Dave's Cross-Country Trip 2003

Preparations and Day One

by Dave Schultheis

These notes comprise a journal documenting a road trip by motorcycle from San Jose to the northern Virginia area, to Washington, D.C. for Rolling Thunder on Memorial Day (observed), to northwest Tennessee, to a small town in New Mexico, and back to San Jose.


The motorcycle is a States Blue Pearl 1996 Harley-Davidson FLHR-I Electra Glide Road King with electronic sequential port fuel injection. At the beginning of this trip I had owned and ridden it for about 3 1/2 years and had put about 46,000 miles on it.

Along the way I stopped for photographs of city, county and state signs, and National park and forest signs, for the Harley Owners Group's ABCs of Touring. I also took photos of California highway signs. I use little plastic cameras; single-use disposables that I call LPCs, and stop periodically along the way to get the film processed.

When I first mention a highway, I typically use the official name ("Interstate 5," "U.S. Highway 101," "CA Highway 99," and then use "I-5" or "Hy 101" or "Hy 99" on later references.

Even though I document crossing state lines, I often use the U.S. Postal Service's two-letter state abbreviations when referring to cities in that state, if I think it would be helpful to the reader.

Sunday, May 18, 2003 - the day before Day One

I spent part of the day packing and loading a few items onto the Road King. I set the alarm for 4:00 a.m. and went to bed about 9:20 p.m.

Monday, May 19, 2003 - San Jose, California

As is usual for me before a trip, I was awake before the alarm sounded. I slept restlessly, and for some reason the dog was restless as well. I got up at 3:50 a.m., dressed warmly (three layers, top and bottom), included face protection, and prepared for departure.

Along for the ride were both my "old" lucky green shirt and my "new" lucky green shirt, two pair of long underwear and other clothing in case it got colder.

Secured to the Road King were my T-Bag (clothing, cameras, maps), a borrowed tent, ground cover, sleeping bag, paper towels, foul weather gear, tools, and lots of miscellaneous stuff.

I left home at 4:30 a.m. and headed through the Santa Clara valley in the dark of night, with very little traffic on the roads. I rode northbound on Meridian, southbound on Interstate 280, northbound on Interstate 680.

About 45 minutes after leaving home, I became aware of something flapping, so I stopped on Hy 680 near Pleasanton for a load check. I had not properly secured my small cooler and had lost a contoured ice-substitute and four cans of Mountain Dew. Tragedy was averted when two cans of Mountain Dew were saved. So I learned something about G-forces and bungee-cording.

I turned east onto Interstate 580, stopped for fuel near the east end of Livermore, then rode up and over the Altamont Pass. Shortly before 6 a.m. I was greeted by the rising sun while passing through Tracy. I continued east on Interstate 205, then north on Interstate 5, east on CA Highway 4, passed through Stockton about 6:15 a.m., then northbound CA Highway 99 into the Sacramento area.

Just about the time that traffic started getting heavy, there was a carpool lane, so I made good use of it until downtown Sacramento. There was a little delay in getting over (to the right) a few lanes, but once I merged onto eastbound U.S. Highway 50 (the "Capital City Freeway"), the carpool lane was wide open. The sun was in my eyes, but it was clear sailing east from Sacramento and through the communities of El Dorado Hills, Cameron Park and others. Somewhere along this stretch the carpool lane ended, but so did all the traffic, and I got into Old Hangtown (Placerville CA) at about 7:30 a.m.

I took the Broadway exit and stopped at McDonald's for breakfast and pictures of the fully-loaded Road King.

It was a little difficult getting back onto Hy 50 with the morning traffic, but once I got going, it was a nice four-lane highway, cold with sunshine, then the road narrowed to two lanes as Hy 50 goes through the El Dorado National Forest. I saw a few cars, a few trucks, and one CHP (California Highway Patrol) car through the forest.

It's a beautiful ride up and over Echo Summit, and I got into Myers for a fuel stop about 9 a.m. Again, it was cold, with sunshine.

After another 12 miles I crossed into the state of Nevada at South Lake Tahoe CA, then turned east on NV Highway 207 and immediately stopped at the Stateline branch of the Zephyr Cove post office for an ABCs photo, then continued eastbound on Hy 50, even though it goes north at that point.

