I barely slept last night because it was so cold. I decided to get up early in hopes that I might be able to complete two segments today. Spoiler alert: I didn’t. I got my stove going and had the best bowl of oatmeal ever, but soon I was freezing again. I bundled everything I had, but was still freezing. Oh well, I set off anyways. After an hour or two, the sun finally came out and started warming up. The riding was pretty nice today. I stayed on the road coming out of Lake City and crossed over Cinnamon Pass. I had been looking forward to Black Bear Pass, which is supposed to be really tough, but when I get there it was closed. Too bad, as it’s supposed to have an awesome, nearly straight down view into Telluride and you get to see Bridal Veil Falls. So I went back the ‘normal’ way over Ophir Pass. Later on I ended up on an OHV trail that despite being over 9000ft, had a lot of mud. The new (used) tire was pretty helpful here, and kept me from getting stuck. I did have two lay downs, one of which ended up breaking the mount on my GPS phone. I had to take a few minutes and transfer my GPS tracks and maps to my regular cell phone via Bluetooth so I could navigate the rest of the day until I had a chance to try to fix the mount. I noticed that the foliage was starting to give way to a slightly more arid looking scene over time. At one point I popped out on the other side of this canyon/valley, and I find myself in flat farmland just like Oklahoma. The scenery really changed quickly. I rode for a while through fields until I came to my stopping point in Dove Creek, CO. I got a $45 motel and had dinner at the “Dinner Bell” where I was the only customer. The motel room is truly the smallest I’ve ever seen, but the price is right and they have wifi.
Got up, worked on blog, had some oatmeal. Today saw a lot of terrain changes as well. I rode through more of the same fields outside of Dove Creek. Many of them were planted with what looked to be sunflowers, which was strange. At some point, I crossed into Utah, although as usual there wasn’t a sign. As I started heading west, there was a huge mountain right in front of me that I figured I would be going around, but I was wrong. It reminded me of Big Bend National Park somewhat, a flat plain with a large mountain formation in the middle, and much different plant life at elevation. I wouldn’t have guessed it, but I ended up riding back up over 10,000ft, and found beautiful forests up on the mountain. I came back down the other side, and forests went away but instead of returning to plains, it turned into the rocky formations and canyons I’d heard about I Moab. I wound my way down to around 5000ft and into the town of Moab where I stopped at had lunch/dinner (linner?) at the Moab Diner. I decided I’d try to make it over to Green River since that was only another 70 miles. The trail took me out of Moab and to an area known as Gemini Bridges. I had no idea what this was, but it was a somewhat tricky 4×4 road getting there. Turns out the Gemini Bridges were an awesome, huge rock formation. It was kind of a consolation since I had to ride right by Arches National Park and didn’t stop, so I think this was a good substitute. It was getting late in the day, and I was still a good 50 miles from Green River, but luckily, the roads improved and I was able to pick up the pace. The last 20 miles were pretty rough because I was riding directly into the sunset and could barely see, so I held one hand up to block the sun and hoped I didn’t hit any sand to wash out the front end. I made it to Green River about 8pm as it was getting dark, and thought about camping on a vacant lot beside the river, but there was a creepy shanty house nearby and a weird truck with a guy in it by the river bank, so I decided to just go to Green River State Park (http://stateparks.utah.gov/park/green-river-state-park) and have a nice spot with a shower.
