Laramie WY – Provo UT
Thur Jun 17, 2021
I ended up departing from the EconoLodge before the night clerk ended his shift – when the hotel would apparently be left unattended to be ravaged and looted by the type of folk who try to avoid the game wardens. 😉
One of my regrets from this trip may end up being that I didn’t take an extra hour or so in the morning to stop by the Prairie Rose Cafe for one of their apparently famous breakfast burritos. I found the place randomly online, having toyed with the idea of a sit down breakfast before the short ride in to Provo. However, it didn’t open until seven, and I was hoping to be on the road earlier. I later learned from Marty Cover that I’d missed out on one of the great gastronomic delights of the Wyoming region. Oft-relearned lesson here: while off the clock you never regret stopping for the local flavor, but frequently regret NOT stopping. An extra hour or two wouldn’t have killed me.
So in keeping with my self-induced pseudo-rally mode, I opted for quick & predictable – a McMuffin and coffee, before hitting the interstate. I was in for a very pleasant morning run, in cool morning air, across Wyoming and down into Utah. Previously, I’ve expressed dislike for I-80 across Wyoming, but this time it just felt like the right place to be: at home in my saddle, light traffic, light wind, and not far to my destination.
I exited south on US 40 down through the scenic Heber Valley, where my shadow Art Garvin caught up to me in the bustling Heber City traffic. Despite a bit of additional traffic, the HC area seems like an interesting place to explore further some day.
The nearby Wasatch mountains served as a magnificent backdrop, riding through the valley. In Charleston, Oak Creek Reservoir provided a lovely contrast with high rocky bluffs that framed the blue water. Despite fairly low water levels (very apparent when passing by the dam) there were plenty of boats out on the lake enjoying the beautiful day. It was getting warmer out, and I wished I could jump in.
The thrilling and curvy descent down through Provo Canyon in Uinta National Forest was an unexpected treat. US 189 is a four-lane divided highway here, following the Provo River, and reminded me a lot of I-40 north of Waynesville NC – very fast sweepers at full highway speeds with distracting canyon walls all around. Art and I were able to have enough fun to get the blood pumping, though we could have done without some of the slower cages clogging up the works and ruining our fun!
The canyon run spit us out abruptly onto the outer city streets of Provo. At the first stoplight, we exchanged nods and a thumbs-up, sharing the satisfaction at our arrival. We weaved through some traffic for several unremarkable city blocks to the hotel, and I lost track of Art at one of the lights.
Arriving at the Marriott on schedule right around noon, I beelined straight for the parking garage. I knew that was where we were designated to park for the weekend, and I didn’t even think to head to the front door first to check in. The garage had a liftgate requiring keycard access, but I was able to squeeze around the gate, making my way up the tight ramps to the highest covered floor in the structure before parking.
Turning off that key was a great moment. Here I was, at the start of the Iron Butt Rally! Again! A couple long days on the road had settled my mind a bit and the bike had performed flawlessly. I was looking forward to seeing friends, old and new.
There were several bikes parked throughout the garage, but only a few so far on this level, which had been designated for IBR rider parking. After dismounting and getting my bearings, I chatted a bit with Tom Spearman from Oklahoma, who was parked nearby and mucking with his bike while he waited for his room to be ready. I unpacked my immediate necessities and headed off to find the front desk. I lucked out – check-in was quick and my sixth floor room was ready. It sported a decent view out over the garage to the nearby mountain range that frames the Provo skyline.
After a quick shower, I pinged my buds Gerry and James, who’d trailered out to the start together. They’d arrived shortly before me and were enjoying lunch at a nearby sandwich shop. On my way out, I spotted Rallymaster Lisa Landry striding through the lobby and hailed her in greeting. She welcomed me warmly to the rally venue, but it was clear the rally pressure had already begun for her while she tried to source a replacement motorcycle for a rider already (!).
I moseyed over to join my friends across the street at Sensuous Sandwich, a hip little joint with good fresh-tasting subs. I opted for a 6″ Sensuous Sandwich, with ham, turkey, and roast beast, guac added. Ah, delicious! They didn’t have pie, but nobody’s perfect.
We caught up on our travel experiences and moaned about the heat yesterday – well I moaned while they smugged it up about being in AC for the drive in. Thinking ahead to the trip home, we compared routes and they said I-70 had been fairly open and construction-free, coming across the country from Virginia. Only adding about an additional hour total over I-80, sounds like that’s the route to take home in a couple weeks!
Back at the hotel, we helped James get his trailer and truck unhooked and situated within the garage. Then time for a bit of socializing in the hotel lobby with other early arrivals Chris Comly, Art, Russ Neal, and and a few others. I was missing the big carafe of lemon water that the Greenville Marriott had out for us two years ago, but I kept a small water bottle with me at all times from here on out during the start weekend. Previous experience in the dry southwest has taught me to stay ahead of dehydration.
When Dale Wilson rolled in on his hooligan sport bike, I immediately noticed that it sported a couple of the same model aux lights as I run on my forks. I eyed them with envy, wondering if he’d miss just one. 🙂
That reminded me of my own light issue, so I decided to address it ASAP. I’d already confirmed that the ADVMonster lights were no longer available to buy, so getting a replacement or parts just wasn’t possible. My second tape-job had held up from Laramie, but I knew it wouldn’t stand the rigors of the rally riding to come. I figured I’d be able to effect a repair with the JB Weld I keep in my tool kit. Getting it done today should give it time to cure and then judge whether it would make a reliable solution for the rally.
