Lane's USA 2009 Motorcycle Tour
Update 01

I left El Segundo on Thursday April 23rd just as a bad SoCal hot spell peaked and started to wane. It was actually a chilly 57 F under low clouds and fog as far as Banning Pass, but by the time I got down the hill ten miles to the Palm Springs turnoff it was 88. I when stopped for the night in Blythe, it was 97. There really isn't anything else worth saying about Day 1.

I planned to stay with my cousin Becky and her husband Larry the next night, but first I wanted to stop off and visit the world headquarters of the Gold Wing Road Riders Association (GWRRA), of which I am a member. Weeks in advance I'd been offered a tour if I came by, so I told them I'd be there Friday 4/24, around noon. They said that sounded fine. When I got there in north Phoenix, 25 miles off my route - one way), I found this:

Douglas Adams fans may note that "Have a Wonderful Day!" is in "large, friendly letters" -- gold letters, on a sign taped to gold-tinted front doors of a building that is light gold in color. One wonders if the folks inside have a "Heart Of Gold"?

I should add that this day also introduced me to the ultimate desert roadside rest picnic table cabana:

This structure, on a day when the wind was blowing 30-40 mph, was a little piece of heaven. With solid cement walls a foot and a half thick it blocked the sun's heat completely (not even reradiated heat), it accommodated the Wing within its shade, and its benches, about 20" wide, were clearly intended for naps!

I had a wonderful evening with Becky and Larry, and Becky even got up to sit with me at 6am the next morning, a Saturday for her, over a breakfast strawberries and grapes.
The days don't have names for me anymore.

Day 3 entailed 377 miles to Las Cruces, NM where I met up with my Northrop Grumman friend Alexa and her husband Mike (an NG retiree). They both ride Honda 250 street bikes, which they promptly hopped on to lead me down to the "Old Mesilla" section of town, formerly the capital of the New Mexico Territory. This area is now only for tourists of course, eateries and gift shops, but a historic Mexican restaurant called La Posta served us a fine dinner, after which I went to my hotel and crashed.

Day 4, when this is being written, brought me through 250 miles of the emptiest land for the longest distances that I've ever seen, followed by 15 miles through nice hills to Alpine, TX, at 4600 feet of elevation. After El Paso, there was basically *nothing*.

This is US highway 90 (my first two-lane road of the trip, and about freaking time!) which runs south and east from Van Horn, TX off I-10, and for 90 miles it looked just like this. I think I saw five cars during that drive. I could almost have taken a nap on the center stripe. And when I say *nothing* I mean the only signs of human habitation were the power poles and the barb wire fences. No structures, no machinery, no livestock, no side roads -- wait, I take that back. At one point there was a tiny unmanned Air Force weather station with a tethered blimp-like balloon a thousand feet in the air that could be seen for miles. All solar powered.

A few miles before Alpine there was a small town called Marfa, in which there was (reputedly - I never found it) the historic Old Paisano Hotel, which (reputedly) served as the headquarters for the filming of the movie "Giant" - those of you old enough to know that one. This is literally a one-stoplight town, where US-90 intersects with US-67. They seem not to want you to be in doubt as to where you are. This empty building on the corner has no job other than to host this sign:

The "main drag" from there runs east-ish smack into this:

There is no marking on this building other than a Texas state symbol to give you a clue what it is. I was guessing City Hall, but later on I looked it up on Google Earth. It's the Courthouse of Presidio County, TX. I also found (online) the Old Paisano Hotel - it's a short block away, and its architecture is not nearly so imposing. In fact, it's that building to the left in the photo
above! I missed it entirely.

A block to one side was this old church, apparently built from river cobbles:

I ate dinner next door to the hotel at a real live Texas steakhouse, where by god I had a steak! I checked the rest of the town. I did not see another place to eat. The steakhouse was surrounded by new, expensive, dusty pick-up trucks, all of which I took as a good sign.

My next stops are Carrizo Springs, TX tomorrow (302 miles), then Fulton, TX (on the Gulf of Mexico right next to Rockport, near Corpus Christi), then Beaumont, TX (311 miles), then Slidell, LA east of New Orleans (310 miles), and then on Friday I'll ride to the Mobile, AL airport to meet Lynn and start our Florida tour. The itinerary spreadsheet has been updated.

Next update will be from Florida!

-- Lane