Brent Allen, author of Motorcycles, Life, and… and The Elemental Motorcyclist and his wife, Julie, are on a road trip, two-up. They are heading to the AMA Superbike races in Elkhart Lake, WI, riding their Honda ST1300 from their home town of Nampa, ID (just southwest of Boise). They will be our guest bloggers while on the trip, and each will give their own impressions on their travels and give us a look into each of their own individual ways of looking at the same experience.
First, from Brent:
May 25, 2014/08:10 to 17:30/Nampa ID to Rock Springs WY/0 miles to 510
Started the day eating a protein bar with Mrs. Crash before stopping by a Wal-Mart to try and find earplugs that didn’t hurt her ears. Long story short is two Wal-Marts later we’re still working on that. Her ears are both beautiful and unique. We topped off the ST at the Chevron at I-84 and Highway 21 before heading up the hill and out of the Treasure Valley into a 63 degree morning. The sun was just high enough that I could tip my head forward and cut the glare with the shorty visor on my helmet. Boise to Pocatello was all on Interstate 84 East because we needed to make time and the alternate routes are a beautiful but cut way down on average speed. South central Idaho is pretty much the same as northern Nevada or Eastern Oregon or northern Utah for that matter. I am glad to let you know that we completely skirted around the Beehive state.
We ran 84 to I15 south which is US30 east as well. Popping out the Pocatello area is a real surprise because Pokey is classic high desert with cheat grass and sage. As you turn south on US30 where it breaks off I15 it’s suddenly a very, very different landscape. On the valley floor is prairie grass with a liberal sprinkling of sage brush so it has a bright green look with the blue of the sage breaking it up. Climbing up the mountains along the valley is juniper forest which is almost British racing green. On the mountains the junipers then give way to beautiful gunmetal granite that is capped with snow. Since you’re running up the valley the mountains never seem to get any closer as you parallel along them. Eventually you ride up to over six thousand feet and they simply seem to step backwards and away from you. It’s a gradual thing where suddenly you realize that the mountains are off in the distance now.
Breaks came about every 80 miles or every hour. The 1300 was superb and never belched, burped or bucked and pulled and pulled and pulled up the long hills. Eastern Idaho (Montpelier, Grace) looks very much like Stanley, Idaho if you’ve been up that way. It’s really very bucolic and several small towns would just seem to appear and disappear. I found myself looking into the rearview mirror to see if that really was a town we’d passed through and not some kind of grassland mirage. Fuel and fuel stops were never a problem and on a Memorial Day Sunday traffic wasn’t either.
Wyoming is its own animal. Crossing the border you quickly transition to what really looks like southern Utah. Creams, grays and an almost clay color paint the landscape in layered candy stripes where vegetation can be sparse. I would like to ask the government of Wyoming one simple question: Would it kill you to put up a speed limit sign somewhere? The only ones I ever saw were the ones to slow down for a town, other than those as we got close to Rock Springs and turned east on I80 we started to see really cool LED ones but on US 30 its dodge city, every man for himself. I found myself running the ton several times as I tried to pass semis and minivans. People flat go for it out there and grind that pedal into the floor. If you’re on my side of the generation gap you may remember the songs about Grannies with Hemis but out in the hinterlands of Wyoming Grannie drives her minivan like a hemi; no fooling, I was waiting for one to throw their dentures out the window to slow me down as I made a pass.
Road surface on US 30 was better than average. Sections are chip sealed but there is very little delaminating of the surface, the gravel stays stuck down. Almost all of US 30 from Pocatello to the Wyoming state line is four lanes with and occasionally suicide lane. Once you’re in Wyoming it cuts back to two lanes but there are frequent and ample passing lanes. OH! There are no state rest stops on US 30. Use the john when you’re buying gas or loading up on beef jerky and bottled water.
Mrs. Crash and I have an intercom system. It took some doing but we finally got it sorted so we could hear each other. If I ran the windshield all the way up and she leaned into my back a little wind noise wasn’t a problem. Thanks to Ted Nugent I have permanent ringing in my ears so earplugs cut the road noise nicely but I still have a little trouble making out words on occasion. I’m fifty-one years old and I’m already getting used to saying, “One more time—I missed that.” You younger dudes, try the earplugs it keeps you from getting as fatigued and you won’t have to hear high pitched white noise for the rest of your life.
