Friday, 21 September 2012

Day 22: Savannah, GA - Larrington Towers

Friday night and I am out on the hotel porch, smoking a fag.  Out of the gloom emerges a large round black geezer; he has been busy advising a bunch of pissed-up tourists as to why they should visit his brother-in-law's crab shack on Tybee Island instead of any of the inferior seafood outlets thereabouts when he spots me:

LRBG: So where you from?
Me: England.
LRBG: Lemme guess.  Yorkshire or Essex?

Had I not been leaning against a pillar I should have fallen over.  For those not acquainted with the personal circumstances of your Diarist, I  am from $DEITY's Own County and have lived in what used to be Essex since about 1988.  My flabber is well and truly ghasted.

Saturday morning and what better way to start the day than by sitting in a rocking chair, southern-stylee, and watching an entire trainload of the USA's trade deficit passing by while drinking coffee and reading the paper?  But the hotel wants me out by eleven, so back on the road it is.

More horrible bumpy concrete on I-16, more pine trees, more miles of bugger-all.  At Macon it's right onto old pal I-75 again.  I head vaguely north again for a few miles and then pull off to chillax for a couple of hours at High Falls State Park, where there is shade, and tree-rats, and a lizard on the rest-room floor.  Remember that this is the South, so you don't just run willy-nilly into the bogs with a camera...

High Falls State Park.  Niiiiice,
And so to Hartsfield-Jackson airport.  John Jackson once lived here for a year, and probably not for a bet.  Return the motor-car with seven and a half thousand more miles on the wossname than it had three weeks ago.  No eyebrows are raised.

Ms. Homeland-Security does not like me, for my boarding card reads "LARRINGTON/D".  "That could be Diana" she says before making me hobble half the length of the building to get a new one.  Piss.  Surely the South is not infested with bearded Dianas?

Through security, buy fags & scotch, drink Hoegaarden.  Praise the wossname; there is an airside "Smokers' Lounge" here.  It is equipped with maximum-security-prison-stylee steel benches and an air-con system of frozen meat locker output.  After ten minutes I was shivering and sought refuge on a nice warm aeroplane.

We leave on time and in budget, and the driver has his clog down, so we arrive in an apparently sunny Londonton half an hour early.  Sunny?  Then when have we been descending through cloud for the past fifteen minutes?  Sho' 'nuff it is raining and cold and generally generating exactly the sort of ambience that is required at the end of one's holibobs.  And the first recognisable face I see on the Heathrow Express TV screen is Arsene Wenger...

Larrington Towers is at least still here, and it contains a sofa and three recorded F1 races, and BEER.  Next year: Project 48.5 concludes.  Stay tuned, Automatic Diary fans...

Day 21: Florence, SC - Savannah, GA

As I may have mentioned yesterday, a lie-in was permitted this morning as the Darlington Raceway Museum doesn't open until ten ack emma, plus it was a comparatively short drive down to Savannah afterwards - only 175 miles.  Prior to departure there was some mild panicking when a series of e-mails concerning my hotel booking for tonight said there was something amiss with my credit card.  I decided to turn up there anyway and see what happened.

I was first into the museum when it opened, and a massive two others punters appeared while I was there.  'tis not very big, containing as it does only about a dozen cars (one of which is a wreck), so it doesn't take long to see them all.  But there's also a shedload of interesting photographs, trophies, a case full of attempts to circumvent the rules1 and the National Motoring Press Association Hall of Fame.  You could quite easily spend most of the day here, pressing the little red button under each of the NASCAR luminary's portraits and listening to the potted summary of why they are famous, but while today was a lazy day, it wasn't that lazy.

I'll not pad this entry out with a load of pictures of old racing cars and some of their engines so I'll just bung in a couple:

The 1950 Plymouth in which Johnny Mantz won the first Southern 500

The mortal remains of Darrell Waltrip's Chevrolet Lumina following a 200 mph crash at Daytona in 1991.  He escaped with only minor injuries.

I went back into Florence briefly as I needed fags and ice-melting equipment.  The bloke running the ice-melting equipment shop has a cousin living in Surrey.  And then onto I-95 south.  I-95 in this area is mostly surfaced with the kind of vile bumpy concrete much favoured by Mr. A. Hitler, which is now out of fashion in civilised countries.  They've even gotten rid of the last stretches of the stuff on the M11.  Flat and surrounded by pines again.  I was tickled by one roadside billboard, for an outfit selling "peach products, pecans and propane".  It was almost as if some strange local ordinance allowed businesses to sell only products beginning with the same letter of the alphabet.

Then into Georgia, the fourteenth and last new state of the trip:

Last state, new or otherwise, of 2012

Not much different scenically until you run into Savannah which, as with most cities of any size over here, is surrounded by miles of used car dealers, pawn shops, fast food joints and "gas" stations.  I'm actually in Garden City, which fits the above description pretty well but the hotel is nice, as well as being half the price of those in the city centre.  It would have been nice to be able to stroll around the Historic District, but my feet are not really feeling up to strolling and I rather fear that this may be the case for quite some time.

No more America in this direction...
Savannah hav a v. interesting history if you are interested in hist. which few boys are.  For some reason which I can no longer remember, it didn't get trashed in the Civil War, unlike much of the rest of the south.  If you're interested, look it up on Wikinaccurate.  It was also the site of the first United States Grand Prix, only with typical colonial disregard for the niceties, it was called the "Grand Prize".  This was held in 1908 and was won by Frenchman Louis Wagner in a Fiat.  Savannah is also a major container port and, at this time of the year, is hot and sticky.

Check-in time at the hotel wasn't until three pm, so I drove through the city and out the other side, heading east across the myriad creeks and salt marshes which lie between Savannah and the sea.  At Tybee Beach I ran out of America and had to turn round.  Back to the hotel where the credit card nonse was quickly sorted out.  It seemed I had entered an incorrect expiry date.  Fool.

Tomorrow should be an even lazier day.  My flight isn't until 21:20, the motor-car is due back at 19:00, check-out time here is 11:00 and Atlanta airport is fewer than 250 miles of freeway distant.  I shall have to consult Thee Map to see if there's anything interesting within range.

Next update may be a while in coming as I am given to understand that the stingy cockwombles at Hartfield-Jackson charge for the use of their Wi-Fi.  Welcome to Atlanta, now show us the money.  I think not.

New states visited: Georgia.

1 - They missed possibly the best one evvah.  Legendary entrant Henry "Smokey" Yunick had circumvented the rules on fuel tank capacity by installing a fuel line between tank and engine with a diameter of about six inches.  At the technical inspection he was told that there were nine things wrong with his car which needed to be fixed before it would be permitted on the track.  Smokey drained and removed the fuel tank, told the inspectors "make that ten" and drove it back to the garage.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Day 20: Cookeville, TN - Florence, SC

The first day of the trip to visit three new states, so I celebrated with a double helping of ham and eggs for breakfast.  Then it was back onto I-40, through more glorious scenery.  The Colorado Rockies are still my favourite part of USAnia thus far, but this part of Tennessee is certainly up there with the rude boys.  Even if Officer Twit did his best to spoil it by maintaining that I hadn't slowed down when passing one of his fellow plods on the hard shoulder with his lights on, and I hadn't changed lanes either.  I couldn't change lanes because the one next to me was inconveniently full of about forty tons of Big Lorry.  I had slowed down, by dint of coming off the loud pedal and letting gravity do the rest but as far as Officer Twit was concerned you can't slow down without using the brakes.  Twit.

