Sunset in the high desert
I put my motorcycle on a trailer, hooked it to my van and left my home in River Falls, WI. I headed West on Friday, June 4, 2010. The trip took me across the country through Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and into California. I used the smaller two-lane roads except for a few places where I jumped on the Superslab, (The Eisenhower Interstate Highway System)
I kept a log of all the route numbers of the roads I traveled. It would be quite boring to most, but an avid map reader like myself would find it interesting to see the listing, then follow along and trace the path, (I’ll post it at the end of this story). I’ll say that I look for two-lane roads that run on angles in the general direction of where I’m headed. I’m always rewarded with beautiful scenery, seen up close, and a plethora of cars, trucks and farm equipment “For Sale” on the side of the road. The artwork and the creativity of people with what and how they adorn their homes is astonishing. I love slowing down and crawling through the small towns and checking out the business district. Always looking for a diner tucked away or a coffee shop, perhaps, open, and serving hot brew. You can see all this and more from the small roads.
I love the travel. I don’t mind the solitude at all, but the breaks I take, while passing through the towns, give me the social stimulus I crave at times. Talking to strangers is a thrill and an adventure. People are wanting to give me information about their town or region, and are very willing to answer questions from strangers, it seems. A short conversation is available with a convenience store cashier or eat shop waitress. Then its back on the road, into the rural countryside, looking for the green and white sign that tells you how many miles to the next town, landmark or where the routes divide.
Pretty yellow flowers somewhere along the way
On this trip, I drove my full size Ford van. I took the seats out and had this cavernous space behind the cockpit. I set up my over length, over width Slumberjack cot and outfitted it with sheets and blankets. At the back doors, I had my cooler, the one that holds ice for up to five days! I used milk crates for the dry goods and cooking gear. I had the “Kit”, a complete set up for brewing a great cup of coffee using the Melitta cone filter system, and a stash of the great tasting freshly roasted beans from my friend Steve’s J & S Bean Factory.
I planned no itinerary except that I was going to Northern California, eventually. I made stops for a few meals at favorite restaurants that I return to from time to time, but mostly, I ate my own food. I stayed overnight at places where no fee is charged to camp or park for a spell, wherever possible. I used highway rest areas and when I got way out West into the high desert of Nevada, I found plenty of public BLM land.
I’ll review the restaurants in another post. For now, I’ll continue with how and where I traveled. The first day was long in the saddle. I left the house at around five a.m. I ended the day at a rest stop on Interstate 80 near Laramie, WY. I turned in and was sound asleep by eleven O’clock. My internal rooster had me up and ready to roll a little after six a.m. I slept right through and made coffee before I pulled back out on the road. Not 15 miles ahead was where I turned off the Interstate and headed Southwest across the border into Colorado through the Medicine Bow National Forest.
As I entered Colorado, the mountain vista lay ahead of me. A large cloud covered the mountain and shaded it completely as I basked in a warm morning sun. Once up into the mountains, the temperature had dropped considerably and the roadway was wet. A shower had passed this way before me and left its dampness, but I experienced nary a drop on my windshield.
Medicine Bow Mountains at the Wyoming/Colorado border
I wound around the mountains and filled the tank at Steamboat Springs. I ate at a roadside table off of US Highway 40 just West of Steamboat. I made another cup of coffee and talked with a passing biker who stopped for a break headed East. I found out he was a Veteran from the American war in Vietnam. He saw I was trailering a bike and the conversation ensued. He had been on a three day trip to visit friends in Grand Junction, CO. I told him “That’s where I’ll end up tonight.”
I was on my way and crossed Douglas pass South of Ridgely which took me into Loma. I traced back East a few miles and stayed with good friends in Grand Junction. I lived in Grand Junction in the early 1990’s. Sonya and her husband Chuck were glad to see me. We had a Barbeque and other friends dropped by. We sat out on the patio way past my bedtime. When I did finally get to sleep, I must have been exhausted, for I slept well into the morning. I had thought of unloading the bike and riding in my old neighborhood of the Unaweep Tabegouche. (you’-nah-weep Tab’-ah-wash)
The road, Colorado 141, has beautiful scenery. I used to ride it regularly when I had the Harley Fat Boy. I always wanted to take the gravel road to John Brown Canyon and over the border to Moab, Utah. This wasn’t going to happen on this trip, but I did file away the idea of making Grand Junction my destination someday for the sole purpose of riding this road and other wonderful byways in the Grand Mesa.
