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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by JMo (& piglet), Jun 24, 2020.
More biplanes next time!
Roight - after that slight diversion back into Oregon this past week, it's high time to get back to the story eh?
Day 27: Joes Valley Reservoir UT to Baker NV - 267 miles.
"Has this bike been inverted? ...completely inverted?"
The flip side of riding another hundred miles until almost dark last night was that we'd really broken the back of the Utah TAT now - and it ought to be perfectly feasible to make the Nevada border by the end of today - being essentially a straight line from here via Ephraim and Delta, to where the current and previous iterations of the Trans-America Trail now diverge at a windswept desert border post, aptly named the Border Inn, located just over the state-line on lonesome hwy 50.
photo. (taken in 2015) the Border Inn near Baker is a typical Nevada gas station - complete with slot machines, a restaurant, and this instance also a modest motel.
The original TAT route continued west from here, albeit dipping south in a loop around the bottom of the Great Basin National Park for a hundred miles or so (primarily due to there being no direct route through those mountains), before heading diagonally across the barren desert of north eastern Nevada towards Oregon. The country is remote here, and at this time of year particularly hot and unforgiving. To make matters worse, while the route is punctuated in crossing a series of smaller mountain ranges which offer some temporary respite from the heat, conversely at lower elevation the trail itself is punctuated with tracts of soft silty bull-dust which can catch you out and make the going physically demanding on two wheels particularly...
Coupled with limited and sporadic fuel availability, this was more then enough incentive for Sam to redefine his original TAT route here in much the same way as it has evolved in Colorado - in an effort to prolong the weather window and make two-wheeled navigation slightly less of a chore, particularly on larger and more heavily loaded bikes.
Having effectively abandoned his original Nevada route entirely, Sam now directs you due north along the Nevada/Utah border - giving you a taste of the desert still, but via a far better condition all-weather 'piste' track, that in places follows part of the historic Pony Express route before leading you on to Wendover (on I80), where you are now but a stone's throw from the world famous Bonneville Salt Flats.
photo. (taken in 2015) the salt flats were still flooded in late June.
It is still hot in this part of the country at this time of year of course, but as an added incentive if you are traversing the TAT during the most popular months of August and September, there is every chance you'll now get the opportunity to witness some of the Speed Week testing going on. Should that not sate your appetite for all things mechanical at once, the current TAT then continues around the top of the Great Salt Lake via Promontory Summit - again, a significant historical landmark in this part of the country, being the location of where the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads were finally connected to create the first trans-continental railroad in 1869. This event was marked with a ceremonial solid 'golden spike' being used to secure the final railway tie between two steam engines - fully working replicas of which were commissioned in the mid 1970's once the location was designated a National Historic Site, with a corresponding visitor centre.
photo. (taken in 2015) a pair of working replica 19th century steam engines - Sheldon Cooper's wet dream right there.
note. I should clarify that I've chosen to include the above photos and descriptions from a previous trip precisely because this is not the actual route we'd be taking this time around - instead we'd aim to streamline our ongoing route west using the most direct parts of that original Nevada TAT, together with winging it where appropriate to try and make that rendezvous in California scheduled in four day's time...
The current TAT route crosses through the heart of the Manti-La Sal National Forest here in the middle of Utah, traversing high alpine meadows at around 10,000ft elevation due east of Ephraim. As Juan and I paused to take in the early morning view, we spotted a trio of 'adventure' bikes winding their way up the pass in our tire tracks; and as is customary on the TAT, we exchanged the usual pleasantries once they'd arrived...
photo. As the conversation flowed there was an amusing moment of recognition when they realised who it was they were talking to - turns out these guys were huge fans of the Blancolirio YouTube channel!
These three guys were all ex-military pilots, who'd subsequently formed their own aerobatic display team and travelled the world over the years, and were now enjoying their retirement by riding across the country on the TAT. Despite having flown an F-16 fighter as a day job in the past, rather amusingly, one of their number was a complete novice when it came to two wheels and adventure riding - having only passed his motorcycle test three weeks prior, and was now crashing his way across the country onboard his rapidly deteriorating KLR650. Despite the bent bars and broken windshield, he was in fine spirits, and had had the last laugh with his mates when they ridiculed him for mounting an electric winch on his top-case* - only to have used it to recover him from a ravine during their very first day on the trail!
*to clarify, it was only stowed here - being detachable and rigged with a strap when needing to be deployed.
Going our separate ways, I was keen to explore the ambiguous 'Ephraim Tunnel' marked on the map; and subsequently disappointed to find this was nothing but a drainage culvert, and completely unnavigable unless you wanted to reenact the escape from the Shawshank Redemption perhaps. Despite this detour, once back on the TAT it wasn't long before we passed the trio who had set off down the hill ahead of us...
I waved a cheery hello as I zipped by on the loose gravel corner, thinking nothing much of the fact all three of them were standing at the side of the trial (I mean hey, we all gotta pee right?)... A few miles down the road I was then held at some temporary roadworks, and once Juan pulled up he explained that yep, once again one of their number had miscalculated the corner and ended up in a heap at the side of the road. It was going to be a long and painful journey to Oregon for these guys I feared.
