Never one to make Kale wait unduly, we broke camp. Unfortunately my one cup of coffee was finished. I would have to deal on my own. With an altered plan of attack, we hit the road with a mission; get me back in one piece. Backtracking thirty miles got us to US25 south. We booked it, eating up the cool of the hot morning. At 85 mph, the pace was still slow. Huge pickups blasted passed us. You could only guess at the speed. The high plains began to roll more and the surface of the road, excellent. A few herds of cows and bison went by in a blur of speed. The bikes held tight. After a leisurely pace across the country, they finally had a chance to run. High speed, well not high speed, but really fast, sweepers, rights, lefts, rises and dips. I think we all enjoyed the experience.
We spent the night in Casper. A short day for us that allowed for some time to watch the Olympics and hydrate in the cool of a hotel room. Ahead was a big stop. Independence Rock. The outcropping of stone got its name from the early pioneers who arrived at this point in their journey on July Fourth. A portion of the original trail is has been saved. A bridge crosses it for viewing and imagination. The rock itself is a massive blunt of stone rising from the floor of the plains with nothing around except the sage, gophers and distant mountain range that was appropriately out of place.
As the pioneers must have been thankful for making it this far, so was I. Even more thankful to have such a good friend and riding partner as Kale. There are only a few who enjoy long hours of riding everyday. Six to eight is tops for most folk and more than enough for anyone. We are the exception. Considering the next few days ahead…
Through the Green Mountains, Whiskey Peak and down to our old friend Interstate 80. After a lunch that was best left forgotten, we did on 80 what 80 was made for, making time. The heat pressed down on you like one of those weights they put on bacon to keep it flat. There was just no escaping it. Water, lots of it, and don’t let it get to you.
If you want to think, the road gives you plenty of time to do it. You have to remain alert enough to ride and keep the mind active, somehow. For one stretch of road I sang ‘ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall’ until reaching the next fuel stop. A little crazy I will admit, but whatever it takes to stay on the ball is what it takes. The day rolled on relentlessly, waves of heat warping the road, melting reality. Everything you saw had that Dali look to it, like wax sagging in the heat. Kale looked like a lava light, his helmet that big glob that’s just about to break free. A turn signal, a rest area, shade and cold water. Whoo, that was close!
From here on out it would be one’s ability to endure that would make the difference. It’s just heat. Stay hydrated, iced down, and don’t lose your cool. You can endure longer if you keep your head. Lose it and it’s over.
Mountain ranges loomed ahead. The thought of cool alpine air gave you something to look forward to. We pulled off for gas and supplies in Park City, Utah. The drop in temperature was a mere five degrees. There would be no relief as we dropped down into the Salt Lake valley. The pancake flat land stretched far beyond the horizon. The famous salt flats are but a small, brilliant stretch of this level plain.
We gassed again at the beginning of Bonneville Salt Flats, watered up and iced down. This last push of the day was going to be brutal. At least the sun was still high in the sky and not burning holes through your eyes. The bright glare of reflected sun off the salt crystal however made up for what would have been a small relief. Thoughts of being out on the flats without water or shade were not happy ones. Having mentioned the flats in one of my books it was nice to see memory served well when describing them. The white hot flash of an arc welder would give you an idea of the brilliance of the land. There were no plumes of salt grit rising from the raceway at the western end of the flat. The rooster tails of racing cars or motorcycles would shoot high off the rear tires describing its path across the flats. There were no tails today. It must be the heat I thought. They would race in the early day before everything melts or in the evening after it solidifies again.
The mountains on the western edge seemed to be dripping into the valley. There was no respite from the heat but there was Wendover, Utah. A border town half in Utah, half in Nevada. We spent the night in a hotel on the Utah side for the quiet. Step over the state line and its casinoville. Tonight was the last night of the trip. The moon was full as it was the day we left. Though not home yet we were coming full circle. Unbeknownst to me at the time tomorrow would be the final exam, testing all the skills we gained over the course of the last month and push us to the limit.
Next: California bound. 620 miles of Hell and Irony.