Nevada and Utah
8.54 miles, rating: 2
Everything was closed for the holiday last night. We finally found a Szechuan restaurant that was open. We enjoyed the meal at the time, but Jacky was sick all day today, and I had a few side effects, too.
We got up really early and ate buckwheat pancakes at Scotty’s family restaurant. Back for a nap, etc, waiting for a laundromat to open. Errands and rest today before facing the desert for the next ten days.
The term family restaurant is usually, but not always, a euphemistic way to say they don’t have a liquor license.
Got up early to keep circadian rhythms aligned. Laundry, drugstore, bike shop, maybe some tourist things. Got Jacky’s handlebars taped with cork tape – should be more comfortable.
I bought several postcards at Silver lake. Dave wrote one to Hoopers. Will buy stamps and send cards to mom and dad, John, Keith, Doerrs. Don’t know postage to Canada. Sounds like I better buy more.
We took my bike to a bike shop only about three blocks from the motel. They put cork tape on my handlebars while we duplicated the key to the bike lock and shopped.
Then I moped around with a headache and upset stomach while Dave cleaned and lubed the bikes and rode to the Nevada tourism office and the post office.
The sky was totally clear and blue, with snow covered mountains to the south. The day was hot and windy.
We watched Little Nikita with River Phoenix and Sidney Poitier at 4 PM (directed by Richard Benjamin), then wandered around looking for something non-spicy to eat. Found a good friendly deli, and Dave even got a Guinness – his first stout in a week. We came back past several buildings of a very nice railroad museum under construction.
Thursday, July 6, to Fallon
67.09 miles. Maximum 36 mph, rating: 8
We got up early and left just after 5:30. We sailed along fairly fast due to a drop in elevation and an occasional tailwind. Stopped at Lahontan reservoir. Quite nice, a modern dock.
Amusing signs: “Congested area – do not discharge firearms,” in a couple of places where there were two or three buildings amidst miles of emptiness.
We had bear claws and coffee and hot chocolate at a country store where the phone booths seemed the most popular offering.
We were on the road by 5:30, and having lunch in Fallon by noon. Long easy hills – Jacky measured one valley as 8 miles wide, peak to peak. I estimated it as 400′ vertically.
I recalibrated my computer 2.5% lower, to match the mileages shown on the road signs.
A calorie stop every hour seems to work well. Bikie cap under helmet works very well for me when riding into the sun. Jacky’s hardshell helmet doesn’t accommodate the cap as well – it interferes with sunglasses and mirror.
5:00 PM, Fallon:
There is a big international invitational rodeo here during the next four days, and lots of extra people in town.
We got a first floor motel room by continuing to chat after being told that second floor was the only choice. It turned out there was a room undergoing maintenance, available later in the day. We didn’t need immediate possession anyway.
Fallon has 6000 people, several motels, a rodeo that has filled up most of them with Albertans (and other furriners, such as Arizonans), and a movie theater showing Batman and Indiana Jones.
In Ecotopia, pickups are popular. They’re always new and shiny, and frequently high off the ground. In the Empty Quarter, pickups are even more popular, if anything, but they’re working trucks, sun bleached and dirty.
We spent the afternoon at the museum seeing lovely old china and quilts, several kinds of ‘bobwire,’ a hog greaser (to alleviate dry skin), and a miner’s bathtub that used only a couple gallons of water. We spent the rest of the afternoon sleeping, swimming and reading.
We had our first Mexican food of the trip and brought home a ton of groceries from Safeway. I finally wrote postcards to Pat, mom and dad, George and Meredith, and the Doerrs. The White Hotel is getting worse – just silly.
In the small towns of the Empty Quarter –
- the cop on patrol waves
- restaurants don’t post menus
- Mexican restaurants may not be run by Mexicans
- everyone smokes
- Coors is considered a class brew!
Friday, July 7, to an I-80 rest stop southwest of Winnemucca
111.30 miles. Maximum 28 mph, rating: 7
Our thought was to get up before dawn and be on the road by sunrise. We’d take advantage of the cool part of the day to get in as many miles as we could. Then we’d lay over during the hot part of the day, continuing on after it started to cool down.
