Welcome to the new Touring Tom Custom Wide Photo Blog!
We are in the process of rebuilding the blog content. For those of you who have followed this blog in the past, it looks a little different now. For some unexplained reason my original blog disappeared into the ether, it just ceased to exist and the backup was corrupted or some technical term like that was used. Fortunately I had saved all of the text in Word and the images were still in Picasa. I’m having to retype all of the blog and insert the images again but it helps me to relive that ’09 Alaska trip experience again. Don’t know how far I’ll get now as I leave again for Alaska on 12 June and will start a new trip blog for 2012. I started that blog in ’09 for my mother to enjoy and she did so love to travel and see new sights. So many of my friends and the staff at the assisted living facility where she stayed would bring their laptops in for Mom to see all that I was seeing and she did enjoy that. She has passed on now, however I know she travels with me in spirit.
Please bear with me and check back soon for more!
I’ll be putting up the 2009 Florida to Alaska trip first. And then the 2011 USA trip, however there will be the interruption while I show the new Ride to Alaska for 2012.
Day 5: 64 degrees and partly cloudy. Left Pampa at 7:30 AM CDT and arrived at Albuquerque, NM at 4:40 PM MDT, rode 416 miles
Got up and off fairly early this AM as I had several stops and many miles to go. Rode through this rural area where it seems everyone has an oil well either in the pasture land or even in their back yard. Got to the Alibates Flint Quarry about 8:40, before the rangers came in and spend the peaceful time listening to the silence and enjoying the interpretative garden at the Visitor Center,
This site was named after a local guide, Allie Bates, who led a surveying party to the area. Those who study this believe locals have been quarrying this special hard flint for the past 12,000 years. Continued on down to Amarillo and picked up the super slab, I-40, again to Arizona A lot of wind, no rain, but as you can see from this shot the storm clouds where looming on the horizon.
Made it to Albuquerque and to the Petroglyph National Monument for my stamp and because of coming into Mountain Time got here early. Picked up a few supplies, a “dead chicken” as my buddy, Stuart, would call it and had that for supper. They have wifi here so will be able to catch up on some blogs.
Day 4: 72 degrees and heavy clouds to the north. Left Ozark, AR at 8:00 AM CDT, arrived at City Park in Pampas, TX about 6:00 PM CDT, rode 499 miles
When I got up this AM, my neighbor waved goodbye as he was to meet a relative for breakfast. After he was gone I looked on my table and he had left a whole bag of those sweet plums, I’ll have my fruit for the day now. I packed up in a hurry this AM as the clouds were starting to build and it’s a lot easier to fold all this gear up when it’s dry. About 25 miles from Fort Smith it did start to rain, not the torrential downpours we get at home but a steady rain that required me to stop and don my foul weather gear. This courthouse in Fort Smith was built in 1846 to serve as “the law” in the wild west and was presided over by Judge Isaac Parker. It was said that he was a fair judge who was dedicated to his job. During his 21 year tenure he tried over 13,000 cases and sent 79 folks to the gallows. Guess this was the last ride for some of them.
Not much happening the rest of the day, breezed on through Oklahoma City and stopped for fuel in Hinton, where Stuart and I went on to Red Rock Canyon on our last trip. That was a very pretty park but I had to get further down the road. Made it up to Washita Battleground for the stamp and didn’t even get a picture as I was in too much of a hurry to get on to Pampa and down for the night. Rain continued off and on for most of the day until it did stop and then turned very hot, I wished for the rain to come back then. Found the park in Pampa and settled in for the night. Lots of locals here. The folks next to my site were spending the weekend here to celebrate his daughters’ fourth birthday. It’s good there are places like this that are available.
Day 3: clear weather and 70 de grees. Left Decatur, AL at 7:30 AM and arrived at Aux Arc Corp of Engineers CG in Ozark, AR at 6:30 PM, rode 496 miles
Boy, you couldn’t ask for a prettier morning to start out on a motorcycle ride. Just enough cool to be comfortable and not a cloud in the sky. It was kinda sad to ride off without George, I believe he was really looking forward to the ride. You can just barely see George in the lower right corner of this photo waving goodby. Good friends are hard to leave behind. Anyway had good going through the back roads of Alabama and Mississippi to the Natchez Trace Visitor Center in Tupelo.
