July 26, 2005 – Tuesday – Day 31

48 States or Bust – The USA on Two Wheels
Miles Today: 383 – Total Miles: 7572 – Average: 244.2 (travel days)
10:30AM-7PM (8.5hrs)
(-staying at a Days Inn) NV (27/48)

It seems to me that some of you readers may not know anything about motorcycles. Here’s a primer on how they work. I am surely no expert, so perhaps you should take that into account when reading.

Well, a motorcycle usually has two wheels – but there are also trikes out there.
It’s my understanding that the gasoline put into the engine sets off a sparking bit of energy that makes some cylinders of some kind go up and down, which in turn moves a chain or leather belt that turns the wheels. (Millions of years’ worth of prehistoric animals that died for this – a tip of the hat to you, and thank you!) There are various complicated other ways the above happen, but I think you get the gist of it. Anyway, one used to start a motorcycle by kickstarting it. That created the force to get the whole process going. As far as I can tell, all bikes worth anything have a little button that works as an electric ignition.

Well, after the bike is turned on with a key, that ignition button is pushed and assuming the bike gears are in neutral, the engine should start purring away. (If the bike isn’t in neutral, and the gear shift lever isn’t held in, then the bike will buck out of control.)

Okay, on each of the handlebars there is a lever. The right handlebar lever is the brake for the front wheel. (The brake for the back wheel is operated by a lever near the right foot.) The left handlebar lever is for the clutch. One squeezes this to engage the gears, much like pushing down on the clutch with your foot in a car. Motorcycles usually have five or six gears I think. The toe of the left foot moves the gearing. A little lever there pushed down is first gear. Lifting the lever with your left big toe (usually in a boot) moves the bike into neutral. Then lifting the lever again with your toe moves the bike into second gear. And so on up to the bike’s highest gear (for when you’re moving really fast). When you go slower or faster you push the gears down (or up) in tandem with pulling in that gear-shift lever on the left handlebar.

So after lifting your leg over the bike, you straddle it. Then engage the first gear, slowly release the clutch while turning the end of the right handlebar (the accelerator), lift your feet to the pegs and off you go.

When riding, there are generally two positions. One with feet on the regular pegs (the right one near the brake lever, the left one near the gearshift lever). Or if one has crash bars (bars that curve out from each side of the bike to take the brunt of a fall should the bike tip over), one could put cruiser pegs on these bars and put his or her feet up on these pegs. It’s good to change positions occasionally on a long trip. And sometimes I ride with one foot up and the other down.


We slept late because we were up late last night. But it wasn’t our fault this time – seems the shower stall of the motel backed-up, the guy never came to fix it, and it was 11pm before they finally gave us a key to the (unoccupied) room next door to use its shower!

It was basically a head-down hard riding day though the southwest. Came up short against darkness and cold though for the planned 500 mile day.

Rode the 130 miles into Gallup and though it was a delightful ride, there was much more wind-buffeting than yesterday. Also, the scenery had continued to level out and there were hardly any dramatic mountain rises or cliffs. All day it was a cool delightful ride – much to our surprise.

Had lunch in Gallup before getting on the big highway, I-40, to cross New Mexico. As we were getting on the bike, a boy of about 9 years old came running excitedly out of the Taco Bell and wanted to know how many states we’ve been in. Karen told him 27 and that we’d be going to Texas next. The boy very proudly said, “THAT’S where I come from!”

Had a note from friend Wayne the other day and he wondered if we had seen many of those dark skid marks on the desert highway and then veering off to the side of the road usually. Actually, yes, we had seen a bunch of them. He said he had read or heard that those skid marks were made by drivers who were on long trips who had fallen asleep while driving and then awoke with the horror of their situation.

Once we got on the other side of Albuquerque, it became very cool as we were on a side of some storm front. And as we rode further it became actually cold. I could see my breath as it slightly fogged up the inside of my helmet. By the end of the riding day, I was actually shuddering. (Had talked with my sister by phone today. She lives near Philadelphia and she said they were having a heat wave of 98 degrees weather with high humidity!) Hard to believe Karen and I had the coolest of the two places here in the Southwest.

Yep, rode with the Arizona Chapter of the Hell’s Angels this afternoon. As we streaked down Interstate 40, I saw them cross on a bridge over the highway. There were about 20 of ‘em maybe. Then, in a little while after they came down onto the interstate, they came right up and rode beside us in the passing lane. Then they passed us. So we rode together for about at least five or six seconds. I’m not sure we exactly blended in with our yellow outfits, but they didn’t seem to mind. They rode right on. Actually, I’m not sure whether they noticed us or not.

We arrived in Santa Rosa, cold and butt-sore, with evening approaching. We stood at the gas station trying to decide whether to go on or not, but then inertia kept us in the town. I checked out a couple places along motel row here and we ended up in a very nicely appointed Days Inn with high hopes of getting a good night’s sleep. As you’ll read tomorrow, it was not to be.

Author: Joel Perlish

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