Ridin' Around with John Boettcher

Westward Ho!

I had been looking forward to the National rally near Taos, New Mexico for quite awhile. Any reason to head out west and I want to go. The rally started on Thursday, June 24th, but I wasn't able to leave work until Wednesday afternoon. I knew that meant at least a 1300 mile burn to get there. I know a lot of guys prep in different ways for burns like this but all I really do is try to get a good night's sleep before I leave, which never seems to happen.

I left about 1:30 P.M. and figured I'd do the freeway thing for awhile. I headed west to Des Moines, and then south to Kansas City. I'm not much for riding Interstates, but I wanted to jump start the trip and figured Interstate travel is safer for night riding. Well, I made better time than I thought I would and was heading through Kansas on Highway 156 over to U.S. 56 west of Topeka well before sun up. Around 3:00 A.M. I tried to lie down on a wayside picnic table to close my eyes for a little bit, but two local guys with apparently nothing better to do than to hang out at a wayside park with their bikes and drink beer decided to talk to me about my bike.  "What kind of bike is that?" "They still in business?" and "Where ya headed?" stuff.

I quickly realized I wasn't going to get my little nap. I excused myself and headed back down the road. I went through Frank Wedge's little town of Larned around 4:00 A.M. Didn't see him out wandering the streets, though. After traveling a little further down the road I went west on U.S. Highway 160. I was going to take it into Colorado, but all of a sudden a very strong north wind picked up. Lightning and rain forced a change of course in Ulysses where I took Kansas Highway 25 south. Now the tailwind was so strong the Eldorado was doing 80 mph with the throttle barely cracked open. By the time I caught U.S. Highway 56 again, the rain and wind had let up and the skies were finally showing a little morning light.

I rode through that little strip of Oklahoma and finally into Clayton, New Mexico. It felt like the gateway to the West. I split off on U.S. 64 and headed toward Raton. West of Raton the roads started to get more intense. I knew I wasn't in Kansas anymore.

Taos was a little congested when I rolled into town. I had a room reserved at Super “8” Motel, so I checked in and took a badly needed shower. After that I took New Mexico Highway 518 for about 20 miles over to the Sipapu Lodge, the rally site. I was there by 11:30 A.M. After covering 1340 miles in 23 hours it felt good to be off the bike for awhile. I registered and all of that, then I walked around a bit, meeting a few people and looking over a lot of great Guzzis. I was beat so I figured I’d  head back to Taos. On the way back I took a couple of different roads that took me through the village of Penasa. I stopped at Anita’s, a little roadside diner, and had a bowl of green chili with a soft tortilla. Fantastic! I rode around Taos for a bit and crashed by 7:30 P.M.

On Friday I was up and on the road by 6:30 A.M. I headed east to Angelfire and took New Mexico Highway 434 to Black Lake. New Mexico Highway 120 cut over to Octate with a 12 mile stretch of gravel hairpins complemented with washboards and ruts. The Eldo took it well, other than a couple of spoke nipples that pulled through. It was a little rough but the scenery was beautiful. Then it was New Mexico Highways 442 and 518 back to the rally site. I talked to Frank Wedge for a bit, also to Kyrie from the importer. The $5 T-shirt guy was there.  Ace Mallot (Ace Cycle) spent most of the day helping others fix their bikes. I told him I'd stop by the shop on my way home to pick up a handful of spoke nipples. I bought a new solo seat to replace the T-3 solo seat I had adapted to fit the Eldo. It fit fine and felt a lot better. The new seat just clashed a bit with the bike's basic ratty appearance.  I thought I'd try it out with a run to Santa Fe. It was fairly hot out so I appreciated the little downpour I ran into. A few minutes later the sun was back out. I got back to the rally in time for dinner.

I met quite a few MGCL (Internet) members I had never met in person.  Roy Harvey, Erik Jefferts and Greg Field, to name a few. Greg gave me a set of handlebar risers for my Eldo that we had talked about on the MGCL. I really should buy his new book, Moto Guzzi Big Twins.

Saturday I felt “rallied out” and needed to get back on the road, so I headed to Las Vegas, Nevada. I started on U.S. 64 west. In Shiprock I decided to take U.S. 160 up to Four Corners, but when I got there they were charging a fee. I had been there on a few other bike trips, so I just turned around and went back to U.S. 64. Out in the Navajo reservation I had a different kind of chili with goat meat in it and a chunk of fried bread. It was actually pretty good.

