On the Road To Winnemucca!...There's a Johnny Cash song called I've Been Everywhere, where he sings about hitchhiking
along the road to Winnemucca Nevada. Which road I'm not sure, but there
are only a couple that go there. I just like saying Winnemucca...
Winnemucca... Winn e mucca... Just rolls off the tongue doesn't it?
I don't know about getting there hitchhiking, maybe he
actually went there on some tour bus, but getting to Winnemucca on a motorcycle was an adventure.
The plan... what there was of it: Jessica and Me, starting 8/27/16, for
two weeks, go from Homer Glen, IL, to somewhere on the West coast.
Over 5000 miles round trip in 16 days max.. I'd be riding my
2008 Bandit 1250S, and she would ride her... (drumroll please) 2002 Ninja 250,
that she named Max. So here we go.
First, I did need some kind of plan. And if you know me, I break
Google maps, pick some end points and then start moving the line around
it looks as squiggly as possible while still fitting within the time
constraint. Avoid interstates as much as possible and I'm good.
I'd never ridden my motorcycle to the Northwestern states; Washington, Oregon,
barely broke into Idaho... I da ho... Who the ho? You da ho...
Sorry, I had to do that. Why have I never made it up to Washington
or Oregon? Just never taken enough time to go. So, the goal
was to try and get to Washington, go down the Oregon coast, into California,
then cut across into Nevada, Utah, and into Colorado, visit my daughter and
grandkids, and then back across the corn filled Midwest.
I realized pretty early in my planning process that Google maps wasn't
do it anymore. I recall I use to be able to take the route and
to a gpx file. Still found a way to do it, but it was a lot more
than I recall. Instead, I found the Harley Ride Planning Site,
actually turned out to be way better and exporting my route to a
was just a few button clicks. What I realized after a while was
that the export comes up in section; anything between two
destination points exports as a section... Yeah, somewhat more
complicated than just being able to export it all as one route.
Anyway, didn't take long to figure out that even with 16 days, following the
squiggly lines all the time wasn't going to cut it, especially If we went deep
into Washington. So, I compromise was in order, that looked like this:
2584 miles estimated to take 47.5 hours. I say, that's 2584...
Taking 7 days to get there would
be an average of 364 miles per day... whew! Ok, that may be
nothing if you're on a Honda Goldwing couch and traveling the
interstates, but this was standard/sport bikes and mostly back roads...
Almost 7 hours a day of
riding... which you figure with stops is more like 8+ hours per day...
Officially the longest trip I've taken in my entire 30 years of
riding. But hey, zipping through Illinois and Iowa on I-80 (joy
of joys) would help us make time and
then committing to I-80 all the way back (double joy) from Colorado
would again make some
time, giving us more time and fewer miles per day for the squiggly
Ok, then what? Well, realistically I wasn't even sure we could make it
all the way to the coast. So, didn't see a point in planning the return
trip in detail. The rough plan was to go down the coast of Oregon, as far
as we had time for, then head back East. We would just plan one or two days ahead of
time as we went.
Next big question. Where we going to sleep? Bring the tent,
sleeping bags, sleeping pads... ah.. I'm brining a pillow...
Although with that much riding, figured depending on where we
every night, and how late it was, and how tired or smelly we were, we'd
grab a motel or hotel occasionally.
dress for the occasion! The temperatures in the Wyoming mountains
they were hitting mid 30's at night and only 60's during the day.
We don't have any heated gear, so bring layers, and most
importantly the rain suit. I figured out a long time ago that
rain suits really help in the cold, because they block the wind from
stripping heat away from your body, it's all about wind chill, and they
are way more compact than a heavy riding suit, which you have to stow
when you're going through the desert.
To 250 or Not to 250, That's the Question...
is a question Hamlet struggled with, and as the day of departure
started getting close, serious thought was given to the sanity of
Jessica doing this trip on a 250, and ...what slings and arrows of
misfortune we may encounter if we chose to do that... We
had taken it down to North Carolina, about 1700 miles round trip in 5
days, and did run into a couple issues; straining to get up the hills,
and the thing started dying on her while stopping from high speeds.
