I had been to California once, but I had not spent a lot of time out in the western part of the US. October of 2016, I had the chance to spend a lot of time getting to know Arizona as well as a little bit of Southeastern California, Nevada, and a little tiny bit of Utah.
My family and I traveled to Sedona, Arizona in late October. We used Sedona as a base of operations and took day trips to Grand Canyon, Painted Desert, and other spots around that area. After a week, we travelled to Phoenix and they flew home. I stayed and went to the local Eagle Rider shop and rented a nice 2014 Street Glide for 4 days.
Day 1 Phoenix to Yucca Valley
After picking up the bike and getting used to it, I headed up to the local Indian Dealership. I wanted to check out what they had and get some local swag. What a disappointment. They had only a few bikes and no swag. I told them I was visiting form South Carolina and they couldn’t have cared less. What a shame.
From there, I struck for a very long ride to Yucca Valley, California. Because this was going to be a long day, I decided to stay on I-10 for most of the day. Right outside of Avondale, I hit some nasty traffic. The sun soaked me and it was close to 100 degrees. The thought that came into my mind was “Hey Gregg, you wanted to ride in the desert! Well, here ya go!”. Fortunately, a really nice truck driver waved me into his shadow and I cooled down a bit. I hit the first rest stop I could out of the traffic to cool off.
Before and after the heavy traffic
I-10 was very long and very boring. One interesting thing I was not aware of was the inspection station on the western edge of the Colorado river after the California border. They waved me through but I was a bit unnerved by a border crossing station from one US state to another. Welcome to California! The elevation started getting higher and the desert around me started getting sparser. Getting into Cactus City (aptly named), I stopped for an ice cream and a rest. Nice one gas station little town.
Soon outside Cactus City, I started coming down out of the mountains into Coachella. It was an amazing site. Where I had been looking at cactus and sand all this time, suddenly I was met with a bright green valley full of orchards and farms. The sun was starting to set behind the Santa Rosa Mountains to the west of me and it was a spectacular site. I felt like the Joad family coming into California (Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck reference).
I rode through Palm Desert and Cathedral City getting off I-10 (FINALLY!) at North Palm Spring heading up Highway 62. This route brought me around the western edge of the Joshua Tree National Park, heading north and then east to Yucca Valley. I found my hotel and settled in for the night. About 330 miles total.
Day 2 Yucca Valley to Vegas
I got up early and was on the road by 6:00 AM. Pizza from last night for breakfast and motel room coffee – livin’ hard and on the edge, I guess! Followed Highway 62 through Yucca Valley and Joshua Tree. Gassed up in Joshua Tree and had some gas station coffee (not much better). At the eastern edge of town, I ran upon a sign that stated the next services were 100 miles away.
Ready for a long ride – Joshua tree behind me.
This 100-mile journey was one of the highlights of this trip. Going through the Mojave Desert, I was the only one on the road. Even through the Harley motor and my iTunes kept me company, it was very peaceful I was also very grateful for the call boxes every few miles as that lent some assurance that civilization was not too far off. Be that as it may, the 100 miles were filled with amazing scenery and desert vistas. Very few times in my life do I get the chance to just be with God on the road for an extended period – just me and Him. I was in my own private worship service, praising His name for allowing me this opportunity to feel His presence is such a profound and powerful way.
Scenes from the desert
After 100 miles, I came to Vidal Junction. One store, a gas station (gas over $4.00 a gallon!), and 6 houses! The store and gas station is run by an elderly, African American couple and they were very friendly. I got a water, filled the tank (ouch!) and rested for a few minutes. When I was ready to go, I took a left and headed north up Highway 95. More desert but not for too long.
Soon, I got to Needles. This is a cool little town along the old Route 66. The Peanuts character, Needles (Snoopy’s brother) is named after this town. I continued to follow Highway 95 north into Nevada and eventually I got to Vegas. I had planned this to be a 2 day stop and I got a good deal at the Bellagio on the strip. I got to ride up and down the strip at night and it was very, very cool! Anther bucket list item taken off. About 292 miles.
