CATKILLERS ON THE ROAD
The plan was for Donald Pepe, Catkiller67-69 ; Chuck Goodrum, Catkiller 5; and Donald M. Ricks, Catkiller 49, to ride our motorcycles out to Las Vegas and attend the 2003 reunion organized for our Vietnam era unit. Don Pepe lives in Jacksonville, Florida, and had the longest ride of the three. Chuck Goodrum lives in Atlanta, and just before the departure date, he decided to travel along Interstate 40 (I-40) with Don Ricks, beginning on October 15. Don Pepe was to leave a day later and travel the southern route, along I-10, a distance of just over 2,300 miles. The trip from Spring Hill, Tennessee, to Las Vegas was about 1,930 miles, and a few more hundred miles from Atlanta.
Chuck Goodrum departed Atlanta and traveling via backroads was to meet up with
Don Ricks at Bolivar, Tennessee, by mid afternoon on the 15th. Don Ricks departed
Spring Hill, Tennessee, about 9:30 am on the 15th and had a short ride of about
170 miles to Bolivar, traveling down Hwy. 31, west on Hwy. 412, down a short
stretch of the Natchez Trace to connect with Hwy. 64, and then west to Bolivar.
Don Ricks arrived in Bolivar about one o'clock in the afternoon, stopped by
the courthouse and reviewed county land records (Isaac Ricks lived there and
was a large land owner in the early 1830s), had lunch at a local Mexican restaurant.
After lunch, he visited Danny and Jerry, barbers at the barbershop across the
street from the courthouse, and discussed the upcoming motorcycle trip. About
half passed 2 o'clock that afternoon, Don repositioned his bike, a Candy Red
2003 Honda Goldwing, down the street to a parking lot adjacent to the Bolivar
Inn, the planned meeting place. The local police officers continued to cruise
the road in front of the parking lot all afternoon, probably wondering why this
old man sat waiting on a young-looking motorcycle. Chuck did not arrive until
just after four o'clock that afternoon.
Chuck rode up on a red Honda ST1100, packed well with enough gear and clothing to make the four day trip that would take him across nine states. They greeted each other as old friends, but neither had ever met in person. E-mail messages and unit history had prepared each to know something about the other. Both being six feet tall (Chuck a little taller), each in their early sixties, and each prepared for the long trip, they embraced hands and shared a broad smile. The adventure trip was on.
After a few minutes of small talk about the events of the day, their bikes,
and the thrill of the trip, Don asked Chuck if he wanted some refreshment or
food or if was ready to head down the road to Memphis. Chuck said he has already
eaten lunch at Corinth, Mississippi, and was ready to go. They had reservations
to stay the night at the Navy Inn at Millington, just north of Memphis, and
their route would take them west along Hwy. 64, then a short mile or two on
Route 205 to I-40, an immediate right along Hwy. 385 to Millington, a distance
of about seventy miles. They departed, with Don Ricks leading the way.
The distance from the parking lot in Bolivar to the intersection of Hwy. 64
and State Route 205 is 43 miles. Just after turning onto Route 205 and heading
north, they picked up speed to about 45, the posted speed limit. They had gone
only about a quarter of a mile when Don heard the sound of tires screeching
from behind. Chuck was following in the right tire rut of Route 205, so Don
looked back through his right rear view mirror and saw Chuck's red motorcycle
struggle to stay on the edge of the road, seemingly with a control problem in
the narrow gravel shoulder section, veer to the right into the shallow ditch
(just missing a telephone pole), up into the yard about two feet and immediately
return to the ditch, at the speed they had originally maintained. There was
no evidence of his bike slowing down. This action took only a few seconds, from
the time Chuck left the road, entered the ditch, and the bike struck the first
of two brick pillars over a low culvert that served the owner's driveway. The
closest one to Chuck was a mailbox post or pillar arrangement, and the structure
on the opposite side of the gravel driveway was a duplicate of the mailbox structure.
