It all started with an open invitation from Agua and Mrs. Noggin, otherwise known as Allen and Diane, to visit them in Mountain Home, Idaho, over the weekend of May 3 and 4, 2003. The invitation went to a number of netscum ("Internet biker scum") friends, and a number made plans to attend.
Never having been to Idaho, and never having met Allen or Diane, and having some free time, I read their invitation with interest. At first, Idaho sounded "far away," but when I looked at the map and thought about it, I realized that it's just "two states away." The southwest corner of Idaho sits just above the northeastern part of Nevada. Mountain Home is just off Interstate 84, about 20 miles from the Snake River, northwest of Twin Falls.
So I made plans to attend, along with several others. Unfortunately, some of the pacific northwest contingent found they were unable to attend for various reasons, but the party was to go on, and indeed it did.
This was also another opportunity for me to take some pictures for the Harley Owners Group's ABCs of Touring contest. I had scored 74 points in 2001 and 72 points in 2002, and was hoping to do as well or better for 2003. I made a list of letters of city names and county names I needed, and taped it to the windshield for easy reference.
My first mention of a highway gives the standard two-letter state abbreviation, followed by the word "highway," then the number. (Examples: CA Highway 99 and NV Highway 341.) Subsequent mentions are shortened to "Hwy 99" and "Hwy 341." Interstates and U.S. Highways are handled in a similar manner.
Monday, April 28, 2003 - San Jose, California
Among other errands during the day, I had the oil and filter changed at Freedom Cycles. Normally I ask for a black filter, but they offered a chrome filter at no extra charge, in addition to a special deal on an oil change, so it was very affordable.
Tuesday, April 29, 2003 - the day before Day One
I spent time during the day packing my T-Bag and saddlebag liners. I also packed an old sleeping bag in a new stuff-sack from R.E.I., an old pillow in another new stuff-sack, and a brand-new Therm-A-Rest, also from R.E.I., in a long stuff-sack. Also along for the ride was a borrowed two-person tent with brand-new tent pegs. The plan was to make sure that I was able to carry everything I might need for camping along the way, in case motels were not available. Early on, it looked like I would be setting up the tent in the Noggins' back yard, good practice for more travel later in the summer.
I loaded nearly everything onto the Road King in the garage, so that I was sure it would fit and I would be ready to go in the morning. I had over a half-tank of gas, so I knew I could ride a while in the morning before refueling.
I took into consideration the probability that I would not sleep too well (the night before a trip), so I went to bed early and set the alarm for "early."
Wednesday, April 30, 2003 - Day One
The alarm sounded at 4:00 a.m., I got up and dressed, fed the dog, changed videotapes, put the last few items on the bike, and hit the road at 4:30 a.m. Temperature: cold. I neglected to check the thermormeter on the back porch, but it was in the low forties.
Taking advantage of the lack of traffic on city streets, I rode up Meridian Avenue and turned south onto Interstate 280, then (no turns) rode north on Interstate 680, turned east on Interstate 580 in the Pleasanton area, and took the Livermore Avenue offramp at 5:30 a.m. for a load check and glove swap.
The load was secure and the heavier gloves were warmer, so I continued after making a note to tell Caltrans (the California Department of Transportation) that one of the two street lights on the on-ramp was burned out, the other was intermittent. They'd been this way the last time I had taken this route, several months ago.
I continued east on I-580, then east on Interstate 205 and north on Interstate 5 in the Lathrop/Manteca area, then pulled into a Union 76 Station for fuel on Hammer Lane in Stockton at 6:20 a.m., just under 100 miles into the trip.
By now there was bright sunshine, but also a little fog along the side of the freeway. Interstate 5 is known for dangerous driving conditions in the fog, and Caltrans has roadside monitoring equipment, but it was not too heavy and there was never a serious problem.
What was a problem was approaching Sacramento at 7:00 a.m. on a workday. The backup wasn't too bad, but it was somewhat annoying. I "shared" lanes for a while until the traffic thinned out. Then, after transitioning to eastbound Interstate 80, there was another backup of about 2 and a half miles, caused by a non-injury accident with a Highway Patrol car pulled over. After that, there was clear sailing.
A little past 7:30 a.m. I pulled into McDonald's in Rocklin. I checked the porcelain, got a bagel breakfast to go and had some Mountain Dew I'd brought. A fellow rider, there for breakfast, told me that it had snowed the previous night and that it would be cold ahead. I was properly layered and mentally prepared, so that did not bother me.
I continued east on Interstate 80, stopped in Colfax for a CA Highway 174 photo, then a Gold Run picture and a Placer County sign. I-80 goes over Donner Pass, and by this time, there was snow along both sides of the highway and in the trees, but the roadway was clear and dry. I took another off-ramp for a snow picture along a side road, and was glad I didn't live back there, because the side roads were not plowed.
