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Posts Tagged ‘Colorado River’

Eastern Sierra Mountains

Eastern Sierra Mountains

We left the last blog post talking about heading to Death Valley via the eastern entrance and planning to overnight at Stovepipe Wells and ride around the valley floor for a day.

When we got up it was 36 degrees in Hawthorne so, we waited for a couple of hours to let things warm up some before pointing our tires at Tonopah which is at the crossroads of US 95 and US 6.  There were some dramatic views of the snow-capped Sierra Mountains.

Highway

Highway 95

The most prominent symbol of a boom-and-bust history in Tonopah is the Mizpah Hotel at the center of the city. Built in 1907 and ’08 on the site of one of Jim Butler’s old camp sites, the five-story hotel was immediately the center of glamour and elegance in dusty, hard-working Tonopah. It had steam heat, electric lights and elevator service, and advertised itself earnestly as “The Finest Stone Hotel on the Desert.”  Some trivia about the town is that back in 1957 the reclusive/crazy billionaire Howard Hughes married Jean Peters in room 33 at the L&L Motel in Tonopah.

Tonopah

Goldfield County Court House

In 1979, after nearly 60 years of decline, Tonopah erupted in its second mining boom of the 20th century with Anaconda’s molybdenum mine north of town.  Fleets of buses hauled the men out of town to work.  And then one day the boom was over as the market for moly went so bad that even mighty Anaconda had to close down its operation and sit on its $240 million investment.

Goldfield High School

Goldfield High School

These days the nearby Tonopah Test Range (TTR) is one of the main economic foundations of the town.  There are approximately 250 military and civilian workers at TTR conducting aeronautical research and development.  It’s located in the northwestern portion of the Nellis Air Force Range in south-central Nevada and its facilities are located approximately 30 miles South East of Tonopah.  The F-117 was initially based on the Tonopah range, also known as Mellon Strip, where the F-117 Stealth fighter became operational in 1983.

Death Valley East Entrance

Death Valley East Entrance

Tonopah is clearly in a steep decline, but the 2500 or so people who call Tonopah home would probably disagree that it’s a “ghost town.”

And speaking of ghosts, the next town we rolled through was Goldfield.  Gold was discovered at Goldfield in 1902, and it soon became the largest town in Nevada with over 30,000 people. Only 440 people remain in Goldfield now, so it’s kind of a ghost town, but people still pan for gold.  The Goldfield Hotel is said to be haunted by a lady of the evening who was chained to a radiator while giving birth by George Wingfield who owned the hotel. She died and her child was thrown down the mineshaft that the hotel was built over.  There are many web sites that talk about how you can see her in room 109 and hear her baby crying on dark nights.

Death Valley looking at Furnace Creek

Death Valley looking toward Furnace Creek

The massive old high school now stands empty and is falling down, and the castle-style Esmeralda County Court House is an architectural curiosity of the Edwardian variety, is open to visitors. Inside are the original Tiffany lamps and there is a plaque on the outside of the building about the 1902 prize fight for the Lightweight Championship of the World between Battling Nelson and Joe Gans.  It was hailed as “The Fight of the Century” and the biggest purses in the history of prize fighting: $20,000 to the champion Nelson and $10,000 to Gans, the black challenger.  The fighters battered each other for 42 punishing rounds before Nelson, bloodied and sagging, fouled Gans in a clinch.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

At Beatty, NV we headed West on Highway 374 then pointed tires onto Highway 190 as we dropped down into the northern part of Death Valley into the small way-station of Stovepipe Wells.

We got one of the last rooms at Stovepipe Wells Village Hotel which offered up terrific views of Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and the surrounding mountain ranges.  The people were nice, but the restaurant wasn’t anything special and the room was like a low budget Sturgis motel that included the room rate overcharges.  The rates only went higher at other locations and we were glad to have a place to throw some bags, take a shower and have some refreshments.

Stovepipe Wells

Stovepipe Wells

It was interesting place to take in the dark night sky and try to find satellites and the various planets with the naked eye passing overhead.  It’s one of only a few places in the world where you can do this.

