I stepped from the shower and looked at all the gear I had spread across the room. I didn’t want to keep loading and unloading it each day, that simple act probably being one of the things wearing me out the most. Having already made the ocean, my biggest goal now was to simply head back home and I thought about my routing and the stops along the way. By the time I had dressed, the decision had been reached: I would mail back all of my camping gear.
Thanks to Google, I learned a UPS store was only a couple of streets away from my hotel. I parked the bike in the parking lot and removed all the stuff I felt I would no longer need. My new tent from New Mexico. The sleeping bag and air pad I had bought in Tulsa. My folding chair. The cookware set. I carried it all into the store, along with a few other odds and ends I could do without, and tried to find a box that they could all fit into. The clerk, seeing me struggling, suggested a box size for me, and started placing all my gear. A short while later, the 31lbs of gear was packaged and carried to the back of the store.
Having less gear, I had to relearn how to strap everything to the bike. Eventually, I came up with a way. Before my trip, I had a small 5L tankbag. Over the past few weeks, I had worn it on my hydration bag, and a larger 10L bag with spare tubes and chain oil had taken its place on the bike. Now, as I redistributed my remaining gear, I realized I could move my tank bag back onto its rightful place on the tank.
With the loads on both my bike and myself lightened, I set off, the miles passing effortlessly beneath the tires. It might’ve been imagined, but the bike felt good, relieved from some of its burden. I reached Sacramento and merged onto Route 50. Most people focus their attention on Route 66, but so much of that historic road has been destroyed by time. Route 50, on the other hand, still exists in its entirety, running from Sacramento all the way to Ocean City, Maryland.
I wouldn’t travel the entire distance, but since Route 50 did pass almost right next to my doorstep, I would travel a large distance of it, including a part known as “The Loneliest Road in America.” But that would come later. First, I had Lake Tahoe.
After a good lunch from a local Tahoe pizza joint, I went out to ride around the lake. Late in the summer of 2006, I was part of an aircrew that flew an E-3 Sentry to Fallon Naval Air Station to take part in their annual airshow. After the crowds had left one evening, a small group of us took a rental car to the lake, arriving in what photographers call “The Golden Hour”, where the sun casts long dramatic shadows and paints everything with a warm golden hue. The lake was majestic then, and though it was mid-day now, the lake still had a grand beauty to it.
It’s 70-something miles to drive around the lake, filled with the occasional sharp turn and steep hill, yet I saw numerous cyclists pedaling their way around. Maybe it’s because I hadn’t really ridden a bike since I was a kid and, now as an adult, felt uncomfortable whenever I tried, but I felt they were all crazy. It was an ironic thought, considering I was doing a cross-country on a motorcycle.
I finished my lap around the lake, and returned to Route 50, taking me into Fallon. Presenting my ID to the gate guard, he cleared me onto the base with a very Naval “Welcome aboard.” I stuffed my ID away and rode through the gate, still confused by the strange greeting. It got worse at the base’s billeting office, where I was given a room on the “bottom deck”, also known as the ground floor. These terms would make sense if I was on a ship, but this was a base in northern Nevada. I was just happy that as a non-commissioned officer, I ranked high enough to be authorized an in-room bathroom.