Tag Archives: Motorcycle Roadtrip

Middlegate Station – “The Last Roadhouse”

By Analyn Revilla

On my road trip to Idaho on the motorcycles with Bruno, we spent a night at a motel-RV park with a mini-mart, a bar and gas station.  It was during this trip that I was kicking around the idea of ‘the edge’.  What is it about?  At Middlegate Station, a place to stop for weary travelers, I discovered a community that lives on the edge of the loneliest highway in America, Highway 50 in Nevada.  The roadhouse sits on the junction of Highway 50 and Highway 361.

In this age of internet and commercial industry, Middlegate Station is remote.  There were stretches of the road when we didn’t encounter another car for hours, except for transport trucks which were infrequent.  With smaller gas tanks, we took every opportunity to fill up, not knowing where the next gas station will be open or operable.  The map was only second best to word of mouth for reliable information.

We filled up at Gabbs and talked to the attendant who told us that the road is decent and recommended to gas up at Middlegate, because beyond that she didn’t know what’s opened.  Gabbs is a small mining town that experienced a downturn when the magnesium mine closed.  It was close to 3 pm when we rolled into Middlegate.  Inside the bar, there were windows that faced northeast on the L of hwy 50 and hwy 361, and a young man grilled hamburger meat.  At his feet was a toddler and further into the dark room, an older man behind the counter talking with two men who watched the TV with the volume at high.

We decided to refresh with some drinks before filling up the tanks.  I ordered a dark beer and Bruno had white wine.  It tasted good.  We looked at the menu.  “Freedom Fries”.  I told Bruno to keep quiet so as not to give away his French accent.  There were  $1 dollar bills pinned, stapled and taped on every surface of the place, except for the table tops.  The walls and ceiling were stained with tar from tobacco and grease.  The little girl started to cry.  The young man and older man, both with similar features, looked at each other.  They communicated without words.  Father and son spoke gently to the young baby, telling her gently that her mom will be back later.

I finished my beer and told Bruno I could have another one it tasted so good, and I wanted to know more about this place, these people.  There was something special about them.  Go ahead he said.  But I wouldn’t be able to get back on the bike if I had another drink.  I was exhausted after 2 days on the bike, and I wasn’t trained for these long hauls.  Then I thought I knew what the pony express riders felt when they rode from station to station at break neck speeds while trying to avoid getting killed.  My situation wasn’t as dire, but like them I was gloriously happy to come upon this haven.  We decided to stay, ‘if they have room’ I said.  The old man had watched us and listened to our conversation.

I asked if they had a room, and the old man said “Let me check.”  I was surprised by his answer, because the place looked deserted except for the local people, and there were only a handful there.  He checked his book, then said there is one room left.  I wondered if he was kidding me.  We took the room.  He gave us the key and the direction across the courtyards towards the row of trailers that were subdivided into rooms.  We finished our beers and moved the bikes closer to the trailer motel.

The room had a double bed and a single bed, a night table and lamp.  The toilet and tub were clean.  The space was cramped but the important thing was it was proudly clean and complete.  There were towels and grooming paraphernalia.  We unloaded the bike, put the gear on the single bed then headed back to the bar for food and more beverages.  After that we played horseshoes at the pit.  The proprietor, the old man, came to watch and made a friendly passing comment.  Bruno beat my pants, though he’s never played the game before.  Afterwards, we took a long nap and woke up at twilight.

Upon waking Bruno offered to get me something to drink at the bar.  He left me inside the room, and I lounged and listened to the falling twilight.  I heard voices and cars outside.  Bruno walked in with the beer and he had ice for his white wine. His news was there were some new people that checked in.  So they were busy after all.  The old man had expected others, so we were lucky to get a room.  Bruno urged me to get up to see the sunset.  We walked around.  The foothills were shadows upon the setting sun on the wild West.  It was in the middle of nowhere.  They have generators for electricity.  What about water?  Is there a well or do they have to bring that in?

We joined the others in the bar.  Beer and wine flowed, a man played the guitar and sang Western songs.  He did both really well too.  The locals and the new comers had known each other from before.  They had returned to film the 2nd half of the documentary ‘The Last Road House’.

In 2011, Ryan and Lisette Cheresson and their friends from New York were headed off to Burning Man.  The convoy stopped at Middlegate Station for some rest and to refresh their supplies before they got back on the road.  The couple were impressed by the people in this nowhere place which embodied strength and soul.  It was a community that lived off the grid, and in 2013 they found out that the owners Freda and Russ Stevenson were struggling to maintain their livelihood.  Their small community of people living in RVs and trailers relied on energy powered by a diesel generator.  With this documentary their intention is to draw attention to the need of this community to have access to a clean source of energy.  As the price of diesel had risen dramatically high, they want to help the community try to get funding for solar energy.

