Someone posted on a company mailing list asking for riding buddies to accompany him on a ride from the bay area to his new home in Rapid City, SD. He and his wife left the bay area in 2020 in an RV and visited various national parks, and they ended up deciding to settle down in Rapid City. But he needed to ride his motorcycle from the bay area over to Rapid City, and I'm a big fan of the HBO show Deadwood so I volunteered to ride with him to hopefully get a chance to go check out the town. The plan was to camp as much as we could, and visit a couple of national parks, and since Covid was still pretty severe we wanted to try to limit the ride to around one week.
We first started chatting in Jan 2021 and we were aiming for around mid-May so the temperatures would be a bit higher. In the subsequent 2 months he and his wife decided to move to Denver CO instead, so the destination changed a bit. Then he switched jobs and his new job wanted him to start as soon as possible, so we finally decided on leaving on Thursday April 15th and making it to Denver by Sunday April 18th in time for him to be at work on Monday morning.
His bike had been sitting parked for over a year, and he flew in to the bay area around April 10th or so so we could start working on it. It was a Yamaha Venture. Luckily we managed to get it running with a bit of starter spray and some fresh premium gas. Then we aired up the tires and it was good to go.
He gave me some hand warmers to add to my bike, and said we'll probably need them. While I was installing them I had to take my V-clamp style throttle lock off and it ended up snapping in two, so I wouldn't have cruise control for the trip, dang.
We left pretty late in the day, rode up past Sunol and Livermore, had Popeyes near Manteca, took the Carson Pass Highway into Nevada. Hands almost froze at the pass, and the snow drifts on the side of the road were still 8+ ft high. We had to keep stopping to warm up. The hand warmers weren't working very well, I had installed them poorly and they were only heating the bottom part of my grips, between my fingertips and my palms. Also the heat shrink tubing had made my grips slippery, so I kept having to adjust my throttle hand to get a proper grip.
Eventually we made it to the Historian Inn in Gardnerville NV at around 1am. We both felt kind of awkward being indoors in the same motel room with a stranger during Covid.
We walked up 395 to find some breakfast, ended up eating at Woodett's Diner. I had a great breakfast burrito. Then we rode down to Walmart for me to buy some grip tape and for him to buy something I forget.
He really wanted to ride this section of US 395 so we were headed back into California and towards Death Valley. I had to interview someone that afternoon so we hauled ass down to Mono Lake. We stopped at the Mono Basin visitor center and I did my phone interview in the parking lot, then we rode into Mammoth for lunch at Pita Pit. He had a set of grip warmers but he hadn't wired them in, and he decided we should try to install them if we could. The biggest problem was that our tools were pretty limited, and we didn't have any spare wire. But we managed to make do and get them installed. Then we rode south towards Death Valley. We got gas in Lone Pine and he got a taco from a taco truck parked in front of the Lone Pine Budget Inn but I decided to wait until we got to camp.
We camped at Stovepipe Wells and there was a dust storm so it looked pretty apocalyptic. It was nice and warm though. I ate some kind of freeze-dried meal, lasagne or something like that. He offered me a cider but I declined, he said he had never had cider before but it looked good in the store. He slept in his sleeping bag on a picnic table.
Rode through Furnace Creek, I realized I accidentally left my tool tube cap on the back of my bike and it had fallen off, so riding through to Death Valley junction I was using my left hand to hold my tools from falling out. He was running very low on gas, and then suddenly his bike died and the battery almost went flat running the starter. We gave it a minute to recover and then luckily it managed to start. Then we got gas at Longstreet Inn casino, and we saw some donkeys in a little petting zoo in the parking lot. I checked my tools and the only thing I lost was a mini bottle of Dr Bronners soap that I use for tire changes and washing my hands if there's no other soap available.
We got to the outskirts of Vegas, pulled into the first parking lot we saw, and got sandwiches from Capriotti's. This was my first time having Capriotti's and I fell in love with it immediately (the turkey cranberry sub). I ate half and stored half for later. We went to Home Depot for me to buy a new tool tube cap.
Then we rode to St George and went to Harmons for some groceries. His bike had storage space so we bought some miscellaneous things, although I insisted on carrying all of my own things to make sure that I have a good sense of the limitations of my choice of equipment and panniers.
