As we rode out of Eureka I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the local people whose world was so clearly about to change, but privileged that I had seen a glimpse of a world gone by before collapse or tourist saturation had happened.
As we had missed the last section of trail on our previous days ride we had some problems locating the start of our new section. We finally abandoned the first few kilometres and caught up with the route a few miles down the road.
The desert scenery hadn’t changed for the last few days and today was to be no exception. We passed one of the last gold mines as we rode west and I was surprised to see a huge hole in the ground. It seemed that the days of quaint holes blasted into the steep sides of canyons and surrounded by big blocks of wood were long gone. Probably no more than a romantic concept created by watching too many outlaw getaways! The riding was fast and furious slowed by the appalling dust cloud which followed every twist and turn. Breathing was hard, seeing the trail in front harder, it was like riding through a thick Sherlock Holmes Victorian fog. After a while mile gaps between riders developed as a means of limiting lung and sinus damage and allowed some amazing things to happen. Jon was leading and his loud exhaust had clearly shocked a huge herd of wild horses into a stampede. Oddly they seemed to be running towards the trail on a converging course and by the time I arrived a minute or so later it was clear that they had every intention of crossing in front of me. I certainly didn’t want to get caught up in a herd of horses and was concerned about any damage that may be caused to me or them. I decided to increase my speed and pass in front of them, allowing access to the other side of the trail from the rear of my bike. As I sped up so did the horses and an incredible race developed. For more than a minute I rode as fast as I could along side more than 100 wild horses, both of us trying to gain the most ground and pass in front of the other. My 40 horsepower eventually beat their 100, but only by the finest of margins as they thundered by to my left and rear. I had never seen so many large wild animals so close and emitting so much energy, it was a truly awesome sight.
Another minute on, and the horses have actually got to the point of crossing the trail right in front of me, so not for the first (or last) time, I got to stop and wait for the local wildllife to pass on its way before I could be on mine. It was , as Dave has already said, quite a sight...Of course, dozens of horses running full tilt across a dry plain is apt to create a fair bit of dust, which meant that the trail was obliterated for a minute or two after they had passed. Jon and Dave had to wait quite a while for me to catch up that time...
After such an amazing site rest of the morning passed uneventfully as we pressed on over open desert and low lying hills and good navigation led us through gradually smaller empty valleys to a petrol halt. We filled eagerly with cold fluid and fuel knowing that our evening stop was a mere 70 miles away. Could we manage a whole day without incident?
That afternoon we encountered some tricky riding up boulder strewn hill climbs. On the footpegs and on the 'gas’ seemed to work well and by the time we had reached the top of the sections I was well and truly shaken. This constant battering and buffeting produced a strange phenomenon within your carried luggage, I liked to call it the 'vibrate and liquidise factor’. What this essentially meant was that everything you put in you luggage bag would eventually destroy itself through vibration. I had noticed this on numerous other trips and had come prepared with an old rucksack, a lot of bungees, and a new packing system. I am not sure if Stef and Jon realised this but they certainly had their problems as hole after hole appeared in their special waterproof luggage bags. As usual Duck Tape was the answer and their posh luggage now looked increasingly like taped bin bags as dust, rain, and vibration took its toll. Internally we all had the same problem, you usually found a fine white or black dust coating the lining of your bag at the end of the day. This usually meant that somewhere, something was far smaller than when you put it in your bag, usually with missing bits or holes. This is a constant problem when pushing hard on long off road trips and I have yet to find a solution except packing your gear in your luggage bag at 200 pounds per square inch. Often this doesn’t work well with toiletry products and it wasn’t unusual to see T Shirts covered in toothpaste or to smell shampoo when opening the next days map bag.
Out last 70 miles passed uneventfully and we finally dropped over a hill and followed a tight winding trail through a rocky mountain pass until a plain opened before us. It was clearly empty desert with a small town situated in the centre. The mountains to the east had two letters formed high on their flank in white stone, 'BM’, I guessed this was battle mountain. In place of suburbs surrounding the town centre I could see endless trailers and rubbish littering the plains floor. There appeared to be no organisation to the formations, merely ease of access and convenience of long established land rights. It looked like a lunar rubbish dump. We rode through this in ever increasing temperatures until we finally struck the town centre.
