Monday, May 16, 2011

Motorcycling from Ely, NV to Redding, CA

Eugene, Oregon

I've come full circle and I'm back in Eugene as I write this post. My long anticipated motorcycle trip is over and I'm glad to be back safe and sound after traveling more than 4600 miles over the past few weeks. The weather was a constant hassle and surprisingly, the sheer geographical size of the United States was too. I'll explain that a little more as I go. But first I need to tie up a few loose ends before closing this portion of my blog, the journal of my motorcycle trip through the American southwest.

I left Panguitch, Utah, on my way to Ely, Nevada on May 5th. I took Rte 89 north to Utah 20 and hung a left to Beaver. From there I rode Utah Rte 21 west all the way to the junction with Nevada Rte 487 which skirts Great Basin National Park. I detoured into the park and took a short ride on a park road up to about the 8,000 foot level before it terminated in a snow berm. Even though the air was decidedly cool at that altitude, it was a pleasant day with the heady fragrance of fir trees wafting in the light breeze.

Great Basin N.P.

Jeff Davis Peak - Great Basin N.P.
From the park it was only a short jaunt into Ely. Trip stats: 250 miles (including the side trip to Great Basin) -- 4 hours moving -- 83 mph max speed -- 6 hours total time.

In Ely I again stayed in a small motel. I first stopped at a few chain motel offices to inquire about rooms and prices and learned that the going rate in this town was around $70/night. The place I ended up staying, the Great Basin Inn, was cheaper at $50 and nicer too. The exterior wasn't much to look at but it had old fashioned doilys adorning the end tables and lace curtains backing the venetian window blinds. The huge bathroom was tiled with those white octagonal tiles that were popular back in the 40s and 50s. I liked it just fine.

There wasn't much going on in Ely except gambling. I pushed on to Winnemucca the next day. I was expecting to face a long trek through the dessicated and barren northern Nevada desert. If my past experiences were any guide, there would likely be headwinds as well. Instead, and to my great surprise, the desert was green and there were even flowers, great masses of flowers, in some areas. The first part of that trip was over U.S. 50, aptly nicknamed "The Nation's Loneliest Highway". It was definitely that. With its open spaces, huge magnificent vistas, few towns, and no traffic to speak of, it lived up to its namesake. Because it had been a warm morning I was able to get an early start --  before the wind could build to any velocity -- so the ride west was easy. Just outside of Austin I turned north on Nevada 305. Again I was pleased to see green fields and rafts of flowers here and there. I stopped for lunch at a stone house ruin, pictured below.

Lunch stop along NV Route 305

Lunch stop along NV Route 305

VStrom in the sagebrush -- NV Route 305
I stayed at the Town House Motel in Winnemucca. Another nice place, run by the owners, neat as a pin inside and conveniently located just off the main drag - about $60 for the night. Ride stats: 322 miles -- 5:18 ride time -- 6:56 total time.

I had always intended to end my tour with a visit to eastern Oregon. But the goddamn weather simply would not cooperate. As I've mentioned earlier, the forecasts for all of eastern Oregon had rain, cold temps, and even snow in them for the next few days. It was either wait it out in Winnemucca (no thanks) or call it quits and head back to California where the weather was decent and where I had friends to stay with.  My trip log follows:

May 7, 2011: Winnemucca, NV to Redding, CA: 395 miles -- 6:40 ride time -- 85 mph max speed -- 8:50 total time -- a long day but not too uncomfortable -- a  testimony to the riding characteristics of the VStrom.

The rides were unpleasant, and boring, heading west on I-80 (163 miles) and north on US 395. I-80 was head-windy by late morning and it was very windy and gusty on 395 until I reached Susanville. The roads from Susanville to Redding were awesome (retraced my route from Chester to Shingletown) although I was racing the rain as I fled out of the mountains. I had to stop to don my fleece liner and rain pants near Lassen when it got chilly at higher altitudes. I hit a bit of rain in Manton and was worried because my front tire was almost treadless now. I managed to escape the rain when I turned west on Oregon Rte 44 at Shingletown. Arrived Redding in good spirits, staying just ahead of the rain. The weather report indicates a break in Eugene's persistent nastiness on Tuesday. Hmmmm.... It took three days to get out of Eugene and from the looks of the forecast, it was going to take three days to get back.

I stayed again with my Homer expat friends Kay and Bruce. Kay and I played some tennis on two of those days and I did better than when I was here a few weeks ago. I reckon I won't have to give up tennis right away. I can still hit the ball and if I can manage to lose a few of the pounds I picked up during the past month of extreme non-aerobic activity, I might even do alright this summer ;-))

Bruce and Kay at their home in Redding
Soon it came time to pack up for my trip to Eugene -- the last leg of the "big tour". When I arrived in Redding I joked with Kay and Bruce that I was thinking of selling the bike. The trip had been fun, and exciting even, but overall I had to rate it as not as much fun as motorcycling in Thailand. As the days passed I found myself thinking more and more about that. We gossiped about Homer, I cooked some Thai food for an appreciative audience, Bruce took me for a ride in his Corvette, Kay and I played some tennis -- but in the back of my mind that thought had taken root and lodged itself firmly.