Monday, August 17, 2009

Ghost Roadtripping The American West

My best friend in West Texas, calling herself the Queen of Wink, was reading a book called Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road, by Neil Peart, at the same time she was reading my Roadtripping Bloggings. She made note of how many of the places the Ghost Rider Roadtripped through in the American West were places I'd blogged about.

Neil Peart is in the Canadian Rock band, Rush. He is also a prolific writer. After losing both his daughter and wife in the course of a year, late in the last century, Peart decided to take off on a Roadtrip to try and heal his shattered soul.

Peart's means of locomotion is a BMW motorcycle. He started his 55,000 mile Roadtrip in eastern Canada, headed up to Alaska, then down to Vancouver. At about the 100 Mile House in British Columbia he was on roads I was familiar with.

I have now ridden as far as Belize with Mr. Peart. He has made me want to go deep into Mexico. It is a lot of narrative to try and describe so many miles covered, so the story jumps a lot of distance at times. And he does a lot of backtracking, particularly in the American West.

I forget where Peart crossed into America. Like I said, he does a lot of backtracking. I think when he entered America, Going-to-the-Sun Road, in Glacier National Park, was the first destination. I also remember he ended up in Boise for one night, and drove by Lake Coeur de Lene. There was talk of heading to Devils Tower, but something intervened and he set off in a different direction.

He Roadtripped through the Columbia Gorge on the first scenic highway built simple for the purpose of making it easy for motorists to experience the Gorge. I believe that highway was built in the 1920s. From Oregon he headed south, if I remember right, routing through Ontario in Eastern Oregon, on the way to Winnemucca in Nevada. I had my one and only auto accident south of Ontario on a foggy winter day on the way to Reno.

From Winnemucca he headed south and got on part of the Loneliest Highway in America and headed east, destination the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Somehow that didn't work out. It gets hard to remember. Like I said he's all over the place. I think it was Bryce Canyon National Park, next, where he hiked the same hikes I've mentioned hiking and stayed at Ruby's Inn. After Bryce he went into backtrack mode, heading back to the Loneliest Highway, driving the full length, then through Reno, then up to Lake Tahoe, heading south on, I think, Highway 49, til he got tired of all the traffic and took a pass over the Sierra Nevadas, passing through Bishop on his way through Death Valley National Park, then heading north, spending the night in Tonapah.

I've spent a night in Tonapah on two occaisions, at the same motel. One of the strangest motels I've ever been in. Strange in a good way. The rooms, huge, with big mirrors making the room look even bigger, huge beds, huge bathroom. I think it was called the Royal Queen.

After Tonapah, he headed towards Las Vegas via Area 51. At some point he heads to Los Angeles, but I think that came later. I think after Vegas he spent a couple days in Zion Canyon National Park, where he hiked to the Emerald Pools and talking of hiking to Angel's Landing, then the north rim of the Grand Canyon, then jumped south, deeper into Arizona, visiting Tombstone and spending the night in Bisbee.

After Bisbee he headed east to White Sands National Monument, then north, hoping to find the Trinity Site. I had the same hope and the same luck. Could not find it.

Then it was west, again, from Santa Fe, spending a night at the San Juan Inn in Mexican Hat before going to Moab and spending a few days, biking and hiking in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Then south to Monument Valley, then quickly to Tuscon and Yuma, driving by the Algodones Sand Dunes, heading north on the east side of the Salton Sea, I think returning to Death Valley, before heading to Los Angeles. At some point he stopped at the London Bridge on Lake Havasu.

I'm likely forgetting some places Roadtripped to on this meandering journey and the precise order of the meandering. It seems like he rented a boat on Lake Powell. One of the reasons it is hard to remember this itinerary is at times there is very little detail, just a casual mention made in passing as the Roadtrip miles fly by.

