Great Basin Biker’s Corner

Due the large number of bikers in our community, and an even larger number of bikers visiting throughout the summer, we hope to provide a weekly column describing regional rides that locals and visitors alike can explore. If you’ve taken a ride lately that you would like to share with your brother and sister bikers, email it to elytimes.marty@gmail.com. Include pictures if you can. Stories will be edited as print space allows.  

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Riding through the forest, climbing up Wheeler Peak.

Riding through the forest, climbing up Wheeler Peak.

took a ride to Baker last Saturday, to check out the Snake Valley Day’s parade and other attractions being offered by the small community near the Utah border. Since moving to the northeastern edge of Nevada, my sights have been set on riding some of the most beautiful highways I ever imagined.

Driving up from Southern California, hauling my bike in the bed of my pickup, I saw roads forking off in every direction from Highway 93, and I kept telling myself, I want to come back and ride that road and that road and that road. It was unreal how many roads there are here that travel in every direction. It’s a biker’s paradise and Ely seems to be a biker friendly town, especially the Hotel Nevada, which I lucked out and moved a block away from.

Photos by Marty Bachman Wheeler Peak in Great Basin National Park, as seen from the Mather Overlook.

Photos by Marty Bachman
Wheeler Peak in Great Basin National Park, as seen from the Mather Overlook.

Anyway, the ride to Baker is one I’ve traveled twice now, and it’s a gorgeous ride with roads that for the most part are traffic free. For those not familiar with it, you take a flat 93 out of Ely, a road with snow covered mountains to the west, green mountains to the east, and rolling verdant fields in between.

The first time I took this road southbound, the mountains to the south were covered with black, stormy clouds, but I kept moving toward them because a little rain never bothered me or my Road King. But when I got to the top of Connor Pass, the wind started blowing heavy and the rain began to pound violently.

I stopped at Major’s Place, the bar at the bottom of the pass, but the wind was blowing so hard, I was almost afraid to put my kickstand down because I was scared the bike would be blown over. I watched the windmills in the distance spinning wildly so I decided this wasn’t the best day to travel and I turned around and went back through another storm home. A week later I tried again, wanting badly to ride up to Great Basin National Park, which is just up the hill from Baker. That time it was different as I was able to wear a sleeveless shirt and my leather vest because the day was so warm; and for a guy like me who’s lived in the middle of the desert for most of the last 12 years, warm doesn’t come easy.

Last weekend I left around 8 a.m. and while it was warm wearing my thick leather jacket while packing my bike, I knew the ride would still be cold so to stay comfortable, I kept it on; a wise decision. I cruised through the straightaway into the mountains south of town, and then just hung on those curves, breathing in the mountain pines and enjoying the beautiful vistas.

I’ve never liked riding in mountains until I moved to Ely. I guess it’s because I’ve only rode the mountains of Phoenix and Southern California where there’s always a race car driver in a mini-van, running up your rear end in a hurry to get to Walmart or somewhere. You can move over and let them pass but within minutes, there will be another jerk to take his or her place.

Riding here in the Great Basin, it’s rare anyone gets in front of or behind you; and if they do, you can move over and let them pass and you have the road to yourself for another 20 minutes, meaning you can take your time and enjoy the ride, moving at your own pace.

The first time I rode over Connor Pass during the storm, I was surrounded by black, murky clouds and just thinking of getting through the pass safely. As I came over the summit though, I saw the most gigantic snow filled mountain top that almost seemed close enough to touch. While I was battling gusty winds and a torrential downpour, the sight of this colossal mountain peak just blew me away. I look for it every time I go through the pass now and know just when to look.

At Major’s Junction, where Highway 6 and Highway 93 go their separate ways, I stayed on 6 headed east around the windmills, which last Saturday were minimally spinning. As the road curves around and starts heading up the hill on the east side of this luscious, green valley, the road gets real crappy for about five or 10 miles, bouncing the bike to the left and right on the uneven pavement. Approaching Sacramento Pass though, the road smoothens out and begins to twist through the highly elevated hills. There it becomes one of the most beautiful sections of highway available to bikers, before the road travels back down into the straightaway toward the Utah border.

The turnoff to Baker and Great Basin National Park is about six miles short of Utah, and that’s the road we took. I guess Baker is about six miles from the highway as well. Baker is a town about a mile long with just a handful of businesses on both sides of the road. I stopped and checked out the swap meet and later, the parade, and spent a large part of the morning talking with locals about the threat of the theft of their water from the metropolis to the south, Las Vegas.

For lunch I decided to take the road back to Highway 6 and visit the Border Inn at the Nevada/Utah state line. This was my second trip down this road as well and I had quite the surprise the first time I traveled this way. I had opened the throttle and was pushing 70 down that stretch of two-lane highway when I noticed a pair of enormous deer standing in the opposite lane, staring me down. I downshifted and braked as quick as I could but was still doing about 30 when, just as I came a couple of feet from them, they shot off across the field to the north of me. Damn glad I didn’t hit one of them.

The Border Inn has a casino and bar and they have that Nevada brewed Ruby Mountain Porter on tap, which is absolutely delicious… and it’s only $3 a mug. It’s worth it just to drive the 70 miles or so just to have one of these porters. I’ve been drinking a lot of Ruby Mountain and Great Basin porters and ales since I’ve been here and I’m very impressed with them both. And while I’m on the subject of great Nevada beer, the Hotel Nevada has their own very excellent house brewed IPA, and like I said earlier, I live just a block away so I can walk over and enjoy them anytime over whatever game they have playing on TV.

But getting back to the story, I downed a couple of porters, ate some nasty nachos (weak chips, canned cheese and jalapenos), before heading back down the highway to the park.

While I had wanted to get back to the party in Baker by one, I decided to make the ride up to Wheeler Peak, about a half hour to 45-minute ride from Baker to the top. I had made the trip a couple of weeks back and it was stunning and alluring, enticing me back. This time, though, even though it was quite warm in the valley and most of the snow had melted from the mountain top, it was cold riding up, though I didn’t put my jacket on going up or back.

The ride up to Wheeler Peak in Great Basin National Park is another one you don’t want to miss if you’re riding a Harley or some other contraption. The rode starts off smooth and easy, like an Ike and Tina Turner song, gliding through meadows and small hills and campsites, then it gets crazy and steep as you climb up to 10,000 feet and beyond.

While I, for the most part, like to keep my eyes on the road, it’s hard not to look over these immense drop-offs into the shiny green valley far below. Again, the smell of pines makes riding a motorcycle the best way to visit this grand old mountain that has yet to be discovered by the masses who ruin everything once they find out something exists.

Resting at the campground at the top in the thick forest makes it all worth the effort, and then riding down, again, with little or no traffic on your rear, allows you to soak up the entire experience and leave in a good, peaceful frame of mind.

Marty Bachman is editor of the Ely Times and an avid biker. He can be reached at elytimes.marty@gmail.com or 760-550-3943.

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