You know, I am lucky to have the job that I do. Working for Rocky Mountain ATV/MC has provided me with some really great opportunities. They have sent me to places that I doubt I would have been able to visit if I had never worked here. Last year, I was privileged enough to have another one of those opportunities. The destination: Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The event: the final round of the AMA Pro Road Racing Series and World SuperBike.

Picture of The Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey Calinfornia

The Ride Out

Christian (a colleague) and I decided that we would ride our motorcycles out to the track – an 830-mile trip (one way)! Keep in mind that this was at the end of September – in Utah. If you are familiar with Utah weather at all, you know that at the end of September and beginning of October, you can get some crazy weather. In the week prior to the race, the weather reports looked like we would be riding in 60°-65°. However, a few days before we left, the weather forecast had changed, and Wednesday (the day we were supposed to leave) was bringing rain and even snow in the higher elevations. Lovely!

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We had planned to ride west on Highway 6 across Utah and Nevada, then come into California and take CA 108 over the backside of Yosemite National Park. If you are thinking, Hey, I wouldn’t take that road that late in the season, you’re right. Don’t get me wrong; it is a gorgeous place, but man is it cold! Plus, at those higher elevations (7,000+ ft.), you just don’t know what the weather is going to throw at you.

Smooth Sailing in the Beginning

Wednesday came, and so did the storms. Christian and I were finally ready to leave around 1:00 in the afternoon. Our first stop was the little town of Delta, UT. It is about 75 miles from Payson. We were going to need to fuel up there so that we could make it out to Ely, NV for our next stop. It was pretty cool because the storms were all around us, but we were riding in dry weather the whole way out to Delta. We fueled up in Delta, got right back on the bikes, and took off.

If you head west out of Utah into Nevada on Highway 6, there is a fuel stop on the Utah/Nevada border. I didn’t know this until we came up on it. We thought it would be a nice place to stop and stretch the legs for a minute. They also have a little diner in there where we decided to get a cold sandwich and drink before getting back on the bikes.

Picture of Matt’s and Christian’s Harley-Davidsons on the Road

Ely finally came into view, which was good because we were both on reserve and needed fuel! We stopped and fueled up before heading out on our last stint for the day. We had gone 270 and only had another 130 to go! If you ever go that route, I would recommend that you leave earlier than we did. There is nothing out there to look at but desert, but it is better to have daylight the whole time than to be riding out there in the dark!

I don’t remember what time it was we finally got to Tonopah, NV, but it was late and dark, and I was glad to be there! The speed limit that day ranged from 30-65 mph the whole way. Give yourself some time to get there and make some stops along the way because there are some cool things to see in those little towns! The more time you have, the better. I wish I could have seen more things, but with the daylight running out, there wasn’t much to look at. And without mountains to create a horizon, it was pretty bleak.

Picture of Motorcycles Parked at the Hotel

History Lesson at the Mizpah Hotel

Once we got our room and everything settled, we decided to go grab a bite to eat. In Tonopah, there isn’t much open after 9:00. I asked the lady at the front desk of the hotel if there was anything close that was still open, and she said that there was a restaurant in the Mizpah Hotel just a few blocks away.

We thought we would stretch the legs a bit and walk the short distance. Walking down the main street of Tonopah is kind of like something you see in a scary movie – eerily quiet, no one around, dark and cold. I was waiting for an alien, zombie or something of the like to come around a corner and take us out. However, it was totally uneventful walking down the street.

Picture of The Mizpah Hotel and Surrounding Neighborhood

Going into the Mizpah Hotel, on the other hand, was a different story. It was like stepping back in time! Once we walked in, we both could tell that the place was old and had a history – the décor, the smell, the carpet and even the old safe they had in the lobby.

The Mizpah is a story of its own. We walked through the lobby/bar to the diner further inside the hotel. We had never been to Tonopah so its history was unknown to us. We sat down and were handed dinner menus. After deciding what to eat, I turned the menu over and started to read the history of the hotel that was printed on the menu. Come to find out, the Mizpah was home to a murder back in the 1920s, and legend has it that the spirit of The Lady in Red still haunts the place to this day, almost a century later! However, during our visit and dinner, our time in the Mizpah wasn’t sinister at all.

Picture of the Pittman Café Menu at the Mizpah Hotel Picture of The History of the Mizpah as Told on the Back of the Menu

Checking Out Tonopah

The next morning, we got our gear together and went out to load up the bikes. We found the temperature was a warm and comfortable 33°! I thought this was Nevada! Good thing we decided to take our heated jackets and gloves. We hopped on the bikes and drove around town a bit, stopping here and there to take a few pictures before heading west again.

