Grand Canyon
September 30 - October 4, 2004

By Gryphon with occasional interjections from Butterfly
Sandia Mountains
A beautiful day in the Sandia Mountains.
Loaded Motorcycles
Motorcycles are loaded and ready to go.
Western Plains
Crossing the plains of northwestern New Mexico.
Arizona's Vermillion Cliffs
The Vermillion Cliffs of Arizona.
Sunset over the Vermillion Cliffs
Sunset in the Vermillion Cliffs area.

Day 1 - Sep 30

It begins! We wake up around 7, and between one thing and a dozen others, don't actually get on the road until 9:30. Ride ride ride ride ride!

The Vision handles weirdly, the back feels a little wobbly and unsteady at highway speeds, and the front forks do a strange small undulation at around 20-30mph. I really have to get the front forks rebuilt soon, it's . Or sell it! Fortunately it gets better once we're off the highway.

We take I-40 to Gallup, then turn off onto what used to be called 666, until your tax dollars went to SAVING YOUR SOUL FROM SATAN'S ROAD... and renumbered it. I feel so much safer now that it's 491. Anyway, we take the Former Highway to Hell to near Window Rock, then go west on 264 through Navajo and Hopi reservation land. At Tuba City (how can you not love a name like that?!) we take 160 west to 89... then split off onto 89A toward the Grand Canyon's north rim!

"'After 77 years of concern and discontent we have finally removed any reference to the devil from this highway,' said Gov. Bill Richardson in a ceremonial dedication." Just in case you didn't realize you'd been saved, however, the route also sports helpful signs reading "Former 666." I have not heard whether he left a forwarding address after his eviction (or should that be exorcism?) by the New Mexico legislature.

Somewhere along NM 264 we ran into enough rain to make us stop and put on our rainsuits. One thing I learned this trip is that a down parka over my heavy leather jacket, plus a rainsuit over that, is way too bulky to be comfortable. I could hardly move by the time I got the rainsuit zipped up! But the rainsuits kept us nice and dry, and also added a fair amount of warmth on their own.

This takes us through Marble Canyon and Vermillion Cliffs, which are really gorgeous, but it gets dark right around Vermillion Cliffs. It also gets cold! And dark! Did I mention dark, and also cold? Zooming along through totally unknown lands, when my headlight really is about 10 years overdue for replacement, and needs adjusting so it points more than 30' in front of the bike even on high beam... it's exhilarating. The flatlands give way to some wonderfully curvy uphill, but it's all black with a grey ribbon through it as far as we can tell. Finally we get to Jacob's Lake around 9:30 after 12 hours on the road.

Somewhere on this last stretch Yvonne's speedo cable comes unscrewed from the speedometer, so she not only doesn't know how much gas she has, but also doesn't know how far she's driven, or how fast she is going! Bah!

My Vulcan has a gas gauge, but it broke a couple of weeks before the trip and fixing it will require removing the gas tank. I'm saving that job for winter, when I'm snowed in and can't ride.

After gassing up, we turn off onto 67 toward the North Rim campgrounds! It's about 44 miles through twisty blackness, punctuated by various Deer/Elk/Cattle warning signs. And a LOT of deer. Right by the road. A group of 4 of them attempt suicide between an oncoming car and myself, but fortunately fail. Several others bolt (away, rather than towards, thankfully) when we go past - definitely scary stuff. And it's FREEZING cold now... probably in the 20's, so we're really looking forward to getting to the campground and stopping for the night! Finally we get to the park front gates and... there in the window is the hated sign: "Sorry, Campground FULL". ARGH! So... there's nothing for it. We turn around and retrace the 44 miles of cold, deer-infested road.

About halfway back I realize that my hands are so cold that I almost certainly couldn't get my right hand on the brake fast enough to do anything about it if a deer did decide to bolt in front of us. Fortunately this never happens, and we make it back to the intersection intact. We stop at a little shop/eatery/hotel thing and ask if they have any rooms... no, THEY'RE full, too! And the closest other hotels are ... 30 miles away! Argh! But the very nice staff gets us cups of hot cocoa, and we feel better. And we discover that there's another Kaibab National Forest campground just across the street, maybe a tenth of a mile away.

