Riding into the sunset
Living in a resort community like North Lake Tahoe can be tough. While you go through your everyday work routine, you are surrounded by thousands of visitors on vacation. I think that’s why we local residents relish our vacations so much.
Traveling by motorcycle is so different than by car. You have to plan what to carry for any weather condition. The saying is, bring half the clothing and twice the money. Riding without what motorcyclists call a “cage” around you allows for better sights, and smells – night-blooming jasmine, roses, honeysuckle, and so many different kinds of sage, you can actually differentiate between them – all waft into your helmet and enhance the essence of the ride.
Even with a partner on the back seat, you can go for long periods without talking. It’s like a meditation, but one where you have to maintain 100 percent alertness. There’s no being distracted like in a car, as the margin for error is pretty much zero on a bike.
The quartet traveled across Nevada’s Highway 50, America’s loneliest road, and former Pony Express route to Ely where they stayed in one of the Silver State’s oldest hotels, The Nevada Hotel, once the tallest building in the state – only about five stories! Every room in the hotel is named for a cowboy movie star and is adorned with stills from old films. Dinner was in the former jail, where each booth is a cell. Tip too low and they might just slam the cell door.
From there we travelled south to St. George, often called the Palm Springs of Utah, where a swimming pool and Chinese food was a welcome sight. Then down to Zion National Park where the vistas were a forecast of the southwest monuments to come. On the road to the Grand Canyon 50-mile-per-hour crosswinds threatened to blow our heavily loaded bikes – and their riders – across the highway. It was time for a break. The Cameron Trading Post was the place to stop. It is the longest continuously operating trading post in Arizona and in addition to the huge gift shop and restaurant, had an impressive gallery of Navajo and Hopi art, and a manager who played the Navajo flute for them. The gardens at Cameron were planted in the 1920s and are an unexpected oasis in the midst of the high desert.
Sedona was next on our list of destinations, with its incredible sunsets and red rock monuments. It was hard not to make comparisons to home in this tiny town that is a mecca for all things wholistic and spiritual, and also thrives on a tourism economy. The art scene in Sedona is ever-present with galleries everywhere. Even rustic Jerome, a short ride from Sedona, is often so heavy with visitors that it could slide off the mountainside it sits on.
From Sedona it was on to Scottsdale. Local galleries and other businesses there were getting ready for a seasonal closing as the triple digit temperatures of summer approach. Sedona was so enjoyable that the group returned for two more days before heading for Laughlin, Nev., and Las Vegas, and the long ride north.
Route 66 in Seligman, Ariz., is like traveling back through time. They have even parked 1950s cars along the curb. Having an unmanned Predator drone fly along the highway through Nellis Air Force Base was a bit spooky. It veered away after being waved at! Finding a seafood restaurant (Cranky’s Crabs) in Tonopah was a truly unexpected treat on our trip.
After crossing from Highway 95, west through the mountain passes to Highway 395, the Sierra beckoned as the trip wound to an end passing through Lee Vining and the ride to Tahoe. It was time to return home to reality. That first peek at “Big Blue” entering the Basin says, “You’re home,” and it’s great to be back where friends, dogs, and cats will hear the story and see the photos of the “Southwest Bike and Art Tour of Spring 2004.”