Anchor bay was a little time warp, the sort of place where you could stay forever but the road was calling and a lot more really nice places were waiting so it was…
Giddy up and go…..well that was the plan. Loaded the bike, said my goodbyes, hopped onto Tiggy Moon Dust, turned the key, pulled in the clutch and pushed the starter button….. and the silence peace and tranquility of Anchor Bay were shattered by the, barely audible, click of the starter relay and an embarrassing silence, no roar of 3 cylinders singing in chorus, no high-pitched hum,
Tiggy Moon Dust was not going anywhere. Dead battery. I had ridden the last couple of days short hops constantly stopping to take photos, had charged my phone constantly whilst camping and now I was gonna pay the price. I carry a small portable lithium ion jump starter just for these occasions, but before I could get to it the receptionist from the camping came over with a bigger jump starter…. Yep guess where I am… The battery, in the Tiger, is low down under the rider’s seat so had to take the roll bag off and remove the seats. Connected the jump starter and Tiggy Moon dust roared into life. Left her ticking over and loaded everything back on and we were off.
The destination was Lake Tahoe. Only problem was California was burning, one of the worst fires in ages in the area around Santa Rosa and that was where we had to cut across.
Made a detour but got caught out in the smoke, it was bad. Got up as far as a place called Dixon and could go no further, night was falling and I could not find a camping spot, there were only RV parks and they refused to let me pitch my tent. Turning of the road and camping wild was not an option, smoke was heavy and there was nowhere, towns just were on top of each other, separated by flat marsh land. So, for the first time on this trip had to book into a hotel, this was in Dixon, hotel was called Square 8.
The next morning back on the smokey road, through the traffic, took the interstate 80 through Sacramento and Placerville where the road turns into a nice mountain road winding its way up the Sierra Nevada’s and we slowly start leaving the smoke behind. Only we seem to trade the smoke and crappy scenery for high wind and freezing temperatures, but these were ample compensated for by the marvelous scenery and then Lake Tahoe itself.
This is a fresh water lake and the largest Alpine lake in North America, it’s the second deepest, after crater lake in Oregon. It’s situated 6,225ft (1,897m) in the Sierra Nevada’s and it straddles the state line between California and Nevada. It’s a major tourist attraction all year round. Winter being the time for the skiers, snowboarders and snowmen.
Entered at the southern side and wound my way around the western side to the William Kent camping site at North lake Tahoe. The road offering some amazing views of the lake. I needed wi-fi to check my mails as I had mail ordered replacement brake pads and a new set of ROK straps as I had broken one of mine. These where being shipped to Hans and Nancy, whom I had met in the HOH rain forest on Olympia peninsula, in Nevada city and I had to time my arrival to coincide with the delivery.
So off to find a wi-fi source. North Tahoe does not have a lot in the way of free wi-fi, best spots being McDonald’s, Burger King, Starbucks and the county libraries. Since the first three were sadly lacking in this town, ended up outside the library, it was well after closing time but they don’t turn of their modem, so I could log in. Libraries in America offer free wi-fi access to everyone.
You don’t have to be a member. Nearly every town has a library, they have tables, chairs, couches and power sockets and you can stay all day. It was now dark and the library was situated in a deserted parking lot. I was sat outside hunched over my laptop and mobile, mailing and WhatsApping when I heard a voice greeting me, the head librarian had been working late and had come out and had seen me in the glow of my laptop screen. Far from being daunted at the sight of a hairy biker she came over and sat beside me and we had a good chat. She and her husband were bikers and she wanted to give me some tips on good roads to ride. She invited me to come into the library in the morning to warm up and use the wi-fi. Before she left she also told me that there was a power point on the side of the building if I wanted to charge my laptop up. But I was frozen and finished. So, went back to my camp ground.
Temperatures were dropping, but there was an amazing clear sky, the stars were out in force. Made summit to eat and lit a fire. Had found some good logs and was able to saw them down to size. Fire was not a luxury in the end as it was getting colder. Woke up to a frozen taffrail in the morning, it was a pleasant minus 3.5C and that is cold believe me, my water was frozen.
Lit another fire and made toasties. Campground host came around to collect the fees, had a 20-dollar bill ready but the price was 35. I just played dumb…… he had a sense of humor and took the 20. Packed up and went back to the library. The wee Head librarian had left a note for me at the info desk with some road tips. Did some work on my laptop and got warmed up. One of the librarians came over with a paperback, which she gave me. It was called 0 to 60 written by an American writer, Gary Paulsen, who was diagnosed with hart disease, to celebrate this he bought a Harley and went on a road trip and recorded his adventures in the book. He also wrote “Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod”, he has run this race a number of times. The Iditarod being what is acclaimed to be the last great race on Earth, 1000 miles (1600 Km) of the roughest, most beautiful terrain Mother Nature has to offer, it’s held annually in Alaska. It is, by the way, a sled dog race.