All the cold weather in the region turned out to be a blessing down in Death Valley.  The temp’s were in the mid-80’s and we enjoyed some very nice riding in the desert.

The experience the next day was a mix of desolate desert landscape along with the Furnace Creek oasis which opened in 1927 by the Pacific Coast Borax Company.  These days it has the world’s lowest golf course at 214 feet below sea level.

We rode out to the Harmony Borax Works that processed borax ore in the late 1800’s and looked at photo’s of Twenty Mule Team wagons that hauled the ore to the railhead 165 miles away.  We also rode into the area called Artist Drive. It’s an impressive place with all the multi-colored claystones from ancient ashfalls that generate the different colors formed in the mountain.

Death Valley is over 3 million acres of designated wilderness and includes hundreds of miles of trails in all directions. The terrain is as varied as it is extreme, from vast sizzling desert and rocky canyons to historic sites and snow-capped peaks.

Artist

Artist Palette on Artist Drive

We enjoyed riding around the desert floor, but it was mid-afternoon and time to leave the valley.  We pointed the tires south and proceeded toward Las Vegas via Pahrump, an “RVer’s Paradise” that is easy to reach and easy to forget.

Aquarius Hotel

Aquarius Hotel

As we got closer to Vegas the Red Rock Canyon lit up with the afternoon sun making me wish for a few more hours to visit and photograph, but we needed to cover the next 110 miles in time to meet up with the rest of the “Wolf Pack” aka the riding posse in Laughlin for dinner.

Sure, the rain and cold during the first 5 hours of the ride were hideous, but overall the ride didn’t feel rushed and in taking three days to ride down to Laughlin it allowed us plenty of time to see some terrific scenery and experience the various environments.

I’ll avoid doing an in-depth summary of the Laughlin River Run event.  We’ve all been out to Oatman and have the “been there and done that” t-shirt.  A Mohave Daily News report stated there were more than 45K bikers in town.  I think that number was inflated because cruising down Casino Drive just didn’t have the same clogged feel as previous years.  The good news is no motorcycle-related fatalities as part of the event were reported.

RoadGlide Heading East

On the RoadGlide heading East

One item I want to mention was the Friday night BBQ near Needles.  The posse attended the annual “Dave’s BBQ” on the Colorado River.  He pulls together a high quality event each year for the folks visiting Laughlin that includes grilled shrimp and tri-tip and everyone is hooked on the luscious dishes from chef Manny.  We were all licking our fingers and asking for more.  A big shout-out and thanks to the BBQ crew for pulling it all together!

It was great to see everyone and the BBQ was one of the highlights of the trip.

The Ride To Laughlin 2014 – Part 1 (HERE)

Photos taken by author.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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"No Colors" Memo

“No Colors” Memo

One of the largest motorcycle events on the west coast will occur in about 3 weeks.

I’m talking about the Laughlin River Run, April 24-27th.  And 2014 will mark 32 years of riding on the Colorado river for this motorcycle rally.

Back in 2011 the posse rode to the event and several of us are planning to do the same this year.  We’re hoping the west coast drought will swing a bit north for our departure and the northwest rain will stop for a few days.

Recently one of the riders in the group received a memo from Sean Hammond, General Manager of the Aquarius Casino Resort (see photo).  He outlines the “No Colors” rule being strictly enforced in all the area hotels/casinos.  While it has not been without it’s issues the heavy handed LEO presence always seems unnecessary, but then again the days of HAMC clubbers performing motorcycle wheelies as guests tried to check-in at the Flamingo (as it was previously known) was a bit of a nuisance.

Sure the room rates are artificially raised as is the cost to get there, but for those of us who don’t have 300+ days of riding, the opportunity to ride the Sierra Nevada mountains and take in historic U.S. Route 66, along with the hills of Oatman is always a memorable experience.  And it’s a bonus this time of year as the byways are less-traveled and there are few tourist in motorhomes clogging the open road views.

See you in Laughlin.

Photo taken by author.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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4-Corners Route Map

4-Corners Route Map

It doesn’t get much better than a tour of America’s most famous roads aboard its most famous motorcycle.

