Drove thru Yakima in a high desert with fresh wildfire smoke and an ominous red setting sun. brief cold spells until I put on the polar tec and the windstopper. Also noticed an odd dashlight configuration and a few intermittant headlamp issues. I chose to ignore this and press on. Got into Pendleton late and could not ring the hotel desk at Marigold. went to another hotel and got a room.
got mildly lost finding the I84 and roamed the reservation to the south a bit. saw a few interesting off road spots but too damn hot to stay. Stopped in Baker City, OR to eat chicken spicy sandwich and salad at sports bar for lunch. continued to Boise, ID to register at Downtown Red Lion and finish working.
Ate another chicken sandwich at the K-9 bar down the road. Cook wanted to chat about the quality. suggested adding Au jus because the roll was too much (and a bit stale imo but that’s good sometimes) Honestly I just wasn’t that excited about it because it was the second chicken sandwich I’d eaten that day but I didn’t really have the energy to explain all this. It met my expectations but cook was clearly concerned. Good for him.
worked until 5 and mailed laptop home. Ate falaphal with dolmas. stocked up on drug store supplies:
Left Boise, ID early for Twin Falls, ID. Checked Best Buy for gopro mounts but nothing in stock.
Ate at Milner’s Gate and enjoyed sitting at a bar for the first time since February. Fun place. Ask Mario about the ghost in the basement.
Entered the Nevada desert with a full tank of gas and great satisfaction with my choice of riding gear – bare jersey standing every 5 minutes to blow the sweat off my ass. it was 104F in the shade. didn’t yet think to fill my backpack bladder but drank 1 qt water + 1 qt Gatorade when I hit Wells, NV and found out at 1:32PM (local?) that Dave Uth was grounded. Diverted to Reno, NV to rendezvous with Jess and Christian. The temperature never went below 100F until the sunset but still a beautiful drive accros I80.
Stopped for a photo at Battle Mountain High School because it was the biggest sign off the interstate and left just as local LEO arrived on the scene so I waved as I left.
Reached Reno, NV after dark and in dangerous traffic, missed my exit to I580 and that is where the chain was clearly not loving life. Found my exit and then found a gas station to fuel up and confirm chain condition. The usual dry chain chuck sounds were very persistent at every acceleration and then would fade as I switched to second gear. I bought some 5W-30 oil at the gas station since that was all they had and splashed some on my chain in their parking lot. cos im that guy.
Took off for Incline Village, NV because not much other choice and eventually made it in about 10pm. Was recieved by Jess and Christian along with their friend Zoey. We ate take out and they were kind enough to share their van with me for the night which I greatly appreciated because I felt exhausted and confused about how I would salvage this trip. I knew the original plan was toast and I was not about to spend any more time out in the Nevada desert.
Prepped Jess’s KTM 690 enduro for some riding and chatted with some other van/bike people. They seemed to dislike their recent AirBNB tenants.
Followed Jess off Lincoln Highway to some trails and got about 10 miles of good off-road and climbed a peak. Got a good photo. Met a guy from California on a KLX300 that looked like mine but newer. He followed us down the big hill. I scraped a lot even with out my panniers.
We ended up near Minden, CA where we got fuel and planned our way toward ‘Bishop, CA’ which was just a way-point Jess was using to keep up on track. During the descent of Carson Pass we could clearly see the smoke we were trying to avoid. It hugged the foot of the mountains in the western valley for a few miles but far in the distance all was covered in haze and smoke. This was to be our last clean breath of air for a few days. We attempted to swing wide east of the smoke along highway 208 and it helped a bit perhaps. At least judging by how bad it looked from the pass.
Perhaps due to the mild smoke, highway 338 was near total solitude. This was some of my favorite road of the entire trip. There were power lines but otherwise not much out there but the hum of the engine and the breath-taking scenery that goes by as we slowly crossed in California once more in Bridgeport, CA.
Got fuel in Lee Vining, CA. Chatted the gas station guys about my Strom. Naturally this is where my rear top box latch finally broke. I am pleased with myself for remembering to look on the ground for the pin so that I could effect a temporary repair and not lose the latch itself which would be difficult to replace.