When I get my hands on the people who told me "nobody goes to the north rim" and "this time of year it's really empty," something bad is going to happen!

Fortified and warmed, we drag ass into the Jacob's Lake campground at about 11:30, grumbling about having to pay for 2 vehicles but paying anyway. Pull into the first open site, fling up the tent, throw everything into it including ourselves, and pass out. Or try to... we're still chilled from the long ride, it's cold as heck, and there's a group of some 6 or so German bikers at the site next to ours, having a VERY fun night. Yvonne simply can't get warm, and winds up getting out of her nice sub-zero rated mummy bag and joining me in my cheesy WalMart special. Which would be great, except... it's not really big enough for two. So we're both much warmer, but stuck in one position. It'd be all romaaaaantic and stuff, if we weren't bone-aching-dead tired. But we survive it, and that's the important thing. I'm not sure we would have, if not for that hot cocoa.

Total mileage for Day 1: 527.1 miles

Re-loading the bike
Getting ready to roll again
Down to the North Rim
From Jacob Lake to the North Rim
Down to the North Rim
On the way to the North Rim
At the North Rim
Standing on the North Rim
At the North Rim At the North Rim
At the North Rim At the North Rim At the North Rim
Tree at the North Rim Tree at the North Rim Gryphon at the North Rim
At the North Rim Gnarled Tree Trees and Stormy Sky
Butterfly at the North Rim
Butterfly at the North Rim
From Navajo Bridge
From Navajo Bridge, on the way to the South Rim
From Navajo Bridge
From Navajo Bridge From Navajo Bridge From Navajo Bridge
Vermillion Cliffs
Back through the Vermillion Cliffs
Vermillion Cliffs Vermillion Cliffs
Gryphon in the Rain
Wet Gryphon
Heart-Shaped Cloud
Heart-shaped cloud
Vermillion Cliffs Airport
Vermillion Cliffs Airport
Vermillion Cliffs Vermillion Cliffs View from the South Rim
View from the South Rim
View from the South Rim View from the South Rim View from the South Rim
Hawkwatch Camp
At the HawkWatch camp
Hawkwatch Camp
Our home for the next two nights

Day 2 - Oct 1

I get up about 8:30... no, wait, 7:30 local time, since Arizona doesn't do Daylight Savings Time, and drag ass out of the tent, leaving Yvonne to sleep more. Wander around a little... notice to considerable amusement that the table at the German bikers' site has a huge array of Corona bottles lined up on it, and absolutely no bikers visible at all. Another pair of bikes, rather obviously not with the same group, is across the way, with no tent visible, so I'm puzzled. A visit to the potty, then across the road to the lodge for a couple of cups of coffee - one to take back to Bfly. (My hero!)

Walking back I encounter one of the guys from the two-bike camp - some old codger in his late 50's or early 60's. He and his buddy have been riding for MANY a mile, obviously - they really have their stuff together in terms of packing... and he's riding the 1500cc version of Yvonne's Kawasaki Vulcan. Spend a while talking with them, then take Yvonne her coffee... she is mightily happified to have such a thing awaiting her, if she HAS to wake up. We also have other nice news - the campground folks had not only realized that we'd overpaid by $2, since all we had was a $20 and we thought the fee was $18 for us and two bikes, but that, in fact, we only needed to pay for ONE vehicle, since they quite rationally view two bikes as being about the same as one car. By the time we start packing up to go, the Germans are straggling out of their tents, looking rather subdued, but we get waves and salutes as we motor on out of the campground.

We pause at the Forest Service building near the lodge and make a few inquiries - mainly wondering if the $20 per vehicle rate we noticed at the entrance held true for motorcycles. The person there has no idea, but suggests that rather than paying $40, we might consider just paying $50, and getting a pass good for all year. But that we should do so there at the front gate, to make sure this will actually get BOTH of us in. We take advantage of fingers that are no longer freezing to fix Yvonne's speedo cable.