A few miles after this contretemps the route forked left onto I-81 and into the foothills of the Appalachians.  These are Teh Awsum and one day I'll come back for a proper look.  After about 90 miles things become Virginia and look even better.

Virginia.  A place of Splendid.
The drinking fountain at the rest area where the above photo was taken has a neat feature - a separate knee-high outlet to allow one to fill a water bottle, dog bowl, etc.  The person who thought this up should be heartily congratulated for Cleverness.

It's frequently amusing to see FOREIGN place names transplanted willy-nilly into USAnia.  Not far from here, over the state line in Kentucky, Glasgow and London are not so far apart, with Somerset somewhere between the two.  My favourite juxtaposition came at exit 19.  Leave the freeway here and you could go to Abingdon.  In the other direction: the road to Damascus.

After eighty odd Virginian miles I swing south onto I-77.  This goes across the grain of the land, culminating in the ascent of the famous Blue Ridge.  If there ever was a Lonesome Pine up there, it's been joined by about twelve million others.  Lots of Smells to be had with the top down, including grass where they've been mowing the median strip, trees (various) and, inexplicably, jet fuel.  Is there a plant native to these parts that smells like A1?  A seven-mile descent drops the road into North Carolina.

/me has now been here
Here some prodding of Emily ensued.  It turned out that Atlanta is much closer than I had thought so a snap decision was made to visit the Darlington Raceway Museum on the morrow.  This was, I think, the first purpose-built properly surfaced track in NASCAR history, opening in 1950.  The first race was won by Johnny Mantz in a Plymouth by a margin of fifteen laps as, unlike everyone else, he didn't have to keep stopping for tyre changes.  And no, I didn't have to look that up...

So down the 77 to Charlotte, which is huge.  Emily sent me off on a rather convoluted route, culminating in about twenty miles of vile ribbon development largely populated by the kind of six-fingered sister-shaggers (© Morrisette of yacf) who brake for green traffic lights.  After twenty miles of this I was ready to commit all sorts of Crime, but then Emily told me to turn right, the traffic vanished and the road undulated its way through pine forests and cultivated land.  It all rather reminded me of Les Landes in south-west France, except for the GBFO Walmart depot.

The aforementioned six-fingered sister-shaggers are probably those responsible for reminding unwary visitors that yes, this IS the South.  Yesterday there was an anti-abortion poster on one side of the freeway and an anti-evolution one on the other.  Then there was the wanky Toyota pickup which added being in teh gayers to the list of Terrible Sins.  This morning a store on the frontage road proclaimed "JESUS IS LORD" in big letters on the rear of the building, facing the interstate.  On the side was a simple description of the products on sale within.  GUNS.  Abortion seems to be the favourite bugbear of those whom some commentators have described as "the American Taliban" though.

Back to the road.  I missed the crossing into South Carolina the first time round so went back for another go.

It does say "Welcome to South Carolina", honest...

The reason that this picture is so piss-poor is because the sign is located immediately after a busy crossroads, so I had to snap it one-handed from a moving car.  It looks better in the large version on flickr, honest.  That's Emily in the foreground, by the way.  A mile or two down the road I pulled over to have a look at the photo, in case I needed to go back for another go.  A couple of teenage girls walk past.

TG#1: I like your car, mister.
Mr L: I don't.  It's rubbish.

TGs depart at a brisk stroll, uncomfortably aware that they are in the Presence of Madness.  After all, who but a complete loonhouse would buy a car that he knew to be rubbish?  They didn't notice the discrepancy between Florida plate and BRITON'S accent but then again, neither did Officer Twit, and he's supposed to be a trained observer.  And so to Florence.  On the plus side, the museum doesn't open until 10:00, so I can have a lie-in.  On the minus side, South Carolina is one of those downright uncivilised states where the liquor stores close at 19:00 chiz.  I ought to know better by now, having been caught out by this in Washington in 2009.  Bah!  At least I can uncap a fresh BEER without having to get up.

New states visited: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina.  And apoplexy.  Thirty off the bingo card now and one more to go this year.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Day 19: Wentzville, MO - Cookeville, TN

I actually managed to get going on time and in budget this morning, only to run slap into the St. Louis rush hour, which wasn't rushing anywhere on account of everyone slowing down to have a good look at The La attending to a rather bent Mustang on the shoulder.  Once over the Fairly Mighty Missouri it was right onto I-270 and then south on I-55, which was happily well-nigh empty.

Missouri has a sort of dangly appendage thing which pokes into the northern edge of Arkansas.  The last town signposted before the state line is called Holland.  This is highly appropriate as the last fifty miles have resembled Flevoland, only with cotton fields.  Holland is a fairly normal place name for this part of the world; today I've encountered Bucksnort TN, Luxora AR and my favourite, Braggadocio MO.

And so to Arkansas:

Arkansas.  They'd just cut the grass so it smelled nice too.
One thing which has long puzzled me is why this place is pronounced "Ar-kan-saw" while Kansas is pronounced "Kan-sas".  So we sent our best investigative reporter to find out.

BIR: Hi! I'm Alabaster Codify.  Today on "Stuff We've Just Made Up" we investigate the Arkansas/Kansas pronunciation paradox.  First we asked the local Indians.  The told us:
  1. Not to call them "Indians", and
  2. to sod off
BIR: and now, back to the studio.

So he didn't know either.  I have long thought Arkansas to be full of hillbillies, but you can't have hillbillies without hills.  And north-east Arkansas is exactly the same as south-east Missouri.  Flat.

After seventy-odd miles of Arkansas, I-55 gets bored and turns left to head into Tennessee, but one can also bail just before this happens and get onto I-40 instead.  One way or another one crosses the Mighty Mississippi and fetches up in Memphis.  I felt not the slightest temptation to visit Graceland, by the way.

A Bizarre Artefact, Memphis, Tennessee.  Yesterday.
Once out of Memphis, I-40 becomes a pleasingly three-dimensional with the appearance of passing through almost permanent woodland.  The trees are actually just a thin screen intended to prevent the motor-ist from seeing anything which might alarm her or him.  Some cows, perhaps, or blokes dressed in white, playing cricket ["Are you sure about this?" - Ed.]

The 40 would be dead nice were it not for the fact that it contains more trucks than any other road I've ever been on.  And with the terrain getting more scenic, many of the trucks turn out to be of the dragonfly variety; they drag up the hills and fly down the other side.  I have no idea what they're carrying or where they're going, but they were still present in large numbers east of Nashville, so it wasn't there.  One of them blew a tyre just as I was drawing alongside; it sounded alarmingly like a rifle shot...

I hit Nashville smack in the middle of the afternoon rush hour, which was every bit as vile as the St. Louis version, not helped by a Buick which had turned at right-angles to reality and hit the roadside barrier head-on, thereby blocking two lanes.  Once things were moving again I decided to stop at Cookeville, since Knoxville is another hundred miles and somewhere around here is the transition between the Central and Eastern time zones, which means losing another hour.  Fortunately it's the other side of Cookeville so it's only 21:30 here...

New states visited: Arkansas, Tennessee.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Day 18: Hays, KS - Wentzville, MO

Alarm clock malfunction again, resulting in a ninety minute delay in getting going.  Snooze buttons are not supposed to work like this and I shall be writing a strongly-worded letter of protest to my MP.  Or something.  Anyway, no doubt you'll be pleased to learn that eastern Kansas has a fair bit more going for it that its western counterpart.  There are more trees for starters, and also things which could almost be called hills.  The route has been losing altitude steadily since mid-way through yesterday; just east of Laramie it reached over 2600m but is now somewhere below 200.

