Ridin' Around with John Boettcher

What do you do when there are two rallies you want to go to on back to back weekends but only have a limited number of days off. Add the fact that the rallies are over 2000 miles away. I figured it was going to involve a little roadkill!


I left for work Thursday morning on July 19th and said, “Adios,” to Ken Hand and Peg Tillery who were camping in my backyard. I was finished at work by 11:00 A.M. and headed out with 131,725 miles on the clock of my beloved raT-3. I cashed my check and was enroute by 11:15. I knew then my mission was going to be to break my longest ride of 1760 miles back in 1998 when I rode to Alaska. I know a lot of people "prep" for burns like this and pack power drinks, power bars etc. I do pack salted peanuts, Tabasco flavored Slim Jims, water, and a pouch to hold a soda. All can be reached from the saddle.


I took a few country roads and U.S. Highway 14 to Janesville, Wisconsin. I got on I-90 to Madison and then I-94 which was going to be the only number I would need to remember for quite a while.


A little north of Madison, I passed a truck at about 80 mph. As I got back into the right lane I smelled oil burning. I looked in the mirror and could see the oil smoke pouring out of the mufflers. I backed down to 70 mph and it stopped. I was a bit nervous and wasn't sure whether I should abort the trip but I continued. I passed another vehicle at 80 mph and again, as I swerved back into the right lane, the smoke would start up. I figured worn valve seals (original untouched cylinder heads) so I quit worrying about it. I tried to keep it under 75 mph from there on.


I hit Minneapolis/St Paul at around 5:00 P.M. or so and traffic was heavy. I figured it cost me about 15 minutes. It was perfect sunny weather the whole day and I was getting into it. I was gassing up in less than 4 minutes paying at the pump. I'm glad paying at the pump is almost standard now.


I had my dinner of salted peanuts while hauling down the freeway. The sun was down as I entered North Dakota. I started getting tired, so I bit off a chunk of the Slim Jim. The mild burning sensation of the Tabasco did a nice job of getting my one good eye back open as it turned into Friday.


It was a beautiful starry night and I could feel myself start to nod off a bit so I pulled over in a rest area and laid on the gas tank. About ten minutes later I heard a rumble. I looked up and saw lightning. I threw the rain suit on and took off. Within 10 miles it started to pour. Lightning everywhere. I could barely see, so I focused on the dimly lit white line on the shoulder. Miles City was the nearest town and about 20 miles ahead. I stuck with it while it kept coming down. The lightning and thunder were in sync so I knew it was close. I got to the exit and pulled into a gas station. An elderly couple pulled in behind and the woman said, "We were following you and thought for sure you were hit by the lightning back there". I thought geez, must of been closer than I realized. I headed back out and about five minutes later the stars were shining again.


They say the darkest hour is right before the dawn. I sure agreed as I kept waiting for first light to shake off the sleepiness! The mind can play tricks on you when you fight sleep like I had been doing. I did make it and the sunlight felt great. Somewhere past Butte, I hit the 24 hour point of my ride at 1470 indicated miles. Not bad and I was feeling pretty good yet.


I was finally off the freeway in Missoula on U.S. 12. It seemed like I was in Montana forever, and it felt good to enter into Idaho. I was just one state away. I was yawning like crazy. I do find it much easier to stay awake on two lane roads vs the freeway. There was a lot of construction and backed up traffic, but I managed to pass most of the slower vehicles one after another. The scenery was simply great. It was quite warm in Lewiston, 95 degrees (F) and felt hotter with the sun beating down.


I took Washington Highway 124 at Waitsburg, sort of a short cut over to Pasco. I picked up U.S. 12/I-82 up to Yakima where U.S. 12 split off on its own. Then sun was still bright and it looked like I was going to make it to the Washington Guzzi rally near Randle by nightfall, or so I thought!


I did make it to Randle in 36 hours and before sunset - 2200 miles and I was beat. I pulled the map out and saw where the campground was suppose to be. I didn't see any Guzzi signs at all. I tried a couple of different forest roads and saw nothing. One camp area looked right but had a gate with restricted access. It was dark now and I was really out of it. I rode through another campground twice and didn't see any motorcycles. It was late so I rode through a third time and decided just to camp there because of how late it was. The manager told me the Guzzis were all in the restricted area and to just open the gate and go in! I wish I would have known that an hour and 40 miles ago!


