Wednesday, May 24, 2017

We Need Warmer Weather

When we got up Tuesday, May 16, we discovered there was ice on the bikes but it had warmed up to 34 degrees.  We figured we’d not be leaving too soon, but we did have a plan.  We were getting out of these mountains, hopefully ahead of the rain, and going somewhere that had a better climate.  Our plan was to go to Virginia City, Nevada. 
It's so much nicer to have the snow in the distance.
It was cold riding and we were watchful for ice.  We were lucky.  All we saw were some wet spots that we avoided.  I’d dug my electric jacket liner out and found that it still worked.  I don’t have electric gloves, but at least had the warm ones that I’d worn yesterday, although they’re not as warm as I’d have liked.  I also discovered my rain pants had melted together, or at least it seems that way which was why I couldn’t wear them yesterday.  But the jacket helped. 

We went through some more high passes, 7,626 feet for one of them, but there wasn’t any rain.  I was certainly grateful as we came down to Hawthorne, and motored along a beautiful, winding road.  It warmed up some, and there was a bit of sun.  It still wasn’t warm enough to take off any of our gear.
We rode through some farm roads that had some major flooding.
I thought this was interesting.  I'm thinking they cover up the plants or seedlings to help them grow or help protect them from cold weather.  And I can tell you, it's not been warm, so I'm figuring the little plants need all the help they can get.
There don’t seem to be many animals either.  We’ve only seen a few hawks and a Jack rabbit that crossed the road.  Pretty slim pickings.

We made it and got checked in to our hotel.  It was blowing like crazy but we wandered downtown to get a bite to eat and do some meandering around.  There were some cool things we found along the way, surprisingly cool, in fact. 

Who would have thought.  An old car with a tree in it ... with a chicken hanging from it.  Ya gotta love
 anything with a chicken.

And a tardis.  I didn't even know what one of these was until last October, and now I've found one in Virginia City.  I did not step into it as I did not wish to be transported somewhere else ... although somewhere with a little warmer weather would have been mighty nice.
We also found a store that had a dog greeter, a black lab named Puma Brown.  She wears a bandana (pink) and has her own Facebook page.   

Puma Brown, store meeter and greeter.
I do love a little tourist town, though.  Especially when there are hardly any tourists.
I have to say that staying at about 4,000-foot elevation is way better than being at 8,000 feet with snow, even if it was cold and we had to wear jackets and hats when we walked to dinner.

St. Mary's in the Mountains was built in 1868, burned in 1875 and rebuilt in 1878. 
It's a beautiful setting up here.

The Fourth Ward School was built in 1875.  The cut stone foundation is anchored in solid granite.  There are 14 classrooms and two study halls.  It was built to accommodate 1,025 students, from grammar to high school.
 It's last class graduated in 1936.
This donkey engine/steam tractor is from old Virginia City.

The little mountain bluebird is quite colorful.
We’ve done Virginia City and were now going to Portola, California, where we’ve made plans to drive a locomotive at the Western Pacific Railroad Museum. 

We hit the road on Wednesday, May 17, and arrived in Portola.  We’d thought our hotel was in town, but there really isn’t much in town, or even much of a town.  We walked around a bit checking it out.

The town is set in a very nice place, a stream and hillsides. 
And there are a lot of my personal favorites ... pine cones.
The place we were staying was about three miles out on a very nice winding road … a fancy resort with a golf course, pool, hot tub, spa, restaurant with linen napkins and a bar with ginger beer.  Wow. 

It's a pretty upscale place, but there weren't many people here yet.
The Nakoma Lodge.  It’s very nice, with fountains and a fancy golf course that we promptly tested.  There are plans for gated subdivisions, some of which are already started, and they’re even building a new activities building. 

Testing out the golf course, or maybe the practice putting green.  No hole-in-one here.
The rates were very reasonable; maybe it’s not quite the season yet.  We were pleased to stay in such a nice place.  And happy to park a couple of motorcycles next to a Jaguar to step up the neighborhood.

Then we got the bad news.  A phone call came in from the WPRM saying we couldn’t drive the locomotive tomorrow.  Well, we’ll just go on down there and find out what’s going on.

So, off we went.  The young lady at the WPRM was only able to say no one could drive locomotives until probably June, but there was no real explanation.  That didn’t set too well, so we set off to find someone, anyone.

