Playing the Slots in Utah

We were on the road this morning before 7am, headed forty miles back the way we came yesterday. The reason: Slots. Not the gambling kind. The canyon kind.

Arizona is still fairly locked down under Covid restrictions. McDonalds are drive-thru only. Mask or no mask, vaccinated or not, old guys like me can’t even use the restroom there, as the lobbies are locked. Likewise, Antelope Canyon, just south of Page, is shut down to tourists. It was strange to see the large parking lots, typically filled with tour buses and mobs of tourists, completely empty.

Just across the border in Utah, the outdoor attractions are open and doing brisk business. I had tried since January to get passes to hike to The Wave, a spectacular geological formation. Each month I lost the Wave Lottery; only 66 people a day get to do this hike, and my name never came up. However, in the Vermillion Cliffs area — the same area as The Wave — is Buckskin Gulch, and Wire Pass, which have some good slot canyons. And no lottery. So we decided that the earlier in the morning we arrived, the better chance of beating the crowds and the heat.

And we were right. It’s about seven miles down a somewhat rough dirt road to get to the Wire Pass Trailhead parking area. When we arrived there were already several cars there, but no crowds. This is the same trailhead that feeds The Wave, so I expected more people.

The hike down Wire Pass is primarily a creek wash, at least until you get to the first slot canyon.

“Are you sure this is the right way?”

“Yep, this is it. Cool.”

Even highly claustrophobic people enjoy slot canyons, eventually. Within the canyons it was like air conditioning. A nice breeze and temperatures in the low 70s. Outside the canyons in the wash it was already in the low 90s by 10am.

Some elevation change within the canyon.

We were there early enough that we had the canyon to ourselves for a while. I even made a comment about how nice it was and less crowded than I had expected.

In the shade along the canyon walls, we saw these flowers blooming. Diana identified them using her iNaturalist app as Thorn Apples, which are apparently highly poisonous.

Wire Pass Trail tees into Buckskin Gulch, and there are more slot canyons in both directions. We turned left towards the Buckskin Gulch Trailhead and hiked up another slot canyon to the end, then turned around and headed back to the bike.

On our hike out, the people started arriving. We probably passed fifty or more people headed down Wire Pass on our way up the wash. And that feeling of “this is a small percentage of what Zion will be like” began to haunt me.

Ebenezer Bryce’s Canyon

I have traveled through over 40 countries, mostly by motorcycle, and seen some amazing places. La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Machu Picchu in Peru, the Santuaria de Las Lajas in Colombia, the Carretera Austral in Chile, and more.

There are a lot of places in our own backyard that we have yet to explore, but we’re working on it. The past two days have definitely added another to my Top 10 — and probably Top 5 — places to see worldwide.

We were once again aiming to get a “first come” campsite in Bryce Canyon National Park, and we were somewhat surprised that we were able to secure a nice spot in the North Campground. With the campground at 8,000 feet elevation, the temperatures dropped from mid-80s in Kanab to mid-70s in Bryce, and in the mid-40s at night. After setting up camp, we rode the 18 mile long scenic drive and stopped at the overlooks on the way back. The views here are stunning, and for the most part self-explanatory, so I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves unless I feel I have to comment.

After relaxing at camp for a few hours, we hiked about a mile to Sunrise Point to watch the sunset. Yes, there is a Sunset Point also, but who are they to tell us where to stand at what time of the day? 🙂

There are 65 miles of hiking trails in the Park. The next morning, we chose a short six mile hike from the Rim Trail down Queen’s Garden into the canyon and back up the Navajo Loop trail through Wall Street to the Rim.

The height of these two trees in between the narrow canyon walls was impressive, but look closely at the tree on the left: it has another toothpick of a tree growing out of it (different bark) that is nearly as tall. Incredible!

Wall Street on the Navajo Loop is near Sunset Point, so it gets a bigger crowd. But it is a cool short trek from the top. We did it at the end of our hike, so we climbed up Wall Street to the Rim Trail.Some of these spots had an almost Disney-like crowd feel to them. The people-watching is priceless. We quickly saw that those with the designer hiking clothes struggled the most with the elevation and climbs.

