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Posts Tagged ‘Great Basin’

I’m talking about the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe who are the native people of Death Valley.

Death Valley

Destination: Death Valley

With multiple weeks of nice weather, our posse departed Portland, Oregon early morning on September 17th with a cold front and threat of rain and the occasional spit of rain drops in the face. We haplessly listened to the V-Twin’s drone on as we traveled east on Interstate 84 for 426 miles.

Long delay due to overturned semi on I-84

Long delay caused by an overturned Concrete semi on I-84

We arrived in Boise late afternoon which was hosting Oktoberfest in the Basque Block part of the vibrant downtown!  We enjoyed some island fare and refreshments on the rooftop tiki patio at The Reef.  Crowds gathered in the closed off streets for authentic German biers, food and of course the occasional chicken dance.  And in what has to be one of the best Idaho cover bands — Pilot Error — rocked the crowd most of the evening.  Here is a video of the band doing a Def Leppard cover with Derek Roy as lead vocal and the awesome Roger Witt – on lead guitar.

As the evening wore on it seemed filled with young college kids who were trying hard to “be” the club scene.  Like those videos produced by I’m Shmacked.

Idaho Basin

Snake River and Great Basin area

The next morning was a continuation east on the mind-numbing straight road of Interstate 84. However, we really clicked off the miles to Twin Falls doing the freeway speed limit which is now set at 80 mph!  We rolled along and were surprised by how many 18-wheelers tried to pass us.

As a side bar, you might recall that in the mid-1970s, Congress established a national maximum speed limit by withholding highway funds from states that maintained speed limits greater than 55 mph. Do you remember the “I can’t drive 55” days?  The requirement was loosened for rural interstates in 1987 and completely repealed in 1995. As of today, 41 states have speed limits of 70 mph or higher. Oregon state legislators who seem to know more than the average citizen about how to protect us from ourselves just recently increased some rural interstate speeds to 70 mph.  Texas is the fastest at 85 mph.

Idaho

In route to Ely, NV

But I’ve digressed.  This part of our arid motorcycle journey took us on the Thousand Springs Scenic Byway which runs through the Snake River Canyon. We rode through bright green irrigated fields, crossed the Snake River, saw a waterfall spilling from the top of a high bluff, and watched windmills turning in the stiff wind.  As we headed further south on U.S. Route 93 we split the Great Basin that covers most of Nevada and part of Utah. There were mountains to the East and West, and the traffic thinned to an occasional tractor-trailer hauling freight or cattle.

Our ride ended that day in Ely, Nevada, which was founded as a stagecoach stop along the Pony Express, and later became a booming copper mining town.

We parked the bikes and enjoyed a nice dinner at the La Fiesta Mexican Restaurant.

On the Lonliest Road

On Nevada’s Loneliest Road

The following day we were up early and continued our ride south on one of Nevada’s loneliest roads.  I’m not sure about you, but I find the Nevada desert to be immensely beautiful and awe-inspiring. Even though most of the roads are flat and straight, the scenery is grand and I always enjoy the ride.

Just a few miles south of Ely is a turnoff for the Ward Charcoal ovens.  We didn’t travel down the eight miles of gravel road, but there are beehive-shaped stone kilns built by Mormons around 1876 to produce fuel for the silver and lead smelters serving the mines on Ward Mountain.  As you look across the valley at the Big Basin National Park, there is the 13,000 foot Wheeler Peak standing off in the distant.

More Lonely Road...

More Lonely Road…

We traveled the mostly straight 240+ miles and finally rolled into North Las Vegas and could see the skyline of the famous Las Vegas strip.  Speaking of the city that never sleeps, our posse picked up a lot of traffic at the U.S. 93/I-15 interchange and were immediately greeted with a dude on a sport bike weaving in and out of lanes.  Then adding to the traffic drama he started to split lanes at full on freeway speeds.

I must have missed that part of the training about how motorcyclists should always make sudden moves in heavy traffic!  Most people who’ve had any experience driving in and around Vegas know that it can be a bit treacherous. Cages with locals that always seem to be in a hurry and cabbies are out in force all day and night driving fast and cutting across multiple lanes.  Add to that the tourists trying to navigate a new city on the freeways and it’s a perfect storm of distracted drivers.

