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It was beyond humid. As I was packing my '08 Burgman 400 on the morning of April 17, I looked at the sky expecting rain, but the weatherman said no - just low clouds. I was still inside my subdivision when the humidity became liquid. No, not rain - just enough moisture to crap up the windshield.

And I was off on a ten day ride - five days to get to Las Vegas from deep South Texas, three days at a reunion, then five days back. Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah and Colorado. The weather stayed cloudy with a hint of mist all during the first day - and it was windy. Fortunately, the wind was behind me most of the time.

Riding the backroads, I came across the Eagle Ford shale area south of San Antonio. This is brush country, and until recently was good only for ranching. But the development of the technology known as fracking has turned places like Cotulla and Tilden into boomtowns. The two-lane road is traveled by lots of heavy trucks - and had some signs I had never seen before.



Seismic testing? I knew they were searching for more oil shale, but I half expected the feel the ground tremble as I rode through the area.

I refueled at Tilden, then put some more miles behind me before enjoying a plate of huevos rancheros at a cracked vinyl seat Mexican restaurant in Jourdanton. Back on the road, I was happy to finally roll into the Texas hill country. South Texas is boringly flat - not much excitement riding through endless miles of flat brushy terrain. As I neared Bandera, the rocky hills began and nicer vistas opened up. The road was not exactly the twisties, but it was a lot more interesting than the first hours of the ride.

The night was spent in Kerrville, but I enjoyed a nice conversation with two couples: one on a Goldwing trike and the other on a big Yamaha Star cruiser. Both bikes were pulling trailers.

A weather front was due to come through in the early morning, so when the lighting flash awakened me at 5:30, that was fine with me. Breakfast at six while I watched the rain, then I packed up. By the time I loaded the scoot, the rain had stopped. Leaving Kerrville, there was no wind but the temperature was dropping.

The wind came within ten minutes - sharp and from the north. But the Texas Hill Country is a motorcyclist's dream - lots of twisties and whopp-dee-dos. The winding ranch roads I took were great - little streams, old houses, sheep grazing.





Then the land flattens out into an area mostly level, but dotted with mesas and buttes. There are lots of ranches, but cowboy country has a new industry - wind farms, generating electricity. The West Texas wind is constant.



And I went through London.



The temperatures were in the high 40s, but it was the 35-40 mph wind that made me cold. "Hey Doug - there's always wind on a moving motorcycle." True, but our Burgmans have a lot of protection - windscreen, fairing, even protection for the legs and feet. But the wind was from the north, and I was often traveling west. The cross wind frosted my right side a bit, necessitating a few stops for hot chocolate. The wind also ruined my gas mileage. I usually run about 60-62 miles per gallon, but the stiff wind cut that to 52. One tank was a never-before-seen 48 mpg. Ugh! That's the kind a mileage a Harley gets.

Eventually I moved out onto the plains - not a mesa in sight - just lots of farmland irrigated with water from an aquifer. The land is incredibly flat. One town is known as Levelland.



As I was leaving Texas, the wind began to drop. The sun warmed me up a little and I began to look forward to the end of the day's ride. There was no sign welcoming me to New Mexico, but I knew it without any sign. The wide two-lane Texas country road with the broad shoulders gave way to a narrow road with no shoulders - and was very bumpy.

But I'd made it to New Mexico and I celebrated with a bowl of green chile stew.

I woke up the next morning at half past ridiculous, but having gone to bed early, I was refreshed and ready to go. An hour before sunrise in Portales, New Mexico, I opened my motel room door and found out it was colder than a mother in law's heart. Twenty seven degrees was a bit chilly for riding.

So I bundled up with everything I had - long johns, t-shirt, flannel shirt, fleece jacket, liner and finally, my riding jacket. Long johns, riding pants liner, then riding pants. Fur-lined gloves with liner. I felt like the Michelin Man.

Dawn was just breaking as I left town, heading west across the last cultivated land I would see the rest of the day. After an hour, I just had to stop for coffee and breakfast. My hands were very cold.





But, coffee, eggs and sausage warmed my heart and hands and I was off again. The land slowly changed from scrub to short grasses and scruffy bushes, then finally the New Mexico I love - the sculpted rocks with mountains. And yes - the famous fifty four shades of brown of the New Mexico landscape.



Lunch was in Socorro - New Mexico style enchiladas, meaning they are served flat rather than rolled, with green chile (of course) and an egg on top. Oh yum - heaven in my tummy.

And the rest of the high altitude ride was wonderful, riding through places like Pie Town and Datil.



The bike? She gave me a scare as I left Portales as the headlights did not work. But I think this was the first time she had been below freezing. After a little warmth, the lights came on and she ran beautifully for the rest of the day.



I’d made it to the White Mountains of Arizona. A shower was much needed and much enjoyed. It was supposed to be below freezing again in the morning, but later in the day, I would ride down out of the mountains into Phoenix - where it would be in the 80s. Hmmm - gonna have to find a place to shed the long johns and flannel shirt.

