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Journey to Vivos

Tuesday, October 10, 2017   (1 Comments)
Posted by: Colleen Penor #196944

-or- Get on the back and ride, ladies!

I rode on the back of three motorcycles in my early 20s. One was a motocross bike. I sat on the seat while the driver powered the bike standing up. I was very aware that the bike was not street legal and that I was wearing shorts and flip-flops. The second time I was on the back of a motorcycle, and the driver had never ridden before. He needed me there so any mishandling of the bike would therefore be my fault. The third time I was on the back of a motorcycle was on the freeways between Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., at night, with a helmet that kept spinning around on my head. It was probably for the best that I couldn’t see; it was only when we hit bumps that I would breathe.  

I married Rob Penor and his two BMW motorcycles, a K 1600 GTL and an F 800 GS, back in August 2013. I couldn’t ride on the back of Rob’s motorcycles sooner for several reasons, including that our Wyoming winter started in early October and ended in late May. Also, between the wedding and June 2014, we honeymooned in Hawaii, hosted a wedding reception, and went on a Caribbean cruise; I also moved to Bar Nunn, Wyoming, held the female lead in a community theater play and have been writing my first novel.

I was also scared to get on the back of Rob’s motorcycles.

Rob and I started with a ride around the neighborhood. He was gentle in accelerating and on the turns. He really wanted me to agree to a longer trip. He declared that I was leaning just right. Then we rode to a nearby tourist town for an overnight stay, and I was hooked. It helps that I trust him. He has been riding motorcycles since he was five years old. We were wearing protective gear, and my borrowed gear almost fit. I agreed to take a longer ride. This longer ride went from central Wyoming to northern Arizona and covered 10 days in June. It was one of the best experiences of my life.

Our reason for taking this trip was to research the setting for my novel, which has a working title of Vivos. The setting is the area between and around Page, Arizona, and down to the Sedona area. We took the same journey my protagonist will take, except for the detour we had to take off of 89A due to a recent fire near Sedona. Our journey to Vivos was a success, and my setting is established in my mind, photos, videos and notes. We decided we needed to see some of the sights while on our trip, so we visited or went through the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon; Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks in Utah; Jerome, Montezuma’s Castle, and Prescott Valley in Arizona; Moab, the Valley of the Gods, and Arches National Park in Utah; the canyons of Colorado; and lots of beautiful places with no names posted. Being on a motorcycle, we experienced them in Technicolor, with Smell-O-Vision, and in Surround Sound. Everything was up close and personal.

My goals on this trip, other than successful book research, were to be a part of the motorcycle I was riding on and to be a good travel companion. Rob said I was a good rider, but he also said that he could feel that the bike handled differently—that it was top-heavy. Just what a girl wants to hear, right? I think riding together for 10 days brought us closer together, and that’s always a good thing.

I am not exactly one of those motorcycle divas. I almost tested my gear the first time I got on the motorcycle. I flipped my right leg over the saddle, and then lost my balance on my left leg and would’ve gone over if Rob hadn’t been there to catch me—twice.

Then there was my hair. I’m not a lady who can pull her helmet off, shake out her hair and look gorgeous. My hair kept coming loose from its French braid and making me look like I’d just been through gale-force winds.

We rode through crosswinds gusting at over 50 miles per hour in Wyoming. I was pretty sure my head would pop off at times; riding on the back, I rode up higher and caught more wind. I wondered how long it would take my husband to realize it if my head popped off. Now my body boasts the neck of a linebacker and the iron nipples of the once-frozen. I cannot claim to have an iron butt, as I am a charter member of the Frequent Peeer Program, so we stopped frequently and averaged about 300 miles per day, with a total trip of 3,022 miles. On the windiest day, we averaged 39 miles per gallon; on the calmest day we averaged 52 mpg. Our trip average was 44.6 mpg.

