SF to Vegas on a motorcycle in winter?
January 17, 2010 2:53 PM   Subscribe

A dear friend has presented me with an interesting gig in Las Vegas at the end of the month. I live in San Francisco. I would like to accept, but wonder about the feasibility of making this part of a motorcycle road trip.

This job would be a wonderful learning opportunity. It wouldn't pay the costs of me getting out there, but the chance to train in a very specialized discipline, as well as the chance to see a dear friend who I never get to see makes me want to jump at this opportunity. I've been itching to take a motorcycle road trip for awhile now, but planned to wait until it was a little less wintery.

Is this a really dumb idea? Any thoughts on a potential route? I'm thinking I'd like to break it into a 2 day ride. Back roads are more awesome, but obviously less well maintained. Riding in the rain is OK with me, I've got good rain gear. Riding in the snow is not ok.

Despite growing up in CA, my familiarity with Central and Southern California roads is pretty non-existent. I'm thinking 99 rather than 5, but I worry about 58 to 15 going east. I'd love to take a day on the way there or back and wander around Death Valley or Mojave National Preserve, too.

I'm sure I'm leaving something out. This whole idea is really overwhelming and exciting. But is it completely foolhardy?
posted by mollymayhem to Travel & Transportation around Las Vegas, NV (15 answers total)
Best answer: It's a wonderful idea. Do it. Worry about the details later.
posted by A189Nut at 3:03 PM on January 17, 2010

Best answer: Yea, definitely do it! You haven't mentioned anything about time constraints, and that's my biggest hang up with riding...I never want to be in a big hurry riding long distance on my bike. In your shoes, I would plan enough time to get down there so you can take care of biz without feeling hurried and then take the long way home.

Good luck and have a blast!
posted by snsranch at 3:58 PM on January 17, 2010

Best answer: It's about 600 miles from point A to B, which is totally possible on a motorcycle, and even easier if you want to break it up over two days (which is a good idea).

I don't know squat about the route. I would just decide if you're going to camp or if you want to find a motel, figure out where you plan to spend the night, figure out a backup plan if you decide to stop sooner or later than that, and go.

How long are you staying in Las Vegas? Are you bringing your clothes/gear with you, or will you mail it ahead? What kind of bike do you have?

I'd just make sure your bike is tuned up before you hit the road. Check the fluids, change the oil if necessary, make sure your tires aren't too worn, etc, and then go. Once you're out of the city the isolation of riding a bike down the road becomes totally meditative, as you probably know, and time will fly. Pack a snack or two, some water, and stop when you feel like it.

If your bike is reliable enough to make a 600 mile trip over two days, then you have nothing to worry about. Do it.

Do it.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 3:59 PM on January 17, 2010

Response by poster: My bike is a KLR 650, 2001. I'd only be in Vegas probably 3 nights, but I'd need to coordinate with my friend. Clothes and gear would be coming with me on the bike. The show dates are 1/31 and 2/1. I've written off being home for my SO's birthday on 2/3, but I'd like to be home in time to make a cake for his birthday party on the 7th. I was figuring on leaving on the 27th or 28th.

Eeeeee! Excited! Now I just have to finish and send off my resume and a cover letter. I've got the gig, but I need to actually officially apply.

My dad's got backpacking camping gear that I could use, but I need to decide if I want to do that or just hotel it.
posted by mollymayhem at 4:15 PM on January 17, 2010

Best answer: It seems to me your primary concern is (and rightly so) the weather. (You allude to this as well so I think we're on the same wavelength.) So hopefully some norcal motorcycler mefites will show up here soon to comment on that.

I, however, can't resist throwing my (possibly irrelevant) two cents in:

“I would rather regret the things that I have done than the things that I have not.”
-- Lucille Ball

I try to live by that and the Golden Rule (more or less successfully depending on day, date, time and mood). Hope that helps.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 4:17 PM on January 17, 2010

Alright, that thing's an indestructible mule. Load it up and take off. Have fun, and report back or drop me a MeFi Mail when you get back.

