Cold weather solo ride 3,000 miles to Las Vegas and back

This entire story is Copyright protected, Becky Witt, 2017, All Rights Reserved.

I’m in the Auto Repair business, so every year, I go to Las Vegas for Auto Industry week, the first week of November. Hotel reservations made, plane tickets long ago purchased, I’m ready.

But, after the adventures I’ve had riding a Harley all over, I think why not?  I could ride my Harley from Lincoln, Nebraska to Las Vegas. It’s only 1,455 miles one way. I’ve done crazier things. Well….

This would involve riding alone through some very desolate areas, some of which are not in very good repair, if you get my drift. Besides, there’s this thing called cold weather in Nebraska and you can’t exactly just roll up with windows and crank up the heat on a motorcycle.

I’ve had some great experiences to prepare me for this ride. The first thing to determine is how many days, how many miles per day and where will I stay for the night. The optimum for my delicate little behind area is 350 to 425 miles per day. 1455 miles at 363 per day makes 4 straight days riding a bike all day. Wow. Alone. Cold.

Well, to quote the little kid Calvin, from the strip, “Calvin and Hobbs”, “What could possibly go wrong?”

I decided to make calculations on where I’d buy gasoline and make sure there were gas stations where I needed them. On this route, 80 miles with no services is not uncommon.  I’ll ride 350 miles to Dodge City, Kansas on the first day. Then 465 miles to Albuquerque, New Mexico, followed by 350 miles to Flagstaff, Arizona and finish with 250 miles to Las Vegas.  Got motel reservations made, gas stops planned.

Then, I put those towns into my phone for weather information. I watched the 5 day forecasts. The first 2 days would be cold, the second 2 days would be great. Perfect.

I learn that overnight lows might be just below freezing at 30 degrees. I’ve ridden comfortably at 45 degrees with heated gloves, but not all day. I’ve got heated gloves and my bike has heated grips and a front fairing, as well as lower fairings for my legs and feet. Harley has just come out with a jacket liner that’s heated, so I got one of those and had my bike wired for all this.

The day of decision arrives, 2 days prior to departure, where I have to decide to fly or ride the bike. I decide to ride the bike and call the airlines to cancel my ticket. Gulp.

Lows had been in the mid 40’s with highs in the 60’s. So, the day I depart was the coldest day of the modern recorded history of all weather. Not really, but 26 degrees with Northwest winds of 25 mph, gusting to 40 made it seem that way. I had to be crazy. Or stupid. Or a determined biker.

I bundled up, plugged in all my gear and sat outside on that bike for a minute, holding the bike up against that stiff wind. As the bike swayed, I decided I’d ride west 50 miles to York, Nebraska, where my route turned south. I could always come back home and take the car if it was unbearable.

I fired up the bike, played the song of our people (loud, open-road bike exhaust pipes) and eased into gear. I got up onto the Interstate and was instantly buffeted severely by turbulent winds around the big rigs. I’d practiced this in the days prior to leaving, so I was confident I could stay out of the ditch and refrain from going under the tandem wheels of a semi-trailer that had a sticker on back that said, “cats flattened while-U-wait”.

My gear kept me sort of warm as I rode. It wasn’t that bad, I kept telling myself, as I sounded more like a used car salesman trying to get the papers signed on a flood car from Houston. I was fighting a ¾ headwind from the northwest as I rode straight west. I was riding 75 mph into 25 to 40 mph winds, so use your imagination on how to keep control of a motorcycle under those conditions. A touring Harley wasn’t as aerodynamic as one of those little Asian café racers, where you lay down to ride it.

Well, frostbite hadn’t set in as I got to York. As I turned south, I had the wind partially to my back. Wow, what an improvement. This is a relative piece of cake. I rode south and my decision had been made. I’m a biker and headed to Vegas, baby.

About 2 hours later, the frigid air began to gain a hold on my. It was cold. I’m now 3 hours into a 7-hour day and thinking how nice it would be to be in my car, with automatic climate control. And windows, lovely windows to hold in the warm air. Well, too bad Toots, we ain’t got no stinkin’ windows.

I stopped for gas and my hands seemed to freeze instantly as I removed my gloves to pump gas. I couldn’t even get back in the car while the gas pumped. I finished the job and clumsily put my gloves back on, plugged in my jacket heater and glove heaters. Then I had to start the bike and reset all the “on” switches and make the settings. The jacket and gloves both had 3 speeds, I set them on medium. My heated grips has 9 speeds, I had them on 2.

The route turned southwest, which meant I now had a perfect side wind, always pushing me sideways. I leaned the bike over to the right and rode on. I expected it to get warmer as I rode south and I was right. It got all the way up to 34 degrees. Wow. I could hardly stand the heat. Funny, but after being exposed to 70 mph wind chills for hours, it didn’t feel any different. I thought about stopping for lunch and warming up, but I was afraid I wouldn’t want to get back on the bike again. I could see myself hiding under a bar table for the next week until time to go home. No, I’d press on.

I really wanted to stop and take pictures as I traveled. It would be great to share those photos when I returned. The mechanics of stopping with numb fingers and all that undoing, followed by all that doing kept me riding on. I really wanted to get there.

And so I did arrive in Dodge City. No frost bite, no damage and quite a bit of swagger about what I’d just done. Checked into the motel, hopped back on the bike to fill it with gas for the morning departure and to have a nice dinner.

The Women’s Freedom ride had taught me the value of filling the tank before going to bed, so the bike is ready in the morning.

Part 2 next—20 degrees and bike won’t start.

The night I arrived, I had dinner at the Bad Habit Bar in Dodge City, Kansas. It was a very nice place, the building appeared neat and well-kept inside and out.

I had a burger that was extremely tasty and well served in its presentation. That means it looked good. J

This place was a mile from my motel.

I’d like to digress a bit and talk about the proper gear for this type of ride. Going this far when it’s this cold can be threatening to your health. Hypothermia or frostbite is no trivial matter and I had no intention of being found along the road somewhere.

 

I start with Underarmor Base 2 or Base 3 thermal tops, depending on the weather. Northface makes a terrific wind barrier jacket that goes on next, followed by a Harley Davidson waterproof leather jacket. It has a water proof liner built right in, meaning you can’t take it out and has 2 zippers, one for the liner and another for the leather jacket. Dressed this way, my body is warm and comfy at 45 degrees for extended riding if I also wear heated gloves, which I do. My bike also has heated grips and a fairing that keeps the wind off my hands, upper body and legs.

For colder temperatures than that, I bought a new Harley Davidson heated jacket liner. This liner and the gloves plug into wire harnesses installed on my bike. My Ultra Limited has an extra large capacity charging system to handle “all the lights and electrical goodies you want to install”, claims the manual.

The jacket and gloves each have 3 settings, I used the middle one for the cold temps and they worked great. I put the heated grips on 2, out of 8 settings and my hands were always nice and toasty warm. In fact, I got heat blisters on one hand once.

 

I wore full leather chaps and heavy jeans. My legs got cold, but I can handle that. Years being a downhill snow skier have conditioned me to take it. Still, with all this gear on, I must have looked like the Michelin Man’s old Lady. I was fat and round, more so than usual.

