During the Civil War and eight days prior to the Presidential Election of 1864, President Abraham Lincoln was hard-charging for re-election. To help ensure his re-election and post-war Republican dominance in Congress, statehood for the State of Nevada was rushed through both the Congressional and Executive branches of government – thus creating the 36th state in the Union on October 31, 1864. Because of this, Nevada is known as the “Battle Born State,” which is a better alternative than the “Halloween State.” Since it’s admission to the Union until now (and most likely due to its desert and semiarid landscape), Nevada – the Spanish word for snowy – enjoys low population numbers and currently ranks 9th as least densely populated of the 50 states.

Battle Born 1000: Nevada State FlagBattle Born 1000: Nevada State Seal

With three quarters of its 2.7M population living in and around Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada is a fantastic state to discover and explore through adventure riding. Since we are located next door in Utah, it made perfect sense to prep the KLR’s and head off to harass the good citizens of the Battle Born State.

During the preparations for our route our “Trail Master” (Eric Nelson) commented that available fuel was the number one factor in planning. If you want to see the un-seen parts of Nevada, you must plan around fuel. Our KLR’s were limited to a 200-mile range (one of them arrived at gas stations three out of four days on reserve). We knew we’d be cutting it close and that left no room for exploring off route. Nonetheless, we prepped seven KLR650’s for seven Rocky Mountain ATV/MC throttle jockeys: Dan, Ray, Justin, Eric, Greg (Vasilly), Mick and me (Scott). Then with the preparations done, “The Magnificent Seven” set out on a Thursday morning and we pointed our steeds towards the semiarid desert of Eastern Nevada.

If you’d like to give this ride a try, check out this zip file with the GPX and KML files to ride the same tracks.

Day One: Body Damage

We had planned to meet in the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC parking lot at 8:00 am to kick off the Battle Born 1000. I was up early and raring to go because the night before any adventure ride finds your mind racing, wondering if you’ve prepared everything you’re going to need.

Battle Born 1000: Scott and His Bike Ready to Go

Once the Trail Master arrived we headed south, making our way to Santaquin, Utah before heading west. The weather was perfect – cool in the morning and eventually heating up in the afternoon, causing us to shed mid-layers and open up the vents in our riding jackets. We could tell quickly that we were heading out into the wilderness as we rode west on Highway 6 and veered off into Cherry Creek OHV area, continuing on around Desert Mountain. We took some high-speed gravel roads with plenty of turns, curves and occasional hills from Desert Mountain, then headed for Delta, Utah on a high-speed, graded dirt super highway. We made good time and pulled into Delta to gas up and sit down for some sweet Mexican food at Taco Shop-El Jalisciense. I was able to sweet talk the mamasitas with some Spanish from my California days and our group was rewarded with a free plate of churros after our meal.

Battle Born 1000: Brothers Posing with a KLR

We had planned to ride out to the WWII Japanese American Internment Camp from Delta to see the evidence of one of the sadder moments in American history. But all the sweet-talking with our Delta rucas at the restaurant zapped our time and we decided to forgo the WWII history lesson. I was a little disappointed we didn’t get to visit the site because it has such a stirring history:

The internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry during WWII was one of the worst violations of civil rights against citizens in the history of the United States. The government and the US Army, falsely citing ‘military necessity,’ locked up over 110,000 men, women and children in ten remote camps controlled by the War Relocation Administration and four male-only camps controlled by the Justice Department. These Americans were never convicted or even charged with any crime, yet were incarcerated for up to four years in prison camps surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards…Topaz Internment Camp, which was located 16 miles northwest of Delta in central Utah, on the lip of the Great Basin, processed 11,212 people through the camp while it was in operation from September 11, 1942 to October 31, 1945 (Topaz – Located near Delta, Utah).1

Battle Born 1000: Aerial View of Topaz in Days of Operation and Remains of a Mess Hall
*When visiting, please don’t remove the artifacts*
Courtesy of the Topaz Museum

With no shortage of gas from refueling or food from our Mexican food lunch, we high-tailed it westward on dirt roads for quite some time. We jumped onto Hwy 50 as we skirted the northern border of Great Basin National Park. Hwy 50 is a major east–west route of the U.S. Highway system that spans just over 3,000 miles (4,800 km) from the Atlantic in Ocean City, Maryland to California’s West Sacramento. The route runs through mostly rural desert and mountains in the western United States, with the section through Nevada known as “The Loneliest Road in America.” We jumped off this highway in time to catch some sweet two-tracks that took us into the southern end of the Cave Mountain range. This was our first real test with some more difficult roads that offered up some challenging rock-strewn hill climbs and descents. This test section gave one of our team members some cool new pannier artwork and a bruise that would have convicted even O.J. Simpson.