As we wandered around there was an engine coming in and a guy got off and kind of came near us.  We chatted him up.  And we told him we’d come all the way from Alaska to drive a locomotive.  Well, the problem was that a train had derailed so the track they use for the thing like we wanted to do wasn’t open.  Okay, could we just drive it a little way?  We charmed our way into driving the locomotive the following day, maybe not as far as we would have, but we’d be on that thing for an hour, running it and blowing the horn to let everyone know we were there. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Yes, It's Riding Time Again

Barstow was on the horizon, Sunday, May 14.  It was 440 miles away, and I was meeting Stef there.  I was having a nice ride although there was an issue with Highway 93 in Wickenburg.  It ends where I didn’t want it to end.  I finally got around heading north and the way I was supposed to go.  My GPS said to go south.  Can’t.  It ends.  Oh well.  A short detour.

I’d stopped for gas and as this couple drove by in their car the guy leaned out the window and said, “Have an extra special good day.”  How nice.  And I did.  It was great riding.  T-shirt, vest, no helmet until California.

The California border has an inspection station.  I pulled up and stopped.  The guy wanted me to pull up a bit further.  He asked if I’d like some cool air?  Sure.  There was a big fan there and he turned it on.  Wow.  It felt good.  And then I was on my way again.

Barstow is our usual meeting place, a Rodeaway Inn where they remember us and treat us very nicely.  Stef arrived about 4 p.m.  I arrived about 5:30 or so.  It was good to meet up again and be doing a motorcycle road trip.

The next day, Monday, May 15, we decided to head to Lee Vining, California.  There is a lake there with some cool things and we figured we’d maybe spend a day or two.  That wasn’t to happen although we sure didn’t know it at the time.

We rode merrily on our way, stopping to take a photo here and there.  One of the places we stopped was Pearsonville, California, the Hub Cap Capital of the World.  We found a few things of interest.  One was the Uniroyal Gal, who is also listed in Roadside America.  She’s a giant woman made of fiberglass with a blond flip hairdo.  What we didn’t know until later when we looked her up was that there’s a flower-adorned grave behind her next to a playground, of the Muffler Queen’s husband, whoever that is. 
The Uniroyal Gal, known locally as the Hubcap Lady, after a former resident, Lucy Pearson, who was rumored to have a hubcap collection in excess of 80,000.
We even found a load of garlic buds.  We could smell them before we got to them and knew what they were.
We could see snow-capped mountains around us when we stopped for gas.  It was beautiful.
We continued on our way, and the riding began to get bad.  We began running into a little shower here and there as we were riding through some high mountain passes.  By the time we reached Deadman Pass, at 8,036 feet, the showers had turned into a grand snowstorm.  Oh crap.  This wasn’t good. 

It just kept coming down, sometimes at a near whiteout … I couldn’t see and my windshield was covered.  I kept swiping at it with my glove.  I was cold, and apprehensive as I didn’t know how long this would go on or if it would be worse than what it already was.  Plus, I wasn’t dressed for this kind of weather.  I had planned on it being nice and warm.  I had put on more clothes at one of our stops, but they weren't enough.  Something white blew by me.  It turned out to be a sheet of ice sliding off the fairing.   We got through it and I was grateful that it hadn’t turned from Deadman to Deadwoman Pass.

By the time we stopped to take photos, this was all that was left.  The snow had slid down the windshield, and what had been on the fairing was mostly gone, too.
There was still a bit around the headlight. Ugh!!!
We got to our hotel and I was hypothermic, my teeth chattering and my body shaking.  A hot shower, the heat turned up to 77 degrees and hot water to drink helped.  Then I got into bed with my jammies, a fleece top and socks.  It made it all better.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Motorcycling in America Again

I was back in Phoenix with Joe and Verlie and was now reunited with my bike.  Joe asked me if I’d like to go on two Patriot Guard Rides on Thursday, May 11.  Of course. 
The Patriot Guard Riders is an organization based in the United States whose members attend the funerals of members of the U.S. military, firefighters, and police at the invitation of a decedent’s family.  In my mind it’s a way to honor them, although it’s sad. 
Verlie and Joe set up the flag on my bike.  Joe put a flag holder on it just for this purpose.

I was ready.
The first one was for a young man who’d gone down on his bike.  He was picking it up when a lady stopped and used her car to block and keep him safe.  Some nut job crashed into her, killing both her and the young man.  What a waste of lives.  But I was proud to be there to help transition him from the church to the cemetery. 

It was quite a ride, with the Patriot Guard leaders, the hearse, the rest of us, the road guards with their lights aflashing and sirens screaming, flying by to get ahead and block streets.  I have a big flag on my bike that is Joe’s.  He’s not using it because he’s working toward being a road guard so he shadows a road guard as they block traffic for the procession.  Being that I have a large flag, I get to ride forward as it’s organized by large, medium and small flags, then trikes and other vehicles.