 

Back to the bike. It was 20 degrees the next morning with 20 mile per hour winds. At least it wasn’t gusting to 40. My bike lives inside a heated garage, so this was a new test.

 

The bike barely cranked at all. It was so slow, I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to start. But it did sputter slightly. I cranked it again and watched the volt meter. My heart sank as I watched the cranking voltage drop below 8 volts. The computer and fuel injection probably wouldn’t work at that low voltage. The engine sputtered a little again. I waited a bit. I could only get it to sputter briefly and soon I smelled raw gas. Darn, I’d probably got the spark plugs coated with black soot on the cold one mile ride home from dinner. I took a chance and held the throttle wide open to clear out the excess fuel in hopes that would get it to fire. It did fire a little and belched black smoke, but it wouldn’t stay running.

 

Great. I felt helpless, frustrated and cold. It was 20 degrees, the wind was blowing, I was 350 miles from home with a bike that wouldn’t start. I was only glad I was in a motel parking lot and not out somewhere remote. I was challenged with riding 465 miles this day and this was not a good way to start. I couldn’t just wait for the sun to warm things up, I was running out of time and it wasn’t going to get much warmer very soon.

 

Being a real planner for disaster, I was carrying a small jumper box. It was smaller than a carton of cigarettes, but was a pro model with enough power to start a big truck. I’d used it before to start a totally dead Acura V6 and it quickly fired off that V6 with no effort at all. That barely took any power and it showed to have 97 percent remaining after that. I’d asked the Harley service people what was the best way to hook it up and I was shown the starter location with an easily accessed positive post to attach the jumper cable and the other one goes to ground. I was confident.

 

Still, the box was buried in the bottom of a saddle bag and it was cold. I was determined to get this baby going. Being a car mechanic pays dividends and I’m a real machinery whisperer. I seem to be able to get machines to operate by simply laying my hands on them. You see, professional auto mechanics are lazy. We will NEVER push a car into the shop that has been towed in for a “no-start” condition when we can start them up and drive them in. I’ve done this a gazillion times. I was hoping for an encore.

 

I performed the “clear flood” procedure again. This involves holding the throttle wide open while cranking. (This works great on cars, too, when it’s really cold outside). I was down to my last few sparks in the bike battery when the Heavenly Goddess of Biking answered my prayers. I took my hand off the throttle, performed the standard starting procedure and the Harley roared to life, spewing thick black smoke out the pipes. Wow, I breathed a sigh of total relief. Thank you, O Holy Goddess. I am one lucky biker, but I’ve always been lucky.

 

I raised the idle up to about 2,000 rpm to help the engine clear out the excess fuel and get important things warmed up and moving. I gave the bike a nice initial warmup as a reward while I got my gear plugged in and operating. I’ve got a modular helmet with a chin flap that keeps my head nice and warm. I never needed anything for my face or head. The Harley Helmet was just perfect.

 

Oh, yes, I could feel the jacket begin to warm up. Wrap me in your warmth and keep my little fingers warm, as well. The bike was idling nicely as I finished getting all my gear hooked up and going. As I struggled to lift my bike off the kickstand, I felt a little stiff and cold. The bike weighs in over 1,000 pounds with luggage and getting it upright is sometimes a bit of a trick. Still, I got her up and pulled back the kickstand. As I eased out the clutch, I felt a little stiff. Seriously? I should be in intensive care after what I’ve just been through. Shut up and ride.

 

I carefully moved forward and turned out of the parking space into the lot and onto the street. Another curve and I’m headed down the road. Cue Steppenwolf, I got my motor runnin, headin out on the highway. It was cold. Big surprise. 20 degrees cold.

 

Never mind, shut up about it and ride. So I did. I had 465 miles to cover to get to Albuquerque. As I wiggled and moved, I could feel serious warmth from the jacket. It felt great. So I’d wiggle as I rode. My hands stayed nice and warm, I was surprised and comforted. The combination of handle grip heaters and heated gloves was really nice. I had a side wind, but it was bearable.

 

I tried to focus on the joy of riding. The scenery was flat and brown. This part of the country was so flat, they don’t need road maps. You can stand on the hood of your pickup and see about as far as you can drive in a day. This was cattle country and there were cattle trucks all over the place. The occasional feed lots were bigger than many cities, with cows as far as you could see. I could visualize a veterinarian, charged with checking the thousands of cattle for health. What a job.

 

I regret that I have no photos to share from this part of the journey, but It was a 10 minute process to stop and remove gloves, then put it all back together again.

Part 3 next—what you learn about cattle trucks that they never teach you in a car

 

     I was cold before I left the parking lot. Navigation shouldn’t be so hard. I only had to get from highway 56, which went into the mountains and then to Sante Fe, down to highway 54, which stayed in the flatlands. Lacking concentration, I missed my first turn, which was only a few miles from my start at the motel. I stopped as I realized my mistake and considered a U-turn in the highway. My bike was extremely top heavy and I was cold and stiff. I decided a U-turn was too risky with traffic on the road.

 

It was not a big deal, as there were other roads that I could take further along my route. I drove on to the small town of Sublette, Kansas. Turning south there would take me into Liberal, Kansas. Liberal has a really cool Wizard of Oz museum. I’ve been through it and they claim to have Dorothy’s house. This is certainly a good place for this little attraction, as the flat Kansas landscape is right in tornado alley. It’s quite easy to visualize the witches dueling it out. I already felt like one was following me, what with the cold temperatures and stiff winds.

 

Dodge City was on the legendary cattle trail and this was still cattle country. There was lots of corn that was in the process of being harvested. If you’ve never seen corn ready for harvest, it looks shriveled and brown and it appears the crop is a total loss. The stalks are very skinny, the leaves all but gone and the ears hang dejectedly down. Corn can’t be harvested when wet, it has to reach a certain percentage of low moisture before it can be brought in. This look is completely normal and is part of the maturation and drying of the crop. Fall rains threaten this process.  The corn makes excellent feed for cattle. Already, quite a few cows could be seen grazing on the leftovers in the harvested fields.

 

This year’s corn crop must be a bumper crop, because a lot of corn and I mean a lot was being stored outside on the ground. It wasn’t their first rodeo for this situation. They had nice metal retaining walls all around the giant piles of corn and huge plastic sheets covered the crop. Scrap tires served out their retirement weighing down the plastic. Major rail lines ran right through this country, just waiting for the opportunity to load the corn onto rail cars for transportation to market.

 

I tried to focus on the idea that the weather would warm as the day aged and I got further south. I had 465 miles to go and I was looking forward to seeing some of the top icons of Route 66. Traffic was light. There were few cars and more trucks. There seemed to be a lot of cattle trucks. I’m guessing the trucks were moving cattle from the fields to the feed lots for finishing. After a stay in the feed lots, cattle would then be transported to beef processing facilities. I have no idea where those are, but there are feed lots all over the place.

 

I rode into Liberal, found Highway 54 and turned right. Navigation is all done. I simply follow this road 250 miles to Tucumcari, New Mexico. That’s where I hook up with the famous and historic Route 66. I also hope to catch some warmer weather by the time I get there. That’s also the half way point for the day. Holy frozen body parts, what ever am I doing out here on a motorcycle? Riding to Las Vegas, shut up and ride.