Almost 200 miles to the outskirts of Topeka, then left onto I-270.  At its terminus get lost as Emily doesn't recognise the name of the intermediate destination.  Well she should, it's world-famous.  By dint of cunning map-reading and then telling Emily to take me to Lawrence, I found myself driving along a road which looked awfully familiar from Google Streetview, thereby proving that the thing has some use.  And thus I arrived in:

Stull.  It really exists!
Stull seems to consist of about three houses and the same number of churches.  Each of which presumably has a congregation of one family.  If I lived there I'd pretend to be a member of the United Methodists as they do lasagna (sic) on Tuesdays.
Stull, now with added "lasagna"
A little further up the road is Stull cemetery, which is alleged to be a gateway to Hell.  If this is true, Stan and I will be making millions as it will be possible to enter at Stull and leave via Swindon, or vice-versa, thereby eliminating all that tedious mucking about with aeroplanes.  While Stull looks an OK sort of place, the downside is that you'd still have to visit Swindon.  Meanwhile if some kind person could send me via regular Babbage-Post the current url of the remains of Theme Park I'd be ever so grateful.

A gateway to Hell, yesterday
I could have spent, oooh, minutes, wandering the streets of Stull (which are two in number) but time was short and I needed more of it to get lost in Lawrence while trying to find the western end of I-435.  This takes one to I-470 and thence back onto I-70 without having to pay to use the Kansas Turnpike.  And drags one kicking and screaming into Missouri into the bargain.  There is a GBFO sign at the state line but this is of little use if one is doing 70 mph four lanes away.

This semi-loop takes one round to the south of Kansas Cities, of which there are also two.  The original one is that of Missouri - its smaller namesake on the opposite bank of the river did not exists until Kansas became a state or something.  You don't have to imagine the conversation that was shouted back and forth across the river, because Dave Gorman has done it for you in America Unchained.  Once back on I-70, I was definitely in Missouri although it took about eighty miles before I could find some fairly rubbish proof of passage.  "Welcome to Missouri.  Now sod off" would have been better than what I ended up with.

"MoDOT" is the Missouri Department Of Transportation, acronym fans
In this rest area was a Ford Flex, a big square thing with lots of seats.  Its licence plate read "GET-EM" which is apparently something to do with not liking terrorists.  And then Fox "News" wonders why half the population of the Muslim world is busy burning the Stars'n'Stripes while chanting "Death to Satan Amerika!"

So what is Missouri like?  It's almost, but not quite, entirely unlike Kansas.  It has more trees and is lumpier and contains many a billboard for "Adult Superstore" which I imagine to be a euphemism for what we BRITONS would call a "Sex Shop".  One, or possibly two, such establishments announce their presence on a Several of billboards.  These read:


in letters about six feet high.  I'm not sure whether this is worse than the "SWEET CRON" sign I encountered in Oregon in 2009.  I suspect it is.

And so to Wentzville.  Wentzville is close to being a 'burb of St. Louis (pronounce "Sunt Lewis", natch) and was immortalised in song by George Thorogood and the Destroyers.  This, and the fact that it doesn't have a branch of Burger King, is all you need to know about Wentzville.

New states visited: Missouri.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Day 17: Rawlins, WY - Hays, KS

Dorothy: Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more.
Toto: Well, we are, you stupid bint!  Look at the bloody road signs!

Of course, with Toto being a dog an' evryfink, this came out as an attempt to say "Woof woof sausages" instead.

It was effing freezing this morning, though some at Battle Mountain had been colder.  Unlike at BM, though, it scarcely got any warmer throughout.  Top temperature was a paltry 18 degrees so the top stayed up.  I-70 through Wyoming was much the same as yesterday though there were some proper mountains to be seen to the south.  Right onto I-25 south to Denver, then I-270 to cut the corner; then I-70 all the way here.  I may have commented on the scenery of eastern Colorado before.  Kansas is the same only flatter.

Proof that I have been in western Cambridgeshire Kansas
It reminds me of some of the unequivocally drear parts of western Cambridgeshire, except that Kansas is, at a conservative estimate, a metric fuckton bigger.  Here is the most exciting thing seen all day:
I've been watching too many episodes of "Texas Car Wars". A rather down-at-heel 1960 Dodge Polara station wagon spotted in an I-70 rest area.
Hays KS is well-known to recumbent cyclists as being the home of RANS, manufacturers of such machines as the V-Rex, the Stratus and the Screamer tandem.  No-one else has ever heard of the place.

States revisited: Colorado.
New states visited: Kansas.

And guess where we go tomorrow, kiddywinks?

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Day 16: Battle Mountain, NV - Rawlins, WY

The only thing I need write today is this: I-80.  The only sights of note along the entire day's route are Parley's Canyon, which takes the 80 around the south of Salt Lake City, and the Bonneville Salt Flats, of which I have a Several of pictures on the flickr stream anyway.  So no photos today.

I did get stopped by the Utah Highway Patrol whom I'd just overtaken at a safe and legal 75 mph.  Apparently one is supposed to wait at least two seconds before pulling in from a passing manoeuvre and I hadn't.  Nice officer let me off with the standard warning he's obliged to give everyone whether he nicks them or not.

I'd originally planned to carry on a further hundred miles to Laramie but didn't due to:

  1. Yawning, and
  2. Lack of ice-melting equipment, and
  3. More yawning, and
  4. A pain in the ankle again, and
  5. Yawning
The yawning and lack of ice-melting equipment issues are now (mostly) resolved, so I shall shortly seek out some ice on which to conduct Scientific Experiments and hope the rednecks next door don't restart playing a mixture of country and Bon fucking Jovi at skull-wrenching volume.

States revisited: Utah, Wyoming.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Day 15: Battle Mountain, NV

First an apology to Miss von Brandenburg.  I was planning to take the photos you requested last Sunday, but my ankle wasn't working.  After that I've been too busy.  Next year...

Further news on the Jan-Marcel cock-up from last night.  They recorded the entire run on one of the on-board cameras and got Neal Hartman to have a close look at it.  Based on the analysis of the video as the Cygnus enters and leaves the measured 200 metres they concluded that he was running over 79 mph, but it remains to be seen how official this can be.

Every time the bikes run, someone is assigned the onerous task of ensuring that the radios and emergency flares are collected from the chase cars and handed over to the sweep car for transport back to the start.  The name of this official has gradually mutated from "Radio Nanny" through "Radio Wrangler" to "Senior Vice-President For Communications Technology".  The chief person in the start area, however, has always been known as "The Starter".  Until this morning, when it was changed to "Inconsiderate Arrogant Bastard" courtesy of a couple of drivers displeased at being held up.  One character gave us grief as he was going to be late for a funeral.  We forbore to tell him that he was already twenty-four hours late for it.

Considering the wind conditions this morning speeds were quite respectable.  Todd Reichert and Bluenose (which as I type has just been painted blue!) was fastest with 69.8 mph.  Aurélien went down quite gently after being released by his sk8r d00d, while David Verbroekken, running without a speedo, came into the catch area at R17.  Fortunately some of the Delft PSOs had turned up and were able to catch him before he had to ride back to town.  Sergei had signed up to ride this morning but his foot was giving him a bit too much grief.

