Motorcycling the TAT through UT-NV-OR

Utah, Nevada, and Oregon

Motorcycling Adventure #11

15 days, 3,647 mi., Oct 2012

Ray Jardine

Day 1 2012-10-09Day 1 page 1 of 1

Our pet Macaw checks out the GPS, making sure I have the right data loaded.

  • Change engine oil, and replace oil filter
  • Lube throttle and clutch cables
  • Checked brake pads and fluid (ok)
  • Check coolant (ok)

    - - - - - - - -

    Home to Cortez, CO - 449 miles

    I slabbed to Colorado to begin the TAT where I left off last time.

    Morning of departure

    Queen Creek Canyon out of Superior, AZ,

    Cathedral Rock near the town of Shiprock NM

    2012-10-10::Day 2

    Back on the TAT where I left it last time - 18 miles out of Dolores, CO

    A good section of road through the high-country makes for a beautiful ride this time of year.

    A grove of cottonwoods on the Dolores River.

    Breakfast stop in Pleasant View, CO

    Approaching the La Sals (South Mt) and the non-town of the same name (La Sal, Utah).

    Climbing into the La Sals

    Mt. Peale in the late fall season. At this altitude the Aspen are losing their leaves.

    Mt Mellenthin

    The La Sals, central group, and the road around them.

    After surmounting Geyser Pass 10,528' the route drops down into the Moab area.

    The lower part of the road was closed, so I had to follow nearby Geyser Pass Road to Moab.

    In the desert NW of Moab. That's Geyser Pass between the north and central groups of the La Sals.

    Its been a long and fun day of riding.

    Headed for Green River to spend the night.

    2012-10-11::Day 3

    Green River to Salina - 157 mi.

    In the desert west of Green River, getting an early start.

    I love the subtle colors of early morning.

    Highway running through the San Rafael Swell

    Rather than follow the TAT through Black Dragon wash, I followed the road through Buckhorn Draw. This road is suitable for ordinary cars and would be highly recommended for anyone driving in the area.

    Dramatic light signals an impending storm. Better lay low tomorrow.

    Into Buckhorn Draw. There's a good campground here, at San Rafael Creek.

    These towering cliffs go on for miles.

    At the Buckhorn Wash Pictograph Panel



    Comparing notes with a fellow traveler, he recommended a six-mile side trip to see the "Little Grand Canyon." So that's where I'm headed next.

    In motorcycle jargon, someone who drives a car is a "cager." No offense to all the people trapped in their cages, but this photo reminds me of the reason I like to travel. It's called "freedom."

    The Wedge Overlook.

    Little Grand Canyon

    I like these old, battered trees and how they have withstood the elements. "Don't give up," they seem to say. Stand your ground and carve yourself a niche in life.

    Approaching the town of Castle Dale, UT (not yet visible). The Manti Mountains (Wasatch Plateau) are next on my day's riding agenda.

    Stopped for highway construction en route to Ferron. Note the thick high-cirrus portending a coming storm.

    Climbing into the Manti Mountains.

    Higher and higher - 50 miles to get over this batch of mountains.

    Its cold and windy up here, but finally I have the pass in sight.

    Descending the Manti Mountains en route to Mayfield.

    I was riding slow, enjoying the awesome view, when a buck suddenly ran across the road in front of me - a few feet away. If I had been going any faster I would have run into him. Nevertheless, it was pretty funny because of all the deer hunters around.

    Late lunch stop. How do I manage without a chair? I simply lay down on the soft grass. There's not much danger of ticks this late in the year.

    Good dirt road south of Mayfield, en route to Salina where I will spend the night. Look out ma, storm's a coming.

    Note on the map below, the short blue line in the middle of the state. That was today. Doesn't seem like much!

    2012-10-12::Day 4

    Into ones life some rain must fall.

    This storm completely soaked the state of Utah and turned the dirt roads into mud. And it covered the mountains with snow. Such was the price of riding so late in the season. If I wanted to continue with my journey, which I most definitely did, I knew that I would have to ride the paved highways out of Utah and into Nevada where the ground was receiving much less of a soaking.