 

My excitement builds as I roll out of Liberal, as I’m now headed for Oklahoma. I’ll be crossing that skinny little appendage that sticks out west of the top left corner of the state. I’ll go through Hooker and Guymon. The land stays flat and the riding is easy. The road is only 2 lane and traffic can get heavy. Put a lot of trucks on the road and this can be tense driving conditions. Speed limit is 70 mph, which means you can drive 75 and the Troopers leave you alone. Most trucks are doing 70, so you have to pass seemingly often.

 

The scary part of passing on 2 lane highways is knowing how far away oncoming traffic is. The average car can pass the average truck in about 12 seconds, maybe 14. So, where you’re behind a truck, look ahead at traffic and start counting, 1 one thousand, 2 one thousand, until the traffic passes the truck. That’s how many seconds away was the traffic. As you practice this, it’s easier to get a feel for when to stay put and when it’s safe to try a pass. Your greatest fear is not having enough time and finding that out when you’re part way past.

 

Rather than being stressful, I actually enjoyed this part of the trip. Yes, my Harley can pass a truck in about 6 seconds. Woooohoooo. It was certainly fun to kick down from 5th gear to 4th and stand on it. That steel girl loves to run and is quicker than a bunny.

 

There was only one other situation that was substantially different than being in a car and that was following and passing a cattle truck. Yes, you see livestock isn’t exactly housebroken or trailer-broken. When they gotta go, they just go. A mature cow can put out a stream of urine very much like a residential garden hose, both in pressure and volume. Now, imagine being right behind one of those right up close and watching for traffic. Like I said, just imagine. OK, enough.

 

I don’t think a cattle truck should need a “Please don’t tail-gate this truck” sign. It all works out and should be considered a safety feature that might have a place in other vehicles.

 

This is not only an issue to consider when following, but also overtaking and passing. And, don’t forget when the truck is coming at you with the force of wind hitting you as it passes by. I give every single truck the maximum legal distance I can in any situation. I respect trucks and I respect their cargo.

 

I stopped for gas in Stratford, Oklahoma. My bike will theoretically go 190 miles on a tank. This distance depends a lot of speed, wind, how many trucks I pass and other things. The lowest is 150, with 200 about my limit of risk.  I carefully plan my gas stops so I can reduce the risk of running out of gas and at the same time not be stopping all the time. A single woman on the side of the road with a dead vehicle is a tempting target. You can’t exactly roll up the windows and lock the doors, you know.

 

I was headed into some of the most desolate and threatening parts of the trip. Some of the road ahead might be so remote as to not even have mobile phone signals. Can’t hear you now.

 

So, I stopped for gas and my fingers froze as I took off my gloves. I was certainly stiff. I put in gas, fired up the bike and took off again. I’m not even going inside for anything. It can wait. I was really intent on getting to Logan, New Mexico for lunch at one of my favorite biker bars.

 

Part 4 next—A ghost town and a really great biker bar.

 

     I’ve got a temp sensor on my bike and I kept checking it as I went. It was creeping up slightly. I started in 20 degree weather and now it had rocketed up to 29. Oh, boy!

 

I cross the border into Texas. I love Texas, it’s like a whole other country. Speed limit 75, crank ‘er up folks. So, I did. However, these roads just aren’t the smoothest things I’ve ever ridden. It took a little skill to deal with the crowns and gullies here and there.

 

Dotting the roadsides were countless little picnic areas where you can pull off the road, arrange a bunch of bricks to hold the table cloth in place, get out the old wicker picnic basket and take a break from your travels. They’re a very picturesque reminder of the days before fast food. Although, I must say, I haven’t seen any fast food service on this road.

 

I enter Dalhart, Texas, watching my speed very carefully as I travel through town. Not because there’s anything about which to concern myself in Dalhart, but because people always need to watch their speed in small towns. I want to be just below the limit in every town. You never know when the judge will be the sheriff’s relative. I enjoy the small towns and it reminds me of the renewal cycle of life and towns. A small motel is about to have difficulties because new ones are either just built or in the process of it.

 

I leave Dalhart and I’m about to ride past the most amazing cattle feeding operations I’ve ever seen. Large trucks bring in the food and the lots seem to stretch over the horizon. Automation is obvious. The heat of summer brings out the “smell of money” as it’s called by locals and more flies than you can imagine. I’m thankful the cold weather has reduced these symptoms quite a bit.

 

OK, open road means I can open her up again. I ride through Texas and this part is really desolate. There are no more towns until I reach the New Mexico border and the little ghost town of Nara Visa, New Mexico. There’s a port of entry for trucks, an old truck stop with boarded up windows, but with some signs of people changing tires. There’s no sign of life anywhere else. There’s an old bar, an old store, school that says it’s the community center and lots of shuttered buildings. I can’t tell if the little motel is open or not. I know I’ll not be checking in there or even asking about rates.

 

Sorry about no photos of Nara Visa. I’m not pulling over into broken glass or anything that might puncture a tire.

 

I’m excited now. The temperature is pushing 40 degrees, I’m making great time and it’s only 30 miles to lunch in Logan. Yes, I’ll be stopping this day.

 

A woman traveling alone needs to be very careful where she stops and what places she enters. Women are a soft target and her presence alone in a bar might be easily interpreted the wrong way. Some may feel she’s looking for more than a burger, if you understand my thought process.

 

A woman biker, on the other hand, is not regarded at all in the same light. Her presence in a bar means she’s here to take a break and get something to eat. Bikers are carefully regarded with respect by most. It’s never known if the rest of her biker pack is about to arrive or just how many weapons she might be carrying. (grin)  One way or another, she’s not often considered helpless and is generally left alone.

 

 

Small town bars often cater to bikers, as they’re a good source of revenue and often very well behaved. This is like some secret subculture of our society. A female biker will be well protected by the owners or employees of the bar and those people know the locals. It’s a great deal and the food is often far superior to chain food places. The small town bar is the local restaurant and is proud of their food.

So, I roll into Logan and find a parking place right in front of the Annex Bar and Grill. This is a really nice place and it was packed at lunch time. It felt so good to get off that bike and inside out of the weather. I got a booth, took off 3 jackets, one helmet and 2 gloves. I got a spot where I can watch my bike from my seat. This is a key requirement for me. I want to be the one who rides her away.

I ordered a burger, my favorite low carb meal, and headed for the restroom. Taking down full leather chaps as well as a pair of jeans was at least doable without dealing with 3 coats and gloves. Washed my hands and I’m ready for some lunch.

 

Just as I thought, there was no cell phone signal at all there. The bar did have wifi, so I could text my daughter and friends to let them know I was still OK.

I ordered the bacon mushroom cheese burger and steamed broccoli. I’d asked for no bun, but removing the bun was easy. This was a 5 star bar burger. The bacon was extremely crispy and the broccoli could be cut with a fork and that’s my standard. The bar was well decorated and the place was clean. I had a nice break and was ready to ride after lunch.

Tucumcari, New Mexico

 

I was very excited, as the next stop was Route 66, baby, the mother road. The hard part would now be over. I could be a serious tourist. This was the reason I was on a bike, fulfilling a dream. There were a lot of vintage Route 66 things in Tucumcari. One of the top icons of Route 66 is the Blue Swallow Motel, which was purchased and refurbished by a couple who loves the whole atmosphere of the road.

