Pennsylvania to California, 2004

Reprint of Steve’s cross country trip in 2004, on a BMW R1150R [will add pics later]

Day 1 (Saturday) Woke up at about 5 AM (before my alarm) on Saturday. Put the bags on the bike and got on the road at 6:30. Perfect weather, low 60’s with no chance of rain. First day’s plan is to go about 400 miles to Zanesville, OH which is halfway to Munjo’s house in Normal, IL. Took the Blue Route to the PA turnpike west. At the start, the odometer read 12,626. The first half of the PA turnpike was fine. The second half was full of trucks, cars, construction, and rain/drizzle. The rain was the only bad part.

Took the New Stanton exit to I-70. Noticed that there is a California, PA a few miles off I-70, so I had to take a detour. Not much to see there at all but I had to go.

The bike feels good. I just had the 12,000 mile service this week and they replaced the battery which was weak.

Made it to the Zanesville area about 2 PM, so I decided to take a few side trips. I went to the National Road museum. That was the first road built by the guv’ment and it was commissioned in 1808. Mildly interesting. But again, I had to go being a geek by nature, and also raised by a civil engineer. Checked in to the hotel and visited the Longaberger basket home office. It’s an office building that looks exactly like a basket. This probably means my manliness is in question for visiting it, but my (hopefully soon to be ex-) wife bought thousands of dollars worth of that crap so I may as well see the building that I paid for.

On the way back I visited the Dillon Dam. Again, the legacy of being raised by a civil engineer. Had dinner at the Best Western, which had a very good Indian restaurant in the basement, of all things. Slept very soundly. First day’s mileage was 502.

Day 2 (Sunday) Got on the road Sunday at 6:05 bound for Normal, IL. Decided to take a side trip to the USAF museum in Dayton. It absolutely blew me away. All sorts of aircraft, from a replica Wright flyer to almost every WWII airplane you could imagine, all the way up to B-1, B-2, U-2, SR-71, F-22 and so on. If you like planes you must go there at some point.

I was going to visit the Indy speedway, but it turns out there’s a formula 1 event there today, so I bypassed it. Called Munjo and he rode out and we met at Gutteridge Harley-Davidson in Danville, IL. We rode the last 85 miles back to Normal, IL which was fast & uneventful. Still all on interstates for now. Later I’ll get on the back roads, I don’t have an unlimited amount of time unfortunately. Day 2 odometer reading is 13,584. 455 miles today, 957 total.

I feel good except my ass hurts. I seem to be able to go about 100 miles before I need a break. Mileage on the bike is pretty good. I can get about 200 miles per tank if I stretch it, I get about 45 MPG and the useable tank volume is 4 gallons before the low light comes on. If I do the speed limit it will probably be over 50 MPG.

Tomorrow is the nasty day. Interstates again, 560 miles to Yankton SD. I’ll try to get on the road early again, ride 100 miles then have breakfast. Maybe 200 miles before lunch and I’m barely halfway there.

That’s all for now. I probably won’t have easy internet access from now on, so Mike will be sending these updates I think.

Day 3 (Monday) I left Normal IL at 6:10 and headed west on the interstates.

This is a superslab day. Made it to Iowa with no problems, but then the thunderstorms were brewing. Stopped for breakfast to let it pass, which the first one did, but then had to stop a rest area about 10 miles away because the main front passed. I got back on the bike and kept going west but it was rain/drizzle for the next 3 hours. It cleared up at Des Moines and I dried off pretty quick. The Aerostitch suit was ‘mostly’ waterproof. Either that or I have a bladder control problem. Kept going through Iowa, to 29 north at the western edge of the state. Then the crosswinds started. Not sure how high they were, but the bike was leaned over really far for about 2 hours. By the time I got to South Dakota, I was whupped. The speed limit was 75 but I was too tired to even do that. I got to Yankton SD about 5 PM and was dead. Not much to see this day. 589 miles today, 1,547 for the trip.

Day 4 (Tuesday) I left Yankton and took I-90 west. Stopped in Mitchell for breakfast, which is the home of the Corn Palace. It’s a theater with a facade made of corn and corn products. The facade has murals of Lewis & Clark, Sacagawea, etc. Corny. HAHAHA.

Kept going on I-90. Speed limit 75, so you can do 85 with no problem. Rode through the Badlands. Very interesting. You feel like you’re on the moon.

Then on to Rapid City and saw the USAF museum there. Lots of ICBM exhibits. Next was Mt. Rushmore. Quite impressive there.

The riding in the black hills is also very good. But don’t get behind any Harley riders. They ride sooooo sloooooooooooow. I can’t imagine what it must be out there during Sturgis when the place is clogged with them. Anyway, Americade was good riding practice for this area. Continued on to Deadwood, an old Victorian-style mining town. Lots of casinos. Don’t care for that. 484 miles today, 2,052 for the trip.

Day 5 (Wednesday) I was on the road at 6 and didn’t see any other cars for half an hour. Beautiful. Then I stopped at Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. Remember the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind? Riding out there was awesome, and the tower was more impressive than I thought it would be. I highly recommend it.

Then on to the interstate again, and up to Sheridan WY.

You could see the mountains in Bighorn National Forest looming from 20 miles away. Up to the top of the forest through a hellacious road, tons of switchbacks and overlooks. Once at altitude, the forest was awesome. Words can’t describe it. The downhill was hell, though. Even worse grade-10% for about 14 miles. Thankfully there were no other cars so I could ride at my own pace. Got down to the valley floor and the temp went from the 50’s to the 90’s. Very hot and humid. Rode through a bunch of small towns in WY and made my way to Red Lodge, MT. I was whupped at the end of that day. Red Lodge was a neat town, a getaway town for Yellowstone so there were a lot of places to eat and drink. 440 miles today, 2,492 for the trip.

