Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

The Cheapskate’s Dilemma

A pickup truck wades out toward the dry part of the salt flats used as the race course.

A pickup truck wades out toward the dry part of the salt flats used as the race course.

Something I hadn’t banked on from last year’s all-or-nothing weather at the Bonneville Speedway was that part of the salt flats could be dry and usable for speed events, while the rest could be terminally underwater. It’s a fairly common situation, as it turns out. The endpoint of the access road to get there is nicknamed the “boat ramp” for just that reason. Right now, it’s under what I’m guessing is 9″-12″ of water, depending on the path you take. It was much shallower on Friday morning before a passing thunderstorm dumped more water on it. The track area apparently survived, while the entrance did not.

The two techniques used: on the left is the wader, rolling slowly through so as to limit splashing of the saltwater. On the right is the impatient hard charger, who must have a rental or leased car, because no one would do this to a personally-owned vehicle, would they?

The two techniques used: on the left is the wader, rolling slowly through so as to limit splashing of the saltwater. On the right is the impatient hard charger, who must have a rental or leased car, because no one would do this to a personally-owned vehicle, would they?

Beginning this weekend and running through Thursday, the Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials are taking place. The water entrance hasn’t proven a problem at all for the racers and hangers-on. They just dive right on in with whatever they have.

I find this impressive, but less so after I think about it. These guys make

good money, toil all year (or two) to build or tweak their motorcycles specifically for this event, and have the mindset that if something breaks, it’ll get fixed. If their tow vehicle or trailer wears out, rots out, or otherwise fails, they’ll take the hit and keep going. It’s all just machinery, and it’s all expendable. There’s nothing quite like seeing just how fast you can get a motorcycle to go, and everything else in life may officially take priority on paper, but maybe not unofficially. Unofficially, the bike is supreme, and the annual run to prove its mettle is a happy obsession. I can relate to that. One way to try to get a handle on their mindset is to watch the film The World’s Fastest Indian, an interesting niche movie starring Anthony Hopkins. It’s an embellishment of the true story of a determined New Zealander intent on seeing just how rapidly his years and years of work on his ancient 1920 Indian can go on the world’s most historic and recognized land speed race track. (It’s about the assortment of people he encounters too, so it’s not like you have to be a motorcycle freak to enjoy it.)

But hey, this post is about me, me, me, so let’s get on with it. With me, nothing is expendable or replaceable. I’m not in a position to just go out and get something else should something deteriorate. It’s too capital-intensive. With this preservation mindset, I’m not about to dunk the Ford in a salt bath, no sir. And no slopping up the chassis with thrown salt crust. That stuff really doesn’t want to hose off. I’m also not willing to wade the Evelo Aurora e-bike up to the crank in it. Thrown salt is bad enough, but immersion in saltwater just does not appeal, since salt and electrical devices do not mix.

So, I spent the day prodding about for any possible alternative entry to the dry part of the salt flats. That gave me one option, a sort of frontage road along I-80, and then cutting northeast across the eastern limit of the salt bed. but how wet was that salt? Seven miles of pedaling later, I found that once off the road, the salt surface was too mooshy in spots to bike over. The steering control was all too happy to disappear, and it absorbed a lot of power. The wetter it is, the more the tires pick it up and scatter it around, fenders or no. Maybe it would dry by, say, Wednesday, the last day of full racing. Maybe not. There was an earthen ridge available to take me up that way, but getting the last 50 yards to it was a real issue because of a deep gap in the trail that had at least a foot of saltwater in it. No easy way around it.

On the way back, a very large group of Harley riders thundered past. I should have put cards in my spokes.

On the way back, a very large group of Harley riders thundered past. I should have put cards in my spokes.

I then returned back to camp and spent the rest of the day chipping dried salt off everything but the fenders, then rinsing with a spray bottle and a toothbrush. Yes, you read that right. Didn’t take all that long, actually.

So, weather and spirit permitting, I’ve assigned Wednesday as “Bonzai!!” day. If I want to see some speed runs, I’ll have to first bike to the official gate at the boat launch and pay my $20 fee to get a spectator wristband. Then backtrack to get to I-80 and take the frontage path to take the long way around to the salt course. That winding around will involve nearly 20 miles just to get to that point! If I’m lucky, this salt approach will be drier than it is now. If I’m not lucky, I’ll have to either slurp my way to the earth bank, or find a workable way to get to it. The final mileage involved will easily require that I carry the spare battery, and I expect it to be a fanny-buster. I suppose I could simply tie up the bike at the gate and try to hitch a ride over the water, but the distances I’d want to cover on the salt would be tough going on foot.