I left the state park about 930 or so and headed out. At first I was riding on some 2-track in a deserted valley, then I went under Interstate 70 and found myself at Black Dragon Wash. I’d heard of it, but wasn’t even sure if it was in Utah or Nevada. I would have figured it would be a ‘hard’ route option, but it was just the main track with no go around, which meant if I didn’t do it, I’d have to make my own way around. I figured I’d at least try it. It’s a road through a canyon that alternatively goes down the riverbed and on a mining road on the bank. The riverbed is full of slippery silt and gravel along with huge boulders to navigate around and over. The road is washed out in places where the bank has eroded. Thus, it’s a pretty difficult place, and I had to turn around several times to finally get out. Next, I did some more flat but sandy stuff before finding myself in Eagle Canyon. It was similar to Black Dragon for the most part. At one point you pass under Interstate 70 which crosses bridges high above you, which is pretty cool. Eventually I got out. I rode into the town of Emery which had one gas pump at one store, and nothing else. I wanted to get some food but no such luck. So I started on the next segment, which started off flat but was headed for a mountain and sure enough headed right over it. This brings us to the most humbling part of the trip so far. About 2/3 of the way up this mountain, I got to a section of road that I could not get up. I tried three or four times, each time running out of momentum then terrifyingly sliding backwards on my bike with brakes locked until the bike and I fell over. Picking the bike up was nearly impossible and reminded me of my trials at Hancock Pass in Colorado. My arms were already tired from the sand/rock earlier in the day, plus the nearly 8000ft elevation meant breathing was hard. So I’d drop my bike and not be able to pick it up until I waited a couple of minutes to catch my breath, meanwhile gas was leaking out of my secondary tank onto my gear and there was nothing I could do about it. The last time I dropped it, I never could get it up, so I ended up having to unstrap all my bags and carry them down to a flat spot, then lift up the bike. At this point, I realized that this was no longer safe and decided to ride down the way I had come and bypass this park of the trail. It was the first time I’d had to skip a section, and I suppose a good reminder of my humanity and the danger of the trail. I was about 7 or so miles from a major road, up a mountain with sheer drop offs of several hundred feet, trying to bounce a motorcycle up a rocky path that was bucking me around everywhere somewhat out of control. Maybe on another day when I had been well rested I would have made it, or maybe if I wasn’t carrying probably 100 pounds of gear, but today wasn’t that day. I very slowly headed back down the way I’d come, which was frightening in itself as I tried to have a slow, controlled roll without locking my brakes. I made it to the road, and took it for a few miles until I ran into Interstate 70, which I took west to the town of Salina. There, I pulled over at the first place I saw which was Denny’s. I had a meat lovers omelette and an order of strawberry/white chocolate pancake hush puppies. Then I rode across the parking lot and got a room at the super 8 motel. I was physically and mentally exhausted, and just wanted a night to decompress and reevaluate what I was doing.
I left Salina and headed down the highway to rejoin the trail in Richfield. There, I got on an OHV trail that took me up and over a set of mountains/hills. It was pretty slow going for the most part. I started off as just dirt and desert, but started to get more trees and green as I went further west. Finally I got to the other side, then got on a main gravel road that took me to Kanosh, UT. It was a little past lunch, and after I filled up, I realized there was nothing to do in Kanosh, so I went up the road about 5 miles to the next town which at least had a gas station that had some gross food under a heat lamp. I had some jalapeno poppers and chicken tenders, then headed back to the trail. This time, I found myself in some wide open spaces of BLM land, out in these huge valleys surrounded by mountains, flying down gravel roads at about 60mph. I came into the town of Garrison, UT which was so small it didn’t even have gas, so I had to go up about 10 more miles to Baker, NV for gas. At that point it was fairly late in the afternoon, so I decided to setup my tent at the Whispering Elms RV Park. Baker was tiny too in that it didn’t even have a stoplight, but it was kind of the gateway to Great Basin National Park. This is one of several national parks I’ve never even heard of. It is somewhat ironic that the most notable feature of Great Basin National Park is several 13k+ ft mountains, but they provided a nice backdrop to the town so I didn’t get too up in arms about it. I met a nice retired couple who were spending several days exploring the park, and were very interested in my trip. After a nice pot of chicken and ramen, I was off to bed.