Their ongoing indignity was perhaps complete when, having rolled to a stop behind us in the traffic queue, our friend with the battered KLR was quite alarmed that he'd now seemingly lost all his front brake on this steep downhill highway - "It was working fine earlier" he bemused. Sure enough, there was no pressure at the lever at all, while conversely it appeared his master cylinder [window] was completely full of fluid... Based on what I'd already gleaned about their journey so far, I deduced the most likely scenario: "Has this bike ever been inverted?" I enquired as diplomatically as I could, to which our friend nodded almost inevitably of course... "Completely Inverted?" I pressed - considering that had the bike been upside-down long enough, then it was feasible that the air that is usually in the top of the master cylinder could have travelled past the cylinder seal and into the hose, leading to a significant bubble... and to which the response was a slightly more sheepish, "Um, yes I'm afraid so..."
As the traffic control waved us through we parted with the suggestion they stop in the next town and buy a bottle of brake fluid and endeavour to flush the front brake system through, as there was every chance that air bubble had now travelled as far as the calliper itself, essentially rendering the calliper pistons inoperable until the system was purged.
photo. traffic free central Utah - wonderful stuff!
photo. the TAT to the west of Ephraim climbs again to cross the San Pitch Mountains on a well defined but little used trail through Timber Canyon.
After crossing over I15 - which I feel marks a TAT milestone being the penultimate north-south Interstate on your journey west, we embarked on a little exploratory adventure on what appeared to be an alternative trail - which soon deteriorated into a gnarly single track straight up the side of a hill, and illustrates perfectly why Sam chooses the particular trails he does, in an effort that you achieve your goal of crossing the country without potentially damaging your bike or hurting yourself. Our retreat was both prudent and timely, as a windstorm was brewing and we still had a huge desert plain to cross.
photo. back on the TAT - you can make good progress on this sort of terrain, as long as it stays dry...
photo. a desert storm brewing just to the side of the TAT through-route.
photo. the TAT turns right here, we went left - to streamline an otherwise convoluted section just to stay on dirt, and at the same time avoid the worst of the storm to the north.
photo. back on the TAT west of Delta - heading for brighter weather at last in Nevada.
photo. this is a more direct alternative to the official TAT route (which crosses further north through Dome Canyon Pass) - using Marjum Canyon instead - no less impressive, particularly at this time of day.
photo. the Tule Valley - the official TAT route runs due west a few miles north of here.
While Majum Canyon Road continues north-west and rejoins the TAT route across Cowboy Pass, being late in the day and really wanting to reach the Nevada border before nightfall, we elected to streamline further and instead headed south for Kings Canyon on highway 50:
photo. they call this portion of hwy 50 the Loneliest Road in America for good reason.
Once again we'd lost our battle with the setting sun as we finally crossed into Nevada and headed up the first dirt road we came across in an effort to find a suitable wild camp spot in the fading light... Fortunately Nevada didn't disappoint, and we'd enjoy a warm and balmy night under a clear desert sky.
Thank you Jenny
Day 28: Baker NV to Battle Mountain NV - 286 miles.
We'd actually blown right past the Border Inn and Baker Nevada last night - in a effort to find a suitable wild camp on public land, close to the boundary of the Grant Basin National Park. Although we factored there would be less than 100 miles before a suitable refuel (at Lund NV for example, once we'd rejoined the Original TAT route), we still felt it prudent to return the few miles to Baker NV and top up, and more importantly perhaps try and find some breakfast.
Rather than simply shlep back down 50 to the Border Inn (a guarantee, if not especially inspiring food-wise as I recall from a previous visit), I fancied our chances in Baker itself - although as it turned out there was nothing much available this early in the morning, and we'd all but given up hope until we spied an excellent coffee hut on a vacant lot on the way back out of town, which dished up a fine brew and breakfast scone sandwich - recommended!
The TAT route actually heads south from Baker initially, but we felt we'd not be missing much if we elected to streamline a little today, and headed around the top of the Great Basin National Park on hwy 50 before picking up a cut-off trail just before the summit at Sacramento Pass, which would keep us heading due west via the 'ghost town' of Osceola:
photo. I say 'ghost town' as Osceola is another typical abandoned mining camp... however, I did spy what appeared to be an off-grid caravan, so it's possible someone still lives here in essentially a caretaker capacity.
The trail itself was reasonably well maintained and for the most part I'd suggest suitable for any 'high clearance' vehicle to navigate. However, we did find that on the western downhill towards highway 50, there was a surprisingly steep albeit short descent, and overall this particular trail offered far more entertaining terrain than the map might otherwise lead you to believe. All in all, a worthy inclusion in our TATn'Back definitive route!
photo. the final decent towards highway 50 and the huge regimented wind-farm in Spring Valley.
Picking up the highway once again - and why not, we were on the perfect bikes for this kind of mixed terrain route across the country after all - and this portion of hwy 50 is particularly fun as it winds it's way up and over another mountain range via Connors Pass (7723 ft) and a series of fast sweeping curves.
As hwy 50 began to head north-west across the next valley floor, it was here that we would continue our own pioneering route (using a series of established tracks on the map) to dovetail with the TAT route where it crosses through a narrow canyon in yet another mountain range just east of Lund. Indeed, the geography of this whole side of Nevada is essentially a series of skinny north-south mountain ranges, alternating with a flat dry desert playa inbetween... and it wasn't long before we sampled our first taste of the notorious 'bull-dust' pockets you find along even well-used and established trails.
photo. finally away from the dusty playa and climbing once again into the green desert mountains - this is approaching Sawmill Canyon (the TAT route) due east of Lund.