Needles, Snoopy ‘s brother, images from Vegas
Day 3 Day trip to St. George
I started later in the day as I really needed to rest up from the prior 2 days riding. I didn’t get off until around 10 AM or so but that was OK. Sunny and warm, I started off from Vegas along I-15. It was interesting going around Vegas, seeing the Vegas Speedway and various other sites on my way out of town. Once out of town, I was back in the desert again.
Not much to tell until I hit Mesquite, NV. I gassed up there as I saw a sign stating that there were no services for the next 40 miles. Getting out of Mesquite, I-15 briefly crosses Arizona. The riding in this part was AMAZING! Yes, I was on an Interstate, but going through the Yellow Knolls was as good riding as I have ever done. Plenty of curves and switch backs. Huge peaks to either side of me and sometimes in front of me! This was some of the best true riding I did on the trip.
Coming down out of the Yellow Knolls, I crossed into Utah and was soon in St. George. I got off the Interstate and was ready for some lunch. I found a taco joint where the menu was only in Spanish – yeah, I found the right joint. It was a family run restaurant where the mom was cooking in the back and the kids were taking orders. Got two tacos and they were delicious.
After Tacos, it was time to head back to Vegas. I took the same route as, really, there is no other way back. The Yellow Knolls were just as fun going West as they were going East. As I was getting back into Vegas, I was treated to a kind of air show. There were a number of fighter jets, F-18’s I believe, that were doing air exercises around the highway. I kept my eyes on the road, but took advantage of this impromptu air show! Back to Vegas and rest up for a long day tomorrow. 262 miles total.
Day 5 Vegas back to Phoenix
I awoke at 4:00 AM because I wanted to get an early start. Showered, packed, devotional time, and I was off by 5:00. I wanted to get to Boulder City, via Highway 93, by 6:00 AM so I could get to the famous Coffee Cup Restaurant. At the Coffee Cup, they have a green chili shredded pork omelet that is absolutely amazing. I had seen this restaurant on Diners, Drive Inns, and Dives and I had to make a stop. This was going to be my only meal until dinner and it did not disappoint.
Coming out of Boulder City, I took a detour to the Hoover Dam. Another bucket list item taken off the list as I rode over the dam. Because it was still early, about 7:00 AM, there were no other people there. The security was really tight and the security station before going into the dam area took a little time to get through. It was worth it. Got some great pictures and took in the sight.
After leaving the dam, I got back onto Highway 93 and travelled for a little while. I came upon a tourist trap that I just had to stop at. The Last Stop is a gas station, restaurant, and shooting range. Gas up, fill up with a huge burger, and shoot an AR-15. An all in one stop! I bought some tourist stuff for my family at home, but other than that I did not indulge in the burger, gas, or the AR-15. Next time!
Last Stop for burgers, expensive gas, and shooting an AR-15
Luckily, Last Stop was not the last stop. A couple of miles down the road was a small gas station and store. I gassed up and got a quick water and snack. Good thing I filled up because I hit a sign stating that there would be no services for 60 miles. While at the stop, another biker came in and filled up. She was riding a black Street Glide and was going to Phoenix. We travelled together the rest of the route.
Just before getting into Phoenix, we stopped at a rest area and got to talk. Debbie was going back to Eagle Rider as well so we stayed together the rest of the way. We got to Eagle Rider, dropped off the bikes, and shared an Uber – me going to my hotel and she going to the airport. Total miles 325.
What an amazing trip. I had done a good deal of preparation and was able to safely ride through some incredible terrain. God blessed me with safety and I thank Him for giving me such a tremendous experience. I am also blessed to have a family that understands my need to do these things every now and then! Hopefully next trip I can take my own bike. The Streetglide was cool, but I did miss my Indian! Total miles, a little over 1,200.