03 July 2014

Utah, Nevada, and California!

My original plan for beginning this trip was to leave the Ute Mountain work site at noon on Friday, the 27th, and get a half days ride in. At the end of the week, however, I was tired and dirty, and really wanted a shower and a real bed to sleep in. So, plans changed and Josh and I simply road back to Vernal, where we would be going our separate ways the next morning instead.


We got a room at the Best Western Dinosaur (not gonna lie, all the soaps, shampoos, etc. were really nice and completely gone after I had a shower that night and one the next morning!) and had dinner at the Vernal Brewing Company. We read a lot of reviews about places to eat in Vernal, and apparently there is a lot of mediocre food there. We went to VBC on a recommendation from the man two rooms down who works in Vernal and pretty much lives at the Best Western. It was within walking distance, and it was a gorgeous night. We sat out on the patio for dinner, overlooking their garden where a lot of their veggies come from. The food was excellent and I had their house made root beer. It was yummy!

Outside the hotel room in Vernal, loaded up and ready to go! My first big solo trip--I'm excited!

The next morning, after breakfast, we loaded the bikes and left--I headed west and Josh headed east. This is my first solo motorbike trip to take me out of the state, and I was excited and nervous. As it turned out, it's just like riding in state, only across state borders, and on roads I had never travelled before. I headed out 40W/191S to Duchesne, where I turned south. The road became a mountain pass, and at the summit, I finally stopped and put on warmer gloves. The road had a 50 mph speed limit, was covered in gravel, and didn't warn about switchbacks. Ok Utah, I see how we're gonna play this!

I made it through, no problem, and picked up Hwy 6W at the other end. A few miles on from there, I made my first stop for gas and a stretch at Soldier Summit. I wound up staying about half an hour, maybe longer, as I ran into a number of people to talk to. The first was a guy with a KTM in the back of his truck. He had been out riding with friends in the mountains, when his bike broke down. He was, consequently, making the beer run while his buddies continued their day of riding without him. That's a sad story.

After buying some snacks, I went back to my bike to find the owners of the Harley I parked next to gearing up and getting ready to go. Debbie and Bruce, from Northern Idaho were really nice people, and I had a great time chatting with them. They were both originally from Monterrey, California, but left about 20 years ago. They were warm, kind people with beautiful smiles, and thousands of miles under them. I really enjoyed their company, and wound up catching up to them on the road again. We rode about 20 miles together before they turned north towards Salt Lake City, and I turned south towards Provo.

Debbie and Bruce--such nice people! They're bike was shiny and well loved!

I had to ride I-15 for a little while, but was able to hop back off and onto little Hwy 6 for the rest of the day. For most of the rest of the day, I felt I had the road to myself. I listened to music and sang along in my helmet. It. Was. Lovely. I ended my day in Delta, UT and looked for a campground. About 18 miles away was the Oak Creek Rec Area, in the northern section of Fishlake National Forest. I set up camp, then drove back into town to check in with the outside world and have some fish and chips at The Delta Freeze.

When I returned to the campground, I wandered around a bit and read all the posted notices. No big deal--bear country and poisonous snakes. Sweet! Don't worry, I made it through uneaten!

As I was taking my picture, a couple on a Harley pulling a trailer rode by, slowed down and took a picture of the sign too. With me in it. Weird.

The next morning, I had a quick breakfast at the gas station--coffee, milk, and granola I made to bring with me--and I headed off for Nevada. Just across the border, I turned off the highway towards Baker and the Great Basin National Park. It is a small national park that doesn't appear to actually charge to enter. Aside from being a lovely place to visit, they have caves which were discovered about 125 years ago. I was really excited to take a cave tour, but the next one I could get a ticket for was two hours away.

This is the original entrance to the Lehman Caves. They have now put a bat friendly fence around it after they blocked off all the entrances and nearly killed all of them. Way to go guys!
I made the most of my time, first by heading out on a hike around the mountain behind the caves' visitor center. I stuck my nose into a cabin which had been restored--not by Historicorps. Only the outside was restored to original....
Many of the plants along the trail were marked with scientific names and descriptions. I had to take the above picture of a plant and it's corresponding marker. The first thing the marker claimed about that plant is that it's one of the most attractive plants in the area. **picture me looking puzzled, scratching my head** Really!?! I hate to be judgy, but I saw a half dead prickly pear 200 yards back that looked better than that thing. I stopped reading the markers after that.
I did not take this picture--it's a postcard image put out by the forest service. I actually took no pictures because there was no way my phone would do it justice. Google Lehman Cave images and check the place out. It's amazing!