To be clear,  this wasn’t the SCMA sanctioned ride to the four-corner cities in the U.S. (San Ysidro, CA; Blaine, WA; Madawaska, ME; and Key West, FL) in 21 days or less.  I’m talking about the 4-corners of Arizona/ Colorado/New Mexico/Utah which is a leisure trip in comparison.

Cruising Toward Boise

Cruising Toward Boise

I’m very late in posting a summary, but about 10-months ago, three of us set out for the mystical 4-corners.  It turned into a 4000-mile journey over a couple weeks that led us through Eastern Oregon, Southern Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota/Sturgis, Montana, Northern Idaho, Washington and then back to Oregon.

My view is that any motorcycle is better than a car, and not for the biker type reasons, it’s because you engage with the environment and the people in a far more intimate way. When it rains, you get wet, when the temperature drops, you get cold, and if those sound like reasons to take a car, then you just don’t understand – feeling the air and the weather rather than viewing it through a windshield or soaking in the experience of the environment instead of merely looking at it truly is the only way to go.

Boise Street Celebration

Boise Street Celebration

On this road trip, Moab, the Million Dollar Highway and Beartooth Pass were my most memorable highlights.   The road trip was much more than just a motorcycle ride.  We were exposed to multiple days of 100+ searing heat, dodged wildfires and rode through hail and torrential rain storms with “mud-flows” on Colorado’s Highway 110 where fishing gear seem appropriate!  Nothing we couldn’t handle and it all made for the adventure of touring by motorcycle.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Boise To Spanish Fork, UT

Boise To Spanish Fork, UT

The romance and history of the great American road trip is a powerful draw.  I’ve wanted to ride through Monument Valley since seeing an image in an American motorcycle magazine smuggled into an electronics amplifiers lecture in college: an abandoned gas stop, tumbleweed, a rusting Phillips fuel sign you could almost hear squeaking in the hot, dry breeze and, down the road, a post-war Ford tilted into a ditch, its sun-bleached side peppered with bullet holes.  Yeah, we all know the imagery; 20th century Americana, the open road, the songs, and the countless films – so, let’s jump into the actual ride:

Departing Spanish Fork, UT

Departing Spanish Fork, UT

Portland to Boise –  I’ve blogged ad nauseam about riding from Portland to Boise on various trips to Sturgis and won’t bore you by repeating the details.  We departed early and it was about getting some miles under our tires with I-84 being the fastest route east.  We overnighted in Boise where the perpetual street scene celebration seems to always be running.  We grabbed some dinner at the Reef “Tiki” Restaurant.

Cruising the CO. River

Cruising the Colorado River on Highway 128

Boise to Spanish Fork, UT –  We departed Boise fairly early and continued to roll on the freeway through semi-arid rolling hills.  We were not fully into the “tourist” mode until we stopped in Spanish Fork, UT outside Salt Lake City.  We did a quick stop at Timpango’s Harley-Davidson.  The 6-acre complex and building was the brainchild of Dave Tuomisto and was a great story.  It was a mega-dealer – almost a mini-museum – and part of Harley-Davidson’s growth strategy, but during the “Great Recession” fell on bad times and Joe Timmons purchased the dealer for pennies on the dollar.  It’s a unique complex and well worth a stop if you’re ever in the area.

Wide Open Skies

Highway 128 Heading Toward Moab

The most memorable item I recall from this part of the trip – I’m writing this post nearly a year later – was the incredible amount of road construction on I-15 in and around Salt Lake City.  It’s as if there was a mass-transit revolt by residents and the state decided to build enough lanes to accommodate traffic into the late 21st century.  There was no time for day dreaming as car’s cut us off and darted across multiple lanes.

At Arches National Park

At Arches National Park

Spanish Fork to Moab –  On this day the ride was all about mountains.  US-6 leads to Moab and Arches National Park and from the first mile we were climbing.  The grade was mild so the elevation stretched out for miles until we finally reached the summit at 7500 feet.  All the while peaks with short scrubby trees surrounded us.  US-6 between Spanish Fork and Price has the honor of being one of America’s most dangerous roads owning it to a mix of heavy trucks, RVs and cars traveling at freeway speeds through narrow canyons.  There were 519 fatal and serious accidents from 1996-2008.