The high mountain town of Eagar, AZ, was gorgeous in the early morning light. When I went to breakfast, it was 39 degrees, yet when I returned to my room, it was already 45. The sun was warming the world quickly, so I eschewed the long johns, yet still wore the other stuff. I filled the tank at a convenience store that wasn't open yet (but the pumps were on), then down the road towards Show Low.

This was the kind of morning that keeps me coming back to riding. Bright sun, gorgeous high mountain scenery, no traffic. I came upon high mountain ponds as well as elk crossing signs. I had bugs in my teeth.





A cup of coffee in Show Low, then I began the long drop from over 7,000 feet to Phoenix' 1,500 feet - the change from 39 degrees to Phoenix' 91. I had to shed some extra clothes as I descended.



Phoenix must have a lot of motorcyclists. I waved at lots of them as they rode up into the mountains - I suppose to get out of the heat and to ride some twisties. Lots of chrome - clean chrome - not dirty bikes like mine. I may ride a scooter, but at least its not a garage queen. Stopping for gas in Payson, I struck up a conversation with a three Harley riders, and I fielded the usual "You rode from Texas on THAT?" One of them had owned his bike for seven years and had 5,000 miles on it. I've owned my scoot for two years and just turned 27,000 miles.

I made a mistake in my trip planning - I routed myself through Phoenix. Yuck! Saturday traffic - people out shopping, retirees poking along, and lots of stop-and-go. Once out of the city, I was out on the desert - very different from the mountains. The town of Wickenburg is a small artsy cowboy kinda town.

I love being in the desert. We once lived in the high desert of Albuquerque, NM, where the humidity was extremely low. But my body has become accustomed to high humidity while living in the Rio Grande Valley of Deep South Texas. It protested the dryness a little in Wickenburg, AZ, where it was drier than a popcorn fart. I set out on the last leg of the trip with cracked lips, dry nose and dry skin - and the humidity was 9%.

I had to stop and take some photos of the area - it reminded me so much of New Mexico, with the faux colonial and pueblo style buildings, with rugged mountains in the distance.





It is serious desert from Phoenix to Las Vegas. The road is dotted with little towns that have largely been abandoned. I loved the name of the only church in Hope, AZ.



I had lots of time to think and reflect as the miles rolled under my wheels. I have often derided the boredom of driving through The Big Empty of West Texas and eastern New Mexico, yet I enjoyed riding through the Mojave Desert. I suppose local riders see nothing to like about the rides through the desert, but would be intrigued by West Texas, seeing the crop circles created by the irrigation systems, the oil pump jacks and the (newish) wind farms. I guess it is what you are used to seeing. I was intrigued by the desert.

There are a lot more riders out here in the west than there are in south Texas. Leaving Wickenburg, I was passed by a rider on a BMW R1200R. I spotted him filling up, and pulled over to talk to him - a man about my age. Funny thing, we kept seeing each other the rest of the day, including while stopped for lunch in Needles, CA.

Finally, I rolled into Las Vegas. I won’t bore you with the details of a military reunion with guys I served with back in 1967. I remade old friendships and started new ones.

But, by Wednesday, April 24, I was back on the road.

After trudging through the lobby of the casino/hotel, carrying my top case and waterproof bag, I checked the oil and the tires. The scoot fired up and we headed home.

I wasn't able to avoid riding the Interstate. I wanted to go through southern Utah to ride some twisties, but had to ride the super slab to get there. Boring! The only interesting part of the trip was coping with the very stiff cross wind just north of Las Vegas.



But the ride along Utah Route 9 made it worth it. Actually, the road is Zion National Park. Normally, one must pay a $25 entrance fee, but the smiling park ranger at the gate said "Its all free this week", and I rode in. There is too much other traffic to do the kind of centerstand-scraping twisty ride a lot of motorcyclists might want to do, but the scenery was spectacular. There is a mile long tunnel cut through the rock and spectacular vistas. They have done a great job of providing lots of pull-over places for photos and ogling. I chatted with a couple from Manitoba on their BWM. The ride through Zion park made the day.



Then on back into Arizona, down to Page, AZ, where the Glen Canyon Dam blocks the Colorado River.



Gassing up in Page, I listened to the local high schools kids talking in Navajo and realized I was on the reservation. When I lived in New Mexico, I didn't pay much attention to all the buttes and mesas in this rugged country. It is both stark and beautiful.

Night found me in a motel in Kayenta, AZ - right on the Navajo reservation at a motel that serves Monument Valley. Think of the landscape of a Roadrunner cartoon. Spectacular. Some of the formations leaked outside the park and stayed right there waiting for me to photograph it.



Okay - I admit it. I rode into Colorado just far enough to be able to say I rode in the state. My goal was to ride through seven states, and I've done it. I’ve ridden in fourteen states so far - only thirty six to go.



I got to Bloomfield, and while gassing up, saw Blake's Lotaburger across the street. For a former New Mexican like me, who still craves green chile, a Lotaburger with cheese and green chile is like legal cocaine. Good stuff - and the chile made my chapped lips smart a little.

