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What a day… April 14, 2011

Posted by dakotabiker in MegaTweet, Rants.
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image

My first fully cell phone post. And the first with a work day emphasis for a change…

But I am a biker so…  the day started with the decision of whether or not to ride in this morning.  Was to be a beautiful day, but I was facing an all day meeting and dinner, both of which required a suit.  A good ride in is 55 minutes; by car and metro: an hour and a half.  But to take the Harley would have meant metroing from work to the dinner and back to change clothes, then a night time ride home through DC versus hopping right on the metro home from the dinner.  I opted for the latter…

So, after 20+ years of working in the world of robotic spaceflight, I am transitioning into the realm of human spaceflight.  With the retirement of the space shuttle, NASA is developing a new archtecture for sending humans into space… not just to low earth orbit (like the shuttle) but beyond.  The first steps are the development of a heavy lift launch capabilty, a crew vehicle, and the ground operations systems to get them launched.  Since it is critical that each of these parts combine to create the integrated exploration capability, we are developing the plans and processees to assure their smooth integration.

That is where I come in.  I am now on a headquarters team assigned to lead this technical integration effort.  Today we met with the folks with the technical responsibility for each of the parts.  Our objective was to discuss how we would work together to effectively integrate the capability.

The differences in culture were pretty amazing; doubly so for me: jumping from the robotic world to that of human space exploration, and bridging the differences between the headquarters point view and that of the programs at the various NASA centers.  The meeting was hugely educational for me, and we made great strides in understanding our respective approaches…

After 10 hours of drinking from the information firehose, fatigue was setting in and it was time to break for dinner.  As I packed up my laptop and briefcase, I plugged in my phone to top off the charge for the evening, thinking to myself “I bet I forget this…”

I helped clean up the meeting room grabbed my fully packed briefcase and joined my colleagues for the metro ride to dinner, where I realized the self fulfilling prophesy had in fact been fulfilled. 

The dinner conversation was really good. I spent most of my time talking with my new colleagues in the engineering effort for the launch vehicle,  one of which is also a luthier and bluegrass musician.  I ordered a ribeye, which was disappointingly mediocre given the expense of both cash and calories. 

Facing another 2 hours to get home I headed for the metro back to work annoyed that I gave up a wonderful ride opportunity to avoid exactly this situation, which was actually made worse by schlepping my briefcase. 

I got to work finding my fully charged phone and headed back out walking the streets of DC fully laden with tomorrow’s work. Electing to avoid the risk of a 20-minute transfer between trains I walked a mile to the redline and decided to try my first phone blog…

So what did I learn today? Beyond the myriad of human spaceflight culture nuances, if the weather good enough to ride… RIDE! 
Oh, and that typing a blog article on a cell phone is a pain in the….

At least it was a beautiful night for a walk.

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Veterans’ Day Ride 2010: Unlikely Friendship November 14, 2010

Posted by dakotabiker in Rides.
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2 comments

The Setup

I dropped off the bike for 60,000 mile service and for my growing list of perennial problems that seem to escape the scrutiny of service shops.   

My regular place (HD of Maryland) has been less and less responsive.  The latest problem was a bearing replacement that took three weeks.  One week for the bike to just sit they even looked at it.  One week before they finally decided to order parts.  And one week to “work me into the schedule”.  It was the second time for that repair bearing within only 5000 miles and in less than 1000 miles later I was hearing the grinding noise again.  So my last visit was for them to  re-check the drive and transmission.  After holding onto my bike for a another full week to only do a test drive and tell me they “don’t hear any grinding”, I decided to take my patronage elsewhere.

So this time I dropped her off at her point of origin at HD of Baltimore.  Unfortunately, like at my regular shop, despite two weeks lead time and a confident assurance I would have the bike back by the Nov 10th, they didn’t even start working on it until the 9th and found major problems with the transmission.  It was good that  they found the problem the other place said didn’t exist.  However, this left me without a bike on a four-day weekend with plans to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway as my “last hurrah” for the year. 

Fortunately, I was able to articulate my frustration without yelling at them for sitting on the bike until the day before I needed it.  They “got it”, and while they do not give out loaners as a general rule and no longer have rentals at that store…. they were able to find me a bike to borrow which I was able to pick up Friday morning. 

