Day 3, Leg 3, 2012-2013 Winter Motorcycle Adventure

Saturday, March 2, 2013

These upper 20-degree mornings aren’t conducive to early starts on the bike, but they are great for leisurely breakfasts and chats with the local folks. This morning was my favorite such breakfast at L&L Family Restaurant in Breckenridge, TX.

As I walked inside, several older people were leaving, and a cute little old lady said to me, “Are yeew rahdin’ on the back a that man’s bahk this cold morning’?”  I replied, “No ma’am, I’m riding my own bike!” That gave her just a moment of pause, and then she exclaimed, “ Well good for yeew!” I love these people!

Then we chatted with a retired gentleman at the table next to us throughout breakfast. He wanted to know all about us, and he shared a bit about Breckenridge (mostly oil and ranching for industry) and himself and his own travels. He mentioned that he once met a couple who was visiting the Breckenridge area from out East. They were taking a lot of pictures of a tree, and exclaiming over its beauty. He said, “It just looked like a skinny ol’ tree to me, but I guess we take things for granted when we see them every day.”

I often think about how blessed and grateful I am to have the opportunity to experience the people and places we come across during our travels. This man’s comments made me think about how our presence impacts those we interact with along the way, too.  And perhaps our appreciation of the grand – and sometimes homely – beauty of  people and environments help the local people see their surroundings and each other through the more appreciative eyes of passing strangers.

It’s a relatively short drive into Dallas today, where we found our storage unit, and checked in. Dallas / Ft. Worth is a maze of construction and spaghetti freeways. I do not like driving my bike on freeways, especially when they are under construction and hundreds of feet up in the air! Thanks to our AWESOME Sema headsets, and my MARVELOUS sweetheart who does all the navigational planning, we got through the city driving without mishap.

After a quick salad at McDonald’s (I don’t remember how many years it’s been since I’ve eaten at McDonalds!) and taking advantage of their Wifi, we headed North to Prosper, TX, to visit and spend the night with our friend Tonja and her family. We enjoyed a wonderful evening of cooking, eating, wine, meeting the kids and fellowship! And I thoroughly enjoyed working the stress kinks of freeway driving out of my back with a soak in Tonja’s tub and a solid night’s sleep.

After nearly a week of masterminding and biking, I’m ready for the flight home tomorrow!

Love, Tomboy Tam

Day 2, Leg 3, 2012-2013 Winter Motorcycle Adventure

Friday, March 1, 2013

After a quick breakfast at the hotel in Hobbs, my sweetheart (SH) and I continued East on Hwy 180, starting the day dressed warmer than yesterday’s start, including the addition of chaps, a neck-warmer and my light down jacket under my armored jacket for me, and winter gloves and light jacket as a liner for my sweetheart. The sun is warm, but when we start out in the high 30-degree levels, the wind is chilly, even for these Minnesotans!

We stopped in Lamesa at a Mexican family restaurant to warm up / snack / coffee break. Then we continued on Hwy 180, enjoying the changing landscape that includes desert, oil, hills, mountains, some trees, increasing agriculture and ranching – and long stretches with a whole lot of nothing! We always seem to find the beauty in our travels, even in the desolation of sparsely populated, remote areas that include long, pancake flat stretches of straight highway. Loving 75 mph posted speed limits.

It’s a windy today, and the fields of windmills near Albany are good indicators that my arms will ache by the end of the day from balancing the bike against the gusty northwest breezes. Although it is the windiest little city, I love Albany, TX, population about 2,000! It appears to be a much more affluent town than Snyder or Lamesa. We had a latte at a very cute and historic drug store, shopped for souvenirs in a gift shop, where we chatted with a charming store clerk (who gave me a postage stamp for my postcard to SH’s Uncle Walter).

We didn’t take the time to visit the Old Jailhouse Art Center, but the lady in the Chamber of Commerce was eager to tell us all about it. If I were to move to a small town in Texas, I would be likely to choose Albany!

The Ridge Motel in Breckenridge, TX, is our stopping point for the night. I collapsed for a short nap, and was tempted to stay there all night, until my empty stomach convinced me to get up. We walked over to Ernie’s Spanish Kitchen for dinner, where SH had a burritto and I had a delicious rib-eye steak. It can be tricky finding gluten-free food in the boonies. The servers often look at me like I’m speaking Chinese when I ask whether a dish is gluten-free!  I usually stick to eggs, salads and grilled meats, for the most part, on our travels.

The server was an energetic, sincere woman who must have had close to the same circumference and height measurements. The people in outstate Texas have been just delightful, hospitable, and interesting.

After our second 250-mile plus day in chilly, windy temps, I think I was sleeping before my head hit the pillow.  Tomorrow will find us back in the city.

