We thought we were hardened nomads until…

I fear this piece may seem a bit like a crazy compass, so please bear with me.  This particular piece isn’t about a cool place or things we’ve done.  This one is about people; those who crossed our paths whom we’ve shared good fellowship and learned of their exceptional difficult journey.  

So…here it goes.

These were of one of our first of several
‘road trip vacations’

Years ago BRV (before RV), Captain Dan and I would use our vacation time (his military leave) to take two-three week long Harley trips to see family or friends or to just go ‘somewhere different’.  Usually married couples of our ages would be going on lavish cruises or fly to distant countries to sip foreign wines and photograph ruins they’ve seen in history books.  But us?  We took a different road.  Riding was our passion; part of what defined us…our adrenalin…the skips between the beats of our hearts.  

The morning of each trip’s beginning, we opened our garage door, tugged at our luggage tie-downs one last time, geared up and said our prayer while idling our engines to get the oil running through their steel veins.  Our souls literally came alive and what anxieties from preparation instantly escaped our minds.  Immediate upward turning of our lips into grins abounded.   If you’ve ever ridden a motorcycle let alone, a cross country trip, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  Us…our machines… the road…and God’s loving grace.  

As each day’s end took us to some hotel on the road, we’d laugh at each other’s faces; sooty, oily, sweat and dirt stained with pink sunburned noses and lips.  We’d playfully mock each other’s ‘raccoon eyes’ from hours of sun and wind burns masking our eyes from our sunglasses. At the end of hot days, we’d grab our motorcycle bags and wadded up jackets to head for our hots and cot.  Oh, it felt so good to have a nice long hot shower and  put clean clothes on and make our way to a local restaurant nearby.  At night’s end, we’d walk back to our cushy room to put clean pajama pants and tee shirts on, and bounce between the white sheets of a Marriott’s bed for peaceful slumber.   Each day was exhausting (in a good way); perhaps fighting the wind, dodging needling rain or riding though what seemed to be a hot furnace but that was part of the experience and making of memories.

Enjoying brews and a hot meal after a long day on of riding
(notice our raccoon faces from too much sun)

We were adventurous dirty bad-ass bikers…

A photo stop on one of our trips

…or so we thought.

Now years later, we travel behind a shatterproof, bug-splattered windshield sitting in our heated or air conditioned Ram diesel dually pulling our 18,000 pound home on wheels.  Its quite different.  Admittedly, even though we no longer ‘trip ride’ the slab (asphalt) on two wheels, you can bet your bottom dollar, we still grin at and nudge each other when we hear the thunder of a Harley with trip bags strapped behind as the riders roar past.  Oftentimes at rest stops, we’d find ourselves wandering over to ogle out-of-state-plated scoots while chatting with bikers about where they were headed or where they have gone.  Now, while we absolutely LOVE our RV LIFE, there’s still that bit of unsettled urgency to get on a motorcycle to go on a trip. Once its in your blood, its there forever.

Fast forward a couple years…

Recently (Friday, November 4, 2016), we decided to day-trip to Death Valley National Park in Captain America (our dually) while Liberty was parked at an RV resort in Pahrump, Nevada.  After passing the Death Valley National Park entrance sign, we stopped briefly at a small pullout with an informational kiosk and a small building with bathrooms.  When we got out of the truck, we noticed a group of odd looking motorcycles with side cars that were loaded to the gills with well-worn travel bags, spare tires, dented metal and red plastic gas cans, coolers, large canisters of some sort and other motorcycle gear. 

One of the motorcycles was by itself with a few road-weathered young men looking perplexed at what looked like a mechanical malfunction of some sort. 