Day 1

Starting on Friday rather than the Wednesday night departure I was hoping for, my plans to ride the Blue Ridge where kind of out the window.  I opted instead to ride a little loop through Pennsylvania starting from the dealership. 

The bike was a blue Electra-Glide.  I am not sure what year it was, but if I had to guess I’d say an ’05.  This bike would be the fourth I had ever ridden, and my first bagger.  It idled a bit rough, the clutch was way too tight, and the stock pipes were a whisper compared to my Vance-Hines Big Radius exhaust; but I was  looking forward to experiencing something different.   I was a bit stumped as to how to bungie my Sturgis bag into the passenger seat, and was pleasantly surprised that the whole thing fit snuggly in the rear hard case.  I was also pleasantly surprised to find a little electrical plug poking out from under the seat.  While it was a “nice” day for November, it was still rather chilly.  I knew I would be needing my electric gloves on this trip and brought with me a spare battery harness and my toolkit (which I rarely bring, though I know I should).  I figured that I would pull over at some point to install the harness on the loaner, and was very glad that it was unnecessary.  A few minutes later and I was geared up in my leathers, gloves were plugged in and toasty, and I was on the road. 

The dealership is on the east side of Baltimore near the beltway.  I hopped on US-40 to pick up I-695 a short while later heading north.  I tried the radio. I really should have taken a moment to learn the radio controls while I was still in the dealership parking lot, but I managed to find a decent station while weaving through traffic, and for the first time ever listened to music on a ride. 

I joined up with I-83 heading into Pennsylvania.  Despite being well geared, I was still a bit chilly and I pulled over at the first rest stop across the PA border to warm up a bit.   I managed to find change for a vending machine coffee, served in the ubiquitous paper cup with the pictures of playing cards about the circumference.  (An association that is lost on me.)   The coffee wasn’t bad for the price and it was warm. 

I sat on a picnic table in the sun watching people pull up, look at the bike, look at me, look away, then keep walking; until a portly, bearded, diminutive man in an old pick-up truck bearing Vermont plates pulled up next to me.  He looked at the bike, looked at me, then walked on over as he lit a cigarette.  He was driving back from a KOA campground convention in Georgia, which is apparently quite the shindig.  The conversation immediately went to his history with motorcycles, as most of these roadside discussions go.  He had ridden in his youth and only recently started riding again on a Honda 750.   He asked about my trip and told me about the various Harleys of his family’s and friends’. 

After a sufficient warm-up, I headed out, continuing up I-83 toward Harrisburg, PA.  My intent was to get off I-83 at Exit 41 and head north in an attempt to find US-11 heading north along the west side of the Susquehanna River, but a poorly timed passing manuever left me racing by, looking at my exit over the top of a dirty gold Honda Accord.  Having completely forgotten my contingency plan (like I really had one), I crossed the Susquehanna and pulled off at the next exit into Harrisburg.  I somewhat remembered looking at the map of the area and figured if I just headed north I’d be fine.  I rode a short while and noticed that there were some unique dining opportunities, so I pulled over in front of Stocks on 2nd for a “quick” lunch. 

I sat outside in front of the restaurant.  Despite the chill on the bike, the direct sun was now sweltering.  The menu had the typical urban/bar cuisine but with several Greek specialties interspersed.  I opted for the lamb burger with feta tzatziki sauce and a beer.  The waiter was an amicable young guy who brought the beer and then pretty much disappeared.  A long while later he came out to apologize for the delay… but still no food.  Later still, he arrived with my meal.  While the first bite of my burger was really very good, it was also very raw.  I progressed a few more bites into it reaching the icy-cold center.  So, when he appeared to ask how my meal was… I told him.  He whisked my plate away (including the fries which were in fact very good) and headed into the restaurant.  Looking at the low sun, I realized I had no time to wait for remediation.  I headed into the restaurant to tell him to just bring the bill so I could get on the road.  Several minutes later he apologetically appeared and comp’d my bill, which amounted to a free beer and a half an order of fries — and a delay of over an hour.

I saddled up and continued up 2nd street, cutting over to 7th believing that would get me to I-81…  until 7th disappeared.  I hopped on 6th and continued north until riding right under and past I-81…  Finally, a few more wrong turns later, I was on I-81 to US-322 taking the latter northwest along the Susquehanna, later crossing it to more-or-less follow the Juniata River.  I made a quick stop in Mifflinburg for gas and Red Bull, and continued on toward my evening destination, State College, PA. 