    2012-10-13::Day 5

    Salina to Great Basin NP - 173 mi.

    Riding the highway out of Utah. Somewhere up there is my forfeited route. I hated to miss it, but I will ride it some other time.

    Riding highway for 160 miles, I bought groceries at the Border Inn gas station, then headed into the Great Basin National Park, which covers these mountains.

    In Great Basin NP, the road climbs to 10,000' to take a look at Wheeler Peak (13,063') PS: These are not storm clouds, as a greenhorn might suspect.

    In Lower Lehman Creek Campground.

    I'm not carrying a Net-Tent on this trip because this late in the season the bugs are very few.

    The ground was littered with delicious nuts from the pinion pines. Was I the first person who knew what they were? I collected a bag of them to take home to Jenny and Melly.

    Pinion pines

    2012-10-14::Day 6

    Early morning I stopped at the Sliver Jack Inn, in Baker, NV, in order to pick up a couple of liters of water. The owner was very nice, and had a KLR parked outside. But he surprised me by not knowing anything about the TAT. In fact, he had never heard of the TAT. "T - A - T," he repeated. "Yes, the Trans-America-Trail," I affirmed. Kind of strange, in regards to the number of TAT riders who have stayed here.

    Anyway, out into the Big Empty. I'm looking forward to this.

    Initially I didn't know whether the ground was still soaked from the recent big storm, and muddy; or whether the bulk of the storm had reached eastern Nevada. So I was very cautious, because I sure didn't want to get the bike stuck in the mud so far from help. And indeed I found the dirt roads somewhat muddy for the first few hours, but nothing I couldn't easily handle. So I had made the right decision about getting out of Utah. And as the morning wore on, the Nevada desert dried out under the warm sun. After the first few hours, there was no mud anywhere. So I was all set.

    Pinion Pine

    Pinion nuts

    I was surprised to find so much limestone in Nevada. There were karst areas everywhere - a spelunker's dream come true.

    This canyon had no drainage. It must not rain much here.

    This canyon empties out into the small town of Lund, where I stopped for gas.

    A splash of color in the Fremont cottonwoods

    A vestige of the old mining town of Hamilton.

    I had intended to camp near here, but mistakenly had run out of food. So I carried on to the town of Eureka.

    2012-10-15::Day 7

    Riding north on an important mining road - important judging by the depth of the gravel bed. And judging by the ominous sky, the next storm system is headed this way (but to my good fortune, it soon fizzled out).

    At a lone ranch, out in the middle of nowhere, I had to stop and open this gate, which was nothing but a rope tied across the road.

    I'm finding that this warning sign is common throughout Nevada, and I'm sure its for good reason. Stay out of the canyons during a storm. If nothing else, the roads turn slippery with gooey mud. Incidentally, this particular sign is famous; I've seen photos of it on several TAT ride reports.

    The route leads through another private ranch.

    Another good road leading to a mining operation.

    Looking back the other way.

    Most of the TAT ride-reports I have read - and I have read just about all of them - say the riders don't like Nevada. It is too big, too spread out, and the services too few and far-between. They say that Nevada overwhelms ones senses with a feeling of isolation. And help is a long ways away in case of a problem with the bike. I have read only one TAT R.R. where the writer felt at ease with the great openness which is Nevada - and I'm with him on that. I love the great expanses. They are like fresh air to my soul in an otherwise over-developed world. Granted, I might not like to live out here, because of the sameness. But I am enjoying this ride for all its worth, which is a lot.

    Then came the sand. Deep and powdery sand.

    With the super-sandy pass behind me, I'm rolling easy again.

    Looking ahead from the same spot.

    The route goes through another isolated ranch. That makes three today - one every 70 miles or so. Their neighbors are long ways off.

    The next pass is visible ahead. Note the motorcycle tracks made when the road was wet.

    I climbed the pass to see what was on the other side. This is what I saw. More sameness.

    This water crossing was six inches deep, dammed perhaps by local kids. It was a nice spot to take a lunch break.

