A Destination Instead of a Journey
TTraditionally, we have tried to tour with the journey taking precedence over the destination. However, sometimes an event so interesting, so irresistible, comes up that we forget all about tradition and aim for the target with little regard for the ride. This is the case with this adventure. But first some premise information.
Last fall, my father got discouraged that we were always riding too fast for him to be able to enjoyably keep up with us. The super twins and his Harley twin were not very good travel companions. To encourage us to purchase a more comfortable bike (read; slower) he offered to purchase my vintage Triumph Bonneville and give us the fiscal resources to obtain an older, but barely used ST1100. The ST is a sport tourer by definition, but a full on "bagger" by our tainted standards. However, who am I to turn down the offer to buy another bike?
We bought the ST and despite its behemoth 700+ pound mass and Kansas plains shape, the bike is quite fun to ride. Unfortunately, several years of only having routine oil changes had taken its toll on many of the bikes components and I spent most of the winter flushing fluids and revitalizing the bike; bringing it back to mechanically sound condition. (I hope.)
When we found out that the Guggenheims "Art of the Motorcycle" was visiting Las Vegas, (A paltry 420 miles away) we knew we would have to go. We planned to fly down, but that never happened, we planned to drive, but that never happened. By the time we got the time off to go down to see the show it was April of 2002, so we thought why not take the ST? It gets great gas mileage and it is a "tour" bike
So we attempted an extreme sport touring of another strain. One more like an Iron Butt with high speeds, flat, straight road with little or no scenery an virtually no stops for gas. We left Friday afternoon, as soon as Kris could get off work and optimistically, early enough to avoid the Friday rush hour(s). Well, we didn't make it. By the time we got on the road, rush hour was beginning and the traffic was already a little heavy. However, Kris and I had recently installed communications systems into our helmets (we're almost Gold-Wingers here) and were able to chat as we raced down the interstate at the blinding pace of about 45 miles per hour.
Utah doesn't relly have a whole lot to look at once you are in the middle of the desert.
Once traffic finally thinned out we hammered down the interstate as fast as we dared. Of course, this is Utah and our speed edged up and over the posted limit. (shh, don't tell.) We stopped briefly for fuel in Fillmore, guzzled our Gatorades and got back on the road. We stopped again in St. George, just after the sun had set, and found a hotel with a hot tub. (boy were we roughing it, or what?) Danny lives down in this area and we had planned on getting together for this ride, but some maintenance issues with his TDM prevented him from joining us. I had hoped to, at least, go to dinner with him and his lovely wife Loretta. I tried calling him several times but his cell phone said what it always says "Message 3571: The customer you are trying to reach is unavailable at this time or has left the service area. Please try again later." Oh well.
The next morning we got up and had to pay a visit to an old friend. When we in college we all frequented the local, privately owned motorcycle shop for all of our maintenance and advice. To this day I still think of that shop as one of the best I have been around. The owner was knowledgeable and workable and we all ended up calling each other friends. The owner, Tad, had moved away from the long cold winters in Northern Utah, and had set up a KTM dealership in St. George. We stopped in and said our "howdy-do's" and talked bikes for a few minutes before we hit the road again for Las Vegas.
Back onto the interstate we punched through the Flaming River Gorge, one of the coolest sections of interstate I have ever been on. The cost of the road per foot is astronomical. While many of the locals know the cost, I forgot to write it down when I was told, but I think the road cost, like $500,000 per foot or something. The banked corners and fast sweeping arcs take the road through the gorge with great fun and it is cool to blast past sports cars, while heeled all the way over in the apex of a corner, on the ST. And I'll tell you something else; it takes a lot more confidence to lean a 700-pound bike over onto its side than it does to lean a 450-pound bike.
The desert, while the home for many car commericals, looses its appeal after about 30-seconds. But something about it is fascinating and can entertain thoughts for hours and even days.
One of the first things you pass as you get into Las Vegas is the Las Vegas speedway and drag strip where Mark had gone last year for his drag racing finals. We were getting low on Gas so we pulled in and gassed up. I was very impressed that the bike rode all the way from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas with only having to stop once along the way for gas. Contrast that to the twins getting about 100 miles to the tank before hitting reserve.
Once in Vegas we went and checked into our hotel, shed our riding gear and donned summer weight clothes and comfy walking shoes and headed for the strip. The April weather in Las Vegas is magnificent! The temperatures were very comfortable and warm and a perfect way to thaw out after five very cold months of winter and the Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
You can see on the large jumbo-tron over my left shoulder an image of some antique bike, but the real excitemnt is how close we are to our destination.
