American West Ride
July 19, 2022
Dale “Warchild” Wilson was bringing the Cognoscente Group back together in Ely, NV for the 2022 Blaze of Glory 35-hour rally. This event was the catalyst for me to plan a ride out to the lonely roads of the American West. I love riding where I don’t see another vehicle for many miles at a time. It is a great escape from the big city that we live in. There would be no rally route planning in advance of this event. The waypoints and the requirements for finishing would be released Friday evening before a start time of 4:00 AM on Saturday. Planning an efficient route in several hours before departing for a day and a half of riding is a challenge. The only route planning I could do was my ride to and from Ely that would each span several days for relaxed riding. Many of the riders will do long days just to get to Ely, but I wanted to take it easy on the way there.
This summer has been hot. Getting out of Texas in July is almost always uncomfortable. Leaving early in the morning to head for higher elevations is the only option and the heat will eventually be unavoidable. Debbie snapped a photo of me around 5:00 AM and I rolled out of the metromess towards New Mexico. I stopped a couple of hundred miles west of Dallas and had one of her awesome sausage balls for a early morning snack. The Spotwalla site showed the current locations of riders that I would meet in Ely in a few days. They were still widely scattered about the US and Canada.
Once I was in the Texas Panhandle, the heat caught up with me. There was a strong side wind that made the 103-degree temperature feel like a convection oven. I made a few Tour of Honor and AULDR stops along the way in New Mexico.
Santa Rosa was my destination for an overnight stay. The relatively short day from Dallas to Santa Rosa helped to manage the hot temperatures. The temperature hit 109 degrees about 30 miles south of Santa Rosa. I saw a small thunderstorm north of me and hoped I would intersect it. Once I passed through the wind and light rain, the temperature display on my dash dropped to 70, but rose again in Santa Rosa. I checked into my motel and walked across Route 66 to Chico’s Tortas y Piñas Lokas for a very tasty dinner.
July 20, 2022
I continued west early in the morning following the iconic Route 66 path along I-40 to Grants, where I documented another AULDR stop along with the Arizona border.
Navajo land was beautifully barren with residences scattered far between in the high desert. This was a time for meditation in the quiet roads of the Southwest.
My overnight stay was in Page, AZ. I grabbed a mid-afternoon snack at the Grand Canyon Distillery and headed off to the Lake Powell Dam for some photos of the 180-foot low lake. There is a controversy around the dam on the Colorado River. The whole matter may come to a rest if the lake level continues dropping to the point that electricity can no longer be produced and water flow requirements for the rest of the canyon must be met. After dinner back at the distillery, I wandered back to my accommodations where I was amongst the few English-speaking patrons at the swimming pool. The American West has become one of Europe’s favorite vacation spots and I’m very fine with that.
Thursday morning was great weather. I headed across the dam again at Lake Powell and out of Utah into the high deserts of Nevada.
You know for certain when you are in Nevada when there are slot machines in the gas station. As I approached Pioche, my GPS routed me down a sketchy gravel road towards the Boot Hill Cemetery. The ground in Nevada is just waiting to swallow up unsuspecting visitors with its marble-sized rocks and loose sand. I decided to backtrack to the highway and take another approach to the cemetery for my AULDR documentation at the Boot Hill Cemetery.
I arrived in Ely and checked in with the Cognoscente Group. I walked back to Hotel Nevada and kept having problems finding my room… In the IT world, a 404 code is presented when a site or page on the internet is not available. Geek humor…
Friday was the odometer check and all-important shooting competition as part of the Blaze of Glory rally. A nice shot within the target would yield 1.5, 2 or 3 times as a multiplier of our total rally score. There was knife throwing as well, but this was just for fun.
