This year will be the third annual meeting of the WeSTOC group. Shortly after last year's event in Missoula, MT, Becci and I volunteered to help Steve Lambert organize and host this year's event. We are the welcoming committee. That is we will greet each attendee as they arrive at the hotel, sign them in, and give them their participant package. We also volunteered to supply all of the liquid refreshments and to supply a map of the United States on which the participants could indicate their home cities. Becci spend many, many hours working and planning for this. She bought her own ST1100 in November so that she could ride to Taos on her own ST and was looking forward to receiving the award for longest distance traveled by a female ST rider at the awards banquet. In February of this year Becci was involved in a traffic accident while in her Pontiac Grand Am. Due to the injuries she sustained in the accident, she was unable to ride her own, or to even ride as passenger on an ST. She felt she was committed to attend to act as greeter, so she arraigned to ride as passenger in a car to Taos with Clay Gradis's Fiancee Michelle Tennebruso. Rick rode Becci's 94 ST1100 ABS/TCS, and I rode my 93 ST1100 ABS/TCS.
We left early and took the desert route through Pearblossem, CA. About 30 miles outside of Victorville, CA the girls pulled to the side of the road with a front tire tread separation. Rick and I determined that they could make it to Victorville if they drove slowly. After a couple of hours delay at the Goodyear dealer in Victorville, we were back on the road with two new Eagles on the front of the Grand Am. Our next stop was in Needles, CA at the Colorado River for Gas and lunch. We continued on the I 40 to Flagstaff where we stopped for the night at the Motel 6. The next morning our little caravan continued on the I 40 until Grants, NM where we gassed up and purchased fireworks. We pulled into Albuquerque, NM early in the afternoon and went straight to J. Reverie's home. After visiting with JR for an hour or so, we were off for Taos. The only interesting event on the way to Taos was in Espanola, NM where we got held up in a traffic jam caused by a bunch of low riders poking along parade style from one parking lot to the next. The STs blasted by the group, leaving the inconsiderate a$$ h*le$ in our dust. Becci and Michelle were delayed a bit longer but caught up by the time we got to Taos. We pulled into Taos early in the afternoon, and after a little searching, found the Kachina Lodge. We checked into our rooms and found Steve Lambert. The accommodations were excellent and the Lodge personnel very helpful. We stocked up on supplies for the welcome center at the Walmart in town. Meanwhile, Rick had started his own form of free enterprise by washing STOCer's bikes for a donation. He made some good money and had fun getting the bugs and road grime off of dozens of ST's, BMW's, Harley's, and other brands from all over the U.S. and Canada. Lots of old acquaintances were re-made and many new ones begun that evening as the usual tire kicking and story telling proceeded in the parking lot. Becci was wiped out from the trip and retired early.
Day one of WeSTOC III found Rick and I up early setting up the welcome center for the new arrivals due in today, the official start of WeSTOC. The entire day was spent at the welcome desk or running into town for refreshments and supplies. The dis-organization committee did manage to catch brunch at Michael's Kitchen. This is an excellent place to eat and within walking distance of the Kachina Lodge. As more and more people arrived, we were impressed with the wide spread locations they were traveling from. Becci retired early again as she had a very long day. Rick and I picked out a ride for the next day and hit the sack.
Day two began early as Rick and I set out to do one of Steve's suggested loops in reverse. We headed out of Taos on US 64 toward the Rio Grande River Gorge Bridge where we made our first stop for some photos of this spectacular sight...a deep natural gorge crossed by a manmade wonder. We continued west on 64 through some very depressed areas of the local Indians' dwellings. This was a stark contrast to the upper class dwellings in and around Taos and Santa Fe. We stopped at Tres Piedras at a small cafe for breakfast and were pleasantly surprised by the food that the Grandmother, mother, and daughter served us. After gorging ourselves on Ham, eggs, and hot cakes, we followed US 64 into the Kit Carson National Forest. The road quickly climbed out of the desert floor and into the pine trees. After a short ride, we were at the summit with snow on the sides of the road. The ride down the other side was made for just such a bike as the ST. One sweeper led to the next, with a few hairpins thrown in to keep you honest. The road gradually opened up and, by the time we reached Tierra Amarilla, NM, the landscape had changed to fertile farmlands and long, wide valleys. After awhile, the 64 turned and we took SR 17 to the small coal town of Charma, NM. This historic town is best known as the start of the Charma to Antonito, CO narrow gauge railroad. For the price of a ticket one can ride the old steam engine up the narrow gauge track to the town of Antonito, CO and back. This is an all day trip and reservations are required. Rick and I continued on up SR 17 and had the opportunity to observe the old steam engine close up at several crossings. If you have never seen one of these things close up, you are missing something immensely interesting. The sight of the big black "iron horse" belching a gargantuan column of jet black coal smoke from its stack as it pulls the steep grade out of Charma is fantastic. The sound alone is enough to wake the dead. And when the engine passes you can see the open door to the furnace of the steam