Special Edition! Izzy Conquers the Cone!


My Facebook Friends saw this post earlier today. We hadn’t actually decided we were going to climb to the top of the cone when we left the parking area 2 miles back. But on arriving there, Izzy felt the challenge and, totally on her own volition, decided it could be done and she could do it. Right there. Up that treacherous looking slope. To the top.


Somewhat concerned that she might not make it to the top and need to come back down again, I followed in her trace, and it was very dicey going. She stopped often to get a better foothold, and as the route steepened, to catch her breath.


This view gives a little better perspective of the slope and footing conditions .


AND!! Triumph! One proud little Iowa Girl, and a genuine Mighty Girl today. Hot, tired, and just a little scuffed up, but On The Top!


Proud Grampa. Happy Granddaughter. Life is GOOD on Route 66!


The Mojave Desert, Roads Unfit for Riding And The Mother Road Closed

The loudest noise in Shady Lane RV Park last night was a barking dog and a very early rising Eurasian Dove. Temps drop quickly after sundown and the mornings are quite chilly, but recent experience has shown that warm up comes quickly. Our camp was not very far from the bike route, so I was on the road earlier than the first several days. Barstow is the home of the Marine Corps Logistics Command, and they cover hundreds of acres with every manner of USMC gear, from portable potable water points to 8 inch howitzers. Lots of tanks!  Lots and LOTS of tanks! Route 66 is neatly tucked between Interstate 15 and the mainline of the BNSF, which I’ve decided is the busiest freight line in the USA. 20190227_093843

Both I on my bike and Cathy in Bridget, the RV, have been happily surprised by how little vehicular traffic there is on this road this time of year. That happenstance makes it easy to quickly exit the highway when something of interest pops up, like the Bagdad Cafe.



Marcella from Atlanta, GA is the current owner and has been part of the Cafe in one form or another for “too many years to tell you”. She was a sweetie, and invited me behind the counter where her equally charming great granddaughter, Halo (how about that for a unique name?) took our picture. I felt bad that I didn’t have any of my Pilgrim Farmer John cards to stick on the wall for her. There are no “choice” spots left, but I could have found something. While I was there, a congenial couple and their two young daughters from Paris, France stopped to look around and have a morning coffee. Such is life on the side of The Mother Road.


Route 66 crosses back and forth over Interstate 40 also in this part of the desert. You need some judicious pre-planning for fuel-ups to avoid paying these “middle of nowhere” prices. Not really clear in the pic, but Regular is $4.79 per gallon! Cathy had filled up in Barstow yesterday, and though high by midwest standards, the price was much better than this.


This may not be the Exact “Middle of Nowhere”, but I’m pretty sure you can see it from here.  🙂 When we were stationed at Twenty-Nine Palms Marine Corps Base (about 50 miles south of where we were today), the saying was “This Base is Miles and Miles of Nothing but Miles and Miles”.

The line in today’s title about Roads not fit for Riding, refers to a twenty plus mile segment that literally was NOT fit for a bicycle to ride on. The cracks and ruts were so severe that my odometer reader could not be kept from sliding all the way down the spokes to the rim of the tire. And the brake tensioners would pop off their pegs and effectively set the brakes. And that’s just the effect on the Bike. The effect on PFJ’s posterior was a little too graphic to describe here in a public forum. Usually, I can find a rideable track somewhere in my entire lane, but not so today. Yeah, I called Cathy, and she picked my sorry self up. The road was a beast on the RV as well, but it has lots more springs and shocks than my bike.

The DOT tried to make up for that stretch with a silky smooth section of 20 some miles. It was like heaven! You knew there was going to be a “but”, didn’t you? At the end of that section was a very bold and unmistakeable Road Closed to All Through Traffic section that we hadn’t known about. So, loaded up again and set off for another of the “must see” stops of the Route.



It was a three mile hike through the desert to the Cone, and we set out afoot see what we could see.


It was a most excellent adventure, and well worth the effort. Seeing the miles and miles of basalt lava rock that had spewed from this one opened vent in the earth is something that the kids would never be able to experience on a screen or in a book.

Izzy was the “Star of the Day” here, and I’ve given her a “Special Edition” of the blog to memorialize it.

Thanks for being here! Tomorrow gets us out of California and on to Sunny (we hope!) Arizona




The Other Side of the Mountain


These mountains look so much better to me from this side! It was a much more gradual down slope than the upslope was on the other side. So today’s ride was a breeze, literally, since I even had a tail wind (ok, kind of a quartering wind, but NOT a head wind) for a good share of the day.  The goal for the day was Barstow, which was about 70 miles on down Route 66, with zero miles on the Interstate. It was a brisk 44 degrees on leaving camp, so I had on as many clothes as I’ve ever worn while bike riding. And, as it turned out, was just about right for the morning hours.

