Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Lessons Learned

We have lost count of the things we have learned on this trip, and I can assure you that those things we have remembered and will list here are in no certain order. Use this list for yourself, for friends, or just as a guide. And let me tell you, it doesn't matter what someone else suggests, only you can decide what works best for yourself.

Lesson # 1: No matter how structured, how well organized, or how many lists made you will not know what you need or don't need until you are actually on the road. And the reality is you won't need everything you pack, no matter how little you think you have.

Lesson # 2: You can go longer that you could ever assume wearing one pair of jeans, so you don't need more than two pairs no matter how long you are gone.

Lesson # 3: The most you need to pack of any item is socks, and I wouldn't travel with less than four pairs.

Lesson # 4: Forget packing everything separately in zip-lock baggies, just bring one or two.

Lesson # 5: Keep everything in just one bag: clean clothes, toiletries, dirty clothes, headbands, etc. Organizing everything separately causes constant reorganization, too many changes, and too much to carry. Either use a large zip-lock or ditty bag to keep the clean and dirty clothes apart.

Lesson # 6: Don't make hotel reservations ahead of time. If you are worried about higher costs use your smartphone or laptop to make an on-line reservation minutes before arriving. And always try to book a place that includes a free breakfast and free internet.

Lesson # 7: Eat meals at hole-in-the-wall places. You know it's good if there are lots of trucks, cars or motorcycles parked out front. Skip the chain places.

Lesson # 8: Wear slip on boots, not lace up.

Lesson # 9: If something drops on your hot pipe and melts use a Canadian penny to scrape the residue off your pipe, but do NOT use an American penny. Really.

Lesson # 10: When one of you says they are hungry or thirsty don't push on because you had planned a different stop, stop immediately. You never know what you might see or who you might meet when you alter your plans.

Lesson # 11: Keep your credit card within reach so that when you stop for gas you don't even have to get off the bike, unless you need a drink or pit stop too.

Lesson # 12: Never skip meals for the sake of time. You need the break and the fuel for yourself.

Lesson # 13: Don't pass up the chance to see something unusual or different. Take the time, take the detour, have some fun.

Lesson # 14: No matter how well you think you have planned your route or managed your time, it will take much longer and you will get there much later because life will happen along the way. If you can, once you decide upon your daily plans cut them in half. You will be glad you did.

Lesson # 15: Don't forget to breathe deeply along the ride. There are scents in the air that inspire stronger thoughts and memories than some things you can see.

Lesson # 16: Talk to everyone along the way. You never know the impact you might have or who could inspire you.

There is a lot of beauty out there in this country and so much more to see. And there are even more amazingly wonderful people I have yet to meet. I can't wait to do this again someday, though I realize it may not be for several more years.

I have met a lot of people who have dedicated their lives for others - especially first responders and military. I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to meet so many of them, to have been able to honor those who gave of themselves on 9/11, and to continue to honor their memories with so many other wonderful people who take the time to do the same. Thank you all, those who gather to pay homage, those who have served, those who are serving, those who will serve, and especially those who can serve no more. God bless you all.


Now that I have returned home, my young son has seen me, my daughters and family have spoken to me, and my neighbors know I am safe, I need to clarify and update a part of my trip that I had purposefully left off.

On day five of my trip, with a mere 1500 miles under my belt, and out in the middle of nowhere-ville Wyoming, I had an occasion to meet the pavement.

Now let me just clarify here and now that it will sound worse than it was. The reality is that both myself and my bike were immediately able to pick up and go. And no matter how many people tell me I was "lucky" I will be the first to tell you that is not true, I was blessed - no if's, and's or but's about it.

There is a biker saying, that "if you hit the asphalt it is your fault, ass". I couldn't agree more and I accept full responsibility. I saw all the red flags, questioned the odd behavior and lack of working brake lights. I had made some adjustments but I also made the mistake of "presuming" and failing to react.

The bottom line is a vehicle stopped in the middle of the two lane highway, essentially parking, with no visible brake lights, and never having realized we were on the road. I anticipated his turning left because that was the only place he could go and I moved to the right half of the lane. Only he never turned and I never slowed. When I realized he was stopped without lights I began to brake. Unfortunately, there was still some sand near the edge of the road and my rear tire suddenly washed out, sending my bike sliding down the highway on it's right side. Once I realized the bike was down I pushed off, kissed the pavement, and rolled off into a ditch and then a field.

