This story was also published on Bikepacker.com.
I know Neil already wrote a report from the winner’s perspective of the Comstock Epic 550 for 2016. This report is what it was like for those of us in Neil’s dust. It’s a true tale of two races.
It had been a while since I’d done a multiday bikepacking race. After getting 1st Place Rookie (the category for first timers on the course) in the 2014 Trans North Georgia, I spent a year living in Ecuador where I raced a lot of endurance races and did a lot of exploratory bikepacking expeditions (stay tuned for some stories to come about that). I then moved to China where I spent some time bikepacking in Kham Tibet. By the time I moved back to the States in late 2015, I had more or less missed the season. I also began my first faculty position at a university in the PNW at that time, so my training over the winter and spring was not what it should have been. All of this lack of preparation gave me a nagging sense of doubt whether I could really even ride 550 miles across the Great Basin Desert, crossing over 15 mountain ranges, much less race across it. But I couldn’t resist the opportunity to bike unsupported across the most remote, sparsely populated area in the contiguous United States.
It was a long drive from Yakima WA down to Reno, but I was excited to return to the area as I had spent 5 years in the Reno-Tahoe area and it was good to be back. I arrived in Reno late Wednesday night and spent a nice evening prepping my bike and having a great last meal with friends. Thursday morning, I left my friend’s house at 6am to bike across town to the pick-up site for the shuttle to the start point of the race on the Utah-Nevada border. It was really fun riding with other racers across the great state of Nevada, though I definitely felt even more nervous since everyone seemed to know each other and had been racing a lot of ultra-endurance races this last year or so. While I was busy traveling for research and teaching (and to be honest, skiing more than training on the bike over the winter!), it sounded like a lot of these guys were training like machines. Oh well I told myself, its more about the adventure than the race!
After a pit stop at Middlegate, site of a former brothel turned bar n grill and motel in the middle of nowhere (this was actually mile 362 of the race and our first provisions for over 250 miles on the course!). We made it to the Border Inn on the Utah border late afternoon, just in time to gorge on greasy bar food and have a beer (no IPA though so I was bummed!).
The race started at 6am Friday am if memory serves, and after a quick group picture, we were off. We all hung together more or less for the first couple miles on pavement, but once we hit dirt, 5 of us broke into a lead pack, and shortly thereafter I fell behind Neil, Kurt Sandiforth, and Blake Bockius. Those guys were hammering a pace I knew I couldn’t keep for 24 hours, much less the amount of time it would take us to cross the state. I can suffer with the best of them, but not sure I could handle trying to race neck and neck for that kind of distance, so I was all too happy to drop back. Isaac Chilton must have had the same idea, and we started keeping pace together.
We hit the first of 15 mountain ranges and the ascent didn’t feel that bad-it was nice and gradual and the wind hadn’t begun to pick up yet. After the climb we had a nice fast descent on dirt before hitting Hwy 50 for another couple of miles. We quickly turned off the highway and hit what would turn out to be the worst sand of the race. At the time I didn’t know it, so I became a bit more apprehensive. Its easy to rationalize these type of races by looking at the stats. I convinced myself it would be “easy” since there was so much doubletrack and only ~36,000ft of elevation gain. The stats didn’t really describe the reality of this course which I found out rather quickly. I told myself, you can do this Al, just keep on pedaling.
As bad as the sand was, at least we were protected from the wind by the towering mountain range that lay ahead. After finally pushing through the sand trap, the climb over mountain range number 2 felt like a nice stroll on a rails-to-trails. We dropped down the other side and hit a campground where we could fill our bottles. We were right at the 50 mile mark at this point-sweet I thought, only 500 miles to go! It should have been a fast leisurely descent from the campground to the valley below, but by this point, the wind had picked up and we had to pedal downhill. The winds were really disheartening- I knew we would be traveling West the entire time, so we would have a headwind every afternoon at the least. The course took a southwesterly directions for about 30 miles which was the exact direction of the wind. So what should have been a cruiser flat section became a headwind sufferfest.
We finally hit the mountains after crossing the desert plain, and the uphill was a welcome relief from the wind. The 3rd mountain range involved a pretty long and steep climb to the pass, but since it was blocking the wind, I wasn’t complaining. I got ahead of Isaac a bit on the uphill, but he destroyed me on the descent. We would continue like this for the next little while.
