Valkyrie Road Trip Day 7, August 27th, 2004
Richfield, Utah to Susanville, California




I awoke in Richfield to a bright and sunny, but chilly morning. I had to
backtrack northeast on interstate 70 to get myself onto route 50
westbound, ‘The Loneliest Road in America’ as they call it. After a
short ride northwest, highway 50 joins up with interstate 15 for a few
miles, and then heads west at Holden, where I stopped for breakfast,
and waited for the temperature to warm up a few degrees, which it did
after a remarkably chilly desert morning. I left Holden warmed and full,
and as the temperature rose steeply, so did my spirits. An entire state of
clear sunny weather, picture perfect mountain ranges and lonely
steaming hot desert roads stretched out before me. A perfect riding day!
Leaving the Fishlake National Forest behind, the scenery flattened out
and stretched ahead into pure desert, fringed with beautiful mountain
ranges, with the occasional spectacular peaks emerging from the desert
and then disappearing behind me. Notch Peak rose up to my right, as I
approached the ‘Confusion Range’ and the Utah/Nevada border.




Alongside route 50 "The Loneliest Road in America"


The name ‘The Loneliest Road in America’ certainly is appropriate! On
this first stretch of route 50, one can’t help but notice that traffic all but
vanishes, and I don’t think I have ever felt so alone and isolated on a
stretch of road. It was absolutely fantastic, and I realized that that was
what I was looking for, the real reason behind taking off alone on my
motorcycle. To be alone. To feel that sense of oneness and freedom that
can only be found away from the maddening rush of the big city, and
the crowded interstates. And here it was, on this desert highway. My
mind felt refreshed and invigorated, the incredibly broad expansive
landscapes giving my imagination ample room to wander, and wonder
at the beauty and majesty of it all.




Beauty and American splendor in Nevada

Riding through these deserts and
mountain ranges for the next 500 miles, was a sublime form of
meditation and self-discovery. Although still attached to and dependent
on my machine, my iron horse, I was able to really absorb and benefit
from the natural perfection of it all. I noted that this was country that I
should revisit, next time with camping and hiking gear, so I can really
get deeply into what I have affectionately dubbed, “The American
Outback”. There are countless thousands of square miles of perfection
out there, where all the insanity of city life doesn’t mean squat, all the
fruitless scurrying around to accumulate ‘things’ and be slaves to our
‘careers’. This was the freedom I sought, and found, on this ride….




A lonely gas station in the "American Outback"


On these small secondary highways and byways, one does not find the
big garish signs announcing, “Welcome to Nevada”. So I morphed into
Nevada without really even knowing at what precise point I changed
states. I rode into the Humbolt National Forest, and the Snake Mountain
Range, so utterly absorbed in the fascinating scenery, that I didn’t
notice any signs announcing my arrival in Nevada. A series of
mountain ranges welcomes you, after the aforementioned ranges comes
the town of Ely, the Egan range, and then Butte Valley, and then the
White Pine Mountains. It is just stunningly gorgeous country, new
colours and smells and lighting which I had never encountered
anywhere before. Passing picturesque mountain peaks like Little
Antelope Summit, Pancake Summit, and Prospect Peak.
The entire day was to fall into a kind of rhythm, passing through
sections of perfectly flat expensive desert, and then crossing over small
but unique mountain ranges, and then back into the desert, over and
over. The temperature would drop substantially in the higher
mountains, refreshing but still pretty warm. I ended up riding in my
short sleeves, the deserts were hot, around 90 degrees, and I slathered
myself with sunscreen.
After passing through the town of Eureka, Summit Mountain looms up
to the south, a massive peak at 10,461 feet above sea level. Then into
the Toyabe National Forest and the Toquima and Toyabe Mountain
Ranges.
Approaching the town of Austin, Nevada, the bottom really drops out
of the highway, descending suddenly through switchback hairpin turns
of dizzying intensity, a road I would love to revisit on a sportier
motorcycle, with some time to get to know the road. Definitely some of
the craziest twisties I encountered on this ride, but there are more to
come…!
In Austin I gassed up and had a small snack. I had taken to just having
small snacks at this point in my journey, maybe a granola bar and a V8
juice, with some water at every stop along the way. I huge part of
staying happy and healthy when putting on all these miles is to stop
frequently, if only for a minute, and drinking water regularly. I was
feeling really good, enjoying the riding, and didn’t want to spoil it with
a long stop for a big lunch. So snack and gas and I’m off. I chatted with
an extremely rugged looking chap, a Vietnam vet, who was riding a
Shadow, and informed me that with hundreds of thousands of miles
under his belt, he had never had a real motorcycle license. Oh well, go
figure eh? He chalked it up to his infantile need to rebel against the
system. Cool guy anyways, from Fallon, Nevada, my next destination
on the other side of a long stretch of empty desert.