Apprently when you run them at high RPM's for extended periods of
time, the valves get out of adjustment, which I adjusted when we got
back from the trip, along with a little tweak of the carbs, and indeed
it ran like a champ. But the prospect of higher RPM's for longer
periods of time, steeper hills, more gear, and higher elevations,
really had me wondering.
On top of that, Jessica is about 5'7",
maybe 145 pounds, and she's only been riding for just over a year.
The 250 is a handfull for her, but we weren't sure if getting
something bigger, heavier, that she's not used to, before a big trip,
would be more trouble than gain.
a week and a half before the trip I felt compelled to started purusing
the used bike adds to see what's out there. If we could get
a deal on something, the right bike, then it was meant to be. I did a spreadsheet comparing
several different bikes... ya... I'm an engineer... ok?... from the
Ninja 250 to the 500, some 600/650's and stuck in my 1250 for
||Honda 600 hornet
had put the Hornet in there because I had found one on Craigslist.
The thing had 40k miles on it, but it was well taken care of and
from CA. The guy was a mechanice and had the full service record.
I took it for a ride and it was smooth. It produces just as much
power as my 1250, weighed 100 lbs less, but if you keep the revs in the
low end of the range it was a pussy cat. But, Jessica
wasn't impressed by it.
to be 4 days before leaving and we found a 2006 Ninja 500... looked in
mint condition, original owner, infamous Kawi green, with 640 original
miles on it and a very good price. Ding ding! The sirens and
lights went off and we arranged to go see it.
How do you own a
bike for 10 years and only put 640 miles on it. I don't know.
Clearly the only reason this bike existed was so that we could
buy it used 10 years later... :) sometimes it just works out like
that. Although, it wasn't a slam dunk. The gas in the tank
was actually cloudy and the bike didn't idle all that great. It
started fine but settled into this viby idle, like a small Harley or
something, seemed to have some issues pulling off the line, but when
you got the revs up it made really good power and all the right exhaust
noises. Delema... could just be the gas and carbs... no big
deal... or could be someting related to it's age and lack of use.
Would suck to find out on the trip it was something complicated.
I hoed and
hummed for a while, haggled with the guy. He was firm on price,
but he did throw in a matching helmet. Hoed and hummed some more.
He seemed honest enough. Boom, a deal was made, hands were
shook, money was exchanged, and I was riding it home while Jes followed
in the car. What did I get myself into? One thing for
sure, it needed some work before the trip. That night I pulled it
into the kitchen (apartment..., three days before the trip, how else could I work on it day and night if I needed to). I
also arranged to take that Thursday off, again to work on it, and make
sure I had enough time before we left on Saturday, to deal with any
issues. So, this is kind of how it went (parts all over the apartment):
checked the valves, clearances were fine. Clearly the gas had
seen it's better days (I probably shoudl have drained it, but there
wasn't much in there) and the carbs needed some cleaning, but
everything seemed to be in order. One full day, one night, and we
were squared away. Thursday night I took it out for a test ride
and though it still idled a bit rough it seemed fine. [Note: weeks
later I still didn't like the way it idled, so I took the carbs off,
drilled out the Idle Jet plugs, and found that one of the screws
was almost completely to bottom... wtf... from the factory? Sure,
it idled rough... one of the cylinders was starving for
gas. Anyway, took the jets out cleaned it all out, put everything
back together and it idles way better. ]
figured, Jes shoudl probably take it down the block seeing as she's
about the spend up to 16 days on it and hasn't ridden it at all.
I followed her around the block and I could see the "getting used
to it" process going on. At one point I saw she locked up one of
the wheels, figured she just hit the brake too hard. But turned
out she had downshifted too low and just let the clutch out.