So, back to the Super 8 for the photo shoot of bikes, riders, designers, builders, menials, loud-mouthed Aussies etc.  Chief Timer Jun Nogami, whose day job is Chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Toronto, is apparently known to the PSOs of that august seat of learning as "Dr. No".  Show some rispek, boys.  Anyway, world+dog is milling around in the parking lot.  A siren is heard.  Crikey, it's the rozzers, in the shape of Officer A-10 (at least, that's how he pronounces it).  He claps Sebastiaan in handcuffs and pretends to arrest him, before getting everyone who broke the speed limit on the course to sign on the dotted line pending the issue of proper tickets at the awards bash tonight.  Well, all except Greg Thomas (who has fled the jurisdiction and must be presumed safe in California) and Yannick Lutz (thought to be hiding under his bed at the Big Chief).

After a certain delay photographs of most of the bikes still here were snapped.  We'd just started to disperse when the Annecy boys showed up chiz.  Ben is busy encouraging everyone to sign his bike and there is generally much good humour.  I have a large number of photos of all this stuff and no time to upload them today.  I doubt I'll be able to get in anything about this evening's runs either as the awards bash can go on until the staff of the Owl Club throw us bodily out of the side door and then continues in someone's room until the BEER runs out.  And I have to get up at a time for which the Aussies have a typically pithy, nay, vulgar expression.  Expect the second half of this entry tomorrow evening...

Chris Broome helps spoil Nitro's previously pristine finish

It is now tomorrow evening and I am forced to recreate Matters Arising from memory as Idiot Boy managed to mislay his notebook overnight.  The final set of runs of 2012 were somewhat wind-affected, with one notable exception.  Riders, crews and volunteers are gathered in a huddle at catch.  Over the wireless come the dulcet tones of Marieke the Radio Goddess: "Legal wind".  Sharp intake of breath all round.  "Thomas van Schaik".  Silence.  "Seventy-five point".  The decimals are drowned out by a cheer audible in town.  The sight of a two metre tall bloke in a blue and yellow skinsuit capering about like a capering thing on caper-inducing drugs is a sight to behold, though being hugged by such a creature is not recommended.  Doubly so if you've only recently had a shower.  Then he fell over, or at least ended up lying on the ground like a stranded fish.

And so to dinner.  Kind of.  The first item on the agenda is the presentation of door prizes, an opportunity to waste an hour or more of valuable drinking time in making sure no-one goes home without either a Trisled water bottle or a piece of useless tat.  Jonathan was worried that the Bradley Wiggins mask and stick-on sidies he had brought along would remain unclaimed but fortunately Matt and Will from the Cal Poly team both have a wild and woolly sense of the ridiculous.

Opinion is divided as to whether the stick-on sidies evoke the appearance of Bradley Wiggins or Ron Layman...
Cal Poly appear to have been fielding a ringer...

Further presentation of stifftickets from Mike "Statto" Mowett, Hats to those whose performance met the specified criteria (although The Mgt decided to give Thomas both a 70 and a 75 because of his having to wear that tall pointy thing for two years), trophies, fizz, etc. etc.  I managed to escape by copping a lift with Raymond Gage.  It is possible to fit three six-footers into the back of a Chevrolet Rubbish.  Just not advisable.

I have gone to get some ice prior to melting some of it using the contents of a bottle marked "Johnnie Walker" when I am accosted by Ellen.  "BEER in the lobby" she says, waving a fity-six pound bag of crisps.  "Thanks, but I'm going to bed."  Pause.  "I bet you never thought you'd hear me say that!"

Day 14: Battle Mountain, NV

A tale of Ranch Road One.  Vicky Johnsen and I are milling around aimlessly waiting for her husband Craig to come and collect her when a chap driving an impossibly shiny Hummer H2 pulls in.

Him: Say, can you tell me where I can find the nearest Walmart?
Me: There might be one in Winnemucca, but there's definitely one in Elko.  I was there last Saturday.
Him:  Where's that?
Me: You need to go back to Battle Mountain and take the 80 east for about seventy miles.
Him: What about (points south down 305) that way?
Me: Believe me, there's nothing down there!

Bear in mind that this is some time after seven o'clock in the evening.  He was still intently studying his map when we left, as if he thought I might have been taking the piss.  Which I wasn't.

It has further been suggested that instead of returning the old tyres from whence they came, we use them to build barricades across the entrances to the Fillippini Ranch...

The morning session was windy enow that only the final three of fourteen runs got legal wind.  Probably the highlight was Aurélien exceeding 60 mph in spite of towing his launching sk8r d00d abut a mile before getting going as a solo venture.  The low point was Thom forgetting about such conventional behaviour as braking when coming into the catch area.  He nearly knocked me over, but I managed to jump out of the way in time and some of the more agile members of the team grabbed him in time to prevent any mishap.

Extracting Sergei after his morning ride

In the early afternoon the 1/8 mile drag races took place in town, ably organised as usual by Robert "Mister" Barnett.  I did not attend as I was busy with that Internet that they have now, but the overall winner was Giovanni Rey.  Ladies winner was Kira Prokopakis, who was also fourth overall.  They are both serious track riders, which probably helps.  Kira was later spotted being given a trial fitting in one of the Varnas.  Georgi is always on the hunt for fresh victims talent.

Edited high- (and low-) lights of the evening session:
  • Just like last year, Sebastiaan elected to sit out the Friday session.
  • Sergei crashed following a flat tyre; the top came off his bike leaving hm with nasty abrasions and a deep cut on his foot.  Bets are being laid as to whether he still wants to ride tomorrow.
  • Jan-Marcel was on what he reckoned to be the best run of his life, with his GPS registering over 127 km/h at the entrance to the measured 200m.  But a misaligned sensor at the exit of the traps prevented him from getting a time.
  • Ben, Ellen and Sean all went over 70 mph for the first time.  Sean had done an unofficial 70 back around 2003 based on analysis of the soundtrack of someone's video footage, but that didn't count.
  • Gareth put the trike record over 71 mph.
  • Tom and Phil put the tandem record over 73 mph.
  • Aurélien once again had a dodgy start but ran over 76 mph on his first run on the full course.  Non-legal wind though.  He came into catch far faster than knackered old gits like Raymond Gage or me can run so we stood and watched the Dutch PSOs do the necessary instead.
  • Jan Bos became the third fastest rider on the all-time list with 78.59 mph
  • We learn via Twitbook or Facer or something that Jay Henry (absent this year) has just become engaged.
Gareth has just heard his speed
Normally this wee vignette would go at the end.  You'll see why it didn't in a second.  Jonathan and I shared a table with the Annecy team again tonight,  Aurélien orders a BEER to go with his nosh.  The waitress asks him for ID.  Aurélien is at least twenty-nine years old.  Git.

At the end of tonight's debrief, Georgi stood up and told a story.  Being, as he is, originally from Bulgaria, Georgi speaks enough Russian to be able to communicate with Sergei.  He approaches Sergei and claps him on his injured arm before realising what he's done and apologising profusely.  [I'm paraphrasing a bit here but the gist is accurate - Mr L]  "My father fought in the Great Patriotic War" says Sergei.  "He was injured in action.  You think I would cry over something like this?"

Friday, 14 September 2012

Day 13: Battle Mountain, NV

First some good news.  By dint of carefully wedging a piece of folded-up fag packet under the plug of the car end of the iPod lead, I can have Musical Tunes once more.  The discovery of this solution, however, caused a certain amount of anxiety yesterday afternoon when the motorcar wouldn't start.  I was afeared that leaving the iPod's power lead plugged in had caused the motorcar to run out of electricity and panicked a little before realising that the shifter was in "D", not "P".  Now, was I hallucinating or did some bloke called "Andy Murray" really win the US Open last weekend?