The second one was for an older gentleman.  This one wasn’t quite as large a procession, but I was asked to be one of the honor bikes, riding directly behind the hearse.  We did another flag line at the cemetery for this man, and once again, I was honored to be a part of it.

On Friday, May 12, we went to a high school baseball game, semi-finals.  The first baseman, CJ, is Joe and Verlie’s nephew.  Yay.  They won.  As they were playing in the loser’s bracket, they would play the same team again the following evening.  And we’d be there.

In the meantime I took my bike in for a service.  Turned out I had a warped front rotor and had a couple of oil leaks … but yay, it’s covered by warranty.  The bad news was that I might not get it back until Monday and I was intending to meet up with Stef on Sunday.  We chatted about it, and she would go to Barstow, our meeting place.  I’d be there if I could, or we’d go to Plan B.  We didn’t’ have one yet, but we would if necessary.

So I was wearing nothing but a towel, brushing my teeth, and I saw some fuzz or something fluttering in the sink in the lower hole.  I was leaning over the sink so I really couldn't see what it was.  Then I stood up and looked.  Eeeeek.  It was something alive, with two little legs sticking out.  Joe.  Joe.  Help.  He came.  It was a scorpion but a pretty anemic-looking one.  He killed it.  Now I'm much more careful when brushing my teeth.  But I still wear a towel.
I got a call that the bike was done on Saturday, May 13.  The mechanic had worked late last night, and come in early this a.m. to finish it.  In my mind, that was above and beyond, so I took him a case of beer.  He was very pleased as I’d called to find out what kind he liked.  He stood holding that case of beer like it was gold. 

Back to the baseball field, which is the Angel’s Spring Training field.  We watched CJ’s team play again.  And they won.  They would play in the final championship game on Tuesday.  I’d be gone by then … somewhere in California or Nevada.  Good luck to them.  (I heard later they lost 6-4.  But it sounds like it was a good game.)

We got back to the house and I checked what I had on the bike and what I needed to take.  Tomorrow I take off to do a motorcycle riding trip.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Back at sea

We’re back on the high seas for five more days, Friday, May 5 - 9.  The mad dash to Los Angeles is happening, and our cruise is winding down.  The new guy, Captain Kent, is doing well.  We heard and judged him by his noon announcement on our ship’s progress.

On Cinco de Mayo we thought maybe there’d be some Mexican food.  It’s interesting that on the ships we don’t have foods that go with the date … Mexican food.  There was none to be found.  In fact, tonight's dinner had a lot of German food.  Maybe they don't celebrate those things.

There have been three time changes in four days.  That takes some getting used to as we move toward California time.  Do they call it ship lag?  It’s definitely messing with us.

There’s been the usual schedule of things to do, but we had our big hula and ukulele show.  It was fun, but it was sad to think I won’t see some of these women again as we’d been working together for days to learn our numbers. 
The group ... and what a group it was ... talent, determination and an aim to put on a great show.
Some of my ladies, and Vangie.

More new friends.
And I love our Hawaiian Ambassadors, Tui and Maile.  They are what you think of when you think Polynesia … lovely people with a lovely way about them and hearts as big as the ocean.  I would so miss them, too, as we’ve all become family.
Maile, me and Tui.  Love these folks.
We went and watched our friend Vangie who was part of the Pop Choir.  There were about 120 people in it with a lot of men, so it was great.  They did several songs, and the sound was wonderful.

And I went to the At Sea Fashion Show, which is passengers modeling clothing and jewelry.  Yep, there’s lots to do … but we’re getting down to merely hours now.  Wah. 

Then it was Tuesday, May 9, and we had to get all packed up and put our suitcases outside the cabin door for them to come and take away.  One last show we went to was the Voice of the Ocean finals.  There were seven contestants vying, and it was fun and a great way to end the cruise as tomorrow is it.  We’re done and gone.

We offloaded from the ship on Wednesday, May 10, and got to the airport.  Stef flew to San Francisco and I headed to Phoenix.  We would soon be on to our next adventure … motorcycle riding. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Aloha, Hawaii ... I'm back

It’s been a long time, Big Island, and I’m glad to be back visiting you again.  I only wish I had more time.  But that’s not to be this trip.

We docked a bit before our scheduled time on Wednesday, May 3, in Hilo, one of the wettest cities in the world.  Today, though, it was beautiful and Stef and I had planned a bicycle trip around the Kilauea crater rim, billed as the most active volcano in the world.  It is also the longest continuously erupting volcano on the planet.  It wasn’t a long ride, 6-8 miles, but we were excited. 