Being Nevada legal gambling and legal sex seemed to sell most things and Battle Mountain was no exception. The centre of town consisted of an old 1960’s shabby casino with all the usual trappings of motel, restaurant, and bars. Around it was a selection of tired looking shops, a brothel, and a rail road. For 40 dollars for three the room wasn’t expensive and with an early arrival time we had the unusual opportunity to explore. Stef wasted no time in finding a post office to return some used maps, and a library with free internet access. He returned to the room with the immortal comment, 'its not too hot out there if you walk slowly’. I left the air-conditioned room to follow his instructions to the library and glanced at the thermometer on the way past Jon’s bike. It was 4:45 pm, the thermometer was stuck on its maximum reading of 50 degrees centigrade. In old money that’s around 130 degrees F! I think ovens have low heat settings of less that that. I staggered down the empty streets under the oppressive atmosphere and was glad to reach the cool innards of the county library.
As I wandered around looking for the post office, I asked for help from a chap who pulled up in his car to turn off a building alarm or some such. He gave me directions and off I set. A couple of minutes later, the same guy pulled up at the side of the road and offered me a ride, which I accepted as the heat, whilst not completely insane, was quite oppresive. As we rode along the guy asked if I'd just moved to town, at which point I launched into the whole 4500 miles off road thing and he said, 'cool, what kind of bikes you riding?'. 'A coulpe of Honda XR's and a KTM' says I. 'Those ones at the motel?' he says. Now I'm scared, a total stranger knows that I'm in town within 90 minutes of arrival! But it transpires that he's a bit of a dirt bike rider himself and just happened to notice the bikes in passing. I feel better, and bid him goodbye at the post office.
Later that evening we looked at our maps and figured out that we had only a few days left on the trail. We were aware of more consumable issues on Jons bike, we needed more KTM sprockets badly, and I was convinced my engine was imminently going to die. On this cheery note Jon and I left Stef in the room and headed out for a beer.
Tumbleweed blew down the streets and a post apocalyptic feeling had descended on town. Most bars (in fact most things) were shut and the one open casino bar was so devoid of character that we couldn’t bring ourselves to drink there. There was only one option left, a red glow was emitting from a house on the far side of the rail tracks, maybe we could get a beer there...After some serious pedestrian off-roading across tracks and waste ground we found ourselves in the car park of the local brothel. This was a serious dilemma. We wanted a beer (and in truth we were curious) but we were really wary of the consequences of buying beer in a 'brothel’. Did they even sell beer? There was only one way to find out. Jon gamefully rang the door bell and stood back. At that exact moment I felt a tickling behind my right knee, something had clearly decided to go investigating that long moving passageway as we had crossed the waste ground area and was now not so happy. I felt an electric tingle down my spine and did what every self respecting human would do. I panicked. Scorpions, snakes, instant painful death, I leapt in the air beating my trouser leg with my hands whilst screeching rather shamefully. A liitle old lady peered out from behind a recently opened door, 'Err, can I help you’. Jon tried to look as normal as possible and in his best English accent asked, 'do you serve beer?’. The lady looked a little surprised but happily suggested that although this was primarily a brothel they did indeed serve beer and that were welcome to come in. As she said this I couldn’t help notice that she looked at me a little strangely. I was still breathing hard and sweating from my own highland dance competition and I couldn’t help wondering how much she had seen. I wished I could have pulled out fearsome arachnid or a snake from my trousers, but the small squashed cricket that I had in my hand didn’t seem worth mentioning really, so I dropped it and smiled sweetly. 'Oh great!’, I said. There’s nothing like making an impression!
The brothel turned out to be great. They had a German chef, free food, free nibbles, free jukebox, and a surprisingly frequent flow of fascinating people to talk to. (That should come as no surprise given that there was an enormous truck stop about half a mile down the road...) We had clearly found the most interesting place in town! We were given a guided tour and made to feel really welcome. The beer was great and at 1:30am when everyone else went to bed Jon and I sat alone in the bar drinking until 4:30am when we suddenly remembered we had a trail to ride. We were told to sleep on the couch if we wanted, the chef would be in at 7:00am and he would cook us a free breakfast. We declined the offer and left with free pens, balloons, and a 'Menu’! I have to say that I have rarely been made so welcome anywhere in my travels. The ladies working there never tried to pressure us into buying any of their services and seemed genuinely happy to sit and chat, as did most of their clients. The free food was excellent and the hospitality second to none. If you’re ever in Battle Mountain you could do a lot worse than stop in at Donna’s Ranch, just tell them Jon and Dave sent you, they’ll remember us, apparently they don’t get many English trans America off-road bikers in!