West 2007

Day 03

September 14

  This is the day that I know will be probably the toughest one on the trip physically and mentally. It's two turns and the rest of the time I'm on I80 for 950 miles. Salt Lake City will be the only major city I pass through so I hope to make good time on the open road. The long day yesterday took it's toll, so I decide to sleep until I wake up this morning. But as usual, it's not very late and I'm up just before sunrise. I quickly pack the SweetTreat and get into serious road mode. As I pull out of Cheyenne, the sun is just appearing over the horizon.  
  Just a short hop and my first of two turns for the day, and I'm on I80 for a real long time. I've dialed in some relaxing music into my headset, got the highway wings out and the cruise control on and start clicking off the miles. When I'm covering the distances like this, I skip most meals and just eat light snacks. Your body does not need a lot of energy to just sit for long periods of time. I also keep a closer watch on my fuel levels because sometime gas can be hard to find in the wide open spaces. The clouds look a little foreboding across the barren Wyoming landscape, but I've got my rainsuit close by if I need it.  
  Just out of Cheyenne, before you get to Laramie, I come across an interesting site. I can see it in the distance but can't quite make out what it is. Finally I realize that it is a large, brooding bust of Abraham Lincoln that appears to be overlooking the highway.  
  It seems that it was commissioned by the state of Wyoming in 1959 to honor the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's birth, and placed here in 1969 when I80 was completed. It marks the highest point (8,640 feet above sea level) of the old Lincoln Highway (which is now I80) that ran from coast to coast. I have to wonder if he is sadly contemplating the declining moral state of the country that he perished trying to keep together. Before long I come across more of those gigantic windmills. I guess they makes perfect sense out here where there's is plenty of wind and not many people.  
  Before long, I notice a sign designating the Continental Divide. I am a bit surprised for it does not seem that there is any noticeable incline up or down at this point. I stop to get a picture of it and notice the relatively low altitude.  
  It gets pretty lonesome out in this part of I80 and very windswept. It's sure not a good place to have vehicle trouble. I'm once again glad that I am riding one of the most reliable bikes ever built and have my 'doctor's bag' of tools on board just in case.  

It's soon time to fuel again so I pull off at a rather unique site - Little America, Wyoming. According to what I find out, Little America is actually an incorporated town in Wyoming, even though it's actually a private enterprise that has a hotel, restaurant, fueling station and such. All land in the town is owned by the Little America corporation. It seems that the founder of the Little America chain was a sheepherder working one cold winter in central Wyoming when he thought that he should build an "oasis" for travelers to escape from the elements and so he went for it. It's quite a layout to be out in the middle of nowhere, but it is a welcome sight for me and probably many others traversing this lonesome section of I80. I'm getting a little tired, so I make this a longer stop that usual. As I stretch my legs, a feller on a Harley pulls up. He asks me -

"How do like that ST?"

"Pretty well I reckon - so well that I have another like this one back home in the garage" I tell him.

We both smile and he goes on into the store. I realize time is passing far too quickly, so I mount up and head back to my chicken killing on I80. Before long I begin to see the snow fences, regularly spaced along the highway's edge to break up the heavy winter drifts.