Back down 67 again, to the north rim once more. Wow... so gorgeous in the daylight! Towering pines, magnificent stands of aspens, great meadows (no longer deer-infested)... just a wonderful ride! The weather is a little iffy - large stormclouds lurk, rumbling and muttering, but we only get a few brief sprinkles on the way there. Stopping at the front gate once more, we're not only pleased to see that THEY treat bikes as half-a-car ($10/each), but that our receipt is good for 7 days, at both north and south rims. Yay!

This is our first time visiting the North Rim, and it is absolutely magnificent. Mercifully spared the Disneyfication of the South Rim, it is really a tremendous place. Sadly... we have about 150 miles to go to get to the South Rim and meet up with our friends there. Yvonne realizes that she printed out everything about all the places other people suggested we might WANT to go while we were there... and failed to print out the instructions that got us to the place we actually NEEDED to go (the Hawkwatch camp). Ooops! So we definitely have some time pressure - we know Ken will be at Lipan Point until 5... and after that we have no idea where anybody will be.

You can literally perch your tent right on the north rim of the canyon. Wouldn't that be a mind-blowing view to wake up to? Of course, my night vision is so bad I'd probably wake up in the middle of the night, stumble out to pee, and fall right off the edge. All the same, I want to go back and camp there some day.

So back on the bikes and on the road again, with a firm mindset of coming back to the North Rim someday when we can spend at least a couple of days there, if not more. It sleets (!!) on us while we're riding back to Jacob Lake for yet another gas refill, then back down the way we came. The ride is just stunning - the twisty hilly stuff was an absolute joy to the senses! We stopped at an overlook, where about 50 other bikers had paused, and they wondered at the weather we'd passed through - sore amazed that we'd been sleeted on. And also moderately impressed that we'd ridden in from Albuquerque just the night before. Chuff!

Continuing our retracing, we get to see Vermillon Cliffs in their full glory - and mighty glorious they were, indeed! 89a merges with 89... and a major accident involving a pickup full of hay and an SUV causes only a very short delay in traffic. 64 westbound gets us into the park again, and at 5:00 local time we get to Lipan Point, where Ken should be! We find... no Hawkwatch people! Augh! Fret! A sign, talking about Hawkwatch... they're there until 5, which it just barely is... surely they didn't leave early! But more details on the signage point us off down a trail, which we follow... and there's Ken, and others! Yay!

We join them in birdwatching for a while, spotting... well... nothing but ravens. The storms of the last few days have put the birds down pretty thoroughly, apparently, and even though the weather is better today, there's still very little movement. They fold up at 5:30 or so, and we follow them back to the campsite. Ooooh, what a wonderful area! It's in a restricted area of the Kaibab National Forest, with TOWERING Ponderosa pine trees. Ken starts a fire going as Yvonne and I set up the tent and gear again. With light, and a lack of freezing, we do a much better job this time. Others start arriving, and introductions go around a few times - everybody is really very welcoming and friendly! Supper is a WONDERFUL vat of enchiladas, cooked in a dutch oven in the coals of our fire. It's a fine and relaxing evening spent sitting around the fire, talking and just generally relaxing.

Total mileage for Day 2: 149.5 miles

To the fire tower
Road to the fire tower
Up to the fire tower
On the steps of the fire tower
What are they bringing us?
Watching the ravens' delivery
Ravens' gift
The ravens' gift
South Rim View
Views from the South Rim
South Rim View
South Rim View South Rim View South Rim View
Grand Canyon Railroad
Grand Canyon Railroad
South Rim Lookout
Watching for condors from the Lookout
Hawk, maybe a redtail?
California Condor
California condor
Many pictures of ravens
Raven Raven Raven
Raven Raven Raven
From the Yaki Point observation post
Raven From Lipan Point
From the Lipan Point observation post
Use Caution!
Good advice
Gryph tracks a Cooper's hawk
Trees at Lipan Point
Caddy on the watch
More Hawkwatch staffers
Clouds Lipan Point flora
Lipan Point flora
Lichen rock Watchtower
The Watchtower
Watchtower From the Watchtower
Views from the Watchtower
From the Watchtower
Watchtower art
Inside the Watchtower
Watchtower art
Views from the Watchtower
Watchtower art
From the Watchtower Restrooms
Why are the balls on the womens' side?
Lipan Point
Back to Lipan Point for the sunset
Lipan Point Lipan Point
Lipan Point Lipan Point Lipan Point
Lipan Point Lipan Point Lipan Point
Lipan Point Lipan Point Lipan Point

Day 3 - Oct 2

A pretty good night's sleep, aided by the fact that it is quite a bit warmer, and with the tent better set up it is easier to drag more coverings (e.g. our leathers) over us to keep warmer still. Being serenaded by bugling elk was pretty neat.