Yeah, it's got a bit more engine braking than the 250. I
explained it needed a whole different level of smoothness and picking
your gears vs the 250, which had no engine braking to speak of. That was it for the excitement and she was liking
the feel of the extra power. Only thing left was to sell that 250 soon as we came back from the trip.
funny thing about all this is, when we were in Utah, on our way back,
there was a guy on the highway that had a small scotter, a bunch of
stuff hanging off it, and he literally had to move over because he
couldn't keep up the higway speeds. But
clearly he was headed somewhere further than down the block. Bet you
he's got a story to tell.
Day 1 Illinois and Iowa
8/26/17 we packed up and I put the tent and sleeping bags on the bikes, to have
as much of it ready to go as possible Saturday morning. Morning
came and so did the rain. Well, that's one way to start a 15 day
trip, riding in the rain, and for Jessica on a bike she's barely
ridden. Luckily it was just intermittend drizzle and even if it
kept up we would ride through it going West.
it didn't take but a few miles away from home when the rain started
slowing down the highway started drying up... yeeeeha!
rain stopped, but it got really windy, and Jessica started falling
behind. I can't remember exactly how fast she was going but it
was slow. Cars and trucks were passing her and it just wasn't
safe. We stopped and I explained that she needed to pick up the
pace. The bike was more stable when it was going faster anyway.
About two hours away from home and we had our first
issue. Jessica's speedometer wasn't working. We pulled over
on the side of I-80 and I went to it. At least with her Kawi
green bike and my dayglow shirt we were highly visible! Ah, yes,
always bring tools on a long trip; wrenches, sockets, rachet, allen
keys, vise grips...
speedometer cable had just unscrewed, but it was tough getting it back
on because it was tucked up under the fairing, and I wasn't about to
start disassembling the fairing. I little help from Jes and we
were on our way again... On The Road Again...[insert Willie Nelson
I made it into Iowa that night without any further
complications, and by about 7:20 pm we had set up camp. Not the
best site, kind of in the middle of a small town, but there was plenty
of grass and shade and no ther campers or RV's. I forget what it
cost me, like $12, honor system. We took a site close to the
washroom/shower house. Lit a small fire, but we were way tired to
actually stay awake and burn it for any signficant time. At
night some idiot kids must have come into the camp site and turned on
all the water spigots to full blast, cause they were running in the
the 28th, we were up and at'em. Just after 9:00 am we were on
the Nabraska border... Yay!.. Go Nabraska Cornhuskers...? Hey,
Nabrasks is beautiful and green, but could we put some curves in the
roads... At least it's got a leg up on some of the desert states, where
the roads are straight AND there is NO green...
we have the lovely Jesicca with her slightly used, relatively mint
condition, Ninja 500, entering the Arbor Day state... Ahhhh...
the good life...
And the milage on that bike was nearly doubled by now!
Don't Tip the Ninja!
a funny thing happened on the way to Souix City Iowa... We were going
up 75 and there was a roadside scenic rest stop, so figured we'd stop
and take a break... I pull in [gravel] and I see there's a sidwalk just
past the parking area, which lead to the scenic area. Well, no
one around, I just went past the parking spot and followed the
sidewalk... thinking Jessica would follow. Well, it seems the
gravel freaked her out and she didn't notice the concrete stops in the
parking spaces until the last second. She slammed on the front
promptly dumpped the bike. Of course I didn't know this, because
was just going down the sidewalk and stopping at the scenic spot,
taking photos... until she came over. She was fine, but she
wasn't a happy camper... Talk to the haaand cause...
we went over there, I helped her pick the bike up, and it wasn't
too bad; shattered turn signal, some dinks and scratches on the
exhaust, the end of the grip, a little scratch on the upper fairing.
Good enough, could have been worse if she plowed over the
So, we're all togther ready to pull back out
onto the street and she notices that her oil light is on...
