Epic Road Trip (Day 1-2)

Published on July 28, 2015

After getting my first motorcycle, I knew it would only be a matter of time before I decided to road trip more. I started with some day rides on the weekends and it's culminated in what I have come to refer to as “Epic Road Trip 2015”. Probably not as epic as it could be, but its 99% back-roads, 1% freeway/Interstate travel, and absolutely and entirely fun.

The first couple days were planned as just making time and getting to the destination. I've seen the desert and that's all the first couple days were – Arizona, California, and Nevada (including a stretch along the outskirts of Death Valley). I was taking highways I'd not taken before, though, and got a surprise with the scenery.

The first day, I left Phoenix via I-10 until Salome Highway, then took back highways to Parker and up 95 through Laughlin and Bullhead City. I saw the thriving metropolises (metropoli?) of Searchlight and Cal-Nev-Ari (yea, every state has one of those cities that tries being cute because they're on the border – Texarkana, Kanorado, Calizona). After a detour in Vegas, I arrived at the highway that would take me to Pahrump (that name still makes me laugh) and hunted for a hotel.

I ended up at the Highland Inn, which I had initially passed on because it looked like a bedbug haven from the outside. After trying another couple hotels and finding out that in addition to a couple conferences, there was a basketball tournament in town I stopped by the Highland Inn. Vacancy! I got my room, unloaded the bike, and stepped into the Rusty Spur Saloon (I think that's the third one I've come across in various cities). It was a great locals pub (those are the best ones, right?) and I met Mike and Stephanie who bartended there. All in all, after a long first day in the desert, I enjoyed a cold beer and chatted with some Vegas residents, then walked back to my hotel room (all of 30 feet).

The second day was a bit more exciting. I left from Vegas via Highway 160 (which is also Blue Diamond Blvd, which makes more sense to the locals, as I found out when I was asking about hotels the day before and someone tried giving me directions). It was a smooth city stretch and then I came to the Red Rocks Canyon. I went from the Vegas altitude and climbed. And climbed. And climbed. All the way to 5200 feet elevation where it was noticeably cooler. The highway is curvy and tons of fun and when you get the summit where it breaks open to show you the valley where Pahrump sits you can't help but admire (for the entire descent into the valley).

What I remember most about the ride to Pahrump was the Joshua Trees. At one point, on both sides of the highway were fields of the things as far as the eye could see. There's lots of opportunity to take an adventure bike off the highway and explore the dirt roads of Red Rocks, so keep that in mind if you're riding those kinds of things.

I stopped for a bit in Pahrump and checked my fuel, stretched my legs, hydrated, and and then set off for Amargosa. When I was hitting 90 miles on the tank (or so) and still hadn't reached the Highway 95 junction, I started to get nervous and kept looking for some sign of civilization. It was a little unnerving to see my mileage keep climbing and nothing but desert around me. Ultimately, I made it through and rolled in to Amargosa with about 115 miles on my tank.

This is when things started to get interesting.

I left Amargosa and made it to Beatty, Nevada. I stopped for a rest, much like in Pahrump, then started my trip. On my way out of town, I saw a sign: “Next Gas 94 miles”. Dammit. I flipped around and gassed up and it's a very good thing I did.

I left Highway 95 before reaching the next fuel stop. I had about 54 miles on my tank, though and the sign on Highway 266 said the next services were 58 miles. No problem.. Except that I veered onto Highway 167 about 56 miles in (and I was incorrect in thinking that Lida would have a gas station – that was basically a ghost town). In retrospect, I should have gone the two miles out of my way to save myself some anxiety. Highway 167 was a really fun, curvy climb with several sharp curves that needed to be taken at the recommended speed. It was like a mini Devil's Highway.

My low fuel light came on as I was crossing an amazing bowl valley in which Deep Springs (little more than a ranch as far as I could tell) sat. I had about 120 miles on my tank at this point. Given my fuel economy, I should be good for 156 miles and if I'm cautious with the throttle, I could probably get more. I don't, however, want to find out exactly how far I can go. The scary part was that I needed to climb out of this valley, which I did and then had another long, curvy descent to the Valley below (which was a really good thing – I could coast most of the way). I rolled into Big Pine (this time, I took the half mile detour) with 138 miles on my tank. After filling up, I figured out that I still had four-tenths of a gallon and I got 48 miles per gallon (not too shabby considering the bike is rated at 45).

I decided to stop here for some lunch and regain my nerves. I still had to make Tioga Pass. I set out from Big Pine and arrived in Lee Vining (just a little beyond Highway 120, which ascended the Pass) so I could gas up and get some basic provisions to tide me over while I camped, as well as double-check road conditions and make sure I wouldn't be affected by any fires (beyond smoke from the one burning several miles south, that is).

The climb into the Pass is steep, curvy, and downright beautiful. It's littered with lakes, rivers, and wide views of the mountains ahead and behind. It also tops out at 9,945 feet. I broke out my waterproof, cold weather gloves. After getting into the park, I kept riding and taking pictures, then stopped at Tuolomne Meadows, where I landed the last campsite (I wasn't expecting so many people coming in on a Sunday afternoon).

I got set up and was lucky to have some cool neighbors that were traveling from San Diego to Montana and who shared a hamburger with me, leaving me some extra supplies for the morning. I managed to build a fire (without matches) thanks to some intellectually challenged folks who occupied my campsite before me who left very hot embers and charcoal briquettes in the fire pit.

With the sun down, me warm (but the chill setting in), I ended the second day. Thankfully, the forecast I checked for Yosemite said the low would only be in the 50s...