The scenery from what we had been used to would change drastically on this leg. Today, Mike and I would ride through the bowels of hell to meet the SoCal boys.

Leg 8 –  703.2 Miles

We left Beaver, Utah about 8:00 a.m. local time after our morning calisthenics and coffee with California on our minds. This had been a planned highlight of our trip since day one and Mike was excited to finally meet the SoCal PGR crew he had heard so much about. In fact, we knew back in Rapid City, South Dakota that California was still a goal even though we knew we wouldn't be able to do the ride in the allotted time frame. Erik Jon Barrett knew how important that was to me so his whole plan was to route us to Southern California.

We could have stayed North and rode in cooler climates, but we knew that as much as those SoCal boys had done last year and this year for the ride, it was not only a goal of ours, but an honor to be able to ride with them yet again.

Today was also the only day we actually got to ride the entire day in just t-shirts. It was a bit cool when we were getting ready to leave but we knew the morning chill would SOON give way to plenty of heat so we'd suck it up and enjoy it while it lasted...which wasn't long. The ride headed South with Mike in the lead position (we normally rotated lead position every gas stop) through Cedar City and St. George, Utah, we clipped the top corner of Arizona through Beaver Dam going through some amazing desert canyons and then into Mesquite, Nevada for gas.

After putting liquids into both the bikes, and our bodies, we set out to make the push into Las Vegas, Nevada. Good lord that is one desolate ride, let me tell you. Nothing but roadrunners, snakes, scorpions and tumbleweeds. Little did we know that would be our view for the rest of the day.

Did I mention yet it was starting to get hot, you know, desert heat. But hey, it's a dry heat.

Mike and I made our way through Vegas, found a gas station on the South end of town and decided to grab some AC and lunch parking our bikes under some friendly looking palm trees. I ate two complete combo meals (both breakfast) and were again behind the gun but we just didn't care because it was hot. A dry heat mind you but good lord, it was hot. How could it get worse?

NEVER say that when you're in the desert.

From Las Vegas, Nevada our next stop would be Barstow, California, or so we thought. It was only about 160 miles from Vegas but we had no idea that we were riding into one of the worst traffic jams in the middle of nowhere you have ever seen. And to make it worse, not one, but two of them. It seems as though Sunday is the worst day for travel on I-15 because everyone is heading home to the Los Angeles area from Las Vegas.

No sooner did we get out of Las Vegas, traffic stopped. We assumed it was an accident but turns out that it was just all the traffic getting whittled into two lanes from four, then three and into two. It was so hot that the bikes were quickly overheating and those of you who know a thing or two about Harley's, they have air cooled motors, so, if they aren't moving, they are overheating. This is one reason why 'splitting lanes' (riding in between cars) is legal in California.

I was leading this daily leg and instead of splitting lanes, I opted for the much safer route of running on the shoulder with our flashers on. We had several truckers give us loads of crap for doing this and I can't relay the jist of our conversations with them here, but it's safe to say we weren't exchanging nice words. At one point, one of them actually pulled his truck to block us in but that didn't last long as we found an escape route back into traffic by splitting a lane and then back on the shoulder with both Mike and I throwing up a nice "CALIFORNIA HOWDY" as we got by.

Now I know where that term comes from. : ) (Yes, I just threw in a smiley face there)

The backup lasted to the base of Mountain Pass, California which is just across the border, about 50 miles or so, but it took us almost 2 hours. We breathed a sigh of relief, rolled on the throttles and rode over the pass. The open ride didn't last long. In fact, at the base of the pass, horror took over once again at Baker, California where traffic is funneled into two lanes from three.

Keep in mind that heat will sap the energy out of anyone but when you are as tired as Mike and I were, it was next to impossible to cope with. By the time we had hit the second traffic jam, it was at least 108 and like riding through a blast furnace. I have seriously never ridden in heat that was so hot it could legitimately give you second degree burns. There was actually a point that I wasn't even sure if it was safe to ride until the sun went down.

We again had to hit the right shoulder to keep the bikes moving and the town right before Barstow was Yermo, California. The traffic jam was well beyond Yermo and there was no way I could go any further until getting my core temperature back down to a manageable state to which Mike wholeheartedly agreed to. We were seriously at the point of wanting to vomit and pass out which is indicative to the first signs of heat stroke.