I missed the Tahoe National Forest sign because of a truck, but did get the Nevada County sign after a couple of double-backs. There was road work near Floriston, but one lane was open and there wasn't much traffic, so that wasn't a problem.
I passed the "Welcome to Nevada" sign at 10:20 a.m., 272 miles from home, and it was cold! I pulled into Boomtown Hotel and Casino in Verdi NV at 10:30 a.m. to warm up a little, and was outta there, no poorer than I had started, in 25 minutes.
I continued through Reno and into Sparks, stopped at a Union 76 Station at Pyramid and Prater at 11:15 a.m., where there was sunshine but it was cold.
East of Sparks there is just about nuthin' for a long ways. There were a few rain drops, then some Sun, then some more raindrops.
I took the turnoff for Jessup and happened upon a tow truck driver, who told me that Jessup was four miles "that way," but there wasn't much there, so I skipped it, knowing there would be another "J" city later in the trip.
About 12:30 p.m. I stopped for a Pershing County sign, somewhat damaged by gunfire, but still readable. Then a short while later stopped in Lovelock, which I'd visited in the 70s, but nothing looked familiar and the highway now goes around the town, instead of through it.
Back on I-80 I looked for Humboldt, but there was nothing there, either. Back on the freeway, and after a few sprinkles, I stopped for a Humboldt County picture.
Somewhere out there I saw a billboard at the side of the highway saying that Battle Mountain had been voted the "armpit of America" by the Washington Post. Seems a curious way to advertise your city. It must be the Nevada way.
There were a few more sprinkles along with wide open spaces, and then I pulled into Winnemucca at 2:05 p.m. for gas at a Shell Station. I stopped across the street at Subway Sandwich, then continued.
Battle Mountain was a bunch more miles down the highway, and I didn't see anything "armpit-like" about the town, but then again, I didn't stop, just kept rolling.
There were a few more sprinkles, some more miles, then a Eureka County sign, then some more miles, then I pulled into the Beowawe Rest Area at 3:35 p.m., ate half the sandwich, drank some more Mountain Dew and checked the map. It wasn't much farther.
Near Carlin there was a large cloud of black smoke on the north side of the freeway. It wasn't until several miles later that I saw signs for the Nevada Fire Academy. They were evidently having a live fire exercise, and I could see flames from the freeway. I later talked to another rider who's been by there several times and has never seen smoke, so either I'm a lucky guy or they had a serious problem that day.
I pulled into the Elko area at 4:25 p.m., took the first offramp and rode the old highway into town, past a City of Elko sign (photo), and down Idaho Street. I saw a Smith's Food and Drug store, so I knew this wasn't just a one-horse town.
Our H.O.G. chapter has attended the Elko Jamboree (held annually in June) for the past couple of years, and I'd never been able to attend, but I circled the block near the Stockmen's Hotel Casino to get the lay of the land, because that's where they/we stay. I checked a few motels for ease and safety of parking, and settled on the Elko Inn, partly because there was a branch of my bank across the street and a Domino's nearby, and partly because I was able to park the bike in a reasonably secure and well-lit area overnight. This was not the best choice, but it worked out okay.
I checked in shortly after 5 p.m. They gave me a non-smoking ground-floor room with a King size bed. I put some of my things in the room, then took off again for a little more of the scenic tour of Elko, including pictures at the Elko County Fairgrounds, the Elko Police Department (closed), and I got gasoline at a Union 76 Station on Lamoille, where gas was $1.839 per gallon, 22 cents cheaper than Winnemucca and much cheaper than at home.
It was unclear how far the next gas station would be the next day, so I put some extra fuel into a metal fuel bottle I had bought at R.E.I., on Allen's advice, just in case. The ladies at the gas station said it was 120 miles to Owyhee and there was gas available. That information was almost correct.
Back at the motel shortly after 6 p.m., I got an extra blanket and some motorcycle cleaning rags from the clerk, then walked to the bank to see if my check had been put in (not yet). I was able to park the Road King at the front of the motel, near the office, under the lights, and near a pillar (to which I cabled it). Then I walked down to Domino's for some dinner.
They advertised "Chicken Kickers," so I asked if they were spicy. (Employee) Pete said they were "more flavorful than spicy." Well, Pete was wrong, but I didn't find out for about 45 minutes. I waited for about 30 minutes; they were pretty busy; then walkd back to the motel. The chicken was great but the coating was too spicy for me. Fortunately, I had half of a Subway Sandwich left, so it was not a total loss.
The motel office closed at 9 p.m., so I had the evening clerk check me out so that I could leave anytime I wanted in the morning. I wiped the bike down, turned on the television, made some notes, took a shower, watched CNN for a while, then went to bed sometime after 9 p.m.
Miles for the day = 586. Not a personal best, but nevertheless a long day for me.
Tomorrow: A significant milestone, Duck Valley, and a warm welcome.