Conscious we had a long way to go today - our target being Battle Mountain way up north on Interstate 80 - we grabbed a quick meal at Lane's Coffee Shop and Travel Centre (and Motel) outside Lund, and pressed on - following Sam's Original TAT which is this region was actually new to both of us...
photo. early lunch - some soup for you! and a[nother!] breakfast sandwich for me!
What followed was an epic desert crossing, very reminiscent of the tracks and terrain you might find in a long-distance 'Dakar' style rally-raid event. This place was remote - once away from the farms and ranches which flanked the rural highway near Lund, we saw no one and no other vehicles for absolutely hours... Essentially following our noses (and the line on the GPS screen) along the old Hamilton-Pioche Stage route which winds it's way across yet another mountain range that forms part of the Humbolt-Toiyabe National Forest.
Fortunately, while I'd been lead to believe that this part of the original Nevada TAT could be hellishly hot at this time of year, it was a welcome relief to be riding at elevation for most of the afternoon. Only once we wound our way out of the dirt maze to rejoin hwy 50 yet again (to paraphrase Don Henley: you can check out from time to time, but you can seemingly never leave!) and headed for our next refuel in Eureka did the heat start to become oppressive. Had we not the target of reaching California by Thursday evening, we might well have called it a day around about now - Eureka offering a number of hotel and restaurant options for example... However, we were now on a mission, and with the mindset this would be our 'Dakar Day' continued to the next 'special stage' section of TAT which dwarfed the distance we'd just covered - it was still 118 miles to Battle Mountain from here, in the late afternoon, across fast desert piste tracks pretty much the whole way - perfect!
photo. the enormous Cortez Gold Mine in Nevada now covers a huge amount of acreage, which has required original roads and trails to be diverted. Fortunately there is still an established public through-route.
photo. the LEVEL 2 Rally-Raid suspension on our bikes means ragging along graded gravel trails like this requires very little input, even at 50 or 60mph (where appropriate of course), making for a reasonably relaxed and energy-conserving journey.
photo. finally leaving the desert (and mountains) behind, just south of Battle Mountain NV.
photo. Battle Mountain is little more than a cross-country truck-stop town these days, but offers a range of hotels and restaurants, and pretty much anything else you might need to keep you going to the end of the TAT - including completely illegal fireworks!
It had been an utterly epic day today, and not least also a fitting finale to our TAT adventure - in that this would be the last sector of the official route we'd ride this particular trip, as tomorrow we'd endeavour to forge our own alternative and more direct route due west now for California.
Not TKC 80s? I thought I felt the earth jerk on its Axis a while back
Or are they?
Is rally raid still suppling kits for the cb500x?
I'm assuming its more comfy than klr650, or dr650 on pavement and equal off pavement. And far less weight than the bmw gs line. Looks like a very interesting set up.
Hi Fletcherguitar - of course, very much so!
All the details are on their website: http://www.rally-raidproducts.co.uk/honda-cb500x-cb500f
And shipping to the US typically takes 5-7 working days.
If you're not familiar already, there is also huge thread in the Vendors section for the CB500X kit and accessories, including an FAQ on the first page - here, which ought to most initial questions you might have, although feel free to ask there or here too of course...
Certainly the [twin cylinder] CB500X is a far nicer bike on the road that either the DR or KLR, and significantly more economic too. In comparison The KLR really doesn't get a look in these days (bless it) , however the [stock] DR650 will feel lighter in weight and does have a little more travel than the CB500X with the LEVEL 2 kit, has, but unless you significantly upgrade the OEM components on that bike, the CB's TracTive suspension is far superior overall. Once you kit out the DR with a decent seat, larger tank, screen, better lights etc. to achieve a comparable specification, the weight saving is not nearly as much either.
Basically the CB500X with the Rally-Raid kit was designed for exactly the type of multi-terrain long distance riding this trip encompasses, and it absolutely nailed it with no fuss whatsoever - they are very strong, capable and reliable all-terrain bikes.
Hope that helps!
thanks for the reply. I'll take a look at the links. It's time for something more long distance road worthy than the current bike.
Hi 32dgrz - if you skip back to Day 22 (in Colorado Springs), you'll see Juan and I decided to replace our worn tyres... He got the last TKC80 [rear] in stock, so I went with a pair of the Michelin Anakee Wilds... I've commented on them already, but essentially they seem to work very well on the dirt, but are more noisy and slightly less sure-footed on the pavement, at least initially... I've now covered more than 4000 miles on them and am impressed, other than outright tarmac performance when compared to the TKC80s.
Fear not - the universe is just going to have to remain in turmoil until these are truly worn out and it's time to replace them again ;o)
1200 miles throughout Wyoming the new TKCs never missed a step for me. Wet/Dry pavement, fast gravel, rocky two tracks and a number of small river/ big creek crossings. They just work.
