Eric Lalor’s ‘Route 66 Challenge for Temple St’ Diary – Part One
PJ Gallagher concluded his diary on the legendary Route 66 Challenge for Temple St Children’s Hospital yesterday, and now JOE's own Eric Lalor takes over.
Eric may have just arrived but he's already describing it as the experience of a lifetime. Check out his first diary entry...
I arrived in Albuquerque via an 8.5 hour flight from Dublin to Atlanta and another 3.5 hour flight from there. To say I was tired would have been an understatement. I was hallucinating from sleep deprivation and it was only 7pm when I checked in.
The lovely Brendan and Olly brought me to the Honda superstore in Albuquerque where my team would meet me. Paul is the captain of that team and I was told I would ride with him. The other lads on the team, all sound, were Phil, John, Cormac and Jack. Paul rides a beautiful Honda Goldwing and after I put on my helmet, jackets, the biker jeans kindly left there for me by me oul pal PJ Gallagher, I was ready for some riding....in the non-Dublin slang kind of way. That would be a very different Route 66.
Before we took off, Paul ran through some safety tips with me. Things like how to mount the bike, how not to fall off and basically how not to die. I’m particularly fond of not dying so I listened attentively.
The Goldwing is a very comfortable bike to be a passenger on. It’s basically like travelling on a very fast armchair such was the comfort. We hit the open road with gusto and pretty soon it became apparent that the scenery would be breathtaking. New Mexico is like one giant movie set. A cowboy and indian movie set. Rolling hills, red rock canyons, cactus, tumbleweeds, the works!
All along the road there are these strange little houses, long bungalow type dwellings which looked pretty run down, but you knew there had to be some money there as invariably, two giant cars sat outside them. There are rail roads too. Slow moving trains, the longest I have ever seen grinding their way through this spectacular landscape. I counted one of them and it had 87 trucks attached in a row. Eighty bleedin seven!!!
We were flying alongside one at one point and it felt like something out of a western, where the outlaws galloped along in the hope of robbing the train. The only difference was we were on really fast horses, faster than any horse from Finglas, big fast mechanical horses and my childish imagination got the better of me as I screamed ‘Yeehaw!!’. Paul, who was riding the bike added to the moment by saying ‘Sorry Eric? Did you say something?’ ’Eh...no’ I replied and promptly took a reddener.
We were headed for Gallup, another city/town in New Mexico and all along the road we were reminded of who are the real owners of these lands. We passed loads of native American plantations, loads of gift shops selling Navajo souvenirs. We stopped for fuel at a very remote looking filling station and some of the lads went into a gift shop to buy gifts which probably explains the name.
The bikes were filled up and we hit the road again, but then out of nowhere, it started raining. Ah heyor, I thought to myself, I’m in the bleedin desert, what’s this rain hoopla all about? We pulled over and we all got our wet gear on. I mounted the bike again and of course, forgot my earlier tip from Paul about how to mount a bike. I got on a bit too enthusiastically and the bike tipped over.
We all got down and lifted it together and now from that moment on and for the rest of this trip I will be getting on to the bike like a twinkle toed ballerina full of grace and poise. None of this ‘gerrup the yard’ mounting. Those days are gone.
We stopped off for a coffee and some pie along the route and a waitress called Barbara took our order. We ordered 8 coffees and two of us got pie which was basically a deep fried burrito with apple and ice-cream. It was divine!
We arrived in Gallup and stopped off at a very old ranch hotel called Hotel El Rancho which is one of the oldest hotels along the route. It is steeped in history and apparently the hotel of choice of all the Hollywood elite down through the years. It’s such a stunning looking place and each hotel room has the name of the big Hollywood star who has stayed in it. You had the Jimmy Cagney room, the Erroll Flynn room etc....
Finally we arrived at our own hotel called the Red Lion Hotel which is enormous but very comfortable and I am told we are being fed in the steak house adjoining it, so I will bid you farewell for now and just cannot wait till tomorrow and we hit the open road again. This is some journey and one I am honoured and deeply humbled to be part of. This is the Route 66 Challenge for Temple Street Children’s Hospital and already I’m thinking it’s the experience of a lifetime.