|Today was the first day of my trip where
Iíve been the least bit concerned about gas.† Not the upset stomach
type but the petrel type.† When I decided to take Hwy. 50 to Hwy 6
through the southwestern corner of Nevada, I knew that I was going
to be riding through wide-open country. Wide-open country is fine
but it can make for long distances between gas stations.
The morning dawned cool and bright as I left Richland, Utah, at 7:00
a.m.† I needed to backtrack eight miles to find a local country road
to Aurora, and the connection to Highway 50.† Last night when I filled
up at the Chevron station, I got detailed directions from a local
sheriff about how to get there from here.† All went as planned and
within fifteen minutes I was on Highway 50, heading west.
The beginning of the ride wound through some local hills and valleys
then opened onto a long broad valley.† The road, at this point, became
straight as a string (photo 1) with little traffic and even
less development.† I took a picture of one house out in the middle
of this broad valley, next to the mountains, with no one else around
for miles and miles (photo 2).† How do these people make a
living out here?† These folks are made of hearty stock: self reliant,
independent, and apparently comfortable with being alone.
I stopped in Ely, Nevada for gas and picked up Highway 6 to Tonopah,
164 miles away.† It was at this point that I became somewhat cautious
concerning my gas situation.† There are no towns on the map between
Ely and Tonopah.† My Beemer averages about 40 mpg and holds 5.5 gallons.†
If all goes well that gives me a range of about 220 miles before I
run out of gas.† The problem is that Iíve never even gotten close
to that distance before Iíve filled up again.† In truth, I donít really
know how far this thing will actually go before running dry.
Iím in the process of thinking about this situation when I pass a
sign at about the 22 mile mark that officially informs me there is
no gas for the next 50 miles.† Hot Damn!† I can go 72 miles with my
eyes closed as long as I know there is indeed gas 50 miles ahead.
After being on the road for more than an hour I come to a little store
with one lonely gas pump out front (photo 3).† It has only
89-octane gas and my motorcycle prefers 91.† Hey, beggars canít be
choosers and 89 octane is close enough for government work.† Fill
There is one, lone, teenage girl in the store working the place. Two
old buffalo stand quietly in a dusty, dry corral in the back, and
me.† I comment that this place is a fur piece from anywhere for a
part-time summer job.† She tells me her grandparents own the place
and sheís staying the summer with them to help out.† This is obviously
a young lady torn between teenage desires to be with friends in the
summer, and family responsibilities.† I get the feeling sheís accepted
her decision, reluctantly.† I take 1.8 gallons and am set for the
next 94 miles to Tonopah.
The road to Tonopah is pretty typical Nevada country.† Some mountains,
lots of sage and scrub brush, straight roads that go on forever, some
more mountains, and then repeat the above.† The only real difference
is that there seem to be fewer people here than the other roads Iíve
traveled in Nevada, and there werenít a lot of people there.† Hwy
50 is not the ďLoneliest Road in America.Ē† Trust me, highway 6 is
I reach Tonopah around 1:30 in the afternoon. Iíve gained an hour
when I entered the Pacific Time Zone somewhere back down the road.†
Iíve actually been on the road, minus gas fill-ups, for seven and
one-half hours.† I stop at a nameless casino for lunch.
Eating in a casino turned out to be a big mistake.† The food was all
right, but there was an awful lot of smoke from the casino.† I have
a bowl of soup and eat fast.† With me, eating fast is easy to do.†
Almost all of my relatives were heavy smokers, so I grew up with it
in our home, both my parents being heavy smokers as well.† The city
I now live in does not allow smoking in restaurants so Iíve become
used to eating in a smoke-free environment and was not even aware
of that fact until I started eating in the smoky confines of that
casino.† Truth be known, I prefer the smoke free meal.
I donít even want to go into the number of my family members who have
died from smoking related diseases.† They run the gamut from cancers
of the throat and vocal chords, emphysema, lung cancer, early stroke,
you name it and one of my family members has died from it.† And the
problem with cancer and emphysema is they donít kill you fast.† On
the contrary, they are a slow agonizing death, which steal your self-respect.†
No, the Whiteheadís donít do well as smokers.† Iím back on the road
by 1:50 and on my way west.
This afternoon is a repeat performance of this morning until we get
to California.† I never actually know when I enter California since
some kids have stolen the ďWelcome to CaliforniaĒ sign.† Hey, kids
out here have to do something for fun, with nothing but jack rabbits
for company.† In fact, between trucks at night and teenagers with
guns during the day, this has got to be a dangerous place for jackrabbits.
I stop at the agricultural inspection station for a drink, just outside
the town of Benton.† There is only one ďinspectorĒ way out here, a
middle-aged lady, and sheís friendly and willing to talk.† I find
myself admiring these folks who live such a different life than mine
and who are seemingly content in their situation.† Our ability, as
a species, to adapt to our surroundings must have played a major part
in our climbing to the top of the food chain.
From here the road starts to gain interest. First I climb into some
red rock mountains, then a long stretch of almost straight road that
runs behind the eastern side of the mountains.† Then up again into
a forested area of red bark pine trees that open on to vistas of the
mighty Sierra Nevada Mountains.† I canít imagine what it must have
been like as a settler, having just crossed the deserts of Nevada
in a wagon train, and seeing those huge mountains.† They stand like
a citadel, protecting California from the Mongol hordes from the east.†
Apparently they werenít that big a deal, since weíve become the most
populist state in the union.† One out of ten Americans now live in
California.† Finally I come over a hill and see Mono Lake below and
to my right.† Lee Vining is only a hop and a skip away.
The ride on the California side of the border is marked with signs
warning, ďDips for Next 5 Miles.Ē† This part of the trip is like an
amusement ride with dips that create ďGĒ forces in your stomach, and
quick hills that make you light headed. Up and down, up and down.
Yahoo!! Itís time to slow this sucker down before I hurt myself, or
Itís now 4:20 and Iím close to the eastern entrance of Yosemite.†
Iím tempted to go on but my body says no, so I get a little cabin
in Lee Vining for $65 (photo 4).† Distance traveled today,
525 miles, a record for me.
I clean up and head next door to the ďNicelyís CafťĒ for a bite to
eat.† On the way in, I see two BMWís parked outside, one a K1100 and
the other a K75.† Both are painted a light, matching metallic blue.†
After ordering my meal, I engage the owners in a conversation about
their trip.† They are a couple from Arizona and have gone almost the
opposite direction of my trip, going all the way into Canada then
down the coast.† They are returning from the National BMW Rally in
Redmond, Washington.† They tell me there were more than 7000 BMWís
at the rally, small by Sturgis standards, but they enjoyed themselves
and plan to attend next years rally in Virginia. Later, after dinner,
they show me their bikes and we talk about some of the cruising improvements
they have made.† Nice folks, which is turning out to be the norm on
I return to my motel to call Linda.† For the first time, Iím starting
to get anxious to be home.