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.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Epic adventure, man! Thanks for writing it all up and sharing.