In the meantime, I’ll probably try to re-examine the salt at the frontage on Tuesday, and firm up the exact path I’ll need to take based on what I find. Logistics will be an issue too, since the Ibex trailer’s standard fork does not clear the close-fitting fenders I added, making the spare battery, enough water, and a folding chair an issue in priorities. Fortunately, there is a longer-reach fork available, but shipping and available time are issues here – Postal mail is the only option available. I normally wouldn’t bother taking such personally taxing measures to see this event, but hey, I’m already here, and it’s over there, and the e-bike makes seeing it a possibility – if I can avoid destroying it in its first few months of life. That’s the plan at the moment, and let’s see how it boils out.

Returning back to camp always seems to require a brief pause before going back inside the trailer to rest.

Returning back to camp always seems to require a brief pause before going back inside the trailer to rest.

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19 thoughts on “The Cheapskate’s Dilemma

  1. Good luck, you old salty.

  2. Rod Duell on said:

    “Cards in my spokes” – Hahahahahahah!

    • Thanks, Rod. I’ve half a mind to pull up to the gate with cards in my spokes just to see their reaction, but the Aurora lacks the tube diameters for a clothespin, and people tend to think I’m weird-looking enough already!

      • James Brown on said:

        Forget clothes pins and cards, don’t rule out balloons. We used those on our bike spokes as kids and the Triumph folks would drool with envy.

  3. I think that the fast or slow question about driving thru that salt water is like being a “little bit pregnant”, and a NEW multi thousand dollar electric bike in the salt water …. good luck with that!

    • Right on both counts! I’m just thinking that slow wading encourages problems, while causing a violent spray guarantees them. In any case, if I can’t get to an event without a saltwater-free passage, it’s not going to happen in spite of the fact that the events are what I’m here for. Fortunately, I’m enjoying this area for its own sake as a campsite, so we’ll see how it plays out over time.

      • I was thinking about that ‘salty water’ & realized it’s not like the salt water you’d find driving on the beach or even that salt mess you get in Chicagoland in the wintertime, it’s closer to the brine I soak a turkey in before I’d smoke it at Thanksgiving time.
        “Dissolve a pound of salt into a gallon of water”….

  4. Linda Sand on said:

    Reminds me of the time my friend and I came to a freshly tarred road we had to cross to get home. She walked her bike. Then I rode slowly. We both came out coated in tar. There is just no right way to do a bad thing.

  5. I’m not good at remembering movies but I will always remember the Fastest Indian. I have an idea on getting to the dry area……..

    http://www.motherearthnews.com/diy/low-cost-ultralight-aircraft-zmaz97fmzgoe.aspx

    AND it’s a do it yourself project. We’re talking about saving BIG money. 🙂

    • Wow, Ron, that’s open thinking! And those savings would much more than offset my funeral expenses!

      • Fly there, catapult there, rent a car to get there but DONT put the ebike in the wet salt. When the newness wears off and we start talking about bigger controllers, different ratios etc we need it to be salt free. I hate working on green corroded wiring and connectors. I’m just picturing the day that it does it’s run on the dry salt. 🙂

        • The issue may have been resolved, Ron. I looked at the moist alternate path again today, and it’s actually underwater now! I biked to the gate, and the ramp is deeper, too. Must have rained far from camp and drained in. The wind kept them from running yesterday and most of today, but he claimed the track was still dry and claimed that I’d be able to hitch a ride with the bike in someone’s pickup if I just showed up fairly early tomorrow. Sounded possible. While I type this though, a commendable rainstorm has shown up, so we’ll see what tomorrow morning brings – or takes. Boy, these guys have fortitude to keep showing up!

          • Oh yeah. My son lived in socal and one of his friends had some sort of car that ran at the flats. He said they worked and lived to run that car. I have always loved motorcycles but not that much. I would be doing about it the same as you are. Great deal if you can throw it in someones truck. Pay with beer!!! 🙂

  6. I think I’d be renting that car….!!

    • Indeed! But I gather they’re wise to it, so if you hand it back as-is, there’s a stiff “cleaning charge”. So everybody hits the local do-it-yourself car wash before turning them in. Still more than worth it if you’re the type to hang on to your own car for a long while.

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