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Sierra Safari – High desert race (for survival) ride report

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Financial markets be damned, we just sold our land.

Now to parlay that money into something sweet,

Signed the wife and I up for the safari – ready to compete.

(It didn’t help that last year I could hear everyone driving by my office to the Shady Rest staging area – proof that there are far more suitable alternatives to work.)

Living right near Mammoth we loaded up 6:45 a.m. on Friday morning to drive over to Grumpy’s. With her TW200 on the truck, it'll be an easy ride on the XR into town. Mistake #1. The 50-60 mile wind gusts literally drove me off the freeway and into our newly redone airport. From the airport exit I had to ride dirt into town – much better as my arms were already dead from fighting the wind amongst the early morning traffic rush.

After a quick speech from Dick (Allen) and Rich (BLM) riders prepared the bikes. Even though it was cold, a KTM start puking while waiting the start. Our air cooled bikes were hard to warm up – my wife’s bike was previously owned by Dave McCoy, the founder and original pioneer of Mammoth Mountain. Bought it for $1008 from a mountain mechanic who inherited it somehow. That dude drove such a hard bargain that I had to shell out everything from my wallet – thus the extra $8.

Right off the bat her bike was all over the place, it didn’t help that the trail was roto-tilled beyond recognition and dust hung heavy in the air. Pretty soon all the other women and children passed us up, her heavy bike was dropped a couple times and the sweep was putting on the pressure for her to step things up. Haha, in over her head came to mind. Then at a sandy hard cut right hill climb she dropped it again, and other people were getting stuck as a result. Hopping off my bike, I get hers up and ride it to the top, run back down get my bike, put her on back, then get up the hill. Now I’m huffing up a storm and have to strip off gear and layers due to heat exhaustion. (who’s laughing now?) But by now we start advancing as others start falling harder, some breaking parts, others just feeling the fatigue of the roto-tilled dust bowl ruts whoops and granular pumice fields. It’s great actually.

Then a DR650 wedged full of bushes (as if camouflaged) flew off trail as if it had a mind of it’s own. We were only at mile 25.

I knew my wife was getting close to the tipping point so I had her follow me on an alternate nice and hard packed road which would allow us to make up some time prior to the fuel truck at 55 miles. No sooner than we started to cool down and really pick up the pace, two figures in the road with rifles slung over their shoulders flagged us down.

“Please Stop!”

Turns out a father and daughter hunting party from Olancha had their truck stolen and now they’ve been walking for 10 miles. We let them use the cell, and while we make plans to retrieve other members of their hunting party out by Crooked Meadows a forest service truck rolls onto the scene. Reluctantly, the forest ranger loads the father and daughter into his truck and takes them to their camp. Hopefully they found their truck, and maybe they were just lost and disoriented – I can’t really see anyone stealing trucks in the forest, especially from folks with scoped rifles.

Now the snow really starts coming down, and we show up at the gas truck. Freezing, the gas man laughs and states the obvious on how we should know more than anyone to dress appropriately – and loans us a pair of gloves. “77 riders are ahead of you.” (1:15 p.m.) I figured there were around 100 total. Let’s get the hell out of here and to lunch – only 20 miles further…

That 20 miles took two hours.

Cold winds, dust, blowing snow, talcum powder rut traps, sand, sand, sand. It was surreal and the camera wouldn’t work in the extreme cold much to my disappointment.

About every 5 miles we’d stop to warm up on the pipes. At one of our stops a group of brothers came speeding towards us in a tight pack. The leaders tire started drifting as he wanted to make a slight direction change to give us a wider berth. Unfortunately, that started a chain reaction which ended in a spectacular high speed (40-45 mph) dismount into a desert dust ditch. My ring-side seat allowed me all the visual details – but no time to soak it all in, let’s see if he survived! I help get his bike up and he’s still lying there, apparently the dirt made it all the way into his goggles and all around his glasses – but he’s in good shape.

Then another rider comes and slows to make sure everything is alright. He has a radiator strapped onto his backpack and Jeffery pine sprigs plugged into his intake and outtake hoses. The bike looks like a newer 450, and he makes the rest of the 70 miles without any radiators. Nice! I told him he’s air-cooled now.

The road deteriorates, and the TW flounders. We branch off onto a worse road, unbelievable! By now my wife has perfected the “1st gear walk along sandy ruts with both feet” technique – and we start passing people envious of her balloon tires. But trust me they don’t amount to much. Then it’s surprising because riders have turned around to make sure they aren’t on the “A” trail (Devil’s Triangle) because the road gets worse and worse and then the rumor of no more flagging quickly spreads. I tell her, no, this is the way whether or not people like it or not and let’s continue on – no short cuts around this one. The trail gets sandier and now starts to climb, she goes as far as she can then we do the old ride up, run down, back up again shuttle trick.