Jess led us around Mono lake along highway 120. Another of my favorites. I could certainly spend a day here checking out side roads.
We found Benton Hot Springs which was Jess’s goal but they were full. Someone nicely suggested a few more wild hot springs in the area if we went back toward Benton Crossing. Cell phone signal was difficult here but I was able to get WIFI from the resort and get some messages out. Jess was struggling more so we fueled up again and went searching for signal so she could let Christian know where to meet us. We were unable to locate a spot of signal when I noticed the sun had gone down.
We decided to proceed to Wild Willy’s Hot Spring. Once we started on this route we were able to get signal and send the message out. Which was good because temperatures were dropping fast and I had left my panniers in Christian’s van. Wild Willy’s was, of course, a wild hot springs with a parking lot and it was pretty full at dusk but clearing out as those prepared to spend the night square-danced their vehicals with those who were not. Christian and the van showed up during the shuffle and we got a spot in the middle of the action. Drinks and dinner were had. It was a good time. I slept in my tent for the first time on the trip and verified everything was in order for solo trips.
Slept terrible but happy to be committed on an adventure. I took a while to get ready and we got a late start around 11.
Jess was to spend another day riding and Christian would now follow us as a caravan which I appreciated since he still had my panniers in his van.
I think this was key for the chain as it still had occasional issues making sounds at low speed overall it did not seem to be a big deal. I occasionally would check it with my gloved hands and it was not dry nor partially loose. Sometimes I felt a hot spot but I think it was just because it was sitting next to the engine for a while.
Fuel was very difficult to come by. 87 octane was the only option on 264 when we stopped. This forced us to divert directly south to Beaty, NV on US-95.
Intriguing rest stop. Here we decided it was too late in the day to travel Death Valley, NV and to hell with that I did not care to anyway. Christian picked out a good camping spot in Red Rock but when we got there it was closed due to fire. With the sun setting and the miles high we decided it was time to part ways.
I retrieved my panniers and went for the best option I knew of that would have me: The Stratosphere Hotel in Las Vegas, NV. I tell myself I love this place because it’s right off the interstate so I am barely in Vegas but truth be told my uncle suggests this place and they always treat me right. It was a welcome known in a vast unknown. Had a very near close call on US-95. Fast approaching headlights behind me swerved at the last second and avoided me. Was so rattled that I missed my exit and turned around on exit 73 and took Fremont St.
Got a room with a tub for $70 and ate a huge salad at their sports bar with plenty of beer after showering for the first time since Saturday morning.
Could not stop thinking about that chain. It was making a lot more noise with the full panniers on and I did not like how it felt at acceleration. I considered staying another night and finding a mechanic but for some reason I did not think I would be able to pull that off in Vegas. They don’t want me going anywhere. This was a low point of the trip.
Alone again and not confident in my machine I thought hard and decided to seek deliverance in the great people of the state of Utah. They don’t want me hanging out. They will do whatever it takes to get my filthy bearded, unbaptized ass out of their hair ASAP. While I enjoyed the always filling Starbucks oatmeal I said a little prayer to anyone listening, loaded up my bike, and pointed us North on I15 towards Arizona and eventually Salt Lake, UT.
One does not, however, go to Salt Lake, UT on a motorcycle in this manner. One always diverts to the beautiful land in the East either via Zion itself or the also stunning and less packed route to the south via Colorado City, AZ. I was not ready to undertake any sort of journey until my chain was happier so I made a pit-stop in lovely, Hurricane, UT where I was floored to get the chance to meet Matt of Matt’s Offroad Recovery and I only had to give him money for his merchandise as I did not (yet) need a rescue. I knew when I met him that if I opened my mouth I would never shut up and the man has a life so I just grinned like an idiot and showed him the merch id purchased. I should have brought a sharpie. One person on his staff, featured here had a moment to chat. We talked about bikes and I mentioned my chain worries and he suggested a few options, all of which turned out to be very helpful! He even gave me his number in case I had trouble. These people really are as nice as they seem on the television!