But I am here to tell you that it never hurt, that there was no pain even where perhaps there should have been. It was as though I landed in the hand of God and He then let me roll out of His hand until I rolled to a stop.

I came to a stop lying on my back. I quickly sat up, was surprised to feel no pain, and took off my helmet while watching Angel move my bike from the roadway, which I was so grateful for.

You should also know before I go on that I was wearing a full-face helmet, my mesh jacket with armor, jeans, boots and chaps. In fact, the only safety equipment I was not wearing was my gloves.

The first thing I did after removing my helmet was to look at my uncovered hands and comment that I hadn't broken a well manicured nail. Then I realized that my camera and phone were both in the chest pockets of my jacket. I pulled out the camera, saw it was fine, then pulled out my phone. When I realized it was undamaged as well I decided to send out a text.

About this time is when Angel came running over to check on me and was shocked at what I was doing. Unfortunately for her, she had been behind me and witnessed the entire incident and was greatly traumatized. So when she found me texting she told me I needed to quit "acting like a cop and act like a victim". I looked up, held up my hand as if saying stop, and told her "I don't do victim".

We waited and towed my bike "just in case" but the reality is it was ridable. Though the accident delayed us by four hours that day until we could make Gillette, it also held us up about six hours the next day before we were once again heading east. But what it didn't do was delay our trip by any more than those few hours.

No, I did not go to a hospital because I didn't need to. Yes, I was checked out by the paramedics. In fact, they had to tell me that my elbows were bruised because I hadn't noticed. Basically, my shins were bruised, my elbows were bruised, and I had a couple of small spots of road rash on my left elbow and right wrist where my jacket tore despite the armor.

But all I had wanted to do was get back onto my bike right then and there and continue our ride. However, it did make for a great road story during the rest of the trip.

And, heaven forbid, if it were to happen again I still would not tell my loved ones until I returned as the worry to them would not be worth it. And let me reiterate, I am fine, and I was fine at the time because I was in God's care.

Friday, September 3, 2010

California - Homeward Bound


This day has been almost a month in the making and some would think we would be chomping at the bit to get off the road and off our bikes. But the reality is that we are not tired of the road or our bikes, and our backsides are not the least bit sore.

This has been an adventure of a lifetime, through thick and thin, good and bad and our friendship has survived. We have seen a great deal of our beloved country, met so many wonderful, amazing, supportive and patriotic people and realize there is so much more we want to do and so much more we want to be a part of. There is more to see and more people to meet. And to be honest we are saddened to realize that the rudest, least supportive and most self-absorbed people are those from our own home state.

We miss our young children, they are so much a part of who we each are, and our desire to stay out on the road is no reflection on them. The mother in each of us is dying to run back to them and hold them in our arms so tight as to never let go.

But the individual in each of us wants to keep experiencing all life and our country has to offer. But the two have to be reconciled so we decide that when we return home today our goal will be to teach our children that life is meant to be experienced and enjoyed to it's fullest; that this is a great country we live in; that the majority of people out there love our country and it's people; that there are those who unselfishly give their careers or ultimately their lives in support of it's citizenry; and that there is no greater gift than to spend a life dedicated to honor and integrity.

It seems that everyday of this trip we have traded off as to who is ready first. But it also seems that the one who is always feeling as though something has been misplaced or lost is me. Today is different. Today I haven't rearranged things to the point I can't find them. Today everything is easily packed and loaded up. And today Angel is unpacking her bike, emptying her bag, and asking the front desk to allow access back into our room because she can't locate her keys. Until she reaches into the front pocket of her jeans. Today is also different because there is no warmth outside but cool California coastal weather, including fog.

It is noon when we finally saddle up for the last day, pulling away from our last hotel, already in our home state and heading north and towards home. We have plotted out route, planned our lunch stop and calculated that we will make it to Hollister before dark.

We head up Highway 1 to Highway 101, then cut over into the hillside at Highway 154, where the weather quickly changes from coastal cool to inland heat. It is very warm and we are thinking maybe that's the problem with the driver behind Angel. She is practically driving up her tailpipe when there is no where else to go on the mountain road. I am watching this all unfold in my mirror, so when a passing lane opens up I slow down and move right, and Angel follows suit. The crazy woman flies past her, giving her the one finger salute, and then flies past me only to have to slow down for the vehicle in front of me and ultimately the next red light. And we are directly behind her.

