I was lucky enough to attempt two rides of greater than 1000 miles last month within three weeks. One was planned just because I had the day available and the weather looked good. The second was the Spring Equinox ride in an attempt to earn a Four Seasons certificate.
A day before the March 3rd Saddlesore, after a six-day workweek followed by four long workdays, I was getting ready for the work on Thursday morning, walking through the house with bare feet. I drifted too close to a piece of furniture and crashed my right little toe into it. I heard the *crack* and felt the bolt of pain travel up my leg. It hurt so much more than the broken foot I managed to do to myself a year ago, and was only a few inches away from the previous break.
I yelled a little, then cussed a little, then sat down and contemplated how long I should sit there. I wouldn’t be much of an example to my staff if I showed up for work late or took the day off for a broken pinky toe. After a few minutes, I put on my work shoe and hobbled to work. I limped through the day. The pain increased and my shoe tightened. I remained at my desk as much as I could and left work a little early, about 5pm, in order to prepare for the ride at 0400 the next day.
When I got home and took off my shoe, I knew I had fractured my toe. It was swollen, about twice its normal size, and bruising had started over the entire right quadrant of my foot that contained the toe. The only shoe I could wear that night was a pair of flip flops and even that hurt when a step would bend the toe backwards a little bit as I walked items out to the Goldwing. No pictures this time. I took Advil, which I had been doing anyway in preparation for the ride, and ignored it as much as I could.
It wasn’t going to cause me to miss the ride.
The March 3rd ride included a leg through the Death Valley region and I would still be able to see the wildflowers in bloom before the summer heat drove them back into some form of floral hibernation. In addition, I’d get to put more miles on Highway 95 through central and into northern Nevada. First, though, I had to get my boot on.
The ride was scheduled for the day before rain and snow was forecast for the Nevada high desert. The temperatures were mild with some areas into the low-forties but mostly between 50 and 65. I wouldn’t have to double up on my socks to keep my feet warm and it was a good thing as I could barely get my boot on with a single pair of athletic socks. The boot kept constant pressure on the toe and I was in some form of discomfort for the entire ride. Advil is awesome, though, and the enjoyment of the ride far outweighed the throbbing in my boot.
I headed out before dawn and was between Victorville and Baker when the sun rose. Even though it was a Friday morning, the Las Vegas traffic hadn’t picked up yet. I exited Interstate 15 in Baker and turned north onto the 127. My first stop, 286 miles after leaving Westminster, was at the Amargosa Junction, just into Nevada, at Highway 95. The stop took place at the newly renovated Chevron station where I fueled, performed a bladder stop and bought a cup of coffee. The coffee display was interesting in that the two sizes available looked almost identical. Small might have been 18 ounces and the large might have been 18-1/2. I still wore my helmet and had earplugs in and asked the clerk, “Are these really the same size?”
I thought he answered me because I heard him mutter something through my earplugs, but he had, in fact, made a comment to someone on his phone. I chose the one I thought was larger, used way too much creamer, and paid the clerk. When I got back to the Goldwing I attempted to take a drink even though I knew it would be really hot. I tolerated the temperature but the taste was so sweet, I couldn’t drink it. I threw it away and headed north on Highway 95. My next stop would be Hawthorne, Nevada, 250 miles north.
Highway 95 didn’t disappoint. Speeds were fast, traffic light and plenty of sections included passing lanes or legal passing zones. I didn’t see a single Nevada Highway Patrol unit on patrol but did have a car go buzzing by me on the downhill slope into Goldfield where a local (County, I believe) trooper with radar buzzed him and pulled him over for a ticket. I was hard on the brakes just before he passed me because the road very quickly transitions from 70 to 35 while going downhill and through a curve. The perfect revenue-producing scenario.
Goldfield, NV is a modern ghost town and the pictures on Google Earth make it look modern in comparison to reality. I travelled uphill some more during the run to Tonopah and scouted out places to stop for future rides. A few years ago, I cancelled a BBG attempt at the last minute that was planned to start early in the morning after staying the night at the Mizpah Hotel in Tonopah. I got to ride past it for the first time and I am determined to return for a stay there at some point in the future.