The weather was hot in Grand Junction, but previous to that, it had been cool and comfortable to drive without the gas guzzling air conditioning turned on, with a little rain here and there in Nebraska and at the start of my trip. I stayed overnight with my friends and we went out to breakfast before I got on the road and followed US Highway 50 West through Utah and Nevada.
In Nevada, Highway 50 has the unique designation of being the Loneliest Road in America. There are long stretches with no services, like a gas station, available. The longest is around 100 miles. There are many of these service deprived sections from the Utah/Colorado border all the way through Nevada until you reach the Reno area. My plans were to stop somewhere near Austin.
The sign says it all
Originally, my motorcycle riding buddy from California was going to meet me in Nevada and we were to ride into the Ruby Mountains. I stopped at the turn off to head North from US 50 for the Ruby Mountain Recreation Area. I found a free BLM campground and stopped for the night. This place was near a small reservoir and just a short distance off the road. I pulled in right at dusk and slept in absolute quiet. The desert got downright cold that night, but I kept warm and cozy cuddles up with my Big Agnes Encampment sleeping bag.
From high above Austin, NV looking West into the Great Basin
A little dusty road grime on the Beemer
Daylight came quickly and I proceeded to Austin. Austin sits on the edge of the Toiyabe National Forest. I found the Big Creek Campground, which is about 15 miles off the highway on a dusty gravel road, and set up to spend a day or two. I unloaded my motorcycle and donned my riding gear. The road that took me to the campground stretched out further to the South and I headed out on my G650GS. The GS is a dual sport bike that can accept the rigors of off road riding and still cut up the corners on the hardtop. Todays ride was all off road.
My rig, with motorcycle unloaded, at Big Creek Campground in the Toiyabe National Forest, Nevada
I quickly ran into a stream that crossed the road. I wavered, but then thought out the scenario of walking back to my van and driving to town 15 miles away, soaking wet, to make a phone call or summon help to extract my wrecked bike from the swollen stream. No such luck. I stood up on the pegs and splashed across. I did get wet, but not deterred, and rode on, further up into the mountains. I crossed the stream several times as it zig zagged along the road turned path.
A great winding mountain dirt road in the Toiyabe
Another section of the road
At one crossing, I managed to take a line that had me teetering on the skid plate with no traction to the rear wheel. I dismounted and stood in the cold spring run off up to mid calf. I used gravity and pulled the bike off the hump, aimed for a more serviceable incline, remounted and drove out of the water hazard, only to find myself confronted with a sheet of melting snow at least 2 feet deep totally covering the road not 200 yards ahead. I had no alternative than to turn back, cross Big Creek again and again, and return to my campsite where I changed wet pants and boots.
Bunker Hill Mountain, NV, viewed from a distance
I went back and found other roads and put over 160 miles on my scooter this day, all off road, all great fun. I freshened up at camp and rode the 15 miles into town to have a steak dinner at the Toiyabe Cafe in Austin. The next morning, I rode to the Toiyabe again and had breakfast before coming back, loading my bike and heading West towards Reno and Halleluia Junction, with my ultimate goal of getting to the California Central Valley city of Chico.
I came across many such vistas as this photo, long pieces of tarmac stretched out into the horizon
I put gas into the van in Chico and continued North to Red Bluff. In Red Bluff I checked in to a Motel 6 and treated my bike to a bath at a local car wash, my laundry a bath at the laundromat and myself a shower before dinner. The next day, I continued West on California Highway 36 and found the coast by mid afternoon. I parked the van at my friends place and unloaded the bike. We talked well into the evening about where we would be riding while I was on the coast.
