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Old 08-06-2007, 02:59 PM   #1
Nemo Brinker
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Nemo Rides the Continental Divide (long)

I returned Saturday night from my longest trip to date. 13 days, 3,831 miles, almost all of it on twisty secondary roads, and all of it solo...I love those blue highways, as John McPhee called 'em.

My Bike: a 1998 Honda VFR, with only 8009 miles on it as I rode out of my back gate in Oakland. I inherited it from my dad, who put all of 3600 miles on it and kept it in meticulous condition.
Bike prepping

The main purpose of the ride, in fact, was to take some of his ashes out to Gunnison, CO, where the fam had scheduled a memorial ceremony up on his favorite mountain, as well as a rather large and somewhat chaotic family reunion.

It was a somber reason for a ride, but a hell of a ride it was. On a bike, each mile grafts itself into your skin as a sensory and emotional experience. I kept seeing the twisty road sign, and it became a kind of sigil; one night in my tent, I dreamt that the twisty arrow was a rattlesnake.

I had new Metzeler Z6s, and I did a fresh oil and coolant change before setting out for the next couple of weeks. Bags packed, ready to camp, and armed with a new digicam, I was ready to hit the desert and the Continental Divide.

Day 1 Map

I buckled on my saddlebags and started out midday, stopping in Sac to have coffee with my buddy (and moto mentor) Holly, who assured me it that setting out as a woman alone on a motorcycle would build lots of character. I think I've got plenty of that.

I took Hwy 88 (a great, fast road, far less traffic than 80 or 50) to Markleeville.
I camped off the road to Grover Hot Springs. I passed plenty of hot springs en route, but as it was either ferociously hot (100+ degrees) or thunderstorming on me, I didn't stop at any of them. Here's the nice little camp spot.

I did get hosed down by thunderstorms 3 times on the trip, and was suitably impressed/freaked out by the wild displays of lightning crackling across the mountaintops, or sweeping across the desert.

Last edited by Nemo Brinker; 12-29-2008 at 12:09 PM..
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Old 08-06-2007, 03:02 PM   #2
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Day 2 map

I started early and headed over Monitor Pass (a lovely stretch of pavement)

Dropped down onto Hwy 395 and blew south, stopping to ogle Mono Lake

and Convict Lake

Trouble came, however, after I passed Bishop and headed up Hwy 168, intending to take Lida Pass into NV. It was a hot day, and the VFR was working hard on the steep grade, and the bike's temperature started to climb, on this road in the middle of f'ing nowhere. When she reached 232, I stopped and let her cool down, wondering what in the hell was wrong. Water pump? Bad thermostat? Fan? Maybe a coolant leak? Man, there's nothing like the helpless feeling of not knowing what the hell is going on with your bike in some remote place that's 100 degrees. Checked for coolant level (ok) and leaks and (found none). I limped the bike the 30+ miles back down into Bishop and stopped at the Honda/Kawi dealer. I asked the tech guys in the back, and they suspected the problem was my coolant. Cursing the "environmentally friendly" diethylene glycol coolant I'd used, I bought some of their good ol' fish-killing HondaCool. I pulled the bike around to the back of the lot and proceeded, using the crap Honda toolkit, to pull off the bags, pull off the fairings, and change out the hippie crap coolant and add the good stuff in. In a 100-degree parking lot in Bishop, this was no fun. But the guys at the shop let me dispose of the old coolant there, and did burnouts on the forklift for my entertainment. A couple of hours later, I was buttoned back up and hit the road again. My mileage was shot for the day, but I figured I could head up into the White Mountains, camp, and visit the bristlecone pines the next day. I stopped to reward myself with a well-earned popsicle.

Lesson learned: Don't use hippie crap diethylene glycol coolant; stick to ethylene glycol.

camp spot, night 2.

The view of the Sierra near Grandview campground, in the White mountains (note the smoke in the Bishop valley)

Last edited by Nemo Brinker; 12-29-2008 at 12:10 PM..
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Old 08-06-2007, 03:10 PM   #3
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Old 08-06-2007, 03:11 PM   #4
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hurry up and post more!!!!! I cant wait
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Old 08-06-2007, 03:20 PM   #5
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Old 08-06-2007, 03:20 PM   #6
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Old 08-06-2007, 03:20 PM   #7
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Day 3 map

Knowing it was going to be a viciously hot day across the Nevada desert, I popped out of my tent before the sun was up. I did take a little while to go up and visit the Bristlecone pines, as they are pretty amazing: tougher than nails and older than god (there are trees up in that grove that are 5,000 years old!)