The culvert was very low, as there was not much depression from the road to
the bottom of the ditch, a factor which might have saved Chuck from more serious
injuries. For a more detailed account of the accident, click on the following
Charles L. "Chuck" Goodrum is now released from the hospital and is at his
home in Atlanta, recuperating from the following injuries: a compound fracture
to his left leg, just above the ankle; a broken collar bone; and several broken
ribs. A fortunate report for a man who performed such acrobatics at the age
of sixty-one. At last report, Chuck was using a wheel chair and a walker. You can contact Chuck at his home address:
2009 Jebs Court
Kennesaw, GA 30144
Phone (after 9 PM and on Sat-Mon at 7 am): 404-213-7283
God bless you, Chuck, and may you continue to heal rapidly and
get back to work soon.
On The Road Alone, Memphis to Las Vegas, Nevada:
Following Chuck Goodrum's accident, Don Ricks rode his Honda Goldwing, GL1800A, out to Las Vegas, alone, and here is a
photo of the setup for the trip:
It is a stock bike, with the following equipment:
- A sheepskin seat cover (sides removed with a seam ripper; perfect for the long trip). This from www.sheepskin.com (low back sport seat cover, $39.99). Best deal made all year!
- A $10 multi-pocket nylon/canvas travel bag purchased from K-Mart and stuffed
with clothes and personal items. This was mounted on the passenger's seat
and used as a back rest.
- There are two brass bridle rings (one on each side) to help anchor the
travel bag, and these were mounted on the passenger hand grips for the visible
bunge cords to secure the bags. A Kawasaki chain lock also secured the bag
against theft on the road.
- A Tulsa belly pan protects the underside.
- Big Bike running lights compliment the already strong headlights for added visibility, day and night.
- A Gerbing heated jacket liner for those cold mornings.
- A Heat-Troller for controlling electric's supplied to heated gloves and
the vest (heated gloves not needed on this trip).
- A Nalgene 3-liter water pack (a must on the roads out west). This was mounted around the travel bag and used as a ready water source on the move or at a stop.
- A Canon Powershot S30 camera, with 128 MB flash card and battery charger.
- A pair of silk long pants for wear under the next item.
- A pair of Roadgear XCaliber overpants, excellent on the road, hot or clod.
- A Roadgear Caliber Riding Jacket. This item is worth every penny paid.
- An HJC Symax flip-face helmet (with clear and sun shields).
- Silk glove inserts for cool mornings (used with Joe Rocket summer gloves).
- Tour Master winter gloves (for cold mornings)
- Joe Rocket summer gloves (for those hot days and used most often in this trip)
- Texas Boot Company Wellington boots (mink oil water proofed and polished).
- Acrylic winter weight socks for comfort and warmth (regular socks would have been okay on this trip).
- A credit card and a cell phone.
Day one, from Spring Hill to Millington, was a total of 219.6 miles. Day two was uneventful. Perfect weather would be a blessing the entire trip out to Las Vegas and back to Tennessee, so at no time was there a weather concern, just some cool temperatures in early morning. Don rode his bike a total of 656.7 miles from Millington, Tennessee, to Erick, Oklahoma. Gas receipt computations for gas mileage included these figures: 44.2, 40.5, 44.8, 39.2, and 37.6, using regular 87 octane fuel, My normal and average cruise speed was a steady 78 mph, indicated.
Day three from Erick to Holbrook, Arizona, was a total of 659.3 miles, also
uneventful. Gas mileage computations were: 41.7, 40.0, 44.8, and 46.4, and at
times the octane rating dropped to 86. There was no noticeable engine performance
Day four, from Holbrook to Las Vegas, Nevada, was a nice run., a distance of
394 miles. Gas mileage computations were: 42.4 and 52.4. That last figure can
be attributed to a a good part of the 171.5 mile segment ridden along historic
Route 66 at 55 mph. Here is a look at some of the country along that route,
just west of Ash Fork, Arizona (note the perpetual blue sky!):
Meeting Up With Don Pepe (and an interesting ride):
Donald Pepe had proceeded along I-10 during the last two days, and our plan
was to meet at the point this photo was taken; however, Don was not available
on his cell phone for the better part of that day. Don Ricks proceeded on to
the next possible meeting place, Kingman, Arizona. He sat at the intersection
of I-40 and Hwy. 93 for several hours, until establishing phone contact with
Don Pepe. The wait was boring, but something deep inside told Don Ricks to wait
for Pepe to make contact before proceeding to Las Vegas. So, he sat, and for
Don Pepe finally called, using a phone card purchased for that particular call,
because his cell phone was not then in a Sprint service area. Don Pepe's bike
had had an alternator failure about 50 miles south of Kingman, somewhere down
on Hwy. 93. Don's course of action was to purchase a new battery and to disconnect
his headlight in order to reduce the load on the ailing alternator. This took
some time, and he arrived at the meeting point at about four forty that afternoon.