Day 29: Battle Mountain NV to Doyle CA (wild camp) - 282 miles
"Black Rock, bloody nose"
For only the second time this trip I was able to indulge in a freshly made breakfast waffle... or more accurately in this particular instance and establishment - actually four ikkle biddy ones!
photo. Covid or not, I deplore hotels which use disposable polystyrene plates and plastic cutlery... I'm no eco-weenie as I trust you've realised - but when you consider how many hundreds of thousands of people are staying in chain hotels every day across the US (and indeed the whole world) all throwing away a huge amount of contaminated plastic trash each morning, it is disappointing that [presumably] cost & convenience means the industry feels it is acceptable to land-fill with single-use unrecyclables, rather than simply employ someone to load a dishwasher each morning.
photo. Battle Mountain is famous for...
Although it would be perfectly feasible to reach Nevada City (home for Juan) by tea-time today, being a little under seven hours away if we were to simply shlep down I80... that really wasn't in the spirit of this whole trip, nor strictly necessary either, since we still had essentially two full riding days before our scheduled 'welcome home' reception the following evening.
While the TAT route continues due north of Battle Mountain (into the 'dead zone' stretch with no fuel or anything else for around 160 miles), we would stay south of I80 for the time being, and forge our own cross-country route to Winnemucca - which in itself is only fifty or so miles northwest along the Interstate, but for us would end up being double that distance the way were were planning on going...
Which way now?
While I remain a huge fan of paper maps for initial route planning, increasingly I've tended to rely on my Garmin GPS maps once a trip is underway - although I did purchase a trio of Trails Illustrated maps while we were in Colorado, to help plan our Continental Divide ride in more detail as they clearly show which trails are OHV (ie. single track) and those which are more suited to larger all-terrain vehicles, since that differentiation is not as distinct on the general Garmin mapping software. Another tip is to simply photograph a section/page of a particular map that may be too large and bulky to carry (and in that regard I would recommend the Benchmark series of Atlases which cover the vast majority of the States out west at least), so that you have a pinch-and-zoom digital copy of a certain sector in far more detail that you typically get via google maps or any other online resource - if only to help cross-reference with whichever mapping is installed in your GPS unit.
As such, while Juan was typically editing his video footage at the end of each day, I'd be tasked with plotting a series of intermediate waypoints between here and our next proposed stop-over point into the GPS memory so that I might navigate on the fly between them - which is my preferred method of navigating across the country using a mix of paved and unpaved roads and trails, and I'd suggest a format worth considering if you regularly experience problems creating a more elaborate route in your GPS.
Indeed, one of the frequent criticisms I hear/read from people who struggle with navigating using a traditional GPS unit is that the software tends to route you the way it thinks you should go (typically calculated based on either 'shortest' or 'fastest' route, using it's particular map set), rather than the actual route you might want to take. Of course if you are simply navigating to the nearest Starbucks, then typically all you have to do is hit the 'Go To' button and let the GPS to guide you as quickly as possible - rather it seems to me the problems start to arise when people try and plot a longer distance/multi via-point route, often using a mix of on-road and off-road waypoints and roads/trails.
In those instances, my recommendation is to not try and string a whole day ride route together at once; rather make a waypoint of any spot/s you absolutely want to go via, and then simply navigate to each individually in the order you wish... having the option to select 'shortest' or 'fastest' route each time you select a new waypoint ought to ensure it sends you pretty much the way you wanted to go (generally speaking, shortest is going to send you on any unpaved roads between you and your destination, as long as you have not selected 'avoid unpaved roads' in the menu of course).
If for any reason the routing doesn't take you the way you specifically wanted to go, it is easy enough to simply add a via point by tapping a specific road/trail on the screen, so that it recalculates to include that particular via point - and as I say, the trick is to never have each waypoint too far away, especially if there are potentially a multitude of alternative roads/tracks that the software could decide to route you along instead.
Finally, once you're riding, selecting a subsequent waypoint (from your list) once you approach the current one is simple enough to do if you wish to continue to the next one without stopping for example - as generally speaking the waypoints are listed by those closest to you (although you can set them to be listed alphabetically instead should you prefer, although personally I wouldn't if you intend to navigate using this on-the-fly method regularly). I'd also add this is the main reason I continue to prefer a dedicated 'outdoor' model GPS such as the Garmin Montana, which has a far more simple menu system to access your own waypoint and track [log] lists, when compared to their 'vehicle specific' Zumo and Nuvi models which are designed primarily to navigate you by road to an individual address or predefined waypoint in it's database, in much the same way as typical cell-phone GPS software also tends to be biased.
Ultimately a GPS unit is a powerful navigation tool, but like any tool, you still need to be aware of it's [potential] limitations, and in this instance not overwhelm the software by asking it to do too much at once. In addition, by not trying to pre-define the whole day in a single continuous route, it is far easier to adjust your itinerary as the day unfolds, and avoid the device going haywire if you do decide to re-route away from the original series of waypoints.
Here endeth the lesson.
photo. Little Cottonwood Canyon - an excellent addition to our TATn'Back route!
Rolling south out of town in good time, we soon picked up what turned out to be an awesome trail through the Battle Mountain range itself. What would have otherwise been a reasonably uneventful climb out of a narrow canyon was made all the more surreal by the company of thousands of Mormon Crickets - something we'd first encountered yesterday evening swarming all over the trail north towards Cortez Mine, and were now even more numerous and intimidating, and seemingly more brazen too - as any moment you stopped and put a foot down they would have no qualms about coming over and checking you out!
photo. "He's an ugly little spud isn't he?" - "Shush Ray, I think he can hear you..."
