When we started the trip I knew we would need to mix regular and premium fuels due to the new government, unleaded fuel mandate of 1980; our bike required premium leaded and the only leaded fuel available was regular. Mixing regular leaded with premium unleaded allowed the engine to function without malady.
Mechanical issues were limited to replacing a rear tire in Calgary, Alberta where we spent time enjoying Alberta’s premier event, the Calgary Stampede (“The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”). The new tire carried us through light snow as we rode through the sharply defined peaks of Banff, Yoho, Glacier, and Mt. Revelstoke national parks. On the clear days, the blue sky contrasting the glaciers and high country snow fields required regular stops to saturate our visual cortexes with the stunning vistas.
The two cylinder engine was enjoying its fuel mixture (or so I thought) and was operating smoothly as we made major, multi-day stops in Kamloops, Vancouver and Victoria, a city of incredibly colorful flowers. We then continued down the crystal clear coastlines of Washington (Olympic National Park, home of the nation’s only rain forest), Oregon (with its abundant variety and quantity of beach fronts), and northern California (Redwood National Park, home of the oldest living things on earth), all while we road-tagged the Pacific Ocean.
We headed east for US Highway 50 to cross Nevada, on what Life magazine labeled the “Loneliest Road” in 1986. At about 20 miles east of Fallon, the engine started sputtering and losing power. We sat in silence for a few moments when I turned the engine off and we sweated in the heat of the desert. Two pickups passed us. No other vehicles would pass us for an hour as we took off our riding gear in the searing heat. Of course the road tools were buried in the bowels of the bike and required that I unload it on the shoulderless highway. And we sweated. Chris was diligently looking for any signs of life either on or off the highway. According to the map there was an old Pony Express station about 30 miles up the road and we wondered how the mail could possibly find its path through the sand and brush of this harsh landscape even at $5 per letter.
The spark plugs had failed due to the poor fuel quality and they were replaced. As we repacked the bike we realized our thirst as we sweated into our riding gear and continued to the next watering hole at an increasingly rapid rate. It was while we motored through nature’s oven that Chris volunteered, “If dinosaurs still roamed the earth, this is where they’d be.”
Only on a motorcycle in those conditions could one entertain such an image.