Growing up in rural Oklahoma I quite often heard pearls of wisdom like “If you sleep with dogs you will get up with fleas!” which was usually followed with a mini lecture about how you should always learn from successful people. Its funny how those lessons follow you through life? Every year two successful men, Scot Harden and Casey Folks, treat Dakar enthusiasts to an event called the Nevada Rally Experience. The NRE is designed to be as close to the Dakar Experience as possible. Riders camp in a Bivouac setting, eat catered meals and navigate motorcycles on perfect dual sport terrain with always a challenge thrown in. The rides are carefully prepared using GPS waypoints and a road book. For any one looking to expand their adventuring skills this is the event. You get to hang around with some of the best desert/navigation experts in the country. I met Scot Harden in January of 2006 when I attended his one-day adventure riding class. I kept in touch and last year he asked me to help out with the event and start a new addition to the rally, a timed special test. This brought the NRE a little closer to a real Rally Raid. I was thrilled to find out he needed me again for this years event. During one of our pre event phone calls he told me about how one of the pre riders had been hurt, I promptly volunteered to finish the task. I talked my local riding partner Chris Robin into the adventure, a few weeks later we arrived and unloaded our bikes 4 days before the event, I was needing some distance from work. Scot sent us road book information and the GPS data for the event, we arrived early afternoon on Sunday and couldn’t wait for the next day so we headed out into the Tule desert to find the start of the 1st day special test that evening. We spent a few minutes trimming and taping our roadbook information then the bikes were ready for riding. I never knew how cool the desert looks at night especially with thunderstorms lighting up the horizon in several directions. I tried to get a picture with my small camera; it just wasn’t going to happen. This was the only light for miles around me. Chris checking out the thunderstorms around us. After a few minutes of taking in the sights we found ourselves clipping along about 50 mph, the air was just the perfect temperature for riding. Everything is so different at night with just the headlights and the desert swooping underneath. We stopped a couple of times and it was so quiet. I got a small taste of what it’s like to be in complete silence and darkness with only starlight. This was shaping up to be a great adventure as we rode side by side to get the most light on the road, at one point we bumped handlebars in a corner and both headed off the road for a ravine only to brake at the last moment. We have logged many miles riding and it was amazing how we both reacted perfectly like we were reading each other’s mind, we just laughed it off and continued. It was after 10:00 pm when we rode back to Caliente and all of the eateries were closed except for the Shamrock pub. Much to our surprise they had what we considered a premium beer, we then proceeded to relax from the day. One of the local characters Steve showed up, he proceeded to tell us about his adventures riding the Baja 1000 many times back in the 80’s, this guy is the real deal. As an act of friendship he asked if I wanted to fight, I told him I was trying to cut down because it was starting to wear on me at my age. I later learned this was a form of endearment in Caliente. He then asked me how old I was, “56” I said. “Your just a punk kid!” said Steve. It’s kind of flattering to be called a punk kid at my age. The following day we geared up to find the day 2 special test and very quickly arrived at the location. We decided to ride the entire day two route and check for navigation errors. This was my second time to navigate this area with only the road book and GPS, to make this a real test no waypoints were logged so it was strictly by the road book. It was all clicking along just fine until we hit mile 18.1. There was a small washout and a sand wash to navigate through for about ¾ of a mile, this wasn’t on the road book, then what remained of a trail completely disappeared into a wash of large rocks the size of watermelons and softballs, complete with stair stepped rock ledges and no clear route through. Chris was on his new 950 KTM ADV, it’s a fairly large bike for this kind of terrain, we took a deep sigh then attacked the rock garden just like we do on our dirt bikes except we were riding bikes twice the weight and full of fuel to boot. We wove our selves through the area then after a few wrong turns realized where the road used to be and merged onto a nice dirt road. The view from the pass required a short photo stop and re calibration of the odometer. The total mileage for that leg was off due to a couple of wrong turns over the last few miles. Navigating the next few miles equaled the effort of the rock garden, fast roads with hard to see turns kept us on our toes for the remainder of