I've been in recovery mode in addition to processing pics while putting off dealing with the video of the actual eclipse that I shot.
Ended up leaving Vegas enroute to Idaho in the early evening, driving the van with the U-Haul and bike behind me. I have to say that those U-Haul bike trailers are BUILT FOR Road Stars! They tow beautifully and seem to stabilize the van rather than the opposite.
I hit Blackfoot, Idaho at about 5 AM Mountain Time, 4 AM my time. Tried to get some sleep after a McDonalds breakfast (super slammed with customers) but only managed a zen type of chill zone which was enough to take the pending ride. The traffic north of Salt Lake City to Idaho had really stepped up after 3 AM Mountain Time so I was right about heading up there early to beat the traffic.
I unloaded in the Walmart parking lot after the attempt of the nap there. After the eclipse the parking lot was PACKED with observers, but the pic below was while warming up the bike before hitting the road.
I had a 200 mile ride to get to my chosen location of Stanley, Idaho. I'd originally wanted to go to Stanley but it was looking impossible to head straight up due to probable traffic delays, so I chose the town of Chilly instead, up another mountain valley which was well east of Stanley. After watching the eclipse in Chilly, a ghost town, I was going to take a 100 mile ride through the mountains to Stanley just to check it out while enjoying the scenic afternoon mountain ride, another huge motivation for the trip.
Well on the way from home I had the brain-trust-thought of heading for Chilly, Idaho, at dawn as planned so I could beat the traffic, but then instead of waiting for four hours for the eclipse to hit that I should instead ride the additional 2-3 hour mountain back route to Stanley and watch the eclipse from there, knowing there would be no back road traffic to negotiate despite having to bear the cooler morning-hour temperatures. Plenty of time!
Well, when I left in the morning it was DAMN A$$ COLD for this Las Vegan who'd just left 100* weather. It was perhaps 50* in Blackfoot itself, elevation 4520'. My breath fogged my sun glasses inside my helmet on the way out. Three miles from town I had to stop to put on my ski gloves!
My plan was to first ride 60 miles to the town of Arco so I could gas-up before entering the mountain loop, with the next known targeted gas station being in Stanley, 140 miles ahead, and because they said Stanley may run out of fuel my backup fuel plan was to get to Sun Valley, 200 miles into the ride from Arco. As it turned out there were other open fuel stations along the route but I had no way of knowing that in advance.
The town of Arco has to have the nation's best graduation year tribute cliffside anywhere. It's massive and goes back perhaps 100 years or so.
I took the pics below on the return trip.
After I went north from Arco (real name) I was surprised to see that I was topping Willow Creek Summit, elevation 7178'. It's hard to tell that you're even climbing because the bike just never works hard when going uphill. I wanted to get a pic of the mountain pass elevation sign but couldn't afford the time. It was packed with eclipse viewers who were waiting for the magic minutes.
At one point, while passing a lake in high winds before the summit, I was so cold that I had to question whether I could truly continue the ride. I continued on with that likely option in mind.
After dropping down from Willow Creek Pass I eventually had to pull over just to warm up a bit, taking my coat off so the sun would hit me more directly. A young couple across the highway looked at their watch and told me it was 59* by that point, around 9:45 AM Mountain Time. I was 110 miles into the trip with another 90 to Stanley. I had to hurry because the eclipse was to START at around 10:10 AM with totality at 11:32 AM. I was shocked to see a couple ride by on their Harley with the female passenger wearing only short pants and a shirt, with me dressed in winter gear and totally chilled to the bone.
They must have been locals...
I got to the awesome little town of Challis, Idaho, elevation 5283', where I turned west toward Stanley, exactly half way between Arco and Stanley. It's in a mountain valley and directly alongside the stunningly wild and scenic Salmon River.
The ride from there was amazing. Climbing the entire way to Stanley with the Salmon River alongside for the entire route. Bugs were a factor at times so I had to stop to clear my lens. I was AMAZED at how many people had hidden away in every possible nook and cranny along the remote mountain highway. It was something I'll always remember, really cool. Lawn chairs, cameras, telescopes, all facing and pointing toward the hazy sun.
There was a major forest fire somewhere in the distance because the entire route, for hundreds of miles, was covered in various degrees of smoke beneath the clear blue skies. It added an eerie filter to the entire experience.
The road got more curvy and speeds slowed and my E.T.A. was really being pressed. At one point, about 30 miles out from Stanley, I came onto a section of highway under construction that had been completely stripped of asphalt, covered only by freshly watered dirt which was quite a challenge on my Roadie, slowing me to a crawl. I had no way of knowing how far it would continue but it ended up being only 1-2 miles, setting me back considerably.
All the while the daylight was slowly fading away, like a late afternoon sun or the sun being filtered by a thin but increasing cloud layer, despite the clear blue skies. It got really faded and eerie and it wasn't even noon yet.
