Dave’s American diary – Vegas to Bakersfield

Rita at Peggy Sue's 50's Diner

I arrived in Las Vegas full of optimism and coffee after a tiring trip that included a two-hour security check and a stopover in Frankfurt.

But that didn’t dampen my mood as a great ten day tour of the West Coast awaited me. What did dampen my mood was the torrential rain that hammered down incessantly.

Fortunately my jetlag kicked in and I drifted off to wake up to bright skies this morning ahead of the first leg of my journey – Vegas to Bakersfield – a 400 mile trip across the desert.

I was picked up by Eagle Rider and taken to their base in Vegas. When I arrived I was informed that the original choice of the Harley Davidson Sportster wasn’t the best as its luggage options were limited.

So I was bumped up to the Heritage Softail Classic where there was slightly more luggage room and two panniers.

And here lies lesson one. Even after reading our guide on packing and being what I thought was brutal with my packing, I had next to no space when I’d finally loaded up – one of my worries ahead of my trip.

A couple of bungee straps later and I was good to go however I’d advise anyone going on a tour or lengthy road trip to take the absolute minimum. Research your luggage options if you’re picking up a bike and pack light.

Harley Davidson Heritage Softail Classic in the Mojave desert

On the road

I headed West on Interstate 15 out of Vegas. Bakersfield is around 400 miles away so while that was my final destination for day one, there were a couple of stops lined up for the journey across.

The first was at a Phone Booth in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Unfortunately, as it’s way off the beaten track, finding it was going to be a problem. And it was. I got close but without GPS signal and with only sand roads, I decided against the final push for fear of beaching my new Harley.

Lesson two – research roads!

After that disappointment it was back on the road and another slog to my next stop off – Peggy Sue’s 50’s Diner.

As much as I’ve been excited about San Francisco and Vegas, Peggy Sue’s famous burger has been one of the things I’ve been really looking forward to. And it didn’t disappoint.

Next on the list was Calico Ghost Town, an abandoned silver mining camp that’s been kept open as a tourist attraction.

Unfortunately, lesson three (research attraction opening times) reared its ugly head here as the attraction was closed.

After a bit of cockney charm, a kind security guard let me into the abandoned town to take some snaps and it was a cool and quirky stop off.

I’d definitely advise going when it’s open though (unsurprisingly) because as well as you not being able to get in, it’s also very creepy when you’re the only one in a whole town!

Calico Ghost Town is closed

After hot footing it out of the abandoned town that looked like a set from a country and western film, I had the final leg of my journey ahead of me; a further 289 miles to Bakersfield and a bed that was calling my name.

In the UK, that trip would take about three hours but in the US, where a lot of the roads are limited to 55mph, I knew I was in for a long one and it took four and a half hours to get there.

Riding at night is something I normally enjoy but from now on I don’t intend to ride after 8pm.

It gets freezing cold in the desert when the sun goes down and I was glad I had my big leather jacket with me (the guys at Eagle Rider laughed when they saw my jacket but who’s laughing now?).

The most surprising thing about the trip so far has been fuel. I filled up my tank twice yesterday and it cost me just $22. And I rode 423 miles.

Anyway, I’m off to bathe my saddle sores and get some rest. Tomorrow I’m off to Yosemite.

Next page: Dave's American diary - Bakersfield to Yosemite