I left Baker, NV and had to go back through Garrison, UT where I’d been yesterday to resume the trail. Not too far south of Garrison, I turned off the main road onto a gravel road. I was headed south, parallel to the boundary of the National Park across the plains in front of the mountains. The plains looked perfectly flat at a distance, but when you were riding them they were full of ups and down that slowed my progress. At one point, six deer or antelope or something came flying past me, I guess I scared them, but I’m not sure why they chose to start behind me and run in front of me. After going south, I turned and went west around the south end of the park. The plains gave way to hills that had a terrible road that was not properly engineered with storm water control devices, so large parts of the road were washed out. Sometimes across the road, and sometimes down the road. It was slow trying to head down the road without falling into the two feet deep gullies, but I finally made it….to a small canyon. The ‘road’ went through the bottom of the canyon, along the stream bed that was filled with fine gravel and silt and which made the bike go every which way but straight. Somehow I never laid it over, finally got out of there and climbed back up to a normal road. I headed through some more hills and plains and an OHV trail before ending up in Lund, NV. This was a tiny town as well, with no stoplight, one gas pump and one store (besides a curiously large tractor dealership). I got gas and lunch at the store. While there, an old RV with at least 20 Hispanic people pulled up and they all ordered before me, which was wonderful. It was mostly kids, and everyone was dressed kind of formally, like they were Hispanic Quakers or something. Maybe they were a traveling family band, who knows. After my late lunch, I kept going, heading on a National Forest road that wound through some mountains. Somehow, on a gravel road in the middle of the forest, I got a three inch nail in my back tire. So, I had to completely unload my bike to get my tools and spare tube. I also had a terrible feeling that I had to take a dump right then, so I marched off into the woods leaving my bike on the side of the road. On the eastern part of the trail, I had packed a roll of TP and never used it, but it got all nasty because I hadn’t put it in a plastic bag. So, in an effort to save weight and knowing I was in 2-3 towns a day, I didn’t pack any for the western trip. Big mistake. I ended up having to use a sock instead. I buried my business in a cat hole and went back to my bike. I found a stick to prop the side up so the wheel would spin and got everything changed out. By the time I finally got everything fixed and loaded back up, it was getting late in the afternoon and I still had 60 miles to go to the next town. I pressed on, hoping that after each hill/mountain, a flat plain would open up that would allow me to go fast, but it just kept being more hills. The sun was starting to come down, which made it hard to see since I was generally riding into the sunset. A couple of times I hit some big, jarring rocks that I didn’t see. Also, it started to sprinkle a little bit which worried me. I really didn’t want to camp out in this forest in the rain. The sun was now past the mountains and it was dusk when I crossed a major gravel road. I looked at my map and realized that I could turn on this road and intersect the main road I was going to hit about 15 miles up anyways, but this road would allow me to move a lot faster than the trail. So I took this bypass and flew until I finally got the Eureka, NV at almost dark. I pulled into Sloppy Joe’s Diner and had some supper, then went to Gold Country Inn. I didn’t feel like finding a place to camp after dark, and after today’s day I felt like I deserved a good bed.
Apparently I’m in the Pacific Time zone now, which made me feel like I woke up early. After a nice continental breakfast at the motel, I went to the gas station next door that also doubled as a Laundromat and did a load of laundry. After I checked out and filled up with gas, I got on my way. The trail actually went south out of town before turning north, presumably to hook up with the nearest dirt road and head over a hill. Since I’m feeling the time crunch a little bit, I just headed north out of town on the main road (Hwy 50, “the loneliest road in America”) until hooking back up with the trail NW of town. I went through some terrible, narrow two track trail for a while. It looked like it hadn’t been driven over in ages, and the brush was starting to consume the trail. Normally that’s not all that big of a deal, but in this area as well as several others in the past few days, there are these little bushes everywhere that look innocent enough, but are actually built like a tree. Even though they are maybe 2-3 ft high, they have branches and trunks that are several inches in diameter. This means that when driver down the trail, these little guys are both trying to poke holes in my side bags and catch them and throw me off the bike. To make matters worse, most of the actual