Monday, June 25, 2012

2012 Nevada/Oregon Desert Adventure

Travel Day

The day had finally come for all of us to head south to the Nevada desert to begin our exploration of Northeastern Nevada and Southeastern Oregon.

The six riders on this adventure were: 

Mike (MasterMarine): ride organizer and leader riding a KLX 650

Mark (Karmasect): our designated photographer on his Husky 610.

Dan (DrDan): male-model and all around cool guy... also there to fix our pains during the week.  His ride... a DRZ 400

Chuck (Duckspanker): His primary job was to make fun of the rest of us.  Also on a DRZ 400.

Bill (Wild Bill): The most skilled rider of the group (in my opinion) riding sweep on his old, reliable KLR 650.

Scott (BUSdriver/Trailmoto): Crash test dummy.  WR250R

In order to get to Denio Junction, Nevada at a reasonable hour, we departed the Seattle area sometime after 4am. 

Getting gas in Cle Elum

Mike and Mark
(Photo: Mike Clough)

About 12 hours and a few food/gas stops later, we pulled into the Denio Junction Motel/Bar/Cafe/Store.  The owners of the facility, Bobby and Maria are the greatest.  They were very accommodating and helped us with whatever we needed.  Bobby even kept the kitchen open late for us one evening so we could enjoy a nice hot burger after a long day of riding.  We couldn't have had a nicer couple of hosts, and I highly recommend that if you're ever riding or driving down in that area to stop by for some fuel and food.

Denio Junction

Mike and Dan going over the planned route

Day 1

We started out fairly early on our first day of riding.  We were all pretty excited to get going and after a few group photos we all jumped on our bikes and rode off in a big hurry...  anxious to see what adventures lay ahead.  The excitement lasted less than a minute as Mark coasted his dead Husky to the side of the highway.  We were literally within sight of the motel, sitting on the side of the road trying to figure out why the 610 wouldn't run.  It turned out to only be a blocked gas tank vent and soon enough we were back out on the road.

All dressed up and ready to go...
(Photo: Mark Cates)

Broken down within sight of Denio Junction

Just a blocked gas tank vent

Once we got on our way, things went fairly smoothly.  We rode up canyons, through sagebrush laden desert and and across some cool ridge lines that provided us with great views.  We made it to McDermitt, NV around lunchtime and were able to fill up on fuel and food.

Stopping for lunch at the casino in McDermitt, NV

We made a quick stop at the point where Oregon, Nevada and Idaho meet.
(Photo: Mike Clough)

The rest of the 185 mile day was filled with a lot of rough terrain and a couple steep hill climbs.  Our goal was to make it close to Owyhee, NV before setting up camp and ultimately that's what we did.  It was getting dark as we set up camp and I was completely exhausted so as soon as my tent was up, I just went to sleep.

During the first long day of riding, I learned an important lesson... Don't overload your bike with tons of crap you don't need.  I had never really ridden on a multi-day, unsupported ride before this so I didn't realize how much a small amount of weight makes a big difference.  When I loaded up the saddlebags and tail bag, I just kept stuffing items in that I thought might come in handy until the bags were full.  I had ended up carrying roughly 70 pounds of extra gear that was not entirely necessary.  This overloading caused the little 250 to be quite unstable, especially in rough terrain.  It was kind of like riding with the neighbor kid sitting behind me the whole time.  It was enough of a hindrance that I started to get very frustrated with my lack of ability to ride like I was used to.  I even suggested on the morning of our second day of riding that I might just take the highway back to Denio Junction to unload the extra weight and maybe try to re-connect with the group later during the week.  The guys thankfully talked me out of this idea as over the next few days the ride took us to some fantastic places and I was able to relocate some of the heavier items to sit lower on the bike.  The lower center of gravity helped keep the bike a bit more stable than before and that combined with me getting used to the extra weight allowed me to be able to make it through the next few days without any major issues.

(Photo: Mark Cates)

Day 2

The morning of our second day we got up and headed into Owyhee, NV to get some fuel and a bite to eat.  The store in Owyhee was well stocked and had almost anything you might need.  The deli had decent food but it took forever to get the food you ordered.

We then made our way over to Jarbidge, NV and the scenery along the way was worth the rough ride the day before.  Jarbidge is a tiny mining town located on a dirt road in the hills and has fuel available 24 hours which is very cool.  The local cafe was a nice little place with good food and nice people.