There were four other of these odd-looking bikes with the same visuals parked about 25 yards away in the parking spaces.  These bikes, were accompanied by a few young women stretching their legs and talking among themselves.  Now, if you’ve ever seen the Mad Max movie, perhaps you can get a mental picture of how I could describe the bikes and their riders.  This in no way, is judgement, mockery or ridicule; just merely the best description I could give for non-riders to visualize.  They all looked worn, dirty, sweaty…kind of like us on our own motorcycle trips only a shade or two dirtier, sweatier, ripped or frayed clothing, scuffed boots that needed a serious polishing with the looks of frustration on their weary faces.  We speculated it was because of that one bike by itself that prevented the group from moving on.  There was a van rental with a couple inside chatting that was parked immediately ahead of the single broke down bike.  I learned later that it was one of the lady rider’s father who had rented to come tag along for a short bit of their journey.  

Normally, an average person would, without a doubt, fail to make eye contact with this motley looking crew and walk briskly to get their info, take care of their business and get the hell out of Dodge.  I mean, seriously, if one didn’t know better…

…but we did know better.  We understood.  We’ve ‘been there’ (as bikers).  We stayed to chat with them. They looked interesting. 

While Dan walked to the kiosk to get info of the park, I approached them while studying their mounds loaded on their bikes thinking ‘WTH…” but then I noticed the foreign license tags which sort of explained the monstrosity of equipment. 

Intrigued, this spawned me into instant conversation with the young women asking where they were from and where they were going.  Trying to make them feel at ease, I told them we were once ‘bikers’ once but then, I sort of stepped back from that conversation because hardly, could we ever compare ourselves to what was before us. 

The tall one ‘Anne’ (pronounced ‘Ah-nah’) was adorably cute under all the road grime and dirt (actually, they all were); I noticed her very short haircut which looked like perhaps she cut it herself (or her comrades did…read on). I loved her spunk and outgoing, fearless demeanor.  She and the other ladies (Nadine and Elisabeth) seemed to be about their mid-twenties and quite fit looking under their matted helmet-hair, sweaty brows, neck wraps and road-grimed shirts.  They all were quite friendly and seemed eager to make talk in their foreign accents with me.  I seemed to think were European which proved right when I asked them where they were from.  Anne was from Germany whom led the conversation of the group; probably because she was extremely proficient with the English Language and seemingly less shy.  I asked if they minded me taking photographs of their top-heavy, heaping rides and of them.  There were four Ural 650’s with sidecars and two Yamahas and their riders who joined them in Canada.

To learn more about their Ural 650’s, click HERE

From their website:

The Ural motorcycle is a cross-country vehicle which is closely attached to Russia, ex-Soviet countries and Mongolia. This type of motorcycle with a sidecar has historically been a traditional means of transportation all across the communistic era. It is generally considered robust, anyone can repair it, and spare parts can be found in a local pile of garbage, a musty attic or the backyard of some lonely tacha.

I explained that we too, were ‘nomads but of a different suit’; telling them about our two-year journey throughout the United States as RV travelers.  I told them we were bloggers and shared our journeys via social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc.).  I pulled out one of our travel cards and gave it to Anna to keep.  She ooooo-ed and awww-ed at the photo of Liberty. I don’t think she’s seen RV’s like ours other than perhaps, passing or being passed on American roads.  We told her that we had two big, leather recliners, a nice big galley to cook our meals in, a king sized bed and a real shower.  We told them of our two kitty cats.  We also shared that we have behind our 5th wheel a pair of Yamaha XT225’s for dualsporting rides.  We laughed together noting the huge difference in our means of travel, journeys and living arrangements vs. theirs.

Reciprocally, she handed me theirs. (by then, Dan had walked over to us)  

I briefly glanced at their travel card which had the most peculiar photo of a suited up motorcyclist riding a camel trying to lasso the rider on one of their Urals with ‘leaving homefunktion‘ (spelled exactly that way). 

On the backside of their card read ‘On the Landway to New York’ with the map of the world in tan with their route in red. 

We learned of who they were; five artists with five Ural 650’s, 40,000 km journey and…It was then, we were utterly amazed and dumbfounded at their absolutely incomparable, scrupulous, gutsy journey.  We had a huge level of respect for this group. She told us that they have been on their journey for over two years as well however, theirs began in Germany traveling 30,000 kilometers.  Anna went on to tell us of their travels through Western Europe, Hungary, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Republic of Georgia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Russia and how they ‘floated’ their motorcycles down the Kolyma River in Russia to a port where they could board them onto boats to make way to Anchorage, Alaska.  Yeah, you read that right….‘FLOATED’ THEIR MOTORCYCLES’.  I hope I have that right!)