I was greeted warmly by Dick and Gayle Guthrie who hosted the rally. I wasn't that surprised to see Karl Werth there, he was with his nephew that lives in Washington. It was good to see Guzzette editor, Gary Jenkins of Portland, Oregon again. I had help setting up my tent and was later fed some leftovers. My first real meal since the start of the trip. This was a very basic campground with only a chemical toilet and one water spout but with a beautiful rippling stream going through the forest. I crashed easily but woke up later freezing! I didn't bring a sleeping bag trying to travel light and ended up sleeping with my riding gear on.


Saturday morning came and I felt revived. I could tell I wasn’t one hundred percent, but I was in much better shape than the day before. Greg Field rode in from Seattle and made it in time for breakfast. He had some ideas on some roads he wanted to check out, and I decided to tag along. We had a blast! The dirt roads through the Cascade range were a little rough and pretty dusty because I was following. Things got better over by Trout lake. We ended up on Washington 141, and headed to the Columbia river with metal scraping the whole way on all the twisty roads. The Columbia was packed with wind surfers. I'm told a regular event because of the strong winds that constantly hurl through there. We stopped in Carson for something to drink and took a few more forest roads heading back. Greg wanted to get back in time to help prepare the salmon for the dinner later on, so I split off and went up Mount St. Helens.


When I got back, Greg and a few others were laying the salmon out on slats laced through a stick and then placed them around the campfire. After an hour or so the salmon was done and what a feast it was! I must have eaten at least two pounds of it. Greg was heading back home to Seattle and said I could crash there so I packed up, said my good byes and followed him out. I don't remember all the different back roads Greg took me down, but I knew we were east of the freeway, and I could see Mount Rainer in the near distance.


There were a few deer along the way but no close calls. The Seattle waterfront looked pretty cool lit up on a Saturday night as we made our way through the city. We rolled in around 10:00 P.M., met Greg's girlfriend, Jennifer, and crashed shortly afterwards.


Sunday morning, Greg had elk and eggs cooking. After a great breakfast, I thanked Greg and Jennifer for putting me up and headed out to catch the ferry to Bremerton to meet another friend, Jim Whipple.


It was a foggy, misty, and wet morning, but not too bad. Jim was there waiting at the dock, and I followed him over to his digs. I unpacked the voltage regulator I had for his SR 500 and handed it over. Good enough reason for me to ride to Bremerton!


Jim and his wife had a nice house on a bluff with a view of the Pugent Sound. He even had a small pool/pond set up on his porch stocked with assorted fish. Like an oversized aquarium. Jim was in the mood for a ride, I guess he was used to the dreary weather so we headed north to the top of the Hood Canal and down U.S. 101 along the other side. We split up a little south of Hoodsport, so I could continue on my journey. I ended up on Washington 102 back to U.S. 12 again, but cut off on Washington 107 to bypass Aberdeen and over to U.S. 101. I crossed the Columbia as I rode into historic Astoria, Oregon.


I continued on down the Pacific Coast Highway catching bits of the Pacific ocean through the occasional clearing of the forests. There was light rain most of the day, but not too unpleasant. I found a nice and cheap motel in Newport, a mere $27 for a room, so I unpacked. I ate at a local place called Moby Dick's and had a seafood platter of scallops, oysters, shrimp, and clams, not to mention a few drinks. It felt good to relax.


Monday, I was out on U.S. 101 early and rode the coast down to Florence. I took Oregon Highway 126 to Eugene and then Oregon 58 into the Williamette N.F. Just past Oakridge there was a small road on the map that went along the Hills Creek Reservoir and Middle Fork Creek, so I took it. There was a small dirt road on the map that should have taken me to Toketee Falls, but I took the wrong dirt road. I was about 8 miles on this dirt road and then it dead ended. I turned around and found a different road that I thought would lead me out. That dead ended too. A few more tries and 15 miles later I was getting a bit nervous. I had already dodged numerous smaller landslides and fallen trees and wasn't sure what to expect. Luckily I had plenty of fuel so I didn't worry about that. Finally, I came up on Steamboat Creek and saw tire tracks and some litter, so I knew I was going to find my way out. Sure enough the dirt road led to a paved road and eventually to the town of Steamboat on Oregon 138. Sixteen miles later I went through Toketee Falls, oh well, I was still glad I took the chance.


