With a year of planning, we arrived in LA from Australia feeling like I had been strapped to a chair and told not to move for 14 hours. To be fair Virgin Aust put on a pretty good service. I just did not sleep a peep despite choosing a night time flight. So that left us with the joy of picking up our hire car at the airport and heading for Aztec, New Mexico some 817 miles away without having slept for more than a day. Yeah well, there were two drivers and we changed regularly!
Fortunately the GPS Navigator assisted in getting us out of LA (a city whose drivers fill up their motorways 24/7) without dramas. Once we adjusted to driving on the RHS and being bullied by 10 ton Pickup trucks travelling at 80 mph, we began to relax. For some bizzare reason our Ford Focus kept visiting the RHS of the lane often resulting in a loud vibration from a corrugated line designed to wake the driver up in an instant. I finally conceded that we needed to sleep and asked Dell to drive to the next town. To my disgust I noticed we had a rear tyre puncture requiring us to fit the 'spacesaver' spare. With more than 400 miles to go we were forced to have it repaired the next morning in Seligman. This small town has the reputation of creating the original Route 66. It was not a busy town but it sure made up for its lack of population with memorbillia from the 1950's. Finding a garage that opened before 9am was impossible. We waited politely until our man finished his coffee inside before he opened his door.
One reason for driving rather than flying to NM was to visit the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Yes there were plenty of tourists. Yes it was still worth every second of the visit. This surely is one of the best examples of geological time in action. The Grand Canyon is nothing short of breath taking.
Our friends who had looked after our BMW's so well picked us up from the Avis office. We were so very lucky having met Hiram and Sharon at the Horizons Unlimited meeting in Silverton (Colorado) 2010. Hiram had started our motorcycles every month and had during the time when we last visited acquired several BMW's himself. After two days of packing, unpacking, fitting some new equipment and general giving the bikes the once over we were ready to ride. The two R1150R's were almost identical and had not given us one bit of grief during our previous cruise around the National Parks of the Rockies in 2010.
We departed after a fairwell lunch on Sunday 3rd June and headed east towards Dulce and the La Manga Pass. At 10,230' we thought this was pretty novel and camped near the summit in an attempt to acclimatise to the cooler air and higher altitudes. Neither of us had completely got over jet lag from our flight resulting in sleepless nights and dopey days.
The BMW's were just a delight to ride despite a rather large load on both. It is never easy to know how much to take on a 4 month, 22,000 km trip. The facts were that we were visiting deserts, high altitude mountains, tundra in Alaska and the extensive plains of inland USA and Canada. We were riding from New Mexico to Alaska then across Canada to Newfoundland and completing the trip by returning to Georgia where we started in 2010. With two bikes we could afford to take good quality camping gear including a new larger (8' x 8') North Face tent and a pair of Exped air beds. We planned to camp as much as possible throughout the trip. Extra wet weather gear and spare extreme cold weather gear were essential despite doing much of the trip during the Northern summer.
Our first feature stop was at Great Sand Dunes NP situated just north of the Rio Grand River headwaters and the base of the Rocky Mountains. These dunes are the tallest in North America resulting from persistent SW winds from a vast sand plain to the south. We copped our first rainstorm that night that was associated with strong winds and freezing temps. The new tent was paying for itself already. On checking the tyre pressures I noticed with concern that the rear brake pads had all but worn down to the metal. With only 15 K mls on the speedo this was not expected. We rode north to Salida and then then turned east to Colorado Springs to pick up some new pads. A detour that was not wecomed but in the end, the ride was fabulous. We returned via an even better ride from CS to Beuna Visita and then up to Independence Pass (12,093') near Aspen. The contrast in landscapes and temps never ceased to amaze me. After passing through dense high alitude conifer forests, snow dotted towering peaks and then high alitude treeless sparse deserts, Colorado has to be one of the the most spectacular States in the US. It was simply riders heaven! And we were not the only riders out enjoying the roads. We met many other Harley dudes out smelling the air (without helmets this was pretty easy to get the most air).