Or so we thought…
So… we were heading home and we were looking for an interesting way to get back across the bulk of Nevada. We were looking for something different and didn’t want to back track.
We found a great road out of Cedar City (56) that had some great “flow” to it for the first 50 or so miles.
After that it set the stage for what most of the rest of the day would look like – long, straight and flat.
Most of the towns in the desert looked very similar. Caliente was different. Yes, it still had one main road right through the center of town but it’s what they did with that road that made it so different.
The entire left side of the street, from one end to the other, was modernized. Just that little curb, a little grass, a sidewalk, benches, planters and a small fence made a huge difference!
Down the road in Crystal Springs it was back on to the Extraterrestrial Highway (again). This end has a sign that isn’t covered as much in stickers so we had to toss a dancing bear up there.
Sorry about that Kitchen Dudes…
Just around the corner was a museum that looked interesting but we didn’t want to stop.
We did stop for this sign just outside Rachel, NV
We stopped for lunch (again) in Tonopah. We had stopped at this same place on the way in.
After lunch we made sure we filled the gas tanks. The gas station had an issue with all the card readers at the pump so you had to go in an ‘prepay’. No problem. I told the guy to go with $15 and Ernie said $20. Our usual fill ups were running around $12 bucks or so.
Often times at the pumps if the station was busy we would piggyback on each others. Example: I would pay for this fill up and fill both mine and Ernie’s bike and then he would reciprocate at the next stop.
The problem – and we didn’t think about it at the time – was that Ernie used $12 of his allotted $20 and so when Tomm filled his bike it stopped short of filling it completely.
Maybe it was the food coma, but nobody took much notice of this sign as we passed…
Back to the highway…
Much of the highway is “open range” so we would see cattle grazing on the side of the road here and there. A couple of times we would see them even closer.
As we were going up and over one ridge we saw a bunch of wild horses! The trouble was that unlike the cattle, they moved quicker and in this particular case they were hidden from the drivers view.
Have you ever seen a horse hit by a semi? We haven’t either and didn’t want to, so we stopped and “Cowboy Tomm” whooped, whistled, and did what ever it is that makes horses move. For the time being they did – and so we moved on too.
I could insert pictures of the miles and miles of straight Nevada desert roads but I’ll spare you the monotony. 😉
Our destination for the night was somewhere around Lee Vining.
We had planned on camping somewhere close (it would be our first time camping this trip).
Probably a 1/2 mile out from the town Tomm signals that his bike just hit empty.
Remember that gas stop in Tonopah?
The one where he got short changed on a full tank?
Yup! That happened. He almost coasted into town too.
I pulled alongside him and gave him a little tow for a while.
It doesn’t get any closer than that!
A full tank of gas and a quick gatorade later we were ready to go camp for the night. Ernie’s Navigation was telling him he was only a few hours away from home. Temptation being what it is, the obvious question was proposed.
It was around 4 PM, the Nav said we’d get home around dusk…
There’s a couple of reasons why we shouldn’t try to make it home.
- We were exhausted from riding in the sun all day.
- It was that time of the day when the deer become active and we were heading right into deer territory.
- We’d be riding straight into the setting sun.
- Riding at night sucks. The route home would have plenty of oncoming traffic along narrow two lane roads. Headlights, bug splattered shields and tired eyes don’t make for a good combination.
- It was “Martini Time”. (not worried as much about the drivers – but it was just about time for us to be enjoying our martini of the day)
Acknowledging all of these cons, we decided to keep on going. A few more hours of saddle time and we’d be home. The (emotional) decision was made and off we went.
Heading up Hwy 108 towards Sonora Summit we were all getting a little tired. That deer part? I was behind Ernie and watched as two extremely large deer tried to run across the road in front of us. I saw them early and braked hard. One turned around and the other one kept going, trying to make it in front of Ernie’s bike.
Hitting a deer on a motorcycle sucks. I know. I’ve hit two in my life. I watched as this deer came uncomfortably close in crossing the road in front of Ernie’s bike. Luckily the two didn’t meet.
We continued on up and over the summit. Down the hill in Sonora, Ernie split from us and headed north towards home. Tomm and I continued on to nearby Oakdale where we stopped to get gas. We then decided we were getting rather rummy and also stopped for a bite to eat.
An hour later we were back on the road. The stretch from Oakdale to Manteca is a 2 lane narrow road through orchard country. Between the oncoming traffic with their high beams, the cars passing us or other cars, and the always present cars entering the road from the numerous side roads it wasn’t our favorite section.
Once in Manteca the road becomes a divided highway. We didn’t have to deal with oncoming traffic anymore. Instead it was the cross winds and truckers we had to worry about. For the next chunk of mileage we were getting blown around like crazy while traffic buzzed just feet from us. I would rather ride 1,000 miles on the White Rim Trail next to 1,000 ft drop offs than ride that 50 or so miles again.
I pulled in to my driveway at 10:30 PM. Mentally and physically wasted. I was home, I was safe. My Wife hugged and kissed me. My dogs acted just like you would imagine they would – spinning, dancing, and howling like it was the happiest day they’ve ever had – doing just what dogs do.
650 miles in a day is a test. I’ve done 1,000 on my Hayabusa. But a KLR isn’t really a street bike. It vibrates, it’s slow, and if a breeze comes up you better hang on tight.
Risk Vs Reward
In riding, you accept a certain amount of responsibility about that danger. You control the things you can to minimize the risk. I’m sure that on our last day we didn’t minimize it, we dramatically increased it and that’s not a good thing. Looking back, it was a bad decision to press on. We pushed our luck and it could have bitten us hard. When you are on a motorcycle with a lot of very large objects in motion around you, that bite isn’t a small one.
9 Days and 2,427 miles after we left, we were home. It was good to be home, yet I can’t wait to head out again.
Next Up: I reflect on what I learned, what I liked and what I would do differently next time.