Lunch at 3:15 p.m., (mile 75 roughly) the lettuce is frozen or is freezing as I hold the sandwich. Like eating a popsicle wrapped in bread. I ask the check point person if this is Hawthorne and where are the slots. Then the sweep quad comes in. Many have tales of woe and dirt yoga (so bad it’s funny) except we are far away from the hotel, and it’s snowing more and more with no way to get warm.

I don’t even have to think twice about getting on the slab, get our asses over Anchorite pass and down into Hawthorne valley – but when we get close its back to dirt work for us and we follow a nice pole line road to the Luck Boy Pass road and we get back on the ribboned course again. Fun little stretch of single track into town, we arrive at the El Cap by 5:15 p.m. 105 miles. Hypothermic.

Hot showers, buffet, and six free drink tickets later all is well.

Well, to cut this narrative short and get some pictures up… Day 2 was cancelled, but that was fine because of extreme weather conditions. Day 3 was the best, temps were in the low 20’s though, but at least the camera started working. Enjoy the photos.

Day 1 – wife riding the TW, part street, part dirt, part amphibious wheeled scooter. Does it all but nothing well.


Start your engines. That's it for Day 1, no camera worky.


Day 2 – robot in Hawthorne. (w/ bombs)


And a shark.


Who doesn’t like helicopters?


Day 3 – Finally some decent weather, still ice cold though.


One of our mandatory bring the fingers back on the hot pipe stop. I don’t think we could have worn any more clothes, ski socks, two pairs of thermal pants, thermal tops, fleece, then a heavy fleece lined snowboard jacket, neck gaiter, full MC gear – I could barely move.


Looking out at Little Whiskey Flat, last year we tried to find a dirt connection from here over to California but couldn’t.


Of course today is easy sailing, this was the exact spot of a high speed disengage from day 1. No dust and even the talcum ruts have disappeared if you can believe that.


Canyon that dumps into Adobe Valley.


Gas truck in the distance.


Glass Mountains, one of our neighbors has hiked and skied the peak in winter. A bit over 12,000 feet.


Looking at the White Mountains and towards Benton.




Easy 2 track over behind Mono Craters.


The great thing about being behind 100 riders today is that they’ve created a single track over 10 miles of jeep trail. Super tacky volcanic soil bordered by snow was exceptional.


Last stretch of trail before we hit Mammoth. Hot dogs await. 98 miles later and we shaved off about 4 hours of trail time compared to day 1.


Memories of these great times have kept us going all this week. I recommend this ride for anyone. Don’t let the extreme weather hold you back, it was the first time in 30 years that day 2 was just shut down – so I heard. Ride promoter Dick Allen and staff throw on a great party. Mother Nature helped too.

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Great story and pics!!!!! Thanks. Man, my wife would have KILLED me about 25 miles in......:D:worthy::ride: Are you still married?

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Yeah, great report. What an adventure.

What did you guys do on Saturday?

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I would have to agree with Bill_P, my wife would have killed me 2 miles in! :D

Great ride report! Gas to you! :worthy:

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You used the wrong part to warm your hands. Use that air cooled engine to it's best effect by grabbing the cylinder and/or head with your gloves on. Warms them right up.

Seems like a grand adventure. It looks like an electric jacket and grips would have made it a lot more comfortable.

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Great Ride Report. I did the Safari several years back under similar conditions. I was riding with my friends son who was about 14 at the time (my friend was one of the sweep riders). We left Hawthorne in a heavy snow storm and decided to see how fast we could make it back to Mammoth. Got back in time to swap the riding boots for ski boots and got a half day of skiing in the afternoon. What a great day. The Safari is a great time and is put on with a lot of professionalism. A broken wrist kept me out of this years.

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I was there with you at the gas truck photo, we were the ones that knocked on yout door looking for our bud who was upstairs from you. Thats my ride pertner Mark leaning against the truck in the gas photo. We rode along with this couple from the gas to Mammoth. She kept plugging along and we passed each other several times as we stopped to warm up and have a snack. Nice riding with the two of you. Oh yeah, which one has the longer hair??

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Hey Mike, I remember, we even all ate dinner together one of those nights. I don't know if you noticed but there were a couple of those homemade wind guards scattered around on the ride home from people losing it in the snow - some big divots too. Wife wins for hair. That was fun, you and Mark must have been taking it easy on Sunday.

And Cleonard we became pros at the hand warm ups - problem was that the engine would cool down too fast and it always got riders to stop when crouching down looking like repairs were being made. More actual surface contact with the pipe, almost every time we'd have to choke to get running again.

Saturday in Hawthorne we walked around town, ate a bunch, bought some Southern Comfort, hit it big on video keno ($120), etc. I threw out the idea of going further east in Nevada to Dick Allen as an alternative but he didn't think it would be a good plan because we could possibly burn-out the bike friendly scene with the locals.

Still married? :worthy: Sure, trips like these actually help. :D

My wife would give it another go - she just wants to get faster.

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My wife would give it another go - she just wants to get faster.

Cool! Give her props and tell her we approve!!!!!!

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I was on the puking KTM ( had to richen it up)at the start.Hope next year is warmer

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