When Angel stops along side me she is angry because of the danger this woman had put her in. She wants to pull up alongside and tell her off. I tell her to go for it, that I have her back, and will be right there no matter what, and remind her that if things begin to fall apart I've got a gun and knife. But no action is taken on Angel's part. However, we must seem menacing anyway because at the next signal light the crazy lady blatantly blows through a red light to keep from staying directly in front of us. We get the biggest laugh out of this, literally laughing out loud.

But we pull into the Dutch town of Solvang, immediately find a parking spot in the shade directly in front of the restaurant we want to eat in, remove the sweatshirts since it's 95 degrees out, and have a terrific lunch. Before we head out again Angel strikes up a conversation with the men who had just parked next to our bikes. But the best part of the entire chat was when one of them realized our trip she was telling about involved only the two of us, and he admitted he thought we had spent the trip on the backseat of the bikes!

We continue north, gas up in Santa Barbara, and keep going. The heat stays with us but it is obvious we are no longer away from home because there is no humidity. Highway 101 is beautiful and the same as always, moving away from the coastal beauty to the inland heat. Our next and last stop is for gas in Paso Robles. We ensure that we get the rest and fluids we need because there will not be another stop until we arrive home.

We are surprised to find the warm weather stayed with us in Salinas and as we arrive in Hollister. I have already decided to ride straight to my son's football practice before even going home to get the car. I want to see him as fast as possible. We enter town and get to the intersection where I must turn and anticipate Angel riding on. Instead, after being together all this time, she pulls up alongside me for a high-five and good-bye before heading home herself.

As I pull up to the elementary school field where all the Pop Warner football teams and cheer are practicing I immediately know where on the field my son is because he is the only one who turns around to look when he hears my bike pull up. I walk across the field, saying hi to the parents I pass, getting as close as I can and watching my son practice, giving me a little wave, until they break. There is no greater joy than to see the ear to ear grin on his face as he walks up to me, and feel the first of three big hugs he gives me ~ and in front of all his teammates.

I don't want to leave his sight but have to go get the car to drive him home. A car, strange to be in one and stranger still to drive one. And it's not until he's in it that he asks what we have at home for dinner. I suddenly realize I am again responsible for someone else. I also realize that after being on the road for 28 days that whatever food may be at home is not going to be edible, so we decide to grab a quick dinner on our way home. As we pull away from Super Taqueria, dinner in hand, the thought of responsibility strikes again when my son asks what we will do for breakfast come morning. I decide we will eat out, just as I have been doing for the past four weeks, and then I will once again learn to go grocery shopping. Just the first of "normal routine" things I need to re-learn.

It feels strange to be home but nothing feels better than to be in the company of my son. But I kind of wish the girls were around too, never mind how long they've been out on their own. Being home just makes me realize I miss them too. Though it feels strange to be here it also suddenly feels normal too. Yep, reality is sinking in. But I will never be the same.

Today's stats: 303 miles and 7 hours

TOTAL MILEAGE: 7990.4 miles, I feel we have earned the right to round up to 8000.

Arizona and California - Route 66


We wake up this morning to the smell of fresh brewed coffee and homemade cinnamon rolls, courtesy of "Yukon". But better than that is the good conversation with Rick and Rhonda before we have to hit the road once again. They have been gracious hosts and immediate friends.

The morning is warm so we know it's going to get hot today, though luckily it never gets over 100 degrees. We ride through Kingman and on toward California and the Mojave Desert. The road between the two is narrow and windy, with most of the mountainous section posted for only 10 or 15 miles per hour. We both agree that this is one of the best sections of the Route we have been on. We even stop at the summit just to take pictures.

After dropping back down we arrive in Oatman where there are lots of bikes and people milling around the small town, shops and bars. We take some pics but continue on without ever getting off the bikes. Someday I would like to return here and actually check it out for myself.

Somewhere out on the highway Angel's bike turns over to 30,000 miles so we do as before, stop quickly along the interstate and take pictures. Yet another milestone for our trip!

We ride on and into California, on and off the interstate as the Route takes us, then out criss-crossing the Mojave. We stop often to keep hydrated, at least as often as there are places to stop. I have to buy Travis a t-shirt from Roy's just for the name.

When we ride into Barstow we make a pit stop at the same gas station we've stopped at on previous rides. But before we can take off Angel notices an oil leak from my bike. It is just 5 p.m. and I call the nearest H-D shop, in Victorville. They close at 6 p.m. but if I can get there with enough time to spare they will check out my bike. We saddle up and are back off the bikes by 5:30 p.m. Of course this meant we had to forgo the last real section of Route 66 in California. But as disheartening as this is we also know that if need be we can always come back here just to ride that section. Doubt that will happen, but....