*Anna stepped away shortly for a moment while I chatted with the other ladies*

Anna returned offering me a cookie.  Anyways, she picked up conversation where she left off explaining how they rough-camp as a group wherever they can; eat from campfires, sleep on bedrolls under tarps on the ground and go days without seeing much of anyone or anything (other than the incredible scenery she described earlier) which explained greatly of the view of them and their bikes I vividly described above.  She excitedly told us that the United States has the most differential terrain as any other country she’s been to; explaining really high Rocky Mountains, to dry sand deserts, to rainforest-like Northwest coast to even Death Valley where stood.

Anna explained they had a stopover in Las Vegas to acquire much needed parts (well, because well…they’re URAL motorcycles) to do repairs, which explained the frustrations on their faces.  She said that their destination was New York City however, they had to change direction and head to Mexico instead because their Visas were expiring.  I learned that their journey supplies, clothing, electronics, communication, bike parts, etc. are paid for or donated by sponsors.  We shifted gears and started talking about their safety on the road and how, when I would travel by myself (as a lone woman rider), I always ‘carried’ (CCDW handgun).  She looked at me wide-eyed as if I had three heads.  “Oh, we don’t worry about that…we have a machete’ to cut firewood” and then she grinned.  I laughed as I got where she was going with that.  My eyes shifted over to her Ural to see if I could see where it was…not that I was afraid…just intrigued where the heck they would put the darn thing amidst the heaps of their tied down belongings.

We sensed a bit of sadness in her voice when she told us again of them having to go to Mexico instead of onto their final destination of the city that never sleeps.  They will continue south to Tijuana to cross the border, travel through Mexico and whatever comes of that while waiting for their new Visas to return to the United States so they can complete their planned journey.  I did advise them when travelling through Mexico to stay together as their laws differ greatly from ours…without getting into too much.

We still hadn’t talked to the guys as we didn’t want to interrupt their mechanical doings; walking back and forth to insure all the machines had been ready to roll.  They seemed very eager to getting the Ural fixed as sunset was nearing quickly. 

We finally said our farewells and well wishes of a safe journey.  

We got back into our truck to make our way down the road to see a bit of Death Valley National Park.  We stopped at an overlook to take photos and suddenly, we heard a rumble nearing.  It was them.  A smile beamed on Captain Dan’s face as he said, “Awesome! They got ’em running”.  We waved as they rolled past reciprocating our friendly gestures.  We looked at each other and the Captain laughingly said, ‘wish we were riding with them, dontcha!?’.  

We couldn’t stop talking about their wonderful story and journey all the way back home to Liberty that evening.  

To follow this hardened group of nomads, please refer to their card I posted. 

To LeavingHomeFunktion Riders, we wish you well and for all to remain in good health and mechanical efficiency.  Keep the rubber side on the road and please keep in touch!  We will continue to keep up with your journey.  Blessed thoughts on your eventual arrival to your destination, NEW YORK CITY!  We hope its all you dreamed of and more!  RIDE SAFE!!

Life is like Bluebonnets in the Spring!

This blog entry was written by Lisa

Since 1901, Texans have called the bluebonnet their official state flower. And “Texas, Our Texas” became the state song in 1929. But did you know Texas also has an official state flower song?

When the pastures are green in the springtime
And the birds are singing their sonnets,
You may look to the hills and the valleys
And they’re covered with lovely Bluebonnets.

One bright and warm sunny Monday morning, I woke up pretty stoked because of the day I had planned the night before. Ever since we got to Texas late last year, I was patiently waiting for springtime to see what the hoopla was about the Bluebonnets.  Since Dan is not one for my ‘over emphatic’ photography (in other words, I like to stop often and takes tons of photos…of things…ok…EVERYthing!), he decided not to go.  Don’t get me wrong, he likes flowers but well…he’s a guy…and flowers are just flowers to a guy…need I say more?  He had to stay behind anyways to do some much needed maintenance done on Liberty as we had just returned from our month stay in the salty air of Galveston Island so it served both of our purposes that I go solo.  Even AWOL, our mascot Eagle, got to go.