After our hike, we stopped by the General Store for a beer on the porch. That’s where we overheard this short conversation between a woman and a store employee:

“What time do you open in the morning?”
“Eh, 8:30, 9am.”
“And what time do you close?”
“Six o’clock sharp.”

I almost spit my beer out. The difference between what time he chose to arrive to work versus the definitive “we are outta here at 6pm” was priceless.

After two days at Bryce, we moved to our “base camp” for the next several days.

Hidden Valley Cabins near Alton is a quiet, out-of-the-way spot that is fairly central to Zion, Bryce, etc. The cabins were built in the 1920s in Bryce Canyon National Park as ranger cabins. They were moved here in the 1980s, and had bathrooms installed. Josh and Jacey have recently taken them over and remodeled them.

Our cabin didn’t come with a cat, but one showed up shortly after we did and quickly made it clear that we were guests in his home. We don’t mind; it’s a little bit of home that we miss.

As impressed as I was with Bryce, I keep hearing the scenery at Zion will blow me away. We will soon find out. Our next door neighbor in the Bryce campground (on a BMW 850GS) returned last night from riding through Zion and couldn’t say enough good things. He didn’t do any of the hikes, but we hope to.

Willis Creek Slot Canyon

We visited Zion a couple of days ago, but I am not going to post about it until we have a chance to return there next week. Meanwhile…

Yesterday was a “down day” while we did some basic maintenance and just relaxed. Around 4pm, we suddenly decided we had time to go hike Willis Creek Canyon, which is the other side of Bryce and about 60 miles away, before dark. We jumped on the bike and rode north and east, past Bryce, through Cannonville, and then six miles down a dirt and sand road to the trailhead.

We started our hike about 5:45pm, which meant we could go about an hour in before we would need to turn around. This turned out to be perfect, as it allowed us to go through the canyons to the point where it opens up again, then turn around and make it back to the bike before it started getting dark.

The canyon narrows not far from the trailhead.

We met four other people on our hike in and out. Once again, my kind of crowded.

The canyon isn’t as impressive as Wire Pass, but was still good. There was a small trickle of water running the length of it, which required us to jump back and forth across it multiple times as we traversed the length.

At one point, the drop is too high, so you have to climb up a trail and across the ledge before dropping back in. You can see one of the other hikers still in the canyon in this photo.

We made it out of the sandy road and back to the highway with daylight to spare, and arrived at our cabin in Alton right at sunset.

We have one day left here before heading to Salt Lake City. Sadly, Diana’s only uncle passed away earlier this week, and she will fly home for the funeral. Due to logistics and expenses, I will not go with her. I’ll be on my own in Utah next week.

Beat The Heat

It’s 95 degrees as I look from Salt Lake City at the Wasatch Mountains. There’s a bit of snow remaining at the higher altitudes. I just dropped Diana at the airport, and my goal for the day is to find a campsite at elevation. The forecast for this week is record highs — over 100 degrees every day — and as high as 108 in Moab, which is where I was headed. I’ve talked myself out of it for now. There is also a large fire burning between here and there, just in case the heat isn’t enough already.

I head out of SLC on I-80 and immediately begin climbing. The temperature drops to 93. I was hoping for cooler. I turn off and head for Park City, and climb above the ski areas to the top. The giant ski jump ramp, built for the 2002 Winter Olympics, stands out on the hill as I enter town. I’ve forgotten what a busy place this is even in the summer. Tons of mountain bikers are everywhere. It’s a beautiful place, but clearly an expensive place as well.

Just beyond the summit I turn off on Pine Creek Road. My ambient temperature gauge reads 79 degrees, and it feels great. I wish I could find a side road or path to camp out of the sight of all of these people. Unfortunately there isn’t any, so I continue on. The road begins to descend, and the temperature once again begins to rise. By the time I get to Pine Creek Campground, I am down to 5,500 feet elevation. The bike says 106 degrees, though I’m fairly certain it’s really just in the mid-90s. But the sun is strong. I pitch my tent and add a tarp off the side for a little extra shade. The campground office sells popsicles for 50 cents, and I’m all over that.

