Remarkable 40 to Phoenix: Members ride across the country together

Members love this ride!

Bonding is part of the experience. You bond with your group of five to six motorcycle riding buddies. You may know them or not. They pour in from north and south and all around. You bond with the larger group making the ride. They dine together each night along the way. You bond with Chapter Members and business owners and workers along the way. Many Members help feed the crew who have stopped for their nightly dinner and lodging. You bond with Home Office staff. You bond with the road. Route 40 is that road.

Are you up for the adventure? Bobby Daniels, GWRRA #3739969, of Apex, North Carolina, took the plunge and rode for the first time this year. What follows is his story about this Member-planned and manned 2017 road trip – 40 to Phoenix – and also a look at the Home Office festivities and more.

The ride according to Bobby Daniels

I met Russ, the organizer of 40 to Phoenix, at the 2015 Wing Ding in Huntsville, Alabama. I think every man with a motorcycle wants to take the great American road trip across our country. I certainly did. I took a business card, joined the Facebook group and told myself I would do the trip someday.

   I checked the Facebook page from time to time in late 2015 from work and read about the preparations people were making for the trip in 2016. I could feel their excitement. Then came all the photos and updates during the trip. I was hooked.

     My wife really gave me a push last Christmas when she got me a heated jacket liner. That thing has changed my life.

     I started riding Ruby the Gold Wing to work every day (rain, snow or shine) starting January 2017. I tested gloves, boots, raingear, even wool socks to make sure everything worked and kept me dry and warm. I looked at Route 66 websites during lunch at work, saved GPS coordinates and plotted my routes. I lost 25 pounds because I was sure my butt would not haul my belly across the country. I walked 4-5 miles a day.

     Finally the day arrived. Ruby and I were ready.

     The first few days were fairly uneventful as I got to know my Group 1 riders. One left Maine during a break in the weather and got to Wilmington, North Carolina, three days early. Our leader was making his seventh ride. Two repeat riders were from New Jersey. A fellow rode from Texas to meet us in Conyers, Georgia. Another photo nut and train enthusiast from North Carolina also joined in Georgia.

 ach night dinner was provided by local GWRRA Chapters. The Conway, Arkansas Chapter made us feel very welcome with a big cookout in the motel parking lot. What a great feeling it was after a long day of riding to see people waving at us and stopping traffic so we could get into the parking lot. The grills were smoking and the tables were set. There was a party atmosphere and best of all we did not have to ride to dinner.

     The following night in El Reno, Oklahoma, because of bad weather, we were picked up by Nancy in a school bus and taken to the local VFW for dinner. Of course one of the men had to ask her how she got the bus. She said she was a schoolteacher, a bus driver and our cook for the night. One of the men yelled out, “Are you married?” She replied, “Happily for 40-plus years and I am spoiled!” It was a hoot.

     On day six, I started riding separately from the group. The motto of 40 to Phoenix seems to be “You ride your own ride.” The organizers want you to enjoy the ride and that means doing it exactly the way you want. Just let your group know and show up for the meals at night.

     I had my Route 66 coordinates already set in my GPS and got an early start the next two mornings. The ride from El Reno to Amarillo was misty and overcast which provided a nice mood for my photos of abandoned buildings on old Route 66. I wrote blogs on my personal website each night and included photos.

     I met the friendliest people in the most out-of-the-way places. I don’t know if it is my rugged good looks or Ruby the Gold Wing, but people just seemed to want to talk to me.

     I met Grady and Cindy in Canute, Oklahoma, and it was not long before he was showing me photos of his Honda Fury on his phone. In his pickup truck, Bobby Kemp crossed four empty lanes of old Route 66 in Erick, Texas, and stopped facing east in the west bound lanes. He had noticed Ruby parked on the shoulder and me taking photos of an old abandoned motel. He was a Harley guy and wanted to make sure I didn’t miss some local attractions.

     South of Albuquerque, New Mexico, not long after daylight I pulled off on a dirt side road to take photos of the snowstorm I had just outrun. A local fellow in a pickup truck slowed down to ask if I needed help. I told him I was fine, just taking photos. He waved and yelled out, “Nice ride!” as he headed on down the dirt road in the gray dawn.

     I enjoyed the New Mexico State Police motorcycle escort to dinner in Moriarty much more than I thought I would. They did a rolling roadblock. Each exit and on-ramp was blocked as we rode through. Cops were behind us and in front. We had the road to ourselves. As the rear of our group passed an exit, the motorcycle cops at that exit would rush up the left lane to block the next exit. They did a great job.

