Ride to Nevada, Utah and Arizona

April and May, 2006

I was joined by my long time friend, Jim Jensen, who lives in Hoodsport, Washington. He is a retired City of Tacoma Police Sergeant. We have been friends for approximately 38 years, but we have never taken an extended motorcycle trip together. He was the perfect motorcycling trip companion for me. He was willing to make great time and ride, shall we say, briskly, when necessary, yet take the time to take some pictures when it was appropriate. He rides a 1999 BMW K1200LT which he moves along well on.

My ride is a 2003 Yamaha FJR1300. I took the trip on Pirelli Diablo Strada EMS tires, the front tire being brand new, and the rear having little more than 500 miles on it before starting. More about tires later. The FJR1300 is the perfect motorcycle for me, for this trip and the other riding that I do. I wore an Aerostitch Darien two piece riding suit for both the hot and cold days. It did the job admirably. I also have a Garmin 2730 GPS/MP3 Player/XM radio. Each day of the trip was pre-loaded into the Garmin. I will was able to hear the GPS, and the MP3 player as well as the XM radio, as it is connected to a Starcom1 Advance communication system. I also was able to take some cell phone calls while I rode when I was in a coverage area. My Valentine One radar detector is also connected to the Starcom. We also had bike-to-bike communications via the Starcom systems and FRS/GMRS radios.

Pictures begin here! Will open in a new Window. Click the thumbnails for a larger picture. Click the Day titles for a map of that day's travels.


Day 1 Ė Napa to Reno

The first day was an easy day for me. It was just a short ride from Napa to Reno, about 200 miles. I took one little stretch break in Truckee. The weather was good most of the way, but it started to rain as I got into Reno. I got a few drops of rain, although my riding partner didnít fare as well and got caught in a pretty good downpour about 8 miles north of Reno until he arrived from Washington state. I guess he should not have taken the time to talk to the CHP outside of Susanville! I had secured parking for us in the Jet West aircraft maintenance hangar at the Reno airport, along with a courtesy car to use that night. It did rain most of the evening, so the hangar parking allowed our bikes to be dry and ready to go in the morning.

Day 2 Ė Reno to Ely

It was a beautiful crisp morning as we awoke in Reno for our second day. The rain had stopped and the air was clear. It was pretty straight roads heading east to Ely. At the suggestion of a friend of mine, Doug Plumley (Bugnatr) from the FJR Forum, we did a little side trip off of the main highway on Highway 722. It was a very desolate road, but a good motorcycle road. We ate lunch in Austin, Nevada and another stretch break and some pictures in Eureka, Nevada.

Day 3 Ė Ely to Moab

The scenery started to get better as we rode toward Utah. We took our lunch break, just a snack, at a gas station in Delta, Utah. It was a beautiful day and we rested on a bench next to the gas station. As we approached Moab it started to warm up and we encountered some road construction delays outside of Moab.

Day 4 Ė Moab to Bryce Canyon

We left Moab, headed back west a bit, before turning south for our route through Hanksville and on to Bryce Canyon. As we headed north, there were strong winds out of the northwest which made for a noisy and buffeting ride. Once we got on the highway towards Hanksville, the wind improved, as we were then traveling south. As we proceeded south, towards Bryce Canyon, we stopped more often to take pictures as the scenery of Utah became more interesting. We gassed up in Hanksville and worked on a loose connection between my Garmin 2730 audio out plug and my Starcom which was causing audio breakups. This took a few minutes, and we were on our way again towards Bryce Canyon.

We arrived in Bryce Canyon and checked into the Best Western Ruby Inn. We put our gear in the room and headed down toward the National Park itself. The entry fee was $20.00 per car, $10.00 per bike, so we declined and went a mile or so to Fairyland Canyon, a smaller version of Bryce, which was no charge to view. The scenery was spectacular!

We returned to the motel and soon it was time to eat dinner. As we walked from our room towards the lobby and restaurant, I noticed another FJR1300 in the parking lot. We looked at this bike for a few minutes before going inside to eat. As I waited for Jim to do some shopping in the General Store, I walked through the dining room of the restaurant looking for likely FJR suspects. I found a husband and wife that were wearing motorcycle gear eating dinner and I began to talk to them. I soon found out that the gentleman was Rob Bowlby, an FJR Forum member and a customer of mine from Denver. During our conversation, he said that he had lost one of the cords for his Starcom, and I happened to have a spare with me, so we got together later so he could get the cord and we talked about riding and bikes into the evening hours.

Day 5 Ė Bryce Canyon to Flagstaff

After breakfast we were off towards Zion National Park and Flagstaff. We had our electric gear on in the morning as the temperature was down to 26 degrees the night before. Once we got into the Zion National Park, it was warm enough to shed our electric clothing. As we went through Zion, we took time to stop and take many pictures. Pictures do not do justice to this place! We did have a fair amount of traffic going through the park, as it was now Saturday, and the tourists were out in force.

After leaving Zion, we stopped in Virgin, Utah and stripped off some of our clothing. Later, we had a quick stop in Jacob Lake for a gas and go, but then continued towards Flagstaff. We continued east into the northern part of the Grand Canyon and the Vermillion Cliffs area. Upon seeing the start of the canyon for the first time, we stopped for a Kodak moment and we chatted with some Harley riders from southern California. We also stopped a few more times for pictures, including the Colorado River, and proceeded along toward our planned stop in Flagstaff.

Day 6 Ė Flagstaff to Surprise (Phoenix)

As we road south towards the Phoenix area the temperature warmed up quite a bit, and hit 97 degrees as we got into Surprise, where my riding partner has a winter house. We ate lunch at a McDonalds in Wickenburg, Arizona. It was a good weekend to own Harley stock, as the Harley riders plentiful.

