WHERE'S CHUCK?

Chuck Herman, former Blackbeard's and Cat Ppalou captain, and rubber boat captain in the Grand Canyon, continues his adventures across the US and in New Zealand...

July 17 - Saturday

Well this is it! With the rain holding off, my first stop is St Augustine, Florida. That should be a four or five hour ride if all goes well. I had to hold off on getting the windshield, so I have one on order up in Jacksonville. I hope the wind is less than yesterday.

I've made it to my first stop of the journey. I'm sorry to be sending this installment out a bit late; there are some internet problems here. But the ride was almost painless. The bike is not as comfortable as I would have liked, but during seven hours on the highway I did have time to think of ways to make it better. So, add some highway pegs and a cruise control and a windshield will do wonders.

Leaving St. Augustine

Leaving St. Augustine

I send my apologies to all those wondering if I am coming north; it doesn't look like I will be coming that way. The plan - yes, I do have one if ever so loose - is to hit Atlanta (Conrad and Kim are just finding out also) then move west from there. I have a ticket to New Zealand departing on the seventh of August out of Denver, Colorado. I will be 'down under' for a month. There might be a side trip to Australia, but that is not part of the concrete plan.... not that any of this is concrete.

But back to the ride. The wind was the hard part; a twenty mile per hour gust can move a bike around. One more time I can thank long haul truck drivers for their consideration for other drivers. Most of the trucks that passed me on the highway gave me a lot of space and not one tailgated me like most of the cars and local truck would, trying to "push" me down the road. All in all it was a nice ride, with the only problem just the tail bone starting to hurt some. I'll spend a few days here in St. Augustine with Beth and Brad before moving on. Thanks again, Beth. Oh, nice new wheels!

July 22 - Thursday

So I made my way to Conrad and Kim's for a few nights after a great stay with Beth and Brad, great folks. I spent most of the road time on secondary roads, much better to ride on. I rode with a guy from Georgia for a few miles. I can't say I got his name, but he had a nice looking blue bike. He went off to the left at some point with a toot and a wave. Nice guy.

Stopped in to say hello to Julie Watral for lunch. Felt like I was working on a land job as I sat in a traffic jam that had no apparent reason to be there! Welcome to the big city! On the way home I tried to avoid interstate 85 only to find that some of the side roads aren't marked all that well. Oh well, ended up back on 85 for the completion of the ride to dinner with the Kim and Conrad.

Next I will be on to Tennessee. I hope all of you are doing as well as me on the road!

July 25 - Sunday

I am writing from a beautiful place in the Tennessee hills, Mari's front porch... or is it the back, you see trees and mountains either way.

From yesterday's ride a note... do not place your helmet on the ground near ant hills. Of course, it was not 'till I was back on the road that I discovered I had done this when the first sign of this possibly deadly mistake was noticed as an ant was crawling across my face shield. Then one of his buddies started to complain with a bite to the back of my neck.

Beyond that, the ride was a great day. I got lost on the way as always. It just wouldn't be an adventure if there were no unplanned side trips, right? Cover ground in both directions.

This one was caused by stopping 50 miles short of my destination and then not seeing it myself 'till I was asked by Mari what state I was in. "Oh, exit 20 in Tennessee; get out of South Carolina first." Okay...

The last of the ride was cool as I ran through the mountains of Tennessee from South Carolina. I see why they are called the Smokies. I had the road to myself for this last bit. I finally made it to Mari's hideaway and watched the moon come up over the trees and heard all the bugs come out in wildlife's chorus. I slept sound, but got cold in the middle of the air condition-less night. It was 73 degrees when we woke this morning.

July 26 - Monday

I just don't understand why traveling sales people don't like this life. Other than the heat coming off the road today that made the 90's seem more like 100's, and that one bug that only left a foot imprint on my face shield - not sure where the rest of it is, there was no goo on the helmet - what can be so bad about being out here on the open road? I know it not that great when it's a job; been there done that.

It's been a great two days. Made it to my friend Mari's over the Tennessee hills to watch the moon rise and then the next day went back the same way to Jim Bob's place in Cleveland Tennessee. The pass from the Carolinas to Tennessee on I-26 is great, even more so on the bike. Mother Nature tried to dampen my spirit a bit with rain but it was still great.

I26 NC to TN

I-26 Tennessee to North Carolina

The weather has been hot and hotter. I did have that one spot of rain that did little to dampen the enjoyment of the ride. The route past the Ocoee and Nantahala Rivers, although full of dam rafting busses, was beautiful; even the man-made part built for the Olympics. I spent the night with my old, young friend Jim Bob in his home town of Cleveland, then had breakfast and got back on the road.

I rolled out of Tennessee and into South Carolina and back into Tennessee before lunch, and then through Illinois into Missouri in fifteen minutes! Crossed the Mississippi... Ah, what a day!

I am now lounging with my feet on a pile of pillows in a hotel room after a swim in the town of..... damn! I stopped 'cause I got lost. Had a great Mexican dinner though! Hope this finds all of you happy and enjoying my lost and rambling travels. I could have stopped at the Jack Daniels distillery, but figured I would have been lost sooner in the day. And it was closed being Sunday in the teetotaling Baptist south!

July 28 - Wednesday

I wasn't lost! After sending the e-mail out the other night I got on line with my friends at Google Maps and found that I was not lost. I guess I just was yet to be found.

Anyhow, got up this morning and made my way on the road, with a U-turn or two going the long way around, I was on highway 60 across the bottom of Missouri. It was long and hot. Most of this road I had thought I had traveled the day before, hence thinking I was lost. Route 56 was much further across the state than I had been led to believe. I have to believe the math is wrong... It wasn't me 'cause I haven't done it yet!

But it was an okay ride all on secondary highways, which is like saying interstate without as many trucks blowing by. The cops seem to hide better. I do believe that I only saw one on the whole way across Missouri. North from there brings me to my friend, Chris and the very protective Mobi, a fierce dog of 6" height, ready to defend the yard and house from any intruders - unless you have a toy.

Mobi checking out the ride

Mobi checking out the Ride

I will be chilling here for a day or two to let the (what is feeling like an old) butt time to recuperate before continuing west for the last leg of the ride. Thanks again for tuning in to all the boring news of the ride. Wish you were here to enjoy the boredom with me. I've been thinking that two bored folks are much more fun than one, right?

July 30 - Friday

Thank you to Mobi and Chris for their hospitality in last few days and the chance to rest my butt. Keep up the good work Mobi, keeping the back yard clear of riff-raff and all.

Well the day started nicely as I tried to use a Tom-Tom for my navigational purposes. I found that I could hear it, but understanding it was out of the question. I still have to stop and read the screen to see where I am going to turn next, but, boy I feel like I have a back seat driver doing my navigation. Her name is Susann.

"Turn left at the next... "

"Go straight for 2.4 miles."

"Why did you take a right?"

All in a very calm voice, never raised in volume, which might help. But she did keep trying many times to get me back to I-70 as I ran highway 18 through tree covered roads until somewhere along the way someone replaced the trees with corn, and then just grass. The hills rolled away under my wheels and it just got hotter and windy. So at the end of the day it didn't matter if I was driving on the interstate or the some forgotten back route, it was hot and windy.

What did the pioneers see as the rode in those covered wagons behind (or seeing the behind) of an ox. Why did they chase the Indian out of this land and why are there so many bugs on my new windshield? Better there than on my helmet!

Tomorrow is the last day on the bike... I know, what are you guys going to do for fun now! Well, I am going to continue my adventure and take it to the next leg of the journey... New Zealand! Yes, Denver is the last stop of the wheeled portion of this adventure; now I take to the skies, friendly or not. Some of you know how well I travel abroad, and some of the adventures I have had going to lands that speak no English. It's a good thing the folks in New Zealand speak the kings English, which in itself might be a problem. But I am meeting two very competent and well traveled folks over there, Helen and Cory will be my guardian angels. They just don't know it yet. They think I've done this before!

I will continue with these ramblings from over the seas - from the land near the down under.

August 1 - Sunday

Sorry, but this is it. The trip ends here in Denver, but stay tuned, because I still have to ride the bike home or well, somewhere else. In the mean time I will rest for a bit and fly my tired bones to New Zealand and meet up with Helen and Cory. For those that are not in the know, they are two kids I worked with on the Cat Ppalu this past winter. So, the last days ride. Man my butt is killing me! Highway pegs are in my future, for sure,

It started out bright and sunny in the town of Hoxie, Kansas. The first thing I found was that it was cold, like pull over I'm freezing cold. The wind was blowing already and it was not a warm wind. So I put on a fleece and rolled back up on the road. I saw other riders in T-shirts, so I thought it would get warmer... NOT! I had to stop again and add more layers. Man, did I bring enough for this?

KS Sunflower field

Kansas Sunflower Field

Finally, after lunch and some rain that I miraculously missed while eating lunch, it started to warm up in a hurry. Okay, pealing layers off now, down to the jacket. Still, I saw riders in short sleeves... I must be a Florida wimpy rider! It feels nice and comfy now.

The wind continued to beat me up most of the way; I did it all today on I-70. Anyone know how Colorado toll roads around Denver work? The signs said that it was all license plate tolls? Is there a bill that will go somewhere? Interesting; that means if they can find me, Big Brother can also...