The dawn part worked well until we got to Canada, when it was cool enough that we were glad to have a little of the day’s heat. By the end of the summer, we had also lost an hour of morning daylight, and another afternoon hour, compared to the first of July.
The idea of knocking off during the hot part of the day mostly didn’t work. The day gets hot about 11 AM, and really doesn’t start cooling down until 6 or 7 PM, much too late to wait to start riding again.
We tried our new plan of riding in the morning, resting in the afternoon during the hot part of the day, and then riding some more late in the day. Today, we took our break in Lovelock.
We started across the dreaded 40-mile desert at 5:40. Got a picture of a “<nothing> for 29 miles” sign, and one showing vegetation, about one plant per 30 – 50′ radius. Further on, there were stretches with no plants.
Wildlife count: three lizards.
We could see I-80 from the middle of the 40-mile desert, easily 15 miles away. Hard to get a perspective on size and distance of mountains.
a long way
in the desert.
At the I-80 junction rest stop, I chatted with a fellow who claimed to be the organizer of the Fresno Climb to Kaiser.
Lovelock is small and dull. We napped in the courthouse park, awakened by two sonic booms that struck almost as one. There are a lot of military training flights in the Empty Quarter.
We ate tuna sandwiches at one of the three restaurants in downtown and took a nap on the lawn of the Pershing county court house. Strolled past the swimming pool, bought crackers at Safeway, walked out to the motel district for root beers and ice cream.
A couple going west in a camper van stopped at the courthouse to chat. They had done all of Canada (ten provinces) last year, and jogged along the ‘Ri-doo’ canal in Ottawa. In Toronto, they had to park their RV away out of town.
Originally we had planned to ride to Rye Patch reservoir, which we reached at 82 miles. But the campground had no showers and no trees. So we rode another 17 miles to Imlay, and found a likely spot to pitch the tent under a tree.
Then we discovered the only restaurant in town was a bar that had burned down, so we rode on five miles to Mill City, had a root beer, and were told about another campground in eight to ten more miles. I sat next to a truck driver, and thanked him for the courtesy and consideration shown by truck drivers in general. Fresh in my memory was the driver who slowed his rig to a crawl to follow us through a one-lane stretch of I-80 under repair. All the way through we kept a wary eye on him in our mirrors; we gave him a big wave as we came back out onto wider road.
As the day cooled off, the world was taken over by grasshoppers. It was impossible to avoid running over hundreds of them, and there were a lot of hitchhikers. There were also quite a few big crickets. No birds around – seems strange, with all that yummy food there for the taking.
The campground was an I-80 rest stop about 20 miles southwest of Winnemucca. There were no showers, but the restrooms had running water, so we took sponge baths and changed clothes.
I woke up in the wee hours and had a look at the stars, but Jacky was dead to the world (her first day ever, riding over 100 miles).
Sprinklers came on about 4 AM, but I had arranged the rain fly so I could easily pull it over the tent, and it worked fine.
Extremely hot. Invasion of grasshoppers. Crickets the size of your fist. Sprinklers rained on the tent.
Saturday, July 8, to Battle Mountain
75.72 miles, rating: 4
We chatted with a motorcyclist from British Columbia at the campground. It was a fairly quick ride to Winnemucca, which advertises itself on billboards: “Always open!” – “5 billion people have never been there!”
Second breakfast (first hot one) in Winnemucca. Jacky was a little sore from yesterday, but we did 13.25 miles in the first hour. The pace is picking up, though we are still slow uphill. We also slow down when we talk, so I tend not to.
We ate Belgian waffles at Gerry’s restaurant. We spent a little too much time, and it was hot by the time we reached Golconda pass (5154′). I was really hurting, and the wind tended to be cross, not tail.
We ate carrot cake and apricot squares at the foot of the grade, and stopped at a truckers’ rest stop at the top, where one driver was walking around prodding some of his cattle – why?
Jacky tired and sore from yesterday. Golconda summit slow, hard work.
At one point, Jacky commented that she was glad she had come along on a bike instead of sagging me in a car. “I never would have believed it was so difficult!” she said.
Then we came down fairly quickly, and ended up in another very bleak desert, going southeast with a very strong wind. Sometimes it slowed us to 8 mph; sometimes it pushed us to 16 or 17.
We napped and ate crackers and vienna sausages at another I‑80 rest stop.
Golconda summit began a stretch of real desert of the 40-mile variety, one plant every 50′. We were low on water by the time we reached Valmy. There was a strong wind, mostly cross, only a little tailing. We were slow and tired; it was a hot day; the road was bad.
Battle Mountain is bleak and hot and windy, but we stayed at the friendly Owl motel and ate pepper steak and wild rice at the Owl café. I called Pat and we did the laundry. A hard day.
Battle Mountain was not very appealing at first glance. Then we discovered that the carnival was in town! That improved things considerably (this says something about the town, also something about being desperate for entertainment). The carnival, a shower, the cool of the evening, food and a laundromat cheered us up a lot.
Sunday, July 9, to Elko
71.40 miles. Maximum 42 mph, rating: 9
After I wrote in this diary yesterday, we discovered there was a carnival in Battle Mountain. Ferris wheel, octopus, rock-o-plane, fun house, games of skill. Lots of children, teenagers and young adults there. When the wind and the sun disappear, the weather is wonderful here.
We had breakfast at the Owl café. The decaf coffee tasted like tea.
Out of Battle Mountain, we rode 14 miles in the first hour, 20 miles in an hour and a half. We stopped at a closed rest stop at the Beowawe geysers, but didn’t see them geyse.
In Nevada and Wyoming, there are transverse grooves on the interstate shoulders to wake up drivers if they drift out of the driving lanes. On asphalt roads, the grooves look as if they were made by a wide single-treaded tractor, and the shoulder leaves plenty of room for us. Even when we have to ride on them, they’re not bad.
Concrete roads have sets of a dozen or so triangular grooves about an inch deep every 100′ or so, cut with a saw or a grinder. These are very uncomfortable to ride on. On new concrete roads, the shoulder is wide enough (the grooved section is narrow enough) to leave a couple of feet for us, not a problem. On old concrete, the grooves go clear across the shoulder, and we have to ride in the traffic lanes, escaping onto the shoulder when necessary.
We hit several miles of old concrete road, with the oncoming side closed for reconstruction and both directions of traffic on our side. The lanes had been narrowed. We tolerated bumps when we had to, and rode in the traffic lanes when we could.
Finally I got the idea of riding on the other strip, the newly constructed part. It was Sunday, there was no activity, the road was complete except for the paint. Best idea of the day, even if it was only for another mile or two. (This idea served us well later on.)
If you spend hours every day simply sitting and riding, the mind may wander (not to say get lost). You may notice the occasional frivolous or fantastic remark emerging from the depths of these reveries.
I started riding two miles between rendezvous points.
Emigrant pass is over 6000′ high. At that altitude, the country is better: the grass is green, there are sunflowers and trees. A vast improvement.
I understand not being able to step into the same river twice. The real question is: can you step into the same river once?
We’re using good project management techniques: lots of measurable milestones, continuous knowledge of real achievement, flexibility in the short term without losing sight of long term objectives. Especially going up the Sierra, I took photographs of each milestone (the 1000-foot markers).
Geese are measured by the gaggle, ducks by the brace(?). I guess the unit for measuring grasshopper density is the plague.
3:30 PM, Elko.
Pictures of tunnels west of town, at the Humboldt river. We didn’t really enjoy riding through the tunnel, but the shoulder was wide and we made it. The railroad tunnel is just west of the highway tunnel. The country looks pretty for the first time since we got to Nevada. Good tailwind all day.
We got to Elko about 1:30. There were lots of choices of motel – we chose the Centre (sic) about a block off Idaho St on Third. We walked all around the town after a nap. There’s a diesel locomotive in a little park. The access doors on the side aren’t locked; you can open them up and see the guts – diesel motors, generators, all the good things. Mike Peterson’s a railroad nut – I should tell him about this.
We stopped at an Arctic Circle drive-in for drinks and onion rings. There was a nice museum, with extraordinary carved eggs.