Our first stop was, of course, the Art of the Motorcycle. We walked immediately towards the Venetian, past the huge posters of Dennis Hopper, through the front doors, past all the slot machines and up to the counter. "Two please!" Before we knew it we were inside. Excitement overtook us and we pirated a few photos from inside the event before we were caught and almost thrown out. So enjoy them. They probably don't want people to take pictures inside the event just to post them on the Internet. But we didn't, and hadn't planned on, taking any photos of the bikes.
Well, here we are, about to get yelled at for taking photos inside the exhibit. But I was just so excited!
The motorcycle show is spectacular. They did a dynamite job of collecting common, rare, unique and extremely desirable bikes together in one place. Bikes I'd only ever seen in pictures and bikes I'd never even heard of but were very impressive. The really, really old bikes were great because a lot of them offered duel overhead cams and four valve heads, and in one case, single-sided swingarms. Pretty neat. We spent a lot of time walking around, looking at the collection of old magazine advertisements and watching the entire video presentation. One of the most amazing things I found was that the old, early 80's, Honda's had the exact same turn signals as they have now. C'mon Honda. You save so much on Turn signals, why don't you spend some extra scratch on suspension??
An extremely large film frame from Easy Riders shows Kris as an extra in the film. Ever wonder what it feels like to be almost run over?
After the Art of the motorcycle we headed out to see what else Vegas had to offer. We hadn't visited the city of sin for about five years and were interested in having some good clean fun again. There is always The Race for Atlantis in Caesars Palace and the sinking pirate ship at Treasure Island, the M&M museum but we were disappointed to discover that the best part about the Coca-Cola museum had closed to the public.
After September 11th we heard a lot about how many of the casinos were struggling and it got me wondering how people were reacting and behaving towards the New York, New York casino. When we walked over towards New York, New York I noticed hundreds of T-shirts hanging on the iron fencing that surrounds the Southern wall and surrounds the miniature New York harbor. At first we thought they were for sale, but upon closer examination we discovered that people, mostly firefighters, had taken their T-shirts from their local precincts and hung them on the fence. The T-shirts were on the fence in several layers and most of them had messages of encouragement scribed on them with black marker. It was a neat moment that even on the Las Vegas strip, where everyone is, all out, having fun, many people were still taking the time to show respect, in whatever way, to the victims of that tragic event.
The T-shirts were hung from the fencing that surrounded the New York, New York casino and was a reminder that it is going to take a while for our nation to heal from that day.
As the sun set, we spent time in front of the Bellagio watching the fountain shows choreographed to Frank Sinatra songs. (Very similar to the opening credits of Married With Children.) I've always felt that the sidewalk in front of the Bellagio is exceptional. The trees that border and shade the sidewalk, the massive pool shadowed by the massive, multi storied hotel creates a mood that I've felt nowhere else. Despite the goal of enticing gamblers into their casinos, I find it fun to linger and enjoying the luxurious setting and pleasant mood of the moment even if I care very little for gambling and will rarely drop a quarter into a slot machine.
In front of the Bellagio, the designers create a very friendly atmosphere that beckons the gamblers to come on in and gamble.
Vegas just isn't Vegas without a trip to the Hilton to enjoy the Star Trek Experience. My personal favorite of the gimmicky shows used to draw gamblers. Kris and I decided to be tough, (and cheap) and chose against the taxi and walked the distance from the main strip to the Hilton. (I don't think we'll do that again.) By the time we arrived at the Star Trek Experience our feet were so tired we were a lot less enthusiastic about the amusement ride than we were when we started out.
Kris takes a quick breather to rest her feet before we run off to save the universe.
When we purchased our tickets for the ride, near the end of the evening, we were informed that we would be allowed to enjoy the Star Trek Experience as many times as we wanted for the one low price. WooHOO! As we stood in line enjoying the Start Trek paraphernalia and mementos from 30 years of Star Trek television shows and movies, our energy returned and we were jazzed about what was coming. Now those are cool models. I don't think these came out of a Revell box.
In fact, in some cases, the Star Trek Experience becomes so accurate and convincing it is hard to distinguish it from reality. On more than one occasion, they had to stop and tell Kris that the Borg were not really trying to assimilate her, it was just actors in suits.
In a moment of weakness, Kris freaks out at the thought of having her uniqueness added to the Borg collective, and tries to make an escape.