Battle Born 1000: Mick and Justin Riding the Trails

As darkness approached we decided to camp at the very next spot that we could find. After setting up camp, we sat around the campfire to complain about aching body parts and share embarrassing stories about each other. The night was peaceful and the heavens gave us a beautiful starry-night backdrop as we slipped into unconsciousness and adventure riding dreams.

Battle Born 1000: Setting up Camp in the Desert

Day Two: Naked Hippies

We awoke to some brisk temperatures but they were actually not too bad for this time of year. The overnight low was about 38 degrees F and nothing that our Rocky Mountain ATV/MC camping gear couldn’t handle. After a short ride into Ely, we settled down for a classic American-style breakfast at the Silver State Restaurant, which is always better than dehydrated eggs – and an added bonus was being able to use a real “potty” instead of a good ‘ole “dirt hole.” After refueling, we jumped back on Hwy 50 and headed southwest to the ghost town of Hamilton, Nevada.

Like most other ghost towns, Hamilton was once a rich mining community. Due to rich silver ore, settlers flocked to the area. At the town’s beginning it was actually known as “Cave City” because the early settlers lived right out of the caves in the sides of the mountains. After the town continued to grow it was renamed for the mine promoter W.H. Hamilton. At its peak population the city reached around 12,000 people with a number of saloons, breweries and other businesses and entertainment establishments. But as history shows, once the precious metals ran out, the town died out as well. All that is left is skeletons of buildings and ruins to make the imagination run wild.

Battle Born 1000: Remains from Hamilton Town BuildingsBattle Born 1000: The Old Hamilton Cemetary

After we left the sprawling town of Hamilton, we ventured our way in the direction of Austin, Nevada by way of the old Hamilton stage route. The roads were tighter and we found some fun two-track sections that wound us down to a steep rock-walled ravine. As the trail got tighter, there wasn’t much evidence of frequent travel and the condition of the trail worsened and we found ourselves riding on some sketchy trails with no idea of what we were getting ourselves into. Google Maps aerial reconnaissance doesn’t portray difficulty levels very well…

Battle Born 1000: Ray and Scott dominating on the KLRs

The jaws of the trail seemed to open wide and beckon us with certain KLR destruction. However, with some classic armchair coaching we got all bikes safely by. After that, the only thinker in the group decided to scout ahead to see if the trail gods would smile upon us. Unfortunately, the rock demons awaited us just around the next bend but lucky for us we made this discovery before we all bottle-necked ourselves in an impassable rock garden.

Battle Born 1000: The Crazy Rock-Strewn Trail We Decided Not to Go Down

After turning our KLR’s around, we backtracked to a bypass road that took us down into Railroad Valley where we happened upon a real desert oasis called Green Springs. There were several buildings that had the “ghost town” look surrounding a natural spring that had formed a large pond with cattails, cottonwood and apple trees, grass and other vegetation. It was a stark contrast to the semiarid desert surrounding it. You could see that it was a working ranch for quite some time and it was odd to see that this old, abandoned settlement out in the middle of nowhere had RV hookups put in some years ago.

Battle Born 1000: Green Springs Desert OasisBattle Born 1000: Deserted Getaway Destination at Green Springs
Battle Born 1000: Remains of the Former Residencies at the OasisBattle Born 1000: Justin Enjoying the Architecture of Days Past

After a good rest in a cool oasis, we saddled back up and hit the dirt road that took us in the direction of Spencer Hot Springs where we planned on camping for the night. The idea of soaking our aching muscles in a 105-degree hot spring sounded like the perfect way to end the day. On the way, we passed by Potts Hot Springs with Diana’s Punch Bowl just out of our reach due to fuel concerns. During this leg of the ride, we noticed the wind was starting to pick up and send us some strong gusts that kept us alert and gripping tightly to our handlebars. All I could think about was relaxing in the hot springs!

