This isn't wind!
Friday, March 10, 2017
Posted by: Jim Johnston #137364
It is 0536 hours on Mother's Day and I'm already behind schedule. Bird Killer, Maps and Stinky are waiting for me at a Fresno, California Chevron station. Luckily, there's no traffic on Shaw Avenue and I make every light. As I pull into the lot I see them standing next to their bikes. They say they haven't been waiting long. I gas up and we hit the road. Our destination for the first day is Wells, Nevada. All I had to do was show up with a motorcycle.
Since I retired, I work at a BMW shop every Saturday. A few weeks ago, Bird Killer and Maps came into the shop to get some things for a trip to Cody, Wyoming. As we talked motorcycle stuff, they asked me if I might want to go also. I'm sure my wife had something important planned for me to do during the week they are going, so of course I say I'll go!
As Bird Killer and Maps offer suggestions for excuses why I should be away from home for a week, Stinky rolls into the lot. As it turns out, everyone already knows each other. Within a few minutes, Stinky is added to the list of travelers. Now all I have to do is figure out which story to tell my wife.
I've been in this kind of situation before, so I know just what kind of excuses work.
"Honey, I've got to be out of town for training for a week next month."
"Really? You're retired!"
"Well, it's retirement training"
Before the date of departure, Bird Killer and Maps take Stinky on a trip to the coast to check him out on his (new to him) bike. It's been a few decades since Stinky has owned a bike, but he proves very capable. The countdown begins!
Back to Mother's Day morning. The sun is just starting to poke up above the Sierra Nevada's as we head North on Highway 99. It's cool, not cold, and traffic is light. I'm sure I'll find out if I remembered to put the Mother's Day card on my wife's pillow before I left.
In no time at all, we're stopping for fuel in Elk Grove. Bird Killer and Maps have R 1200 RTs with considerable range. My bike is a GS Adventure and I won't need gas for three more days. Stinky is on an older GS with a smaller tank, so we're keeping an eye on his gas gauge. We will all top-off when Stinky needs fuel.
The trip continues through the mountains and the next stop is Reno. Beautiful weather so far! The riding order was determined before we left: Bird Killer leads with Stinky, Maps and I following in that order. Our pace is brisk, but safe, and Bird Killer's radar detector remains silent.
Many miles later we pull into our first overnight stop in Wells, Nevada. We check in to the motel and stow our gear and then walk to the truck stop/casino/restaurant/mini-mart for dinner. No winners at the slots after dinner, so we walk back to the motel. Bird Killer and Maps share one room and Stinky and I share another. Stinky unpacks some MREs for dessert and shows me how the military eats. We hit the sack WAY too early as it turns out, and are wide awake at 4 am.
Stinky gets up first and starts to gather his gear for the bathroom. He stares at the floor next to the nightstand between our beds and asks "Is that a black widow? "I get up and take a look – "Yup" is my answer.
Boy, that Stinky can run fast – he almost caught up to me! We finish our morning rituals and are waiting at the bikes for our departure when Bird Killer and Maps exit their room. We drop our keys off in the motel office and let the clerk know about the spider.
Bird Killer leads us north on a nearly deserted road and we stop for a photo op at a crossing of the Snake River on the outskirts of Twin Falls, Idaho. Not the same locale where Evel Knievel made his ill-fated crossing attempt, but close. Not long afterwards we pull over to take some pictures of the back side of the Grand Tetons. The scenery is amazing and pretty soon we're pulling in to our second overnight stop, this time in West Yellowstone, Montana. We get into town early and walk through the town and check out the gift shops. It's the end of the winter season and there's still snow on the ground in the surrounding area. The locals all tell us that the place will be crawling with tourists by Memorial Day, about a week later.
Bird Killer and Maps walk to the entrance to Yellowstone and purchase their park passes for the next day. I think about doing the same and Stinky says to wait until tomorrow. We head back to the motel and clean up the bikes for the next day's trip.
Then next morning we take advantage of the motel's free breakfast and enjoy answering motorcycle questions from the other guests. Pretty soon we're on the road and heading to the entrance to Yellowstone. Bird Killer and Maps sail through Checkpoint Charlie and wait as Stinky and I park our bikes and walk up to the kiosk. Stinky asks for his military discount, then points to me and tells the gate keeper that since he and his father are travelling together, we should be allowed complimentary entry. As it turns out, the complimentary entry is not scheduled to begin until the following week, so we pony up the cash and enter the park. We pull up to where Bird Killer and Maps are waiting. We establish a meeting point for the end of the day and begin our trip through Yellowstone.
Within minutes we stop for our first buffalo sighting. The first one is spotted about half-mile away in the middle of a meadow. Minutes later we spot two more within 50 yards of the road. Then we run into a road block – a herd of 14 of the monsters ambling down the road in front of us. I got tired of waiting for them to complete their trek, so I crawl around them. I stopped ahead on the side of the road and waited for Stinky to catch up. Pretty soon, the buffalo that I'd passed were walking past me at a snail's pace, and within just a few feet of me I was quietly taking pictures of them as they passed me when Stinky caught up. He had a death grip on his handlebars and said "I almost died!" I guess he has an aversion to buffalo.