Then we rode towards Zion National Park. We saw a big rain storm hovering over the park so we stopped in Virgin UT to put on rain gear. We rode through Zion and we hit some traffic coming out of the big tunnel. Everyone was driving slowly because of the traffic so it gave me a great opportunity to stand up on my bike and take in the sights. I couldn't believe how beautiful the rocks in this section were, they looked like they had been painted by Van Gogh or something, individual little brush strokes.
Then we hit a snow storm and I was worried one of us would skid out and crash but it was ok in the end. We stopped at (37.7489,-112.3643) to get gas and warm up a bit, and I ate the other half of my sandwich. It was getting dark so we pushed on to Bryce Canyon and got there just before sunset, did a small hike up to Sunset Point and Inspiration Point and enjoyed the view although it was freezing cold. Then we went back into Bryce and luckily Ruby's Inn Cowboy's Buffet & Steak Room was open so we got some hot food and even the buffet was open which was my first buffet in a long time and felt pretty icky but we couldn't help ourselves. I think I remember that most of the staff were wearing masks.
The weather report said a snowstorm was moving towards Denver and we hoped the pass wouldn't get too cold for us. As it stood we were expecting temperatures to be below 10°C.
We rode back to Highway 12 and decided to pick one of the motels that we had just ridden past, ended up sleeping at Bryce UpTop Lodge, and it kind of felt like we were the only guests there.
We rode Highway 12 towards Torrey, I think we stopped in some kind of touristy outdoorsy town, maybe Escalante. Along this section of road I remember I kept breathing in his exhaust fumes so I rode farther back to keep some distance between us. In Torrey we got gas and he bought beef jerky from a place he knew. We rode to Hanksville and got lunch at Stan's Burger Shack, great burgers. We rodeup to I-70 and right at the on-ramp we saw a guy standing by his car on the I-70 off-ramp on the other side of the road. I was anxious to keep moving but my riding buddy wanted to see if the guy needed help so he rode over while I waited on the side of the road. I saw him ride up to the guy and the guy basically brushed him off and said no thanks I don't need help I'm just chatting on the phone, and I got annoyed that my buddy was a bit too eager to help and wasn't really pushing to get to Denver by that night so as soon as my buddy was riding back to where I was I took off on I-70 and kind of applied a bit of riding pressure to keep us moving. We got gas at Papa Joe's alien gas station at the junction of Highway 191 and I apologized for riding too fast but my buddy said no problem, it's true we do need to ride hard if we're going to make it to Denver tonight.
So we rode hard, basically I-70 straight into Denver. Near the top of the pass I lost him in my mirror so I stopped for a while to let him catch up. It was blizzardy and we had to stop every 15 minutes or so to thaw our hands. I had long given up on my grip warmers and I think his weren't working either.
We made it to Denver pretty late at night, pulled into a gas station, and waited for his wife so we could meet up for dinner. I should have gotten a snack at that gas station because it was probably another 90 minutes before we finally got settled into our hotel and had our food, which was Namaste Restaurant in Lakewood.
Woke up early, it was just starting to snow. The plan was I was going to ride to Rapid City and they would drive, and we would convoy up there. I went to their hotel room and they said they might not be ready to leave for another few hours but they gave me their house key and we would directly meet up at their house.
Rode north out of Denver. My phone froze and turned off so I couldn't see the map or ETA but I knew I-25 goes straight to Cheyenne and I could find my bearings from there. But since it was snowing so hard and it was so cold, I basically froze within just a few minutes. The falling snow and freezing rain had caused my visor to ice over but once there was a solid sheet of ice I could see pretty ok. But my breath was freezing to the inside of my visor and making visibility very low, and most of the traffic around me was big rigs who would have a hard time seeing me because of the heavy snowfall, so I took it very carefully.