    From the creek you can see a radar dome. Such radar sites help flight controllers maintain the safety of airline passengers flying across the country.

    Approaching the outskirts of Battle Mountain, NV, where I will stop for gas and also food for the night's dinner.

    North of town, the route-road led again through private property. The gate was open but the signs said "No trespassing. Access by permission only." I knew that other TAT riders had gone through without problems. So I proceeded ahead.

    The road had been recently bladed. Very recently in fact - I passed the guy driving the grader going the other way.

    This was the last semblance of a road for many a mile. From here the route led out into the open prairies.

    It felt rather like driving on the moon.

    Looking back from the same spot.

    Single track

    And then the route came to this fence-line with no gate. Time to wing it - by following the fence to the left, and then back to the north-west.

    Reaching a gate, and from there the route gets even worse, leading into the sand, silt and sagebrush.

    One might be able to see faint motorcycle tracks leading through the sagebrush. I usually followed these.

    Fortunately the sagebrush was not this high very often, but at times like these I was glad to have left my wide panniers at home.

    Reaching the abandoned Kelly Creek Ranch late in the day, I was glad to find the creek dry. Note that the slopes of the creek bed are much steeper than they appear in this photo.

    Its been a good day of riding. Probably my best day of motorcycling adventure-touring ever.

    2012-10-16::Day 8

    Not the TAT

    Kelly Creek Ranch to Big Springs Reservoir - 224 mi.

    I slept well during the night, despite the drone of machinery at the nearby mine. Come first light, I packed my gear and loaded the bike, then set off - with one intention in mind: to find and follow the best road leading to the town of Paradise Valley and Hinkey Pass. I had had enough riding in silt for one trip, and knew there was more ahead on the TAT. Riding out of the ranch, I found that the best road led past the mine site, so I followed that and kept on going. I was in luck.

    Inside Kelly Creek cabin: I had seen photos of these signatures on various ride reports, so it felt odd to be looking at them in person.


    Mine site and its weird lake of chemicals

    I was stopped at the junction of Kelly Creek and Sheldon roads - near the Chimney reservoirs, when a field manager of some sort pulled up in his pickup. I asked the nice gentleman about the history of Kelly Creek Ranch, and he told me something about the property.

    He said that the powers-that-be were looking for someone to manage the ranch, but couldn't find anyone. The ranch has a well, but there is a spring - somewhere to the north - that flows year around. About then someone else pulled up in a water truck. This person got out and asked where I was from. "Arizona," I affirmed, then asked him where he was from. "Right here," he said, "I work here." Then he went on to say how both of them had seen many people coming through on all manner of motorcycles, riding a route that he called the "Trans America Road." I asked them both how many per year. They thought about that for a while, then the boss said "conservatively, 250... Conservatively." And I also gleaned that few of them stick to the official route (these guys didn't know about that), because they had seen them all over the place, for example in Winnemucca.

    Approaching the small town of Paradise Valley in imminent rain.

    En route to Hinkey Pass.

    Wind storm headed for Paradise Valley.

    Amazing hole in the rock at Hinkey Pass.

    Conspiracy theorists unite!

    Hole in the rock visible in shadow on Google Maps. The road junction marks Hinkey Pass (7,850')

    I rode half-an-hour in the rain, then came the wind and dust storms.

    Rider in the storm.

    Calm at Fort McDermitt

    Now in Oregon and looking back at the worst dust storm I've ever been in. And living in Arizona I've been in lots of them. This one went on for 10 miles, and at times I could barely see the road. Cars had slammed into each other, and there were wrecker trucks pulling them off the highway.

    My usual happy face.  

    I had read that someone at Denio Junction doesn't like motorcyclists. Boy, was that right!

    At Big Springs Reservoir I tied this set-up as an experiment. It didn't work too well, but I slept good anyway and my quilt kept me warm and dry.

    2012-10-17::Day 9

    Morning frost.

    Morning's fog a' breaking.

    This singe-lane road was paved and it snaked through the mountains for 95 miles. Along the way I saw only two other vehicles. It was wonderful riding.