Now, I’ve been to hot springs in Mammoth Lakes, CA and without fail, every time that I go, naked hippies show up. But not to fear because Nevada has 312 hot springs – the most of any state in the U.S. and Spencer Hot Springs is so far out in the middle of nowhere that we are bound to be naked-hippie free. As we pulled up to the hot springs, I was dismayed to see a pickup truck parked right in front. Sure enough, there were two naked hippies in my hot spring! What is it with naked hippies and hot springs? Can someone please explain?!

Battle Born 1000: Hippies in the Hot Springs

Anyhoo, due to our aversion to hanging out with naked hippies that we don’t know as well as the wind gusts blowing somewhere between 30-40mph, we decided to forgo the hot springs and camp up in the mountains outside of Austin, Nevada where the Pinions and Junipers would get us out of the wind. Sheltered by the trees of the Toiyabe National Forest, we made camp and reminisced about the day’s adventures and settled in for another night of tall tales and embarrassing stories as we sat around our campfire.

Day Three: Pony Express Trail

In the morning we rode up and over the Hwy 50 mountain pass between Mt. Prometheus and Union Hill and down into the small town of Austin where we were warmly welcomed by the good folks of the Toiyabe Café. We settled down for some well-deserved classic American, gut-busting breakfasts and were grateful for the classic porcelain skat aquarium that awaited our arrival too.

Battle Born 1000: Posing with the Help at the Toiyabe Cafe

Just outside Toiyabe Café, we noticed a marker that designated the highway that we were on as the “Lincoln Highway.” Unbeknownst to me, the Lincoln Highway was the first transcontinental highway across the United States of America for automobiles. The Lincoln Highway was thought up by the fertile mind of Carl Fisher, the man also responsible for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Miami Beach. Enlisting help from fellow industrialists Frank Seiberling and Henry Joy, the trio envisioned a road that would stretch from New York to San Francisco, a length of nearly 3400 miles of hard-packed highway to provide the shortest practical route across the country. The route is periodically marked with a red, white and blue marker with the letter “L”.

Battle Born 1000: Scott with a Lincoln Highway Marker

From Austin, Nevada we had planned to ride North to Battle Mountain but we had run short of our mileage goals on the first two days. So we made an unexpected lane change and designed a re-route that took us on the “Loneliest Highway in America” and over to Eureka, Nevada for a refuel. From there we picked up the Pony Express Trail. If you remember from 4th grade history class, The Pony Express was a horseback mail service with a series of relay stations that delivered everything from messages and newspapers to mail and small packages over the plains and the Rocky and Sierra Mountains back and forth between St. Louis, Missouri and Sacramento, California. Before the Pony Express system, the time that it took for letter to reach from East to West coast was about 6 months. The Pony Express shortened that time to 10 days at the fastest! The parts of the trail that we rode were marked regularly with commemorative signing. The Pony Express was only in operation for 18 months and ended operations as soon as the transcontinental telegraph lines were installed.

Battle Born 1000: Scott and his Trusty Steed on the Pony Express TrailBattle Born 1000: Ray on the Pony Express Trail

Interesting to note that while riding the Pony Express trail, we noticed signs commemorating the Overland Trail. The Overland Trail, or Overland Stage Line, was a stagecoach and wagon trail that has been around since the 1820s. It was frequently used by explorers and trappers back in those early days, but later became a popular alternative route for the California, Oregon and Mormon trails coming from Wyoming. So we killed two birds with one stone by riding both the Pony Express and Overland Trails at the same time. Efficient, gas-saving planning, baby!

Battle Born 1000: Evidence of the Overland Trail

We found some sweet tighter trails that gave us some fun adventure which led us up and over the Overland Pass and down into Ruby Valley. Here we stopped at the ruins of Fort Ruby which was strategically built at the East entrance to the Overland Pass. The fort, which is located halfway between Salt Lake City, Utah and Carson City, Nevada, was built in 1862 to protect the Overland mail route and emigrant travelers from hostile Indian raids. This Army labeled the post the “worst post in the West.” Luckily peace treaties in 1869 with the surrounding Indians, as well as the presence of the Transcontinental Railroad lessened the need for this Fort. Eventually Fort Ruby was closed and the soldiers were reassigned to other posts – I’m sure, anything was better than Fort Ruby had been!