I booked a room at the Clarion next to his shop and found a meal at ‘Main Street Cafe’ This was the second time I tried to give a waitress my phone number on the bill. I went to the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC outlet store and bought a chain breaker, a chain press, and a new chain. When I got them back to the hotel I scouted the desert lot next to the parking lot and found a few large rocks of different size and hauled them next to my bike. One was too big, one was just right to rest the back half of the skid plate on which formed a triangle of support with the kickstand and front wheel and held the rear wheel aloft. I was so excited about my first real road fix that I cut the chain a link too short. This is especially disheartening as I was now stranded. What did I say about the wonderful people of Utah? I texted my new friend in the off-road recovery business and he was just on his way out. We went to Rocky Mountain ATV right as they were closing and got another chain. Yeah I could have just got some more master links but I didn’t want to take any chances and got the chain too. At this rate my Strom goes thru one a season anyway. Got dropped off in the parking lot and finished the repair just before sunset. Went right to bed.
Woke up anxious. No idea what was in store as I didn’t not test my fix before I went to bed. I packed as usual and mounted up. Did a few figure 8s in the parking lot with no trouble then I tried a few hard accelerations in the back of the lot. It felt fine. Only now I became hungry.
I knew myself enough that first I had to mail off my extra chain which was extra weight on a trip where weight distribution was key for safety. I spotted a cafe on the way to the mail drop-off and returned for a delicious spinach omelet and rye toast with wonderful diner coffee. I ate and drank my fill. There was no need to consider my next steps at this point. I had covered all my bases and was ready to explore again.
The suggested route was basically as far east as I could manage. Zion was very crowded but still the most direct route. When I asked the ranger what the overnight temperatures would be he let me know it would be too cold for my camping gear. I decided to try anyway and to make up time as I proceeded north on US-89.
It got cold. I had all my gear on except for the polypro long underwear. Not a chance I could go to Bryce Canyon this time. I made up for it by stopping at some ATV rental places and getting some business cards. They were happy to tell me all about the trails in the area. As it got late I was getting cold and tired. I checked out a shop in Richfield, UT, had a lovely Cobb Salad at 86 Bar and decided to stay the night at a nearby hotel.
Woke up and was served the worst cup of coffee in my life. This cup of coffee simply stated “go to hell.” I didn’t quite know what to say about the melted styrofoam, the crown of chunky grounds with a straw served next to it. I decided to simply enjoy the chance to drink some go-to-hell coffee before I go back to hell. The jalapeño bagel was delightful.
I fueled up and on my way out of town I missed both interstate exits and ended up on Bureau of Land Management land as far as I could tell. There were plenty of off-road tracks in all directions so I picked one and climbed a hill with ease even with my poor form and overloaded bike. Saw a lime kiln monument picture and water wheel but didn’t take the footpath. Had to pull the ABS brake fuse to get back down safely but the Strom and the Moto RallZ tires were total champs. I could have explored around a lot longer if I wanted to. I knew it was going to get cold again quickly up in this altitude and I wanted to get closer to sea-level for a night.
I pressed on to US-89 all the way into Spanish Fork, UT. There are lots of off-road tracks during the descent here. I really wanted to explore them but the terrain suggested I should stick to the paved roads at my experience level.
I tried to find Joyce’s old neighborhood in Provo, UT but was first mislead by the new high school which didn’t seem right given her description. I stopped at a local park and asked someone who told me the old high school is located in the middle of town. There certainly is an old high school in the middle of town and it’s the first week of classes so I just got a picture from across the lot with the mountains and sent to Joyce. Most everything has certainly been changed about that place except for those. I was glad to hear she recognized them. It was getting late and I was still determined to use my camping gear now that I was off that plateau.
I am not proud. I was in a hurry. So I ate a firehouse sub. I don’t even remember what kind. But it had enough calories to sustain me and no one in that place judged me. I picked out a road and took it north into the Cedar Valley.
