Yeah, that’s what I’ll call it, a mini-gypsy tour, and add 2012 because it’ll probably be the only big ride I’ll take this year. A friend of mine rides coast to coast, 5,000 or more miles at a whack, at least once each year. What can I say? I am not worthy. The last time I put in a series of 8- to 10-hour, 600-mile days was during my California gypsy tour in October 2010, when I had a revelation: I’ll never be a member of the Iron Butt Association. For me, this is a more realistic motorcycle excursion: a 5-day, 2-state ride to Flagstaff, Las Vegas, and Laughlin, with a return leg back through Flagstaff, close to 1,400 miles in all, around 300 miles per day.
Wednesday I rode from Tucson to Flagstaff via back roads, aiming to stay well clear of Phoenix and up in the high country, following two-lane highways to Globe and around the Mogollon Rim on the way to Flagstaff. Thursday was cold and rainy, and it wasn’t much fun riding down I-40 to Kingman (it’s a good thing I brought along a bad weather helmet; surprisingly my pants and boots stayed relatively dry). From there to Las Vegas, though it stayed cold, at least the clouds broke up and I finally saw some sun. Friday, in beautiful and still-cool weather, I took a side trip from Las Vegas to Laughlin. Saturday was meant to be an extra day in Las Vegas, with an all-day putt home on Sunday, but the forecast called for a return to the high 90s in Arizona and I decided to break the trip home into two days, Las Vegas to Flagstaff on Saturday and Flag to Tucson on Sunday. Good decision … I stayed cool right up to the end of the ride, only beginning to feel the heat during the last 100 miles into Tucson. I was home by noon on Sunday, back in our air-conditioned house, unpacking in comfort.
The occasion for this mini-gypsy tour was the annual Laughlin River Run, one of the larger motorcycle rallies in the western USA. When I attended my first River Run several years ago the event was geared to a catholic crowd of motorcycle enthusiasts: all the major manufacturers had tents and displays up and you could see the latest from Honda, Triumph, BMW, et al. Since then River Run has devolved into a American V-twin event; this year, disappointingly, non-American manufacturers stayed home. Who was there? Harley-Davidson, Victory, some after-market chopper builders; plus vendors of leathers, T-shirts, chrome doo-dads … if I had been looking for “biker life” accessories, I’d have loved Laughlin. As it was I stayed only two hours, as long as it took to find a T-shirt for my son. As I was leaving, a drunk in his fifties stumbled up and told me I had a lot of courage, riding a Honda to a Harley event. Jesus. I probably have more saddle time on Harleys than that guy and all his middle-age-crisis-suffering orthodontist pals put together, but I held my tongue. At least my ride was filthy, a sign to the cognoscenti that it didn’t arrive by trailer (like most of the barely-rideable bar-to-bar choppers in evidence).
In Las Vegas I spent most of my time with the kids: our son Gregory, daughter in law Beth, granddaughter Taylor, and grandson Quentin. I got to watch Taylor play her last home game of the season and be honored as a departing senior; it was icing on the cake that she also made the game-winning play. We made plans for our grandson’s summer visit and dropped by Hooters for the traditional photo op. I had breakfast with an old hashing buddy. Since I don’t gamble, I stayed away from the Strip … the Vegas I see, whenever I visit, is a pleasant town of families, homes, schools, playgrounds, and parks … as long as I avert my eyes from the ever-present video poker arcades in convenience stores, gas stations, and supermarkets.
The first thing I did upon riding into Las Vegas from Boulder City was dial in KNPR, the local public radio station. What do you know, KNPR was having a pledge drive … oddly, I’ve never been to Las Vegas when KNPR wasn’t conducting a pledge drive. It’s possible I inadvertently time my two or three yearly Las Vegas visits to coincide with KNPR pledge drives, but the more logical explanation is that KNPR begs for money more often than other NPR stations. And their drives are the most intrusive I’ve ever heard. I timed them during the Morning Edition news Friday morning while riding from Vegas to Laughlin: four minutes of news, ten minutes of pledge drive, repeat ad infinitum. Unbelievable. But still not so bad that I’d ever consider listening to commercial radio!
How is it that KNPR is so needy? When I lived in Las Vegas in the mid-90s, KNPR became the first NPR station in the country to air outright commercials. Oh, there weren’t very many, and they were produced in a droning soporific NPR-ish way, but there was no denying you were listening to an pitch for a local law firm and not an intro to Elgar’s Cello Concerto. Clearly, if KNPR still has to conduct pledge drives, it’s not charging advertisers enough!
It’s good to be home. Click here to see more mini-gypsy tour photos at Flickr.
© 2012, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.