Oregon Highway 138 took me right to Crater Lake. Crater Lake was a bit touristy, but worth seeing. The temperature dropped into the 50’s at that altitude but the sun was shining bright. I stopped to take a couple of pictures and took off down Oregon 62 to U.S. 97 and stopped in Klamath Falls to gas up. It was around 5:00 P.M. and Reno was about 250 miles away, so I decided to make a go for it.


Oregon Highway 39 turned into California Highway 139 at the California border. It was a pretty scenic ride passing by lava beds and through the Modoc National Forest. I stopped in Susanville for gas and a guy in a pickup pulled up and asked me if I wanted a pair of chaps he found on the side of the road a few miles back. I said, “Sure!” and he gave them to me. They were lined and had to be worth $200 or so. I left on U.S. 395 and was in Reno by 9:00 P.M. I stopped at a couple of casinos, had dinner, and hit it for the night.


Tuesday, I left Reno on Nevada Highway 431 and had breakfast at a casino at the border. It was Californian Highway 28 after that as I rode along Lake Tahoe. It was a beautiful chilly morning. I headed up California 89 through Truckee, crossed I-80, and continued up to Sierraville. California 49 went through some plains up to California 70 which got very scenic as I entered the Plumas National Forest. There were plenty of twisties and great mountain passes all the way to Oroville. I then took a few back roads through Bangor and Brown's Valley and ended up on California 20. I rode in to Grass Valley to check out the rally site for later in the week. I then took California 49 to I-80 into Sacramento to visit Lorrel who was out from Illinois visiting her brother. He let me use the garage to change oil and do a few minor things to the bike. My lower triple clamp needed to be snugged up which was causing my caliper piston to retract in the twisties earlier.


It was an early start Wednesday morning heading out of Sacramento on California 16, then California 49 to California 88 in Jackson. Off of California 88 was a dirt road which led into upper and lower Blue Lake. There was a four wheel drive trail heading back to Red Lake which was much rougher than I expected. The one downhill was so steep I had to shut the bike off in gear and use the clutch as a rear brake so I could use both feet to waddle the bike down through the rocks and gravel. It took almost an hour to go 10 miles between the drop offs and massive washboards that were everywhere. There was even snow on the mountainside in a few places. It was nice to be back on California 88 after all of that.


The Sierra Nevada range was so nice I dropped down on California 89 and went through the range again on California Highway 4. California 4 is only about a lane wide at the summits with the pavement right up to the tree bases. No mistakes allowed! I was becoming addicted to passing slower cars even in the turns where you could see ahead enough. Most of the locals will pull tight to the shoulder which helped. It was my favorite road on this trip. It was California 49 to California 108 in Angel's Camp and yes, one more time across the range on California 108!


Sonara Pass was cold!! It must of dropped into the 40’s. U.S. 395 was rather flat and sedate after all of that and was almost like taking a break. Nevada Highway 207 to South Lake Tahoe was another great ride in itself. I was overtaking a car in a turn and had a little trouble passing as quick as I'd like due to the grade and altitude. The car was doing the normal shoulder thing so the oncoming car made it by me without cutting it close. The fact that it was the Highway Patrol woke me up! I was surprised he didn't come after me, but I appreciated the fact. U.S. 50 was pleasant and California 89 along the west side of Lake Tahoe was just spectacular with the blue water and scenic roads. A casino/motel in Crystal Bay was the final destination for the day.


Thursday morning was mostly I-80 back to Sacramento. After my laundry was done, I packed it up and said good bye to Lorrel and headed to Grass Valley. I already had a room booked in town so I rode in and unloaded. I rode to the rally and there were a handful of people there. I went to town, had lunch and came back. Greg Field showed up with a busted driving light on his Eldo which came from a crash on his ride from Washington. We soon discovered a fellow Guzziti who used to be a metalworker and another who had with him the ball peen hammer he made in high school. It didn't take long to have the headlight housing back in shape. In fact it was done shortly after Greg and I finished our demo rides on the new Guzzis brought in by MGNA.