This was my first taste of real Utah off-road as far as I can tell. At first I was confident, then I was overwhelmed. Finally I admit I took a route when I should have just turned around. I dropped the Strom a few hundred feet off the main path on a rocky climb with a turn. The impact snapped the brake lever short but it still operates fine. This was my sign to turn back. I rejoined the main trail and backtracked until I found ground suitable to pitch a tent. Ate the rest of my trail-mix that night and read in my tent. Been a long time since I’ve spent a night alone like that. I heard one rider pass in late dusk.
Woke up and packed my tent. Noticed I had camped so close to the trail that person who passed in the night certainly saw me. Decided to take a day to recover from that drop and maybe get some personal chores done.
This is when I found my first ‘Black Bear Cafe’ Oh wow. What a place for a hungry traveler such as myself. The service is always delightful. I ate the vegetarian omelet because it had the most fiber and I got some sausage patties on the side. Oh and sweet, delicious diner coffee.
Hit the coin op laundry and with 2 and half sets of clean clothes I hit the Flying J for a shower. A kind patron behind me even paid for it. Utah you people! We chatted about my trip so far but he was clearly in a hurry. That truck stop shower felt great after all the regolith from the campsite. Seriously how didn’t I puncture a tire out there?? Motoz. Since I was on the south side of town I decided to try my luck with Rocky Mountain ATV again. This time with a will-call pickup at their warehouse.
Sure enough I had a brand new OEM brake lever for the Strom in my hot little hands 30 minutes later. What a place. I’m not even going to install it yet in case I drop the Strom again on this trip. I tried to sneak around back of Lake Utah because it looks like a nice drive but I overestimated the distance and had to pull back to I15 in time to meet my friend for a drink.
I had a Cobb salad at Garage on Becks. They had great music too! When I left was when I noticed that my headlamps where out! The high beams worked so I flipped them on and found the nearest, cheapest hotel with a big parking lot.
Spend the night reading about all the fun ways Strom forward lighting can go wrong and that’s when it all came together. The near miss in Vegas, the odd dash light configuration, the 14+ volts on my USB adapter, the slight smell of burning plastic at red lights. I’d burned out the connector pins under the radiator. They were likely disturbed during the somewhat recent valve check. I’ll never be able to verify this in situ and even if I could fixing it would require more special tools. I knew the trip was over because the bike was now unsafe. My halo had gone dark and only two tiny horns were lit up.
Black Bear Cafe you are so kind to me. 1700+ calories for $9.99 was the deal that made me smile. Wash it down with diner coffee and it’s I15 northbound.
For fun’s sake I stopped at a Autozone and pestered them for a test light. When he produced a multimeter I refused. I handed him a near-full quart of 5W-30 oil and asked him to please recycle it. Farewell Utah even though I know you don’t need me to wish you that.
Nearly as soon as I overtook the border did I start to see smoke hanging in their air. Just like the pass in California I knew this was my last breath of fresh air.
I drove passed Twin Falls, ID with a sad heart. I’ll return someday to visit the Malad Gorge and see more of the town.
I gladly skipped Boise when the sun was still high and made good distance to Baker City, OR where I fondly recalled having a good chicken sandwich many miles ago. The wonderful Bridge Street Inn accommodated me at a very reasonable price and again I tried my luck at the Sports Bar but this time got burger that was clearly frozen and overcooked but it was also calories and after 350 miles since my last meal at Black Bear Cafe it went down quick.
Woke up early and raided the hotel breakfast bar for a Jimmy Dean microwave calorie serving and some kind of easily dispensed brown bean water.
Hit the road and froze my ass off in the worst riding of the trip. Temperature inversions got down to 36F at speed and the the smoke was at times clammy and cold, cutting right thru my desert gloves. The heated grips were not keeping up.
I pushed thru Pendleton, OR stopping as little as possible for fuel. The temperature never got warm enough to remove all my warm gear.
Once I got north of Richland, WA I stopped for fuel and some gas station snacks. V8. Cashews. Sugar.
Seattle by 2pm. Ate a PB&J right away and lots of water. Wrote this and cooked some onions, hot dogs.