Fuel stop in Jarbidge, NV

Lunchtime in Jarbidge

Our campsite near Jarbidge was next to a small river and was a very nice spot to relax.

Jarbidge, NV
(Photo: Mark Cates)

Camping near Jarbidge
(Photo: Mark Cates)

Day 3

The following day we made an attempt to ride up a power line road and it turned out to be a bit too much of a hassle to get around all the debris in the way so we altered our route.  The modified route took us up some great roads that provided us with more excellent views.  We eventually stopped in Owyhee again for fuel and a bite to eat.

One of the many beautiful views we enjoyed
(Photo: Mark Cates)

Taking a break

We headed west from Owyhee to find a good spot to camp and Dr Dan came through with locating a grassy area in the middle of the desert to set up our tents.

(Photo: Mark Cates)

There was frost on the bikes in the morning.

Day 4

We woke up to frost on the bikes and some frozen water in the camelbak tubes.  Of course once we got riding we all got warmed up soon enough.  This day our goal was to get back to Denio Junction and the route that we took was amazing in many ways.  It felt like we were ahead of schedule so we initially rode at a leisurely pace.  We had a great ride over various passes and had many good photo opportunities along the way.  At one point during the day Mark noticed that 4 of the 6 bolts were missing from his rear sprocket and fortunately he discovered it before another one let loose.  We were able to come up with enough bolts to secure his sprocket to make it back to Denio.

Only 2 bolts holding it together
(Photo: Chuck Taylor)

This is where we replaced the missing sprocket bolts on Mark's ride.

Water Crossing 
(Photo: Mark Cates)

Paradise Valley Saloon... unfortunately the owners were attending a funeral on this day and it was closed.
(Photo: Mark Cates)

We stopped in McDermitt again for a late lunch and to refill our tanks.  At this point we started to realize that we were actually somewhat late and getting back before dark was now in question.  We began to pick up the pace in order to avoid a night-ride.  A couple things hindered our progress heading west... the sun was setting and was directly in our eyes which made it difficult to see the trail ahead.  In addition to that, the wind had died down and the dust from the bike in front of you would just hang there and further hinder the visibility.

One last thing that was an issue for me was a very long hill climb that was littered with softball-sized rocks.  We had ridden down this hill on "Day 1" so I knew it was something I was going to have to deal with on the way back... and I had been dreading it for 3 days due to my overloaded bike and my lack of skill riding the heavy Yamaha.  I was the last rider of our group to tackle this hill and when I started up the incline, I just "gave 'er the onion" and hoped for the best.  Everything was going well... I was seeing and anticipating the line well and was gaining confidence every foot I ascended.  About halfway up the rocky slope, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye.  It was an antelope running across my path not 20 feet away.  Normally it would've been a welcome sight because it's very impressive to see them run across such rough terrain at high speed... but during the dreaded rocky hill climb...  I definitely didn't need any distractions.  I felt like I needed to focus on the task at hand fully in order to coax the overloaded WR to the top of the hill.  Somehow I was able to stay on course and ultimately made it to the top under control.  It felt good to get that behind me.

We eventually made it back to Denio Junction as darkness was setting in.  Bobby had cooked us each a burger and fries and it was a very welcome sight after a 212 mile day.

Chuck on top of Windy Pass
Day 5

I think we all had a good night's sleep at the motel.  Mike had planned an easy day-ride for us after the long 4-day loop we just finished. So after I unloaded all the extraneous crap off of my bike, we headed up to a B24 Liberator crash site to take some photos and relax a bit.  The trail was a bit rough but with almost nothing loaded on my little bike, it felt like an entirely different machine and it was much easier for me to tackle the terrain.

At the motel in Denio Junction

Bobby and Maria's dog, "Shooter".

Mike reading the guestbook that is kept in a waterproof box on the commemorative plaque that was recently placed on the site. 
After leaving the crash site, we headed down to a hot spring called "Bog Hot".  We all planned on a soak but as we stepped into the water, we decided that it was far too hot to stay in.  Bill was able to get used to it and did soak for a bit but the rest of us were too whimpy to stay in.

