USA/CAN Blog Sep 16
We set off this morning in a much chillier 13 degrees. This area of the Desert is known as cool desert. All the desert we rode through today on our 280 mile trip over to Cedar City in Utah is at a high elevation, 4,000 feet and above. This means that although there can be scorching days, there can also be very cool days, and nights, sometimes even snow. The temperatures, particularly at this time of year can range from 35 degrees Celsius in the day to 0 degrees Celsius at night.
Reminding us of the long stretches of roads without habitation of any kind along the Alaskan highway, after leaving Tonopah this morning, there was quickly a sign that there was no gas for 163 miles. Lucky we carry our extra cans, as one tank full of fuel would not necessarily take us that far.
We knew that there was a town called Rachel along this deserted highway, but what we didn’t realise until we arrived was that Rachel forms part of ‘Area 51’, the Extra Terrestrial highway! We didn’t see E.T, but Paul did spot a sign stating that a Red Flag warning was in operation until Thursday. When I ordered drinks in ‘The Little Aleiinn’ I asked the proprietor what it meant. She told me it was a severe weather warning, and that there was a big storm on it’s way, likely to wash out roads, and show no mercy. She suggested that we drink up and head off quickly, which is what we opted to do. A shame though, because that was one interesting place, full of Alien Hunters!
Fortunately, we outran the storm, which was a real relief, being that there was absolutely no shelter for the next 100 miles or so. There was minimal rain, with a very definite beginning and end that lasted for about a minute.
When we finally arrived at the gas stop, and had two hot dogs and a small drink for a dollar, we were lucky enough to meet Agi and Eugene, a couple who live in Oregon, who had ridden their bikes down to Arizona, and were making there way back up, visiting Yosemite National Park (one we missed this time), and then going to a bike meeting on Friday. We have been in touch with a guy called Sam Manicom, who is a travel writer, and will be attending this meeting, so we asked Agi and Eugene to say hello from us. What a lovely couple, they were disappointed that we could not visit them in Oregon. Maybe next time guys.
So, we’ve made it into Cedar City which has a definite Hispanic feel to it, and the clocks have changed again for us. We are now 9 hours behind home again.
Starting off yesterday morning, and at an immediate stop for gas, we met Dan and John, a couple of great guys who were part of a group, off to ride Sonora pass, one of the other beautiful passes that Richard had recommended to us. They were up from San Francisco Bay for a few days, to have fun. They were sports bike riders, who are generally more keen to talk to us, than Harley Riders. There is a definite clique of whichever group you belong to here. It’s great to be part of a gang.
The ride was very straight, hot and dry yesterday, taking us directly through Indian Reservation land, and then past the ‘World’s Largest Ammunition Depot’, owned by the US army. Bizarrely, we noticed that the dedications alongside the highway, were for the Troops that died in World War I, World War II, The Gulf Wars, Afghanistan War, and The War on Terror- seemed strange to us sitting alongside all that ammo……….
This morning we visited the Tonopah Nevada Museum, which was very interesting, showing old photographs of this Wild West looking town, which became a mining town in 1900, when silver and gold ore was discovered by prospector Jim Butler. The museum had a lot of information about the different people who had worked in the mine, serviced the town, built the hotel that we are staying in (which was built in 1907, and is styled in the manner of that period.) There were Chinese, Italians, Irish, Austrians, Slovenians, all working together. There was a huge amount of old photos, and information about the Air Force testing base, which was located very near to the town, which we enjoyed. However, the best part though was all the old mining machinery, mining cabins, tools, set against the desert background, of cacti, Joshua trees, and various succulent plants.
We will spend the rest of the day doing some planning for Mexico, which we suddenly seem to be much nearer.
After the roasting 35 degree heat yesterday, we were pleased it was a little cooler this morning when we started out.
We left Folsom Prison whoops I mean Lake and after a little highway run were soon onto some narrower roads, winding in and out of scorched countryside.
We had decided to ride a road that had been recommended to us a few weeks ago by Richard Duvall, over a Thai meal on an evening’s stopover along the Sea to Sky road back near Whistler in Canada.
Richard took the trouble to talk us through several of the Sierra passes which come out Lake Tahoe when travelling East as we are. Richard had been particularly fired up about Ebbets Pass, so we decided to take that one today, and we were not at all sorry.
The road, number 4 is described as a National Scenic Byway, and it is not at all hard to see why. There is a warning at a certain point along the road that is not recommended for longer vehicles, and and as you pass that, the road turns twisty, and tight threading it’s way through tree lined vistas and taking us higher and higher up over and above the height of the Sierra Nevada mountains, so the views were superb.
