Meeting people is a natural occurrence of riding, and something I’ve truly enjoyed. In my experiences, I’ve met many good people. On occasion, I’ve had the opportunity to meet, who I consider exceptional people. At the XL-List Rally, during the last weekend of June near Leavenworth, Kansas, I ran into Dale and Tami Amsden. Before the weekend was over, I found their story worth sharing.
Dale and Tami are avid Sportster riders from Springfield, Ohio. After deciding to participate in the June rally, they mapped a route through the southwest into California, and then to Kansas City. Over a 13 day period, Dale, on his 1995 modified 883/1200 custom café racer, and Tami, on her 2001 883 XLH Hugger, passed through 14 states, traveling 4,880 miles by the time they arrived at the rally venue. Dale kept a wonderfully detailed 22-page daily log of their journey on his laptop. Having read some of his posts during the rally, I found them entertaining, informative and insightful. I encouraged him to share these with other readers, but his availability did not allow him to prepare this himself. With his permission, I have condensed his log for this month’s Scenic Rides and Destinations. My focus was primarily on the route and the sights. There were many entertaining excerpts excluded due to space limitations. In all likelihood, I have left out stories that others, who dutifully followed his posts, found worthy, however, the opportunity to share their unique experiences and the view from his seat make up for the balance.
The first day: The ride today was fantastic, no near nothings, everything normal. In western Ohio at the Indiana eastern border, you come out on a wide high plain of lots of farmland, with early 19th century farm houses dotting the landscape. This area along the border is the home of mega farms. Everything is lush and green and the temps were in the low 80's when we left with sunshine. Crossing into Indiana, you descend down into the Whitewater river valley of eastern Indiana, one of the few area's of Indiana that has rolling hills- excluding southern Indiana along the Ohio River. After ascending out of the valley, it's very flat Hoosier land from here to the western border and most all the way through Illinois. Passing over the Wabash River outside Terra Haute reminded me of the early history of this area and the land. George Rogers Clark, an ancestor of my wife, marched on the British military outpost here during the Revolutionary War, and the marshes they waded through for days are still quite evident in the surrounding countryside. After a storm at the Indiana border, it was flat out hauling across Illinois at a pace of around 75 MPH -it went quick!
The second day: We left near Highland, Illinois going round St Louis and hitting I-44 southwest. We got off on old Route 66 a few times in Missouri and when they say it's historical, they mean it- even the pavement is! So we just got back on the slab (Interstate 44) and diddied on down. From Tulsa, we picked up US 33 at Kerryville, Oklahoma. What a beautiful road this is! Very scenic countryside, and it's 65 to 70 MPH legal as a back road in most places. Right near sunset, we rolled into Guthrie and the road is a four lane prior to that and twists and turns and rolls through gorgeous country! Hopefully we'll be near Albuquerque tomorrow night...my birthplace.
The third day: After modifying their route to dodge storms in Oklahoma and Texas they faced lightning, strong crosswinds and heat. They finally arrive just outside of Albuquerque and stay the night.
The fourth day: We started out a little later after a sleep in from the previous days of 14 plus hours of riding. The central and western parts of the Navajo reservation In Arizona are definitely desert-like and I wondered at times what we would do if we had a breakdown. Just past Tuba City, we pick up US 89 south to SR 64 then west to Grand Canyon National Park, arriving at Desert View campground at near 6:00 PM. After setting up camp, we went to the Canyon rim and watchtower. The wife is awed by the Canyons majesty and the sunset we watched while there. We plan an early wake up to catch the sunrise over the canyon.
The fifth day: Its 5:00 AM local and I'm up. With 50 minutes until sunrise, I rouse the wife up and we head for the canyon rim. I discover we had visitors in the night, as in an elk and a deer from tracks behind our tent. The sunrise is awesome and we go on a little hike, a perfect remedy to days in the saddle on the bikes. Not long into our hike, we both start feeling the 7900 ft elevation in our breathing. All of a sudden the wife jumps and hollers and I'm thinking SNAKE! I turn where she is looking and a beautiful big doe is right their just staring at us. I whisper “camera quick!” Well, I get a pic, but it moved off some by then.