"Bog TOO Hot"

After leaving the hot spring, we split up.  Mike, Dan and Chuck headed back directly to Denio Junction while Bill, Mark and I went north up to Fields, OR to get a milkshake.  Unfortunately the milkshake machine was not working so we ended up just having some ice cream.

Mark getting close to the wild burros in order to get a good photo.

Day 6

This was the best day of the week for me.  We headed out west and rode over some ridge lines that had the most amazing views of rock formations, valleys and mountain lakes.  It was a route that I hope to ride again someday soon.

Mark picking his way around the washed out road.

Sometime around midday, we found ourselves at Soldier Meadows Ranch and were hoping to get some fuel.  They only had a small amount of fuel available and we gladly paid the $7.50/gal for the 6 gallons we received (measured in a one gallon cider jug).  We also were treated to a simple but excellent lunch.  Kathy, the ranch owner was very friendly and treated us great!  Unfortunately she has sold the ranch and will be leaving soon.  I'm not sure who the next owners will be but I hope they keep the ranch going and will welcome us wayward riders as Kathy did.

Dan made a friend at Soldier Meadows Ranch.  (Dixie)

Just a little rest 
(Photo: Mark Cates)

After leaving the ranch, we made our way toward Gerlach, NV.  Sometime in the late afternoon, Mike's KLX broke a chain and wrapped it around the swing arm.  It required a lot of collaboration and teamwork but while Mark and I went out to find a place to set up camp, the guys got it repaired enough to limp it to the campsite we discovered 13 miles away.

This could be a problem

Fixing the broken chain

A cool thing about the campsite we found was that it was that it was located near another elaborate campsite that someone had set up earlier.  Shortly after we set up our tents, two guys (Troy and Steve from Redding, CA area) from the neighboring camp rode over to see what was going on.  We filled them in on our plight and had a good conversation.  They brought us over a few beers and offered us assistance if we needed it.  A few of us gladly accepted the beer and the next morning a couple of us took Troy up on his offer of fuel.  We tried to pay him for it but he wouldn't accept any money.  It was nice to have a bit of assistance way out in the desert.

Our last campsite of the week
Day 7

We decided to split up again and Bill, Mike and I headed north toward Denio Junction.  We weren't sure how well Mike's chain was going to hold up so we wanted to try to get an early start toward the motel in DJ.  The chain ended up holding firm and was able to get Mike all the way back without having to be towed.

Some wild horses on the indian reservation
Dan, Chuck and Mark went south to Gerlach to fuel up and then were going to try to catch up with us. Since Mike's bike was doing pretty well, the other guys ended up deciding to head down to the dry lake beds and see some other sights.

We all eventually ended up back at Denio Junction and we sat down to dinner and filled each other in on the day's events.

(Photo: Mark Cates) 

(Photo: Mark Cates)

Day 8

Since I was needing to get back to work I ended up leaving a day earlier than the rest of the group.  I heard they had a long riding day of over 250 miles.  

Overall, I had a great time.  I rode over 1000 miles in 7 days.  I learned a lot about this type of riding and if I am fortunate enough to go on future adventures like this, I'll be much better prepared.

Thanks to Mike for putting in many hours preparing the routes and reserving rooms, etc... and also to all the guys for helping me out when I needed it.  

For those who might be interested in my additional photos of the ride... they are located HERE.

Chuck's photos:  HERE

Bill's Photos:  HERE

Mike's Photos:  HERE

Mark's Photos: HERE

Dan doesn't even bring a camera.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

2012 Nevada/Oregon Desert Adventure (Prep)

I've neglected to update this blog with tales of my riding adventures over the last couple years and instead of trying to remember them and share them here, I'm going to just move forward and assume that no-one will really notice.

That being said, I have decided to update this blog with a story about the pending adventure that myself and a few friends are about to embark upon.  Last year about this time two of our favorite characters (Dan and Chuck) traveled to northeastern Nevada to experience a week long riding adventure.  They were accompanied by Mike and the three of them had a great time.  I was unable to attend due to work obligations and have regretted not calling in sick ever since I read Mike's ride report about their fun.  They enjoyed their ride so much that they decided to make it an annual event.

So this year I made an concerted effort to get time off from work in order to participate in the 2012 Nevada Desert Adventure, and my efforts paid off.