Needless to say, there were a lot of bikers out enjoying this road, and the temperature was a perfect 25 degrees Celsius.
This was not the only highlight of the day, we were lucky enough to meet two interesting people:
Firstly Greg on his BMW 1200 GS, who had a Ural sidecar outfit at home (Our sidecar is a Ural, and very few people recognise this Russian make).
Secondly, Hobie who was an older gentleman that we met at a view stop going over the pass. He was very excited to ask us about the bike- ‘Is it a single cylinder?’- he was almost disappointed when Paul told him it wasn’t. He told us that he had ridden a BMW R26 around Europe for six months in his younger days, and was very interested in what we were doing. We took some photos, and when we returned to the bike we found Hobie standing by the bike very excitedly telling two other people all about our trip! We asked Hobie if he would let us take his photo with the bike, and he was very pleased to. He told us that ‘the riding trip was the best time of my life!’. What a privilege to meet him.
When the pass ended we were expecting a straight road over to the motel, but no, highway 89, Monitor Pass was just as stunning for the last 20 miles or so.
We are tired now, but what a great day.
We left the Wild West Inn, and carried on along Highway 20. The other day when Paul visited the information centre about the Redwoods Park, the guide had advised him there were a lot of road works on the highway we had planned to take to Reno. She suggested Highway 20 as an alternative, which really was good advice.
As we left the town, the landscape became extremely dry looking and almost desert like. This was interspersed by the most beautiful gleaming lakes, Lakeview, Upper Lake, Williams Lake, Natoma Lake.
The temperature continued to rise rapidly from the 20 degrees Celsius when we started to a scorching 35 degrees Celsius at about 4pm when we stopped. We have made a return the the hot weather, although there is zero humidity, so it’s generally more comfortable than when there is a wet heat. (Like in those long forgotten cornfield states back East!).
We pulled in to a family run Fruit and Veg stall this morning, which was amazing. Apart from corn being sold, this is the first time we have seen such beautiful fruit and veggies like nectarines, peaches, plums, squash, strawberries. We had strawberries and sat and watched as the locals (who all spoke in Spanish) picked the outer layers of the corn away and threw them back into the container for someone else to deal with later. They were buying boxes and boxes of corn, perhaps 40 or 50 cobs. We were left wondering what they might do with them all.
We have had a few pleasant on the road encounters this last few days, mainly from people visiting the area from out of state. We have returned to people telling us they ‘love the accent’ again (as If we chose to speak like this!), but the last three or four people we have spoken to have all told us of their love of British Comedy. Doc Martin and Cornwall gets mentioned often (with Paul being told he looked like Martin Clunes?), Last of the Summer Wine, Little Britain, Catherine Tate, Ab Fab. I’m guessing as these people we have encountered drive off they say, oh didn’t he sound like so and so. I returned from a loo visit the other day to find Paul chatting with a lovely couple, Holly and Dan, and when I spoke, Dan said: ‘she sounds the same as you do!’. I’m glad we have added another layer of entertainment for the American’s rather than just being the comedy act in the funny vehicle, with the sidecar on the wrong side!
Tonight we are at Folsom, home of Folsom State Prison, a place that Johnny Cash sings about in a song that Paul rather likes. Needless to say the song has been playing on a loop in my head all day long.
To the Redwoods! Wow, what a day, we have been blown away by the sheer magnificence of these beautiful trees that cover the Californian coastline.
There are four National Parks of these Redwood trees, covering 133,000 acres of land. The Redwood trees are the tallest and one of the largest tree species on Earth. They can be anything up to 2,000 years old and 300 feet high.
They were saved as a species and preserved with National Park status, in 1918 by a save the Redwoods campaign. This was because in the previous 60 years the land covered by the forests was depleted from 2,000,000 acres by lumber men, and gold miners who had no success in gold mining, who turned to logging to provide lumber for San Francisco which was growing rapidly,
The trees now have World Heritage status.
We took a loop through a tight knit forest with gravel roads that was magical, and made me think of The Faraway Tree.
One of those days when you are truly delighted to be alive, and humbled by Nature’s wonderful ways.
As we pulled up to our motel for the night, Paul showed me that the total mileage on the bike had clicked over to 70,000 miles. He was quite chuffed.
Tonight, a stay at the Old Wild West Inn in Willits, an original ‘Out West’ town. The ,motel is made out in the manner of an old Western town, with the bakery, Barbers, Hotel, Saloon, etc. We are staying the night in the Doctors!
A day off tomorrow, and a rest.