The last remain herd

The Last Remaining Herd

I am here at Ann and Brian's house in Centennial Colorado, on their back porch, for a few days till the plane swoops me off to the land of Kiwis. I am getting excited now! Rather than sit, I think I will lie in the grass of their back yard, it looks very inviting.

Funny thing when I got here. If you know my sister, Ann, you will almost see this coming; I talked with her last night and agreed as to where the key would be hidden, as she is working today. Found the key just fine; stick it in the door... Right, it doesn't work. Hmmm. You know what's next. Jiggle it around, no luck. Around back there are sliding doors, maybe... Nope, not that one. How about this one? Yes! The key slid right in. It also unlocks the door with a resounding click... Slid the door open... Nope. So back to the start of this paragraph.

So here I sit on the back porch... I wonder if I could pee in those trees over there... Well, I had to pee in the bushes beyond the grass that looks so inviting. I will admit that reading and watching the bunny rabbits in the yard was nice, a hawk flew over head looking I presume for the bunny rabbits. And now it is starting to rain... No, make that hail, and now add wind. Holy moley, it's a small hurricane! When it did get really bad the sister pulled into the drive way only to find me laughing away in front of the garage. Ah, Colorado weather... no different from any other.

New shot of the bike

New Shot of the Bike

Well as you read this I will be in the air, sleeping... or drinking. Anyhow, the NZ portion of my adventure is beginning. I have to thank Ann and Brian for the bed and all the meals they provided for me in the last week. I was a very enjoyable stay. I also think I made Ann's day yesterday when we went for a ride on the bike. Just remember to lean Ann. Or no, don't lean, at least that far. The thrill! She is now hooked and can see why the rest of us like to ride.

But back to the trip. Denver to Los Angeles, then onto Auckland, New Zealand, and then to Christchurch. I am there Sunday morning at 11:00. So, you do the math and figure the time spent in the air and ground. This one is a short one, and I hope an uneventful fright. See you on the other side of time.... line. Oh I like that one!

August 10 - Tuesday

Well, I am here and it is cold. Dummy! It is winter. Six degrees celsius is the cold temperature and it is raining here on the east coast. There is snow up in the mountains, like buffalo snow. Get the skates out rather than the skis, but they ski on it and love it. I am going up there tomorrow.

The flights were uneventful, other than the strain on my butt again from sitting so long. That is a recurring theme in my story isn't it? Anyhow, checked out a museum today that was cool, but not much going on. Got back to the hotel to check in and found that there is nothing but a bed and TV in the room. The bathrooms are down the hall; showers, also! They also try to save on the heating bill to an amazing extent, I would soon find out. Had dinner and a beer, a "Mack" light. Not good. They can only get better though, I hope.

Crashed early with the heat in the room working hard to get it warm. Sometime in the night I woke to a very cold room and more rain outside. Woke later to a colder room and more rain outside. I lay awake in this very cold room and had to laugh at the fact that they were very serious about saving energy. About 6:00 a.m. the heat did come on, but again it worked very hard to warm the place up. It is just radiant heat panel on the wall.

Friends call with a plan for the day. Okay! Had a great day with Helen and Cory, with boat talk and getting a car ready to use for some exploring.

Back at the hotel it was warm in the room till I heard the heater close down at midnight. You could hear the valves or switches close on the heat panel. These places do not have heating when they are built. Folks either add it later if they can come up with the money or just put more clothes on. Last night it got to 1 degree Centigrade (or 33 degrees Fahrenheit for all of you that do not have a conversion chart at your side). I had my ski hat on most of the night! Brings back days in the Boy Scouts.

Heading to the hills - mountains - today with Helen and Cory. I don't have many pictures of things, yet. Christchurch looks like any other city in a wet winter, but up the hill we will see. Talk at you later, if I can keep warm!

August 14 - Saturday

Well, it is Thursday and I have no internet connection to send this out, so you are going to get a few days worth of news. Wednesday, we went for a 'wee' little hike and ended up with two hikes, short but nice. The sun was out and all was right with the world.

Driving over Arthur's Pass there was no snow as we drove; only way up on the hills was there snow to be seen. We stopped in the wee village of Arthur's Pass to check out the visitor center and, much to my surprise, there was a possum and a kiwi there, dead and stuffed. The possum is nothing like what we have in the states. This guy has a very large tail, bushy in fact, and teeth! He is quite disliked here, also. Other than being a trash nuisance I have yet to find why.

The kiwi, as we all know, is a bird. flightless and wingless, it runs around on the ground, pushing its beak into said ground looking for grubs and insects. Again to my surprise, a kiwi is a quite large bird. They range anywhere from a 'wee' - I think I am liking that word - wee 10 cm [3 inches or so] to something like 30 cm [12 inches]. And other than for the rats, which were brought in, and the possums, that were already here, the kiwi does not make a very good meal.

They also have a parrot here! "What??" Yea, that's what I said. This parrot called a Kea, has a beak that can kill a sheep. It lands on the back of the sheep and digs into its back and gets at the sheep's kidneys. Well, that's what I've been told, so it must be true! Why would anyone lie to me?

Parrot or Kea

Parrot or Kea

One of the guide books also said that they can tear the rubber off your wind screen - that's the front window of your car here. There are also signs here about feeding the Kea. They are quite smart and cunning; it almost sounded like a cross between a Raccoon and a Crow. They will figure out how to get into the trash can if you give them the time.

The mountains and passes are wild here. You might find a mountain, which they call a hill here, hard to climb on foot! It's not like Colorado where you may find yourself driving the side of the mountain zigg-zagging back and forth. They drive in-between the 'hills' and on the sides around them, so you don't feel like you've gone over them. Since they have yet to find that everyone needs to be kept on the highway, there are very few guard rails to block the view, and you are also driving on the wrong side of the road, but let us not get critical.

Then you find yourself in another valley on the other side of the 'hill'. There is snow on the tops in every direction and it is almost like someone took a pencil and said, "Nothing past this line". There is a defined snow line.

We were going to do some back country hike, but it snowed some 50cm [20"] or so on top of the snow that has been there for a week or two, with sun and some rain. So we nixed the hike for fear of avalanches, which in fact they did have. Took out two guys.

Sheep and Mountains

Sheep and Mountains

August 19 - Thursday

The weather has been cold and windy today. Again, the plans we had... We are staying here at Flock Hill for free, on the friendship of Helen and Cory who are past employees. We 'paid' for our stay by cleaning some rooms today, and were quite glad not to go up on the hill for skiing. We heard later that the wind closed down the hill nearby. So we helped out elsewhere by painting the ranch managers new house. Just the view from every window in that house made it worthwhile.

Looking down on Flock Hill

Looking down on Flock Hill

Flock Hill was so named by the early settlers because it looked like there were a bunch of sheep on the hill. Well, today there are a bunch of sheep on the hill. This place is a working sheep 'station' these days, but to help support the station it also has become a dude ranch of sorts. With the endless possibilities in the area, why not? There are more hikes around here than you could do in a week. There is mountain biking and horseback riding; heck, there's a town named for the bouldering to be done. I must be reading too many brochures.

August 20 - Friday

Hey, guess what. It rains here just like it does in the mountains in the states! The wind got up a bit here in the valley, but it is outrageous on the 'hill' top. Two hundred kilometers per hour, one hundred twenty-four point two-seven-four-two miles per hour. It stranded 1200 people up there at one of the ski resorts. But we sat inside and read books, played ping-pong - Man, I have not played that in years! - and listened to the rain on the roof. It was one of those kind of days.

August 21 - Saturday

I now have an internet connection, so this will be short just to get it out to you who are just waiting to hear from me. I just got up. I thought of you Pops; I hope you are doing okay this morning. I guess it not even Saturday for you yet.

The rain has stopped and the sun is out and it is already looking like a great day for a hike on the trails out here. The snow that could be seen from Flock Hill is all but gone; looks like spring in the Rockies. Can't see any angels on the hills though. I hope this finds you all well and enjoying the summer's end, winter is winding down here.

Aug 17

Cory and Helen spent the night out at a hut on the sheep 'station', so that left me batching it for the night. I was invited to Anna and Dick's, the station managers, for dinner... It was a family affair with their kids in a hurry to get back to school. Anna had to get them down to Christchurch for school. I think she is lucky for she only has to go through the lost books and home work not done once a week.

Anyhow, had a great meal and made it back to my room, (my room ha!!) to watch a movie; can't remember what though. Morning came and the whole station was under the clouds. I was packed up ready to go when Anna called to see if I would like to go out and get Helen and Cory. "Here's my truck and here is how you get there." Simple, right? This place is much larger in person than on any map that I had looked at. "Just take the main road to the end." Thirty minutes later, after five or six gates, sheep everywhere, creek crossings, and hawks flying by, I came to the end. "Go through a gate, cross the railroad tracks, through the next gate and turn left." Simple! Making a right at the end of the road would have made it real simple.

Anyhow, found Helen and Cory getting ready to ford a 'stream' that had turned into a raging river, deep enough to bring water to the bottom of the Land Cruiser. Ha! And they thought they would walk across. The water was moving the truck downstream!

What a beautiful place, Flock Hill sheep station. It just goes on and on. Thirty-six thousand acres! I don't know how many hectares the place is, but you will not walk it in a day; not sure if you could drive it in one. Although some of that is 'hills' that go straight up so nothing but a mountain goat could use them, there are no mountain goats here. I was watching a hawk fly around and then realized it was three hawks as they would wing down behind hills.

