At around 5:45am on Tuesday, July 3rd, I hopped on a motorcycle and left Los Angeles, CA for Salt Lake City, UT. The plan was to take a 4 hour detour to Zion National Park, and make it to SLC by dark, which was 9pm Mountain Time.
I quickly discovered that it was going to be absolutely essential to take a lot of breaks. I had heard that freeway driving on a motorcycle can wear out your neck and back pretty well; this was not the case for me. For me it was a definite groin issue. I don’t know if my legs are just too long for my bike, but it felt like I was doing one long, permanent squat the entire time I rode. There were times when I was pretty sure my legs were cathartic, and that the next time I stopped I would not be able to put my leg down, and I would just topple over and remain paralyzed from the waist down the rest of my life.
This wound up not being the case, and the groin issues subsided as the trip went on (I think there was some numbing involved). Regardless, I still took breaks each hour. Hydration was my new issue.
Shortly after passing Las Vegas the temperature reached triple digits for the first time. They then remained in the triple digits for the next 640-680 thousand years. I decided that if it had been a different planet, and I had been driving a rover up the I-15 instead of a motorcycle, I would immediately declare the entire planet unsafe for life of any form, and I would have packed up and left. Somewhere between Valley of the Fire and Mesquite the temperature peaked at 115 degrees (according the cashier at one of the gas stations, which I’m declaring official). It was extremely hot.
Due to the many necessary breaks, I got to Zion later than expected and had to turn my planned hike into basically just a drive through of the park. It was still 100% worth it. Here’s my favorite picture, going through one of its tunnels:
After Zion it was a race against the sun to get to SLC. For the second time in the trip, I was on my reserve fuel tank, which holds about a gallon of gas. It was ~40 miles to the next gas station and the Ninja 250 gets around 50-60 mpg, so it seemed like I would make it. SEEMED. I absolutely did not make it. In fact, I was a solid 10-15 miles short. I blame the Utah “test” 80 mph speed limit (which of course makes 90 mph acceptable) for cutting my fuel mileage in half. It was certainly not my fault, so there is no reason that any blame should be put on me.
I chalked up beating the darkness as a loss, as I was already about an hour and a half from SLC with just an hour until sunset. However, my problems wound up being worse than being out of gas. When I went to turn on my cell phone (which I had turned off after Zion specifically to save battery), it was dead. I was back in the 1980’s, waving my hand on the shoulder of the highway like a complete n00b. About 10 cars passed before an older couple with a handicapped son stopped for me. I used their phone to try and call Triple-A, but there was no reception. Instead they gave me a ride to the next gas station, waited while I got a carton of gas, and looped me all the way around back to my motorcycle – about an hour detour for them. Also when I told them I was from Rochester, New York, they didn’t ask how far from “the city” that was; they wanted to know how far it was from Palmyra (where Mormonism was founded). For the record, Rochester is about 6 hours from New York City and 20 minutes from Palmyra. I apologize if these details seem insignificant. It was just a very Wizard of Oz moment in the trip: “We’re not in LA anymore.”
I pounded out the last hour and a half in the dark like a champ, getting in right around 10:45. Total elapsed time: 16 hours, 0 minutes, 0 seconds, 0 milliseconds.
One giant motorcycle drive for a man, one negligible event for mankind.
Here’s a video of the trip: