After the memorable visit to Ted Simon, I stopped for the night in Fort Bragg, on the northern coast of California, and left the following day under the most stunning skies California can offer on a summer day. The ride along the coast was splendid, and I took my time enjoying the views and stopping a lot for pictures or simply to enjoy the spots. I finally said goodbye to the Pacific Ocean at Bodega Bay (the small town where Hitchcock filmed “The Birds”) and turned East on the way to Yosemite.
In Napa, I saw an UPS Store and decided to ship home a lot of things that weren’t needed anymore or just were never used at all. When I packed for this trip, I had grand plans about camping in the wilderness and I also got prepared to all kinds of situations in those remote roads up North. Even after I read all the warnings about not carrying too much stuff with you, I did the rookie mistake and left home way overloaded. As things turned out, I never camped for a single night, nor needed most of the “wilderness” gear I had with me. Camping, I decided very early in the trip, would be a last resort, for it takes away too much time, time that I would rather spend riding and seeing places. The idea was to have the camping gear ready for those really small towns with sold-out motel rooms or if I had a problem with the bike on a distant road and had to stay for the night in the middle of nowhere. I’ve met a lot of people during my days in Alaska and the Yukon who just camped, day in and day out, but cheap and clean rooms where not difficult to find everywhere. The bike never let me down too, so the camping gear remained untouched and I was ready to ship it all back home. After unpacking and sorting out everything I would still need, I got rid of close to 60 pounds of unnecessary weight and life on the road became much easier… A lighter bike to start with, and much simpler packing and unpacking after.
I went on to Mariposa, around 40 miles away from the entrance to Yosemite, and woke up the next day feeling anxious to visit the park once again. I was there for 3 days with my wife Nicole, back in 2000, during the winter, and I left feeling it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. This time, though, I was in for a huge disappointment: the whole thing felt like being at DisneyWorld during a hot and humid Memorial Day weekend. The roads were completely full of cars, buses and RV’s, a big-city traffic jam in the middle of one of Nature’s best works, and it all felt really wrong. I still rode close to 250 miles during the whole day, and visited most of the park, but my heart wasn’t in it and I was happy to leave the place to all the tourists. Lesson learned, Yosemite from now on in the winter or spring only.
I made up for the disappointment by having an extraordinary dinner in Mariposa, and then left in the morning to Reno, Nevada, passing by beautiful mountains and having one of the biggest surprises so far in this trip, which was Highway 4 and the road that leads to the Ebbetts Pass. I’ve never heard of it, and it was by pure chance that I had the pleasure to ride a dream-come-true of a road for any motorcyclist: steep, twisty, incredible switchbacks and a scenery to die for. I’ve learned later that this road closes for the winter, since the Pass is over close to 10,000 feet high and the winter is usually harsh there. One to repeat someday for sure!
Reno felt like a big city already, so I didn’t care much for it. I stopped by the BMW dealer there (Sierra) to have a headlight bulb replaced and the people were great and very helpful. A night’s rest at a motel and then on the another anxiously waited moment: riding the Loneliest Road in America, US 50, across Nevada and its arid landscape. This one didn’t disappoint at all, and it was everything I was expecting it to be: lonely indeed, extremely arid and, at the same time, a mesmerizing landscape. It is a nice combination of miles and miles of long straights, as far as the eyes can see, and some winding parts on mountain passes. I stopped in every little town along the way (just three, actually) until I reached Ely, the biggest town in this part of the state. I also got a nice tip when I stopped for some water in Middlegate (The Middle of Nowhere), and did a detour of around 60 miles through NV 722, which is even lonelier and more beautiful than US 50. I rode there for one hour and only saw one motorcycle ahead of me, nothing else.
In Austin, one of the small towns along the way, I stopped for lunch and was getting ready to leave again when I saw Gordon, a guy from Colorado riding a simple bike and with the looks like he had been on the road for way too long. We chatted for quite a while and I learned his routine every year: he leaves his home in Colorado around late March and rides somewhere for months and months, carrying almost nothing with him. This year it was California, and he was on his way back. Why? He wouldn’t know, he just felt like doing it every year, and in the process, his teeth were gone, his clothes looked like rags and he could definitely use a good shower for a couple of hours. He was extremely nice, though, and our conversation was very, very interesting. Another one of the characters the road presents to you…
I’m resting here in Ely this Sunday, trying to figure out where to head to tomorrow. I know I want to ride around South Utah (Moab and the Canyonlands, and also Zion and Bryce National Parks), but I was planning to visit my friends Katia and Robert in Park City first, and it seems they won’t be home until it’s too late to ride up there and then head south to Moab, so it’s time to scratch the head and come out with a new plan for this coming week. In any case, I feel I’m getting close to home now whenever I look at the map to prepare the route. Time to enjoy these final couple of weeks!