Looking out from the descent on Pine Creek Road, you can see snow on the mountains. Unfortunately my campsite is closer to the lake at the bottom of the valley, where it is much warmer.

Ambient temp reads 106 at my campsite. I think it was really more like 96. Still, people are saying these are record temperatures for here.

Once the sun goes behind the mountain the temperature drops quickly and it’s suddenly a very comfortable 60 degrees. Even so, it will be even hotter tomorrow. As much as I don’t want to do an extra 500 miles round trip, I think I’m going to head to Duck Creek, which is at 8,500 feet and has a nice campground in the Dixie National Forest. That should help my heat problem and help my budget for a few days.

Duck Creek Detour: Testing out the OffRoad Capabilities

As I was eating my third popsicle last night, the woman at the entrance to Pine Creek Campground mentioned a place called Cascade Springs. “It’s a beautiful place”, she said. “They recently paved the road up there, except the last few miles. You can’t do that part on your motorcycle. You’ll need a Four Wheel Drive or Polaris RZR for that.”

I don’t think she intended it, but the gauntlet had been thrown. As I left Pine Creek Campground and rode through Midway, Utah, I saw the sign for Cascade Springs. I turned up the road. It was maybe five miles to the actual Springs, and beautiful fresh pavement.

The newly paved road continued on past the Springs, but I turned into the parking area and walked down to the falls area to take a look.

At the back of the parking area was the dirt road she was talking about. My GPS said it would take me through to another highway and on toward Duck Creek. It was a rough drop-off from the paved parking lot to the two-track rocky road. That should have been the first clue. The first mile and a half or so weren’t too bad. It was more trail than anything I encountered on the eastern half of the “Trans America Trail”, with loose rocks, large boulders, and steep downhills. I switched the ABS off and started down. It was fairly steep, and loose in places, but with rock steps in other places. I thought to myself, “I sure hope I don’t have to come back up this.”

About half way down one particularly loose, steep section, I slid the front wheel and lost it. Would the ABS have saved me? No, because I was going about 2 mph, and the ABS doesn’t work at those speeds anyway. Luckily there was a large boulder on the side of the trail, and I fell into that with the right handlebar and top of the right pannier. The bike was about two-thirds of the way over, but with some added adrenaline, I was able to pull it back up and continue down the hill. Let’s see…500 pound motorcycle, 80+ pounds of accessories and gear, 200 pounds of me. Yep, this is no dirt bike. But still way more capable than my 1200 Super Tenere, which I never would have considered taking down this trail. If I had left the panniers and camping gear off, this would have been an easier ride. But then, that’s not how we travel, and there will be plenty more situations, whether in Mongolia, the ‘Stans, or the outback of Australia, where we will be in true off-road situations fully loaded, AND two-up. So this is great experience for later. I wish now that I had slowed down a bit and taken photos, but at the time, I was more focused on the trail.

A few miles in I reached a creek crossing. It wasn’t that deep — a bit below knee level — but the bottom was rounded rocks about the size of softballs, and the water was moving pretty fast. I picked my way across and up the hill on the other side. At the top was a boulder field, like there had been a rock slide across the trail at some point earlier. It was about 80 feet across. I again slowly picked my way across it, and less than a quarter mile later I came to a large locked, fenced gate. There was no trail remaining on the other side. It had grown over long ago. This was the end of the road. There were some fire rings scattered around; signs of campsites.

I did a 10-point u-turn and headed back the way I came. By now I was beginning to get a better feel for the 700 off-road, and although the handlebars are a little low, standing on the pegs and staying on the gas, I was able to pick my way back up the hills through the rocks.

