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Lonely Nevada Ride, Day One

Pahrump to Ely | Miles Ridden: 338


A good night's sleep. That's what we all really want, and need. I got one last night, at the Best Western Pahrump Station. Now I'm ready to ride into the high desert in Nevada – right after I eat a free hot breakfast in the hotel's Draft Picks Sports Lounge.

Yesterday, I rode from my home in Los Angeles to Pahrump, a distance of about 315 miles, on a 2014 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Limited. I've been looking forward to this ride for weeks, because the new Electra Glide really is new. It's a product of Harley's Project Rushmore, an initiative that the Motor Company just unveiled this fall. As a result of extensive customer research, the entire touring lineup has been redesigned, with the biggest changes coming to the top of the line Electra Glide Limited. The batwing fairing has been reshaped, and ventilation has been added below the windshield. New gauges, and a new Boom! audio system with a color screen and GPS navigation now lives in the dashboard, incorporating Bluetooth audio, a USB input, and a 12-volt power port. The bike's ergonomics have been subtly improved, with revised geometry and a more comfortable seat.

And that's not even the big news. The big news is the Twin-Cooled High Output Twin Cam engine, a revised 103-cubic inch V-Twin that uses liquid to cool the engine heads. The radiators are cleverly concealed in the fairing lowers. This technology is revolutionary for Harley, whose entire lineup has been air cooled, with the exception of the V-Rod. Liquid cooling should eventually trickle down to the rest of the lineup. For now, it's only available in the Electra Glide Ultra Limited, the CVO Electra Glide, and the Tri Glide.

Riding across the California desert yesterday, I noticed the increase in power that the new 103 produces, and I felt more comfortable and in control than ever. I plugged my iPhone into the USB port in the dash, and tucked the phone safely away into the cleverly concealed compartment. I plugged in my headset into the bike's port, and was rewarded with clear sound, loud enough to hear even with earplugs. I put my phone into Airplane mode, to make sure that I didn't get any distracting phone calls during my ride – even though it's possible to make and receive calls through the bike's system, I choose not to, for safety's sake.

I rolled into Best Western Pahrump Station and checked into my clean, spacious room. I had just enough time to unload the bike and head back out to ride around town before darkness fell.

Pahrump is an interesting town. With a population of about 38,000, it's the biggest town in Nye County. Like in the rest of Nevada, gambling is legal in Pahrump, and there are several casinos to take advantage of that fact. Unlike Las Vegas, the casinos in Pahrump are present but not dominant. They're smaller and a little less intimidating, but still feature all of the same gaming and many of the same amenities, like restaurants, buffets and live entertainment. Pahrump takes pride in its natural attractions, with lots of local hiking and outdoor activities. Pahrump is also home to two motorsports facilities, Pahrump Valley Speedway and Spring Mountain Motor Resort & Country Club. The Speedway is a good old-fashioned racetrack for spectators, with sprint and stock car racing; and Spring Mountain is a driver's paradise, home to several performance driving schools and track time available for hire.

I had dinner at El Jefe's Restaurant, a comfortable Mexican place just down the road from the Best Western. You can't go wrong with Mexican food in southern Nevada, and El Jefe's lived up to the tradition.

I dropped in to the Draft Picks Sports Lounge at the hotel, where a live band was playing classic rock hits. Not too bad! The Lounge has a four-lane bowling alley inside, too, set up for duckpins, but with modern electronic scoring and pin setting. That's some fun. I stuck around for a few tunes, watched a little bit of bowling, then headed for bed.

Now, I'm on the road. I've had my breakfast, the bike is loaded, and it's a beautiful day. This week, I'll be riding a counter-clockwise circle through the middle of Nevada, hitting lots of high desert scenery and crossing some of the most remote territory in the United States. I'll have to pay close attention to my gas gauge, as there will be some stretches with 100-mile gaps (and more) between service stations. I'm all geared up in a new Harley-Davidson Triple Vent System Evolution Waterproof Leather Jacket and Waterproof Textile Riding Pants. I tracked down this new jacket specifically for this trip, because it is incredibly versatile. It's designed to flow a big amount of air for cooling, with big zippered vents and on the front, sides and back. It comes with a removable jacket liner for cold weather, and it is waterproof when all the vents are closed. I'm not expecting rain or snow on this trip, but you never know. I am expecting wide temperature swings, as I'll be riding from sea level to over 4,000 feet in elevation. My usual jacket choices would be a compromise – my perforated jacket would be perfect in the heat, too cold in the mountains, and my regular jacket would be just the reverse. The riding pants are essential, too, for safety and impact resistance as well as weather protection. I should be extremely comfortable and safe on this ride.

