GS Nevada Dual-Sport Tour: Day 3

(Start at the beginning: GS Nevada Dual-Sport Tour: Day 1)

BMW F 800 GSOn Day 3 of our BMW GS Nevada dual-sport tour, we began to find our groove. Rising from the rocks of Rock Camp, Roger makes a strong pot of Joe before we ride back to Belmont and cook breakfast on the picnic tables at its tiny park. After much rustling of maps, Manhattan gets the nod as our next stop. Rattled by the previous day’s dust bowl experience, Mark balks at our choice of an unmaintained road to cross the Toquima Range, so he and Jim take a tamer route. In doing that we make two mistakes: splitting up, and not having a good plan for re-connecting. We miss each other, dither around and waste time. Get a little peeved too, but the snafu gives Roger and I time to check out the sights of Manhattan, which boil down to some interesting old buildings, a rusty fire engine and a tidy wooden church on the hillside. A gold strike in 1905 brought the last boom time here, and it shows. Re-united, we ride west to Great Smoky Valley, hoping to find gas in Carvers. Find it we do, at a lonely station with a couple of pumps and a cashier in a boxy little building – life in the basin and range isn’t for everyone. Next stop…wait, let’s check the map.

Manhattan Church
Manhattan Church

Fast running on Nevada 276 brings us to the Kingston turnoff and a GS-type road through the Toiyabe Range. Ratty pavement turns to dirt as we climb. There’s traffic due to the holiday – ATVs, pickups, trail bikes – and the camps are full. We follow a creek, climb steep switchbacks to cross a divide, then motor past tree-filled canyons and grassy glades. In a couple more days this would be a quiet paradise; today it’s more like an amusement park.

In Austin we feed at the Toiyabe Café, fill our gas tanks, and top up our water before a short stretch on I-80. We’re off the slab ASAP to re-cross the Toquimas on dirt and descend to Monitor Valley,  stopping at Potts Ranch, or what’s left of it. There’s water here, and the valley is bright green where it flows. An old house begs inspection and photographs before we leave to find camp. Old Sol is dipping toward the horizon…will our intrepid wanderers find a suitable site before dark? No, but it’s not for lack of trying.

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Enticing spur roads turn up dead ends, and everything off the main road is either on a slant or covered in sagebrush. I scout a narrow two-track that peters out a mile or so into the bush. It takes me five minutes and much manhandling of my F800GS in stiff, dry bushes on a rocky hillside to escape. Roger returns from the other direction with no joy, then attempts a rear-wheel skid stop next to Mark for fun, forgetting ABS is engaged. The fun ends when his R1200GS smacks Mark’s bike, adding more character to the already abused Jesse bags. With the light fading, we choose a side road for camp; the road itself, that is – there’s no other flat ground. I explore a mile or so ahead, thinking something better is just around the bend, but the sagebrush and piñons offer nothing.

Road Camp
Road Camp

Camp is a linear affair along a two-track and we call it – have you guessed? – Road Camp. Unfazed, we set up tents, make dinner and open the individual wine paks I’ve been carrying for three days. The darkness is complete by the time we’re finished and with minimal light pollution the stars are spellbinding. I wind through a maze of bikes and tents on my way to bed, my neck stiff from gazing skyward from my Kermit chair.

Continue reading: GS Nevada Dual-Sport Tour: Day 4

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