Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A little Ely love

Rode the 9th annual Fears, Tears and Beers Mountain Bike Enduro in Ely this weekend - every year I wonder how it can possibly get better, and it does.  Consistently.

This year there were something north of 90 riders, with a good mix of pros and utter gapers like me. They've built some nice trail in recent years, in part with money raised through this race, and the route includes more and more fun, swoopy singletrack every year. It also includes the annual race-start tour of the Jailhouse Casino.

Photo by my friend John Shafer, Photo-John of Consumer Reviews fame, whose photos of this race and other adventures are well worth finding.

There's no other way to put it - the riding in Ely is worth the drive and it gets better every year. Whether you're down for the race (Father's Day Weekend every year, and yes the race is kid-friendly) or just trying to beat the heat with some mountain riding, it's hard to go wrong by throwing your bike in the truck and heading to White Pine County.

For those interested in making the trip, Ely native and avid rider Kent Robertson has a quality blog going that has excellent info for would-be MTB visitors. Check it out at www.stuckinthespokes.com.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

We Like It This Way

I had a rare day working at my desk today, and in an effort to keep from having to do precisely that, I checked out my "spam" folder and saw that I'd gotten a message from a guy who wanted me to write a piece for his blog.  Kind of cool... glad I didn't just empty the folder like I've been known to do.

He has a pretty nifty premise - he's asking bloggers from around the country to talk about adventures in their home states.  Here's what I wrote for him:


When I was a kid, somewhat more than 50 years ago, there were about 300,000 people in Nevada.  We didn’t have a big enough population to warrant two representatives in Congress, or even statehood for that matter.  We had lots of silver, though, and the Union needed it for the war, so with a wink and a nod they let us join the America club.  Not that it mattered much to the cows and sagebrush that filled the high desert back in the day.

International Car Forest of the Last Church, Goldfield
There are a lot more people in Nevada now, but luckily for the rest of us they mostly live in Vegas.  It takes a little more effort than it used to, but you can still plop yourself in the middle of 200 square miles of nothing.  Real Nevadans like it that way.  Go ahead and dis our state as a wasteland.  Speed on down the interstate.  We don’t mind.

Wendover Will
Nevada echoes… with history, with loneliness, with the ghosts of broken dreams.  With mile after mile of dirt roads and strange, friendly, self-sufficient people who’ll gladly let you through their gates to access some remote stretch of mountain snow, but who’ll warn you that you ought to be packin’ if you go.  Mountain lions, you know, a guy got killed up there a while back.  That’s the story at any rate, and news is so rare in these parts that “a while back” may have happened in the 1800’s.
Photo by Kenny Sheen
I mean, really – you want mountains?  We got mountains, and most of them require some serious map-and-compass skills to adequately explore.  The guidebook-dependent ecotourist need not apply.  There are 300 named mountain ranges in the state – more mountains than in any state other than Alaska.  For my money, my home range, the Ruby Mountains of Elko County, is the prettiest around.  But high deserts are about jewels of oases, and every range in the state has trickling seasonal streams with shady caves of cottonwoods at their bases, bumblebees lazily buzzing in the dappled light.  You don’t have to make it all the way to the Rubies to find Nevada paradise.  Go out and find a special spot of your own.
Seitz Lake, Ruby Mountains
The way to see Nevada, frankly, is to throw away the guidebooks.  They don’t do it justice, anyway.  Get yourself a well-stocked pickup (water, food, camping gear, repair kit, some select maps, extra fuel, a big dose of self-sufficiency) and head out.  “Where does this road go?” is one of my favorite games, and Nevada is the best state in the country to play it.  You never know if you’re going to end up at a cattle trough, an old hydroelectric plant, a mining camp or a washed-out bridge.  Bring some wine and somebody who likes to enjoy a good Nevada sunset, and find a nice high spot to watch the desert turn to night.

Independence Range
Now – keep in mind that people can and do manage to get lost and sometimes killed this way, so take your own safety seriously.  The cavalry may eventually show up – eventually – but even giving directions to AAA in this state is a challenge.  The nearest cross-street may be 89 miles away, assuming that you even have cell coverage to call them (fat chance, generally speaking).
The premise of the #makeadventure theme is to come up with a top five list of things to do and places to see in my state.  My best answer – I don’t know yet, but I look forward to finding out.  No doubt it’s at the end of some washboard road somewhere, in some little bar in a ghost town, complete with friendly fossils holding down barstools.

A few ideas for my next Nevada adventures –

-Dig for opals at the mines near Denio.  Spend some time at the Sheldon Wildlife Refuge while I’m there, see if I can spot some mustangs. 

-Follow the Pony Express Trail.  Bike or horse, whichever works. 

-Look for the old concrete arrows that pilots used to use to navigate cross country.  They’re still there, spaced 10 miles apart, all across the northern part of the state. 

-Go wander out to the bristlecones near Wheeler Peak, see if I can guess which ones were around at the time of Christ. 

-Find the funky – the one-horse towns, the International Car Forest, the showers at Ely’s Hotel Nevada, the Brothel Cookbook, Pioche, the locals just about anywhere. 

Take this sign seriously, folks!

The vastness and small beauties of our high desert will grow on you.  Nevada is windswept, sun-baked, snow-choked, humbling, filled with birdsong.  Spend some time here, and you’ll understand why we’re happy when folks stay on the interstate.


I had a link to his blog, but I just checked it and it's been hacked. So, I've sanitized this for YOUR PROTECTION. Just like they do to the toilets in Tonopah. You're welcome.