Oregon Nevada Desert by Motorcycle
This trip began at the end of last summer, when you know winter is coming and the bike heads to storage, but you aren’t ready to stop traveling. Planning takes the place of riding and thoughts of next year mix with the memories of people, places and roads past.
We thought we would go through Utah on the way to Colorado to visit Karla’s son in Denver. We had no grasp of the vast beauty to be found in southern Utah and soon realized it was a trip all it’s own.
May 28th could be anything weather wise in Central/Eastern Oregon, but I had to schedule the time off in advance and making reservations had us locked in.
The first two days of the venture covered 1000 miles of the upper reaches of the Great Basin, the high desert. Nature is the best artist and you can find beauty anywhere, but you may have to look hard out here. We were lucky in our timing as heavy rains had fallen and everyone at every stop told us, “it’s never been green like it is now!” Sagebrush is still gray was all I could think; but yes the hills were green and wildflowers while scarce were in bloom.
Winnemucca NV was a welcome burst of civilization and we arrived well before dark, which is one of our touring rules. A nice Mexican dinner and soaking in the hot tub was just the ticket to let the 400 mile day fade into what will be a memorable experience.
But then there was a rainbow….we had experienced a few sprinkles but no rain to speak of when Karla noticed it. We were cruising around 85 on not the loneliest highway, but a close second, when it appeared.
No traffic for miles so we just stopped on a miles long straight section and took a few photos. I think it was the first time I had clearly seen all the colors and so yes there is beauty if you’re lucky.
Between our hotel room and the restaurant (all in the same building) there was a casino……So we each took $20 and set out to pay for our trip. Apparently there is more to this winning!!!! stuff than I realized. When the dust settled, Karla still had most of her money and well, I had less…….I tried to convince her it was a, “cost averaging” thing we pooled our winnings/losses whatever, it’s the team. She said, “No, you’re a loser.” I’ll be in the hot tub.
Holiday Inn Express is our stay of choice when they’re available and Winnemucca did not disappoint. Breakfast starts a 6 and with the usual oatmeal, toast and fruit we felt prepared to see another 500 + miles of desert.
We go to great lengths to avoid riding on freeways, instead planning routes using the back roads even when they take longer. I mean the Nevada desert is boring, but seeing it from I-80 is dreadful. Having said that, we jumped on I-80 for about an hour to make a fuel stop at Carlin and catch 278 south. And once we reached the old mining town of Eureka, we would finally ride the infamous, “Loneliest road in the America” Hwy 50.
While Nevada is predominately desert and is the driest state, it is paradoxically the most mountainous state as well. There are over 150 named mountain ranges; not single mountains, but mountain ranges. Nevada counts 30 peaks topping out at over 11,000′. In contrast, Oregon has 1. Some of the passes are above 8000′ and when you drop down, you may bottom out and still be over 6000’…….higher than Denver CO.
US Hwy 50 continues on east but we needed to cut south on US 93, which I believe must be the third loneliest road in America. Ely NV is a nice place for a gas and water stop, turned out to be a little bigger small town than we expected. It’s funny how when planning a trip like this, I develop impressions in mind of how a town will look, towns I have never seen. The reality is sometimes close to my image, but more often than not, I am off, sometimes way off.
You’re always worried about having enough gas and gas stations (that are open) spaced close enough all along your route. I know our bike can squeak out 210 miles on a tank, and then we plan to fill up every 150 -170. So when there are towns with at least one station on a fairly well traveled road, many times at an intersection of another significant route, I feel pretty comfortable planning a stop there.
When a town has two gas stations, I sometimes search to see if they have a grocery store. Towns with a grocery store mean we may be able to scavenge some food. Eating healthy on the road in small towns is a challenge, throw in the vegan thing and well, food becomes scarce.
But back to the gas thing; you can get by being hungry, I mean you will eventually get to a place with food…..if you run out of gas that’s a problem. We learned that in a state with higher speed limits (Oregon is 55) gas mileage drops precipitously above 85 mph.
Gas stops at that speed need to come much sooner, like at 130 miles, so on the fly plan updates mean, if you know where the gas is, you can ride 90…….putting more desert in the rear view mirror.
Our first taste of the, “Red Rocks” with a view from our hotel room.
This would serve as our base for a couple of nights from which we would head into Zion NP early in the morning…….but after 515 miles, I owed Karla a nice dinner…….why oh why do my plans go so awry.
This particular Holiday Inn Express, while being one of the nicest ones we’ve used, was about 7 miles out of town……yes closer to Zion, but not a restaurant in sight.
Hummus and fresh veggies for dinner. Tomorrow will be a new day and a new blog post. Thanks for visiting !!!