US-322 departs from the Juniata near Lewisburg, heading north until reaching Potters Mills where the road turned west, headed straight into the setting sun.  Temperatures dropped quickly and the sun was absolutely blinding.  I could barely see a thing, but worried more about whether the traffic behind me could see me.  Signs were meaningless, amounting to dark rectangles amidst the solar glare.  Failing to see the sign for US-322B, I continued on US-322 picking up PA-26 into town with just enough light to find lodging.  I rode down College Avenue in hopes of seeing the Days Inn; my first choice for its central location.  Two loops and a cell phone google search later I was at the Days Inn to find they had no rooms.  I sat outside calling around to hotels, getting farther and farther from the district of bars and restaurants that had such appeal, but at this point I was happy to just find a room. 

I booked a room at the Hampton only a mile away from the “action”.  I checked in, took a shower, and started to walk back to the main drag.  However, the temperatures had plummeted and I was no longer “geared up”.  Less than a tenth of the way toward the “cool bars” and I bailed, opting for Damon’s Grill and Sports Bar next to the hotel.

As you may be aware, I now have a  self-imposed rule that I cannot eat at any chain-restaurant while on a ride, which I amended to allow for chains that aren’t available at home.  Despite the fact that there are four Damon’s in Maryland, I hadn’t been to any of them, nor did I know they existed — so I sat down and ordered a beer and a rib-eye with a side of crispy onion straws and a small Cesar salad.  After a not-great but very-good dinner I was ready to call it a night and walked back to the hotel.

Day 2

I awoke the next morning to 25 degrees F, and promptly went back to bed.

Day 2 – Take 2

I got up again and dawdled with my normal routine of coffee and route planning.  I texted a biker, Steve, that I had met in Florida when I rode down for the LRO/LCROSS launch over a year prior.

He had ridden down from Pennsylvania to see a Shuttle launch whose window was on top of that of LRO/LCROSS.  We met in front of my hotel and started talking about our respective rides and the up coming launches, and he joined me for dinner and drinks with some of the LRO/LCROSS launch team.  Now I was in his neck of the woods, so 17 months later I looked him up to meet for breakfast. 

My delays helped a bit.  The sun was bright and the temperatures rose quickly.  I walked out of the hotel about 9:30 with the temperatures in the low 30’s.  The sun was cutting through the ice and frost on the vehicles in the parking lot, with the exception of mine.  The Electra-Glide loaner sat squarely in the shadow of a mini-van that had parked next to me, leaving my seat coated with a thick layer of icy frost… not a good way to start a ride.  I scraped the frost as the minivan owner came out, ironically wishing me a warm ride as he drove off. 

I headed back up PA-26 rejoining US-322 taking it west until it merged with US-220/I-99.  It was cold, but I was well-geared, now including a neoprene face mask, and I was really enjoying the ride.  I continued south on I-99 to the Tyrone exit and quickly found my way to the Bull Pen, a friendly restaurant in a small strip center.  As I pulled into a parking space, Steve pulled in right behind me — except it took me a moment to recognize him, and not just because of the hat and sunglasses.  Steve had dropped 60 pounds in the last year and grew out his hair and beard.  Despite the fact that I was 40 pounds lighter and with longer hair than he had last seen me and riding a different bike, I was pretty easy to identify as the only idiot on a bike on such a cold morning. 

I was greeted with a hearty handshake and smile, and we headed toward the restaurant, pausing for a moment to talk with one of Steve’s friends,  who was working as a bell-ringer in front of a nearby grocery store collecting donations to provide blankets and toys for children of poor local families.  The restaurant was a charming rustic bar and grill.  We paused again to chat with the owner, another friend of Steve’s.  Steve talked about our meeting in Florida and my stopping by to visit, then we headed into the dining room. 

Despite the relatively short time spent in Florida, we got to talking like old friends who had known each other for years.  We spoke of bikes, and rides, and NASA, and politics, and local events.  The new movie, Unstoppable, was filmed, in part, in Tyrone.  Steve was hired with some other local bikers as extras, but apparently they didn’t use the footage.  For the movie release, the Bull Pen had a town party charging only $7 for all you could eat or drink.  (Now that is community spirit!) Breakfast was great: two eggs over easy, sausage, bacon, and perfectly crispy hash browns.  The deliciously hearty breakfast got us talking about our respective diets and weight loss

When old, fat guys lose weight, we get really old really fast.