I trun the bike off. My immediate thought is something got
lodged in the oil pump when it fell over, maybe I can dislodge it by
tilting it in the other direction. I do that, we try again, oil
light still on, and I can see through the oil level window the oil
level is not dropping like it should. No, there is no oil pmping.
Great... While we're staing at it and discussing some
people come along, we explain the situation, and a couple offers to put the
bike on their pickup truck and take it to the nearest city and
motorcycle shop. I consider it, then I call my insurance
company... I can't really tell them where we're at cause I don't know.
They can't find us on the GPS and conversatoin ensues ... we're
on 75 north of... blah blah blah... ya ... not helping... Finally I
just give up with them and take up the couple on their offer to truck
the bike. Another guy comes along. Now the only question is, how
do we get a 450 lb bike on the back of a pickup truck like over two
feet in the air... So, the guy pulls into the weeda with the tailgate
poniting out of the ditch and the three of us manage the strain and
make up the difference... Whew. Talk about sweating our asses off.
strap the bike in... Ok, now where? The couple was headed to
Omaha, but Souix City is closer, and from what we can figure on our
phones there's some bike shops, of course, it is Sunday. They
had just come from there, and they are willing to go back, so off
we go, me following on my bike... We should have gone to Omaha... To make a long story shorter, after
gooing to a couple bike shops, we end up with our bikes in the guy's
parents garage and arrangements to get a tow truck to take it to a bike
shop first thing Monday. In the mean time we got a local motel.
I wish I knew the couples name, I lost their contact information. Them and their whole family were so accomodating.
sitting in the motel room, I'm like what is the deal with the bike.
So, I start scowering the internet for information and guess what
I find? Apparently if a Ninja 500R tips over, the oil pump looses
prime (no... really... I'm not kidding... awesome design!), and the way
to get it back is crack the oil filter open, start the bike, let it run
a few seconds until you see oil come gushing out, and tighten the
I'm like, nooooo way! We just spend a
whole day dealing with this and all it take is losening the oil filter?
Way to go Kawasaki... How about putting a sticker on the
tank that says if you dump this bike, here's what you need to do...
I immediately call the people who have our bikes, explain, and
let them know I'm coming over to see if this works. They were
nice enough to give me a small pan, and some rags, and sure enough,
that's all it took... oil pressure back. I thanked them
profusely for all their help and we went back to our motel, with both bikes. Yay...
I'm writing this over a year later so I can't quite remember the
details, but based on the time on the pics, we rode that day until past
6:00 PM and made it through the Badlands, then after that to some
motel, so close to 400 miles that day. And did I metion that Jes
dropped her bike again... Doh! Yes, no pressure again. We
were in this one horse town with a cenvenient store with a potholed
graveled parking lot, and there was just enough slope, and gravel, that
as she was backing out, foot slipped and over she went. After
rushing over to help her lift the bike and make sure she was ok, I lost
it... sigh... Need to stop dropping the bike, or it's going to be a
long trip... Luckily there was an auto repair shop just down the
road, and they let me borrow a plastic drain pain to place under the
oil filter, to burp the poor baby again... couldn't get the filter
loosened, so back down the block to get an oil filter wrench... ok then
back down the block to give them their suff back and wash up in their
garage... in 100 degree + mid day sun... with long thick firehose pants
on... and On the Road Again [Insert Willie Nelson
unfortunate events of the previous days were forgotten and we went to
visit the presidents at Mount Rushmore. My second time there and
I'm still amazed at how difficult the government makes it to just stop
and take a picture. Where we stopped along the road clearly said
no stopping! Everywhere within eyesight of the mountain is says no
stopping. I'd have to go park in a designated parking lot and pay
$1,000,000 dollars per minute... give me a break. But
anyway, sunny, slightly chilly, beautiful day... and no rain since we
Somewhere along this route, there were some
amazing roads we didn't take pictures of, because they were really
twisty and there was noplace to stop along the road safely. I'm guessing route 16 and 16A in SD. When Jes
came out of them and we stopped at a straight section immediately
after, she had tears in her eyes. Yes, powerful, desolate... talk
about feeling small and voulnerable... out in the middle of nowhere
just us and the bikes... only infrequent cars passed us when we were
do know we went through Bighorn National Forest, again some beautiful
roads. 4:47 PM we were in Yellowstone, and stopped at a KOA
outside of West Yellowstone. Now that was noteworthy.