Anyway, back to the bikes ["And the trikes" - G. Hanks, Australia].  Usual pre-dawn start for the wicked, with three runners over the short course and twelve over the long version.  The wind was mostly cooperative with only Jim Glover and Yannick Lutz having Evil breezes.  Arnold Ligtvoet (Bossman of Dutch recumbent builders RaptoBike) wanted to have a go at driving the sweep car so by dint of carefully not volunteering for any other post, I found myself actually on holibobs.  I could have slept in but you don't come all this way to the event and then miss bits of it.  Well, I don't.  I started out in the catch area, where all and sundry were entertained by Aussie motormouth Adrian Gotts while waiting for the bikes to show up.

Adrian Gotts signals to the approaching Jim Glover

Will Hilgenberg bring Gemini into catch
After that I moved up to Badger Ranch Road to join Jonathan and the ambulance crew.  Jonathan seemed more interested in observing ground squirrels than anything going on on 305.  The wind was all benign and there were some good runs; Toronto's Marc Dutras just missing 60 mph in Vortex and a fine 66+ for Giovanni Rey on his first run in Primal 2 on the full course.  Second to last of the morning was Thomas van Schaik, and was he ever moving when he came past us.

Thomas flat-out at Badger Ranch Road

Back at the motel there is consternation.  Thomas has been credited with some improbably poor speeds.  Most are firmly of the opinion that Something Has Gone Wrong.  The timers go into a huddle and check their sums while we chat among ourselves.  Will Hilgenberg reckons that sticking a Playboy centrefold to the inside of Glowworm's fairing might encourage Phil to push a bit harder.  Later I spot the phrase or saying "expanding the envelope" on Charlie Ollinger's T-shaped shirt.  I read this as "expanding the antelope" (link may be a bit wonky on ickle laptops).

Off to the Civic Center for the debrief.  Thomas is credited with a fully-legal 73.85 mph.  He's been knocking on the door of 70 since the 2010 event,so this was a very popular result.  Lunch, teh Intarwebs and a bit of loafing follow before heading out for the evening runs.  The wind seems about the same as yesterday but its certainly warmer, which ought to help speeds.  I have elected to join Vicky Johnsen at Ranch Road 1 - this is about a mile from the start hence the machines are running more slowly and should be easier to photograph.  At least, that's the theory but I came back to base with a fair number of photos of half a vehicle.  One day I'll RTFM.

From the first heat, both David Verbroekken and Gio Rey failed to finish, the latter going down 500m from the finish line chiz.  In the interval, this lady came to pick up her post and stayed for a while to watch:

Mail collection inna-Wild-West-stylee
We were also visited by a local rancher whose Hank name I shall Fillippini cloak in tactful anonymity.  He was Not Happy about the road closure, but fortunately did not appear to be armed.  The Highway Patrol officer hanging out at catch came up to our post just in case the chap in question did come back wiv a shootah.  He didn't.
Evil wind for much of the second session but for the third evening in a row the tandem record fell, going back to the Tom Amick/Phil Plath pairing at 72.26 mph.  All the third group were OK for wind.  Barbara Buatois had switched to the older Varna Tempest in which she set the current record.  "Better gears, better bearings and we know it works..."  She ran just over 73 mph.  Sebastiaan was again quick with a 79.5 and Gareth Hanks pushed the trike mark a bit further to 70.7 mph.  Trefor Evans pulled up in Bluenose as the bike's windscreen is so scratched and battered that in the gathering gloom he was flying blind.  The chase crew rescued him before he could fall over.

Gareth Hanks accelerates past Ranch Road 1

Results are cropping up at random intervals in all sorts of odd places but a good place to start is on the blog of chief timer Jun Nogami.  The final word of the day, though, should go to Jan-Marcel van Dijken.  There is discussion on the repatriation of the old tyres set out on the course by the Delft crew before the event.

Adrian: Can we get a truck or a big trailer?  I reckon I can only carry ten in my Nissan Altima.
J-MvD: If you open your mouth you could carry twenty!

The room is paralysed with laughter for at least two minutes.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Day 12: Battle Mountain, NV

My alarm clock worked this morning chiz.  Out to the chilly course in the dark for a few runs over the short course.  Jim Glover began to dance when his speed was announced as 49.2 mph.  The a correction came in 42.9.  Jim repaired to his lawn chair to pretend to sulk.  The, er, odd SuperSeven made its 305 debut.  If you've not seen the pictures from yesterday, it's a trike, Jim, but not as we know it.  Instead of the pair of normal wheels one might expect, it has three inline skate wheels on each side.  Seasoned observers opined that it would be slower than a slow thing on pig tranquilisers.

Kira Prokopakis in the SuperSeven

We were this: wrong.  Kira Prokopakis achieved 43 mph while Giovanni Rey did almost 49, and subsequently clocked 50+ on the full course.  Natch the seasoned observers opined that both riders would go much better in a proper streamliner; Kira especially as she's tiny.  The late night fettling by Thom Ollinger paid off with a solid qualifying run, but his chain came off midway through his full run.  Brother Charlie and Mike Mowett pulled off a seamless rescue before the bike could fall over.  Less luck was the Bluenose, which had issues with the wind, including a spectacular crash for Trefor Evans.  Matt Baker also decked Gemini when the wind suddenly eased.  No-one hurt.

Trefor joins the SR-305 Flying Club.  Photo stolen from Jun Nogami.

Sean Costin was ecstatic when I told him of Thom's misfortune.  "I've been telling him to put a chainguard on that thing for years" he said, before going on to tell me a scurrilous story about the spats around the wheels of the Toronto machines being made of genuine sex toy latex...

A relatively lazy afternoon ensued, enlivened by the arrival of Adam Ince and his new machine, the Meat-Propelled Missile.  Its design is shamelessly stolen from the Varnas, albeit in bigger and wider form and a fair amount of the structure is marine ply as Adam's dad, Dirty Dave, is a boatbuilder.  The main issue here is the meat; not only has Adam never ridden a streamliner before, he's never ridden a recumbent of any sort.  And now he has the scars to prove it.

Georgi passes judgement...

The first set of runs in the evening were all wind-affected, though not exactly slow.  Only Sergei was below 60 mph; Jan Bos - who is a former world champion speed skater - did more than 76. The second and third groups all had legal winds and speeds were high.  Sebastiaan set the event's highest speed so far at 80.1 mph and Jan-Marcel turned in another 77+ performance.  Gareth did it again, this time just cracking 70 and becoming the first person to set an official trike record; the IHPVA board having voted to create such a class earlier in the day.  And the Glowworm keeps getting faster; in spite of Captain Larry dropping it twice at the start, he and Phil upped the ante to 71.6 mph.  And there was great rejoicing.

I think the IUT Annecy team are trying to commit mass suicide.  On Saturday Aurélien rode Altair 4 out to the course with a car in front and another behind.  Preventing an irate truck driver from overtaking.  These people are armed.  With guns.  This morning one of their cars decided to pull away from the roadside, oblivious to the gravel truck overtaking at the time.  It's difficult to miss a massive and noisy Peterbilt towing two trailers but somehow they did and remained alive.  After his run this morning, Auré sat down on the dirt next to the Crappy Chrysler, where he came within inches of being run over.  And tonight Yannick Lutz decided to ride back to town on a Toxy ZR low racer with no lights.  We are expressly forbidden to do this by just about everyone...

Additional: Tuesday's results are available at; Wednesday morning's at

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Day 11 - Battle Mountain, NV

Driving sweep again today, so I didn't have much opportunity to take photos except at the show'n'tell at the Civic Center at lunchtime.  Of which more anon.  Here is a Story from qualifying yesterday  Georgi Georgiev doesn't like to watch his bikes running flat-out; instead he is one of the best and most fearless catchers in the business.  So here he is, standing in the road and making himself a target for one of the Altair bikes.  The Frenchie comes in a bit fast, the result of which being that Georgi's head enters the bike through the windscreen.  No damage to Georgi, happily.