After refueling and getting a refreshing drink, Don and Don were ready to hit
the road. One problem had to be overcome, but if they could reach Las Vegas
before nightfall, it would be a major problem.
Don Pepe's engine required an rpm levels that allowed the battery to maintain
a charge state, and that meant a road speed of about 55-65 mph. It would be
critical in order to maintain his tail light for safety during night operations.
Since the distance from Kingman to Las Vegas was 107 miles to the city limit
of Las Vegas, and nightfall was less than 90 minutes away, timing would be critical.
Don Pepe was without an operable headlight, so they proceeded along Hwy. 93
in formation, Don Ricks' Goldwing leading, again.
Their maximum possible speed was only 61 mph, as Don Pepe's bike maintained
a green charge state only at that speed. When they arrived at Hoover Dam, there
was an unexpected police checkpoint. Luckily, they spent only a few minutes
at slow engine speeds and were quickly waived through the checkpoint, and the
police officers did not notice that Don's headlight was not working. The pace
through Hoover Dam was restricted to 15 mph, and cars preceding the pair did
not exceed the speed limit. It was about ten minutes before Don and Don could
resume their required faster pace. By the time Hover Dam was in the rear view
mirror, twilight surrounded their route. By the time they reached the city limits
of Las Vegas darkness had descended, and only one bike had headlights. Don Pepe's
bike had a weak taillight. Being hit from the rear by passing cars was a real
concern for both men.
Traffic increased to a moderate flow as they entered the interstate system
and along I-515/93, and by the time they progressed beyond I-515 and onto the
limited access portion of Hwy. 93, traffic was heavy. Traffic speed exceeded
70 mph, a noticeably faster pace than the formation could maintain. Don Pepe
tucked up close to the Goldwing, and they remained in the middle lane for safety.
In a tight formation they increased their traffic speed to near 65 mph until
arriving at the Eastern Avenue exit. Upon exit, the traffic was again heavy
on the north-south Eastern Avenue. They worked their way south to Sahara Avenue
among the near bumper to bumper traffic, with no problems except for the lower
engine speed which continued to drain Don Pepe's new battery. A right turn onto
Sahara found them in lighter traffic, and their speed increased. They arrived
at their destination, the Palace Station Hotel, in a rush of traffic coming
off I-15, but the parking garage was only one turn away. Both breathed a sigh
of relief as they parked their bikes on the second floor garage space and walked
up to the hospitality suites opened for those arriving early for the reunion.
Home free! Hopefully, Don will write about the experiences of his trip and share them with us.
Catkillers Ride Again (A bike ride through the Valley of Fire):
The weather was a beautiful blessing throughout the reunion, and the sky was especially nice and blue on Monday morning when Catkiller bikers began to gather outside the hotel entrance about ten o'clock:
Jerry DiGrezio planned a bike route out to the east, toward Lake Meade, and after a safety talk from Johnny Moore, we headed out. Highway 147 took the party eastbound to the Lake Meade National Recreation Area, on a trail that revealed spectacular scenery:
We travel through the national park area and stopped at a turnout along the way to take a drink of cool water, photographs of one another, and to look for snakes (not really!). We were having such a good time that none seemed to be in a rush:
Just south of Overton Beach, we turned west along the scenic route to I-15,
through the Valley of Fire State Park, a twenty-four mile trip through some
even more spectacular semiarid dessert landscape but filled with colorful terrain
formations. We stopped at the entrance to take a photo and to pay our fee (honor
system was in effect), and here is the photo result:
We decided to continue our westbound heading and to join I-15 for a faster
run back to Las Vegas. It was a fun trip, with Len Ricks taking fast action
movies of each rider along the way. Harold Vail should have that footage. We
passed Nellis Air Force base on the way in and witnessed a formation of delta
wing fighters making a 180 degree overhead approach into Nellis. It was a sight
to see! We all make it back safely, if not directly (Las Vegas traffic was an
experience), and in time for the evening banquet. A good memory for a group
of very good bike riders, indeed.
