We had a lovely evening with Mary at an ‘English pub’ called Churchill’s where they did English food and lots of beer (not for us, though). It was a very popular venue, being ‘wings night’ where they were doing a roaring trade in what looked like Ostrich wings (again – there must be a glut of them in the area!). Needless to say we didn’t have wings, we had cottage pie with vegetables instead which was just the ticket.
We were much more relaxed now and able to get a relatively early night. Mary took the photo below as she wanted a photo for Paul who had been away on business for a couple of days and missed the excitement of us getting the bike.
Setting off at just after 02:00 again we made better time to San Diego and got going just after half past three. It was very dark so no photos yet. One of my favourite tracks started our play list which I felt was a good omen – Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd – and I was sure that by the end of this ride I would be only one of those words! We headed east and up over the mountains where I was very glad that I’d put my merino wool jumper on as the temperature dropped to about 8 deg C. After quite a few miles at altitude the road signs indicated a steep decline and we were swooping down and round some bends and onto the plain. Suddenly the temperature was back at 28.5 and we were starting to warm up again.
Riding eastwards through Arizona we were heading towards the sunrise and had some lovely vistas ahead.
As the day warmed up, so did we. Our Camelbacks were being used overtime, remembering to blow back as we’d finished otherwise the water in the tube became uncomfortably hot.
We had a quick breakfast at a convenient McD’s and rode on. About 40 miles later we were having problems with the SatNavs as the mount they were on was slipping down. It got to the stage where Kevin could see neither the SatNavs nor his instruments so we stopped at another small garage to make some repairs. We also took the opportunity to fill the Camelbacks with fresh water and lots of ice. This was to be our routine at stops further on, the ice keeps the water cool for hours.
Riding a bike means you smell the environment much more so than in a car and as we rode through the desert we noticed it had a peculiar, sweet, smell that reminded us of toffee. There was not much vegetation, mostly just scrubby plants and eventually the tall cactus that we all associate with Arizona.
The desert had more plants in it than I’d expected but it’s still desolate and I wonder how anyone makes a living here other than from minerals. I also had to ponder why anyone, back in the early days, would have looked at Arizona and thought ‘This looks like a great place to settle down’.
It was not hard to imagine what it was like when the early settlers were building the first railways; I had flashbacks to one of our recent favourite programmes – Hell on Wheels. I looked out for men on horses riding alongside us but thankfully it was an uneventful passage through the landscape. The area is huge and it’s quite sad that the natives were driven out as it seemed to me there should have been plenty of space for everyone.
Eventually we were through Arizona and New Mexico and into the massive state of Texas.
Texas smells of old oil and cow manure. We passed by some industrial-scale farms with cows herded together in their thousands in muddy pens. The smell was as you would imagine.
In addition to the ‘Coast to Coast in 50 hours’ ride that we were attempting, Kevin had persuaded me that I was short of a ‘Bun burner 1500 gold’ (BB1500G – 1500 miles in 24 hours) so we were hoping to resolve that by getting to our night stop in Orange, 1580 miles from San Diego, within 24 hours. We’d lost time resolving the SatNav issue and missed a fuel stop resulting in slow riding for 50 miles to conserve fuel so we could reach the next one. Stuck for a long time in heavy traffic in El Paso Kevin was concerned that we’d lost too much time to complete the BB1500G. We discussed checking into a hotel in El Paso and doing the BB as the second leg.
It was desperately hot, the traffic was heavy and slow-moving and, as we are not allowed to filter through the traffic, we were both getting extremely tired with the heat. We decided to carry on through to the end of the city then see if we could find somewhere to stay or at least to have a break and decide what to do. We stopped at a garage which did a nice chicken roll, topped up with fresh water and ice then decided to continue. One of the reasons Kevin was thinking we’d run out of time was confusion with which time zone the Zumo was showing the finish time in.
A couple of people asked which direction we were heading as there were storms Eastwards. “Never mind, they might have gone by the time you get through” someone told us. There were two storms, one about 50 miles away, the other about 75. He said they were about a mile long and as we thought it might actually be nice to get wet we saddled up again and moved ever eastwards.
For many miles we were treated to the sight of lightning all around us. We could see the rain falling; mostly it was to the sides and we were often riding on very wet roads where the storm had just passed through. We did get wet on occasions but it was short-sharp-shock kind of rain which a mile or so later was evaporating from our clothing and we were back to the heat.
