold and in need of extra clothing, so we stopped on a slip road and donned some extra layers. The linings of Brigid’s Furygan gloves had long since given up the ghost, and Theo kindly lent her some Thinsulate-lined gloves, which proved excellent (must find some of my own …).

We caught up with the main group at the Petrified Forest, and stayed with them until the afternoon.

At Winslow, AZ (although on the itinerary, Pat was not intending to stop there, until an outcry from the Eagles fans in the group), a splinter group left for a side-trip to the Grand Canyon: just a short excursion, they said … but they didn’t make it back to the motel until about 10pm!

Due to the Canyon trip, Pat’s party had dwindled to eight. According to the itinerary, we should have stopped for lunch at the Museum Club in Flagstaff. Unfortunately, they had stopped serving food. Instead, we enjoyed a burger at Crazy Bob’s, a few yards down the road, with Pat, Theo, Dirk, Sandra, Roger, Rick, and Bob.

In Williams, AZ, we stopped to enjoy the delights of Twisters, a 50’s style soda-fountain. Then we headed on to Seligman, where Angelo Delgadillo is credited with starting the re-generation of Route 66, from his barber’s shop, about 10 years ago. We took our photos, Theo had his beard trimmed by Angelo, then five of us headed for the nearest bar for a much needed cold beer. Pat left with just two other riders.

When we felt fit enough to return to the furnace outside, we followed the old road. After a few miles, Brigid suddenly pulled over. By the time John returned to see what the problem was, Brigid was busy sticking duct tape over her visor. Heading due West, the glare from the setting sun was blinding her, and having ridden for several miles screening the sun with her left hand, she had thought of a more practical solution. We were unable to raise Theo and Dirk on CB, and by the time we were done, they were on their way back to find us.

We caught Sandra up at Pritchett’s Hackberry Visitors Centre. The Centre is a disused gas station, complete with 50’s style pumps and a number of cars from that era on the forecourt. Around the back was a red Corvette (of the same model that was in the series ‘Route 66’). We bought ourselves Route 66 doo-rags at the gift shop, and carried on.

The route into Kingman was majestic: dead straight, newly surfaced, road with mountains either side, away from the heavy traffic on the Interstate. We couldn’t have passed more than half-a-dozen cars in the 20 or so miles into Kingman.

Quote of the week: Brad Dunkin: “Pete, we’re supposed to be heading west. The sun should be in front of us. We’ve been going south for over an hour.”

Peter Hanke: “Yeah, I know, but it’s a great road ..!”

Wednesday 13th June 2001, Gallup NM

Another 5.15am start for everyone else, but we elected to leave a little later at 6am. Brian, Jeff, Theo, Dirk, Roger and Rick had decided to follow the original trail of Route 66 into Santa Fe (where some of the guys were keen to visit the Harley Davidson dealership … what is they say about Harley owners always needing a friend with a trailer …), so we tagged along.

It was surprisingly cool on the way up to Santa Fe, so much so that when we stopped for photos, most of us took the opportunity to put on gloves and jackets.

John and I had been riding each other’s bikes since the previous day, but (probably due to last night’s beans) we both found each other’s bikes uncomfortable, and swapped back.

On the way back from Santa Fe, we took the road to the summit of Sandia Crest at 10,678ft, from where we had a bird’s eye view of Albuquerque, before rejoining the Turquoise Trail back to Route 66.

Albuquerque was (in Brigid’s words) “beastly” – full of traffic lights, and very hot! We didn’t hang around. While the main group took I-40, a few of us decided to take the original road, which ran alongside the Interstate. At the “Continental Divide” (a gas station and gift shop run by the local Navajo Indians), we noticed storm clouds gathering and the temperature changing. Suddenly, it was every man for himself! We hot-footed it back on to the Interstate, and hit the gas. Helpful road signs indicated that “Gusty winds may exist”, but they could hardly be any worse than those we had been experiencing for several hours.

John used his experience of the twisties on Sandia Crest to good advantage. At speeds exceeding 90mph (to the surprise of Dirk and Theo), we made the hotel (Red Roof Inn, Gallup, NM) in the nick of time. Brad and Gina were only a few minutes behind us, and got a soaking.