Once I popped out at the parking area for Cascade Springs, I looked at my GPS again. It said I could continue west on the newly paved road and connect to another highway. And of course, once again, I believed it. And of course, once again:

So finally I gave up, turned back and rode back down to Midway, and continued on to Duck Creek, which was about 300 miles yet.

We did a lot of miles on I-15 getting to Salt Lake City on Saturday, and I didn’t want to do that again. So I took the “back way”. It was warm — the gauge read 100 degrees a few times — and for the most part there isn’t a lot to see. But here’s three things that did catch my attention:

This temple in Manti is the fifth temple constructed by the Latter Day Saints, and can be seen for miles, as it is huge and sits on a hill in the middle of a relatively flat arid area. The small town of Manti has a population of just 3,600 people, so the temple dominates it.

Off Highway Vehicle recreation dominates Utah, and this “Caboose Village” seemed to be a hotel for OHV’ers, along with a nearby campground.

The State of Utah restored Butch Cassidy’s childhood home, and it’s open for self-guided tours.

How many places make a monument of an outlaw’s home? I guess the Butch & Sundance history and popularity have made them heroes as well as outlaws.

I finally made it to the campground around 4pm, and found a nice shady spot in the pines. The campground host stopped by, and we talked about the record heat. He said it was 37 degrees when he got up this morning, and that was hot for this time of year here.

I am SO looking forward to that for the next few days.

The Longest Day

Monday was a long day. In fact, it was the longest day of the year: the summer solstice. For us, it was also a long day. Diana arrived in Salt Lake City at noon, and after re-packing, we set off for Ely, Nevada. Passing the Great Salt Lake and into Wendover, Utah, the ambient air temperature gauge on the bike showed as high as 106 degrees. We were both already tired, and the heat was taking a toll, so we didn’t bother to stop at Bonneville Salt Flats for photos, although in hindsight of course (now that we’ve cooled off), we wish we had. We also stopped at a rest area in the middle of nowhere, about 30 miles or so before Ely, that had a historical marker discussing the Pony Express, which passed near here. Again, no photos (mistake), but we learned some interesting history, such as:

  • The Pony Express only operated for 18 months in 1860-1861, before the war with the Paiute Indians paused delivery, and the Trans Continental Telegraph made it virtually obsolete.
  • The riders could only carry about ten pounds of mail in their “mochillas”, special pouches that quickly slipped over the rider’s saddle and saddle horn for fast horse changes.
  • The cost to send a half-ounce of mail was five dollars, the equivalent of about $160 today. And we complain about the cost of postage!

Outside of Ely, we found a fantastic campground. Ward Mountain Campground is at 7,400 feet elevation, so even though it was nearly 100 degrees in Ely, it was around 82 at our campsite, and in the low 60s in the morning. This was also the best bargain for an established campground at $8 a night.

Crossing Nevada can be a lonely affair. We saw very little traffic along the way.

This is the view for much of the way across Nevada. No complaints.

We had planned to head for Bishop, California on Tuesday, as the county fairgrounds there has showers and we can camp on a large grass field for $15, but the heat once again had me thinking. We made a detour for Mammoth Lakes, crossing through Tonopah, Nevada and a great road called the Benton Crossing over to Highway 395 and into Mammoth.

Benton Crossing Road, approaching the Sierra Nevadas and Mammoth Lakes. Not another vehicle the entire length of this road, and nice scenery.

At just under 8,000′ elevation, it was 77 degrees when we pulled into Mammoth mid-day. While Mammoth is a ski area in winter, it’s also incredibly busy in the summer, and it took us a while to find a place to camp. Eventually we ended up at a National Park Service campground in town, just across from Starbucks, which allows us to walk to wi-fi and charge all our devices.

We’ll stay here another night, then head south to meet up with a friend for a ride toward the coast.

Dash for Elevation

On our way out of Mammoth, we took a couple of quick detours, first just above town to Lake Mary, and then north to Mono Lake.

No, this is not a joke or Photoshopped. We paid $5.09 a gallon for gas in Mammoth. Most of the rest of California seems to be between $4.59 and $4.79/gal. We saw as high as $5.14/gal.