This time went slowly down the east side and it was just as spectacular. Stopped off at a camping site in south Tahoe, they wanted 35 dollars and would not budge on the price, these are state owned and operated camping grounds. Cruised around South Lake Tahoe, this is really built up with loads of hotels, motels and casinos in the Nevada side. Just out of curiosity went into a motel called the Travelers inn, saw a woman from India outside, she was the owner and after seeing the sticker from India on the bike gave me a room for 40 dollars. It was lovely and warm and had super Wi-Fi plus it was only 5 dollars more than the state run camp site. Did some work on the blog and Facebook. These rooms also come with a TV, microwave and fridge, so did some shopping and zapped din dins together. Tried to watch an episode of NCIS but gave that up…. 5 minutes NCIS, 10 minutes adverts.
The next morning after coffee and breakfast headed off in a pleasant minus 2C. Destination Nevada City. Took the 89 back up around lake Tahoe, joined up with the 80. This was an Interstate, but it ran through some amazing scenery up over the Sierra Nevada. Took the 20 down to Nevada city. To get to Hans and Nancy had to run down a dirt road….., what else.
Got a super warm welcome from Nancy. Parts had arrived, but were in the post office. Chilled out for the evening, made them a dahl fry and some channa masala. Next day into town, got the parts and started to fit them in their workshop.
Brakes were a mess, had to strip the calipers to give them a good clean. Too much off- roading had taken their toll. Hans has a well-equipped workshop, so job was completed. That night, after a super BBQ din dins watched a DVD called Deserts of the World. A German biker riding through all the major deserts.
Next morning headed off again to Yosemite National Park. Took the 49 down to a place called Coloma, a ghost town, where they had a festival going on, reliving the gold rush days.
Everyone was dressed up in period costumes.This place is most noted for being the site where James W. Marshall found gold in the Sierra Nevada at Sutter’s Mill on January 24, 1848, this led to the famous California gold rush and the rest is history.
Entrance to the festival was obtained when you parked in the carpark, which charged a parking fee. Your parking ticket was your entrance ticket as well. I didn’t realize this and parked Tiggy Moon Dust on the side of the road and wandered on in. On entering a ranger asked me if I had a parking ticket to which I jokingly replied, “Nope partner just left Bessie the mule grazing on the side of the road, her rains tied to the fence” and strolled on. Took some photos, ate some pie and headed back out….. ohhh boyy! The wee woman said that the rangers were over at the bike waiting to talk to me….. Their car was parked behind Tiggy, blue and red lights flashing. Lucky for me they had a sense of humor and just gave me a warning for illegal parking. Then it was off again. Stopped for the night in Columbia, a small place near to Yosemite, the campground was called Marble Quarry I think.
Next morning on up the 120 through Yosemite. Stopped at the Visitors Center and was told that what campings that were open, where full.
Had to rent a tent in Half Dome Village. This is a mega tent village. They had a central community area indoor and outdoor with a roaring log fire, tables with power sockets and wi-fi. But night time….. oh boy it was cold, once again subzero temperatures. Booked in here for two nights.
The next day went for a drive around the area, taking in the major rock formations like El Captain, Dome Sentinels and Glacier Point.
Met up with an English biker called Luke, he was riding a heavily converted CBR 500 and was on his way to south America. Also met an English guy traveling with his mum. He gave me a handful of Broke Bond PG tips tea bags. There is a photo journal from Yosemite on my open facebook… Ride Live Explore.
Next morning time to Giddy up a go. Took the 120 further, up and over Tioga Pass to Mono Lake. These were fantastic places, stopped for the night at Mammoth Lakes, Twin Lakes Campground. This was also a lovely spot.
The scenery on the eastern Sierra Nevada is just as spectacular as the western side.
On the way met up with a large group of women riders on their way to a woman only bikers meeting in Joshua tree.
Then on the road again, going to Death Valley National Park. On the way stopped at the Devils Postpile National Monument and done the Postpile Hike. This is an amazing geological rock formation. The formation is a rare sight in the geological world and ranks as one of the world’s finest examples of columnar basalt. Its columns tower 60 feet (18.288 meters) high and display an unusual symmetry. The hike takes you around up and over the columns. It was a bit hot though…. Plus, I was walking in my bike boots.