Yes, these were the hills 'cause the mountain was still behind that. I found that I could not look at everything. And I didn't bring the camera; well I will have to go back! And we are off, heading west, over Arthur's Pass and then south to the glaciers, Franz Josef and Fox Glacier. The guide book says that the early Maori (native folks) knew Franz Glacier as... Ready? Ka Roimata o Hine Hukatere, or Tears of the Avalanche Girl.

We are going up to see the Terminal face itself. Smart folks these Kiwi's; the guide book says that they rope it off so knuckleheads like me don't get to close and get hit by falling ice. Lucky me! So if this turns out to be the last installment of 'Where's Chuck' because of falling ice, I am so glad you have all enjoyed my travels, stumbles and rambles.

Well, I couldn't get this sent out, so I will add to it. And I didn't do the glacier so you will get more news from me. You are so lucky! The weather was 'crack', as one friend would put it. It was raining and the clouds were right smack on the ground. So we drove to our - no my - next adventure, Queenstown, New Zealand. The adventure capital of the world. Bungee jumping was started here.

The drive over was up and around, down and over, back and forth, through the 'Southern Alps' with no guard rails on these roads. Good thing Cory is a good driver. I wonder if the vegetation grows back fast or folks just don't go over the side, 'cause they don't slow down for most of the hairpin turns! Oh! And they have these 'One Lane Bridges'. Yes, one lane. One of the directions has the right of way. Everyone slows down at them, well you hope everyone does and you are not coming toward an off-islander that is asking his wife if she knows what the red and black opposing arrows are. It is wild to see the tractor trailer go over these bridges; at least you know you will fit without a doubt.

Tomorrow morning, I am signed up to go for a sound trip. It is in a fjord not a studio. So there should be some great pictures coming from that. Thanks for reading and hope all is well with you all.

Aug 21

Well things started a bit early for this semi-retired boat bum. At 5:45 a.m. the alarm went off! But if all the things I had heard are true it will all be worth it. I boarded the bus for a narrative and sometimes humorous ride to the west coast - Kiwi's and Australians have an unusual relationship.

We were headed for Milford Sound, misnamed because of how they were developed. They are in reality fjord. Anyhow, after the bus ride - up and down, over and through, there's a tunnel in this story, and down again, way down - we made it to the fjord, Milford Sound.

These mountains, well the whole country, were pushed up out of the ocean at the edge of the tectonic plate. Because of how far south they are glaciers formed and are still here. The mountains are soft, and sometimes just a pile of stone, big and small, and the glaciers move them very easily. Well, these fjords, there are twelve I think they said, down the west coast, were formed.

But getting to them can be interesting. The road that we took was built way back, by hand. It took 15 years and the laborers would live along the route with their whole family. It was during New Zealand's depression, same time as ours; between the War to End All Wars and WWII, and this was a job to have. These folks even knew how to drink back them. They had a party for every mile of road that was completed. Yes, they were using miles back then, and the marker are still there as memorials.

Mind you that might have only been a party every two or three months! But all were invited, workers and their families. There was an army of folks along the way. There are still brick works from the huge ovens that were built to bake bread on the side of the road.

East End Tunnel

East End Tunnel

At one point the road tunnels through the mountain. First they would blast, then wheel burl the stuff out. All the time they had the same dangers that are still here today; land sides, avalanche and tree slides. An avalanche took out the start of the tunnel a few years back (See it as a pipe in the picture). Ripped it right off the end of the tunnel. Tree slides are caused by there not being any soil on the cliff face, the moss is the ground layer. Not a lot of grip there. So the trees grow to the mosses, each other and into the cracks of the mountain, then one day one of the big guys gives up and a whole mountain side can come down leaving a bare rock where there once was life.

As they say here, "No worries". The moss is the first thing to grow back, then the trees, and in a hundred years you can't tell the difference. Well, that is if it didn't happen right next to you! Oh, one other danger is the avalanche blow. They had a road closing earlier this year, but the snow never made it to the road, just trees.

Wow a novelette! I haven't got to the sound yet!

The road makes its way into a World Heritage site, meaning when you come to see this place the only differences will be what mother nature has changed, or some poor bloke that lost his car over the guardrail-less fifteen mile per hour, one hundred seventy degree turns.

There is a valley named Monkey Valley, really; not after a monkey but after a dog. Yeah, some guys dog. Well, there's the Mirror Lakes; they're in the grass lands of this valley so the wind doesn't blow them much. I think I have a picture of those. There is another spot named 'The Devils Staircase'. When building the road they would rappel (was it called that then?), hang down on the side of the mountain, drill a hole (just one), put a stick of dynamite in, light the fuse and then pray the 'blokes' got them up the hill fast enough. Yeah, I can see the party at the end of that mile!

Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake

The road ends in one place, Milford Sound. And now we will end so you can go back to work, or get the kids fed. I will tell you of Milford Sound, the fjord in my next installment.

August 24 - Tuesday

I woke this morning with a sore throat and painful cough, but I made it to the Franz Josef Glacier. Would I do it again? Yea, cough and sore throat included. It was one of the things that I wanted to do and it almost hurt when I had to pass it off the first time through. It was certainly worth coming back to see it. While it was raining the first time through, yesterday it was sunny. Not necessarily warm, eight degrees Celsius [forty-six degrees Fahrenheit], but better than rain.

You do get wet on this hike as you squeeze through crevasse in the ice. You also work up a sweat. The guides do the whole day in shorts! They have long pants if the weather gets bad. I had shorts under the snow pants they provided, and though I was goaded on by the guides to go without the pants... I wore the pants. Does that mean I'm getting old or... smarter?

As wet as we got might be the reason I have a nasty sore throat this morning. Or maybe it was the walk back from the hot pools, or maybe the chill on my bald head in the hotel room. Anyhow, I would do the glacier again.

To explain the picture that I've sent along, the glacier cracks in two ways, longitudinal [top to bottom], and latitudinal [side to side]. You spend most of your time down in the crevasse, "'cause, well, ya can't fall any further down, mate!" So...

Two weeks earlier the glacier, which is moving on top at 5m [16'] a week, cracked longitudinally and they now have a new crevasse to explore. It took about a week to carve the steps and crossovers into the ice that down there could be 60 or 70 years old. We were a good 150' below the top of that particular crevasse. So...

Exhale

Exhale!

Exhale. We are moving through the longitudinal crevasse and it is so tight that if you are too big you would not have made it. At one point you could not turn around to look behind. On the floor your shoes would not pass next to each other. You walk with a shuffle, one foot behind the other. As time moves on, at five meters a week, this crevass will open up till it no longer exists and/or it changes to the point that I wouldn't recognize it - if I wnt back in a month. This is as far up on the glacier they could take groups on these hikes.

close overhead

Close Overhead

Close overhead, that is how narrow I think it got; or better put, as far as it has spread apart, that I saw. There was twice when you could see the top at all! Two hundred meters above sea level was about as far you can go as an untrained person. We had to come up and out of many crevasses to get here. The Snow field is still another 2 or 3 hundred meters above us at this point, behind the camera. The shot is back the way we came.

200m above sea

200m above sea level

A drainage hole, in this new crevasse we made it to, this hole must have been unseen for 60 or 70, who knows maybe 100 years before the ice split to expose it. It is hard to see but there is a hole over my head, also. Smooth as... ice. It was made by water draining down through the ice over the years. There were other places there that the water must have kept going over the years, but nothing we were sliding through.

In a drainage hole

In a drainage hole

It is a long walk in. You get a five minute bus ride to a parking lot, then a twenty minute walk through a wood trail, and onto the old Glacier bed. There's the glacier today, two kilometers from where you are now standing, a little over a mile. One hundred years ago we would have been at the glacier face itself.

long walk in

Long walk in

I made it out! Just for the fun of it all! What a day! About 6 hours on the ice itself without an iPod any where! They ask you not to bring them; that and jeans. I now understand the jeans. I ended the day tired and sore; so it is off to the hot tubs with me. These are glacier waters that are filtered and heated to three temperatures, 36 degrees centigrade, 38 degrees centigrade (100 degrees Fahrenheit), and 42 degrees centigrade. My number was 38c. The back and legs felt much better, but the walk from the pool to the changing room could kill a weaker man at 4 degrees centigrade (39 degrees Fahrenheit). It probably would not be any different if the temperature sign had not been there! As I said in the start, the sore throat and cough is my reward for all the fun.

Made it out

Made it out!

It must be as much fun in the summer months when the temperatures are much higher. Again, would I do it? Yes! That is all for this episode. Hope you enjoyed it. Sorry you are not here to enjoy it. Make the time for your own adventures, it is worth it.

When I last left you, I had used myself up on Franz Josef Glacier. I did poop myself out nicely. I spent an hour or so in a hot pool. Brian, the ladies talked me into it, and it felt great... the pool, that is. So the next day was spent around town, recovering from the fever that I developed that night, also. I am all better now thanks. The sore throat is clearing, also.

By the end of the day I was in the air, 7000' over the Glacier and other mountains. Funny these Kiwi's, distance on the ground is measured in meters and altitude while flying is measured in feet. Must be something English. I sat in the co-pilot seat during the 20 minutes we spent winging over the glacier, its snow field and the mountain tops and valley below. I didn't think the snow field could have been this big. Not sure what I was thinking it would be; the pilot gave the size in hectares, but that was lost on me. Suffice it to say you could lay a lot of first track in this stuff and you wouldn't even have to worry about an avalanche following you down the hill.

