I'm taking a ride through the Southwest towards the Overland Expo in a couple of weeks aboard a CRF250-L. I'm curious to see if this popular new d/sport would make a good travel bike. I've ridden from Phoenix via west NV into Death Valley and up to Tahoe. There, after a week of good living at a mate's cabin near Truckee it's time to get going again. The CRF is poised on the launchpad, showcasing v2.1 of the packing system with double undertubes and a fuel can instead of that tedious fuel bag. On the CRF I have to fill up 2-3 times a day. In a way it makes the seat more tolerable. Out past Reno. I rode through last week on a day ride to Virginia City, a mining boom town that, architecturally at least, seems to have missed out on the 20th century (other touristic aspects have kept up). It's a fun, bendy ride up to V. City, btw. I was just reading about the town in Twain's Roughing It. The trouble with Reno is I ended up with "I hear that train a comin'..." in my head for the next couple of days, but there are worse songs to be stuck on. Well I know I had it coming, I know I cain't be free But this song keeps a playin' And that's what tor-chures me... Look at the error on the Honda - shocking - and the odo is even worse, some 12% under. All verified with GPS, TrailTech Vapor, passing motorists and freeway mile markers. I turn off 80 onto 50 - much less traffic though actually on the freeway the 250 is not so bad. In Fallon skimpily dressed teenagers hold banners for car washes. Out of town range follows basin, follows range. Some valleys have a pan and all along this one people left messages in black stones. Soon I pass the Nevada Shoe Tree. Laced footwear only please. Off 50 onto 'Old 50' or 722. Looks like pictures of old Route 66 but traffic is close to zero so I can go as slow as I like. With a hot backwind 55 feels good. Over there the heat is stirring up dust devils on the pan. The Vapor says ambient is low 30s C - what's that, getting on for 90? I am eyeing up a track over the range to the next valley. This one looks a bit thin but I give it a go. Within a mile it peters out. I have committed the classical navigational error of pre-emption. I tell you what though, that sage looks quite nice close up and sure smells nice once your panniers brush past it. Beats the smell of gasoline. The Nevada flag - or ought to be. Blue grey over Salt over Sage. This is the right track heading east to the next valley. I hope to cross that range at the back, but despite me sweating like a kipper it looks a bit snowy up there and on the far side it's only tarmac. My new ankle-level shooting technique. What else can you shoot when alone? When this is all done I'm going to produce a photo moto book: Southwest Ankle USA. On the far side I dither then take the dirt road south, passing a few ranches, just like where The Virginian used to work. Benchmark maps are a great nav resource when combined with a Nuvi, but I could be on the limit with fuel although it's getting much more economical now I retuned the EJK: I poured in the gallon can after 80 miles and the tank was full. Here I am updating my fuel log. In fact I was going to camp here but... ... I went for a wander and found a nicer and more protected spot 5 mins away. It was at 7500' - a week or two ago and only 100 miles from here I turned away from camping at that height, but I guess Spring has finally sprung. I make a fire, ignoring the beer bottles and other trash in there. After about half an hour one explodes like a shotgun cartridge. Luckily I wasn't staring wistfully into the flames at the time. What sort of rank idiot wastes a full bottle of beer like that? There was another one in there too - pretty stewed by now. There was also a packet of sausages lying around - I threw them in too and they eventually exploded, splattering me in smoked hickory sausage fat. Better than hot, broken glass I suppose. I hope I didn't wreck someone's upcoming picnic stash... I thought I brought my fly sheet only (more space) but I got the inner (less bugs). Oh well, as long as it's not raining it's a more agreeable way to wake up. Besides flat ground, all you need is grass and a few trees to make an ambient camping spot (no, really!). Trouble is in Nevada, excepting people's gardens you have to climb to over 7000 feet to find both. Below that is sagebush and dirt. Not nice Saharan sand, just dirt. A lovely clear morning after yesterday's muggy overcast. The good thing with camping is you're on the road good and early early. Stone the crows! my back tyre is wearing very fast. 2500 miles from new and it's got 5-6mm left. On an 18hp 250 - WTF? I better do something about that quick. Far in the distance the snowy Sierra Nevada on the other side of Death Valley where I was a couple of weeks back. I emerge from the mountains and follow a network of gravel tracks across the plain south to Tonopah where I hope they have wifi with the fuel. A bit more ankle-action. I pass this odd tower. I am just north of 'Area 51' - anything could be possible. Turns out it's one of those parabolic solar generators. An array of mirrors on the ground focus on the tower top like magnifying glasses and generate intense heat and I presume, steam. The Southwest should be covered with these, IMO. You barely even see a solar panel out here... I'm amazed that yes, most of the bikes otr really are Harleys. This one's rear luggage arrangement caught my eye. It looks way out back, like a luggage vending machine, but on a full dress Hog it probably doesn't affect the handling noticeably - and anyway is something handy to lean on. Outside of a Freddie Mercury video I've never