The run to Hawthorne went quickly. I fueled and ate my sandwich in a Chevron station. I was about twenty minutes ahead of my plan, relaxed a little longer than planned, and left Hawthorne on time.
The sky changed from blue to gray and long streaky clouds consistent with snow began to form. The wind picked up and temperature dropped on the way back to Tonopah but the ride couldn’t have gone smoother (I did lose the sound from the right speaker in my helmet…first world problem, I know) and the Goldwing thrived on the relatively empty two-lane with our backs to the wind. I gained a significant amount of time on the first half of the second leg and reached Amargosa Junction well ahead of my plan.
A group of Adventure Tourers were fueling up when I arrived and pulled out shortly after I began filling my tanks. Each tipped his helmet to me on the way out, turning earlier than necessary to go through the fuel row I was in. I headed back towards Baker and encountered truck and RV traffic but passing was easy and legal.
I reached Baker with a 30-minute cushion and decided to stop and have some hot food and a Diet Coke. I figured I could stop, eat, and be on my way still ahead of schedule. I’ve had good Del Taco before, but it never tasted as good as it did on March 3rd. I entered the 15 south and made good time down the hill and reached Westminster at 2015.
Even with the unplanned stop in Baker, I had an efficient ride. I encountered no problems, no traffic or weather slow-downs, and no mechanical problems. Northern Nevada was so beautiful, the weather so good, the roads so empty, that I decided I’d repeat, if possible, part of the route for the Spring Equinox ride on March 20th.
The bruising in my foot has faded but my right little toe remains swollen. As I write this on April 2nd, I just started wearing running shoes again. Up to this point, every step sent a reminder that I am an abuser of toes.
I prepared two routes for the March 20th Spring Equinox ride in case the weather turned exceptionally cold and wet or unseasonably hot. I had the route I wanted to take (395-6-95-375-93-15-95-62-10), and the back-up ride (Interstate 40, 550 miles and back) in two different directions in case the weather was significantly better in one direction. Fortunately, the better ride had the better weather – mostly cool, cold in the morning, nice mid-day and mid-90s in the late part of the afternoon.
I clocked-in at 0429 and immediately was up to speed on the 405 north. I rode in darkness until north of Mojave, Ca. and tailed a VW (Passat) rabbit up the hill and through the canyons before the 14 meets the 395 at Inyo-Kern. Traffic moved swiftly and only a few small towns slowed progress before reaching Bishop. The first half of the ride was likely to be cold so I started with several layers and I figured I’d remove some at each stop, ending up with only my LD Comfort base layer by the time I reached Las Vegas.
The 395 was cold, but not as cold as expected, and the only discomfort I had was the second riding sock inside my boot. My little toe was crammed into a space too small for it in its current form. I could push my boot against the right-side valve cover and relieve the pressure temporarily but couldn’t keep it like that for more than a minute or so at a time. I reached Big Pine, CA ahead of schedule and with more fuel left in the tanks than expected. I shed a thermal shirt and the second pair of socks and felt much better. I forgot to take Advil at this stop, but was feeling really good, other than my toe, and figured I’d take some more at the next stop.
Highway 6 north out of Bishop and into Nevada was a pleasant surprise. The road was in better condition than I expected, and except for the occasional farm vehicle, traffic was very light. A few really small towns forced temporary slow-downs but I was able to maintain interstate-like speeds between them. I passed a few vehicles, including a G&K Uniform truck (our current uniform vendor). Did someone bid this route as a uniform driver or was I passing a truck with the greenest driver on the staffing list? An older couple looked to their left and excitedly waved to me as I passed. Maybe they decided to use their car for this trip instead of their Goldwing. They smiled when usually, at best, I receive an uninterested glance from drivers I pass.
