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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by fletcherguitar, Dec 6, 2019.
Man, what a great story.
Marilyn rolls on, well fueled and willing.
Delta, Utah busting towards Bonneville Salt Flats. Saddle up and ride.
This section of the T.A.T. provides a bit of history and a bit of perspective. Those who have ridden Mules across America, and those who have walked would well appreciate those who once upon a time carried the mail across America. On horseback. It was short lived and fraught with problems. It’s a piece of American history of which little remains.
Twenty miles per galloping ride. Then, a new horse and a new rider. Twenty more miles. Repeat. Coast to coast. Small outposts as necessary along the way.
Romantic notions of The Pony Express exclude the hostile natives and the saddle sores.
Dismounting my own dusty “pony”, to view an impossibly remote former outpost. A reconstructed rocky foundation is all that remains, I am struck by the audacity to even consider such a proposition.
I had been riding for two hours and had not seen a soul. Two antelope. Three prairie dogs. One hawk. Fifty cows. Not a single person. Much less a galloping rider, hell bent for miles. I can hear the buzzard on my shoulder laughing.
Sounds like good luck intervened again
In another life, I was driving from Lost Wages to Ceder City, to Delta, to Dinosaur, to SLC, at times, the scent of ceder was a refreshing addition to the desolate terrain. Utah is a magical place. Great story.
ha, could be your sig line!
Day 24 Speedways, Salt Flats and then it happened.
I was charged by a herd of wild horses at high noon.
The T.A.T. rolls on, passing one of the most iconic Speedways in all of the world. After a night in one of the local Casinos just down the road, I paid my own tribute to those insane souls who are determined to fly without leaving the ground. During the summer months, the flats dry out to become one long speedway. In winter, they are sometimes covered with shallow water.
The Bonneville Salt Flats International Speedway is four-thousand three-hundred feet above sea level. The flats are the result of an ancient lake drying up and the waters falling lower than what used to be its flow outlet. None other than the mule riding Kit Carson was among the first to traverse the entire flats.
The winter record at Bonneville is likely held by an Olympic swimmer.
Leaving Bonneville behind and harboring no fantasy about setting my own dirt road speed records, I set the throttle to an easy forty miles an hour across a dirt road heading almost directly north. The road is wide and nearly as smooth as a pool table.
The scenery is void of trees. It’s pretty much void of anything except sage and dust and more sage and more dust. The sun has peaked. The air warm and pleasant.
Alkali Flat is the aptly named. Lying between the Silver Island Mountains and the Pilot Range, it begins four miles north of another Flat. Speed demon nirvana, Bonneville Salt Flats. The road is wide. It's easy. There is no sand and very few ruts. I am lured into a calmness of disposition which matches the day. Nothingness stretches for as far as I am able to see.
Then, in the distance I see movement.
I reach for my camera in the tank bag. Just as I was trying to discern the nature of the movement a head bobbed. Then several heads bobbed.
It was a group of horses. I cut the engine and coast, hoping for a photo. They are wary. Ears twitching and alert. Through my camera zoom I can see four pair of large eyes. Silently focused on me. The lens automatically focused. But I wanted a different angle. I wanted them to turn slightly. So, I whistled.
Then, it happened.
They ran. Right at me.
I was being charged by a herd of wild horses at high noon.
Seconds later they were on me. Impossibly fast. Speed with a purpose. Maybe I should have started the engine and hauled ass. My curiosity won over my sense of self preservation. Or maybe it was their demeanor. Something about them felt like friend instead of foe.
Four large noses sniffed my helmet, my gloves and my dusty jacket. One insistent horse, pawing the ground. Ah.
Light bulb moment.
For the record, horses like Cliff bars. Blueberry, with white chocolate. Instantly, I was twelve years old again. In love with a horse. Or four. Our fling was brief, but fulfilling; for me at least.
They wanted more Cliff bars.
I’ve always had a thing for paint horses. I fed him first. The others pawed as they waited.
Today, as I edit these words, I own a paint named Pearl. She isn’t inclined to run towards motorcycles and her lope doesn’t propel her over the western Utah desert but she does have a thing for Cliff bars. She’s seven years old and full of life. Mostly she’s a peach. Some days, she’s a pit. If her pit days become more numerous than her peach days, I may trailer her north to Alkali flats. I know just the herd to teach her some manners. All you horse lovers out there know I’m joking. Mostly.