Then on to the 395 towards Death Valley. Once again amazing scenery and it was getting hotter and hotter. Then I noticed that my auxiliary circuit was dead. This is a circuit that I had built in to run the extra power sockets, USB chargers and extra driving spot lights.
Stopped at a rest place lifted the seat and discovered that a fuse had blown. Had a quick look to see why and found it. When I built this circuit in I had wired in a 30-amp relay, to boast the capacity, handy if I have to use the cycle pump. Now under the seat I carry a lot of tools but also 3 old tobacco tins with nuts and bolts and things. The elastic band holding the lid on one of these tins had snapped and spilled all the screws out into the electrics compartment. One of the screws shorted out the relay. So, one new rubber band and one new fuse later we were ready to go, don’t you love the digital age. I was now running late and there was a storm brewing, wind was getting up. Reached a town called Lone Pine and checked into a motel. That was a stroke of luck.
Woke up early the next morning to the sound of the wind and the bike cover blowing. Took it off but the wind was bad also the power had gone out. Decided to check the street out and to talk to the locals, turns out the road was closed just after the junction with the 136, five big trucks had been blown over. Now the 136 was the road I needed, it angled right of the 395 into Death Valley which meant that the wind would be at my back plus it was easing up. So off I went and it worked. The further into Death Valley I got the calmer it was. The wind was not gonna enter the park.
Death Valley is the hottest, driest and lowest park in the US. It is also the largest national park in the lower 48 states. The second-lowest point in the Western Hemisphere is in Badwater Basin, which is 282 feet (86 m) below sea level and the water is bad. The park derives its name from a group of European-Americans that became stuck in the valley in 1849 while looking for a shortcut to the gold fields of California. They gave the valley its name because one of their group died there.
The 136 ran into the 190, stopped at Father Crowley Lookout, which offers a view of the Rainbow Canyon then on to Stove Pipe Wells campsite.
That evening, on the advice of some people, bought and drank a bottle of Death Valley Root Beer. This is a non-alcohol drink. Sat on the porch of the shop in a rocking chair sipping the beer and looking at the night sky, a very content person. Have to admit it was nice.
Heavy wind in the night blew sand all over and into tent. Thinking that it would be warm I had left the fly sheet off the tent so that I could fall asleep watching the stars. The wind had other plans. Went for a run around the park the next day.
Took in the sand dunes, Golden Canyon which derives it name from the gold color of the rocks when the sunlight hits it. Then the Badwater Basin, a place where the water is so contaminated with salt that it is impossible to drink, also the lowest place on the continent.
hen on to Devil’s Golf Course…
and the Artists Pallet Drive, a place where the rocks have different tints of color. Met up with 3 British bikers. Turns out they were serving with the RAF stationed in Las Vegas.
Then once again time to move, a special road was waiting for me. This was the Extraterrestrial Highway or E.T. highway or highway 375. But first I had to get there. First took the 374 out of Death Valley then north, on the 95 to a place called Tonopah. This road is running around a large military test range called Nellis Air Force Range complex which also is home to the famous area 51.
Passed through a little ghost town called Goldfield. It had the most amazing art display made up of old cars and trucks. Also, some really surreal buildings.
Also, home to the International Car Forest of the Last Church.
Arrived in Tonopah which was the last outpost of civilization for the next couple of hundred miles, it was also the last fuel stop. Decided to spend the night there and carry on in the morning as this was one of the most desolate areas in America, summed up by an old cowboy in a pick-up truck on that petrol station when he heard where I was heading. He hooked his thumbs into his belt
and said “ Sh&t son there ain’t nothing out there for 320 miles ‘cept cows, hundreds of cows on the road and everywhere and what’s the range of that there mosickle??? anyways” The next morning a short hop down the 6 to the junction of the E.T. and we were off.
Because Area 51 lies in the area there are numerous reports of alien sightings along the way. It was officially named, by the state of Nevada, Extraterrestrial Highway, after the release of the film Independence Day in 1996. It has to be one of the strangest fun roads in the states.
Right in the middle is the small community of Rachel. These people are super friendly and dedicated to everything alien and Area 51.
There is a restaurant, motel and gift shop called Little A’Le’Inn. The family that own and run it are extremely friendly.
They let me put my tent up for free.
Unloaded he bike and pitched camp, hen took the 10-mile (16km) dirt road that leads to the gates of Area 51, this was something that I just had to do. This road is well documented on the net, check out this site: https://landlopers.com/2016/09/13/extraterrestrial-highway . Spent the time chatting to the locals and catching up on the newest sightings. Had a fantastic time. If you are in the area this is a must fun road. The region is also called Tikaboo Valley. http://www.dreamlandresort.com/maps/tikaboo_valley_map.html
I was kinda sad to leave but it’s onward bound. This time to Bryce Canyon. Further along the E.T. Highway are a few alien souvenir places. The most noteworthy being the E.T. Fresh Jerky shop.