This was the edge living in the outback without any of the infrastructure that we take for granted.  Yes, there was water for my showers at Middlegate, but at what cost?  There was cold beer and hot food, but at what cost?  I read someone’s critique about the hamburger served at Middlegate, and wondered if the person even considered the energy that brought that food on his plate in the middle of nowhere.

I experienced that edge during that 18 hour period.  It was in the fierce grit of people who were hanging on to the remains of a lifestyle choice.

‘The state of Nevada ranks fourth in the nation for solar energy capacity. There are currently 84 companies in operation in Nevada that provide solar energy, but Fredda said the $750,000 start-up cost is way out of her price range. Fredda has applied for several grants to install a solar array at Middlegate, all of which have been denied. If you’re not on the grid and can’t put energy back into it, you don’t qualify. This puts people like Fredda in an impossible situation. “If you’re not on the grid,” she says, “you’re a second-class citizen.”’

The edge was in the gracious hospitality of the inhabitants to strangers in an inhospitable environment.  The edge was the bond between father and son soothing the baby in her need and cry for her mother.  The edge was the man singing with his one of a kind acoustic Gibson guitar.  The edge was his deep gratitude and joy that Ryan remembered to bring him the proper tool to fix his guitar, because there wasn’t a luthier or Guitar Center nearby in any direction.

A conversation with the 22 year old, Maggie Urban-Weale, a journalism major and volunteer for the crew  was a reminder of believing in something good and not expecting rewards.  Later that evening, as we all walked to our respective rooms, we hung out under the moonlight and finished our drinks.  We invited her in to play guitar, and she sang ‘Closing Time’.   Speaking with the youngest of the crew members, I was reminded of hope and beauty.  The young people of today want a better tomorrow, and they’re striving for it with this project.

“There are an estimated 200,000 people in America living off-grid. Many of these people, who lack access to municipal utilities like power or water, are the ranchers, miners, and truckers who keep America moving. Middlegate keeps those ranchers and truckers moving, and is one of the region’s only social hubs. Places like Middlegate are important not only for their historical value, but because of their significance in rural communities.”

“Artistically, we are interested in the juxtaposition of the old and the new—how new technology (such as solar) can help save historic places (like Middlegate). We’re also interested in the interplay between the rugged individualism that categorizes much of the rural West and their need for governmental assistance. As one academic told us, for the people of Middlegate to reach out and ask for help means that their situation is dire.”  – http://www.lastroadhouse.com/

To book a room at Middlegate Station go to their website. http://middlegatestation.net/Home_Page.html

Middlegate Station
Middlegate Station

A Pilgrim On the Edge


by Analyn Revilla

The seed I planted in my mind before leaving LA was to experience the open road to rediscover my edge.  I felt I had lost it during the past few years in trying to survive living in a big city.  I’m no longer surprised, but happily accept, when events endorse my faith that the universe will give you what you ask for though I may not know when or how it will manifest.

Homeward bound along the I395 we spent our last night of our vacation in Lone Pine, CA.  The magnificent Mount Whitney, at 14,505 feet, is a beautiful backdrop to a “small town with lots of charm”.  This town has grown to become a mecca for travelers, hikers and tourists since the Mt. Whitney trail was completed in 1904.  I discover that I came here as a pilgrim.  There was time when I looked at a mountain and I would imagine the traverse up, studying the contours and ridges to determine a way up to the top.  When we passed through Lone Pine two weeks ago, I described to Bruno my feeling of loss – why wasn’t I surveying a trail to climb up?  What a strange feeling to be aware of the loss, and then accepting the loss.

I haven’t hiked very much since I moved out here.  My excuse was the heat and dryness of the mountain ranges in SoCal which I was not accustomed to, compared to British Columbia, where the forest and meadows are lush and the flowing creeks spray cool mountain waters.  I had allowed this joy for the wilderness wither away as I embedded myself into the living of a desert city, yet a mosaic of cultures.  The tiles of faces, languages and smells from the streets are both an invitation and assault on the senses.  Which one to choose?

