Ride report June 2012: Day 3

Loop day, Fortuna, CA

The day was spent riding a 270 mile loop in the area. These are my favorite roads and are worth riding a long ways to experience if you’re not from the area. I headed inland, eastbound, on highway 36, then veered northeast on highway 3 from Hayfork to Weaverville. This section is gnarly and wicked and amazing on a motorcycle. It demands attention and offers a great reward to those who conquer it. In Weaverville I stopped at Trinideli for lunch. My friend, Mark, stopped by as he was driving home from Trinity Lake. After lunch, he drove on while I continued the loop by turning westbound on highway 299. Back on the coast, I turned inland and rode the narrow, winding road up to Mark’s home in the rural community of Kneeland. Mark and I had dinner and a lot of laughs, then I rode back down the hill to my motel in Fortuna.

Ride report June 2012: Day 4

Fortuna, CA to Sparks, NV

When I left Fortuna at 8 am it was drizzling and cool as is typical of the Eureka/Arcata/Fortuna area. I headed inland once again on highway 36 and by the time I went up and over the first pass I had sunshine and blue skies.

Nearing Red Bluff the temperature was climbing so I pulled over and switched to my warm weather gear configuration … Aerostich Darien jacket with vents open and minus the liner, and I opened the thigh vents on my Firstgear Kathmandu pants. As I rode the amazing roller coaster curves of 36 just west of Red Bluff, I kept feeling something hit my boots. Later I realized I was riding through crickets.

I fueled up in Red Bluff, then got lunch at a busy Subway before continuing east across I-5 on highway 36. From this point on, except for the last two days of the trip, I would be riding roads new to me. East of I-5, 36 is a lot of grass and scrub oak and heat. Eventually the elevation climbed enough to moderate the temperature. The road before and after Lake Almador was amazing as was the timber, tall and uniform.

Once I got to Susanville I fueled up my bike and continued on, now in hot, arid country. The border into Nevada was unmarked. Once I got into Sparks I used my Garmin Zumo 450 GPS to find the Super 8. It was a hotel, rather than my preferred motel, so I had to load all my gear on a cart and wheel it inside to my room. Once I got a quick nap and shower out of the way, I went to the casino/truck stop/restaurant next door for dinner. There were some shady people in there and it reminded me of the cantina scene in Star Wars IV, “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.” (I am sure those truck drivers are salt of the earth good people, but they can present a rather gruff, scary first impression.) The chicken parmesan was pretty good.

Before I went to dinner I washed my ExOfficio t-shirts and underwear in the bath tub and hung them up to dry. My wool socks were the only thing I didn’t attempt to wash by hand; I saved them for later when I could wash them in a motel with a laundry room.

Ride report June 2012: Day 5

Sparks, NV to Ely, NV
Highway 50, “The Loneliest Highway”

I survived highway 50, the loneliest highway in America. It certainly is that. Fortunately it wasn’t overly hot. It was 92 degrees when I reached Ely at 2:15 pm. On the way, I fueled up in Austin (3.58 gallons) and got some grub in Eureka. Breakfast earlier that morning was again in the casino/truck stop next door to the Super 8.

Once in Ely I checked into the Ramada and ate dinner at Evah’s inside the hotel. It is nasty and should be avoided. My room was nice, however.

I decided to wash my wool socks by hand. I use Dr. Bronner’s peppermint castile soap and hot water, then I roll the socks in a towel and step on it to wring out the water. I draped them over the luggage rack which I propped in front of the AC unit.

The route for the next day showed a forecast of 98 degrees and lots of boring, dry scenery. I miss mountains and curves.

Ride report June 2012: Day 6

Ely, NV to Page, AZ

This was the hottest, toughest day of the trip so far, but had some truly amazing scenery. For everything worth having there is a price.

The day started with a continental breakfast at Evah’s that was so-so. Then I discovered the touch screen on my GPS stopped working so I could no longer plot routes. It still showed my current location, speed and elevation, but I had to navigate the old fashioned way for the rest of the trip.

I headed south on highway 93 and got gas at a junction near the Utah border. Two presumably Mormon women in traditional dresses and hair styles stopped in a brand new Volkswagen SUV and got out to clean the windshield. They were absolutely beautiful but had sour expressions on their faces.

I made it into Cedar City, Utah and stopped for gas at a Sinclair station, then ate lunch at the Subway next door. A businessman in a suit chatted with me about my bike and trip as we waited in line, and he told me the scenery in Colorado would blow my mind.

I tried to take scenic route 14 east out of town but a few miles up the road was a blockade saying the road was closed. I saw a local drive around the signs and continue up the road but I didn’t want to take any chances so I pulled over and figured out a detour using my printed AAA map. It required that I head south on I-15, then pass through Zion National Park.

The temperature was climbing fast and so was the traffic on the super slab. Pushing high speeds doesn’t impress me and it uses up tires and oil, something I wanted to be cautious about on this trip, so I maintained a reasonable speed. At one point a roadrunner dashes across the hot freeway in front of me. Meep meep!

I pulled off the freeway at the exit for Zion, then paid $12 to go through the park. The canyon walls truly made me say, “Oh, $hit!” inside my helmet after every turn. It barely looked real. After climbing some hairpin switchbacks, the road enters a tunnel. The eastbound traffic had to stop and wait for a large RV to come out of the tunnel. As I was sitting there sweltering in my helmet and gear, I chatted with the ranger lady flagging traffic. She said she had just measured the ambient air temperature at 120 degrees. Yikes!

Eventually we were allowed to proceed through the tunnel. There are several windows cut out of the rock and into the open canyon air.

I eventually made it south and across the border into Arizona to the resort town of Page, near Lake Powell. It was hot and I was parched. Because my GPS was on the fritz, I had to ride around the loop through the entire town before I found the Super 8. The front desk staff were not very friendly but my room was cool and large and I was out of the heat. The nearest restaurant was a pizza joint about a quarter of a mile away across a Home Depot parking lot. The chef salad and beer were good, though.

Ride report June 2012: Day 7

Page, AZ to Durango, CO

The free continental breakfast that morning was nothing but meager pastries, juice and coffee, so once I was packed and ready, I rode into town and ate at a steakhouse that served breakfast. I also discovered small black ants in my room, over in one corner.

From Page, I headed south to Kaibito, then turned north toward Kayenta where I filled up my gas tank again. It was very warm, bordering on hot, and it wasn’t even noon yet. The region is also very arid and sparse, but that can have it’s own beauty. America‚Äôs hit song went through my head, “I’ve been through the desert / On a horse with no name / It felt good to be out of the rain…”

I then turned north on highway 163 and rode through Monument Valley. The view was just like you see in the movies, although the classic view is seen when traveling 163 from north to south, so I had to look in my mirrors and over my shoulder to see it.

Then I continued east through historic Bluff, Utah with its sandstone cliffs, through the Four Corners region, and into Colorado. I stopped in Durango and checked into the Best Western there. I had called ahead and made a reservation the night before.

Dinner was in the adjacent restaurant, the special rib eye steak. It was cooked perfectly and the meal was a good value. I did another round of bath tub laundry and got a good night’s sleep.