Picture of An Old Mineshaft in Tonopah Picture of An Antiquated Archway Picture of The Clown Motel Picture of WiseBuys Station in a Red Caboose
Picture of the Tonopah Mining Park Picture of Matt by an Old Mill
picture of a Rusty, Old Machine Picture of Christian by the Veteran’s Memorial

It was cold in Tonopah and even colder as we went. Our next scheduled stop was going to be the town of Lee Vining, CA. It was only 131 miles, but at the current speed limit and the canyons we were going through, it took us a bit to get there.

A Frosty Predicament

After we crossed the Nevada/California border, we were heading into more unknown territory. CA 120 is closed during the winter because of snow. I had called ahead and found out that it was open, so I thought we were good. Not too far away from Mono Lake, we saw that the clouds ahead of us were gray. I thought it was going to be rain, but to our dismay, it was cold enough to be snow! We came over the crest of a little hill and found that snow was on the road. Don’t lock up was all I could think. When riding in snow, um… be careful is all I’ve got! Avoiding snow is the best.

About 20 minutes after the snow, we were in Lee Vining looking at the back door of Yosemite. After we fueled up, we stopped at a little diner to get something warm to drink and try to decide what we were going to do.

Since we had just been through snow, we knew we were going to hit more snow in Yosemite. The route we had chosen to take was CA 108 over the mountains and head out to Monterey from there. We looked and found that CA 120 was closed and also found that CA 108 was closed. I pulled out my atlas and found that we could take Highway 50 around the south end of Lake Tahoe or we were going to have to go up to Reno and take I-80 over. Either way, we had to get across that mountain range!

While we were in Lee Vining, we decided that we weren’t going to stay there on the way home because we had no idea what the weather was going to do for us, and we didn’t want to be snowed in on motorcycles. So we ran across the street to a little sporting goods store. I bought some wool socks, and Christian bought some thermals. While putting on my new socks outside on a bench, I started talking to a guy that had just come out of the cafe. He asked where we were headed, and I told him. He told me that he just came from South Lake Tahoe, and they were hammered with snow. Highway 50 was outta the deal.

After we got our new clothing, we got on the bikes and decided we would see if CA 108 was open. If so, we’d chance it. If there was any snow at all, we were turning around and heading north to Reno, which would add another 200 miles to our 400-mile day.

A Change of Fortune

Someone was definitely smiling on us that day. CA 108 was open, and it was dry, but it was 20-25 mph for 80 miles to Sonora. If I’d had more time to ride that 80 miles up and over that mountain pass, that would have been even better than it was. That road is awesome. You cut right up the side of the mountain and weave your way across the top through some of the most beautiful country I have ever seen. I have seen a lot of mountain country in my day, and this was at the top of the list.

Picture of a Scenic View of Yosemite

Picture of Another Scenic View of Yosemite

Picture of Matt in Front of a Scenic Yosemite Background

Picture of Matt’s Bike on a Road in Yosemite

Once we dropped down from the other side, it was a matter of fuel stops and finding the right roads all the way to Monterey.

That 20-25 mph speed limit up over that mountain took a lot longer than we had planned, and it cut our day shorter than we had thought it would. We rode straight from Lee Vining to Hollister, only stopping for fuel. I thought I had planned for us to be on highways, but once we were in California, those highways had slower speed limits and traffic lights, which slowed our anticipated pace. It turned our 400-mile day into 11 hours of riding! Not what I had planned at all.

Another bad thing about riding in the end of September is how short the days are. The sun was setting around 6:20, and since we were heading west, that last bit of sunlight was right in our eyes the whole time. So again, plan your day accordingly.

Picture of Casa de Fruta: “1908 Zanger” Model Motorcycle with Fresh Produce in the Background

Just outside of Hollister on CA 156, there is a little stop in the Canyon called Casa de Fruta. They have all sorts of farm-grown goods to choose from. We stopped there at a restaurant for dinner. That was one of the biggest Philly cheesesteak sandwiches I have ever seen. It was a good place to stop, and the food was also really good. I recommend stopping there.

Once we hit Hollister, it was only another fifteen minutes to our hotel.

At the Track

Once in Salinas, it was pretty easy to find our way around. Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was only ten miles from our hotel. Friday morning, we decided we would head over to the track and see what vendors and little events were going on. We hopped on the bikes and took off to the track.

