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If you follow Biltwell, you know they were planning on taking a ferry up to Alaska in August then riding as far north as possible, dunking our junk, and then riding back to SoCal through British Columbia and the PNW. That was the plan and then the pandemic struck.
Travel (especially international travel) got hard, real hard. Alaska was requiring a COVID test for entry and Canada closed down completely in response to the virus. This essentially meant our trip to the Arctic Circle was postponed (at least for 2020) BUT we had already blocked off the time from our work schedules so we decided virus or not, we were going on a ride. We’d do our best to be as self-contained as possible so as to be as socially distant as possible (think that’s the whole point of motorcycles anyway?) which meant a chase rig and since we were dragging a trailer around, we decided we truck out to the infamous Bonneville Salt Flats to start our journey.
Bills pan on the salt
The Bonneville Speedway is located in the western portion of the flats, near Wendover Utah. It is perfectly flat and has a thick crust of salty soil. It looks like a frozen lakebed covered with snow. No vegetation grows in that area. A perfect jump-off spot for our little ride. We unloaded the bikes and did our best Burt Munro impressions before heading back to our makeshift campsite. While we listened to race teams tune and cycle their motors for the next days’ time trials (did I mention it was Speed Week?), we cooked up a simple dinner of BBQ’d encased meats and pre-fabbed potato salad. This definitely wasn’t the fanciest meal ever prepared but as you know, stuff is always more delicious when prepared in camp. Afterward, suds were consumed, lies were told and we all hit the sack relatively early in anticipation for the ride to start early the next day.
Kalen
I love mornings for one simple reason: that first cup of coffee! If you ever travel with us, you know you’ll see several Jet Boil set-ups getting heavy use during our rides, especially in the wee hours, and waking up on the salt was just the start of that. After some high-octane caffeine was consumed and everyone’s respective gear was stowed on their bikes and we hit the highway. While the northwestern portion of Utah/eastern Nevada isn’t particularly epic in terms of scenery, the tarmac is smooth and fast…just what we needed as we all settled into our rhythm. We were seven riders deep but most of us have logged a lot of miles together so our pack is tight and we pace is brisk and since this was the case, we quickly closed into Idaho and as we did, the scenery slowly switched from desert to grasslands which in turn gave way eventually to mountains, streams, and greenery….we’d definitely made it to God’s Country!
River and bikes on the road
Now, I’m sure if you’ve lived in Southern California for more than a year, you’ve heard folks talk about moving to Idaho…it’s gorgeous they’ll rave. Killer riding, friendly people. Hot springs, lakes rivers, and streams…fishing and beautiful landscapes. Well, I’m here to verify it’s all true. Our time in Idaho was some of the best on the trip. We made camp next to a small stream that our friend and professional fun-haver Kalen had no problem pulling healthy little trout out of and at night, we pitched tents in the tall grass that acted as a privacy screen between campers. After the camp cook (me) fed the troops, we huddled around the fire to tell more tall tales and talk about the days riding. Idaho was one of the few spots we decided we should stay more than a night or two (3 is what we ended up committing to) and it was sure was worth it. Perfect temps during the day that made it hard to get off the road coupled with chilly nights made us wish we’d brought out long johns were just what our band of merry men (and one woman) had come in search of. Well played Idaho, well played!.
Josh packing his bike
BUT since this was a ride, after all, it was time to get moving so we pushed north into Montana and posted up on the eastern side of the Sawtooth pass. Man, what a glorious area full of both friendly locals and intrepid adventurers like ourselves. Ever heard of Jacks? Neither had we but it’s a bar with an adjacent campsite…a perfect place to wet yer whistle after a long day in the saddle and bed down soon thereafter next to a babbling brook and maybe a wayward horse or two. Definitely a cool spot for guys like us passing through!
Vertical ride next to river
Next up were some quick miles into eastern Washington and down into Portland for the night. We cheated and got a hotel for the night (hey, we’d earned a hot shower at this point and I think the pack was a little tired of my camp chow). Adult beverages were consumed and this time only true stories were told (ok, that’s a lie). We woke up well-rested, grabbed a bagel, and made a b-line to the coast through some twisties that made me wish I’d dropped some Dramamine. Those switchbacks eventually gave way to one of the most epic stretches of coastal tarmac around. Damn you Oregon, yer gorgeous! Camp for the night was just outside Florence, home of the famous sandhills that attract both purveyors of two and four-wheeled freedom machines in search of the perfect dune. We ended up out in sand dunes in a rented SXS one afternoon and within an hour, we ran the tire off the rim twice and rolled our borrowed buggy once as well. Needless to say, we didn’t get our deposit back.
JD kicking in a cloud
Florence was killer and the weather was perfect but we had friends to see in Bend so we pinned it from the coast eastward. The weather warmed up quite a bite but the scenery and roads were nice so no one seemed to mind. As we ground up the grade to Bend, we had to toss one bike on the trailer due to mechanical failure but that only made everyone that much more determined. Our lunch stop was a choice burrito shop and after filling our bellies and high fiving some buddies, we headed out to Prineville. We quickly found a choice camp spot next to a river and set up shop. Some of us had bike repairs to make (not me…hashtag humblebrag) and of course, there were beers to drink too! We got busy but since we knew the ride was winding down, we called it quits at a decent hour and hit the hay
Otto’s chop and helmet
Seeing as how this was our final day on the lamb, we got up early (after some coffee of course) and commenced licking our chops. A local greasy spoon was sourced and we ended up eating too much (per usual) before hitting the road and pinning it south. As we hit the CA state late, the temps climbed into the triple digits and our bikes became increasingly harder to kick. That’s ok because we were nearing our final destination (Redding) where we planned on throwing the bikes on the trailer and pinning it home. It’d been 2100 miles where we dunked our junk countless time, drank too many beers and bubbly waters, saw sights most never will, and above all, we got to clear our minds for just a few days and put things in perspective
Chops on highway
In the van on the way home, we all agreed it’d been a heck of a trip. No one had gone down, lots of miles were made and we had all been reminded that the road is still the cure for what ail’s ya.
Written by Otto
Photo courtsey of Geoff Kowalchuk