I took my time getting over to the start of the odo check and was sent off to the shooting pit some 24 miles east of Ely. Once I arrived, I was greeted with the commanding voice of Paul Tong screaming “Private Swim, get in the bunker NOW!!!” The “bunker” was a folding table set on its side with a part of a deer leg nearby for those who were hungry… Our target for the shooting competition was the rally shirt that we were currently wearing. Once it was my time, I placed the shirt with the target on the wood frame some 25 meters away. Nancy helped me with the very simple task of placing my shirt over the frame… Oh boy,,, it’s always the simple things… Paul handed me the rifle with three rounds and afterwards a pistol containing another three rounds.
I fired off the six rounds but could not see where I was hitting on the black shirt target. Once I collected my target, I saw my rifle grouping was within 2 inches but outside of the target. My pistol grouping was more widely spread, but two were on the outside target ring with one inside giving me a multiplier of 1.5 for my total rally points. Score!
I headed back into Ely and noticed a marker for the Lincoln Highway right next to the Nevada Hotel. The Lincoln Highway was dedicated in 1913 and spans over 3,000 miles between New York City and San Francisco.
The rally participants gathered for dinner and our mission briefing. Most all had camo face painting to complement the theme of the rally. Kerri Miller sported random Kerri-like paints. We presented our cigars (rally payola) to the Cigar Examination Team. If the CET approved of our offering, we were then given flash drives with waypoints for us to examine and plan the next day and a half of riding. Warchild laid out the requirements for finishing the rally, and we were given a cookie baked by Cletha to keep intact during the ride in order to gain 1,000 points. There were 9 different missions to choose memorials from for a visit and documentation. The missions were based around the branches of the US Military, fallen soldiers, large guns, helicopters and summits. To be considered a finisher, a route would have to be developed and completed to visit at minimum one bonus in each of the missions, and multiples (except for summits) within three missions of our choosing. We quickly disbanded and headed to our rooms for route planning. I discovered I had a flash drive with corrupted waypoint files and had to head over to the Four Sevens to find Warchild to get good set. After several hours and iterations of possible routes, I had a somewhat efficient plan put together. It would not be a rally winner, but a route that I would enjoy and hopefully result in at minimum a finish in this rally. I laid down in bed at 11:30 and stared at the ceiling wondering what I not accounted for in my planning. Some of the missions had waypoints spread far apart, and I had only one stop in the GA (Go Army) mission. Missing just this stop or not documenting it properly would result in a DNF. I had only 4 stops in the PR and DB missions. Missing just one of these would also result in a DNF. I think I may have finally gone to sleep around 12:30…
July 23, 2022
3:00 came very early. I jumped out of bed, brewed some coffee and put my travel gear together. I headed over to the Four Sevens with my moto. My starting odometer was recorded and we nervously waited for the 4:00 start.
Around 10 minutes before 4:00, bikes began to stage for the send-off. Warchild posed with each rider for Tobie Stevens to photograph, and afterwards Chuck sent us off in ~10 second intervals.
The BG1 bonus was on the edge of Ely where a traffic jam of rally riders were pulling off to claim. I decided to continue north out of Ely to head straight to Wendover for a couple of stops. I would claim BG1 in the daylight when I returned to Ely for the finish. An hour or so out of Ely, the sun began to rise across the high desert. Watching sunrise is something I have always enjoyed about motorcycling. Jim Handley and Andy Mackey passed me eventually south of Wendover. I saw Jim in West Wendover heading east from where I thought the first bonus was. I followed my route down a tricky dirt road that appeared to circle around a hill. Something did not look right and I stopped to look at the documentation. The example photo for GA1 showed some buildings in the proximity of the memorial. I did not see any here on this squirrely road, and I made the decision to head back to pavement. My first and only GA stop was putting my rally finish at risk! Andy Mackey pulled up and we talked a bit about this bonus. I was not able to send the PDF with all boni information from the flash drive over the internet to my phone due to a lousy data connection. Andy had the PDF with the street address in Wendover for the bonus rather than only the coordinates I had which placed it incorrectly out of town. We reversed course and found the bonus at the street address.
Andy continued his journey west and I proceeded east across the Bonneville Salt Flats towards Salt Lake City. There were a lot of boni in the SLC area. I did not enjoy the traffic, but it was nice to collect so many that I needed in the city.