Riding, alone with my own thoughts, and only the wind to brush my jacket and pants, and whistling in my ears, I focused on the terrain.  There’s always something to be prepared for:  debris, crossing deer or elk, open cattle, falling rock, weather pattern changes, looking to see if Bruno is still behind me, the curve coming up, state patrol, the unwrapping scenery of mountains, valleys, basins and rock formations.  This is a beautiful country.  Every turn is breathtaking.  As one local in Snohomish Valley described, ‘God couldn’t have painted a better picture’.  Certainly, people are more apt to look at the bikes with its zig-zag of bungee chords to tie down whatever we deemed as ‘necessary’ for the journey.  That too changed on a daily basis.  We made trips to the post offices every few days to send back home the  simple little treasures , souvenirs and dirty clothes we had accumulated.

The daily grind of the road didn’t wear me out, except for a fresh fatigue from the intake of conversations, scenery and preparing for the next day.  I tried to meditate on ‘the edge’.  How did ‘Stella Got Her Groove Back’? (I never saw the movie, but the title was apt for my situation.)  How will I relearn to look at a mountain and have that joyful curiousity to climb it to the peak?  It took miles and miles of riding alone and just letting things happen.  Without expectations we chewed up the miles between LA and Hayden, and back down to LA again, doing a loop that closed again at Lone Pine.  I don’t know how it happened, but it happened – not by design – but simply accepting what was present at the moment, and making choices and adjustments as needed.

The choice between forging ahead into unknown territory or staying one extra day to fix the bike; the choice to decline the offer of a shelter overnight from a stranger because of the rain and lateness of the day; the choice to accept a round of beer at the saloon from a traveler who cared to ask, ‘Where are you guys from?’.  Regardless of the choices made, I see now that there is not a right or wrong.  It’s a matter of accepting the results of the choices made.   I’ve always pondered the quote from Miles Davis:

If you hit a wrong note, it’s the next note that you play that determines if its’s good or bad.

– Miles Davis (1926 – 1991)

We rounded back to Lone Pine because we had determined we didn’t want to take the I5.  I’ve traveled along this path many times before, and I had never seen the Sierra Nevada, so it seemed to be the natural choice to make.  The first night into California we stopped at Susanville.  The motel owner welcomed us with the ‘biker special’ at $50 for a simple and clean room stocked with a fridge and a microwave.  By this time, we had learned to make nutritious and delicious meals using simple ingredients and cooking in the microwave.  I was still masturbating my brain to figure out how to get my groove back, but I was fully absorbed in fullness of traveling and the ripening of the end of a trip.  I had seen a lot of faces of the desert with its terrains and living and non-living habitats, such as the family living in Middlegate, Nevada running on a diesel generator and the beginnings of a solar energy.  Certainly these inhabitants of the desert are pushing to maintain a type of life on the edge.

Black Rock Solar is solarizing one of our country’s historic roadhouses. It’s Middlegate Station, on the loneliest road in America – Highway 50 in Nevada.

If you’ve stopped in whilst bumping around in the desert, you were probably glad for the cold drink or ice cream sandwich to wash the dust from your lips. But cold in the Nevada desert doesn’t come cheap. Off the municipal electric grid and powered 24/7 by a diesel generator, Middlegate’s future is in doubt after years of rising fuel costs.

Middlegate’s owners – Fredda and Russ Stevenson – and Black Rock Solar have secured a State Office of Energy loan and are working to secure more funding for a larger array to keep Middlegate Station viable with the power of the sun.


The story above is the beginning of yet another blog I’d like to write about, as it is a story in itself.  But it watered the seed of my initial inquiry about getting the edge back.  One of the crew members, a bold and wise young woman, told me that you never really lose the edge because you always have the edge.  It didn’t dawn upon me till today that it’s like the knife that loses its sharpness.  A knife will always have an edge, but how it is used and maintained defines the kind of edge it has.  Using its metal against ceramic or breaking open a coconut shell with the wrong type of knife will chip or dull the edge.

A journey is the process of letting the inner wisdom spring forth, and giving that joyful creation the environment it needs to self-acutalize.  A journey into the desert just as prophets and gurus have practiced emptying oneself to transform was what I had been doing.  I had an intention but I didn’t have the ‘know-how’, and was left without a choice but to accept – accept what I had become, and then re-orient myself to move towards where I want to be.  There will be a re-learning to develop better habits to replace others which I have decided I need to out-grow.  Like a river that meanders around the bends and creating oxbows as it matures, there is a wholeness in both edges of a knife.  I’ve pierced sharply up a terrain and I’ve also shredded down loose scree from the top, and tumbled on my hands and knees; and bounded back up with a richer perspective.