Lake Mary, above Mammoth Lakes.

We then headed south on Highway 395. As we expected, it quickly warmed up, and we found ourselves just wanting to get through the heat and to our destination for the evening, which would again be at elevation. For several weeks now, this has been our routine: find a spot to camp at high elevation, ride through the lower roads to it in 95 degree temperatures, then arrive at a nice climate for the night.

We stopped at the historic site of Manzanar, which was a Japanese relocation facility during World War II. Unfortunately, they were closed (open Friday through Monday only), but a couple of the reconstructed buildings/exhibits were open as was the rest of the outdoor area. Only the large auditorium building remains from the original camp, but there are signposts indicating where each of the other buildings stood, and what it was.

Manzanar Internment Camp, 1943 (AP Photo)

A bit of the history of Manzanar, from the sign in front of the administration building/visitor center.

Walking through the buildings had a little bit of the same feel as walking through some of the German concentration camps. I’m sure the treatment was different, but it still felt like we were intruding on something very wrong that happened. I felt like some of the stories in the exhibits (some based on newspaper accounts from the 1940s) seemed to put a “happy face” on the lives of the people there. It seemed quite biased and skewed to me. Taking about how much some of the inhabitants enjoyed the “mountain views” seemed crazy. This place is extremely isolated in the high desert; it does have a view of the mountains, but it is not in a forested or nice area. Referring to the “laughter and music” coming from the auditorium likewise didn’t feel right; there may have been nights like that, but overall these people were taken from a much better life and put in a guarded concentration camp in the desert, against their will. Like the German camps, it’s good to preserve this history in the hope that it never happens again. But don’t sugar-coat it.

South of Manzanar, we turned up Nine Mile Creek Road, and headed for Kennedy Meadows. It was 97 degrees at the bottom, but 72 when we arrived at Troy Meadow Campground.

Our camp at Troy Meadows, elevation 7,800′. For those who aren’t campers or may be unfamiliar, the large steel box in the center of the photo is a “Bear Box”. It has a special latch that a bear can’t get its paw into to open the door. You store all of your food and other stuff that might attract bears in this box. Or, if you really don’t like bears, perhaps you sleep in it. Just kidding….don’t sleep in it; there’s no inside latch. Don’t ask me how I know…

The campground was only about 20% full, and nearly everyone there had a dirt bike. It’s a bit hard for me to believe that with all the time I spent riding off-road in Southern California, and having ridden at Kennedy Meadows, I never bothered to drive past the General Store in this direction. There are multiple campgrounds here with single-track trails leading right out of them. You can ride your dirt bike right out of your campsite onto dozens if not hundreds of miles of great trail.

A Full Day

We knew that today was going to be a full day of riding, sight-seeing and visiting with a good friend. We had no idea that it would be as exciting as it was at the end of the day.

When we awoke at Troy Meadows in the morning, it was 43 degrees. Once again, our focus on camping at elevation to avoid the heat had paid off. As we packed up to leave, pickup trucks and toy-hauler trailers were already pulling into the campground. People were arriving early to claim their spots for the weekend. This place is not easy to get to; it’s about a five hour drive from the Los Angeles area, and the last hour or more is up a twisty, climbing road. But such is life in SoCal: if you want to beat the other thousands of like-minded recreation families to a spot, you have to leave home early.

We rode down Sherman Pass Road toward the tiny hamlet of California Hot Springs (population 37). This road offers some incredible views, and should be on any adventure rider’s list. It is paved, but full of potholes and gravel, so not an ideal route for the sportbike or cruiser crowd. Single-track trails criss-cross the road in many locations, so it’s possible to add some challenge (and fun) to the ride.

Looking out from the Kern Plateau on Sherman Pass Road.