After all the traffic hustle and bustle I was looking forward to parking the bike for awhile and relaxing around the pool for a day.  That evening we took on the “clickers” (i.e. porn panderers) who stand on every corner of the Strip and aggressively try to shove advertisements for adult entertainment in your face.

Selfie

Departing Las Vegas

Don’t take me wrong, Las Vegas has world-class restaurants, cool bars, amazing entertainment and great weather, but after a couple of days of breathing air freshener the casinos pump into their ventilation systems to mask the reeking of camels, cigarillos, cigars and those slot machines going ding-ding-ding… I’m ready for some fresh air and wind in the face!

We did have an opportunity to walk through the sprawling Harley-Davidson dealer across from the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign.  We checked out the new Milwaukee Eight touring bikes and spent some time chatting with a knowledgeable sales person about the 2017 differences.


It wasn’t too long (about 48 hours) and Las Vegas was in our mirrors as we rode out into the desert on Hwy 160.  We departed the city early so that we could tour through Death Valley before it got too hot.  It was still in the high-70 degree range as we departed.  We increased altitude going through Red Rock Canyon National Park toward Pahrump as the desert landscape morphs from sandy, rocky terrain dotted with low brush and creosote bushes.  Big stratified rock formations and hills define the valleys in the distance, closing in on the road periodically before opening up to a wide expanse of flat desert floor. It’s a wonderland of muted color.
Rearward pic

Looking back on Hwy 190

We fueled up in Pahrump which is an interesting town.  Like in the rest of Nevada, gambling is legal in Pahrump, and there are several casinos to take advantage of that fact. But, unlike Las Vegas, the casinos in Pahrump are present but not dominant. They’re smaller and a little less intimidating.  There might be some wisdom in staying overnight in Pahrump instead of the hectic scene in Vegas. Certainly the traffic situation would be a lot less stressful.

At the Death Valley junction we turned west on Hwy 190 and headed for Furnace Creek where the Native American tribe known as the Death Valley Timbisha Shoshone Band of California are located.

Initially it was was quite comfortable, but as we descended into the valley it felt like someone was turning up an oven.  It was still early and the temps were in the high 80’s but by the time we stopped in Furnace Creek it was 100 degrees.  Surprisingly hot for the end of September, but the scenery is spectacular!

Death Valley

Death Valley – Timbisha Shoshone Tribe

It’s some of the best “landscape” on the planet that looks a bit like you’ve arrived on Mars. There’s nothing growing out there higher than your knee yet it will be forever etched in your memory as not just one of the greatest motorcycle rides ever but one of the most beautiful.  At one place in the park you can look down at one of the lowest points on earth at -280 feet in one direction and up to the highest point in the continental U.S. in another (Mt. Whitney, at 14,494).  It’s an amazing color contrast.

Existing Death Valley

Exiting Death Valley

We scurried on out of the national park and headed toward Mammoth Lakes on Hwy 395.  The first real town you come to is Lone Pine. In the early to mid 20th century, the area around Lone Pine, particularly the Alabama Hills, which lie between the highway and the Sierra range, was a popular setting for western movies.  Just west of town you’ll get another nice view of Mt. Whitney.

By the time we rode through the Inyo National Forest the desert heat had faded and we were getting hit with cooler air.  Much, much cooler as we gained altitude and it started to spit rain drops.  Not enough to soak the road or require rain gear, but enough to make it a bit uncomfortable.  Our ride on this day ended at Mammoth Lakes which is a ski and outdoor-sports town.

Heading up toward Mammoth Lakes

Heading up toward Mammoth Lakes

Surprisingly it rained most of the night, but the sky cleared up in the early morning and we departed Mammoth Lakes with the temperature only in the high 40’s.  A brisk start to our riding day as we continued north on Hwy 395 on the eastern side of the Sierra’s.  We rode around Mono Lake, and we climbed to another 8100-foot ridge, which offers a great view back to the Mono basin before starting back down past the turn-off for Bodie.

