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boney 05-23-2007 10:36 AM

CA to UT. Dirt, desert, and dead cows
Start with this:

Rated D for Dirt. Edited for time and content.

(Here's the link since I can't get the embed thing to work:)
Then read on, 'cause that's hardley even a start.

boney 05-23-2007 10:39 AM

Since the ride to Mexico last spring, and the Oregon Backroads Discovery Trail last fall I have discovered that I am very interested in the "Adventure " aspect of motorcycling. Spring Torrey has been on the horizon since, well, last fall and I could think of no better place to which riding a dual-sport would be appropriate. Sure, there's lots of pavement there, but the unpaved stuff is far, far more abundant. Not to mention less frequented by the obviously larger number of tourists this year.

The basics for this trip:
A Benchmark Atlas for both Nevada and Utah.
A Garmin GPS. 276C loaded with Topo USA and City Navigator.
A KTM 640 Adventure. Serviced and ready to ride, if not a bit low on oil.

Lets get rolling shall we?

Day 1 is Sunday.
The original plan was to dual-sport it all the 800+ miles, but alas, there is no possible direct dirt route from the SF Bay Area to Torrey Utah. Too much private property, pavement, and snow. Yes, the Sierra's even in their "way below normal" state still have too much snow at the high altitudes. The Rangers hadn't even opened the gates to some of the lower elevation roads that were considered, so we blasted over 50 then down Monitor Pass onto Highway 395. I was a bit dissappionted that we were gonig to miss the Sierras, but they are in esscence our back yard, and it does leave us someplace to go this fall.
Monitor Pass looking East.

Having filled the tanks in Placerville, we went straight for the dirt when we arrived in the town of Topaz. Headed east for an unknown campsite that appears on the paper maps, we passed through some seriously burnt out hills that worried me, since the campsite was supposed to be close. I wondered if we'd be sleeping among the soot and burned out sticks that stood where trees once were.

The road dropped down along the edge of a hill, and looking back over my shoulder I could see a road and some clear spaces just down the little valley. We doubled back at the junction, and did a bit of searching to find a little oasis in the desert. Running water. Enough of it that the sound would block out any chanced that we'd hear something go bump in the night.

Only two stream crossings (and two dabs) to get there. To think that this wasn't even the "official" site that appears on the map. National Forests are great that way- lots of good camping wherever you decide to find it. We rounded off the day with some freeze-dried food- Pad Thai (thumbs down), and Pasta Primavera (only okay) chased with either Jameson or Crown Royal. Or maybe both. :augie

boney 05-23-2007 10:44 AM

Day 2. Also known as "how I learned to operate my GPS"
Ready to roll.

The route had come together over hours of playing with Mapsource, City Navigator, Topo USA and the Benchmark Altases. I had doublechecked most of my routes by looking at them in Google Earth to at least confirm there was some sort of scar on the planet where we planned to ride. Having been raised to look after the environment I am a bit torn over my latest choice in recration. While I enjoy the ability to openly ride in many places, I am opposed to "free riding" across untracked expanses in the name of fun. Mind you, I do beleive we should have places set aside for "tearing it up," I just don't beleive in doing that everywhere. If you want to be a nut, go to Dumont or someplace like it. If you want some fantastic trails/roads, the Nevada desert is a fine place to go looking.

Wow. Allow me to step down from my Soapbox.

I should also mention that the 640 Adventure is not a light bike by dual-sport standards, and loading it with a bunch of camping gear doesn't make it handle the dirt any better. Semi-established roads were going to be important if we were to make the trek in any reasonable amount of time.

A cold morning brought us back out into the open desert where things warmed up nicely. Following Risue Road to the south-east, we crossed over to Nine Mile Raven, then up Lucky Bay road toward Hawthorne, where gas and lunch would be waiting.

But first, a detour up the hill. It was treacherously steep and loose, with a nice long drop for poorly managed motorcycles. With each foot in altitude gained my jetted-for-sea-level bike was less likely to idle if I chopped the throttle when the going was rough. Many restarts and several close to tossing my bike over the edge calls later, we topped out at the top of a hill next to Corey Peak. The obvious communications hub of this corner of Nevada.