The view over my right shoulder of Boundary Peak was amazing and the abandoned motels and casino at Montgomery Pass, Nevada made me wonder what life was like here in the middle of winter in a town near the road summit that up until a few years ago was really in the middle of nowhere. How many Eastern Sierra California residents made the trip into Nevada to gamble? Were the motels ever near full? Was this an out-of-the-way meeting place used by Vegas mobsters when they wanted privacy during a high-level meeting?
It didn’t matter now. All that remained was the rotten and charred wood skeleton of old buildings and patches of blacktop that were slowly being overtaken by the mountain greenery.
I descended the hill from the summit on the 6 until it intersected the 95. I’d ridden this section of road on my ride earlier in the month and knew the stretch to Tonopah was short. There were signs for road construction but I didn’t actually hit any until just before the rest stop north of Tonopah.
The road was reduced to a single lane and a traffic director had just released a line of cars before I got to her. I flipped open my face plate and smiled at her. She smiled back and directed me ahead. I’m convinced that if it had been a male construction worker that he would have held me there – maybe just because he could, or maybe because he was jealous that I was out on a fantastic ride on a Monday, while he had to work.
In any event, I continued forward and caught up to the line of traffic in front of me. My face plate remained raised and I smiled at the second female construction worker at the other end of the construction zone. She returned my smile. The line of traffic on her end of the work zone was several hundred yards long.
I reached Tonopah and the town hadn’t changed much in the three weeks since I’d been there. It probably doesn’t much after three years or three decades. Rather than heading south on the 95, I turned to the east to continue on Highway 6. I saw a few neighborhoods I had missed three weeks earlier and very quickly was heading downhill and out of the town limits. Tonopah has a speedway east of town and while its sign boasted of races every Saturday night, it looked as if a few Saturdays had gone by since the last one was held. Tonopah didn’t look big enough to draw more than a few local stock cars so I wondered where the other racers came from. Bakersfield? Sacramento? Las Vegas? Salt Lake City? I had to know if the track was still in action, and when I got home I checked. The Tonopah Speedway Facebook page is current, listed a 2017 racing schedule, and was putting a call out for volunteers for a track clean-up day. So much for appearances.
The northern Nevada desert more than a mile above sea level is a combination of dirt and rocks and natural grasslands that continue for miles until the plain reaches a set of distant, low mountains. Ranching enterprises became evident and eventually road signs warned of cattle crossing and open range land. The sky was clear and blue and the temperature pleasant, warming as the morning continued.
I reached the intersection for Highway 375, and like Montgomery Pass, I viewed the remains of several buildings that once were an oasis for travelers. Fifty years ago there was probably a need for a place to stop for gas, repairs or drinking water. Modern vehicles and motorcycles like Goldwings don’t need them anymore. I’m sure there are many spots on Route 66 that look identical to the 6/375 intersection at Warm Springs, NV.
While on the 6 an occasional large farm animal would dot the scenery hundreds of yards from the blacktop, the 375 had a large collection of cattle near the road edge in a number of places. Only a few miles onto the 375 I saw a cow and mature calf crossing the ahead of me. I slowed and gave them time to cross. The calf stopped in my lane and I came to a complete stop to wait for it to move. It seemed satisfied with resting its hooves on the warm blacktop and remained still.
I have my Clearwater lights wired so that turning on my high beams energizes the relay that powers the Clearwaters and every light on the front of the bike illuminates. I flashed my hi-beams and honked the horn. The calf didn’t look at me, but its eyes widened and it ran the rest of the way across the road to the safety of a spot next to its mother.
Twenty miles later the same thing happened. This time it was a bull, however, with a large set of horns. It stood in the middle of the road, his face in the direction of oncoming traffic, me. Since it worked once before, I tried the horn and hi-beam trick again. While his gaze wasn’t fixed on me as I approached it, as soon as I pressed the horn button, I could see his eyes go from a general look in my direction to one focused on me. It lowered its head very slightly, his eyes fixed on me.