So, I packed lightly for the day and threw my leg over my Harley to ride my way up from Castroville, TX on some back roads, through Bandera, Kerrville and Fredericksburg.  It was such a beautiful day; one good for the soul type day.  Nobody bothered me which was a nice welcome after riding some of the busy thoroughfares and interstates.  It was a welcome sight to see the farmers and ranchers have recently plowed under the earth.  It meant spring was here.  The fields were showing new corn plantings risen through the small mounded rows.  There were patches of wildflowers along side the road, peppering the green spring grass with blues, purples, oranges, yellows and reds; wishing I could stop to take photos but there just wasn’t any safe place to pull off, so I will just have to hold that memory in my mind.  Let’s just say, it was beautiful!

I made a pit stop in Bandera (Cowboy Capitol of the World) to fuel my steel horse and get some vittles for myself.  I had lunch at Sid’s BBQ on RT 16; right on the main drag downtown near the shops and business district.  Holy moly, talk about meat overload!  I’ve come to expect that in Texas; they sure like their meat…and lots of it!  It was nice to sit out on the picnic table with the warm sun on my back taking up a chat with some of the locals. 

There were a couple local businessmen in their ‘cowboy business attire’ (cowboy hats, jeans, boots and shirt with tie) on their lunch hour as well as some other out of towners. Coincidentally, there was a couple of RVers from Ohio who were also fine dining with me at a neighboring picnic table.  We exchanged travel cards, finished our lunches and they went on their way.  It was time for me to get back on the road anyways.    

I followed RT 16 North all the way through Kerrville and Fredericksburg, which were quite busy as any small city is on a weekday and of course, tourist season here has already begun.  Once I got past Fredericksburg for about 10 miles, I turned right shortly after arriving in Eckert onto CR 1323.  There was a small sign pointing the way to the Willow City Loop.

As I rode into Willow City (watch out if you sneeze, you’ll miss it!), I turned left onto the Willow City Loop. There was a courtesy sign telling motorists and visitors to please not trespass as these were private properties and livestock ranches.  At first, I was the only one that stopped shortly past this large prestigious looking cattle ranch gate.  

For one, I was so glad I chose to go on a Monday and not the weekend as I was told by a couple locals that the weekends are way too populated with tourists; of course, not admitting I was one of them too.  Once I found myself a safe spot to park, I took my helmet off and removed my sunglasses to get a better picture.  Literally, tears started rolling down my cheeks. I was getting to see ‘in person’ what 99.9% of the world’s population won’t or haven’t.

It didn’t take long for others to join me. The other posie-peepers probably thought I was out of my mind but hey, I’m an emotional tourist, what can I say?  I truly enjoy the gifts God gives us; this being no exception.  The Bluebonnets stretched as long as I could see along the fence of this ranch.  THIS is what I had waited for; to see the Texas State Bluebonnets. 

Bluebonnets, so gorgeous and stately,
In your mantle of blue and of green,
In the spring when you’re in your full glory,
You’re the loveliest sight ever seen.

You’re beautiful when you sway in the sunshine,
You look like waves of the sea,
Ah, Texas was wise in her choice of a flow’r,
So we offer our homage to thee.

It was mere perfection; not one deadhead or wilted flower to be seen.  It looked like a blue carpet of flowers…and bees…lots of bees and for that I was grateful also…you know, the whole ‘bee thing’?  

This ranch was unique as each fence post hosted an upside down old cowboy or cowgirl boot.  It was pretty impressive.  I’m sure every boot had its own story or who wore them and where they came from that we will never know.  It was great that we all took turns taking our photos next to the fence posts and the Bluebonnets.