Snowpack above Franz Josef

Snowpack above Franz Josef Glacier

The pilot said it had less than a bunny hill angle to it. So why not ski it? Remember crevasses? Well, some of the ones you don't see are thirty meters - METERS - deep. Yes, that is almost 100', and if you fall in it might as well be a hundred feet. This snow up here is moving at about 5 meters [16'] a day, so you might show your face in what, 50 years? They get an average of 15 meter of snow up there. Boy that number stayed with me.

copilot

I was the co-pilot

It is really something to look out the right window and see the Tasman Sea (that is the water between New Zealand and Australia) and then look out the left past the pilot and see a glacier. Is there anywhere else you can do that? "Washington State," I hear Julie and Lloyd saying. I'm not sure, but are those two points within a four hour walk from each other? If so I might have my next adventure on two wheels!

Tasman Sea

Sun on the Tasman Sea

It was a great time to be in the air for this view, with the sun setting in the west. Yep, does it here too! And with that sun shining on the snow of the glacier and mountains. This great view from the front seat of the plane surely had nothing to do with it at all! Oh, and for what was a last minute thing, I'm glad I did it! It is another, "I would do that again."

The next day I was up early, again for more punishment on my body. Why? Why?

I was dropped off at the trail head for the Alex Knob Trail. Hike time: 8 hours. That means if you walk slowly it should take you 8 hours to complete the round trip up and down. Right! My shin muscles are still pulled away from the bones! I think my toenails worked holes through the front of my shoes. I didn't think toenails could hurt.

The trail starts nice enough, but gets ugly about 30 minutes into it. It started as a crushed stone rolled path, then it took a left turn. After about 2 hours I was thinking with every left or right turn or bend in the trail that this must be the top. Nope! I think they put switchbacks in just to tease you. Some were so fast that if you fell off the mountain you would only hit the last switch back!

Turn left two steps, turn right two steps! I should have asked, or may be remembered, how high this baby was. At 1970 feet, or 600 meters, I took a self-portrait of a happy, smiling bloke. By the time I got 45 minutes higher I was talking to myself and getting the same answer, a mumbling that sounded something like, "Oh God, another switch back?"

1970ft or 666m

1970 feet or 666 meters

I started to think I made to many lefts and was going to find myself in Australia. I still think they have the height of that mountain wrong. That sign must have said meters not feet. I must be at about 2000 meters by now. I was wrong it is in feet. This mountain - they don't even have a name for it, it's not high enough. Easy for them, they measure it with a helicopter!

Well I made it, but don't pat me to hard on the back; I'm still having trouble breathing. But again it was worth it. 1303 meters, now why change to meters? Math, math, math... 4,274 feet. Oh, my nose is bleeding just typing that! Looking down on the glacier, I just can't say what I really think of this ice. It is hard to put in words. As easy as these words seem to come to me, I am still at a loss of how to say what I see when I look at that. Ice cubes. Sorry but pictures just don't do it for me now.

1303 meters up

1303 meters up

There was an Austrian girl up there to snap the shot of my old bones falling over the sign. Proof! We had started the hike at the same time; she had been there for about an hour, damn kids and those new fangled shoes. I just had to sit and see the sights for an hour. Looking all the way around, 180 degrees and again. Between the snow covered mountains that are over 3000 meters, the glacier, and the Tasman Sea; it wasn't like I needed the rest. The next steps were down hill, right?

The cold and wind chased me off the top when my orange sections started to freeze to my fingers. They keep telling me that this place is a rain forest! Thought those were warm!

Rough trail

Rough Trail

The climb down really was no better than the 'walk' up. They were right about being able to go faster; ever feel like you are not in control of your descent? As cold as it had been up on the top, once out of the wind the ground went soft and turned to mud. Mud means slip and so, the slow descent would for a second or two become a crazy man coming down a mountain trail with arms flailing, laughing at himself as only I do. Oh, no! A switchback!

At one point I sat and had an all American snack, a half bag of potato chips. Looking out over the valley below; sitting on a ledge with no wind and the local mountain bird called the Toku - I think. It looks no different than the American blackbird till you hear it. Then you wonder if those sounds came out of the bird. "Snap, crackle and pop, with a whistle thrown in for good measure. Oh, it also hoots, buzzes and gets nowhere that you can see it clearly. The ones down in town have even more noises.

I made it down without breaking any records, or bones, I assure you. I did make it that night to the hot pool again, though it didn't take any urging from the female persuasion, although a troop did came in from some tour group. 25 to 38, I was told by a gentleman from the group. Damn kids and those bikinis. Sorry, mom.

Well, I am now in Greymouth... I didn't spell that wrong. The river is called the Grey and the town is at the mouth of the river, and so... Greymouth. There is some more hiking here, but there is also a brewery in town, Monteith's beer. The guide book says, "Just go for the beer." There is also a Glow Worm float. This one I might have to think on; it's done in the water in an inner tube... So it doesn't sound like I will be short of things to tell you the next time I write. 'Till then thanks again, as always, you guys are great to keep saying that you read these letters! Wow, what a bunch great friends I have!

Well, it has been raining here in Greymouth since I came. Cold, New Zealand rain. I made a few runs out, but they were short and I found nothing to do but dodge the rain or go have a beer. So, I thought I would see how it is made here in Greymouth, New Zealand at Monteith's Brewery. Now it's Saturday, with the sun shining, and there are 20 of us with the same idea. How does Monteith's make beer? If the tour is any indication, they make it quickly. The tour, 45 minutes and a lady giving a very mechanical talk, ends in a bar. But the tour first. "Five grains are used, filtered glacier water and yeast. Let it stand, put it in a bottle or keg, label it, put it on a pallet. Okay, let's sample some!

Yea, my kind of tour! From grain to bottle it takes them eight days. They also make a Three Apple cider and a Pear cider that is not marketed yet, so we couldn't have any. Though the tour lady teased us with it at the end of the bottling line. The Three Apple was quite good, though. They have six different beers that are all made in New Zealand. Only one, Traditional, is made here in Greymouth, along with the Apple cider. All the beers were good, but my favorite was the Golden Amber. I did buy some to bring home, but... well it was still raining out and I was sitting around inside and... I can show you the empties! You will just have to come over for yourselves. She did say it was being sold in the states at... right, Trader Joe's maybe?

Beer

Monteith's Brewing

The weather turned nice today and I made a bike ride to the other side of town. I would say "the other side of the tracks", but you go over 3 or 4 sets of them, so I'm not sure which side I'm on any more. Anyhow, you cross the river, so do the tracks matter?

The ocean was up with a swell and the waves were coming up the river as the current and tide were both pushing out, which made for some impressive action in the mouth of the river. I was told that there is a sand bar at this point that has taken its share of boats and Fisherman. A monument here has a dozen or so names on it. Today the one boat that came in was rocking and rolling but made it just fine.

Waves

Waves at the mouth of the river

The stories about the sand bar claim some wild stuff back during the war. I guess the U-Boats wouldn't come in after you. The waves beat on the stony beach in tall curlers the surfers like in the summer. I see none today, but one was there the other day. I thought it he or she was a seal.

The beach is covered with wood that has come down through the rivers to this point to be pounded on the rocks and stones. The waves, today at least, never stopped and it was very enjoyable to just watch and listen.

Waves at the Beach

Waves at the Beach

Cars are very expensive here, so they make what they have last a long time. I've seen Toyota and Ford and others that I've never seen in the states. They also have a new kind of Ford Fairmont here; I will have to get a picture of it. It's cool! It's a short pick-up truck like the old El Camino.

Car

Car

Well once again I've bewildered you all with my Bla Bla Bla. Thanks for tuning in; guess you have nothing better to with your day.

Cars

Cars

I am on the home stretch. Headed for my last bed in the morning. It's in an old Jailhouse.

cars

Cars

Well this will most likely be the last of the "Ramblings from New Zealand". I am sitting in the old jailhouse that has been turned into a hostel. I would like to guess that the inmates kept the place warmer though.

Oh, I found some more great cars! The yellow one is an old Mini, but the green one is the one that I think would make it in the USA. It is a Falcon. Didn't we have them at one time? I like the color, too.

Okay, the train ride over from Greymouth was great and relaxing, not that I really need and more of that. It went over Arthur's Pass, the one that I've been over twice in a car with Cory and Helen. But there are a few more things to see, like seven tunnels to go through and six viaducts to go over. They ask - no tell you - that you have to be inside for the first of the tunnels and lock the doors because the tunnel itself is 15 minutes long at 35 miles an hour. We are being pulled by a diesel engine, so I understand the point. This tunnel, and the town of Otira, is also the site of one of these viaducts. According to the guide book, it was completed in 1923. It was the longest railway tunnel in the British Empire, and while most tunnels are level, the Otira tunnel has a gradient is 33 to 1. History at it best!

Train

Back end of train

Once again you see the change from the west coast and its rainforest look to the dry east coast, which by no means is dry. They have no shortage of water to drink and water flowers. The Waimakariri River is crossed six times in the descent from the 'hills'. The picture 'Long Way Down' is the shots of those drops. It looks like a cool place to do a multiday river trip. Just have to watch the jet boats that come up the river. There is no way they would see you coming down. Sorry that my camera ran out of juice, someone didn't charge it up!