The ride down the Trace is so peaceful and quiet, I knew I would soon be back in the hustle and bustle of I-40 and I wasn’t really looking forward to that after being here. And sure enough after getting onto I-40 did run into a lot of road construction. Wound up twice actually stopping all of the traffic where we were able to get off the bike and talk to other travelers Finally made it through Little Rock and onto Ozark, I was hoping to make it that far today as it would be another long day tomorrow. Pulled into the campground and lucky that the host was still around. He suggested I take a site right next to a Harley guy, guess he wanted to keep all of the biker riffraff together. It turned out to be a nice site under huge trees with a nice view of the Arkansas River and the Harley dude, Rick. turned out to be a nice guy also. He gave me some plums that came off his home tree and since it was quite a walk down to the shower gave me the keys to his truck (he had a toy hauler for his bike) to save a walk. When I got back from the shower the ranger stopped by, as well as several other campers and we all had a nice chat. Now, would that have happened at the Marriott? No way, that’s why camping is my way to go. I walked down later that evening to get a photo of this bridge all lit up. This is a good campground and typical of COE parks, only cost $9.00 for the night.
Day 2: cloudy and 72 degrees. Left Cartersville, GA at 8:00 AM EDT, arrived at the Greer Bed and Breakfast in Decatur, AL at 3:30 PM CDT, rode 294 miles
After a real good first night out, got up to meet the ranger as she was opening up to pay my fare. That nice ranger lady gave me a discount, first time that has ever happened at a Georgia State Park. Found out the park got its’ name for all of the red iron ore in the area when it was mined, however that era ended in the mid 1800’s. Rode on up to the Chickamauga NMP in Fort Oglethorpe, GA and got my stamp. This was one of the more important battles of the civil war, I just did not have enough time to take it all in, didn’t even get any pictures. From there hit Russell Cave in north Alabama. There’s not too much to see here but it is interesting in that people have been using this cave for over 9,000 years. It was used more as a home in the Mississippian Era when the local culture was more hunters and gatherers. As people settled into more permanent homes it was just used sporadically as a shelter for hunting parties. Here are a few shots from outside and inside, I couldn’t figure out what caused the pock marks in the floor until I saw the water dripping from the over head. The grounds were so nice here and I had found a shady area, so took this opportunity to make an egg salad sandwich. Sandy made me enough good egg salad to last one more lunch. From Russell Cave I made my way through the back roads to Little River Falls National Park. The main feature of the park is the 11 mile drive down the west rim following the Little River, it starts at Little River Falls of which I took several pictures and continues on forming this canyon. You don’t really think of natural canyons in Alabama but here it is. From here went over to Decatur to stay the night at my friends’ , George and Margaret Greer, who along with the nights stay, feted me to a great steak dinner. Margaret also tried out her Italian Margarita (I never did get that recipe) on me and they were so good. Most of the time she fixes me a chocolate martini which are hard to beat. You know George was supposed to go with me on this trip to Alaska and had been having trouble with his knee for some time. He finally went to the doctor and they scoped (sp) it supposedly to make it all better, but it’s still too swollen to put any pressure on it so he’ll just have to see the trip in it the blog. George did take his Ultra Classic to Alaska in ’09 and that’s where I met him. He managed then to push that hog up the Haul Road to the Arctic Circle so he ain’t no pansy. I’m going to miss his company.