So many roads, so little time.

We did get a nice downhill though. Groomed well enough for the propane trucks to service the generators at the top of the hill.

We spoke with the Sheriff after arriving in Hawthorne and getting gas. He told us that the military chases people off the top of several mountains in the area, and we had chosen a good one to scout. I don't have any pictures, but Hawthorne appears to exist soley for the Army Depot nearby. The town even has an Ordinance Museum in which they seem to keep every model of rocket, bomb, missle, and bullet the military ever made. Banners line the street as the "Patriotic Center of the United States" or something like that. Nevertheless, they take their military seriously.

We also decided, that since breakfast and dinner were to be easy camping food, we'd sit down and eat a good lunch every day. Maggie's was pretty good. Lucky for us it wasn't too hot to sit out on the Patio.

A small bit of highway riding brought us to Garfield Flats road, and alongside it a powerline road that dipped and dodged through the washes. At times it was steep and loose, and others a very pleasent "two-track" road which eventually put us right back on the road near the summit to continue down the the little town of Mina. The place has gas and that's about it. It is practically a ghost town alongside Highway 95.

Across the street and up Dump Road brings us to Bettie's Well.
If Bettie was digging for dirt, she surely found it. Looking over the top I was not surprised to discover, after letting my eyes adjust to the "dark"... dirt. Surprise. The well is about 3 feet deeper than the surrounding earth, and if the locals have their way, will be filled with bottles and cans sometime soon.

The other surprise was that we encountered no dump on Dump Road. Funny how the names of places create expectations... Perhaps someone came out here to... well, nevermind.

After a while the open desert appeared. Until now we had been travelling along what appeared to be well groomed, heavily used, wide roads that looked to service the numerous local population. Even if we had only passed one car outside of the towns, I hadn't felt "alone."

With the crossing of a minor pass, we were out in it. Nothing around but mountains, valleys, and vegetation. No active signs of humans. And no paved roads for many miles to come.

The further out we went, the smaller the roads became. We missed a turn, took a minute to confer with the gods of electronic maps, and decided we could overcome. Out into the desert we went again, on small two-track roads that looked as if they hadn't been travelled in years.

The GPS is a truely wonderous thing. Out here in the desert lay some abstract points I had never visited at which I was supposed to adjust my direction. We could ride right up on the waypoint and not see the road until we stopped and took a minute to look around. This is where I had discovered the excellent quality of the "stacking maps" (for lack of a better name) in my 276C. I had both City Navigator and Topo USA loaded onto the memory card. Since most of the route was actually shown in City Navigator, I could "turn on" that map, use the "autoroute" function to establish the turns, then "turn off" Navigator to look at the Topo maps. Because the route had been established in Navigator, it continued to show, overlayed onto the Topo maps without having to recalcualte to the "off road" setting- which is the only setting avaiable in the Topos. Thanks to JohnLt for showing me the trick to the maps thing. Making time on a trip like this is almost depended on a GPS, as the route decisions come often, and investing the time prior to leaving prevents having to break out the paper maps each and every time.

A high speed, well groomed road brought us around the south end of a range where we split off to the north into a little canyon and the National Forest campsite called "Peevine Ranch." An established site with pit toilets and picnic tables but no running water. It is here that we met a nice couple from Missouri who were doing a bit of touring before they had to report to work as Geologists for one of the gold mines in the area. Nice people. The gal even went around a picked up all the trash in the site so they could take it out to a proper garbage can tomorrow. I sure hope their stint as geologists for a mining company doesn't sour them on their chosen field. They both seemed very environmentally concious, and we all know that the environment isn't the first item on the list at a mine.


imgonnasnap 05-23-2007 10:46 AM

Freakin sweet video :clap

GB 05-23-2007 11:28 AM

Thanks for the link to the video!! Great riding, pics and report :thumb

wachs 05-23-2007 11:34 AM

nice, we're headed down there next month. can't wait!

