Due to 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 email@example.com. Include pictures if you can. Stories will be edited as print space allows.
I took my dog camping up on Ward Mountain this past weekend, so didn’t really do much riding. But that’s OK because I’ve been meaning to write about one of the best rides I’ve taken since I moved here.
It happened by accident, someone told me to ride out to Cave Lake State Park and so I did, taking 93/50 southbound out of town about 10 miles to the Cave Lake road exit (486) on the left. It was a beautiful paved road for a number of miles, beginning in the middle of the valley and then heading into some rocky mountains that stood huge from the perspective of my bike. I rode deep into the hills and was distracted by some RV’s clogging up traffic, which caused me to miss the turnoff to the lake, landing me instead on a dirt road where the pavement ended called Success Loop.
Now while some bikers won’t take the precious Harleys they’ve given girly names to on a dirt road, my Road King’s an animal, stripped down to the basics; no fairing or windshield, just pure motorcycle covered in chrome. I don’t necessarily have a problem with dirt roads, in fact, some dirt roads I’ve been on seem to be better than many of the paved roads here in Ely. Just take it slow and easy and you’ll be alright, and taking it slow and easy when I’m riding my Harley is no problem.
TI took this road at the end of winter, maybe a week since it had rained last, so there were some tire track grooves in the road that had to be maneuvered, but most of the road was smooth and comfortable. When you do hit the grooves, it’s best to either ride it out or ride outside of it, if you have enough room. Again, I took it slow, not often going over 25 mph and mostly riding at about 15 mph. Washboards in the road are the worse thing about riding a bike with a 1350cc engine but again, they don’t usually last long and you just have to ride them out.
If you can deal with the obstacles that a dirt road presents, then you’re in for the treat of your life and you can add a whole new dimension to your bike riding experience. And this road is one of the best dirt roads I’ve ever rode on. Would I rather ride it on a dirt bike? Yes. But if you wait until you have the bike you want to ride on these dirt roads, you might never get to ride them, and then you’ll miss out on one of the best rides the local area has to offer.
This road climbs way up into the mountain, with twists and turns all along the climb. There’s not much room in the road to pull over and take pictures, but when I rode it back in late May or early June, there wasn’t a lot of cars and trucks going by in either direction.
The grassy hillsides were covered in green with wild flowers of every color of the rainbow growing alongside the road. Purple, blue, orange and yellow blossoms contrasted with the deep green filled slopes that led up to rocky cliffs and forests, highlighted by the swiveling clay road that snaked down the hill behind me.
The views were fantastic and the mountain air was clean and clear with clouds of many shapes passing over me far above. It was an experience no one in a car could ever share.
After many miles of riding, there came a fork in the road and I had to make a decision to either take the left fork that went uphill, or the right fork which went straight. I wasn’t sure which one to take but I finally decided to take the right fork, which had me worried because a truck ahead of me had gone left and I rode for miles and miles before I actually ran into someone who knew where he was going so I could verify that I was on the right trail back to civilization. It was crazy.
I rode through a forest of what I thought was white birch, though someone told me they were poplars, but it was a thick forest that reminded me of the Blair Witch Project. At one point, just as I was entering into this thick woods, a giant deer shot down the hillside and then across the road maybe 20 feet in front of me before darting non-stop back up the opposite hillside.
It’s amazing how fast these huge animals can run up and down hills without slamming into a tree. It kind of tripped me out, being lost, the deer and the Blair Witch trees, but after about 20 minutes of riding a truck finally came up from the other direction and he assured me I was about seven miles from getting out of there.
Seven miles is a long way when you’re putting along at 15-20 mph, mostly 15, but I finally made it back to pavement and then took that road about another 10 miles or so before it came back out on Highway 93, north of McGill. I made a left, rode through the little community of McGill, should have stopped for a beer but I had told my dog that I was only going to be gone for an hour and about three hours had passed, so I had to hurry on home.
In my opinion, if you’re a biker and you’re visiting Ely or the surrounding area, you want to ride this road. Personally, if there weren’t so many other roads I want to ride, I would take this road every weekend. It’s close and it’s a ride through some of the most beautiful bike country ever. I can’t wait to go back.
Marty Bachman is editor of the Ely Times and an avid biker. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 760-550-3943.