Checking Out Laguna Seca

Laguna Seca was something I didn’t expect. I am used to Miller Motorsports Park where you can see almost the whole track from one seat. With Laguna Seca, this is not the case. Once you turn into the park, you climb up some pretty good-sized hills, and once you crest the top, you see the track, parking lots, vendor areas and the hill that hides the famous Corkscrew. Totally awesome!

Picture of The Laguna Seca Raceway

Once we got our tickets all figured out, we headed down to the vendor area to take a look around. Yamaha was there with a fleet of the new FZ-09s ready to ride. Christian and I both signed up for the demo and then looked around for a bit while we waited for our ride time.

Picture of a 2014 Yamaha FZ-09

It was pretty crazy that not that many vendors were there. I had thought that with World SuperBike and AMA Pro Road Racing being there, it would have attracted a lot more vendors. There was only one real vendor row to walk through, and about half of them were food! (A little side note: If you’re gonna eat at the races, come with a lot of money and bring your own water. Just saying.) With the price of food being what it was, we decided that we would skip lunch and eat dinner later on that evening.

Picture of Vendors at Laguna Seca

With Friday being a practice day, we took full advantage of walking through the pits, getting pictures and talking with the riders and teams. I really enjoy the sport of motorcycle racing for a few reasons.

  1. I love motorcycles!
  2. The riders are cool guys and gals to talk to!

Most of them are pretty down to earth and willing to take a minute or two to talk with you. So thanks to those riders that we were able to talk to!

Picture of Champion Corey Alexander, Matt Bretzing, Champion Josh Herrin Picture from Left to Right: Daytona SportBike Rider Dane Westby (a.k.a. Wolverine), Matt Bretzing
Picture from Left to Right: Corey Alexander, Matt Bretzing, James Rispoli Picture from Left to Right: KTM/HMC AMA SuperBike Rider Chris Fillmore, Matt Bretzing

It was great to be down in the pits and watch the teams assemble the bikes, set them up and (in some cases) completely rebuild them after a crash. These are complete precision machines. These teams build these bikes so precisely and have everything spotless and work so well together. They are awesome to watch. I would love to work with them one weekend just to experience the whole thing!

Picture of a Yamaha Motorcycle Torn Down

We also walked the track to check it out. At Laguna, there are plenty of places to see great motorcycle action. At the start of one of the practices, we wanted to be at the Corkscrew. So before the start of one of the qualifying sessions for Daytona SportBike, we headed over the hill to find a place to sit. If you are a motorcycle fan, you should have Watching the start of motorcycle race from the Corkscrew at Laguna on your bucket list. It is awesome – and that doesn’t even describe it.

Picture of Motorcycle Racers on the Famous Laguna Seca Corkscrew

Enjoying Monterey

Friday also included our ride with the new Yamaha FZ-09 bikes. We were taken through some winding canyon roads that really highlighted what the bike could do. That bike was smiles from start to finish. It’s a great little bike that would be excellent if you were only riding a few hours a day or wanted to have a canyon carving day.

Around 6:00 Friday night, everyone was leaving the track. The teams had packed up for the night, and it was time to go. Christian and I decided we would head down the famous Cannery Row to see what went on there. We stopped at Cooper’s Pub for some dinner. After some fish and chips, we hit the streets again to see what was going on.

Picture of Cannery Row, Monterey California

Cannery Row on a Friday night is kind of like a rolling car show. There were classic cars and bikes running up and down the road all night long. After dinner and an hour or so walking the streets, it was back the hotel to get ready for Saturday.

Back on Track

Saturday was more or less like Friday. We did sit to watch the qualifying sessions, and at two o’clock we sat to watch Race 1 of the World SuperBikes. We had pretty good seats since two of the riders crashed right in front of us within a matter of seconds to one another. The racing was great to watch, and we did what we could to get some good pictures of different angles of the race and qualifying sessions. We talked to more vendors, and walked the pits again and left the track again around 6:00 or so to head back.

On Sunday, we woke up and loaded up the bikes. We had decided that we would go and watch the Daytona SportBike and Pro SuperBike races before starting our trek home. We wanted to put as many miles behind us on Sunday so that we could make it home in good time on Monday and be ready for work on Tuesday.

Sunday was some of the best racing I have seen! Daytona SportBike superstar Cameron Beaubier came from sixth place to first to win the final race of the season. He was stellar all season long, and the last race was no different. The riders in that class are all awesome and great to watch. It is some of the closest racing there is.

