Club Members Lloyd & Gill Hall recently completed the famous Route 66 trip, this trip was planned to conencide with Lloyd's 60th Birthday. Another couple on this trip were Peter and Serda from New Zealand wrote a very comprehensive holiday review which has been included in its entiriety as it will be of interest to anyone else planning this famous trip in the future. The tour company were www.eaglerider.com
We hit the road for Amarillo on Day 5 - first stop was Clinton, Oklahoma with a themed Route 66 museum - each room dedicated to a decade with appropriate music, starting with the building of the road in the twenties. For a laugh and because Preacher had told us that it was a tour tradition, we all stuck our entry stickers onto Martin's ample frame - he took it well and sported them for the rest of the day. Martin also became the star for a busload of Japanese tourists - he couldn't stop smiling as a procession of nubile young women climbed onto his bike and hugged him as the cameras clicked away. We all posed at the Texas state line before arriving at the Devils' Rope Museum in Mclean. Only in America would you find a museum dedicated entirely to barbed wire and yes, there is an American Association of Barbed Wire Collectors. A slightly dipsy lady manned the front desk and I picked up a very nice Route 66 buckle. Today was the only day on the entire trip when it rained - a shower after lunch but a more sustained downpour later in the afternoon. However it quickly passed and we rode out into fine weather.
Some great riding today and I had begun to really appreciate that this was a motorcyclist's dream holiday - long days in the saddle on greatcruising roads with mostly brief but interesting stops. Wherever we did stop, there were always good facilities. No worries about being caught short! Another thing that caught my eye - they have signs near all the prisons, recommending that you don't pick up hitchhikers - good advice I thought.
Hauled into the Ambassador Inn in Amarillo about 6pm - very quick turnaround time as the guides had booked us dinner at the Big Texan Steak Ranch and we were being picked at 7 by limos which had horns offthe famous Texan Long Horn cattle mounted on the bonnets and driven by old guys with Texan drawls and cowboy hats. The Big Texan is one of those places where if you can eat an enormous 72oz steak and twosides within a certain time, it's free - none of us were game but 3 foolish young Englishmen were giving it a go. Judy from Florida had a birthday so we embarrassed her by singing "Happy Birthday' to her accompanied by a wandering string trio - most of the restaurant joined in, unfortunately as off-key as we were. The steaks were excellent!
Weather was good - the rain had gone and we were headed for Sante Fe - we were climbing up into the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) Mountains - Sante Fe is at about 5000 feet so it was starting to get colder as we climbed. We refueled at a gas station somewhere and a random local grabbed my hand and shook it furiously as he quizzed me about where we were from and where we were going etc - very friendly but quite weird.
The bikes often created a buzz of interest whenever we stopped. First stop was the Cadillac Ranch - really muddy underfoot and I must admit I was rather underwhelmed by the 10 Caddies stuck nose first in the dirt. Still it was fun to tag them with spray paint before heading onto the Midpoint Café for coffee and pie. Fran, the owner of this café - at the original midpoint of Route 66 (my speedo read 1200 miles) - was the inspiration for Flo from the movie "Cars". She and her girls made us most welcome and the pie was really good! Just south of the Cadillac Ranch was an abattoir and that was the only place I remember seeing any livestock. We rode through huge tracts of prairie and open country and the absence of cattle or sheep was striking. Also the only place I saw gardens of any size was near the Acoma Pueblo where the locals were clearly growing their own produce.
is a real ghost town on Route 66, standing on the Texas-New Mexico border - abandoned
after it was bypassed by the Interstate. It feels as
though everyone just walked out one day, leaving everything behind - the motel
had the remains of beds and tables - even a cot, the old post office still has
filing cabinets and the detritus of human inhabitation is all around. Glenrio
has a sad and forlorn air about it but unfortunately it was not the only town
to suffer this fate when the realignment of the road took the traffic, the cars
and their lifeline away. We lunched in Tucumcari - the Blue Swallow Motel has
been restored and is famous for his garage murals. It was ironic that we had parked
right next door to the Swallow in the ruins of yet another abandoned motel. We
stopped again in Santa Rosa to admire some really fine restored '50s and '60s
cars in their auto museum.
Sirda and I tended to ride near the front of the group - in the first 6-7 bikes - and I was impressed with the riding of certain people. That is not to say that the others were not good riders but Lloyd and Neil handled their machines really well. Both had pillions and I never saw Lloyd put a foot wrong on the whole tour - very steady and with effortless control. Neil was the same; only time he almost came to grief was at a fuel stop when Pinky went to give Michelle a hug and almost tipped them both off. David and Stephen both from Australia were also good steady riders.
