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To Ride an Iron Horse - Jack of the Green's Blog

Posted: Thu May 03, 2012 6:40 pm
by JackoftheGreen

"So what I'm wondering, Trevor, is if you'll take $750 for it."

Trevor is a nineteen year old college student who lives in Mantua, a fairly rural town in the middle of Sardine Canyon between
Brigham City and Logan. Mantua is an off-roaders paradise, sitting as it does at the mouth of a network of back-country dirt
trails connecting Logan and Ogden canyons. To travel from one canyon to the other on a paved road takes more than a hour -- in the
dirt, just a few minutes.

Mantua is so off-road friendly, in fact, that residents of the town can apply for a 'limited use' registration for dirt bikes, four
wheelers and other ATVs that allow them legal travel on the city streets. In is just one such vehicle, a 1994 Kawasaki KDX250,
that Trevor and I are haggling about. My wife and I went to Mantua to see it a couple days earlier, and decided to make an offer.

"I can't man, I gotta get at least $900 for it."

This offer is both preposterous for this vehicle, and totally within my budget. A week prior, my ex-wife and I finally sold the
condo we'd lived in for three years. It's a bittersweet sort of moment for me -- I've got $1,500 to spend on whatever the hell I
want and my wife -- my new, wonderful, beautiful wife -- has insisted I spend it on the sort of thing my ex would never have
allowed me to purchase. So that's sweet. It's bitter because we only owed $55,000 on a three bedroom condo that appraised for
$78,000. My ex, in her vindictivness, refused to show the home to anyone but the buyer she arranged, and that particular
buyer soaked up most of our $23,000 equity making us buy him all new hardwood floors and a professional repaint of the entire
house. A worse deal for a seller there has rarely been, but the ex has the only set of keys and believes that if we sell the condo
to the buyer she found, instead of one the realtor I hired could find, she can get outta paying for the realtor's commission. That
lesson cost her $10,000 to learn, but she's not the sort to count the cost of such things.

"Com'n Trevor, we both know I have to put a new back tire on that bike."
"Yeah, that's true."
"I'll go $800, that's the best I can do."
"Yeah, alright. I'll take eight for it."
"Great! We'll be there to pick it up tomorrow."

So began my adventure into the world of motorcycles. I'd never ridden before, except for one disastrous event on my cousin's bike
WAYYYY back when I was seventeen. From that particular experience I took only two lessons -- one, make sure the spring return on
your throttle is always in good working order. Two, always wear a helmet.

My lovely wife is and was an avid motorcyclist. She spent her teen years proving that girls can ride too, competing in desert
races all over Utah and the West. A couple days before we went to see the KDX in Mantua, we brought her bike home from her
parent's house, a 1998 Yamaha YZ125. It had been in storage there for seven years, which also happens to be how old her son, my
stepson, is. Now that he's older, she's been thinking of doing some riding again, and the impending sale of the condo was just the
excuse we needed to make it a double interest. So the YZ -- Tawanda, she calls it -- is in the basement now, soon to be joined by
the KDX, which I will be naming "Green-Man."

What follows is The Summer in Which I Learn to Ride. I don't mean to boast, but I've always had an affinity for vehicles and I
picked it up pretty quick. By our third time out I was tearing across the old railroad grades criss-crossing the backcountry by
Promintory Point at 70+ miles an hour in that hard, slippery KDX saddle, the 250cc two-stroke single piston motor beneath me
thrumming like a colony of killer bees. The blue YZ in front of me with the sexy blonde astride it always pulls ahead when the
road gets curvy, but in the straights it's no contest. That's still the case to this day -- my wife rides very well.

The learning was not without it's mishaps though. The first time I tried to climb a steep grade on the KDX, I attempting it in
First gear, reasoning that I'd need the power. Well, for those of you who don't know yet, a two-stroke 250cc is perfectly capable
of climbing in Second. If you try it in First, you're liable to wind up like I did -- at the top of the climb with the front wheel
standing straight up and the rear tire churning to beat the band. My instincts were good on that day -- not fantasic, but good --
and I simply slid backwards onto my feet and released my beast to the sky. Green-Man flew that day, and aside from a few scuffs on
an already-cracked rad shroud, took very little damage from the event.

We rode a few more times that summer, towing the bikes behind our Kia Sportage to the few spots close enough to make a comfortable
day trip. We stored the bikes in the basement when the weather got cold, but by then we'd got a taste of two-wheeled locomotion
that would prove more voracious than a few weekends a year could satisfy.

Towards the end of that first winter, we spent a few bones to get some much-needed repairs done on my wife's car, a 2000 Neon. It
had been sitting, unregistered and uninsured, for nearly a year at that point, suffering from some mechanical maladay that a local
mechanic had been unable to cure despite having been paid nearly $800 to do just that the previous summer. We found a new
mechanic, though, and he corrected the problem for a fraction of that cost. I'll someday be famous enough to trash the reputation
of that first shop, but now is not the time. Anyway, following the payment and labors of our new, fantastic mechanic Sean, who
owns Frank's Auto in North Ogden, Utah, we found ourselves in a rare situation -- we had one car too many. My 2000 Ford Focus, our
2007 Kia Sportage, and the newly operational Neon. What could be better to do with a spare car, my wife and I wondered, than to
sell it and buy a road bike? That's exactly what we did, and in March of 2011 we bought Bad Romance, a 2003 Honda Shadow ACE 750.

We debated taking the MSF BRC -- a silly notion for my wife, given her level of experience -- and while probably not a bad idea for
me, we talked to a buddy who had just completed the same course and decided I'd already advanced beyond what they could teach me in
the BRC. A better use of our money, we decided, would be to get our permits and put in some miles, then take the ARC together

We played a polite, loving game of tug-of-war with the Shadow for the first three months. In Utah, you get a six-month learner's
permit and have to pass the road test by the end of those six months. For the first 60 days of your learner's permit, there are
restrictions. No riding on roads with posted speed limits 60 or higher, no riding between the hours of 10:00pm and 5:00am, and no
riding with passengers. I'm proud to say we never broke those restrictions, not even once. Somewhere along the way we tried to
take the dirt bikes out again and had a simply terrible experience. Nothing dangerous mind you, just mechanical failures with the
KDX, and by the end of that day I was ready to sell the dirt bike and all my gear lock, stock and barrel. I was having WAY more
fun on asphalt anyway.

My wife, in the greatest show of love and compassion and selfless devotion ever seen anywhere on Earth, sold her YZ too, and with the proceeds from those sales we completed our collection of gear and bought another road bike, a 1984 Magna V65. Grendel, I named him, because he was big and ugly. I wont go into gory detail of my experience with a poorly maintained 25+ year old V4 Honda with 40,000 miles on the odometer, but I spent that summer -- last summer -- learning two important lessons. First, I learned that a sub-liter bike has enough power for my tastes. That ballsy 1100cc in the Magna provided way more oomph than I needed, and a whole lot more than I trust myself with. I regularly took that bike up to a buck-ten on the interstate, and as fun as it was, it was stupid as hell. Second, I learned that though I enjoy riding bikes very much, and am capable of performing repairs on them, I'm certainly not into restoration. I wavered back and forth with wanting to restore that Magna, and wanting to kick it over in disgust. Brakes, clutch, turn signals, overheating, the list goes on and on. It spent more time that summer inoperable than ridable, and last spring I sold Grendel and bought PowerSlave, the 2001 Vulcan 800 Classic you can find pictured in my other posts.

For those of you keeping track, I've owned three bikes -- KDX, V65, Vulcan -- in two years. Also, if you know much about two-strokes, you also know that I've bought progessively less powerful bikes, rather than more powerful. Let that be a lesson to you noobies reading this -- sometimes, you downgrade rather than upgrade and have more fun doing it. At least, I did.

So, that's the first installment of "To Ride an Iron Horse", my blog detailing my burgeoning love affair with motorcycles. I will try to post on this as regularly as I can until we're up to the present, and feel free to reply with whatever questions or insights you may have.

- Jack of the Green

Re: To Ride an Iron Horse - Jack of the Green's Blog

Posted: Fri May 04, 2012 7:05 am
by JackoftheGreen
From Wikipedia:

Bear Lake is a natural freshwater lake on the Utah-Idaho border in the Western United States. It is the second largest natural freshwater lake in Utah and has been called the "Caribbean of the Rockies" for its unique turquoise-blue color, the result of suspended limestone deposits in the water. Its water properties have led to the evolution of several unique species that live naturally only within the lake. Bear Lake is over 250,000 years old. It was formed by fault subsidence that continues today, slowly deepening the lake along the eastern side.

Originally named Black Bear Lake by Donald Mackenzie, an explorer for the North West Fur Company who discovered the lake in 1819, the name was later changed to the current Bear Lake. The lake is a popular destination for tourists and sportsmen and the surrounding valley has gained a reputation for having high quality raspberries.

According to folklore, Bear Lake holds a lake monster: the so-called Bear Lake Monster. Although this originated with Joseph C. Rich, who later admitted to making up the monster, people continue to report sightings of the monster today.

-end quote-

As the above states, Bear Lake straddles the border between Utah and Idaho. It's 80 miles from my home in North Ogden, and a few weekends ago my wife and I decided that a round trip of 160 miles was the perfect daytrip to kick off our riding season.

I wish I'd found this forum before then, so I could have written about our trip while it was still fresh in my head. I do have a pretty good memory though, and I'll do my best.

We left a bit later than we'd planned, par for the course with us on a Saturday, and joined the fair bit of traffic headed North on US-89 into Brigham City. At Brigham City's largest intersection we hung a right onto US-91 and started up Sardine Canyon, the same canyon in which the town of Mantua lies. This time, however, we weren't headed up Sardine to buy a dirt bike.

Sardine Canyon is a bit of an oddity, in that although it's a very twisty canyon with steep and abrupt changes in elevation the entire way through, it's also an interstate road with a speed limit of 60 mph. Because the road through Sardine is so much more well-developed than other canyon roads, Sardine has grown a reputation as a 'speed test', and in the right group of people, it's not uncommon to hear people boasting of their 'time through Sardine'. That Sardine canyon is the main route to Logan, and therefor Utah State University, probably contributes to this. It's been a long time since I was in that particular group of people though, and so I have no idea what the current record is or what a representative time would be. We did the limit most of the way through, though we had to ease off the twist a bit at the long swooping section across the peak. Here there are high winds, and they blow dust and dirt and ice particles from the still-snowbound meadows on either side of the road. This is a high canyon, and not a river valley canyon, and so there's not much geography to be seen.

Google Streetview: ... 12,90,,0,0

At the other end of Sardine you arrive in Wellsville, which was our first smoke stop. From there we continued North by Northeast into Logan, where just a couple weekends earlier we stayed two nights at the Anniversary Inn, a theme inn. They have rooms like "Arabian Nights" and "Jesse James Hideout". We stayed in "Vegas Nights", and it was excellent. But I digress...

The road from Logan to Bear Lake is, also, US-89 through Logan Canyon. US-89 at times seems a monikor for any major North South road in Utah that is NOT I-15. Take a look at our state on a map -- you'll find "US-89" all over the place, and none of them connected. Anyway, this particular stretch of US-89 is a river valley canyon, and it's got lots of geography.

Google Streetview: ... 26.13,,0,0

That ravine is just as steep as it looks. Don't ask we why Google chose images taken in March, but that suits my purposes fine because, save for the snow and ice on the road itself, this is much the way Logan canyon looked when we rode it. Meadows still covered in snow, trees bare and flocked. To be fair, we had no idea there's still be so much snow up in the high places through Logan Canyon, but it sure made for a beautiful ride.

What amazes me most about canyon carving is the way the temperature changes from minute to minute. On some level I suppose I've noticed that while riding in a car with the windows down, but it never struck me the way it does on a bike. Intellectually, I guess it's obvious that the temperature is going to cooler on the road while passing a sheer rock wall than a field of pine trees, but to be there on the bike, approaching the rock wall on your right, and feel the temperature drop like a stone as you pass, and then rise again as the hillside opens up beyond the cliff -- it's amazing. And the reasons are not always obvious. Sometimes, something so simple as crossing over the river and being either downwind or upwind can change the temperature dramatically. If you've never ridden through a winding river canyon with exposed rock, I strongly recommend you find one and ride that bastrd! It's simply incredible. I remember, at one point on the ride through that canyon, we approached a narrow place with a ravine like the one in the map on our left, and a ten-foot wall of compressed, plowed snow just beyond the guardrail on our right. That wall of ice will be there until late July, I'm sure, and on this day it was extremely intimidating. It was SO COLD right next to it, like I'd driven over a magical line from late March into the teeth of January. FREEZING! And I was in my vest!

That canyon was a right of passage for me, in a way. I've rode the twisties before, but this was the first time I'd done so on a bike I trusted and that truly felt comfortable beneath me. I got some pretty aggressive leaning in on this ride, and even dragged the floorboards half a dozen times. Spare a thought for my poor wife -- riding behind me, I'm sure she could have managed this canyon in half the time if she hadn't had to match my pace. She's fond of telling me lately that she's never really appreciated the scenery to be had in our local canyons, but she's learning to. (-: I really Love that woman.

At the end of the canyon we found a rest stop, oddly situated in that it's only three minutes from town. I believe it probably started as a scenic overlook, offering as it does a panoramic view of the lake to the East, and somewhere along the way someone said "as much as we're stopping up here, let's dig a sh.t pit!" The rest is history. Despite it's being so close to town, it was certainly opportune for us, since all the shifting around in our saddles had our eyeballs swimming. We handled our business and had a smoke, and this is also the site of the one and only picture we took on this ride:


From the rest stop, we descended down a series of abrupt, steep switchbacks. The temperature rose ten degrees in as many minutes as we came down off the mountain, and in no time at all we were in...

Garden City.


Ask any Utahn where "Garden City" is, and you'll get a blank stare and something like "I dunno, maybe down by Fillmore in Southern Utah?" For those of us who live in the population centers in the North of the state, any obscure settlement we haven't heard of is probably "in Southern Utah." But ask that same Utahn where the city of Bear Lake is, and they can tell you immediately. Funny thing is, there is no actual town called Bear Lake. The small, picturesque resort town located on the western shores of Bear Lake is actually called Garden City, but I doubt if even the people who live there know that. I believe you could address an envelope to someone in that town and write "Bear Lake" as the city, and it would get there.

Speaking of us Utahns, we have a legend we like to tell about Bear Lake. I'm not talking about the Bear Lake Monster, although that's a popular tale too, but rather that the lake has no bottom. I have heard and said myself a thousand times, "You know, there are places in Bear Lake where they haven't found the bottom." I have no idea if that's true -- that is to say, I've never seen an official report from US Geological Survey concerning the depth measurements of Bear Lake. But we recite this little tidbit so often that it's accepted as fact, and I have no reason to doubt it. Given the statement about fault subsidence in the paragraph from Wikipedia, I can imagine where this legend got started. Whatever else may or may not be true about Bear Lake, it is an idyllic spot unlike any other.

In "Bear Lake", my wife and I stopped into the Bear Lake Pizza CO and blew our diet wide open. A funny little story here. The Bear Lake Pizza CO is owned by a husband and wife as old as the hills, and as we're standing at the counter ordering our pizza, the husband of this ancient pair is standing behind the high school kid tapping keys on the cash register. My wife and I are debating whether to get the medium pizza, which isn't as big as we are hungry, or the large, which we probably wont be able to finish. Keep in mind, I'm wearing my leather vest and chaps, my wife is also in her chaps and Gortex, and we're both holding our helmets in one hand. My wife asks the high-school kid, "Do you have tin foil we could wrap up our leftovers in?"

The old guy, bless his heart, points to the stack of fifteen-inch square pizza boxes next to the counter and says "Sure we got foil, but what's wrong with a box?" Now, I guess the fact that we're wearing leather from head to toe and swinging helmets around isn't ACTUALLY a flashing neon sign proclaiming 'WE CAME HERE ON MOTORCYCLES', but it's damn close. And I understand the old guy having a senior moment, that's cool with me, but the high school kid seconds this statement! "Yeah, we've got boxes." In the end, we got our tin foil and took the leftovers home, which came as a nice surprise to our German Shephard. (-:

The pizza at the Bear Lake Pizza CO is good, nothing special, but what is special is their "Old Ephraim" pizza. It's 36" round and costs $50.00, but it'll feed the whole family plus some. It's named after Old Ephraim himself, a legendary Grizzly Bear that used to roam the Cache Valley and Logan County forests in the early 1900s. Old Ephaim stood ten feet tall and weighed 1,100 pounds, and it took seven shots with a .25-35 carbine rifle to bring that bear down. It was Frank Clark, a Cache Valley sheepherder, who finally killed the old bear in the middle of night on August 22nd, 1923. The "King of them All", as Ephraim is affectionately called, was buried nearby, but later dug up by a boyscout troop. They sent his skull to The Smithsonian, who finally and offically declared him a Grizzly, and buried the rest of his remains in a high place in the canyons surrounding Garden City and Logan. A pile of stones as tall as the bear was erected at the spot, and it's now a popular destination for intermediate and advanced off-road enthusiasts. Though I've never been to Ephraim's Grave, the trailhead to which can be found in Left Hand Fork Canyon on the way to Hardware Ranch via the town of Hyrum, I've been told it's such a technical trail that only dirt bikes can traverse it. No four-wheelers. For more about Old Ephraim and the Old Ephraim Trail, check out the wikipedia page on Old Ephraim.

The ride home from Bear Lake was nothing out of the ordinary. On the way through Logan Canyon we were stuck behind a truck towing a trailer, and I got to experience some of the frustration my wife must feel at having to creep through curves that just beg to be ravished like a French mean. We'll be taking this ride again sometime in the future, and we'll be sure to take more pictures on that trip.

Thanx again for reading my blog. In my next installment, I'll go into detail about our first long ride, Wendover and back! 400 miles round trip through some of the most remote places in our state and across one of the straightest, flattest roads to be found anywhere.

- Jack of the Green

Wendover via Park Valley

Posted: Sun May 06, 2012 9:56 pm
by JackoftheGreen
Yesterday I finally went out and got the bikes washed. It was about time, considering we rode them 400 miles last weekend, and I've been sitting around for the last couple hours thinking that all the 'back-log' from our trip was caught up. Laundry done (that happened as soon as we were home, of course), bank account put back together after this most recent payday, souvenirs given to the children, and now all the dirt and grime from the road washed away and the bikes sparkling like new pennies out in the driveway.

I was wrong, of course, because on reflection I realized I had yet to post about it. This is the post that first sparked my interest in creating a blog about our motorcycling experiences. The story I tried to post originally when we discovered the archaic security error tripped by putting the words 'casin.o' and 'called' right next to each other. It was while sorting out that issue that I decided I wanted to go more 'meat and potatos' with this thing, and so held off on this post to create the first two above. For those that read the Wendover post while it was up, this will be a more substantial retelling of our 400 mile adventure than that original was.

This story begins, as so many of mine and my wife's stories do, with three words. We left late. We're forever running late, all the time. We both work swing shift, 5:00pm to 1:30am, and since the majority of the world is sitting down to their first cup of coffee around the time we're getting to bed, making and keeping plans can be a challenge. We have no such excuse for this particular event, though. We'd planned to get on the road around 3:30 and be in Wendover by 6:30. According to the weather report those would be the warmest hours of the day, and warm was supposed to be the catch-word for the day. What man proposes...

So, ultimately, we hit the 7-11 by our house and gassed up the bikes at about 4:15, nearly a full hour later than we'd intended. Once the tanks were full, we headed out to Interstate 15 and merged with light traffic headed northbound towards Idaho, settling in for the first 70 mile stretch to Snowville, UT. We didn't get to stay settled, though. The weather report for the day promised temperatures in the low sixties that time of day, but what we go was mid fifties, and we simply weren't warm enough in our vests. We left the interstate in Willard, less than ten miles from where we'd joined it, and unpacked our heavy riding coats. By then, though, I at least had taken a slight chill that lasted the rest of our ride. Lesson learned -- if there's any chance at all it wont be warm enough for a vest, bundle up.

From Willard we continued North, passing first Brigham City, then through the smaller communities of Corrine, Honeyville and Elwood. Just before Tremonton we reached the junction with I-84 and veered left, following the signs for Snowville and Boise.

This stretch of Utah is largely valley with low, undulating hills and wide, endless tracts of plowed fields dotted throughout with cellular towers, power transfer stations and turn-of-the-century farm houses. It's also quite windy, especially when the seasons are changing (like now), and I was glad we'd stopped to put on our coats when we had instead of now, when it would have been almost as difficult as it was necessary. There are no exits down this stretch, no communities to need one, and so stopping here would have meant pulling onto a gravelly shoulder alongside 75mph traffic.

I-80 And the Approach to Snowville

The road climbed a bit as we neared Snowville, not alot but enough, and clouds with angry, bruised bellies began piling up overhead. The sky would threaten rain for most of our trip from here on out, but it never did actually come down and for that I am thankful. When we reach the long, sweeping ramp for Snowville, I catch site of a rider on a VTX traveling East on the overpass, and it occurs to me as I watch him pull into the same Flying J we're headed for that he's come from the same direction we'll be going after getting gas. He takes the pump directly ahead of the one my wife and I belly up to, and as she runs inside I nod companionably to him while uncapping the tank on my wife's bike.

"Hey, sorry to bother you, but you came in from Route 30 right? From Park Valley?"


"What's the weather like that direction?" The ranks of clouds overhead are marching in a straight line directly along the corridor we intend to take, and if there's going to be rain, I want to know about it now while we're at a Flying J. My wife carries an emergency rain slicker in her saddlebags, but we haven't got around to tossing one in my kit yet.

"Cold! It's not raining or anything though."

"Excellent, we're headed that way." This guy's got Idaho plates on his Shadow, so I assume he'll be headed North from here.

"You'll be fine, it's just a bit chilly."

"Thanks, ride safe."

My wife comes back out just as I'm topping off my own tank, and together we pull our bikes off to the side of the lot by the big, snorting diesels. We have a smoke, and then I head inside as well to use the facilities and check my Google directions against a woman working the register. A local overhears our conversation, and offers a helpful bit of advice - UT-30 is open-range cattle country all the way to the Nevada border. After assuring this polite stranger that we'll keep both eyes peeled for trouble 'on the hoof', I head back outside and my wife and I climb back astride our bikes.

North on I-84 for another mile to the second Snowville exit (that this town with a population of less than 200 people has two exits baffles me), then we hook a left and begin the longest stretch of this ride. It's 103 miles to Montello, Nevada, and we plan to gas up again there since our destination is, at 160 miles, beyond my personal margin of comfort with regards to tank capacity.

UT-30 cuts east/west across a portion of Utah known as Park Valley. It shows as a city in and of itself on Google Maps, but really Park Valley is a loose conglomerate of dozens of interrelated communities -- Rosette, Dove Creek, Muddy, Rosebud. There are even signs for a place called Kelton, which I recognize. My wife and I rode to the 'town' of Kelton on our dirtbikes once, and there's nothing there but a cemetary smaller than our living room surrounded by a weathered, railroad tie fence. Kelton in parcticular and all these little communities in general are the leftovers of the railroad, boom towns that were once full of hotels, gambling halls and saloons through the latter part of the 1800s when the transcontinental railroad ran right through the heart of Park Valley. In 1903-1904, a new route called the Lucin Cutoff was established much further South, and these communities all started drying up as their rail lines were relegated to back-up status. Then, in 1942, Southern Pacific showed up and dismantled the track in it's entirety. All that's left now is a few farms and other agriculture settlements.

But the road!! UT-30 is, without a doubt, the nicest road I've ever been on in Utah. Clean, glass-smooth black asphalt from horizon to horizon. The speed limit is 60 all the way to the Nevada border, and though this road invites you to to do at least half again that, we stick to the limit and enjoy the scenery. Much of this road skirts the northern edge of the salt flats, and so to our left are vast plains of salted sand with gnarled, stunted trees spreading their twisted, bare boughs to a sky still full of somber clouds.

UT-30 Through Park Valley

Rugged and rocky hills begin rising up from the landscape to our right as we near the Nevada border, our road descending rapidly through dynamited ridges while jagged arroyos race off to the horizons in both directions. It's breathtakingly beautiful out this way, not the same way a mountain vista or pine forest is beautiful, but a stark, minimialist kind of beauty that is the absence of perfection and therefor a perfection of absence. It is over a landscape like this that we all walk in the worst of our dreams, long shadows knifing out across the barren rocky sand and proclaiming 'lose your way here, traveller, and you'll find insanity long before you find water'. I checked the coolant level in our bikes before we left -- I remind myself of this only once, being a desert rat at heart and therefor not as intimidated as I might otherwise be. I suppose someone from the low, wet climates back East may have chanted this as a mantra through these lands, but I'm feeling right at home as we cross the border into Nevada and begin slowing for Montello.

Montello Nevada, is, small. Wikipedia lists the population of this settlement as 217 souls, which is more than Snowville, but Snowville sits along a major interstate and receives life-giving travellers dollars for that proximity. Montello has no such arterial road, and it shows, but scratch the surface of this towns history and it gets even more depressing.

You'll recall Kelton, the town in Utah that was once a bustling rail center before the Lucin Cutoff was built? ello the town that sprung up to replace Kelton, lying as it does right along on the Lucin Cutoff route, and in fact many of the first people who settled Montello in 1904 were transplants from Kelton. Those people uprooted their entire lives, and in some cases actually transported their houses more than 100 miles, to follow the railroad and it's industry. Between 1910 and 1920 Montello was at it's peak, and roughly 800 people lived within it's borders. But in 1925 a fire swept through their business district, and the town never fully recovered from that blow. It was the railroad, though, that again sounded the final death knell. It was between 1940 and 1950 that steam locomotives were phased out, replaced with diesels, and the servicing facilities at Montello were rendered obsolete. The railroad pulled all it's equipment out of Montello in the 1950s, and what's left today is a single gas station, a motel, a bar and a restaurant.

Montello is 60 miles North of Wendover, a major city, and 100 miles South and West of Snowville, not a major town but an Interstate town with a proper travel plaza. With 160 miles from gas station to gas station, and most cars carrying enoug fuel these days for 300 or 400 miles on a full tank, it stood to reason that Montello wouldn't have a 24 hour gas station and I didn't expect them to. I did, however, expect the gas station/grocery to still be open at 6:40 on Saturday evening. So imagine our panic when we arrived with 100 miles on the odo and discovered the gas station had closed their doors at 5:00. Fortunately, the Cowboy Bar and Grill, 100 yards back the way we came, does Saturday Night Cowby Karaoke at 7:00pm and the whole town was gathered therein. I'd hoped we'd find the owner of the gas and grocery in there, and although I'm sure they were in there they didn't speak up when I asked the bartender about 'other' gas stations. There were none, of course, but one gentleman put down his pool cue long enough to sell us a couple gallons of gas from a gas can in the bed of his truck. I paid him $10, and we got the hell outta there before someone invited us to stay for karaoke.

The sun went down as we headed South and found I-80, which carried us into Wendover and to our hotel, The Red Garter.

Wendover is a casin.o town, and Utah keeps it alive. All-night gambling, strip clubs, neon and booze, abnormally large buffets and cheap hotel rooms if you know where to look. When people in Utah want to get their sin on, they go to Wendover to do it and they literally do it by the busload every weekend of the year. But despite it's obvious appeal and popularity, Wendover is famous for another reason and the military history buffs among you already know it.

In 1945, Captain Robert A. Lewis took delivery of a newly built B-29 Superfortress Bomber from Lockheed Martin (Then the Glenn L. Martin Company) from their manufacturing plant in Omaha, Nebraska. He flew the enormous aircraft directly to the Wendover Army Air Field, where it was hangared for just thirteen days. Given what this aircraft would do, though, it's thirteen day residence was enough to make Wendover famous (or infamous) for having housed the B-29. The actual Captain of this aircraft, Colonel Paul Tibbets, would on August 5th, 1945, offically name the aircraft after his mother, Enola Gay, and shortly thereafter this B-29 delivered the first ever combat-strike of an atomic weapon -- The Little Boy -- in the skies over Hiroshima, Japan. Whatever else this plane, that mission, and that weapon may or may not have been, it certainly played a large roll in world history and Wendover, as most towns, will take any excuse to draw tourism dollars. As the rode the short distance to The Rainbow casin.o the following morning for their breakfast buffet, posters displaying the cocpit of the Enola Gay hung from every lampost and street light.

We rode out of town with our bellies full of bacon, eggs benedict and shrimp -- yes, shrimp for breakfast at the Buffet at the Rainbow -- headed East on Interstate 80 back into Utah. Only a few short miles into the Beehive State, the craggy plateaus and squatting hills of the Nevada East desert fall away and what opens before you is what was left behind when the prehistoric Lake Bonneville was released through the Red Rock Pass in Idaho some 14,500 years ago. The Bonneville Salt Flats. Covering nearly a third of the entire state of Utah, it's difficult to explain just how barren the flats are to someone who hasn't seen them. Nothing grows there -- the earth is salted. Nothing lives there -- there's no fresh water to be found. Even rain becomes salt water the moment it lands on the white plains. The ill-fated Donner Party crossed these flats with great difficulty, though not as much difficulty as they would experience later in the Sierra Nevada range.

Interstate 80 is absolutely flat and straight as an arrow for 70 miles as it crosses the flats, across a featureless landscape that looks for all the world like every thirst-crazed heat stroke induced hallucination you've ever seen in any film. The only splash of color comes about 25 miles East of Wendover, where Metaphor stands.

Metaphor is an art piece, created in the 1980s by a Swedish artist named Karl Momen. The scuplture is a tree, 87 feet tall and hung with six huge spheres coated in minerals native to Utah. At the time we passed the sculpture, which I've only seen half a dozen times in my life, I knew it only as The Utah Tree, and learned the rest of it's story while researching this blog entry. I was fortunate enough to select the exact spot where it stands while pulling a streetview of I-80, and here it is. Note the absolute barrenness of the flats in all directions.

The Salt Flats and Metaphor

After crossing the flats, riding into a headwind strong enough that we were leaned 5 or 10 degrees to the left for much of those 70 desolte miles, we rejoined I-15 and followed it home to the Wasatch Front and North Ogden.

We pulled into our driveway less than 24 hours after we left, 400 miles and 18 gallons of gasoline wiser. Life and death shadowed our ride -- towns that the railroad gave birth to, towns that the railroad killed. casin.os that have likely created a few small fortunes, but most certainly have destroyed lives along the way. A hangar that once housed an aircraft of monumental importance, an aircraft that ended a war and 100,000 lives, and started a new era of paranoia and military theory. And a vast white plain of salt, where nothing begins or ends on any timeline that we can relate to. It was a fantastic ride, and we're glad to have taken it.

Our next ride, tentatively, will be Flaming Gorge! We're absolutely thrilled to be planning this next adventure, and we're planning to take a lot of pictures this time out. Stay tuned!

- Jack of the Green

Re: To Ride an Iron Horse - Jack of the Green's Blog

Posted: Mon May 07, 2012 2:14 pm
by blues2cruise
Great stories! :) Thanks for sharing.

Re: To Ride an Iron Horse - Jack of the Green's Blog

Posted: Tue May 08, 2012 3:12 am
by JackoftheGreen
Thanks Blues, I've had a lot of fun composing my entries and it's encouraging to see the number of views grow each time I add something new.

We're in the planning stage for our Flaming Gorge trip, which is scheduled for the weekend of June 9th, weather permitting. Right now we're still trying to decide which route to take and which town to bed down in for the night. Each route and each spot has it's pros and cons, so we'll see what shakes out. (-:

One thing for sure, there will be a lot more pictures of this trip.

- Jack of the Green

Re: To Ride an Iron Horse - Jack of the Green's Blog

Posted: Sat May 12, 2012 4:30 pm
by Scoutmedic
Great posts! Looking forward to reading more!

Re: To Ride an Iron Horse - Jack of the Green's Blog

Posted: Tue May 22, 2012 10:29 am
by JackoftheGreen
This will be a quick one, just an update and some awesome pictures...

The Flaming Gorge trip has been pushed back for a handful of reasons, we're hoping it'll be the weekend of June 22nd. We're still really excited about that trip, but it'll be a lot better if we wait just a bit longer.

In the interim...

For those that don't know, we experienced an annular eclipse last Sunday, May 20th. It just so happened that the prime viewing region for the eclipse was fairly close to us, down in a town in Southern Utah called Cedar City. It's about 300 miles, so on Sunday we packed up the kids and made the drive so we could see the eclipse 'in totality' rather than the sort of partial cresents that would have been visible here at home and anywhere else not in the central path. It was absolutely worth it.

These pictures were shot with a plain Kodak Easyshare camera with a solar viewing strip held over the lens. It was difficult to get good shots because the auto-focus kept trying to focus on the strip instead of the sun, but I managed to get some gems.






We had a great time and the kids enjoyed it a lot. I don't know if they understood how rarely they'd get to see such a perfectly centered eclipse so close to home, but we did. They'll appreciate it someday. (-:

My First Video!

Posted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 5:40 am
by JackoftheGreen
Yesterday, I hopped on a local classifieds website here in Utah and, on a whim, searched for GoPro cameras. I've been wanting one, and it only recently occured to me I could probably buy a used one for fairly cheap.

I found a guy down in Salt Lake City selling his GoPro HD and some mounting hardware for half the price of a new one, and jumped on it. I rode down there and made the deal, paid him his money and made the return trip home with a camera strapped to my helmet. WOOT!

There's a learning curve to video editing, so don't judge too harshly as this is my first 'production'. Tell me what you think.

Camping in Mill Hollow!! Awesome Trip!!

Posted: Wed Jul 18, 2012 7:25 am
by JackoftheGreen
July is always an adventure in our household, and this one has been no exception. We take a lot of time off work, gather up the kids and the dogs and head out for some creative recreation wherever it may be found.

This year, our traditional July camping trip began on Google Maps. In search of a camping spot more remote and less crowded than the usual fare, I essentially just started zooming in on every lake I could find in our state (there are hundreds, of course), and researching camping options for the ones I found.

What we ended up with was a place called Mill Hollow, and it was amazing. This is an angler's reservoir, maintained and stocked by Utah Fish and Game with several breeds of trout. There's no power boats allowed on the lake -- it's fairly small -- and there's a launch fee for even the most modest of inflatables. The result is a uniquely quiet and uncrowded camping spot, which is nonetheless 'improved' with pit toilets, water hydrants and a season-round camp host. Deer and moose populate the environs all day long (we had a beautiful doe run right through our campsite a couple hours after lunch), squirrels and chipmunks and groundhogs keep up a constant chatter, and at that elevation the nights are a refreshingly cool 50 degrees. Check out these pictures, and if you ever find yourself coming through Utah in search of great camping give Mill Hollow a try. We camped in Site 5, and trust me, it's the best one there!

This is the view from the side of the lake opposite our campsite. You can just see our modest pop-up camper there between the larger trees.

I took this shot from just outside the door of our pop-up -- the view was fantastic all day long, but especially at 8:00am with a cup of coffee and a smoke!

Hard to believe, but this modest little stream is what fills the reservoir.

The view from the far side of the lake. In this shot, the stream from the pic above is directly behind.

Just the lake from a different angle. The pine forest around Mill Hollow is incredibly thick, as you can see here.

After our camping trip, we spent a couple days downtime at home and then headed off to Wyoming to visit some family. During that trip, I used my GoPro camera to film the drive through the Red Canyon, a jewel of a place smack in the middle of nowhere. I'll be uploaded the vid to YouTube this weekend, so check back Sunday or so. It's totally worth the watch, and you better believe my wife and I were missing our bikes through the twisties.

As always, thanx for the read and there's more to come.

Re: To Ride an Iron Horse - Jack of the Green's Blog

Posted: Thu Jul 19, 2012 5:01 pm
by Gina
I loved reading about your travels. You're a good writer too--very descriptive. I look forward to reading more. Welcome!