Now the temperature really started to climb. It registered over 100 degrees (F) as I headed up Arizona Highway 98 to Page. I always carry a quart cooler of water on the side of the bike, and I made sure I was drinking plenty. In Kanab, Utah I started to pour water on my clothes, which cooled me about 15 minutes before it all evaporated. After traveling from Fredonia to Hurricane I decided to take I-15 the rest of the way. (Not too many choices.) It was over 110 degrees (F) at this point. I could see Vegas from over 35 miles away, and it seemed as if I rode for miles and it didn’t get any closer! I lost my water cooler somewhere on I-15 so I stopped at a gas station and guzzled some Gatorade.

It seemed like I hit every stoplight in North Las Vegas as I headed over to my longtime friend's house. Not the easiest way to end a 750 mile day. I hadn't seen Matt and Sally Hermann (Sally was my next door neighbor when I was a child.) in a couple of years. The kids, Mark, Eric, Jessica and Ashley, had to hear the ol' "Geez, you guys have grown!" from me.

Sunday and Monday were kind of lazy days. We went out into the desert north of Nellis Air Force Base and rode dirt bikes around in the mornings. Matt and his 17 year old son Mark both race motocross and could leave me in the dust, literally! Then I had to show Mark what a real bike could do and took the Eldo out on the track. Keep in mind I was only doing about 5 mph in the photo! They got a good laugh out of it. I changed the oil when we got back from our ride on Monday and I also reset the points and checked the gearbox and the final drive levels. Everything looked good for the ride back. 

Tuesday I left Vegas at 4:00 A.M. and it was still almost 90 degrees. I took I-15 to the first Arizona exit and went into Utah on some unmarked road. The road led into Utah Highway 18 where I took a gravel road that cut over to Utah 56. It was a little dusty, but only for about 20 miles. I hit  Utah Highway 14 in Cedar City and then took U.S. 89 to Utah 12 towards Bryce Canyon. There was a small road that went from Red Canyon to Escalante and then back over to Utah 12. The was another very narrow, mostly dirt road with lots of 10 mph hairpins and no guard rails. I had to dodge some cattle here and there. From Boulder to Torrey, Utah 12 was spectacular. It's like you ride along a mountain peak for 20 miles or so. Very cool. Then I took Utah 24 from Hanksville to Green River - very desert like and hot. Not as hot as the ride to Vegas, but still pretty warm. Then it was U.S. 91 to Moab, which was pretty crowded with tourists and such. South of Moab I merged on Utah 46 and then Colorado Highway 90 through Naturita where it turned into a dirt road with spectacular scenery, but it was the roughest of the dirt roads on this trip. You could hear the San Miguel River roaring even over the exhaust pipes. There were more ruts and hairpins, the roughest part being just past Iron Spring. The mountain top had tall white Aspens that were thick as could be. The road improved on the way back down the other side. Fifty miles later, I'm on pavement again, feeling dirty, thirsty and tired. I booked a room in Montrose and bunked down for the night. A great day.

What a difference in temperature on Wednesday morning as I headed east on U.S. 50. It was in the 50s and dropped to the 40s  at the summits. Beautiful lakes and rivers were everywhere on the way out to Gunnison. I took U.S. 285 north in Poncha Springs and then out on U.S. 24. U.S. 24 is pretty tame in comparison until you get near Woodland Park. I took Colorado Highway 67 through Deckers and over toward Denver. It was a little interstate action to Byers where U.S. 36 breaks off. U.S. 36 was very boring and it seemed as if it was never going to end.

At least once I got to Kansas there were some farm houses and little rustic towns once in awhile. I stopped for the day in Mankato, which is about the halfway point of U.S. Highway 36 in Kansas. I stopped at the local restaurant and after all that southwestern food on the trip, the huge $11 tender, bloody-rare prime rib steak was the perfect "welcome back to the Midwest" treat.

Thursday was fairly uneventful other than my stop at Ace Cycle in St. Joseph, Missouri. Ace Mallot had the spoke nipples I needed. Well, there was also the Missouri police roadblock right before the Iowa border where they were checking for valid drivers’ licenses and plates. I could go on with my thoughts about that! I made it back to Wonder Lake that evening without incident. The trip was about 4800 miles all totaled. I'd like to go on but I have to get back on the Eldo and ride somewhere!


Copyright ©1999-2012, John Boettcher, all rights reserved
Contact John at:  ratguzzi@hotmail.com