August, 1978

13 August
Austin NV
Holden UT
Green River
Rifle Gap CO
Norton KS
Lexington NE
Anawa IA
Sioux City
Bad Lands SD
Devils Tower WY
Ennis MT
L&C Caverns
Lolo ID
Walla Walla WA
1 Sept
Bend OR
Castle Craigs CA

At 17 days, this was my first long motorcycle trip. Up to this point, I'd taken several trips to northern California, Oregon, Washington as well as a one-week trip down to Hoover Dam and Death Valley, but nothing that could be considered very far.

The route took me east across the Sierras and the Rocky Mountains to Omaha (where I crossed into Iowa for just a bit), and then back west and north through Yellowstone, Idaho, then into Washington, and finally, back to Sacramento.  I kept a brief journal during the trip, and those comments have been included, here. The remainder of the text was done some 25 years later. The motorcycle is a 1973 Moto Guzzi Eldorado, California Police.


August 18, left around 9:00 arrived Ice House at 10:00.

Ice-House Reservoir is just beyond Pollock Pines, on US-50.

Stayed that night after walking 15 miles in the evening.

It's true. I don't recall now why I felt the need to do such a thing.  That evening I also took the time to adjust the valve clearances--a fairly easy thing to do on a Moto Guzzi. I hadn't got around to doing it the day before. The picture below is of a creek I crossed during my walk, and the other shot is of a dead tree--it seemed interesting at the time.


Left Ice House around 12:00. South Tahoe is really crowded.


The pictures below are of a dam and reservoir not far from Fallon. As I recall this was one of the first Bureau of Reclamation projects in the country.


Stopped at some bar outside Fallon.

It was a hot day. I talked for awhile with the owner who insisted that this was a thriving business just waiting for some young, ambitious person to take it over. Incidentally, looking back over this trip, I am struck by how many times I made rest stops. These days, it's not unusual for me to ride for over 200 miles without stopping, while it seems that I rarely went over 100 miles at a stretch on this motorcycle.

At New Pass the bike started cutting out on me. A look at the plugs showed them to be tan and cracked indicating either too lean (which I doubt) or too hot which might be. I changed the plugs. About 5 miles out of Austin stopped for the night at a National camp ground. No water. The camp was full so I drove into the trees and camped there. Had dinner of stew and fruit. Stopped at Eureka for gas and drink.

Although I don't do it so much any more, at that time, I carried all my food, and only rarely ate in a restaurant. And, as a matter of fact, except for two nights in Walla Walla, I was outdoors virtually the entire time. There's something to be said for being entirely self-sufficient, but carrying cans of food adds weight and takes up space.  The rear trunk was dedicated to holding my tent and other camping supplies and food along with the camera, while the two saddle bags were only for clothing. I had a thin tank-bag, in which I kept a second pair of gloves, and the maps and tour guides and other paperwork. That's a can of V-8 juice on the seat.

The road is almost empty. No clouds and only a little wind.

The year of this trip was also before I owned a leather jacket (or the riding suit that I use exclusively, today). Most of the time, I didn't wear a jacket at all, and when I did, it was just a Levi jacket (that you can see tucked behind the windshield). A leather jacket would have been nice, but was not affordable. The tall CHP boots that I wore worked very well.  They remain the best riding boots I've had, but were not so suitable for walking, and were not water proof (having lacing at the ankle). Those driving-lights were a tremendous help, and while the standard sealed-beam headlight wasn't very good, the overall lighting on this motorcycle was outstanding.

Stopped in Ely around 12:00. Had a lunch at some diner. Gave 35 cents to two guys playing an old beat-up violin traveling to Colorado. Toured the Lehman Caves. Quite impressive. However, I didn't take my camera with me.

Lehman is now part of the Great Basin National Park. The tour these days does not include one of the larger rooms due to the danger of collapse. I'm not sure what that says about the safety of the tours back then, but that room is one of the larger ones outside Carlsbad or Mammoth.


Made it across the great desert! 90 miles straight with no services at all. Stayed the night on a dead end dirt road off of US 50 not far from Holden Utah.

I thought that there might be some sort of campgrounds around Delta, or perhaps just beyond. That didn't turn out to be the case, as Delta is really just a small farming town. So, I kept my eye out for a likely side-road that I could stop for the night. This dirt road that was only there to provide access into a wheat field was ideal.  There are advantages to carrying all your own food and supplies, as I was able to make myself a fairly nice dinner.

There were times (on this trip, and others) when I wished that the tent weren't such a bright orange. I would have preferred to be a bit less conspicuous, although I was fairly well hidden in this spot. And, too, there was very little traffic on the road.

