Manteo High School Graduate Tom Serine
Completes 2009 Western Motorcycle Adventure
After traveling to Alaska last year, I decided to split my distance in half and see several states that I had only touched (literally) with my motorcycle. I was planning my usual trip to Denver, however, I decided to travel through the states of Iowa and Nebraska before heading into Colorado, then head to Arizona. The only time I had been in Iowa and Nebraska was a few years ago and that consisted of taking a road into the state and then taking that same road out of the state. Arizona was even less, the only time I had visited that state was at the Four Corners. And that was 10 seconds when I road my bike around the monument. Since then, there have been rumblings that the Four Corners isn’t exactly at the location previously thought; there was a chance I actually had never been there. So this time, I was going to stay in Flagstaff and head back on Interstate 40. The bike went through the usual routine of preparation and I purchased a new digital camera and tripod so that I may be in some of the photos instead of just the bike. Although the bike now had 91,000 miles; it was still running good and just needed a tune up.

The first day was pretty simple enough; head up on I77 to I64, then take Highway 52 through Ohio, head North on Hwy 23 to Chillicothe, and then West on Hwy 35 to Dayton. The weather was warm but not bad. I do enjoy it when my directions take me through the non-interstate roads. It can make for a fun and interesting trip visiting other small towns and cities. I don’t mind riding through the bigger cities and although Dayton was not huge, they had a lot of construction going on. With road construction comes loose gravel, graded pavement, pot holes, slower traffic, and detours. And Dayton had all of this. I made it through just fine and after getting on I70, I was in Richmond, Indiana. I was planning on camping but it was hot and I really wasn’t feeling it. My GPS is good for these sort of changes in plans because it can find motels and provide an address and phone number to call. It’s much easier then driving around and hoping to find a cheap motel. I was able to find a place in downtown Richmond.
The next day was another warm one as I headed to Indianapolis. I had to take four different roads for the quickest route around the city. Its times like these where your map will tell you one thing but your GPS will tell you something different. You have to make an educated guess. After this, I was on I74 into Illinois through Peoria (beautiful city) and then onto I80 to Davenport. Then you really hit the farmland. I was able to find a cheap motel 25 miles west of Des Moines. It was another long hot day and I was beat. An air conditioned room after a long day of riding is a great feeling.
My route to Denver consisted of a heading West on I80 to Nebraska and then I76 into Denver. Omaha was the only city I went through until I reached Denver. I found the states of Iowa and Nebraska very nice and not as boring as many say. I thought there was more too look at then some of the other states I had been in (I won’t say which). As I neared Denver, I went through one small shower for a mile. So I played it safe and refueled about 30 miles from my destination and put on my rain gear. Of course, it didn’t rain again. I made it to Denver and proceeded to drink beer and eat pizza.
Colorado is one of the best states to see and I’ve always enjoyed my trips here. I decided to head up to see the Independence Pass outside of Aspen. At over 12,000 feet, it was going to be a fun ride. The bad part of getting there was the 200 miles you take West on I70 to Glenwood Springs, CO. Even though you are heading up 10,000 feet, the speed limit is still 50 to 60 MPH on a three-lane interstate road. And I would be taking this same road again in a couple of days. The weather cooled off to 70 degrees and became increasingly cloudy. By the time I made it to Glenwood Springs, it started raining. Not wanting to turn back, I put on my rain suit and headed to Aspen on CO82. Aspen is a nice town and it would be great to live there if you were a millionaire (that’s the impression I got of the area). Colorado isn’t just for skiing. I saw many hikers, bikers, kayakers, and white water rafters. The state is just as fun in the summer as it is in the winter. The rain was off and on. It was on whenever I pulled over to take a photo. The road narrowed and there were a couple of times where the bike slipped in the gravel but I caught myself and my bike ascended where the snow was still on the ground. By the time I made it to Independence Pass, it was 49 degrees and rainy. The bike handled pretty good at such a high altitude. The only think I did was adjust the idle. After a couple of photos (and almost passing out walking to the scenic view), I started heading down into Twin Lakes. Along the way, I saw many dirt roads that you could drive down to and camp. It made me want to purchase a dual sport and see these areas off of the highway (maybe next time). The rain stopped for awhile and I turned North on CO24 into Leadville before the rain started again. It was coming down good and I was holding up traffic going 25 miles on the curvy roads. I have yet to find a pair of gloves that keep the rain and cold out. I found myself using my heated hand grips in late June. I headed back onto I70 at Vail and from there, it was 100 miles back to Denver. The rain was still off and on which caused the traffic to do the same. The rest of the way was a little hectic. Driving through very graded pavement at 60 MPH down a mountain in the rain is not my idea of fun and can be a little tense. I also saw one tractor trailer’s brakes smoke up (the constant smell of burnt brakes is abundant on this highway) and I also saw a pick-up truck blow a transmission. I don’t think the DOT gets paid enough on this section of highway. It never fails but when you’re on a motorcycle in the rain, you always have somebody tell you that it’s raining and how you didn’t pick a good day to ride. I guess some people don’t realize that some ride motorcycles because we enjoy it and we don’t care about the weather. I arrived back in Denver and spent the rest of the weekend relaxing (of course, the weather was sunny and beautiful the rest of the time).

