The group rolled out of Burns at 730am on the dot and headed south on OR-75 through some high wetlands that were teaming with birds -- hence the warning in the motel not to clean birds in the bathroom. After Tuesday's rain the bike was so dirty I couldn't bear to look it it.
The sun was trying to peek through the high clouds, but it was 50 degrees, and I had my heated gear on but didn't need to turn it on. The road skirted the wetlands and headed due south through what I could only describe as desolation -- "magnificent desolation" as Neil Armstrong once described the moon. There was no traffic at all, and the road just stretched to the horizon -- much like the title of this journal, it appeared that just like the sky the road would never end.
We were riding in formation -- four bikes, headed as a group down the highway. However I was getting antsy. The leader of our HOG Chapter said at dinner Tuesday night he could tell that I hated "following", and he's right. I like to be the lead dog, and the assistant director was leading this group. He's a great guy, don't get me wrong, but a bit like Ned Flanders from the Simpsons. If the speed limit is 55, like it is in Oregon, he sets his throttle to 54. When I can see 10 miles down the road, no one in sight, and it's dry and nice -- that feels like crawling to me. I'd keep edging up on him urging him to go a bit faster and he just wouldn't. It got to the point I just couldn't take it, so when we turned onto US-95 at Burns Junction, I signaled to pass, waved and said I'd see them in the next town and took off. I set my throttle at 75 and just enjoyed it. THIS is what I wanted, to feel the wind rushing, see no one else on the road, and to almost fly. I got to McDermit, Nevada right on the state line a good 30 minutes before the rest of them, and they found me lounging on the bike drinking a bottle of water when they rolled into the gas station.
The bike takes premium gas which is sometimes hard to find out in the middle of nowhere. Indeed the first station in Burns didn't have any and we had to search a bit, so I always top off at ever stop just to be sure. There was premium in tiny McDermit, NV, and after gassing up, we headed down US-95 towards Winnemucca. There we hit I-80 east -- headed towards my hometown of Salt Lake City -- and exited off at Battle Mountain, some 40 miles up the freeway. Fortunately the freeway in Nevada is set for 75 and Bob actually hit 80 once! In Battle Mountain we decided to get lunch, and noticing it was only 12, I got to thinking I could make it to Las Vegas if I pushed it. We had planned to spend the night in Austin, Nevada, which was only 80 miles away. Spending all that time in a one-horse town didn't appeal to me so I told the group I'd be leaving them and I'd see them in Las Vegas.
I hit Nevada-305 South and opened up the throttle. There was literally no one on the road, and I pulled over a ridge and could see the road running ahead of me all the way across the valley. This vista is what I'd been looking for! Being out on the bike, alone, away from everything else, and I do mean everything, is what I needed. I went the 80 miles between Battle Mountain and Austin and passed only one car in a little over an hour. One car.
Flying down the highway at 80, the wind rushing in my ears, and nothing to do but think. This is what I wanted. So what did I think about? Absolutely nothing! I just enjoyed the ride and letting my brain not do anything but meld itself to the motorcycle. The bike and I became one, it would respond to my slightest touch and like a horse, she felt alive between my legs. We'd lean into the curves when there were ones, and throttle up and feel the torque on the hills. This went on all afternoon.
When I got to Austin I was really glad to keep heading south. The motel we were booked in was a U shape of three mobile homes that had been divided up. There was NO restaurant in town I could find, and one gas station that did have premium. And the Verizon wireless map was not correct, there was NO cell service so my wireless card for the computer and the phone wouldn't work, so there would be nothing to do if I'd stayed. I'm curious to hear how the rest of the group fared. In fact I stayed out of cell service for a good 300 miles in the middle of Nevada, and didn't really pick it back up until Tonopah, when I picked up US 95 again and then lost it again until Beatty, Nevada. I made really good time too -- I figured it I got pulled over I'd use the line from the Jim Croce song "Speed Ball Tucker" about a truck driver and a policeman who pulls him over and says that "95 is the route you were on it was not the speed limit sign" Fortunately there was no cop in sight.
One last gas stop in Indian Springs, Nevada at a small Texaco, mini-mart, and yes whore house. I'm not kidding, there was one of those legal Nevada brothels right off the mini-mart, with girls on the porch and three big rig trucks parked there. I was looking for Dolly Parton to come out and tell me that there was "nothing dirty going on" inside. I hit the road for the last lap into Las Vegas, and the bike turned over 20,000 miles.
I rolled into Las Vegas at about 8p and promptly got lost -- I should have called outside town for directions, as the Red Rock Casino is on 95 as you come into town, but I didn't see it. I went in and went down to the strip to call. It's a guy thing I suppose eh? Back west I headed on 95 and found the hotel, and pried myself off the bike to get checked in. It was hard to get off -- not because I didn't want to, because I REALLY REALLY wanted off that bike by then, but my muscles had melded me to the bike and I had a permanent biker grip. Then I checked in, took a nice long cool shower to get the grime off and cool off my wind/sunburned face (need to get some Aloe today too) and got a bite and gambled a bit before going to bed.
Going to wash the bike today, then register for the conference and maybe get a massage to get the kinks out of my back and arms from those 717 miles I did yesterday.
I still don't know how I'm going to head home on Sunday.