Back to the motel to change into long pants and go to the most foreign sounding of the three Basque restaurants in town. We got tons of food – beef tongue, meat stew of some kind, lamb steaks, beans, french fries, spaghetti, soup, salad, sherbet… We ate less than half. $23 for the two of us, including beer. Too much protein!
We went back to the motel for a short nap and ended up sleeping all night.
Monday, July 10, to Montello
105.05 miles. Maximum 46 mph, rating: 8
Today we had a cool and easy run to Wells. With Snowville looming as tomorrow’s objective, I suggested going on to Oasis and possibly Montello.
I once saw a description of the view of a cyclist from behind: two seals fighting over a wishbone. I usually rode in back to let Jacky set the pace, and despite our distance from the sea, there was lots of good seal watching!
First flat – my back tire – west of Wells. I found a tiny piece of steel wire inside, but couldn’t see a wound on the outside of the tire.
We rode from Elko to Wells, where we stopped at the one room city building: tourist info, police department, etc, all together. We chatted with a friendly cop, who told us the first pass wouldn’t be too bad, but Pequop would be narrow with no place to get off the road.
In this case and other subsequent cases, we learned to discount advice from non-cyclists. Though people mean well, they have no appreciation for grades, clearances, road surface quality or even distances.
At the drugstore where I bought a new watch, the ladies were more concerned about the bright white alkali desert. We bought groceries, then tried to nap in the park. It was too hot in the sun, chilly in the shade.
We went back downtown. I called Ontara. Had sandwiches and homemade turkey soup that had gotten cold. The waitress got everything wrong, including the bill. When I asked her to add it up again, she got it wrong again. Needless to say, she didn’t get a tip. I see so much fodder for Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – people who just don’t give a damn!
Elko and Wells are at 5000′; Pequop summit is at 7000′. This didn’t seem too bad. Unfortunately, there is a climb out of Wells, followed by a long descent into Independence valley, and all that lost altitude has to be recovered.
Finally, some trees on the mountains. The country looks like the east slope of the Sierra – bare rocks, sparse grass, scrubby evergreens.
Noisy grasshoppers snapping at a rest stop partway up.
On to Oasis – the pass was fine. Oasis had a motel and a good country store with booths to sit and eat. We had banana nut bread (!) and filled our water bottles.
The road from Oasis to Montello is much better than I‑80. We rode abreast in very light traffic from 5:30 to 7:00.
There was a motel at Montello, but the office was closed and the proprietor didn’t respond to the buzzer, so we pitched the tent on a little patch of grass at the one room post office next door to the motel. The people at the bar told us the motelier ignored the buzzer after 7:00 PM, and we got there about 7:10. We had a brandy – great, even if it was Christian Brothers from a shot glass.
The worst thing about camping in random places along the way was worrying about whether we were going to be rousted out. We never were.
There was a starling (?) nest just above the tent, between a loose screen and the post office building. These are the nests that look like giant wasp nests, made of papier maché or whatever. For birds, rather than insects, the nests don’t seem outsize at all.
Trains went through every few minutes all night, several locomotives on each, full out. The ground shook.
A coyote barked/howled once. Every dog in Montello started barking.
Tuesday, July 11, to Park Valley, Utah
69.53 miles. Maximum 25 mph, rating: 7
We packed up camp and ate bananas with our fingers freezing. I put on gloves and hood, and regretted having no leg warmers.
We got on the road about 5:40 AM. We had a good road last night coming into Montello, but it deteriorated from there to the Utah border. Then it changed to tar and gravel, a fine surface for cars, but rough and tiring for cyclists.
It didn’t take long to warm up. Long, long stretch of desert. We reached Utah in 12 miles, and got in 30 miles by 8:30. We stopped in dry washes for snacking. It got hotter and hotter.
At 40 miles, there was a historical marker about Ogden and others. There were also trees and a spring, but we didn’t want to risk refilling the water bottles.
We turned north and hit a wind. Drafting Dave helped cut the time, but it still took till 12:45 to reach Rosette at 62 miles.
Utah desert was no better than Nevada. We saw salt flats to the east, and once, through a gap in the mountains, we saw the Great Salt Lake. Throughout the day, a number of military jets flew over, doing maneuvers at the nearby bombing ranges. The Grouse Creek mountains to our west didn’t ameliorate the climate.