In the evening runs, I've just pulled into the parking area at catch when I spy Jan-Marcel sitting on the ground having his head bandaged.  By the time I've gone over to make concerned enquiries he has got up and turned round; thus I can now see that his face, arms and hands are positively dripping with blood.  Fearing the worst for both J-M and the bike, I ask what has happened.  It turns out that, anxious for a quick turnaround, he has helped throw the Cygnus into the back of their SUV and stood upright rapidly.  Thereby bringing his bonce into swift conjunction with the pointy corner of the tailgate.

Out to the course at late.  Alarm clock fail.  No shower, no coffee.  Arses.  The only major incident happened to James Schroeder in the Firefly camera trike.  They'd been suffering from a vibration through the steering so this time James tried to power through and away the other side.  This did not have the desired effect, no, instead it took out both his camera systems.  Blind, he perforce ran off the road and did some considerable damage to the machine though he's unhurt.  "I'm sure glad Don put that Kevlar in for this year" said his mum.  Will Hilgenberg dropped the chain on Gemini but was able to turn into Badger Ranch Road, where he was caught by a surprised Eric Ware.  I told Will that this was just showing off.

As before, today's results are not yet online and I can't be bothered to go down to the conference room to see if they've been posted there yet, andI don't remember much.  Yesterday's results are on the main WHPSC site, though the formatting will make your brane hurt unless Warren has fixed it.  Toronto's new bike Bluenose made a couple of slow qualifying runs, which made everyone immediately suspicious of its cable-actuated remote steering.  However the bike redeemed itself with a 50+ run, Todd Reichert at the controls.

Bluenose at the Civic Center

Back into town for the riders' meeting and the show'n'tell.  Plan A: attend meeting, return to motel for shower then back to Civic Center.  Fails as the 11:00 meeting does not start until 11:40 chiz.  Mill around the room with screaming feet, taking the odd photo.  Where are the Tinies?  "Arriving at 12:30" says Mikey Sova, "with lunch at 13:30".  Plan B comes into operation viz. return to motel, have shower, lie down until Luncheon is Served.  Better idea all round.

Further lying down follows until it's party time once more.  Again we're running three groups of riders even though chief starter Chris Broome doesn't like it. It had been flat calm down in catch at 17:00 so obviously this wasn't going to last.  The only person from either of the first two groups to make a run with legal wind was Ben in Nitro, tripping the switches at 66.6 mph.  But everyone was legal, and fast, in the third group.  Highlights included Jan-Marcel recovering from his biff on the nut to become the fourth fastest rider evvah, with a run at over 77 mph, and Gareth hitting more than 69 mph for a new unofficial trike record.  But the stars of the night were Tom Amick and Phil Plath who, on Tom's birthday, pushed the tandem record above 70 mph.  You've probably seen enough pictures of Glowworm and it takes ages to insert a picture into the Automatic Diary and it's quarter to eleven at night here.  So I won't.

Postscript:  I have just stumbled across Thom Ollinger fettling his steed OB-Wan-Kenobi (the "OB" is short for "Ollinger Brothers") in the corridor.  Which is a bit odd as I believe he's staying at the Big Chief down the road.

Thom Ollinger indulges in some late-night debauchery

Monday, 10 September 2012

Day 10: Battle Mountain, NV

05:30 is not a civilised time to get up when one is on one's holibobs.  It just isn't.  We were out and ready to run as soon as the skool bus had passed through - both parents and staff take a dim view of their kiddies being twenty minutes late for skool because of a bunch of oddballs playing silly buggers in the desert.  The field is pretty huge this year, in spite of the no-shows, so there were no fewer than six groups running over the 2.5 mile qualifying course.  Which meant six runs up the course for me and the Crappy Chrysler.  Thus I discovered its maximum speed to be just shy of 120 mph.  This is actually 6-7 mph faster than the Mighty Mustang of last year, but that was artificially limited - by Ford, the terrible gits, not the rental company - whereas the Chrysler is naturally so slow they didn't bother.

The weather was pretty calm for the earlier groups but the wind began to pick up later.  Big surprise number one: Barbara Buatois dropped the Varna BM at launch; it later transpired that someone had made a bit of a horlicks of adjusting the gadget which limits steering movement.  These things have little enough steering lock as it is.

Steve Nash launches Barbara Buatois, shortly before she fell over
Small surprise number one was that Larry Lem decked the Glowworm back-to-back tandem, with Phil Plath in the tail-gunner's seat, at launch.  Big surprise number two was Eric Ware in the Wedge being taken off the road by a crosswind = surprising as Eric has ridden it in wind conditions which have most people loading their steeds back into the van and heading off to drink BEER somewhere quiet.  When he went off the road the top of the fairing came off and was badly damaged.  Eric injured his knee and has some apparently spectacular grazes on his back, while the bike's chainset was damaged.  Perhaps the worst thing, though, was that the transverse tube to which the bike's subframe is clamped was torn clean out of the tub.  In spite of all this, spanner-wielder-in-chief Mark Anderson reckons it can be fixed.  Hopefully he's right as it's a long drive here from Minneapolis.

Huge surprise number one was the speed of Aussie Gareth Hanks in Completely Overzealous, the Trisled team's trike.  He was clocked at over 68 mph and didn't believe it.  Although trikes are not officially recognised as a separate class, this was the highest speed yet seen from a three-wheeler, handily eclipsing the 66.1 mph set by Chuck Royalty in Raymond Gage's machine Orion in 2008.

Team Trisled's vehicles: Completely Overzealous (L) and Nitro
I haven't got access to the full list of results yet but quickest of all over the short course was Jan-Marcel van Dijken in the Cygnus.  This machine now sports a custom top for each of the three riders; Jan-Marcel has one with a camera for forward vision, as does Thomas van Schaik.  Thomas' lid also has a bulge in it to accommodate the big lanky idiot's excessive height.  David Verbroekken is sticking with last year's Periscoop(tm).

The afternoon was spent mostly on Teh Intarwebs before heading back out into the dark heart of Nevada, where the wind comes from.  It was, quite simply, a rubbish evening in this respect, with no rider getting in a legal run in spite of our holding off the start a bit later than initially planned.  For the first time that I can recall we set off twelve bike/rider combinations in three groups rather than the usual two.  Eleven of the twelve starters record speeds over 60 mph.  The twelfth, Sebastiaan Bowier in Human Power Team Delft's new machine VeloX2, blew a tyre somewhere north of 70mph and cartwheeled into the countryside.  The bike had been fitted with seat belts after a previous high-speed crash and Sebastiaan was unhurt.

David Verbroekken also crashed after a visit from the P+nct+r+ Fairy, but his occurred shortly before the 200 and he was able to get through the traps with the rear of the machine dragging on the ground.  This year we are using an optical timing system; had we been using the old one, which is triggered by tape switches on the road, the timing system would have been comprehensively b0rked.  Again I don't have the full results yet but again the irrepressible Gareth Hanks was second fastest, this time exceeding 69 mph.  Fastest of all was the Glowworm, this time captained by Tom Amick, with Phil Plath as stoker again.  Their speed exceeded the 2002 record of Andy Jacques-Mayne and Lance Doherty in the Bearcuda.  That machine's designer, Neal Hartman, is here for the fourth year in a row, making a documentary film about the event.  With better weather we should be seeing some new records...