Mono Lake

Mono Lake

The last real town before your reach Nevada is Bridgeport.  We stopped at the Bridgeport Inn, for breakfast.  A nice place built in 1877 and about 23 miles from Mono Lake.  It’s a family run historic period Victorian hotel, old Irish pub, and fine dining restaurant.  After warming up a bit we continue our ride and crossed into Nevada about 50 miles after Bridgeport. Aptly named Topaz Lake covers the state line next to the highway as you cross.

We arrived in Reno for the start of Street Vibrations 2016. Downtown was rumbling with motorcycles of all shapes and sizes for the fall rally which marks the last big motorcycle rally of the season for the west. There was no shortage of vendors and having been to the event a number of times we repeated some of the events over a couple of days.

The Posse

The Destination: Timbisha Indian Country Posse

Part of the posse departed early Saturday morning and some headed out late morning to return back to Portland.  I’m not sure about you, but I don’t take many photos on the return trip from Reno as I’ve been on these roads a lot over the years and just focused on riding home vs. scenery.


In summary, we traveled over 2100 miles in 8 days with no mishaps, tickets or mechanical malfunctions. What more can you ask for?

 

Street Vibrations UPDATE:  There was some disappointing  news surrounding Street Vibrations which I learned of upon my return.  Jeffrey Sterling Duke, 57, of Georgetown, Calif. was shot to death on Interstate 80 near Truckee on Saturday night.  According to law enforcement he was semi-associated with the Vagos Motorcycle Club and his Facebook page noted that he was a Green Nation Supporter.

According to officials three motorcyclists rode up to the victim and fired multiple gunshots before taking off.  It’s not clear if this shooting is associated, but you might recall that five years ago this past weekend, members of the Vagos and Hells Angels Motorcycle Clubs exchanged gunfire during a deadly brawl on the floor of a casino in Sparks.

Randy Burke (Road Shows) applies some media “spin” and explains why the Street Vibrations Rally is not to be blamed for the shooting.

Photos taken by author.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog
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French Glen, Oregon

French Glen, Oregon

No blog post can touch on the full spectrum of a trip, but I’ve put together some snippets of what our “off-season” ride looked like heading to Laughlin River Run in April.

You might say we got a sense of the diverse charms that spring weather in Oregon provides by starting in Portland and tracing a route up the slopes of Mount Hood and then south toward Bend then east to Burns.

Can anyone say weather woes?  There was wind, rain, heavy thunderstorms, hail, lighting BOOM! and all of this during the first 5 hours of the trip!

Harney County - Oregon

Malheur Lake in Harney County – Oregon

By no means am I complaining, but even with all the technology to expand our knowledge about weather patterns and conditions sooner or later, you’ll have to ride in the rain… and did we ever.  After the 5-hour trip to Burns we are now certified wet-weather professionals!  By the time these cold and weary travelers stopped in Burns we were done with the wind-chill riding.

This part of the trip was like a steeled-toed kick into springs teeth!  Winter reigned.

Plugging In

Plugged in outside of Winnemucca

As a side bar, have you ever noticed the difficulty of heated gear and in routing the cables and making the connections?  I typically avoid “plugging-in” until it’s very cold and  raining.  The extra rain gear and winter clothing is bulky and then we’re trying to route these COAX 2.5mm connectors through the sleeves into a SAE 2-pin connector and somewhere in the mix is either an on/off switch or a single controller that allows you to control the vest or any other item connected to the vest (gloves, pants, socks) as one single zone.  This rarely works well when there are multiple heated garments because they develop hot spots and I’ve had a vest get too hot while the gloves were cool and those dual electronic controller units for two separate zones mean even more wires and more expense.  Yeah, it all looks easy enough sitting in the motel room, but the reality is it takes coordination to get it all on, position it correctly so that you have freedom to move and then it’s a “do-over” after a fuel or rest stop.  It should be easier?

