Tuesday, September 23, 2008

howl at the moon...

Aunt & Uncle HouseRose and I recently returned from a vacation in Utah. It seems like an odd place for a queer couple to vacation, but the land is beautiful and the motorcycling is outstanding. We had a thrilling time.
Our first few days were lazy and fun, just passing time getting across West Texas (snooze) and into Cortez, CO (beautiful). We enjoyed the warm hospitality of my aunt and uncle in Las Vegas, NM along the way and sampled some terrific cuisine in Taos. We even shopped! Furthermore, we bought something! Neither Rose nor I shops recreationally so that was a noteworthy moment. It was a home decor item so large we had to ship it home as it wouldn't have fit on our motorcycles. Srsly. I'm sure that I'll post a photo of it once we get the room painted and hang it on the wall.
Five Metric BikesWe met up in Cortez with some friends from Bakersfield, CA and another friend from Phoenix, AZ. Chewy (one of the two from Bakersfield) started having trouble with her bike out on the road. It turns out an electronic component in her bike was on the fritz, and this is a widespread problem. They had several dozen back ordered at the shop where she stopped for repairs, so we had a makeshift solution for starting her bike: keep trying until it works. It turns out, though, that the uncooperative electronic component governed other miscellaneous systems, like headlights and the cooling fan. These will both be important later...
Mesa Verde
So on our first day out, we hit a bunch of big destinations: Mesa Verde, the Four Corners, Goosenecks State Park, and a terrific (in the terrifying sense of the word) Four Corners piece of road called the Moki Dugway. About 2/3 up the Moki Dugway, Chewy's bike overheated and we had to pull over. (Fritzy Electronic Component strikes again!) On the face of a cliff, in a switchback, five bikes parked on the gravel, with sunset approaching rapidly. And that wasn't the scary part of the day. Goosenecks Just so you know, everything worked out okay. Now you don't have to scroll to the bottom of this post looking for the awful news before you come back to finish the story.

Crazy Road

After about an hour waiting for the bike to cool, we carried on. This meant we were passing through Lake Powell territory right at sunset, but we were still a good hour and a half from our destination in Hanksville, UT.Mexican Hat As full darkness got serious about settling on the mesa there, Chewy's absent headlight became a real problem. (Fritzy Electronic Component strikes again!) However, she's a real tough lady and not one to stop riding for something so silly as absence of light. So she put me out front, and she rode just off my flank so she could use my headlight to illumine her path. Everyone else followed behind. Really, this worked pretty well as long as the road was straight and flat. We had to slow down significantly to take the curves, though. UNTIL... [dramatic music: DUN-DUN-DUNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!] the coyote.

CoyoteThat's right, gentle readers. I had my first motorcycle/wildlife encounter. This little coyote was out in the middle of the road, sniffing something on the pavement that I'm certain was quite disgusting and probably dead. As soon as I saw it, I jammed on my brakes and (reportedly) created quite a nasty-smelling cloud of rubber smoke behind me. I did not manage to avoid the coyote, but I did manage to avoid the pavement. So I call that a tie. I hit the thing with my tire and then IT hit my left foot and went spinning off into the darkness. Some brainiacs have asked me when I tell them this whether the coyote lived. Now, really, if you hit a wild wolf-like creature on the highway at night, would you go unarmed out into the desert to look at the outcome? Really?!?! Just FYI, the pictured coyote is one that we stumbled across in a national park the following day.

About five minutes later, the massive rush of adrenaline wore off, and I had to pee like i have never in my life needed to pee. And I went through both basic training and military survival school, so I know about needing to pee. :) Luckily, we were only another 10 miles or so from Hanksville, at that point. We pulled up at the first gas station and examined my bike for signs of damage and everyone else's teeth for rubber cinders. Turns out there were none of the above, but I finally got to pee. We concluded (and rightly so) that it was too late by then to expect any restaurants to be open in this roll-up-the-sidewalks-at-dusk sort of town, so we bought some cans of Chef Boyardee and rolled to our campground.

Chef Boyardee heated over a camp stove, when savored with that Boyamigladtobealive sauce and topped with superb company, is probably the finest gourmet meal I've ever eaten.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

hop, skip, fly...

i got home last night at 9 or so. i'm leaving tomorrow at 2. this sort of weekend is the only thing i really hate about my job. however, there was no good way to schedule all the things that had to happen in the coming weeks, there was merely a slightly less sucky way and many much more sucky ways. so i chose the slightly less sucky option, and this is it.

good news? i have a dear friend visiting, my dogs are thrilled to see me, tonight i get a mulligan on my dad's birthday dinner, i have terrific job security, and my wife keeps things rolling when i'm out. i have a good life.

it isn't often that travel really surprises me. i've been on two travel engagements a month for the last two years, at least on average, and i've seen most every possible permutation of travel arrangements. there are the airports where you have to climb down the stairs, hike across the tarmac, pick up your own bag, and walk to the rental car. there are the airports that have buses and trains and in which everything is fully automatic. there are hotels with 100 rooms and hotels with five. sometimes my wallet sets off the metal detector, and sometimes the pocket knife i forgot i was carrying fails to set off the metal detector. (don't worry, it's a tiny little swiss army-style thing made mostly of plastic.)

this last trip? i was SURPRISED. not just a little, i capitalized that part to emphasize the level of surprise. my boss-in-law booked my travel for me for this trip because it all came together at the last minute just before i left for vacation. seriously, i sent him my flight preferences at 4:45 on the friday i left for utah. he sent me a link to a hotel he knew of in the area and told me i could stay there if i wanted. i spent about 30 seconds on the webpage verifying that it was indeed a hotel with rooms that contained beds, toilets and showers and wrote him back saying that sounded good to me. so when i landed at john wayne airport in orange county, i drove my rented ford taurus up to long beach and was following the directions of lola, my gps, in the direction of my hotel. it was nautical themed, i remembered that from the website, and it was called Queen Mary. i thought that was funny and ironic, because Queens have a habit of using the phrase "Whatever, Mary," with each other when one is being excessively dramatic.

and then i drove under a freeway sign that indicated the two left lanes went to Queen Mary. this was my first sign that maybe something unusual was going on. ordinary hotels do not get their own dedicated freeway exits, let alone two lanes. after following the signs and lola's instructions, i found myself in front of a gangway labeled Hotel Queen Mary. the gangway led to a CRUISE SHIP. apparently, somewhere in the 60's, transatlantic cruising become a money-losing business. jets were popular and affordable and about 36 times faster than cruise ships. so the Cunard Line sold off their stock of transatlantic boats, and their luxurious art deco jewel - the RMS Queen Mary - was purchased by the city of Long Beach, CA for a couple of millions of dollars.

so there i was, on a floating hotel that was once a luxury cruise ship, and then a hospital ship, and a troop carrier. apparently it figured quite heavily as a floating office in WWII. and because of its days as a hospital ship, it's also quite haunted. i never saw any ghosts while i was there, i guess i'm just not sensitive enough.