So here I am, planning another impulsive trip to meet my parents in Las Vegas this weekend. My dad is playing in a baseball tournament on Saturday and they booked a room at the Caesar’s Palace (with space for me to crash!), so what better way to spend the weekend than riding over a thousand miles total.
I know, I know, it’s crazy to ride that far alone on a sportster, but I think I can do it. Michelle (@harleygirl_1200 on IG) did a similar trip a few weeks ago and gave me the inspiration I needed to plan it out (and she did it while it was raining!). I’ve been averaging between 150-300 miles a day on the weekends, so getting to Bakersfield and Vegas should be fine. The real test is going to be on Sunday when I ride for 10+ hours all the way back home.
Friday Night: ride ~250 miles from Palo Alto to Bakersfield
Saturday Morning: ride ~250 miles from Bakersfield to Las Vegas
Sunday Morning: ride ~550 miles from Las Vegas to San Francisco
Wish me luck!
Sooooo I’m never doing that again. Well, at least not anytime soon.
I left work at 6pm and headed straight towards my first gas stop – Santa Nella on Highway 152 (88 miles). I wore my reflective jacket to keep me visible since it was dark out. The next stop was in Coalinga (71 miles) and then Buttonwillow (77 miles) on Highway 5. Once I reached Bakersfield, it was ~11pm and I was exhausted. I took a quick shower at the hotel and passed out.
I woke up at 6:15am, and was ready to head out by 7:30am. I had enough gas to make it to Tehachapi (43 miles) and then rode straight to Barstow on I-15E. I was feeling a little hungry so I ate a small ramen soup and was on my way again.
I decided to stop recording on my GoPro because having it mounted on my chin started to weigh down my helmet and give me a headache. By the time I made it to Baker, I was in 80 degree heat and felt pretty sick. I wasn’t hydrating at all so I was feeling a little dizzy. By the time I made it to Primm, I started to panic.
I was so focused on making it to Las Vegas by 12:30pm, that I forgot to hydrate and eat. I bought a sandwich at Primm and chugged a bottle of water before heading into Vegas. I made it safely into Vegas by the skin of my teeth. I slowly began to recover that afternoon and luckily felt better by the night.
I was still feeling nervous about the return trip and honestly didn’t think I would be able to finish it. I looked into flights, an Amtrak train, and even considered leaving my motorcycle at Bakersfield Harley Davidson just in case I didn’t feel well. Luckily, I had no time constraints on Sunday, and my plan was to focus on each leg of the trip and take breaks as needed.
I rode from Caesar’s Palace and headed to Primm for my first gas stop. The weather was nice, not too hot and not too cold, and at each leg of the trip I started feeling better and better. I followed the same gas stops for the return trip, and kept hydrating, eating, and walking at each stop.
It wasn’t until I got to Baker that I called my Bank to dispute a fraud alert on my CC. Apparently, crossing state lines and making <$5 charges at multiple gas stations results in your bank putting a hold on your credit card. Luckily it wasn’t too hot in Death Valley, only about ~70 degrees, for the short 20 minute break.
By the time I reached Barstow, I unintentionally rode on Historic Route 66! I stopped to each lunch and use the restroom, but left soon afterwards because the town was giving me a really sketchy vibe.
The ride from Barstow to Tehachapi was among my favorites. Route 58 turns into a two lane road through the desert. It might be a boring straight road, but I thought it was fun and a much needed break from riding at 80mph.
Once I reached the Cesar Chavez National Monument, I headed straight through Bakersfield and into Buttonwillow. It was around 3pm and I reached my peak fun for the trip. After I gassed up, I did not have the strength to continue right away. I sat on the side of the road and ate some fruit from a local street vendor, and took a 30 minute break.
I knew the rest of the trip was going to be brutal. Highway 5 is among the most boring roads – two lanes headed North, no elevation changes, and gusty winds. Not having a windshield took it’s toll on my neck and back for this last leg of the trip. My knees started to burn after Coalinga from the mid controls of the sportster. Once I reached my last gas stop on Highway 152, I cleaned my face shield and headlight for more visibility since the sun was setting.
I finally made it to Gilroy at around 7:45pm and stopped to eat. After taking off all my gear and really resting for a good hour, I couldn’t finish the trip. I did not have the energy to finish the last 50 miles, let alone ride in the dead of night when I needed to be extra focused. So I called my boyfriend and I drove home in my comfortable car while he rode the motorcycle back home.
I learned a lot on this trip and I’m glad I suffered through it:
My jacket was versatile – keeping me warm in 50 degree, high wind weather and fresh in 80 degree desert heat. The laces on my boots need to be retied after about 200 miles. My leggings blocked out the heat from the sun in the desert so well I was amazed! My gloves worked well in both hot and cold temperatures, and I think the cold has something to do with the rash I get on my left knuckle (a review of the gloves is coming soon!).
After about 150 miles my butt starts to get numb, and stopping every 60 miles or so helps decrease the pain there after. My knees can’t do more than 300 miles a day with the sportster’s mid controls. My neck and back hurt after taking so much wind.
I learned what wind dehydration is and how to properly hydrate at each stop. I learned how to pack my bag more efficiently for future trips and what I can do to minimize what I carry (like buying a swing arm bag or front fork tool bag). And I learned that my favorite roads are two-lane roads with 50mph speed limits – where there is no pressure to overtake cars or trucks, and I can just cruise.
I learn best by experience and even though I’m a little sore today, I’m glad I did it. I have a better understanding of how to plan my LA trip at the end of March and Pacific Northwest trip in June.