Luke 05-24-2007 06:12 PM

Allow me (the other rider) to chime in here.
Tom first mentioned this ride in February when we were in Death Valley. I couldn't commit because I was hoping to find work by then. By April, no job was in sight, so I committed. Tom admitted that he was hoping it would work out that way. It's hard to be offended when you're thinking the same thing.

I've never been over Monitor Pass on a bike before- it is a real treat.

On the way over, I noticed that the back brake wasn't working. A quick roadside check showed that the pedal was hitting the skidplate. Nothing else seemed wrong, so I readjusted the pedal and had no more real trouble with it. I imagined trouble with it once a few days later, of course.

Out on Topaz Lane, we had a little scare as we came across some jumping quads using the road as a landing zone. Fortunately they stop faster than we thought.

The first of many roads through sagebrush:

Doug Matson 05-24-2007 07:38 PM

Great to meet the both of you in Torrey! Hope you had a good ride home. The video was great the camera placement was perfect, felt like I could have gone and got a set of handlebars stuck them to the keyboard and would have been riding along with you. I may take my 950 back in the fall and do some off-road in the area. Now get back to work so I can read the rest of your report!

Luke 05-24-2007 07:53 PM

The next day, we went through another oasis- these lush green valleys are out in the middle of the desert. This one is probably fed by runoff from the Sierras.
The morning light makes it look much harsher than it is.
Just imagine that it's 8:30 am, and the air is perfectly clear and crisp- about 50 degrees.

Tom did all the work of laying out the route, and did a fantastic job. We made two navigational mistakes on the trip, both my fault. The first was my mistaking a powerline for a road (the gps was zoomed way out) so we took the hard way up Lucky Boy Pass. It was an excellent route. Here's Tom climbing the hard part:

Off past Mina, in the Cedar Mountains I made another goof, this time a missed turn. We ended up crossing one pass south of where we planned, and ended up mistaking a wash for a road while trying to get back on track:

Luke 05-25-2007 01:57 PM

The next morning -that's Tuesday, I think- we packed up and rode into Hadley for gas and water. The GPS pointed us to the north end of town, which had nothing but houses. Gas was on the south end right next to the airport and the general store. They only had 87 Octane, but sold octane booster. We skipped it as we already had half a tank of 91.

At 9:00, the general store opened and we stocked up on water and forgotten sundries. We were now ready for the long strech- 210 miles to the next town. We would cross seven mountain passes, one of which was marked as being the most difficult of the trip. We had no idea what to expect, but there was only one way to find out.

The first road after leaving town was a powerline track. We went through the first of many gates to get on it:

The steps in the background are an open mine.

After riding around some fences we made it to the powerline road. It was rough sandy doubletrack with valleys cutting across it every quarter mile or so. The valleys were gentle until about the tenth one, which had a suprise wheel trap washed out of the bottom of it. I bounced over it, stopped and thought about waiting for Tom. "Nah, he's going slower than I am, it won't be a problem at all"

I headed off to the end of the powerline road, and now every valley had a cutout in the bottom. When I got to the end, I turned around, got my camera out and waited for Tom. 30 seconds go by, no Tom. Hmmm. 1 minute, no Tom. Uh oh. I put my camera away, and then notice that I'm missing a saddlebag. My luggage rack had a left saddle bag and a few torn straps that used to belong to the right bag. Dammit. I strapped up the left bag and headed back down the road to find Tom and my other bag.

I was quite relieved, though, as I knew Tom hadn't wrecked- he had just stopped to pick up the dropped bag.

Luke 05-27-2007 11:56 PM

Sorry about the delay- Tom's off drinking in the Carribean and I've been welding my subframe.

After backtracking about a mile, I saw Tom. His bike was up on the centerstand about 30 feet down the road from the bottom of a wash, his helmet off and he was fussing with something on the bike. But no black saddlebag. Uh oh. Sure enough, the wheel trap had caught him.

Here's his take on it:

The story is that he saw the wash at about 40 mph, stopped braking too late and nailed the hole with too much weight on the front wheel. He landed on the left, the bike on the right side.