After my little hike, I found the cafe and sat down to have the Hiker's Scramble--egg and Provolone cheese on an English muffin. I added some Cholula to the sandwich and had a cup of coffee while chatting with the waitress, Laura. I learned a little about the town of Baker (I won't be moving there anytime soon) and found out the park is open year-round for cave tours. I just found out that costume contracts at The Denver Center have been cut to barely more than six months of work, so I may be looking for a new job. Perhaps I should be a park ranger....

After sitting out on the lawn for a bit, it was time to join the cave tour. The caves were beautiful, with unusual formations I had never seen before. At the end of the tour, the guide demonstrated what it is like to experience an earthquake in limestone/marble caves. It was pretty interesting--I know my eyes bugged out of my head!

After my three hour break, I was ready to hop back on my bike and go. I thought I might ride to Ely and call it a day, but when I got there, I realized there was a lot of daylight left, and I still had some miles in me. After I gassed up, I pulled my bike into a parking spot and went into the store. A guy on a Harley stopped me and chatted away. He was from Lake Havasu and had been on quite the road trip. The original intention of his trip was to visit his sons in the Tahoe area, but then he threw in some more states and lots of miles, because why not!

When I came out of the store, a truck trailering two Yamaha WR250s had pulled up next to my bike. There were two guys in the truck and they rolled down their windows as I came out to chat. They had trailered their bikes out from Oklahoma, were meeting some other people, and would be leaving the truck and trailer in Ely to ride to California. They would be riding all dirt roads, and I have to say it sounded like a lot of fun.

After giving them my card and telling them to get in touch if their ever in the Denver area, I got going again. The last stretch would be 167 miles, and it would turn out to be the hottest and windiest miles I would have ridden to that point. I was tired when I pulled into Tonopah, NV and I had a plan. I would ride up and down the main street, checking out hotel and restaurant areas. Then I would pull over, find shade, and check out what the internet had to say about the different hotels.

I needed a hotel and a shower that night.

Oh yeah! I stayed here.
I passed a Best Western and figured it was probably where I'd end up. But as I rode around the bend in the road, there it was...The Clown Motel! It was absorbing and terrifying all at once. I u-turned and passed it again. Did I have the guts to stay there? I continued with my plan, found some shade and read the reviews. They weren't terrible. In fact, a lot of people claimed they stayed there regularly on vacation with their kids. Which leads me to wonder--who the hell goes to Tonopah on vacation?
I rode back, went into the office which was covered in clown things including what must have been more than 100 clown dolls. I almost bolted at that point. I don't really like dolls, and that was almost too much to handle. I quickly turned my back to them, which in hindsight may have been a bad choice. I'm pretty sure that's how they get you....
Forty bucks for a room, the last one they had, and I was set. As I went back to my bike to start unloading, a young guy followed me out and chatted me up. I got the feeling Tonopah is a little like Alaska. A lot of men out there drilling and building solar forests, and not so many ladies. He was working on the solar project, and lives at the Clown Motel. He was grilling dinner and food for the week, and offered me dinner or beer or anything I needed.
I really think he hadn't seen a girl in a long time....
I'm not sure about the secure parking thing. They had a parking lot, and no one messed with my bike, so that's good.
Looking for a good restaurant in Tonopah seemed like the search for one in Vernal, only without the new brewing company to offer up good food. According to a sign, Tonopah Brewing Company is coming soon, but since it wasn't soon enough, I opted for the Mexican place the guy at the front desk of the motel had recommended. It wasn't awful, and the staff were really nice. After dinner, I went back to the hotel, wedged the large overstuffed chair under the doorknob to guard against psycho killer clowns (I'm not joking--oh, how I wish I were), and passed out.
My fat-bottomed girl looks so skinny without all the luggage!
The next morning, I needed to do a little motorbike maintenance. As I was putting my bike up on its center stand, a guy walking by stopped and watched me. After I got it settled, he yelled over to me, "I thought you were gonna drop that bike!"
Thanks. Thanks a lot. I'm not going to drop my bike, jerk.
Did I mention The Clown Motel is next door to a cemetery? The review that stated that is the one that sold me on the place. Hey, if you're gonna go creepy, go all the way!

I got loaded up and headed out on my way. The last piece of maintenance I couldn't do was check the oil. Because of the sump pump and the way the whole oil system is set up, I have to ride it for about 15 miles, really getting it to operating temperature, before it can be checked. So I rode out of town, and 13 miles down the road was a rest stop. I pulled in, checked it and found it was low.