Love, Tomboy Tam

Day 1, Leg 3, 2012-2013 Winter Motorcycle Adventure

Thursday, Feb 28, 2013

Another early rise found us walking next door to Denny’s for breakfast and a couple of calls for TRK Communications work. I’m grateful to have the flexibility to travel while taking care of work obligations. My sweetheart (SH) is also managing work contacts and deliverables from afar this week.

We walked the mile or so downhill to the CubeSmart storage facility where our bikes have been stored since late January. Good news! SH’s bike fired right up, unlike the rocky start of last month’s journey, which began with a dead battery. He disconnected the battery this time, which may have been the solution.

We drove the bikes back to the hotel and washed a heavy coating of dust off of them – in spite of having covered them in the storage unit! It’s been cold and windy here in TX. Then we loaded up our gear, stopped at the gas station next door to top off the gas tanks and air in the tires, and off we went, at about 9:30 a.m. in 43 degrees!

Hwy 62/180 East took us out of town – with lots of stoplights and “adult” stores along the never-ending outskirts of El Paso. I’m wishing I had dressed a little warmer, but am thrilled with the heated handgrips on my bike!

After a very flat and arid start, the landscape became more mountainous. Guadelupe Pass was beautiful, with some fun curves without being scary.

Upon the recommendation of my brother and sister-in-law, who started their careers in El Paso after they graduated from college, our first destination was the caverns near Carlsbad, NM.  After stopping for coffee and a warm up, we headed up the hill to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, where we explored the Big Room Route for about an hour and a half. I’ve been in caverns before, but nothing this big! I highly recommend a visit here, if you are in the neighborhood.

Our journey continued on Hwy 180 (75 mph posted speed limit on this secondary highway!) to Hobbs, NM, where we would spend the night at Country Inn and Suites. Hotel rooms are hard to come by in this oil country! Temperatures slowly climbed into the 50s, with lots of sun and not much wind today.

We arrived in Hobbs well before dusk, and eventually headed to nearby Babe’s Sports Bar. What a treat awaited us there! Around one of the high top bar tables were three men and a women who took turns jamming country tunes – two guitars, a lead vocalist with harmony provided by one of the others. One of the guys left, and another arrived, and the new guy kicked the quality of the performance up a big notch. One of the guys in the group from that table told us that this guy has written a couple of songs that were hits for Trace Adkins (I think that’s what he said – hard to hear over the noise). This evening ranks in my top 5 for motorcycle adventure, small town Americana experiences!

Back at the hotel, I worked for several hours on TRK Communications deliverables before hitting the pillow about midnight.

Happy birthday, Dad. Hope heaven is great place to celebrate!

Love, Tomboy Tam

The adventure continues

Monday, Feb 25, 2013

After packing in a full Monday of TRK Communications consulting work for my current client, I began a week of adventure when I boarded a Southwest flight about 4:30 p.m. to Los Angeles to attend a James Malinchak mastermind meeting.  My sweetheart (SH) and I joined this group after attending Malinchak’s bootcamp back in December, where we were inspired with many marketing and business building ideas.

I love Southwest Airlines! The didn’t charge me for making a change to my departure date, the flight loads quickly, the staff is super friendly and fun, and they departed and arrived on time!

My connection in Denver was uneventful, in spite of the heavy snow they had there yesterday. SH left early this morning, and had a slight delay here before arriving in L.A. to take the amazing 103 year old Uncle Walter to lunch.

I met up with SH at the Westin near the L.A. airport about 9 p.m. Looking forward to a day and a half of exciting business building work before we launch the road trip segment of this week’s adventure!

What new beginnings are exciting you these days?

Love, Tomboy Tam

Day 5 and final of Leg 2, 2012-2013 Winter Motorcycle Adventure

January 21, 2013: Back to the real world today, where I work to live (not live to work), which makes fun and adventure possible.  It is also where I connect with my family and friends to share joy, sorrow, hopes and fears. And with whom I give and receive support through life’s challenges and accomplishments. Little did I know, as I was brushing my teeth this morning, that I would also be sharing sorrow and support with a complete stranger today.

We were chatting with the La Quinta shuttle driver on the way to the El Paso airport at 7 a.m. today, when she suddenly blurted that her nephew was in an accident on New Years Eve that resulted in his death. She went on to share a fair amount of detail about his accident, death and subsequent arrangements. As we pulled up to the airport, I offered her my condolences and quietly shared with her that my 17-year old nephew had also been killed in an accident on New Year’s Eve. I expressed our kindred pain.

As she helped me take my bag out of the back of the van, she hugged me and told me that she would be attending to cremation details later today, in support of her sister — as I was in North Dakota for a week prior to our motorcycle adventure, in support of my brother. She wished God’s blessing on me and my family, and I reciprocated.

What are the chances that in a La Quinta van in El Paso, TX, I would be confronted with sorrow that so closely mirrors that of my own family? I’ve been processing this encounter all day: Why I was connected in such an intimate way with a stranger this morning? What lesson was I supposed to learn from it? What did this experience mean for me?

