Alaska 2004

Day 12

July 20


Since I'm headed to the Holler, I get up early and get the bike packed. I try to be as quiet as possible and seem to succeed. Once I get in road mode, it don't take me long to load the RedBird and cinch it down. I love the cinch straps, because once they're hooked, the load just ain't going anywhere. I wander back into the house and Don is sitting there.

“Phil, there's eggs and bacon in the refrigerator. Just help yourself” Don tells me.

“I'd better be careful and not make a mess in Miss Joyce's kitchen. She might thrash you when she gets home!” I tell him.

I never tried nuking bacon in the microwave before, but I give it a whirl at Don's suggestion. I've always been a skillet fryer myself, but this really works swell. What modern convenience will they think of next? I make a note to try it when I get back home to see if my tired old microwave will do as well. Don has some great Snapple Diet Peach Ice Teas in the fridge, so I grab one and have myself a feast.

I finish up my chow, wash the dishes, and clean up my mess.

“You don't have to do that, Phil” Don says.

“Yeah, I know, but I don't want to leave a mess for Miss Joyce to clean up when she gets in" I say with a grin.

It's time to hit the road and Don really wants to go, but the stomach problem he got yesterday is not letting up. He really feels bad about not riding out with me.

“Don't worry about it man, I think I can find my way home” I tell him with a grin.

The idea of 4 whole days to wander east really intrigues me. I give him a good bear hug and say –

“Now Don, you've got to come to Tennessee so you can see where the REALLY good roads are!”

I quietly remember I used to tell Dennis that but he sadly did not live long enough to make it. We hug again then I leave my home away from home and head out. Don has outlined some great roads for me through Stockton along highways 26 and 88 to Carson City. Once I get into the Sierras, the roads and the scenery are quite enjoyable and there's very little traffic.


I'm beginning to like this route already. I figure if I do about 600 miles a day I should be home by Saturday. Of course, that's pretty ambitious for backroads, but that's okay. I've got nobody to please but myself, so I'll just mosey along until I'm tired and then grab a cheap motel and flop. Before I know it, I'm in Nevada and it's hot and dry. I pull into Fallon RV park for gas and a break from the heat. It's a pretty deserted place as is most of Nevada. I strike up a conversation with the lady behind the counter.

“Hope you don't mind if I borrow a little bit of your cool air.”

“Sure thing, take your time” she tells me.

She notices the USMC stickers on my helmet.

“I was in the Navy for a while” she volunteers.

“Yeah, I spent 11 weeks back in 71 at the resort the USMC runs in South Carolina – Parris Island” I tell her.

We both laugh at that one because she's familiar with the Marine boot camp. I finish up my drink and peanuts and wander back outside. There are two bicyclists pulling up.

“Where you boy's headed to?” I ask them.

“Well, we're from San Francisco. Just going to ride across Nevada” the younger one tells me.

“You got a lot more energy than I have. This heat and dryness must be a real killer” I add.

“Yes it is. We try to get up earlier and ride until we have to stop” he replies.

I wish them well and safety, then climb aboard the Redbird and take off. The nice thing about Highway 50 is that it is pretty well deserted and does not have many towns to slow down for. You can see for miles and miles and there ain't no bushes for the radar fellers to hide behind.


I let the Redbird stretch out it's highway legs and she eats the miles up like a hungry kid with a Hershey Bar. I've learned to stop about every 100 miles for gas in Nevada because you can't be sure if there will be gas or not. Austin is the next decent sized town I come to and the mileage is about right.


I pull into the first place with pumps and gas up. The heat and dryness is taking it's toll, so I figure I'd better chill a bit and get a little fuel for myself. Just so happens this store has “The Loneliest Road In America” t-shirts for sale, so I buy one. As I sit there drinking my Diet-Pepsi and eating a bag of peanuts, I notice an ambulance flashes by. Before long another lady comes in with a tearstained face.

“The kids were riding a ATV during recess up at the school and it flipped over on them” she says, almost choking up.

Having grown up in a small town. I can imagine that everybody knows everybody and knows everybody's kids.

“They were good kids too. It's just such a shame” the clerk responds, holding back her own tears.

I figure they need a little privacy to cry together, so I wander outside to leave them to their heartache. The world won't note or care what happened in Austin that day, but these two ladies will never forget. As I ride pass the school on my way out of town, my heart goes out to the loved ones whose hearts are aching right now. I ask the Lord to be gracious and comfort those involved as only He can. I continue the mad dash across Nevada. I see some dark clouds up ahead and realize I'm about the tallest thing around. But there ain't no where to go but on so I keep riding. Then the lightening starts, first on one side of the road then on the other side. It seems there are two storms carrying on and the highway goes right between them. What a light show to be in the middle of! I've got to stop and get a shot of this, so I quickly pull over.


It's an eerie feeling to see lightning strikes on either side of you and wondering if you are next to get your hair curled. I figure I should be close to Ely, so if I make it there, I'll grab a motel room for the evening. If I don't, well, it won't be for lack of trying. I notice a police car sitting on the side of the road, so I roll off the throttle a bit. As I get close, he pulls on his lights and pulls out. I think to myself –

“Does this guy have a death wish to get out of his car in a lightning storm to give me a ticket?”

But it appears that he doesn't like the looks of the weather either, so he flies on into Ely. The amazing thing about this storm is that for all the rain and lightning, none seems to strike or fall on the highway. I don't even stop to put on my rainsuit. After what seems like forever, the sign for Ely comes into view. I begin looking for a place to hole up for the night that's close to a restaurant. There it is – the Deser-est Motel.


Not the classiest place I've every seen but I ain't right particular at this moment. And it suits my preferred requirements – gas close by, restaurant close by and a reasonable price. I pull into the lot and walk in. There's worn lobby and a worn feller behind the counter.

“How about a room for the night?” I ask him.

“Sure thing. Where are you from?” he inquires.

Noticing the guitars in the lobby, I tell him “From Nashville – a place you've probably been before.”

He lights up a little bit as memories from the past float by.

"Yeah, I was there but never could break into the big time. My name is Tex” he adds.

“Well, I know the feeling myself” I respond. “Had two shots at a recording contract myself, but the bands fell apart and that was that. It's a pretty closed business now – got to know somebody to get in it.”

He nodded his head as he passes me the key.

“Any place good to eat around here?” I ask.

“Yes sir - the Silver State up and across the street” he tells me.


I thank him, then pull the RedBird closer to the room, unload her and walk over to the restaurant. Just some locals in there, so I figure it must be decent.

A lady comes up to take my order.

“Where are you from?” she asks.

“Well, I'm on my way back on my motorcycle from Alaska via California to get home to Tennessee” I tell her.

Her jaw drops as she hollers “You got to be kidding me!”

“No ma'am, I'm as serious as a heart attack” I reply.

She just walks away to place my order shaking her head. I guess some folks dream and some folks do – and I'd rather be a doer. Besides, I've always figured it's better to burn out than rust out. The food comes quick and she keeps my tea glass full. I finish up, leave her a nice tip, and wander back across to my room for a good night's sleep. Little do I know what surprises the next few days hold for me.