|Five thousand, two hundred and seventy five miles
This year my journey started out with a two-day solo ride from my home near Sacramento, CA, south along US 395 to Bishop, CA for the night. At less than 300 miles, this was the shortest day on the road (that is, not including the days spent in Sturgis). The next day I rode through Death Valley to Williams, AZ. From Kingman, AZ – paralleling Route 66 on I-40, I was on familiar ground. However, from Bishop through Death Valley was not and I was simply in awe of not only the starkness of the desert there, but also of the road leading down to more than 200 feet below sea level. I left Bishop very early in the morning to beat the predicted 117-degree heat that day, so when I arrived in Furnace Creek at about 9:00 a.m., it was only a little more than 90 degrees.
|Four Corners Monument
The net day we continued generally north towards Cooke City, MT. Our original plan was to ride through Yellowstone National Park to Cooke City, but the distance we needed to travel that day made it necessary to divert around the park. Because our schedule allowed for two nights in Cooke City, we were able to ride through Yellowstone and Grand Teton to Jackson Hole, WY and then return to Cooke City, circumnavigating our way around Yellowstone the next day. We did not expect much out of the ride from Grand Junction to Cooke City, and for large sweeps of that ride we got exactly that, however, there were a number of stretches that were unexpected in their grandeur. What we thought would be a largely utilitarian ride turned out to be as glorious as anything we’d ridden the entire trip – including roads like Bear Tooth Pass that we knew (me from personal experience, Bob from my stories and motorcycle lore) would be epic. Grand Junction, CO to Vernal, UT – epic. Vernal UT to Rock Springs, WY (Flaming Gorge) – epic. The Wind River Canyon – epic. And from Cody, WY to Cooke City, MT, over Chief Joseph Pass – epic.
|Grand Teton National Park
The next day took me west through what was left of Colorado, though all of Utah and into Ely Nevada. The road through Utah is magnificent. I passed, but did not enter, a number of parks and monuments and I could not help but think that, with all the grandeur surrounding me (mostly on I-70, but from Salina, UT on, I was on historic US 50), how did they decide where these parks should go. I can only surmise that as awesome as what I was riding through was, the parks must be that much more spectacular. A return trip with many more detours is definitely on my list. I spent the night in Ely after about 430 miles of riding. So far, the return trip covered all new roads for me.
|"The lonliest road in America."
I think it’s safe to say that Life Magazine was dead wrong about US 50, but it’s not just because their characterization of the road as monotonous, barren and boring, it is in the idea that places with no or few people are, by definition, lonely. Loneliness is a state of mind – there are those who are lonely in a crowd of people. I have been there myself. What I sought and what I found (and I knew I would) was solitude. Unlike loneliness, solitude is difficult, if not impossible, to find if there are too many people around. I stopped a few times along the way and most of those stops were in places that I could walk right out on the highway and not see another vehicle or person. I was alone with my thoughts, but the furthest thing from my mind was any inkling that I was lonely. And as I remarked in one of my Facebook posts, with my motorcycle, gas in the tank and miles of pavement, who has time to be lonely? It was magic.
By the time I arrived in Carson City, I was on familiar turf. Thousands of others were there, too. The magic was almost over, but not before a nice ride through South Lake Tahoe, up and over Spooner Summit and descending the 7,000 or so feet back home. I have ridded that section of US 50 more times than I can remember, but this one was different and I am not exactly sure why. Maybe it was because for the first time in a long time I did not take the magnificence of that stretch of highway for granted. As awesome as so many of the other roads that took me out and back were, here is this one in my own backyard that ranks right up there with any of them. And I was almost home. It was the last of the magic before hitting Placerville, the traffic and the heat of the greater Sacramento area. But that last bit of soulful riding placed the perfect bookend on the perfect ride.