CGB: Day 32-33 – Snake River Road

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I left Idaho Falls on I-15 riding to I-84 and on to Farewell Bend on the Snake River. There I left the freeway for Huntington, OR planning to ride the Snake River Road. I’ve done this route before but this time I planned to camp on the river that evening.

I stopped in Huntington for dinner at the Howell Café. It’s a cool old building and the food was good.

After picking up some snacks at the local mini-mart I headed out the Snake River Road. On the way out of town you ran into a sign which is a harbinger of trouble, “CAUTION – Sharp Corners, Falling Rocks, Severe Slides Next 25 miles.” Incongruently next to it is another sign which seemed out of place, “CAUTION – School Bus Route.”

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The road is all gravel but not deep and decently maintained. There are great views of the river and hills as you work your way in, out, up and down the gorge.

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I traveled about 13 of the 25 miles and found a wide spot in the road to camp. It was a little windy but calmed down to a beautiful-star-filled evening.

The next morning I broke camp, rode the last 12 miles of the river road then headed up the canyon and out of the gorge to Richland, OR. I had planned to eat at Annie’s Café but it was closed. Usually a great place for breakfast. Not sure why it was closed.

I received a text from George, one of the Bad Teachers I ride with. He was staying at the Pendleton KOA and invited me to stop by for a coffee or beer on the way home. I did. We had coffee since it was too early for a beer (contrary to Norm’s belief). It was nice to see him and his wife. We had a good visit and I headed home after an hour or so.

CGB: Days 28-32 – Idaho Falls and Home

Blue, Michael, Boon, and Jatu: They actually ride this wayNorm and I had breakfast the next day in Tremonton, UT.  Afterwards we split up, Norm heading NW on I-84 to home, and me going north on  I-15 to Idaho Falls and a visit with my brother-in-law and his family.

I spent two and a half days in Idaho Falls with Michael, his wife Jatu Porn and their sons Boon (9) and Blue (6). The boys played piano for me, played basketball with me and I rode with Mike when dropping and picking up the boys from school. I also got to visit Jatu Porn’s labs at Idaho National Labs (INL) where she works as a material scientist. All fun and interesting.

Mike and Jatu Porn have a small farm which keeps them busy with goats, sheep, ducks, geese, turkeys, garden, green house, and one mean-assed, egg-sitting goose. The goose will actually attack if you get too close and, of course, Mike set me up when showing me around the farm by asking me to stand in a particular place in one of his out buildings which was near the nest. When I stood where he suggested I heard a frightening hiss behind me. When I turned toward the sound it was this freaky looking goose with her tongue out, neck jutted toward me, and looking insane. Later Mike told me everyone in the family has been bitten at least once by her. Fortunately I wasn’t close enough to get her to attack.

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Some of the most fun I had was helping Mike get his 1977 Honda 90 running. It hadn’t run in nearly two years and was in pieces after a mechanic had worked on it without success. We checked the plugs, installed the carb, set the points then statically timed it. It started on the first kick.

CGB: Day 27 – Killer Mexican Food

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I always stop in Salt Lake City to visit Vic, one of my Navy buddies I’ve kept in touch with over the years. Telling sea stories and laughing at ourselves over Bohemia or Modelo beers never gets old.

We also have a good dinner of Mexican food at one of the Iguana restaurants in Salt Lake. This time we picked the Red Iguana on Temple. Vic suggested the Tacos del Ricardo. The food is excellent. Vic paused after saying he would pick up the tab, maybe waiting for me to argue with him. He looked a irritated when I remained silent.

Afterward we spent the rest of the evening in our Econolodge motel room doing what was described in paragraph #1 above.

CGB: Day 26: Best Ride Today

The night before I was able to get into my tent and keep it dry so had a good night after all. The next morning I awoke to a cool-sunny day, showered and felt renewed and ready for the ride up US-84 to Pagosa Springs, then US-550 from Durango to Montrose, both “Red Ribbon” roads according to my Rand-McNally Atlas.

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On my way back from the showers I ran into this guy. Somehow he guessed I was a veteran and gave me a couple of souvenirs he makes for vets. We then walked to his trailer where I met his wife and he gave me a quick tour. Pretty cool. He’s done a lot of work on a basic U-Haul type trailer to make it comfortable for him and his wife. Check out the photo gallery for days 21-33 for more photos of his trailer and the souvenirs.

I’m usually doubtful about the “red ribbon” roads being “Best of the Road” for each state according to the Atlas as I have ridden them in several states with mixed results. I was, however optimistic about riding through the Rocky Mountains of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado.

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It was a fun, scenic ride traveling through the Rockies. especially From Hermosa to Ridgeway, CO. We climbed through three mountain passes of 10,640 – 11,075 ft elevations in 96 miles.

When we pulled into Ouray, CO for gas after dropping out of the last pass, I told Norm I thought the ride from Santa Fe to Ouray was possibly the #1 cruising ride we had done in our years of riding together. He looked unconvinced and said, “Maybe in the top ten, but not the number one.” After a pause he conceded, “Maybe the number one ride today.”