After breakfast we headed out to his place outside of town where his front yard has a beautiful view of a ridge where they are putting up some new windmills — hopefully the artistic little cluster and not the horizon sweeping eyesore.  We talked for a while longer about life over a beer, and I headed out feeling more of a friendship than acquaintanceship. 

The view from Steve's front yard.

I circled around the back roads until I found old US-220 which got me back on track.  I had spent so long visiting with Steve that my trip timeline called for a few revisions.  Instead of heading further west, I opted to head toward home taking roads less travelled.  I headed down PA-453 out of Tyrone until meeting up with US-22.  It had warmed up quite a bit, though the air was still moist and chilly as I rode along the Juniata. 

Approaching Mount Union, I opted to ride into town in search of gas and a bio-break rather than by-passing it on US-522.  Unfortunately, I was afforded neither.  They had no public restroom and were a little rude in telling me so, so I made no purchase; it is kind of my flip-side version of the “restrooms for paying customers” policy.   I continued down PA-747 to Three Springs, this time stopping and meeting all objectives.  I took a little break with a Monster Khaos drink (not recommended – tastes like wedding punch) and headed west down PA-994, picking up PA-655 south a short while later.

The scenery was pleasant enough though unextraordinary but ride was great nonetheless: the rural wooded landscape and crisp air providing all the makings of a relaxing ride.  I somehow missed a turn in Hustontown to stay on PA-655 and instead ended up on PA-475 which dumped me onto US-522.  I rode US-522 south until I picked up US-30 east just north of McConnellsburg.  Cresting the Tuscarora peak, I looked forward to stopping for a beer at the biker bar at the top; but, not surprisingly, it was really dead, so I kept riding down the eastern slope and into Chambersburg where I stopped for the night at the Carson Motel.

The Loaner at Carson's Motel

The place was a typical motel of the 70’s.  It was actually quite clean, and I figured the lack of vehicles in the parking lot and the cinder block walls would make for a quiet night.  But soon after checking in it got noisier than hell in parking lot with a bunch of guys (one in particular) yelling getting ready to go out partying.  It completely baffles me that with about 10% occupancy, they put these people in the room right next to mine.  I left for dinner at Dilly’s where I had a very disappointing cheeseburger sub and a couple of beers.  Conversation was sparse with the highlight being a young woman asking me to help her figure out how much a 10% tip would be on her bill.  I finished up the evening with a batter-dipped deep-fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich smothered in whipped cream and ice cream.  I headed back to the hotel with a slight regret about both my culinary choices.

Back at the motel the noise continued this time with the women from the earlier group hooting and hollering at each other and obstreperously complaining about their men.  Sleep was evasive in the din, so I flicked through television stations until they abated at about 2:00 am.  But the quiet didn’t last for long as the most boisterous drunk idiot from before came back pounding on their door at 3:00 am wanting to be let in.  The argument that then ensued about what he did or did not do that evening finally died down at about a quarter to four. 

Day 3

Waking early the next morning I was dead tired.  I packed the bike and was disappointed at the trifling sound of loaner’s stock pipes as I started it up, wishing to provide a more punitive wake-up call to the cacophonous couple next door.  Heading out of Chambersburg on east US-30, tried a different route home heading south on Mont Alto Road in Fayetteville leading me into Mont Alto (duh) where I picked up PA-997 south to Waynesboro.  Picking up PA-316 I continued south to the Maryland border where PA-316 turned to MD-60.  Being a little disoriented by the new route and a little ambivalent about stopping in Hagerstown for a drink versus heading home, I deviated from MD-60 onto MD-62 south away from Hagerstown.  Then onto MD-64 west heading into Hagerstown.  Then changing direction again taking Eastern Blvd to US-40 east heading away from Hagerstown. 

I rode to the Dogpatch, still ambivalent about stopping.  Pulling into the parking lot, I saw it was as dead as the bar on the Tuscarora peak and rode on home.  All in all it was a good trip, though the last day was more of a chilly, tired drive than a ride. 