I got off I-25 at Wellington CO and found that my jacket was also frozen solid, and I had to crack the ice to be able to unbend my arms from the riding position. I went to Burger King and the dining room was closed because of Covid so they were drive-thru only, but when they saw how frozen I was they let me order inside. I ordered a whopper and a couple more burgers, and some nuggets and onion rings. Ok, back on the road. I checked the weather report and it showed that Cheyenne was even colder and stormier. I pushed on and just outside of Cheyenne I was absolutely freezing cold, so I pulled into a Love's at (41.0984,-104.8485) and bought another layer of work gloves to wear inside my riding gloves. Then I grabbed myself a tea and the cashier said "damn man, that's on the house" so I sat inside and sipped my tea beside a homeless guy at the table next to me. I pulled into Cheyenne around noon and immediately beelined for the first motel I saw, which was the Ranger Motel.
I pinged my friend and his wife and told them that there was no way I could continue north today because of the storm. So I started hanging up my riding gear in the room and thawing it all out. They showed up in the afternoon and I gave them back their house key and said I'll try to ride up tomorrow and meet you there. I took a couple of meetings from the motel room but I noticed that my laptop wasn't charging which was concerning. I also noticed that my phone's rear-facing camera was dead from either the cold or the vibration of my handlebar mount (that has happened to a previous iPhone 8 of mine). So for the rest of the trip all of my photos were using the front-facing camera.
At night it stopped snowing so I bundled up and walked down Lincolnway looking for food that was still open. I bought a beanie from a gas station. I found Good Friends chinese restaurant was open but they were only doing takeout. So I went next door to Village Inn and got a chicken pot pie, a clam chowder and a milkshake. I promised myself, ok I'm done with the cold weather on this trip, now I'm going to ride straight south and ride along the nice warm Mexico border back to California.
I had a work meeting that I had to take at 2pm, so I knew I needed to be at a town with internet by then. There was a route from Cheyenne to Rapid City that passed through a warmer area via Nebraska but it used smaller roads, and with all the snow I wanted to try to stick to interstates. I tried to ride north out of Cheyenne on I-25 but I only made it to (41.3486,-104.8692) before I had to turn around because my hands were just too cold. I rode back into Cheyenne, rode straight to a Culver's and ate two butterburgers, then rode to Holiday Inn Express and took my meeting from the lobby.
Then I rode to Cheyenne Motorsports to get a new pair of gloves, and the thickest ones they had were snowmobile gloves but the guy said they let cold air in at highway speeds.
So I rode south into Denver. I stopped at King Soopers in Thornton to try to get soup but they weren't serving soup because of Covid, damn bad luck. So I rode to a Burger King in an industrial area near Commerce City in north Denver, and I had to do another phone interview and take a quick meeting from the parking lot there.
Then I rode south, stopped at Castle Pines to tear off my broken handwarmers so my hand wouldn't keep slipping on my grip. Got gas outside of Pueblo and againin Trinidad CO. I couldn't believe how cold it still was even though I was south of the main cold front at that point according to the weather radar. My goal was to get to Santa Fe that night. As I rode south out of Trinidad I immediately regretted it because I was absolutely freezing and I decided screw it, and as I rode into Raton NM I got myself a motel room and walked over to McDonalds for my 6th, 7th and 8th burgers of the day. Again I told myself that today would be the last cold day, and tomorrow I would finally be warmer.
Rode to Las Vegas NM, ate a breakfast plate and an amazing donut at Charlie's Spic & Span Bakery & Café, then continued over to Santa Fe, still freezing cold. I had to take another meeting so I pulled into the parking lot in front of Dancingbones in Rodeo Plaza and had my meeting. Then as I was sitting there, a lady walked up to me with her dog, and asked me for a favor. She said her dog hates motorcycles so she was wondering if I could idle my bike near her dog, and maybe slowly ride back and forth a few times so the dog could get used to being near the noise of a motorcycle, so I did that for a few minutes. Then we started chatting for a minutes, and another lady walked up and asked if she could take our picture. She said her new year's resolution was to take one interesting photo per day and the lady and I looked interesting. She asked if we were friends but we said no we just met. Then we chatted more and someone asked me about my new years resolution, I said I'm trying to read more, most recently Game of Thrones. The photo lady said oh I know the author George RR Martin, he goes to the xxx I work at (massage studio? acupuncture clinic?). Then the other lady said yeah she often sees him at a small movie theater she goes to. Apparently he's local to Santa Fe, which I never knew. They gave me a bunch of suggestions for things to do in Santa Fe but I told them I'm basically just riding through so I'll have to check them out next time.
