Day 8
June 11th, 2003
Zion, Utah

I slept pretty good last night, the campground was quiet, and the weather cool.  I was the last guy out of the tent this morning, Ron even beat me.  I must be getting old.  

The weather will be perfect again today.  Cool morning, gradually turning hot by afternoon.  The absence of humidity, makes summer pleasant.

I went over to a empty RV site and plugged in my phone for a charge while I packed and loaded.  I knew it would take me almost an hour, and that amount of time should pick my phone back up to at least 2 bars.
I was looking forward to our ride to Mammoth.  I'd been in the desert since I left the Hill Country, and I was ready for a change.  Because Dennis planned this portion of the ride, I had no idea how far away we were from Mammoth.  The last time I looked at a map was in Phoenix.

We left the campground a few minutes before 8am on SR 9, I was in the number 3 position.

The morning was cool, and I had on the mesh JR Phoenix gloves.  Uncle Phil was making fun of me because I had 5 pair of gloves.  Ok, so young ladies like shoes, I like gloves.  I like a specific glove for a specific task.

A few minutes after leaving, we were pulling into Hurricane for breakfast at a place called the Main Street Cafe.  Group riding by its nature is more sociable.  After all, that is why you joined the group, to interact with your brother riders.  This is one of the concessions I make to be in the group.  I seldom eat anything before a long ride, because I am most productive in the mornings.  I like to do the bulk of my miles before lunch, and make for a easy afternoon.  I mentioned to Coop, "nothing like getting all packed, geared up, ride 10 miles and eat, so y'all must be pretty good company."  Dennis did a excellent job of mapping our mileage and social needs.  The before ride breakfast is ritual for anything more then 2 riders.  If you want to do miles, then what would be the point of joining a group?  I can do miles and linger when I am solo, when I am with the brothers, I socialize.
​Ron Epperly checking things at the Main Street Cafe, 
Hurricane, Utah.

We had a good breakfast and conversation.  Coop had a breakfast burrito that rivaled the stuff Dennis and Uncle Phil had in Mexican Hat a few days ago.

Uncle Phil said when he came through here last year, he saw a bicycle accident.  Yellow tape rimmed the area, so he knew it was bad.  

After breakfast, we jumped on I-15 south.  I came this same way last year on my out of Vegas to Zion.  I even saw the gas mart in St. George I took a butt break at, the chair I sat on was still by the phone outside.

I-15 to Vegas is not a fun road, but most interstates fall into that category, all you can say about it, is its a way to Las Vegas.

We took the Glendale exit and gassed up at a Chevron station.  The place didn't have cold drinks, so Ron and I walked over to a nearby store and got something.  The desert sun was hot, and we were sitting in the shade of a sign, when 2 Harleys pulled in.  They were from Indiana, on their way to Vegas to meet their wives, that flew in a few days earlier.  They were concerned there would be nothing left by the time they reunited with their spouses.

We took a long break with our new friends, and Dennis pointed out the best routes for them to take over the Sierras to the coast.
Dennis, points the way to the best riding for 2 Harley riders

It was a tough ride into Vegas.  The 5 of us worked our way through the traffic clogged freeways.  It was over 100 degrees, but like they say," IT WAS A DRY HEAT."  It tickles me when I hear that phrase.  Ok so anything over 85 with like humidity is torture, but guys, 105 on a motorcycle in downtown Vegas, is HOT.

Since we were there, it was fun to ride down the strip and people watch.  As I looked at the people I wondered how many of them were now broke.

I saw Caesar's Palace.  Celine Dion is currently booked there, and packing them in.

We make the loop, then escape Vegas on US 95 North.  Dennis warned us this would be a long, hot, boring ride, but we needed it to get to the good riding.  It was also a alternate route around Death Valley, which he said you don't want to be in this time of year. 

The highway is 4 lane and we spread out.  I move over to the left lane and ride abreast of Dennis.  I look around as I ride and there is not much to see.  I notice Coop and Ron in my mirrors, and see both have a headlight bulb out.  But we know that.