On reaching the summit and shaking off any remaining six-legged hitch-hikers, we descended on an even more narrow and little used canyon trail, in places fighting our way through the bushes and along the creek bed itself, before emerging at an ominous gate:
Fortunately there had been a fork in the trail a while back, and using my alternative map set in my Garmin GPS (for info. I tend to use their City Navigator maps most of the time which retains the 'go to' and routing functions, and includes a huge amount of unpaved road and trail detail in too once you zoom in - again something which is far easier to select with a Montana than a Zumo/Nuvi device) we were soon able to find an alternative way back to the main trail network using the TOPO (Topographic) trail map layer instead.
It was mid-morning by now, and the temperature was pretty high again already. Had we felt we'd had enough trail riding for the moment, we might easily have made a break north again for the Interstate (and in hindsight perhaps something we would most likely do in future) - however, we were here to explore on what was our last full day and in unfamiliar territory, so we pressed on in a sort of westerly direction (at the time it felt convoluted, but looking at our GPS track log once we'd finished it was actually a reasonably straight line after all), and followed what was rather ambitiously marked as 'Alt hwy 93' on the GPS - the reality being little more than a desert two-track, punctuated with numerous pockets of bull-dust, and some quite severe climbs and descents where it masqueraded as a power-line road for a few miles.
photo. a twister at the exit of Sheep Ranch Canyon.
The final run north into Winnemucca was fortunately a fast gravel road, meaning we made it to my favourite restaurant just in time before they closed after lunch:
photo. if you're ever in town, eat here... just be aware it's a breakfast and lunch joint only, and they stop serving at 1.30pm!
Our plan for this afternoon was simple enough. From Winnemucca there is a fast dirt road - Jungo Rd - which skirts the south side of the vast Black Rock Desert all the way to Gerlach. Indeed from this eastern end it is more of an unpaved highway than a traditional dirt road - being wide enough and firm enough for heavy truck traffic to access the various mines along the route, and despite temperatures forecast in triple digits this afternoon, we'd be able to make good progress - Camelbak's filled, jackets unzipped; and in Juan's case, his trousers rolled up to the knees!
photo. it would be another hundred miles to Gerlach, in the heat of the afternoon.
photo. not this year I'm afraid, unless you count Juan of course!
Black Rock Desert is famous for three things - four if you include it's where I had to camp out next to the railroad tracks in October 2007, having got stuck in the soft sand early that afternoon... and rolled sheepishly into Gerlach the following morning, where I subsequently was introduced by the owner of Bruno's restaurant (bar, motel and casino!) to the other three things...
Certainly from an ex-pat British point of view, Black Rock Desert is most famous as the location of the current world land speed record - set in October 1997, by Andy Green in the Thrust SSC car (that project headed by former LSR holder Richard Noble of course) - having achieved in excess of Mach 1 (the speed of sound) in both directions over the measured mile. It was impressive it had not been beaten when I was there ten years on in 2007, and amazing to think that same record still stands today 23 years later... eh Mr Breedlove? ;o)
For any speed nerds, or jingoistic Brits - this is definitely worth a watch!
Over a huge pancake breakfast on that chilly October morning, Bruno revealed that Andy Green and the team had been in town recently to celebrate their 10th anniversary (something they had done each year up to that point), before nonchalantly explaining that Black Rock Desert was also the location of the first successful civilian space launch - in this instance a Japanese team, who had successfully launched a rocket out of the earth's atmosphere and have it return safely to land - and promptly showed me through to the bar where there was a replica/spare rocket mounted proudly on the wall. Kewl!
"Then of course we also have the festival each year" he said in an almost throw-away manner... of course, this is where they hold Burning Man isn't it - doh!
photo. the vast Burning Man village is laid out each year using avenues created by GPS - yep, it's in your Garmin City Navigator maps!
Since then I've ridden both past and indeed on the Black Rock Playa a number of times now, and it is always a surreal and somewhat emotional experience...
photo. somewhere in the distance is the town of Gerlach.
photo. we were fortunate the playa was bone dry at this time of year - after rain this kind of surface can be slippery and treacherous!
photo. the Burning Man village is laid out just to the right of where my bike is.
A good friend of mine has a saying which I often quote in circumstances such as this: "You know what comes after showing off? - falling off..." (and most often telling off too!) and in this instance this prophecy was about to come true...
I'd raced out onto the Playa from an access track off Jungo Road, not expecting anything other than Juan to be close behind - since we're both big kids when it comes to stuff like this! However, the playa is deceptively large, and it turns out you can soon be nothing more than a dot on the horizon. I'd soon grabbed my photo from the very epicentre of the Burning Man village (see above), and was now waiting for Juan to join me - meanwhile Juan had got busy filming with his drone, and we were now potentially miles apart without any surefire way of finding one another. After a while I felt it most prudent to simply head for Gerlach where we'd planned to stop for a cold drink and bite to eat anyway, and we would inevitably rendezvous there at some point - well, as long as nothing happened to either of us of course...
photo. attempting my own more modest land speed record - in this instance I clocked 93.7mph according to my GPS. Oh well.