There were still no signs posted at the main Zephyr Cove post office (thanks, U.S. Postal Service). Good thing I had taken pics at the branch post office.

I stopped at the Douglas County NV Administration building for a picture, spoke briefly to a deputy sheriff and reassured him I was not "up to no good."

There has been construction on Hy 50 through this area for several years, always fun (!), and even more fun with slowpokes in the fast lane. But I got through it just fine. Hy 50 turns and goes east again, and it was cold over Spooner Summit, but a few minutes later I found myself in beautiful downtown Carson City, otherwise known as the city of road construction, and the bottleneck on U.S. 395.

I continued east on Hy 50, through Dayton and Stagecoach, and stopped at Silver Springs NV about 10:40 a.m. to take photos and make notes. The sign said "Fallon 26, Austin 136, Ely 283." Planning gas stops is definitely in order in this section.

It had been 70 miles since I had fueled, so there would be no problem making it to Fallon. I arrived there about 11:25 a.m. and stopped at a Union 76 "Gas Store Mini Mart" close to the downtown area. I used the "little bikers room" and paid for gas inside, since there were no card readers on the pumps.

From Fallon to the east, there is not much except a lot of nuthin'. I rode through many miles of nuthin', including blowing past Sand Mountain and the Loneliest Phone at about 80 miles per hour with no other cars around. You can see why this section of U.S. 50 is called "The Loneliest Highway in America."

I stopped for fuel at the Shell Station in Austin NV just after 1:00 p.m., setting a new "in the saddle" record (for me) of 110 miles without stopping. Gas was seriously expensive, but what'cha gonna do? The gal at the station/store was much more pleasant this time than she'd been a year earlier; evidently I was _not_ interrupting her television program this time.

Inside the mini-market I deposited a few quarters from "petty cash" (left-front pocket) into a slot machine and was rewarded with "bar-bar-bar" times three, for a payoff of forty coins! Excellent! Lunch money!

Next door to the store was the Lander County Sheriff's Office, so I stopped for a photograph or two and a brief chat, then continued east on Hy 50.

A short while later I stopped for two bikes pulled over to the side. They had help coming and thanked me for stopping, so I continued.

About 2:40 p.m. I stopped for a White Pine County sign, then on the approach to Ely stopped for a picture of a really run-down stone building from a century or two ago.

I got into Ely NV about 3:45 p.m. and took the scenic tour of the downtown area for a few minutes. I found some hotels, a motorcycle shop, the airport, etc. It had been 154 miles since I had fueled at Austin, so I stopped at the Texaco Station at 4:05 p.m., where a guy from San Mateo CA found me, and chatted about something I couldn't quite figure out. Oh, well.

I continued east on Hy 50, past a remote entrance to the Great Basin National Park (picture), and reached the Nevada/Utah border, at a little place called "Border," at 5:30 p.m. The motel and gas pump are in Utah, the cafe, gift shop and casino are in Nevada. I took a Utah picture, then bought some cookies in the store, put a few quarters into a slot machine and was rewarded with twenty coins. More than paid for the cookies.

Now on Mountain Time, I continued east on Hy 50 for many miles, stopped for a picture in Hinckley at 7:50 p.m., continued into Delta UT, where I stopped for a map check, and then gas at a Phillips 66 Station, and continued into Salina, where I stopped at a Super 8 motel at 9:30 p.m. This was the same place I had stayed about a year earlier, but it had changed ownership (and name) and had a new wing added.

The young woman at the front desk was very nice, gave me a ground-floor room in the new building, where I could park the Road King right outside, at a very reasonable price. She even gave me the "single" rate, although the room had two double beds.

The people in the next room had their pickup truck backed up to the room door, and had some dogs tied underneath, but they didn't bother me.

I unloaded what I needed, secured the bike, took a shower and went to bed. It had been a long day, about 18 hours, and a new personal best for me, 813 miles.

I had started in CA, ridden completely through NV and into UT. This was just the first day of such a pattern.

Miles for the day = 813.

Tomorrow: another long day, wind and cold in Colorado, and many more miles.

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Created on January 1, 2004. Updated on January 10, 2004.
David W. Schultheis, San Josť, Silicon Valley, Santa Clara County, California, USA