Long way down

A long way down

Ah, the jail house! My last place to stay. The picture is not my room, but it is just as cold. Funny place though. They left one of the rooms like it was when the place was closed down, with the art from the inmate and all. Willie Two Words he called himself. Good artist. Just can't pass it on; I think he read a lot of Playboy or had a one track mind.

The Jailhouse

Jailhouse / Hostel

The place was built back in 1874 as Addington Prison and was used for not only a men's but also a women's prison and an Army Barracks. Now it houses knuckle-headed travelers like me. It closed as a prison in 1999 and like I said the art of one inmate is still in the cell - #20. One of the ideas to use the building for after its life as a prison was a brothel. Needless to say I think the city fathers like the idea of a hostel better, although the night life in the area has suffered some.

Anyhow, I am out of here on Saturday and will be back in the states on Saturday. Funny thing, these time tables. Thanks again for reading see you all one the state side.

                    - Where's Chuck

Well this is something I did not expect to be doing, writing to you again from New Zealand, again. At 4:30 a.m. New Zealand time we were shaken from our slumber by the rolling of an earthquake. This is my first earthquake, as it was for many of the guests at the hostel. Kind of glad to be in a building built to withstand escape, but as it turns out it has withstood a few more quakes in its past. Four, if all are in agreement here. But none of the staff have been in one themselves, so...

But I am fine, thanks for asking. The lights swung about and a clock fell from the wall in the foyer. Some cups in the kitchen fell and broke, but beyond that not a lot happened other than frayed nerves and tentative laughter. I was still a bit asleep when it all went down.

In fact I was back in bed wandering if I should move to the lower bunk for fear of the light on the sealing falling on me head! I slept through the next tremors that shook the building and was amused by the stories of this the next morning. I guess I've bounced off the bottom of Bahamas' shallow banks enough times, or I am happily oblivious.

At this point it is 1:40 in the afternoon and we are waiting to hear if the airport will be open for my flight. They have said that it would open at 3:00 and my flight is at 6:50, so it might be open but it might be a delayed flight. I sit and enjoy the warmth coming through the windows of this building that stood through another shake. It's 2:20 and my flight is still on after looking at the airline web site, so I should be off as planned.

Planning for this to be the last one from New Zealand.

                    - Where's Chuck

September 7 - Tuesday

Since returning from the land of rolling landscape and shaking buildings, I've been hanging out at Ann and Brian's, The Colorado BBDBH...[bed, breakfast, diner, beer, hot tube]. It's nothing like a hostel, although the kitchen is large; they have the cooking down to a point that you really do not want to get in their way.

In the morning I'm making my way back on two wheels and off to my old stamping grounds of Salida. That is where I used to raft and ski when I was not on the boat. So the two wheel adventure continues.

Hope to have you all along for the ride.

Thanks again for reading.

                    - Where's Chuck

September 12 - Sunday

Well, it has been a few days since I had anything to write about. It's been great fun getting together with folks from my fuzzy-minded past; it has been just fun to see all these guys.

I've talked about my friend, Larry, many a time in the past and will again in the future. I had a very cold bike ride yesterday morning, then took most of the day in the sun to warm up. Friday night Larry left for a weekend of hunting, driving over a pass or two to the area that he will be hunting. He found he had forgotten his "tag", the very important piece of paper that makes him legal to hunt. He called his wife and she said she would find it and get it to him. I thought, "what a great time for a ride!" It was agreed I would meet 'K2', another friend, half way.

Good plan for the next morning, I was awake at 4:00 in the morning, all ready and rearing to go. Some of you know my sleep habits and there I laid waiting for 5:30 to roll around as that was a smarter time to be getting up to hit the road. The bike, on the other hand was not all that crazy about it, I think it still feels like it should be in Florida like it's license plate says.

After two starts and stalls I was on the road and thought that it was a bit cold. Ten minutes into the ride I found that is was very cold and pulled over to put something on... All I had was a pair of bright red pants from my foul weather gear, these I had for rain not for cold. But it all worked out and I froze all parts of my body rather than just my knees. The gloves I have are not intended for cold weather either, I have now found.

It is Sunday and am sitting at the board park in Salida, Colorado having coffee and watching some old tractors drive out to the fair grounds with the sound of skate boards and bikes crashing behind me and the occasional x-rated word coming from a crash victim. Ah, what a start to the day!

I'll be making calls to meet more friends later in the day.

                    - Where's Chuck

Salida to Snowmass and Back

September 25 - Saturday

What a ride!! It was warm with a little breeze and the road was open and inviting. Independence Pass over the mountains is a really great ride with sweeping curves you can take at speed and hair pin turns that you had better take at the posted 10 miles per hour - ah, switchbacks! The yellow leaves on the aspen splash the mountainsides, overpowering the normal green of the pines. What a ride. I liked it so much after visiting Jim and Jodi I chose that road rather than Interstate 70 to make my way back to Denver.

Above Leadville

Independence Pass is closed in the winter, and I can see why the snowmobilers like it so much, for the meadows must fill with deep snow. Jim took me on a hike up on Snowmass ski resort. Just like all ski resorts they are open to hikers and bikers that want to, well, I was going to say 'test' themselves, but after the hike on a single track I think 'kill' might be the better word. There are a lot of "Black Diamond" hills up there. Thanks again for the burritos, Jim. Dinner was great!

At Snowmass with Jim

After the night with Jim and Jodi, I came back over Independence Pass to Leadville and saw even more yellow aspens on the mountainsides. New England might have the rainbow of fall leaves, but Colorado has these incredible splashes of yellow that really made me slow down. Wow, it's one of the reasons some folks live up here.

For those of you that watch the funny show, "South Park", there is a picture of the valley those boys live in. Sorry I was through the town before I could take a picture of it. It doesn't look anything like what the show shows it to be. It didn't look as... flat!

South Park

The ride eastward into Denver was shorter than going west. Same road but it went too fast... guess I will just have to do that again. I did meet and had a drink - bottle of water - with a group of riders from the Phoenix area. Every year they do "the loop". Never the same from one year to the next. There were two to chose from this year. Sounded like fun to me !

One more night at the BBDBH stop in Denver and I'm off to Buffalo by air, leaving the bike in the care of Ann and Brian.

This is all for now - a bit late though. I am in Buffalo for a family visit before returning to the Aqua Cat for work at the start of November. Yes even I have to work. But do not despair, I still have to drive back to Florida on the bike.

So October will be filled with more adventures across the Southern states.

                    - Where's Chuck

October 6 - Wednesday

Salida to Moab

Well winter is around the corner and it felt like it today. Dallas Pass is some eight thousand feet and my knees were numb by the time I stopped for gas. But, Oh, what a ride! One thing that I have been seeing less of, or maybe I just am now looking and not seeing, guardrails... If you remember, I had said something about there absence in New Zealand. Well, guess what. There are a lot that are not here in the good old US of A. And again if the yellow diamond sign says 15 mph they do mean for you to get close to it. I wish I had a way of getting more pictures 'cause there is some great stuff out here.

Over the years that I had lived out here I've never seen Blue Massa reservoir as low as it is. Those logs were the old floating dock at the boat ramp. Maybe 20 or 25 feet up the bank. All the lakes and reservoirs I passed were very low, scary low.

Blue Massa

In my face on route 62 out of Ridgeway I saw snow up high on the East side of the mountains. Over my shoulder on route 145 snow in the high reaches of the mountains. I think they are the San Juan's One might even be Uncompahgre Peak. It was all over the 14 thousand foot mark but it was there and with my last look they were closed in by clouds. So who knows may be when I leave here there will be more.

Uncompahgrepeak with Snow Oct. 5, 2010

Like always thanks for reading and working through the grammar.

Hope to have more picture of the Arches in the next ramble.

                    - Where's Chuck

Arches National Monument

October 7 - Thursday

What a day. I started late, waiting for things to clear up. Weather man said it was to be a bad day with showers and cold. As we all know, you should only half believe a weather man. It was a great day after 9:00 a.m. till it started to storm around 3:30. Funny thing though, I saw the storm coming, not hard to do when black clouds fill the sky and you are standing on a mountain top, I told a few folks going up the hill to watch it with there little kids. But did I heed my own words? Hell no!

Storm moving in

Arches Monument is quite a place with the stone arches, but what is even more impressive is the sand stone towers that are all around you when you walk or drive here. There are some four layer of stone. Some of the towers are made up of all the layers of rock and capped with a much harder one so that the tops are slower to erode than what is below. Hence you have these towers and sometimes it will make a balance rock. Those are the ones that the coyote was always trying to push over on the roadrunner, you remember. Something there... as far as I could see I saw no roadrunners at the arches. I did see a coyote... sorry he was dead.

Balance Rocks

Some of these are in great big groupings. So there are... a bunch. All these tower or spires standing in a field, a big field. Then there might be one... just one sticking up all by its lone self. But the most impressive thing of all is the panoramic views. There is no camera that I know of that can truly show what it is really like out here. Between the colors of stone and then shadows and light to the distance to the next bluff or mountain top. There is no way to say what you see or how you see it, so you will have to see it yourselves.

AMBA0022

It is hard to believe that people lived out here and raised cattle. Some guy named Wolf was tired after the Civil War and moved his family from Ohio. Staying for some 10 years, first in a cabin that was a hole dug down about four feet then logs laid over that and dirt on that. The center of the "cabin" was maybe five feet high. It had a dirt floor and roof and was one room. He built a new cabin, with up-grades when his daughter moved back in with her husband. Upgrades you ask? Wooden floor, [still one room] one window on three sides of the place and it might have been six feet high! The roof was still logs and dirt. The up-grades must have worked well, it rained here last night and the new place had a very dry floor the old one was very wet.