In to the high desert, and the town of Victorville. In the 30s, 40s and 50s this sleepy town was called “Little Hollywood” due to all the filming of TV Westerns and movies. Roy Rogers filmed many of his shows either here or at his ranch farther north near Apple Valley. The Cisco Kid and Zoro movies were filmed here. We had hoped to tour the recommended Route 66 Museum here, but found it was closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. 😦


Having been stymied by this set back, we opted for another long-time Route 66 location, Emma Jean’s Holland Burger Cafe. It was close enough to lunch to make that a rational choice. This hasn’t-changed-a-bit-for-decades eatery was opened in 1947, and has served road-hungry travelers ever since. The same family still runs it, and we met Brian and Shawna and congratulated them on their successful enterprise. Emma Jean was Brian’s mom, and their Dad drove his cement truck back and forth on the road in front of the restaurant for 31 years!


Izzy declared her “Brian Burger” the best burger she’s ever eaten! (I’m sure she meant other than the ones Grampa grills at home. 🙂  )

Truck traffic and automobiles shared our old Route 66 about equally. Cathy and the kids were, as per normal routine, gone ahead to scout out likely camps for the night. She reported that she needed to pull to the side of the road or far on the shoulder to allow built up traffic behind her to pass. They were all in a lot more hurry than she was.

Not too much farther down the road I came across another of the book-highlighted must-sees, Elmer Long’s Bottle Forest. Old Elmer has been creating “trees” out of iron skeletons and all manner of bottles for nearly 20 years. He just “enjoys” doing it, and doesn’t charge a thing for walking through the eclectic exhibit. Sadly, Cathy and kids were looking at something on the other side of the road when they passed and didn’t see it. I stopped for a nice tour, with many a subdued, ooh and aah!






With quite a lot of miles yet to pedal, I ignored several other sites that caught my eye. The riding conditions were as good as can be hoped for, so I wanted to get to Barstow while they lasted.


When the town name is part of “The Route 66 Song”, a picture of the place name is mandatory, and Barstow is in there!

We are staying in the exact same RV Campground as we did on the way out here in 2017 on the Southern Tour ride! This is about the only place on either route where the paths cross. 20190226_160123

We thought we had been on the wrong side of the Museum schedule again when we drove into the old Railway Station, re-built Harvey House Hotel, and Barstow’s Route 66 Museum. The sign said they were only open Friday through Sunday (volunteers operate the facility). But, our luck had turned when they opened up on this Tuesday to accommodate FOUR busloads of JROTC kids from the 8 high schools in Vegas! We got there before the kids disembarked, so had time to do our souvenir buying before the battalion of kids swarmed in. I thought adding a pic of a 1931 Harley would show that I’m not totally prejudiced for bikes with pedals.  🙂 And as a sop to Dotti and Rick from back home.  🙂 Oh, and for our Sean, too, as he’s now a Harley Hog Guy.

Hoping for another good day tomorrow. We’ll be close to leaving California by then.

Thanks for coming along!

The Painful Price of OJT (On the Job Training)

Two years ago on the Southern Tier Ride, I had the good fortune to be starting the ride (also without any build-up training) on the eastern end of the Florida panhandle. So, for nearly ten days, the highest (elevation) I encountered were the bridges spanning the rivers on my route. Not so here in SoCal! On this, the first full day of riding, my route took me up and over El Cajon Pass, elevation 4100 feet. I would be so happy to say it all turned out well, but that would be a major untruth. Those things may be allowed in politics, but not here on PFJ’s Blog. After 36 miles of continuous uphill, good sense triumphed over Irish stubbornness and I contacted Cathy to meet me at an exit about three fourth of way to the top of the Pass. My situation was not helped in the least by the fact that my “granny gear” would not engage. This was a big disappointment considering the fact I had my bike given a full “mech check” and parts replacement-as-needed trip to Scheels Bike Repair shop. In other words, I was expecting NO mechanical problems. I did bring along my own tools, so that situation will be addressed at tonight’s campground.


Cathy’s brother, Tom Greiner is the the world’s most knowledgeable train buff. He had alerted Cathy several weeks ago that Cajon Pass is where ALL east-west bound trains cross over the mountains here in Southern California. He (as always!!) was correct, and there was literally a “super highway” of trains lined up here taking their turns at using the triple set of tracks over the mountains.

