It was early May, and time to head south and west to Arizona and the Overland Expo. I was going to be presenting again this year, and also would have a table in the writer’s area (which would be the first time I’d ever had such a thing and I wasn’t at all sure what to expect). Since my girlfriend’s (Sue) cancer diagnosis earlier this year, I had been struggling with whether to go to the expo, but as the date came closer she made it very clear I was expected to leave. I can’t say she kicked me out, we don’t live together, but that might have been all that saved me.
Since I was going to be giving talks on pack, I’d loaded extra camping gear onto the bike (so I wouldn’t have to take down my tent every day to show the bike fully loaded). Just like last year, I didn’t like the end result. One of these years I am going to ship everything extra, rather than a bare minimum, trying to save on shipping. The books were already being shipped to someone I’d contact through Horizon’s Unlimited Flagstaff Community, so it wouldn’t have been hard to ship more.
Yeah, I probably won’t next year either. Sigh.
The week before I left, instead of looking at the weather and thinking about my route, I spent working and helping Sue with things around the house. I took only a hour or so to pack and load Curiosity, then rode to her house for the last night before hitting the road. Leaving in the morning was hard.
I didn’t take a lot of pictures my first few days on the road. It was cold and the weather generally sucked. My mind wasn’t on the road and I spent a lot of time wandering around in my helmet. I was also using a new hammock tent – an ENO Doublenest (the OneLink system). I’d only had one test set up, and while I had my trusty Hennessy as back up, in the end I would use only the ENO for the whole trip.
My route to Flagstaff was direct, along Hwy 50. Since 2011 I’ve been trying to visit Dodge City, with something going wrong each time I was in the area. The weather was all over, cold then hot, then cold again. And there were some impressive storms in the area too, which I opted to wait out rather than try and ride through.
I was sleeping in my hammock when my phone started alarming.
The lightning to the west was almost constant, and I wondered whether or not I should bother getting up or just stay in the hammock and wait it out.
While I thought about it, another alert came in over my phone –
Tennis ball sized hail seemed like enough to get me into one of the buildings – I was aware of storms in the area and had set up near one of the shower houses. I got up, made sure all the lines were tight, and moved inside. The lightning was near enough to constant I didn’t need a light, and it was very windy, but still not raining. That changed a few minutes after I got to the building. There were a few other campers there, which surprised me since I was the only tent I’d seen.
I never saw tennis balls sized hail, but there were some pingpong chucks – ice cube raining from the sky. It was incredibly loud on the roof. After 10 minutes the hail had stopped, and half an hour or so later the rain had also passed. I walked back to my camp to see the hammock and Curiosity apparently undamaged, so I just went back to sleep.
In the morning it was much, much colder. I could see my breath as I packed up, determined still to see Dodge.
While I have a complete heated suit for riding in the winter, when traveling on the 250 I only use the jacket liner. It was on for most of the morning and I still was chilled when I parked near the visitor center to walk around the old downtown area of Dodge City.
I was glad to see it had warmed up into the 40s.
Of course, the thing to see is the the local Boot Hill, which has a reconstructed front street along side it.
Boot Hill was only used as a graveyard (for people who couldn’t afford a real burial) for ten or fifteen years, and the records of who was buried where and when are sketchy. When people started to build on the hill some bodies were moved to the new graveyard, but most people seem to think there are still bodies left behind. Since the dead were usually given a wooden marker (if they had any marker at all), once the marker deteriorated there was nothing left to mark where the body was.
When the bodies were removed from Boot Hill, everyone was impressed with their state of preservation. Apparently limestone had seeped into the bodies, partially mummifying them.
There was also a museum of Native American’s life before white settlers arrived, and the effects of the cattle drives that followed them.
After several hours I went into the gift shop. Only one thing caught my eye, but I didn’t really have anywhere to put it on Curiosity.
I missed Sue, just a little.
After a simple lunch I was back on the road, heading southwest. Looking at NOAA’s cool weather map, it was pretty clear I was just along the edge of where the weather changed from cold to hot – and I was definitely in the cold part. I had wanted to head into Colorado, but it was even colder there, and snowing, so I decided to head for Albuquerque instead. Not the most exciting route, but it would get me there.
In Dalhart Texas I stopped at a place called Hoogies for some Brisket (it was very good). There is some BLM land just north of there I was thinking about camping in, but checking the weather Dalhart was expected to set a record overnight low. I asked the people in the restaurant about local hotels only to have one of them call over to the Super 8 and get me a discount. Yay discounts!
Not far from Flagstaff I was thinking about heading directly to Mormon Lake, arriving early but saving me a night in a hotel and giving me the change to chat with anyone already there. Hanging out near the Petrified Forest I saw oil all over the engine and the legs of my pants. Checking the level (and, remembering a time in Chile, the oil cap) it hadn’t lost much if any oil and the cap was right where it belonged. I decided I would stay in Flagstaff after all, so I could spend some time trying to sort out what was wrong.
I also adjusted the valves, but as near as I could tell one of the engine gaskets was starting to fail. It wasn’t that old, having been replaced in 2011, but I couldn’t see anywhere else the oil might have been leaking from (which just goes to show I wasn’t all that focused on what I was doing).
I bought some oil so I could keep the engine topped of as needed, and rode over to Mormon Lake Lodge, the location of the Overland Expo, and set up my camp for the weekend.