Riding Blog

This weblog at mikeuhl.com is the personal web site of Michael "Mike" Uhl. Entries to this weblog and web site represent my personal opinions. The site is not owned, operated, or affiliated with my employer or any organizations other than those owned and operated by Mike Uhl.

Photo (right): That's Lisa and me stopped along US 550, "The Million Dollar Highway," in southwest Colorado on our way north into Silverton, July 2017. 

Entries are copyright (c) Michael A. Uhl, as of date of posting.

You are welcome and encouraged to participate in the discussion on this site. Comments are owned by the poster. I reserve the right to remove any irrelevant, inflammatory, or otherwise inappropriate comments. Questions may be directed to me using the "Post a Comment" feature available on every blog page.

FYI: I ride a 2015 Harley-Davidson FLHTK Ultra Limited Special Edition.

Thank you and please enjoy my site!

Wednesday
Oct182017

Sharing the Experience with Your Lover Makes All the Difference

(October 18-22, 2017) I've had the best year ever riding a motorcycle and my sweetheart Lisa made that happen. She served not only as a companion with whom I could talk and dine, but she supported me in so many other ways, such as taking photos and helping lift the bike off my leg when I dropped it in northern Arizona. She made me smile and laugh over and over and showed me how much more I can enjoy riding than I ever thought possible.

Photo at left: That's Lisa outside our hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas getting ready to depart.

This year, I've ridden more than 15,000 miles and Lisa rode behind me in the saddle for more than 8,000 of those miles! She wanted to ride with me; she asked me to go and helped with planning. I didn't have to beg or bribe her. My beautiful, sexy lover actually likes riding through all kinds of weather, traffic, and terrain. I feel so lucky to have her.

Meeting the Family

Not only is my Lisa really beautiful, sexy, and outspoken, she's also very smart. For example, she has a doctorate in physics and is a very talented high performance computing programmer. I like it when people meet us together because I'm often perceived as smart too, simply by mere association. So, I really appreciated and enjoyed how she got to meet so many members of my family on our rides this year, including cousins that I haven't seen in decades, such as Lindsay in Little Rock, AR and Becky in North Collins, NY.

Lisa also met some of my aunts and uncles, my sister and her family in Buffalo, and my sister-in-law and her husband in Cape Vincent, NY. So, not only did she prove herself to be a great rider seeing a big chunk of the country from the back of a Harley, she also established herself as a new member of my extended family.

Having her by my side through all of the family engagements made them so much more pleasurable as she added a whole 'nother dimension to the conversations.

Sunset at the Grand Canyon

Even before this year, I'd ridden through all of the Lower 48 states and enjoyed many of those miles with my friends, especially Mitch Mitchell. However, none can compare to Lisa when it comes to the shear joy of the shared experience. She was beauty on beauty.

Photo at left: Lisa and I took a selfie with the sun setting behind us over the Grand Canyon on June 26, 2017. (South Rim)

It's also fun introducing someone to long-range riding and the varied experiences that go with it. After we watched the sun set over the Grand Canyon, we rode back to our hotel, the Grand Canyon Inn, in Valle, Arizona. As it was dark, bugs were plentiful in the air. As we came into a swarm and they splat across my forehead, I let out a loud complaint. Lisa didn't understand me and replied with her own yell, "I think it's raining!" I chuckled as I could see the stars shining brightly overhead. I then repeated, "Bugs!"

What was happening wasn't clear to her until about ten minutes later when we stopped at a gas station in Valle. A pickup truck that had been ahead of us also pulled into the gas station. The driver, a young man, got out and asked us, "Did you see those bugs?!" And he proceeded to begin wiping them from his windshield. He added, "My wife thought it was raining."

Lisa had been baptized by insects, a messy induction ceremony into the club of experienced touring riders!

We very much enjoyed our time that evening on the South Rim. However, we have a tip for you. If you decide you want to watch the sun set from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, get there about an hour before sunset -- sooner if it's a busy period -- and establish a position relatively close to the Visitor Center along AZ 64 (Desert View Drive), as opposed to further east near Grandview Point or Desert View Watchtower. You will see much better light patterns and color changes at the western end of that stretch of road.

Adapting to Riding Conditions

One of the interesting experiences we have when riding for several days or more in different climates and terrains is how feelings change about them. For example, when we first rolled into New Mexico and began seeing the colorful rocks and open, dry landscape, we thought, "How beautiful!" By day four of riding through those hot, dry, windy conditions in the high desert, we were thinking, "God, we can't wait to get out of this and into the mountains of Colorado!"