I get up at 7:40 AM, and Yvonne's still asleep or dozing. Hmm... actually, it's 6:40 local time, even. Oog. But it's light out, and I need to use the can. Which is about a mile down the road, we were told last night - there for the use of a fire-tower watchperson. Guess I better get dressed! Ken's the only other person awake, and we have a brief howdy, then I'm off to the can.

It's about a 20 minute walk down the road to the watchtower, and it's a very pretty walk, nice and quiet. A few flights of ravens fly overhead, mostly in groups of 2 or 3, and they're always fun to watch. On my way there I see one group of hunters breaking camp, but that's it. At the tower is a group of hunters - a grandpa, pa, 3 sons, all up on the stairs of the tower itself. Naturally I had to climb it too, once morning duties were dealt with and the other folks had come down. A really fine view of the forests all around! More ravens on the way back, once a group of five, which circles back around over me about 3 times, doing a wonderful set of aerobatic moves through the tall pines. Another 20 minutes back to camp... all in all, an hour very nicely spent.

Back at camp, Yvonne's awake, as are several other folks, and breakfast is commencing. Deeeelicious banana walnut pancakes!

After the amusing and cordial chaos of everyone getting ready for their day, everyone leaves but myself, Bfly and Ken, who has the day off. We sit around sipping tea and chatting, when a pair of ravens comes overhead. To our considerable surprise, they drop something... at first we thought perhaps one of them had pooped, but no, it was definitely something else. And given how high they were (just above some pines that were probably 100') whatever it was had a long fall, and it did so rather slowly, hitting just to the side of the fire-ring. It's only during the last ten or twenty feet that we realize it's a pine tree branch tip! They fly right off together, after a successful... delivery? Bombing run? Gifting? Who knows! But it was a really magical moment.

Whatever they were up to, it was obviously deliberate. They flew right over us and dropped altitude in order to target us. Funny birds!

Despite Ken's protestations, Yvonne & I wash the dishes in classic camp manner, using absolutely minimal water - it all has to get carried in from elsewhere in the park. Then we just sit around and chat for a while, before hitching a ride with him to the park's visitor services center where we can take showers while he does laundry.

Oooooh, the showers felt good! He has a bit more laundry to do, so Yvonne and I set out for Bright Angel Lodge - catching a shuttle bus for most of the distance. We see tons more ravens, including a batch that chased what I suspect is a resident redtailed hawk. They eventually drove her down into the trees. Not too much later we see what we had really hoped to see on this trip - a California Condor! It was a LONG way down from our vantage point, but we got a great sense of the scale of those birds by the fact that it had an escort of four or five ravens... and the Condor's wingspan was greater than TWO of theirs combined! They didn't really seem to be harassing it, just flying escort. It flew past the next ridge, and that was the last we saw of it.

Then we see what was probably a Swainson's hawk, with a couple of ravens trying to give it a hard time. It dodged them rather neatly, and once it caught the ridge-lift effect at the edge of the canyon it just rocketed upwards, leaving the ravens far behind. Once it was well above the canyon walls, it continued on its way - obviously a transient. We'd love to stay longer, but Ken's probably waiting for us, so we take the bus back to Visitor Services and catch up with him again. We do a little shopping, picking up some beer (bad selection and bad prices!), then ride with him to Yaki Point to drop off Chaddy's forgotten water bottle at the other Hawkwatch observation post. We spent a while there, and got to see some Cooper's hawks, a male Kestrel, and some Sharpshinned hawks on their way through.

We also got a pretty close view of a pair of Swainson's hawks from the lookout at Bright Angel, but sadly weren't able to get a picture.