After mountain range 3 you hit your last town/resupply for 250 miles in Preston NV. That’s a long haul with no services in a desolate area with next to no water and even fewer people. Being a pretty steady eater, I had packed about 9000 calories worth of food for this section, though I calculated I would need more along the lines of 16,000 calories. Knowing this, Isaac and I ate a huge diner meal, and I downed about a gallon of water and even some soda, something I rarely drink. By this time, Zak Tourville caught up to us and we all rolled out together at dusk. The winds, though still heavy, were starting to die down by this point, so we could almost relax and enjoy ourselves. Despite the headwinds, we were actually making really good time and keeping a fast pace for bikepacking race standards. I guess the pace was a bit fast for Zak and he opted to fall back after about three hours together. Isaac and I pushed on ahead, trying to make it over mountain range #4 before resting bit. This mountain range actually had some of the most difficult terrain yet, with a lot of washed out, rocky doubletrack. It might’ve been easy in the daylight, but was super difficult with my headlamp running at about 150 lumens. After several hours we made it over the mountains and wasted a bit of time trying to find the water source.
Water scarcity is a major crux of this race. It could be downright deadly not to refill at every possible opportunity, so although I had a fairly full drom and bottle, I drank my fill and refilled my reservoirs to capacity. We pushed on, but by about 3am I knew I need to get off the bike for a bit and opted to rest for 1-2 hours. I had planned on sleeping for a maximum of 2 hours per 22 hours of riding, so I was right on track. Isaac didn’t bring enough gear to sleep comfortably in the cold so he pushed on. I hoped I would catch up to him since we were going to continue crossing through some extremely remote, lonely country.
I rolled out my emergency bivy sack, which is pretty much a glorified trash bag and passed out immediately. The alarm sounded painfully 1.5 hours later and I drug myself out of the bag (I hadn’t brought a sleeping bag so I was pretty cold) and got back on the bike as quickly as possible. It took me quite a while to warm up in the chilly desert pre-dawn. The sun finally crested behind me to reveal ominously gray skies and lenticular clouds. I knew at that point I would get some weather that day.
Neil had warned me that the forecast was calling for nasty weather in central NV on Saturday afternoon so his plan was to hammer until he got over Ophir pass (the high point of the race at about 10,500ft) in an effort to beat the weather rolling in. I knew I couldn’t make it 360 miles that quickly so I resigned myself to whatever the weather gods brought on. I figured, it’s the desert, how bad can it be? I would find out shortly.
The next few valleys and mountain ranges were both stunningly beautiful and hauntingly stark. I didn’t see any signs of life for mile after mile. The only wildlife I saw in Antelope Valley was dead livestock and antelope skeletons. This was a forbidding place. There is absolutely no water here. Fortunately, the NV Department of Wildlife puts out “desert watering stations” that are fenced off to keep livestock out, but antelope and other desert critters (including silly, intrepid bikepack racers) are able to access the water. After skimming a bit of pond scum off the top, the water was actually quite drinkable after treating with chlorine tabs.
Though I was definitely feeling like I had ridden 250+ miles, I was thoroughly enjoying the raw beauty of the land and relishing the solitude. My mind started to wander a bit and I swore I saw Isaac just ahead of me. I called out to him and tried to chase him down for what felt like hours before realizing it had probably been a figment of my wandering imagination. I finally hit the next watering point, this time a foul sulfur smelling hot spring. I filled my drom with piping hot water that smelled like rotten eggs, but was pleasantly surprised that after the gas escaped, and the water cooled, it was quite delicious!! I guess this is the artesian well water rich folks pay exorbitant sums to drink. Ha I thought, all I had to do was bike several hundred miles into the desert and I could drink it for free-suckers! As you can tell, my mind may have been slipping a bit at this point.
I rolled on and came across an old homestead. I thought about stopping for a bit as I saw the ominous clouds ahead but tried to push on. Not even 5 minutes later, the heavens seemed to burst and I was caught in a deluge of rain. I turned around and hammered back to the homestead where I could at least change into my rain gear with some protection from the elements. I was hoping the weather would pass quickly but it didn’t seem to be going anywhere despite the wind, so I hopped back on the bike, suited up in my raingear and suffered through the storm for the next several hours.
