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South To North

New Mexico to Seattle - Part II

by Dennis Peterson

Here's the final installment of Dennis Peterson's trip to and from the Southwest in the summer of 99. Peterson's writing is awesome and very enjoyable. To see his other work visit the travelougue section of our archive . - Tom Mehren/Publisher

Grab a beer or what ever, and I'll finish spinning this thing. Somebody hand me one too - I got my hands full here....

Ok, so here I am on the verandah of a really nice restaurant in Bridgeport, there are Harley's parked on the curb below, the wind is buffeting, I've just pulled in from Beatty, NV, and I'm sucking a nice cold beer which is well deserved. One of the gal's to my left is the rider of a clean shovel sitting before me and she tells me she's spun out the oil pump shaft. The lineage is long, but nothing in my Evo kit is of any use to her. I offer my cell phone but she has a cavalry on the way already. Cool, I'll sit back and watch a High Sierra thunderstorm overrun the town - no place I have to be. "Howdy!" just then says my bro...

Well hell, he's antsy to get outta Dodge before the real shit comes in, so my revelry is cut short and I'm reaching for my California approved helmet. We're not 5 minutes in the saddle before Sasquatch takes a bit piddle all over the whole valley. I don't know where we're off to but Dale knows the way like a hound so I try to keep him in my headlight. The old phart likes to dial up that Heritage given a chance.

Before too long or too wet we arrive at Twin Lakes and wend our way to a cabin he's been staying at. Jeri his wife is there and soon brother-in-law Allen and wife Naomi are all aboard and I'm made to feel at home, very much in the lap of luxury, I must say. Way back in the 1960s I used to fish from various logs and weirs at these lakes. I'd never spent the night near them indoors - a creature comfort I could come to relish.

We get all caught up on family stuff, have a fantastic dinner, spend an hour or so on the deck watching the sun go down and the bats come out, and it's bedtime for all. Hehehe -- a bed. Very nice..... I'm about 3,000 miles away from the last real bed I'd slept in. This is pampered life.....zzzzzz

So dawn brings the ubiquitous breakfast and Dale and I decide to do some fishing on the lower of the Twin lakes. I'm primed because I haven't been able to find time for fishing for years and there's something about my Big Bro that I just like being around him. I keep thinking some of his sage wisdom will rub off on me or something. So after a short hike down to the lake and about 90 minutes or so of drowning worms we call it a day and I have a mighty fine rainbow trout on my string and Dale has some drowned worms - God loves bikers who fish.

Not having a lot of time to dally, I need to think about the ride back to Seattle so Dale and I hop on our Harley's and head over to Gardnerville where he lives. This is along a wild and river-worn valley. There is no question that the road is very new and the canyon walls are also pretty new. The Walker River has torn this place a new ass recently. The road along the Walker twists as wildly as does the river but the highway engineers must all ride Softtails because it is a joy to wind along this stretch of concrete. Somewhere along the Walker one of the chrome brows on Dale's tail lamps flew off and whacked me on the head. Probably a good thing he sold it some weeks later 'cuz it was falling apart!!

After 45 minutes or so we were rolling into Dale and Jeri's new driveway. His driveway is on Harley Drive, by the way. Coincidence? I think not! More good reunion stuff, a quick tour by bike around town, and a massive steak and potato later and it's lights out time. This is sooooo quiet compared to home it is almost annoying to have to listen to all the noises your nose and cranium make.

Morning and breakfast come early and I have more road to hit. It's with not a little sadness I say goodbye because I don't know what circumstances will bring us together again soon. Guess I'll have to think of something.

So I head for 395 headed towards Reno and beyond, not having any plan in place or even caring how I wend my way home to Seattle. Surprisingly, I didn't stop till I was home in Seattle, 800+ miles away. The day didn't start out like it was going to be an iron butt thing, but that's just what happened. Happily, it wasn't without reward.

On leaving Gardnerville I rode straight north to Reno through some pretty uneventful Nevada then turned north by west and put Susanville in my sights. This is a nice stretch of highway alternately surrounded by rocky scarps and open prairie. I held speeds to 65 mph not wanting to draw any attention out here in the dingles. The weather was ideal - clear, no hint of rain, and warm without the unbearable heat. I rolled into Susanville just in time for lunch, a pee, and gas. I've always liked this area because it is a good blend of city and country in with a decent climate. There are fantastic vistas just to the north in the Lassen National Forest, to the south in the Sierra mountains, and the deserts to the east. The elevation is 4200 feet which should put it well above the snow line in winter seasons.