Before anyone was allowed off the ship, an ambulance pulled in.  I saw this one.  A man with what appeared to be a green soft cast was taken off the ship on a stretcher and put into the ambulance.  There have been lots of casualties this trip, more than any other cruise we’ve been on.

We finally got off and got to the van that would take us to the bicycle area.  But first we stopped at the Jagger Museum to visit and we could see Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano, 20 miles away.  Best of all, there was lava bubbling up out in the crater in front of us.  It hadn’t been seen the day before, so we were quite fortunate. 
How cool to see the bubbling lava.
All the bicycles were ready for us.
From there we drove to a parking lot where we were fitted for our bikes, given water, and off we went.  It was a great ride, with a number of stops, including one where they had fresh pineapple and papaya for us.
We were told to take a couple of turns around the parking lot to get used to our bikes.

It was nice to have a chase car.

They told us not to take selfies while we were riding. 
There are a lot of steam vents all over and we stopped to see some of them.

It's beautiful country, this volcano area.
We stopped at the Thurston lava tube, and as I understand they are working to change the name of it.  I’d gone through the tube years ago, maybe in 1976.  So, it was time to do it again.

A lava tube is formed when large rivers of lava flow and while the core is hot, the slower  moving edges cool and thicken.  When the eruption stops the lava often drains from the tube and leaves behind something like this.

Another stop at some lava fields, and I had to go into a hole for a photo.

These red flowers are beautiful, and the lava must be good for them as they're growing quite well.
 Our journey ended all too quickly; we could have gone a lot longer. 
 We arrived back at the port and then waited for our sail away as we would be heading to Honolulu.
Honolulu is a beautiful port coming in.  We didn’t plan an excursion for today, Thursday, May 4, because I only have one mission … to ride in Hawaii, so I can notch state No. 50 on my belt.  Finally, that mission will be completed … to ride in all 50.  I don’t know why I waited so long to get the last one.

Honolulu ... and we'll be down in the middle of it.
This King Kamehameha the Great statue was beautiful and glistened in the sun.  The man was a great warrior, diplomat and leader.  He united the Hawaiian islands into one kingdom in 1810. 

Sometimes things aren’t quite so easy.  We were going to take a city bus, but didn’t know which one.  A guy said where are you going?  We aren’t sure.  He said, “The island is small; get lost.”  So we did.  We took the next bus and stayed on it til we got off. 

We wandered around, and found the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.  It’s a beautiful one, stunning in pink architecture. 

The Royal Hawaiian Hotel on Waikiki Beach has been a landmark since 1927.
The inside of the hotel is no less extraordinary, although I could have lodged a complaint, if I’d been staying there.  We used the ladies room.  Part of the stall handle came off in my hand and I was trapped.  Stef was already outside in the lobby, and there was no one else in there.  Finally, after much movement of the silly thing, I was able to get it open.  I flew into the lobby and said, “Let’s get out of here.”  Off we went. 

We wandered out to the beach front of the hotel.  It was quite the place with a great view of Diamond Head, named by British sailors in the 1800s when they mistook glittering calcite crystals in the lava rocks for diamonds.

There were lots of surfers waiting for the right wave.
We found Chase Cycle Rentals, and got our paperwork taken care of.  He had mapped a route for us, but when we took off it appeared it might take us into the mountains and rain.  Nope.  Not going there.  Not riding in the rain.  We instead did our own route that included the some winding roads and some pretty beaches. 
We're off.

From the hills ...

to the beaches.

There's gotta be a bird photo somewhere.
The bikes got back with no damage and no tipping over.  Not even a close call here.  And my mission was complete.  We got on another bus and got back to the port. 

We walked around a bit, and had something cold to drink.  It was a great day, and a kind of relaxing one with no excursions we had to get to or back from. 

Lunalilo was the kingdom's sixth monarch and was quite popular, although he only ruled for a little more than a year, dying at age 39.  His wish was to be laid to rest near his people, and that's why his tomb stands here near the entrance to Kawaiaha'o Church rather than at the Royal Mausoleum. 

Kawaiaha'o Church.

We walked near the Aloha Tower where we found a number of statues.

Aloha Tower.
There's always some action here.

While we didn’t get to my old stomping grounds, I realized I still love Hawaii.  However, I wouldn’t want to live there anymore, and that’s okay.  I can visit any time.

Back to the ship, and now as we continue on back to California, we will have a new ship captain, Captain Bill Kent.  We sure liked the other, but we’ll give this guy a chance.