L.A. to Hanksville, Utah
It might not be the best ride, but can you handle it? Or are you the kind of guy that pulls his bikes by a trailer?
If you're reading this, then don't. This is not for the weak of heart; this is for the real experience. This isn't a story about fun times, or mega-stripper bars, dreamlike visuals, riding in a pair of shorts and flip flops, or smiling happy people, though some of those things are present. Riding isn't always fun. Sometimes you have to earn your miles (trailering your bike doesn't count!) This is a story that I would prefer to forget. I prefer to face the pain of my past with my back turned to it. This is the story of the Hell Ride.
Some people want to have a million dollars before they die. I want a million experiences. But, some experiences are better forgotten. I embarked on a motorcycle trip from Los Angeles to Sturgis, South Dakota, with a group of people. Then from Sturgis, I went on alone up through North Dakota, over to Minnesota, up into the UP of Michigan and back home to Chicago. When it was all said and done, I had ridden more than 3,000 miles. Bad shit happened. We rode through kiln-like heat and tornadoes and we almost lost one of our crew.
I was supposed to write this story nearly six months ago. A responsible writer would put the words down on paper before his wounded brain turned into numb scars. I am not a responsible writer. Note: It's not too late to stop reading this. Instead, I sat at bars drinking heavily, telling the story to friends. The more I told the story, the more increasingly numb I became until I just stopped telling it. Then I just drank. I pushed the thoughts aside and refused to actually sit myself down and write. I displaced the depressive thoughts of the trip for so long, that I forgot what happened and had to call my buddy Brad to remind me.
Brad, or B-Rad, as I call him has the personality that everyone loves. He and I have talked openly and honestly in the past for hours about our misadventure, but as soon as I turned on the tape recorder he became an emotionless idiot. I just spent nearly two hours on the phone with him in hopes to reopen my wound and let it heal properly this time. I wanted to share our heartfelt experiences and instead received a boring recount of what time we ate lunch each day of our nine-day ride together. "Yeah, we turned left on 41. We ate at a McDonalds there. Then kept going..." B-Rad's feelings were numb as well.
I begged him to think that I was a chick in a bar and that he had to tell me the story of our trip to get sympathy so I'd go home and bang him. I hit record, and he immediately reminded me of the heat and how behind schedule we were. I guess B-Rad really wanted to do me.
Day 1 L.A. to Vegas
Our crew consisted of Billy Bartels, who must have ridden Harleys before he had even escaped his mother's womb; The Freshman, who had never ridden a Touring bike (see also: inexperienced rider who is too short to reach the ground) and had never been on a bike for more than one hour at a time; Chad, a computer programmer that had previously ridden from Alaska to South America; Brad and myself. We all met up at a gas station 60 miles out of L.A. to start our journey along I-15 in the 100-plus degree heat through the desert. We rode through Baker to check out the world's largest thermometer. The mercury read 101 and my head was thumping. At the time, though, had I known that heat would be the least of our worries I would have relished every bead of sweat. Around midnight we made our only stop of the day to get gas. Everyone looked how I felt. We arrived at Brad's mom's house at 2 a.m. She started cooking up a smorgasbord of food. With our guts full we sprawled out in bedrooms, on bunk beds, floors, and couches and slept hard.
Day 2 Vegas to Hanksville
We all took turns in the morning taking showers before heading out into the 110-degree heat. I was running late editing photos and passed on cleaning the desert sweat off of my crystallized skin. We continued east on I-15, took a right into the mountains on UT-14 and through Dixie National Forest. The skies darkened, and we figured it was going to rain. We stopped to put on our rain gear. It was a total cluster fuck. We were rushed the day before, and no one knew where his rain gear was. The other guys got all new free gear for the trip and had no clue how to put the shit on. It never rained.
We stopped in the parking lot to Cedar Breaks National Monument for a quick break. Brad was talking to his mom on his cell. She was bitching about how one of the guys raided her freezer and left two empty containers of ice cream in there. I can't help it. I get the munchies. From my years of living on the road, I know that one should never pass up anything that Uncle Sam has designated as a "National" something. You have to stop and check out the wonders of our country. I had to force everyone to get up and walk into the park. By this time, everyone had developed the usual sense of hate for the photographer.
I wanted Brad to stand by the cliff edge for some photos. He reluctantly hopped the fence that was put up to keep idiots like us safe from danger and snagged his fancy leather jacket on a tree. I asked him to stand where I was standing and he said, "No way!" What a pussy. I'm certain he took out his cell and called his mommy back.
We cruised up Route 143 to Panguitch for lunch at Cowboys. Waitresses: A+. Food: A. Beer: D. The Mormon regime of Utah only allows watered down 3.2 percent beer. But I suppose the safety conscious people would prefer that we drink that instead while riding. We agreed.
We were pushing it for the second night in a row. The sky turned from a dark blue into the deep black that you can only get in the middle of nowhere. We were on a two-lane road at 1 a.m. with Brad leading, Billy running second. The headlights had a hard time pushing through the darkness. The repetition of the yellow stripes passing under my feet started to lull me asleep. Then suddenly, out of tired eyes Billy and I saw B-Rad grab a handful of brake. I saw his red glow swerving erratically and then Billy in a dead stop from 60 mph. Brad had hit a cow. Well, hit might be a strong word. He had stopped just in time to lightly tap the bovine with his front tire. I stopped. The Freshman stopped and dropped his bike, and Chad slowly cruised through the mess. Brad was eye to eye with the 500-pound fur-wrapped meat. I swear that he shit himself, but he blamed the stench on the cow. We crept on down the dark road trying to read maps off our headlights and ended up in Hanksville around 2 a.m. after cruising through the twisties. We were beat and grumpy again. It took nearly an hour to unload the bikes. We had a few cookies for dinner while B-Rad complained about my stinky feet.
With only 1,000 miles until Sturgis, we hoped that tomorrow would be a better day. It wasn't! It ended up being the worst day of Chad's life.
To be continued...What? You're pissed about the cliffhanger? I warned you not to read this.
If hell is what you want, hell is what you will get. With a little research you can find odd attractions everywhere. Here are some that are worth pulling over for.
Want to learn how to embalm a human? Or JUNEbe you prefer to read letters from murderers? If your sick and twisted mind said yes to any of these questions then go check out the Museum of Death. museumofdeath.net.
Thank god that the World's Largest Thermometer isn't used to check anal temperatures. The 134-foot tall mercury measurer is symbolic of the record high temperature in the US, in Death Valley-134 degrees Fahrenheit in 1913.
The blood-splattered, bullet-ridden car that Bonnie and Clyde met their maker in is on display.
Las Vegas, NV
Rest your weary ass (see: Baker) and take a walk through the Valley of Fire State Park (parks.nv.gov/vf.htm). I never understood why this place isn't a National Park. A must stop.
I wouldn't recommend eating in this town. If you are desperate you can stop by the Visitor Information Center for a taste of the 100-year-old Pioneer Fruitcake. Call in advance for their tasting hours.
Cedar City, UT
Nicknamed the mini Grand Caynon, Cedar Breaks National Monument (nps.gov/cebr) is a giant coliseum of bright-orange rock dropping 2,000 feet to its floor. I suggest making a stop here to cool off. The monument's elevation is over 10,000 feet.
What do you call a gas station built out of a huge piece of rock? Hollow Mountain Gas & Grocery. Fill up or shut up.
An hour north of Barstow and off the beaten path is Fort Irwin, California (irwin.army.mil). Watch as real U.S. soldiers fight terrorists in fake Iraq with lots of explosions and fake blood. The road does not go through so you have to loop back.