Ate at Mom's restaurant in Salina (Breakfast).

Alas, Mom's is no longer in business.  The place had pretty good food, and I'd eaten there several times since then.

From Salina to Green River (110 miles) there were no services at all! Stopped 3 times at vista points to look at scene. Much like Grand Canyon but at a much smaller scale, I'm sure.

At this time, I-70 was just a two-lane road, and wasn't a freeway, at all. These days it's a full Interstate that connects I-15 all the way through to Denver, and beyond. The narrow gap in the rocks you see below is now gone. Unfortunately, too, much of the charm of Green River is gone, now that the freeway bypasses the town.


Near Grand Junction Colorado I went to Colorado National Monument. Very impressive, but not worth making a trip for.

I was impressed that all the water for the visitor's center had to be trucked up the narrow winding road from the valley.

Spent night at Rifle State Park.

There's a V-gap in the mountains that looks like a giant rifle sight. It's quite striking, and the road runs right through it.

It is raining right now, but my tent seems to be waterproof.

Turns out, it really wasn't (waterproof, that is). I have memories of using socks to catch the drips.  This tent didn't have a separate fly, and really had no chance to be water-proof. The seams all leaked, and even the fabric would weep water if you touched it from the insides. Still, it did keep the bulk of the water out.

Much lighting and thunder. Had a dinner of French bread, corned beef, cheese, and hot chocolate. Not bad at all.

When I woke up, I had a flat front tire. I put sealant in and it seems to work.

Good thing. This wasn't a good place to try to repair a tire. Years ago, I carried tire sealant with me. Amazingly enough, it worked as advertised, and it held pressure for the remainder of the trip.

Ate lunch at Eagle.

Today, the road from Grand Junction through Glenwood Springs and then to Vail is all freeway. It's possibly the most scenic freeway in the country, but it still remains as something to just grind out the miles. When this trip was taken, this was a two-lane canyon road, and was about perfect for a motorcycle as it followed the winding Colorado River.

Stopped for gas at Vail. Condominiums all over!  At Georgetown I rode an old steamer and toured a silver mine.

This train ran between Georgetown and Silverton and took the historic railroad loop bridge. At Silverton there was an exhibit and tour of the mining that was once common in this area.


Some very steep and long hills here--11,000 feet. Didn't even stop at Denver--too big.

I don't know why, but I was somehow expecting Denver to be a quaint town in the Mountains (even though I knew it to be a large city). Instead it's (obviously) a huge city that's not even in the mountains.

Stayed the night at Flagler.

That rest stop in Flagler no longer exists.  In the photo below, I was on my way to the showers. These were good times for State Parks. But since then, the number and quality of state parks everywhere has decreased. I arrived at Flagler fairly late in the night. I had stopped at Limon to wait out a thunderstorm, but after a short time, I decided to just press on. These days, I would just check into a motel and be done with it. Anyway, I was riding in very heavy wind and rain when I noticed a sign for the state park just after I passed the freeway off-ramp. So I did a quick U-turn across the median, and backtracked to the park. I had to set the tent up in the rain, and in the dark. The clothes you see in the picture below are hanging there to dry.


No trees but there is a shower which I certainly needed!  From here I went on into Kansas. Very rolling and hardly any houses.

I'm used to it now--of course--but at the time, I was very impressed with the long horizons of Kansas and Nebraska.

The church in Leoville, Kansas.


Stopped at Arapaho Nebraska for a break. One street; very neat buildings.

I remember that they were having an ice-cream social in the town square--I bought a pair of spark plugs at a small garage there.   The nice thing about Guzzi motors is that they take very common automotive spark plugs.  The engine never did quite run the way I thought it ought to be on this trip.  Eventually, I'd get it all sorted, and for the most part, it ran fine.

Stayed the night at Lexington, Nebraska in a large state park (Johnson Lake) It was very noisy what with RV generators going all night and the nearby highway.

Thankfully, these days campgrounds seem to enforce after-hours prohibitions on generators.

Took I-80 into Omaha (sort of). At a rest stop I saw one of the bicentennial sculptures.

The sculptures are still there, of course.  This was part of Nebraska's contribution to the bicentennial celebration.

Toured the SAC museum near Omaha. Very nice, even if there was a lot of USAF propaganda going on.

I've been there since this trip, and they've significantly improved the tone of the displays. There's far less of the "we're better than they are, and we can kill them anytime we want to" attitude than was in the displays then (it seemed jarring then, and must have seemed that way to others).







