Day Seventeen


"A Long Day's Journey Out of Night"

September 21, 2002

Tucson, AZ -
Long Beach, CA

521 miles

7:36 riding time

Dear Whizmo and Gizmo Reader,

We regret to inform you that since the boys are on their way home, they're starting to lose incentive to create meaty, juicy reports and fancy contests.  So you may notice some temporary degradation in the quality of your reading and contesting experience.  If you find this quality of service unacceptable, please submit a Request for Subscription Refund to [email protected].  In accordance with our no-questions-asked, money-back-if-not-completely-satisfied refund policy, you will receive a prompt and speedy refund of exactly what you paid for your Whizmo and Gizmo Online Motorcycle Adventure subscription, minus handling charges, applicable service fees and interest.

As always, your patronage is much appreciated.


The Whizmo and Gizmo Management Team

Today was long and strange.  We started our riding day (or should I say our 'riding night'?) at 3:45 AM, riding through the nation's vegetable bin (Imperial Valley CA), enjoyed some wonderful sportbike roads east of the Cleveland National Forest, and wrapped up with a hungry-man-size helping of LA freeway traffic.  Today was a little bit of everything, spread over nearly 8 hours of riding.

To establish the setting, we're now traveling home to Seattle as we conclude The Divide Tour, via Long Beach, California.  Why Long Beach?  Well, Gizmo wants to meet up with his son Korey, working as a musician on a cruise ship that berths in Long Beach.  Korey's ship docks here each Sunday.  He has a few short hours before he sails out again; like airliners, I guess cruise ships don't make money sitting in dock, so they keep the turnarounds short.  The plan is to have brunch with Korey tomorrow morning, after which we'll make a half-day's ride to Mojave, and then conclude with our final three-day journey home.  The projected route home is via Bishop, Reno, and Bend, but in looking at current temperatures in those areas, we're having second thoughts and may consider staying closer to the ocean.  This is a current topic of debate.

3:45AM - Ready to Roll.

Our early morning riding experience was fun and surreal.  Yuma AZ was our mid-point for the day.  With the Weather Channel (who, for some strange reason, STILL haven't called) predicting mid-day temperatures of 100+ degrees, it was an easy decision to get up at 3 AM for a very early start.  It felt great to hit I-10 westbound with two hours to spare before that big heating element  in the sky was due to crest the eastern horizon.  Zoom, zoom, zoom ... we quickly whipped the bikes up to the prevailing traffic speed of 85-95 mph, enjoying a cool, comfortable ride across most of Arizona in a little over two hours.  When you just want to make time, this is a great way to travel!

Two things worthy of note during our night ride:  First, by sheer astronomic coincidence, a full moon was setting in front of us to the west, just as the sun was rising behind us to the east.  The two orbs combined for a 15-minute performance, bathing the desert in a soft orange glow while the brilliantly pale yellow moon hung directly over us on the western horizon.  It gave me goosebumps—yes, real, honest-to-god goosebumps.  My lame description can't possibly do justice to the sight, but even though Gizmo and I shot many pictures, they all came out looking like this:

Yes honey, that's the moon out there on the
horizon; isn't it spectacular?


Dawn Patrol Near Gila Bend.

Second, we got strafed by the rumored Aurora spyplane!  Actually I'm not sure what strafed us, but it certainly wasn't your common everyday military plane.  We were just trundling along when suddenly a flying-wing type airplane flew directly over us at about 300' altitude.  He was running anti-collision lights, but there was no noise whatsoeverNone.  Very spooky.  If I was a betting man, I'd put my money on it being a F-117 stealth fighter rather than some new design, but it sure looked like it was more of a pure flying wing.  Who knows? 

We had a delicious breakfast at Yuma (in a place called 'Tylers' which advertises itself as having Texan food with a menu featuring lots of GOP-centric political commentary) and then proceeded on to El Centro CA to turn north into the Imperial Valley.  This is a huge agri-business area; I once read that some huge percentage of our fruits and vegetables are grown in the Imperial Valley, although the specific numbers escape me now.  Even though it was only 9 AM, the temperature was building fast and hard, and the bugs were out in force.  I would clean my faceshield and ten minutes later, I was again having trouble seeing through it.  The aromas of this place were unbelievable—it was some strange super-organic smell of what I guess was decaying plants, manure, fertilizer, ammonia, and cattle feedlots all mixed together.  Not completely unpleasant, I wouldn't recommend it as cologne either.

We were happy to turn west at the Salton Sea and climb into the foothills of the Anza Borego Desert State Park and the San Bernardino Mountains.  This looks like a popular ATV/ORV area.  Adjacent to the RV parks are concessions that sell and service ATVs, and most of the pickups coming down the road from San Diego had ATVs in the back.  As we climbed up further into the mountains, we enjoyed some of the best canyon roads of the entire tour.  Sportbikers: The fifteen miles east of Julian on Route 78 are about as good as it gets. 