As had become habit, the party met up round the pool to share their day’s experience over a few beers. Fred was despatched to order some pizza, but by then we had all begun to notice the cold. After a few minutes discussion, we decided that the only available public room was the laundry … the pizzas arrived, and the Maytag Pizza Party was born.

Bemused guests found their washing thoughtfully moved from washer to dryer. Joe even put quarters in the machine! Everyone got to take away a slice of pizza and a beer …

Unluckier were Mark and Gina. Bob Hearn had offered to take their luggage on to Gallup in his motorhome. Unfortunately it had broken down on the way, and most of their clothes were now on the way back to Texas.

Tuesday 12th June 2001, Santa Rosa NM

Today was the first of the 5.15am starts! Because of the increasing wind, we swapped bikes today. The reasoning was that John (being taller in the body) would be better protected by the windshield on the BMW, as the seating position is lower. Brigid, on the other hand, is shorter in the body, and had no problem with the positioning of the windshield on the Triumph. Notable stops today included an old jail house in Texola, TX. Everyone was very keen to lock everyone else up in the tiny cell and take photos. Pat said that one of the riders last year looked so uncomfortable behind bars that it must have seemed “way too familiar”!

We stopped for a very quick coffee at the Art Deco U-Drop Inn, Shamrock, TX. Unfortunately, it was still so early in the morning that the Inn itself was closed, and the only coffee to be had was a polystyrene beaker from a café across the road.

We missed the Devil’s Rope Museum, McLean, TX, which was indicated on our itinerary (as it was closed – again due to the time), but stopped at the restored Phillips 66 gas station for photos.

We stopped at Groom, TX, to take in ‘largest cross in the Western Hemisphere’ (well what would you expect in Texas!). To be fair, at 180ft and surrounded by the stations of the cross depicted in life-size bronze, it really was quite awe-inspiring. Alas, one of the many photos that would be impossible to take – other than from a light aircraft.

On then, for a late breakfast (brunch) at the Big Texan, Amarillo, TX. This restaurant boasts a FREE 72oz steak dinner … to anyone who can consume it within 60 minutes! In order to qualify for the free dinner, you pay a $54 deposit. You are then seated on a small stage, and presented with a full meal including the 72oz steak (cooked to your liking), salad, baked potato, coleslaw, shrimp cocktail, and bread roll. Only if you can plough your way through the whole meal, do you get your money back.

Sam Borland, a man who clearly enjoys his food, took the challenge, but failed – having consumed some 57.5oz of steak, and all of the accompaniments. A brave effort, but he didn’t touch another steak for the rest of the trip! We had a modest 5oz steak with cowboy beans, and a chocolate malt.

By the time we left the Big Texan, a number of the other riders had already gone ahead. The next scheduled stop was ‘The Cadillac Ranch’.

We were not particularly interested in looking at 7 or 8 heavily graffitied Cadillacs planted nose-down in the ground, so were pleased to see Dirk, Theo, Joe, Hugh, Roger, Rick, and Ed and Karen, just leaving. We did a quick U-turn in the road, and managed to catch them up as they joined the Interstate.

At the Mid-Point Café in Adrian, TX (the mid-point of Route 66, equi-distant between Chicago and LA) we caught up with another breakaway group of riders, and took some more photos.

Having re-joined the Interstate, the wind really caught up with us. Gusting side winds of 40-50mph hit the party quite unexpectedly, and for several miles we all battled to stay on the road.

The only (brief) respites coming from passing trucks, which provided a welcome windbreak every now and again. John, in particular, now regretted his choice of the lighter bike, as he was blown time and time again onto the hard shoulder of the Interstate. The truckers, seeing our difficulties, slowed down as they approached so that they didn’t aggravate the problem.

At Tucumcari, NM, we left the Interstate to visit the Route 66 monument. (A seriously weird work of art, apparently modelled on a vast Studebaker wing.) As we left the parking lot, there was a misunderstanding. Whilst most of the group turned left, Joe and Theo turned right to rejoin the Interstate where we had left it … and that was the last we saw of them until we reached the motel.

After our hair-raising experience on the Interstate, we decided it was time to equip ourselves with proper CB radios instead of the two-way FRS radios that we had used up until now.


We ate dinner in Joseph’s, a local Mexican diner (Oh God, more beans!), where Brigid discovered frozen Margarita’s (Thanks, Theo).