"What was it the Engines said,
Pilots touching, head to head,
Facing on the single track,
Half a world behind each back?
"
- Bret Harte

TODAYíS ROUTE:
Odgen, UT to Twin Falls, ID: US-89 North to I-15 North to SR-13 West to Corinne to SR-83 West to Lampo Junction to SR-504 to Promontory, back to SR-83 North to I-84 North, Exit 245 to Sublett Road to Malta, South on SR-81 to SR-77 South to Elba, South on Elba-Elmo Highway to Almo, through City of Rocks NR to Oakley, North on SR-27 to Burley, US-30 West through Kimberly to Twin Falls. (
MAP)

THE DETAILS:
The Iron Butt Association sponsors a ride across the country in 50 hours or less. Itís called the 50CC. I wonít be hitting the West Coast until day 46, just a bit slower than Iron Butt speed. But imagine when it used to take 6 months to cross this country by ox-drawn wagon. There were no highways, no airplanes, and even the railroad didnít reach across the land.

On May 10th, 1869, that all changed when the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads met on a summit at a place called Promontory, Utah. This is the Golden Spike National Historic Site where on that fateful day a golden rail spike was symbolically tapped into the tie and the world was changed forever. The end of the frontier had arrived.

The railroads had labored for years to join the coasts. Thousands of immigrant workers, Chinese on the western side and Irish, Germans, and Italians on the east, fought through bitter winters and boiling summers to cross the mountains and plains. Land was graded, bridges were built, and tunnels were dug. Mile after mile of track was laid, at one point reaching a feverish 10 miles in one day. The site commemorates the moment the two locomotives met head to head: the Central Pacific Jupiter and the Union Pacific 119. Life-size working replicas of the trains sit on rails where the actual trains stood, 130 years ago.

Just down the road from Promontory are the headquarters for Thiokol. This is the company that makes rocket engines for the Space Shuttle, right here in the middle of nowhere. Theyíve also built the engines for just about every type of rocket and missile ever made: ICBMs, Minuteman, Sidewinders, and the Patriot, to name a few. A display with the actual rockets sits on the lawn in front of the factory entrance. When youíre riding down a deserted road and along comes a hundred-foot tall solid rocket booster, youíve just got to stop and take a picture.

I stop for lunch up the road at Mollieís Cafť in Snowville A cheeseburger, fries and some chili. This is one of those great little, local places where the entire community comes through every day. They've got no place else to go. It looks like itís been here forever, and so does Mollie.

An hour into Idaho, I reach the City of Rocks National Reserve, where massive granite rock formations provide a haven for climbers. The area also contains a section of the California Trail where emigrants headed west in wagon trains. The visitor center is just south of Almo where the road turns to gravel and rock. I decide to ride through the park, thinking I can deal with the unpaved route. BIG MISTAKE. 25 miles later, Iíve never been so thrilled to see asphalt. The trail (I canít really call it a road) was so bumpy and filled with gravel and stones that I though my teeth were going to fall out. This canít be good for a street bike. I wonít be doing that again, if I can avoid it!

THE DAILY TAKE:
Miles Today: 250
Total Miles: 12,825
Time on Motorcycle: 4 Hours 25 Minutes
Average Speed: 56.6 MPH
States Visited today: 2 (UT, ID)
Total States Visited: 29
National Park Service Passport Stamps: 2
NPS Stamp totals: 94 Stamps, 26 States
Weather: Sunny, Cool, and Windy
Weight of a 30-foot section of rail: 560 pounds.

SEEN ON THE ROAD:
"Frequently High Winds. Occasional Blinding Dust Storms. Next 9 Miles" Ė road sign near mile-marker 248 on I-84, Idaho.

RANDOM PASSINGS:
The weather will be a factor in my travels for the next few days. Itís time to wear the heated vest again. As I travel north into Idaho, Iíll be facing what should be the coldest weather of my trip, and there is a strong possibility that any precipitation will come down as snow. Iím not too worried about the cold; Iíve got plenty of warm clothes and Iíve got my winter gloves ready. But snow could be a problem. Just in case, Iíve planned short days that allow for the unpredictable. If I had to hole up somewhere, I could probably catch up quickly and get back on schedule.

But something I canít prepare for is a dust storm. Much of this area of southern Idaho is flat farmland and dust storms are a reality. Yesterday, just down the road in Oregon, a dust storm in Eastern Oregon left behind death and destruction. Six people were killed and two-dozen were injured when the winds caused three huge pile-ups on I-84. 50 cars were involved in the accidents. Visibility was reduced to zero forcing people to just stop their cars in the middle of the interstate. Traffic coming up behind them slammed right into the stranded vehicles. Chalk up another reason to avoid the interstate.

On second thought, maybe that cold and snow doesnít sound so bad. Letís get north, now.

 


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