boiler glowing brightly as the "fireman" shovels scoops of coal into its raging bowels. We continued up this winding trail up and over the Cumbres Pass in Colorado. Stopping several times to answer questions on Steve Lambert's "Learn yer flowers, smell yer history" test. The theme of this WeSTOC was a one of old west history, and Steve had designated a fictional character, Lucius Tanner at mountain man, as the spiritual mascot. The road continued to twist its way though the mountains until just before the small town of Antonito, CO where it began to open up into an immense fertile plain of farms and ranches. About 5 miles up the road we passed the town of Manassa, CO. A coal mining community placed "on the map" by being the home town of the heavy weight boxing champion of the world in the 1920s, Jack Dempsey, The Manassa Mauler. The sight of the place brought back childhood memories of reading his book "The Manly Art of Self Defense" and practicing his techniques with my father. I was 12 or 13 years old and apparently was pretty impressed with this book, as I still remember, 40 years later, Dempsey's description of the "Falling Step", "Shovel Hook", and "Corkscrew" punches.We were on US 285 now and continued across the high plains ranches until Alamosa, CO where we turned east on US 160. We answered a few of Steve's questions in Alamosa and headed to the Great Sand Dunes National Monument to answer another. On the way back to the 160 from the sand dunes, Rick and I found the opportunity to check out ST Nominal for about 5 miles of particularly deserted and extremely straight road. We stopped at the junction of US 160 and SR 159 for some lunch and fuel in Ft. Garland, CO. After lunch we were back on the road headed south on SR 159. The highway runs very, very straight across the high plains farmland and ranch land all of the way through Costilla, NM at the Colorado - New Mexico border where the highway changes to SR 552. In Questa, NM the highway changes again to SR 522 and climbs up into the pines, becoming much more interesting. After passing through the ski areas around San Cristobal the road joins US 64 and a short time later we were back at home base in Taos.
On day three, Rick and I had a record breaking tour planned. It consisted of a plan to visit 5 states including: Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, and back to New Mexico. This would be about a 700 mile trip, so we headed out early about 6:30 a.m. US 64 was absolutely beautiful as it wound its way through one deep twisty canyon after another until it opened up in Moreno Valley near Eagle Nest, New Mexico. There was little or no traffic and the only road construction was right in the town of Eagle Nest. After leaving Eagle Nest, the highway follows the Cimmeron River through a long and windy canyon as the river twists its way through the mountains down to the high meadows around Cimmeron, NM and the Philmont Scout Ranch. We visited the Philmont Headquarters and the Camp Store for souvenirs for our Scoutmaster back home. We made the mistake of stopping in Cimmeron at Heck's Hungary Traveler Restaurant for breakfast. Food was OK, but the service was appalling. It took over an hour to get our food and there were only two other groups in the restaurant. One left before their food came. Apparently they couldn't wait any longer. After our extended breakfast stop we were back on US 64 again. The landscape open up into the wide open spaces, and we spotted a couple of herds of Pronghorn as we passed the NRA's Widdington Center near Raton, NM. At Raton, we gassed up then headed east on US 64 toward Texas. This is a wide open highway that travels out over the Great Plains. There are plenty of passing places and very little LEO activity. At Clayton, NM we changed to US 87 and a few miles later we crossed the state line into Texas. We stopped momentarily in Texline, TX for a souvenir then backtracked to Clayton to pick up US 56 for the ride to Kansas via Oklahoma. The ride to Boise City, OK was through drought cursed farmland that was so dry as to resemble the "Dust Bowl" of the Depression days in places. In Boise City Rick and I stopped for lunch at a cafe that advertised "The World's Best Beef Jerky". A very nice grandmother and her two granddaughters served us some excellent fare. We purchased some of the "World Famous" Jerky before continuing on to Kansas. The 20 miles between Boise City and Elkhart, KS was more of the "typical" Midwest type of terrain. We passed through fertile farms dispersed in a checkerboard pattern with a town about every 5 miles along the otherwise mostly deserted highway. The towns were easy to site from miles away as their water towers came into view on the horizon first, then the town buildings gradually grew out of the ground as we closed the distance. We made excellent time across this countryside. In Elkhart, KS we stopped momentarily and picked up our obligatory souvenir, then continued north on SR 27. At SR 51 we decided to go west to cut a few miles off our ride to US 160. SR 51 was an excellent, freshly paved two laner with no traffic as it made a "beeline" for the Colorado border. At the border the beautiful SR 51 turned into CR M...a dirt farm road. We had traveled 5 or 6 miles away from SR27 so we made the decision to continue on county road M...after all, it couldn't be all that far to the next paved road...or could it? In several miles the dirt road became a muddy, rutted dirt road. At times it took all of the balance and strength I had to keep "Odd Job" upright and going in the right direction as the ruts had the pegs scraping just going straight. A couple of times I caught sight of Rick in my rearview mirrors standing up on the pegs of Becci's ST with front wheel in one rut and rear wheel in another, riding the 700 lb. motorcycle sideways until he could