I spent a couple of hours in the city collecting eight boni. I was ready to head back out into the country where I crossed into Wyoming briefly to collect one DB (Doughboy) bonus. At the border, I documented the state with an AULDR sticker for Rob Carlos’ AULDR year-long rally. Another Doughboy bonus was back in Utah not far away from the Wyoming border. My route then took me south briefly into Provo to collect the PR27 bonus memorial obelisk honoring all branches of the military.
The Spotwalla site showed riders all over the western states. Only James Owen and I were somewhat in the east. James was on a run to Texas and back. He would wind up riding twice the distance as me. The roads got very interesting as I neared Grand Staircase-Escalante. There was hardly any traffic on the twisty Hwy 12 known as the Hogback Highway. This road is tricky in daylight, and the sun had set well before I arrived. I dropped my speed to avoid the cows and deer on the road and still enjoyed the dark ride to Escalante where my room key was waiting in an envelope at the Cowboy Country Inn.
July 24, 2022
I slept well. I knew others were riding all night. I would have enjoyed a longer stay, but I was on the rally clock and needed to keep moving.
The road through Bryce Canyon was very quiet on this beautiful Sunday morning. The sun was behind me and illuminated the red hoodoos with spectacular light. I continued working my way east towards Nevada. Riders were doing the same as their location showed in Spotwalla. James had almost caught up with me after his run back to Amarillo.
I fueled up in Millford, UT and met a pair of riders from California doing some Backcountry Discovery Routes. They were working their way to Colorado. The light showers in the high desert were welcome as I crossed over the Nevada border. My bonus stops in Nevada were all summits, including Wheeler Peak with a ride up to roughly 10,200 feet. This was a sizable bonus at 13,159 points matching the peak’s elevation. My last bonus to document was the BG1 tank where I saw the early-morning rally traffic jam just after we started on Friday. I carefully brought Cletha’s cookie out to document it in a bonus photo as required. I repacked it to bring to the finish showing it was intact for an additional 1,000 points.
There was plenty of time ahead of the 3:00 deadline for the return. I could have continued west for 55 miles and picked up a couple of additional summit boni for another ~14,000 points or ~21,000 with the shooting multiplier. My goal was to finish and the additional summits would not help me. Chuck stopped my rally clock at 1:07 and recorded my final odometer. He gave me instructions to create file folders for each of the nine missions and place my boni photos in each to be reviewed. I parked my moto and sat down beside Lisa Stevens to organize my documentation. Lisa told me to stay put next to her for scoring once I was done. She scored me in Big Sky back in 2013 during the Into the Unknown 36-hour rally hosted by Robert and Sylvie Torter. We stepped through my photos and recorded the successful boni, but not the points awarded for each. I was denied no boni and went off to have a shower and celebratory cold brew at the Hotel Nevada before we gathered for the awards banquet.
There’s a strange trait of long distance riders. We often ride alone, but cherish coming together as a group to talk about our adventures or any other subject of interest. This was indeed the case as we gathered for the banquet. After dinner, Warchild proceeded to step through the finishers beginning with Kerri, who had a driveline failure and had to withdraw from the rally. Kerri still drove her rental car back to Ely to be with us all at the finish! We all had a great time being together and the best thing is everyone arrived safely back in Ely. I was happy with my finish position, especially considering the minimal mileage I rode and my long time off of the bike in Escalante.
I awoke fairly early and prepared for my departure from Ely. I saw Warchild’s post with the results. I noticed the shooting competition 1.5 multiplier was not indicated for me and I never figured out how the score wound up as shown. But, that’s minor in the grand scheme of things and I was ready for the ride back through Utah and into southern Colorado.
Hwy 50 was lonely just as it is known for. That’s fine with me.
After crossing into Utah, I was watching what I thought was fog off in the distance from the highway. I finally figured out it was a salt flat and later found that I was seeing Lake Sevier to the south of the highway. I saw a gravel road and turned back to take a closer look. It was surreal and eerily quiet.