As we rode south, my bike didnít seem to feel quite normal. After reaching Jimís home in Surprise, and resting a little bit I checked my tire pressure only to find the rear tire at 19 pounds pressure! It should have been 42!

Later we were joined by an old acquaintance of mine, Tom Clements, who lives in Scottsdale. We rode (slowly) towards dinner while looking for a place to inflate my beleaguered rear tire. We stopped at a gas station to inflate the rear tire and I was astounded by how hot this tire was after such and slow ride to find air. I inflated the tire and we were off to dinner.

Later that evening, tire pressure checks indicated that I was loosing about 1.5 PSI per hour out of this tire. We decided to try to locate the leak the next morning.

Day 7 Ė Surprise to Las Vegas

Morning found me looking through the phone book and calling motorcycle shops looking for anyone who had a Pirelli Diablo Strada EMS that would fit my bike. That search failed. I rode the bike (after getting air again) to Metro Motorsports in Glendale, Arizona.  They are a Honda/Yamaha/Kawasaki dealer. After some waiting a technician found a small puncture in the rear tire. They well not plug or patch motorcycle tires for liability reasons, so I purchased a new rear tire. No Stradas were available, so I took a Pirelli Diablo Super Sport tire and 3 hours and $206.00 later we had my tire problem solved. Even if they would have patched or plugged the tire I was not comfortable with this tire any longer not knowing just how hot this tire had been run. It was 97 degrees going into Surprise and as usual we were at a pretty brisk pace as we rode. This was a 2263 mile tire for me. What a shame!

We departed Jimís house in Surprise at 2:00PM and headed for our warm ride to Las Vegas. Most of the time the temperatures were in the area of 95 degrees. Kingman, Arizona was our gas stop. We fueled, hydrated and made some phone calls. As we approached Las Vegas, we rode across Hoover Dam. There was a lot of construction and tourists. Traffic was limited to 15 MPH but a least it was HOT! We arrived in Las Vegas at the Aladdin around 7:00PM. Traffic was heavy and I was suffering because I missed my California legal lane splitting. We had a good buffet (and a couple of Margaritas for me) and we crashed just after dinner which was not finished until 10:00PM.

Day 8 Ė Las Vegas to Bridgeport

We got going in the morning only to stop before leaving town for a delicious fast food breakfast. We were then on our way. We stopped in Beatty, Nevada for fuel, water and a phone call that I needed to make. Sorry folks, Beatty is a cell phone challenged area. The ride to Bridgeport is a pretty boring road except for the last part of the route which took us from Benton, across Highway 120 to Highway 395 and Lee Vining, California. Thanks to Dave Higgins (Highlander, from the FJR Forum) for introducing me to this road! It was not quite as good as when we rode it last September, due to winter sanding but still great none the less. Near the end is a great view of Mono Lake, which I took a couple of pictures of.

We arrived in Bridgeport on a windy afternoon at a reasonable hour. We checked in to another Best Western, also called the Ruby Inn. This was our most expensive night in motels/hotels at around $125.00 per night after taxes. It did include high speed internet access and a bin of cleanup towels set out just for motorcyclists! We are a bunch of sick, anal bastards. Arenít we? I was guilty of cleaning my bike every night except for the night in Las Vegas, where we had to park the bikes ľ of a mile away from the hotel lobby entrance.

Day 9 Ė Bridgeport to Napa

We were up early in the morning and got prepared to leave. While eating a snack in the motel lobby we were surprised to learn that Highway 89, Monitor Pass, had just opened a few days before because of winter snows! The ride across Monitor Pass and Kit Carson Pass (Highway 88) was great but did require us to break out the Gerbing's electric gear again. Silver Lake, near Kirkwood was still frozen over from the winter. We had a pretty good Pizza for lunch in Jackson, California, gassed up for the last time and headed for Napa. We arrived at my house at 2:30PM. This was a near perfect ride!

Pictures begin here! Will open in a new Window. Click the thumbnails for a larger picture.

Things I learned
Not necessarily in order

  1. Pack less, donít cram your bags full. Use smaller toiletries. Take less clothing. Evaluate what you think you need carefully.
  2. Celebrex is my friend.
  3. Passing cars on an FJR1300 is pure intoxication!
  4. Buying the cheapest FRS/GMRS radio for bike-to-bike communications may have not been the smartest thing to do.
  5. Do not underestimate how nice it is to listen to MP3ís or XM radio while you are on the roads that disappear into the horizon.
  6. My Sargent seat was far more valuable than I might have imagined. Zero Butt Burn!
  7. Donít take your Aerostitch jacket liner AND your Gerbing's liner. See item 1 above.
  8. Donít leave your cleanup rag lying on the back of your bike out in the middle of the desert and then drive away.
  9. If you do pass on the double yellow, make sure the car in front of the car you are passing doesnít have a light bar on the roof. (I got away with it this time)
  10. High speed internet access was available everywhere. Cell phone coverage was not. Whatís up with that?
  11. I need to get a smaller laptop. See item 1 again.
  12. 350 mile days are MY comfort level.
  13. Donít ever go on a bike trip without a Throttlemeister or some kind of cruise control. At least I didnít have to learn this the hard way.
  14. No matter what kind of Sport Touring tire you have on your bike, you canít buy a replacement in Phoenix!
  15. A BMW K1200LT is much quieter to ride than an FJR. The trade-off is worth it, though, in my opinion.
  16. I am too small a guy to own or ride a BMW K1200LT. I would most likely provide financial support for several German families just from buying replacement parts due to parking lot tip-overs.
  17. I now spend as much putting a tank of gas in my bike as I used to spend filling up my car not too long ago!