Crossed toll bridge into Iowa and went north to Anawa at Louis and Clark State Park. Hit some rain on the way, but not too much. This is a very nice park.

On starting the trip I had hoped that I'd be able to ride as far as the Mississippi River. It was clear, by this time, that it wasn't going to work out, but I did, at least, cross the Missouri River, which was significant in its own way.

Went north to Sioux City Iowa and stopped at a Sears for some oil.

As a part-time Sears employee at the time, I was eligible for a discount.  Money (or the lack of it) was a much bigger deal for me then, and consequently this was a very inexpensive trip. Apart from buying gas (and I typically got around 45 mpg) I had few expenses.

When I left, I apparently forgot to latch the saddlebag (lids) down and they blew off while on the freeway. I Had to walk back about 3 miles to get them. One was fairly well wiped out.

A truck ran over it.

Luckily I got a ride half way back.

Would you stop alongside a freeway for a lone person walking in the rain? I'm glad somebody did.

Stayed off the freeway along the river.

I turned west off of I-29 and followed the Missouri River into South Dakota along a number of back roads. The photograph, below, is at Fort Randall Dam.

The two photographs, below, were taken along Nebraska Highway 18 someplace in central South Dakota, just north of the Nebraska line. A beautiful place. It doesn't look as if this line has ever been broken, and there were almost no signs that anybody had ever been here. No fences.

South Dakota

Made it to Bad Lands for the night. Really nice place.

When I arrived at the Bad Lands National Park, it was late at night, and there was a huge storm starting to kick up.   I was concerned that the storm was going to be especially strong, so I staked the tent down as tight and straight as I probably did the entire trip. Since I had set up camp in the dark, it wasn't until the next morning that I was able to see just how nice a place this was. It was a beautiful morning, and I had the whole place to myself.

The ride out of Bad Lands early the next morning was one of those magical moments that happens occasionally on my trips. Perfect cool weather, the bike is running fine--one of those moments that defines a trip.


Went to Mount Rushmore.  Too many people!  Also stopped at Wall Drugs in Wall SD. Nice place, too.

There were quite a few people here. I went through the museum and gift shop, and did one of the shorter walks, but didn't feel the need to stay longer than it took to see the basics.


Arrived Devils Monument Wyoming for the night.   This is one of the better places I've been.

I remember lots of deer walking about--unafraid of people. This was one of the nicer camping places I stayed in. An enjoyable place.

By the way, none of these states seem to be able to build a proper freeway. They aren't very old, yet they are all under repair. Also, even the ones that are in "good shape" are so rough it really bothers me riding over them. This is one of the reasons I try to stay off of them. But, the side roads aren't so hot either.  They have many pot holes etc.  As long as I'm just writing here, I really liked Nebraska and its small towns. SD is also very nice although some of the towns seem to be Indian Slums.

These Indian towns, and the reservations in general were such a surprise to me. No pavement, very few children who were wearing shoes, and the look of total despair. Certainly, reservations elsewhere can be depressing, but nothing like the places I saw in South Dakota.  

After awaking, I generally powered on through Wyoming towards Yellowstone. A bit of rain, but not too bad. Ate lunch at KFC. It didn't taste the same as others. Before Cody, I met up with John and his Yamaha 500 twin.

John was a fireman from Detroit who had it in his mind to ride to Alaska. He was hardly prepared to travel that far--I'm sure that this was as far as he'd ever been before. I really doubt that he ever made it.

We stayed at Fishing Bridge campground, had expensive--$6.50!--but not really very good--meal before entering the park at night.

Eating out was John's idea. I would have been happy with my French bread and cheese.

I'm having some electric problems with the bike.   The generator light stays on sometimes and the starter button will not activate at others.

It's all part of the Lucas "Prince of Darkness" electrics which make owning an Italian (or British) motorcycle so interesting. My current bike is far better in that regard than this one ever was. The generator had to be periodically cleaned. Not difficult to do, but nothing I'd want to do on the road.  The problem with the starter was traced to the poor ignition switch (which, on this motorcycle, was below the seat on the left side)

I need to get a fly for my tent, and seal it. After eating at Old Faithful Inn said goodbye to John and left Yellowstone via the west entrance.

We were seated by the waitress far away from the other guests in the Inn--next to the kitchen entrance. Did we look that bad?

This was a busy time at Old Faithful. The crowd, below, is waiting for the geyser to do its thing. By the way, that's John in the white shirt at the end of the bench.

Stopped at Earthquake Lake for a bit.

An earthquake in the early 1960's caused the large earth slide which also dammed the river until the Corps of Engineers blasted the blockage away.