We had been warned that we might get caught in a Border Control Checkpoint and sure enough we did. All the lorries that we’d passed went sailing through their lane as we were stuck in a queue of cars. Finally it was our turn and the guy said “Are you both American citizens?”. When Kevin told him we were both British he smiled, waved us straight though and said “You’re good to go”. Now all we had to do was re-pass all those lorries.
No more pictures that day as the light was fading but to cut the long ride-story short, we stopped our BB1500G ride about 30 miles short of our original target of Orange. Kevin was struggling with the heat which was making him very tired. Even though we were very close to the end of the ride he decided it would have been stupid and dangerous to continue so we stopped at a petrol station to get a timed receipt, have a drink and then Kevin had a snooze before we carried on to the hotel in Orange. The SatNav said we had ridden 1540 miles when we stopped but whether that will stack up in a mapping programme during the IBA verification process only time will tell. Bottom line is stopping was the right thing to do as no ride is worth having an accident for.
After a few hours of really GOOD sleep we left Texas the following morning and found ourselves in Louisiana. Finally some Green! I liked Louisiana, it had a wholesome smell to it – I couldn’t put my finger on it, it wasn’t quite like Jasmine or Honeysuckle but had those qualities (if you know what I mean).
The I-10 goes all the way across America and was the road we were planning on using. Mostly it worked out like that but we did have a few SatNav specials which took us off that road. The route we transferred to the Zumo took us just above San Antonio. When we were directed on to US290 we thought that was where we were going (our knowledge of US geography could do with some improvement…). It’s a more interesting road that the interstate but is heavily populated with very pretty deer. Unfortunately they are not particularly bright and quite often just meander across the road without looking. Two did just that in front of us which slowed us down quite a bit as hitting one while on a motorbike could quite spoil your day. Some time later we were somewhat surprised to find ourselves in Austin. Austin? The Zumo obviously decided it had a better route than the one we’d input.
This morning we were safely back on the I-10 and I was amazed at the bridges that have been built to enable the road to cross the never-ending swamps and rivers. I don’t know exactly how many miles of these bridges there are in Louisiana and Mississippi but it must be hundreds.
We soon found out why this region is so green. The traffic ahead started to stop and we could see a wall of white on the other carriageway and cars emerging with their lights on. Soon it was upon us and we were deluged with some of the heaviest rain I’ve been in. It was all hands to the vents as we tried to close the suits up to prevent the water going in. It mostly worked but when it was all passed and Kevin had dried off I realised that his suit is so waterproof the rain just runs off it into a gully at the back of his jacket and straight onto my legs!
It was soon over and we were treated to a lovely rainbow and some spectacular pink clouds as the sun was setting.
We had one final push to get through Florida to Jacksonville Beach and arrived with several hours to spare. We did try to take a photo on the beach but it was so dark you can’t actually tell where it was taken so we returned the next day to take another. We also had to get witness signatures and the team at the local Fire Station obliged. Thanks guys! Sorry we didn’t get your photo. I didn’t pick up my camera until we were ready to go and by then you were back at work.
You may wonder why we’ve done this so close to the rally (we certainly have) but we deliberately wanted to push ourselves. Kevin’s illness earlier this year has resulted in us being very rusty and this ride was a good shake-down for us and for some of the bike kit we haven’t been able to test.
We’ve never bothered with extra water systems before so that was a new experience for us. Apart from the tube from one Camelbak melting because it was too close to the silencer (easily resolved by cutting off the melted piece and re-routing it) the only issue left to sort out is that for some reason I seem to be unable to get water when there is still plenty left in my Camelbak.
We’ve had some issues with our Intercom (Kevin’s on-line now ordering some spare leads as we’ve used up one set already) and the drooping SatNav mount which was caused by not doing up some rather inaccessible bolts tightly enough after picking up the bike in San Diego. We need to replace Kevin’s Airhawk with a smaller one as it’s just not working for him. We’re also trying to use a US satellite radio system via a Garmin antenna and struggling to get it working reliably – it stops if there are trees lining the side of the road, there is heavy cloud, or if it just feels like it. For a while we thought the only purpose of the antenna was to generate a ‘wait’ symbol on the SatNav but that seems to have improved lately and the dropped signal may be resolved by simply mounting the antenna somewhere else on the bike.
So, still a way to go. At the conclusion of the first draft of this update tomorrow is Saturday 22th June and we’re heading North towards Washington.