     The mad dash from Moriarty, New Mexico, to Phoenix was probably my favorite day. I left before sunrise with snow flurries flying through the headlight beams. The Musical Highway, VLA (Very Large Array) and Pie Town were some of the stops during the day. I rode through icy slush and mud, met a snowplow and leaned hard into wind gusts of 50 mph. My heated jacket kept me toasty with temperatures in the 20s at 8,000 feet. I kept peeling off layers of clothes as 80 degrees greeted me late in the day in Phoenix. I loved every minute of it.

     My wife flew to Phoenix and spent a couple of days with me. The GWRRA Home Office made us feel very welcome. There were snacks, gifts, local rides, door prizes, cake and more.

     Phoenix was the turn around spot for me. As Group 1 continued to California, my wife and I visited the old copper town of Jerome.

     Laurie flew home on Friday and I spent the next four days alone with Ruby on my way home. Ruby hauled me 5,600 miles in 14 days. I think I got a little emotionally attached to her. We had a great time.

     One of my favorite photos is from U.S. 180 in southern New Mexico. Ruby and I were out before sunrise and the road runs straight as an arrow for about 40 miles. There was no traffic, the dark sky was huge and Ruby and I felt very small on the lonely road in the dark. The sky began to turn pink and I stopped to get some photos. My favorite is a silhouette of Ruby with the sky turning red over a mesa behind her. It really captures the feeling of riding in the American West.

     I have one final memory from this trip that sums it up for me. I was riding on the original concrete, two-lane Route 66 all by myself on a sunny mid afternoon heading west. I had the music cranked up, the cruise control set, no other vehicles in sight and was enjoying the solitude and scenery. A train track ran parallel to the road. From a distance I saw a train heading in my direction and I gave it a huge, crazy wave when it got close. He gave me a couple of long horn blasts as he passed. It was just two people saying hi to each other on a lonely stretch of desert road in the American Southwest. I’m ready to do it again.

To read Daniels’ daily blogs, which have a lot more details, and to see more of his photography, including the silhouette shot of Ruby at sundown, visit www.bobbystuff.com/40toPhoenix.

Home Office welcomes riders

Motorcyclists who rode in 40 to Phoenix rolled into Phoenix on Tues., April 4. The next day was a special day at the Home Office. Annually we welcome those who took the road trip, usually about 80-100 people (some are pictured on these two pages in their riding groups), along with others from Arizona and California, who ride in to make the group feel welcome and provide a local ride and some hospitality. This year Charles and Betty Bonnett even flew in from Montana.

     April 5 was 85 degrees – cool by Phoenix’s standard summer temperatures but a little warmer than the average spring day. It was sunny with a light wind. Folks left the hotel together and arrived about 9 a.m. at the office, lining the parking lot and streets, parked in slots for local rides they would take later.

     Those interested in a guided tour trekked to Cave Creek, Rock Springs or South Mountain in the afternoon. Cave Creek is a small Western town outside of Phoenix with an artsy flair, a place that bikers love to visit. And it just happened to be Bike Week, so the bikers were out in droves (our cover shot was of this ride). A little further north on Interstate 17 was another destination ride to Rock Springs restaurant. It’s at an exit off the freeway and is known for its good food and yummy pie. South Mountain, south of town, has some good mountain riding to the top.

    But first there are friends to say hello to and new folks to meet. As Home Office staff, I can tell you 40 to Phoenix Home Office Day is one of our favorite days. After meeting and/or speaking with Members on the phone, this is our chance to sit down and speak with some of you in person and get that hug. As editor of Wing World, I enjoy uncovering some stories that might turn into articles in the magazine, and as a GWRRA Member I look forward to seeing those I’ve met or ridden with before.

     The GWRRA Official Products Store is a big draw for folks. It’s a place to find T-shirts, hats, jackets, pins, vests, signs, and other goodies to commemorate the ride and visit to Home Office. This included an amazing event T-shirt, too. It’s a cool-looking short-sleeved black T-shirt that shows three Gold Wing riders on the road under a prominent I-40 sign. The shirt  also commemorates our 40th anniversary. They are available for purchase on the store website at https://store.gwrra.org. (For a sneak preview of the shirt, look at the photo, bottom, right. George Bageant is wearing this T-shirt in the photo).

     Besides some great apparel and paraphernalia, many attended three seminars offered. GWRRA Founder Paul Hildebrand and Co-founder Shirley Stephens-Garcia were fun and interesting to listen to as they recounted the history of GWRRA. This year Bob Berry answered questions about Rider Education and Gail Johnson spoke about packing.

     If that wasn’t enough we gave out cash prizes and door prizes thanks to our generous business members. I wish they all could have been here so we could have thanked them in person. We also had Rita’s Italian Ice, Hinds Enterprises kettle corn, and Queso Good food truck for a scrumptious Mexican lunch, and three cakes the size of your Gold Wing tire – square not round. It was a fun day.


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