February ride from CA to Idaho, brrrrrrrr.

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by hawke, Mar 11, 2002.

  1. hawke

    hawke Adventurer

    Jul 2, 2001
    Spokane, WA, USA
    For various reasons, I had to move to from the Bay Area in California to Idaho in the middle of winter.
    My bike certainly wouldn't qualify as an "adventure" bike normally, but I put it through an adventure anyway.
    It's a 2001 Suzuki Bandit 1200 "naked" (no windscreen), that I've added both corbin "beetle" bags (custom hard saddle bags), and a corbin 40 liter tail bag. I had to do a lot of bending and tweaking to get both mounted at the same time, but it worked out pretty nicely in the end. I'll be a very sad person though if i ever lay the bike down on those saddle bags though.
    I didn't want to leave my motorcycle behind in CA for who knew how long, so I decided I would drive it to Idaho, since funds were short.
    Many people keep trying to talk me out of it, and luckily I survived it with out too much injury.
    I lucked out in the weather at least stayed mostly clear the whole of the two day trip, there was no way I could ride very long at night due to ice and cold.
    The trip would be approximately 1,000 miles in two days (mostly daytime only travel).
    I took the Interstate 80 route through Sacramento and over Donner's pass into Reno.
    Climbing thwest side of the mountains went without incident, other than just eyeing any wet spots from melted snow on the road with suspicion, none of it turned out to be icy in the mid afternoon sun.
    However the other side of the mountains was different. Every patch where the evergreens or hillside kept the road in shadow, and enough water had dripped onto the road, was ice, I was weaving in and out of lanes constantly to try to avoid the patches.
    There was one incident coming down the east side of the summit where I needed to pull over to stop I slowed down considerably before pulling into the rest area (about 45 mph or so) when I saw the whole lot wsa ice and snow!
    I did my best to stop but it took more than a 100 feet of skidding with both feet on the ground/ice to keep me from falling. Phew! A lot of people in the rest area were blatantly staring and pointing fingers at me as I came in there.
    The temperature was around 20 degrees F, lake Tahoe was frozen solid from where I could see it.
    The rest of the trip up to Elko went without incident. I had added some wind screens to the handle grips to keep my fingers from freezing off, but even with 5 layers of clothing and a full one piece bike suit I stopped about every hour for about 10 minutes to thaw out (as I had planned in advance).
    One thing i discovered, my bike does NOT like cold weather, it went from 47 MPG in 40+ degree weather to 28 MPG in < 20 degree weather. At first I thought it was the altitude (going from sea level to over 5,000+ feet), but later driving in warmer weather up here in Idaho at over 5,000 feet has shown it was the temperature.
    The bike comes with a 5.1 gallon tank. I was getting about 15 MPG less than expected and getting nervous between gas stops, so I picked up a 1 gallon gas can and filled it and put it on the back, just in case.
    as evening approachedon the first day of the journey, after having a hearty warm meal at Sparks (just outside of Reno) I decided I would try to make it to Battle Mountain and spend the night there.
    As soon as I came around a pass and the shadow side of the mountains there, I REALLY regretted not staying in Sparks.
    I had picked up a thermometer for the trip, so i actually have acuate temperatures, the temperature plumeted from around 20 degree F down to minus 10 below zero F in about five minutes. From the charts i've consulted my windchill at 65 MPH at 20 F was around the equivalent of -20, when the temperature dropped to -10 i slowed down to 55 MPH because I was FREEZING and shivering so much the bike was wobbling. The wind chill would have been aruond -40 to -50 F at that point and speed.
    The next 75 minutes crawled by as i counted every mile marker to Battle mountain, there are NO motels in between.
    Finally around 6: 30 pm (about 1 hour after sunset). I arrive,and almost dropped the bike on the slippery roads. The skies were clearn, the the moisture in the area froze in such a thick frost that the roads off the Interstate were very slippery. I skidded my way in the Motel parking lot, followed closely by a local Sherrif who was eyeing me suspiciously as i swerved and skidded about.
    By the time I arrived in the parking lot the ambient air temperature read -20 F. Brrrr.
    I came into the motel and had to wait about five minutes shivering and chattering before i could get a coherent word out to the motel clerk.
    When I checked myself, my fingers and toes were a very very dark purple with no feeling. Luckily they had a hot tob in there, so I warmed up a bit, then soaked my aching frozen tired body in there for about any hour.
    The next morning I was up early about 6:30 am hoping to hit the road at first light.
    No go, the roads looked like they had a frosting of snow, but it was just the morning frost so thick from the cold.
    I walked to a place to eat, and slipped and slided and actually fell once on the way there (boots weren't the best tread). I decided i'd obviously have to wait a few hours for the sun to thaw out the roads.
    Finally around 9:30 am the areas that weren't in shadow had defrosted enough to chance it, I figured the Interstate, with more traffic on it would be better defrosted. Luckily I was right.
    The rest of the morning and afternoon went without event.
    Finally I arrived in Wells, a tiny little town, to eat and gas up.
    The ambient air was back around + 20 F.