Improvements

But back to the storm... I was about 2/3 up the park from the south and really wanted to see the Devil's Garden and camp ground. Dumb move, I had told one guy that there was always tomorrow, but I had to drive up there and the weather got me. It all came on so fast that I didn't put on fowl gear. With hail stones pelting me and the cross winds nearly pushing me into the other lane, I went ten or fifteen mph for a half hour in that stuff. Lighting popped every now and then bring back something someone had told me about a motor bike rider getting killed by lighting. I thought I could stop but felt my chances were better if I kept moving. At least the lighting would have to aim better.

But what more can I say. I am thinking of going back up and doing a guided hike in a place called "Fiery Furnace". It's $150.00 if you go in without a guide cuz there are so many dead end canyons.

                    - Where's Chuck

Utah 128

Octobber 8 - Friday

Well another day in Moab Utah, or outside of it. Route 128 follows the Colorado River north of Cisco, Utah. What a ride with the river on my left and sand stone on the right. Some of these walls were as high as you could see. In fact there were times that you didn't see the tops, all you could see is the wall, it was that close. Then everything would open up into a valley with the rocks fading away to the right to become a towering mesa with spires carved by wind and weather. Man I wish the pictures could really show what it all looks like. One more thing for the list of things to have if I ever come out this way again... ok next time I come... a Panoramic Camera. It is that or a professional photographer.

128 following CO river

The Fisher towers I saw from the distance. I was stopped from taking the road into them when the first ten feet was a somewhat dry red mud puddle that I would have had to drive through... red that would not have matched the red of my bike! Come on, the colors would have clashed so badly... But from the main road I think they were neat to see. I think there are more around the corner but some of the rock features are so big that they look better from a distance. There is just so much to take in.

Fisher Towers

Once again a storm chased me back to town. This time though I was smarter than the average bike rider and came back before I got too wet.

128 following CO river

Riding this road takes you from the river and canyon to the high plains desert. This is the west we all seem to know about. You know where the buffalo roam and antelope play... or where they used to. Now there was nothing but barbed wire fence and a new black top road. I guess I can't complain to much, that is the road I was enjoying so much. It must have been something to see it all before fences and roads. Ah, bone to late. Oh well I will enjoy what I can and I hope you all do too.

More 128

Thanks for reading again. I just wish I could put into words better what I am seeing out here. Eye opening is something that I have to keep saying to myself. We all see the pictures but to see it ALL is just something else. Sorry I'm rambling !

                    - Where's Chuck

Two Days in Island in the sky

October 9 - Saturday

Day one in the Canyonlands, Island in the Sky. Again the pictures do it no justices, panoramic photos I think might get close but there is just to much to see that a camera doesn't pick up.

Mesa Arch

Any how, I got out before the weather got in. The ride in itself is worth the $5.00 dollar ticket to get in. The climb is close to 2000 feet. A neat combination of straight aways, lazy 40 mph curves and 10 mph switch backs, with may I say, no guard rails. Ha Ha! So New Zealand is not the only place... although there was a very large rock wall that would keep you from going anywhere.

First step is a big one

After the visitor center it's a short ride, with the helmet on Mom, to "Shafer Canyon Overlook. Wild looking down on the Shafer Road and the cars look like colored dots they are so small. Talk about switch backs with no guard rails! You fall off some of these roads at least you have a chance to try again 'cause you might land on the road you were just on! Or maybe a short cut, just fall off the side... Any how the road was built back in the forties to bring uranium out of the canyon to Moab for processing. No more uranium, but they are still cleaning up the tailings... Sorry, off the soapbox.

Shafer Road from above

To get to the rest of the park you have to go over the "The Neck". It is all of 40' wide. It is rock all the way to the bottom... It must have been easy to keep the cattle on the parkland that was once cattle land that was once Indian hunting grounds cuz it's the only way off, unless you want to do a swan dive to the canyon below.

The neck

Lots of short hike to choose from in the list of longer and harder ones in this place. The Mesa Arch is 10 min. from the road which and is great at sunrise I'm told but you have to be staying in the park cuz the gates don't open till 9. Next time.

There is this road called the White Rim trail. 2 wheel high cleanse, [motor bike has 2 wheels but no high clearance] next time, it puts you on the edge of canyons that you only see from up here. You can see the road at times as it loops in and out of view but very rare to see a car. Like the Shafer road it is to fare down and away. Thought the Shafer road comes up under the "Shafer Overlook" and Well 2000 feet down and how many miles away???. There are overlooks that you can see the Green River and the top of where the Colorado runs. "Grand View Overlook" That one was worth the walk. You will have to tell me if the pictures tell the right story. It is all just so big. Day 2 in the Island in the Sky,

Grand View Overlook

The ride was just as great, Sun, cool air, very few cars to compete with, all the mix for a great bike ride. Talk about bikes, there are a lot of nuts that peddle themselves up these hills, though I had one guy pass me on one of the hill curves. Just whoosh and he was by.

Little House

Upheaval Dome, still there are scientific disagreements on this one. Was it formed by a Meteor or salt upheaval from below. The different rock makes you think it was meteor but is could very easily be rock from below also. Either way it was really cool to see this place that is totally different than any other thing in all of the Canyonlands and surrounding Parks. So I guess I can see there arguments. Well not really.

Upheavel Dome

Then the Aztec Butte trail with the little houses, if that is what they were, just watch the first step in the morning. There are granaries also that the Anasasi [spelling] Indians left behind in the travels. I can't figure out why they went so high up is these are houses. I do have a commanding view of your surroundings! But that first step out of bed in the morning....

Granaries

Then there was the ride back out being chased, of coarse by the weather than never came... Tomorrow it is onto Monticello Utah and the Needles District of the Canyonlands.

Till then good night and thanks for reading!.... It still flabbergasts me...

                    - Where's Chuck

Moab to Monticello

October 10 - Sunday

La Sal Loop

Well, I made the 1 hour drive from Moab to Monticello in about 6 hours... Not to bad, I'd say. On the way, the long way, I saw lots of things. I started by going up into the La Sal National Forest above Moab. It is just a loop road that winds through the mountains. It turns out to be an old road, so I had to slow down even more so I could watch out for pot holes and missing chunks of road and shoulder. There was this one part that had been through a fire in the past year or so. All the stems of the wild flowers that had been there, everything was green at ground level. But all the skeletons of trees made it look eerie and strange. It was like something out of another world. I guess the fire has to start and stop somewhere but it was strange how it is not a line but curves and bends up the hill, then great green and yellows of the pines and aspens. The whole ride started at the Colorado River and went up to 10,273 feet. I was wondering if the bike would still start up that high, of course after I had turned it off for a picture. There are some houses up there that are just waiting to go through a fire. Big and fancy, money, money, money!

La Sal Loop

Then the ride continued south to Monticello with a 30 mph wind at my back. It was broken up with a stop at the Wilson Arch and the Needles Overlook.

Wilsons Arch

Wilson Arch is named after the white guy who found it and told everyone that he did. The other story is that some indian wanted to hang him from it, or something like that. And the Needles overlook, unfortunately you can't see the Needles in the pictures, but when you're there they are right out there. Well, have to see them tomorrow, that's all. The whole valley that you are looking down on has the Indian River running through it, winding its way to the Colorado river. This whole valley at one time was one ranch. Over ten thousands head of cattle were roaming around down there at one point. It is still a working ranch but it's a bit smaller. Some family bought it and gave a huge chunk to the Audabon [spelling] folks and sold even more to the National Parks for the Canyonlands park. That was a few years ago, but from up here I can't for the life of me figure out what they eat!... the cows that is. I have to drive through it tomorrow so maybe I will see.

Needles Overlook

Not only can you see this whole valley but there are the "Six Shooters", two of them. These are rock formation that the early cowboys thought looked like guns pointing at the sky. I think some indians were having fun and showed the cowboys where the peyote was growing. But then they claim that lighting hit one of the buttes and it looked even more like a gun... just more peyote.

Needles Overlook

                    - Where's Chuck

First Day in the Needles

October 14 - Thursday

Day one... of two.

Finding one's way through the Needles... a park this large can be fun. For most people it is probably best to plan ahead. I was in one of the other areas the past two days, Islands in the Sky. It is all part of the Canyonlands National Park encompassing 527 square miles. It turns out to be a great idea to talk to the ranger folks before you wonder around, not that you can't have fun wondering... like me! The motorcycle just made it more fun. You meet a lot of folks that way too. No one seemed bothered by all my questions, and there were some guys who were as lost as me. Although how lost you are is in one's perspective. They just laughed and went off... that way! I was never lost, just misplaced.

Anyhow, the first thing I encountered was the considedrable distance to the park from the highway. Thirty-three miles later I was in at the gate. Being on the bike made it enjoyable, although the road was a bit of a patchwork quilt. So the kidney's got a work out this morning. Oh, and the cattle guards! Those steel bars across the road - slow down for them! The road weaved and waved up and down. Made just for a bike. Just the ride made it worth it!

Asking the rangers what hike they suggest, they looked at a clock and pointed out a bunch of short ones. What about this one - Chesler Park? Well, it is long but a great hike. Chesler Park puts you right in the needles. OK, that's where I am going. Now you know 'where chuck' was. Sorry I'm not there any more. In fact, if you had looked for me that day you would not have found me there. I was lo... well not 'lost'. I knew I was in the park!