I looked for an indication of whether I should attempt to go to the right or to the left if he decided to charge. Neither direction looked better than the other. I wondered if I could turn around if I had to. I probably couldn’t get the Goldwing turned around in the time I had for him to run the 100 feet, or so, I placed between us. We stared at each other for a while (seconds, maybe, but very slow moving seconds) and then he turned around and went the direction he would have come from. He crapped in the right lane before leaving the pavement, an act of defiance he must have known I wouldn’t try to top.
Highway 375 is known as the Extra-terrestrial highway and had road signs declaring that low flying aircraft could be present. I didn’t see any – silver and circular, or more conventional. I passed through Rachel and while I had originally planned to take a picture of the Goldwing in front of the flying saucer, when I got there I continued on, figuring I’d do it at some point in the future when Alex was riding with me. The black mailbox marking the road to Area 51 has been gone a while. I passed Groom Road before riding through the curves north of the intersection at the 93.
200 miles on the interstate can be a drag. Even at the higher speeds one can usually go, a 200-mile leg seems to take forever. 200 miles in sparse, northern Nevada goes by very quickly.
Descending in altitude and with the time approaching noon I began to really notice the increase in temperature. After turning to the south on Highway 93, the ride to the Alamo Sinclair Station, the sight of my second scheduled stop, the temperature was 90 degrees. I filled both tanks and moved the Goldwing to the customer parking near the front door. I walked inside, passed a group of truck drivers drinking coffee and talking in a small lounge area, and found the restroom. In a stall, I stripped down my remaining layers and walked back to the bike carrying a stack of thermal bottoms, two long sleeved t-shirts and a light jacket. I only lost a couple pounds of clothes, but felt fifteen pounds lighter. I arranged another section of sandwich in my fuel tank organizer along with some additional snacks and got back on the 93 heading south to Las Vegas. I, again, forgot to take Advil.
After only a short time on the road I passed Upper and Lower Pahranagat Lakes and the adjacent recreation areas. Two larger power boats had been in the Sinclair Station and I figured to see fishing and skiing taking place on both lakes. While there seemed to be camping spots occupied all around the lakes, particularly Upper, no boats were on the water. They must have been going to, or coming from, somewhere else.
The scenery became more typically ‘desert’ as I went further south. Like a herd far off in the distance, Joshua Trees began to dot the horizon. I reached the Las Vegas city proper in the middle of the afternoon and after spending the first half of the ride in cool, comfortable, lightly populated northern Nevada, Las Vegas, by comparison, sucked. I ran into construction traffic transitioning onto the 515 but after five miles or so, it lightened enough that speeds began to pick up again. I reached Henderson, the terminus of the 515, and again ran into a complete slow down at the intersection for the 95 due to construction.
Heading south on a four-lane section of Highway 95 the winds picked up and blew east-west for many miles. Occasional gusts would push me around and even though I was sipping regularly from my hydration system, I began to grow tired and knew I was in the beginning stages of dehydration. I slowed down a little and increased my water intake.
I was feeling better by the time I reached Searchlight but increasing my water intake caused me to need an early, unplanned, pit stop. I stopped at the McDonalds at the top of the hill, used their bathroom, bought a drink, and got back on the bike. The few minutes in the air conditioning revived me and I felt great as I got back on 95. Needles would be on the horizon shortly.
I made good time and was able to pass a few vehicles on the two-lane when the 95 entered California. An older man in a Cadillac couldn’t decide whether he wanted to drive fast or slow and we passed each other a few times. I was ahead of him when we reached the 40 but he passed me for good shortly before I exited to continue on the 95 south to Vidal Junction.
I’d ridden this section of the 95 in the other direction about a year ago. I preferred the southern direction. The truck traffic was heavier than on my previous ride but overall the traffic was light enough that passing them was not a problem. I was ahead of schedule and while I hoped to reach Vidal Junction right before sundown, I was quite a bit earlier than that and the sun still hung significantly above the horizon.
