No more mister nice guy. Bishop was behind us. If that is what the road had in store for us then the lane ahead was just a little sweeter. Man, cause it was getting hot. We checked to make sure our vents were open for cooling. It was then I noticed Kale always had his main zipper up while I had unzipped mine hours ago to catch the wind.
These stretches of southern Nevada and Utah can get rather desolate and fuel is ever a primary concern. Needless to say we filled up at every chance. The longest distance between service stations was 172 miles. Kale knew his bike had the range. The F 650 gs had yet to be tested. The numbers crunched but would they reflect reality? We rode conservatively as the idea of being stranded for some hours on a shadeless strip of asphalt sucks. Tonopah to Ely Nevada, is one of the few remaining stretches of exquisite nothing. The bikes made it without dipping into reserve eventually arriving at Baker, Nevada, gateway to Great Basin National Park and the Lehman caves.
Being one of the least visited national parks has its upside, less people, less impact. This camp stands out amongst the others for its solitude. There were other campers but no one, it seemed, wanted to intrude upon the rushing mountain stream’s babble in the silence over the great basin. It was awesome and one of the darkest places on the planet making star viewing some of the best.
Then of course, the Lehman Caves. We signed for the first tour of the morning. No one else did and therefore received a private tour. Once again was darkness and deep silence with only an occasional drip of water to disturb it. Stalactites and stalagmites created a maze of translucent spires in total darkness. It is a living cave. Oddly, now that I think,about it, our flashlights were illuminating the natural rock/crystal art that would have otherwise never been seen. Nothing was to be touched. Nothing was. Wow, and yeah man, the whole place was pretty far out.
The cool mountain air was far behind. We dropped into the basin, diverting from Route 6, to lean into the twists and turns of Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Monument. Both have truly amazing rock formations that have to be visited physically to appreciate. Once we were through viewing the rpm’s came on again and the fun began. Tight hairpins to sweepers the roads had it all making the experience complete in a biker kind of way. But man it was getting hot.
Three days into the dry hot weather dehydration and overheating hit like a brick. I was drinking like normal and that was the problem. Normal was simply not enough for the riding conditions. I bonked. Inside the convenience store was the cool and ice cold sports drinks to slam. Without which, the whole damn thing would probably have ended right there. It didn’t and there was something to learn. Drink lots of water. Yellow is not mellow!
This seems like a good point to drop in a safety issue, especially with the contiguous 48 having the hottest weather on record. Dehydration is a sneaky bastard. You reach for a coke when what you need is water. The caffeine keeps you from hydrating. Every chance you get, you have to be drinking fluids. The hot dry weather sucks the moisture right out of you as fast as you can take it in. Even faster.
Most of the riders we saw this tour chose jeans, sneakers, and a tank top for their riding gear. It’s a personal choice. However with all that skin exposed you’re drying out like a drop of water on hot asphalt. Hmmmm, good metaphor. You don’t notice because you are not sweating, the sweat vapors off too fast at 70 mph. A full riding suit like the Aerostitch Roadcrafter, aside from the protection, acts as another layer of insulation against the heat and dry conditions, helping you retain your liquid while the venting keeps you comfortable. Anything to keep from bonking.
For the heat I used a bandana with a couple handfuls of ice rolled inside and tied around my neck. Every stop you renew the ice. It was a simple solution to keep your brain from sizzling and keep you alert and sane. Riding temp at 70 mph, fresh black asphalt, sun overhead, 107 degrees. That’s hot!
We headed northeast. If not directly on Route 6 it was close by. That road had an uncanny knack for following us, or us it. Boulder Co. was the destination. Family, hot shower, home cooked meal, good conversation, and a firm bed never felt so good. Stuart, a rabid bicycle racer, was kind enough to explain to me what proper hydration is all about. Got it! Yellow is not mellow. Pee clear! Okay, okay, enough already with the pee!
Taking an extra day I rode down to Manitou Springs Co. to see Jon Renaud of Back To The Books, bookstore. He carries my novels at the store along with a fine selection of independent authors. Back To the Books’ inventory is as varied as it is eclectic with an excellent children’s section. Manitou Springs, the mountain village, is a shock of vibrant colors in a verdant mountain setting. It works. From here you can make the assault on Pike’s Peak, a 14ner. The village was also nearly victim to the forest fires that raged through the Colorado Springs area a couple of months ago. You could see large swaths of blackened trees and that was just from the road. No doubt the interior was scorched. The town was spared. Manitou Springs is a sweet stop after hanging tight through the twists and turns of mountain road it took to get there. Hydrating and psyching for the return ride.
Back to the road. The bed, family, and friends were now behind us. From Boulder we zigzagged two laners to hook up with Route 6. Out of the pan and into the fire!