The rain came in squalls, then would let up a bit, before blasting me again. I was wondering if I had it in me to continue in these conditions. One advantage of this race is that it’s actually almost as hard to pull out of as it is to just continue on. I think it was something like a 100 mile ride to the closest real town with supplies/services from this point. I decided I would get over Ophir Pass, the crux of the race that night regardless of the weather. I didn’t realize just how bad it would get.
After crossing yet another mountain range (I was beginning to lose track of how many at this point), I had to cross a seemingly endless desert valley. From the east side of the valley, it actually looked like I would hit the Toiyabe Range in no time, but scale is really tricky out here-the Toiyabe mountains average over 10,000ft, so these towering peaks made the valley look small, when in reality it was probably something like 20 miles wide!
I pedaled for what felt like forever, and actually hit a welcome couple of miles of pavement that felt effortless after the difficult terrain the course had taken us through. I was proud of myself for averaging over 15mph on pavement despite having ridden for 300 miles at this point. I pulled off the pavement at the small dirt road that leads to Ophir Canyon then up to the pass at 10,500ft. The weather actually cleared at this point so I ate some food in preparation for the 5500’ climb in under 9 miles I had to tackle. Assuming the doubletrack was similar to that which I’d already crossed, I figured I would be over the pass in a couple hours and be able to roll into Middlegate at mile 362 (or close to it) by 3am or so. Boy was I wrong.
Very quickly the doubletrack turned into an unrideable, steep, rocky mess that weaved its way up the Ophir Creek drainage by crossing the stream every few hundred feet. The stream crossings were actually the most rideable part of this section, at least in these wet muddy conditions. As I paralleled the creek, I swore I heard some folks talking on the other side of the creek, but I later realized it was just the gurgling sounds of the stream. I was starting to worry about my mental state a bit. But, I thought to myself, “at least it isn’t raining.” That changed rather quickly and I spent the next couple of hours trying to push and pull my bike up the impossibly steep, rocky track in a downpour. I thought, it can’t get any worse than this. It can. The rocks I had been complaining about turned to mud so slippery that I couldn’t make upward progress, not matter what I tried. Instead I had to get off the track and thrash my way through thick brush while carrying my bike up the steep slope. To say this part sucked would be a serious understatement.
But even that misery can’t compare to what it was like when the rain switched to snow and I approached the top of the pass. Before getting serious about cycling a few years ago, I had spent over a decade climbing mountains and guiding all over the world, so I’m no stranger to mountain weather. But, I’m usually well prepared for anything I might face in the high mountains. Bikepack racing is different. You cover so much ground that you might experience valley heat and mountain snow within a few hours. You are also racing so you have to try to balance safety gear/clothing/etc. with weight if you hope to compete. Because of my mountaineering experience, I had brought just enough clothing to survive freezing conditions, but I realized I couldn’t last the night up there in a serious blizzard with gale force winds and blinding snow, accumulating quickly. I knew I had two options at this point, either dropping all the way back down to the previous valley, or pushing up over the pass and dropping several thousand feet down the other side until the snow switched back to rain.
Being stubborn as a mule, I opted for the latter. In hindsight, it was heuristic hubris and perhaps a bit of delusion at that point, but I reasoned that there is nothing the mountains can throw at me that I couldn’t survive. So I pushed on. It got worse and worse as I ascended until I finally approached the pass. My heart sank as I realized forward progress was blocked by an overhanging cornice of snow. I would have to traverse the steep snow slopes below the cornice and look for a way over. This was doubly hard since I couldn’t see more than a few feet and bike shoes weren’t made for kicking steps in hardpack snow and ice. In these conditions, my mountaineering sense and abilities were being thoroughly tested and I felt like I was in a dangerous situation. My shoes were barely getting purchase in the steep snow traverses and I was carrying my fully loaded bike. A slip wouldn’t have been deadly but it would’ve hurt. I was actually really worried about the guys coming up behind me in this blizzard-it would have been deadly to anyone without serious mountaineering experience-and that is not an exaggeration. I just hoped no one else with perhaps less mountaineering experience would put themselves in this situation.
Had it not been for the gpx track on my gps screen, I would have never found my way over. I could barely tell up from down in this whiteout. Aside from the few footsteps Neil and the Comstock 300 mile racers ahead of me had kicked in the snow during the day before the blizzard hit, there was no indication of a path over the snow cornice. Even these steps were quickly covered in a blanket of fresh snow. Finally, miraculously, I found a way up and over the pass, and after a while, was able to mount my bike and begin the descent. It was still snowing, and the track had become a river, literally, but I was getting seriously hypothermic so I had to ride down as quickly as possible. Confusion set in, and I tried to fight it as I descended what was actually pretty difficult riding (or at least it felt that way in these conditions). The snow turned to slush then to rain as I lost elevation until I was finally back in the desert. I could actually see some lights off in the distance, so I decided I would try to make it to those lights and ask for help.