In the photo to the right, you can see how Lisa adapted two of her scarves into an impromptu balaclava. The wind was so strong and dry, we actually found ourselves struggling to breathe. Filtering it through the fabric helped make breathing much easier for Lisa. I just struggled and grumbled. :-)

My Devoted Photographer

Even for the few riding companions who don't mind taking photos on our rides, it still comes across as a huge demand when I ask them to take photos of me. And even then, I feel fortunate if they to manage to capture a few good ones. This is all despite the fact that almost everyone I ride with wants and appreciates the photos -- after the ride is over.

Lisa, on the other hand, enjoys taking photos of me and works hard to make them good. By "good" I mean that she pays attention to lighting, background, etc. Just a little bit of awareness and care makes a huge difference in the quality of the results.

Here, I've included one of my favorites: that's me in Silverton, Colorado after we enjoyed a tasty breakfast with two other riders. The two were brothers doing a west-to-east off-road tour of Colorado. They were clearly having a great time and we four shared stories of our recent adventures on two wheels.

Lisa enjoyed taking the photo and I enjoyed posting it here. I look forward many more rides, long and short, with my darling!

Keep the shiny side up.

-The Long Rider 

Sunday
Oct082017

An Unusual Year for Riding

(October 8, 2017) It's been an unusual year for me in at least a couple of ways: (1) I was laid off from my job on June 20 after 22 years, and (2) though I've ridden a lot of miles in 2017, there were relatively few rides. I did two with my significant other that totaled more than 7,100 miles, but beyond that, there wasn't much.

Photo at right: Lena (11 years old) is modeling my new Wrangler denim jacket with Harley/riding patches recently sewn on. As you can see, the tailor apparently wasn't paying attention and I had to take it back and have them re-do one very prominent patch. :-)

Given that I've been unemployed for several months now, I would have thought I'd do more rides. However, circumstances have steered me away from intermediate length rides--pun intended. For example, I haven't ridden to my daughter's house in Hendersonville, NC (500 miles round-trip) or my brother's house in Accoceek, Maryland (600 miles round-trip) because they were unavailable multiple times when I could have ridden there.

On the other hand, I've been on more Patriot Guard Riders (PGR) missions this year than all of my previous years combined. That's because I want to do volunteer work while I'm unemployed. These rides tend to be less than 100 miles each.

Somehow, autumn seemed to arrive in a real hurry and I'm just about out of riding opportunities for the year. I do want to ride to Sunset Harbor, NC and visit my sister-in-law, Eileen, and her husband, Mike, when they return from their summer and early autumn in Cape Vincent, NY, where they own a cottage.

With the cooler weather and shorter days, I'll have more time indoors and at this computer, so I expect to carve out the time needed to share some stories and photos about my rides with Lisa this summer.

As always, keep the shiny side up!

-The Long Rider

Sunday
Aug272017

Too Busy Riding to Write About It All

(August 27, 2017) After 22 years there, I was laid off from my job with Leidos at US EPA on June 20. I took advantage of the time off to do some great riding -- in addition to searching for my next job.

Along with plenty of short rides, my sweetheart Lisa and I did two long rides together in June & July: 

  1. June 22 - July 3: Grand Canyon NP, Zion NP, Monument Valley, Colorado (North Carolina - Tennessee - Arkansas - Oklahoma - Texas - New Mexico - Arizona - Utah - Colorado - Kansas - Missouri - Illinois - Kentucky - West Virginia - Virginia)
  2. July 15 - July 23: Buffalo, NY; Niagara Falls, Ontario & New York; Cape Vincent, NY; Falling Water near Ohiopyle, PA (North Carolina - Virginia - West Virginia - Maryland - Pennsylvannia - New York - Ontario)

These two trips totaled more than 7,100 miles across all kinds of landscapes and through a variety of weather conditions. Lisa never complained about her butt hurting or the rain--of which there was plenty. We both had trouble with the desert heat and winds in northern Arizona and the chill of Colorado Rockies air. She is an amazing riding companion!

We rode together through 18 different states and Ontario, Canada in just four weeks. Consequently, I earned my 200,000 mile HOG patch and she earned my respect as a rider. She is now a veteran motorcycle tourer. 

My new bike developed some problems on the first ride and I had a minor accident, which I'll write about in my next post.

Hurricane Harvey and dicey weather in Florida have led Lisa and I to abort a ride to the Redneck Riviera next week. My friend Cutter and I might do it at the end of the month if I'm still unemployed and the weather cooperates.

As always, keep the shiny side up!

The Long Rider

Monday
Feb132017

Day 13: US 2 Across Washington State

(February 13, 2017) Day 13 of my 2016 ride to the west coast took place on Wednesday, June 22, 2016. My adventure riding back home began on US 2 at Everett, Washington. There I was just about 75 miles from the Canadian border and as about as far from home in the Lower 48 as I could get.

I started the day riding the I-405 highway north out of Bellevue to I-5 to US 2, where it starts, in Everett. The Boeing Company's primary manufacturing facility is located at Everett, as is a US Navy base.

I've ridden US 2 across Minnesota into Duluth, across the Upper Peninsula of Michigam and across New England, but have waited years for the chance to ride it across Washington, Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota. It was worth the wait.

I'll write about Day 14, my ride from Spokane to Grand Forks, North Dakota in a later post. But just the ride across Washington was beautiful and relatively easy.

Cascade Loop

I appreciated riding through some places I had read about in a recent issue of HOG magazine, such as Gold Bar and Leavenworth. This western part US 2 in Washington is called the Cascade Loop as it approaches the mountains and is more specifically named Stevens Pass Highway as it crosses the Cascade Range.

In the Stevens Pass area itself there is located an elaborate ski resort. And further on in Leavenworth it's clear that the area is built to accommodate the winter enthusiasts. 

Grand Coulee Dam

After pass over the Cascades, the land flattened out and I diverted off of US 2 onto Washibgton (WA) route 155 north from Coulee City to Grand Coulee, WA and the Grand Coulee Dam itself. (I've included, below, links to videos I took a the dam.)

 

Spokane, Washington

From the Grand Coulee Dam, I rode WA 174 east back to US 2 east and on to a Motel-6 in Spokane Valley, Washington. This is the same Motel-6 at which my friend Mitch Mitchell and I stayed in 2014. It's better than average. I still worried about my bike's security at night and covered it as a precaution.

The temperature warmed up considerably as I came east. It got down to about 53°F on Stevens Pass. It's apparently only 4,056 feet above sea level there but given the snow still up there in the nearby peaks and that chilly temperature, it certainly seemed like I was higher.

Day 14 will include a ride through northern Idaho tomorrow, including Bonners Ferry, a place I'd wanted to see for a very long time. That day ended at a very hospitable campsite in Havre, Montana. 

More Videos (Mostly GoPro)

US 2 - Mile Marker 15 in Everett

Stevens Pass 

Stevens Pass 1 of 3:

 

-------

And as always, keep the shiny side up and pray for a short, mild winter.

-The Long Rider

Friday
Feb032017

Days 4 & 5: Northern New Mexico, including Taos

(February 3, 2017) Day 4 of 17 of my ride to the San Francisco Bay Area and then north along the Pacific coast to Bellevue, Washington took place on Monday, June 13, 2016. I got up around 5:45 a.m. and departed from El Reno, Oklahoma about 6:30 a.m. The sky seemed clear in the morning twilight, so I dressed for warm, dry weather. That didn't last. I checked the weather the previous night and the forecast looked good. I should have checked the weather radar in the morning. Live and learn.

Photo above right: That's me at in Cimarron Canyon State Park along US 64 in northen New Mexico. (Latitude 36.5375 Longitude -105.1524)

I encountered severe weather only about 20 miles west of El Reno, and because the sky was so grey, it was hard to tell until the last minute that I was entering a major thunderstorm. All of sudden there was lightning and high winds--in addition to the heavy rain. I pulled over under a bridge to get out of the wind. My friends will tell you that if I pulled under a bridge, it must have been bad.

I also discovered that I had forgotten to pack my helmet with a faceshield! I had someone how managed to pack two open-face helmets. Even with all of my careful preparation, I still managed to make a major packing blunder! Fortunately, I had backed my high-tech balaclava, which served me well.

Forced to pull under a bridge east of Elk City, Oklahoma

 

I was already soaked to my skin, but I put on my rain suit anyway, for warmth if nothing else. The lightning was so spectacular, I pulled out my iPhone and captured some video. That morning ride in the rain lasted well into Texas, more than 100 miles. It soaked my wallet, which I put in what I thought was a water-resistant pocket in my rain jacket. No! I'm unhappy with my Aerostitch Darien riding suit as far as rain protection goes. Maybe it's gotten too old. Anyway, the 20 or so $100, $20, etc. bills I had in my wallet were soaked. I had to spread them out on my hotel bed to dry. The leather wallet itself and the other contents faired better--wet early but dried quickly.