Really well aid out, with a big grill where they cooked your meat
to order, with corn on the cob and beans... food never tasted so good.
That's a lot of space... talk about feeling small.
That's a lot of sheep... anywhere you looked. While approaching up the road I couuldn't figure out what it was.
Why sit in the middle of the road? Because you can...
remember that was a cold morning taking off from the KOA. Went
about a mile or so down the road and it was time to put on the rain
gear and some layers to stay warm. The wind and the moist air
just cuts through you.
In the mountains, cold, needed to find a washroom somewhere. Pulled
off into what seemed like a ranger house, which actually turned out to
be a private home. The lady there was nice enough to direct us down
the road to the lake and this parking area which had facilities.
above was something I'd never seen before. The land is this dark
stuff, all jagged and buckled, like at one time it was blacktop and
then someone scrunched the surface. It really looked like a
different plant. Who'd have guessed, in Idaho. This is
through southern Idaho. Northern wold have been more scenic, but
we were trying to conserve time. Besides, after the road we had just
been through we figured we weren't going to miss much in order to gain
the West Coast.
I say, heloooo... anyone out there... [chirp, chirp, ... squawk..]
these photos are in here backwards... lol... but you get the idea.
That night we ended up in a town just near the Oregon
border. It came to decission time, do we keep heading up to
Washington or just cut across. The weather forecast in Washington
wasn't good, so opted to just cut straight through the center of
Oregan and go down the coast.
quite remember where those mountains were, but I think they were call
Three Sisters. I guess it was pretty deep into Oregon, heading
into the last mountain range before coming down into the coast.
getting fuzzy! Could have sworn we stayed in a town in Oregon,
but that is the Oregon coast! Got there just as the sun was
setting, and using my cell phone and the GPS I found us a hotel near
by. Turn out to be a resort, which was out of season, so not a
lot of people and the rooms were inexpensive. After riding all
day, through cold and some rain, we couldn't get in the room fast
the next day we made our way down the coat, and into California.
And I was having an issue. The chain on my bike was
basically throwing off orings, so it wasn't going to last the return
trip. And I could feel the roughness in the drive train, I think
because the chain was inconsistent. Did some searching and found
a Honda shop along our route in California. Got there about
lunch, and they were nice enough to get right on it and mount me up a
new chain. Luckily they had one that fit, but it was shorter then
my stock one, so they had to screw the chain adjusters almost all the
way in. The sprockets were still in decent shape, so that helped.
to say the coast of Oregon and California was beautiful, though at one
point the wind was just unrelenting. I don't know how strong it
way, but we seriously though about finding shelter. Jes
didn't have a lot of experience with crosswinds, but she was getting
Beautiful along the coast. Sunny but still chilly enough to need the raingear on.
we got a ways into California, another decission... keep going south, cut
east, or maybe northeast. Decided to take a northeast course
through the northern part of california, through more of the redwoods
and back into Oregon. We rode all day again. The problem
was finding a camp site. We thought we had one but a slow ride
through the place we saw some shady looking
characters around so we opted to continue. We ended up in what
was an old KOA campground at one time, but when we got there, at
sunset, there was noone. The old guy who took care of the place took
our $30 and showed us around. I think one other couple came later
the evening. I put the tent up just as the sun was going down
and sat down to east some sandwiches bought along the way. Man it
was dark that night. You could not see your hand in front of your
Ah, yeah, backwards pictures again...