After about 15 minutes of just taking it all in, I mounted up again only to ride not 100 yards to stop to take this photo; a donation of hats/caps on this fence. I kind of wished I had one to add but I certainly wasn’t giving up my $40 Harley Davidson blinged hat. *grin*

Well, it was time for me to get back on the road and move on.  The best I could describe this road was ‘storybook’.  When I say that, think back to your storybooks from your youth; illustrations of roads lined with perfect lawns and flowers of all colors.  I felt like I was in a magical place.  The flowers’ colors were so vivid and perfectly planted as like in their stories.

The Bluebonnets were EVERYWHERE!  There were gazillions!  Some appeared as mass seas of blue in the far distance while the closer, they were like thick carpets; occasionally with a few red and orange Texas Paintbrush to break up the blues, like small boats on the big blue ocean.  

This loop was not a fast road; in fact, I barely even got out of 2nd gear most times which, even if I could, I didn’t because there was so much to see around every twist and turn.  Every so often, I’d have to slow way down for cattle guards in the road; rows of heavy pipe lined and spaced horizontally to keep cattle from crossing.  

I also was taking note of the many ranch gates; big iron clad poles suspending ornamentation with the names of ranches overhead.  Some were quite elaborate while others took the more primitive and simple, but they all had wild Bluebonnets at every entrance.   

What was only a few mile loop, I made into an all-day ride.  I loved stopping every few hundred yards to take more photos.  There was always something new around each bend.

I pulled off onto this small hill that overlooked the valley below.  It was incredible.  It was a sea of Bluebonnets.

I couldn’t help taking photos of some interesting native cactus’…

…and some other native Texas wildflowers.

Then I found perfectly shaped White Poppies…

…but still, the Bluebonnets took the cake!  

Blue is the emblem of loyalty,
They’re as blue as the deep, deep sea,
Their smiling faces bring gladness,
For they bloom for you and for me.

After fooling with my camera, I looked at my watch and noticed I needed to make some headway to make it back to Liberty before dark; before big critters sought me out to try to ruin my day.  As I rode only what seemed a few hundred yards, THIS happened!  Speaking of ‘big critters’!  This young lady ran right in front of me, then taking a quick right down into the creek bed.  I had to giggle to myself and thought, ‘whew, those large critters start tormenting motorists early.  Good thing loud pipes save lives!’  I must have spooked her.  I had forgotten for a moment that I was riding on ranch land and the road was still their’s.  I had to be more attentive.

After gathering my composure and making sure I got photo evidence for this story, I saddled up again and rode another few miles.  I saw a motorcycle had parked in a pull-off below and noticed him taking photos up in the air to the right.  As I neared him and looked to where he was pointing his camera, I was like ‘WOW!’. I had to stop and take some photos also.  As I mentioned earlier, around each bend was different than the last.

They totally looked like castle spires.  

As I rode on again, this was a few hundred yards on my left.  One thing I learned about Texas, no two views are ever the same.  Perhaps that’s why those who live in Texas call it ‘God’s Country’.

I neared the end of the loop back to Route 16.  I had thought, NOW I REALLY needed to get moving but just a few last photos to finish my quest to see the Bluebonnets.

Bluebonnets, blue lovely
More beautiful than all the
Texas chose you for her flower,
And we love you best,

Finally, I turned left to head home back on Route 16.  I left not even a footprint but took away with me a beautiful memory.  I can now say, “I got to see the Texas Bluebonnets”.  I didn’t know who’s smile was bigger; mine or the sun’s.  It was such an awesome solo-ride.  It was just myself, my bike, a map and the sun to steer me by.  It was an AWESOME day!

“So pack light and love heavy,
Life is like Bluebonnets in the spring!”
We’re only here for a little while
Its beautiful and bittersweet”
– Aaron Watson

Bluebonnet is a name given to any number of species of the genus Lupinus predominantly found in southwestern United States and is collectively the state flower of Texas. The shape of the petals on the flower resembles the bonnet worn by pioneer women to shield them from the sun.