  I can only imagine how deep the snow must get in this area and shudder to think about it being driven hard by the ever blowing winds. Before long, I pass some more of those giant windmills, very close to the road. What makes these special is that I get a glimpse of how they are erected. I have always wondered, and now I get a close up view. It's a simple crane setup that they just use to add the pieces to the base.  
  As I move along, I finally begin the long descent into the basin that Salt Lake City sits in. Up to this point, the temperatures have been pretty cool but I begin to get a bit warm. I know it will only get hotter as I negotiate down through the city, so I find a safe spot to pull off and shed some of my layers. While I'm at it, I recheck my map to get a good idea if I80 does any funny twists and turns up ahead.  
The traffic is pretty frenetic once I'm in the city proper, so I just keep a watchful eye out for myself. I'm glad when I get to the other side and back out into the open road. I get a really good view of the Great Salt Lake and it's pretty amazing.
  I can only imagine the short lived jubilation of the first pioneers to find this huge body of water in the middle of nowhere, only to realize it is as salty as the ocean and unfit for human consumption. But it does have it's rugged vistas and formations that are quite unlike anything else that I have seen in my travels.  
  But soon the vicious winds shake me out of my reverie as the SweetTreat is blown at a precarious angle. Fortunately I have my belly pan installed, so I don't rock back and forth from the side wind - just over to an odd angle and she remains steady. There is just something physically tiring about holding SweetTreat at this angle for mile after mile. After a while I begin to really feel the fatigue settle into my arms and shoulders. I see something rather odd up ahead, and use it as a good reason to stop for a short moment.  
  It is some sort of strange sculpture that I'm sure means something to somebody. Maybe one day I'll find out but there are no signs so today the mystery will not be solved. I continue to struggle across the flats as the wind seems intent on blowing me sideways off the interstate. The water has disappeared and now there are nothing but just the salt, the distant mountains and the never relenting wind.  

Finally it's time to make a fuel stop just past the turn off for the well known Bonneville Salt Flats in Wendover. I know I've still got around 400 miles to go to get to Reno, but I've just taken one of the worse beatings on a ride that I have ever faced. I go in and get a fresh Diet Pepsi and slowly munch on my dwindling supply of cashews. There's a couple of riders parked there, just taking a break like me. One is on a GL1500 and the other is on a Ninja.

"You fellers just come across from Salt Lake City?" I ask them.

The older one speaks up "Yes, we're local, just waiting here for some more buddies to show up."

"Does the wind blow like that all the time? I feel like somebody's been beating on me" I tell them.

"Yes it does and you don't seem to ever get used to it" he tells me. They ask several questions about my ST1100 and seem amazed that I only left Nashville two days ago.

"Where are you headed?" the younger one asks.

"I've got to get to Reno tonight which is still a pretty good haul from here" I tell them, "so I guess I'd better get back after it."

They just shake their head in amazement and wish me good luck. Once I get back on I80, I'm a little more sheltered from the wind since I'm past the flats. The ride across Nevada holds no surprises, just the wide open spaces and an occasional small town with a funny name like Winnemucca or Rye Patch. It's one more fuel stop and then I finally arrive in Reno, late but in one much relieved piece. I find the exit and proceed to maneuver down the main street of the city. Traffic is pretty heavy, but I know it should not be much further until I get to the Motel 6. This is one room I am really looking forward to. I pass from the gaming area, then through a not so nice section of town. It sort of makes me wish I'd brought my pistol with me but I didn't. I finally see the Motel 6 and whip it in. The lady behind the desk finds my reservation easily and we strike up a conversation.

"You came all the way from Nashville on that motorcycle?" she asks.

"Yes ma'am, I reckon I did."

"You know, I've always wanted to do that. I do love to get out and drive. It gives me chance to escape. I've driven all over the place out here" she tells me.

"Well, it's never too late to learn how to ride. You ought to take the plunge!"

She gets a faraway look in her eyes and says "Well, maybe someday ..."

With the paperwork done, I pull the SweetTreat around back to the room and get the few things I need.


I'm pretty hungry, having not eaten a true meal all day, so I do a quick cleanup and head back to office.

I ask the same clerk "Anywhere in walking distance I could get some good grub?"

"Yes, down the street a bit at a place called the Brown Bear" she tells me.

Again I strike out on foot to regain some circulation in my legs. It's a pretty good walk, but I enjoy it. When I get there, I'm directed to a table and place my order. She is right - this place has great food and great portions. I eat until I'm about ready to pop and there is still food left on the table. I settle up with the folks and begin the long walk back, but I don't mind. I have just survived one of the toughest days of riding I have experienced in quite a while . And I am exactly where I need to be to achieve one of my long sought for riding goals - to visit every major Sierra Pass in one day. There's always a certain sense of satisfaction to press the limits bit and come out okay. I pillow my very tired head, knowing tomorrow will be just as challenging as today but in a completely different way.