They had painted some beautiful murals. This place is located on the junction of the E.T. and Highway 93. Scenery started to change into mountains. More photos of this will be on Facebook Ride Live Explore.
Next destination was gonna be Bryce Canyon in the state of Utah. Got onto the 93 and picked up the 319 then the 56 to Cedar City where the fun really starts. Slept the night in Cedar City. The next morning bright and early: well, I slept in and there was an hour difference, I had crossed another time zone, took the scenic byways 14 to 89 to 12, through Dixie National Forest, to 63 in Bryce Canyon.
This is a spectacular run. The scenery was out of this world. The road is a super twisty mountain road, winding its way through some amazing little hamlets with peculiar names. One of them being Duck Creek on Hwy 14. A sleepy little village with a sense of humor.
Another little town with a café motel featuring a huge big sign saying “Bikers, Burgers and Beds. Now I just had to stop and explore. Unfortunately, it was closed but the owner told me that he was a biker and catered to bikers passing through.
Then Red Canyon appeared. In Red Canyon the numerous red hoodoos, which are spiral shaped rock formations, line the road.
This is located on Hwy 12 just 13 miles (20.8Km) from Bryce canyon in the Dixie forest. Well worth a visit.
Stayed on the camping site in Bryce canyon. That night met up with Anne Maria and Ranjoe from South India. We shared a fire and a good chat that night, with a German guy and his partner an Indian lady from Mumbai I think. The night was cold, subzero temperatures.
Next day it was off exploring. Rode the bike over the scenic road leading through the park, stopping at the vantage points to do short hikes. It was cold though. The rim at Bryce varies from 8,000 to 9,000 feet (2,400 to 2,700 m).
The rock formations here are really nice and carry names like “Fairyland Point, Thor’s Hammer, Wall of Windows, the Three Wisemen, The Organ, and The Cathedral to name a view. https://www.visitutah.com/places-to-go/most-visited-parks/bryce-canyon That night joined up once again with Anna Maria and we went over to Ranjoe who had a campfire. Ranjoe was bicycling around. Next morning was invited to breakfast by a French family, living in New York. They had a RV and invited me over to share some pancakes made by their son who wanted to follow in his brother’s footsteps and train as a chef. Pancakes were excellent. Lucky for me as my trusty little MSR stove was playing up. Had also met up with a Dutch couple, farmers from Drenthe in Holland. They and their farm had been bought out by the Dutch government and as their son really wanted to be a farmer, they emigrated to Alberta in Canada. They own a large farm there growing potatoes and grain.
Then further on to Zion National Park, a short hop, 70 miles (112Km) down the Hwy 89. Got a place in the South Campground, all other spots were full and this one filled up as well. Zion ranges in height from 3,666 feet (1,117 m) at Coal Pits to 8,726 feet (2,660 m) at Horse Ranch Mountain. Took apart and cleaned my burner and it fired up once again, ready to make a load of culinary delights.
The next day it was off hiking. One nice thing about Zion is that they have a shuttle bus. That means I can dress in my normal gear and shoes. The morning turned out warm so made my sandwiches, packed up me biscuits, grabbed me bottle of water and I was off. This is a beautiful canyon with steep red cliffs.
The shuttle bus drops you off at different scenic points along the road. These points lead to some amazing hiking trails. The Virgin River, a tributary of the Colorado river, flows through the canyon to the Emerald Pools where there are waterfalls and hanging gardens. Spent the whole day hiking in and around the trails.
A really amazing one was the “Narrows Wading Hike”. It means that you get to hike in the river through extremely narrow tall chasms. I only done a little bit of this one, the water was freezing. Another good one was “Angels Landing” These seem to be the premier hikes.
The Weeping Rocks were also kinda cool, this is caused by water being forced out of the porous sandstone on meeting harder granite layers.
What is really amazing are the number of people out hiking. Sometimes I am overtaken by whole families with young kids, or fathers and mothers with a kid on their backs.
The outdoors is big here, camping sites are full as well and not just with super-duper RV’s but also with tents . Ended staying 3 days in Zion. Statistically Zion receives more visitors annually than Bryce. This area is one of the nicest that I have ever seen.
Dixie National Forest, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Park, Oljato-Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon to name but just a few. But this will be the subject of the next episode of my meandering-wanderings.
Visit my Facebook page for a photo journal of this trip. Thanks for reading this and sharing the road with me.