I called my oldest daughter tonight to tell her I had returned home safely, and catch up with recent events in her life. I told her about the conversation with the shuttle driver, and my questions. With the wisdom that often startles a mother, when coming from her child (even a well-into-adulthood child), my daughter said, “Maybe the reason was because she needed you, not that you were meant to get something from her.” Wow. I am a humble learner on this journey.

So, my Sweetheart (SH) and I boarded American Airlines’ 9:00 a.m. flight from El Paso to Dallas. There, we connected with the 12:45 flight to Minneapolis to continue our reentry into the real world. Grateful for five wonderful days exploring geography, relationships, spiritual connectedness and the meaning of life — the Zen of Motorcycle Adventuring with SH.

Somehow the 15 degrees below zero wind chill in Minneapolis didn’t seem so bad, in light of the warmth of my youngest daughter’s greetings when she picked us up at the light rail station to save us from a five block walk home. Furthermore, loss, love and sunlight can bring a lot of perspective to a mere temperature reading.

Later this week, I’ll share the full (high-level) 2012-2013 Motorcycle Adventure itinerary AND some tips and gear feedback for those of you planning your own adventures.

Glad to be home.

Love, Tomboy Tam

Day 4, Leg 2, 2012-2013 Winter Motorcycle Adventure

January 20, 2013: Bonus day! My Sweetheart (SH), motorcycle adventure planner extraordinaire, built a day into the schedule for unexpected delays and to check in to the storage unit where our bikes will rest for 39 days until we begin the next leg of our adventure. The office of the storage place was only open from 11 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., so exploring the region on our bikes was not a good option for making the most of the day.  Our adventures are never thwarted by mere logistics, which we demonstrated by renting a car.

We had a great breakfast at Denny’s, next door to our La Quinta. Then we caught the motel shuttle to the El Paso airport to pick up a Ford Fusion from Thrifty at 8:00 a.m. under sunny skies and 46 degrees. I am grateful for the great suggestions for “must do” activities on our play day in the area from my brother and sister-in-law, who lived in El Paso 23 years ago.

From the airport we drove the Trans Mountain Road, which dissects the mountain that divides east and west El Paso. On our way to take a picture of the house my brother and his young family lived in “back in the day,” we stopped at The Bagel Shop on Resler Road for my beloved latte and some blogging time in this pleasant, inviting environment.  After snapping the photos and sending to my brother for nostalgia’s sake, we headed back to the motel to get our bikes tucked away into storage.

That task finished, we pointed the Ford in the direction – I thought – of White Sands, one of my brother’s recommendations. When I Googled White Sands, the first thing that came up was White Sands Missile Base, including directions and a little bit of background, so I thought we were headed for a history lesson. After reaching the gates, we found that we mere civilians were not welcome to go further. As a security measure, I’m sure, there is no bypass road to cut through to the highway that would take us to White Sands National Monument, which was the intended recommendation!

The “wrong” trip to White Sands Missile Base was actually pretty interesting. So we weren’t overly bummed about a long re-route, which took us through Los Cruces, NM, where we stopped at a gas station to grab coffee and a snack.

On Hwy 70 East, traffic was funneled through a customs / homeland security checkpoint through which we were filmed with multiple video cameras and ultimately had to stop for a brief encounter with an officer who glanced in the car and wished us a good day. I have to tell you, it was a little creepy — I wondered what is next in the evolution of government oversight of its own citizens. I know I’m flirting with a very complex topic with many passionate points of view. I only mention it to encourage myself and each of you to consider increasing our awareness of what is occurring in the name of security to make sure We the People, whom the government exists to serve, are informed as we make decisions about the individuals and institutions we hire for that service.

We were racing the sun at this point, but for some reason, it was really important to me that we see White Sands. After arriving there, I understood the reason. In the middle of nowhere, the White Sands emerge like a brilliant diamond from the surrounding mountains and relatively plain desert landscape, a mystical place full of ancient and contemporary spirits. The temperature dropped several degrees in the area. In the 4:30 p.m. twilight, the sun played with the pure white sand dunes and the mountain shadows to create a magical mood that moved me to tears. I was grateful to be sharing the experience with SH, yet there was something very personally powerful this place offered me. I’ll be processing this for some time.

I snapped pictures until I killed the battery of my little Nikon, wishing I had my Canon D50, but knowing that neither will capture the profundity of the experience. That will be for my heart to hold.

We chose to return to El Paso through Alamagordo, NM, an 88 mile route. The area is frying pan flat, surrounded by mountain ranges. The range to the west, which we completely circled in our travels today, looked like the backs of a line of slumbering dinosaurs, backlit by the fire of the setting sun. There was a lot of very poor housing in this stretch of highway, and actually is pretty consistent with the economic condition we observed in much of New Mexico. It appears to be a hard place to make a living.

