It’s funny, but the day-to-day of my life seems pretty mundane: it’s not quite monotonous, but it’s predictable. Then when I sit down to do a blog post I realize a huge amount of stuff has happened and I can’t imagine doing the story justice with only 1,500 words. I’m in Denver right now, in a high-rise apartment overlooking downtown. I’m trying to solve a few small problems while I have down-time, but none of this is part of my original plan.
Going back and painting in broad strokes, I got back into the US, visited a friend I hadn’t seen in years while I was in San Diego, then I picked up a cool little trailer to be my new RV, towed behind the motorcycle. That led me through desperate heat as I moved through the Glamis dunes, through Havasu City, and up into Las Vegas. After a few days there consolidating my stuff and loading out the trailer, it was time to make for the California coast, and relief from the heat.
The trailer is just a truck bed box with the axle, suspension, and tow bar from a Harbor Freight kit. Barely 100lbs empty, it is doing its job nicely so far.
The reason for this trip was to watch the AHRMA vintage races at Laguna Seca Raceway, an iconic track. I spent three days there being a well behaved miscreant, watching the sidecar races, perusing the bike show and swap meet, and generally keeping myself out of the way. With the insane gas prices there were fewer friends to catch up with, which was a let down, but entirely understandable. Fortunately the grids were full and there were a lot of cool bikes from the 1930’s on up to modern machines to look at and listen to.
Legends from every era of motorcycling. Some racing, some for sale, others looking brand new in the bike show.
After that I went visiting more friends up in the Carson City, NV area. That’s when the wheels fell of my plans. At first I couldn’t tell for sure if I was getting sick. The feverish feeling could have been sun burn. The congestion could be the result of coming from the coast to the high desert abruptly. The body aches could be from all the riding I was doing. When I took my temperature it was 99.7F: elevated but barely worthy of being called a fever. A coronavirus test was procured though and it confirmed in no mixed terms that I had COVID: probably the omicron variant.
I have made it this far without catching it, but it was bound to happen. On the plus side, I was able to isolate in their camping trailer (though most the household still got it, I think from my buddy Scott hanging out with me and bringing it back into the house, even though he never had any symptoms). Omicron is a mild variant and the fever broke within three days of first symptoms.
Doing the math and looking at CDC guidelines, I would still be able to ride to Sturgis. Five days after the fever breaks you can stop isolating so long as your other symptoms are going away, which they were. They recommended another five days of masking when indoors just to be safe, and I’d only need to do that for the first three days of the ride.
Virginia City, Nevada.
I left for Reno by way of Virginia City, site of many chapters of Mark Twain’s book, “Roughing It,” a personal favorite of mine. I was in no mood to sight-see though, as I didn’t want to spread COVID and didn’t really want to walk up and down the hilly streets anyway. I contented myself with a Key Lime soda and a few pictures, a pressed penny for my collection, and getting back on the bike.
The road north from Virginia City is fantastic, and I’m glad I took this route instead of hwy 395. Reno had a room right on the freeway where I could meet up with the California contingent coming from Sacramento the next morning. All I had to do was stay masked up and keep 6ft away for two days and all would be well. I rode to Elko, NV with Wardog, Bling, and Harley Mike. The whole trip was interstate so it was more about making miles. We secured rooms (I by myself of course) and met the southern group that had come up from Phoenix.
The next day we rode for Boise to pick up another group of riders. We kept off the highway as much as possible, and ended up hitting a plague of Mormon Crickets. They’re fairly small, dark brown, and when they get smashed on the road it attracts more crickets that want to feed on the leftovers. This creates enough that a film of smooshed crickets turns the road slick, and some areas even use road graders to scrape them off the highway to prevent accidents.
We managed to all stay upright but the bikes and my trailer all had quite a coating. Boise was hot, like everywhere else, but we did stop in at one of the ride sponsors, Rekluse Performance. We toured the factory and talked motorcycles, then headed over to the hotel. That’s when my plans got derailed. Two of the ride organizers, Richie and Jack, were worried about me having COVID, though the general consensus was that I was doing all the right things and we just needed to keep up with that.
Touring the Rekluse factory.
After they got back from dinner though, some people expressed concern, so I got the axe. It was sort of a mixed bag since I was good to go as far as the CDC was concerned, but some of the guys on the ride were older or had immune system problems. Add to that the press we’d get if COVID bounced around and infected most of the riders, and it just wasn’t worth the risk. I was up late looking at maps, since I had to come up with a plan of my own suddenly, so I didn’t hit the road until 11am the next day.
I decided Yellowstone was worth another look because the temperatures would be for more pleasant. I picked up hwy 20 and set the cruise control. It carried me over some familiar terrain, especially Craters of the Moon National Monument. Kate and I went to that park as part of our loop around the country in 2020, spreading some of her sister’s ashes. I was too low on fuel to make the loop through the park, but the highway goes through fields of lava rock and it gave me time to reflect on bad times.
There was so much tension on that trip. Kate seemed impossible to please, and when I look through my notes from that trip I see my frustration with her constant selfishness and rash judgements. There’s still a lot of resentment inside of me, and as much as I want to keep a clearing in my heart so love can show up free of judgements or anger, I just don’t think that will be possible for quite some time.
I stopped in Arco, ID for a lunch break. It’s the first city to be lit by atomic power, and it has a quaintness for sure. I ended up in Jackson Hole, WY, which is another place Kate and I stopped. I ended up in the same damn grocery store, searched some of the same shops for bear spray, and ducked out of that crowded tourist trap. There was a massive protest in the town square; pro-choice advocates angry about the overturning of Roe v. Wade. I ducked around the spectacle and went to a primitive campground I know of: it’s one of the only places you can find camping when you’re this close to Yellowstone in the summer.
Since I’d already spent five days in Yellowstone last time through, I decided to have a look at the Grand Teton National Park, just below Yellowstone. It did not disappoint. Aside from the dramatic snow-covered mountains rising up from the forests of pine, there were meadows and river valleys and lakes. I got in a 2-mile hike, saw the Church of Transfiguration (still in use during the summer), and retraced my route until I was in Yellowstone proper.
Massive rains had washed away several of the roads, so my plan to exit north through the park was stillborn. Instead I was able to leave via the east side, seeing new vistas, more of Yellowstone Lake (massive), high mountains and huge scree fields, along with deer that still had velvet on their antlers. This side of the park had very few geothermal features, but I still saw steam rising in a few spots and got that unmistakable wiff of sulfur as I rode along.
The scene between the park and Cody, WY is nearly as good as the park. There are many cabins and resorts for people wanting to visit the park of course, but a lot of them would still succeed without Yellowstone nearby. There are mountains, mesas, valleys, and so many creeks, streams, and lakes that you could explore for weeks. I looked for a camping spot but didn’t want to pay $32/night to pitch a tent. There was BLM land but I didn’t want a second night of primitive camping.
I ended up at the Antlers Inn in Cody, WY, which demands a return for a longer stay. There was so much style as both a town with rich history and as a tourist trap. It had too many places to eat, grab a drink, or people watch. There were multiple museums, a huge rodeo arena (every night at 8pm according to the prominent signs hanging over the street), and pristine neighborhoods right out of Leave it to Beaver.
It was another late night planning where to go, and as much as I’d like to get into that, we’re pushing past 1,500 words. I managed to find more history in Wyoming and then Nebraska, then did an about-face and entered Colorado, where I found new roads as well as familiar ones. Rains had battered this area too, and the rivers and creeks were brown with frothy mud. I’ll share more of that in my next installment though.