In the past, a deep tan on my face, neck, and arms in August was a sign that I was maintaining a healthy bicycle riding regimen. As I write this from a hotel in Reno, Nevada, my fresh tan is from two days spent on the salt at Bonneville Speedway in Wendover, Utah, sacred ground for record seekers rolling on two and four wheels. We were there cheering on a few friends, after riding into town from Jackson, Wyoming, where we were treated to some old-fashioned honky-tonk swing and jazz music by the Texas trio known as Big Cedar Fever.

Salt flats
Ever ride on the salt flats? It’s a shame they limited our speed to 45 mph off the course.Henri Boulanger
Big Cedar Fever
Texas Western swing trio Big Cedar Fever are Georgia Parker on jazz-box guitar, Ian Lee on fiddle (left), and Nick Lochman on upright bass.Courtesy of Big Cedar Fever

Formed eight months ago, the trio includes Georgia Parker on jazz-box guitar, Ian Lee on fiddle, and Nick Lochman on the upright bass. They were on the road from their home base in central Texas near Austin, and we happened upon their lovely music by walking past an open window at the Silver Dollar. We started our evening in Jackson by paying a $5 cover charge at the famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar down the street, literally saddling up at the bar, and plunking down $21.50 for two small tumblers of Wyoming Whiskey on the rocks. The place wasn’t intimate enough, so we sauntered over to the Silver Dollar, where Georgia Parker’s vocals enticed us to take a table near the bar.

My son Henri had just finished his review of the Harley-Davidson Sport Glide a couple hours earlier, so with the clock ticking toward 10:30 p.m., I left him to enjoy the band for a few extra songs while I edited his words and wrote photo captions in our hotel room, knowing that we had nearly 400 miles to ride before we experienced the famous Utah salt flats for the first time the following day.

Our original route would’ve taken us through Yellowstone National Park, then loop down to Colorado to ascend Pikes Peak before cutting diagonally southwest to experience the Grand Canyon. Fortuitously, my friend Alp texted to recommend we scrap those plans in favor of Bonneville Speed Week, where he and his crew chief Jalika Gaskin would be going for 200 mph on his custom Triumph land speed racer.

It would make our trip more exciting, and allow us to stay on a more north central track through the US after leaving the Sturgis Rally a few days prior. Plus, our cartographer Jenny Lefferts of San Francisco-based Mad Maps routed us over the Beartooth Highway in southern Montana, a highlight of our journey after departing from Milwaukee on July 31.

Alp Sungurtekin and Jalika Gaskin
Alp Sungurtekin and Jalika Gaskin prior to their first run of the 2018 Bonneville Speed Week.Henri Boulanger
Alp and Jalika
Alp is a blip on the horizon.Henri Boulanger
Salt flats horizon
Alp and Jalika wait for the wind to die down.Henri Boulanger
Chris Morehouse
Phoenix racer Chris Morehouse and the author chat before the first run of his 1940s Harley-Davidson.Henri Boulanger

Alp and Jalika were supported by friends Bryan and Christine Thompson, who live in Arroyo Grande, California. Bryan builds custom bikes, and was inspired to build a bike to race at Bonneville in 2019. Stacie B. London was on the salt with her crew, where she set a record on her 1967 Harley-Davidson Aermacchi 250.

Henri was more than stoked to meet Alp, Bryan, and Stacie, and he was really over the moon meeting Shinya Kimura of Chabott Engineering, who was rebuilding his Harley Knucklehead under an awning with the temperature near 100 on Sunday, after his bike seized on his third pass the day before.

Shinya Kimura
Shinya Kimura works on his Harley Knucklehead during the 2018 Bonneville Speed Week.Henri Boulanger

Alp’s pit was next to Lowbrow Customs, where the Malinky brothers, Tyler and Kyle, were running classic Triumph engines in their custom naked land speedsters, with Tyler setting a record of 126.5 mph in the AVG-750 class on his 1955 Triumph T110.

Alp was the patient one, making modifications to his Triumph Target 200-faired land speedster after overly tight newer leathers and limited steering on his first run on the first morning prompted him and Thompson to make some modifications on Sunday.

Two experienced builders and world-class mechanics.Henri Boulanger
Bryan Thompson
Bryan Thompson lends a handHenri Boulanger
Sungurtekin and Thompson
Sungurtekin and Thompson prepping the machine for it’s second run.Henri Boulanger
Alp’s Triumph
It’s all hands on deck to prep Alp’s Triumph land speedster on day 2.Henri Boulanger
Stocking feet
Everything was looking good before the wind kicked up on the second day.Henri Boulanger

By the time Alp was ready physically and mentally, the late-afternoon winds scuppered his plans for a second run. He toed the line on Monday morning though.

We left the salt early evening on Sunday, and had to point our bikes due west on I-80 to Reno Monday morning, so we missed his second run. Alp was taking his time reaching his objective of 200 mph; another big event on the horizon for Alp and Jalika is their wedding on the salt this Saturday. Chapeau in advance to the happy couple!

Walking On The Moon

The Bonneville salt flats experience was otherworldly, like walking on the moon. The gray sky and off-white salt bed blended into a funky prism of washed-out grit, providing a perfect alchemy for racing toward world records. We made new friends over the weekend, and to the person they were some of the most hospitable folks we’ve met on our trip across the country. They offered us cold water and a place to sit under their makeshift outdoor workshops (yes, Shinya’s looked like he duplicated his black magic environment from Azusa, California), and we absorbed their competitive spirit. After experiencing the large-scale camaraderie of Sturgis, the tight-knit enclave of wrench turners and racers was so familial it’s making me think about racing there myself some day.

Gaz at Bonneville Speedway
Feeling like an action hero on the legendary salt flats at Bonneville Speedway.Henri Boulanger

The salt of Bonneville is hard to wash away. If you haven’t, pencil in Speed Week. You’ll be hooked.