A Little About Us

A Little About Us
INTRODUCTION: First, allow me to introduce the members of this group...I'm Mike riding my 2003 Heritage Softail Springer...my wife Juju is on her 2015 Freewheeler...and Ed and Nancy are on their 2009 Heritage Softail. For the purposes of this trip we are referring to ourselves as H.A.R.P. HARP is a made-up name and it simply stands for Hogs And Retired People...and all that means is that we are members of HOG (Harley Owners Group) and we are...you guessed it...retired! The name came about when seven of us made a trip out west, but just the four of us this time. I've done blogs before, and this one will be for the same reason...to refresh our memories in our "Golden Years" (they say the memory is the second thing to go...and I can't remember what the first thing was). What is different this time is the blog is being shared by THUNDER ROADS PENNSYLVANIA MAGAZINE...Truly, an honor. This journey will be a round trip from, and to our home town of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The plan is to travel to the Atlantic coast at Ocean City, Maryland for the "Official" start on U.S. Route 50. We will follow U.S. 50 west for over 3,000 miles to its terminus in Sacramento, California. From Sacramento, we will head a bit further west to the Pacific Ocean before we begin to travel south. California Highway 1 and U.S. Route 101, better known as the Pacific Coast Highway, will be the route for about 500 miles to Santa Monica. At the world famous Santa Monica Pier, we hop on Route 66...The "Mother Road". Travelling about 2,500 miles to the north east, we'll arrive at the end of 66 in Chicago, Illinois. The "Official" end of our journey. From Chicago, it's just another 450 miles and we're back in Pittsburgh. We've made very few lodging reservations, thus eliminating the pressure of trying to get somewhere by some deadline. The whole purpose of this ride to see this country and whatever piques our interest along the way...and we will be looking for that giant ball of yarn! So we invite you to ride along with us. We hope you will find it both entertaining and informative. Please feel free to leave your comments and share this with anyone you feel would have an interest.

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Final Thoughts from Mike

It took me a little longer to gather my final thoughts, mostly because I wasn't sure what I wanted to say.  Being home for a few weeks, I've taken note that the stories I'm currently telling are a bit different than when we first got back.  Now, the stories being repeated are the ones most deeply embedded in my mind.

I certainly can't say we didn't encounter any difficulties.  The mechanical difficulties caused delays that were more of an annoyance than anything else.  But those faded quickly...about 10 minutes after we were back on the road.  The heat related problems were more of a health threat and much more frightening.

After 31 days on the road and just short of 8,000 miles, what has stuck with me, and filled my brain to a point where I am now boring people talking about it, are three things...

First, the absolute beauty of this country.  Beginning with putting our boots in the Atlantic Ocean, everything, including the mundane, took on new meaning as it became part of the journey.

From the buildings and cacophony of our Nation's Capitol, to the Virginia and West Virginia mountains, to the wide open mid-west heartland, to the majesty of the Rockies, to the "Loneliest Road In America" segment in Nevada, and ending the first leg of the ride with boots in the Pacific Ocean, it was nearly indescribable.

Route 50 was my "bucket list" item, and it gave me everything I hoped for:  Originally native trails, then Pony Express routes, today's Route 50 provides challenging riding on fairly well maintained and marked roads, coupled with unbelievable eye candy!  For me, the highlights were in the west: Pikes Peak, the Nevada Desert and EVERYTHING about Utah!

Riding the Cabrillo and Pacific Coast Highways from San Francisco to Los Angeles was relaxing and mostly familiar, as Juju and I had been on much of it before.  The part we had not previously experienced was going through Big Sur.  The mountain forest that sharply drops to the rocky Pacific coast line is something us easterners rarely get to see firsthand. 

Near Los Angeles, the western end of Route 66 is on the Santa Monica Pier.  This marked our turn around point and for the first time we were headed east.  Route 66, in L.A. is...well...let's just say difficult.  In fact, 66 in most of California is difficult...poorly marked and poorly maintained.  Once in Arizona, it was better road, but still tough to follow.  This is where I got us lost by about 50 miles.

Oatman,Arizona is a world of its own.  A classic ghost town with wild donkeys literally running up and down the wooden sidewalks and dirt street.  As Ed mentioned in his comments, the road from Oatman to Kingman was incredibly beautiful and obviously dangerous.  This is where Ed and Nancy went down and their ride came to an unfortunate end (No major injuries, but hurt enough to make riding a motorcycle for another week a painful prospect.  As of this writing, both are on the mend and the bike is in the shop for repairs).  Juju and I continued along 66 to St. Louis before heading home, but it just wasn't the same without them.

The second thing that stuck with me was the outright kindness of strangers.  On three different occasions, we found ourselves in rather dicey situations.   On two of these occasions, members of our group were suffering from heat exhaustion and nearing heat stroke.  The third was the accident.

In each case, strangers stopped to give us water, ice and comfort.  I will always remember these folks; the concern they showed, and their willingness to help in whatever way they could.  I will also always keep that in mind as I try to pay it forward.