We ride with Ken back to camp and hang out for a little while, then get back on the bikes and ride back out to Lipan to meet up with Melanie again. Not many birds flying there... one redtail getting harrased by ravens, and some specks in the distance, some sort of buteos.

We decide we'll all take in the sunset there, so Yvonne and I get back on the bikes to run down to Desert View and top off the bikes, then ride over to the Watchtower.

Although we'd both been to the Grand Canyon a couple of times before, this was another thing we'd never seen. Built back in the early days of tourism at the grand canyon, the tower was designed by a female architect who dis a truly stunning job of integrating the thing into the landscape, as well as using styles and influences from many of the native peoples of the area. You could spend weeks finding the little touches that make this a truly spectacular piece of architecture - down to the perfect placement of stones that assist one walking up or down the spiral staircase.

After some icecream, we went back to Lapin point again, where we saw... no raptors at all! Still staying down after the storms, apparently. We did see some bats, and a lot of streamer-spiders, and a couple of swifts trailing great long swirls of streamer-silk - what a ride for the spiders! We could hear at least two elk bugling in the middle distance. After watching a very beautiful sunset, we made our way back to camp.

Every few years, piñon trees produce a bumper crop of seeds. This being one such year, piñon pickers were everywhere in Grand Canyon National Park - cars were literally parked nose-to-tail all along the roadsides. You gather the whole family, drive out to the forest, spread a blanket under a tree, and shake the tree to release the nuts. Then you weigh and package them and sell them at a flea market or by the roadside. Piñones (known to Mediterranean and many other cooks as pine nuts) are hellishly tedious to shell, so I prefer to leave the crop from our property to someone else and spend the extra bucks to buy them already shelled, but piñon harvesting is a cottage industry all over the Southwest.

Total mileage for Day 3: xxx miles
Loaded motorcycles
Ready to hit the road again
Loaded motorcycles Camp kitchen
In the camp kitchen
Fire tower
The fire tower
Fire tower Fire tower toilet
The ranger says decorating discourages people from leaving a mess
Back to Hawkwatch camp
Back to camp
South Rim view
Views from the South Rim
South Rim view
South Rim view On the road to Flagstaff
On the road to Flagstaff
On the road to Flagstaff
Between Holbrook and Springerville, AZ
Between Holbrook and Springerville
Between Holbrook and Springerville, AZ On the road to Flagstaff

Day 4 - Oct 3

I got up @ 8:00, decided against the 20 minute one-way walk to the potty, and hopped on the bike instead. It was a really wonderful ride, made a little extra-wonderful by riding without a helmet. Sort of like I was in an old war movie or something. I'm fairly compulsive abour riding with my helmet, so I really notice the difference - anybody who tells you helmets don't interfere with your hearing and peripheral vision is fooling themselves.

Breakfast was the usual pleasant scramble of everyone trying to get ready for their day, and wolf down their portion of a vat of oatmeal. We weren't in a particular rush, so we mostly stayed out of the way as everyone else got their breakfast dealt with. Packing up didn't take very long - we had gotten pretty good at it by this point, and we're really travelling quite light. We said our goodbyes, and rode off to the main lodge again, in hopes of seeing more birds.

We wound up parking the bikes quite a way from the rim, and hiked across the considerably built up parking lots around hotels and shops. Yvonne went shopping for postcards and gifts while I sat out at one of the observation points, scanning the skies. Unfortunately the birds still weren't flying very much, though the resident ravens continued to enjoy the pleasant winds.

While waiting for Yvonne to come back, I noticed a small group of Oriental people were glancing at me, and chattering, the words 'bike' and 'cycle' occasionally being audible. Since it was still pretty chilly I had kept on my chaps and vest, and was still carrying my leather jacket. A few moments later I was approached by one of them, a woman in her 50's, who asked hesitantly if I had cycled to the canyon. I grinned and explained that yes, my wife and I had both motorcycled to the canyon, which seemed to delight her greatly. She went back to her group and they chattered for another few moments, then she asked if she could take my picture. "American biker!" I found the whole thing enormously amusing, but obligingly sat for their photographs. I wish Yvonne had been there - they would really have been impressed by a Girl Biker!