Friendship

After only meeting once before on the road, it was great to talk with Steve.  I was really glad to discover a real friendship in what could have otherwise been one of a thousand friendly encounters on the road.  Those of us who enjoy the experience of riding know the wealth of kindness, stories, and transient camaraderie of meeting with other travellers and the local folk.  We all have enjoyed the experience of a fraternal wave, a three-minute dialog, or sometimes shared victuals and libation.  Sometimes when things seem to click, emails and phone numbers are exchanged with the best intention, yet somehow the impact of that first encounter fades just enough to never actually call or write or possibly even remember… and there is nothing wrong with that.  The road by its nature is a temporal place; impermanence is part of living in the present.  Sometimes, a three-minute discussion is just about enough to get the most out of some friendly encounters.

But sometimes, it is good to call that number, send that email, initiate a re-meeting, and take the chance to enjoy a friendship that can inexplicably spring from a brief encounter months or years before.

Steve

C2C Ride: Some numbers July 31, 2009

Posted by dakotabiker in Rides.
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Trip wrap-up is still in the works… but here are a few numbers for those of you who like such things…

Between the two loops I had travelled 10,553 miles bringing my odometer to 44,531. 

3200 miles was to attend the LRO/LCROSS launch, but a breakdown in Florida forced a ride extension to make a meeting in Huntsville, AL that I could no longer fly to.  The Florida loop marks my southern-most excursion on the bike in Sebastian, Florida at a latitude of N27 °49.1491′. 

7,353 miles was the loop to California.  This loop marks my northern-most point in Boardman, Oregon at latitude N45° 50.4500′ and my farthest west point in Wolf Creek, Oregon at longitude W123° 23.6230′.

tripmap

I was on the road a total of 47 days: 21 on the Florida loop (much of which working LRO/LCROSS while in Florida), and 26 days on the California loop (including a short-week family reunion in wine country).  I had a total of 4 days at home between the two trips, so while my C2C Blog day count is only for the California vacation portion, I tend to count both loops as I single trip for totals.

During the combined trip I was in 2 countries, 35 states, and 1 province. and traveled the coasts of 2 oceans.  I accumlated 62 ABC points (14 on the FL loop, 48 on the CA loop) bring my current 2009 total to 90 points (which gets all the free stuff but a big margin, but is no where close to winning the awards for the top 3 + 10 runners up). 

I had 2 breakdowns significant enough to warrant a trailer (both on the Florida loop), and made a total of 5 service stops including:

  • 35,000 mile service (FL)
  • Fuel pump replacement (FL #2)
  • Battery replacement (AL)
  • Taillight terminal board replacement (SD)
  • Tire replacement (SD)
  • 38,000 mile (interim optional) service  (SD)
  • 40,000 service including fork oil replacement (CA)
  • Jiffystand realignment (CA)
  • Fuel check valve replacement (CA)

And am now due for 45,000 service shortly.

I stayed in 26 hotels/motels/resorts, 1 campground, and 2 homes of relatives for 30 different waking up locations over 51 days (including home). 

I won a total of $191 dollars and three $15 dollar bar tabs in four sessions of gambling, and had my room comp’d in Vegas.

I had three (official) interactions with three law enforcement officers resulting in one warning for speeding, one verbal notice of my taillight being out, and one citation for speeding. 

I experienced two bouts of heat exhaustion (curiously coincident with the speeding violations), and saw the highest temperature in which I had ridden, 115°F. 

I had four paid admissions to National Parks and Monuments, and countless free-access rides to many more National forest, preserve, nature, and historical areas. 

I traveled by motorcycle, ferry, train (the Wine Train), and bus (when the Wine Train broke down).  I went to four museums. 

I ate 5 ribeyes, and an embarrassing amount of fast food.  I discovered a penchant for Red Bull.

I only lost one shirt, and bought 6.  I shipped to myself a total of 4 times (twice on the Florida loop to accommodate the volume of work-related luggage, and twice on the CA loop to unfetter myself of purchases and unused camping gear). 

Cost?  I probably won’t even try to figure out how much I spent.

Up next… the Wrap Up.