John Jackson & Larry Lem prepare Glowworm for its > 69mph run
I refilled my motorcar this morning.  I have used a quarter of it already.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Day 9: Battle Mountain, NV

This is likely to be a short post, on account of my not having done anything all day.  I was excused course setting-up duties on account of my ankle being extremely swollen and itchy.   This afternoon Vicky Johnsen gave me some ointment which she reckons might help but it'll probably take a while for any effect to be noticeable.  The day was basically spent watching people fettle their bikes.  It's a very international event this year; in addition to the home-grown entries there's the Franco-Canadian Varna effort and the University of Toronto boys, three teams from the Netherlands, the IUT Annecy team from France, Sergei from Russia and the Trisled team from Captain Cook's Mistake Australia.

This evening we had the usual initial briefing, in which about a hundred people are crammed into a room only slightly larger than the average suburban sitting room.  The air conditioning couldn't cope.  I ran away, very very slowly.  Jonathan Woolrich and I ended up having dinner with the Annecy lads.  I'm expecting them to go pretty well this year; Yannick Lutz did over 73 mph the last time he was here while new rider Aurélien Bonneteau is a formidible powerhouse with a Several of records on unfaired recumbents under his belt.

I can't be bothered to add any photos to this post, mostly because my feet hurt.  Go over to the flickr site if you want to see Funny Bicycles in various states of undress.  Also I have to be up at stupid o'clock in the morning and fill the Crappy Chrysler with motor-spirit before going out to the course.  This event was so much more relaxing when we didn't have these new-fangled morning runs as well.

Day 8: Cedar City UT - Battle Mountain, NV

Firsts, apologies for not updating last night.  It was a long hot and boring day, we didn't get back from dinner until pretty late and then I found a NASCAR race on the telly.

A leisurely start for Cedar City, where the local roadies were out in force.  The stoker of one of the tandems even understood what my "Dirk Hofman Motorhomes" T-shaped shirt was all about.  So, program Emily and away.  West to Modena, then north to Ely.  Here I would normally have turned west again through Eureka and Austin before turning north again on NV-305.  Emily had other idea and had me continue north to Wells, there to pick up I-80 for the rest of the way.  This route is unutterably tedious and to make matters worse, oncoming traffic was appearing in clusters with a gap of a Several of minutes between them.  Exactly as US-95 north of Las Vegas last year.  In other words, roadworks with single-lane traffic and long delays.  Happily by the time I'd got to wherever the choke pint was it had gone.

I made a brief stop in Elko to visit Walmart; I wanted flip-flops, a nail brush, a new iPod lead in case it's my problem, not National's and some anti-itch cream which doesn't work.  Nail brushes and adult-sized flip-flops could not be had for love nor money chiz.

And so to a Battle Mountain infested with the Dutch.  Three Dutch teams this year - Delft and Cygnus, plus a new Delft-designed machine for Ellen van Vugt.  We are down one Canadian and one Scotsman though, as neither Sam Whittingham nor Graeme Obree is coming this year.  Any reader with a long enough memory of HPV racing might recall the name Sergei Dashevski, the Russian nutter.  He is here though I've no idea what he's riding as their party is camped out somewhere in the sticks.

One follower of these ramblings might like to know that in of all places the liquor store in an obscure Nevada town called Battle Mountain, I found a bottle of Bruichladdich Rocks.  And very nice it is too.

Old states visited: Nevada.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Day 7: Moab, UT - Cedar City, UT

Well, my ankle is not as painful as previously, but it has swollen up rather a lot and it itches like mad where the support bandage has been.  When I get to Battle Mountain tomorrow I must visit Mills' Pharmacy for some soothing balm.

I left at about 08:15 and found the first petrol station of the trip which didn't want a "ZIP Code" - the Shell station on N. Main should you be in the area.  Then backtrack along US-191.  There are so many amazing rock formations in this part of the world that it's almost easy to get blasé about them.  Up the road apiece men in hi-viz vests were swarming all over yesterday's truck wreck.  The are going to need a very large crane to get that out of there, unless they cut it up in situ.  Left onto I-70 and past further rocks of all descriptions.  The San Rafael Swell is particularly noteworthy; it also featured strongly in the uranium boom.  And when they came to build I-70 through the area there was the small matter of widening a six-foot crack through the formation enough to take a main road, and then doing it again when they widened it to four lanes.

The San Rafael Swell, plus the arse end of a Hyundai Sonata

It's about 90 miles down the Interstate to Fremont Junction, where the corners begin.  On the way the route passes Green River, where our old mate John Wesley Powell and his lads began their descent of the Green/Colorado rivers as far as present-day Lake Mead.  Edit: Wrong Green River; he set off from the  one in Wyoming.  And Mr Larrington suddenly found himself wondering why he didn't elect to stay there instead of Moab last night as it would have been a shorter drive (Moab is thirty miles off the freeway) and likely a sight cheaper too (Moab is a tourist trap).  Bum.

On to UT-72.  This would be great fun in a motorcar with confidence-inspiring brakes and enough power to get up the hills.  As the Chrysler has neither...  On the way I spotted this sign:

I know it's a perfectly ordinary county line marker, but the part of me that remembers 1977 wondered what The Electric Chairs had done that they didn't get a mention too.  After some twiddles and ups and downs the road drops into the Fremont valley which, in marked contrast to most of the Surrounding Spaces, is all lush and green and agricultural.  Cattle and sheep in the fields and the smell of newly cut hay.  It looks, well, prosperous.

Then right onto UT-12.  I've raved about this road before, but this time I decided to take it easier and look at the scenery instead.  This after failing to keep up with a Dodge Caravan MPV with two French couples on board - they had been staying in the same hotel in Moab.  Pressing the accelerator  while going up hil causes the thing to drop two gears and the engine to whine like a fractious child in a supermarket.  However, the increase in forward progress is barely discernible, so it's all a bit pointless.  Here is one of the madder bits:
A scary road, America, Friday

It's probably got a daft name like "The Devil's Verandah" or "Satan's Trampoline" or "Nick Clegg's Conscience" or something but if it has they didn't advertise it.  The drop on both sides is of a magnitude such that one could write one's will before being killed to DETH in a fiery explosion.  Eventually it gets less insane and from the entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park it's almost sensible.

Left onto US-89, fifteen miles south along the valley of the Sevier river to Long Valley Juntion and right onto UT-14.  Here strange things are afoot.  First there is a helichopter with a gert long cable dangling 'neath its belly.  At first I thought it was dropping water on a wildfire, but then discovered it was carrying straw bales, presumably to somewhere inaccessible on wheels.  Next there was a formation of the military jets, no doubt on their way to blow holes in unsuspecting bits of central Nevada.  And then there was "Run the Redrock".  It would appear that this is some sort of extreme relay run from Brian Head - a ski resort up in them thar hills - to St. George, which is somewhere down towards Las Vegas.  And it appears that if you are the driver of a team's support vehicle then the normal rules of the road do not apply.  I nearly hit about seven different minibuses on the way down to Cedar City.

At least the rain held off; there was some serious weather going on to the south as I approached Bryce Canyon.  Much of today's drive was at considerable altitude so it remained reasonably cool, but it was still pretty hot when I arrived here around 16:00 today.  First day of the trip with the top down for the duration and, indeed, the first to take place entirely within a single state.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Day 6: Georgetown, CO - Moab, UT

My ankle was feeling well enough that I was able to hobble the couple of hundred yards to breakfast without my wanting to scream blue murder every three paces this morning.  And what a triffic morning it was.  I was looking forward to penetrating deep into the heart of the Subaru-infested heart of the Rockies and had decided on a short day and a late start, heading for Grand Junction.  However, in spite of the amazing scenery:

Scenery. Colorado. Thursday.