After leaving Fort Ruby, we boogied on down some dirt roads spotted with occasional sand pits, so we had to be on our best behavior. The wind was still plaguing us a bit. However, despite the plaguing wind, temperatures remained higher than expected which was most welcome! We eventually rode through Black Mountain pass and made our way up and over Telegraph Peak. We found a really nice camp spot on the East side of the peak and we noticed quite a few deer in this beautiful canyon.

Battle Born 1000: KLR Camping is the Best Kind

Day Four: Stud Piles

We woke up to our coldest morning yet and bundled up for the long day of riding ahead of us. Today there would be no restaurants and no time to explore because we had to make it home, and it was going to take all day. Fuel was going to be an issue, so we consciously rode with conservation in mind. It was just a quick ride down the canyon and over to McGill, Nevada where we refueled and prepped the bikes for the day.

From here we ventured up and over Queen Spring Mountain which had some cool looking ranches, and we actually saw real cowboys herding some steers! Being raised in Los Angeles, I thought that seeing them was kinda cool. The pass up and over provided some beautiful scenery, and vistas of the valleys surround this range. This was the last mountain pass of any significance that we would ride through. From here, the road gods served up some big gravel roads – scattered with wild horse skat bombs! According to the Bureau of Land Management, a combination of about 49,209 wild horses and burros (only about 8,394 burros) roam the rangelands across 10 western states, about half that amount in Nevada alone! So, you can imagine how many wild horse skat piles are out there in the desert and they are huge! Seriously, one pile might be 12” high and 24” long.

We wondered at the size of them as we rode past them and one time when we stopped, this sizing issue was brought up. I suggested that the Indians always walked in single file so that the enemy couldn’t tell how many warriors were in their party and that they trained their horses to all poop in the same pile so that their enemies couldn’t tell how many horses were in the party. They seemed to have bought that explanation and we kept riding. I seriously pulled that one out of thin air. I got curious when writing this, so I looked on the internet and this is what I found:

When you are tracking wild horses, look for well-worn pathways through the scrub and grasslands. Horses, like elephants and antelope, prefer to follow trails they know – these are easily spotted from a high ridge or a waterhole. Look for “stud piles” where passing stallions will pooh on top of the pile year after year. It is a territorial statement and usually the most dominant stallion will defecate last. Perhaps when stallions sniff the pile, they test the testosterone level of their rivals or determine when rivals last moved through the area (Discover Wild Horses).2

Hah! I was right – sort of…

Well anyway, in our efforts to make it home for dinner, we jumped back on parts of the Pony Express Trail and we passed by many markers and even some old Pony Express Stations.

Battle Born 1000: Old Pony Express Station

As we wound our way home, we crossed the Utah border and rode through Ibapah, Callao, Fish Springs and Simpson Springs. We made our way to our last refueling in Vernon, UT. This gas station is NOT pay at the pump and luckily we made it there before closing time – if not, there would be a “Day 5” in this article. Nonetheless, with full tanks, we rode some fun trails and roads over to “Little Moab,” and then on to Elberta and Goshen. Here we made our last stop as The Magnificent Seven and we said our goodbyes and then we all raced home where I’m sure that showers were on the top of everyone’s list – at least I hope it was for some of the guys in the group!

The Battle Born 1000, a thousand miles across the Nevada desert, was an epic ride for all of us. The ride had all of the essentials: great weather, great friends, great scenery and great riding. I have driven across Nevada by highway and always wondered what was out there. Now I know….Nevada is not the end of the world, but you can see it from there! Let us know what you thought about our ride and where your favorite adventure riding destinations are!

Battle Born 1000: A KLR in Its Natural Habitat

Riding Location Disclaimer

By Scott Oakes

1“Topaz – Located near Delta, Utah.” Topaz. Topaz Museum, n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2014.

2“Discover Wild Horses.” Discover Wild Horses. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2014.