CGB: Day 25: Big Daddy

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Today we traveled from Albuquerque to Santa Fe with a side trip to the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. We got to Santa Fe in the early afternoon. Since Norm wasn’t going to the Cliff Dwellings tour we went straight to the KOA and registered for a camp site.

The cliff dwellings were 44 miles one way and through parts of Sante Fe, so I figured it would take a couple of hours to get there and sign up for a tour. I left without setting up camp so that I wouldn’t miss the last tour.

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It rained a bit going but not bad. The cliff dwellings were actually above the weather so I was able to enjoy the tour without rain. On the way back I dropped down into the weather again and it was raining. I had 40+ miles for the return trip but it was at least a half hour longer due to two missed turns. It turned into a long-cold-wet ride.

I got back to a muddy camp and quickly realized I should have taken the time to put my tent up. Norm had his up and as I got off the bike, dripping wet and boots squishing in the mud, he raised the flap to his tent. He had a smirk on his face as if to say, “Thought you could go without Big Daddy, huh?” He then dropped the flap without a word and that was the last I saw of him until the next morning.

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It was still raining so I worked out a way to set up my tent and minimize the rain getting inside it. I left my rain gear and helmet on (the helmet is excellent head gear for rain) and got the tent up. I was a bit depressed, frustrated, and cold so sat at the picnic table in the rain and sipped Jack Daniels from my coffee cup. On my second shot of Jack I moved under the short-dense trees in the camp site to minimize the rain landing on me. As I stood there another camper was hustling back to his camp site from the restrooms and saw me standing in the trees. He stopped, did a double take, then hurried on. I tried to imagine what he thought seeing a guy in riding gear and helmet standing among the trees…in the gloomy rain. The second shot of Jack was warming me up and I began to find the humor in my situation.

CGB: Day 23: Bass Pro Shop Home Store

Norm had purchased a new GPS on the trip and was looking for a handlebar mount for it. We had been stopping at Cabellas, Bass Pro Shops and other electronic stores along the way. We visited the Bass Pro Shop in Springfield since it was on our way to Blue Springs, MO.

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The Springfield store is the home store for Bass Pro Shops. This place is amazing and, according to their web site, is “…the  Granddaddy of all Outdoor Stores.” The store (more like a small city) covers nearly 500,000 square feet. Within that area you will find  7 large (very)  fish tanks (one with 2 of the largest alligator gar in the world), an alligator pit, and several outdoor scenes of wildlife and even waterfalls. The store also houses two museums: the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum and the Archery Hall of Fame. Along with various eating and coffee stands you can find a knife shop (with sharpening station), pistol range, rifle tube for sighting scopes, gun smith shop and archery range.

I created a short photo gallery for it which you can find in the menu above under cruising/2014 – Can’t Go Back/Days 21-30.

CGB: Days 21-22: West Plains, MO

I wanted to visit West Plains because my folks grew up there, my paternal grandfather and grandmother’s grave site is in the city cemetery, and there is a street named in honor of them.

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The public library was on our way into town so I decided to get directions to the cemetery as well as possibly find information on my family. I was ill prepared to do serious research since I had not planned to do anything other than visit the grave site and get photos of Hoglen Drive, however Norm noticed they had a genealogy room so I visited it.

There was an older gentleman volunteering in the room who confessed he knew very little about genealogy. He introduced himself as James D. and said he was happy to help me in any way he could. He recommended we start with the obituaries of my grandparents as he knew how to find that information.

We did find my grandfather’s obituary. James then suggested we look in the school annuals for my mother. While we were looking through them he told me he had not only taught at West Plains High School his entire career as an English teacher but also graduated from there. At about that point I saw a familiar face in the annual I was looking through and said, “That’s my Aunt Lovell!” He asked, “Lovell? What was her last name?” I told him it was James and he said, “I knew her!” He shared that he was not a friend but knew the family with whom she lived (it’s a long story on how Lovell came to live with another family so will not go into it here).

Lovell was the oldest sibling and they were missing the several years of annuals after her senior year so we didn’t find my mother. He told me that he had his annual at home from eight years after Lovell’s graduation. He was going to take a lunch break and agreed to meet me at the library again after lunch with his annual.

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While waiting I went to the cemetery and I found my grandparents grave site, took some photos and headed back to the library. James was waiting for me in the genealogy room with his 1943 annual. I looked through all the senior, junior, sophomore and freshman photos but didn’t find my mother. I was disheartened but continued to look through the annual for other relatives. I spotted my Aunt Babe (Virginia) in a Journalism class photo. Next to her I found my mother! I went back to the front of the annual to the list of graduating seniors. She was listed there. I thought it odd that she did not have a senior photo. Mr. D made copies of the page and my grandfather’s obituary. He was a big help making my visit to West Plains more fruitful than expected.

Both my parents have passed as well as all paternal and maternal aunts and uncles except for one paternal and one maternal aunt who live nearby me. I thought they would like to see current photos of their home town so the next day I traveled around West Plains taking pictures of significant buildings located at the town square, my grandfather’s last home and Hoglen Drive.