Is there anything specific that you're worried about other than snow and the specific route to take?
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 4:19 PM on January 17, 2010

Response by poster: Nothing specific. I've got a good pal who's a hell of a mechanic, so I'm going to get him to give her a once over before I leave. I'm gonna head over to ADVRider and get some route advice. There are a million moto trip packing lists online, so I can cobble something together out of that. Another friend has crossed the US more than a handful of times on a KLR, so I'll hit her up for advice before I go.

Mostly the idea just seemed semi-insane, probably because the lead time is so short. But while it may be semi-insane, the internet seems to think it's awesome. That's good enough for me! And I'll give myself some extra time to get there, so that I can avoid riding in shitty weather.

I did a 3 day roadtrip on my Ninja with nothing but what I could fit in a tank bag, and had a spectacular time. I sense this will be much the same, if quite a bit colder.

Thanks all!
posted by mollymayhem at 4:26 PM on January 17, 2010

Best answer: Given the time of year and the limited amount of time you'll have to get there, 99 or 5 to Bakersfield, then 58 over to 15 is pretty much your only option. There are other routes, but all of them will be either impassable or make you miserable. (Highway 4 all the way from Hercules/Pinole to 395 should be on your list of rides to do someday, but not for this trip.)

What's the longest slog you've ever done on major highways on your bike? You may want to look into music options; an iPod running through a pair of these will be a lifesaver.
posted by asterix at 4:28 PM on January 17, 2010

Er, 4 -> 395, then 395 all the way south to near Barstow, that is.
posted by asterix at 4:29 PM on January 17, 2010

I did a 3 day roadtrip on my Ninja with nothing but what I could fit in a tank bag, and had a spectacular time. I sense this will be much the same, if quite a bit colder.

This should be a breeze on your KLR then.

...an iPod running through a pair of these will be a lifesaver.

Oh hell yes. I have a pair of Shure SE-115 that I paid too much for at the Apple store, so maybe you can search around or snag some online (I think I paid about $100 for mine, but the Amazon link there is ~$60). They are awesome. I can listen to spoken word or audio books at a moderate volume through them at highway speeds. They really do completely isolate the road/wind noise from the music. They work great as ear plugs (although they're not quite as comfortable as foam ear plugs). I rode with them ten hours a week between August and December and they're still going strong. They're a boon to any trip over 20 minutes.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 4:36 PM on January 17, 2010

...an iPod running through a pair of these will be a lifesaver.

It is illegal to wear earphones while driving a car in most states because earphones prevent you from hearing emergency vehicles' sirens. Is the rule different for riding a motorcycle?
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:33 PM on January 17, 2010

Is the rule different for riding a motorcycle?

I can't say what the laws are in CA and NV, but I've never heard of a motorcyclist getting cited for wearing headphones. It's certainly legal to wear noise-reducing earplugs (which is really a safety necessity - at speed you'll start to incur hearing damage pretty quickly).
posted by asterix at 8:49 PM on January 17, 2010

I don't think people get cited for wearing headphones very often, even in cars.

In case anyone is interested: the CA law distinguishes between headphones and hearing protectors "attenuate injurious noise levels," though it specifies that the hearing protectors must be designed not to block sounds from emergency vehicles. No idea whether that's realistic/whether motorcycle noise is a different enough frequency from emergency sirens.

In both cases this only applies to having something in both ears.
posted by needs more cowbell at 11:25 PM on January 17, 2010

Best answer: I can't really suggest anything for a route, but I will say the following:

1) GO.
2) We discovered that Google Maps 'Terrain View' is an awesome help when route planning for a motorcycle. Avoid interstates, and look for roads that go all sorts of twisty through hilly regions? Pretty much guaranteed awesomeness.
posted by swngnmonk at 8:14 AM on January 18, 2010

Response by poster: You all rock! Thanks everyone!
posted by mollymayhem at 6:50 PM on January 18, 2010

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