There are many sections of this ride that are on the actual track of the original Route 66. All (except for a small section in Oklahoma) have been rebuilt, probably numerous times. When the track is the same, there are many markers indicating its authenticity, as this one cast into the surface of the rebuilt Mother Road.


My self imposed rule while riding is that if I see something that looks interesting or unique, others probably will think so, too. Concrete Holsteins “grazing” the suburban landscape falls into that category.


Weather forecasts are for a cooler day tomorrow, so the clothing choices will be more complicated. The elevation maps look more forgiving as well, so let’s hope for some long downhills!

Thanks for being along with us!


The End of the Trail at the Beginning of the Ride

24 February events, published a day late due to no Wifi at the overnight camp.

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It was tough leaving the wonderful environment of Jennifer and Ken’s house this morning. They have made our lives so comfortable there, and we feel very pampered. But, the Ride beckons, and I must follow.

I mounted the Trusty Trek in their driveway, after giving it a thorough cleaning from all the road grime accumulated while riding on the bike rack all the way out here. The plan was to ride to Santa Monica Pier, which is designated as the official “End of the Trail for Route 66”. As you can see from the picture, that’s what the sign says!

It was very fortunate that two of my biking/hiking related friends are from this part of California, and they each graciously agreed to meet us there at the Pier. Annie O’Neal directed the documentary film about my friend Phil Volker walking the Camino de Santiago as part of his “recovery” in his cancer battle. The original short documentary was entitled “Phil’s Camino”. We have had the privilege of being invited to several of the screenings of her productions. Jennifer de La Riva has ridden with our Team Talleyrand on several Ragbrai’s and is always a great team member to have along. As an added bonus, her sister, Jeanine, accompanied her today and we added the pleasure of her company to the day’s activities at the Pier. It would have been the perfect ‘trifecta” if Norma Jean Emory could have made it to the gathering as well, but, alas, that was not to be. We missed you, Norma Jean!!

It was just a shade over 25 miles from Jennifer’s driveway to the boardwalk surface of this major SoCal attraction. The distance was a combination of suburban streets and beachfront bikepath, with the majority being backpath. I quit counting when I got to the 500th beach volleyball court, with a majority of them being put to use on this sunny, WARM, pleasant day. (I feel compelled to insert here that the weather reports from home on this day are just short of abysmal, with hurricane force winds and more rain and snow. Ughhh!!)

The kids fully enjoyed the Amusement Park atmosphere on the Pier. The above mentioned friends were quickly adopted by the Grands and accompanied them on the rides, the West Coaster being dubbed the group favorite, with the Pacific Wheel a close second. We all enjoyed a nice lunch right on the Pier. Other than the goes-without-saying-high-costs of everything thing, all was as nice and fun as could be.

feris wheel]

As with all good things, this beginning also came to an end as the friends departed and we loaded up my bike on Bridget’s bike rack and headed out of the downtown pandemonium to join the designated bike path route.  The day too far advanced to do any more significant riding, the mission became finding a suitable campground for tonight. That was accomplished on the first try at the East Shore RV park. A bit pricey, but right where it needs to be for our needs.


A full day of riding, with some significant climbs is on the docket for tomorrow. And so it really begins. No Fun and Games for this biker on the morrow.

Thanks for your company.

Colin: Today we went to the Pacific Park I got an unlimited ride that was a lot cheaper because I went on a lot of rides there. Each ride was $10 but the band was $30 and I went on about 6 rides. after that we walked all the way over to where grandpa had parked the camper

A Day of R and R At Jennifer and Ken’s

PFJ, PFC and accompanying minors arrived just at supper time (imagine that!) at the very pleasant home of Cousin Jennifer (#28 on the Conway Cousin List) and hubby Ken in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. Bridget, the RV, was only too happy to have a complete day off, and parked contentedly at the curb. Jennifer prepared a wonderful meal for us and the added attraction was the visit by their daughter, Anna, their sweet 2 year old Amelia, and hubby, Saba to join us. It has been several years since I’ve enjoyed Anna’s and Amelia’s company, and our first meeting with Saba. The conversation was congenial, pleasant, and well punctuated with laughter. We all had real (and really comfy!) beds, and were totally content with everything.



Dear Anna is less than one week away from the birth of her baby, Abigail Jean. Cathy told Anna that this time EXACTLY 47 years ago she was feeling the same emotions awaiting the birth of our first baby, Sean.