The good news is that it's just a cracked oil filter which is easily replaced. But they also discover a broken rear bracket and leaking shifter shaft seal, but assure me that these are minor inconveniences that will not hinder my final 500 miles. At 6 p.m. we pull away and head for the Santa Monica pier and the end of Route 66. We are hoping to make it there as the sun sets.

But the one thing we find along our way west is that we are definitely back in California as evidenced by the crazy drivers who are making us nervous. We are finally able to make our way across traffic and into the 24/7 carpool lane, where we feel the safest. The sun is setting and it is getting cooler and cooler as it begins to get dark. Though it is essentially dark the last of little glimmer of light has left a small streak in the sky and we watch it disappear as we arrive at the end of the trail, at the Santa Monica Pier.

We ride out onto the pier, park and step off the bikes. For the second time this trip and in just a few days we again feel like our legs are made of rubber, making walking difficult. We walk back up to the neon sign at the entrance and get some photos in before walking back down for dinner. We are tired but excited to have completed such a journey, as imperfect as it is. So many times we missed signs or found them non-existent, causing us to miss sections of the Mother Road. But so far today we have gone 398 miles and we feel we have accomplished something important having at least traveled Route 66 from one end to the other the best we can and in a mere six days.

After our celebratory dinner we head back to the bikes which we have to wipe down because of the moisture, then we head north on the Pacific Coast Highway to Oxnard and our final hotel. Twice we pass areas that are being used for filming of either tv shows or movies. And we know that this area through Malibu and along the coastline is one of the most beautiful, but it is dark and late and it's all I can do to stay focused on the road until we make our destination. It's hard to believe that tomorrow we return to Hollister.

Today's stats: 452 miles and 13 hours

New Mexico and Arizona - Route 66


The morning starts off looking ominous with the dark grey clouds moving across Gallup from the west, the way we are heading. The weather is also a bit cooler than what we have been used to as we go to breakfast.

As we head into Arizona we stop in the Petrified Forest National Park and travel through the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest. The scenery is beautiful and it is amazing to see what looks like chunks of logs filled with what is now stone. But the winds are still strong and pushing against us.

As we arrive in Holbrook, AZ we stop at Joe & Aggie's Cafe for lunch and meet Chris, who describes himself as the "token white boy of the family". He is not only a good and attentive waiter but a character that we enjoy as well. In town there are several businesses with dinosaur statue themes, and then the infamous Wigwam Motel, known for it's Route 66 business as well as from the movie "Cars".

Just as we head out of town my odometer turns over to 40,974 miles. This may seem insignificant to most but it's very important to me. I took over the bike in June of 2007 and it had exactly 974 miles on it. So this means that I have put 40,000 of my own miles on the road. We have just gotten onto the interstate so instead of stopping for a photo I simply take photos of the odometer reading.

Our next stop is Winslow, Arizona. Yep, just like the song we pull up and stand on the corner. There's a flatbed Ford parked there too. But while I am taking photos of everything Angel is thrilled because there is a man with his two year old daughter who takes a liking to her, and she gets her fill of "baby time", holding the little girl for almost a half hour before we finally move on.

But I think what surprises us the most for the day is our trip through Flagstaff. Who knew there was such mountainous beauty in Arizona? Not me, that's for sure. Green grasses, sunflowers, pine trees and mountains. I could live in Arizona with this kind of scenery. There are even ski resorts. An oasis in the middle of the desert and it is beautiful.

I have taken so many pictures that as we pull into Williams my camera dies. And when we get to Seligman I have a voice mail from Twister, the IWMC member whom we are staying with tonight. She and her husband meet us at the Grand Canyon Cavern & Inn and escort us to Kingman and their home for the night. Rhonda and Rick have a great home, friendly pets, and treat us to delicious dinner before we each succumb to hot showers and comfortable beds.

Today's stats: 380 miles and 11 hours

Texas and New Mexico - Route 66


We start off the morning realizing that Texas doesn't post signs for Route 66 like the other states do, at least not to the same extent. Had we realized it we would have taken a much more direct route to the Cadillac Ranch rather than make a big circle.

We get there the same time that a tour bus has arrived with Landscape Architecture students from LSU. They are having fun climbing upon the cars and making their mark with cans of spray paint. It's almost more fun watching them than just being here.