Bristlecone goodness: the Cthulu tree

Close-up of the wood

Then it was time to take the Lida Pass (Hwy 168) and cross Nevada.
Lida Pass

I'd heard it was 120 in Vegas and I hate that place anyway, so I headed through the empty heart of the desert.

Not too long after seeing this sign, I came across a macabre tableau: a mangled car bumper on one side of the road, and a dead, bloated cow on the other. A message: pay attention!
The day's heat rose to a scorch (110) and the winds swirled up to 35 or so and blew the bike around. I stayed loose, leaned into it, and tried to avoid the dust devils, and hosed myself down at gas stations: shirt, pants, my Aerostich EvapoDanna (gold!), and the helmet liner. It helped for about 1/2 hour until I dried out.

Hwy 375, the Extraterrestrial Highway. Visualize 110 degrees.

I kept calling it the Existential Highway. It also runs next to a bombing range, and sure enough, a low-flying jet buzzed over me, low, and then roared off over the valley.

In any case, there was NO GAS between Tonopah and Caliente--191.5 miles. I was deep into the blinking reserve tank light and visualising trying to talk mustachioed, skeptical Nevadans into letting me siphon a bit of gas. I was hoping, hoping that Caliente would have gas--and fortunately, they did.

Gradually, the terrain rose and got a bit greener as I came into Utah, then rose up into a beautiful canyon. But there was smoke on the horizon: Zion was on fire.

I stopped to talk to some firemen by the road, and ended up avoiding Zion, swinging north and camping at Cedar Breaks National Monument instead.

Not bad, huh?

Last edited by Nemo Brinker; 12-29-2008 at 12:11 PM..
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Old 08-06-2007, 04:05 PM   #8
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i almost sent you an email yesterday asking if you made it alive, good thing im a slacker!!! Glad to see that you made it! well, so far, from what i can see....
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Old 08-06-2007, 04:27 PM   #9
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Old 08-06-2007, 08:35 PM   #10
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Been waiting for these after hearing about your trip. Very nice. Keep em' coming.
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Old 08-07-2007, 07:04 AM   #11
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Very cool!!!
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Old 08-07-2007, 07:33 AM   #12
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Can't wait to look at the pics tonight on my personal computor.

I'm blocked from the pictures at work.

Again glad you are home safe and happy. Hope to make a road trip with you someday!!!!!

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Old 08-07-2007, 07:54 AM   #13
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So far so cool!!!!(or hot)

Between Tonopha NV and Caliente you should have passed Rachel as they do have one or two petro pumps there. Easy to miss though if your not looking.

Can't wait to hear about the rest of your adventure!
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Old 08-07-2007, 08:21 AM   #14
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This is really amazing - beautiful pictures, a hell of a trip, and a wonderful tribute to your dad. Keep it coming!

(Since I'm in no-freeze Cali, I just put water and Water Wetter in my bikes.)
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Old 08-07-2007, 09:55 AM   #15
Nemo Brinker
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Day 4 map

I rode down from Cedar Breaks in the morning, after meeting some BMW folks in the parking lot--they were on their way out to Monterey for MotoGP.
I, however, was headed out across one of the best routes ever--Hwy 12 across Utah, dropping down to its southeast corner and across Lake Powell on Hwy 95. Riders, truly, I am telling you, you must make this route a motorcycle pilgrimage for yourselves.

(Red Canyon, along 12)

I skipped the RV horror of Bryce Canyon, passed lots of large trucks at high speed, and tunneled some holes in the rock.

As I got closer to Escalante, the color of the canyons changed, and there were more ranches carved out of the canyons.

Still gotta watch for deer, though.


A few miles outta Escalante, the geography goes even more geologically haywire, dropping you down through many twists into Calf Creek Canyon. I was so impressed that I had to stop, throw on some shorts, and stumble up the canyon in 105-degree heat for a couple of miles.

Calf Creek Canyon

Last edited by Nemo Brinker; 12-29-2008 at 12:13 PM..
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