Having attempted a couple of high speed runs on my way west towards Gerlach, I plotted a straight line for the town itself (rather than take the access road to the north of the playa, which any sensible person would have done, if only as a guarantee) and now found myself in some rough grassland at the foot of a ten foot high embankment on which the highway stood - of course, the playa floods in winter/spring doesn't it? Idiot.
Increasingly concerned that Juan was probably already waiting for me at Bruno's and perhaps getting worried now, rather than retrace my route for miles onto the Playa and take the official exit, I attempted to ride up this steep gravel embankment, with as you might imagine, the inevitable consequences if you're not quite committed enough:
photo. I thought I'd given it a pretty good shot initially...
photo. but not quite enough momentum to overcome the loose gravel...
photo. rolling backwards down the slope a bit, before trying to turn downhill and ride it out for another attempt...
photo. oh bollocks...
photo. duck and roll...
photo. ...oh, and smack myself in face with my hand as I landed.
You can probably imagine the curse words as I surveyed this sorry scene... compounded by almost drowning in my own blood - it wouldn't stop bleeding!
photo. although it doesn't really show it, the bike is currently upside down on this quite steep slope, and therefore almost impossible to lift back up from this position.
I figured the only sensible thing to do was to unload my luggage bag (fortunately the Coyote can be unclipped quickly and easily, even with the bike on it's side), before dragging the bike around 180° so the wheels were then pointing downhill and I could use the angle of the slope to help me pick it up.
photo. dragging the bastard around...
photo. almost there... nose still bleeding. Jenny still swearing.
photo. once it was the right way round and at the bottom of the slope, it was easy to lift.
Throwing caution to the wind I immediately spun the bike around, jumped on and fired it back up the slope again with just a little more gusto - and landed on the highway with no problem (fortunately there was no traffic coming to potentially thwart this rather more reckless second attempt), reloaded my luggage and was on my way again...
photo. the McGregor goose-step mount.
photo. Not far now - I hoped Juan would be waiting, and not too concerned....
As I pulled up outside Bruno's, I was concerned that not only was Juan's bike nowhere to be seen, but that the place was now closed for the evening too... bugger, double bugger. I factored I'd wasted around 20 minutes with my stupid crash recovery, and if Juan wasn't here by now, sincerely hoped that he hadn't instead returned to the last place we'd seen each other (usually the most prudent thing to do whenever you split up unintentionally of course, unless you've prearranged a forward meeting point - which in this instance I felt sure we had?) and would be increasingly impatiently waiting for me there, miles away.
What to do? The danger now of course is that we'd both end up riding backwards and forwards between two random places, passing like ships in the night, each thinking the other was at the other location! Then it dawned on me - Juan had his Spot tracker (technically the Garmin Inreach version) with him, and fortunately I had enough phone signal in Gerlach (thank goodness the Burning Man attendees can't survive for a week without wifi these days!) to log on and see his exact position - sweet!
Sure enough, his little dot seemed to be making it's way along the north of the Playa, then up onto the highway via the access road presumably, and ultimately heading towards town now - phew, disaster averted.
There was still the issue of nothing to eat and drink being available at this hour, but quite honestly the sense of relief in being safely reunited was enough to spur us on into the evening anyway...
photo. Sand Pass Road around Smoke Creek Desert.
Juan proposed we ride on until dark this evening, and ideally make it as far as the California border - if only as a symbolic gesture that we were nearly home. We'd still potentially have a full day of riding ahead of us of course, but essentially the end was in sight now.
ps. funny story. You'll notice that I've illustrated the description of my crash with a series of video frame grabs... Now at the time I thought this embarrassment would only ever be replayed in my own mind, along with any suitable embellishments depending on the audience perhaps... But it turned out that I'd actually left my helmet camera running during my high speed run across the playa, and in turn it had continued to capture the whole sorry proceedings as they unfolded, without me realising at all!
Perhaps most surprising of all was that along with the first person perspective of trying to find a way up the embankment initially and the subsequent drop and smack in the face, that when I'd removed my helmet and put it on the ground during the recovery process, it turns out I'd positioned it almost perfectly to capture the subsequent drag and lift procedure too. Honestly it was a total fluke!
At the time I'd not even thought to look at the camera (never mind press record) and by the time I got to Gerlach, it had auto-shut off after 18 minutes - So I'd not realised it had even been submitted to film until I'd got back home and was downloading all my video clips... and yet there is, perfect for any outtakes/blooper-reel in future!
Day 30: Doyle CA to Nevada City CA - 155 miles.
"28* days later..."
(*28 riding days that is, since technically we had two off at the airfield in Kansas of course).
Juan had a found a cool [wild] camp spot last night - and not a moment too soon to be honest, as we'd ridden another 90 odd miles since Gerlach to finally cross into California, and the sun was already setting as we splash-and-dashed some fuel in Doyle (on hwy 395) before heading into the hills to find some solitude.
photo. I do like a cup of coffee of a morning... ideally with a view of a tiny volcano.
We were very much back in Juan's own stomping ground now - and indeed I myself am familiar with a number of through-routes using minor highways and unpaved roads around here, so was more than happy to let Juan lead this final leg home.