My pilgrimage to Mount Whitney has just begun.  I left Lone Pine yesterday with a map and couple of books about ascending Mt. Whitney, along with tips from a local guide in the adventure store.  I feel the butterflies dancing in my belly and the perspiration on my palms thinking about the possibilities.  I could try to hike in the winter geared in cramp ons and ice picks.  That would be my first time, but it is a possibility that the guide described to me.  Staying on the edge has many possibilities.



On the Road Through Oregon

by Analyn Revilla

The signs of the road is a language in itself.  After 3000 miles of tracking across Nevada, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and California I’ve decided that it’s a language which I had taken for granted.  It was riding through Oregon’s  highway 31 that I took notice of two signs which to me was an oxymoron.  When leaving a small town the speed limit changes from 25 to 45 and upwards, and during this transformation there is a pair of road signs in this order.



There is very little distance between these posts (maybe less than a few hundred yards).  I decided to interpret the law as ‘Do not pass’, but if you’re going to break the law, well you better ‘Pass with care’. i.e.  Make sure you don’t get caught.

I tried to find more information about this and found something in the internet was from Oregon’s Department of Transportation manual that describes the technical details of how to implement this law.

2. 2B-28 DO NOT PASS (R4-1) should be installed approximately 1000 feet in advance of the taper that begins the passing lane.

Minimum Size 36” x 48”

3. 2B-30 KEEP RIGHT EXCEPT TO PASS (R4-16) should be installed where the passing lane attains full width or at the beginning of the first skip stripe.

Minimum Size 36” x 48”

4. 2B-29 PASS WITH CARE (R4-2) may be installed in the two-lane section approximately 1000 feet beyond the end of the taper (if sight distance is adequate to permit passing).

Minimum Size 24” x 30”

source http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/TRAFFIC-ROADWAY/docs/pdf/english_chapter_3.pdf

And with that I have my  aha moment.  It is with these technicalities that we can sometimes become non-sensesical in our well-meaning intention.

I dug a little deeper and looked through the driver’s manual, and found multiple scenarios of when a driver should not pass:

No Passing

Do not cross the center line to pass when:

  • You are in a no-passing zone, which is an area that is marked for no passing by a solid yellow line in your lane. A “DO NOT PASS” sign may also be posted. Do not attempt to pass a vehicle if you cannot safely return to your lane before entering a no-passing zone.
  • Your view of oncoming traffic is blocked because you are on a hill or in a curve.
  • You are approaching an intersection, railroad crossing, or other area where your view of oncoming traffic is limited.
  • You are at or in an intersection.
  • You are at or on a railroad crossing.
  •  The vehicle ahead is stopped at a crosswalk to permit a pedestrian to cross

Well that was boring.  I just think it takes common sense.

One of the most interesting signs along the open road was on I97 which I’ve traversed for the first time yesterday.  It was the sign post for the 45th parallel.  When I lived in Salem (and was working on a project of ODOT – ironically) I would take my little Toyota Tercel on the I5 to Portland and cross the 45th parallel frequently during my jaunts to meet with friends at one of the many local breweries.

(I didn’t stop to take a picture of me at the 45th parallel, but pretend that GMC truck is my red Suzuki SV650.)

The 45th Parallel on I97 from Shiniko Junction

One thing I’ve decided on (and I kinda knew this all along, but this trip has reinforced what I’m looking for in life now), is my enjoyment of the open and friendly nature of small town folks compared to bigger towns and cities.  There’s a naïveté that comes from living in a small place where you know people by name, or at least by habit of seeing them, and extending that warm hospitality to strangers when they’re passing through your home.

Yesterday, one of the bikes had an electrical problem.  We had to stop every hour to cool down the engine while traveling along I97 into the city of Bend.  I was in Bend 20 years ago, and it was a smaller community to what it has currently grown into.  I almost wish Bruno had a chance to experience it as it was then because today it feels like another large cosmopolitan city.  The downtown core boasted nice restaurants, boutique shops and microbreweries along the river; and the city had its fair share of Subarus also.  Definitely, Bend has come into its own as a world class destination.  The State Patrol man who pulled me over for riding my bike between cars told me so.  He was nice.  He didn’t give me a ticket, but reminded me that though they practice lane sharing in Europe and California, this is not so in Oregon.  After checking into a motel we found a place to eat with good food and wine.  Despite the basic needs being met, we felt a little let down, because we missed the warmth of small town folks.  We noticed that the restaurant was rather quick to move us along.  In our minds, we thought maybe because we were tourists, and not the usual suspects who were repeat customers.