    I don't remember the last time I had to stop mid-day to dry my gear. With a properly pitched tarp, the gear doesn't get wet. But last night it was anything but a properly pitched tarp. My tarp was soaking wet, and parts were still frozen. My quilt had stayed dry, but as long as I was at it, I spread it out anyway.

    In the evening I ended up in La Pine, and spent three hours touring the area, revisiting old familiar areas.

    Swinging by a garage that Jenny and I built, now under different ownership.

    Jenny and I walked this road thousands of time while training for our thru-hikes. It was fun to ride it on the moto.

    Mt. Bachelor and South Sister from the top of Pringle Butte.

    Cones from a Sugar Pine, each 10" in length.

    When the climate changes, even slightly, the species at the very edges of their ecoregion suffer the most.

    It was good to see that these old Sugar Pines have left plenty of replacements.

    2012-10-18::Day 10

    La Pine to Boliver trailhead - 190 mi

    Early morning frost on the road.

    The route crosses Windigo Pass and the PCT.

    During our 1987 PCT thru-hike, we swam in this pretty, spring-fed pond. The trail has since been re-routed, so most PCT hikers of today never see it.

    Diamond Lake. Many years ago we founded an organization for long-distance hikers, and held our third annual gathering here at this beautiful resort.

    Now on the west side of the Cascades mountain range, the biome and its flora are completely different. Gone are the Ponderosa and Lodgpole pines, and the ubiquitous buckbrush. Now we have Vine Maples, Western Red Cedar and Douglas fir - to name but a few. The sudden change makes for interesting riding - especially on such a fine day.

    Fish Creek

    Lunch stop in a campground by the Umpqua river

    Western Red Cedar

    Vine Maple (Has a springiness that makes it good for primitive bows and arrows).

    Here in the late Fall, the Umpqua river is just a vestige of its roaring, tumultuous self in the Spring and early summer.

    Same with Lower Umpqua Falls.

    This pretty plant is to be avoided at all costs.

    A fish ladder for the Chinook Salmon.

    En route to the coast.

    Photo taken in the dark of my campsite at the Mt. Boliver trailhead (Mt. Boliver is one of the highest points in the Coast Range.)

    2012-10-19::Day 11

    Boliver trailhead to Grizzly Creek - 266 mi.

    After riding in the dark for three hours, I arrived at Port Orford. These super-twisty roads are safest in the dark because you can see the headlights of oncoming traffic way before you see the vehicles themselves. And they can see yours. So you don't surprise anyone. It gives everyone time to pull over.

    Familiar street sign in the city of Port Orford

    Paul and Babe

    Elk Prairie


    Common Wood Sorrel

    Vine Maple

    Sword Fern


    Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park

    Changing the engine oil without making a mess. Not a drop of spilled oil.

    How do I handle noisy neighbors? Let them have their fun, and move away from them.

    In the black of night a masked bandit woke me up and stole my extra food - sandwich and crackers. It was pretty funny! I love these wild animals, and thought: If they are bold enough to come right up to me, then they can have the food. This guy was pretty rotund, looking like a regular camp robber, and didn't appear to be suffering the health effects of a junk food diet. So I was glad to have contributed. If on a thru-hike where I needed the food, I would not have simply laid the food right by my head (in a popular campground).

    2012-10-20::Day 12

    Grizzly Creek to Willits - 138 mi.

    Carrying the used engine oil out to civilization for proper disposal.

    A twisty road and storm clouds moving in.

    GPS display. The black line is the track I'm following. The purple is the predicted road.

    Actual road.

    2012-10-21::Day 13

    Willits to Tracy - 209 mi.

    Clear Lake

    2012-10-22::Day 14

    Tracy to Buttonwillow - 206 mi.

    2012-10-23::Day 15

    Buttonwillow to home - 589 mi.

    Near Boron

    Wide open spaces east of 29 Palms.

    I experienced no flat tires on this trip, nor any mechanical problems with the bike. And I didn't drop the bike.

3,647 mi. in 15 days

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