We headed on down the highway and at some point we had to take an underpass onto the old Route 66 - the recent rain had washed mud into the underpass and we took a careful approach although the two vehicle tracks were clearly dry. Unfortunately one of the Russians decided to go into the very muddy centre - his front wheel stuck, he accelerated and the bike spun 180 degrees, throwing him and his wife off, only narrowly missing the tunnel walls. No broken bones but plenty of red sticky mud! Following that, the second Russian very nearly rear-ended the trike - he didn't see a stop sign and when the trike slowed down he had to swerve and only missed by inches. One then did their signature slow speed topple at the next group stop and his mate did the same at the following fuel stop. Preacher then decided that they should both ride behind him and Lala so the rest of us could keep an eye on them!
The scenery had been changing as we rode along - we were really getting into cowboy country now. The road signs pointed to the Pecos, San Rio, Sante Fe, Eldorado and there were deserts and mesas and buttes in the distance. The weather had been good except for a constant wind blowing from our right. It was gusting quite badly in places and required some skill and concentration to stay on course. had a little while there. There were the remains of an adobe mission church built in 1717. It reminded me of Tintern Abbey in the UK - both had been stunning examples of man's dedication to God. And like Tintern Abbey, there had been a thriving community here for many years before declining into almost oblivion (in Tintern's case, Henry XVIII disestablished and stripped it for its riches). Fortunately this building (and Tintern) was robust enough to survive as adobe often just crumbles away and there is an extensive restoration programme going on. Pulled into Sante Fe - the hotel rooms were like furnaces, the heating had been left on and the adobe walls had absorbed the heat - took ages for them to cool down. Some of the group took advantage of this and caught up on their washing, using the heat in their rooms for drying.
Day 7 was a rest day - the trip so far had been such an exhilarating event - every day presented new and exciting places to go and roads to ride. The company was great - everyone got on with everyone although language sometimes made it difficult. People came together in different groups at different times and I don't remember 'cliques' forming at all. Although the same people did tend to congregate, they did not become exclusive. Every night as we arrived, there would be beer and wine to celebrate the day as we unloaded the van. After showers and a change of clothes, we would find somewhere to eat - Lala always suggested some places to go and we would often meet up again randomly in restaurants and bars. Sirda was enjoying the ride and found the Harley really comfortable. Like me, she loved the interaction with our riding companions (on and off the bikes), including our guides and everyone had really become friends.
This was shaping up to be the best holiday ever and we were only half way through!
The hotel was exactly in keeping with the style of Sante Fe with a heavy Spanish
influence. Sirda and I had a really good meal in house that night - Paul from
Canada joined us. Paul was from Winnipeg and was doing this trip on his own -
he runs a business selling security equipment to prisons. The next morning at
breakfast we were served by a woman who had an interesting history - she is Tahitian,
adopted by a French couple and was brought up in Paris. She then married a Frenchman
and they moved to San Diego, Unfortunately the marriage ended
and she is now living in Sante Fe.
The day was rather cold and windy but we decided to brave the open bus tour, which was chilly but very good. Our driver was also a sculptor and bit part actor - his most recent film was "Cowboys and Aliens" in which he was the cook and got to fricassee an alien. He was however very knowledgeable about Sante Fe and has lived there for many years. There is a thriving art market here - second only to New York in size. The art district is centred on Canyon Road where there are more than 100 art galleries and studios, specialty shops and top restaurants. There are two superb bronze sculptures on display - both by Dave McGary - Long Soldier and Walks Among the Stars - the detail is just amazing. Sante Fe has been occupied since about 900AD when a group of Native Americans built a cluster of homes that centred around the site of today's Plaza; the village was called Ogapoge. The Spanish established the town in 1608, which they called La Villa Real de la Santa Fé de San Francisco de Asís, (the Royal Town of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi) - Sante Fe for short. It is the capital of New Mexico and has been so since 1610. Along one side of the Plaza is a special market for Native Americans. Every day there is a ballot for spaces - only the locals are eligible and then only if the goods they are selling are made by themselves or members of their family.
city has kept its character by ensuring building codes and regulations reflect
the use of adobe in varying styles. The cathedral, built around 1870 is impressive
but the real religious secret of SanteFe
is in the Loretto Chapel in which the Miraculous Stair shouldn't stand but it
does. The unusual helix shaped spiral staircase built in 1877 is an impressive
work of carpentry. It ascends twenty feet, making two complete revolutions up
to the choir loft without the use of nails or any apparent centre support. The
nuns of the day credited its construction to St Joseph.
A group had decided to visit the local Harley shop and led by Neil and Michelle they ventured out on their own. Although they did get there in the end, I understand that it was a circuitous route with just a few wrong turns. However I hear that the shop was well worth the effort. The barman at the hotel had recommended a restaurant nearby and a group of us went there for dinner. The meal was superb but the prices were exorbitant - in future we will check the menu and prices before sitting down to eat!