Sunset through the broken lens cover of my still camera, Big Creek Campground near Austin, NV
The van performed remarkably well. I logged 4817 miles in total and averaged 16.57 miles per gallon, and that’s a full size van and pulling a trailer, albeit a small one with a smallish bike, but pulling a trailer none the less, and climbing mountains! Gas was cheapest in South Dakota at $2.49.9 and most expensive out on the coast where it was $325.9 for regular. I was much impressed with the van’s performance overall as it was my bed and home for the past six days, up to that point, and would be until I returned home.
In the future, I’ll tell you about my time in California, then, about my trip home. I’ll probably make it in three parts, with a fourth part as restaurant reviews. There was Lange’s in Pipestone, MN, The afore mentioned Toiyabe in Austin, NV and The Cowgirl Cafe in Red Bluff that was quite the find, not to mention a regular stop when I pass through Riverton, WY called the Trailhead. I didn’t take too many pictures, but here are a few, including a short YouTube of the stream in Nevada. Hope you enjoy the trip.
This short two-minute YouTube shows some of the terrain in Nevada where I spent some time riding my motorcycle in the mountains:
Here are the route numbers for the first leg of my trip:
East Johnson Street in River Falls to WI Hwy 29 West
At Prescott, I turned Right and got on US Hwy 10 West
North of Hastings, MN, I turned Left and got on US Hwy 61 South
In Hastings, I turned Right onto County Hwy 46.
In a couple of miles, I turned Left onto County Hwy 47 South.
At Northfield, I hit MN Hwy 3 and turned Left, South.
In downtown Northfield, I joined MN Hwy 19, turned Right and took MN Hwy 19 West.
I Turned Right onto US Hwy 169 South near Lesueur, MN (Home of the Green Giant)
At St. Peter, I turned Right and got on MN Hwy 99 West.
At Nicollet, I turned Right and got on US Hwy 14 West.
I turned Right onto MN Hwy 23 South.
I got on I-90 and went West into South Dakota.
I turned Left and followed US Hwy 81 South.
I turned Right onto SD Hwy 44 West.
SD Hwy 44 joins US Hwy 18, I followed this road West.
I turned Left onto SD Hwy 27 South into Nebraska.
I turned Right onto US Hwy 20 West.
I turned Left onto NE Hwy 87 South.
I turned Right onto NE Hwy 2 West at Alliance, NE.
I followed gravel rural county roads to Scottsbluff.
At Scottsbluff, I found NE Hwy 71 South.
I turned Right onto NE Hwy 88 West into Wyoming.
I turned Left onto US Hwy 85 South.
I got on I-25 South to Cheyenne, WY.
At Cheyenne, I turned Right onto I-80 West.
I slept in a rest area on I-80 the first night.
I turned Left onto WY Hwy 230 South into Colorado.
This road is called CO Hwy 127.
I turned Right onto CO Hwy 14 South.
I turned Right onto US Hwy 40 West.
At Craig, CO, I turned Left onto CO Hwy 13.
At Meeker, I turned Right onto CO Hwy 64 South.
At Rangely, I turned Left onto CO Hwy 139.
At Loma, I turned Left onto US Hwy 6 East to Grabnd Junction, CO.
I spent the second night in Grand Junction.
I got on US Hwy 50 West which runs with I-70 West into Utah.
I followed US Hwy 50 West into Nevada.
I spent night number three at Illpah Reservior Campground in Eastern Nevada.
I continued on US Hwy 50 through Nevada and spent night number four near Austin, NV
I went into California and turned Right onto US Hwy 395 just outside of Reno, NV.
I took 395 North to CA Hwy 70 West at Halleluia Junction.
I turned Right onto I-5 North near Chico, CA.
I went to Red Bluff and spent night number five.
I turned Left onto CA Hwy 36 West.
I turned Right at US Hwy 101 North.
I went into Fortuna, CA at Palmer Blvd. Exit to my friend’s home and stayed there for six nights.
End of journey to destination.