At one time, US Route 550 in northwestern New Mexico was the most dangerous highway in the state, with the three lane road making for many head-on collisions while cars were passing. Its all four lane now.

But the spring winds of New Mexico were about. They got pretty fierce, and as I rode into Albuquerque from the north, I saw a dust storm approaching. The gusts were strong enough to make the cars and trucks slow down.

Dinner at Monroe’s in Albuquerque. Good ol' flat enchiladas with green chile and an egg on top. Oh yum! Life is good.

The next morning, I headed home, but before I left Albuquerque, I rode to the the Owl Cafe. I had to use my last opportunity to get huevos rancheros New Mexico style - in other words, with lots of green chile. I wish I had remembered to get a photo of the place on the way out - the architecture is distinctive - but I did remember to buy a black Owl Cafe t-shirt.

There was a nice nip in the air as I headed east on old Route 66. At the town of Tijeras, I turned south along a comfortably bendy two-laner. Ah, delight - riding through old towns, some of them land grants from the days when Spain owned the area. Old churches in decaying villages as I rode on nice curvy roads along the side of the Manzano mountains.





Too soon, I came back out onto the eastern plains of New Mexico. The landscape flattened out and soon oil rigs appeared. Southeastern New Mexico is atop part of the big Permian Basin oil fields, which are being awakened from decades of decline by the advent of new technologies.



I disliked crossing the state line into Texas - I had enjoyed the “ooo and ah” as people saw the license plate on my scooter that placed me far from home. Once back in Texas, I was just another bike.

After spending the night in San Angelo, Texas, I wanted to make it home the same day. Come Saturday morning, I was up before the dawn and on my way. About an hour down the road, I found a bakery in Eldorado. Two things about Eldorado: first, the bakery was run by an Asian couple. When I asked the woman “You aren’t from around here, are you?”, she replied with a thick accent that she had just moved from Pennsylvania. I was to find out later that she and her husband are Cambodian. The other prominent note about Eldorado is that it is the home of the Yearning for Zion Ranch - the headquarters of the fundamentalist and polygamist break-away Mormon sect which was raided for child abuse awhile back.



I cut across the southern end of the Texas Hill Country, then into the border city of Laredo. Mistake in doing that - way too much traffic. But Laredo also meant I was getting close to home, and as rain clouds threatened, I boogied alongside the Rio Grande until I saw the home fires burning.

So - was it a good trip?

Hell yes! I loved it - meeting the challenges of riding 3,600 miles on a 400 cc scooter. From the subfreezing morning in Portales to the Mojave desert, from flat plains to mountain twisties, it was a lot of fun.

Wonder where I’ll go next.
 

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Nice write up, I enjoyed following along with your trip :thumbup:
 

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Thank you for sharing. Excellent photography, and write up. Pop-corn fart, yeah I will have to remember that one. :thumbup:

If you are willing, could you run down your equipment, I like that GPS mount. What performed well, what did you leave in the motel room to lighten the load?

Cheers,
 

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TwoWheelTim said:
If you are willing, could you run down your equipment, I like that GPS mount. What performed well, what did you leave in the motel room to lighten the load?

Cheers,
No problem - and thanx for the kudos.

I bought a Motorcycle Larry cap for the left brake fluid reservoir - the one with a threaded hole for a Ram ball. Then, just the simple Ram short arm that comes with the Garmin Zumo GPS. The GPS is hard-wired and I just unplug it and take the unit with me when the bike is parked.

Actually, I traveled rather well - didn't have to leave anything behind. The weather proof bag you see was just for the cold weather gear I knew I would need. All my other "stuff" (clothing, toiletries, etc.) fit easily into the top case. That's Givi's biggest case, the E55. When I'm home, I am a photojournalist and I need the big case to carry my gear in when I'm shooting sports.

I will be writing a short piece on the bike itself, much like I did for the last long trip I took last fall. The fall trip is described here http://burgmanusa.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=59304 and the post about the bike and gear is at http://burgmanusa.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=47&t=59311
 

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Thanks for sharing.
 

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Great trip report! Loved the pictures too. That red on your Burgman looks beautiful when you catch it in the right light like you did.

Thank you for sharing!

Chris
 

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Great trip report as it does sound like a lot of fun!

So have you done any seat modifications on the scooter as I have found seat confort to be the biggest negative of the 400?
 

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Discussion Starter #9
IntRunner40 said:
So have you done any seat modifications on the scooter as I have found seat confort to be the biggest negative of the 400?
All I have is a wooden bead seat cover. I know that sounds silly - how can hard wooden beads make the ride more comfortable - but the thing works and is cheap. A number of forum members use them.

I also take an Aleve in the morning before I start riding. :idea:
 

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Agree with everyone else........... :thumbup:
 

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IntRunner40 said:
Great trip report as it does sound like a lot of fun! So have you done any seat modifications on the scooter as I have found seat confort to be the biggest negative of the 400?
Check with Cary at
www.Burgmanbrothers.com
he rides a 650.....can fix up
400 seats too.
 
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