August 07, 2005 GMT
Drama on the High Desert

Man needs difficulties; they are necessary for health - Carl Jung

This pithy little statement comes from a page torn from my Hog Log. The Hog Log is a little notebook or journal for the motorcycle enthusiast, of a convenient size to place in a saddle bag or tour pack, and keep notes on the events and happenings of the motorcycling life. There are little quotes at the top of each page, to give a rider a touch of philosophy or poetry to meditate on. I use mine to track mileage, gas, and take little notes for these updates.

Now, the reason I tore a page out, was to provide my father with paper to write down phone numbers, account numbers, and pertinent data. The reason he needed to do this was, somehow, in the 90 miles from Elko to Battle Mountain, his wallet had disappeared. Not good.

We called the hotel, the gas station, and the McDonald’s we had breakfast at. No dice.

We called CitiBank, The Bank of Perry (thank goodness they were still there, on a Saturday), and the Visa 911 line.

We called Mom.

Now do you see how appropriate the little message at the top of the page is? I swear, I pulled out a page at random. I couldn’t write fiction any better.

In the end, all’s well. Canceled those that needed canceling, Mom’s wiring money Western Union, I’ve got cash, ATM card, and a credit card, so we’ve got it handled. And, at the end of the day, or at least the end of the trip, the hardships endured just add spice to the stories. Heck, they give you stories to tell.

We’ve discussed rocks before. Here’s some on the way to Battle Mountain.

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Having studied our map and finding we could cut out the Reno/Lake Tahoe/Carson City madness, we jumped on state highway 305 out of Battle Mountain to Austin, NV. This road was 90 miles of, well, nothing…I mean, mountains or hills, rocks…you know, nothing. There were, oh, 2 “ranches” and I think 1 mine on the section of road.

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Talk about the middle of nowhere. Battle Mountain, NV is right next to nowhere, take a left and head 40 miles south and you are right in the middle of it.

We got to Austin, NV, where 305 hits US 50 and fueled up. There was a sign at the station proclaiming US 50 as the “Loneliest Road in America”. They even had “I survived US 50” t-shirts. I don’t know who awards these distinctions but they need to give strong consideration to 305 or our next route, 376.

Here’s how smart we are. Get on the “Loneliest Road in America”, and take a right onto a road even lonelier. Another 80 miles to the next anything. Advice from the other riders at our gas stop was to get gas every time we saw a station because you never know when someone was going to be closed.

Rolling down 376, there were 1 or 2 ranches, a mine here and there, and a small town called Kingston. Nevada Valley has land available in Kingston, and I bet it’s cheap. I’ll get you the number if you want. I think it’s where they put all the people in the witness protection program because noooooobody is going to find them there.

Oh yeah and it’s hot.

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But if you look up at that mountain, that white stuff is snow.

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It probably rains out here, oh, twice a year (except on top of that mountain, where apparently it snows). It is arid. Dry. Parched. So what do we see as we are plowing down the dead straight 376 highway? A rain cloud. Being in the Big Smoky Valley between two mountain ranges with nothing else to look at, we saw it quite a ways away. Lo and behold, it rained. It rains here twice a year (don’t quote me, I didn’t look it up) and it happens to rain right on us as we pass by. How convenient. We welcomed it as the cloud provided shade for a mile or two and the little rain cooled us down some too.

We made it to Tonopa, NV, gassed up, and headed for California. Tonopa over to Benton, CA is 82 miles of desert and one mountain pass.

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You hear people talk about God-forsaken country. I don’t think the desert is God-forsaken because you can see his work in the stark, alien beauty of it. It’s just forsaken by everyone else because there is no good reason to be out there; there’s nothing there. My apologies for the religious reference - substitute the higher power of your choice, or if you don’t believe in anything, go stand in the desert for a while.

Two of the crossroad “towns” on the map were nothing but shells of buildings. What made people think they could run a casino/hotel/campground/restaurant in the absolute middle of the desert? I guess they took a hint from Las Vegas. Didn’t work out nearly as well, from the looks of it.

We cleared a pass and got on the other side of this peak - Boundary Peak, 13,140ft. It’s big enough that I could see it on the horizon before we got to Tonopa.

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As soon as we were on the California side, the temperature dropped 10 degrees. We rode down the valley between the magnificent Sierra Nevada range and the range with Boundary Peak and White Mountain (14,246 ft) to Bishop, CA where we found a hotel to rest our bones. We sure are roughing it.

But after 90 miles through the desert I wanted nothing more than AC and watching the X games with my dad while drinking beers and eating some fried chicken. Life is good, even though the day started off poorly.

Tomorrow is Yosemite park and northward.

Posted by Chuck Skarsaune at August 07, 2005 05:21 AM GMT
 
 

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