driving surface was slippery sand. Eventually I got to a main gravel road I could fly down. After that, most of the roads were fairly quick. I made it into Battle Mountain, NV about 2pm and had Mexican for lunch. The next segment was 160 miles and I knew I wasn’t going to finish it all before dark, so I researched a lake about halfway through that had camping. After lunch, I gassed up again and set off north out of town. There was a bunch of slow, sandy stuff that almost wiped me out a few times, and also some quicker gravel roads. I made it to the lake (Chimney Dam Reservoir, http://www.ndow.org/Bodies_Of_Water/Chimney_Dam_Reservoir/) about 530pm. I think I’m just barely into the Pacific Time Zone though, because a website told me the sunsets about 7pm here. So, rather than setting out into the unknown for another hour of daylight and hoping to find a decent campsite (plus battling the setting sun beaming into my eyes like yesterday), I decided to stop a little early. I’m going to make a very light camp tonight in hopes of getting up early and getting started on the road. Tomorrow I need to finish this section, and attempt to finish the next two as well. The next section finishes in Denio, NV but apparently there is no gas there as of a few weeks ago, so I’m going to carry extra gas to avoid making a detour up to Fields, OR for gas. Hopefully that will get me to Cedarville, CA by tomorrow evening, but it’s an ambitious goal. About 70 miles to McDermitt, then 70 to Denio, then 130 to Cedarville. We’ll see.\
Well, today was a big day. Let’s start from the beginning. I woke up early, freezing (I probably should have setup my tent instead of sleeping on the picnic table). I saw a coyote about 50 yards away walking by. I got all packed up and was gone by 7 or 730. The first part of my ride leaving the lake was good, fast and smooth roads. But then, the dreaded turn off to rocky two track. That was early morning, and things never really improved. I notice the whole morning that there is a thick haze in the air, and it’s not for a while that I remember my mom told me there were wildfires burning in Nevada, so I figure that’s what’s causing this. I made it to McDermitt, NV after lunch time for lunch. I found the only place in town with food, the Say When Casino and Café. It was a kind of hilarious place, built for Oregonians with gambling habits I guess. After I wolf down an omelet, I get back on the road. The trail actually takes me up into Oregon then back into Nevada. I’m going over smaller mountains, but the roads are terrible. Either really rocky, or curvy, or sandy. Regardless, I’m not making very good time and burning up. I finally make it to Denio, NV behind schedule. As predicted, there is no gas in town, but I’ve packed extra. The whole time I’d been riding to Denio, I’d been stewing about my general situation. The trail, as always, was wandering all over the place instead of taking a fairly straight path between cities in its quest to find dirt roads. However, the roads here as mentioned were especially bad. In Colorado, I wasn’t too upset about this because the scenery was so nice, but here it was not quite as good and the road was worse. I was also thinking about my schedule, needing to be back in Texas fairly soon for some work stuff, and how I was going to get myself and my bike there. Long story short, by the time I reached Denio, NV, I had decided I was done with the Trans America Trail as far as “GPSKevin” defined it. Per his route, I still had several hundred miles left to go, easily 5 more days assuming I didn’t have any problems, but likely more. Plus, the further I went toward my final destination in Port Orford, OR, the further I was going from where I ultimately needed to be in Texas. I decided with the time I had left, I’d have a better time riding down the coast of California, something I’d always wanted to do. I’d still hit the Pacific Ocean, so I think I can say I’ve done the ‘trans-america’ part. And, the “Trans American Trail” isn’t some formal designation. In fact, as mentioned in my first post, there are actually two: one made by some guy named Sam at http://www.transamtrail.com/, and the GPSKevin one at https://sites.google.com/site/gpskevin/adventurerides/trans-america-trail. They aren’t the same, but since Sam sells his maps and I didn’t buy them, I can’t see where they are different. I do know that Sam’s trail starts in Tennessee, while Kevin’s starts in North Carolina (and that’s where I started). So, I’ve probably ridden as far as Sam’s TAT already since I started further east. Regardless, the deed is done, and I’ve decided to head south instead of north. I got some intel from a lady working at the tiny post office in Denio, then head out on an alternate route to Cedarville, CA, thinking that I’ll never make it before nightfall going on the trail. The route I took was mostly gravel roads, but well maintained so I could go fast versus the trail route which was nearby but much more off-road. I finally do make it there at dusk, grab some dinner at a diner, then throw up my tent at the Sunrise Motel and RV Park.