I kept riding, and the lights didn’t seem to get any closer. I was at my wits end by this point and figured I was confused enough that I could have been imagining those lights or they could’ve been stars. I decided the best thing to do would be to crawl into my emergency bivy sack. I dismounted my bike and could barely remove my hands from the brakes and grips. My hands were so frozen I couldn’t open my seatpost bag. I had to use my teeth to get the clips open, which was quite gross since the bag was covered in a thick layer of mud with the consistency of peanut butter. Blah. I wrangled my bivy sack out, crawled in it, and shivered for the next 4-5 hours. I was in a daze, not sure if I was asleep or awake-cold was my only sensation. I had decided I would pull out of the race. I had just been through too much that night to continue. Since I was calling it quits, I had no qualms about spending some extra time in the bivy sack.
The sun finally crested the mountains and began to warm the bivy sack. After a few minutes in the sun, I was still shivering but finally able to pull myself out of the bag. In the light of day, myself and my equipment were a rather disgusting sight to behold. Everything was caked with a thick layer of peanut butter mud. Mud had even made it into my chamois-at least I hoped it was mud (just kidding!). I scraped things off the best I could and hoped that my bike would be rideable. I recalled what Blake Bockius had told me after encountering mud like this in last year’s race. The mud, which is full of small rocks and pebbles actually chewed through his carbon fork as his mud caked wheel spun round and round. He ended up having to throw it away after the race! Luckily I was on a Ti bike with a burly Fox fork so didn’t have to worry about that, but I was pleasantly surprised that my drivetrain was still functioning.
Still planning to pull out of the race, I hopped on my bike and headed toward Middlegate about 50 miles away. I was still on the race course since Middlegate was the closest place with services. The sun began to warm my chilled core and my spirits began to lift. I was definitely feeling destroyed after the previous night, but started to rationalize finishing the race. I had never pulled out of an endurance race before, and I knew I would regret doing so now, no matter what I had been through the night before. And besides, the sun was out and it was only a matter of time before I would be warm again. “Yes!” I told myself, “you’re gonna do this”. “Buck up princess”. “Don’t be such a wuss”. “No need to call the wah-mbulance”.
Just as I was warming up from a combination of sun and the climb over yet another mountain range, the clouds came back in. As I descended down from the pass (I had lost track of mountain ranges by this point-it was probably #8 or so), I hit another headwind near the ghosttown of Ione, NV. At least it wasn’t raining yet as I made my way across an expansive desert plain toward the final mountain range between me and the first services in 250 miles.
I had expected the flats on this race to be cruiser, but with the now muddy roads and the steep headwinds slowing my progress, they became slow and grueling. Still, there is a stark beauty to these wild places that I tend to find inspiring where some might find it boring or empty or wasteland. So I took comfort in the splendor of my surroundings rather than focusing on my discomfort and pushed my way through to Middlegate. I got hit by a few brief rainstorms along the way, but fortunately just as the heavens broke yet again and sheets of rain began, I was pulling into the station.
The timing was great-I was really happy not be out in that weather and figured it would quickly pass. I also had to deal with my SPOT beacon issue. I hadn’t been showing up on the map for the entire race up to this point so I called Trackleaders and we spent about an hour and half trying to resolve the issue. We finally figured it out but I had wasted a lot of time by this point. I was still in the race, but not really racing anymore thinking I was in 5th place, so I wasn’t too worried about it. It was also still pouring rain-so I dawdled a bit more re-organizing and cleaning my gear and throwing away food that had been destroyed by rain and mud. After ~2 hours in Middlegate with no sign of the weather abating, I donned my rain gear and hopped on my bike in the downpour. I was soaked to the core in minutes, but was actually glad that the rain was washing off my bike and clothes. I was on the longest paved section of the race, about 20 miles on Hwy 50. It was actually quite scary as the speed limit is 70mph and trucks were buffeting me with wet blasts as they whizzed past.