We had planned to meet a good friend and former co-worker near California Hot Springs, and ride together to the coast. Kevin and I had agreed to meet at a spot just east of the “town”, but somehow we both managed to miss a turn, and amazingly we passed each other not far from the meeting point. Kevin had left home in Orange County early that morning, and had already done about 200 miles of mostly freeway riding by the time we met. We had left the campground and ridden about 70 miles of mostly 25mph twisties, so we had enjoyed the shorter and cooler morning.

After meeting up, we rode to the Trail of 100 Giants. This is a short 1.3 mile walking trail that takes you past some incredible Sequoia trees.

It’s called the Trail of 100 Giants for a good reason.

Spend enough time staring awestruck at these trees, and your neck will start to hurt.

Two of these giants fell not long ago. Notice the bridge under the tree in the foreground.

Kevin and I discussing the absurdity that they allow raging campfires in the campgrounds here.

After hiking the trail, we took off on a spirited ride through Ponderosa and out to Porterville, where once again we ran out of elevation and the heat set in. We had to cross the Central Valley, and we knew it would be hot, so we kept moving. We rode past miles of orange groves and vineyards, eventually taking Highway 46 across towards Paso Robles.

Memorial to James Dean, a few hundred yards west of the site of his fatal car crash.

Shortly before arriving at the Pacific Coast Highway, we turned off of Highway 46 onto Santa Maria Creek Road. The road is little more than one lane wide, and winds about 16 miles through some beautiful hills before dropping into the town of Cambria.

A bit less than two miles down Santa Maria Creek Road, Kevin came around a corner to see a Toyota RAV4 lying on its’ side in the ditch. The driver was just climbing out, and he ran towards Kevin. As we pulled up, the driver asked us to call 911. The car was already starting to catch fire, as was the very dry brush under it.

After confirming that no one else was in the vehicle, we set to work. Diana called 911, while Kevin and the driver got some boxes from the RAV4 to beat the grass fire out. I removed out camping gear from the back of the bike and pulled our one gallon RotoPax container of water off the rear rack. I was sure that it wasn’t going to do much to put out the engine fire, but I handed it to Kevin anyway. He threw some water on the isolated fire and it began to die. We had just enough water to actually put the vehicle fire out, and the driver was able to beat the grass fire out. Had we not arrived when we did, we were convinced that this would have turned into a large and destructive fire.

Firefighter Kevin saves the day!

After an exciting end to our day’s ride, we continued on to Cambria and north to San Simeon. For once, we didn’t need elevation to relieve the heat. The ocean breeze felt great.

In the morning we said goodbye to Kevin, as he headed south towards home and we continued north a short distance toward Big Sur.

It was great to spend the day riding with our good friend, but sad to see him go so soon. Hopefully we’ll see you on the road again soon Kev!

Yes, Sur

We’re more than a week behind in posting to our blog, so I’m going to play catch-up here, as we have a few down days in Boise, Idaho.

After leaving Kevin in San Simeon, California, we had a short day’s ride to Big Sur. We had a reservation for a camp site the following night at Pfeiffer State Park, but we didn’t have a reservation for tonight. This turned out to be our first wall: everything along the Pacific Coast Highway was sold out and fully booked, except for $300+ hotel rooms, which will never be in our budget (one night’s stay at $300 takes away ten to fifteen nights camping at $20-$30 a night. You can see how we can extend our travels significantly by “sleeping cheap”). We started at San Simeon State Park, where we were told “Sorry folks, park’s full. Try Plaskett” (an hour north). We checked several others along the way, but all were full. At Plaskett we were told “Sorry folks, park’s full. Try San Simeon.”

Kevin had mentioned that a friend of his told him about a place to wild camp above Big Sur, so rather than drive hours north and inland, we decided to try it. The road was dirt, but fairly good condition, though in places it had some fairly deep silt. We climbed 3,000 feet up in seven miles to a ridge that looked out over the ocean. At that height, the marine layer (think coastal fog) was below us, so while it was 60F when we left the coast, it was 84F up here. It felt much warmer. We cooked dinner and went to bed early, but it never cooled off, so we didn’t sleep much.

At 5:30am we were up and packing. Our descent got interesting in a hurry when I overheated the rear brake until it faded away (did I mention we are overloaded?) on a steep downhill silt section. With no rear brake and the front ABS still active, we managed to build speed downhill until the embankment on the outside of the corner at the bottom of the hill provided some serious stopping power. From the outside it probably looked like a small atomic bomb had detonated. The silt mushroom cloud completely covered us and we were suddenly a brown bike and two brown riders. No damage and no injuries, thankfully. I was able to pull the bike upright away from the embankment and let the brakes cool, and we continued down to the coast at a slower pace.

After our dust cloud explosion.

There was moisture in the air as we got lower, which turned some of the dust to a light coating of mud.

The rest of the day was spent riding up the coast to Carmel, then back to Pfeiffer State Park. The dense marine layer limited visibility — and photos — and kept the temperatures in the low 60s.

It was difficult to get good photos of the coast, between the marine layer and the traffic.

This one pretty much sums it up: beautiful coastline, twisty road, extreme overcast, chilly temperatures. Overall a great day of riding.

I was reminded of the term commonly used by TV meteorologists on the news in Los Angeles: “June Gloom”. The marine layer doesn’t burn off until nearly noon, and some days later. Diana just kept saying, “This is not what you see when they show you California on TV and in the movies.”

Nope. That’s Hollywood. This is reality.

Family Time

We left the Big Sur campground and went north again to Monterey, then inland and back into the heat. By the time we stopped for lunch in Los Banos it was 100F. At a convenience store there, I saw something I had never seen before: the handles for the front doors were wrapped in towels and taped. Apparently since the doors face directly into the sun, they get so hot that people burn themselves just opening the door.

After lunch we continued north on the 5 Freeway to Stockton, where we headed east to my sister and brother-in-law’s home. A week earlier we had been only 150 miles from here, but we had done a 750 mile loop instead to get to this point.

We spent the next two days relaxing at their beautiful home and enjoying some great meals and conversation. I also mounted a new set of tires that we had shipped to their house. It turns out the original tires probably would have taken us all the way to Boise, but we weren’t sure at the time, and the front was beginning to show some considerable wear. The new tires were extremely stiff and a bear to mount with hand tools, but I eventually got them on.

Diana said their home felt like a really comfortable Bed and Breakfast. I reminded her not to say that to them, as I was pretty sure we couldn’t afford the room rate!

I only see my sister about once every ten years or so, and we didn’t really want to leave so soon, but we had another reservation already booked further up the coast.

We had a great visit with my sister Debbie and brother-in-law Dick. We don’t get to see them very often, so it was great to catch up.

I checked the air pressures in the new tires one last time before heading out that morning. Still, about ten miles down the road, the rear tire suddenly went flat. It appears that I had somehow pinched the tube in a folded position near the valve stem when installing it, and while it held air overnight in the garage, once it heated up, it let go. The tire was hot and much easier to dismount and reinstall on the side of the road this time. Within an hour we were back on the road and headed to Napa.

Passing through Fairfield, I saw one of those “Adopt A Highway” signs that announce people and companies who clean the litter from the sides of the road. This one had the famous “Jelly Belly” logo on it. Over the intercom, I said to Diana, “I think this is where Jelly Belly is located.” About thirty seconds later we saw the large corporate sign on the opposite side of the road with “Factory Tours” on it. A sudden detour was in order.

Can’t pass up this opportunity. We were only a short distance from our day’s destination, so why not take a break from the heat and have some jelly beans?

I’ve forgotten exactly what the sign said now, but it was something like “this room when full of trays holds over 200 million jelly beans.” Those stacks of trays are around six feet tall each. They “rest” here until being printed with the logo and packaged.

A short ride later and we were at our campsite at a city park in Napa. We had passed by a lot of vineyards in Napa, and the Sonoma Valley the next morning as well. But since we were on the bike, we didn’t stop to do any tastings. I’m sure we’ll return in the future, and perhaps do the Wine Train.