We were up bright and early on Day 8 - it was very cold as we set out and there was snow on the sides of the road and more was clearly visible on the hills and mountains. It had rained heavily the night before but fortunately had cleared before we left Sante Fe. Out first stop was Madrid (pronounced Mad-Rid in US English) - where some of the movie "Wild Hogs" was filmed. They built Maggie's Diner especially for the movie and most of the action in "Wild Hogs" in Madrid takes place in or outside the diner, including the iconic scene when Damien Blade (founder of the Del Fuegos) aka Peter Fonda makes his appearance. Maggie's Diner still stands and we took a group photo in front it - Stephen from Australia grabbed a bright orange t-shirt from the display to emphasise his part in the photo - it read 'Can you see me now asshole?"
Unfortunately the diner has been turned into a souvenir shop, absolutely over-crowded with stuff, which is plied on the tables and into the seating booths.
place is lost under it all. Madrid was a mining town settled back in 1850 and
I am sure that "Wild Hogs" has given it a huge boost, judging by the
number of gift shops etc that are there. The main road is narrow with no footpaths
so it can be a bit unnerving parking up and then wandering around the town as
the traffic drives by. We were heading down from the mountains now and we made
a stop in Albuquerque in the old town where Route 66 used to go straight through.
We found the Library Bar and Grill which had imaginatively named novels as its
façade - my favourites: Tequilla Mockingbird and Lord of the Onion Rings.
It was still a bit chilly so some took the opportunity to warm up in Nick's Route
66 Café in a beautifully restored period building. Some of the architecture
here is outstanding - there was a wonderful art deco office building around the
corner - the Prudential Life Building. A signpost on the street told us that we
were 1345 miles from Chicago with only 790 miles to LA - a sombre thought as we
realised that we were into the last leg of our journey. After Albuquerque, we
were headed for the Acoma Pueblo - where the Acoma Sky City is atop a 367 foot
high mesa and having been used for nearly one thousand years, is the oldest continuously
inhabited community in the US. We were really looking forward to seeing this ancient
village when we were stopped by Native American Police at a crossroads near the
mesa and they advised us that the Pueblo was
closed to the public as a traditional ceremony was taking place. It was a blow
but beyond our guides' control. Never mind, something to do next time and there
will be a next time!
We travelled on through some stunning scenery - straight out of the wild west of the movies. We went through Cuba (the town, not the country) and I think, through the Chaco Culture Historical Park where we stopped among the desolate countryside for photos. The Chaco Canyon Trading Company offered some very tempting souvenirs! We had the opportunity to ride independently of the tour today. So for about 35 miles we cruised at our own pace. Some really cranked on the speed - I know I was going quite quickly when Ralph passed me and I didn't catch anyone who had gone ahead. The road had some gentle bends, which could be taken at speed and we regrouped at the next T-junction. This would happen occasionally when the road ahead made it unlikely that any of us would get lost. Ralph is from the UK and a classic example of how appearances can be deceiving. At first sight Ralph comes across visually as a "hard man' - cropped haircut, tattoos and bulging muscles under the t-shirt, but he is an intelligent and successful self-made man. Sirda and I had some great chats with him as he is quite spiritual and has an interesting take on life. He lives in an Airstream caravan and seems quite content with his dogs, motorcycles and other vehicles.
Our next stop was the Continental Divide - the place where the water to the east flows to the Atlantic and the water to the west goes to the Pacific. It runs from the westernmost point of the US in Alaska and zig-zags its way to Tierra del Fuego, an island at the southernmost point of South America. We stood on the viewing platform but it just looked like a gully to me - I couldn't see anything that seemed to represent a division of the continent. Still it must be important! We were still quite high up at 7275 feet above sea level. The American freight trains are amazing - they seem to be miles long with hundreds of cars pulled by 3 or more engines.
cars either have containers (often double stacked) or articulated trailer units
on them. Given the huge distances in this country it makes perfect sense to use
the railways in this way - they can be easily unloaded and can be delivered by
truck to their final
destinations. Our overnight stop was in Gallup, New Mexico and before going to
our hotel, we stopped at Hotel El Rancho, an olde world place right on old Route
66 and much favoured by movie stars as the place to stay when they were filming
movies in the area. The mezzanine has hundreds of photographs of John Wayne, Katherine
Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Errol Flynn, Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck, Humphrey Bogart
and many others and the décor is in keeping with the era of the hotel.
Built in 1937, El Rancho was linked to Hollywood and the movie industry from 1940
through to 1964 when the allure of the western hero was starting to fade and the
mysteriouswest was by that time readily available by car along Route 66 and the
almost completed Interstate 40.
Dinner that night was interesting - the meal was good but the poor waitress was overwhelmed by the numbers. On top of that, one of the guests (not one of ours) burnt a pizza in the microwave in their room and that caused a full-scale emergency services callout, which really disrupted things. Fortunately Sirda and I had gone down early and we were finishing up when all the drama occurred - others weren't so lucky, having to wait ages for their food and then even longer for their bills. Mind you, we did enjoy our merlot - with the emphasis on the "t" - it is not a silent one in Gallup New Mexico!