As we packed away our tents for our final time this trip, I took the opportunity to inspect any damage sustained over the past few weeks and effected a necessary minor repair from my tumble yesterday:
photo. oh the indignity - while my Coyote luggage bag usually protects the rear turn signals in the event of a drop, having removed the bag and dragged the bike around on the ground yesterday meant I had inadvertently snapped the stalk... taping a temporary repair, I was confident I could fix it properly with epoxy glue once I returned home (and did!)
photo. meanwhile these scars will have to be worn indefinitely now - a momento of the struggle up that bloody La Sal Pass!
Otherwise the bikes had survived exceptionally well. Apart from replacing the [nearly] worn out tyres when prudent during our return leg in Colorado Springs, nothing had gone wrong, broken or offered any cause for concern on either bike... although I did need to replace my front brake pads once we'd reached Kansas as I'd not thought to fit fresh ones before we left, despite them having around 20,000 miles of use already as I recall - an oversight on my part I admit. Even our chain and sprockets had held up with just some irregular lubing and no need for adjustment over 6000+ miles of mixed terrain long-distance riding. Fuel economy had also been exceptionally frugal - at typically sub 60mph speeds which we found ourselves riding most of the time, we were comfortably getting around 70mpg, even on the more knobbly all-terrain tyres at slightly lower pressures (25-28psi) than you might choose if riding solely on the highway for example. Indeed, when trickling around the high elevation passes in Colorado in the lower gears and rpms we'd actually managed to achieve in excess of 80mpg which I considered exceptional under the circumstances - these bikes simply sniff fuel unless you are particularly heavy-handed.
postscript. on our return Juan realised his rear suspension linkage bearings had taken a beating to the point they now needed replacing - although he admitted it was as likely due to a lack of regular greasing, compounded by the fact his bike has now covered more than 40,000 miles of pretty heavy duty adventure riding over the years.
Despite our procrastinations on this final morning, we still managed to roll out of camp before 9am in an effort to arrive in Nevada City in good time this afternoon while at the same time taking a more scenic way home.
photo. Frenchman Lake in the Plumas National Forest.
Our initial route south was a mix of easy forestry roads and minor paved highways - including the rather entertaining if somewhat bizarre section of the Beckwourth-Genesee Road which is perfectly paved to certain point, then simply turns to dirt where the money and incentive to continue ran out. It's a nice out-and-back if you're on a sports bike... and an excellent through-route on an adventure bike of course!
photo. the historic Marble Lane Bridge (1908) near Beckwourth CA, which in itself is near nowhere...
photo. this sign made me laugh more than it should... it's good to see it's not just British hairdressers who enjoy a good pun.
After topping off with fuel for the final time in Sierraville, we climbed high into the forest and connected with the Henness Pass Road, which as it's name suggests is another historic pioneer's pass across the northern Sierra Nevada mountains, albeit not quite as infamous as the neighbouring Donner Pass of course. Indeed, had the Donner Party simply travelled a few miles further north from Truckee before turning west, they've have found a far more gradual and lower elevation passage through the mountains, and not needed to eat one another.
photo. the historic hotel at Webber Lake - the lake itself a popular spot for boating, fishing and camping, while the original hotel and adjacent buildings are in the process of being restored.
Henness Pass Rd for the most part is an easy ride on a mix of paved and unpaved surfaces, although the closer you get to the western decent the authorities have installed an ominous ribbed metal 'speed hump' - similar to a 50" wide OHV gate - to discourage lower slung vehicles from attempting to drive all the way through. However, I'm sure any higher-clearance 2WD vehicle would have no problem navigating the remaining unpaved sections at all, certainly in dry/summer conditions.
photo. "see [you] here, that's where I live!" A view of Banner Mountain from Henness Pass Rd.
photo. a quick cold one en route at a quirky bar in Alleghany - it seems Juan knows everyone and everywhere in these parts!
photo. there's the famous 'Blancolirio finger' again! Juan points out the South Fork Yuba River - we're almost home now!
photo. the Old 5 Mile House bar/restaurant (currently closed to the public) outside Nevada City was our final destination for an impromptu 'bike night' with the local rider's club...
photo. ...and the welcome home committee had turned out in force - any excuse for a [socially distanced] outdoor pint I'm sure!
photo. and that, is pretty much a wrap... according to Mr Goodwrench.
It had been a wonderful trip - full of entertaining moments and epic trails, stunning scenery and some unique experiences for the both of us... be it successfully navigating a gnarly trail high in the Rockies for the first time, or actually taking the controls of an exceptionally rare vintage aircraft! Travelling across the country like this offers so many opportunities to explore, to take the road less travelled and take a special moment for yourself, and every day I'm sure we both felt we could simply ride on and on indefinitely... But like any multi-day adventure ride away from your loved ones, ultimately it's also good to come back home again. Juan was reunited with his family, while I was content to spend one more night away from home and would complete the final 200 or so miles in the morning...
That evening we toasted our success and basked in our moment of modest glory, amongst friends and fried chicken.
It's been fun fella... let's do it again - next year - Montana is calling!
Hi Jenny, thanks for taking us along!
about (paper) maps in addition to Garmin, I use the ViaMichelin app. Basically the digital version of their maps. Zoom to street level and toggle to sat view. I cannot judge how detailed their USA maps are, but for Europe there is none better.