Anyway, very good book. I recommend it.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Racing To The Top Of Pikes Peak

I previously wrote a Roadtripping Blogging about the drive to the top of Pikes Peak. It was quite some time ago that I took my one and only Roadtrip to the top of the 2nd most visited mountain top in the world.

Only Japan's Mount Fuji sees more visitors at its summit.

One memory of being at the summit of Pikes Peak was my surprise at how big the visitors center was. And that there were fresh donuts. Well, the above video confirms the donuts and brought back real clear what the drive to the top of Pikes Peak is like. And how brakes can overheat on the way back down.

The second YouTube video shows a car racing to the top of Pikes Peak. The Pikes Peak Race is one of the oldest in the world. And it's not just cars. Motorcycles also race. Racing up Pikes Peak like this seemed borderline insane to me. Worse than the cars racing to the top, was another video I saw of motorcycles careening around hairpin Pikes Peak corners.

Silverton Colorado

That's Wanda looking at me looking down at Silverton, Colorado in the valley below. We arrived in Silverton on a Roadtripping day that started in Moab, getting to Durango about noon, then on to Silverton, hoping to find a place to stay for the night, before heading to Taos, New Mexico in the morning, via the Million Dollar Highway.

It was October, so there were not a lot of tourists wanting to stay overnight in Silverton. So, we easily found rooms at the Grand Imperial Hotel. I'd never stayed in such place before. Built in the Victorian style in the late 1800s when Silverton was a mining boomtown, the Grand Imperial Hotel has no elevators, which would seem to be no big deal.

The photo of the Grand Imperial makes it appear to be a 3 floor structure. But, I'm sure I remember we were on the 4th floor. Every time I had to climb up those flights I got winded. Silverton is one of the highest towns in America. 9,305 feet above sea level. I have been standing on the planet at a higher elevation, that being Pikes Peak, but I've never spent a night at so high an elevation.

Soon upon our arrival the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad tooted in to town. This had all the stores and restaurants open and the town seeming busy. And then the train left, most of the stores closed, with the town back to its usual 500, give or take a few people, population.

A mountain hovers over Silverton. Part way up that mountain there is a statue. Big Ed and I got out the mountain bikes to pedal around town and then up that mountain. I did not take the 9,305 feet elevation in to account when I decided I wanted to pedal up that mountain. I was breathing so hard to get oxygen it was painful. Eventually I gave up pedaling and hiked to the statue. It turned out to be a memorial to those lost in a big Silverton mining accident.

That night we had dinner in the Grand Imperial Hotel's Restaurant. And then we went to the Grand Imperial's Saloon. Now, I did not know, until that night, that drinking an adult beverage at a high elevation has quite a more potent intoxicating effect than it does at sea level.

Two things stick in my mind from that evening. One was the full moon shining through the saloon's windows. This was the brightest, biggest moon I had ever seen. The other thing that stuck in my mind was our bartender. You can see both the moon and the bartender in the picture.

She asked where we were from. Back then, I'd always say "Seattle," when I'm on a trip, because people know where that is. It's like now I'd say I was from Dallas, because Fort Worth is not all that well known outside of this zone, for the most part.

So the bartender said she'd lived in Silverton all her life, that she has rarely left Silverton, just going to Durango a few times. Then she said her dream was to one day to get to travel to Seattle and see those flying fish. We all looked at each other, puzzled. Then I asked if she meant the flying fish at Pike Place Market? She confirmed that was what she meant.

How those flying fish in Seattle could possibly be someone's thing they dream of seeing is perplexing. I find it annoying when those fishmongers start tossing those salmon.

I don't remember how late we stayed in the saloon. I do know that I slept exceptionally well. I attribute this to the high elevation and that high elevation causing me some heavy duty aerobic exercise that exhausted me. The adult beverages likely had a sedative effect, as well.

Below is the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad arriving in town....

Friday, August 7, 2009

Durango Colorado

That's the Durango train station for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in the picture. The Durango & Silverton Railroad has been taking people the 46 miles to Silverton and back for over 125 years.