Saturday’s activity list took us first to the ocean front for whale watching. This is the prime time for spotting migrating whales moving both north and south along the coast between the shore here and Catalina Island. It was very productive watching with multiple sightings of spouting whales of several species. Gray whales were most prominent today, and they were kept in close company by active pods of dolphins. Excitement rippled through the watchers at every shout of “There’s another one!” The tide being over halfway to “low tide” made it a good opportunity to check out the numerous “tide pools” along the coast close. This quickly turned into the most animated activity the kids have experienced since leaving home. Wading the rock-strewn surf to the very edge of the pools as the waves crashed ashore assured thoroughly wet kids and excitement galore, attended by squeals of delight as a rogue wave or two wet them to the top of their heads.  The sixty degree temps were considered “pretty cool” by the locals, but it’s the warmest these kids have been since last October.




Mass was at 5 at Jennifer and Ken’s local parish, St. John Fisher. A beautiful and fairly new (Dedicated October, 2013) church with a tremendous music program. We met the pastor who promptly “renewed” my Blessing for a safe and enjoyable ride on Route 66.

Tomorrow is The Day! We’ll be packing up Bridget, cleaning up the Trusty Trek, mounting up and headed off from Santa Monica Pier. Tally Ho!!

Stay tuned for more stories from the Mother Road.




Faces from Home, Far From Home


What a super treat it was to find and visit with Allison Ockenfels Flathers in Irivine, CA this morning! This wonderful young lady had been one of our family’s closest neighbors, geographically and emotionally, since she was born. We enjoyed watching her grow up and developing into a fantastic young adult. And now she is the justifiably proud mommy of baby Robert and wife of Scott. Thank you for meeting us, Allison, and the lovely visit.


We were almost shocked with the intensity of the sunrise this morning at the KOA campground in North Palm Springs. We had planned on meeting with Allison and her baby in mid morning, so it was out to the Freeway early and off to Irvine with the bright rising sun. It was Bridget’s first real test with California-Grade Traffic. Happily (is “releavedly” a word?), the Test was successful.

Tough choices for where to spend the available time left in the day were winnowed down to two: The Aquarium of the Pacific or the BB61, Battleship Iowa. The vote favored the aquarium, so we vectored there via Google Maps. An empty slot at curbside next to the venue made available by some ongoing construction proved irresistible, and cheap! Sharks, rays, octopi, fishes, sea lions, harbor seals, and fishes of every description made it a hard place for the kids to leave. The jelly fish display was a real crowd pleaser.



Stop for the night is planned for cousin Jennifer’s house in Rancho Palos Verdes. Just a hint for fellow travelers, if Google asks you choice of routes that includes “scenic”, as well as “fastest” or “shortest”, avoid “scenic”. You can thank me later.

Will be sleeping in a real bed tonight, and starting to to get serious/ nervous about the riding task ahead.

Tomorrow’s blog will happily highlight our stay with Cousin Jennifer and family.

Thanks for coming along!




SWUSA: APB: BOLO For Class C Motorhome, Iowa Plates, Dragging Midwest Cold and Snow Into The Entire Region. Approach with Caution!

OK, for those struggling with the Title: Southwest, United States of America, All Points Bulletin, Be On Look Out—————–

Hey! It could happen. It hasn’t snowed for 25 years in most of the places that we visited today. They were actually closing businesses in Yucca Valley, CA after receiving 5 to 6 inches of new snow. People were moving around as if expecting the End Times! Joshua Tree National Park personnel left the gates open, posted signs declaring SNOW AHEAD! and the Park Rangers skedaddled, saving us the $35 entry fee. These farmers aren’t scared off by a little snow. The below pic is a popular spot in the Park, known as “Skull Rock”, for obvious reasons.


Our day started out pleasantly enough in Buckskin Mountain State Park with mild temperatures after some light overnight rain. cactus garden

A nice shot by Izzy of the cactus garden within the State Park. We left from here to head for 29 Palms, CA. As mentioned in yesterday’s blog, Cathy and I spent the last year of my Marine Corps service here. We drove out to the base, which has increased in size by five fold since 1972. Security is much tighter also, as we discovered when told we needed an “on base” sponsor to be able to get a visitor pass. 😦  It took all the power of both our memory banks (and more than a little wandering around roads) to remember where the off-base housing was that we had lived in while we were there and waiting for the birth of our first child. We both laughed remembering that 47 years ago RIGHT NOW Cathy was thoroughly tired of being pregnant. Sean was born on the last day we were in the Corps, 28 February, 1972.


