June, 1980

The two goals for this trip were to hit central Wyoming (west of Casper), and to possibly run across the upper Snake River Basin and see Craters of the Moon National Monument. Beyond that, I don't know that I had any other plans.


Looking west on highway 54 not far out of Wichita.

For the most part, I was taking a direct route to the Rocky Mountains, where the real trip would begin.

Greensburg, Kansas: The world's largest hand dug well (or, not).

Rod-and-Custom shows are very common in Kansas and Oklahoma. You can usually count on two or three on every weekend. This one is in Dodge City.



I didn't get a very early start, and considering the number of stops I made to cool off and get something to eat, I didn't get too far on this first day of riding. This is the high school at Fowler Colorado--a good place to camp on a weekend.

The next morning I shot up the freeway to Casper, and then turned west, glad to be done with the interstate system. Not unusually for central Wyoming, it was windy. On this day, though, it was VERY windy.


When the road turned, such that I was riding with the wind, I could ride at 70 mph, stick my hand out to the side, and feel nothing. I worried about the (air-cooled) engine overheating.

At one point, when riding with the wind directly from the left side, I found myself leaning in the opposite direction of turns. This would have been fine if the wind had been constant, but it wasn't. When the wind would abruptly stop, or change directions, I'd find myself leaning right into the next lane. I got used to it, and it wasn't dangerous, but on the other hand, I was glad that there was not much traffic.

At one point, a massive gust of wind from the side hit me, and my windshield just vanished. It was there, and then it wasn't. But, at least a portion remained to give me some protection.


I camped at Hell's Half Acre, which is on the south fork of the Powder River, about 50 miles west of Casper. Quite an amazing place.

I did not camp close to these guys who were traveling on their Gold Wings.  This was their first big trip, and they were excited. I couldn't figure out why they were all so concerned about covering their motorcycles for the night. They were puzzled by my windshield.

I crossed over to the Tetons at Togwotee Pass (9,500 feet). This is a very nice road.

The view of the Grand Teton mountains from near the summit.

The Snake River.

From Jackson, instead of following the river, I crossed over the Snake River Range to Swan Valley before riding through Idaho Falls and then across to Arco, Idaho.


Craters of the Moon National Monument is well named.  There are several other large-scale lava fields across the northwest, but this one is particularly big.


I stayed on highway 20 towards Mountain Home. This is the view of the highway as it drops down to the Snake River Valley.


At La Grande, I turned north to Elgin, and then crossed over the Blue Mountains--another very nice motorcycle road.

I stopped at the summit for a meal of summer sausage and French bread.


Stayed in Walla Walla for a few days. Those motorcycle boots are California highway patrol boots. They're extremely sturdy, and provide as much protection from rocks and other road debris as motocross boots.  They never were very good for walking, though, so I eventually switched over to another style of boots. I still have these, though. They will never wear out.

Grandpa and I drove around Walla Walla, first tracking down a sheet of Plexiglas and then over to the local (wood) mill to have them cut it to the shape that I had earlier defined using a grease pencil. They did a good job. Using the heat of the kitchen oven, I was able to get the Plexiglas hot enough (I wore oven mitts) to be able to gently bend it into the shape I needed. I then drilled out the holes to match the steel support structure, and had a windshield that looked pretty good. It had just a bit of waviness in the middle, but other than that, I was pleased with the result. I used an orbital sander to dress up the edges.

I left Walla Walla riding south through Pendleton and followed 395 to Mount Vernon.


These pictures are from a unit of the John Day Fossil Beds park.


There is a good climb east of Mitchell, Oregon that is fairly steep and continuous. At the time, there was some road construction going on, and I spend time waiting in line with the engine idling. It was a very hot day. None of this was good for the engine (I was also thinking back to the high-speed running with the tailwind, back in Wyoming).

Anyway, for whatever real cause, the engine developed a serious knock.  Clearly something mechanical had gone very wrong.

I coasted into the town of Mitchell, and brought the bike to a stop at a service station just west of town to have a look. In the photograph, below, you'll see that the head is already off and I was just about to pull the right cylinder.

The news was not good.  I couldn't be sure, but it looked like my big-end bearing was destroyed.  In any event, whatever was wrong was more than I could deal with here.

[by the way--that narrow twisting mountain road that climbs over the hill before dropping down to Mitchell is no longer part the the highway.  The new highway is practically a freeway and it skirts around the hill.  Not much of a riding road, anymore.]

I managed to catch a ride with a man who was driving into Prineville.  We loaded the motorcycle into the back of his pickup truck and drove as far as the campground at Prineville where we unloaded things, and I set up camp.  I used the time to drop the sump pan, and have a better look. It didn't look any better. I was done for.

I called my dad that evening, and he started driving up almost immediately.  Early the next morning, he found me sitting beside the lake, and we loaded the bike into the pickup truck for the drive back to Sacramento. Not having a ramp, we disassembled a park table and used the bench for a ramp--worked fine.  I drove back and let him sleep.

We'll skip over the attempt to fix things in Sacramento--I basically just ran out of time.

This is the view from the Greyhound bus crossing the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. On the plus side, riding across the country on a Greyhound bus is worth doing at least once. You meet some really interesting people...

The conclusion to this trip is found here.


last edit: 2/27/2007