I have only been to my Durango namesake one time. During a Roadtrip that spent a week in Moab, hiking in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, then houseboating on Lake Powell, careening down the Moki Dugway, overnighting in Mexican Hat, driving through Monument Valley, then on to Durango, Colorado, overnighting at the Grand Imperial Hotel in Silverton with the next night in Taos and then on to Alamogordo and White Sands National Monument on the way to Yuma and Las Vegas.

Durango is a scenic town, sitting in the Animas River valley between red sandstone bluffs. The town got its start when miners swarmed to Southwest Colorado in the 1870s. The Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Company bought the land to build Durango's downtown, which quickly grew with big hotels, Victorian architecture and a three story skyscraper called the Strater Hotel, built in 1887, which is still scraping the sky in present day Durango.

Durango is at the center of all sorts of outdoor fun. Mesa Verde National Park is nearby. Durango has several ski areas. So, you can pretty much have outdoor fun year round, skiing and snowboarding in the winter, rafting and kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, hunting, fishing, rock climbing and camping during the less cold, snowy times of the year.

Due to my blogs and website having Durango as part of the name, I get a lot of Durango oriented questions that I don't know the answer to. I also have a domain called which gets some interesting questions due to, apparently, there being a store in Durango called the Durango Trading Post. Questions like "the watch I bought in your store quit working. What should I do?"

I hope to go back to Durango soon. My Durango baseball cap is worn out and needs to be replaced.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Roadtripping 49 States In 9 Days

That guy in the picture is named Dave Schaub. Dave is standing by his 1932 Ford Roadster. Dave is Roadtripping to 49 states in 9 days to raise money for Ronald McDonald House.

You can help the cause and track Dave's progress, as he drives across America, by going to the "Drivin' For The Kids 49IN9" website.

What Dave is attempting to do is a Roadtrip that has never been done before. Driving through all 49 of the continental United States. That would mean every state, but Hawaii. I really do not see how this can be done. All the lower 48 states, plus Alaska, in 9 days?

That is approximately 9,800 miles in 216 hours. In a vehicle built in 1932. Dave has done some modifications to his Roadster to ready it for this monster Roadtrip. He put in a bigger fuel tank and moved the fuel input location to make fill-ups quicker. And he has added cruise control.

Well, I hope Dave successfully makes it to all 49 in 9. Sounds fun to me.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Solo Roadtripping With Me & Rachel

I think I have put a few miles on a few cars on a few Roadtrips over the years. But my Roadtripping is nothing compared to that of Rachel and her Comet Caliente. Rachel bought her Comet, new, over 45 years ago. She has driven it over 540,000 miles.

Rachel is 89 years old. And just like her well-maintained car, well-maintained Rachel is running well on all cylinders.

Rachel is such a good Roadtripper she drove herself on an over 3,000 mile Roadtrip to attend her 70th High School Reunion. Rachel's reasons for loving a solo Roadtrip, match my own. You do what you want to do when you want to do it and don't have to meet the needs of anyone but yourself.

My longest solo Roadtrip started in July of 2001. I was heading home for my mom and dad's 50th Anniversary party. No one knew I was coming.

I left Fort Worth, that's in Texas, headed northwest on Highway 287, through Amarillo, on through a small slice of New Mexico, heading north on I-25, spending the first night in Pueblo, Colorado, then continuing on north to Wyoming, getting on I-80 in Cheyenne, heading west to I-15 in Utah, then I-84 to Twin Falls, Idaho, where I spent the night, before heading on to Seattle.

The route back to Texas, a month later, took I-90 east to Montana, spending the first night in Butte, then continued west til south of Sheridan, Wyoming, where I-90 continued east, with me taking I-25 south til I got to Pueblo again and stayed in the same motel as a month earlier, getting back to Fort Worth the next day, with gas prices having taken a steep jump in Amarillo from the month before.

I want to go on a long solo Roadtrip again.