At this point, it was a race between the altimeter and the thermometer—could we gain enough altitude to keep the heat of the sun in check?  The sun eventually won as the temperature reached the high 80's until we came down from the mountains and reached the Pacific Ocean at Oceanside, about twenty-five miles north of San Diego.  Boom, it was suddenly 70 degrees and foggy.  I love the ocean almost as much as I love Montana!

From here north, it was bumper tag and Frogger on the LA freeways into Long Beach.  Everybody was driving very aggressively at 80+ mph (the 65 mph limit is a joke) in very dense traffic with lots of lane swapping and tailgating.  It all worked out, but any mishap would have been catastrophic.

My final random image from today is from the war memorial across the street from the Sunrise Hotel in the port of San Pedro where we are spending the evening.  See that large gun barrel at the bottom of the image?  Well, that baby is from the retired battleship U.S.S. New Jersey.  Reading the data plaque, it says that it once fired a 2,700-pound, six-foot-long projectile 24 miles.  That's like hurling a Volkswagen from downtown Seattle to downtown Tacoma.  Can you imagine the sound and fury when this thing fired?  It  boggles the mind.

It's getting near the end of the trip, so I need to clean up some loose ends.

Several of our readers have inquired about the exact definition of a 'pass'. The most definitive description I've found is in Ed and Gloria Helmuth's nifty book 'The Passes of Colorado - An Encyclopedia of Watershed Divides'.  They define a pass as follows:  " ... a pass is the point used to cross a ridge that divides two watersheds. Divide and saddle are other descriptive words sometimes used to identify passes. Most passes are the low points between two higher points and are shaped as a saddle; divide describes the water division."  So basically a pass is the low point used to get from one watershed to another, and every pass is a water divide.  Cool.

The concept of The Great Divide is quite fascinating to me.  I found myself thinking about the fact that we were traversing back and forth between the Atlantic and Pacific watersheds every time we crossed over the Divide, more than fifty times on our Great Divide Tour.  (Where socially acceptable, we often 'marked territory' and speculated that some of our organic molecules might go to the Pacific, while others headed for the Atlantic.  But with an undergraduate degree in hydrology, I may be a little obsessive in this department.)

And remember the weird tanker-trailer in Contest #8 - Caption the Contraption, so ably captioned by Scott Ferguson?

Halfway to the competition, a freon leak in Gunther's custom refrigeration vehicle
ruined his hopes for first prize in the World's Largest Boomerang Ice Sculpture Contest.

Well, I neglected to tell you that this contraption is not really a boomerang ice-sculpture transporter, but instead is a DOT spec Dual Axle MC568 6500 gallon Aluminum Uninsulated Belly Drop Tanker. In addition to identifying said vehicle with pinpoint accuracy, T. J. Brady of Windsor Connecticut wrote to tell us a little more about why it's out there in Breckinridge:  "It's spotted there either for use or until someone comes to get it. With no placard holders or safety information, I would gather it is carrying water for road work. I've seen these things used in higher elevations where the road may pitch and the aggressive belly drop is used to help compensate for a large "heel", or left over liquid due to poor runoff to the valve at the bottom."   Fascinating stuff, T.J.  Thanks for the informative explanation.

Well, it's on to Mojave tomorrow.  As an aircraft enthusiast, this is a place of great interest for me.  Mojave is used as a place to mothball airliners, with Edwards AFB close by.  Till then, think motorcycles.

Music From the Road III

Contest 12, 'Music From the Road III' is still open - no one has yet scored a perfect score, although all the correct answers are within the submissions received to date.  Huddle with your music-wise buddies and get that entry in quickly.  We'll close this one tomorrow.  Best score wins!  (To enter, go back to Day 16).

!!!  New Contest -- Contest 13:  Count The Clicks  !!!

Ok, we're doing another one of our nifty, numeric contests.  In fact, this is the last of our 'conventional contests' as tomorrow we shift gears and start the grand finale contest, which will require some creativity from you, our online readers.  So this is your last chance to win by simply choosing, out of thin air, a number.  What could be easier?

Since starting this trip, Gizmo and I have been giving our Canon digital cameras a real workout, depleting batteries willy-nilly, shooting scenery like madmen, and annoying any man, woman, or beast who have dared to come within focal distance.  But just how many total images have we shot?  Ahhhh ..., that is the looming question and the subject of our contest.  Your guess should include any still image we've shot, even if we didn't use it in our reports.  The number should represent all shots taken by both of us up to and including today, Day 17.  Closest answer wins and only ONE entry per contestant please.  Let me repeat this last rule for some of our contesting audience who shall remain nameless but whose initials are TB and DN—only ONE entry per contestant.  Click here to guess how many times we've clicked the shutter.