When we arrive in Adrian, Texas we are at the midway point, exactly 1139 miles from Santa Monica and Chicago. And Glenrio, TX is nothing but a dead end on the Route, just a ghost town. Next thing we know we are crossing into New Mexico.

When we get to Tucumcari, NM we stop at the Blue Swallow Motel, another of the highlights along the Route. Inside one of the carports they have painted characters from the movie "Cars".

Our day started with what looked to be storm clouds but we have stayed dry. However there was standing water puddles here and there along the way. As we follow the road, the best we can, we see areas that are almost washed away from flash flooding that took place yesterday or early this morning when we come upon an under crossing that is now nothing but red dirt. Thankfully it is dry and we manage to ride through it and to the other side. As we continue on I see another under crossing that is nothing but red mud before we merge back onto the interstate. I don't like riding across the dirt as it is but there is no way I will ride across the mud, even if Angel does see such things as an "adventure".

We stop in Santa Rose, NM at Joseph's Bar and Grill for lunch. I am not all that impressed with the food but it is just fine. There is an USMC tank out on a low-boy trailer and I take some pictures for my son. Then we are off on the road again.

We stop at the infamous Clines Corners and enjoy the shopping simply because there are so many things there, from cheap and junky to the more classy and expensive. My contribution to the economy is the purchase of a pebble with the Route 66 emblem stamped on one side, for $6.00. It reminds me of spending money on a "Pet Rock", so I buy it just for the absurdity.

Unfortunately, when we go to leave we forget about the fact that we are supposed to find the next section of the Route and jump onto the interstate instead, realizing it after we are down the road. As stated before, we won't backtrack. We never see signs from Clines Corners or beyond for Santa Fe so we miss it completely and the next thing we know we are in Albuquerque, where the road from Santa Fe crosses I-40, so we exit.

We follow the road and maps, stopping every now and again because we feel lost, only to discover we are in the right place. But this city is big and the road meanders more than we can know. We see the signs to the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History and detour a couple of blocks just for the photo op.

When we continue on we ride into downtown Albuquerque, which has been fixed up nicely and with a focus on Route 66. But we don't stay and instead follow the signs for the 1920-1937 road. We criss-cross the Rio Grande three times, not to mention roads and such as well. As we once again cross I-25 to the west of town we follow highway 6 north west. For the 30+ miles we are out in the middle of nowhere I know we are heading west / northwest and should come across I-40 eventually, especially since truckers are driving past us. At one point, out there in the middle of nowhere, a light rain falls providing us with a rainbow off to our right.

We have lost track by now how many days we have ridden into the sunset, arriving at our destination after dark and tonight is no exception. But going across this latter part of New Mexico we have also battled strong winds which have just been beating us up. We are thrilled to finally make Gallup and arrive at the El Rancho Hotel.

This hotel is an historic landmark and is maintained as it was in the golden days of Hollywood, from the names of the rooms to the use of real keys, to the lobby furniture and that in the rooms. But we have been riding so long and hard today (the longest thus far) that when we get off the bikes we are rummy, hardly able to even walk. But we somehow get our gear upstairs then grab dinner in the restaurant. After we eat we sit in the upstairs lobby only to find ourselves trying not to nod off in the warmth of the night, so we drag our sorry selves to our "Jimmy Stewart" room to crash instead.

Today's stats: 479 miles and 13 hours

Oklahoma and Texas - Route 66


We decide rather than backtracking about 15 or so miles to reach the turn off for Route 66 on the other side of Tulsa we will just pick up the Turnpike and meet back up with it down the road. Unfortunately, as we exited I missed the correct lane for payment but we corrected the best we could. The one big difference with toll roads in Oklahoma over other states is that they expect you to have exact change and have change machines at the exits, and they are mostly unmanned.

The big thing to see today is the Oklahoma City memorial. But before we get there we need to find place for breakfast and we find Gracie's Diner in Kellyville, OK. We know it has to be good because of all the pick-up trucks parked there. I actually finally gave in and ordered biscuits and gravy, something I love but have avoided thus far. It was perfect. And as we sat there we saw Matt ride on past and figured we'd run into him sometime today, but it didn't happen.

Then just prior to entering Stroud my bike turns over to 40,000 miles. I am watching closely and stop on a dime on the shoulder as it happens. Angel takes my picture and I take one of the odometer. It's a good milestone, especially since I've only had it for three years. Now just because it's an '05 don't think that means it's no big deal. The reality is that when I got the bike in mid-2007 it only had 974 miles on it, so these are my miles.