Speed takes power, horse power. Four-hundred sixty-two of it, moving at just over four hundred miles per hour – is the fastest eight cylinder on record at Bonneville Flats.
I wonder if a Cliff bar awaits the winner.
Winner Winner Chicken Dinner. That was George Poteet for an average of 439.562.
Love this ride and writing. I sit here wondering if I ever want to be that old man sitting and talking to a rider about back when I rode. I just don't think I'll go gentle.
Some photo ops are just too good to pass up.
Today, I reach the Idaho border. Strangely there was no line in the sand. Not even a sign.
The riding is easy. There is an openness to the first part of the day like a card player showing his hand before the bets are placed. What you see is what you get. Dirt roads like these are tailor made to this motorcycle. The miles roll off the throttle as easily as wishing it so.
The weather couldn’t be better. I’ve been lucky. In twenty-six days, encompassing over four-thousand miles, seven states and twelve thousand feet of changing altitude, I’ve only seen two days of rain. One while in a hotel and the other during the night, also while in a hotel.
Making miles in dry weather, under sunny skies is the stuff of dual sport dreams. Even though the miles take time, it’s time spent in relative comfort. Some of the time, for me at least, along the more boring sections is spent filling the helmet with my own voice.
I’ve written more songs while on a motorcycle than the Beatles ever dreamed of. None of them are worth a dang, and some are so tacky they can’t be committed to print. If I’m off key, no one hears. If I’m too loud, no one cares.
It’s late in the day. I’ve ridden two-hundred fifty miles. These wild wide landscapes have become a welcome mat placed gently upon the door step of the last two remaining days before hopefully reaching the Pacific Ocean.
Thoughts of an ocean remind of another traveller I met years ago. He had anchored next to my own boat. Mine had been chartered. It was well kept and shiny. A flux of mechanics and other charter employees kept its fiberglass hull glistening in the Caribbean sun.
The boat anchored just upwind was well seasoned, well sailed and made of wood. A solo sailor was aboard.
It was Christmas Eve. The wooden boat and my chartered boat were both anchored between St. Thomas and St. John, in the Virgin Islands. The anchorage was named Christmas Cove. Yea, I know. Hard to believe. But it’s true.
I stayed two days anchored in Christmas cove, during which time, each morning the sailor on the wooded boat would climb down into his dingy and row to the stern of the boat where he would take a towel and wipe the salt spray from the name of the boat painted upon the stern.
The boat was named “Rose.”
One afternoon, nearing sunset, my curiosity and my long inclination towards classic wooden sailboats conspired and propelled me to row my own rented dingy aside his boat.
“Hello, anyone aboard?” I tried to sound friendly and hopeful.
“Yes, I’ll be right up.” A voice came from inside the boat.
Moments later I met a man who had to be approaching his mid-seventies. His accent was British. His manner was kind. He invited me aboard, handed me a cup of hot tea and told me a story I was to never forget.
An hour later, I was back aboard the shiny charter boat. I’d been both amazed and touched by the man anchored nearby. His tenacity in the face of tragedy was more than most could have achieved. It’s a big world. He had circumnavigated it more than once.
My guitar was at hand and I did my best to write something so I would remember that old wooden boat and its aging sailor. As I now pilot this motorcycle into Idaho, I tried to remember the words.
On a hillside in ole England
Rests an auburn hair girl
I have carried her sweet love
Seven times around this world
Her music was her garden
Now my song is the sea
Since the winter of sixty-two
Stole her from me
There is a rose I sail upon the ocean
There is a rose I carry in my heart
There is a cross high on that mountain
So, I keep this vessel moving
Long ago I paid the cost
As I ride across rail road tracks dividing my thoughts of sailboats and sailors and miles made on a motorcycle named Marilyn, I am thankful. It’s far too easy to set one’s eyes on the road ahead with a mindset that it needs conquering. It doesn’t. The road itself isn’t the dragon. The dragon may be what is keeping us on the sofa.
As the day comes to its end, riding across new terrain I am once again reminded of the difference a mere hundred miles can make in scenery. One scene that hasn’t changed through this last hundred miles or in fact during the thousands of miles of this ride are cows. I've seen more cows than people on this ride.