So, we spent a so-so night in Bend, and the next day decided to steer clear of bigger towns.  We got as far as La Pine (30 plus miles south on the I97) where we filled up the tanks.  I asked the gentleman who pumps the gas if he knew of a motorcycle mechanic between his town and the next big town.  He  recommended a place called Peak Performance.  We rode around a little while and asked for directions from other people, and found the garage a mile down from the main drag.  A large man with a beard was cleaning his fingernails with a knife.  ‘What can I do ya for?’ he asked.  We got off the bikes and Bruno explained that his fan wasn’t turning on and he was loosing coolant.  The big man thought glanced at me then said, ‘It’s all her fault’.  His words broke the ice and gave me relief.  After he suggested some reasons as to the root cause of the problem, he said he’ll be right back.  Within minutes he returned and told us to ride the motorcycles to the back where somebody was waiting to help us.

We talked with the mechanic who tinkered a bit, and feeling like we were in his hair, we asked if we could leave him with the bike for a couple of hours.  Sure, he said.  We told the owner our plan to stay the night in La Pine.  He recommended a a simple and clean motel.  Cool, that’s all we want.  Before going, we asked for his name.  Mark, he said.  Later, we checked into ‘The Highlander’ where we dropped off some gear and got something to eat at the nearby Harvest Hut.  In less than 2 hours we were back to check on the bike.  The mechanic, Alan, said the problem was a loose wire and showed us the spot in case it happened again.  When we asked how much for the repair, he said, ‘Well I didn’t really spend very much time on it.  $20.’  Unbelievably cheap for the quick service and fixing the problem.  We gave him $40, and he smiled such a wide grin.  ‘Where are you folks staying?’ he asked.  We gave him the answer, and he wished us well.

We all leave our impressions in this life in many forms, including sign posts.  Certainly being earth friendly is a good thing all around, but more impacting is being heart friendly.  It’s genuine goodness that does not mean to be a passing trend but a lasting legacy.

P.S.  If you like wine and you’re passing through Lakeview, Oregon towards the California border, there’s a place called ‘Stringer’s Orchard’ in New Pine Creek.  It’s a good stop before crossing into California for some wine tasting and homemade preserves.  The winemaker specializes in wine and spirits from the wild plum, and the taste is very special in a good way.



by Analyn Revilla

I wanted to write this blog from a quiet place inside of me.  After some reflection and some practice I believe that creativity comes from a quiet place, and the by-product of creativity is a creation.

Most times, I’m too busy with being busy that I’m hardly ever quiet, so there isn’t much creativity happening.  It’s all noise, and that creation isn’t inspiring or useful to others – hardly anyway.

I had been mulling about creativity, creation and stillness in the past few days.  Then I stumbled upon the whole kit and caboodle while preparing dinner last night.  What I had been trying to understand is also something that Bruno experiences as a professional chef.  He has worked for a lot of very good charcutiers.  I asked, what makes one better than aother?  He said, for example, he is different from one his former employers, Thierry, because Thierry was a perfectionist.  Thierry had the ability to invent new products, because he’s not too concerned with productivity.  Meanwhile, Bruno was able to create something new based on parameters he is given by a client.  He admits that he didn’t invent what he’s created, but he’s able to reproduce someone else’s idea.  I followed with the question, why can’t he create something new and original?  He said he’s too busy with being productive.  He needs to have time to be quiet to inspire creativity.

I’ve been wanting to give you something worthy of your time, and I didn’t want to rehash something that has been said before or a cliché about life.  Though I wanted to remind myself that it’s good to just be still, like telling a child who fidgets to “be still.”  Being busy without being rooted to a purpose dissipates energy, and can even lead to an unwanted residue of consequences.  (I should have gone home before I deleted some report configuration from an environment which was firstly an embarrassing mistake, and also created more work in the end.  The only salvation I grant on this occassion is a Miles Davis quote, “Do not fear mistakes – there are none. ”)

Here’s another analogy.  A playwright friend of mine was auditioning actors for a new play.  His comment at the end of the auditions was, “there was too much movement of arms and legs from some of the actors, and less focus on what’s being said.”  I know what he meant, because when a person is embedded into a character there is a sense of stillness in their demeanor.  Less is more.  Like makeup, applying less brings out more of the essence rather than covering it up; and over-amplification of the action takes away from the subtext of the conversation.

On my office wall, across from my desk, is a picture of Martin Luther King from the TIME magazine cover (August 26th to September 2nd 2013 issue).  There is a remarkable stillness in this image.  I wonder what he was thinking, feeling and being.  There’s a stillness there that draws me in closer that I put the words “Role model inspire to aspire” beneath the picture.