Wildlife: Jacky saw a lizard, I saw a jackrabbit.
There was a Utah road construction project south of Rosette. The first vehicle we encountered stopped; they asked if we were okay. We speculated that we were a topic of conversation on their radios.
I guess it’s true when they say ears have no nerve endings. I didn’t even know mine were sunburning until great crusts formed and began peeling off! After that, I was careful to sunscreen my ears as well as nose and lips.
It was hot, there was no tailwind, the road was difficult – we were slow. Even with eight large water bottles full when we left Montello, we ran dry. I went ahead to get water. At the top of a hill is Rosette, instantaneously out of the desert and into green lush farmland, under the spell of the Raft River mountains to the north. The change is invisible from the bottom of the hill.
Greatly relieved, I sought out a house with people in the yard, begged for water, then went back to Jacky.
There were several buzzards south of Rosette, flying, circling, sitting on the fence. They were watching and waiting for us, but we out-lasted them. A hard day! Much worse than the dreaded 40-mile desert at Fallon.
My source of water was a man and his three kids working in their yard. Very friendly. When the two of us got there, they gave us great fresh peas from their garden. They had just spent two weeks in Canada.
We stayed at Park Valley. We just didn’t have enough left for another 40 miles into Snowville. Everything in Park Valley is the Palmer Twin’s (sic). The Mormon culture produces far less don’t-give-a-damn than we saw in Nevada.
Park Valley has an excellent (ie clean) café, a store, gas station and a motel, all run by the Palmer twins. The woman we dealt with was very nice. We ate fish sandwiches, showered, and slept until after 7, mountain time (first day in mountain time zone).
We watched eulogies for Sir Lawrence Olivier on McNeil-Lehrer, and watched Jimmy Stewart in Flight of the Phoenix. I thought the German engineer’s line to Stewart was perfect: “Why do you act as if stupidity were a virtue?” A thought I’ve often had when watching James Stewart.
Got a picture of fluffy desert grass against a mountain backdrop. Sheep, pigs, geese, some beautiful horses that I couldn’t photograph: I came away with a picture of a cute and curious little dog instead.
I have had a cyst on my butt forever. It’s not been a problem with the kind of riding I do at home, but sitting on it all day, every day, makes it hurt. The skin is stretched fairly tight across a bicycle saddle; you can’t just shift it to one side and sit somewhere else.
It hurt so much today that I decided to get it removed at Logan, if I can. I’ll be sore for a while, but better in the long run.
Wednesday, July 12, to Logan
99.00 miles. Maximum 34, rating: 7
Big change in the weather. Sprinkling a little outside the Palmer Twin’s motel. Still couldn’t see stars – too cloudy. Reasonably good time to Snowville. Found $2.50 in coins on a freeway ramp near there.
9:30 AM, Snowville:
Cool and cloudy today, even a few raindrops. Some desert, possibly the last we’ll see.
Wildlife: a deer in the sheep meadow, three deer further along, a pheasant flying across the road, another deer demonstrating how running really should be done.
We met the road construction people on their way out into the desert and waved goodbye.
We ate a third breakfast in Snowville and then headed into the hills, wind and rain. Very slow going to Tremonton. Got there about 2 PM. Ate again, called and left messages for Meredith, John and Keith.
Walked to tourist info place and got a camping brochure. Both the waitress and the lady at the tourist info reminded me of Grandma Maud.
After Snowville, we encountered strong crosswinds, then rain. The rain was warm and moderate, and jackets sufficed to keep us warm, if not completely happy.
The terrain to Tremonton is mountainous and we were slow. We had lunch there, then went on to Logan, despite Jacky’s fatigue and obvious willingness to stop. Logan was worth the extra push. The Cache valley was spectacular. I finally understand the allusions to the land of milk and honey. I have never seen this part of Utah before, but it’s wonderful.
Cache valley cheese comes from here!
On to Logan. Uphill, against the wind, but the sun came out, very high in the sky even though it was 4:30 or later. There was heavy traffic from the Morton Thiokol plant. I was tired and discouraged. Logan and the Cache valley were worth it.