I’m home as I write this post. I visited my paternal aunt, Lois,  a few days ago and shared photos and stories about the trip. When I told her about James D. Helping me she asked, “Jimmy D.?!?” After I confirmed it was  him, she told me they were good buddies and had taught together for a few years at the West Plains Middle School. Amazing.

She also shed light on why my mother’s photo would not be in the annual. She told me, “Your mother and Aunt Babe skipped a lot their senior year so it’s not surprising she was not there on the photo day or the make up day!” Later I thought this would have been good Intel to have when I was caught skipping my senior year.

Since retiring this year, one of my plans is to begin researching my family tree. This was a good kick start and I have made significant headway talking with my Aunt Lois.

CGB: Day 17: The Blue Front Cafe

We spent the night in Vidalia, MS at the Riverview RV Park which is across the Mississippi River from Natchez. It is a very nice RV Park, reasonable prices, and great facilities. We spent the afternoon in the air conditioned lobby on their comfy lounge chairs reading and doing some trip planning on the computer they provide.

Our plan was to spend the evening at the Under the Hill Saloon in Natchez, a place we had discovered on the Hemingway Quest ride back in 2007. This ended up in the “You can’t go back” category of this ride. It was a bust. The band was mediocre to bad and the clientele were questionable.

The next day we rode the Natchez Trace to Jackson which was a fun and interesting ride. See the photo gallery above under Cruising/2014 – Can’t Go Back/ Days 10-20/Natchez Trace Photos.

We arrived in Clinton, MS a little after 1500. I did a Google search for the Blue Front Café and discovered that it was 24 miles north of Clinton. I called the number provided on the web page I found. I spoke to what I thought was the bartender and asked if they had music that night. He replied, “No, that was last night.” I told him Bobby Rush had recommended the Blue Front to us, “…but had hoped to hear music.” He replied, “Bobby was here last night, but come on up. You’ll like it. I may even play for you.”

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I relayed this to Norm after hanging up and said I was for a visit especially if the bartender wanted us to visit bad enough to play for us. Norm agreed.

We drove the 24 miles and were glad we did. The “bartender” turned out to be Jimmy “Duck” Holmes himself. We had an awesome time at the Blue Front Café. Jimmy was a cordial host, showed us around and told us the history of the juke joint. It’s nearly as rustic as it once was. His nephew and brother were also friendly and shared their memories of the Blue Front and growing up in Bentonia. That night “The Bluesman” and Jimmy jammed for us. It was awesome and as authentic as it gets.

Check out the video of photos and excepts of songs they did under cruising/14 – Can’t Go Back/Days 10-20/ Blue Front Café Video above.

CGB: Day 16: Bobby Rush

After an amazing night at Phil Grady’s we headed north to natchez, ms on us-61, The Blues Highway. We stopped at a shell station for a break in Knoxville, MS just across the LA-MS border. A black guy walked up to norm and asked him about the bikes and where we were headed. I told him about Phil Grady’s the night before and that we were looking for another juke joint to visit. He responded with, “I’m Bobby Rush. I played with all of them; BB King, Little Richard, Muddy Waters and others.”I must have looked dubious because he said , “Google me, you will see, I played with lots them.” I was still dubious about the whole thing until a black guy walked out of the mini-mart and said, “I know you Mr. Rush.” As they shook hands he told Bobby, “I love our music!”

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I then  noticed a  couple of guys with cameras taking pictures as we talked. He told us Morgan Freeman had asked him to do a documentary on the Blues Highway. I told him about our experience at Phil Grady’s the night before and that we were looking for another juke joint to visit because we had so much fun there. He asked, “Where are you headed next?” I told him, “Jackson.” He then told us that the place we needed to go to was the Blues Front Café.

I was now a believer and blown away by the experience. What were the chances we would be looking for a blues juke joint and run into a famous blues musician at a Shell station? I talked to Norm about changing our route from heading to Birmingham, Alabama after following the Natchez Trace and instead, spending a night in Jackson to visit the Blue Front Café as Bobby had suggested. After the fun of Phil Grady’s he was all for it.




CGB: Day 15: Phil Grady’s and Bubbee

In my research for this trip I found Junior’s Juke Joint web site  and developed an interest in juke joints. So I began researching juke joints on the web. Most reported at Junior’s web site are no longer open.

I asked my sons who had just returned from the gulf about juke joints and they got excited and proclaimed Phil Grady’s in Baton Rouge as THE place to go. I put it on the itinerary.

We got to Baton Rouge on the perfect night since it was the jam session where blues performers travel to Grady’s to jam with each other. As we rode by the front of the bar in the dark it looked closed and run down. I took a chance and pulled around back and found the parking lot full of cars and the rear entry well lit. This turned out to be one of the most memorable nights of our trip(s).

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The place is not run down but does have character. The people were friendly with a few buying us a beer when they discovered we had traveled from Washington State. One in particular sort of took us under his wing. He introduced himself as “Bubbee” and became our pal for the night.

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The music was awesome with musicians getting on stage in different combinations and playing guitar, harmonica, drums, bass, trumpet, trombone, saxophone and probably some things I don’t remember. While this was going on Bubbee was entertaining us, high-fiving us and introducing us around. It was an incredible experience.