We started out the day in Mountain Home and continued our trek eastward on I-84. We got to twin falls and headed south on our first stretch of two lane highway. My mood instantly improved, no other cars around, just a group of bikes in the middle of nowhere, what I had pictured for the trip from the beginning. The stretch of road on 93 from twin falls is not exactly scenic, but offered enough cool sights to stay interesting.
We stayed on 93 for about 100 miles then Jumped on I-80 for a quick run into Wendover Utah, the home of Bonneville Speedway. As we came over the hill just west of Wendover the Great Salt Lake Desert came into view, a massive expanse of pure white ground that extended as far as we could see. I wish I’d stopped to take a photo, but we were on the interstate and didn’t really have a good place to pull over.
We arrived in town around noon, grabbed some lunch before heading out to the speedway. I didn’t realize just how far out there the actual speedway was. We ride for a couple miles on the salt before even being able to see the starting line, then a few miles further to around the halfway point on the course.
Overall, driving on the salt was similar to driving on asphalt with a little bit of small gravel on top, no big deal. However, in areas where the crust was thin it tended to break down and turn to what the locals called “mud”, it stayed pretty dry though and had a texture resembling sand. This didn’t pose a problem for the other bikes on the trip, but for me it was a struggle. The rake on the VTX made the front end want to push through the sand like surface rather than rolling over it, the weight of the bike worked against me, and the linked braking meant I couldn’t use the rear brake alone for stability. The little section of about a mile with loose salt was about as close as I came to dumping the bike on the whole trip.
The actual flats were like being on another planet. Perfectly level white ground as far as the eye could see. The ground itself was surprisingly hard, walking on it felt a lot like asphalt. I also learned the hard way, that the salt reflects a lot of sunlight when I got a pretty bad sunburn on the underside of my chin.
The access we got to all the cars and teams was great. We could just walk around garage areas and see what everyone was doing and what they were working on.
This truck was intense. Quad turbo diesel, I heard it has more than 100psi of boost pressure.
All the piping was on the bed. Four turbos with two sets of intercoolers. The overall quality of this build was astonishing.
What really struck me were the number of grassroots teams. Lots of single trailer/single tent setups
These guys were probably my favorite team, they came from Italy with this little 50cc bike looking for a record (which I believe they got the next day)
With the races for the day finished, we headed back to the hotel with a plan to come back first thing in the morning and watch from the start line.
We arrived before sunrise and parked right up front near the starting line. Shortly after, a line of racers headed over from the pit area to make some early morning runs in the coolest part of the day.
One thing I didn’t realize, most of these cars are geared so tall that they can’t actually handle a standing start. Nearly every one had a truck to push them up to what looked like about 40-50 mph.
And that Italian team with the 50cc bike? That thing sounded MEAN! I think this run was over 100 mph... on 50cc!!
The thing I actually liked best about the whole experience was the bikes. There was some really cool home built stuff running. If you look close at this one, the front end is two swingarms welded together. The rider dragged his knees on the ground up until about 40mph to stabilize the bike. The guy standing next to it with the impact gun? That’s the starter!
My other favorite of the day was this Monet Goyon bike.
Ridden by a guy in his 70s or 80s, the record for this particular class was 25mph, and he crushed it with a run at almost 40. That’s what was so interesting about this whole experience. You have a bunch of people getting together with a huge variety of machines to solve the same problem. “How do I make this thing go faster than anyone else” and you see tons of really impressive grassroots engineering solutions accomplish this.
After the racing was concluded for the day, we go out and find a place to wash down the bikes, and I am reminded of why I bought a different bike just for this trip.
That’s a fair amount of salt, some definitely had already worked it’s way into joints and bearing surfaces at this point. I washed it off as good as I was able, but if it starts to get some surface rust in multiple areas in the future I won’t be surprised.
After dinner, I grabbed my paper map and started to look at possible routes for the next day. I’d be setting off on my own early in the morning. At some point during the evening, I got a text from my carrier that I’d reached my data cap for the month meaning the rest of the trip I’d only be able to communicate (efficiently at least) with the outside world whenever I was in a place that had wifi.
Total Miles: 804
Total Miles for the Day: 271 (plus 60 or so on salt)
Highest Elevation: About 7000 feet
Lowest Elevation: About 2500 in Idaho
Killer Piece of Gear: Sunglasses and a bunch of water
Best part of the day: Seeing all the cool stuff at bonneville
Worst part of the day: It’s really really dry and hot out there on the flats