We checked into a Westin hotel with a waterbed, and decided to stay over a day. Got Dave’s bit of surgery and had Mexican food at 10 PM.
Long, long day!
I went to the Logan hospital to see about removing the cyst on my butt. The doctor staffing the emergency room didn’t want to remove it, said an ER wasn’t the right place for minor outpatient surgery. I told him our story, and it was a quiet night, nothing going on, so he agreed to cut it out. The cyst was the size of a small marble – no wonder it hurt to sit on all day! The doctor was skeptical that it would hurt less to sit on the wound than on the cyst, but I think after a few days it will be an improvement.
As it turned out, I needed one pain pill first thing on the mornings of Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and that got me through.
Thursday, July 13, rest day at Logan
2.71 miles locally, rating: 8
Slept fine on the waterbed. Mike Peterson returned our call at 5:30 AM. We wandered down to Main and Center and ate breakfast with the house painters and truck drivers. The Mormon temple is a huge building dating from the 1800s.
Chatted with Meredith and John. Sun has slashed budgets: classes on site, no cocktail parties, etc. Better find more baskets for eggs.
Rode a few miles to see how sore my butt was going to be. Sore.
Errands: laundry, groceries, prescriptions, oculists. Left another message for Keith. Talked to BJ – AFSM/AWSSM “almost” 50 people. I sent postcards to mom and dad, Paula, Dr Stringer, Keith. Dave wrote Beth and Wheelsmith.
Ate lunch at a Taco Time. Came back and napped, then spent 1 ½ hours at the library. Dave read the Wall Street Journal and Bicyling. I read and scanned a book on Utah and a wonderful reference called Day by day in the 40s. Enough to make one a history buff.
Left with too little time for a real meal. Ate at McDonald’s. Then walked up the hill (naturally) to Utah State for a concert. All the gray haired ladies in Utah are trim and in good shape.
Beethoven’s Op 18, #3, György Ligeti (weird modern Hungarian), and a Shumann piano quintet, played by the New World string quartet with a snobby looking ‘Mr. Tocco.’
Nice town. I could imagine living here.
Friday, July 14, to Laketown
53.13 miles. Maximum 35, rating: 7
Before we left home, I debated the wisdom of riding through Logan canyon. It looked like a lot of climbing. I decided to do it anyway, because even if it was difficult, it would be a fairly short grunt, and it made sense in the context of the rest of the route. Also, one of Beth’s Utah maps had a picture from Logan canyon on its cover, and it looked nice.
714 Logan canyon, the slide show.
Garden City is a small tourist oriented lakefront town on the shore of Bear lake. The lake is surrounded by mountains, a beautiful turquoise blue. It’s warm, with sand beaches, and gradual slopes. No wonder it’s popular.
I got passed in the canyon by two pace lines of bikies. Their support van was marked Recyclers. We chatted with them at the tee shirt store in Garden City. A Church of God group, about twelve teen-agers and one old fart. Going from Medford, Oregon to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina by way of Colorado and Indiana. Sleeping in churches. Going on to Kemmerer today. Pretty strong riders, but it seemed a terrible waste to ride coast to coast in a pace line, staring at the wheel in front of you!
Ate a good lunch in Garden City. We tried for camping at Rendezvous state beach, but the campground was full. We went on to Laketown to see if there was a motel (there wasn’t) and discuss options. My butt was a little sore, and I wasn’t eager to do a 100-mile day by going on to Kemmerer.
We had just decided to ride a few miles east and stop at the side of the road when a woman came out of the country store (Nancy from Salt Lake City) and asked us the usual questions. The conversation led to an invitation to camp with her and some of her family and friends at a private lot on the shore.
We went for a swim in lieu of a shower. The lake was warm and shallow. Then we walked into town to eat at a good-ole-boy café. We’re too yuppified to enjoy the cuisine of the heartland. We strolled around the town and watched the children playing before walking back out to the lake.
We sat around and talked with our hosts for half an hour or so, then turned in. A better conclusion to the day than one might have expected. Good people!
Of all the things I’ve lost,
I miss my mind the most.