Having basically no money during that time period, many of our outings (free entertainment!) were in Joshua Tree National Monument (It wasn’t made a National Park until 1994, when its size was nearly doubled). We loved it then and the return trip today was made even more spectacular by this extremely rare snowfall. The effect really was lovely.



The entire desert, both the High Desert shown here and the Low Desert around Palm Springs, where we are staying tonight, is as green with new growth as is possible to be with all the recent moisture, both rain and snow.

Tomorrow it’s on to So Cal, and hoped-for connections with cousins and folks from home, along with visits to attractions that will appeal to Izzy and Colin.

Good to have you all along. As always, we appreciate the interest and the comments!



It’s all a Matter of Degrees

It was a case of very fortunate maintenance that insured the in-cabin furnace was working at peak performance before Bridget backed out of the farm shop in Iowa seven days ago and headed Herself west. That furnace has been running for a good share of each night that we have been on the road. It does a nice job of keeping the entire cabin warm, tho we are setting it a a fairly “low” setting to try to conserve the relatively small (8 gal capacity) supply of propane. Each night has vied for the rank of “coldest spot yet”, and we’re hoping that last night’s record of 1 degree in the Canyon Valley RV Park will be the nadir.


This Western Scrub Jay may think things are just hunky-dory in these temps, but our purpose was to leave this much snow and cold behind in Iowa. After a week on the road, doing laundry was a top priority, and that kept us in the cold environment for a couple of extra hours.

Tooling along on I 40 kept us very close to the Historic Route 66 that I will be pedaling east on through this part of the state. The Adventure Cycling Maps that direct my daily pedaling have rider safety as the first priority, so at times the route I’m on will not be precise route, but there were many sections we drove on today that will be on the route. It seemed to me that there were a LOT of long uphills 😦  20190220_160409

A MUCH warmer campsite for tonight at Buckskin Mountain State Park just outside Parker, AZ. All of our various thermometers registered from 57 to 60 degrees, much to our delight. This view is from the vantage point of trail overlook that Cathy and I hiked on after setting up camp. Again, much to our surprise for this time of year, all the “supported” sites, i.e. electricity and water were full at 4:30 when we drove in. We opted for a “dry camping” spot and will be running the on-board generator until “quiet hours” start. Bridget is the shorter looking rig left center here. Colin got a long-distance shot of us as we waved to him from this spot. Pretty good pic from 500 plus yards!


The recent rains and advancing calendar have brought spring to this high desert area. The flowers are always so brave looking in this harsh environment.



I found my own “pot of gold” on this pleasant little hike. I wouldn’t trade her for all the gold in all these mountains.


Tomorrow’s goal will get us back to “days gone by” territory for us, as we visit Twenty-Nine Palms, CA where we spent the last year of our USMC service and our son Sean was born on the very LAST day of that service in the Base Hospital there 47 years ago.

Thanks for coming along!




The Incomparable Grand Canyon


It has probably been 20 years since Cathy and I visited this beyond-description location in the combined Indian lands of northern Arizona. Twenty years is a less than microscopic amount of time in this place that took almost two BILLION years to create. The in-the-moment delight of this particular visit was that this entire portion of the state is covered in a wonderfully picturesque layer of pristine snow. This is not totally unprecedented for this part of the world, but the amount and timing is certainly not the norm. The combination of the colors, space, family company, and clarity of air produced a feeling of near euphoria. It will certainly be difficult to ever recreate these conditions.




The kids were, shall we say, adequately impressed. Colin, in particular, exclaimed repeatedly “I didn’t know it could be so BIG!”. And when we went into the interpretive center with the display of the full length and breadth of the Canyon, he was blown away. Izzy was clicking away on her camera, but her pictures are for some reason in a format that I can’t retrieve. We have reviewed them and they are of excellent quality, but need “converting”. Colin’s working on it, is the best I can report for now.

Both Izzy and Colin are doing their own daily journaling. We wish they would add a little more of what they think about and feel regarding our wandering life. Maybe that will come with a little more time.

We shared the experience today with hundreds of tourists, the majority of whom were foreign speakers arriving in a multitude of tourist busses.  When you consider that this one National Park entertains more than five MILLION visitors each year, each day will see almost 15,000 sightseers, snow or no snow.

Our camp for tonight is Williams, AZ, solidly planted on the genuine, original Route 66. We briefly toured “downtown” and loved that it has retained its “Retro” look with many advertising signs kept in their original condition. I will have more time to feel the full flavor of this when we make the return trip on the bike at the end of March. We’re really counting on all this cold and snow being nothing more than a distant memory on that return leg.

Good to have you along! The comments feed my need for connection with all of you. Thanks especially for sending them.