the special test. After the test I gassed up on one of the few miles of pavement for the day then started the 3rd special test of the day. This was a nice long 10-mile stretch of desert that gave us a chance to let the bikes stretch their legs at who knows how fast. Once you get acclimated to riding at speed while standing it seems so unnatural to sit. That was the first lesson that Scot taught me the first time I rode with him. You get to a point where you let the bigger bikes do the work for you as Scot says, its like learning to trust some who holds you over the edge of a cliff by the ankles. Once again learning to overcome those little fears. For the next few miles we started ascending up a road covered with gravel. I was getting that second wind and once again hit my groove. I felt in complete control, the bike did exactly what I wanted as occasionally happens my aging body and was responding to all of the inputs, doing the right things with little or no thought. I was in the grove once again and in my world riding like a real champion at about half the speed of Scot or the rest of the leaders, nonetheless I was in the moment. After approximately 35 miles of this very unimproved road we happened upon a real estate sign in the middle of nowhere, I don’t know why but it struck me as pretty funny to see this in such a remote area. Is there anything that we can’t put up for sale, I found this in bad taste. Much of the area was designated Wilderness by the Feds, that usually means that a deal was struck with developers and BLM to sell off some of the land and lock up the rest. Our Dual Sport rides used existing roads; they didn’t seem to have a problem with what we were doing. We heard grumblings from the locals about how many of the hunters were on the verge of revolt and were being pushed from the land when they ventured off the designated roads. After finding a road book error that would have bypassed a large section of the course we continued through the 3rd special test and ended up on the pavement again. We had a short half-mile jog on pavement to the start of the next test, there was a car blasting up behind us. I was trying to keep an eye on what he was about to do then missed the turn as I pulled to the shoulder. I looked down the road, there was a rise about 100 yards away and I started my u-turn only to be greeted with a big white Buick looking sedan, she was barreling down on me with the brakes locked, I didn’t see the beast until I was across the road. I looked over at Chris he was white as a ghost, it scared the color out of him for quite a while. This is pretty unusual for me and I still consider my self to be the biggest safety Nazi within the immediate 100 miles, I guess it just wasn’t my time to check out. We had a laugh of sorts after the encounter, I had not worn my knee braces since we were only zipping out to see the start of the special test, being my usual sarcastic self I reminded Chris that the knee braces would not have helped, it seemed to dispel the tension that whacked both of us square in the head. It slowed the pace down a bit until we hit the desert flat. Riding a bike is freedom and blasting through the desert with the throttle pinned is one thing you have to experience to understand. You feel at one with the sand and scrubby vegetation but at the same time you are taking a flight over sand that will grab your front wheel and throw you down like a slip on ice. You trust your bike to float above the soft surface; you trust your muscle memory to guide you through and your mind to pick the right line. It’s all a great big ballet, just like the moment before an airplane leaves the ground and takes flight except it last as long as you want. We journeyed through the flat and began another climb over some gravel on hard pack roads that didn’t seem to slow us down as much as it should. Scot and Casey did such an awesome job preparing the ride; picking a route that will guarantee a constant level of difficulty is not easy. With our hearts pumping and our concentration holding out we forged down the road feeling ready for the day to end. About 5 miles from the finish we could see the peaks around Caliente and started down the last section through Antelope valley, only to be greeted by another undocumented wash out section. The road was completely obliterated by floodwaters. This is what a lot of the remaining trail looked like. Large rocks had surfaced along with 2, 3 and 4 foot drop offs. Through the whole day we were constantly amazed at how our riding just got better and better as we dared not to let the pace settle and loose the groove. The big bikes just did the job and mostly because we had our minds in the right mode, feelings of accomplishment started to grab our psyche and soon we saw the pavement and then the quick ride to the hotel room on the pavement. End of day one, we enjoyed a nice meal at one of the three local eateries as our bodies started experiencing exhausted muscles and aches from asking them to do about 100 times what we do in a normal day.