Day 12: McDermitt, NV to Denio Junction, NV

Tuesday 9/20

We woke to the rumble of a large truck passing our tent at about 6 am. When we selected our location the night before, we knew we were near a dirt road, but we figured it was rarely travelled. We were wrong, at least on this day. While we were packing up, another large truck blew by in the other direction — perhaps the same one? The driver waved at us. He probably found it humorous we were camped by the road that went to the landfill, or perhaps the secret underground nuclear test facility.

We decided to do something a little unusual and start the day with a breakfast in a restaurant. The “Say When” Casino Café looked like a good candidate, if not the only candidate.

Having grown cavalier with restaurants, we took Simon in and dropped his backpack into the booth. The waitress came over, took one look and said, “Oh no, he can’t be here. My boss will have a fit. We’ll get our license pulled.” She said we could get the food to go and then sit at the picnic tables across the street, so we did. It was the first time Simon had gotten the boot from an establishment.

After breakfast we headed into the hills. We started on a wide dirt road and eventually turned off onto a narrower route that wasn’t bad (i.e., no silt). We ended up at the gates of ranch, contemplating what to do since the other side of the gate showed no sign of a trail. While we were discussing our options, an old lady (80ish) drove up on a quad. Pointing into the distance, she told us that the road we wanted was “over there.” We weren’t the first dirtbikers she had intercepted as she mentioned something about riders coming from as far away as Florida. Most women at 80 are watching game shows at an assisted-care facility — this lady was busy chasing errant dirtbikers off her property.

We rode for a while, with me in the lead (Wayne had taken to riding behind me since he never knew when I would end up on the ground). I pulled up to a gate, got off, and opened it. When I looked back, Wayne was nowhere to be seen. I waited for several minutes, thinking he was taking pictures. After a while, I realized too much time had passed and something had gone wrong so I did a hundred-point turn to get my bike turned around on the narrow trail.

About a half mile around the bend and down the hill I found Wayne standing next to his bike. I was relieved to see that he wasn’t injured. Was it a mechanical problem? Not quite: A sidebag had fallen off and the rear wheel sucked it up and jammed it under the fender. Wayne had tried pulling it out but it was thoroughly wedged.

Wayne rolled the bike backwards while I had my hands around the bag, trying to “birth” it. After a bit of coaxing and some smashed fingers, the bag finally popped out.

The flap that helped hold the bag onto the rack was completely ripped off.

Wayne said the sage brush along the trail had been snagging his bag, but since the same thing was happening to me, it was hard to believe the brush alone was responsible. Then it occurred to him: When we were doing the stream crossing yesterday we put a lot of force on the bag trying to pull it past the branches. We must’ve started the destruction process yesterday and the sage brush just finished it off today.

Fortunately, I carried extra webbing and buckles in case we had a problem with our bags. Wayne moved the heavy items into the other sidebag and then frankensteined a solution that kept the bag attached.

We rode for a while through the same scrubby terrain we’d been in for the past few days. Certain areas were thick with grasshoppers, and as we approached they’d jump en masse and pepper us. I’d go between having my shield up and getting pelted in the face to dropping my shield down and getting too hot. Worse than either was having them lodge in my helmet and feeling them try to kick their way back to freedom. True to my gender when it comes to insects, I dislike them immensely. If those grasshoppers had been cockroaches, my screams would’ve been heard through all of Nevada.

We encountered a rocky uphill stretch that would become our Nemesis of the Day. I went up first and made it half way before I bounced off a rock and tipped over. My foot was pinned under the bag so I couldn’t move and had to wait for Wayne to hike up the hill and move the bike. With nowhere to go, I grabbed my camera and took a picture.

And since I wasn’t in tremendous pain, I handed the camera to Wayne so I could later see how I looked. Verdict: stylish.

The bikes were heavy enough that to get them upright, we both needed to lift to avoid destroying our backs. (Just a few months ago Wayne was leveled by a pinched sciatic nerve. A repeat of that on the trail would’ve required me to build a sled out of sage brush so I could tow his fetal-position-locked body out.) Rather than drop the bike again only to have to pick it up again, I had Wayne ride the bike up the rest of the way. Simon wanted to run alongside the bike, but I screamed myself hoarse to get him to stop — a tipover would’ve crushed him. We had to be mindful of the Zone of Regret.

Simon ran back down to me but took off again when the bike neared the top of the hill. It was hot out, but he was compelled to keep running between the two of us. His doggy mind was not comfortable with the pack separation.

Once Wayne parked my bike at the top of the hill, he hiked back to the bottom for his. I waited on the hill in case he needed my help. Just as I had done, Wayne bounced off a rock and the bike pitched over (he’s not flat-footed on his bike like he is on mine). I hurried down the hill to help him pick up the bike. A second attempt resulted in another rock confrontation — man, that DRZ can rear like a spooked horse! — which Wayne lost. We picked up the bike and bulldogged it to a better spot. Third time’s a charm, as Wayne ping-ponged his way to the top of the hill.

It took me at least 15 minutes to hike up the hill. My hip kept seizing up so I had to keep stopping to shake it out (hip replacement is 10/24!). When I rejoined the pack, we decided that just getting to Denio Junction would be good enough for the day. We didn’t encounter any other hills that gave us the beat-down, but the ride wasn’t exactly relaxing, either. On one downhill I cased the bike hard enough to slam my visor shut — it was so perfectly in tune with the day that I had to laugh. By now both hands were numb from the continued jarring and it felt like I was trying to work the controls with two canned hams for gloves.

As with the day before, the lower we got, the more streams we went through. The past two days tallied up more water crossings than I had been through in my entire riding life.

Just outside of Denio Junction we came across a pronghorn antelope. Looking at it reminded me of why we were motivated to bring Simon. On our last week-long motorcycle trip, every time I saw an animal I would tell Wayne “It reminded me of Simon!” All it took was a set of big, black eyeballs with a vacuous stare to make me miss the little guy. I suppose I don’t like the pack being separated any more than Simon does.

Denio Junction was a beautiful sight for the weary. There was a nice patch of green grass which would’ve been perfect for camping, but it had Keep Out signs all around it. They probably didn’t want people climbing all over God’s Ride.

Wayne asked a guy working at the bar if it would’ve been ok for us to pitch a tent off to the side of the building. The guy came out to check our intended location and gave us his approval. Although it wasn’t apparent at first, upon closer inspection we could see that this was where dog owners who stopped for gas let their dogs go poop. At least the poop was dry so we could kick a space clear for the tent.

After we pitched our tent we used the nearby hose for a country bath, or as much of a bath that could be done with the locals staring at us.

People on motorcycles wouldn’t have made them blink twice, but our non-traditional gender/species combination — along with our decision to pitch our tent in the poop zone — probably made us the best entertainment to come along in months.

The locals carried on well past sunset, but we didn’t mind. We were just glad to have our little patch of dried grass for the night.

————

Day 12 overview: 68 miles

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