Day 1 Partly cloudy and 85 degrees Left home at 8:30 AM EDT, arrived Red Top Mountain SP in Cartersville, GA at 6:30 EDT PM rode 565 miles
It was a bit of a tearful farewell this AM, from both of us. I kept reminding Sandy that I had an empty back seat and I would do all of the driving, but that didn’t work and I left alone. The quote on the back of my camper says it all for me. By the way, have you ever left on a long trip and had that nagging thought that you’ve forgotten something? Well, I didn’t get that feeling. I’m sure tho that something will come up that I’ve forgotten, will have to just make do. Rain hit just before I got to Lake City and stayed with me until I reached Valdosta, I knew there would be some dicey weather as a front was rolling through. It did clear up after lunch and after a quick look at my weather app, it looks like clear sailing ahead. My original stop was at High Falls SP in GA, but it was 4 PM and I didn’t want to stop that early so headed on to Plan B, even tho that meant traversing Atlanta at five o’clock in the afternoon. It was easy sailing into downtown but going out of town was a different story, fortunately there were no accidents and while we had a lot of stop and go’s we finally made it. I then stopped for the night at Red Top Mountain SP in Cartersville, this will make for a real easy day tomorrow. The hosts, Michael and Jennifer Welsh, were so pleasant when I checked in after hours. They brought their 25 lb cat, Jake, by to pay me a visit later in the evening. Here are a couple of views from my campsite.
The sunset was the last thing I saw before getting to sleep.
Yep, tomorrow morning is almost here and it’s amazing that everything is moving along as well as it is. Got new rubber on both the bike and the trailer, new brakes, wheel bearings packed and all fluids changed. Have taken the whole outfit out twice for shakedown cruises and the ride is as smooth as silk. Almost scary, I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. My mood is alternating between the elation I get from being out on the road again, seeing new places and experiencing new adventures and the sadness of leaving my wife and friends and the comfort of our home life here. I don’t believe Sandy is too happy about my going, but the offer is always there for us to go together. I’m going to incorporate an Iron Butt ride called the National Parks Tour in this trip. It calls for visiting at least 50 National parks and historic sites in 25 states in a year. I did this in 2010 and went to 81 parks in 32 states then. This time I will be shooting for the Gold in that you still do the same number but have to hit all four corners of the US as well as Alaska . . . this should be doable. My route takes me northwest to pick up I-40 in Memphis then hitting parks on either side of 40 until I get to California. Then I head north going into the northwest states before going into Glacier NP and on the east side of it take 89 across the border into Calgary. Continuing through the Icefields Parkway to Jasper and taking a back road to the start of the Alcan in Dawson Creek. Just north of Whitehorse in the Yukon will take the side road to Dawson City and across the Top of the World Hwy into Alaska. Then the timeline gets a little muddy, I know I have to be in Anchorage on July 19-22 for a rally and I know that I’m going up to the Arctic Circle, when all depends on how long it takes to get up there. My riding buddy, Nolan, from the ’09 trip is heading there by a different route and we’ll try to meet up somewhere before going up to the Circle. Nolan called a couple of nights ago and reminded me to bring a sign to post at the Signpost Forest in Watson Lake, Yukon Territory. I’ve tried to find some sign that says “Merritt Island, Florida” but can’t come up with anything, then went to a sign man I know and he’s agreed to make me a neat sign. Sandy is going to have to pick it up later this week and mail it to me at Gen Del in West Glacier, MT. On the way back I have a route that brings me back into Washington then across the US into Maine before heading home. I might be a little homesick by the time I hit the US again and decide to head directly home and do the Northeast states in a couple of months. To do the whole route would be about 15-16 K miles and at least three months, if I cut it short it will still be 12-13 K miles and over two months. That’s the good thing about being retired, I’ll decide later. Now I’m going to button this up and pack the computer away for the ride. Will be stopping at a state park in Georgia tomorrow night, weather is calling for a lot of rain. I’ve been wet before.