    I gassed up, and realized to my dismay that this day was now Sunday, and I had forgotten that the stop I was planning to make between Wells and Snowville, wouldn't be open on a Sunday.
    So, I topped off the gas can and tank.
    I now had to make a 156.8 mile trek with no stations in between. And my gas mileage being way below normal. Hopefully, as i did the math, if I could maintain at least 31 MPG I would make it on fumes without having to use the gas can.
    Something else I had discovered on this journey was wind resistance.
    I figured out that if I kept my MPH around 55-60 i was getting about 35 MPG, but if I went above 60, i lost about 1 MPG per every 5 MPH higher.
    I was in a quandry though. If I went to slow night time would totally over take me and freeze me solid.
    If I went too fast, I wouldn't have enough gas to make it.
    Well, i went for it gritting my teeth, and setting the cheap little "cruise control" on the throttle and went about 65 MPG figuring that would be the right balance between time and mileage.
    As I hopped off the Interstate at oasis (a ghost town now),and headed northeast on a higheway that would later turn into State 30, I was dismayed to start seeing dead cattle frozen solid on the sides of the road. later I came across an entire heard loitering on the highway ( guess for warmth?), unattended. I kept honking my horn to get them to (slowly) move out of the way.
    As I came intot the utah side of the highway, I was firther dismayed to see that they had their wonderfule inversion.
    An inversion is when the low pressure cold temperatures get trapped in the mountain valleys, and the higher pressure, warmer temperature floats over the top and keeps the mountains warm.
    I've been in Northern Utah where it's been 0 degrees F in the Salt lake City valley, and 45 degrees F in the mountains at Park City.
    Worse yet, it was REALLY thick icy fog.
    The highway dipped down into this salt flats valley, and I watched the thermostat visibly move from +20 down to 0, and visibility dropped to about 5 car lengths or so.
    other than nearly being hit by a few semis (the only rare traffic on this highway, I saw a vehicle only once about every 30 minutes or so), I was doing ok other than being quite cold again.
    I switched to reserve when the engine started to sputter.
    I calculated that Snowville had to be coming up soon.
    I fuond out that the mileage markers, and mileage signs were drastically diferent between Nevada and Utah as far as the distance to Snowville.
    Originally it was supposed to be a 130 mile trip, but turned out to be over 150 miles.
    I came to a juntion, and smelled something oily burning.
    I pulled over and inspected my bike and found a bunch of oil on the bottom of the exhaust, buyt could not for the life of me determine WHERE it was leaking from. I looked at the oil level, and it seemed ok. This bike was new, I had just bought it in May 2001. It had about 6000 miles on it now.
    This was definitely upsetting.
    I drove about another 20 miles, and the bike started to sputter, i figured i was going to have to use the gas can after all, when a sign indicating snowville appeared through the fog, and a few minutes later was happily (and frozen) at the gas station.
    I conulted the attendants on whether the passes were open or not, and they said they were open.
    I started to get ready to go when i tow truck driver came up to me who had overheard the conversation and said, that yes, the passes were open FOR FOUR WHEEL DRIVES WITH CHAINS!
    The roads were completely snow packed.
    Thankfully he warned me, so I changed my plans to take the shortcut on state 30 into Idaho, and instead took I-84 and I-15 down to Tremonton and up north on I-15.
    The only problem now was that it was past 6 pm, an hour past sunset.
    I would make it to my destination around 8 pm.
    This was not a good prosepect.
    I went for it.
    The temperature dropped to minus 25 below zero in some places!
    At a speed of around 60 MPH I was being exposed to around -60 to -80 F!
    Worse yet, the roads were not only icy, they had snow (on the Interstate) frozen, and I was driving in the ruts between the snow, that vehicles had made on the road.
    Finally after a very scary and freezing 2 hours, I arrived, only to find that this town hadn't plowed any of the roads, and that they don't salt the roads.
    These roads were all packed snow and ice!
    i ambled along the last 5 miles at around 10 to 20 MPH skating my boots on the snow and ice as I went.
    Some passing cars honked rudely as they passed me as I slipped in and out of the ruts, snow and ice.
    I finally arrive shortly after 8 pm.
    Ambient temperature was "only" about -10 here.
    It took several days to get feeling back in my hands feet, nose, and surprisingly my backside too.
    I then picked up a nasty flu, and then one illness after another, basically my family and I have been sick non-stop for about 5 weeks now.
    And yet, I'm still VERY glad I made it in one piece, and relatively unscathed.
    I still have no idea where the burning oil came from, there's no sign of leakage, but there was a LOT of oil on there before.
    So, for all those who kept telling me I was crazy to ride this bike this time of year, even in "perfect" weather for this time of year, you were right. it was was stupid and crazy, and I don't recommend it for anyone.
    I was sooo geared up (poor man style, no electric heaters or anything), I thought, enough for the cold, with so many layers, and precautions, but that just didn't cut it.
    I guess if I could have afforded electric warmers, and grips, etc. (doubt my bike could handle that though), It might not have een as cold, but the road hazards were bad enough.
    My bike will probably be sitting in the garage now until May!
    Phew, at least I'm alive.