I left Cedarville, CA and headed west on CA 299. It turned out to be a day of highs and lows. Highs in that it was one of the most beautiful roads I’ve ever been on: winding two lane highway, but very smooth, up/down/around beautifully treed mountains with the Shasta River wandering on the side of the highway. Lows in that it rained off and on, and I found myself in thick, scary fog for several minutes where I could see less than 100yds in front of me. All in all, it was a great ride. I don’t know if I’ve ever ridden a road with more curves in my life. Ironically, after all these great descriptors, I didn’t take any pictures. There weren’t a lot of good places to stop, and I didn’t realize until I was past the ones I saw that they would have been good stopping points. Since I was trying to make good time, I didn’t want to turn around. So, no pictures today. In other news, I can’t believe it but I did all of this while STILL riding on the used motocross tire I picked up in Gunnison, CO. I thought it would have been worn smooth long ago. I stopped in Altura for breakfast at Subway, Redding for lunch (first Asian food in weeks), and finally made it to Eureka. Well actually Arcata, just north of Eureka. Given that it rained earlier and the sky wasn’t looking all that sunny, plus I wanted some reliable wifi, I got a motel room at the Red Roof Inn and get a gyro sandwich for dinner. Tomorrow I’m going to ride down the coast to San Francisco.
After a nice breakfast at the Red Roof Inn, I set off toward SF. The morning starts out great as I make it to the 1 and start weaving through mountains and redwoods. In the afternoon though, the fog hits me and my enjoyment lessens immensely. It gets cold, the fog is condensing on my face shield so I have to wipe it off every 20 seconds, and I can’t see very far in front of me which is a problem when there are 15mph curves and sheer cliff faces. I’m not making as good of time as I’d hoped due to all the curves plus getting behind slow people, so toward the end of the ride I make a detour to get back on the 101 in Petaluma and go a little faster. I ended up riding through a Ragnar Relay race which brought back some fun memories of the SoCal Ragnar I did in 2012. In a side note, I was looking for the shirt for that before I left and I apparently lost it, not sure how. Anyways, I made it through the race without hitting any runners, got on the 101 and flew down the highway without the engine exploding thankfully even though I had it wrung out pretty good. I drove across the Golden Gate Bridge at dusk, but I couldn’t see much with all the fog, and I was a little confused about the toll situation. I finally made it to my buddy’s place in SF and go unloaded and cleaned up, then took Lyft (my first time, success) over to meet him and some other friends who were in town. We hung out at one of his friend’s houses for a while, then went out. I was pretty tired but somehow stayed up until about 3am.
Woke up and saw my friends off to a wedding, then walked down the street for a breakfast burrito at Tacobar. It was decent, but way overpriced. Given my late night last night and general weariness from travelling, I decided to stay in San Francisco another night. The Aggies were playing SMU, so I found out where the SF A&M Club was watching and walked about a mile over to check it out. Met a few folks, ate some salsa, saw we had a nice 30+ point lead at halftime, so I took off in search of other sight seeing adventures. I walked down to fisherman’s wharf and all around before making it back to my buddies place and having a nap. I walked a lot of miles, and wearing flip flops didn’t help. I’ll definitely have come back and see more, but I’ve at least seen a few things. The Palace of Fine Arts was definitely my favorite. I didn’t see any actual fine art, which is fine by me, but I love architecture and it was a very cool place. Grabbed a burrito at some random place, and as expected it was half rice and like 7 or 8 bucks. Sorry SF, but SD kills you on burritos. Actually, sorry world, SD kills you on burritos. Looking forward to having one in a few days. Planning to head south tomorrow morning and camp somewhere near San Luis Obispo I guess, then make the rest of the push to San Diego on Tuesday. After that, I’ve got some decisions to make. I have to do five days of telework that can really be anywhere with an internet connection starting Sep 26th, so I can either find somewhere to stay in SD until then, or try to make it back home BY then. Getting home options include renting an SUV and stuffing my bike in the back somehow, or leaving my bike in SD and flying home, then flying back later to ride it home. Or I could fly home and ship it back. I’ll think about this in the next couple of days.