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Old 05-23-2007, 10:36 AM   #1
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Location: Sonoma CA
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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.
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Old 05-23-2007, 10:39 AM   #2
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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.
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Old 05-23-2007, 10:44 AM   #3
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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.


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Old 05-23-2007, 10:46 AM   #4
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Freakin sweet video
Originally Posted by HappyGoLucky
lots of guys make excuses - it must be the tyres, it must be the weight, it must be the power, it must be the water pump.
ride the $*#(@) thing, and you'll quickly learn that the stain marks in your brooks were firstly from fear and then from ecstacy.
Scuderia: LB to SF
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Stupidly long road trip of 2009
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Old 05-23-2007, 11:28 AM   #5
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Thanks for the link to the video!! Great riding, pics and report
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Old 05-23-2007, 11:34 AM   #6
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nice, we're headed down there next month. can't wait!
What's next? More action!
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Old 06-01-2007, 06:29 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by boney
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.

I know exactly where you are coming from.

First class report. Thanks!
"What these people need is some mental psychology."-Bonnie Abbzug

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Old 06-01-2007, 06:55 PM   #8
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Now I want a smaller dirt bike so I can do that toooo.

What an AWESOME report. Kudos!

Luke, your local. We should meet up sometime. obviously WAY better in the dirt that I
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Old 06-02-2007, 02:24 AM   #9
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Maybe I forget what a big bike is like in the dirt, but I think any bike could have done the entire route with a good rider, and 95% of it with a modestly experienced one. The catch is that we didn't know that starting out.

I've been doing a bit of exploring up in the Mendocino NF. I'll ping you next time if you're interested. It's all FS roads, and they should all be pretty dry by now.
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