Day 6 (Thursday) I left Red Lodge for the 98 mile trip to Yellowstone. Got on the road at 6 which was a good idea. Rode up through and above the fog before anyone else got up. Made it over Beartooth pass (10,950 feet!) by 7:30.

Way above the snow line. There was an operating ski area there! Conditions were tricky-again, lots of switchbacks and it was so cold I wasn’t sure if the patches on the road were water or ice. But no problems. Then into Yellowstone. Idyllic, tranquil, beautiful. At least until 10 AM when everyone else got there. Would have liked to spend a lot more time there, but the schedule is the schedule. Saw lots of hot springs and herds of buffalo.

A pair of elk passed 1 car in front of me. In one place, Buffalo were grazing not 50 feed away. Neat. They say not to get close to them, but there were many other people nearby that I knew I could run faster than. Then out of the park and down into Idaho. Actually, Idaho was very, very pretty country. Took the interstate down to Utah, dodging thunderstorms. Brushed past one by speeding a lot, and then saw one in the distance that I had to wait out at a rest stop. 440 miles today, 2,492 for the trip.

Day 7 (Friday) Another mostly on-the-road day past Salt Lake City down to Ely, NV. About a 120 mile stretch with no services! Already got a bunch of water. The range of the bike is about 180 miles at 65 MPH before the reserve light goes off, plus the reserve is another 40 or so. So that 120 mile stretch should be not a problem. 318 miles planned.

I took state route 89 to Salt Lake City, the early part through the hills was excellent riding. Stopped at BMW of Salt Lake (which turns out is in NORTH Salt Lake, if any of you Beemer-types are passing through) which was on my plan in case I needed anything, which I didn’t. They had an excellent selection, though. Then got on I-80 west towards Wendover UT/NV. One city, two states. Typical border town with casinos on the Nevada side. Then headed off 120 miles into the desert towards Ely. It started off a little hot, but there were thunderstorms brewing (yes, in the middle of the desert) so it cooled down to 60 or so. I only got rained on once, and believe me it was welcome. The scenery was awesome. Ely is a little town near a big strip mine. Endearing, though. Saw ‘Dodgeball’ at the local theater.

Day 8 (Saturday) I got up and headed out on route 50, the ‘loneliest highway in the USA’ according to someone.

Got on the road at 6 to beat the heat and the riding was great. About noon I met up with the same 2 riders I met at the Corn Palace in South Dakota. Small world. Then took 93 (?) south towards Lee Vining. Again, a great 80 miles through the desert with some thunderstorms to cool it off.

Tomorrow is Yosemite and then to San Ramon. If I do 292 miles, I’ll break 4,000 for the trip. I’m a little road-weary but part of me wants to keep going.

Day 9 (Sunday)  This morning I started at 6:30 after breakfast in Lee Vining, then a quick fill-up with some $2.99/gal premium. That town is just at the eastern edge of Yosemite, so I was inside the park by 7 AM. Again, nobody on the road. The climb into the park on route 120 was relatively easy compared to the Bighorn State Forest climb. As I headed west, you could see half dome looming in the distance but you really couldn’t see it well. It took a good hour to get to the valley floor. The scenery down there was absolutely spectacular. El Capitan is amazing, as is Yosemite Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. You really can’t describe how awe-inspiring it is. I think it was the most scenic part of the whole trip.

Then I took the long route to the San Ramon area. On the other side of the park, the first gas station was selling premium for $3.23/gallon! I took a pass on that. Rather than continuing on 120, I took 140 towards Merced. Some idiot was all over my ass on the way out, so I pulled over to let him pass. Can you imagine my satisfaction when I saw him get a ticket 15 minutes later? Anyway, once at Mariposa I took 49 north, because on the map it seemed like a nice country drive. Well it turned out to be the twistiest 32 miles I have ever seen. Up and down two big canyons, never a straight section. Believe it or not I actually got tired of it. But I had been on the road for 6 hours by then, I should probably have taken more breaks.

Then I got on 120 again towards the SF bay area. The traffic picked up and it got very hot. This part sucked big-time. I-580 through the Altamont pass was pretty cool because of all the wind turbines. Then onto 680 and Danville. On 680 I almost got hit twice-4,000 miles of riding without incident, then two cars tried to turn right into me, on a section of highway where traffic was loafing along at 40 MPH. I guess this is a lesson for me for the future riding around here. Today’s mileage = 292, total mileage = 4,001.  Final destination was the Days Inn in Danville, CA.



Total mileage = 4,001 (I was going to be 4 miles short of 4,000 so I kept going a little more before I stopped for the night).

Average mileage 4,001/9 days = 444.5 miles

Daily mileage = 503, 455, 589, 484, 440, 450, 353, 409, 292

Max mileage = 589 (Normal IL to Yankton SD)

Min mileage = 292 (Lee Vining CA to Danville CA)

Number of gas stops = 33

Average mileage = 47.3 MPG

Gallons of gasoline bought = 81

Cost of gasoline (est. at $2.00/gallon) = $162

Permanently disfiguring marks obtained = Zero!!!

Mechanical problems = NONE!!!!! (Other than the flat spot in the middle of the tires) Many thanks, my Bavarian friends. I did put in about 1/2 quart of oil, which isn’t so bad when you consider it’s overdue for an oil change at this point anyway.