Susanville is also at the center of a spider web of roads leading out of town and I had to choose one that would take me back to Seattle. I chose Hwy 139 mostly because I'd never been on it and it was the least "slab" like on the map. It turns out to be a beautiful ride. The rode climbs straight up out of Susanville and in just a very short time you find yourself above 7000 feet on a high broad prairie dotted with dry lakes, wet lakes, lava flows, and high desert plant life. There is nobody on the road but me and it is pretty twisty (read fun) at various points. The area around Eagle Lake is really nice - I didn't have a chance to see what camping/facilities were on the lake but a resort is indicated on the map.

Rolling along mile after mile with no traffic is a nice thing. The road ducks in and out of sparse forests, winds along the lay of the land, and leaves plenty of gaps between twisties to let the mind relax and wander. In what seemed like an incredibly short time I was pulling into a gas station at Adia. It was suggested by one of the locals that I could take a very scenic side trip along a more primitive road to a junction called Lookout then head north through the Modoc National Forest to rejoin the main highway but it looked like a long way to push a bike if I had any mechanical problems so I stayed on the main road and nosed it down out of the mountains into Klamath Falls, OR.

This was about the time I knew I wasn't going to stop till I was home. I'm not a big fan of Oregon - there are few if any roadside rest areas and the folks don't seem to take to you if you're not from there. They seem to have just a bit of an edge to themselves. It's all the more surprising given that I am from Oregon myself and in fact am certifiably Portland, OR's oldest baby boomer, being the first born in the City of Roses on Jan 1, 1946. Anyway, an odd thing happened as I turned north at the edge of Klamath Falls - I was buffeted by several trucks which were going the other way - the wind was from the west - and as each truck would pass my visor would cloud up such that by the time I reached a gas stop at the northern end of the lake I could barely make out the road. I pulled in to a very nice cafe and pulled off the helmet and shit oh dear, it and I were covered in a thick layer of dead green midges. Midges are disgusting bugs that were imported into K Falls to control mosquitos. Now the midges are as big a problem. I guess they have a big business in auto air cleaners there.

I decided not to fight the tourists to see Crater Lake so stayed to the main highway till I turned north by west on Hwy 58. This is a really nice way to cross the Oregon Cascade range. The road is well maintained (no rest areas), has great scenery, parks, lakes, camping, and gas stops. I damn near laid the bike down when I pulled in for gas in Oakridge - I put my foot out as I came to a stop and it slid right out from under me on the loose gravel. Somehow I got it stopped but if it had gone all the way I couldn't have picked it up without help because of a shot back. I didn't have to feel too stupid, but it was damn close.

The Cascades along this highway are populated by some pretty rangy looking evergreens and the forest is never really dense as it can be in the coastal areas of the PNW. This makes for well-lighted turns and none of the slippery mossy stuff you find in the wetter forests. The biggest problem is that on the downhill side of the mountains all the trucks I passed going up want to pass me going down. It was pretty obvious I wasn't going to have a nice comfortable cruise toward Interstate 5 so I hit the throttle and held it at or above 85 as much of the time as conditions would allow. And I still had trucks on my ass.

Once on Interstate 5 the ride quits being fun and becomes a commute. I've been up and down this piece of road so many times I can name the rocks. The wind picked up to an extreme level and was blowing right across the road. From Eugene/Springfield until I got almost to Portland the Fat Boy was tipped to the left into the wind about 20 to 30 degrees. The full disk wheels did not seem to be a problem but as I was in the extreme right lane, anything that went by me and broke the wind flow caused a great deal of excitement as I was getting slapped around quite a bit. My speed was between 65 and 75 at this time, and it didn't matter if I went faster or slower, the buffeting was pretty hefty.

Just south of Beaverton I hit some road work and was stuck in traffic moving at a crawl at good times and stopped dead at others. It took about 2 hours to go twenty miles after which the road was wide open again. Even in Portland it was easy sledding as the sun was setting over the coastal range. It was fully dark before I was 25 miles into Washington state. I hit one more stretch of road work just north of Olympia where it was stop/go/crawl/stop, etc., for about 15 miles after which it was back to normal. At around midnight I hit the button on my garage door opener and rolled into the garage and shut down the engine and cut off the fuel valve. The speedo showed 100 miles short of 4000 miles traveled since I'd left two weeks earlier.

I still get a little dewy thinking about this ride - I'd never undertaken such a long solo run and I wanted it to be memorable. As I've been sitting here so many months afterward jotting down various memories I've found it's just not possible to paint that kind of experience in written words. I've recalled in much greater detail and volume moments of the ride which for brevity will have to go unshared but which will not go unremembered. I hope to do it again.


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