Day One is in the bag, and as expected it was a long and brutal ride. Tim and I knew that the first leg of our journey was going to be one of our toughest — since both of us were keen to get into the motorcycling playground, that is also known as Utah, as quickly as possible.
We had hoped to leave Santa Barbara as early as possible, which meant 10am, as Tim had one last conference call with his work before he was officially on vacation. As we finished tying up all the loose ends though, 10am rapidly became noon, and we were already sweating under the cool coastal sunshine — this of course meant that it was already well into the 100’s further inland.
Though it wasn’t originally a part of our plan, Tim and I figured that we should begin this 2,000 mile quest with a proper commencement, and thus we elected to start this great journey on our old Sunday morning riding route: HWY 150 to Ojai, and then HWY 33 to Lockwood Valley. The ride was epic, as usual, though it put us even further behind in our schedule, and that meant even more time in the blistering sun.
Riding down HWY 5, and then HWY 138, we began our trial of miles (or was it our miles of trials?). If we have any goals for this trip, it is to see some of America’s great scenery, and for the most part we mean by that the national parks that we will be visiting along our route through Utah. However, in many ways this big “travel day” at the start of our trip has already given us a glimpse of the beauty we seek, as the Mojave Desert, while not as sought after as Zion or Moab, has a certain appreciable aesthetic all to its own. I am fairly confident that had we not been under pressure to make it to Las Vegas by nightfall, and under the extreme still-summer-heat of the locale, we would have been just as content with the terrain at our viewing disposal as anywhere else.
With a gallon of water already in, and out, of our bodies, we made our way up HWY 14, and onto HWY 15 for the final leg to our destination for the night: Las Vegas. With the bikes registering 104 degrees on the thermostat, I am pretty sure both Tim and I would have traded many things for a dip in a cool pool, or even for a quick cooling breeze to come coursing through the vents of our gear. Instead, the only pool was the sweat on our brow, and the only breeze was the oven-like wafts of heat as the wind whipped by us at highway speed.
As if hearing our calls, Mother Nature provided us with an interesting glimpse: rain on the horizon, maybe just 10 miles from where we were. It was an ominous sighting though, with the dark skies beginning to fill our field of vision with the even darker striations of downpouring rain clearly visible. In those shades of gray though, were white swirls of sand vortexes — a byproduct of the cold rain-air mixing with the hot desert heat.
No sooner did the first refreshing drops of water hit our visors did the first gusts of wind blast us from the side. What coastal dwellers need to realize is that rain near the ocean, and rain further inland, can be two very different affairs. Here in the high-desert, rain falls in thick drops, so thick in fact I thought we were being pelted by hail instead of drops of water. The road quickly turned to a greasy sheen, as the oils from countless vehicles began to rise out of the macadam’s surface. Combined with lane-changing gusts of wind, we both quickly regretted all those miles where we had hoped for relief from the heat. The sun was unbearably hot, but at the least, it wasn’t trying to Wizard of Oz us.
Like all desert squalls, the wind and rain lasted only a matter of miles and minutes — bar-clenching miles and minutes, but a fleeting affair nonetheless. We would ride with the sun for another hour or two, before the heat of the day finally had to give way to the night’s sky. It took several hours of dusk and night before we saw the heat relent though, but as we made our way in Las Vegas at 9pm, it was a tolerable 85 degrees.
Sin City has welcomes us with a well-deserved air-conditioned hotel room, complete with a shower and restaurant meal. It’s a small luxury for the 385 miles we rode in the heat, though we will be under the stars for the rest of our evenings (maybe not in Grand Canyon, we’ll see). Thursday’s plans are two hours of highway riding to St. George, and then enter the twisties of Utah, as they guide us through Zion, Dixie, and ultimately Bryce Canyon. Stops for photos will be a must.