Thursday, September 07, 2006

Old Friends On the Road

We will begin the Southern Transcontinental Tour in a few days. I am making the drive west with the PAC Tour vans and trailers to San Diego. I have traveled this route along the Route 66 corridor several times every year since 1981. It is always fun to see old friends who run the restaurants and motels along the way.

Tonight we stopped to sleep in Springfield, Missouri at the Redwood Motel. We have been staying there since 1995. Teresa is the owner and is from Poland. She is about 75 years old now. During our Rt. 66 tours she would loan us her car for going shopping in the evening. She became friends with my mom and dad and still asks about them. It has become a tradition to stay at her motel during our drives west because her motel has a big parking lot for our trailers and there is a great Mongolian BBQ buffet next door. The restaurant combination is a strange mix of Texas style Asian food. I like it, but it probably doesn't fit the definition of either food nationality.

A few years ago our PAC Tour crew of Jim, Mike and Nancy were driving one of our vans to the start of a tour. They had started a day behind me and they stayed at the Red Wood Motel their first night. They checked in and parked the van and trailer near their room. A few minutes later police cars surrounded the motel. The Missouri S.W.A.T. police unit forced Mike, Jim and Nancy to get out of their room and go across the street. It turns out the guy in the next room was wanted by the police and was armed with a gun. The police were preparing for a shoot out with the guy.

Mike, Jim and Nancy had left all their clothes in the room. The PAC Tour van was now parked inside the ring of police cars. Jim, Mike and Nancy went to eat across the parking lot at the Mongolian BBQ. They watched from the restaurant as the police stand off went on for several hours. After dinner they walked a few blocks down the street to check into the only other motel in the area. It was a classic no-tell-motel. So imagine two guys and a women without luggage or a vehicle who want to check into a raunchy motel with a rent by the hour reputation. The owner was surprised they wanted to stay all night. He said if they stayed that long they will need extra towels and gave them a big stack.

Jim, Mike and Nancy slept in their clothes that night. Even though Mike and Nancy are married, nothing went on that night with Jim in the room. Sometime after midnight the guy hiding at the Redwood Motel shot himself in the head. By the next morning Jim, Mike and Nancy could get back into the PAC Tour van. The motel owner Teresa gave them a refund for the missed night.

This story about the S.W.A.T team and Jim, Mike and Nancy staying at the no-tell-motel is always told when we stay at the Redwood Motel. Teresa now has several layers of bullet proof glass around her desk in the lobby. The lobby door is usually locked. We stopped to stay there again last week. Teresa has Parkinson’s Disease now and has aged 20 years since I saw her last spring. She has trouble standing and shuffling across the room. I doubt if she will be there next year.

As I travel across the country during PAC Tour events the experience is always different. Some friends are gone by the time I stop to see them during my next trip. Some motels and restaurants are as good as ever. Some have a noticeable drop in their quality. Icons come and go. New icons are formed. Old icons forgotten. Traveling across America is like a river that changes it’s path. A new adventure is around every bend.


Friday, September 01, 2006

My New Bike

My New Bike
I got a new Bike Friday last week. That’s the type of bike that folds and has 20 inch wheels. I have been riding similar Bike Fridays since 1994. My new bike is similar to a mountain bike with flat handlebars and 1.75 inch wide tires. It is red and has cantilever brakes with a triple crank and a wide gear range.

This is my travel and adventure bike. I like to travel with my Bike Friday when I need to fly somewhere. The bike fits in a Samonite suitcase and travels for free. With my new bike the suitcase converts into a trailer and my duffle bag of clothes then goes in the trailer. When I get to my destination I can put the bike back in the case and fly home.

I put a speedometer on my new Bike Friday. I am not sure why. When I am riding it I don’t look at my speed. I don’t really care how far I go. I wear my walking shoes and baggy travel shorts. When I am on my touring Bike Friday I have a different attitude about how fast I ride. This is my adventure bike. If I see something I like, I stop and look at it. That’s why I have a kickstand on this bike.

In November Susan and I are riding 600 miles across Peru in eight days. We are flying into the city of Piura near the Pacific Ocean and the northern border of Peru. Then we are heading east over the Andes Mountains and crossing several 10,000 to 12,000 foot passes. The mountain roads are paved 95% of the time. I traveled this route by bus at night several years ago. We stopped several times and everyone had to get out of the bus and help build bridges from rocks to cross streams that had washed away the wooden bridges. I expect similar adventures on our bike tour.

We will be pulling our trailers with our new Bike Friday touring bikes. There are simple hotels every 50 miles with a cot and cold water showers. At least we don’t have to carry camping gear. We are trying to get to the jungle town of Tarapoto where we can fly from their basic airport back to Lima . If this trip goes well it could become our next PAC Tour adventure in Peru.

We have had several tours in Peru before. The adventure factor is always pretty high during our travels there. I have been to Peru 12 times in the past seven years. During each trip I always learn something new. If we do another PAC Tour trip there next year I want to include cycling over the Andes and down into the jungle. A highlight of the tour is always traveling on the Amazon River by boat. I would like to combine a tour with delivering supplies to the jungle orphanages or schools. It is hard to explain how meeting the local people changes our group’s expectations of the tour. In the beginning everyone is focused on riding their bikes. By the end of the tour the bike is just a way to get from adventure to adventure.

I am looking forward to riding my new Bike Friday Air Llama. When I ride it I’m never quite sure what adventures I will see next.