Long Way Home (Making Memories)


Last October and November, I had some entertaining pictures show up on my Facebook page from fifteen years ago (October 2008).  For ten days in a row, my memories showed up and it got me thinking about social media, memories, family, friends, and adventure because I joined Facebook in 2008 strictly to share these events.

First, a little background is necessary.  I got transferred from California to Texas in mid-2008.  My wife and I had lived in California for six years before this transfer.  While there, we picked up a new hobby and interest – motorcycle riding.  California is a great place to ride motorcycles.  During our last year in California, we watched the documentary “Long Way Round” and decided to ride our bikes from California to Texas instead of shipping them.

We visited our daughter Eliza in Manhattan before the transfer.  One evening, while out with Eliza and her friends, we told them of our decision to make the long road trip.  It was over drinks that they convinced us to join Facebook and share pictures from the trip so they could enjoy the trip with us.  It was a good idea, so we joined Facebook and got a digital camera to capture pictures along the way.  My wife and I both turned 50 in 2008 and thought a long road trip would be an epic way to celebrate this common milestone.  We referred to our trip as “Long Way Home” in deference to the documentary we loved.

We planned to leave California in the Fall of 2008 (early October) to avoid any severe weather.  Well, Chevron had other plans in mind and scheduled a conference in California in the last half of October.  This meant leaving four weeks later than planned.  We left Walnut Creek, California on October 31, 2008.  The night before, we had our last dinner with dear friends in Walnut Creek, which was an excellent time.

We rode over 2200 miles in ten days.  Out of this total, only 300 miles or so was on the interstate system.  Riding the smaller roads and some back roads was what we wanted to do and were glad we did.

As I reviewed the ten days’ worth of memories on Facebook, I jotted down some of my favorite recollections.  My notes included:

  • Day One: Lafayette, CA to Paso Robles, CA
    • Our first stop was in Salinas, the location of the National Steinbeck Center.  John Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors.  It was great to take the tour and enjoy learning more about him.
    • We headed down Highway 101.  A pleasant diversion along the way was at the Mission San Miguel.
  • Day Two: Paso Robles, CA to Barstow, CA
    • We started our day having breakfast with my friend at a local diner.  We found many great diners along the way.  This was the perfect start!
    • We took Highway 46 from Paso Robles to Bakersfield.  Along the way, we passed the intersection where James Dean died in a car accident.  It was humbling.
    • We passed the Lost Hills oilfield, where Chevron still had an operation.  Being a fourth-generation oilfield person, I had to stop and admire the place.
    • We rode in the rain from outside of Bakersfield all the way to Barstow.  The rain brought in very cold temperatures that lasted the rest of our trip.  Some of the strongest rain was in the Mojave Desert – who knew?  Riding in severe rain was the first character-builder of this journey.
  • Day Three: Barstow, CA to Kingman, AZ
    • After the rough, rainy ride the day before, we slept in and got a much later start.
    • Drove through Needles, CA and found the site of the Imperial 400 Motor Inn.  This place was where the infamous “alligator dive” incident from my youth occurred.  I’ll probably need to make an entire post about that experience!
    • After Needles, we took a 50-mile ride on Route 66 at sunset – what a great experience!
    • The one bad thing about this leg was that we ended up going over a mountain pass in the dark. Two character-builders in two days: first riding in the rain; and then riding in 2nd and 3rd gear through many s-curves at night!
  • Day Four: Kingman, AZ to Sedona, AZ
    • We rode from Kingman, AZ to Seligman, AZ on Route 66 (also known as “The Mother Road”).
    • We stopped at an antique shop in Hackberry, AZ, where I found a number of old petroleum marketing items.  Too bad I was limited on carrying space.
    • For lunch in Seligman, we ate at the Road Kill Café in spite of its name.  Another good diner along the way.  The food was just fine.
    • At the head of the canyon entering Sedona, I ran out of gas.  Fortunately, my motorcycle had a reserve tank, and I could switch to it while driving!  Yet another character-builder!
    • We made it into Sedona in time to see many remarkable sunset scenes.  We said we should make it back to Sedona.  We’ve yet to make that a reality.
  • Day Five: Sedona, AZ to Show Low, AZ
    • We couldn’t stop at every scenic overlook, there were just too many!
    • We did manage to stop at the “World’s Largest Kokopelli” in Camp Verde, AZ.  There was a gift shop where we each picked up a souvenir that we’ve still got over 15 years later (I got a kokopelli key chain and Julie got a kokopelli hat).
    • We stopped for gas at Payson, AZ.  Julie asked a local for a good place to eat lunch.  He recommended an Italian place which turned out to be phenomenal!  Locals usually know where to go and eat!
    • The entire day was cold and very windy.  Some of the crosswinds were incredibly fierce, testing our skill and nerves.  Four straight days of character building experiences!
  • Day Six: Show Low, AZ to Socorro, NM
    • The day started very cold.  After 50 miles of riding, it had warmed up to only 45 degrees!
    • We rode over/past the Continental Divide!
    • Well, after 14 years, we stumbled upon the Very Large Array – something Julie’s wanted to see ever since we started watching “Cosmos” with Carl Sagan. She wanted to visit it the first time we moved to California, but it was out of the way.  Wouldn’t you know it was on Hwy 60!  I remember popping over a summit and seeing a vast valley full of what looked like white teepees.  They turned out to be the 27 radio telescopes of the VLA – very cool.
  • Day Seven:  Socorro, NM to Artesia, NM
    • Our first stop on the way from Socorro to Artesia, New Mexico was in Carrizozo. After 74 miles of cold, windy riding, we stopped to fill up. Julie asked a state policeman where to get a cup of coffee. He told us to go to a quaint shop in town. We had the best coffee of the entire trip there! Other than this stop, good coffee was hard to find.
    • We drove through Roswell, NM.  We stopped and did a bit of sightseeing but didn’t see any aliens (that we could recognize).  It was a fun stop that got us out of the cold riding weather.  We wore rain gear just to have one more layer of clothing!
  • Day Eight:  Artesia, NM to Sweetwater, TX
    • In Artesia, we stopped to see a bronze statue called “The Rig Floor.” It was done in 1.25 scale – brought back many memories from my childhood. Dad let me visit the real rig floor many times as a kid – it was always an impressive sight.
    • We had a close call in Lamesa while looking for a place to eat lunch.  Julie took a spill on her motorcycle making a turn.  Fortunately, only her pride was hurt!
    • After a week of hard and fun riding, we made it into Texas.
  • Day Nine:  Sweetwater, TX to Killeen, TX
    • Driving into Coleman, TX, I was particularly excited to see an old Texaco station. I pulled over to fill the bikes up, only to find that the station was an antiques store – it was interesting nonetheless!
    • We spent a long time in this antiques store, and only bought one thing – a very long rolling pin.  We had enough bungee cords to strap it on the back of one of the bikes – I’d like to hear what people said when they saw me pass them on the highway!
    • We made it into Killeen and had dinner with my older sister Sheri.  It was good to see her, and to know that this was our last night in a motel.  We were both looking forward to a night in our own bed!
  • Day Ten:  Killeen, TX to Houston, TX
    • Went through a couple of small Texas towns and was able to ride around their town squares.
    • After we got home in Houston, I took a look at the odometer of my motorcycle:  finishing mileage: 21507; starting mileage: 19275; miles driven: 2232. Cost: unknown. Experience: priceless!

After we got a shower and fresh clothes, we sat down and enjoyed a bottle of sparkling wine.  As we discussed the events of the trip, my wife said an amazing thing – “we should do that again someday.”  I was humbled and impressed.

As I looked back through the Facebook memories, I also reflected on a few lessons I learned over the ten days.  The lessons I learned included:

  • Fear truly is False Expectations Appearing Real.  In spite of the enjoyment I got out of motorcycle riding, I was still quite timid at times.  The early days and character-building experiences really bolstered my confidence of riding.
  • Take that first step that commits to go “all in” for an intimidating experience.  Once we took that first step of riding the first day, there was no turning back.  Each of the tough times proved we could get through them.  Once we were committed, we couldn’t turn back.  In the end, it was well worth it.
  • Traveling together is better than traveling alone.  I had a great cheerleader with me in Julie.  She bolstered my confidence numerous times.  I hope I helped her a bit as well.
  • Cheerleaders are great!  We started with the encouragement of our daughter and her friends in New York City.  As I posted the pictures each night, I got replies from my Facebook friends that made it easier to get up the next morning and get back on the motorcycle.

Are you facing a seemingly dauntless project or task ahead of you?  Take that first step and fully commit.  You’ll either experience success or learn something about yourself.  Have you had experiences outside of work that built your character to tackle a tough assignment at work?  I applied my learnings to various projects and tasks.  I’ve found there are parallels in life.  The challenge is application!

I welcome any thoughts or comments you have.  Let me know if you’d like to discuss how to apply these learnings in your life.  Perhaps my stories are prompting you to think about a challenge you’re facing.  Send me an email or call me, I’d love to add value to your journey.