Dodge ball is a lot more fun when you don't get hit....... And. Things change.
Weather. You can talk about it. You can watch it. You can fret over it. But you can't do diddle about it.
During the last full day, temperatures have fallen as I've kept a wary eye on the southern skies of Idaho and Oregon.
For the most part, the sky has been kind. A regular pussy cat. Today, with a cold front moving in, it’s been a cold little sucker for sure, but still kitten like. Temperatures are now in the mid-fifties during the day, thirty-five at night and windy. But, in the distance, storms chase me like a big black, all grown up and mean, alley Cat. Stalking. Biding time. Until.
At six-thousand feet, White Horse Butte, in the Trout Creek Mountains of Oregon, is stunningly beautiful, and stunningly vulnerable in mid-October. Luck ran out. The black cat hissed.
Four wet, howling, hissing hours later, I spot what may be a hotel in the distance, except on the remoteness of this back road, it can’t be. My cold and weary mind are just wishful thinking. Or, it could be a private house. As I approach close enough to read the sigh, it turns out, it’s both. There are two tiny rooms for rent - yes, a two-room motel in Fields, Oregon. No one will confuse Fields with a metropolis. With a population of one-hundred-twenty I should have been amazed there were rooms for rent at all.
I’m what you might call a frugal traveller, especially when alone on a motorcycle journey. So far during this jaunt, I’d averaged somewhere in the vicinity of forty-five dollars a night for a small hotel room. Fields, Oregon was about to change that average.
“Do you have a room for one?” I gave the lass my best smile. Usually reserved for super models chasing the DR650 in scanty attire.
“Yes, we have two rooms and I have one left. It’s seventy-five dollars. We take cash.” She didn’t blink. Nor did she look up from the cash register. Her eyes rolled slightly. If Attila the Hun was reincarnated and came around looking for a date, this was the gal.
“I’m sort of low on cash” I say, which was true, “Can you accept a Visa?”
Long pause. I see the wheels turning.
“Well, OK, but I have to add three percent. “
The churlish tart and my wet self knew we were standing one hundred miles from any other lodging, food or fuel. It was o-dark-thirty. It was forty-eight degrees. It was misting rain.
“I’ll take it.”
I smiled to myself. A long cold winter was heading her way.
Earlier that day….
Two days ago, one of my GPS units bit the dust. It carried my official Trans-America Trail route. The backup GPS would not read the SD card. Do yourself a favour. Make sure your second GPS, if you carry one can read the T.A.T. track on your SD card. And, only ride the official route.
So, I went to plan B. An alternative unofficial T.A.T. track that I had downloaded as a backup. The alternative track took me to a dead in and a “No Trespassing” sign. This was to be the first of two times that this back up plan track resulted in a long turn around and re-route.
I had just ridden 39.6 miles to this lovely dead end. Cuss. Whine. Moan. Buy the official track.
Southeast Oregon. Between McDermott, NV and Fields, Oregon. The least populated area in the lower 48. Ones senses become almost dull to the incalculability of the distances out here. Surely just around the next corner will be some sign of civilization. Yet, there is none. My imaginary vulture pecks his hard-black beak against the back of my neck.
Just keep moving.
Move along I do. Willingly. Across solid packed soil through slight canyons whose sides are littered with eroding chunks of rock as crooked and sharp as exploded shrapnel. I think of the tires and grow cautions to avoid sharp edges. Once again, my late start has me riding into twilight hours. A tire change would test my patience and my head light.
I was quite happy to make it Fields, Oregon. Happier still for the warm room. it might have busted my budget, but I slept warm and dry.
As others have said, you pen a good read. Thank you, sir, for riding, thinking, writing, and thriving.
Fields Station used to be known for its “World’s Best Milkshakes”. Were they still making them when you were there?
Fields Station, Oregon, has changed. It still looks the same when you ride up - or did a bit ago - but the people inside were, I heard, the kids of the people who used to be inside and made the place extra special with fine milkshakes & burgers, friendliness & helpfulness. We were told one or both of the angry young pair including, I suspect, the she-viper our author met is the spawn of the fine older couple who retired. 'Don't know that for a fact, but when we stopped there last, they each wore sidearms, sophisticated automatic pistols, and black clothing to match. Neither were friendly but grudgingly put mediocre food on plates and shoved them our way on the Formica counter. I wondered if a desperado was loose in the nearby sage but didn't ask - I suspected that's the couple's default demeanor & daily equipment. Too bad.
sad end of that good tasting and fun era.