Had one of the best hamburgers ever at the Dairy Queen in Ennis, Montana. Stopped at Louis and Clark Caverns for the night. Will tour the Caverns tomorrow.

As an aside, I saw at the top of the hill, a water cooled, four cylinder, two-carbed Royal Enfield motorcycle!!?! Took two pics of it and will study this further.

The consensus is that it's a Hillman engine (or some variation of the Coventry Climax engine) in an Enfield frame. Nobody claims that this was a good idea, but it makes for an interesting motorcycle.

email received 9/5/2009 11:09 AM
Hi there,
A fellow traveler sent me your account of a trip you took in 1978.
Outside of the Lewis and Clark caves you came upon a four cylinder Enfield. That machine is mine, I built it in '75 and I still have it.
I stopped counting the mileage at 250,000 and that includes a world tour in 86/87 of some 50,000. I have attached a couple of shots of it that I took yesterday. Its basically the same machine but with a bunch of cosmetic upgrades and I changed to a Norton gearbox when Enfield parts got scarce in the '80s.
And you were quite right; its a Hillman Imp engine which was derived from the Coventry Climax. I hope you enjoy the pics.
Peter Dent.


After getting up, I toured the caves. Much climbing and stooping, but a good cave. Like the last cave, the guide went on and on with her imagination--animals, people etc. in the cave formations. Ah well, everybody else seemed to enjoy it.

The pictures below were taken without flash. I think I had the shutter open for some 2 seconds (while holding the camera firm against my body) to get the shot. Turned out as well as could be expected.


From caves I rode to Missoula, Montana and took a left into Idaho. Camped at Wilderness Entry Point Campground. Very ferny and moist.  However, I got a fire started using the maps of states and regions that I wouldn't need anymore.

Very symbolic. Don't need a Kansas map anymore? Burn it! I also soaked several small branches in my gas tank to help things get started. All the available wood was damp, so I needed to do anything I could to get a fire started. Funny, I struggled to get a meek little flame going to make my hot chocolate, but, later at night, I was wakened by a pretty healthy fire--all that damp wood had finally dried out.

Woke up and everything was wet with dew--fog--cold.


I note by looking in the bike mirror that I present a very filthy picture. My face is black in spots, my eyes are rather hazed over, from too much wind, my hair is stringy and too long, my pants are covered in soil and oil, and my shirt smells. The bike itself presents an even worse impression.  Those Dunlop K87's will have to be replaced by something that can hold up longer than a mere 5,000 miles! I also need to get a darker face shield for my helmet.  On future trips, I should bring more shirts and socks. Also, canned fruit is very tasty and I should bring more of that .  The juice that I started with is good, but it takes up far too much room, as I could buy it at stores along the way.

These days I watch the weight of what I carry much more than I did then. Any extra weight (especially in the rear trunk) has an effect on the handling of the motorcycle.  It's better to leave it, and to just buy what little you need along the way.

A smaller camera wouldn't be so much in the way as the large SLR that I have now. Maybe a small Minolta range finder.  From the campground, took off towards Walla Walla. Beautiful road through Idaho. I maintained 70-75 mph all the way.  The bike just purred along. Around Lewiston, Idaho it started to rain.  I didn't think much of it, so didn't bother with the space suit. I should have. By the time I reached Walla Walla, I was soaked all the way through.  When arrive at Walla, Grandma Ruth was home from the hospital. Had dinner of fresh corn and played the organ. Left Walla Walla Sept 1 to Grandview. The plugs had fouled so I replaced them.   Talked to Grandma Shafer at the Walnut Grove nursing home. She seemed well.

I packed a nylon, insulated riding suit in one of the saddle bags (same as I used on my Death Valley Trip). But, this wasn't nearly as handy as my current (Aerostich) suit, and was not suitable to be worn all the time.  Consequently, I never had it on when I needed it. In any event, it certainly was not crashworthy.

Rode to Harley Dorsey's. He--or rather they--weren't home, but I'll just sack out in their back yard where I'm writing this page.

The Dorsey's were away, so I set up the tent in their back yard after riding into Grandview for some food.


Returned down highway 97.

From Grandview to Biggs Junction, and then down central Oregon. The Crooked River Gorge is an almost mandatory rest stop.


Slept at Simas campground near Castle Craigs.

Arrived home Sept 3, 1978 around 11:00. Total mileage 5,347.

A great trip. It would be something of the prototype for all future trips. I learned a good deal about what to take, and what to leave home, and started learning how to cover large distances on a motorcycle.


last edit: 9/5/2009