I picked my way through Delta, Holden, Scipio and Salina on my way to my favorite interstate highway in the US, I-70. Before I intersected I-70, an old Sinclair gas station caught my attention south of Scipio. I don’t like interstates, but riding I-70 is fun with its minimal traffic and absolutely spectacular wide open scenery. After Green River, I followed Hwy 191 (another great road!) to Moab. The Moab Brewery is a great place for food and libation. I sat at the bar and a man sat next to me. He was waiting for his friend to show up. We somehow got on the subject of motorcycles (imagine that…) and I found he has a passion for them even more than mine. Ted Eckert has been involved with motos since his early years. He pulled up photo after photo from the 70’s and showed each to me. He gave me his Westwood Racing sticker that I added to my collection in my top box.
The thunderstorms began building as I rode south out of Moab and into Colorado. Once again I was treated to entertainment in the sky with the majestic clouds and avoided any major rain.
Mancos, “Main-Kiss”… as the locals say is a small community west of Durango. I had originally booked a place in Durango, but switched to Mancos to avoid the big crowds. The Mesa Verde Motel is owned and run by Matt & Sonia Vincent and Matt & Sally Dziedzic. It is a great place to stay! I met Sonia and Matt, who are very friendly. I walked from the motel to the Mancos Brewery where I had a refreshing brew and tasty pizza.
July 26, 2022
Today would be a kicked-back ride through northern New Mexico to Tucumcari. I met Bruce from Colorado and Robbie from New Zealand who were preparing for a multi-month journey to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Bruce is riding an earlier generation V-Strom and had installed the MCCruise active cruise control. The lack of an active cruise on my bike has been bugging me since I purchased it. Bruce convinced me the previous night that this particular unit works great with its servo drive and properly interfaces into the V-Strom electronics. I ordered one from Australia immediately.
I made my way through Durango for some AULDR stops and turned south into New Mexico. The steam engine train was leaving just as I was beginning to make my out of Durango as well. Debbie and I took this train from Durango to Silverton in the early 80’s and had a great time in the beautiful canyon and mountain scenery!
Hwy 550 was fairly busy, but once I turned onto Hwy 96 the traffic was back to hardly any, which I enjoy. The thunderstorms were building and looked strong. Once again, I somehow avoided major rain. I was hoping The Brakeroom (Santa Fe Brewing taproom) would be open, but I was too early. I rode to the food trucks on Old Stanta Fe Trail and was treated to a hot (seriously spicy) Torta Pollo. The clouds continued to build south of Santa Fe and I finally rode through heavy rain near Las Vegas. But once I turned south, it was dry for my ride off of the mesa at Trujillo. The sky was filling with massive storms that had heavy rain shafts below them. I avoided these storms and loved watching them as they churned in the sky.
Near Tucumcari I passed by a strong storm and stopped for photos once I was relatively past danger. The lightning was impressive and I was able to capture several strikes in the photos. I love the Southwest skies!
The Roadrunner Lodge was my stop for the night. David Brenner owns this piece of classic Americana and it is a stop on Route 66 that I highly recommend. David acquired the property in 2014 and has done a great job with its restoration and décor. I believe I have stayed here at least 4 times now. Del’s Restaurant is conveniently across the street.
Leaving and returning to Texas is somewhat of a day-long commute. There are some nice roads east of Lubbock, but for the most part the journey is comprised of just getting home. The temperature was not as bad as when I was heading out, but still darn hot.
This has been a wonderful trip with challenges in the BoG Rally to keep me sharp and thoroughly entertained. It was great seeing all of my long-distance friends in Ely. I’ll look forward to my next encounter with these eclectic and interesting riders!
Ride Tracklog: https://www.alltrails.com/explore/recording/202207-american-west-ride-0ad5292
Rally Tracklog: https://www.alltrails.com/explore/recording/20220723-24-blaze-of-glory-35-hour-rally-c617ea9