While hot outside in the early afternoon, it was nothing compared to the 108 yesterday across Nebraska. I was actually feeling grateful for the opportunity to ride through such extremes to get here. It gave me some practice with hot weather ridecraft skills that I rarely need to use, and would make everything else seem cool in comparison.
The garage provided shade, and I took my time, mixing up some JB Weld epoxy and slathering it generously onto the light fixture threads, and between the housing components and circular bracket.
Repair effected, there was nothing to do about it now but let it sit and cure overnight. Parked close by was the new Harley Panamerica adventure bike model being ridden almost straight off the showroom floor by Jim “from FL” Hampshire. That was worth a gander, since this model was only recently released to retail and nobody’s really seen one yet. Looks like a nice bike, though I thought the chain drive would be of some concern for LD riding.
On my way back inside, I spotted Jim Owen at his bike and stopped to chat. He was here directly from his win at the Minnesota 1000 rally just this past weekend. The guy looked fit, focused, and fresh as a daisy. It was fun hanging around the garage and lobby, welcoming more riders as they arrived. The chatter eventually turned to dinner options, and a group of us decided to head out on foot to try a nearby restaurant with good ratings and reasonable prices.
I’ve never been to Provo and am always eager to get a closer look around new places. We were smack dab in the historic downtown area, and I was surprised at how interesting the architecture was. There are several blocks of tightly-packed turn-of-the-20th-century era buildings lining the streets, with decorative facades, high sidewalks, and tall first-floors sporting huge plate glass windows and ornamental ceilings. There are many such buildings all around northeastern towns and cities, with many smaller towns often having one or two “block” buildings like this as centerpieces of their downtown areas.
Station 22 was inside one such building and specializes in southern-style fried chicken among other comfort food dishes. Seeing a couple large barrel kegs sticking out of the wall, we thought perhaps we’d be sampling some beer from a local brewery, but alas! With the strict alcohol laws in Utah, most restaurants don’t have a liquor license. The kegs were filled with a locally made root beer instead, so most of us ended up ordering a mug – and it was delicious! When in Rome…
When the cute waitress showed up with a double handful of huge stein glasses filled with rootbeer, reminiscent of a modern-dressed fraulein at Oktoberfest, I had to do a double-take and lost track of the conversation. I fumbled for my camera to capture The Moment, but was too late as she quickly set down the heavy mugs. She politely declined picking them all up again for a pose, but was a good sport asking if she should be wearing pigtails and a Bavarian dress or lederhosen for full effect. Are you kidding me?
Despite that moment lost in time, we all raised our mugs in good cheer to toast our safe arrival at the start, and in anticipation of the challenges we would all be sharing in the days to come.
I opted for the “famous” fried chicken dinner with bacon brussels sprouts on the side. It was a solid tasty meal with great conversation, a good mix of rookies and IBR vets at the table. The absence of pie on yet another menu was profoundly disturbing, so I elected to go without dessert. Save those calories for where it counts, you know…
Afterwards, some of the group headed back to the hotel, but I wanted to stroll around the downtown area to get a better feel for Provo, and Gerry and Steve decided to join me. The streets are weirdly neat, clean and orderly, and the comparative lack of people and traffic made it seem more like a peaceful and sleepy small town.
The big Utah Temple of the Mormons was right across the street and had a nice manicured park out front. The historic courthouse building looked very DC’ish and a bit out of place in a western town. Being a college town, home to Brigham Young U, there was plenty of pedestrian traffic around this time of day, and local creativity on display in the form of murals and sharp-witted street posters.
(sorry about the lens smudges)
Arriving back at the hotel, we headed to the bar for something made with actual hops. Ken Andrews was there, watering down after a day in the saddle, along with some other riders and staff. Steve Giffin was describing having some back aches he’d been feeling, and Lisa Landry, ever-present and omniscient Rally Mom, turned around promptly and insisted he go to the nearest chiropractor to get things resolved. Steve is an IBR rookie this year but is a very capable rider and a multi-rally winner back east (and one of my dark horse picks for a podium finish this year). He looked somewhat surprised at the turn of conversation, but listened to the advice, and thanked her before retiring a bit earlier than some of us.
After a round at the bar, Gerry and I wandered over in the lobby to greet some new arrivals, including Tim Masterson from Texas, who had gotten in a day early and found himself without a bed. As I had a spare in my room, I offered him a bunk for the night with warnings about my (alleged) snoring, and he accepted.
A bit later, after Tim settled in, we had a beer sitting in the bar with Danny Dossman and Jim Burriss, two more fine gentlemen from the Lone Star state. These are some funny and good-hearted dudes, let me tell you, and I had fun listening to their banter and stories. Danny’s plan was to finish the rally (as part of a team) while riding, as a tribute, an old ST1100 motorcycle that had belonged to Tom Loftus, a well-known and regarded LD rider who’d recently passed away.
Eventually, Tim and I were both feeling the length of the day, and headed upstairs to turn in. It had been a great day, first riding into town, down through that canyon, great camaraderie amongst my fellow crazy people after a long isolating pandemic, and the excitement of exploring a new place on the map. It may only be Provo, but now it’s MY Provo too.