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May 17, 2013

SF to Denver: 2013 - Day 3

Wake up this morning in Ely, Nevada. In theory, I'm supposed to pick up Jennifer from school today, but that doesn't seem terribly likely, as she's 650 miles away and I'm the the Nevada desert on a dirt bike.

I remember the towns of Tonopah and Ely Nevada from when I passed through this same way 18 months ago. The towns are laid out slightly differently than I recall, but memory isn't perfect, is it?

I serviced the bike last night....it's good to go. Topped off with gas and oil. It's leaking oil like a sythe, so I make a habit of checking the oil every time I fill up. The leak is serious enough that it shouldn't be all that difficult to locate, but I'm too lazy and it's easy enough just to carry a quart and add some when it gets low, which I do.

I check out of the no-tell motel, and the desk clear says the forecast calls for rain. I'm checking out at about 9:00 a.m. which is pretty good for me. I hate the idea of riding a motorcycle in the rain. I mean, yeah, it's part of it, but it's not fun, by any stretch of the imagination. And it's not like I have decent rain gear. I've got Dri-Ducks, which are about as cheap of raingear as you can find. The wind rips them into ribbons on the bike.

He says he's from "Persia". I'm like..."Iran?"

Yes. That's what he means, of course. He says the Shah that got run off in 1979 wasn't such a bad guy. Now, it's run by religious zealots, which is no better, apparently. The northern and central part of his country is apparently green, not desert. This surprises me.

I return my key and walk to my bike in the parking lot. As I do, an old man pulls up in a rusted import. The doors have holes rusted nearly through them. Tires about to pop. Seats held together with duct tape. It's pretty clear that he's living in this thing, though I'm not sure why he's in the motel parking lot, if that's the case. Baggy jeans. Shoes cracked and worn. Threadbare shirt.

And I think about Carrie. I think how nice it would be to find someone you could live with and grow old together with. Because, if I don't find someone that I can tolerate, then I'm afraid that I'm going to be this guy.

Blow out of Ely, not real sure where I'm heading. General plan is to follow US 50 East to I-70, and then take I-70 home.

A short while later, I'm at the Utah state line. I pull over to take a picture. This is also where the time zone changes. I remember this gas station from the last trip. There's a guy on a bike there. A big Yamaha cruiser. Little older than me, with white hair, getting gas, talking on his cell phone.

I want to see if he'll take a picture of me at the Utah state line, so I pull up and we start talking, and he's a really good guy. Just one of those cool people you meet on bikes on the road. The kind of person that makes going on the road fun, instead of a long, desperate dry race across the desert.

I tell him about the trip I'm on now...and how Carrie figured out I wasn't taking the most direct path from SF to Denver and was upset for some reason.

"Why would you want to take the most direct route? Who would want to do that?"

"Exactly! That's what I thought, right? I mean, the whole trip doesn't make any sense. I mean, flying from Denver to SF to drive a dirt bike back that's only worth $1,500.00 doesn't make any sense to begin with. It's just an excuse to get out in the desert and clear your head, right?"

"Of course! Exactly!"

Now, we're fist-bumping like old friends. He's a real character this guy.

We talk about some of the road trips we've done. We both with down the Baja peninsula in Mexico, but he got on the ferry which I could never swing since I entered the country illegally. Doh!

I tell him about my upcoming trip to Panama and beg him to come with me, but I think the timing isn't right.

So we decide to ride together for a while. When US 6 and US 50 split, we'll go our separate ways, be we agree to ride through the desert for a spell.

I'm not sure that I have enough gas to make to it the next town, but we strike out anyway. Sure enough, my bike dies in the middle of nowhere. I reach down to switch it onto reserve, but it's already on reserve. So, I've got to do my trick and lean the bike over, to get the gas to drain from the right side of the tank to the left side.

David circles back and checks on me. I explain that I have to switch to the "reserve tank", and proceed to lay the bike down on its side. I stand it back up, it fires right up, and we ride on into town.

The parts of Nevada that I've crossed are just scrub-lands surrounded by mountain ranges. A never-ending series of 15 mile desert bowls surrounded by low mountains.

The desert is nice, it's own way. The air is clear. No smog. You don't have to worry about running into any large animals because, to my knowledge, there are none.

But Utah is much different. When we cross Utah, suddenly everything is green. The land is all irrigated, and they're growing crops of lord knows what but it smells heavenly.

All of the motorcycles that pass us wave, and this is the camaraderie that I miss. You get on a bike, and you're in the club. It makes no difference. Harleys. BMW's. Honda. Yamaha. All are alike on the road. Everyone gets a wave.

I don't have a map or anything. And Google Maps is next to useless since they updated it. Finally, I just give up and follow the signs towards US 50.

It threatens to rain on me a few times. I get rained on very lightly about 3 or 4 times. But the clouds never looked that intimidating, so I just kept driving, and then the rain would always stop just as soon as it had started.

I end up on Interstate 15 North for about 3 exits, then back onto the two-lane black tops through the Utah mountains. When I descend into the next valley, I recognize it as the valley that I-70 runs through. Hop onto I-70 heading East.

I don't really like riding on the interstate, of course, but I'm got to make better time. I'm not sure where I'll spend the night. The furthest I've ever gone in a single day is like 500 miles. And then I nearly crashed I was so tired.

But today, I want to see how far I can get. I've been holding the throttle wide open all day. I'm thinking I should be able to make it into Colorado today...drive all the way across Utah, and then at least get into Colorado. Then I think I'll try to Glenwood Springs instead of Grand Junction, and once I leave Glenwood Springs, I just decide I'm going all the way home.

As I climb up the summit of Vail pass, the temperature drops drastically, and I start shivering uncontrollably. On the other side, I race down as fast as possible, trying to get out of the cold.

Lake Dillon is all dried up. Just a series of disconnected small ponds. Zack had told me this, but I didn't believe him.

Down to Silverthorne, now climbing back up to the Eisenhower Tunnel. At the summit, I'm freezing again. Uncontrollable whole-body spasms. Sun is setting fast. Temperature dropping. In the tunnel, I'm running 100 mph, just trying to get back down off this crazy mountain. Racing downhill wide open past Loveland, Georgtown, Idaho Springs. Finally, I warm up enough at Idaho Springs that I think I might survive the night.

Now, I just have to follow the backroads home in the dark, dodging elk, deer, foxes, coyotes, etc. Somehow, I make it home in one piece.

My legs are so tired I can hardly stand. My back is killing me. Jen says she's down for the night, so I'll pick her up in the morning.

Somehow, on Sunday, I've got to convince myself to start my next ride from Illinois to Panama. Ugh..

Miles traveled today: 650 miles

Posted by Rob Kiser on May 17, 2013 at 10:04 PM


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