Idaho is a loooong state; we started south approximately twenty miles south of the Canadian border with no particular destination in mind but “down”. But there is no down in Idaho, just back and forth, bouncing like a pinball between Washington and Montana as we made our way down to the Lolo Highway, the famous site of the motorcyclist’s favorite road sign,”curvy road next 99 miles”.
Idaho is a meteorological phenomena, as the farther south you travel, the colder it gets. The Lolo highway started out the same, a bright, sunny day, with pleasant temperatures even at the summit where the snow remained in massive piles from this winter’s unusual onslaught.
The curves started building, with the road actually folding back in on itself to the point that I was sure that our taillight would eventually outrun our headlight through the next hairpin. The road followed the course of the river the entire length, so even though we had the pavement to ourselves, we were never alone, as the water was occupied by inflatable rafts of white water guides going through their training for the upcoming paddling season.
About the halfway point, the clouds began to build. On the open plains, this is not as much of an issue, as you can see the storms build in the distance, and either slow down and let them pass, vector away towards clearer skies, or if worse comes to worse, just shut it down for a while. You at least have a chance to get into your rain gear if you decide to press on through.
This is not an option in the mountains.
We came around a bend and ran smack dab into a squall line; before you could say “Bob’s your uncle” straight line winds, dime sized hail, and driving rain had us soaked through to the bone. With no shelter of any sort to provide respite from the deluge, I pressed up against dad’s back, counting on the vortex created by the forward momentum of the motorcycle to create a bubble of still air. Dad was hunkered over the tank and hammering the throttle in an effort to punch through the storm, but it just kept coming, wave after wave of icy precipitation… until it stopped.
And then it restarted, and this pattern continued to chase us the entire length of Idaho, the only respite found at the higher elevations of the Sawtooth mountains. There we found ourselves in snowbanks piled six feet high on the roadsides, but the bright sun reflecting off of the asphalt and my black coat made it feel twenty degrees warmer. That, and the fact that I would charge through the snow like an absolute lunatic every time dad would stop the bike, kept my spirits high and my CHARK activated.
And then there was Nevada, the home of the dreaded “no services available” sign at every exit. The range on the Honda is approximately 150 miles per tank, and we used every drop between more than a few fuel stops, with dad dropping his speed from the normal of (deleted to protect the not so innocent) to below fifty to preserve the last of the precious juice.
It was on one of these sections that we wheezed into Wendover, NV. After a prolonged stop in which dad spent an inordinate amount of time on his knees giving thanks to the demi-god Valero while I snarfed down two gas station hot dogs, hold the mustard please, we headed on into Utah. As we were about to hit the freeway, dad spotted a somewhat dilapidated sign on the access road, “Bonneville Raceway”.
Thousands of square miles of perfectly level, hard-packed salt on which to worship, the Bonneville Salt Flats are a Mecca for gear heads the world over. Every land speed record ever documented has been accomplished here, in every class of motorcycles from small Triumph’s from which they earned the name “Bonneville” by “doing the ton”, or breaking 100 MPH, all the way to futuristic, jet-propelled land missiles.
And here we were, with it all to ourselves. No “no trespassing” signs, no speed limits, and no rain. Dad tiptoed the Honda from the asphalt out onto the salt, and our speed began to increase in direct proportion with our confidence. No matter how hard we rolled towards the north, the mountains soaring in the distance didnt seem to grow any closer. In fact, the area is so vast that we could actually see the curvature of the earth in our rear view mirrors.
And of course, we had to break the mythical “ton”; at one hundred miles per smile on a naked Honda, the world comes at you as fast as your traveling towards it. My ears were no longer popping in the wind, but stretched straight out behind me like Goofy’s, with my jowls not just peeled back from my teeth, but inflated by the wind like hairy black parachutes. And then it was over; point proved, record broken, the first dog to have ridden the ton at Bonneville. I fully realize that there may have been others, but I don’t know of them, so they don’t count. Besides, I am the Queen, and the queen has spoken.
Dad slowed it down to normal speeds, and we spent the next hour cruising around on the flats, basking in the sense of racing history that only places like Bonneville exude. Then we realized that we were not alone; a car was tracking off to our left on the paved access road. As we relunctantly exited the the salt in favor of the asphalt, the car flashed its lights for us to pull over.
It was a family on their way towards Promontory Point, UT, for the centennial celebration of the joining of the two railroads. They had stopped to check out the salt flats, and had used their cell phone to shoot some video of some idiot buzzing up and down the Bonneville Raceway with a goofy dog on the back of his motorcycle, and did we want a copy?
What do you think?
Just recently we heard that the state of Utah had allocated a few million dollars to help renovate the area, and we have mixed emotions. As always, governmental largesse is always accompanied by governmental control, and we can’t foresee a future that involves the freedom for normal dog to be able to ride so freely upon such hallowed ground.
But sometimes, once is enough; anything more is just being greedy.
See you on the road…