This was my second, and consecutive time to go to the Vet Nationals at Glen Helen. Last year, my wife and I drove non-stop, and although we did see some unique and beautiful scenery, we missed some due to darkness. This year, she wasn't able to go, so I loaded my ole 94 Toyota truck up with the bare essentials, and met Clement at his condo fort, and headed out. He said he knew a short cut across Houston, and just to follow close. Next thing I know, I crashing through these toll things, and I have nothing that says I can be on there. Since we were caravanning to Cali, I followed on through. I figure I'll be getting some fee's/notices in the mail eventually.
It took all-day, but we finally made it to El Paso, but we went on into New Mexico, and stayed at a Motel 6 in Las Cruces for the night. Mike had everything locked in his van, but I had to unload and adorn the room with the latest MX decor. We rolled out the next morning for the rest of the road trip adventure.
After another all-day drive across New Mexico and Arizona, we finally rolled up to the Cali border, in which everyone exits and goes through a check point. Right before you get to the check point exit, there are cameras and x-ray looking things. I'm sure your plate is run automatically, and the x-ray techs are looking for anything odd. Plus there is a dog that walks your vehicle, while the other BP agent says come on through. I reckon they are looking for suspicious vehicles/contents, and odd occupant behaviors.
We cruised the Southern Cal mountains doted with wind mills, then went straight on to the track, and dealt with the motel later on that evening. The first day of practice was open practice. I hit the track every chance I could, so as to anneal to the brutal conditions. Although the track did get destroyed, I was second person on the track that morning, and finally got a chance ride it thick, deep and smooth. It was so fast with wide open flat-tracking, and step lean angle conditions. But it did take long for it to get ugly, and slow me down. Open practice had some fast kids on 250f's, just flogging them. The were parking people on berms, and diving to the insides from a berm, and would take out your front end if you weren't watching. But I stayed steady and made them earn it. Second day was organized Vets only practice, and I rode as much as I could that day too. Both days I felt really good, loose, and confident.
Race day I signed up for the 50 and 55 expert. Hoping once again to get in the top 10, and not get carted off the track. Last year I was on my 2014 Sx with 220 hours, and managed to get in the top 10, 3 out of 4 motos. I figured since I was on a new 350sx-f, and had a little experience under my belt, I should be able to pull this off again.
All four motos I had good reaction time and jumps out of the gate, but immediately, the front end would lift, and when I feathered the clutch, or eased up off the throttle, you were immediately passed and shuffled towards the back. I fell in one moto where it was super sandy and loose; with the bike hanging over a steep berm. By the time I drug my bike downhill to a spot where I could stand it up and remount, the pack was long gone. So I decided to set at the finish and cross the checker. I didn't want to quit, but wanted to reduce the chance of an injury, and regroup for other motos. I think the best I cold muster was a 12-13 and I think and 14-15. But I was there for the experience, and an eye opening experience it was.
On a somewhat related topic, I parked right behind the scoring tower and sigh up building next to the fence. One the first day I noticed these MX vans rolling in and surrounding me. There was Honda, Suzuki, KTM, Husqvarna, Yamaha and Kawasaki. Come to find out, it was a bike testing event with a film crew there too, but don't know what company was filming, or for who. They had some fast young guns on these new steeds too.
Each evening after practice/race, I ate supper next door to the motel at Sizzler. First night there I had a grande cheese burger with burnt crispy bacon, crunchy onions, and tart mustard. After that, it was angel hair pasta with alfredo, shrimp, and chicken for the rest of the week. Something I noticed while going back and forth to the track and motel, and may or may not have mentioned from last years story, was cell phone towers with fake tree branches adorning them. Also, the major street signs on the highways were your normal looking galvanized steel frames, but most of the small sign post in area, were wooden post. I'm guessing this was something environmental related, but not sure. Also I stopped at the Chaparral store while I was there too. That place is huge. It must be an 1/8 of a mile long, and deep too. It would take all day to see their inventory. Plus in the back of the store, was what looked like new bike arrival storage, and a service center too. I think the only thing they don't have in stock, were bike frames, and I may be wrong on that.
On the way back to Texas it was daytime, and on a Sunday. I had seen plenty of hills/mountains, and assumed riding areas across the Southwest, but had never seen anyone out in those areas. Well, this time it was on a weekend, and there was bikes, utv's, sand rails, and desert trucks. I was cool to see motorhomes, campers, tents, canopies and trucks off in the desert, and off-road vehicles ripping it up. At one point, I had truck pass me on the interstate with a razor looking utv on a trailer, and the entire right front suspension assembly was sheered off. I'm sure there is a You-tube moment behind that.
Got a good look at Phoenix Az this time too; it's huge. I'm estimating it was about a 45 minute drive from one side to the other. But I'm sure it's similar to H-town in that it has swallowed up many of the outlying communities making it larger than the actual city limit lines. Tucson is considerably smaller, but was a neat town too. There was this one section of I-10, and I'm thinking it was in New Mexico, or there a bouts, but as you were coming through this mountain pass, there was the usual signs that say: "beware of falling rocks." Well, it should have said beware of falling rocks the size of a house, and right next to the right of way. A lot of these rocks were huge vertical monoliths, and precariously perched up against each other right on the right of way. If one of these behemoths broke loose, say good day mate if you don't see it coming .
The entire trip I never used my a.c., but cold enough that I used my heater, and with the windows down on occasion. At 65-70 mph, I averaged about 26 mpg. I would stop about every 1/4 tank or so just to stretch, get coffee/Red Bull, and say high to locals. There are some long 1000 yard stare stretches across there. There were a few times I pulled over and said hi to some cacti and small animals.
I hit the Texas border, and cruised on through El Paso. About 20 or so miles East of El Paso, you have to go through a border crossing stop. Same thing with cameras and x-ray looking set ups. There was a BP officer with a dog, and the other officer standing at the arm-gate. As I rolled up, he said: "state your nationality". I looked at him, grinned, and in my best southern Texas drawl, I said "Texan". He laughed, rolled his eyes, and motioned me on through.
From the moto aspect, I didn't do as was well as I hoped and expected, but a road trip is always worth it. You can always see and learn new things with the right outlook. Shoot, I even got to see a part of San Antonio I had never seen before while heading to Cali. I missed the I-10/I-35 chicane/interchange, and ended up well West on Hwy 90 before I realized what I had done; beautiful, but a little out of the way.
Where there is to much, something is missing.
Great write-up Monte! Really makes me wish that this site was more picture friendly; would love to see some shots!
1983 Yamaha YZ100 1980 Suzuki RM 125 1979 Yamaha YZ250 1982 Honda MB5 2002 Honda CR125