Loved the LSR video, I never realized how scary it would be to be strapped inside a rocket engine doing 700 mph while desperately trying to keep the thing on track at almost full steering lock. It’s reassuring though to know about the incredible precision engineering practices that is done to put these machines together, as demonstrated at the end of the clip
This was the best----thanks again !!!!
Another great adventure!!! Well done both of you!!
Hi Squadraquota - yes, over the years I've also used the downloadable/offline maps.me app and also the Viewranger digital maps for the UK, which give you all the OS (Ordnance Survey) detailed maps for trail-riding and other rights of way - very useful!
As we speak I'm actually now experimenting with Gaia here in the US - currently on a road/off-road trip with Lisa in our 4x4, travelling through California, Nevada and into Arizona over the next week or so. Certainly having high resolution digital map layers on a large screen (an iPad in this instance) is very nice to work with as a navigator, however, I did notice that for any routing and 'go to' functions, it would appear you do need a data connection - as the majority of their database is online, not in your actual device (I guess to save memory space) - which was the issue I've always found in the past in comparison to a dedicated GPS unit (such as a Garmin) which contains all their maps and a huge database of addresses and points of interest you can route to at any time, or simply follow the map as you wish.
I think that has been (and from what I see remains) the issue... you can have very detailed maps - as you say, the actual digital equivalent of the paper version in many cases (here in the USA for example the National Geographic Trails Illustrated series is very good for exploring a mix of unpaved roads and dedicated OHV trails, and these are all available on the Gaia app too) - but fundamentally it appears you are limited to preplanning and downloading which ones you want, plus setting any waypoints/addresses etc. before you go 'offline' and away from any cellular data connection.
However, if you want continuous access to a database of the whole country, or at least a huge chunk of it [which you may well do if on a long distance/multi-day trip], and be able to route to any point at any time, then while Garmin's City Navigator maps may look visually crude in comparison, they actually work exceptionally well in that regard, and as I mentioned previously, not only do they have a huge amount of unpaved road and trail detail included here in the US (and also a lot in the Europe City Navigator maps too I've found), but fundamentally the track on the screen is also very accurate to the actual track on the ground.
Certainly for on-the-fly navigating which is my preferred method - especially solo/on a bike - it would appear a traditional GPS unit with it's own built-in/SD card data base available at any time is ultimately more versatile. However, for preplanning and uploading a series of route prior to departure, I can certainly see the benefit of working with a more app based software program too.
I'll report back in a few more days!
Thank you both! - it's always a pleasure to share these stories with you here on ADVrider, and particularly in this instance where I've been able to revisit my photos and notes at a slightly more leisurely pace than is possible when blogging on a day-by-day basis during the trip itself, which is typically what I've always tended to do in the past... Hopefully the added detail and selection of photos has enhanced what was already a pretty thorough real-time series of video vignettes which Juan was able to catalogue on YouTube of course.
Along with compiling this ride report over the past few weeks, I also took the opportunity to assemble a short slide show (for the Giant Loop Hot Springs weekend I attended recently, mentioned a few posts above) - although being rather last minute, I didn't even begin to try and incorporate the countless video clips I took as well - so a winter project is likely to be to go through all of that footage and put together a more definitive AV presentation, which I hope [unlike this year, with all the covid restrictions and cancellations] I'll be able to host at various overland events next spring and summer instead.
Hope to see you all on the road or trail at some point in the future, and as Juan always signs off... also "See you here!"
You are right of course about the need for a data connection. You would need a pretty large tablet to store all that data
I meant to say I primarily use it for route planning, so at home while on a large screen. So indeed the benefit you mentioned at the end of your reply.
The Garmin maps are crude indeed, but that is probably the price we pay for having a lot of detail while still keeping the storage requirements within limits.
I am afraid I do not fully agree on the detail of their maps when it comes to trails and unpaved roads when it is about Europe. Here in The Netherlands, where unpaved riding is limited anyways, not much of the rideable stuff is in the Garmin maps. Also in the Alps and Pyrenees, much is not on the map. And I am talking about stuff I can ride with my 990. If you want or need to deviate from a track you are following, you need to have a topographic map loaded.
I guess your testing and trying out the various options proves that unicorn navigation is still in the prototype phase
Yes, I think that is going to depend on particular regions/countries, and what source maps were made available to Garmin when they compiled their own maps... the UK is pretty thorough, and I also found plenty of dirt road detail in northern Spain and Portugal when I travelled through there en route to Morocco* a few years ago. Some chunks of southern France On my way back home too.
*note. Morocco did require an alternative map set - I downloaded the Freesource Olaf ones as I recall.
Of course generally speaking the City Navigator maps are primarily designed for on-road navigation, so will only include existing ‘roads’ whether paved or not - like you say, for more OHV style ‘trail’ navigation, using something like the TOPO maps to supplement CN is a sensible addition. I have both layers available in my Montana for just that reason.
I would add for info. that the City Navigator maps for North America, particularly out west where we were riding on this trip were very detailed - especially once you’d set the map zoom to ‘most’ - indeed other than that detour around the nine on the second to last day, I don’t recall ever having to revert to the TOPO otherwise - since typically all the roads/trails the TAT and BDR routes use are shown in City Navigator too.