The first leg of my ride takes me through North Las Vegas. I can see the skyline of the famous Las Vegas Strip as I skirt the city. It would be an easy hop from Pahrump in to Las Vegas – I can see the wisdom in staying overnight at the Best Western Pahrump Station instead of in the hustle and bustle of Vegas. It would be cheaper and less hectic, and probably a lot less stressful for a lot of people.

Soon, Las Vegas is in my mirrors, and I'm out into the desert. I find the Nevada desert to be immensely beautiful and awe-inspiring. Even though most of the roads are flat and straight, the scenery is so grand that I enjoy the ride. US-93 heads north into the interior of the state. I follow it for about 80 miles until I come to Gill, where I stop to fill up with gas. Four lanes go down to two, but the speed limit is still 70 in most places, except when the road passes through tiny towns. The Electra Glide is rock solid, unaffected by wind or by opposing truck traffic. I set the cruise control and enjoy the ride. There's very little traffic, and I'm extremely comfortable on the bike. This is one of those great rides.

The desert landscape changes subtly as I cruise through, morphing from sandy, rocky terrain dotted with Joshua trees to low brush to creosote bushes, a new eco system emerging each time I pass through a valley. Big stratified rock formations and hills define the valleys in the distance, closing in on the road periodically before opening up to a wide expanse of flat desert floor. It's a wonderland of muted color. I pass through some ranchland, with hearty-looking cattle munching on desert foliage in remote, rocky fields. The cows seem to appreciate the comfortable temperatures of the day, around 75 degrees in the sun. I can only imagine how tough their lives get during the summer, when it can get over 110 for days on end.

I stop for gas in the little town of Alamo. A sign warns that the next services will be in 100 miles – one of the stretches that I've been anticipating. I wouldn't want to attempt this ride on my Sportster, but the Electra Glide can easily go 200 miles or more on a tank of gas, so I'll be fine as long as I don't get foolish.

I take on some elevation as I head into the Humboldt National Forest. There's even some snow on the ground on the east side of the road, which I was not expecting to see this early in November.

Finally, I roll in to Ely and check in to the Best Western Park Vue Motel. Ely is a tiny town of 4,500. The Best Western is situated right in the middle of town on the main drag, walking distance from several small casinos, restaurants and bars. Downtown Ely has several great looking old buildings from the early 20th century, and some giant building-side murals depicting the history of the region. There's a public sculpture garden and an arts center on the main street, and a nice park in front of the county library. Pickup trucks outnumber cars by a healthy margin, and the vibe is that of a relaxed cowboy town.

I check in to my room at the Best Western Park Vue Motel, and set off to take some pictures and find some dinner. I never did stop for lunch today. Sometimes I prefer to ride a little hungry on a longer day. I find it easier to keep riding, rather than losing momentum and stopping for a meal. Some beef jerky and a bottle of water keeps me going – and then I enjoy my dinner all the more.

I settle on the Hotel Nevada Casino for dinner, and order up a beef ribeye, medium rare. Those Nevada cows sure are delicious!

Back in my room now, I'm going to study my maps and check the weather for tomorrow's ride. I'll be hitting my highest elevations, so I've got an alternated route planned in case things turn bad. So far, it's looking good for my original route plan. I'll check again tomorrow before I depart.

I'll sleep well tonight in the cool high desert air. Maybe I'll go out and check out the stars before I go to bed.

NEXT: Day Two: Ely to Elko to Eureka

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Best Western Hotels Along the Way:

1

Best Western McCarran Inn

4970 Paradise Road, Las Vegas NV 89119-1206
Phone: (702) 798-5530  |  Fax: (702) 798-7627  |  Hotel Details & Reservations »

2

Best Western Plus Las Vegas West

8669 W Sahara Avenue, Las Vegas NV 89117-5860
Phone: (702) 256-3766  |  Fax: (702) 256-3763  |  Hotel Details & Reservations »

3

Best Western Plus Casino Royale

3411 Las Vegas Boulevard S, Las Vegas NV 89109-8955
Phone: (702) 737-3500  |  Fax: (702) 650-4743  |  Hotel Details & Reservations »

4

Best Western Mesquite Inn

390 N Sandhill Boulevard, Mesquite NV 89027-4728
Phone: (702) 346-7444  |  Fax: (702) 346-7438  |  Hotel Details & Reservations »

5

Best Western Plus North Las Vegas Inn & Suites

4540 Donovan Way, North Las Vegas NV 89081-2726
Phone: (702) 649-3000  |  Fax: (702) 649-3997  |  Hotel Details & Reservations »

6

Best Western Pahrump Oasis

1101 S Highway 160, Pahrump NV 89048-4700
Phone: (775) 727-5100  |  Fax: (775) 751-1325  |  Hotel Details & Reservations »

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