    Attached Files:

  2. billcat

    billcat z

    Jul 6, 2001
    Sweet ride! Definately sounded chilly but glad that you made it unscathed (despite flu...) You will definately be glad that you decided to bring the bike out as Spring sets in. The riding will be fantastic. Try to drop down to Ouray, CO this July.


    C Stone
  3. Chopperman

    Chopperman I am dead

    Sep 17, 2001
    Too damn macho for me....:smile6

    The oil is probably from the engine breather.
  4. BeeCeeGS

    BeeCeeGS WeaponOfMassDestruction

    Dec 14, 2001
    Chilliwack, BC
    Glad you made it--the cold can make for some serious trouble! I'm certain that your Bandit could handle heated grips and an electric vest. If you go for the Kimpex(?) heating elements that fit under your grips, heated grips aren't too expensive.
  5. hawke

    hawke Adventurer

    Jul 2, 2001
    Spokane, WA, USA
    Ok, I didn't have any idea where to start, so I appreciate the suggestion. I'll look into those right away, since I'm stuck up here and it's either winter, heading into winter or coming out of winter about 6 months of the year. :)
  6. Baldy

    Baldy Founder of ADV Administrator

    Jun 30, 2001
    Silicon Valley, CA
    Whoa, Hawke, you da man!!! I was wondering if you were dead or alive.

    Folks, Hawke is 6'9" (no typo there) and muscular so his bike starts whimpering as he swings a leg over it. :dood

    Hawke and I worked together so I knew about this trip and also about his, um, equipment. Let's just say the equipment's great as far as California spring and fall goes, but around here fish starts whimpering about gerbing electric jacket liners not putting out enough heat at 50 degrees. Hawke's boots aren't insulated, the gloves are thin, the jump suit is a shell, there is no windshield that works if you're 6'9" tall... The only thing is when you're his size you can ride naked for 50 minutes in a blizzard because thermal transfer from massive bodies takes time. :smile6

    BTW, Hawke is ADVrider member #3, behind Ben and I.
  7. Asterix

    Asterix This user's email bounces

    Oct 2, 2001

    You are THE man! Holy ^&*@ what a trip.
  8. Claim Jumper

    Claim Jumper will work for knobbies

    Feb 26, 2002
    Boise, Idaho
    Now that is an adventure (and you did it without 15,000 dollar BMW with electrically heated g-string!). Good thing you didn't hit any of those cows, you woulda had to pay for it...(did you consider cutting one open to warm yourself?) Winter will soon be over (well maybe not in Malad City) and you have some great riding to look forward to. You might even see Wayne Rainey riding his bandit around there sometime (he lives in Twin Falls). Kinda reminds me of my ride from Missoula MT to Portland oregon (13 hours) on my XL-250r (with non-DOT knobbies), my ass hurt for several weeks afterward. As soon as it warms up try a ride over to Jackson, WY. You won't regret it.

    '69 Jeepster Commando
    '02 KLR 650
    '79 IT 175