"American Outback"


Heading west out of Austin, I got behind a highway patrol car that
really cramped my desert riding style of setting my cruise control
around 90 mph. Through the Desatoya Mountains and into the next
long flat desert I followed the police car, at exactly the speed limit. So I
decided to slow down and let him get ahead. Cruising along at 55 mph
was quite a novelty after so much high speed riding, and I enjoyed it
thoroughly. I started catching up to him again as we approached the
next small mountain range, so I pulled over at a little rest stop to really
let him get ahead.




The Loneliest Road in America

I found myself alone at this remote rest stop, with a
picnic bench and a small trailer perched up on the hill, apparently
occupied. I ate a granola bar and drank some water, and then heard
someone whistling. Along the shoulder of the highway sauntered three
incredibly mangy looking large dogs, along with their whistling master,
a short dark fellow who looked like he belonged there. He walked up to
me and smiled, many gold teeth, and said hello in Spanish. I said hi and
struck up a conversation, but, “no speak English” he said. I wish I did
speak some Spanish, ‘cause this guy was really interesting and I’m sure
he would have welcomed the chat. He wandered up the hill to his
trailer, and his dogs followed, tails wagging, apparently a very happy
family.




Sand Mountain, an incredible dune which has accumulated on
the east end of a desert valley in Nevada


From there across a big flat desert I went, past the incredible Sand
Mountain, a sand dune that has got to be 2000 feet tall. Maybe that’s an
exaggeration, but it is HUGE! Very cool!




Desert oasis


A lake appears to my left, and I stop to photograph its simple beauty,
and proliferation of gorgeous yellow wildflowers. An oasis in the
desert, and apparently a pretty well stocked trout fishing hole….




A desert oasis in Nevada, about 100 miles east of Reno


Onward, into Fallon, and things start getting a little more crowded and
urban, I am heading towards Reno, and my fantastic, lonely desert days
are almost over. Parched white, dry lakebeds, spectacular blueish purple
mountains in the distance, wide opened empty highways, begging my
Valkyrie to cruise at 100 mph, these desert miles were a fantastic and
unforgettable experience. West of Fallon, I hooked up with a crowded
interstate 80, swinging southwest into the suburbs of Reno, Sparks,
Nevada. I missed my exit for route 395 north to Susanville, California,
but it was easy at the next exit to head back and catch it. There was a lot
of construction going on, and the freeways were densely packed with
rush hour traffic, but I got through it without too much trauma, and
before long I was on a beautiful highway heading north to Susanville,
with the Plumas National Forest on my left, and beautiful fertile
farmland on my right. At some point I crossed the border into
California, and it seemed like riding through alooking glass into a
different reality! The lighting was magical as the sun began to set,
purple mountains on my left, and deep warm pastoral pastures on my
right. I rode fast into Susanville, arriving tired and happy just as it got
dark. I got a room in a Best Western Hotel, and after a great dinner at
The Black Bear Restaurant, I fell into a deep, pleasant sleep.









A bug splattered Valkyrie poses in front of 'Sand Mountain'




Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8

Day 9



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