Balancing Rock at Arches National Park

Balancing Rock at Arches National Park

The descent from the summit was much quicker though it didn’t seem all that steep and we ended up on I-70 at a Papa Joes Gas-n-Go station where we fill up the fuel tanks.  We headed east on I-70.   Most people will take Highway-191 at the Crescent Junction interchange into Moab.  There are over 8500 cars that travel this road daily.  We decided to take a less-traveled route that adds only a few miles and you come into Moab from the back side on Highway 128.

Parade of Elephants at Arches National Park

Parade of Elephants at Arches National Park

This spectacular 44-mile scenic byway meanders along the Colorado River and the lack of vehicles was a bonus. About halfway you pass a viewpoint of the red rock spires of the Fisher Towers which is set against the peaks of the La Sal Mountains.  It was an impressive scenic ride with the red sandstone walls rising up around us as we watched the colors of the sunset.  It was a day of searing heat and we headed to the Best Western Plus Greenwell Inn pool to cool down.  We had dinner at the Moab Brewery and reviewed the “tourist” plans for the next day.

4-Corners National Monument

4-Corners National Monument

Moab to Cortez, CO (with stop at 4-Corners Monument) – We awoke early to get a jump on the desert heat and rolled out of town in the cool morning toward the River Canyon.  The plan was to ride the loop in Arches National Park and do some tourist sightseeing early then rumble toward 4-corners.  There have been good books written about Arches and this simple post will not do it justice.

4-Corners National Monument Plaque

4-Corners National Monument Commemorative Plaque

We rode most of the 36-mile round trip scenic drive.  We rolled through the petrified sand dunes between “Courthouse Towers” and “The Windows.”  We stopped and walked around a bit at “Balanced Rock” and again at Elephant Butte near the “Parade of Elephants.”   Unfortunately we didn’t have the time or were we dressed appropriately to walk the 1.5mile hike into “Delicate Arch.”  We took a lot of photos and then exited the park.

Departed 4-Corners Monument Heading to Cortez

Departed 4-Corners Monument Heading to Cortez

We headed south on Highway 191 where the only sound was of the V-Twin rumbling off the canyon walls.  Horses nuzzled the rough cottonwoods by the riverbank and the red sandstone walls rose up around us again as we headed toward Monticello and Blanding.  I don’t exactly remember which route we took to Montezuma Creek – all roads looked similar – but we ended up in Teec Nos Pos, AZ and then connected to Highway 160 for the 4-corners monument.  We paid the fee to get into the park and walked around, did some shopping at the Indian vendor stands which wrap around the monument area.  It was cool to stand on the 4-corner disc and straddle the four states.

cortez-motelIt was getting late in the day and we really needed to find a town large enough to host a motel so we departed.  We headed north on Highway 160 and overnighted in Cortez, CO., at the Best Western Turquoise Inn & Suite.  It was another scorching day of heat so a quick dip in the pool was in order and then we headed to dinner to discuss the next day riding plans.

This is a multi-part post.  Part-2 continues HERE.

Photos taken by author.  Map courtesy of Apple.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Red Rocks

Red Rock Canyon In Route To Laughlin

Year-end stories are always interesting to me.

Publications around the world rate stories, detail online traffic numbers, select the best leaders and generally give readers a special year in review.

On the national stage here are a few of my more notables:

We had what I’d call the best supporting furniture award…that went to the empty chair that actor Clint Eastwood spoke to throughout his speech at the Republican National Convention.  We narrowly re-elected a president.  John Edwards and Roger Clemens, both escaped conviction.  There was the epic fall of Lance Armstrong.  There was the Korean pop singer, Psy and that Gangnam Style video which skyrocketed a catchy tune into YouTube superstardom.  We bought more than 48 million iPads, weathered a couple of hurricanes, and cheered for the Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner who, broke the sound barrier from 24 miles up.