The damage: A big ol' nosebleed and cut lip from the helmet chinguard, a blown out pants zipper and a good helping of desert rash on the helmet and both sides of the bike. Oh yeah, and the mirrors came loose. Yay gear!

After Tom cleaned up we headed down the road at a much more sedate pace. My saddlebag was right where it landed- at the end of the road where I turned around.

The nice thing about soft bags is that you can fix them with string:

While I was repacking, Tom discovered that his bike's oil level was below dipstick. There was some getting splashed on it when it ran, so we risked the 15 mile run back to town to get more oil. In the interest of time, we took the paved road. The bike took about half a liter to get back to full.
At this point I pitched a lucky penny that I had picked up while waiting for the general store to open. Rotten bastard.

By 11:30 we were on the road back to pick up the trail. On the way down the road, I realized that there was now absolutely no way we were going to make our original schedual, and that it didn't matter. Let me tell you, it's a great feeling.

Back on track, we rode through a couple more canyons

It's really amazing to see this much green in the desert. In the canyons it looks like the streams got blocked by alluvial fans from the hills above, and so sections of the canyon turn into sinks. Instead of becoming dry saltbeds, the hills shade them and they keep a lot of their water.

We finally came to meet the big challenge of the ride. Eagle Pass is marked 4wd on the maps, but other than that, we had no idea what to expect. What we got was a trail that twisted between pine trees over packed soil that was half covered by little silt beds.

It was a fun, tricky ride. Naturally it features highly in the video Tom posted above. What got edited out of the video is where Tom is riding up the trail, bike weaving from side to side; then he stops, twists the steering damper and charges up the hill. That's a Scotts ad if there ever was one.

The climb was pretty short, but it was tough and we took a break at the top

And contemplated the route down:

CMEDBD rawks. The bigger ones rolled down the hill. The good news it that there was no silt on this side of the pass. After about a half mile of picking our way between the rocks, we were back to the canyons that I can't get enough of.

There were quite a few gates- there is a lot of grazing in the canyons:
Leave 'em how you found 'em.

We took a short jaunt on Highway 6, then cut off again at the Lunar crater. Then it was back to some great double track:

Some desert flowers:

A little clowning around:

In the next valley we met some victims of the desert:

The track lead out to a farm- we rode around one of the circular fields that look so perfect from an airplane. Up Cherry Creek pass and over to Cherry Creek campground where we spent the night.

Tom checked out the bike:

It turned out that in addition to the desert rash, the gps mount was bent and one of the rubber isolating screws in the front ripped. A tire iron and picnic bench took care of the gps mount, and zip ties held the rubber mounted parts down for the rest of the trip.

The campsite was in an east-west valley this time! We were looking forward to early sunlight. Guess where the sun came up:

Yes, right behind the tree. Oh well.

It's starting to look like Utah!

DonQx 05-28-2007 01:55 AM

Hey Luke & Boney,

You guys have a great ability to capture good pics!

Thanks for your pics from some character in Oz.

:-) a.

AZbiker 05-28-2007 02:31 AM

Great ride report!!!

Loved the video!

Waiting for more...

Ritten 05-28-2007 06:26 AM

Awesome report...

Can't wait for the rest of it!:ear

PackMule 05-28-2007 01:25 PM

Man, this is a beautiful report! :clap

If this isn't posted in the GPS forum, it should be:


The GPS is a truely wonderous thing. Out here in the desert lay some abstract points I had never visited at which I was supposed to adjust my direction. We could ride right up on the waypoint and not see the road until we stopped and took a minute to look around. This is where I had discovered the excellent quality of the "stacking maps" (for lack of a better name) in my 276C. I had both City Navigator and Topo USA loaded onto the memory card. Since most of the route was actually shown in City Navigator, I could "turn on" that map, use the "autoroute" function to establish the turns, then "turn off" Navigator to look at the Topo maps. Because the route had been established in Navigator, it continued to show, overlayed onto the Topo maps without having to recalcualte to the "off road" setting- which is the only setting avaiable in the Topos.

Great to know! :thumb

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