In Stroud we gas up. Just like so many other towns the people are so friendly no matter their age or occupation. An older farmer strikes up a conversation at the pump, and the bottom line is that he thinks it's exciting that we are two women alone off on an adventure. He wishes us luck before he leaves.

Directly across the street is the Rock Cafe, built in 1939 from the stones dug up while paving Route 66, and yet another landmark highlighted in the movie "Cars". So after we gas up we hop over and take more photos. We are excited at the thought that when we get home we can show our kids pictures that they will relate to from the movie, and hopefully someday in person.

We continue on, passing through many other small towns, some still thriving and some almost ghost towns just as we've seen already. It is great though when some of the old businesses are fixed up to reflect their historic past. But we don't stop again until Seaba Station, a motorcycle museum. It is amazing to me because there is just about every small mini-bike or motorcycle that I rode on when I first learned to ride. I especially like the memory of the Cushman that my Grandpa Brake had when I was very young.

And not too much further is the Round Barn in Arcadia, OK. It seems like everyone is stopping here. The barn was built in 1898 and restored in 1992, and the top floor of the barn is used to rent out for events. Working inside the gift shop area is Butch, who can be found in many of the photos associated with the barn. And just past the barn is restaurant / rest stop that is very modern looking, including the huge modern over-sized Coke bottle out front.

We pass through Edmond before arriving in Oklahoma City. I have not been to this city since 1976 but have very strong memories of the bombing that took place. I was working the Assaults Unit in the detective bureau. We didn't have a tv set-up back then, so we listened to the radio that Sgt. Ferla had set up at his desk. We spent all day listening to every update we could get and feeling useless because there was nothing we could do from San Jose.

As we walk up to the memorial the memories of the radio broadcasts, the tv news reports, the thoughts of the daycare center (my girls were young and in daycare at the time) come rushing back at me. One of the first things I see is a portion of the concrete wall still standing as a part of the memorial. I begin to feel pain in the pit of my stomach.

We go on our own as we walk along the memorial site. At one point I actually stop and bend over as I am overcome with the pain in my gut and the memories in my head. I begin to think of my visit to the World Trade Center buildings in 1996 and how at that time I was thinking of the prior bombing in the parking garage there, and how it was only a year after the destruction here where I was now standing. Combine this with the emotional days once again visiting the three 9/11 crash sites.

Don't get me wrong, the loss of life and destruction here are just as horrific but the causes differ from 9/11, and for me there is still shock and pain. It is the culmination of all the emotions, the memories of these horrific events, the first time to visit this site, and the recent raw emotions experienced again while visiting the other sites that brings them both together for me at this moment - mostly due to the physical reaction my body is having.

We head out across the western-most portion of Oklahoma, including Yukon and El Reno. As the day is wearing on are excited when we cross the Texas state line, each shouting and raising our hand in the air with our index and pinkie fingers pointing up as the "hook 'em horns" symbol. And only a short distance to go until dinner in McLean.

But before dinner we divert to Shamrock and the historic Conoco gas station called the "U Drop Inn", and yes another icon from the movie "Cars". It was originally built in 1936 when Route 66 was a new highway. It was a gas station / diner and is a symbol of the art deco style.

When we get to McLean it is sunset as we pull up to Red River Steakhouse. Gary from the Gay Parita Sinclair station had suggested eating here, as well as many of the books. We get a table up front in the section where there the music is playing. The food is not only delicious but plentiful. And we enjoy every minute of the live music, but especially when he sings Route 66 just for us. What was also amazing was that we met two separate people in the restaurant that had both lived in San Jose once upon a time, each commenting about how much the city has changed.

It is dark when we finish dinner, then we gas up and head back on the road. Everyone has warned us about being watchful of the deer on the roadways in the dark, so we decide to attach ourselves to a big rig for the miles into Amarillo. The truck I choose keeps a steady speed but it seems as though he is a newer driver, almost nervous that I am keeping at his left rear bumper even though there are other trucks that fly past. But I stay put. As we finally enter the outskirts of the city with its k-rail, walls and bright lights we accelerate and I wave a thank you to the trucker. We were grateful to make it to our hotel, drag our gear to our room, wash the road grime away before we climbed into our beds for the night.

Today's stats: 420 miles and 13.5 hours