Sunday 9/4 The Road to Winnamucca!!!
last couple of photos were well on the way to Winnamucca. We had
filled up with gas in a small town and soon as we got on the road the
sign said next gas station 100 miles. Ok, so it was just about
200 to Winnamucca, but it was late in the day. Seemed that at
that gas station there was also a motel of some kind, so that looked
like it would be the stop for the night. Until we got there.
was a lone place in the middle of nowhere. There was no gas to be
had, and far as I could tell there was no one around. Tried the
door to the place but it was locked. Peeked in the windows and
there was someone in there. I just banged lightly until the woman
came out and explained they are out of gas and closed for the day.
No, can't stay for the night.
Tried to explain that it was
late, we're in the desert, it's going to get cold, and I don't think we
have enough gas to make it another 100+ miles, which is how far the
next gas station was. So, after I finished playing fetch the
stick with the dog that was watching the place, between searches on
Google, it was off into the great unknown.
First let me say that
it was chilly during the day, hence why we were still wearing rain
gear. Any time a cloud would come along and block the sun it
would be noticeably chillier. We piled on more layers, and
stopped a couple times in the sun if there was a break in the clouds.
But we kept riding.
Now is a good time to say that it was
beautiful in it's desolation. And those plateaus in the distance
had an amazing rode that went up the side. Squiggly curves one
after another. I was almost affraid to take my eyes off the road
to look at the expanse below us, going higher and higher.
just kept getting colder. We considered just stopping and
pitching the tent in the sand and tumbleweeds, but figued we had to go
on. We tucked ourselves behind the fairings best as we could, I
put one hand on the engine to suck some heat off of it, and off into
At one point we stopped to warm up a little
and I told Jess we had to slow down to cut the wind chill and to
conserve gas. We started going about 45-50 and it seemed like
crawing through the darkness. Only a couple cars passed us, one
turned out to be a state partorl, and with my gas gage flashing at me I
considered chasing him down to see if he had some gas. But the
slow speeds seemed to help with the gas milage so I figured we could
At one point had to make a decission to head North, out
of the way, to a gas station that was a few miles closer or carry on.
But what if there was no gas and it didn't seem like much of a
town. We would definitley be stuck out in the cold desert.
So we went on toward Winnamucca.
At just a little before
10:00 pm and just over 200 miles on the tanks, we finally came to a gas
station. It never looked so good. We filled up and then
went inside, shivering. Turns out they were just about to close
when we got there so we snarfed down some microwave soup bowls and I
had a huge hot decaff to get some heat in my body, and then we had to
There was nowhere to stay in the area and we had to continue
to Winnamucca. Cold, tired, and like another 20-30 miles to go.
No idea what the temperature was butdid I mention it was cold.
finally made it! Rode over 12 hours that day, don't even know how many
miles. Turnd out to be a gambling town, kind of a small Las Vesgas.
We got a room, skipped the gambling, and crashed.
quite a memory. Two motorcycles in the night, flying into the
space made by the piercing headlights, beyond that nothing but
darkness. Gas gage flashing.
Monday 9/5 And from Winnamucca On to Utah!
into Salt Lake and the Boneville flats over a rest in a highway, it's
like you just landed in a different world. First time I'd been
Actually this was where we saw that guy on a moped all loaded up, struggling to get up the hill.
Talk about bright. Sunny day, standing on the white salt.
Took the above picture at 7:30 pm. Yeah, another long day, opted for a motel so we could get a good rest.
there was more to the trip after that. The beautiful Colorado roads of
course, seeing my doughter and Grandkids, a big rainstorm on I80 where
we literally could not see any more, so pulled over and found the
nearest motel... drenched... stuffing newspapers into our boots to dry
them off.. but my camera ran out of charge and I didn't bring my
But we'll finish of with this... Eating breakfast
at some McDonald's these three guys road by in their motorized wheel
chairs... You want to ride somewhere, get out there and do it,
before a wheel chair through a shopping mall becomes the only remaining