It’s “The Loneliest Road in America.” We drove Hwy 50 to Salt Lake City last week, our destination the “Crossroads of the West” BMW MOA Rally in Salt Lake City. The forecast was so hot, we almost didn’t go. But when I saw how dejected not going made Mark, I caved.
(Full disclosure: I don’t love motorcycles. It’s everybody else in my family that does. I think they are cool, incomprehensible, dangerous, and at this point in my life not something I will ever learn to operate with anything approaching competency, much less skill. So while it’s not my thing, I get the tribal thing.)
It was hard to ignore the hazy sky as we headed east on 50. A couple of days before we left, I saw my friend Peggy, the local Fire Safe Council representative (unofficial now, because of lack of funding) who said, “There are so many fires, I’m not even keeping track of them.”
Here is what we saw: rest stops and other paved roadside venues, dotted with tents and vehicles. Signs saying: FIRE CAMP. We passed by too fast to get photos.
And the fire.
Unlike the many hardcore MOA-ers, especially those who belong to the “Iron Butt Association,” we did not ride to the rally. We towed Mark’s R1200 RT in our trailer, behind our truck with 4-Wheel Camper. Two California friends of mine who are regulars at Best of the West, Randy and John, canceled because of the heat. Still, the event was well attended.
The venue was the Utah State Fair Park in Salt Lake City. I was excited the first day, seeing all the bikes and people, getting the MOA SWAG, and trying on a jacket or two. There was a Beer Garden, and live music at night. We met some cool people, and our neighbors at the RV parking area were friendly. That night, we ate the cold food we had brought – lettuce, ham, tomato & avocado salad.
The next morning, Friday, we hit the Red Iguana, a local Mexican place specializing in mole, right at opening – 11:00 a.m. The food was great, but when it’s 100 degrees outside, digesting food is exhausting. We retired to our camper after our meal, and spent the whole day lounging in the heat. By the time the sun set, we were almost delirious. We have lived in the UAE, where the temperature is over 100 degrees for months, but where you transition in and out of air conditioning all day. Here, after a full day in the heat, we were done.
In the relative cool of the morning, before we left, I climbed the new arena to get some photos. The people who travel on motorcycles are hardcore. They live in tents, which they will pitch on asphalt if there is shade. And these guys are not kids.
On the way home, via Interstate 80 this time, we stopped over in Lamoille Canyon in the Ruby Mountains, about 20 miles southeast of Elko. Aaahh. Go there, if you get the chance. We were VERY lucky to get a campsite. We had a lovely hike on Sunday, but it was taxing at 9000+ elevation.
That day, we only made it from Elko to Winnemucca before we caved in to exhaustion. Arriving in town, we found that hotel rooms were hard to find. Why?
“We’ve had 50 rooms occupied by fire crews,” they said.
So, here’s the deal. These firefighters work seasonally, using shovels and heavy equipment if they can, to dig and carve fire lines and set backfires. They work in heat that makes what brought Mark and me to our knees look like a vacation – which it was. These firefighters are heroes and warriors.
WTF? Where’s The Fire? I honor these men and women because they are our domestic army, defending the urban/wildland interface. And if you live in the city, thank them anyway. They keep our roads, and the public lands they traverse, passable. So that you can go there and recreate.