As I was walking down the driveway early this morning, I heard old Mr Mockingbird sitting up there on the light pole just singing his heart out. I stood there and soaked in his whole litany of songs, then stored it in my memory for later retrieval. As my time gets closer to leave for an extended trip, I try real hard to remember every detail of my at home life. I love to feel my wife next to me in the morning, so warm and soft — her hair smells so good. The mundane trips to the bank or Publix, these are such ordinary things in an ordinary world . But when you’re thousands of miles from home, everything is so different. You might be cold or wet or very tired. You start to loose perspective. You begin to wonder, what in the world you are doing here. That’s when you retrieve these memories and everything becomes OK again. It’s like soul food for the psyche. Had a productive day yesterday. Installed the car tire on the rear of the bike, boy that was a bear trying to get that square tire into the round hole of the fender. A little bit of soap helped to ease it in. Knowing how the mosquitoes are in the Far North country I did a little experiment and sprayed several different clothing outfits and my camper door opening with Permethrin. This is an insect repellent that is supposed to do it’s job for about two months. Yes, it’s true the mosquitoes in Alaska are huge and there are a lot of them, so anything you can do to keep them at bay is worth trying. I’ve also packed a can of bear attack deterrent, you notice the terminology here. You can’t get across the border with bear spray, bear attack deterrent is OK. By the way do you know what grizzly bears call bikers? “Meals on Wheels”. More later.
Today is June 5 and this time next week I’ll have my first night out on the road. Getting ready to go to Alaska this year is far different from the 2009 trip. I had my riding buddy Nolan to go with then and we did all of the planning together. This year I’ll be solo. At least until Nolan and I meet up some where in the Yukon Territory or perhaps Alaska. This trip I have none of the concerns about my gear, as to how it will function or do I have enough. I’ve gone enough miles now to know what I need or to know that if I don’t have something it’s no big deal. I’ll either get another one or learn to do without. Newer bike this time, moved up to a 2007 GW, this 1800 has a bit more muscle and is more nimble than my 1500. Same old camper and rider and both are getting older and a bit more worn and we look it. After that little mishap on the mountain in British Columbia in ’09 I had to put a good bit of reinforcing aluminum to keep the trailer body together. Also the tent is full of patches, but it still doesn’t leak a drop. This blog is an improvement over my last blog as far as the ease of use and style goes and that’s a blessing. I would spend hours on just the mechanics of getting it all put together and this doesn’t count the hours I spent agonizing over what to say. More later.
Day 6: Left Superior, WE at 7:30 AM CDT, arrived at Motel 8 in Kenora, Ontarion at 6:00 PM CDT rode 318 miles.
Thirty nine degrees. A gray angry looking sky. Rain coming down cold and hard. That picture makes you want to be in a warm comfortable place cuddled up with your honey. Right !!! Yeah, any sane guy would be there. Instead we were out on Hwy 71 headed to Internatinal Fall, MN. We had car after car after truck coming at us heading south. I looked ahead and behind me and the only vehicles that were northbound were Nolan and me, makes you think someone is trying to tell us something. Believe me this is not a fun experience. This morning when we got up Nolan exclaimed that he had frost on his bike cover, we knew we were in for a cold one then. Wasn’t too bad right at first and we were making decent time when it really turned colder and started to sprinkle. We pulled in at this rest area and changed into our cold country gear, up to this point we were just in our wet weather gear. Nice little rest area and read this interesting info sign that stated a rain drop falling here would be confused as to where to go downhill. It could either run north to the Hudson Bay, east to the Atlantic or south and bask in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. From these photos it doesn’t look too bad, but the rain is constant and really getting cold. We have stopped at several Walmarts and other places on the way looking for some decent cold weather gloves for Nolan, but never could find what he wanted. Stopped again here in International Falls at a sports store and still didn’t come up with anything, but we did run into two couples from Lakeland, FL on their Wings heading south. They told us they had encountered several bears and a moose on their way down from Thunder Bay. Had no trouble at the border crossing, went to another Walmart on the Canadian side, still no gloves. We were cold and wet so stopped at a Tim Hortons for a bowl of chili. Talked to an older guy while in there and he said he had lived there all his life and never seen so much rain and cold as they have now. Guess we’re just lucky to be experiencing this along with him. Headed up to Kenora and were planning to stay at a provincial park just into Manitoba province but it started turning much colder and we couldn’t find a park at this time of day so gave in and checked into a Motel 8. Nice room and very dry and warm. Hope for better weather tomorrow, although all the locals say it won’t be.