As I cruised down the highway I noticed that my gpx track was about to end near the highway turn off. I was totally bummed. After just dealing with a tech issue for two hours, now this-wtf? It was my first time using a Garmin Etrex, which unbeknownst to me, cuts off the end portion of your track when you exceed 5000points. I hadn’t noticed this before now, and was unsure how I could continue without a track. I had printed some very small maps for emergencies, but it would have been impossible to navigate off of them and still maintain a decent pace. Frantically I pulled over behind the guard rail on Hwy 50 and thankfully had cell service. I couldn’t find Trevor the race organizer’s number but Blake had sent his phone number to all the racers in an email thread so I called him. He informed me that all the guys in front of me had dropped out for one reason or another except for Neil. That put me in 2nd place! He also informed me that no one behind had made it over the pass in the blizzard. A couple racers had tried, but wisely backed off. One of the racers even had to use his SPOT beacon to call for a rescue. None of this news surprised me in the slightest. I was just glad no one was hurt. Blake relayed my dilemma to Trevor and I soon received a call and he kindly agreed to meet me in the middle of the desert near Fallon NV after I had crossed the salt flat (playa). What a nice guy. The rain actually let up at this point and I was treated to some much needed sunshine. I proceeded with gusto from here.
I definitely wasted a lot of time trying to find my way through the playa without a gpx track. I was also sinking pretty deep into the salt pan due to the big downpour. Like many things in this race, it just wasn’t going well for me. But hey, I was in 2nd, which with Neil in the race, felt like 1st to me! It helped keep me going. I met Trevor on a dirt road after finally crossing the big salt playa and we quickly loaded the final 2 segments on my Etrex-I’ll never make that mistake again! Armed with the gpx, the navigating became much easier. I cruised the next 20 miles or so into Fallon and hit the Dairy Queen, the closest food source to the race course. I ordered 4 burgers and a couple orders of fries. I ate 2 of burgers and the fries and packed the other two for the night. As I was leaving and really charismatic guy came up to me and asked me what I was doing. He said, “Man, when I saw you, I knew you weren’t just biking down the block! I had to come ask what you were doing.” He was pretty blown away by the idea of racing across the desert and cheered me on as I pulled out of the DQ parking lot.
The light was fading at this point, and I turned on my lights just as I was getting off of the improved roads and back to desert doubletrack. The track through the next section was fairly pleasant, but the dark desolation allowed my mind to wander and play tricks on me. I rolled through a pack of desert foxes, but later I was unsure if I had really seen them. I then saw strange lights making impossible patterns in the sky. I thought how cliché, UFO’s in the middle of the desert. But I saw it again and it seemed so close I actually ducked down while riding my bike, thinking it was about to swoop over me. In my delirium, I thought wow, UFOs are real, but being a skeptical scientist, I couldn’t believe my own eyes and worried that I was in shape than I thought and was hallucinating. I gnawed on these thoughts for the next hour (or two? time was kind of blending that evening) until I solved the mystery.
I saw the lights again but this time I was close enough to make sense of what was going on. There was a road high up on the mountain side across the valley that must have had a couple of switchbacks, causing the light to have erratic patterns. I had been so far way earlier that the two headlights blended into one. The valley was so devoid of light other than the stars, and the air so absolutely clear in this incredibly arid section of desert, that it really had seemed like a UFO. I can now empathize with those that think they saw something in the desert, but I’m also even more skeptical now of their accounts.
At around 3 or 4am I made it Fort Churchill State Park. I had thought about sleeping in the bathroom there, but there were bright lights I couldn’t turn off, so I instead hid behind the welcome sign (which also served as a wind block) and crawled into my bivy sack. I slept about 1.5 hours and got on my way just before sun up. The next section was pretty nasty washboard dirt road and was rather unpleasant all around. I rolled past a decapitated jackrabbit and thought, what kind of sicko would do such a thing? Well, later I would find out that one of the Comstock 300 racers actually hit the poor bunny at night. He said it darted out of nowhere and its head went right into his spokes, and its head snapped right off. How crazy is that?