C2C Day 20: Swinging Ribeye July 21, 2009

Posted by dakotabiker in Rides.
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Some time ago I watched a miniseries on the Food Network called Feasting on Asphalt, where the host, Alton Brown rode his motorcycle across America eating only “road food “- i.e. dining only on that which one finds in the little local roadside cafes, diners, and dives.  He had two rules: Avoid the interstates where possible, and absolutely no chain restaurants.  The show is really quite inspirational both from a biker and “foodie” point of view.  In the first series he went to three places that I vowed I would as well:  B&R Old Fashioned hamburgers in Hawthorne, CA; Dino’s Dogs also in Hawthorne, and the Mexican Hat Lodge in Mexican Hat, UT.  I had gone to the first two on business trips to Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, CA during the development of the LCROSS spacecraft.  …but that is another story.  This one deals with the Mexican Hat Lodge’s Swinging Ribeye.

I was quite lucky bedding down in Kanab the day before.  The weather in the entire area turned quite nasty for riding and I managed to get a lot of work done on the blog.  That evening, I enjoyed a nice cesar salad, ribeye, and a couple of glasses of wine at their at the Rocking V there in Kanab (I recommend it.)

Having started the trend of departing early to beat the heat, I stood to arrive at Mexican Hat quite early.  I packed the bike and left Kanab, UT via US-89 to Page, AZ.  It was a very pleasant morning ride with great scenary.  Lake Powell seemed starkly (but beautifully) desolate.  There were housing developments going up there, and while I found the scenery quite lovely to look at, the whole aura of the place has a harshness that would preclude me from building a house to live there.  Lake Powell is formed by the Glen Canyon Dam which is crossed by US-89.  Crossing over and seeing the resulting canyon was really amazing.  Sheer red walls to the Colorado River far far below.  I was very impressed (again). 

I got off US-89 to enter Page to find gas and coffee.  The town is not that old, established in 1957.  I rather liked it.  It is a well proportioned blend of city convenience, country friendliness, and rustic scenery.  I would like to go back and spend more time there. 

Standing out in front of the Circle K while drinking my morning coffee, my bike caught the attention of a gentleman who asked me about my trip.  We chatted for a while.  Orginally from Alabama, he and his wife rode around the countryside the on his Harley for eight years until she developed MS.  She started having trouble with the heat, and getting on and off the bike.  When he would start the engine, tears would come to her eyes at the thought of him being on the road without her.  So he sold the bike, and bought her a convertible: their “Harley with a windshield”.  He stood staring at my bike as he spoke.  We wished me well and advised that I keep riding for as long as I can.

I went back to US-89 south to pick up SR-98  crossing  into the Navajo Indian Reservation.  The road that early morning was very desolate, the kind of conditions I love to ride.  The scenery continued to wow me with so many beautiful erosion-induced rock formations, mesas, ravines, and washes. 

On SR-98, I happend upon another biker (Jim) coming the opposite direction who was just pulling over to the shoulder looking back at the road behind him as if something had fallen off…  something vital had.  I pulled over and asked if he needed assistance.  He had lost his cup… a special cup for his Capt’ Morgan and water that he carries with him.  Figuring there was little I could do about that, other than keep my eyes peeled, I wished him good luck and continued on scanning the road.  Until about a mile up, I saw a steel cylinder lying in the middle of the road.  I pulled over and picked up the cup just as Jim was coming up behind.  He stopped his bike and we got to talking about our trips.  Jim had been laid off a while back and decided now was the time for a big trip.  Dipping into his 401k, he was travelling a western states route meeting up with friends along the way.  Monterey, CA was on his agenda, so I told him about the CA-1 ride a few days earlier.  We talked for a while longer and went our separate ways. 

I picked up US-160 to US-163 which head back into Utah.  The scenary was nice: wide open spaces with large mesas and rock formations in the distance.  I approached Monument Valley; the road seemed to be guarded by two memorable formations.  On the right Agathia Peak rising powerfully and majestically up from the plain.  On the left, Owl Rock perched upon a ridge (though to me, at certain angles, it looked oddly like the bassett hound god).  Riding closer, more mesas and formations reached from the earth.  While very impressive, the distance lacked the intimacy I had experienced at Zion National Park.  I started up the road to the park entrance, but slowed and turned back feeling that given the distances, even the park view would not be much better than that from the road.

mon-valley-pan

I continued up US-163 to Mexican Hat, a tiny little town on the San Juan river named after a nearby rock formation.  As you may have seen from my earlier megatweet, I had arranged to stay in the Lodge TeePee thinking that was pretty much all that was available.  I was warned that the TeePee was not particularly comfortable in the heat, and the heat was coming on as I arrived in early afternoon.  It had no shower or bathroom, though there was a campground shower/bathroom available.  But one of the biggest drawbacks was no wifi, and I had an afternoon free to work on the blog.