A group of teenagers occupying two SUVs with Georgia license plates on them was at the pumps when I pulled in. I had to wait for one of them to finish before I could fuel but the wait was only a minute or two. I fueled up, used the restroom in the Vidal Junction convenience store, fielded questions from the clerk about the auxiliary fuel tank, and was back on the bike, heading west, when the two Georgia SUVs were doing the same, going east. I was really beginning to feel soreness in my neck and back from not keeping ahead of it with the Advil, and needed to take some for the final leg, but I, again, forgot.
I’d hoped to head west on the 62 after dark to avoid staring straight into the setting sun and to be able to use the Clearwater lights for their intended purpose – not as cow repellants – to really light up dark roads. A sentence or two about the Clearwaters. I bought the Sevinas because they were the most powerful lights offered by Clearwater and they do an amazing job of lighting dark roads. Reflective lane markers and signs can be seen from a mile away and any critters near the side of the road become visible when even the high beams wouldn’t pick them up. But, because they are so bright, and so powerful, I can hardly ever use them. I rarely get a chance to use them for real, and I’d hoped the stretch on the 62 would allow me that.
It didn’t. Instead I headed nearly due west and straight into the setting sun. My tinted shield did almost nothing to help and I wasn’t carrying additional sunglasses. I slowed down and coped with the discomfort. Eventually, I reached 29 Palms, the sun was down, and traffic on the 10-west was flowing well.
A Harley-Davidson rider with a female passenger on the pillion wouldn’t allow himself to be passed by me and every time I went around him using my natural, slightly faster than traffic-flow pace, I would hear his pipes as he accelerated to pass me back. I worried about the passenger on the back of the bike. She was wearing a tank top, jeans and a peanut helmet and I didn’t want to see her skipping along the freeway if she fell off while he attempted to stay ahead of me. Fortunately, by the time I reached the split where I continued on the 60-west, the Harley rider and his passenger stayed to the right and rode out of sight on the 10, hopefully at a slower speed.
The CHP was patrolling the twisted section of the 60 between Beaumont and Moreno Valley and two cars were pulled over, the drivers being ticketed, as I passed through the section at the speed limit. Riverside came and went and the construction on the 91 on Corona finally seems to be paying off as traffic didn’t slow down as I rode past the 15, the Auto Mall, and Prado Dam. I enjoyed the last few miles of the ride on the 55 and the 22 in spite of the now intense stiffness and soreness in my neck and upper back and shoulders. I’d ridden almost sixteen hours since last taking any Advil – a first for me.
I rode into the Mobil station I usually use to end rides and put $1.00 worth of fuel in the tank in order to collect my last receipt and clock off the ride. It was relatively short at 1057 miles, and time was good at 16 hours 20 minutes – not record setting, but not bad seeing as over half the miles earned were on two lane roads. It was the most pleasing ride performed for certification purposes as it satisfied the Spring Equinox requirement for the four-season certification and allowed me to get away from the Los Angeles area for a day and ride, for a while at least, in an area with more cows than people. The overall average speed at just under 65 mph was good and the pace would allow for a successful Bun Burner Gold with some time to spare.
My next scheduled long ride will be the Summer Solstice ride but the ‘Tour of Honor’ ride destinations were released on April 1st and I plan to mix several of those destinations into rides this spring and summer. John Paolino is supposed to be back for at least one of the Tour of Honor rides. If I can talk him into three rides for California, Arizona and Nevada destinations, I’m going to.
My foot is still sore but getting less so each day. I wore a pair of running shoes today with just a little achiness.
I have some goals in mind for future accomplishments in 2019 and future rides will revolve around achieving that goal. Rides will become longer, starting at a minimum of 1100 miles, then 1200 miles until they become as easy as the 1000 mile rides are now and will include some multiple-day rides of 1000 miles per day or more. I’ll also be treating future rides more like a rally format with shorter stops and more defined, check-list run tasks. Another bike is on the work table and its revival will allow for a different kind of distance ride. The Goldwing, though, isn’t going anywhere. It’s become an extension of me and I still believe there is no finer bike for the kind of riding I enjoy.