After the weekend, it was off to Arizona. The trip consisted of heading back up I70 into Utah and then heading South to Arizona. The weather was good and I made it through the mountains again, this time, with no rain. It always nice to ride along the Colorado River. 50 miles into Utah, I was off the interstate and heading South into Moab. Moab is a place I would like to see again as the town is surrounded by fascinating natural rock formations. From there it was off to the land of wind and tumbleweeds. It reminded me of the movie "The Hills Have Eyes." Heading into Blanding, UT, a storm came out of nowhere and the wind picked up to the point that the rain was stinging my face and was pushing me to the edge of the road. Luckily, I just made it into town when it started and I was only going 35 MPH so I pulled into a small grocery store to wait it out. After 30 minutes, I continued on too Highway 63 into Arizona where it must have been construction time since there was plenty of it. During my wait, I was able to rest and even snap a couple of photos. By the time I was on highway 89, the weather had cooled and the sun was going down. I made it to a KOA but it was already 8pm and even though the weather was cooler, I was tired and hungry and did not feel like putting a tent up (I’ve been really lazy on ride). I found a cheap motel for a personal record low of 30 bucks and an authentic Mexican restaurant was nearby. After unpacking, I ordered a huge plate of food and a big Mountain Dew. I hadn’t eaten since the early morning and I think I was scaring the staff by how fast I was inhaling my food. It was interesting watching the local Phoenix news showing the weather there was 108 degrees. I know it’s a dry heat but that’s still pretty darn hot.
The rest of my trip would be I40 East and it was just a matter of how far I would go each day. I met an older Native American gentleman near Albuquerque who was very kind, asking me questions about my trip and what I had seen. He was going to be retiring soon and had lived all of his life there raising cattle. He invited me to stop by anytime I was in the area and stay with his family. The U.S. is full of good people. I made it to Amarillo and stayed at a motel by a truck stop. You get a free beer with payment. How could I resist? The next day’s plan was to go as far as I could. The temperature had drastically increased by the time I was in Oklahoma and I was drinking Gatorade and bottled water every 100 miles. I was able to make it to Memphis but took the wrong exit but was able to see a nice view of the downtown area along the Mississippi River. I found my way back on the right road and stayed in a cheap motel by a truck stop (they have great food there) 40 miles east of Memphis. I also noticed that my luggage rack was almost broken through. Looks like my last day would be pretty exciting.

It had been a few years since I had ridden I40 through Tennessee and it was a beautiful day heading through the Smokey Mountains. 10 miles from the NC border, I hit a bump and noticed that my luggage rack had completely broken off and was just hanging there attached to my gas can by bungee only. I pulled over and tied my 2 gallon gas can to the side. I had just refueled so I couldn’t use it yet. This caused the bike to be a little awkward on the ride into Asheville. After 70 miles, I was able to empty most of the gas and was back on my way. I made it home at 4pm. Total damage: One broken luggage rack, one broken windshield attachment, and one crack through my rear fender. Nothing that can’t be fixed for the next trip. Total milage was 5,054.00.
Notes: This was the first trip where I didn’t camp at all. I discovered that for 5 or 10 bucks more, you can get an okay motel somewhere but you have your own bathroom, TV, and shower, not to mention a bed. Sometimes, that is just more convenient, especially when the weather is very hot. I’ve come to loath construction. I know it needs to be done but that doesn’t make you want to be in it. The "Colorado Rider’s Guide" by Mario Caruso is an excellent book that gives you every possible scenic route in the state.
Bungee is the greatest invention ever made.
Tom Serine is a 1989 graduate of Manteo High School and a 1993 graduate of Appalachian State. He currently resides in Winston Salem, NC and works for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. He rides a 2002 Honda 750 Shadow ACE