I finally hit the Maverick’s gas station in Dayton NV. This is the Shangri-La of gas stations. I couldn’t believe the selection of calorie dense breakfast sandwiches, donuts, you name it. I got four sausage egg biscuits and ate all but one, then got a few more with bacon. I think altogether I ate 4 sandwiches and got 4 for the road. I also got a couple of maple bars which didn’t last two long in my bike bags. After Dayton, I made the rather unpleasant 2000’+ paved climb up to Virginia City. VC is a really neat place and it had really grown up since I had moved away from the area 5 years before. When I left, they had maintained the Old West frontier feel with just an old saloon and couple of eatieres. Now it had everything- fine dining, breweries, fitness centers, and even open air tourist trollies. The town has reinvented itself and is probably more profitable now than it was during the gold rush. Since I had eaten my bodyweight in junk food, I didn’t need to stop here so I rolled straight through. At the edge of town the route takes you right back onto rough double track as you climb up to the higher peaks of the Virginia Mountain Range. It was a beautiful day with amazing weather, but at this point, I just wanted to be finished, and knew I still had to tackle the final mountain range, the Sierra Nevada, to get to Lake Tahoe and the CA border.
At the top of the pass in the Virginia Range, I thought it would be cruiser downhill all the way to Carson City, but the route takes you up one pass after another before you finally hit Washoe Lake, thousands of feet below. Like everything in this race, it was taking longer than expected. From Washoe, I had actually ridden the section to Carson City, so it was nice be on familiar terrain. I soon hit a greenway that went past a community college. Unfortunately there was no cafeteria, but there were vending machines so I stocked up on a few snacks to prepare for the 10,000ft of climbing involved in the last 35-40 miles of the course.
I had been dealing with horrific saddle sores since the blizzard and rain storms in Central NV. By this point after being wet then dry, wet then dry, they become open flesh wounds that would adhere to my chamois, then get ripped open every time I changed position. I feel like I’m fairly pain tolerant, but these were so bad I would actually get nauseous or woozy every time it happened or when a sore would touch the saddle. This made riding incredibly unpleasant and awkward. I had to sit on the very nose of the saddle. My hands were in pretty bad shape too, as were my feet. As I was walking up a section of singletrack my shoes felt like they had small sticks or pebbles in them. I took them off and dumped them out, but there wasn’t much debris in them. Huh I thought, better check my socks. I took my socks off and noticed the pads of my feet had separated from my feet so I was actually stepping on folds of thick foot skin. Gross! I almost threw up just from the thought/site of it!
“Buck up sweetheart” I told myself. Pain is temporary. Suffering is optional. Usually this kind of self-flagellation does the trick but my body was starting to mutiny. Every step or pedal stroke began to take serious effort and concentration just to go on. To make things worse, the wind had picked up and was getting ruthless as I climbed in elevation. I was trying to negotiate a switchback and a blast of wind actually knocked me off the trail and tumbled into manzanita bushes, sharp rocks, and logs. It was a pretty bad fall, but could have been worse. It took me a while to collect myself and crawl back up to the trail. Finally I hit tree line which offered some shelter. But then the course dropped back down another 1000-2000ft before climbing again. Ugh. No mas por favor!!
The final couple thousand feet to Spooner Summit really tested my mettle. I was tantalizingly close, but every inch felt so difficult at this point. I began to worry I would have to stop again and rest which would mean finishing the dark or the next day. I didn’t know if my mind could keep forcing my body to go on. I took it step by step, pedal stroke by pedal stroke. Somehow I managed to make it to the top of Spooner Summit and was back on terra familiar. The last section of trail was the famed Flume Trail which I had ridden a few times before. I knew I had a nasty steep climb up to the start of the Flume, which would be hard, but I knew I could do it. I got weepy knowing that the race was almost over. My adrenalin began to leave my body. I was a mess.
I had to walk an embarrassing amount of the climb up to the Flume, but I made it. I was then re-energized by the beauty of Lake Tahoe and the fun singletrack riding. The Flume went smoothly, then I dropped down to the lake itself near Incline Village. From here I had one last climb to the casinos at Crystal Bay on the NV-CA border where my friend Cheryl was waiting to pick me up. I was so destroyed I could barely ride up this mellow paved climb, but I managed it somehow and finally saw Cheryl waiting for me at the Border. I’ve definitely never been happier to get off the bike.
After some sleep and time to heal, I was able to process and appreciate just what an amazing area we had ridden through. There are few places in the lower 48 with such sparse population. There are more mountain ranges in NV than any other state. NV is not a wasteland, its absolute natural treasure. I only wish I had explored more of it when I lived there instead of spending all my time in the Sierras. Would I do the race again, not sure. Am I glad I did it, a resounding yes.