The Blue Swallow’s unique feature is every room had a garage next to it. You could park your car in a garage and have a nice room right there. They have some vintage cars parked in garages for effect and a vintage car in front. The neon lights are a great feature at night. The place is fully restored and very neat and tidy. Reviews from guests comment on how clean the place is and how nice are the owners.

 

I ran across an old couple there. I inquired if they were owners and they replied that they were tourists taking pictures as they traveled. So was I. We had a nice visit and the guy took a photo of me on the bike as I left. I’m now famous somewhere besides Japan.

 

There are many motels from the 50’s and other businesses. There’s a little newer restaurant, as well. I’ve dined there before and it was very good. I’m still full from the bar in Logan, so I motor on. The ride through Tucumcari is a good one to take.

 

Route 66 was originally built in 1926, or at least that’s when construction started. This was dubbed “the mother road” by John Steinbeck in his book “Grapes of Wrath”. The book dealt with the story of a family who, like so many others, had to abandon their Oklahoma farm in the dust bowl years of the 1930s. Handbills passed out promised great opportunities harvesting crops in California. This was a scam, but it started an exodus of people on the scale of Moses leading his people out of Egypt.

 

Route 66 is a main focus in the book. Prior to the road’s construction, the only ways to travel cross country was by train or using horses. The book “Grapes of Wrath” established the great American tradition of the road trip. Although a lot of roads were built about this same time, there appears to be a magic to this road.

 

“Well if you ever plan to motor west,

Travel my way, take the highway that’s the best,

Get your kicks on Route 66”

 

Those are the lyrics to the song, “Route 66”, first sung by Nat King Cole in 1946, also recorded by Bing Crosby, Chuck Berry, the Rolling Stones and others. The TV show Route 66, starring George Maharis and Martin Milner from 1960 to 1964, had a different theme song written by Nelson Riddle. It featured two young men working their way across the country in a corvette convertible. It was quite a good show and is readily available on YouTube, as is Nat King Cole’s song.

 

Route 66 was also quite notable in marketing history. It really developed architecture as a marketing method. Some of these are gone, but I want to see the motel made up of concrete teepees for rooms.

 

The Interstate Highway system proved to be the end of Route 66, as Interstate 40 bypassed all the towns. There are exits at every town for “Historic Route 66” where you can get off the Interstate and travel through history through the towns and then get back on the Interstate. In some places you can travel on beyond and experience the mother road. In other places you can see remnants of the original road next to the Interstate.

 

Now, I finish my ride on Route 66 on out of Tucumcari. I’ve still got nearly 200 miles yet to ride to get to Albuquerque, my stop for the night. It’s not getting any earlier and I want to arrive before dark.

 

Part 5 next. Route 66 adventure and a potential tragedy

 

     The last part of the ride out of Tucumcari is slightly depressing, as you pass old truck stops long since abandoned. They must have been very nice in their day, with multiple gas pumps and nice looking restaurants. In the 50’s, cars got 12 mpg and the tanks held 20 gallons or less. The average range on a tank of gas was around 150, with gusts to 180, depending on how you drove. Having to slow down to go right through every town meant you’d do well to average 45 mph at the end of the day. A full day’s traveling netted you 400 miles if you pushed it.

 

With no such thing as self service, a uniformed attendant pumped the gas, cleaned the windows and checked under the hood. Yes, under the hood lurked many surprises and you wanted them found so the “mechanic on duty” could take care of them right there, before you got stuck on the road. The mother road. Route 66. It mostly had no shoulders, just 2 lanes of black top if you were lucky. I saw places where the original road went through low places and the sign warned of water on the road in case of rain.

 

There were no fast food outlets back then. When you wanted to eat, you got out of the car and sat down at a table. You got out some nickels and checked the little juke box thing that was in every booth to see if there was any good music to play. The smell of a hot griddle made you hungry for pancakes or hamburgers. And, yes, Flo was your waitress and there were all sorts of slices of pie in the glass pie cases. A cheeseburger, fries and a chocolate malt would get you through the day quite nicely. Cholesterol hadn’t been discovered yet and everything they served was whole food. Preservatives and processed food hadn’t been invented.

 

Oh, yes, I forgot. Everybody smoked cigarettes. There were ashtrays all over and cigarettes were sold everywhere, too.  Billboards and signage promoting cigarettes was extensive.

 

But, let’s get the motorcycle back on the road. I passed the last burned-out motel in town and eased the big Harley back onto the road. I love this part. Down the entry ramp and brrrrappp up to 75 in about 1.6 seconds. Check around for traffic, set the cruise control on 78 mph and settle in for some fabulous scenery. I’ve got a very comfy seat and an adjustable back rest. The fairings keep the wind off my body and legs. The weather was warming up nicely now, it was about 52 degrees. I was no longer freezing.

 

The terrain around Tucumcari has some very tall rock formations that rise up suddenly out of the flat desert. The biggest one around town is loaded down with enough antennas to communicate with nuclear submarines in the Philippines. It’s impressive.

 

While this isn’t quite the Coyote and the Road Runner country, it offers fantastic vistas of faraway features due to the formation of the land. Looking out and seeing trains a mile long or more carrying shipping containers is beautiful and seems like the stuff you’d see on a train calendar. If I said those 4 words once, I’ve said them a thousand times, “This is so pretty”.   There’s something magical and quite special about riding a motorcycle. I’ve been down Route 66 in a car, with a travel trailer and in a motor home, but I’ve always thought the ultimate cool would be on an open road motorcycle. I was right. This is just the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done.

 

I get to lean the bike over in the wide sweeping curves, take on the steep inclines with grace and ease and just let the bike do its thing on the open road. I can see everything on the edges of the road and I make friends with every trucker on the highway. Having driven a truck pulling a long trailer and a bus motorhome, I understand that cars don’t want to let you change lanes. No one wants to behind a big rig, so they get cut off with regularity.

 

Not me, I hit the brakes, flash my lights and wave my arms to let those big drivers in. I’m in no hurry, I’ve got no real deadlines and I know they’ve got radios. I want all of them to be talking about that nice chick on the red Harley. If I’ve got trouble, I want about 300 large friends close by. I got all sorts of waves and respect from those truckers.

 

As it turns out, a lot of 4-wheelers admire a chrome steed as well. I got frequent “thumbs up” from passing cars, trucks and SUVs. Probably didn’t hurt that I went out of my way to salute any military that I encountered. My mission was to make as many friends as I could on that road and it was fun to do so. Road rage can find someone else, I was busy riding my dream trip.

 

I rode past Santa Rosa, which features the “Blue Hole”, a small body of water that’s 80 feet deep and clear as a bell. I just didn’t have the time and it was far too cold to put on a bathing suit.

 

I was intent on stopping for gas in Moriarty, New Mexico. I had friends who’d taken pictures at a truck stop there and it looked really cool, so I decided that was my next fuel stop.