Now that I was committed to this ride, I really needed to make some preparations to my little Yamaha in order to have any chance at surviving multiple days in the desert with very little access to fuel, food, etc...  So last month I ordered a few items like luggage and side racks to allow my bike to carry the necessary items I'll need.  I've spent parts of the last few weeks getting things ready to go and I believe I'm just about ready to go.

We leave in 2 days...  more later.

"The Bruise" all loaded up

Monday, July 5, 2010

Gettin' Chummy

Last year my old high-school buddy, Dan, attended an organized riding event called “The Chumstick”.  It is a 2-day riding/camping event that is held in the Entiat, WA area. 

Since he told me “it’s a ride that shouldn’t be missed”, I decided to go this year, and drag my brother and father along too.

My brother and I decided we would ride to the Pine Flats Campsite, (where the Chumstick ride begins and ends), from his house on the west side of the Cascades, while Dad was going to load his bike in the back of the truck and tow a tent trailer over to Pine Flats a day earlier. 

On Thursday, Dad left with as much as we could think to load him up with.  The more he took in the truck, the less we had to strap down to the bikes.

Friday morning arrived and Dale and I got going at a leisurely 9:30am.  We weren’t in a hurry.  In fact we stopped at a local coffee shop for a bite to eat and some caffeine.

The bikes are still clean at this point.

We finally got on the road and since we wanted to ride on as many dirt roads as possible, there was a strong possibility that we’d run into a roadblock or two and may have to back track and find an alternate way around.

Our planned route consisted of about 35 miles of dirt roads, followed by 45 miles of pavement, and then topped off with an additional 50 miles of dirt.

It turns out we did encounter a few obstacles along the way.  We were fortunately able to maneuver our way around them without too much trouble and we managed to not lose too much time in the process.

Our first obstacle

After the first section of dirt roads, we jumped on Stevens Pass to make our way over the mountains.  My bike was geared a bit too low to be cruising @ 60-65mph for long periods of time, but “The Bruise” screamed it’s way over the pass and 45 minutes later, we were on the dirt roads of eastern Washington.

This gate was open on Friday...

...and closed on Sunday.

Near the summit of Stevens Pass

This section of dirt roads started out to be little more than an ATV trail.  It was steep and narrow and was a lot of fun.  During our ascent we encountered 2 small black bears that didn’t seem to want to stick around.  All we really saw was their furry butts disappearing into the brush.  We were just hoping that their mother wasn’t interested in meeting us up close.

One of the many places we stopped to take a picture.

Once we got higher into the hills, we had to stop quite a few times to take in the scenery.  It was a beautiful day and the views were amazing.

After a while longer, we came across Sugarloaf lookout.  We decided to stop and check out the active fire watchtower, and we weren’t the only ones.  There were about a dozen young hikers who were talking with the Forest Service employee who manned the tower.  Dale and I stopped to take a few photos and just relax for a bit.  Once we had our fill of the beautiful vistas, we made a push to get to our destination at a little quicker pace. 

@ Sugarloaf Lookout

Sugarloaf Lookout

It didn’t take us too long before we were riding into the Pine Flats campsite.  We located Dad and not long after arriving, we had our feet propped up and drinks in our hands. 

Takin' it easy

One of the first realizations was that the flying bugs in the area were hungry.  In order to combat this problem we coated ourselves with copious amounts some toxic spray that promised to prevent the bugs from eating us alive, and for the most part it worked.

That evening we indulged in the hotdog feast that was being prepared by the ride organizer, JR.  While we were there we bumped into Dan and Chuck.  Dan and Chuck had ridden in earlier that day and they were both riding unsupported.  While Dad, Dale and I were sleeping in semi-luxury, Dan was sleeping in not much more than a plastic garbage bag.  Chuck had at least brought along a tent that provided some shelter for himself.

Dale, Dan & Chuck

The Chumstick “Ride and Seek” ride is a pre-determined route that is installed on every rider’s gps unit, or at least for the riders who have gps units.  The course was a little over 110 miles and consisted primarily of extremely dusty forest service roads that climbed and descended the eastern foothills of the Cascade mountains.  There was a small section or two of pavement near the halfway point of the course, but that was mainly to provide an opportunity for the riders to refuel and get some lunch down in Cashmere. 

Throughout the course, there were three geo-cache locations where each rider was tasked with finding the hidden geo-cache container and removing a raffle ticket that would later be used for the prize drawings.  The clues that were provided made it nearly impossible to not find each location.

