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The charm of yesterday the convenience of tomorrow

November 29, 2009

Santa Fe, New Mexico to Flagstaff, Arizona


It started raining at the Santa Fe KOA campground slowly at first, gently, and then the rain began to really hammer down. I woke up around three in the morning. My first thought was to make sure all my gear was stowed but as consciousness returned I remembered that I had everything out of the weather and secure. I learned the hard way on my last trip to put everything away no matter how nice the weather appears. The night I learned that lesson I was camped in Myrtle Beach South Carolina. I rode something like 700+ miles that day and was just wiped out when I arrived at the State Park. The Ranger took my money and waved vaguely in the direction of where I was supposed to camp and drove off cussing about “damn gaters on the causeway” What’s that? Alligators on the causeway? And I’m in a tent? Holy sweet Jesus what have I gotten myself into?

The infamous Gator infested causeway in South Carolina


I rode around and around and around that lovely dark evening looking for the camp site; T1 or whatever it was. I eventually found some grass and just said screw it and setup camp. At that point in the evening the stars were out and it looked clear and peaceful. I left the fly off the tent and my gear on the picnic bench and rode off to find some dinner. At this time of the evening in late May NOTHING in Myrtle Beach was open for dinner. I eventually gave up and stopped at a rundown convenience store for some cheese and crackers and a few bottles of water. While I was picking out dinner these two country boys came stumbling in and each selected a fine frosty cold 40 ounce Malt Liquor from the cooler. Both were horribly drunk, filthy, shoeless and yelling at each other. “My Harley can kick yer bikes ass” said one. “No it kaint mine is faster than corn lightning” said the other. They continued the whose bike is faster all the way to the counter where – and I kid you not – they counted out payment for the 40’s from pocket change. Penny’s, nickels, dimes, not a single quarter on the counter. One lurched over and looked at me. Shit I thought this is going to be interesting. “What kind of bike is that U ride buddy” Ask anyone who rides and Aprilia and they will tell you the same thing. Compared to just about all the other marks, Aprilia is the one bike most people have never seen. Here I am at the counter with a couple of good ole boys, drunker than Ted Kennedy on a Palm Beach Friday night, and I’m going to tell them it’s an “Aprilia, it’s Italian, a liquid cooled 60 degree V-Twin Rotax engine, and you don’t see many” I just gave up and said “It’s a Zuki” ‘I tole you that’s what it was!” said one to the other in triumph. Together, we all went out through the front door. I to my bike and they to their battered, one headlight working, Purple Isuzu Rodeo that was pulling an equally beaten camo fishing skiff in loose formation behind it. One of the trailer wheels was flat and none of the lights worked. These guys were clearly professionals. I rode back to the State Park chuckling into my helmet.

At this point you’re probably thinking “Hey Eric, weren’t we just in Santa Fe New Mexico?” and you would be right. Please forgive me while I digress a wee bit more. There is either a point to this story or I’ve just had too many drinks tonight. Anyway, at the State Park I unlock the gate and close it behind me. Here is an important tip for long riders. Most State Parks use tumbler style locks – you know the padlocks that have roller numbers on the bottom. At just about every State Park I’ve been to the Rangers just roll the first or last number one click up or down rather than scramble the whole thing. This is good Intel if you arrive after the gate is locked and you have been at it all day and just want to settle down for the night rather than camp at the gate. Back on the bike I rode towards the dreaded causeway and as my front wheels hit the bridge concrete the sky absolutely exploded and within seconds it was raining biblically. SHIT! I left the fly off the tent, and all my gear exposed! I nailed the throttle, weather be dammed, I was across the causeway in seconds and doing about 100 through the park. Stupid I know, but the last thing I wanted to experience was a tent filled with water and a thoroughly soaked sleeping bag and clothing. Thankfully, although I was soaked to the bone, the weather seemed confined to the cursed causeway, and a little bit into the park itself on the other side. When I got to the tent it had blessedly only rained a bit and I was able to get everything covered and secure before the rain arrived. So long story longer, I LEARNED to keep everything secure and ready for anything all the time. I can’t think of much worse than having to sleep in high humidity with a soaked sleeping bag with my gear floating around next to me.

Back to the rain in Santa Fe, New Mexico. As I lay awake in the tent, I reflected on my home away from home – an EMS Quarter Dome Tent. The tent itself is free standing which is great as you can assemble it and move it wherever you want or turn it over and shake it out. With the fly removed the walls are mesh except for a twelve inch high border around the bottom. When the weather is warm and perfect you can lie under the stars and sleep peacefully bug free. With the fly on it is absolutely weather tight and the few times I’ve been in really nasty weather it’s kept me dry and happy. Knowing that my gear was dry I drifted off to sleep. Rain in the desert is not something you expect. I awoke the next morning to a swamp. The sandy campsite was a sticky glue of mud I decided to put my riding gear on inside the tent. Getting my Alpinestars boots on in such a confined space was very, very fun. I put on my rain gear and got out of the tent. It was absolutely pouring. Getting the tent, sleeping bag, air mattress and the like put away and not completely covered in mud was difficult. I kept sliding around in the mud and several times I almost fell flat on my face. My biggest concern after loading the bike was staying upright in this goop. It was sticky and very slippery. By the time I reached the pavement at the KOA gate I was a filthy mud spattered mess.

On the interstate about an hour later, the traffic ahead started to slow and in the distance I saw a solid line of red taillights. I was far enough back that I was able to pick an alternate route on the Nuvi and took the next exit just before traffic stopped entirely. I decided to take a break and stopped at McDonalds. It was still raining heavily when I walked inside. It was raining so hard in fact, that after I took off my helmet gloves and jacket I ran back outside and took a garbage bag from the MotoFizz and pulled it over the bag. After grabbing a burrito and a soda I hit the bathroom before heading back into the rain. This McDonalds had the first of what I would see many times in later in California. You’ve seen graffiti – yes? We all have. But instead of graffiti on the bathroom walls, some retard carved the same sort of graffiti scrawl in Spanish onto the toilet seat itself. This would, if you were unlucky enough to sit on it bear assed, temporarily tattoo you as well. This graffiti was carved with real passion into the toilet seat – deeply etched and apparently impossible to sanitize. Horrifying.

Back outside it was still raining but less so and the sun was starting to peak out of the clouds. Things were looking up.

Tomorrow – I visit the famous El Rancho, dodge a bunch of muscle cars and arrive in Flagstaff, Arizona.




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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Doyle Roos permalink
    November 29, 2009 11:08 pm

    Thanks for sharing your journeys with us.. Please be safe out there, and Ride On!

    God Bless You..

  2. November 30, 2009 3:00 pm

    “My Harley can kick yer bikes ass”. Indeed.

  3. Jack permalink
    December 7, 2009 10:36 pm

    I just stumbled on this at apriliaforum.com. Have a great ride and drop a line if you come through Texas. And no, Amarillo does not count.

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