The rocks and sand that make up Nevada, never seem to change. Cruising along at 85mph in this blast furnace,  I think what it must be like to live in such a place.  No trees, or thick green grass.  No cool fall days in the Blue Ridge, surrounded by leaves of yellow, red and gold.  I think of my ride in New England in October 2001.  I rode by folks in sweaters shopping for pumpkins, watching kids with colorful scarves around their necks walking to school.  The smell of leaves burning and how the odor of distant fireplaces camped in my helmet.  Fall in Nevada is void of such images.  East Coast immigrants making homes in Nevada have those memories, but I wondered how many native Nevadans have never seen fall glory in New England or North Carolina?

The miles trickled by slowly on this desert highway, and my mind stayed occupied on New England, to dull their pain.  I remember water, lots and lots of water, so many lakes and rivers back east.  There, BIG lakes and deep rivers flow, but riding here, in this desert, I see none of that.  I flashed to my visit to Niagara Falls, where great volumes can be seen washing over, and a fine mist covers the area.  In Nevada, a store and house is enough for a name and place on the map.   These minuscule outposts sit isolated in a sea of sand, no different then the one you passed a hundred miles ago.  But, in New England, each town or city differs from the one you passed a few miles down the road.  

I snap out of it when I see Dennis flash and go in for gas at a station in Indian Springs.  We top off our tanks and I pick up a Mountain Dew and some popcorn chicken that I share with the group.

We were seated on the tables outside, when I spoke to a truck driver walking by, named Tony.  He was from NJ and emphasized he was NOT the Tony of the Sopranos.  He could have fooled me.  He said he moved out here when a truck in his business had a accident, and when the lawsuits were over, he was broke.

Coop and I walked over to a small casino (everywhere in Nv) to use the ATM.  I had cash, but figured I better pick up another 50.  I still have a outside chance of making San Francisco for less than 250 dollars.  Just think, 8 days on the road, lifetime of memories, total freedom, and seeing things most only dream about, for 250 bucks.  Bargain if I ever saw one.

I took a few pictures and got going, and a few minutes later we were laying tracks on 95.

I saw something flash out the left corner of my eye, I think nothing of it.

A few minutes later, Coop pulls up next to me pointing.  What's wrong?  He makes a few gestures and then fades back to the rear, must not be anything important.

All of a sudden Uncle Phil shoots around me at over 100.  Woo HOO here we go!!  I fall in behind him, I was  delighted at his willingness to "shake the trees", for the group.  Then I see him take the shoulder so pull in with him.  He says-

"heres ya camera"


"I saw that joker fall off awhile back, and thought you might have a pocket open.  Thats what Coop was tryin to tell ya.  The only way I could get ya to pull over was to get out front."

My camera was the thing I saw out of my eye corner.

I checked my pocket and it was ok, then I realized I left it on my bags after taking a few pics back at the station.  I thanked Uncle Phil for picking it up, then checked it.  Still seemed to work (still does).  That camera hit the ground at 80mph.  Going to have to write Pentax and congratulate them on making such a sturdy product.
By mid afternoon we reach the turn off that will take us to California, SR 266.  At the intersection of SR 266 and US 95 you will find a "ranch."  If you want to know what kind you will just have to ride there someday and find out.

SR 266 points us to California and the Sierra Mountains.
​Approaching the beautiful California Sierra Mountains.  At last
out of the desert.   West bound Nv. 266

We were surprised to see no agricultural checkpoint at the state line.  California is some free entertainment.  No one in the rest of the country can understand California politics.  Their southern border at San Diego is a virtual revolving door with Mexico.  In and out you go, and no one hardly checks a guy.  But let a man from Georgia try to get in here with some peaches, and they shake him down to the ankles.

We cross into California and SR 266 changes to Ca. 168.  The most challenging road I think I've ever leaned.
Our line spreads out, and we go single file.  The road is tight and the twisting begins.  Up and down we go, hairpins are popping out at us quicker then we can mow them down.  The pace is "brisk" and the concentration of riding this way is more then I want, so I drop back and let the others go.  