 

I didn’t see it, so I took the first exit for Moriarty. I rode down the old Route 66, admiring a little history as I rode. I never saw the truck stop and I was pretty low on fuel, so I pulled into a side entrance to a station and rolled up to the pump. I filled her up and it looked like I could drive straight forward back onto the street. As I went forward, I realized there was not a curb cut there, so I turned to the right. It was all black top pavement, so it must lead back out. But, no, it doesn’t.  I could see a serious curb sticking up and no way out. There was now loose gravel all over the pavement. With a thousand pound bike, you don’t stop on gravel. You don’t just turn those things around on a dime, or even 2 nickels. I had no choice but to roll up over the curb and back down. This was the physical equivalent of rolling over one of those concrete wheel stops in parking lots. Yes, the ones so tall they can high-center a low slung car.

 

I pulled in the clutch to let the bike roll over the curb. The front leaped violently high into the air and came down with a very hard clunk on the frame, then the rear wheel took its turn and nearly flung me off the bike. As the rear wheel came down, I realized the bike had tipped to the right further off center than I could catch it. I was going down hard onto the pavement. My bottom was still off the seat and I was hanging onto the handlebars while the bike seemed to be plunging into the concrete.

 

I’d only owned this bike about 3 months and I’d dumped it over 7 times or more. I wasn’t able to budge it by myself, I don’t care what youtube videos say. This thing weighed 900 pounds without luggage and I had a good 100 pounds on her. This had become so bad that I’d figured out a way to get the bike back upright using 2 little scissors jacks for cars and a number of wooden blocks for shims.

 

I’d raise the rear, then raise the front. That enabled me to reposition the rear jack so I could raise it and reposition the front. And so it went until I had the bike upright. My big problem seemed to happen when I’d hit the front brake and the bike wasn’t quite straight. Once I hit the front when the bike wasn’t straight, it was like lumberjacks felling a ponderosa pine. Down she’d go. Boom. It was over.

 

As I studied this situation, I realized that I wasn’t focusing on the most important thing at the time—that was stopping the bike in a straight line. No, I was watching traffic to see if I could go. I had to understand that you can’t see if it’s clear to go until you’ve fully stopped. I’d also try to get the bike into neutral as I came to a stop, like to buy gas. Once again, it didn’t matter what gear I was in if I was falling over. Forget the gear. Stop the bike carefully in a straight line. After stopped, then I could fiddle with neutral.

 

A close friend had told me I needed to sell the bike, as it was simply more than I could handle. I loved riding this bike so much that I wasn’t ready for that. Not yet. Not until I had learned what I felt I needed to learn. Women who ride open road bikes need to understand leverage and technique. We’re not going to be tossing around large metal objects using brute strength. No, we’ll finesse our way using brains and leverage. So far on this ride, I’d done a great job. Now, I was in a situation that was unforeseen and potentially devastating.

 

So, back to flying through the air with a huge bike nose-diving into the pavement. I have no idea how all this happened, but as I was going down, I thought, “no, I’m not!” I twisted the throttle hard and feathered the clutch and the bike lunged forward, which stopped it from going down. It responded by turning right. As I rode this out and stayed on the throttle, it wobbled back and forth. To my total amazement, I regained control of the bike and it NEVER WENT DOWN. I stopped about 20 feet away, dazed, disoriented, but holding the bike upright in total triumph.

 

The bike’s frame hit the curb hard, I mean really hard. I looked back and saw 2 large gouges out of the concrete. Then I saw a piece of plastic laying there that looked like it should be on the bottom of my bike. I looked at my bike and could see where something should be covered, but it wasn’t. Phooey.

 

I tried to put the plastic back on, but I couldn’t see how to do it. I was a mental wreck at this point. A very nice young man watched all this and checked on me. We had a nice conversation and I got calmed down again. There were no other pieces falling off. There were no leaks. The bike seemed to run fine. I bid him farewell and got back on the bike. I was scared to death that I’d ruined my bike.

 

I rode on 30 mph roads and everything seemed OK. Well, I still had to make Albuquerque before sundown, so I got back on the Interstate.

 

Part 6 next—Riding to Albuquerque and on to Flagstaff.

 

The kickstand didn’t feel right, it was loose and floppy. Before, it had always been snug and swung back smoothly and locked into place. Now, it was loose and flopped around while riding. Good lord, what have I done to this poor bike? I shook the handlebars a bit and the bike may have been moving around a bit more than before, too.

 

Well, I had only about 40 miles left to ride and worry, so I proceeded on with caution and apprehension.  The bike seemed to ride fine as I rode on and I became intent on enjoying the scenery. There were some round rock formations that were fascinating and I loved the curves in the road. The hills I remember being very steep were nothing like that now. This bike had plenty of power just on cruise control. I couldn’t feel much difference on steep hills. The operation of the cruise was tight and precise. The speed barely varied at all and I seldom felt any load on the engine. It just roared happily along.

 

Soon, I was going around the curve and up the hill leading to the valley into which was carefully nestled the lovely city of Albuquerque. It was a steep, winding grade down to the city. Again, the massive engine on the bike provided all the braking that was necessary to keep the bike from gaining too much speed. In fact, I only had to roll off the throttle on any grade to quickly reduce speed, which was far different than a car and no comparison to a big truck.

 

I really enjoyed riding those curves and my only regret was that I couldn’t do it again at about 85 mph. It was close to 5pm. I’d gained an hour of time as I transitioned from Central time in Dodge City to Mountain time here. I was amazed that there wasn’t much traffic at 5 o’clock. Then I slapped my helmet as I realized it was Saturday afternoon. Well, duh.

 

I hadn’t been successful at plugging in the address of my hotel, but I’d stayed there before a few months prior. I’d memorized the exit, 159A, then north on University Av and left on Menual. I was staying at the University Fairfield Inn by Marriott. I’m a real Marriott girl. The Fairfield and Courtyards can be very favorably priced if you use their App to make reservations and sort of keep checking back until the price drops at the last moment, if you’re lucky. They are always clean and secure. I never worry about my bike and they nearly always are very accommodating as far as allowing me to park it somewhere out front that’s within the line of sight of the front desk. I always stay out of the way of where a fire truck might need to come, as I don’t wish for my bike to be crushed.

 

I got checked in and unloaded the bike. After getting things put into my room, I went back outside to further inspect the bike. It was still daylight. I got on my knees and looked as closely as I could for damage to the underside. I didn’t see any leaks or anything else that appeared to be out of place, other than the missing plastic cover. Even the kickstand mechanism appeared solid. Cool. I felt better.

 

I had a nice dinner and went to bed. I always get up early and go to bed the same way. I was up at 4am and quickly made a pot of my own coffee. Aaaaah, yes. I love black coffee. I could feel the mellow flow over me.

 

I got cleaned up, made up, dressed up and ready for the road. All my stuff packed, I headed down to the FREE breakfast. Marriott always has fresh fruit, good eggs and sausage or bacon and good yogurt. That’s my breakfast. I ate slowly and enjoyed every bite.