The third, and perhaps most important thing I took away from this adventure was gratitude!

  • I am grateful to my wife for not only indulging me on this trip, but for being by my side to experience it with me.  
  • I am grateful to Ed and Nancy for sharing the adventure with us, and allowing us to share it with them.  
  • With almost 3,000 page views, I am grateful to all of you who took the time to follow the blog, especially the folks at Thunder Roads Pennsylvania Magazine for carrying the blog on their web site.  
  • And finally, even though I'm not an outwardly religious person, I am grateful to God for creating what we saw and experienced on this trip, and for making it possible for me to do it.

Coming soon...photos!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Final Thoughts from Ed

When our friends Mike and Judy suggested riding our motorcycles west on Route 66 and back on Route 50, I was all in.  But I was hoping Nancy would agree to make that long trek.  Fortunately she agreed, and all we had to do was work out the details.  My only suggestion was that we ride west on Route 50 so we could ride the Pacific coast highway south, and have the ocean on our right. Mike agreed, and it was time to set a date.

We decided to leave mid July. Mike suggested going to Ocean City, Maryland first so we could ride Route 50 in it's entirety from Ocean City to Sacramento, California.  Then we would continue to San Francisco to extend the trip from coast to coast...an even better idea as this was something I've had on my bucket list a long time.

The beginning of our trip was somewhat eventful, but once we made it to Colorado, the past problems were forgotten and it was forward ho. Although I've flown over the Rockies many times it was always a dream of mine to ride through those mountain passes and experience them from the bike. It did not disappoint! The ride up to the summit of Pike's Peak was more than I had hoped for. Looking out and down from over 14,000 feet was an incredible experience.  Check off one more item from the bucket list.

When we got to Utah, it was even better than I had expected.  The sights there were just AWESOME!

Although we had done some portions of Route 50 in Nevada before, the vastness of the landscape was truly amazing. Now came California and the Pacific Coast Highway. Even though we had done it in the past by car, it's much different on a motorcycle.

Next came the Santa Monica pier and the end of Route 66, or in our case the beginning of our journey back home.

After getting lost a few times in Los Angeles, we were back on 66 in Pasadena heading east. I don't know exactly at what point the Mother road became the Mother fuc***g road, but it was apparent that California wasn't keen on maintaining Route 66.  Especially with a nice new interstate running parallel to it. So we decided to wait until we got to Arizona to get back on 66.  Here it became much more of what I had hoped for.

The ride into Oatman, AZ was great, but this is one time where the destination was the highlight. After several hours there, it was time to leave and head to our hotel in Kingman, AZ.  Leaving Oatman and getting to the summit...I swear the view was over 100 miles.  

Another highlight for me was the old gas station at the bottom of the mountain. You may be thinking what's so good about that? Well, for me, it was the owner's fantastic collection of Rolling Stones albums; all signed by the Stones. Especially the one singed by Mick Jagger...when his signature was actually legible. 

Unfortunately, it wasn't long after that when the journey for Nancy and I came to an abrupt end. About 10 miles outside of Kingman we went down and ended up at the hospital for a few hours.

I have no regrets, other than not being able to finish the trip by bike. I'd recommend everybody do it just once.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Final Thoughts from Juju

This trip was at once the most challenging trip, as well as the most rewarding trip I have ever been on. 

From the delay of 10 days to get started, to the fantastic scenery and camaraderie of great folks, it was amazing.

I was really struck by the kindness of strangers.  As we sat on the side of the road either having a health related incident, or a broken bike incident, folks really cared and rendered what aide they could.  Encountering the weather changes along the way really could have been life threatening.

Laughing at each other for what we brought and what we did not bring.  What we did, the things we saw and accomplished, has forged a bond forever.  Knowing if we decide to do something it will get done!  

I will be parachuting for my 70th birthday!
Things we did not need:
  1. sneakers
  2. make up
  3. anything even remotely good.

Things I wish we had brought:
  1. cooling vests
  2. head coolers.

Final Thoughts from Nancy

We have all heard bikers say "It's all about the f**king experience".  Well that was certainly the case with this trip. 

I wasn't sure that I even wanted to make this trip.  Six weeks on a motorcycle???  My non-biker friends were taking bets as to how long it would take before I booked a flight home. Well I not only surprised them, but I surprised myself as well. 

This trip was more than I could have ever imagined...jaw dropping scenery, mouth watering local food, and local people who made you proud to be an American.

The experiences taught me that I am one tough grandma.  I can not only survive extreme heat, sleet, high altitudes and "numb bum", I can laugh about them over a beer with my friends that evening.  It doesn't matter if I have dirt on my face, or if I wear the same clothes for 3 days (underwear does not apply!).

Things I should have left at home...

  1. curling iron
  2. makeup (what in the world was I thinking???)
  3. tennis shoes
  4. white sweatshirt (never came clean)

I am really disappointed that our trip came to an early end because of our accident. I am, however, really grateful that our injuries were not more serious.

Thank you Mike & Judy for sharing all of this with us.