"Buy the official track." As a TAT noob, I was under the impression there were two tracks from which to choose, both named after the dudes who made them.
Enjoying your report. Tks for making the effort to post.
That's going to start a discussion.
For future riders, Denio Junction is 1/2 an hour south , on the highway, from Fields Station.
They have a motel, restaurant and fuel. Stayed there a few years ago and the locals were quite friendly.
It's on Sam's original route, not to start a discussion or anything.
Sorry, guys, I didn't realize this was a can of worms.
I can only give a personal opinion as to buying the official route done by Sam or using one of the free routes. My experience was pretty simple. the official route was always accurate. the free route, which I had along as a back up, was not accurate. Twice it took me to dead ends. ya pays your money, ya takes your chances. Knowing the great efforts Sam makes to ensure a positive routing experience, I'd spend the money, but I do understand the whole share the ride gps route thing. My preference would be to call the free route something else, out of respect to the time and effort put in by Sam.
I'd say the free route was like my night with no wi fi in the hotel. It's fwee when it works.
I depart Fields, Oregon with a bit of shuffled feelings. It's wild, remote and has a rugged flavor well suited to dual sport rides. The only other occupants to the two room hotel were a couple of guys doing some bird hunting with a very eager and superbly handsome dog. They too wished for more welcome proprietors.
It's it telling how our view of a place is so tied to the people running it.
Had there been no two room hotel, and only a camp site, myself and the two bird hunters wouldn't have been as comfy, but we would have perhaps had a memory which concerned only the geography, it's beauty and it's fine expanse of land.
The DR and I suit up and power onward through the shuffled feelings and fine land, eager and ready for whatever the new day might bestow.
The rain has moved on, replaced by sunshine and welcome warmth. Today, I detour to Medford, Oregon to pick up a windshield I had mailed myself, general delivery, Medford post office.
Ones perspective tends to change when on a fifty-five-hundred mile ride. A hundred mile detour, normally would be a pain. With time to spare and not really wanting the trip to end, it was an easy decision. I rode to Medford.
The pavement ride from coastal Oregon to Phoenix, Arizona where I am considering as a possible place to live, at highway speeds, will be much more comfortable behind a windshield.
The DR is devouring the miles towards Medford like a hungry dog at supper time. Even though its power isn’t substantially more than the WR250, the manner in which it delivers that power is different, and to me, more appealing. I know guy who have ridden their WR250R sixty thousand miles, so not everyone shares my inclination for larger displacement thumpers.
The WR likes to be run at high rpms. The DR settles into a lower rpm torque curve, similar to the KLR 650 I had owned for a short period of time. Neither are better or worse than the other. Both get the job done just fine. I’m simply more drawn to the low rpm delivery of the DR.
Along the way to Medford, the roads are perfectly suited to a motorcycle. Rural and full of curves with a full view through and through. No intersecting driveways. Few stop signs. After the timid tip toe riding on dirt, this was downright invigorating.
Up ahead, once again, I see movement.
Sometimes a small detour yields a small reward.
And yes, they like Cliff bars.
I stop for the night near Medford, and mail a postcard. I 'm reminded of the mail box I spotted yesterday.
In the preface for this story, I wrote "a trip to the mailbox is a short story, with a purpose."
The mailbox I rode past yesterday is about eight feet tall and a work of art. The nearest house nowhere in sight. Perhaps a trip to the mail box isn’t such a short story after all.
The finish line is in site. But first a pause from the twilight zone. The road we are on may curve here and there, but along the Trans America Trail, it's a straight line to fate and destination.
As the saying goes, somethings you just can’t make up.
Yesterday, two minutes after entering Medford, Oregon, I spot a truck camper for sale. I pull over, curious, because I was considering leading an RV lifestyle.
The sales guy sees my DR 650, notices my Georgia tag. Says, “Hmmm, long ride.”
I say, “Long, but worth it.”
“I have one just like it inside.” He says.
And sure enough, he does. A shiny DR650 is tucked away in a corner of the small RV dealership.