Early Saturday morning breakfast was served. Once everyone got their fill, the 40+ riders began to make their way out of the campground and on to the course.  Most of the riders were up and gone by 7am.  The three of us were so comfortable sleeping in Dad’s tent trailer that we didn’t get on our bikes until nearly 8am.  While we weren’t the last riders out of the campground, we were close.

Dale gettin' a bit frisky

The first half of the ride consisted of many fantastic views and there was quite a bit of stopping to take photos, etc…  We climbed to the top of Chumstick Summit and stopped to take a few photos but since the wind was blowing roughly 30 knots we decided to snap a few quick pictures and get back on the course.

Ol' Dad on the WR

One of the many excellent views

Before too long we found ourselves winding down a smoothly paved country road that led us into Cashmere.  Once we made it into town, we stopped in at Rusty’s for a burger and a milkshake.  We sat at a picnic table in a cool, shady area.  It was a great lunch.

Lunch was @ Rusty's

We fueled up and got back on the course.  After 20 minutes or so of more pavement, we once again were eating each other’s dust on the forest service roads. 

The second half of the ride offered some really fun, narrow dirt roads that climbed steeply into the hills and were overgrown with wildflowers, prairie grass and other foliage.  We all enjoyed that particular section a lot.

I was continually impressed with how well the guys with the huge bikes rode.  I'm not sure I could've done it on those monsters.

More dust consumption and a couple minor spills later, we eventually made our way to the end of the ride and back into the Pine Flats campsite… and the comfort of Dad’s tent trailer.  We each poured ourselves a celebration beverage and sat down on our camp chairs to relax and verbally recount the day’s ride.

Another beautiful view

At some point in the evening, JR and his support staff provided us with a burger BBQ that was very good!  While we were feasting on our dinner, JR proceeded with a prize drawing.  He drew names from a coffee can where everyone had placed their “found” tickets from the geo-cache locations. 

Here's JR puttin' on a show

There were quite a few prizes to be had but there were a couple items that were considered to be the most desired of the lot.  One of which was a folding saw.  This was the object of Dr. Dan’s affection and he verbally expressed this to those of us sitting near him more than once during the proceedings.  He was very confident that JR was going to draw his name, and when this fantasy became reality, Dan proudly stood up with a big grin on his face and strutted his way to accept his glorious prize.  Once the folding saw was in his little, sweaty, chiropractor hands, he stood in front of the entire group of riders and displayed his winnings much like a game show girl from “The Price Is Right” would display a potential prize.  Chuck, Dale and I gave him crap all evening about this, but nothing could faze “Dr. Saw” and his good mood…  because he was a WINNER!

...that is until he tried his hand at a game of "Washers".

Dan, Marty, Cheryl and Paul(I think)

I was amazed at how well Dan was able to ride his bike home the next day using only his right hand

Most of us found our way down to Lan & Sylvia’s campsite.  They had the “land yacht” parked and the generator running.  The margaritas started pouring and before long, Lan had brought out a game called “Washers”.  It’s basically a game much like horseshoes but with a few variations.  The game was fun but the name could use a little help.

Lan & Sylvia's motorhome... this was where the party was

Chuck and I teamed up and for the majority of the night we couldn’t be beaten.  Dan appeared to not even understand that the washers were supposed to be tossed into the holes as whenever he threw one, it nearly ended up in the river.  It may be because he wouldn’t let go of his saw while he was playing but I can’t be sure.  Eventually Chuck and I were dethroned by Lan and our newly minted friend, Todd but we had a good run while it lasted.

A rousing game of "Washers"

The next morning, we started packing things up and getting ready to make our way back to the west side.  We got the tent trailer compressed into its transport configuration and sent Dad off on his way. 

Dale and I had decided to ride back the way we rode over two days earlier.  Mainly because we knew that it was unobstructed and we shouldn’t have to worry about roadblocks.  We had a great ride back over the mountains and found ourselves sitting at the Duvall Grill & Tap Room a few hours later.

Parked outside the Duvall Grill & Tap Room after a long weekend of riding

Overall, the weekend was nearly perfect.  I got to spend time with my brother and father and a few good friends doing something that I love to do… 

…riding motorcycles.

The Burris Boys

Thanks to JR and all his friends who put on this fun event!