Day 1: Santa Rosa, CA to Walker Lake, NV

343 Miles

One of my best friends was having a graduation party for his youngest son, so on Sunday afternoon I loaded up the bike and went to Santa Rosa. It was an epic party that I bowed out of around 1:30 knowing that I had an alarm set for 5:45.

Up, re-packed, gassed up and out on Hwy 12 by 6:30 put me in Fairfield at 7:30 to connect with Jeff. Over breakfast we decided the day’s route and destination.

The wind wasn’t too bad, but it was cold over Donnor Pass. Still plenty of snow up there.



Surprisingly, there wasn’t that much traffic out for a Memorial Day. Perhaps it was just too early.


We stopped in Reno for lunch and to pick up beer, a couple of steaks, and broccoli for dinner. Another quick stop at Best Buy for a spare camera battery and we were back on Hwy 80 and looking for the Hwy 50 cut off.

At a coffee stop, we met a young man who, in the resulting conversion, informed us that the campsite we had chosen, Kingston on Hwy 376, was inaccessible to motorcycles. Being re-caffeinated, it took us only two minutes over a map to redirect south on Hwy 95 to Walker Lake.

Hwy 95 is also known as the Memorial Highway and has signs all along it that dedicate successive stretches to veterans of all of our wars and military actions. It seemed very appropriate for Memorial Day.

I’d already spent a good deal of the day thinking of and being appreciative for my grandfather’s service. Alvie Stroud spent the early years of the war in Texas training troops for the European theater and had only been “in-country” for two weeks when he was captured in the Battle of the Bulge.

He spent the next seven months in a POW camp. Luckily for him (and me, since my mom was born after the war) he ended up with one of his best friends from basic, Joe Istock. He rarely talked about it when I was growing up, but as he grew older he shared a few tales of how he and Joe spent most of those seven months keeping one another alive. The food they received was legendarily poor fare; water with a few bland vegetables that passed for soup, and occasionally a crust of bread. When Joe was sick, my grandfather would save his “soup” and feed it to Joe. When my grandfather was sick, Joe did the same.

This afternoon’s ride was a reflection on how many other similar stories exist in just a few memories and served to tune me into just how much I appreciate our men and women who serve and have served.

Around 4 PM, we found a free camping spot on Walker Lake with almost no one around. We also found out that along with free comes no water, no picnic table, no fire ring, and of course no cell signal for Sprint or AT&T (Jeff’s Verizon had a couple of bars, so we could at least check in). I elected to go into Hawthorne, 20 miles away and pick up water and leave Jeff to set up camp.


Where as I tend toward freeze-dried backpacking fare on these trips, Jeff brings along a whole kitchen including spice rack. Nothing quite like having a cold beer and fresh steak after a day on the road. He might have me converted by the end of this trip.

The B&W photos don’t quite do the view justice. I’ll have to update these to the color versions when I get back home.


We are off to a good start.

Today’s Route:


Day 2: Walker Lake, NV to Ely, NV

Apparently the critters like Jeff. Or they like his food in the tent. He spent most of the night awake with something circling his tent scratching and trying to get in. I left all my food in the saddlebags and slept fine.

We were up early, and since I always carry coffee we were able to break camp at a leisurely pace. (Without the coffee, we’d of been out of there in 30 minutes.) Then to Hawthorne for breakfast, a cell signal, and planning the day. Our signature phrase for this trip so far is “So, where we going?”

Seeing “The Extraterrestrial Highway” on the map was like waiving a red flag at a bull to both of us, so Hwy 95 to Hwy 6 was the route we chose.


We stopped for a couple of photo ops before it got windy. And windy it did get. Not as bad as my brush with the Santa Anna winds in October of ’09, but bad enough that it required a lot of focus and speed to stay in our lane.

By the time we got to Tonopah, we were exhausted. McDonalds was the only place in town we could eat and still keep an eye on the bikes.

One of the challenges with traveling with someone with a different bike, is that one of you is bound to have a smaller gas tank. And in this case it is me. My tank is just over 4.5 gallons and with the new pipes and fully loaded, I should have a range of about 180 miles. However, the Vulcan shows empty at around 150, so I usually gas up every 120 – 130 miles. It doesn’t pose a problem since I prefer to stop and stretch every two hours or so anyway.

Well, it doesn’t pose a problem till there are no gas stations. Sixty miles out Hwy 6 we went to turn onto our Extraterrestrial Highway (Hwy 375 at Warm Springs) and there is a sign that reads: No services next 111 miles.