We leave the herd and head for Old Faithful, where we meet Bird Killer and Maps. The geyser does her thing and we capture the eruption on film. As we are walking back to the bikes another tourist approaches us and asks us if we are missing our bike keys. "Not me," I reply as I quickly find both sets I bring on any trip. "Not m-SHOOT!" replies Stinky as his frantic searches of his pockets, the tourist's and then mine don't turn up his keys. The tourist backs away and says that she found some keys on the ground near the bikes and took them to the Information Office. Stinky runs off and returns shortly with his keys.
The park is absolutely stunning and we get to see the end of the winter season and the beginning of spring. The snow on the edges of the road at the higher elevations and the ice still covering parts of Yellowstone Lake make for an interesting contrast to the warm, sunny day. We stop many more times before leaving the park, making sure that we get a picture in front of the Continental Divide sign. The kiosk at the east end of the park is unmanned and we sail through it on our way towards Cody, Wyoming.
We meet up for lunch at an authentic western BBQ eatery where Maps orders fish. Maybe he didn't get the memo about this being a meat Mecca. A short ride into town and we locate our home for the next two days. We park the bikes and the motel mavens give us the low-down about where to eat. A few beers later we walk a few blocks to the heart of Cody. In no time at all, it's time for dinner and we sit on a patio and order burgers, receiving for our efforts the BIGGEST burger I've seen in a long time. Maps must've felt guilty, because he ordered the two-pound burger, sans fish. We waddled back to the motel and crashed for the night.
The next day we rode to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center and checked out the firearms collection, Yellowstone exhibits and artwork. It was nearly an all-day tour. Before we left the center, we sat and talked about how clean and neat the whole town looked. Maps couldn't believe that there wasn't any graffiti in the restrooms. We decided to head back to the motel to get ready to eat. Stinky didn't lose his keys and we made it back to the motel without incident.
We walked from the motel to the Wyoming Rib and Chop House and discovered that this was THE place to eat. We walked in to the packed restaurant and a gorgeous hostess asked us if we had reservations. Bird Killer followed up his "Uh, maybe? Well, no" with a California smile. Fifteen minutes later, we've got a table! Maps and Bird Killer have buffalo and Stinky and I have regular old beef. Everything is as fantastic as we expected.
We are up and on the road the next morning at 0530, with our destination on the next-to-last day of the trip set for Ely, Nevada. We keep a wary eye out for critters as we head south. Within five minutes we spot our first pronghorn antelope standing next to the road. It's going to be a long day! An errant driver tries to take out all four of us while passing us on the right in a lane that narrows down from two to one.
We climb several passes and encounter a bit of rain, but dry out quickly. The miles pile on as we pick up speed to make it to Ely before dark. So far we've seen several dozen antelope, numerous deer, a coyote racing across the road in front of us and a dead moose on the side of the road. The wind picks up quite a bit and on one of our fuel stops, Stinky complains about how hard it is to keep the bike upright in the gusts.
"This isn't wind," I say. I continue with, "Why I remember back in," but Stinky has walked back to his bike to continue filling his tank. My kids acted the same way when I used to tell them how hard homework was before the internet.
As we get closer to Ely, the wind picks up even more and so does our speed. Maps and I can see Bird Killer and Stinky several miles ahead, but we aren't going quite as fast.
Pretty soon Maps and I hit a speed zone and chop our throttles. Apparently we don't chop them enough, as a deputy pulls in behind us and hits us with lights and siren. The first words out of the deputy's mouth are "Do either of you have any guns?" I tell him that I've got a gun in my pocket and he asks where I work. I tell him I'm retired and he checks my ID.
He asks us, "Do you know why I pulled you over?" Maps volunteers, "Because we were going too fast?" "Nope", says the deputy, "You're not riding Harleys." I figured he just wanted to gab, so we talk motorcycles for a few minutes before riding the rest of the way into town. I think Bird Killer and Stinky woke him up when they went by at warp speed and that Maps and I went by just as he was starting his motor.
We get a good night's rest and are on the road just after daybreak. The mountain road westbound from Ely is deserted and scenic for the first 40 or so miles, then it crosses windy high plains. Next stop is Tonapah, Nevada. I'm sure we would have made record time if it hadn't been for the head and side winds. It was interesting to watch the bikes in front of me riding at a 20-degree angle when we hit gusts.
We finally reach the California border and after a gas stop in Lake Isabella, we shake hands and make plans to meet up later to share pictures and comments. Bird Killer is heading to Delano, Maps and Stinky are heading to Hanford and I am going to Fresno. We take off together through some tight, curvy roads; Bird Killer is with us for few moments before "WHOOSH" – and he's gone!
I follow Maps and Stinky North on until they split off for Hanford. I'm home shortly after that, ready for a cold beer. What a great trip! No break-downs, crashes or tickets. The weather was great for the most part and the company was even better.
Bird Killer: Vince rides so fast that he's killed at least five birds who couldn't get out of his way. I saw him hit one between Cody and Ely, and all that was left was a puff of feathers and bird DNA on his oil cooler intake.
Maps: Adrian is a printed word hold-out. He puts maps in his tank bag. They don't stay there, but he puts them in there. I saw him lose three of them on this trip. They tend to fly away at triple-digit speeds.
Stinky: Kevin earned this moniker after an unfortunate incident in a GI bathroom in Iraq. It must've been pretty bad, because as I understand it, Iraq is a pretty stinky place to begin with.
I have to concede that it was a little windy out there in Nevada, but nothing like the time back in.