Saturday, July 10, 2010

Alaska Ride, Day 27

After 27 days of riding during this trip, my back has never ached so much than today, and as of this writing, it's still aching.

The pain feels like it's muscular, just below the shoulder blades, not in the spine itself. No matter how I twist and turn I can't seem to make it feel better. The only thing that seems to work is sleep.

I did 550 miles of riding today, from Salt Lake City, UT to Las Vegas, NV, by way of the Bonneville Salt Flats and Hwy 93 south through Ely, NV.

Bonneville is only a 100+ miles from Salt Lake City along the I-80, and since I'm this close, why not go visit it?

My bike out in the middle of the Bonneville Salt Flats

Funny, I kept expecting to see some structures there, like a building, or a grand stand, or something to indicate that there's a track there. But there's nothing. Absolutely nothing. There's not even anyone there to stop you from riding out on to the salt flats. The whole area is BLM land, and that means you're free to ride your vehicle on to the salt flats and go willy nilly.

There are however, signs warning you that in many places the salt is merely a thin crust over mud or loose dirt. And looking around, I could see other peoples' tire tracks that broke the crust and kicked up mud and dirt everywhere. Nonetheless, I rode my bike on to the salt and took her up to speed. However, I wussed out and only did 50mph at the fastest.

It seems the salt is quite bumpy, and quite soft in places. Where it's freshly caked up, it's quite soft and loamy. When your tires hit these spots it's like hitting a patch of soft sand on a gravel road; your front end jerks to one side or the other. And well, I just didn't want to chance it.

I'm guessing when they actually do these speed runs, they must flatten down a strip for several miles and make it more smooth, or something.

The salt crust in this area was only a 1/4 inch thick.

I rode into the town of Wendover, UT, just a couple miles away. Wendover sits right on the border with Nevada, and in fact on the Nevada side is "West Wendover". Wendover is chock full of hotels, restaurants, and stores, while West Wendover is chock full of casinos.

I kept looking for some kind of Bonneville Salt Flats museum, but I found nothing. In those towns, they don't really mention Bonneville all that much. Going through there you'd never know that Bonneville ever existed.

I headed south down ALT 93, which is a auxiliary highway to Highway 93. This connects Wendover to the 93.

ALT 93 is actually a pretty lonely highway. It's long stretches of straight road going through the northern Nevada desert. You could park your motorcycle in the middle of the road and sip a cup of tea before hearing a faint rumble in the distance.

ALT 93 south of West Wendover, NV

It finally connects to the main Hwy 93 at Lages Station, NV. Here, there's nothing but a gas station. In fact, the gas station is also a cafe, a bar, a motel, and an RV park all in one. "Stage Stop" is the name of this place.

I asked the proprietor for a beer at the bar, but he said the bar doesn't open until 7:00pm. So, I asked if I could buy a beer from the fridge, and drink it there. He said that would be fine, but he only sold them in six packs, and I would have to buy a six pack. So I opted to buy a root beer instead, and drank it there.

Highway 93 is known as the "Great Basin Highway", named after the fact that this entire area is located in the "Great Basin" of Nevada. But before it was named that, this stretch of road was once part of the "Lincoln Highway", the first coast-to-coast highway ever built in the USA. It once connected New York City to San Francisco. As you ride down Highway 93, you see plaques and memorials erected in various places describing the history of the Lincoln Highway.

When I pulled into Ely, NV, I had to make a decision on which direction to go. Should I go west along US50 over to Reno? Or should I keep going south on Hwy 93 to Las Vegas. I look up at the skies in the west, and I saw thunderheads. I grabbed my netbook and walked into the Hotel Nevada Casino and got online. I looked up the weather forecast along the US50 and it showed thunderstorms. Meanwhile, the forecast for Hwy 93 south to Las Vegas showed scattered showers and then 100 degree temperatures into Las Vegas.

And then my back aches seem to be getting worse with each day.

So, I opted to head to Las Vegas.

The Hotel Nevada Casino, Ely NV, is a big biker hangout

I still got rained on going south, but it was just on and off stuff. It actually cooled down the air, and in fact temps remained in the upper 80s pretty much until I got into Caliente, NV, and then the heat turned up from there.

Highway 93 is largely straight roads, but it has its moments where it gets into sweeping curves which you can still do at 70mph. Some of the scenery is just vast expanses of desert, while in other areas, the roads winds through gorges and canyons.

At one point, I got drowsy and my eyelids were doing their best to close. I kept shaking my head to wake myself up. I finally found a rest stop, and it happened to have picnic benches. One of them was placed under shady tree, and so I laid down on it and closed my eyes for 15 minutes. It definitely helped.

Some colorful scenery along Highway 93

I wanted to lay there longer than 15 minutes, my back was starting to feel better the longer I remained lying down. But I knew at this point I wouldn't make Las Vegas until 7:00pm, and so I needed to keep pushing on.

And the heat! As I made my way into Las Vegas, the temp gauge on my Honda ST read 109 degrees, at 7:22pm.

The aching back, the sweltering heat, the tired body, I just wanted off this bike in a hurry. I'm guessing after 27 days of riding, the back pains just build up intensity. Even though the pain subsides after a night of rest, there's still some pain that lingers and over the course of several days, it becomes more painful. I need several days of continuous rest, that what it is.

I checked into a room, took a shower, and then got me a salad and a couple of frozen margaritas. Then I headed back into the room to write this.

109 degrees F, at 7:22pm in Las Vegas, NV

The Great Salt Lake, Salt Lake Marina, UT

Along the I-80 heading towards Bonneville Salt Flats

I-80 heading towards Bonneville Salt Flats is long boring riding,
I rode for about 30 miles without hands, trying to keep my mind focused.

I tasted this stuff, and yes it's REALLY salty.

"Wendover Will" greets you into West Wendover, NV

Drinking a root beer inside the Stage Stop, Lages Station, NV

Cave Lake is located a few miles off of Highway 93,
Offers, fishing, hiking, camping, and dirt road trails

Cathedral Gorge State Park, lies a few miles off of Highway 93, Nevada.
The park offers several of these earthen mounds filled with crags.

The crags run several hundred feet into these earthen mounds.
They get quite dark the deeper you go, and temperatures drop by 20 degrees.

1 comment:

  1. ahhhh, great memories for me, ive done these roads a few times. NV is always a bear to cross, hot, dry, long... i get to do it again soon, and i cant wait! :)

    hey, that pain sounds like the pecs and rohms. it feels like a reverse triangle from the shoulders across to the neck and down the back, right? i injured this area in a bad wreck with airbags deployed and i flare it with long rides. that soreness is telling you that you're pulling your arms and shoulders forward. you maybe hunched/arched forward. try forcing your shoulders back and leaning on your core/tummy for back/body support. also loosen your shoulders up with circle exercises, that may help.

    another great post and pics! i cant wait, i'll be riding past wendover will soon :)

    ride safe and enjoy!


About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)