WanderlustBy Sam Lepore

Subject: Wanderlust 2000.20 - Barstow, California
Date: Sat, 29 Apr 2000 16:49:04 -0700

    Sometimes life is just good. Sometimes it is great. Then there are motorcycle rides like yesterday. After sending you my thoughts for the day, I moseyed across the dusty courtyard of the motel like a tried cowboy to the Hungry Coyote Cafe and ordered a buffalo steak. This was an unexpected pleasure to cap an exceptional day. And to compound the surprise, this simple cafe in Utah also served beer and wine. Utah? My the world has changed.
    With gas station locations not always being predictable, I stopped in Panguitch (pan-gooch) before heading for Cedar Breaks. As if the gods of yesterday were still smiling, I happened to stumble on the season opening day of the Buffalo Java coffee shop. Real coffee for the first time in weeks! I commented that since cowboys invented strong coffee, I was disappointed with how weak the brew has been in my travels. Nice people ... they brewed a new pot *very* sssstrongggg, yesss, that'sss gggood, tttthank you.
    The gregarious woman who runs the cafe and the adjoining gift shop chatted about everything and everyone. She introduced me to another woman who came in. That woman owns the fly fishing shop in town, and is a champion fisher. On this day she was made up and dressed in a lovely tapestry vest and cranberry color skirt. My compliment for her 'outfit' that they sure must have some classy fish around here got them all laughing ... she was going to a business council meeting. Incidentally, Panguitch means "big fish", which apparently she is.
    The side trip to the cafe was fortuitous because I found that the pass to Cedar Breaks is still closed. That road is not plowed in winter, and the snow pack takes longer to melt. So Plan 2 was to go south to the road through Zion. Geez when did the national parks start charging so much for motorcycles? Entry to Zion is $20 - for a road that covers all of about 10 miles. No thanks. For that much I can easily go 400 miles out of my way, and enjoy it more. So I turned around and went to Kanab instead. I'm so glad I did.
    I have seen dog heaven. If there is the perfect place for dogs on this earth, it is a place where the saddest cases are given the best humans have to offer. Best Friends is an animal shelter for abandoned and abused animals one mile off US89 in Angel Canyon. They take all animals - horses, goats, exotic cats, you name it. But there are dogs everywhere! While I was browsing the gift shop, Lily, a mix breed white shorthair came over and laid on my feet. Not at my feet, on my feet. Visitors are welcome and tours are available. (At least one dog accompanies every tour.)

    Even the incredible Utah scenery must end eventually. After 500 miles of heaven on earth, I was spit out onto the Kaibab Plateau like a watermelon seed at a July picnic to wither and dry in the sun. The Plateau is what becomes the north rim of the Grand Canyon, but north of that it is flat, treeless, dusty and hot. Perfect land for a reservation. The Paiute live here, and I notice the same attention to detail regarding signs is prevalent as with other reservations: "Six Mile Village - 3 miles". Three miles later, there is no village.
    But in Colorado City, Arizona, on the Utah border (??? someone confused about states) there is something I can't explain. Three new houses being built near the road have no windows on the three sides I can see from the road (west, south, east). Why would anyone built a house with windows on only one side? Another oddity I noticed is the city limit sign: Founded 1985. Not 'incorporated', but founded. That has to be the most recent 'new' town I've ever encountered.

    It has been several years since I've been through the center of Lost Wages, Nevada. Gad, the place looks like an amusement park gone wild. Isis (the pyramid), The Mandalay, Bellagio, Luxor, Excalibur ... it goes on forever, each trying to outdo the next, and MGM Grand has a roller coaster that runs through the hotel. Are there that many people willing to lose money for these massive abominations to prosper, I guess so. Riding through all this on the Interstate is like a Disney ride in a bad dream. One snapshot of the Las Vegas skyline is proof of the need for a city planning commission (anywhere other than Las Vegas, of course).
    A strong headwind and having to run over 80 to keep up with the 70 mph speed limit combined to give me the lowest mileage ever on this bike. The reserve light came on at 138 miles and the fill at 160 took 4.6 gallons (34 mpg). Nothing otherwise unusual observed (more about this later).
    Ah, at last I cross my final state boundary for this trip. Welcome To California. The similar Texas border sign also says Please Drive Friendly. If an appropriate motto were added to California's, it would say "Yo! Drive Stupid." Not ten feet inside the border I see the first cell phone dialer do a lane drift in front of a truck and almost reroute all traffic into the desert. Hey, at least I can lane split again if I want :)
    I wonder what the pioneers must have thought coming this way (long before Las Vegas, of course). Did they have any idea where the border was? The "Golden State" sure doesn't look hospitable here or for the next several hundred miles. The first thing you see is a cragged mountain range of barren rock. It is 200 more miles of desert to the mountain range marking the edge of Los Angeles. But at least now we have the "world's tallest thermometer" in Baker to amuse us as we cover six days of their travel in an hour. Yes, welcome again to California, land of 24-hour everything and $2.00 a gallon (regular) gas.

    Safety tip here: Always take the long way around your bike. Every morning, and every time I stop for gas, I walk all the way around the bike before I get on. I glance at oil, water, and brake fluid levels, tire tread, pegs, fittings, etcetera. Just a glance. See the same things over and over and anything 'wrong' will jump out at you. So when I unloaded the bike at the motel and saw a spiral of sprayed oil on the rear tire, I knew it wasn't there 120 miles ago. Close checking showed the rear wheel final drive drain bolt was weeping. Because I caught it soon after it started, maybe only a few drops had come out, but it needed attention. After wiping it I found it was so loose I could twist it free by hand. It must have worked loose since the last maintenance. Don't know what the proper torque is for that bolt, but it now has an arm shove and two shoulder yanks to hold it. Let's hope the mechanic can get it off when I get back ...

477 miles
Tropic UT12 US89 US89A AZ389/UT59 UT9 I15 Historic Route 66 Barstow
Sam Lepore, San Francisco

Previous Index Next
© 1997, 1999, 2000