One of the beauties of having your wife with you is that you think she’s not as tough as you are. Trust me, she is. If you doubt that just go back and re-live the birth of your children. Due to that forgetful chauvinism I went out of my way to get stopped often even if it meant pulling over at a wide spot in the road. We stopped, we stretched, we hydrated and generally were pretty damn smart about taking care of ourselves. In all honestly I would have overdone it if I were on my own. Not only is she great conversation and company she also helps me take care of myself.
We bunked for the night in a dive motel just off I80. A “non-smoking” room in Wyoming must mean “it’s the one that smells the least of stale cigarette smoke.” Enough said. Again, thank you to all the gas and oil companies that pay taxes to the state of Wyoming your dollars are well spent on roads and road repair. I also enjoyed the immaculate hundreds for oil wells we saw along the way.
Tomorrow it’s forward to North Platte Nebraska, most likely on I 80 for purposes of time.
And, from Julie:
This morning with the last of the needed odd ball items zipped, locked and tucked into the ST's saddlebags and a nod from my Knight in Shining Armor (Capt. Crash for those of you who may not know) I climbed reluctantly onto the back of the our big blue Honda and bounced down the dirt driveway towards whatever the day had to bring.
I'm not going to lie, going on this bike trip was terrifying to me. Don't get me wrong, it doesn't have anything to do with Crash or his abilities to control the ST with the grace and elegance of Aladdin on his magic carpet. I trust him implicitly. Nor does it have to do with my like or dislike of riding motorcycles as a rider or a passenger. (I personally prefer passenger; more to enjoy, less work.) It had to do with my reluctance to leave my kids, home, dog and the safety and comfort of routine. What was I thinking when I gave him tickets to the AMA Super Bike Races for Christmas? I should have known what would be coming down the preverbal pike. A bike trip, a one to two week bike trip, just the two of us, on a motorcycle. Not a day ride, or even one of our overnighter trips, two weeks on the bike.
Know what? The minute the bike turned onto the pavement I was like a kid on Christmas morning. What about safety and comfort? Who the hell cares? I was on a magic carpet ride. Floating, bobbing, leaning behind Capt. Crash. No worries, no cares just enjoyment, pure enjoyment, watching all the cows, antelope, rock-chucks whiz by. I closed my eyes from time to time for extended periods, the fluid motion and hum of the bike under me made it feel like I was flying. Darting in, out and around flowers like a dragonfly in honeysuckle. It was heaven.
We stopped every hour or so to top off the fuel, stretch our legs, shake some feeling back into our behinds, rehydrate, check our phones and off we'd go again. Our little ritual starting in Southwest Idaho, crossing our beloved state (which is surprisingly green at the moment) and crossed into Wyoming (which is not at all green and is quite desolate and more importantly and apparent bladder unfriendly.)
Hours literally raced by. Crash stopped along the road obligingly to allow me to photograph a large angry coal plant with two enormous smoke stacks that were spitting great plumes of black smoke into the the bright blue sky. I'm sure it was a scene from some Tim Burton movie. The Wyoming landscape changed as we drove. What started as a small farming and ranching valley grew this very southwestern feeling landscape with plateaus and red rock morphing into odd alien like landscapes with jumbled, round rocks piled in levels so they looked just like an old Star Trek set. Then hundred and hundreds of oil wells and pumps scattered across open desert and a refinery or two thrown in just to break the monotony.
Nine and a half hours into our first day I realized my butt had betrayed me. Even though my mind and heart were still in the game my butt just couldn't keep up, as it turned out Crash's butt felt the same way. Rocks Springs, Wyoming is where we hung our gear for the evening. Clouds were moving in when we arrived in the mighty Rock Springs and by the time we finished the only warm sit down meal of the day I realized that my butt had not betrayed me. It had great wisdom and foresight.
Hopefully sleep will come easily tonight, and day two will bring sun and warmth, not to many aches and pains a rejuvenated derriere and another wonder and adventure filled day on the ST with Crash. and begin a journey that may open a new world of things to you that you once thought not possible.