Ron has a good loading system.  He has 2 H2W bags packed long on his rack, with his other gear in the saddlebags.  His weight is down low, and distributed just right.  He could lean his bike very well.

You never know what this road will deal out to you next.  Deep drop offs on my left and hillsides on my right.  I leaned the ST at a slow pace and still touch down.  I heel over right, then quickly have to adjust make a left.  The road will take you up steep dips, then turn sharply when you crest, then again the opposite way.  One miscalculation and you are toast.  I drop into second to see if high revs are what I need to hold lines.  The barrage of steep, but short hills bog the ST down, and when my speed decreased my line drifted.  The only problem with that tactic on this road is when you throttle up to keep your speed, you might be greeted by a haripin at the top.  Not good.

Guys with better sport skills or on crotch rockets will love this road.  It will challenge you in ways you never knew existed.
​One of the many challenging curves on Calif. 168
The Inyo National Forest is scenic and I slow to take things in.  What a great road this is.  It will go on the list.  The grassy hills are a welcome change from sand and rocks.  

I can see the group on the road below me, scraping pegs and enjoying the ride.  I'm having fun to, but in a different way.  I've not been able to take very many pictures the last few days because I did not want to slow down the group, but I am now.  They will just have to wait for me. 

SR 168 has many blind dips and 5 mph curves.  It was fun.  I leaned my way to  the top of a hill and could see a long valley run out.  I see my friends making their way across the plains, perhaps 3 miles away.  Inspiring.  I dropped back into gear thinking, "in a few minutes that will be me in that valley."

I found the group waiting for me in Bishop.  Reunited, we took US 395 north to Mammoth.  

I see the sign noting Mammoth is 30 miles away.  For the first time today, I know how far I am from my destination.

Riding north we see a big thunderstorm to the east.  I'm glad it's over there.

The temp began to drop as the elevation increases.  I reach around the best way I can to zip my vents.  I was wishing I had my lined gloves on.

The federal campground at Mammoth was easy to find.  We unloaded the bikes and set up camp.  We had a nice spot in the trees, almost in the middle of town.

I kidded Coop about his bike using oil.  I knew it didn't, but gave him a hard time anyway.  "So you need to stop and get some oil tonight Coop?"

I assumed it was going to be cool tonight so I went deep in my bag to get my sweat clothes out.  While rummaging around I found a Hallmark card from wife down there.  It had a picture of girl eating watermelon with the caption, " Its the pits around here without you."  She scribbled a note in it saying she missed me and loved me, and to be careful.  I called her.  I didn't tell her I found her card, and we spent some private time together.  Sometime  I wonder how she puts up with me.  I was glad I sent her a card from the Grand Canyon.
I needed film, ear plugs, and a candy bar, so made plans to stop at the drug store on the way back from supper.
Supper was a short ride to the Charter Steak and Seafood House.  I had the NY strip, pricey but good.  The waiter took my phone for a charge while I was eating.  I have got to fix that problem.

We ate good, kind of a celebration. Tonight is our last night of just us.  We land in Redwood City tomorrow, and after that we spilt up for the ride back east.

On the way back I stopped at the drug store, but it was closed.  

Mammoth is ski resort, and this time of year, not much going on, so we went directly back to the tents.
Uncle Phil made us a BIG fire to ward off the Sierra chill.  It was nice and warm, and we talked around the fire for a long time.  I looked around and Coop was heading towards his tent.  The rest of us hung around till we were out of wood.

I brought 5 movies from my DVD collection.  I saved watching them till I was on this trip.  But tonight, I was not in the mood to watch any movies or TV.  I called my wife again and spent 30 minutes with her, before going night, night time.

It was cool, but not as cold as I thought it would be.  I slept good.  I reach the turnaround point tomorrow.  I will use the 2 days in Redwood to make any adjustments I need for the return ride home.