For the last 30 minutes I was the ONLY ONE on the highway. Everyone stared at me like I was nuts as I motored by their remote observation posts. I didn't want to sit, doing nothing, waiting for that elusive moment, so I pressed on. I even had thoughts of riding right through the total eclipse darkness, filming it for a novelty as I rode along.
I finally and without warning pulled into the town of Stanley, elevation 6260', as it was getting noticeably darker. I had no idea what time it actually was or how close I was to total eclipse because I really didn't know how eclipses actually develop. An attractive blond female state trooper was standing on the side of the road at the town's entrance and she gawked at me in disbelief as I rode into town. Most everyone else was staring into the rapidly darkening sky and the trooper immediately turned to do the same because of the sudden onset of fading daylight.
I passed through the tiny town and looked for the ideal place to stop and observe. But suddenly it grew nearly dark so I jammed over to the roadside and parked my bike on the paved shoulder by the river. It was completely dark by the time I got my side stand down and helmet off and I quickly dug into my saddlebag for my HD video camera.
I pointed it to a blacked-out sun, viewing one of the strangest sights of my entire lifetime. All of a sudden it was NIGHT TIME, the moon surrounded by a faint circle of light. Like an evening after sunset with a dimly lit moon above. People in the distance cheered while others near me were silent in amazement. It was incredibly surreal.
My body core was chilled while I was trying to work my camera. I later discovered that my camera's autofocus refused to cooperate while videoing the full eclipse. But the effect is still there, despite the somewhat blurred images.
I took several pics of the bike and area immediately after the sun returned, the light being so entirely weird which is the only way that I know how to describe it. I'll try to find a way to post the video later.
I then went to have a much needed beer and burger at a local grille on the Salmon River. I'd been awake for more than 24 hours straight at that point...
While I rode downhill for the 200 miles toward Blackfoot again, I looked for a place to catch some kind of a nap, the contact lenses in my eyes beginning to lose focus as they blurred up. But then the highway traffic suddenly stopped in place. As it turned out there were several stop lights in Sun Valley and it was backing traffic up for miles. I should have rode past them all. The temperature was climbing and I had to stop so I could peel off layers of clothing as I began to overheat. I'd planned on exploring and photographing Sun Valley but the delay killed that. I could see the various ski areas in the distance.
My fuel mileage was awesome so I skipped the planned refueling in Sun Valley, anxious to get moving again. I eventually made the turn east back toward Arco while I awaited my fuel light to come on, knowing only that there was a gas station somewhere in the first 20-30 miles of Highway 20 back toward Arco. At 238 miles my light finally came on but I had no idea how much further it was to the town of Arco. Two miles later a gas station appeared so I stopped because I had no idea whether I'd find another before going dry.
I added 4.3 gallons to fill it up, knowing that my full tank would hold 5.75 gallons. I was getting OVER 55 MPG! But my speeds were mostly well under 70 MPH so that made the difference from my usual 47 MPG average when riding 2-up (I was also riding solo). Had I known it was only another 55 miles to Arco I'd have ridden it out, for a total of 280 miles on a single tank of fuel, completing the entire mountain loop on one tank! At 55.5 MPG I had a range of 320 miles, leaving me 40 miles to spare once I reached the town of Arco.
I got back to Blackfoot and it was a zoo, filled with eclipse travelers. I'd planned to get food but there were 50+ people inside Wendy's waiting in line. So I opted to hit the freeway and get some food down the road, which proved to be a super poor choice. I should have taken a nap in my van at Walmart and waited it out. 15 MPH freeway traffic ad-infinitum and probably for hundreds of miles on a Monday evening in the middle of nowhere! I pulled off at the first exit, nine miles later, at dusk, and went to sleep in a casino parking lot for a few hours until midnight. I then drove until dawn and took another short nap in Southern Utah at 7 AM.
Despite the body-chilling temps and extended driving, at first 620 miles in the van and then another 405 on the bike before the 620 miles home, sans much sleep, I'd absolutely do it all over again. An experience of a lifetime and some incredibly gorgeous riding country!
I'm a huge hunting and fishing guy and that territory is absolutely amazing for both, as well as being beautiful, making me drool as I rode through. I'd totally recommend the ride to anyone but would suggest making it a two day run, perhaps starting in Arco (camping or motel) and then spending the night in Stanley before completing the loop. I posted the MapQuest map
in my original post. Lots of places to explore and enjoy along the way. I'm hoping to make another trip up with my lady before the weather really cools off again. But don't ride early, it's way too cold. Make it after 10 AM if you can. I've already done some home shopping up there via Zillow.com.
And I'm now a total fan for trailering my bike to distant locations and then riding from there. That opens up so many new areas to ride, such as there in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. It's a win-win and spouse pleaser to take that approach.
I have definite plans to find a way to enjoy the 2024 eclipse as well. It's one of those experiences that you'll never forget, unlike anything else. It goes against everything you've ever experienced as 'normal' in your life! I'll never forget seeing that sun disappear into nightfall and then just as quickly reappearing in a moment of time. An awe-inspiring experience!!