I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as last year.  Why not?  The Chrysler has an engine of epic feebleness and cannot sustain 60 mph on climbs which last year's Mustang could canter up at 75 with plenty in reserve.  And only a short distance into the seven mile descent on the west side of the Eisenhower tunnel the brakes started juddering in a most alarming manner.  No problems last year going down either.  I am beginning to suspect that the phrase or saying "Ford Mustang convertible or similar" on National's web site may contain traces of Lie.  Since the only apparent similarity between the two vehicles is the fact that they are both convertibles, I shall be sending them a strongly-worded e-mail when I get home.  Daimler-Benz couldn't sort out Chrysler, and now they are owned by...


This does not augur well.  If they ever give me another one of these terrible machines I shall set fire to it on the first night and then report it stolen.

The brakes had at least returned to normal for the descent of Vail Pass and the astonishing Glenwood Canyon - see last year's report for details.  It wasn't really warm enough to take the roof down until lunchtime.  "You'll need sunscreen" said a passing hippie with whom I had been chatting after he'd ponced a fag off me.  He was right; however the problem arose ten minutes later when some of the wretched stuff dripped off my forehead and into my eyes.  I had to do about forty miles barely able to see before finding the Western Slope Vietnam War Memorial Park, where I could sit blinking until vision returned.

Wagner not included
Anyone attempting to follow these peregrinations on a map will have noticed that Fruita is a fair way west of Grand Junction.  This is because I had decided to press on to Moab - it had been way too early to check in anywhere in Grand Junction.  The last time I came through Moab, which I think was in 2010, I found UT-128 - a far nicer way to get to I-70 than US-191.  The latter is full of tourists going to Arches and/or Canyonlands National Parks.  Unfortunately I was unable to locate the correct exit from I-70 this time, so instead of the Colorado flowing through a spectacular red sandstone gorge, the most exciting sight on offer on US-191 was a motley collection of Depart of Transportation types and assorted law enforcement officers, all inspecting the mortal remains of an eighteen-wheeler which had gone off the road on a very gentle bend and was now lying umop-ap!sdn in the ditch.  I just hope no-one got hurt.

And so to Moab,which hav a very interesting history if you are interested in hist. which few boys are.  Its fortune originally came from uranium mining, but now it's a haven for Rugged Outdoor Types indulging in such perversions as mountain biking, rafting, shydiving and driving around the place in huge and noisy 4x4 which have been jacked up so high that in my current state of fragility I should need a stepladder to get aboard.  Tomorrow I intend to find some Corners for the first time this year and I suspect that the experience will be less fun than the same road was in 2011.  Bah!

Old states visited: Utah.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Day 5: Amarillo, TX - Georgetown, CO

Bad in parts.  My right ankle has seized up.  Since it was perfectly happy lugging Heavy Things through airports at the weekend, and because practically the only thing I've done since Sunday is drive, I can only conclude that it is the fault of Chrysler for failing to provide somewhere for my right foot while using cruise control.  Which has been most of the time.  If only they'd had a Mustang...  I've bought one of those tubular bandage things in the hope that this will improve things, but it could be light duties only at Battle Mountain.  And if I want some ice in my medicinal whisky tonight I'll probably have to drive to the ice machine.

Now the good bits.  Learning last night that the famous Cadillac Ranch is only a few miles out of Amarillo, I decided to go and have a shufti before starting in earnest.  This is considered by some to be an artwork.  It consists of nine junked Cadillacs of assorted vintages buried nose-down in a field.

The Cadillac Ranch
However, before heading out into the countryside to take more photos of the Caddies, I encountered this beastie:

One point twenty-one Gigawatts!
It has the licence plate BTTFCOM and is being driven to California along the old Route 66 by Terry and Oliver Holler.  Terry gave me one of their cards, which I have already lost, and said they doing a lot of fundraising for the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which does Stuff to do with Parkinson's Disease.  Many thanks to Oliver for taking the photos with me in them and to both of them for being nice.  There are more pictures of bot the time machine and the Cadillac Ranch on my flickr page,which is linked somewhere on the right.

This done, I headed back towards Amarillo before turning north, back on US-287 again.  In marked contrast to previous days it felt cool, though the temperature was still in the high twenties.  Once or twice it even tried to rain, prompting me to put the roof up.  Of course at this point the sun came out again.  The terrain was much the same as yesterday for the most part - gently undulating grassland and dry river beds as there's been a bit of a drought hereabouts lately.  I must have crossed the Arkansas River at some point but don't recall it.

Anyway, another day, another state.  This time Oklahoma.  The Okies seemed to be embarrassed about this - probably something to do with the musical - and the only signs that you're no longer in Texas are:
  1. A reduced speed limit, and
  2. Some slightly different road signs, and
  3. A worse road surface
For a while it looked as thought the sign delimiting Boise City would have to constitute proof of passgae, but then I encountered this:

Proof that I have been in Oklahoma
The part I'm crossing is the thin pointy bit sticking out to the left at the top.  It's not very far and you could quite easily fail to notice that you'd been there at all if travelling from south to north; instead thinking you'd gone straight from Texas to Colorado.

Ah, yes, Colorado.  I've not bothered to provide photographic evidence of coming here as all four regulars will have already seen loads of pics from last year.  Eastern Colorado looks the same as everywhere else I've been today, but then you pop over a rise and Lo! there is Denver with the Rockies in the background.  Getting across Denver was a sight easier than getting through Dallas and then it was up into the hills on I-70 as far as Georgetown.  Which is now getting chilly as the sun has long ago dropped behind the mountains.  I gained an extra hour today going from Central to Mountain time, but I'll have to give them all back on te way home chiz.

New states visited: Oklahoma.  Old states visited: Colorado

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Day 4: Shreveport, LA - Amarillo, TX

Q: Is this the way to Amarillo?
A. Yes.  Yes, it is.

There is not much to report today.  Texas started a few miles west of Shreveport and went on all day.  I'm told that there are scenic bits of Texas, but it's a big place and the part round here is dull.  Grassland, scrubby trees and the occasional bit of arable land and that's yer lot.  Apart from Dallas, of course.  I have seen at least three of the things commonly associated with Texas, namely beef on the hoof, oil wells and Dallas, which is huge and has an insanely complicated road system which appears to be only half finished.  Emily was making a good fist of guiding me through the whole sort of general mish-mash until she told me to keep left when it should have been right.  One twenty mile circle later we found US-287 which goes all the way to Amarillo and beyond into Oklahoma and Colorado.  It too is beset with roadworks, which led to a short chat with the local sheriff.

He let me off with a warning.

Did I say I hoped the increase in altitude would make things cooler?  Well, Amarillo is 1100 metres above sea level, compared with the 60-odd of Shreveport, and the temperatures were the same.  It's drier up here though, so forty+ degrees is more tolerable than it was in the swamps near the coast.  It's trying desperately hard to rain here; there's lightning in the distance and the ttempearture as dropped to only 32 degrees.  Come on, weather!

Other observations today: I still have not found a "gas" pump which has not asked me for a "ZIP Code"  when attempting to refuel the motorcar.  Near exit 540 on the Texas stretch of I-20 (appropriately this is the exit for the town of Van) there is upon the hard shoulder a Chrysler minivan entirely bereft of wheels.  This made me think immediately of Scousers, terrible person that I am.

A Texas, yesterday. Condensation on the lens again...
Proof that I have been in Texas

New states visited today: Texas.