Craig and Lisa's
US-395, US-50, US-6, and US-95 Adventure

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Day 5 Map

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SR-88/89 Tahoe | US-50 and SR-722 | Death Valley

06/08/05 - Thursday - US-6 and Lunar Crater
hihoneyimhome.jpg (58338 bytes)The stretch of US-50 from Eureka to Ely was quite pleasant. We posed for a funny pic next to a dilapidated stone house and enjoyed watching the sun try to break through the overcast morning. 

We had a bit of a scare at Ely when Lisa noticed the engine covered in places with oil. I looked all over for a source of the oil, perhaps a seal? I couldn't find any pattern or origin at all. After examining the oil caught on the bottom of the front fender we had to conclude we must have just run through some wet stretch of road shortly after someone else had dumped some oil (watched it like a hawk for the rest of the trip though!).

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Engine problem or road grime?

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The clue is on the fender...

We turned back southwest on US-6, which turned out to be quite a gem after the truck traffic diverted off onto SR-318. Currant Summit was a fun little gently winding descent that ended near the town of Currant, a spooky little abandoned junction. 

When we passed over Black Rock Summit I knew we were in for something special. It is hard to describe and even more difficult to convey in photographs, but with the temporarily lush terrain I had a feeling we were seeing it as few can throughout the year. lisadrylake.jpg (46852 bytes) I spotted the sign for Lunar Crater Loop. We doubled back but the sign was not on both sides. The map showed a single road, but apparently it was now a loop and this was the way in from the east side. The road looked good and we were ready for our daily fix of Nevada ranch road. Almost immediately the road had a steep little climb and set of curves, but it quickly traversed a small ridge and the road smoothed out again. Except for the occasional sandy patch, the road seemed fairly tame. We rolled on by a dry lake, with no sign of a crater any where. Not having any information (or access to any topos or satellite photos) we just figured we'd accept  what ever they consider a crater to be. A dry lake is like the lunar surface right? Whatever, we were having fun!

[Note: a few people have asked if we drove across the dry lake pictured (above to the right). No. Niether were there indications that anyone else had recently. We pulled up on an established road to the edge for the photograph.]

We came up to a turn off for a spot called "The Wall" - somewhat threatening sounding... but it looked tame enough -- despite the warnings not to proceed by vehicle (can you see where this is going?). So off we go climbing on our little 650cc loaded with two adventurous people and all their gear. Well after all, I did have enough water to hike back to the road in case of a breakdown - and Lisa was all for it. Well the road wasn't to steep overall, but there were a few sections that looked like a dry streambed. With 1st gear a bit too high, I couldn't keep the speed down enough (without slipping the clutch) to really pick my path 100%. That, and we already figured out at Bodie that me standing up didn't "sit well" with Lisa ("What do I hang on to?"). We had a bit of solid clunk on one rock, but for the rest of the trail the clearance was good. When we got to the top I took a peek under the bike and saw what we hit. Good thing we weren't dragging a centerstand. As it turns out we were quite fortunate not to have taken out the stock kickstand for that matter.  The Suzuki DL650 V-Strom is not a dirt bike. It is a relatively high clearance standard motorcycle sometimes categorized as a "dual-sport". We've dedicated it's used to what we would call Adventure Touring. More compromised than optimized -- everything we select, from tires to safety gear, must serve us from thoroughfare to ranch road. This trip was a bit of a test run for man, woman and machine. thewalltakethaway.jpg (46797 bytes)We would like go 2-up to Skagway, AK and Dawson City, YK for example - but all the trip reports I could find were from solo riders. I wanted to get a good feel for this bike and how it would handle on long sections of gravel, dirt, or other road reconstruction areas with 2 people. In taking it to the limit on this trail I was not expecting it to perform flawlessly, but rather I wanted to get an idea of the control issues one faces during low traction or steep climbing with a passenger. The result we got reinforced what many others have concluded -- It's a great bike that will accommodate you in many places, but it has it's limitations: silt, sand, mud, rocks, loose gravel, ice, snow are formidable obstacles. Care and respect for these should be applied inversely proportional to how close help is available. Be careful in any case.

As we got back down and continued on towards the main road (or so we estimated by compass) we turned a corner to an awesome site - a huge crater! It was so big it even had it's own rain cloud dropping down inside when we got there. lunarcrater.jpg (319718 bytes) We met a couple of guys there in a truck who verified the loop and route back to the main road (we were on track). After the crater the road descended for about 200 yards in very fine ash like dirt. It was raining fairly consistently and the wet dirt on top was forming a slick membrane over the rest of the loose dirt beneath. It was slicker than slug gravy and the front wheel just about got out from under me a few times. The road was cut into the hill and crowning a bit, so I just maintained speed and let myself drift down the crown and rode out the edge, hoping it wouldn't get too soft. Everything settled out soon enough and we had a straight shot ranch road for another 5 miles or so to US-6. If you have to ask, I would not recommend this road for a standard motorcycle. You could probably ride this road 99 times without going down, but there are just enough bad spots that I want to make sure it is something you have decided yourself you want to do, and not something you do because we made it okay riding 2-up with gear, once.

274.8 miles for the day, of which  22 was dirt. -- Next, Death Valley and homeward

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Scenes along US-6 South of SR-318  

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Lunar Crater Loop
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Road to "The Wall"
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We're in high desert
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View on the way to "The Wall"
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First view of 
Lunar Lake
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Clue Number 1, 
it's called "The Wall"
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Clue Number 2,
"Not advised"
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Clue Number 3, 
it's a wagon trail

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Our DL650K4 at "The Wall"
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A hardy breed, but not a low 
enough 1st gear to maintain an 
appropriate controllable speed 
in steep or rocky portions of the 
trail without over using the clutch.
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"The Wall" hath 
taken away...
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As better judgment kicks in, 
Lisa is issued her walking stick 
and asked to hike back down...
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Craig solos down "The Wall"
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A bit too heavy 2-up with gear 
on just a few little sections -- and 
that would be all it would take!
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Lisa more than 
happy to oblige!
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The Nelson-Rigg SB-900 Saddlebags 
mount low and tight - with rain covers they 
make a good bag for off-road conditions 
(keeps them clean wet or dry).
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Lisa in the pose of the trip. 
Our Storm chasing Strom...

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Along the road we ran across 
a long deep section of silt that felt 
like fording a river. We hit it at the 
right speed so I just kept going on 
through. I stopped a few hundred 
yards after to get my bearings 
and take a look at our dusty boots. 
Hesitating or stiffening up through 
this section would have been ugly. 
Most who ride this bike agree that 
silt or sand can not be taken lightly. 
The V-Strom has a heavy front-end 
and when your riding 2-up it's 
especially hard to keep the front light.

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Shared some info with these 
guys at the crater. They had 
a better map, and I kept them 
from overshooting their last
possible gas stop. They had
planned to refuel at Currant
which is currently abandoned.
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The Crater!!
Thanks to Michael for processing this
  image from 4 separate photos 
(It was in rough shape, 
having been shot in the rain)

For more info on the crater ...look here!

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A topographic map I pulled 
up and marked out the loop 
(after the fact)

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A close up of the crater 
on the topo

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Jack Dirt - Can I 
get a drink please?

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Nice to have the rain covers on 
just to keep the bags clean...
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Deserted Warm Springs. 
Notice my dirty footprints 
all over the fresh asphalt?
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doing it's job on the 
critical part of the drive chain and 
sprocket after a run in the dirt
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ET Highway junction at 
Warm Springs

Next, Death Valley and homeward

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