After breakfast they head out and encounter the ignorance of a SUV cager, passing them with oncoming traffic, They take a rest and are back on the road, headed towards Zion National Park. We settle down after this unnerving occurrence and stop in at Lee's Ferry on 89A where it crosses the Colorado River at the Navajo bridge. We walk out on the old bridge and the gorge is deep and the river is very green and flowing fast 500 feet below. We see rafts coming down river and it's cool to watch them. I almost wish I was doing a float trip! We head on back out at the National Park site where 89A then heads into the mountains toward Jacob Lake and the turn-off to the North rim of the Grand Canyon. Next up is Zion: and it’s just so breathtaking, all the colors and rock formations. I've been here about 15 years ago, but had to show it to the wife. Route 9 is the most awesome motorcycle road both through the park and outside the park for scenery and nice long curves at 65 MPH outside of Zion. The scenery is just so awesome; what a beautiful area along the Virgin River! I thoroughly enjoyed the majesty of the mountains here and breathtaking views.
The sixth day: We left out of St. George, Utah this morning, safe from the wildfire just north of town. Headed west on I-15 toward Las Wages. The morning air was refreshing. It was a beautiful ride through the Virgin River Gorge area on I-15 in Arizona, right before you come into Nevada. We made Las Vegas by 10:30 AM then headed down the boulevard all the way down through town and the casino strip. Heading back on I-15 toward Barstow, we finally cross into California at 11:45 AM. Now, comes the crossing of the Mojave Desert. I can honestly say I'll NEVER cross the Mojave again in the middle of the day! Think of it like this: Go up in your attic on a hot summer day and take a hair dryer with you and blow it on your face! It would feel the same as riding in the Mojave in the middle of the day, blast furnace hot! Opening the face shield made it feel hotter, so I left it closed for a slightly cooler feel. We stopped quite a bit, consuming water.
Twenty miles outside of Barstow, and still in the desert, Tami’s bike breaks down. In the shade of an underpass and low on water, Dale spends a couple hours troubleshooting. Thankfully, they get a wrecker to take them to Barstow. Dale contacts friend and racing team member, Tim Horton, who arrives a couple hours later with a truck and trailer. Tim had planned on entertaining the Amsdens upon their arrival. They load both bikes and finally arrive in LA, in the much deserved air-conditioned comfort of a pickup.
The seventh day: Troubleshooting at Bennett’s Performance identified a major short in and the right side handlebar wiring harness as well as a bad battery. They replace the faulty components and the bike problems are solved. Tim holds a bar-b-que with fellow XL-List members from the area and they enjoy the company of people they only previously met through the XL-List posts.
The eighth day: They ride north out of LA to Fresno and stay with fellow list members, the Patrick’s.
The ninth day: We took Hwy 41 north out of Fresno to Oakhurst, then Route 49 over to Mariposa, where we picked up CA140 into the west entrance of Yosemite. This route along the Merced River is a great ride with the river rolling down out of the Yosemite Valley. We did the Valley floor tour checking out the water falls, and great vistas and then grabbed lunch at Yosemite Village. We headed back west to hook up with CA 120, back near the park entrance, and headed north through tunnels with a great view of the valley along this route. It was almost worth the ride all the way out here, just to see Yosemite! CA 120 heads back east through the park with 9000 foot elevations and pretty green mountain meadows. When we reached Tuolumne Meadows, we got off the bikes to see plenty of deer grazing near the river that runs through the meadow. We head over to the pass and it rains on us slightly, but it's cold with this rain way up here! Finally, we come out of the drizzle after a few miles, exit the Park and start downhill toward Mono Lake. There is an awesome view right off the end of Ellery Lake, looking up the south side of the snow covered Sierra's. There were some deep snow pockets still right along the road, although the air temp wasn't that bad. We pick up CA167 east to the Nevada border. We didn't see anything on this road but a jack rabbit and it's straight as an arrow until it hits the Nevada border. It then goes through another low pass at a small range of mountains and drops down into Hawthorne. We stay in Hawthorne, near Walker Lake. It's amazing seeing this huge body of water in the middle of the Nevada wastelands, plus this town out in the middle of nowhere!
The tenth day: The Nevada area is desolate and they focus on their route planning to ensure fuel stops are on the route. We left out of Hawthorne, NV, this AM heading Northeast toward Luning on US 95, then off to Austin, a 110 miles away on US 50. The country out here is awesome, with mountain ranges galore. We crossed 6 ranges heading toward Ely, Nevada and to the Utah border. Every range had a 5-8 mile section of twisties, and of course, off I went, then waited for the little lady a few miles down the road. She said once, “I could just see you grinning in that helmet!” We entered Eureka, NV, and had a couple close encounters with coyotes running across the road -one was running full out and I swear he didn't miss a beat running right through the fence along the highway! We gas up at a town called Border, NV, right at the Utah border. Leaving the border, our goal is Salina, Utah, right on I-70, and then to make the 480 mile dash into Denver. We take US 50 all the way, getting on I-15 for a short period. Temps were very comfortable all day today and the solitude of the country left its impression on us.