Baker City at HCMR

Baker City at HCMR

When I look back on the motorcycle rides there was:

LAUGHLIN RIVER RUN – in April the Road Glide was shipped to the Las Vegas desert.  Then it’s a short 100 mile jaunt through the desert to Laughlin, NV and it’s a great way to escape the Oregon monsoon rain to enjoy the heat of the canyons.  And being close to the Colorado River and between two mountain ranges in the Mojave Desert there are a lot of scenic rides with panoramic views to enjoy.  Not to mention the motorcycle rally itself.

HELLS CANYON MOTORCYCLE RALLY – in June, some riding buddies took off on 3-days of enjoying nature’s perfume – the sweet smell of rain showers on the cedar and pine forest – into the Cuprum-Sheep Rock country.  At times, the cold rain made us wish for a fishing lure and then there were other times the motorcycle tires were inches from the edge of a 1,000-foot drop-off while in the next instant the left-view mirror came pretty close to scraping a craggy rock wall on the grade coming up from Hells Canyon Reservoir into the mountains…  it’s always an exciting adventure in Baker City!  But hey, that rain is a “summer” adventure in Oregon.

On top of Bear Tooth Pass

On top of Bear Tooth Pass

FOUR-CORNERS MOTORCYCLE LOOP – in late August the posse set out for the mystical 4-corners.  It turned into a 4000-miles epic journey over a couple weeks that led us through Eastern Oregon, Southern Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota/Sturgis, Montana, Northern Idaho, Washington and then back home.  Moab, the 4-corners and Bear Tooth Pass were the highlights.  It was amazing scenery and viewing it all from back-roads on a motorcycle made it all the more fun.  The trip was much more than just a motorcycle ride.  We were exposed to searing heat, dodged wildfires and rode through mud-flows so deep on Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway that we could have caught trout with the right fishing gear!  The gist of the ride was exploring Moab and 4-corners, but the searing summer heat kept us from really getting to know the area well, and it gave me lots of ideas for future trips.

STREET VIBRATIONS –  One of my favorite ways to end the Northwest riding year is this late September trip to Reno.  The drive is pretty quick and it always guarantee’s the heat of the valley inter-mixed with cool mountain meadows and panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The crux of the ride is of course the rally and wide assortment of builders and vendor booths along with coming back with a to-do laundry list of possible winter projects for the motorcycle.  It’s not like we’re going to be loafing around on the couch this winter, right?!

Street Vibrations 2012

Street Vibrations 2012

That was my look back and it helps to motivate me to plan for 2013.  A couple of rides already blocked out on the calendar are the Harley-Davidson 110th Anniversary in Milwaukee and “Shark Week” in Utah.

In looking back on 2012, we also need to keep in our thoughts and prayers those who were met with tragedy this year, whether from storms or gunfire here at home, or on a battlefield on foreign soil.  May 2013 be safer, healthier and happier for all of us.

Photos taken by author.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Riding Through Death Valley

You might not know, but the Laughlin River Run in Laughlin, Nevada is also the location of the first giant coal-fired power plant (Mohave Generating Station) to shutdown.

The closure created economic distress to the Navajo Nation, which supplied coal to Mohave through a slurry line at the Black Mesa Mine.   The motorcycle rally hangs on the skirts of the Colorado River and features large numbers of motorcycle enthusiasts wandering through vendor booths, casinos/resorts all setting next to the river’s edge.  I’m working on a detailed post for the ride down, but thought I’d post up a brief summary on some of the highlights:

  1. Our morning departure out of Portland found rain coming down in sheets and the wind blew like a hurricane.
  2. At one point it cost $24 to fill up a five-gallon Harley.
  3. My first motorcycle ride through Death Valley.
  4. The ‘River Run’ had all the built up energy for a spring rally, but the vendor “cha-ching” wasn’t quite as loud as in some years.
  5. Walked into the Aquarius Casino Resort and had no problem getting rooms without reservations.  Lucky?
  6. Room rates were 5X the typical standard pricing ($39.95 vs. $199.95/night).  Anyone who has made it through Econ 101 knows that the scarcity of a commodity drives its value, but this clearly qualifies as gouging (yet we paid it?!).
  7. The large presence of the Mongols MC members at the Aquarius made for some interesting moments entering/exiting the hotel.
  8. The Aquarius temporarily restricted access to the casino floor Saturday night at the height of the River Run, however, they deny rumors that the restriction had anything to do with the presence of “outlaw” motorcycle clubs.
  9. There was a large, well armed and highly visible Las Vegas Metropolitan Police presence at the River Run.  No major problems were reported.
  10. On Friday, April 29 we witnessed a 45mph+ sustained wind storm.  Number of show-class motorcycles damaged by flying debris.
  11. H-D was absent from one of the largest west coast rallies and relinquished customer goodwill to Polaris and Yamaha.  Why?

We’ve had so much nasty weather in Oregon during April that I’m confident about anything May throws at us will be better.

Photo taken on trip in Death Valley.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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On our 3rd day we rode to a place in the sun called Lake Havasu City.  The Colorado River flows south from Lake Mohave and runs about 50 miles from the David Dam to the Parker Dam between Laughlin and Bullhead City through Lake Havasu to Parker.  It’s a boating waterway paradise with shore lined motels, condo’s and rental homes for miles and miles.  Lake Havasu got its start as an Army Air Corp R&R camp during WWII and now has over 1000 businesses, 2 newspapers and a college.  The first thing we noticed coming out of Laughlin was the wind really picked up overnight and we were seeing wind gusts of up to 30 MPH.  Great riding when it’s behind you, but makes for a long day when you’re bucking that strong of gusts.

One of the posse met up with some OC buddies and did the “Sandbar”.  When it comes to a place on the water with post-college crazies the Lake Havasu sandbar has a head shaking, smile-making reputation.  People head to the sandbar to tie up and party together and sometimes the masses get so massive you can walk from boat to boat without ever touching water. 

This is a photo (left) from a couple years ago, but not much changes except the size of the swimsuits!

The larger group reached Lake Havasu in time for lunch and we enjoyed the scene on the lake as well as checked out the London Bridge. Yes, it’s THE London Bridge.  In 1962, London Bridge was in a state of disrepair. Built in 1831, the bridge couldn’t handle the increasing traffic demands across the Thames River. The British government decided to put the bridge up for sale, and Robert McCulloch, Founder of Lake Havasu City, Arizona, and Chairman of McCulloch Oil Corporation, submitted the winning bid of $2.46M.  The bridge was dismantled, and each stone was numbered. Everything was shipped to Long Beach, Ca., and then trucked to Lake Havasu City. Reconstruction started September 1968, with a ceremony including the Lord Mayor of London, who laid the cornerstone. On October 10, 1971, the bridge was dedicated.

London Bridge crosses a narrow boating channel (Bridgewater Channel) that connects with Thompson Bay on the Arizona side of Lake Havasu. On the Google Map aerial view, the “A” mark is the London Bridge Resort, and just to the left is McCulloch Boulevard and the location of London Bridge.  It’s a good bet that on any given day the Bridgewater Channel will be busy with people and boats filling the shoreline and when we got there it was no exception.  There were large crowds of boaters with big block motors and women with inversely proportional swimsuits to the size of boat motors, all enjoying the blazing heat. We had lunch at Barley Brothers Grill (Island Mall & Brewery) and watched the boaters in the channel.  We made our return trip to Laughlin via Needles fighting the wind the entire way. 

That night the headliner at the Aquarius (old Flamingo Hilton) was Foreigner.  Led by British rocker Mick Jones they released the self-titled album in 1977.  The album sold more than 5M copies with hits like “Cold as Ice”, “Feels Like The First Time”, and later with hits like “Jukebox Hero” and “Head Games”.  Lou Gramm was the original lead singer of the band, but currently Kelly Hansen (formerly of Hurricane) is the lead showman.  That 90 minute set at the Aquarius was most memorable.

Day 4 is up next…

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