After saving the future of the galaxy several times we stopped by Quarks bar and enjoyed Romulan Ale and a truly futuristic experience, chatting with holographic characters and picking up more uniform items needed for the next time we embark on a 5-year mission to explore strange new galaxies.
Nothing is as nice as a Romulan Ale to end a long day of play in Las Vegas. But we hear the colorful ale can turn your pee blue. By about this time, we were plum tuckered out and ignored our sense of bravery and strength and simply got a taxi back to our hotel.
The next morning was a clear day with the temperatures hovering at an unheard of low of 65 degrees. We went and enjoyed a nice breakfast at Paris, Las Vegas and headed for home. We didn't leave Las Vegas until near 11 in the afternoon, so our work was cut out for us. We had a full tank of gas so we put the hammer down on the ST, watched the radar detector closely and worked our way north.
We stopped quickly in St. George and topped off the tank and enjoyed a gas station ice cream cone before moving on. As soon as we got to Cedar City the temperature had dropped far enough that we stopped to increase the number of layers we had on under our riding gear to stay warm. One of the fun things about covering so much ground in one day is to watch the terrain slowly change.
We stopped again in Beaver to enjoy a top quality McDonalds chicken burger. The real pleasure in the break from riding was watching the locals filter in to enjoy the only place to eat out on a Utah Sunday in such a small community. It seems that in towns this small, a person never really graduates from High School. They will always be remembered as the person they were when they were 17 years old. I felt like I could almost see the person they were 10, 15 or 20 years ago by the way they were treated, the way they walked and even the way they dressed. I haven't determined the significance or impact of this yet. I think it is more a symptom of the way things are in tiny towns that, with the exception of a big road, have very little direct contact with anything else.
Kris was getting creative trying to find things to take pictures of. So, she tried taking a picture of where we had been through the mirror.
Back on the road. We carried our speed as best we could despite the empty roads and non-existent traffic. As our tank neared empty we came up behind a couple Harleys that had passed us, earlier in the day in St. George, with dirty looks on their faces and blaring pipes that penetrated our earplugs and still made our ears ring. We exited for gas before we caught them, filled the tank, drained the bladders and got out again. By now it was nearing 4pm and we were feeling the need to press forward to home before it got dark.
We made the last push in good time and as we came into Utah County, just south of Provo, I caught site of the Harleys again. I don't particularly like to ride with motorcyclists I don't know. You can never tell if you are welcome to join or hated or loved for the type of bike you ride compared to theirs. Motorcyclists can be very particular and I respect that. On the other hand I wouldn't allow a car to slow my progress because it was Chevy not a Ford and there was the possibility that the driver didn't' think much of sharing the road with anybody else. So I pressed forward. We came up close behind them in Provo where the traffic got heavy again and we had to drop our speeds to allow for those who insist on using the fast lane no matter how fast or slow they are going. Utah County is always a challenge this way. I just try to accept it but was kept behind the ultra-loud Harleys for a lot longer than I liked.
It wasn't until about 15-miles from our exit that I got around them, but no sooner had I passed, but the Harley-dudes cranked their speed to match mine and were instantly tailgating me. I could almost hear them thinking; "Ain't no rice-grindin' Honda gonna' pass me!" Normally, I would have dialed it up one more notch and walked away from them without so much as a thought, but a police officer was sitting in the median sending my radar detector into a fit of red lights and electronic bleeps warning me to slow down. I acknowledged and slowed, much to the distaste of the Harley-dudes with "Barons" quasi-outlaw colors stitched onto the backs of their black leather vests.
As soon as the cop was behind me I started increasing my speed. Then, with no forewarning, both Harley-dudes came around me clearly communicating their opinion. Both of them stayed in my lane and passed me on both the right and the left with throttles pinned and pipes screaming. They flew past me and "proved" whatever it was they needed to prove to me. Without a doubt, they proved something to me. I was in no mood to play and confident enough in my tame looking Honda that I didn't challenge back. I changed lanes, took my exit and went home. we rode 417.8 miles from door to door on that crisp clear day. And even with the pleasurable company of the Harley-dudes, it was a decent ride. Not too many corners, but plenty of saddle time.
That evening Kris and I decided that we had so much fun in Las Vegas, where it was warm and dry, that we were going to try to visit more often. Maybe next time we'll spend an extra day and some time lounging in the sun next to a blue-watered swimming pool. Yeah, that sounds nice.