The editor of the GWRRA magazine, Wing World, asked me to write a summary of my 40 to Phoenix trip in April of this year. It was printed in the July edition. Below is the text of the article. Following that are scans of the article as it appeared in the magazine. I have the permission of Wing World to do this.
I met Russ, the organizer of “40 to Phoenix”, at the 2015 Wing Ding in Huntsville, Alabama. I think every man with a motorcycle wants to take the great American road trip across our country. I certainly did. I took a business card, joined the Facebook group and told myself I would do the trip someday.
I checked the Facebook page from time to time in late 2015 from work and read about the preparations people were making for the trip in 2016. I could feel their excitement. Then came all the photos and updates during the trip. I was hooked.
My wife really gave me a push last Christmas when she got me a heated jacket liner. That thing has changed my life.
I started riding Ruby the Gold Wing to work every day (rain, show or shine) starting Jan 2017. I tested gloves, boots, rain gear even wool socks to make sure everything worked and kept me dry and warm. I looked at Route 66 websites during lunch at work, saved GPS coordinates and plotted my routes. I lost 25 pounds because I was sure my butt would not haul my belly across the country. I walked 4-5 miles a day.
Finally the day arrived. Ruby and I were ready.
The first few days were fairly uneventful as I got to know my Group 1 riders. One left Maine during a break in the weather and got to Wilmington, North Carolina three days early. Our leader was making his 7th ride. Two repeat riders were from New Jersey. A fellow rode from Texas to meet us in Conyers, Georgia. Another photo nut and train enthusiast from North Carolina also joined in Georgia.
Each night dinner was provided by local GWRRA chapters. The Conway, Arkansas chapter made us feel very welcome with a big cookout in the motel parking lot. What a great feeling it was after a long day of riding to see people waving at us and stopping traffic so we could get into the parking lot. The grills were smoking and the tables were set. There was a party atmosphere and best of all, we did not have to ride to dinner.
Because of bad weather in El Reno, Oklahoma the following night, we were picked up by Nancy in a school bus and taken to the local VFW for dinner. Of course one of the men had to ask her how she got the bus. She said she was a school teacher, a bus driver and our cook for the night. One of the men yelled out "ARE YOU MARRIED?" She replied "happily for 40+ years and I am spoiled!" It was a hoot.”
On day 6, I started riding separately from the group. The motto of 40 to Phoenix seems to be “You ride your own ride”. The organizers want you to enjoy the ride and that means doing it exactly the way you want. Just let your group know and show up for the meals at night.
I had my Route 66 coordinates already set in my GPS and got an early start the next two mornings. The ride from El Reno to Amarillo was misty and overcast which provided a nice mood for my photos of old Route 66 abandoned buildings. I wrote blogs on my personal website each night and included photos
I met the friendliest people in the most out of the way places. I don’t know if it is my rugged good looks or Ruby the Gold Wing, but people just seemed to want to talk to me.
I met Grady and Cindy in Canute, Oklahoma and it was not long before he was showing me photos of his Honda Fury on his phone. Bobby Kemp in his pickup truck crossed four empty lanes of old Route 66 in Erick, Texas and stopped facing east in the west bound lanes. He had noticed Ruby parked on the shoulder and me taking photos of an old abandoned motel. He was a Harley guy and wanted to make sure I didn’t miss some local attractions.
South of Albuquerque, New Mexico not long after daylight I pulled off on a dirt side road to take photos of the snow storm I had just outrun. A local fellow in a pickup truck slowed down to ask if I needed help. I told him I was fine, just taking photos. He waved and yelled out “Nice ride!” as he headed on down the dirt road in the gray dawn.
I enjoyed the New Mexico State Police motorcycle escort for dinner in Moriarty much more than I thought I would. They did a rolling roadblock. Each exit and on ramp was blocked as we rode through. Cops were behind us and in front. We had the road to ourselves. As the rear of our group passed an exit, the motorcycle cops at that exit would rush up the left lane to block the next exit. They did a great job.
The mad dash from Moriarty, New Mexico to Phoenix was probably my favorite day.
I left before sunrise with snow flurries flying through the head light beams. The Musical Highway, VLA (Very Large Array) and Pie Town were some of the stops during the day. I rode through icy slush and mud, met a snow plow and leaned hard into wind gusts of 50 MPH. My heated jacket kept me toasty with temperatures in the 20’s at 8,000 feet. I kept peeling off layers of clothes as 80 degrees greeted me late in the day in Phoenix. I loved every minute of it.
My wife flew to Phoenix and spent a couple of days with me. The GWRRA home office made us feel very welcome. There were snacks, gifts, local rides, door prizes, cake and more.
Phoenix was the turn around spot for me. As Group 1 continued to California, my wife and I visited the old copper town of Jerome built on the side of a mountain and Montezuma's well.
Laurie flew home on Friday and I spent the next 4 days alone with Ruby on my way home. Ruby hauled me 5600 miles in 14 days. I think I got a little emotionally attached to her. We had a great time.
One of my favorite photos is from US 180 in southern New Mexico. Ruby and I were out before sunrise and the road runs straight as an arrow for about 40 miles. There was no traffic, the dark sky was huge and Ruby and I felt very small on the lonely road in the dark. The sky began to turn pink and I stopped to get some photos. My favorite is a silhouette of Ruby with the sky turning red over a mesa behind her. It really captures the feeling of riding in the American West.
I have one final memory from this trip that sums it up for me. I was riding on the original concrete 2 lane Route 66 all by myself on a sunny mid afternoon heading west. I had the music cranked up, the cruise control set, no other vehicle in sight and was enjoying the solitude and scenery. A train track ran parallel to the road. From a distance I saw a train heading in my direction and I gave it a huge crazy wave when it got close. He gave me a couple of long horn blasts as he passed. Just two people saying high to each other on a lonely stretch of desert road in the American South West.
I’m ready to do it again.
You may be interested in the next article, Day 2, Little Rock to Amarillo and Route 66.
The previous article is Day 12, Great Photo and Last Post From the Road.
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© Bobby Daniel