In hindsight, I had made the 'Bugs Bunny left' and ended up at a place called Druid Arch. I have to apologize for the pictures of the arch. Can't say I know what happened to the camera, but all the pictures of the arch are fuzzy. I thought it was my eyes when I was down there! You get the idea though. It is big. Not so much bigger than most of the rest of the place, but this is just standing out there all by itself; it makes it look so much... well, bigger.

Druid Arch

On the trail I really did make a left and found myself on a hike down a canyon floor that at times becomes a stream bed, or in this part of the country a flash flood raging river. In and out of the valley floor I walked meeting folks and asking about the Chelser Park hike. Then I met some visitors and in broken English/German, we figure out that I had better go to the Arch 'cause at that point I wasn't lost, I was just not going to where I had planned. I could have taken trail X and found my way to the Park, but that would have added a lot of miles and time was getting short. Decisions, decisions. There's always tomorrow.

Off to the Arch I went and was glad to be doing it. The hike was great, but then out here they are all great. I made the arch and was glad for that, also. Pictures were taken, although fuzzy, and some lunch was eaten; then a brief encounter with a very silent snake, and I was headed back to the parking lot with plans to ask about my 'left' turn. Although I walked the same valley floor and stream bed, it all looked different on the way back. I met people who must not have talked to the same ranger that I had 'cause they were going toward the Arch and it was very late. It was going to be sunset in the valley in a few hours. "Have fun folks, it's a great hike in the daylight!" What more could I say? Someday I would like to overnight it out here... anyone care to join me?

There is this crack in the rocks that the trail goes through that reminded me of the glacier in New Zealand. Although it was nowhere near as cold, it was just as tight. Ah, the memories! There were all kinds of signs of washes down through the canyon. Rocks that must have come from some other place upstream 'cause there were none above where I stood, and some were very large and blocked the path. So, under and over you climbed.

Crack in the Rocks

All in total, the hike was about six hours and unknown miles. It was a day of well-spent hiking. My legs are aching, my back will be killing me in the morning, but my brain, what little there ever was, is doing great.

Under and Over

This world of ours makes you wonder and dream when you are out here... maybe that's why I made that turn. I have more question now about the rocks, plants and things out here than ever before. How did that tree start growing up there? And how long is it going to be there 'till it breaks the rock and it all comes tumbling down. We'll just keep wondering.

It's a wonder that the layers of rock show like they do. And why did it wear down and erode here but not over there, where now stands a pillar of sand? It is just as amazing to think that this all was lifted up from being flat once. HOW? And WOW!!! And now that I am standing in this place, how did it get the name 'Needles', 'cause they sure are not sharp, these spires of sand towering over ours heads.

Sunset in the Needles Looking East

I thought it would be great to see the sun set over the Needles, so I stopped on the road out. Oh, I never did get to ask where I turned wrong, but there I stood on the roadside waiting for the sun to drop below the rocks. Two fingers worth should be about 10 minutes. The sun hitting the buttes in the east was better than the sun dropping over the Needles. Then the ride back to town was cold, like 'can't straighten my knees' cold. When I did make it to town I think I freaked the waitress out when offered ice water. "No ice water, what soup do you have?"

Tomorrow I will try finding what I had set out to find today.

Thanks for reading and for all your comments about my ramblings. Can you imagine being on some of these hikes with me!

                    - Where's Chuck

Day Two - Found My Way!

October 14 - Thursday

That's right folks, I found what I was looking for yesterday. Not to say that I regret not finding it yesterday, in the end it only meant I would spend another day in the park. You will never run out of things to see here. So someday I would love to go back... anyone want to come camping? Got to get clear picture of the Arch! I would also like to stop at Newspaper Rock. This is where our alien friends have left all kinds of messages to us. I didn't stop, they can't yell at you if you didn't get the message, can they?

This morning's ride into the park went faster on the entrance road... darn.The washboard didn't seem as bad, either. Yesterday's ride shook one of my tail lights off the bike! But I did stop in at the ranger station and found why I ended up at the Druid Arch rather than Chesler Park. "Don't make the left at the valley bottom." Again I was warned that it was late... well it was yesterday too! I'm going to Chesler Park, darn it all!

Inside Chesler Park

And off I went. I didn't tell you about the road getting to the trail head for these hikes. Elephant Hill - the hill is all around you - the road is dirt and stone, washboard, dust, loose gravel and hilly. And to add to my personal enjoyment, those pesky switchbacks. The sign said two wheel drive. Well, it didn't say I could go!

OOPS! Off the Trail Canyon

So after the ups, the oops, and the woes of this road for the second time, if I do it again I will get one of those cross bikes (Captain Ron, hint - hint), I was at the trail head again. I blazed through the Elephant Hill part of the hike remembering some of it, and stopping to look closer 'cause, well - I thought I was... misplaced. But no, I was moving in the right direction. Through the tight crack and down to the canyon/river bottom; I even made sure some overnighters were moving in the right direction, also. I'm such a nice guy; they almost did what I had done yesterday. I found them contemplating the same sign I had yesterday!

So, no left, go straight through the bottom and up the other side. This was just as great as yesterday. The canyon bottom soon disappeared and more of the Needles I thought I was in yesterday came into view. Okay, down into another canyon and up again, once more through some rocks and one more huge valley. Ah, a sign, not from a high authority but from the parks department. 'Chesler Park Loop'. That way is 2.6 miles. That way is 2.5 miles. It's a loop, folks. How is it longer one way than the other? Dare I say, 'Obama math'! I went right, no lefts for me today.

Do the Math. Is a Loop Longer One Way Than the Other?

This hike takes you around a 'park'. If you saw it from the sky, it's a circle of rock and these needles that really do not look like needles, but towering piles of sand... well hard sand. Maybe they look like needles from above, but how did the cowboys or indians see them from up there? Questions, more questions! I found a little cut in this wall and went 'lost' for a bit. Glad I did. I think it took me back to where I had come from, just a different way. There is a lot of the cryptobiotic soil that grows out here. It really grows. It is the place where everything else gets going. It's knobby stuff, so that seeds get blow in and start to grow.

Cryptobiotic Soil

Anyhow, it's all over the place and they ask that you don't walk in it. Makes sense to me when you think it takes hundreds of years to grow. So the trail leads you to a four-wheel-drive road where for some time I chatted with a guy from North Miami on a mountain bike. Both of us agreed that the mountain biking was nicer here, and I don't mountain bike. Like he said... 'Real Mountains'!

Back on the trail. I went off the trail and got lost again, and found a wild opening in an area where the rocks have fallen down or eroded away to make passages and overheads. Just another WOW! I was following some folks who have been here a few times. They told me that this was nothing, wait till you see the 'Joint Trail'. Well, they were right.

Joint Trail

The Joint Trail is just that, a joint that has widened over the years. I don't know if it was one rock at some point in time, or two that have moved apart. But the trail goes through. If you are at all claustrophobic I don't suggest this trail. It is tighter than that crack we did earlier, and much taller. Put simply, it was cool. It must be a few hundred yards long and narrow enough that you do not see the sky every time you look up. It was cool! As you walk through there are other cracks that have developed over the years going off to the right and left, Ah man, it was cool. I have pictures but they just don't work to show you what it was like.

Then you come up out of this Joint, back into the valley 'cause you walk out of the circle on the four-wheel-drive road. There is an overlook you can climb so you can see the valley again. I would love to say that you see the circle of needles, but it's just too big, and there is a tower of needles in the middle of the valley. Around and crossing the valley you go past the camp sites that I would love to come back to someday, now that I know how to get to them!

Inside Chesler Park

Back to the bad math sign, the loop is completed. Back down into the valleys and over the hills with the sun setting behind me making some of the rocks change colors. They slowly became more purple and orange. Oh, man! I want to come back here... anyone want to go camping? Maybe on a cross over bike? The ride out was much warmer than yesterday, and I saw the sun go down behind the hills and rocks again. Too bad the road doesn't curve right so the sun would back light the Needles themselves. Well, there is always tomorrow.

Looking Out of Chesler Park

                    - Where's Chuck

Monticello to Phoenix to Carlsbad New Mexico

October 20 - Wednesday

I made a two day stop on Route 66! That's right, the famous road that once was the way to LA. It is no longer the glory road it once was, but the folks there are trying hard and it looks like it could be a fun place to play with friends. They have a few road rallies there that fill the town every summer. There is one place that even has a Route 66 beer... They were out, so I can't tell you what it is like.

Grand Canyon

This was always the place to go if you were going to the Grand Canyon, so I went to the Canyon. I did stay longer than the average stay of 7.5 minutes, but there is so much more to do there. Next time. There was rain in and on the forefront and that made me hold off doing any hike into the canyon, but I did see the famous Kaibab Trail and way over there I could see the river and Phantom Ranch, both of which I've seen from the river a few times now. They do look a bit different from some 5000' feet above. The ride to Phoenix was great. Again, I took the long road less traveled... Well, I thought it was less traveled. It seems like a few folks had the same idea as I and traffic was heavy long before Phoenix. Even despite the heat it was an enjoyable ride.

South Kibab Trail

Well, there were a few days well spent as I stayed with Malinda 'Motorcycle Mama' and her family, and had a few games of chess that I had a bit a of a time winning. In the end I whipped the butts off those two kids! It was a lot of fun, Brice and Shelby. Thanks for the good games and, like I said, the next time you had better make me work harder for the win!