Then I rode to Albuquerque, stopped in the Del Norte High School parking lot to take one final meeting that day, and then rode out east of town to try to find a camping spot. I couldn't believe it was still so cold even though I was much farther south. I first tried the area around (35.1343,-106.3749) but I felt like it was too residential and I kept kitting No Trespassing signs, so I looped back south of the interstate and ended up setting up camp at (35.0711,-106.3522). I cooked a freeze dried meal and went to bed, shivering and cursing the cold.
Woke up early from the cold. Rode into Albuquerque and had breakfast and coffee at Weck's on Juan Tabo. I finally had an opportunity to deal with my laptop battery issue so I went to Walmart to get a mini screwdriver kit, and after messing around with it in a Best Buy parking lot for about 45 minutes I finally got it to charge by unplugging the battery, holding the mobo reset button, plugging the laptop into one of the display laptop chargers in Best Buy, then plugging in the battery. So I tucked my laptop under the display laptop and let it charge for 30 minutes while I tried to not look suspicious. For dinner I had Twisters Burgers and Burritos, and then I got a motel room at Days Inn. At some point in this day I got some more freeze dried meals and a $5 backpack from Walmart because I had too many pairs of gloves and it was a pain to stuff everything into my two panniers every day.
Rode south out of Albuquerque, hit some rain but it wasn't too cold. Got 6 tacos for lunch at Del Taco in Los Lunas, surprised to see Del Taco offers basically bubble tea (well, lemonades and milkshakes with "poppers").
Rode past the Very Large Array, very windy. I rode through a dust devil and felt the wind pushing against me did a full 360°. Lots of tumbleweeds blowing across the road. I was near a little town called Pie Town that's famous for its pies but it was closed due to Covid so I skipped it. Rode through Gila National Forest, then Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, lots of cactuses. Got gas in Safford AZ then had BBQ Chicken and Loco Moco at Kainoa's Hawaiian Grill.
I set up camp at (33.3340,-110.6659) just past some kind of mine.
Had amazing breakfast at Waffle On Inn in Apache Junction. I have friends who live in Phoenix but they said they're being cautious about Covid so they didn't want to meet up. I went to REI in Chandler Pavilions to check out their sleeping bag liners but I cheaped out and decided not to buy one.
I rode to a starbucks and asked for an iced peach tranquility tea which is something I've had a few times before, but the lady said nope we can't make that it's a hot tea, so I said ok can I have a hot peach tranquility tea and a cup with ice? She got annoyed and said I can make it for you but it won't fit, it'll overflow the cup. I said yup I don't mind I can just throw away the extra bit of tea but I think that annoyed her even more. There were beautiful spring blossoms raining down on the curb.
Rode to South Mountain Park and video chatted with Sarah. Left Phoenix, ate a bunch of tacos from Lily's Mexican Food in Parker AZ. Riding up Twentynine Palms Highway near (34.0656,-115.2912) I was being blinded by the sun for what felt like half an hour as I was climbing the hill straight into the sun. Finally out of frustration I pulled over to the side of the road to wait for the sun to finally set below the horizon but my front wheel went into a sandy bank, my bike tipped over onto the right side, and my hot muffler melted a hole through my sleeping bag.
I took a shortcut at (34.1432,-115.6869) to cut over towards Amboy because Ventusky showed that it would be a bit warmer there at night. I ended up camping at (34.5784,-115.8773) near Baghdad CA. The weird thing is that it was the middle of nowhere and I could have sworn I was alone but I could hear people talking in the distance somewhere.
Just as I was getting ready to go to sleep, I was fully naked, no shoes, I took a few steps to bask in the moonlight, and I realized there were micro little cholla cactus things and my feet and toes were covered in spines. That hurt, and I was still feeling them between my toes days later.
I aimed to get home today. Getting gas at Chevron in Ludlow there were dozens of bikers that were meeting up there, and they were all lined up to use the bathroom. I just needed to refill my water bottle and I was on my way. I got off I-40 for lunch just before Newberry Springs and ate at Punjabi Dhaba which was very underwhelming. Then I had Wayback Burgers in Firebaugh, and ended up getting home just after 7pm.