Rambling the Southwest by Motorcycle: Part One

I had been planning a motorcycle camping adventure for most of this year, hoping to leave in the late spring or early summer, but work and writing projects kept getting in the way, all of them taking longer than planned as is often the case.  The biggest of these, of course, was the writing and final editing my latest book, Refuge.  For a writer, there’s always a next book no matter how many are finished, and I spent much of August working on the beginnings of two new novels.  But I knew I still needed a break to clear my head, and the best kind would be a complete change of scenery.

The opportunity to hit the road for a couple weeks came at last in September, so I pulled up Google Maps and did some calculating to see how far I could reasonably get in the time available.  Earlier in the summer I had hoped to get away for three to four weeks and with that amount of time, the Pacific Northwest and Nova Scotia were both on the radar.  But I’ve also been wanting to revisit some of my favorite desert and mountain places in the Southwest, and decided September was a perfect time to do so.  The distance would be reasonable for a two week road trip with time to explore, so now all I had to do was decide which bike I would take.

After many years of leaving them alone while pursuing other interests like sailing and boatbuilding, I came back to motorcycles in 2010 with the purchase of a Kawasaki KLR 650, the kind of dual-sport adventure bike you can ride both on road and off while carrying enough gear to camp in remote places along the way.  The KLR was good bike to reignite my interest in two-wheeled travel, as it can do a bit of everything okay, if not anything really great.  I put over 10,000 miles on that bike the first year I owned it, many more of those miles on pavement than off.  The problem is that here in the Deep South, gravel and dirt roads have become much more scarce than they were when I was growing up.  I have to ride the highways an hour or more to get to national forest lands in my part of the state, and even there the dirt road opportunities are limited.  On the highway, the tall, lightweight KLR is not the greatest ride, especially around the turbulence created by big trucks.  But I kept it two years and wouldn’t rule out having another one someday.

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2009 Kawasaki KLR 650

In 2012, I sold the KLR and bought a Suzuki Vstrom 650.  While a bit heavier and not quite as capable off road as the KLR, the Vstrom, with its V-twin, fuel-injected engine is a lot better at eating up the miles on the highway.  And set up with a skid plate, engine guards and rugged aluminum panniers from Jesse Luggage, it can handle most gravel and dirt roads and even some rougher two-track.  I racked up another 10,000 miles on it just exploring close to home, despite having more than one bike around most of the time I’ve owned it.

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2005 Suzuki Vstrom 650

Then, earlier this year, I was tempted by an ’07 Harley Davidson Road King that my brother was selling, and having read about some impressive adventures on this improbable bike on the ADV (Adventure Rider) Forums, I decided to give this one a chance.  Modern Harleys are among the simplest and most reliable motorcycles on the road, and this one was in practically new condition with low miles:

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2007 Harley Davidson Road King

The Road King was not the first Harley I’d owned.  I also racked up a few thousand miles on a Sportster 1200 Custom during the same time I owned the KLR.  The Sportster was a fun bike to ride with great handling and lots of power.  It always felt a little cramped with my height though, so I never did any real touring on it.

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2000 Harley Davidson Sportster 1200C

I took a short shake-down trip to the Arkansas Ozarks on the Road King in June, and enjoyed the ride for the most part, but everywhere I looked while winding through the Ozark and Ouachita National Forests, I had to pass right by the tempting rough gravel tracks leading off the beaten path.  The KLR would have been even better for that, but I knew if I was on my Vstrom I could explore at least some of them.  The question though, was how would the Vstrom compare to the Road King on a much longer trip entailing thousands of miles of highway riding, a good percentage of it on interstates?

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Mt. Nebo, Arkansas

As I was packing for my trip out West last month, I was planning to go on the Road King up until the last minute.  I put a new rear tire on it and changed the oil.  I was looking at more than 1100 miles just get to the beginning of the good riding in New Mexico and beyond.  It seemed like the Road King would be better for that long slog across Texas, but then I kept thinking about the kinds of places I wanted to visit, and how I planned to camp every night, and away from other people as much as possible.  I rearranged my gear and repacked for the Vstrom.  Although I knew my chain was getting close to the end of its life, I figured I could get another 4,000 miles out of it.  I changed the oil and left on a Sunday afternoon.  Two days later, I was in a whole other world at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, near Amarillo, Texas:

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Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas

The Vstrom was doing great and so far I had no regrets in choosing it over the Road King for the journey.  From Palo Duro Canyon my route took me next to the Sangre De Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico and beyond.  I have a lot more photos and more to say about this trip in posts to follow soon.

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Book Giveaway Winners

Just an update to announce that the winners have been selected  for the ten  signed copies of Refuge that I offered to those signing up for my author newsletter.  If your email address was chosen, you should have received a notification through the newsletter.  Of the ten winners, I have received a reply back from eight and books have been mailed out to those eight winners.  I’m still waiting to hear back from the other two, so check your spam folders and inboxes carefully to make sure you didn’t overlook the notification, which should show up as an email from my address: scott (at) scottbwilliams.com

The eight winners who should receive their books soon are:

Khris – St. Petersburg, FL, David – Southport, FL, Gary – Mohnton, PA, Beverly – Kosiusko, MS, Kathryn – Canton, MO, Vivian – Mill Creek, WA, Devon – Ludington, MI and John – Kirksville, MO.

I will send out another direct email to the other two chosen winners soon and if no response after a few days, will select two alternate winners.

For the rest of you who have signed up for my newsletter, thank you for subscribing, and I want to make sure you have another chance at winning a copy of Refuge.  To that end, I will be giving away one free copy at random every Friday of this month from among my subscriber list.  Stay tuned as well to the newsletter updates for an announcement of my next book, which is in progress now and coming soon.

Refuge is available on Amazon and in bookstores now and I’ve gotten great feedback on it, including hearing back from some of the giveaway winners that they’ve already purchased and read it before learning they had won.  Review copies from the publisher are late going out as has happened upon the release of my last two books, so if you’re on one of those lists to receive one, I apologize for the delay and have word that they will be shipped out this week if not already.

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Book Giveaway: Refuge After the Collapse

I have word from the publisher that copies of Refuge have shipped from the printer to the warehouse, so the book should be showing up for sale soon, though the official release date is still posted on Amazon and other sites as September 23.

I should have my author’s copies sometime before then, and I want to announce a giveaway of ten (10) signed copies that I will personally mail out to the winners, who will be chosen from the email entrants to the giveaway once I have books in hand.

To enter for a chance to win a copy in this giveaway, all you have to do is enter your email address and first name in the form below.  If you are selected I’ll contact you by email to get your mailing address.

The sign-up will also add you to my newsletter mailing list, so you will be the first to know about my next books (two projects currently in the works) and other giveaways, previews and occasional recommendations of other books I’ve recently read.  This newsletter list is new and will be my go-to method of keeping readers informed in lieu of social networks like Facebook and Twitter with their ever-changing policies and restrictions.  You’ll only get an occasional newsletter email, certainly less than one a month and most of the time even less, and you can be sure your email address will never be shared and that you can opt out of the list at anytime, including right after this giveaway, if you choose.

If you chose to enter, thanks for your interest in the sequel to The Pulse and good luck!

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