“But,” he says, “You really should meet my friend,” (who I will call Mack), “He rides off road motorcycles like a demon. He's 64, and an ex-Navy Seal. He’s been across the country and down to Baja on his dual sport bikes more times than anyone I know. He owns a truck camper like the one you are considering.
“Maybe I will run into him one day,” I say, and I'm off to find a hotel room.
The very next morning, I'm parked at the post office, installing the windshield on the DR650, tools in hand, when I hear a diesel engine.
A Chevy three quarter ton diesel truck pulls up and parks next to my bike. A guy gets out, sees my Georgia tag, says,
“Long, but worth it.” I say once more.
He says, “My name is Dave. I ride a Honda 250, but you know, you should really meet my friend,” (who I will again call Mack), “Retired Navy Seal. Rides off road motorcycles all over the West and Mexico.”
There are eighty-one thousand people living in Medford, Oregon. I have only met two of them. They both know a guy named Mack, who rides off road motorcycles.
This is getting weird. Even Marilyn raised one eyebrow.
Dave uses his cell phone to call Mack. Thirty minutes later, I'm shaking Mack's hand. Iron grip. Superbly fit, with blue eyes that hit you like an intense heat gun, focused but sincerely friendly.
Mack shows me his bikes. His four-wheel drive Cummins dually. His truck camper. He talks of the desert in Yuma, Arizona. He talks about old friends and new; his sons; and his plans for winter. A trailer with four off road motorcycles tied down is nearby. He will pull it behind the truck camper into the desert to a spot that he knows of, where several friends will meet him. He plans on staying there a couple of months before deciding where to go next. Mack is a modest guy. I’m guessing his life has been anything but.
Prior to meeting him, for a couple of days, I had been feeling a bit down. Not about the ride itself. The more I saw of Utah, Idaho and Oregon, the more I was impressed by each state’s astonishing beauty.
The approaching end of the ride is what wore on me. I was wondering what to do if I made it to the Pacific Ocean. The sailboat was sold. Besides, I didn’t really want to go back to Charleston. I hadn’t made any plans past the beach in Oregon. I figured I would deal with it when I had to deal with it. It was almost time to do just that. Everything I owned except some clothes, this motorcycle and an old red Ram pick up truck had been sold. And I was quite happy about that fact. For the only time in my life, nothing tied me to any place. It was both enormously fulfilling and slightly frightening at the same time.
Listening to a few of Mack’s off-road adventures gave me a lift. He, too had walked down the path of divorce and a re-examination. He spoke of a previous life with a primary and secondary home, four cars, several trucks, and all the upkeep and stress to go along with such a situation. Today, he lived modestly but he said, much more fully.
I will never know how it is even remotely possible to meet two guys who both steer me to Mack. Coincidence of a monumental scale.
Us men have a way of posing as fiercely independent and thinking that we walk our own unique walk in the world. Meeting Mack and the other dual sport riders on this ride of mine, and listening to some of their stories had me wondering if all our talk about individuality is like one star in the night sky trying to outshine all the others. Our motivations, aspirations, hopes and heartaches are substantially more similar than they are different. So it seem to this rider.
As I ride away from Mack, I can't help but reflect.
I have no idea how those who have made a difference in my life came to be in my life: Coach Moore, for whom I would have eaten fire. He believed in me and I would do anything to honor that belief. My first boss in the mortgage business, Bob Kenknight, a man for whom I would have, and did, work all night, and all day; finally, to laugh over a cold beer when the work was done. A dear friend in Arizona who has stood by me during scar after scar; all mostly self-inflicted, as well having been along for a hundred beam reaching sails into the Sir Francis Drake Channel of the British Virgin Islands. Another friend, in Colorado who listened, shared stories and tears, and shared her home and heart, when we both needed to be heard, nurtured and to mourn. And others. Why did they appear when most needed?
Why did the only two people I met in Medford, Oregon point me towards Mack?
Riding cross country on a motorcycle can cause one’s mind to drift. It's easy to allow people and places to pass in the mirror without a second thought.
After Medford, Oregon and Mack, I'll pay closer attention.
Great point. I would think that the moments in time, where one is independent, with no strings, is a very rare occurrence. But, one thing I know, there is no such thing as coincidence.