 

The cold was over. It was 52 degrees and the highs would be in the 60s and 70s. Glorious. This is what I’d paid the dues to enjoy. I quickly vacated the room, packed the bike and played the song of my people (very loud pipes of a large open-road bike). Wanna sleep late? Too bad.  LOL

 

I found a nearby gas station, filled up and got back up on the road. Again, very little traffic. Oh, yes, Sunday morning. I rode uphill out of town and the view of the city in the valley was very scenic in the rearview mirrors. As I peaked the crest of the large hill leaving town, a lovely scene unfolded before me. The road had a very long straight descent into a distant valley. It was the stuff of inspirational posters. The road then rose up again to climb a long grade that must have been 10 miles away. I didn’t dare park on the side of the road to take a photo.

 

I had lovely desert in which to ride and many places to see the original Route 66. Many old bridges were still there, as well as the ruins of many buildings of yesteryear. My mind always takes me back in history when I see historical places. I could see the Hudsons, Nashes, Studebakers and Packards of the 30’s and 40’s. They had no air conditioning and the windows were down. It was common to see a burlap covered water bag hanging off the front bumper. This could either be drinking water or it might also be a reserve supply for an overheated engine. Overheating was not uncommon, as permanent antifreeze hadn’t been invented yet and the science of pressurized radiator caps hadn’t quite been perfected. Steam blowing from under an upraised hood was a scene that was often seen. With no shoulders on the road, driving and dodging stalled cars was sort of an adventure.

 

My next stop for fuel was Gallup, 140 miles down the road. It came quickly, as traffic was light and the bike was rolling and happy. Put in gas, got back on the road. I was eager to see another icon of Route 66, the Teepee Motel in Holbrook, Arizona.

 

The Arizona state line is one of the coolest state lines I’ve seen. The signage is large and brilliant for Arizona and there’s an Indian trading post nestled into the side of a cliff. Erosion has made a large natural overhang of rock and it’s a very interesting scene.

 

Now, I’m on the lookout for Road Runners and Coyotes. The tall rock formations and vast vistas are the stuff of cartoon legends. It’s obvious that the artists spent time out here to get it right. If you’ve ever seen a live coyote, they totally nailed the character and movements of Wile E. Coyote.

 

But, onward to the goal of Holbrook. You exit to the right and can drive right through town on “Historic Route 66”. Much has been modernized here and Holbrook appears to be a thriving town. Route 66 then passes under Interstate 40 and this is where a lot of old, historical buildings are located.

I found the Teepee Motel, just as it was decades ago. They’d parked a lot of old period vehicles in front of the teepees. There was a newer old motel structure in the background. I spent a fair amount of time soaking all this up. I’d driven past before, but never stopped. Many people were there taking pictures.

 

A large sign proclaimed that this was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, as was fitting. When you look up the top icons of Route 66, this is another one.

 

I stopped for gas and got back on the road. The weather was perfect for riding and I didn’t need any heated gear. Yes, this was the reason I stuck it out in the cold weather. I get to ride again.

 

Next stop, Winslow, Arizona to stand on a corner and stopped by the Police in Seligman.

 

 

I get back on the Interstate in delightfully warm weather. I am so happy to have my light weight gloves on and all my extra jackets off and packed away. This is how riding a bike was meant to be and I was loving every minute of it. The sun was out, the sky was as blue as you’ll ever see and the clouds had caught the last train for the coast.

 

This is high desert country with lots of tourist traps, Indian trading posts, plastic dinosaurs and offers for free petrified wood. This is real Route 66 and the old road often runs along beside you like an old dog that doesn’t want to be left behind. It’s funny to see it look pretty good and suddenly, it ends with a few reflectors and no trace of anything beyond, as if it was stolen in the night with no witnesses.

 

Traffic isn’t heavy, except for trains. The tracks seem to be at capacity, as there are trains going every which way and they are long, way over 100 cars. I never counted, as I thought watching the road might be a good idea. There are certainly a lot of containers hauling freight.

 

I get to Winslow, but have no idea how to get to the corner on which I’m supposed to stand. I take one of the first exits and end up seeing a large sign with a map of the city that has all the interesting spots listed.  I see “the corner” and take off. It took a little doing, but they’ve done a great job. It’s a vacant corner with a statue, a sign on a lamp post and a painting of a girl in a flat bed Ford. A man is sitting and playing a guitar. He gives me a hard time about all the leather I’m wearing because it’s such a hot day. I’m sweating and I exchange pleasantries with him. Tourists are all over the place taking pictures of themselves and friends in this scenic place.

 

They’ve painted the entire intersection with the Route 66 logo sign. There are really neat looking little tourist shops all up and down the street. Whoever had the idea to cash in on this was pretty smart, because it’s sure drawing a crowd.

 

My job is done here and I head out of town. Next stop is Flagstaff, Arizona for the night. As I rolled west, I could see the large mountain that marked Flagstaff in the distance. It can be difficult to judge distance, but it’s fun to see pretty scenery.

 

I soon arrive at the Courtyard Marriott in Flagstaff. I’m making good use of accumulated points to reduce my lodging costs. This place is absolutely stunning. It sits very high on a steep hill with a winding driveway up to what looks like a mountain lodge. Wow.

 

I get checked in around 4 pm and have time to ride a short distance to the Red Lobster for my favorite meal, Walt’s Shrimp. I don’t know why, but I’ve had a serious craving for shrimp. Must mean there’s some nutrient in it that I need, or I’m just hungry. Had a great meal and headed back to the room for the night.

 

Next morning had a great omelet, cheese, onion, tomato, spinach and mushrooms. Ready to ride. Packed up, met a wonderful woman who rides and we had a great conversation.

 

I rolled down the curvy driveway and got back on Interstate 40. It would be nice downhill run to Seligman, which I eagerly anticipated. This was some tall pine country and the scent of the pines was heavenly. The high desert didn’t have much for smells, but this was making up for it. Plus, there were some curves. Oh, yes, lean that girl over and take those curves. Only bikers really understand the significance of the curves.

 

This was a very enjoyable segment and before I knew it came the exit for Seligman. This town was out in the middle of nowhere, about 70 west of Flagstaff in the desert. The tall pines gave up a few miles back and surrendered to the desert and the Grand Canyon was to the north of town.

Founded in 1895 when the railroad rolled through, Seligman came to be a major stop on Route 66 when it was built in 1926. It was recorded that in 1937 over 500,000 cars passed by on Route 66 in northern Arizona. After the war was over in 1945, Route 66 became a premier tourist destination, with exciting signage and massive fiberglass roadside statues.

 

Current population 495, Seligman had to adapt when Interstate 40 took traffic 2 miles out of town. They built the main street into a virtual museum of Route 66 charm and magic. In fact, the fictional town of “Radiator Springs” of the Cars movie was loosely based on the town of Seligman.

 

Top icons of Route 66 in town are Delgadillos Snow Cap Drive-In, Historic Route 66 General Store and the Rusty Bolt. Delgadillos chocolate malts are the stuff of legend. The original proprietor has passed on, but his heirs have keep the place open and in good repair. Unlike many other places along the mother road who have shuttered and fallen into disrepair, Seligman has undergone a serious restoration and gives the appearance that you’ve been transported back in time. The key positioning of mannequins and classic cars is eye-catching and enjoyable.