The Reunion Wrap-up Report is now available for viewing. Just click on the words "Reunion Wrap-up Report.".
The Three-Day Ride Home To Tennessee:
Departure from Las Vegas began at six o'clock on the morning of October 22,
and in the early morning darkness traffic was light, all the way to Hoover Dam.
I stopped for a photograph and caught a police officer giving a citation to
a speeding motorist, probably for exceeding the fifteen mph limit through the
area. There is now a security checkpoint on both sides of the dam, and all large
vehicles are searched. Larger eighteen wheel trucks are prohibited without a
specific permit to cross:
As the sun came over the mountains east on Highway 93, the morning temperature at Hoover Dam was in the low sixties, but as the bike and rider progressed south through the valley the temperature dropped about ten degrees, then climbed back into the sixties just north of I-40. The four lane highway allowed for a sixty-five mph speed and proved to be smooth and with no traffic. There is a nice little cafe (food receipt lost, so the cafe name is missing) on the right, just before I-40, and a stop there proved to be a real treat. The lady owner was friendly and asked for an entry into their guest book. Another biker came in just after I had ordered breakfast and asked if he could join me. We introduced ourselves and struck up a nice conversation. Bruce Janssen was on a single ride to where ever the road took him, he being on a nice looking opposed-engine BMW that would probably take him anywhere he desired to go. We took a few photos of the antiques scattered throughout the cafe room and and parted after a filling western breakfast.
Bruce and I took one photo of each standing beside of a beautifully restored antique Wizard motorbike (we also had an opportunity to speak with the bike's owner, a friendly elderly gentleman and father of the cafe owner):
After joining I-40 at Kingman, the road is pretty much a cruise control event.
Traffic was scarce and progress certain, as long as the gas held up. Stopping
about every two hundred miles to gas up and stretch my legs I arrived at Santa
Rosa, New Mexico after 719 miles that evening. I took a few photos along the
way, as this one at the Arizona Divide shows:
Making reservations along the way is not necessary, and in some cases more
expensive than just taking a chance at finding a room. The trip out to Nevada
was more expensive, by reserved motel-rate comparison, than the return trip.
I found a nice, comfortable room at the La Loma Motel, located on Historic Route
66 in Santa Rosa. The motel owner was a veteran and took my charge card for
the $25 fee, tax included. A Mexican restaurant next door provided a large and
much needed full stomach after the long day's ride. The bike was secured in
front of my room, so the feeling of security made for a full night of sound
sleep. Let me interject here that security was not an issue at any point out
and back along the trip. Perhaps it was timing , the season, or just luck, but
I felt secure and comfortable everywhere visited. Gas receipts for the day's
run show the gas mileage computations as: 37.8, 44.8, 45.0, 46.1, and 46.1 MPG.
I had arrived in Santa Rosa after sunset and departed before the sun came up,
so there is no photo record of the motel stay. After a short ride eastward,
the next Route 66 exit was at Tucumcari. Any rider passing up this town will
miss a nice ride down the main street, which is rich in eating and sleeping
places. If you want a reasonable room, try Tucumcari. I stopped at an inviting
restaurant and gift shop named Del's and had a splendid breakfast (nice, friendly
ladies serving!). I charged my camera's battery as I ate and bought a few presents
at the gift shop. Music of the 60s played continually, as seemed to be the case
at all establishments visited along the way. After breakfast. I took a few photos,
and met another biker as I departed (his Goldwing is in the photo):
The terrain east of Tucumcari would suit the landscape tastes of the Easterner. From that city eastward is land populated by grass, trees, and greener scenery. I-40 is as near perfect as any road in the country, for its length, and state highway workers seem to keep the road clear of debris. I did not encounter a single obstacle in the road. Just to the west of Amarillo, on the south side of I-40, is the largest cattle feed lot and processing plant I had ever seen, and the smell almost knocked me off the bike. Cattle in small pen lots covered the right side of the road, and I sped up, as if passing an 18-wheeler.