The eleventh day: We wake up in Salina, UT and the temperature was at 59 deg when we left at 8:30 AM. It did warm up fast, into the mid 80's. We head for Green River, Utah on I-70 East at 110 miles away. We pulled off the interstate at a couple of the 'View' stops and took in the magnificence of the mountain country. The colors are just amazing; from red's and mauve's to grays and every shade of yellow and brown. Next big town is Grand Junction, Colorado. The scenery is now a lot of green where the Colorado River flows along and a lot of tree's are appearing in full green. Just east of Grand Junction, I-70 winds its way through a narrow canyon, with the river off to the south side and the west bound lanes built up on pilings to fit the 4 lanes into this narrow area. It's gorgeous with the river bubbling over boulders on one side and seeing folks rafting down it. The crags and peaks are getting taller also, with a lot of forested mountains here. We reach Vail and it's getting quite cool again as we are heading up in elevation. At the Vail Summit pass, I'm absolutely freezing. We head down a long grade spiraling downward in elevation, and the sun’s warmth starts to do its job. We roll out of the Rockies right smack into the Denver rush hour traffic trying to get 30 miles north of Denver on I-25 near Longmont, Colorado. After a 540 mile day we arrive at Aaron and Susan Wilson's. We did arrive early today for once, a couple hours before sundown! I'm gonna relax some!
The twelfth day: We head out of Fredrick, Colorado eastward, hook up to I-76 north and get off at Birch, Colorado to catch US 34 over into northwestern Kansas. The sky is a perfect intense blue with no clouds but I can't seem to get warm enough. Although it's a beautiful day, the wind has really picked up out of the north and I think some sort of front has just gone through. We are tooling down US 34 eastward in eastern Colorado, leaned over to the left again, like we were in the panhandle of Texas. We cross into the southwest corner of Nebraska and make a turn south on NEB/KS 27. The land is still just a lot of empty rolling hills of the high plains, nary a tree in sight! We make St. Francis, fuel up and this time I go stand in the sun to warm up instead of seeking shade as we were doing in the southwest and California. Heading east on US 36, the land starts changing to more greenery with farms of corn, wheat and hay and more trees! These farms are the circular fields of green in the sandy off brown soil where they use irrigating booms that travel in a big circle from the center of the field, like the hands of a clock going around. At Phillipsburg in north central Kansas, we stop to fuel again and the wife says she can't do much more after fighting the wind all day. We come to US 24 that will head east and drop southeast to Manhattan, Kansas. We find a nice hotel just outside Stockton, Kansas. It even has saddle posts out in front of the rooms! We've only gone about 300 miles today and need another 300 or so to make Kansas City.
The thirteenth day: We wake up right at sunrise in Stockton, located north of I-70 in the center of the state. The temps are cool this morning, in the high 50's, but no wind yet! We head east on US 24, working toward Manhattan. We pass farmlands and a huge lake called Wacando to the south of US 24. We come into Manhattan now and the land looks just like back home in Ohio, all green and lots of trees. We head south to catch I-70, 8 miles down, for the final lunge thorough Topeka into KC. It's amazing in 8 miles how quickly the land changed again. No more green or trees. Now it's hilly, bare country, that's just sort of green. On the west side of Kansas City we turn north on I-435. We get off on Kansas Route 5 and spot a sign mentioning the XL-List KC Rally, 3.5 miles with an arrow. I spot the banner showing the rally sight and we pull in to a cut grass field, with a lane going left downhill around a curve to the right and a lane going right. I make it down and run out into a field crowded with Sportsters and folks setting up tents. Well, we are here I think.
Dale and Tami left the muddy venue on Sunday morning and headed back to Springfield. They traveled back through Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and then to their home state of Ohio. Their 16 day journey completed with total miles traveled at 5,616. The complete log of their story is available at www.xlrator.com/dalestory/default.asp, and to see more of Dale and Tami's photos, go to http://f1.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/racerxlsr/album?.dir=/d869.
Story and photos by Dale and Tami Amsden.
Introduction and editing by Nic