Not too long after the Oriental group left Yvonne showed up with the goodies, so we spent a few more minutes watching for birds, then we caught a bus ckoser to the bikes and addressed the cards. Another short ride and we found the post office, where we spent a while digging for change to feed the stamp machine, then mailed the cards off.

The weather is awesome as we finally hit the road again... which lasts about an hour before it starts to get very threatening. We continued along on 180 through gorgeous landscape, seemingly riding straight into the storm, then finally turning off at an angle to it. The lush terrain is broken by a wide swath of burned timber from what must have been a fairly recent fire. We stop at a Shell outside of Flagstaff, where I pull out my bike's fuel filter. It -seems- clean, but I go ahead and leave it out. The bike's also pretty low on oil, and I'm embarrased that I hadn't checked that sooner! Definitely a note to self - check the darned oil every night when you stop!

The pit stop seems to help the Vision's performance, and though it's still faltering a bit it seems much stronger. The route suddenly seems a lot more familiar to me - this is part of the path we took to the Grand Canyon in a previous year! A short drive through town, then we're back on I-40. But we're not on the road long before I spot a sign for a Jack In The Box! We pull off the highway, take the exit up and over, backtrack a little, and then... dogfood tacos! Bfly's favorite! Mmmmmm, dog food tacos! We don't have Jack In The Box in New Mexico so I have to get my fix when I can. I indulge in a double bacon burger. It's a nice break, at a good time in the trip. Back on the road again, I notice I'm getting better mileage on my bike now, too. Tch.

As on the way out, we only had a short stretch on the interstate, from Flagstaff to Holbrook, before getting off onto more interesting roads.

We ride through Springerville, gassing up just as it gets dark. I get a free candy bar at the gas station... coo! I save it for later, though. We decide to push on to Alpine, since it supposedly has a good campground. After many miles we see a sign that says there's camping at the Alpine Divide, but never a sign for the Alpine Divide itself. It's getting cold, and Bfly's really ready to get off the bikes.

We go through town with no sign of the promised campground. We go a mile or so past town, then turn around and come back. I pull over at a lodge to ask for directions, but the lodge has a "Ring for service, please wait a few minutes for me to get to the office" sign up, and I just can't see doing that to someone when we're not going to be staying there. We go back into town and stop at the "Bear Wallow" - a little eatery with a "gone but not forgotton" POW flag out front. Seems like that's a pretty good sign they'll be biker friendly. There is a lot of overlap between veterans' groups and biker organizations. Sure enough, they are, and we get some really good pie and a couple of cups of coffee... as well as instructions on where to find this Alpine Divide. Apparently we passed it on the way in, and we almost miss it again on the way out! The sign isn't actually on the road, but is instead down a side-road! Easy to see in the daylight probably, but not at night, when it's nearly out of the range of headlights.

The camp is totally dark when we pull in, so we just choose a convenient slot and don't even bother with filling out a site permit. We've got camp set up pretty quickly, and fall into the sleeping bags for some much needed sleep!

We went to sleep to the songs of bugling elks and a Great Horned Owl.

Total mileage for Day 4: xxx miles

Alpine campsite
Campsite at Alpine Divide
Alpine Divide On road to Apache Creek, NM
On the road to Apache Creek, NM
On road to Apache Creek, NM On road to Apache Creek, NM On road to Apache Creek, NM
Apache Creek to Quemado Apache Creek to Quemado Swinging in Pietown
Pietown's a swinging place
Swinging in Pietown Pietown sandbox
Murder in the sandbox
Bernardo to Mountainair
Between Bernardo and Mountainair - almost home!

Day 5 - Oct 4

The next morning I get up about 7:30, do writeup for last half of yesterday, and take a walk to get warm, as it's very cold! It's a very pretty campsite, and I get some nice pictures of the aspens. Bfly starts stirring at around 8:00 (my time, local 7:00 - they don't do DST in AZ). She says she didn't sleep well. We get a visit from the camp host, who talks about the way the local elk often get into battles over their does nearby, sometimes even right in the campground. We pay up, and by 8:30 we're packing up to go.