 

When I said “stopped by the police in Seligman”, I never said they stopped me. I stopped and the police were nearby, so I stopped by the police.  🙂

 

I finished my ride through town and headed for Kingman, Arizona for gas and lunch. It was downhill all the way, as Flagstaff is around 6900 feet elevation and Kingman is 3333 feet. The weather stayed warm and pleasant. The final descent into Kingman is a long hill that provides a scenic view of Kingman as you drop down into town.

 

I found a place to buy gas and low and behold, an In-n- Out burger place. Unique to California and western states, the In-n-0ut burger chain is unique in its approach to quality food. It has 326 locations, has never franchised and is privately owned. Wow. The food is amazingly wholesome and good.

 

Needless to say, that’s where I ate lunch. I had a cheeseburger and a strawberry shake. According to my Doctor’s orders, I ate the damn bun. He reads my reviews and noticed that I always ordered a burger with no bun. He said, if I was going to do serious reviews that I had to eat the damn bun. This is one time I did and it was really good.

 

Next Part 8, the final run to Vegas, down into the canyon and seeing the Colorado River up close

It’s only a few miles further on I40 to the turn off to Las Vegas. Rather than taking the straight and direct route north into Las Vegas, I decided to turn west and go down into the Colorado River canyon, pass through Laughlin and up the other side of the canyon. This would involve some very neat scenery, plus some fantastic sweeping curves for the bike. And, I guess, for me. Oh, boy, curves.

 

It’s an uphill run out of Kingman, then down a hill before you get to the turn off for Laughlin. I turned off and just as I start down the hill on that road, I couldn’t help but marvel at the scene unfolding before me. It’s a dead straight road downhill, then uphill far in the distance. This is another perfect scene for a photo for an inspirational poster. Best of all, there was room on the side of the road to pull over and take a picture. The weather was beautiful and my gloves slipped off easily.

I walked behind my bike and composed the photo. It was lovely. About that time, the meanest looking motorcycle dude I’ve seen in a long time pulled up behind me. I looked back at him and he asked if I was having any trouble. I shook my head no and held up my camera. “I just stopped to take a picture” I replied. He nodded and I couldn’t get on my bike fast enough.

 

Thank heavens he pulled away and as he did, I saw his biker gang colors patch on the back of his jacket. He was a member of the “Infidels” gang. I wasn’t often experiencing the emotion of fear, but I did right then just for a second. We were going the same direction and our bikes wear nearly twins, same model, similar colors and different years.

 

I got my bike underway again. I almost always ride a few miles over the speed limit. He was in the distance, but I could see he wasn’t going all that fast. I hope he wasn’t going to make me an issue when I caught up with him. A few miles away, I did catch up and gave him a little wave as I passed. That’s when I noticed his license plate frame. It said “U.S. Marines”. Oh my. Now I understood his “Infidel” patch. He must have done a tour or more in the Middle East. He was an infidel, all right. No wonder I was so scared to see him up close.

 

I went from frightened to in love. LOL  Oh, my, I love the military, particularly the Marines. They are some super badass people and I’m so grateful that they are putting themselves in harm’s way to protect me. I couldn’t have been safer with him around.  We met up again at a stop light. I gave him a salute. It was an emotional moment for me.

The road down was a lot of fun. I love curves and once again, my only regret is that I couldn’t take them at 90 mph and scrape the foot boards on the bike. I practiced holding my line both to the right side of the lane and also to the left. This is a critical skill to learn riding in a group. It’s also very important when riding in traffic. I always want to be in the place on the road that gives me the most clearance around other traffic, whether they’re going the same direction as me or coming at me. I ride as though I’m expecting every other vehicle to either come at me or have some emergency maneuver that means cutting me off or something.

 

While a lot of riders might want to enter a right curve on the high left side on entry, then cross over to the right side at the apex of the curve and swing back out wide again, I’ll hold a tight line that keeps me in the exact same spot in the lane. This is the safest way to take a curve when there’s traffic. I’m not moving back and forth, I’m just in one spot. This is easier said than done and watching how people handle their bikes gives a clue as to their riding skills. Highly skilled riders can hold this line with precision, lesser skilled might be all over the road. Some will even hit the brakes right as they enter a curve, revealing the curve probably freaks them out. OK, so now you’ll know who’s who when riding in a group. This is important to know.

 

I crossed over the Colorado river at the bottom. The water was emerald green and the prettiest sight you’ll see. The surface was fairly smooth and inviting. It would be perfect for pleasure boating and nothing like the raging rapids braved by John Wesley Powell’s expedition, who was the first to pilot boats exploring the river in 1869. The near banks of the river at this point were an inviting sandy beach that was a park for RVs and boats.

 

I started up the grade on the opposite side of the river. Once again the views were grandiose and the curves were well worth the detour. This route was about 30 miles further than the direct route, but the curves and the scenery made it well worth the trip for me. It was only about 140 miles to Las Vegas from Kingman, so I didn’t have to be concerned about stopping for fuel. It’s a good thing, because there was little of nothing in the way of commercial endeavors on this route.  I did stop part way up for another picture. You can see forever and it’s lovely.

I should mention smells at this part of the trip. One of the interesting parts of the motorcycling experience is using all of your senses. It also takes all 4 appendages to make this thing work. There were no smells, just clean air once we got past the truck stops and French fry places. There were virtually no visible animals, no activity, and the land appeared undisturbed for the most part. The air was so clean that I could smell water when I got over the river. It’s very seldom that a person can smell water.

 

So, back to the curves. I just love leaning a bike over in a curve. This requires some considerable skill and effort to do this here. There are tall cliffs in places and you have to be very alert to watch for falling rocks and rocks already fallen that are on the road. Rocks and gravel can be deadly on two wheels. So can road kill, the possum’s final revenge.

 

It was over too soon. I’d reached the top of the valley and ridden into the high desert. I made a right turn to go straight north into Las Vegas. The road soon became 4-land divided and was nice and level. Set the cruise and try to find a radio station. Too bad, they don’t even have the hog reports out here. Fortunately, I’ve got a lot of great tunes on my i-phone. I love riding with tunes. I’ve got speakers in my helmet that allow me to hear traffic and also enjoy music.

 

Traffic was light and I rolled along enjoying warm weather. It was over 80 degrees and there were very few bugs. Soon, I was getting on the final Interstate into Las Vegas. It was late afternoon on Monday, so traffic was getting heavy. If you’re from Lincoln, Nebraska, where we don’t even have an Interstate through town, this traffic might make you tense up a little bit driving a car. On a motorcycle, it can be downright terrifying. I was watching for openings in traffic where I could get out of people’s way, paying attention to who was on my back bumper and watching for debris falling off dump trucks. I’ve got a navigation display on my bike, so I could monitor my progress and take the right exits.

 

When we got about 3 miles from downtown, traffic slowed dramatically. At 2 miles, it pretty much stopped. This is a real concern on an air cooled motorcycle. There’s not enough air movement to cool the engine and not enough time to shut it off and let it cool naturally. My model featured a small amount of liquid coolant, a little electric water pump and 2 little radiators in the outside fairings for my legs. This would keep the engine from overheating in traffic. It wasn’t needed at all if the bike was moving.

 

Thank heavens, I had some idea where I was going, as I’ve been here before. This was Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week, the second biggest convention week in Vegas. Over 140,000 of my closest friends would join me here, pretty much selling out every room, rental car and stool at the bar in town. The town was rocking. It was Monday, October 30th and tomorrow was Halloween.

