A Capitol Tour
I will freely state that I got this idea from the photography thread ‘A Capitol Idea.’
I live in Laramie, Wyoming, where the winters are hard and long. One problem I have with that is that it gives me WAY too much time to plan trips. This year I plan to visit every state capitol I can ride to, which of course leaves out Honolulu (island) and Juneau (no road). Rather than try to do it in one long trip, I decided to do three trips, working it into my schedule. This one is the first of the three. I wanted to try to get the southern capitols in before it got too hot in that region. (Yeah, right.)
I happened to leave home at 9:11 on April 13 – not auspicious numbers with which to begin a trip, but a snowstorm was supposed to be moving in and I wanted to leave while I had a chance. It was 31?? and foggy, but the roads were clear and dry so off I went.
First stop: Cheyenne:
They were replacing the plaza in front of the building. I’ll have to go back when the dump truck isn’t parked there.
A little construction going on here, too.
Then it was an easy ride to New Mexico. At Raton I picked up a fierce crosswind that I fought until Las Vegas (NM). One problem with that stretch is that there is really no place to stay, so I kept going. I thought about staying in Las Vegas until the wind died but decided to keep going. West of Las Vegas the pi??on forest moderated the wind somewhat, but it was still pretty bad and cold.
Santa Fe was chilly and windy, but there were flowers and some of the trees in front of the capitol were in bloom.
Since I had been fighting a NW wind most of the day, I figured going south would be OK. Wrong. The wind shifted to the west, and I struggled the short distance to Albuquerque. After checking into the motel, I checked the weather and found the wind to be 35 mph with gusts to 45.
The next day I headed west, with a detour on a nice two-lane through the Zuni reservation. And of course I had to spend some time Standin’ on the Corner.
Rather than take the interstate through Flagstaff, I took a shortcut (AZ-87) through Payson. It’s a nice road, mostly two-lane, with some good sweepers along the Mogollon Rim and coming down from it. There’s even at least one hairpin. But it starts off like this:
The north end is 51 miles with no services. The south end is 43 miles with none. Despite the 60 degree temperature, there were snow patches in the shady spots above 7,000 feet. South of Payson the road is divided:
Coming down Saturday morning, lots of bikes were headed uphill to play.
In Phoenix, the street in front of the capitol was closed (permanently?), so I had a hard time finding a place to park for the picture. It’s not a good picture of the capitol, but my aim is to have the bike and maybe me in each picture. Unlike many of the capitol buildings, you can’t go around back for a better view. The Phoenix capitol complex is designed to be viewed from only one side.
Now, when planning this out, Phoenix was a problem. No matter how I figured it, Phoenix was out of the way. On this route, after Phoenix I had to cross half of Arizona:
A big chunk of New Mexico:
And a whole bunch of T E X A S:
To get to Austin.
I made a number of stops in Houston. The city streets gave the bike’s suspension a real workout, but riding through the neighborhoods in the late morning, when the restaurants were getting ready for lunch, the smells were incredible. I stopped at a crummy little seafood place and had a wonderful crawfish etouffee,
The cute little waitress asked breathlessly if I rode a motorcycle and then, with her eyes wide: “Aren’t you scared?”
Once out of T e x a s, the capitols come pretty close together. HereÔÇÖs Baton Rouge:
The ride from Baton Rouge to Jackson was scented by roadside flowers. When I asked several local people about the scent, they hadnÔÇÖt noticed it. But they ride in cars. (Later, in Arkansas, I was talking with an ST rider from Louisiana. He told me what it probably was, but IÔÇÖve forgotten what he said.)
In Tallahassee I had a wonderful dinner of red snapper grilled with papaya and mango. Yum!
I didnÔÇÖt stay on the interstate all of the time. HereÔÇÖre a few other roads ÔÇô Mississippi:
The capitol in Atlanta on a foggy morning:
Hmm. Maybe I need to go back to this one, too. The gold dome disappeared in the fog. I didnÔÇÖt want to try another angle because IÔÇÖd forgotten to recharge the camera battery. I wanted to have enough left for Nashville:
The day I went to Atlanta and Nashville was the first day since Arizona when it didnÔÇÖt get above 90??. That day it only got to 89??. Back across the Mississippi with a recharged battery is Little Rock:
Into the life of each trip, a little rain must fall. It was slow going the 300 miles into Oklahoma City. There would be rain, then it would stop raining, and then IÔÇÖd see another storm line with lots of cloud-to-ground lightning ahead, so IÔÇÖd pull over and wait until the lightning moved off the highway, then IÔÇÖd proceed through the rain, and then the rain would stop, and then IÔÇÖd see lighting on the road ahead, so IÔÇÖd pull over and wait. The lightning quit about 75 miles east of Oklahoma City, but the cascade of rain storms continued into the city.
HereÔÇÖs Oklahoma City on a rainy afternoon. (The oil well in front of the capitol is a nice touch.)
Often toward the end of a trip I will start eating gas station hot dogs and whatever else is easy. But in Oklahoma City, after meals of whatever-is-available, I had a steak grilled with mushrooms and pesto that was to die for. I really needed that!
In the morning, the sky still looked threatening to the south and east. The heat along the Gulf Coast was several days behind me. I headed north in dry, 46?? weather.
It stayed in the upper forties and fifties most of the day, topping out at 63?? in Wichita. I was glad for my electric vest. Then, between Wichita and Topeka, hurrying off to the ladies room at a rest stop, I noticed the cord for the vest was missing. I hurried back to the parking lot, and there was the cord on the pavement. It wasnÔÇÖt a busy place, so probably only one car went by, but it managed to crush the switch. That was not helpful.
Topeka was the last capitol on this trip. It was nice of them to giftwrap it for me.
At the motel that evening, I was able to patch the vest cord with electrical tape. It worked fine ÔÇô and a good thing, too, as the next 700 miles were mostly in the forties and low fifties. I went up to Nebraska to avoid some forecast poor weather in western Kansas and was rewarded with brief peeks of sunshine, temperatures in the fifties at last, and an unpleasant crosswind. But as I headed west the sun increased and the wind decreased. Crossing Nebraska and into Wyoming was pleasant but cool.
After 16 days and 5,700 miles, I arrived home in the middle of a beautiful sunny day, 41??, with winds at 30 mph and gusts to 36.
Snow is in the forecast, but I am a revived woman. I had only one day of really bad weather and managed to survive that without too much trouble. I followed my plan until I got to Mississippi; then it became more free-form. I went everywhere I had wanted except for one place, and that was because bad weather made me hunker down and cut out extraneous side trips.
For me, the thing about traveling by motorcycle is that it gets me out of my routine. I meet people I usually wouldnÔÇÖt and am reminded once again that not everyone lives a life like mine. It keeps my expectations reasonable. I push myself, sometimes too hard. I deal with my demons. I am not distracted by friends and familiar settings and so have no choice but to think. And encounters make me think about my past, working at those scabs until maybe they can heal properly. I prove once again that despite making many mistakes, I am a pretty capable person.
I have to be in Charlotte in June. My plan is to ride there and gather more capitols on the way. But we all know that plans can change.
Nice! Hope to see more. Thanks for taking the time to write and post your ride.
[COLOR="Red"]What a grand adventure!
Thanks for sharing it with us!
A most excellent ride report. Sounds like something to consider for this summer....
Thanks for sharing! It's always a delight to read a good ride report. I also like the theme of the trip.
And thanks for the 'Standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona' tip. I never heard of that spot in Winslow. Now I have to make it part of my planned road trip through the US next year.