I still regret the the decision to cancel the TeePee.  I ended up in the San Juan motel by the river.  Small but comfortable, and I managed to crank out three days worth of blog articles that afternoon… So I guess it was good in the practical sense, but I still kind of rue the decision.

The Mexican Hat Lodge was open for steaks at 6:oopm, so I worked on the blogs, got a shower and rode over.  It was better than I remembered in the show.  It was outdoor dining with the tables set up in a small patio where the infamous grill was set: a long metal box housing the wood fire, and over it, a large rectanguler grill swinging lazily back and forth over the flames.  The setup is great and allowing great conversation with the owner as he is cooking.  I talked with him for quite a while, a really amicable gentleman.  I identified myself as the guy that backed out of the TeePee – he had no problem at all, and rented it soon after I cancelled.  (Mexican Hat was packed)  I told him my story of seeing him on the Food Network and planning my return ride around this steak.  We talked for a while about flame cooking and steaks (how each individual steak has its own personality) and a little about country music. 

As the story goes, years ago he ran out of coals to cook the steaks and was forced to cook with wood.  But cooking over an open flame was so time intensive to avoid overooking, that he didn’t have time to tend the wood and fire.  So, he rigged up the swing to keep the steaks in a constant flame-kissed state without burning up.  Personally I love the taste of meat kissed by wood or charcoal flame much better than the radiant heat of coals or especially gas.  So this was a dream come true for me.

swinging-ribeye

The menu was focused on the meat.  An 18 ounce Ribeye, a 12 ounce New York Strip, an 8 ounce burger (I think there was chicken in there as well)…  For sides: beans and salad with the house dressing.  That’s it… no other veggies or substitutions.  Clear, simple, and carnivorous.  The meal is served on one of those hot metal plates.  The metal plates are kept in the top on an antique wood burning stove.  When the steak is ready, a plate is pulled from the stove and a ladle of beans is added with a hiss.  The salad is place in the middle right on top of the bean spillover, and the steak added at the end. 

mexhat-ribeye

The steak was excellent.  My preferred preperation is charred medium rare, which is quite difficult to do with a cut as thick as 18 ounce.  Mine still had a bit of “moo” in the middle, but he had no problems at all with throwing the middle back on for a little while essentially creating two great meals for me with a little break in between. 

Though the band wasn’t playing that night, I spoke with the band leader (who I think is the owner’s father).  Ialso had a great conversation and chance to practice speaking German with a charming mother/daughter travelling team from northern Germany who were touring the western US before heading on a New York shopping spree. 

With my stomach full, I made a fairly early evening of it, again figuring to rise early to beat the heat, but stayed up quite a bit later than I planned adding photos to the blog… at least I got caught up a bit, justifying the TeePee for wifi trade… Maybe??

I gotta TeePee!! July 20, 2009

Posted by dakotabiker in MegaTweet, Rides.
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UPDATE:

I really really hate to admit this, but I have to stay true to the story…

The teepee has no wifi, no bathroom, no shower (which is kind of why it doesn’t rent well).  Pulling into Mexican Hat, I saw motels with AC, bathrooms, showers, wifi, and vacancy…  so I wimped out and cancelled the Teepee and checked into the San Juan Inn on the San Juan river for about the same price.  For the record, I did call the Mex Hat Lodge and asked if they would have any problem with my cancelling in the interest of bath and wifi – and they were cool with it. 

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This is too wild.  As some of you may know, the focus of my southern route home (besides collecting states) was to have a Swinging Ribeye at the Mexican Hat Lodge. Figuring hotel vacancy may be at a premium, I just called to book a room… and of course they were “booked solid”.  I told the guy about the trip and how I arranged my southern route for the express purpose of having a Swinging Ribeye — so he is renting me the TeePee!  Apparently even when full-up they don’t rent the TeePee as it is a little “uncomfortable”, but it has a bed and it is all mine. You have to see this…  I can’t wait.  The adventure continues.