 

I had thoughtfully booked a room at the Golden Nugget on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas. So, when I finally got out of the stop and go congestion of the freeway, I found myself in the stop and go congestion of down town. I know my way around and which roads to take to go straight to the hotel. I pulled up to the front door like I was an invited whale (that’s a big time high roller gambler).

I put the kickstand down and heaved a heavy sigh of relief. I was here. My trip meter said I’d traveled 1,455 miles since my frosty departure 4 days prior. Wow. Amazing.

 

Part 9 Next Halloween on Fremont St, 3 intense days of trade shows and serious business

 

     I’m a part owner of an auto repair shop. I’ve been coming out to Industry week for decades. It’s a big reason that our business does so well. This gives me a chance to seek out those who want to excel or to help me do that.

 

There are 2 major trade shows going on, each with a square footage bigger than downtown Lincoln, Nebraska. It’s not physically possible to visit over 3,000 booths in 3 days. Yes, this whole deal is beyond imagination, but it’s my job and I’ll spend 3 days walking all day, every day.

 

I arrive Monday evening. I park my bike and hand over all my worldly possessions to a bellman, to hold until I get the bike parked and get checked in. Oh, yeah, I tip him 5 bucks, just to be sure he remembers that I gave him stuff.

 

I get a claim ticket. I get on my bike and buzz around to the self-park. I expect the person at the booth to want to see evidence of being a guest, like they always do when you’re in a car. I was blown away when the guy said, “just blow past the gate here and park upstairs in reserved bike parking”. I asked about needing a parking ticket. He said that wasn’t necessary, just squeeze past the tip of the gate and ride on up.

 

It was a bit of a tight fit for a huge Hog, but I made it through and rode on up. Just like he said, there was parking reserved for bikes right up on the second floor. I backed in and locked my bike. Yes, I was an imaginary high roller today. I’m really loving this biker stuff, I have to say.

 

I walk back to the front desk, get into a very long line to check in and get a free bottle of water. What are you going to do? It’s 5 in the afternoon, the hotel is sold out and the airport just emptied 240 airplanes. I take the water and thank them. It’s probably one of the few things I’ll get for free in Vegas.

 

I get checked in and ask about my worldly possessions at the bell stand. They’re already helping others, they take my name and room number.  I head upstairs after stopping to buy a beer at the little convenience stand. It is Vegas and they do want you to have fun.  It doesn’t take long and a bellman shows up with all my stuff. He unloads it, I tip him 5 bucks and I’m all set for the week.

 

The next morning I get ready and go down to the coffee shop for breakfast. Glory be, they have a “California Omelet”, which is pretty much what I want every day. It has diced tomatoes, onion, spinach, mushrooms, cheese and avocado. It comes with toast and hash browns. I don’t eat wheat, so keep the toast and hash browns are far too many empty carbs. I can get a dish of fresh fruit instead. Oh, yes.

 

It’s not that difficult to eat healthy if you do your food homework. I like to eat whole foods that aren’t processed. I don’t eat wheat or sugar. There are some exceptions. My throat won’t close up and I’m not allergic, it’s just healthy life choices for me.

 

Today is Tuesday, the first day of the shows. I decide to take Uber to get to the Sands Expo Center out on the strip. My ride arrives within minutes and is a nice trip. I get dropped off close to the door and get in line for by show badge. You can’t get into any part of this giant shindig without a badge. Getting one is a serious ordeal, involving tax numbers, business card, blood test and work history. Kidding about the blood test, but they only want serious automotive industry people in attendance. My badge was purchased weeks ago and this is like the 20th year I’ve attended, so I skate through quickly.

 

I’ve been invited to put on a presentation on repair shop management on Saturday morning, at a combined event for Automotive Video (www.auto-video.com) and the Automotive Service Association (www.asashop.org).  My class will last 3.5 hours and be oriented at auto repair shop owners and management employees. Being a presenter at such an acclaimed International event is quite the honor and a challenge.

 

I had to pack my LED projector and a laptop on my motorcycle for the presentation. Not a lot of room for a coffeepot, but I got it all squeezed in. I recently got a Panasonic Toughbook to take with me on my travels. This enables me to do presentations such as this as well as compose while I’m on the road. For security, it’s not set to do email or much surfing on the web. Just business.

 

I do a quick overview of the layout of the whole trade show, which is called AAPEX. (www.aapexshow.com)  I want to stay fresh, so I head back to the hotel to take a nap and enjoy a little free time. There’s not been a lot of free time, so far.

 

There are hotel/casinos all up and down the Las Vegas Strip. They have signs out front bigger than most of the large buildings we have in downtown Lincoln and I’m not kidding. The scale of those places is mind boggling.

 

Downtown Las Vegas is more like anytown, U.S.A. The blocks are normal size and you can walk from hotel to hotel and casino to casino with ease. Fremont Street is the main street of downtown. When I first took my Mom on her little “vacation” many decades ago, we stayed at the Las Vegas Club Hotel and Casino, right on the corner of Fremont and Main St. There was traffic on both of those streets.

 

As the downtown area lost patrons to the glitter of the Strip, they had to do something. They shut down traffic for 6 blocks on Fremont St, paved it level for a pedestrian mall and put in a 6 block long archway and a sound system that can be heard in Kingman, Arizona. The bottom of the archway is a video screen. Every hour, they shut off all the lights and put on a sound and light show on the archway. It’s quite the sensation. Add to that a number of zip lines with people screaming and sailing overhead, band stands with performers, open air bars right on the street and you’ve got a party.

Many casinos have outlawed smoking, but not the Golden Nugget. The air is heavy with cigarette smoke and the magical ringing of the slot machines is a steady drone of background noise that never stops. Long ago, these machines were played with silver dollars. Then, each casino had their own coins. The smaller machines also took nickels, dimes and quarters for the lighter risk people.

 

My aged mother quickly became the little old lady in tennis shoes at the slot machines. Her favorite was the nickel slots. We were never too much into risky, expensive things. But she could spend less feeding a nickel slot machine all day than the money I’d have to pay to get someone to watch her for me. Her badge of pride was black hands from handling all the coins. No matter how long she’d played, she never wanted to stop. She always claimed the machine was just getting ready to pay off. I mean she’d refuse to stop to eat. Mom never passed up a chance to eat, so this was serious. Every year, Mom and I would go to Vegas for 3 days for her vacation.

 

Mom’s been gone a long time now and they’re in the process of tearing down the Las Vegas Club Hotel and Casino. I’ll forever cherish those memories and it makes me very sad to see the place go, but progress must go on. I want to encourage each of you to not put off doing things that are meaningful to you. Take the trip, buy the bike, make your own special memories. If you’re too busy, put it on the calendar in the future, then do it. No person on their death bed ever wished they could have spent more time at work.  Every single year, I go to Vegas for Industry Week and every time, I spent an evening with Mom. I love that. I cherish that and I look forward to that. I love you, Mom.

OK, back to work. We have Halloween night on Fremont Street. I’ve been a lot of crazy places on Halloween, but Fremont St. is my favorite. Here are some of my friends: