The Notier Notes
Our Sunday Scoop
As we wrapped up our wonderful weekend at Overland Expo West, we now faced the daunting prospect of what was next - traveling from Arizona to Virginia for the next expo in just ten days. Since these were overland expos, most people attending were in vehicles with four wheels, and if they were going to both of these, they'd be driving. That's still not a lot of time, but for us on a motorcycle, it was an even tighter schedule.
I find that motorcycle travel, though exponentially more exciting, is also more exhausting than traveling by car. The wind, the weather, the heavy gear, the sitting on a rattling machine in one position for so long... it all adds up to be more strenuous than going in a luxurious padded seat with armrests, drink holders, and windows to block out the rest of the world as it rushes by.
This is also one of the things we love most about motorcycle travel - the vulnerability of it. The way we're exposed to the elements, the way we're immersed in our surroundings as opposed to being in a bubble. But in this particular instance, I was not looking forward to the ride out the Virginia. And this was not only because we'd be taking highways, skipping all the sights, and having long days, but because the motorcycle hadn't always been working properly for us this summer. And we felt that at any moment something else could go wrong.
Even so, we left Flagstaff, Arizona in high hopes. We had just had a fantastic weekend of presentations and book selling, and we were super thrilled to be heading out East once again, and to attend an expo that we've never been to before.
But we weren't ready to say goodbye to the West quite yet. Because it just so happened that the road out of Arizona went by a place that I just couldn't pass up - the Petrified Forest.
Even the name itself conjures up images of a mysterious enigma. It sounds as if this tropical forest of the dinosaurs had been cursed by an evil witch who turned it all to stone. And not just any old stone, but these rocks are gorgeous, sometimes crystalline from quartz, or green from copper, blue from chromium, and of course red and orange and yellow from iron. At times they have black streaks from a crystal called jet, or "black amber". And all of these colors can swirl together into a single trunk, displaying all the colors of the stones, while also showcasing the grain of the wood. It's a creature's life immortalized in a mineral canvas fit for the halls of dwarven kings.
Coming into the park, we found plenty of pull-offs overlooking the carcasses of this forest massacre from 225 million years ago. But there was an added bonus of something I'd never heard about before - the painted desert. And unlike the petrified forest, the painted desert wasn't created in a single geological event, but it's almost like looking at a tapestry of time, stretching back to the very beginnings of earth.
We were loving every second that we had taken to explore yet another incredible National Park.
Once back on the road, we headed into New Mexico, and the weather turned on us. Actually, I shouldn't say it turned on us, since it didn't start out great in the first place. Flagstaff is high altitude and generally cold, and there was a bit of rain out there too. But in New Mexico, we hit the hills of the continental divide, and it started to pour on us. And then it hailed. Nothing like a good hail storm on an already strenuous journey.
But Tim is wonderful at getting us through these hail storms. I don't know how he does it, but he's usually as cool as a cucumber. But for me, it's unnerving to hear the sound of all that ice hitting my helmet, like the heavens are pelleting me with their heavenly paintball guns, aiming straight for my head. And then I watch the bits of ice start to collect on Tim's backpack, and I get fixated on them all, wondering when they will melt. Hoping the downpour won't get any bigger.
These hailstorms never last long, and it's quite the site to behold. I'm just always relieved when it's over.
Even though we were just coasting our way through these states, there are certain things you can't miss about each one - the striking Native American presence in New Mexico, the smell of cows in northern Texas, or the battering winds of Oklahoma. But then some things are the same - the way the early morning sunlight sends the mist steaming up from the ground. Or the way I wake up in a hotel bed and think, "Where am I again?" But even if I can't remember, I look over at Tim, and I know that everything is just as it should be.
But then the bike started to act up again. Not in the way it had been before, this time it was the chain. Maybe we had neglected it, or hadn't changed it when we should've, but either way, it had now chainsawed its way through the plastic chain guards and was once again eating into the swing-arm of the motorcycle. Not good. This had happened to us once before, in Patagonia, and it had really soured the mood of our travels. But at least we weren't on such a time crunch then.
Now, with only a week remaining before we had to be in Virginia, we were concerned we wouldn't be able to make it. Not if we had to order new parts. And not if those parts were going to take two weeks to arrive.
But then like always, something incredible happened. We called our wonderful friends Bill and Susan Dragoo who run the D.A.R.T. off-road training program that Tim took years ago, and they invited us to stay with them in Oklahoma City. And then, as Tim started calling around to different KTM dealerships in neighboring states and cities to see if anyone had a 2014 KTM 1190 plastic chain guard replacement, it turned out that someone did (this never happens). And they were the dealership in Oklahoma City!
We couldn't have been more fortunate. I mean, we have spent years traversing the world and going to KTM dealerships to fix our problems. And they NEVER have things in stock. That's just not how dealerships work these days. And they certainly never have things for bikes they don't even make anymore (they discontinued the 1190 years ago). But for some reason this dealership had exactly what we needed. And they were right where we were headed. They confirmed that they were the only ones in the country with such a part on hand.
We got the bike all fixed up, and re-boosted our spirits during our stay with the Dragoo's. But with the tight schedule needing to be met, we headed on from Oklahoma soon after and continued east.
We barreled our way through the buzzing humidity of Arkansas, and then plunged ahead through the sweet-smelling hills of Tennessee. And by the time we entered North Carolina, we realized that we had done it. We were now only a few-days' ride from Virginia, and we had plenty of time to get there.
And so we decided to enjoy ourselves and take a road to the expo that is world-renowned - the Blue Ridge Parkway.
But more on that next time. So stay tuned, and we will be seeing you again next week.
Oh, and Happy Halloween everyone! To get you in the mood, check out our latest video about a very scary fall we had in Colorado.
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