The wind is still blowing us all over the road and between not knowing what that is doing to my mileage and the fact it puts me at the outer edge of my safety margins, we decided to continue on up Hwy 6 toward Ely. The intention was to stop at the first gas station, top-off, and buy a small gas container so we could turn around and continue our original plan.

Battling the wind, the post lunch sleepiness factor, and the “where in the heck is the next gas station” factor, we stopped to eat a caffeine laced Clif Bar. I think I’ll call this shot “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Touring”


As it turned out, the next town with a gas station on the way to Ely, was, well, Ely. I ran the last twenty miles with the gas gauge on empty and the last fifteen with the low fuel warning light blinking at me. As it turns out, at least I know I can go 175 miles on a full tank. If I have to.

It was early, but given our day and how far it was to the next place, we found a nice little historic hotel that caters to bikers: Hotel Nevada. When it opened in 1929, it was the tallest building in the state – a whopping six stories. The place is full of stuffed mountain lions, elk, rattlesnakes, and birds. I’ll have to take some photos in the morning before we leave.

Looks like I’ll have plenty of time. Jeff thinks he broke his finger just before he left. It’s swollen up about half again the size it should be and is hurting pretty severely by the look on his face. So his first stop tomorrow is the hospital.

Today’s Route: 285 Miles


Day 3: Ely, NV

Between Jeff’s trip to the hospital to get diagnosed with a torn ligament in his right hand, and winds gusting up to 60 mph, events conspired to keep us in Ely today. And that is pronounced ‘e-lee.’ I know this because I was corrected more than once. Bartenders are so helpful.


Jeff is now in a cast (when he isn’t riding), so in a over-sensitive show of solidarity, I agreed to play shuffleboard left-handed too. He beat me 5 out of 5. I can think of a lot of conclusions to come to over that, but the only one that really makes sense is that I suck at shuffleboard.

The hotel is filled with stuffed dead animals and motorcycles. The software I brought along for this trip doesn’t work with RAW files, so other than the one below, I’ll have to upload them when I’m back home. The photos of dead animals will just have to wait.

This beauty hangs over the elevator:


The good news is that at least we know what’s wrong with Jeff’s hand and I did the laundry. Tomorrow we gotta move.

Miles today: 0

Day 4: Ely, NV to Salt Lake City, UT

Keeping with the “Now where are we going?” theme of the trip, we checked the weather and wind over breakfast. Jeff has close family friends in Salt Lake City. I know they are close because first of all they answered the phone and secondly, they said yes when he asked if we could couch surf there tonight. Most of his friends just don’t answer.

The wind had died down to a calm 15-20 mph, so after a farewell breakfast at Hotel Nevada, we were off North on 93. Which in and of itself is very confusion as there are at least three Hwy 93’s in Nevada as witnessed by the map at the bottom.

Alas, we chose the correct one, connecting to Hwy 80 in West Wendover to pass the salt flats.


By 5 we were in SLC and buying groceries. Jeff doesn’t couch surf without cooking which is one of the many things I appreciate about him. (Another is that he brings a complete frackin’ kitchen with a spice rack on bike rides.)

Here is a shot of the excellent Beef Stroganoff. We throughly enjoyed the dinner and conversation with Bill and Janet Brennan. I’ve rarely experienced such hospitality and great people. They even invited me back on my next trip without Jeff. “Especially without Jeff” was Bill’s parting comment. (I don’t think he cared for dinner.) 😉


Although, I do understand. I had to have my third helping before I decided I liked it.

Thanks Bill and Janet! We had a wonderful time.


Today’s Route: 241 Miles


Day 5: Salt Lake City, UT to Jackson WY

Alas, the weather breaks and we see our way clear to head North. We are toying with going to Idaho Falls, and Jeff says “There’s nothing in Idaho Falls, what’s the weather in Jackson?”

So, off we go to Jackson and the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar.



Interstate 15, as you would imagine was smooth sailing, but when we turned off on Hwy 30 at McCammon the roads started getting a little rougher. Highway department fixing the winter’s damage I suppose.


Somewhere near Alpine we stopped at an abandoned gas station. Apparently abandoned for a while. The pump showed a price of 42 and 9/10 cents per gallon.


Hwy. 89 was in good shape and we were able to make good time into to Jackson and find logging at the Antler Motel. Pete and I stayed here in ’08 after arriving in Jackson in a rainstorm. Jeff’s last stay here was in ’94. At least it wasn’t raining this time.

A quick walk around the Park and then off to the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar and the obligatory steak dinner.

By the way, those antler arches are all real. Since Elk shed their antlers annually, apparently the Boy Scouts go pick up all the antler’s at the Elk Reserve and auction them off as a fund raiser.



Today’s Ride: 279 Miles