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Old 11-11-2012, 04:15 PM   #3
De Eee OP
Gnarly Adventurer
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Joined: Mar 2006
Location: 20 miles from Santiago Pk.
Oddometer: 172
Day 3:
Fish Lk. Val. Hot Springs

Once again we are up at 6am (pre-dawn) and the temp is 30 degrees. Many of our small water containers are partially frozen. A hot dawn soak and breakfast around the fire help to get us moving. All night trucks have been coming and going from the springs. They are hauling water to the mine up on Silver Pk. Their generator that runs almost all night (to run the pumps) has been annoying except when Jimmy gets up and turns it off in between fill ups. Pretty soon the bikes are gassed up, chains are lubed, oil is checked and camp is packed up.

We head ese over the Silver Peak Range. From the pass I chase after the DRZ thinking Mark is in front. I catch and pace him. After a few miles I pull even and realize it’s not Mark. It’s a solo rider, maybe one of the Ramblers. In the distance I can see the “town” of Silver Peak and the processing plant for the lithium mine that dominates this semi-industrial wasteland. It sits on the edge of the huge dry lakebed of Clayton Valley where we regroup. The valley is engulfed by a huge toxic dust storm and we must ride right through the middle of this maelstrom across a dike surrounded by surreal blue ponds. These are wide perfectly smooth dirt roads and we haul ass and hold our breath till we hit highway 95 south of Tonopah. We wait and before too long everybody’s there except Chris. Where’s Chris? We are all second guessing and trying to figure out where we last saw him which was at Silver Peak. We realize the solo guy was mixed in with our group messing up the headcount. Tom appoints he and Jesse to backtrack and search the two most likely alternate ways he could have gone. The rest of us proceed towards Tonopah. We see our guys in the trucks heading south on 95 (the wrong way) and wave but they keep on going. We stop at the Subway and Burger King at the Chevron on the north end of town to eat and gas up. Tom pulls in and hasn’t found Chris. It is hypothesized that Jesse has called Jon and the crew is sweeping a bit south to look for Chris.
After an hour or so I’m getting impatient and cruise back through town to make sure Chris isn’t sitting somewhere else waiting for us. When I return Pete gives me a thumb’s up and there’s Chris fueling up. I’m relieved but Chris is understandably pissed off. What happened back in Silver Peak was that we all took off with the mystery guy mixed in and Chris couldn’t get the 650 started. By the time he did we were long gone. After looking around for us he took an alternate route to Tonopah. Right after that Jesse pulls in and he is mad too. He rightfully berates us for being disorganized, for not having a rider’s meeting, for every rider not having a map and for not using the “fist bump” signal method for every stop and turn. He is a veteran of the “Rip to the Tip” Baja rides and our group is far less organized than the Cameron Steele run rides. It’s time we get our shit together.

We go east on the 6 and turn back onto the dirt at the Saulsbury Wash Rest Area heading north into the Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest. It’s good to get back into a beautiful area with Pinyons and dark basaltic lava rock. In Four Mile Basin we see our first group of wild horses as a family of three gallops parallel. The pony is running full tilt to keep up. To the north the mountains are fully socked in and it starts to rain on and off. We head up the west side of West Stone Cabin Valley looking for the Eagle Pass road. We are heading right into the teeth of the storm. It is raining continually now and all rain gear and extra insulation is deployed. The road wanders through a thick wet cloud enveloped forest and we come to a dead end in a meadow at Willow Creek. We get a GPS reading and try to figure out where we went wrong before the map gets completely soaked. I see that the roads don’t come together anything like the map indicates. What looked like going straight on the map was actually a right turn. Jesse proposes we skip Eagle Pass, backtrack to the Barley Creek road and cross over to Monitor Valley. It’s late afternoon, we are wet, we’ve still got 50 or more miles to go and that seems like the best alternative. It turns out it is.

Barley Creek is a fun rocky climb and from the pass we can see the broad Monitor Valley to the west. Down in Monitor Valley the rain eases and we hit the dirt superhighway up the west side. I try to keep pace with Tom and Rob on the 540s but 75-80 mph is too fast to maintain with my 450 EXC and the 14x50 gearing. After 45 or so miles I see Rob waiting at an intersection with a sign that says Potts Ranch 2 miles, sweet! Fist bump, we’re almost home.

At the last intersection while waiting for the next rider I hear music. It is eerie jazz saxophone distorted by the wind. It sounds ghostlike which matches the appearance of the dilapidated buildings at the Potts Ranch. I sit for a couple minutes in a trance. The scene is magical with the strange music, the wind and the stormy mountains. Chris gives the fist bump and one minute later I pull into camp and am handed a beer almost before shutting off the bike! Later while we enjoy the tub, Mike pulls out the Sax again and treats us to many jazz, rock and funk classics. He can play almost anything we can think of from Macio Parker to Clarence Clemons.

That’s another 195 miles in the bag.
To be continued….
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