On March 7, 1901, Lupinus subcarnosus became the only species of bluebonnet recognized as the state flower of Texas;[2] however,Lupinus texensis emerged as the favorite of most Texans. So, in 1971, the Texas Legislature made any similar species of Lupinus that could be found in Texas the state flower.[3][4]
As an extension of Lady Bird Johnson‘s efforts at highway beautification in the United States (see Highway Beautification Act), she encouraged the planting of native plants along Texas highways after she left the White House.[5] Bluebonnet blooms are now a common sight along these highways in the springtime.[2] They serve as a popular backdrop for family photographs, and the Department of Public Safety issues safety recommendations with regard to drivers pulling off highways to take such pictures.

Motorcycle Ride to Bishop Castle – Colorado

Blog post by Lisa

One of the cool things about us being ‘motorcyling RV’ers’ is meeting others who are like minded.  While Captain Dan was away on family business out of state, our neighbors near our campsite at the Air Force Academy Campground made certain I didn’t have to be alone the whole time.  The site across from ours was a same-aged couple (Vicki & Rex) who were camped there for the weekend to see their nephew, Austin, who was attending the Air Force Academy.  They had their trike there with them.

Through morning coffee conversation, Vicki had asked if I knew of any good roads to ride nearby.  I had mentioned a neat ride to a medieval-looking “Bishop Castle” in Rye, Colorado that our son took us to see years prior and the route to get there was outstanding, especially on motorcycles. Austin heard me talking about it and was googling it on his phone as I was describing it.   Vicki and I then made plans to ride out the following day with Austin riding on the back of her trike as her navigator.

The ride out was gorgeous!  Surprisingly, not much traffic.  The directions were simple.  We rode out the gate of the Air Force Academy south on I-25 to CO 115 to Florence, onto CO 67, turning right on Hwy 96 in Wetmore.  We saw signs directing us to the castle; turning left onto CO 165.  It was about a 90 minute ride out to Bishop Castle.

Admission is free, although donations are greatly appreciated and accepted.  There is also a gift shop that helps finance his ongoing build.  Its open most of the time.

There is nothing architecturally ‘perfect’ about the castle. Its completely constructed by the hands of Mr. Bishop.  I’m willing to bet there were no official blueprints.  If you’re into the whole Harry Potter thing, this is the place for you!  The stonework, iron work and blacksmithing was done all onsite; there is even a room where all of his tools and shop are on the ground level.

“Every year since 1969, Bishop has single-handedly gathered and set over 1000 tons of rock to create this stone and iron fortress in the middle of nowhere. Bishop calls it “a monument to hardworking people” and “America’s biggest, one-man, physical project.” “I always wanted a castle. Every man wants a castle,” Bishop continues, his voice a broken record, answering the same questions he’s obviously been asked thousands of times before.”

Visitors could climb all the way to the top, through winding interior stone stairs and metal work grid exterior walkways around the top.  I had climbed it before so I stayed below in the main room and Vicki made it about a third of the way up however, Austin was investigating every inch and climbing everything that could be. 

“It hasn’t been easy. For most of those 40 years Bishop was engaged in a running battle with Washington bureaucrats over the rocks that he used, which came from the San Isabel National Forest that surrounds the castle property. Bishop felt that they were his for the taking, the government wanted to charge him per truckload.
Another bone of contention that stuck in Bishop’s craw belonged to the Colorado state Chamber of Commerce, which refused to list Bishop Castle as an attraction in its official tourism guides.”

These individual panes were handcrafted as memorials and wedding memories
for friends and family
This cool dragon’s head breathes fire from the fireplace;
blowing smoke from his mouth outside.

This was looking up from the main entertainment room.
The ceiling was glass with fancy scroll metal work.
Austin, Vicki and I posing for a picture for a great memory of newfound friends!
(I hope they’re reading this!)
After Austin climbed every inch of stone and metal, we had to beat the sun back to the Academy as he had a curfew.  As beautiful as our ride was getting there, it was even better coming home as we were able to ride with the beautiful Colorado sunset.  Definitely put this on your list of places to visit in Colorado regardless of your ride!

To read about the story behind Bishop’s Castle, click on the link.