Back through Alpine again, then onwards. We're eager to get home now, and we push on pretty aggressively. A brief stop in Apache Canyon for gas and stretch, following some wonderfully windy roads through absolutely stunning countryside. At noon we stop at Pie Town, hoping to get some of that wonderful piiiieeeee. But there is none! One restaurant is closed Mondays, and the other one is just... closed, without explanation. There's a big sign out front talking about someone's death, and we have to guess they're in mourning.

Undeterred, we motor across the road to the park and have a lunch of various goodies. Squeeze cheese (bacon flavor!), Ritz crackers, processed beef jerky... yum! We have the last of Ken's brownies for dessert. But no pie! *cry* We do enjoy some play on the swingset, however, as well as discovering a grim tableau in the sandbox.

We had no luck finding Gizmo's (Damn) Pass either.

The antennas of the Very Large Array were in their small configuration, which affords a very nice view of the overall layout. The largest configuration is also neat, but it's harder to see what the whole thing looks like when they're so spread out.

Gizmo's (Damn) Pass might have been easier to find if his web site hadn't claimed it was west of Pietown when in fact it is east, but we were having fun anyway so we won't hold it against him. Pietown cafes were closed. Cafe outside Mountainair was closed. Cafes in Mountainair were closed. Obviously, we were not meant to stop. It was a hard riding day, with very little time off the bikes, and I was seriously wanting to get off the bike by afternoon. My butt complained fervently. But we were close to home and it was early, so we just keep going. We couldn't have asked for a more gorgeous day for riding.

It's pretty late by the time we pull in, and we're REALLY glad to be home, and off the bikes. We pushed really hard at the end, but it felt so good to know we were home, and that we could sleep without having to set up camp!

Total mileage for Day 5: xxx miles

Total trip mileage: 1,432 miles

Lessons learned

We did amazingly well, given that this was our first time doing a camping trip on the motorcycles. It's the first time we've been tent camping, period, in quite a few years. It was also my first really long (over 1,000 miles) trip on the bikes.

Things we did right:
Most of them, really! We packed really appropriately, which was heavily, given the weather. But the only things we packed that we didn't need WOULD have been needed if it had really poured on us like we anticipated. We never needed the spare gas can, but having it with us really reduced the pressure in some of those backwoods areas.

Silks are an essential for cold-weather riding. They squish up very small, are lightweight and don't restrict movement, and they add a vital layer of warmth. I carried two full sets of silk sock liners and long johns, as well as silk glove liners and balaclava. Together they took up less space than a single long-sleeved t-shirt. The new t-bag for my sissy bar was also a lifesaver, as it significantly expanded the amount of stuff we could carry.

Things we'd do differently:
Very few, and basically all about our equipment. A smaller tent would have been more than adequate, and would have probably been warmer. We really need to invest in a cold-weather backbacking tent if we want to keep doing this. Replacing my bulky old sleeping bag with a snifty new (smaller & warmer) one would be nice. It would have been very handy if my bike had had saddlebags also - we could have then carried a small cookstove and stuff for a few hot meals. Heated gloves would have been really nice.

I have been content for a long time with a short (4-foot) Thermarest that fits into a pocket on the bottom of my sleeping bag. However, in very cold weather I can really feel the lack of insulation at the foot of the bag, so it's time to buy a full-length pad. Leaning against the t-bag convinced me that I need a driver's backrest for long distance trips, so if I can ever afford a new Mustang seat for the Vulcan I'll have to keep that in mind. (Speaking of seats, my butt also votes in favor of a cushier seat.) I'd also like to replace the leather saddlebags with hardbody bags; the leather is attractive, but I think I'd be able to get more into a set of Leatherlyke bags. Also on my wish list: heated grips!

Next time I'll give a little more thought to what happens when I'm not on the bike. I wish I'd packed a few things for use "in-camp." My feet were unhappy in steel-toe boots all the time, so next trip I'll find space for a pair of my trusty Birkenstocks. And I needed a hat or earmuffs to wear around on cold nights when we weren't riding - I didn't even think about that because I figured I'd have the helmet on, but once it came off my ears got cold!

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