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Seeing the country by motorcycle

Local couple treated to Texas hospitality

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Posted: Wednesday, August 3, 2011 10:12 am | Updated: 10:22 am, Wed Aug 3, 2011.

It could have been that moment in a B movie in which the background music picks up a sinister whine. Cut to a close-up of an armed lawman and a stranger, walking quietly and with purpose in a place they have haunted before, where they are planning a holdup now. Cut to their targets, a solitary couple in unfamiliar surroundings.

But this wasn't a movie. The place was a visitors center near Amarillo, Texas. The couple were Half Moon Bay husband and wife Don Medina and Trisha Blue. The lawman was Amarillo Police Cpl. Jerry Neufeld, with Bill Archinal of Amarillo.

The planned holdup was also real. Neufeld and Archinal, having scanned the visitors center for out-of-state license plates, had zeroed in on Medina and Blue to announce they had been picked for the Holdup Program sponsored by the Rotary Club of Amarillo.

In this ongoing program, an officer and local Rotarian treat area visitors to dinner, the musical "Texas" in Palo Duro Canyon and nice local lodgings. It's all to foster goodwill and friendships encouraged by Rotary's mission.

"The Half Moon Bay couple just happened to be in the right place at the right time," said Amarillo Rotarian John Kanelis. "We get 'em from all around the world."

All around the world almost describes where Medina and Blue ride on their motorcycles, a shared passion since the 1990s. Medina, a retired mechanic with Wonder Bread delivery trucks, is the current president of the Northern California Voyager Association motorcycle club. Blue, an executive assistant for Morgenthaler Ventures, is its secretary.

Together - he on his two-wheeled Kawasaki Voyager with 166,000 miles, she on her luxurious 2007 Honda Goldwing trike conversion with 73,000 miles - they have visited Yellowstone National Park, traversed Canada, seen Niagara Falls, penetrated the Smoky and Ozark mountains, and visited Santa Fe, N.M., Mesa Verde, Colo., the Grand Canyon and more.

They were heading for Arkansas and an American Voyager Association rally, with an extra day planned in Louisiana, when they pulled up at the visitor center. Up walked Archinal and Neufeld.

"I thought, what have we done?" said Blue, rolling her eyes. "Maybe they just wanted to talk about motorcycles."

Not so. Archinal asked if they wanted to stay in a local hotel, have dinner and take in a performance of "Texas," the Holdup highlight.

"There was an officer there, so we believed what was going on," said Blue. "This turned out to be our extra day."

The couple was escorted to Amarillo's Ambassador Hotel to luxuriate in air-conditioned rooms after five days in 100-degree temperatures. They dined on filet mignon and Bonsmara beef at the County Barn Steakhouse. "The best steak dinner I've ever had," said Medina. "I couldn't believe how quickly and easily it was gone. Now I understand why people rave about Texas beef."

With dinner companions Archinal and wife Karen, they soon discovered shared interests in bicycling, hiking and outdoor wonders like Texas' canyon scenery, Purisima Canyon and Montara Mountain. "Over dinner we had so much to talk about," said Medina.

They had wanted to see the Palo Duro Canyon, America's second-largest after the Grand Canyon, and were thrilled to discover that "Texas" is staged in an amphitheater at its base.

A quarter-mile from the colored rock of the canyon wall, they watched a fictional, circa-1876 story about farmers, ranchers and Native Americans learning to live together in times of cultural change complete with love stories, music, dance and mounted riders.

"You forget how wonderful music is," said Medina. "When the drums bang and you see horses in the background ... it brings everything to life. I couldn't believe our luck."

Starting the next day, the couple continued their exploration of Route 66 including Cadillac Ranch (with its field of half-buried Cadillacs in tribute to the car), a similar setup with VW Beetles, and Nevada, where temperatures reached 103 degrees. Their trip spanned 17 days and 4,500 miles, from Half Moon Bay to Arkansas and back.

Medina had begun motorcycle travel in the mid-1990s, and introduced Blue to cross-county travel.

For this pair, motorcycle travel is the only way to go. "It's a lot like being a cowboy," said Medina. "Nothing protects you. It's just you and your wits.

"If you pass a bush (with) fragrance, you get to smell that scent," he continued. "You meet all kinds of people. We have interesting experiences in little towns" no one ever sees.

Rising early, they typically clock from 350 to 450 miles daily. The couple recommend exercises to strengthen the gluteus maximus for comfort on long hauls, but say nothing beats the quiet miles.

"Everything is in the here and now. You focus on road conditions, scenery - it clears the mind of clutter," said Blue. "It really is a freeing experience."

On long hauls they depend on hand signals to communicate that everything is OK, or that they need to rehydrate or answer nature's call. Mechanical problems? "I have my own mechanic," laughed Blue. Cool weather? Blue plugs a cord into her bike that warms the special suit she wears. Boredom? They can access music - but don't want to.

"We get to be together but all alone with our thoughts," said Medina. "When we stop we have a million things to talk about."

"People (spend) a lot of money to do what we do on our motorcycles," said Blue.


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