On the outskirts of El Paso, we stopped for dinner at The Great American Land & Cattle Company. I had one of the best rib-eye steaks I’ve ever eaten, and SH was equally impressed with his burger. The “cowboy caviar” (baked beans) and coleslaw were also notably good. Great atmosphere and a manager who knew how to work the crowd – thank you Yelp! I’ll be adding my 5-star review there later.

After returning the Ford to Thrifty and catching the shuttle back to Room 148, we prepped for a 7 a.m. shuttle back to the airport to complete this leg of an awesome adventure.

Love, Tomboy Tam

Day3 , Leg 2, 2012-2013 Winter Motorcycle Adventure

January 19, 2013: Great to wake up this morning when my body told me it was ready to,   at 7 a.m. At that time, it was 21 degrees in Lordsburg, NM, which meant a leisurely morning waiting for the thermometer to rise to a point where it would be safe and comfortable to ride the motorcycles to our next destination — El Paso, TX.

We had breakfast in our hotel and enjoyed visiting with the Brownings, from my home state of ND. They are Bismarck residents who are spending a few weeks in Arizona. Then we chatted with a man from Arkansas who was in the area to get medical treatment for his wife. Talking with people from around the country is one of my favorite aspects of our adventures!

When the mercury hit 40 degrees and the clock showed 10:30 a.m Mountain Time, we were packed up and on the road – I-10 East to be exact. The sun was warm on our backs and we had prepared for these temps by packing and wearing layers that could be peeled off as the temp rose throughout the day.

Halfway between Lordsburg and Deming, NM, we crossed the Continental Divide at an elevation of about 4,500 feet. The desert has lots more native vegetation than Northwest Arizona, which we traveled on Leg 1 back in November, but the sand is still very unstable. We saw many highway signs warning us that zero visibility was possible due to high winds and blowing sand. Fortunately, the winds were light and the weather was friendly to these adventurers!

We stopped in Deming to top off the gas tanks and eat lunch at La Fonda, which the gas station attendant recommended. I love Mexican food, and my Sweetheart (SH) is usually agreeable to eat anywhere he can get a decent salad, so I was happy to follow up on that recommendation. The lunch buffet looked and smelled de-lish, but unfortunately they put flour in all their sauces, so the pickin’s were pretty slim for this gluten-free girl.

Although disappointed by a pretty plain lunch, we were delighted by a couple places in downtown Deming on Gold Avenue. The main business street that we rode into and through town had a lot of shuttered businesses, but downtown appeared to have a number of cute shops. I enjoyed my latte and SH his mocha (our “usuals” when we can find them!) in a Christian bookstore called The Wayfinder. After catching up with the world, thanks to The Wayfinder’s free WiFi, we stopped into a little boutique down the street on the way back to our bikes. I found my souvenir of the trip – a beautiful black wrap. But apparently the real reason we were drawn to the shop was the deeply touching conversation we had with the young woman shopkeeper – all about blessings and gratitude.

We avoid freeways on our adventures whenever possible, so we continued the day’s journey on NM Hwy 11, south of Deming, before turning east on NM Hwy 9, which would take us the remaining distance to El Paso. There is some agruculture in this area, including some kind of orchards – I’m going to research what types of trees they were – perhaps nuts?

We took a little side trip a few miles further south to take a peek at the United States / Mexico border. It was interesting and a little unnerving to see all the border patrol measures and activity. That whole area, all the way to El Paso, was crawling with border patrol SUVs, a blimp monitoring the area, radar stations in the middle of the desert terrain, etc.

We reached the El Paso city limits about 4 p.m., a little surprised at how large the urban area is, including the more industrial Juarez, Mexico, across the river. I’ve never liked city freeway driving on my motorcycle, and it’s even less enjoyable when I’m in unfamiliar territory.  However, I am proud of the fact that I’m now a competent biker in these conditions, after only three years of riding. I’m happy to have grown beyond “terrified” when riding in heavy freeway traffic!

We found our La Quinta near the airport without mishap – again very grateful,for our excellent helmet communicators! After locking up and covering the bikes, we rested, showered, and then took the hotel staff’s recommendation and their shuttle service to Carlos & Mickey’s Fine Mexican Dining. I loved this place! Live music, high energy, great people watching and fabulous food! I  enjoyed a margarita and SH a Corona as we chatted with two Army guys who are here attending the Academy while we waited for a table.  My chili-stuffed, bacon-wrapped jumbo shrimp were delectable and SH didn’t leave a crumb on his plate, so I’m assuming he was equally satisfied with his Steak Rancheros.

In all, a wonderful day of sights, sounds and sun! Tomorrow we will be El Paso tourists.

Hasta la vista!  Love, Tomboy Tam