What happened next, I can't really explain. Somehow, in the midst of adding oil and realizing my Petzl headlamp batteries were dying--I have to use it to see the little oil window--I overfilled my oil reservoir.
For a while, I stood there looking at the bike wondering what would REALLY happen if I rode with too much oil. Then I sucked it up, and started tearing my bike apart. This is where I am extremely thankful I have been doing some of my own wrenching on my bike. It didn't take me long, and I was able to get to the bolt on my reservoir that drains it. Unfortunately there is no in between on that thing though. It is either in, and nothing is coming out, or it is out and the oil sprays out. I managed to get the oil bottle up fairly quickly to catch it, but some missed the bottle.
Don't worry, it didn't spill on the ground and hurt the environment. No, no. My brand new white and silver Klim pants absorbed it all.
That looks nice. Aargh!

Ok, within half an hour--though it felt like so much longer--I was back on the road. I hit the California border and cheered a little. I took a quick picture, then headed on to Benton. One quick look as I drove through Benton, and I thought, "Nope, continuing to Bishop!" It had to be better--Bishop was a bigger dot on the map!

I stopped at Jack's Restaurant and Bakery and it was great! I just ordered eggs, hash browns and toast, but it was all cooked perfectly and the sourdough toast was California sourdough--IT WAS SO GOOD! I looked at maps while I was waiting and eating, and thought I would probably make it to just west of Onyx that evening, and camp in the Sequoia National Forest.
When I walked out of the restaurant back to my bike, there was a man with his truck door open and he was petting his dog. He was a beautiful, mostly black German shepherd, and I commented on how beautiful he was. The man asked if I wanted to pet him and I promptly said, "Yes I do!" As I was petting him, I noticed the tag on his collar said Placer County Sherriff K-9, and I asked if he was a former K-9 officer. I was told he still is, and the man, Shawn Rosner was a sherriff's deputy. Jet was his K-9 officer companion, and they were actually on vacation. Jet was sweet, and soft, and I loved him! I also have no doubt that he could rip a bad guy to shreds in no time flat.
I rolled out of Bishop and headed on down 395 in the crazy heat. My thermometer read over 100 when I rolled in, and it hadn't gotten any cooler. I finally stopped at the CoCo Junction rest area, and as I consulted my map, I realized I had no idea how far it would be to the next gas. So I went across the road and filled up, went inside, and asked the cashier if he knew where the next gas stops were. He had a list of cities with mileage, and I saw that Bakersfield was only 135 miles away. Well, I could make it that far no problem, so off I went.
And the temperature just went up.
And up.
It was like riding through an oven.
I hit highway 14 which took me to highway 178 within a few miles. That pointed me west and took me into a mountain pass almost immediately. There was a small break in the temps, and the road was great! I rode through a Joshua Tree forest--if one can call it that--and truly enjoyed the winding passes I went through. Eventually, I came back down in elevation and the road straightened out a bit. The temps went back up, and I stopped in Onyx for a break.
I pulled into the post office to buy some stamps, and as I was walking in, a big guy in a tie-dyed t-shirt walked out and exclaimed, "A beautiful woman on a motorcycle! You can't beat that!" I laughed, told him thank you, but that in that heat I was feeling hot and sweaty, not so much beautiful. He laughed and said it was indeed hot.
I think he may have taken a second look and agreed with me also....
The road really straightened out at this point and then became two lanes in each direction, divided. Am I really on the same highway? I guess so. Right around Lake Isabella, it once again became a twisty two lane highway. The lake was kind of pathetic. It was very low and there were almost no vacationers. As the road straightened out, I was dumped into Bakersfield and I headed immediately for In-n-Out. Hey, I have my priorities!
Waiting for my Animal-Style burger. Anticipation.....

I stopped eating meat a while ago, but I had to have a burger, animal style, and fries. So. Good!

At this point, I had two choices. Stay the night in Bakersfield--uh, no thank you--or continue on to Santa Maria. It would be another 2 1/2 hours of riding, and it would put my mileage for that day at 470. I figured that at some point in those last 130 or so miles, things would start to cool down, so I went for it. By the time I was about 10 miles from the 101 junction, I stopped and put on my warmer gloves. It felt good to be cooler. Twenty-five minutes later, I pulled to a stop in front of my parents house--a day earlier than I had planned--and they came out to greet me.

My dad said, "I've been following on all the maps and Facebook. I knew you'd get here today!"


No comments:

Post a Comment