AMA Pro SuperBike was the race that I wanted to see. Josh Herrin was the current points leader and had to take at least tenth to win the #1 plate. His teammate Josh Hayes is definitely the man to beat on the track. He was second in points due to some mechanical issues in Daytona and a crash in Utah. He had won most of the races and he looked like a man on a mission in Laguna. The race was pretty close to what it usually is with Hayes powering out front to lead the entire race and win 13 seconds ahead of his teammate Herrin who would end up winning the championship.

Picture of Josh Herrin on His Way to the Press Release Following His Championship Win

But it was the race for third and fourth that had everyone watching. The fight was between KTM/HMC’s Chris Fillmore and Foremost Insurance’s Larry Pegram on his Yamaha battling the whole race! Fillmore came around the last corner in third only to have his bike run out of fuel and watch Pegram pass him. Fillmore however jumped off the bike and pushed it running across the finish line to finish seventh! That right there was the best memory of the whole weekend! I was a Chris Fillmore fan before that, but that race solidified it for me! Hats off to Fillmore for his last race of the season!

On the Road Again

After the race, it was time to head out on our way back home. Our goal was to make it to Barstow before dark – 370 miles in six and a half hours. It was doable.

A Long Ride

We left the track and hopped on CA 101 South to Paso Robles. I had been told that the 101 wasn’t all that pretty of a route to take. I was pleasantly surprised with how fantastic of a drive it really was. But then again, I am one that really likes farmland. CA 101 South cuts through some of the prettiest mountain valley agricultural ground I have seen. It reminds me of some of the farmlands here in Utah that I enjoy, but this went on for miles and miles.

Heading east from Paso Robles to Bakersfield is like you are the only one left on the planet! There are roads that are nothing but straight stretches that seem like they go on forever! CA 46 from Paso Robles to Lost Hills is one of those roads. We found a bit of happiness on that road though in the form of a gas station that was in the middle of nowhere really. We fueled up and found out that we would hit I-5 not to much after that. We made it to Bakersfield and didn’t want to waste any time, so we drove straight through in hope that we would find somewhere to fuel up later on.

As we headed east on CA 58, towns became scarce! We saw a sign to Tehachapi and pulled off to fuel up. After the fuel, it was back on the road towards Barstow. Just outside of Tehachapi, we saw something that was pretty cool to see: The whole mountain range was covered – literally covered – with windmills. They were everywhere and all different sizes. It was something I had never seen the likes of. They would be the last things to really look at for a long time. The road was pretty straight on flat from there on out. Again, I am glad that we stopped in Tehachapi because there wasn’t anywhere to stop from there until Barstow.

We hit Barstow and saw that we had about another 45 minutes of light, so we hurried and fueled up before jumping on I-15 North towards the state line. We made it to the state line just after 7:00. We stopped there at the Chevron and took a break from the bikes for about an hour. We got into a conversation with a man and his wife that were on a cross country trip on a Gold Wing. After talking to them for a while, we got a drink and a small snack.

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Christian wanted to continue on to Vegas. He is from there and wanted to stay there for the night, so we hopped on the bikes for the last time Sunday and went to Arizona Charlie’s. It is close to Christian’s old neighborhood, so that is why we stayed there. Sunday logged us around 530 miles by the time we stopped for the night. It was a good stint for a day.

Back Home

Monday was our day to get home and have everything done before heading back to work on Tuesday. We fueled up in Vegas and took off. I wanted to be out of Vegas because I am not of fan of that city. I hit the freeway and didn’t look back at all. We fueled up in Mesquite and just kept going on until we came to St. George. Once we hit the Utah border, I had the feeling that I was home, and my spirits lifted greatly. We grabbed a bite to eat for breakfast and went to visit our dealership there in St. George. We talked to the guys there for a bit, and then around noon we hit the road. It was fuel and go all the way home from there, just following I-15 North back home to Payson.

Yeah, the trip home might not have been as scenic, but it was nice to be home at a decent hour, knowing that we would have to be up and ready for work the next morning. By the time I pulled into my parking spot, I was sitting at 1,810 miles total. We had done that many miles in those few days we were gone. My old Harley performed without any problems. That bike has been a great companion for many years and many miles. We will definitely have more trips in the future.

Picture of Matt’s Harley-Davidson Motorcycle

Both of these routes had plenty to see and a lot of plain, straight roads. I enjoyed both of the routes for one reason or another. Thanks to Rocky Mountain ATV/MC for letting me go on this trip and to be present at the races. Check out our website to find whatever you need for your street bike. More to come!

Keep it safe!

By Matt Bretzing