get it straightend out. I never doubted Rick's ability to handle any motorcycle under any circumstance or condition after his demonstration of riding prowess on that day in eastern Colorado. We kept this up for over 2 hours and 32 miles until we reached US 160 at Walsh, CO. Once on the highway we cruised like on glass, throwing chunks of mud off for miles. We stopped to rest and eat a snack at the junction of US 160 and US 287 south of Springfield, CO and called Becci to tell her we would be a bit late. It was late afternoon and we still had a very, very long way to go before pulling into Taos again. We made excellent time crossing eastern Colorado on US 160 through rambling farms and ranches. There were places where unlimited visibility and zero traffic allowed us to wring out the STs for mile after mile at ST Nominal Plus. We covered the 121 miles between Springfield, CO and Trinidad, CO in just over one hour ;-] In Trinidad we gassed up and decided to take the scenic mountain route SR 12 up to US 160 near La Veta, CO. Hwy 12 was a lot longer, but a very scenic ride indeed. It would have been much more enjoyable if we weren't pressed for time and so tired. We stopped in La Veta for a warm drink and to put on electric gear. Me only, as Rick didn't have any, but he donned a sweat shirt under his Joe Rocket. Tough kid!!! The 160 to FT Garland was a wide, high speed, highway and we made pretty good time. It was dark now and the road was mostly a boring drone as we tried to eat up the miles as quickly as possible to get home to The Kachina Lodge and our warm beds. After another long ride down SRs 159, 552, and finally 522 into the Taos Kachina Lodge, we were home. We were the last ones in from the rides that day and there were some worried folks (we had called several times and left messages with the desk, but they never passed them on to Becci) waiting for us. After traveling 667 miles in 16.5 hours through 5 states, we were two very tired fellas.
Day four we slept in. After breakfast we had a leisurely brunch at Michael's Kitchen. We spent the rest of the day packing for the trip home. We stayed an extra night so as to be well rested for our trip home. That night after dinner, Clay set off some fireworks in the Kachina parking lot. It was one of the "aerial salute" type of fountains that launches fire balls about 100' in the air where they explode with the sound of a shotgun going off. It was quite hilarious watching Clay scramble to hide the burned out fountain (evidence) when a couple of Taos' "finest" showed up to investigate a "shots fired" report by a neighbor.
The next day we were on the road with Becci and Michelle in the Grand Am and Rick, Clay, and I riding our STs. We headed out US 64 across the Rio Grande Gorge to Tres Piedras for one more great breakfast from grandma and her girls. We continued out US 64 through Navaho Country to Farmington and Shiprock, NM and on to Four Corners National Monument to take our pictures standing in 4 states (Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona). We stopped at a little Indian store in Tec Nos Pos for an excellent sandwich. It was getting very warm out as we continued west (on US 160 now) through the barren, but beautiful desert of the Navaho Nation. We skirted Monument Valley and played "double yellow pass" with campers and motorhomes until Tuba, AZ. We left Becci and Michelle behind during the "double yellow pass" games, and we stopped to wait for them to catch up at the junction to US 89. We were waiting for over 45 minutes when the girls finally putted by totally ignoring us...they were PISSED!!! We finally made it into Flagstaff in the late afternoon and checked into the Motel 6.
We were up early the next morning, and, after gassing up, were on the road. Heading west on I 40. We stopped at the Hoffman House Restaurant in Williams, AZ for breakfast. Williams is the entrance to the south rim of the Grand Canyon, about 57 miles to the north. After breakfast we stayed on I 40 until Kingman, AZ where we turned off to take SR 68 to Bullhead City and Laughlin, NV. As we descended into Bullhead City the temperature rose until it was 111° F at the Chevron Station. Clay filled his 'Stitch with ice cubes as the rest of us sat there roasting in the sun. During the ascent out of the Colorado River Valley on SR 163, Becci's Grand Am began to overheat. By the time we got to US 95, it was "cookin'" We pulled over in the 105° heat and checked under the hood. The top radiator hose had blown out, and we had no way to repair it out there so we called AAA and got a tow into Needles, CA. We checked into a Traveler's Inn, and as soon as the sun went down, Rick and I went to work repairing the Grand Am. With some plumbing parts from a hardware store, we were able to splice the hole out of the hose and make it useable. All 5 of us were in one room. We tried to get some sleep, but by about 3 am it was obvious that that was impossible. So we loaded up and headed out on our journey (expedition) home. After a mis-start we finally got underway in the much cooler morning air. The rest of the trip home was fairly uneventful, and we arrived home shortly after dark.
This was definitely an unusual motorcycle trip, especially having to deal with caravaning with a cage. Autos, no matter how good, just can't keep up with the ST's on a long trip. This leads to a very boring ride for the ST riders and/or a terrifying drive for the folks in the cage. It is much better if the cage folks "meet" the ST's at the destination. In our case on this trip, however, it would have been disastrous for Becci and Michelle to have to deal with the car problems they had by themselves. Rick and I had a great time and saw some unforgettable things on our two rides during WeSTOC III. I gained a much greater respect for Rick's ability to handle the ST.