I grabbed the Yermo exit and headed for a tiny gas station that was just jam packed and no place to park with shade so I wheeled back out onto the frontage road where there were two palm trees with just enough shade to get the bikes under. From there, we headed inside to use the restroom to water our heads down and at one point, I even asked one of the guys there if I could stand in the cooler for a few minutes.

I contacted the SoCal crew who had been waiting several hours in Barstow and told them of our predicament and the traffic jam. Scott 'Tailgate' Wiles told us that we could actually just head straight South from our current location on Minneola Road and that would dump us right onto I-40 which was only about 15 miles away. I-40 was the plan anyway after meeting in Barstow to get to Flagstaff, Arizona which was our intended end location for that day.

So we took off to meet the SoCal crew at the new meeting location in Ludlow, California.

We got there about 20 minutes before them and waited in the shade at the local DQ. The guys rolled in and we welcomed them with open arms. After taking some pictures, Scott 'Tailgate' Wiles presented us (video below) with some very expensive and rare cigars; one each for Mike and I and two for Erik Jon Barrett. If you recall from yesterday's story, Scott also handed Mike a package of screws for his saddlebag lid after seeing the pictures of him wiring it back together.

Talk about thoughtful!

Right after that, Michael 'Joker' Courtright presented Mike and I (video below) with our own special dog tags (which we wear proudly each day) as honorary members of the SoCal PGR crew. I saw Mike wipe something from his eye and didn't feel bad when I had to clear mine as well. To say that whole meeting was a very special moment would be a grave understatement; times like this stay with a person for a lifetime!

Ray Trosper who was a part of last years ride was also there and all of the ride video you will see below was done by him. Tom Barry was also there and although I had never met Tom before, he and his wife had sponsored 1000 miles for our veterans. As luck would have it, Tom was not going to be able to ride with us on the original date we were going to be in California but since our ride plan had been completely changed, it gave him the opportunity to be able to join the ride.

We all headed inside where Tom bought a meal for Mike and I and we all ate, laughed and basically hung out like we had grown up together. They are a special bunch indeed and between those guys, and others in the SoCal PGR, sponsored almost 3000 miles for our veterans. The SoCal PGR set the bar very high for all other PGR chapters and set an example for all to follow. These guys do between 40-50 missions EVERY month!

I know I speak for Mike when I say we both SALUTE them all! Well done men, well done indeed!

We all gassed up and the SoCal crew, with Scott 'Tailgate' Wiles as Road Captain, would escort us across the Arizona border to the Lake Havasu turnoff before riding back to the Los Angeles area. We said our goodbyes and Joker decided he was going to ride on with us and go see some friends of his in Kingman, Arizona. Joker led the way and the three of us were in the moment for sure. So in the moment that Joker actually missed his exit and considered riding all the way to Flagstaff with us. He finally hit an off ramp and we waved goodbye.

It wasn't until we got home that he told Mike and I that he sat on the top of the overpass watching us ride off into the night until he couldn't see our taillights anymore. Again, this warrior brought tears to my eyes with his heart.

To Tom Barry, Ray Trosper, Michael Courtright and Scott Wiles...you will always have a special place in the hearts of Mike and I; we salute you all!

Mike and I rode on in the night, pulling over to put our neck gaitors and jackets on to keep from freezing to death as we reached the higher altitudes of Arizona which we just laughed at. From heat stroke to freezing, all within a few hours.

There was a place, who knows where, we stopped for gas and had this girl come up and asked if she could take our pictures to post on her Instagram. I said sure but we wanted a selfie for ourselves to put on the ride page. Turns out she is a semi-well known model from Los Angeles named Astrid Lacerda. She and her boyfriend were heading back to L.A. from the Grand Canyon and had to have our pictures before they left.

Erik found us some hotel rooms at a Super 8 in Flagstaff, Arizona. We unloaded the bikes and sat outside for a smoke contemplating the day and coming to the conclusion that tomorrow would be our last day on the road. Our journey was coming to an end and was actually a very sad moment for both of us. Everything we had gone through just to get to where we were and it was all but over.

Maybe tomorrow would be smooth sailing. We deserved a day where nothing went wrong, didn't we? Just one day?