Because of the severe weather in the morning, I went to Plan B on the route: I stayed on I-40 all the way to Amarillo and then got on US 87 north. I did this because I could barely see the road ahead of me at times and figured the straighter, flatter interstate highway would be easier to navigate. 

I had endured wet socks and underwear all day. Just when I was almost completely dry around 2:30 p.m. Mountain Time and wa shappy to be in New Mexico, I encountered that second storm. For the first time ever, I was pelted with hail, dime-size pieces. A 35+ mph wind whipped the rain and hail at my face. I was pining away for the helmet face shield then! Fortunately, my route threaded me quickly through this monstrous storm and I was in it for only about 30 minutes, including a short trek on I-25.

More than a few times I questioned my judgment in deciding to undertake this ride. By the way, the afternoon storm was so impressively scary-looking that I took pictures and video of it before I entered. I imagine the few four-wheeled vehicle drivers who saw me out there must have thought I was insane. The way I looked at it was, if a lightning bolt took me out, I would go out in glory; otherwise, I needed to make my reservation in Taos. :-)

In the two videos below, I give you an idea of what I rode into the afternoon of June 13. This was the second thunderstorm I encountered that day. I encountered this one as I approached Springer, NM on US 56 and then I-25 north to Cimarron, NM. I was pelted by dime-size hail, 35+ mph winds, and frequent lightning. Very scary and no place pull over.

 

Eagle Nest, NM

The weather changed to perfect as I approached Cimarron, New Mexico and rode through Eagle Nest and Angel Fire on my way to Taos. The route I took, NM 58 and US 64, into Cimarron and the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway was very beautiful and worthy of GoPro video and iPhone photos.

In the photo at the right, the road sign indicates that Eagle Nest is at an elevation of 8,258 feet above mean sea level. In the photo below, that's Eagle Nest Lake. Further south and a little further west along US 64, is Angel Fire, a popular downhill ski resort.

Taos itself is gorgeous! I'm so glad my colleague Todd Plessel urged me to see it. It reminds me of Banff in that you see mountains from the main street in town. I wish my friend Mitch could have joined me to see it so he could also compare it to Banff.

Hotel La Fonda de Taos

I loved my hotel, the LaFonda DeTaos. It's a bit pricey, but very very nice. The location is excellent and it offers private parking. It's located right in the town square. For you geography buffs, Taos is at an elevation of approximately 7,000 feet. My iPhone compass app lists my current location at 6,995 feet. (I've just finished dinner at Martyr's Steakhouse. It's a bit pricey but the food is excellent.) So, the peaks around it must be at least 9,000+ feet, e.g., Wheeler Peak at 13,161 feet. Wheeler is at the center of the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway.

I finally started using my GoPro as I had intended, as I rode through Cimarron. The remote's battery was dead--even though I though I charged it last night--so I had to use my iPhone to control the camera. I also captured video on the Enchanted Circle.

I did not arrive at my hotel, the LaFonda de Taos, until 4:30 p.m. Mountain Time, or 5:30 p.m. CDST. It made for a very long day -- 11 hours. Consequently, I am not going to ride any more of the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, except what I shall ride in the morning on US 64 west. 

More Videos

US 64 & Cimarron, NM Area

This series of videos shows my ride into the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway area on US 64.

Day 5: Taos, NM to St. George, Utah

Here I just want to insert a few more photos from the morning of Day 4, as I finished crossing New Mexico and headed into Arizona and Utah, on my way to my mother's home in St. George--with a quick stop at Four Corners. (In a separate post, I'll cover the afternoon of Day 5, which included the Navajo Nation in Arizona.)

Crossing the Rio Grande in Northern New Mexico - Three Videos

In this series of three videos, I’ve stopped just west of Taos for a look at the Rio Grande, which works its way south to Mexico.

Carson National Forest

US 64 in Carson National Forest took me to elevations over 10,000 feet and made for some chilly temperatures by great views.

Day 4 Mileage and Odometer Reading

My initial odometer reading was 12,385. The reading the night of Day 4 was 14,245. Daily mileage to date was as follows:

  • Friday, June 10: Cary, NC to Hendersonville, NC (270 miles)
  • Saturday, June 11: Hendersonville, NC to Marion, Arkansas (540 miles)
  • Sunday, June 12: Marion, AR to El Reno, Oklahoma (520 miles)
  • Monday, June 13: El Reno, OK to Taos, NM (530 miles)

(Tripometer reading was 1860.5.)