Eastern Sierra NV Mountains

Eastern Sierra NV Mountains

At any rate, the next morning we grabbed a sausage biscuit, put on rain gear, “plugged-in” and rode out early from Burns toward French Glen.  We took the French Glen Highway (or Oregon Route 205) to avoid the worst of the rainy weather.  Part of the group was headed directly to Las Vegas (700+ miles) and wanted to put some major miles on vs. the remainder of the group planned a more leisurely ride down to Laughlin with a day or so in Death Valley.

“America’s Patriotic Home” — Hawthorne, Nevada.

Ammunition Depot at “America’s Patriotic Home” — Hawthorne, Nevada.

We headed east then turned south on Oregon Route 205 through the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge where the summers are short and it’s home to countless migratory birds.  Despite the seeming nakedness of the landscape on most of the route, this area of Southeastern Oregon which OR-205 travels through is a true wonderland of high desert topography. There are no less than four designated scenic byways that take off from OR-205, or is the route itself.  From a motorcycling perspective, the road isn’t all that challenging and like many little used desert highways in Oregon, the actual road surface is in good condition for the entire route.  For a majority of the ride, the road is straight with a few long bends that, fortunately, change your perspective of the wide open landscape occasionally.

Parked at Motel - Hawthorne, NV

Parked at Motel – Hawthorne, NV

I’d like to tell you all about the photographic panoramas and the many intriguing natural geologic pictures I took in the spectacular mountain range, but there was heavy fog, mixed with thunderstorms and for a couple hours outside of French Glen we even rode in full on snow flurries.  And I’m not talking about a blizzard of Snow Geese mind you, but traversing the area in blinding snow.  We did see the French Glen “Historic” telephone booth!

This trip didn’t offer us the time to ride Steens Mountain loop road, or continue over the summit ridge and onto the Alvord Desert.

We did the math.  We double checked weather radar and this was the quickest and the logical adverse weather avoidance route.  We hoped to avoid much of it, but the storm and high winds engulfed the entire state.  As we motored on my mind wondered if this was how the settlers and fortune-seekers who made their way West through gorges and high-mountain lakes had to deal with during their overland route.

By the time we hit the Winnemucca stopover point, the weather was beginning to improve.  At least the snow and rain had stopped.  Winnemucca is a gateway of sorts to the Great Basin, with Idaho and Oregon to the north, Salt Lake City to the east and Reno to the southwest.  It’s located at the crossroads of Interstate 80 and U.S. Highway 95.  We did notice that a strong wind was blowing out of the south.  This was high-wind warnings and there were a lot of semi’s pulled over to the side of the road waiting it out.

After a lot of miles I became convinced that the great state of Nevada had the sole purpose of being an ATV enthusiast’s playground.  Of course, this isn’t 100 percent accurate, but as you ride along the desolate roads it might as well be.  The sand in the air blew into our faces, covering us with a fine layer as we rolled on the throttle and continued south down Highway 95.

The group I was riding in overnighted in “America’s Patriotic Home” — Hawthorne, Nevada.  The town is unique with Walker Lake at the foot of Mt. Grant, but more importantly there is the Naval Undersea Warfare Center and the Ammunition Depot in the area.  At first glance that is incongruous since it’s in high desert east of the Sierra Nevada and at least 300 miles from the nearest ocean.  The Army stores some nasty stuff at what started out life as the Hawthorne Naval Ammunition Depot (NAD).  The facility is made up of hundreds of buildings spread over more than 225 square miles and bunkers dot the sagebrush-covered hills which are visible from the highway.  Sadly, back in March 2013 a mortar shell explosion killed 7 marines and injured eight during mountain warfare training in the area.

We overnighted in Hawthorne which is shouldering its share of the economic slump as there are empty storefronts with windows neatly covered with plywood painted white, red and blue stars. We found a Mexican restaurant called Diego’s which was within walking distance of the motel and after a 425 mile day enjoyed some refreshments and good food.

We were headed to Death Valley via the eastern entrance at Beatty and planned to stay over at Stovepipe Wells and ride around the valley floor for a day.

The Ride To Laughlin 2014 – Part 2 (HERE).

Photo’s taken by author except French Glen photo courtesy of Jamie Francis/The Oregonian

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