As the sun rose higher temperatures also climbed, and the Nalgene water carrier proved to be a useful item and a ready source of cool water. I had mounted the contained (normally worn on your back, with adjustable shoulder straps) onto the back part of my travel bag, so the lower part of the water bag rested on the passenger seat and out of the sun. This protected area remained cool, and the water proved to be refreshing all day long.
The scenery along I-40, in panhandle of Texas, is much nicer than you might think, so don't be surprised when you start enjoying the countryside. It isn't the desert-like environment most people envision when they associate the area with what they have heard about that part of Texas. The area is flat, and winters are probably very cold due to the prevailing northwest wind.
I knew the day would be a long one, and since I-40 traffic volume increased
west of Sayre, Oklahoma, I decided to see some of the state. Oklahoma highway
152 would be a straight run eastbound to highway 9, which joins a four-lane
highway just southwest of Fort Smith, Arkansas. This route south of Oklahoma
City proved to be a less traveled route, with unmatched scenery. I don't believe
we shall ever run out of beef in this country, if the evidence seen along this
route holds steady. The speed limit was commonly sixty-five mph, and most of
the road surface was perfect for a bike. By night fall, and 673.9 miles later,
I arrived at the Interstate Inn, at Roland, Oklahoma. Again, the room allowed
for the bike to be at the front door, and I got a good night's sleep in a king-size
bed, all for a total of $34.60. Gas receipts for the day's run show the gas
mileage computations as: 45.2, 46.4, 48.1, and 45.5. The last two computations
were for the 65 mph run off and south of I-40, proving that when you slow down
gas mileage improves.
Early the next morning brought a feeling of hunger, and the only place I like to satisfy such a breakfast hunger is at Cracker Barrel. The one at Conway, Arkansas, was pleasant, and the service and food good. I met a man-wife biker team, who also had a GL1800, and struck up an enjoyable conversation. They were impressed at the total miles per day I had experienced the previous days. At Conway, I took highway 64 eastbound, as that route to just north of Memphis is nearly straight and take a rider along some nice scenery. Upon arrival in Memphis, I took highway 205 south to Chuck Goodrum's accident site in order to further record the scene of his accident. Some of those photos are at the above accident link.
Leaving the area, I joined highway 64 eastbound to Bolivar. I stopped at the
courthouse barbershop for a few minutes to inform the two barbers, Danny and
Jerry, about the accident and to add a few details about my recent experiences.
At one time, long ago, Danny rode bikes and was amazed at the modern-day distance
possibilities along our interstate highway system. Travel along highway 64 is
about like Historic Route 66, minus the historical markers. That route runs
along and through some beautiful Tennessee countryside, and with a few old motels
and restaurants one would have the same enjoyable feeling on a Route 66 ride.
I turned left at the intersection of the Natchez Trace for a nice and enjoyable
run north to highway 412, then west to Columbia, Tennessee.
At the point where Hwy. 412 turns into a four lane highway, west of Columbia,
I almost went down. My steady speed eastbound lured me into a fast mode,
and when the 270 degree right turn came up suddenly I foolishly entered the
turn too fast. There is only one way to safely come out of a too-fast entry
into a turn: straighten up and slow down. If you don't have room to accomplish
such a maneuver, as I found to be the case while in the turn, you MUST immediately
lean the bike over and let the bike and tires do the job. Catkiller was immediately
at the steepest angle of curve attack even before experienced, and the guy behind
me probably thought he would have to help pick up the pieces. The curve was
conquered, but I had a need for some slow speed reflective time for some thirty
minutes afterwards. By the grace of God, I arrived at Spring Hill, Tennessee,
unhurt and a more experienced rider, about sundown that evening. I had recorded
530 miles of travel that day, for a three day trip total of 1,923 miles. Gas
mileage computations, entered into my Excel spreadsheet maintenance and mileage
chart, included: 39.5 and 46.1. Since the tank remains low, I have not computed
the last mileage run. Home at last, and I had a great, great time on the road
alone. It would have been great to have had Chuck as a riding partner there