7-18-04  Beaver, Utah to Jackpot, Idaho

            I woke up just before sunrise, shortly after 6 AM.  The bike's chain was oiled by rolling it back onto a piece of a 2X6 board and then onto the center stand.  Once the oiling was completed,  I packed the bike.  Then, after going back into the motel for a couple cups of coffee,  I left the parking lot around 8 AM.  In the center of Beaver, I picked up the 21 heading west.  The road was empty of traffic and passed through open rangeland.

            Flocks of birds with brown tops and grayish-silver undersides were clustered in groups on the roadway.  At my approach, they exploded in every direction, sometimes just missing me.  One flew directly towards my head, and I ducked as the slipstream from the windshield caught it and hurled it over me.  After that, I noticed that there were numerous clumps of feathers stuck to the roadway.  The assault continued, with more than a few dodges away from the little feathery projectiles.  I don't know what type of bird it was, or why this species prefers to cluster on pavement.  It seemed like an evolutionary dead end to me.

          Cars on the 21 could be counted in single digits, and I saw only one other motorcycle.  The road began a gradual climb into the WahWah Mountains, and into a series of gentle curves.

Utah empty lands

          A short time later, I crossed into Nevada.  It was an easy run to Baker and to the entrance to Great Basin National Park.

          After pulling into the parking lot of the park headquarters, I was told by the ranger that I’d just missed a tour of the park’s caves.  The ranger also told me that a flash flood watch existed for the area and that thunderstorms were expected later in the afternoon.  Because of the flood watch, I decided to drive to the Wheeler Campground below Wheeler Peak instead of waiting for the next cave tour.

          It was a slow, climbing, 35 mph drive, with constant stops at the overlooks for photos.  The road ended around 10,000 feet at the campground.  I cruised through the campground, marking points for a possible future visit to hike the peak.  The trail head to the peak was signed a few yards away from the camp entrance.

Nevada's Wheeler Peak


            The ride back down the mountain was a repeat of the drive up.  At Baker, I stopped to top off the tank.  On the eastern edge of town were two pumps and a shack with a soft drink machine.  The pumps were unmanned: they accepted card payments only.  I'd never seen this type of arrangement before.

            Through town again and a left brought me onto the 6 – 50, the "Loneliest Highway".  The title didn’t seem apt.  There was more traffic on the 6-50 than I had encountered on the 21.   The road rose and fell to Ely, which wasn’t much of a town.  At Ely, I turned north onto the 93 for the long ride to the town of Jackpot, on the Idaho/Nevada border.

            In spite of the watches, there was still no rain.  I managed to get my feet wet anyway by driving through a small mud puddle at the McGill gas station.  My boots seemed to absorb the splashed water instantly, soaking my socks.

             The town of McGill has a historic back bar, but it was closed (What is a "back bar"?  I still don't know.).  The town is just a gas station, the bar, and a few houses.

            I stopped for coffee and gas at Wells, where signs pointed to two brothels, but the road to the brothels seemed to lead back into an auto junkyard with a few trailers.  The 93 crossed the east-west I-80.  I continued north on 93.  Most of 93 rode flat on the valley floor between ranges of mountains.  Most of 93 ran straight.  I was kept alert by the constant shove of a quartering wind and the crack of turbulence from the bow waves of passing semis.  The type of truck with a broad front end generated the worst of the turbulence, but that seemed like a general rule.  Sometimes I was jolted; sometimes I was not.

            On the way to Wells, the skies clouded over, but the clouds seemed less organized than the day prior.  There were brief sessions of sprinkles.  The peaks of the Ruby Mountains on my left were obscured by clouds.

          Wells to Jackpot was a drone.  The land seemed to become more like the deserts of  New Mexico's sagelands.  The predominant colors were pastels of green and gray; the mountains were rounded.

Gray desert

          There were no sharp features.

          At the Jackpot, I found a  $30 hotel, Barton’s Club 93 Casino.

            The casino’s sign advertised a special rate.  The desk clerk quoted a higher price.  I asked for the cheap rate, which turned out to be an older motor lodge up the hill.  Still, the older building was preferred because I could park the bike right outside my room.

           The room was of a good quality.

Jackpot casino


             I went down to the casino and had dinner at the buffet, finally with a genuine appetite.  The casino didn't have much to offer besides gambling, and I preferred to keep my money in my pocket.  I went back to my room after dinner to relax, watch a little TV, and unwind from the long day. 

            Next door, a couple from Montana arrived on a Harley.  They’d ridden from Montana to San Diego for a Harley show, and were on their way back.  They had not hit rain once, while I had run into rain almost immediately outside of Ramona.

            Total miles on the day were close to 400.

            My stock back tire was becoming a concern.  It looked like it would be melted away by the time the odometer ticked over 3500 miles.  I wanted to proactively replace it with a better quality tire, and soon.

            A call to my mother brought news of two sick aunts: one might not make it:  Aunt Joan was home with medicine for congestive heart failure.
           Aunt Nell had a stroke.  Another clot moved into her heart, and her life expectancy was measured in hours.