Many of the great advantages of living in Utah are the spectacular landmarks, such as the Bonneville Salt Flats. The Salt Flats is famous for being the home to the Bonneville Speedway.
Mickey Thompson became the first American to break the 400MPH (644 KM/H) speed barrier in 1960, which took place at this very Speedway. Ever since, many land speed records have been recorded and broken on this magnificent wonder.
Fortunately, the Speedway is only an hour and a half away from where I live so I figured it was about time I took my bike out on a weekend adventure to the flats. My initial intention was to head out there in time to capture the sunset, camp overnight on the Slat Flats, and capture the sunrise in the morning. But an adventure wouldn’t be an adventure if everything turned out the way things were planned.
I headed out there with minimal camping gear packed onto my Thruxton, but managed to get to the flats slightly too late to set up my camera equipment to capture the sunset. Thanks to my handy iPhone, I managed to get some quick shots of the beautiful sunset scape.
Missed timing was just the beginning. One very important factor about the flats that I didn’t consider was the lingering soft mud below the salty surface. I had been out on the flats before, but with a car with four wheels and never on a motorcycle. I learned very quickly that street motorcycles don’t handle well on soft/muddy surfaces. The lesson came unexpectedly when I rode onto a patch of slushy mud, and the next thing I remember is my bike and I taking a bath on a field of mud and salt… Hold on, let me back up a little bit.
Normally I would wear my bomb proof Belstaff Trophy jacket to moto trips such as this (why? because it’s bomb proof); however for some reason I figured it was time to break out my leather Belstaff Brad jacket and wear that to this trip. Ok, just remember the “leather” part.
Back to taking a bath on the salty mud field. So the next thing I notice is that the entire right side of my bike’s surface is buried in this mud, as well as my entire right arm (because I fell off to the right). Fortunately because the surface was soft with mud, it didn’t do any damage to my bike, and I really didn’t mind my arm being buried in the mud, expect that my arm happened to be wearing my favorite “leather” Belstaff jacket!!! Last thing you really want to do with your premium leather anything is soak it in salt-saturated mud…
After managing to lift my bike upright (which wasn’t easy since I was standing on a surface with ankle-deep mud and the bike does weigh 500+ pounds), and wiping off the mud from my bike and myself, I headed to the nearest town Wendover, a casino town just across the Nevada border. Stopped by the town’s supermarket, bought some cleaning materials, and spent the rest of the night scrubbing mud and salt off my bike and my jacket at a motel parking lot.
Day two. After such a failed first day and spending the night at the motel instead of camping, I couldn’t be bothered to get up early to catch the sunrise. I took my time and headed back out to the flats in the later morning. Once I got out there, I made sure to take my time and stuck to the path leading out to the Speedway. Once I made it out to the Speedway (the only way to tell that you are on the Speedway is the two orange cones placed some distance from each other, lining up the path), I realized I failed to take one more thing into consideration.
Northern Utah starts to get hot this time of the year, which translates into very hot out in the Salt Flats. I didn’t realized until I was out on the flats that I would feel like an egg frying on a pan. Because the salt surface is so pure white (i.e. light reflective), it’s almost like having the sun shining from the top as well as from below. Imagine having one of those reflecting tanning screens people use on the beaches, expect that this reflector is the entire floor you’re standing on. Big fail number two.
Realizing that I wouldn’t last very long on this surface, I quickly unpacked and set up my camera gears. It’s very hard to focus and take photos when you are cooking in the sun, and every corner of the place is blinding your eyes. Despite the heat exhaustion, I managed to take some shots, although it was about a quarter of what I initially planned to shoot, and quickly got out of the salted frying pan.
The photos turned out better than I had hoped for, and just from looking at it, you would never have guessed about the bathing in salty-mud and frying under the ruthless heat experiences. What you would see through these photos is the pure essence of an adventure, a dream becoming a reality. The Bonneville Salt Flats is definitely one of the most surreal places I have been in the world, and an experience that’s worth salt-mud bathing your prized possessions in. The photos speak for themselves.
The Aftermath: I had no idea how adhesive the salt would be. Chunks of salt were clayed to virtually everything: shoes, pants, jacket, helmet, bags, especially to my bike (engine, frame, handle bar, battery, exhaust, wheels, and more), and etc. Since, I’ve detailed washed my bike twice but still find white salt in hidden corners, and hand cleaned my Belstaff jacket with special leather cleaner, which will do for now but will likely have to send it off to get it specially cleaned soon. Worth it? Every moment of it. Would I do it again? We’ll see…