seen assless chaps either. Tonopah turned out to be an old mining town - rather more characterful than Fallon, for example. It reminded me of Tennant Creek in northern Australia. But no wifi at the servo so after a coffee and fill up I jog on. Really? Oh dear - better recalculate. Well I can theoretically get that out of the 2 gallon tank now and have a can on the back so I should make it. This is the 'ET Highway' to Rachel, north of Nellis AFB and it is hot enough to melt a flying saucer. I pull over at 83 miles and can't even get 1.1 gallons in there. Hot backwinds are helping me get nearly 100 miles to the Queen's Britannic gallon. If it's over 30C at 5000+ feet in April, what is August like? As I passed Nellis I wondered whether I'd see any sign of the sinister activities that make the place famous amongst the tin foil hatters. Those vapour trails are not the Boeing 787 being put through it's paces, that's for sure. Two jets fly off towards the ionosphere at high speed. This must be Rachel, then. Again, reminds me of the Wycliffe Well roadhouse south of Tennant Creek, NT. Same UFO theme to haul the weary and bored off the highway. I find some rare shade to eat and drink. I'm heading over those ranges in the background on a 60-mile dirt road detour. Let's hope it's cooler up there. It's an old ranch house. I notice they call the bigger ones stations out here too. I meet a man taking his horse for a drive. Yes the road goes over the pass and down the other side, he reassures me. Are those ass-filled chaps you're wearing there, son? Did I say it was hot? It's a tad gnarly at times too, and the Honda struggles with its wide road gearing on the dirt. Some climbs I'm in first and have a few front end moments. I ride watching the temp read-out and when it gets to 100°C I turn it into the wind for a bit. May put in some 10-40 in Moab. Nice views up top, but. Reminds me of the Cevennes where we spent a few summers; barely two bits of flat good for nothing land to rub together. Down the other side I coast to cool the motor. I tell you I would have been in a right old muddle up here without the Nuvi - even though it cuts out a lot from the vibration. Tracks in all directions. You need the Benchmarks for planning though; my Nuvi only shows dirt roads when you 'Go To' but was still $70 well spent. Out of the hills. I'm sorry but I need a drink right now. My head is nearly as red as the fuel can. Coming down to the highway I see either a blue wall of some kind of lake. It's Lake Jimmy Nesbitt! I ride right through the gate for a mini wash. That's better; time now to look for a motel - I am shagged out. Down in Ash Springs its 82 mpg at the servo. Amazing but then that's why one compromises on a 250. Though on the dirt it's no compromise at all. The man recommends the Alamo Motel down the road: great spot and a friendly guy. Later I wander off to the Sinclair gas station for a treat and find a huge supermarket/hardware/cafe/auto store/green grocer/bakery behind the counter. In a little two-motel town? I suppose like a loan, they consolidated all their stores into one manageable item, bigger than my local Safeways. Today I had a great ride planned over to Utah, crossing the border along an 80-mile dirt road. But as I check on the back tyre I'm not too surprised to see a nasty 2cm gash in the middle of the tread probably picked up yesterday afternoon. I've already ordered a new tyre to arrive in Moab c/o Bret, a helpful advrider, but looks like I better stick to the highways across Utah or I'll end up like Everett Ruess. Luckily south Utah is not the worst place to be stuck on a road. I marked the gash to see if it grows, as they can do. If it grows too fast I make have to think of something else before Moab. I decide to check the crack regularly. First stop Caliente where my tyre is indeed unusually hot to the touch, but it probably has been for days. Perhaps with my weight and load I should have ordered a chunkier tyre like a 606 or MT21, not a Kenda 270. But the crack has not grown that I can tell. I ride on - Caliente has a prosperous, tidy Mormon feel to it - or maybe it's just the railroad. The trimmed sidewalk verge - the first I've seen in Nevada - is getting sprayed in a fine, cool mist. I fancy some of that and ride down the sidewalk hoping my rear tyre will catch a cold. I ride along thinking am I ready to control the bike if the tyre goes and not leave skidmarks running into the Armco (or anywhere else for that matter). I keep it down to the low 50s but it's very windy today, out of the southwest, mostly. I pull into Pinoche - it's like Virginia City but without the windows of WildWestobilia. I head up to the gas station but there aint no gas - the Fedex driver just ran over 2 power poles and the whole town is down. Luckily my can will get me to Cedar City. As I fill up a KTM530 guy comes in. No gas for him either. He's camped down in the park with no less than 2 bikes, a Ducati and a 350 (the other 4 bikes he left in WA). Back home I know a couple of people with more than one bike - but only one ever actually runs. He was in Moab - it was freezing but will be just right now he says. We agree you could spend years riding the tracks of the American West. In fact, he has. Pinoche 50 years ago. Only the cars have changed. Hold on. What am I doing in Pinoche? I should have turned off at the Shell onto 319 to Utah a few miles back. But worse still, I ride still further north before I realise all this. The Nuvi is resting and I got my P towns mixed up. Luckily there is fuel in Panaca. Nevada border. Report ends. I hear that train a comin' It's rolling round the... STF UP!!