Rick Mahnke (aka Cheesehead) of M G Cycle showed up and unloaded his CHP Eldo, complete with original decals, siren, etc. Greg and I walked over and Rick's girlfriend, Georgia served up some Wisconsin cheese they had brought in. The four of us rode into town later to hit a few bars and ate at a Thai restaurant. It was different going into the California bars where there is no smoking allowed. Later we hung out at Mark Etheridge's campsite and had a pretty good time. Mark had a few of his well done Guzzi creations there and it was good to meet him and Josh in person.


Friday morning I was packed and ready to head toward home but decided to go on one last ride with Greg, Rick, and Georgia. We stopped at Peterson's, a small tavern the four of us know with an expletive in the name, but that's an inside joke.


We rode through the town of Rough And Ready and back to the rally. I met a lot of new people but as usual, I can't remember many of the names. Well, I did remember running into Ken Hand but we only talked for a second. I started heading east around noon. I took California 20 to I-80 and made decent time to where Alt U.S. 50 breaks off east of Reno. It was the Loneliest Highway, U.S. 50 across the Clan Alpine and Shoshone Mountains. I soon remembered just how lonely that road is! It started getting dark somewhere between the Pancake and Little Antelope summits as I headed to Ely. I spent the night in Ely and donated a few more coins to the Nevada casinos.


I was up and at it early Saturday as I crossed the border into Utah on U.S. 50/U.S. 6. It was sort of boring riding across the Confusion Range but things picked up after I crossed I-15 south of Provo and continued on to Soldier Summit. A little south of there I went up U.S. 191 to Vernal and then U.S. 40 into Colorado. U.S. 40 was beautiful as usual, and the sunny day only added to it. You'd think I'd learn my lesson with dirt roads, but I thought I'd try one more that went from Steamboat Springs on through Buffalo Pass.


It wasn't as rough as the four wheel drive trail in California, but it was still rougher than I wanted. I bottomed the shocks out a dozen times. After eating a bunch of dust I got back on paved roads and Colorado 14, another great road.


Cameron Pass was over 10,000 feet, and I could easily tell in the T-3’s performance. Colorado 14 then started to follow the Cache La Pourde River which was breathtaking. The turns were tight and it was like riding through mile high slits in the mountains. The Poudre Park area had lots of tourists slowing me down a bit, but I still made decent time. I had planned to bunk in Fort Collins, but it looked like I could still make Sterling before too late, so I kept on Colorado 14 East. I made it there by 9:00 P.M., but the nearby restaurants had already closed, so I picked up a deli sandwich from a gas station.


Sunday morning and about 900 plus miles to home. I was on the slab and knew it was going to be a hot day. I stayed focused and stayed right around the 80 mph mark and just ignored the oil smoke that would randomly pour out the exhaust pipes. I kept fuel stops under 4 minutes and bought a 32 oz. Gatorade each time and filled an empty jug with water. It was over 100 degree (F) in Iowa as I made my way through the heat. I was drinking the Gatorade and pouring the water on my head and in my T-shirt to cool down.


It looked like rain clouds as I headed in to Illinois and up I-88. I couldn't catch a break! I wanted it to rain on me to cool off but it wasn't about to happen.


There were clouds on both sides of I-88, but none above me as the sun kept beating down. It finally got cloudy around Rockford and the last 50 miles home. I was pleased that I did over 900 miles in 13 hours. 160 ounces of Gatorade and not once did I need to relieve myself. Geez, it was nice to be done with that heat!


All in all it was one of my better trips. It felt good to do the 2200 miles/36 hour burn and to cover 7140 miles in 11 days. Granted, more freeway riding than I like, but it was still over 50% slabless. It was also great to meet a few more of the Guzzi gang. Well, it's time to yank those heads and see where that smoke is coming from!



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Greg Field, MGNOC Tips Editor  

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Cheese (MG Cycle) and Georia. Notice feet on top of saddlebags.  

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Crater Lake, beautiful blue color.  

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Lost in the Cascades!  

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Doing the dirt!  

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Preparing Salmon at the Washington State Rally  

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Pacific in Oregon  

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More dirt riding near Red Lake

Copyright ©1999-2012, John Boettcher, all rights reserved
Contact John at:  ratguzzi@hotmail.com