Malinda - aka Motorcycle Mama

I also stopped in for a visit with Danny Klocke. Wow! He is not the little red headed kid any more! And I tried hooking up with Mary C. Schumacher, but the timing just wasn't there. Next time, right? Heck, maybe Joe will be there! My stay was made even batter by meeting with Malinda's Uncle Larry, and then topped off with she and Larry riding with me out of town. Thanks a lot you two. It made the ride that much better.

Larry

The ride to Carlsbad was windy and cold; maybe winter is coming. There must have been a 15 to 20 mile per hour wind. If it wasn't a cross wind it was in our face and made the bike feel as if it was running on a washboard road as the windshield shook and rattled. At one stop I was told that there were tornado warnings up ahead and my first thought was of all you, readers of these babblings, and what fun you all would have if I would have lived through and wrote about that! But there were no tornados seen, so you will just have to read the old boring stuff. Sorry.

So here I sit at the Carlsbad Inn. Well this just looked like the most interesting way back to Florida on the map. The wind made it all the more interesting. Carlsbad Caverns are here, I am here, I think I will stop at the caves and see what there is to see... I hope it's more than an open hole in the ground.

The bats are gone for the season but the tourist are not.

Thanks again for reading.

                    - Where's Chuck

Texas... Thank you I'm through!

October 26 - Tuesday

That's right, it took three days and I had to work to keep the bike going 65 miles per hour. Is it the "Lone Star State" 'cause the rest of the stars blew off the flag? MAN! The wind was either in my face or on my right, blowing 10 to 15 miles per hour as I pushed on, and sometimes over, nearly into the other lane. It was the same in New Mexico, but there are mountains there, so you don't notice it as much. If anyone ever says to me that Kansas is the most boring state to drive through, I'll know they have not driven through northwest Texas. At least there are some different things growing in Kansas. It might be only corn or sunflowers, but it's different! Although in Texas there is the occasional oil rig sticking out of the ground! Aside from that, it seems all there is is rolling hills of nondescript bush and grasses. Even the antelope ain't playing here!

I had to run from Carlsbad 'cause of the storms that were bearing down on the area. Good thing to; in watching the news it was not pretty. The part of Texas that got hammered was south of where I was, but I'm not sure if I could have ridden through with more wind.

By the time I made it through the state of Louisiana - Dad, I-10 has not changed! - I had nothing good to say about anything, and the wind blew some more. I was ready to be off the bike. I could have left it in a ditch if I had not been out in the middle of nowhere. I guess you all would have known where I was, finally!

Mississippi, and things seemed a bit better! There are some different trees to look at, but the wind still blew. I forced myself to ride on I-10 through these states for time's sake; that was a mistake. Next time, and the rest of the way on this trip I will not do that. I finally figured out how to ask the Tom-Tom, GPS, to not use interstates... Why are they called "interstates" when they don't stay in the state? I did Alabama on and off the interstate, 85 some miles... Alabama is not all that wide at this point. I guess Florida took the rest of their southern coast line. This is where Jimmy Buffet used to run around.

Dolphin Sculpture

Dolphin Sculpture

Anyhow, I got my butt off the interstate when I got out of the Alabama and into Florida, and onto the beach road, Route 98, after Pensacola - which I didn't realize I was past 'cause of the interstate! Going through the town of Navarre Beach, I got these pictures of the Dolphin carved from a tree that is in the grass by the roadway. Turns out there are a bunch of them. There were some more dolphins and then a couple of egrets, and I was in to much traffic to see what the others were. But next time... Oh, and the bike's return to the beach! It does seem to run better. Do you think it missed it, or is it just the lower elevations?

Back to the Beach

So, here I am at the Purdy's new - and temporary - home in Destin Beach. I get tired watching Peggy work at her energy level. Just like always, go... go... go! Good thing too, 'cause then I have a job!

I head on out of here tomorrow for the east coast of Florida and Beth's place in Saint Augustine Beach... the first stop I made on this wandering. Is that good for her, or bad, 'cause she is so well placed geographically on the road for travelers like me!

But she, like everyone I stayed with or - unfortunately - passed, has opened their doors for this weary, butt-sore traveler. So next time...

Till then...

                    - Where's Chuck

Well, it's over.

November 1st - Monday

That's right. On one hand, I am glad to say that it has come to an end, this road, air and rambling trip. On the other hand, it means I am going back to work. Well, we all have to do it. And you will have to figure out how to waste your time in place of reading through the - spelling and misuse of grammar - babble of my travels. There is still the web site that my great friend John set up if you can't find something better to do and want to read it all again... I know I will! What? 'The address,' I hear someone ask? http://hickeyfamily.us/whereschuck

Would I do it again?

The last day's ride of the trip, I spent my last night in a motel. Route 60 in Florida, one more night on an 'okay' bed, a slowly cooling room, and chairs that are to hard. Heck, after being on the bike all day, even the bed feels to hard to sit on. Welcome to the real Florida.

Up 'till today I thought my vented cycling jacket was the greatest - all high tech, with kevlar at the elbows, back, and shoulders for the dreaded drop to the pavement. It had a liner that could stop the wind and, with one of those old chamois shirts under it, the cold wind of the Kansas morning was held at bay just enough to keep riding. The sleeves had snaps so I could make them tight on my arms to stop the wind from flapping the high tech material around. Ah, what a jacket! A few dollars spent at the start of this adventure... well spent!

And then came the real Florida sun. Summer is not gone yet here in south Florida. As the sun came out in force, there wasn't much this high tech - highfalutin - jacket could do to keep me cool today; it didn't come with an A-C unit! The sun, up until today, had only been giving me peeks between the clouds. Ah, welcome home!

This whole time on the bike has giving me much time to think about things.

Like:

I did learn things like:

Most of all, I hope I can keep going as slow as I was going in the last few months, and I hope some of you can join me at some later time. There is that saying, 'slow down and smell the roses'; you first have to go slow enough to see that they are there.

I also found that I was in awe and wonder of New Zealand and rightly so, but I have found that we have it all here. Their ground shakes like ours. Okay, so we have to drive further to see it all. Well, you have to fly pretty damn far to see it over there, and those seat are not the most comfortable things going... They are better than my bike seat, but I think that is my bony #$%^ butt.

I know I was beating up on Texas for the wind, sorry Marcelyn! Well, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida were not all that much better. It must be the time of the year. Yeah, I had a very large storm chase me across the country! Oh, yeah! Carlsbad New Mexico got slammed a day after I left... Think they were shooting for me...

I am oh, so grateful for the weather. In all the time I have been on the bike I was in two rain storms, and found myself laughing as I screamed at folks in their water and hail 'sealed and protected' bubbles [cars]. Both times it came on so fast... No, I did see it coming both times and paid dearly for my toughness... Okay, testosterone... Okay, ladies, stupidity. Okay, I said it! But I did ask for direction... A few times... Oh! I was supposed to follow them?

So, I drove through Florida, Georgia, South and North Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado (Oh, man! All over Colorado!), Utah (Wow!), New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, again.

I flew over Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, and the Pacific Ocean. I rode, thanks Cory and Helen, bused and trekked all over the South Island of New Zealand. I wore out a pair of light hiking shoes and put some 8000 miles on a bike I've owned a total of... four months. Man! No wonder my butt hurts.

My neck and shoulders hurt. My butt, well you have heard to much on that... I don't think it's the bike seat either. I've added a few things to the bike, and would like to add more. The little nibs are no longer on the "new" front tire and I burned one of the mufflers out. I had a tail light fall off, twice... Engineer Chuck! I learned to love to hate the Tom-Tom 'cause I can't hear it - or see it - on the bike, but it worked great when I could!

And so this is the end. I'll look for a room to store the bike for a time of rest - for the bike not me. I leave for the Bahamas on Saturday, the 6th of November. For how long?... Yep, that long. If that surprises any of you, you don't know me, do you?

This will be the eleventh time I return to this company but who's counting. Des? And at that thought a thanks:

Thank you, Peggy and Bruce Purdy, for the opportunity to come and go at my pleasure over the years. Take a look at Blackbeard's Cruises and you can see why I go back all the time. So you all know where I am now!

So in closing one last thing,

I'd like to say how all of you have made this all that much more fun. Just knowing that someone was reading and deciphering it all made it fun to write, whether it was spelled correctly or my grammar was correct didn't seem to matter. Although some of you had fun pointing it out, "Chuck, are you wandering or wondering?" it sounded like it made it that much more fun to read... Made you think, huh? Heck, you have kids? You could have used it as a lesson in writing!

So, just a thanks is not enough. I hope I can repay all of you twice over... Well, that will not amount to much. Maybe we can ride or camp together sometime. I will be doing it again, I know. Remember, "Next Time"! If I ever get a real place, the door is open, like so many of yours were for me. Thank you, again and again.

So with that said, I bid you 'so long' as I fly off to the - sorry, again - the Bahamas, to float around on the Aqua Cat and fix everything that breaks... Well, that is what I tell folks. I am trading in the wheels for the hulls of a boat.

Thanks again to Mom and Dad for enjoying me just the way I am. Love you both. I am home... well for a little while at least.

And yes I would do it again... Next time...

Signing off...

No longer "Where's Chuck"

                    - Just Chuck, thanks for reading.