We saw gas prices of $3.35 in Casper, Wyoming, up to $4.16 in Gateway, Colorado. The cheapest places to fuel up were in Wyoming and on the Indian reservations in Utah and Arizona. We found a nice little hideaway in Torrey, UT called the Broken Spur Inn and Steakhouse. It has a beautiful red rock mesa in the background. The rooms are spacious and well-appointed, and they have free wi-fi and Direct TV. My only complaint is that the water kept going to scalding hot while I was in the shower, which, I must admit, is a biggie. The food in the steakhouse was excellent and the service was top-notch. They even have a hair salon, a bakery, a pool and a hot tub. A hot breakfast was included in the $98 price, taxes included. Rob and I both felt that it was a bargain.

Another favorite place was the Grand Canyon Lodge at the north rim. You’ll need to plan ahead and make reservations. It has a beautiful view of the canyon and a great restaurant. The prime rib and ribeye were both excellent. Plus, try the mouth-watering prickly pear margaritas. We also enjoyed dining at Cucina Rustica in Sedona, an upscale Italian restaurant, and at Zax in Moab. Zax has an excellent all-you-can-eat soup, salad and pizza bar for $13.99.

We saw a lot of beautiful wildflowers on this trip, in various shades of pink, white, blue, purple, orange, red and yellow. We saw a great deal of wildlife: wild horses, deer, antelope, bighorn sheep, rock chucks, coyotes, bison, rabbits, and elk. We saw an ostrich farm in Wyoming. The air smelled both sweet and pungent from the Russian olives, evergreens and sagebrush. Occasionally it smelled of road kill or diesel fumes.

I learned how unaware and how inconsiderate other drivers can be. In a county where the high school students had a rock outside their school painted with “Don’t Drive Stupid!” was a sheriff who pulled a U-turn just feet in front of us and then stopped in the middle of the highway to pick up a sign. We’re pretty sure he didn’t even look for traffic before making the U-turn; he was looking at the sign. A tourist driving a minivan pulled a U-turn right in front of us and he was looking right at us and laughing like it was hilarious. A driver coming toward us passing another vehicle refused to give us our lane, so we had to drive on the shoulder to avoid being hit. Unlike a lot of the roads we were on, there was a shoulder to drive on. Rob flashed his lights to be sure the driver could see us, and the driver flashed his lights right back and continued to pass. Of course there were close calls with wildlife and free-range cattle, but we expected that. We don’t expect assumedly intelligent humans to be so careless and discourteous of other human beings.

There were also nice drivers who flashed their lights at us to warn us of possible danger up ahead. There was a lovely man who went next door to get me some vanilla creamer when the restaurant we were having breakfast in had none. There was a charming man from Montreal, riding a Harley down the road we were on, who stopped to pass the time with us when the motorcycle overheated. Of course we didn’t tell a Harley rider that our BMW had overheated; we said we were enjoying the view. We had driven up three miles of steep dirt switchbacks in first gear, at about five miles per hour as recommended by the signs, and the warning lights came on. We later talked to BMW service, and they said riding two-up, fully loaded in the 90-plus-degree heat could probably cause that. It is the only problem Rob has ever had with the bike in over 16,000 miles of varying terrain and conditions. The ride on Highway 261 and the view over the Valley of the Gods were worth the inconvenience, but be sure to watch your warning lights if you choose to ride up rather than down.

I learned that sometimes your nose will itch so badly when you can’t get to it that you make faces and go cross-eyed trying to tame the itch. Luckily, my face did not get stuck in any of the faces I made, as my grandmother told me it would, or I would be one crazy-looking broad.

I learned to stay hydrated, especially in the desert heat. Drink plenty of water. I also learned that you need more moisturizer than usual - and sunscreen, applied often, on any skin exposed to sunlight.

When I was younger, I was afraid to ride on motorcycles, but wanted to jump out of a perfectly good airplane with a parachute, or hang-glide. Now I would do neither of those, but I am riding on the back of a BMW motorcycle and I love it. Ladies, give it a try! Besides, there are only so many excuses you can make.


Jeff Smith says...
Posted Thursday, October 12, 2017
Great story. Thanks for sharing.

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