Must Do Destination: Carson Valley / Lake Tahoe Adventure Motorcycle Ride & Rendezvous

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Bike wash.

Water crossings always add an element of intrepid to a ride.  Part of a group of press, we are pre-riding the big bike friendly routes of the Carson Valley / Lake Tahoe Adventure Motorcycle Ride & Rendezvous.  Early in the season, the crossing is deeper than what’s likely to be encountered during the August 22nd-25th, 2013 event.  The first riders through test the waters, literally and figuratively.  The group moves from trepidation, to growing camaraderie spotting each other through, to the giddy energy of adventure as everyone is safely through.  With one challenge, we’ve transformed from riders in a group, to a ride group celebrating a victory over the water.  Even as the ride transforms from alpine to high desert as we ride to bike friendly Walker Burger to let our boots dry in the sun over lunch.

Guide J Brandon leads the group.
Guide J Brandon leads the group.

If there’s one reason to attend a ride like the Carson Valley / Lake Tahoe Adventure Motorcycle Ride & Rendezvous, it’s the camaraderie of participating in a truly big bike friendly event.  Last year the ride proved a refreshing change from the hard core and hard edged cut and thrust of dual sport egos by being something more collaborative.  One route offered no less that 8 water crossings, and broken into sub-groups, a phenomenal mix of bikes and riders too a “no rider left behind” attitude of impressive maturity.  When a rally racer on a Beta chugged out of gas to a stop, our collection of three 990 riders and a DR400er pulled together, disassembling a first aid kit for siphon line and fuelled him up.  When a wrong turn put our group off-piste, the solution was our own adventure route guided back to the event.  Problems were overcome with a near-Californian relaxed approach, and attitude was absent.

This year’s Carson Valley / Lake Tahoe Adventure Motorcycle Ride & Rendezvous will be transformed with a change of primary venue from Tahoe to Nevada’s lesser known Carson Valley.  Moving from Tahoe to Carson Valley abstracts the event from the mass tourism crush and pricy expectations of Tahoe to a far more relaxed atmosphere.  Tahoe’s glistening sapphire waters will still feature in rides climbing into the alpine, but moving out of Tahoe removes a premium expectation and cost, creating a better fit for Dual Sport and Adventure riders.  It also moves the ride closer to a majority of its dual sport and adventure routes.

Virginia City.
Virginia City.

Carson Valley is smaller, and more appreciative of riding culture than Tahoe proper.  All through this year’s pre-ride and last year’s event riders were treated as first class citizens by local businesses.  Park the bike in front of the office.  Here’s some rags to clean up.  Don’t worry about a bit of mud.  A relaxed sense of American hospitality and friendliness, that has been more reticent in recent times, bubbles to the forefront in Carson Valley.

Kevin Templeton of Carson Valley KTM
Kevin Templeton of Carson Valley KTM

That sensibility extends to the local KTM dealer, Carson Motorsports, and their willingness to accommodate travelers.  Nearly a year old, my 990 Adventure Dakar has blown a gasket, literally, from its exhaust… while passing an unsuspecting elderly lady pottering along the road.  The gunshot-like sound of the piece blowing out, may have scared her witless; dealing with another KTM warranty issue has scared me somewhat witless. Instead I find that Carson Motorsports has gone considerably above and beyond to secure the part.  The shop didn’t have it in stock despite a strong selection of core parts, accessories and tires – so they went out of their way (50 miles out of their way to Reno!) to source the part from their competition.  Bracing for the standard battle between KTM dealer and manufacturer battle over warranty claims, the issue is simply waved away, “We’ll figure it out”, Kevin Templeton, their manager assures me.  This is exactly the type of service KTM dealers as a brand so desperately need to offer to compete in the Adventure market, and this makes Carson Motorsports our clear choice of shop in the area.

Monitor Pass!
Monitor Pass!

Carson Valley is an area that has a tremendous range of riding to offer; scenic Californian mountain highways scribbling the topography, transition into Tahoe’s sub-alpine and alpine riding with the lake shimmering blue below. A steep descent takes you into Nevada’s high desert with wide open well graveled rips and more technical mountain track.  Throughout all the riding there’s a sense of this being scenic exploration, not hardcore offloading, a dual-sport experience in big bike friendly environments.

Forget an HD, a KLR as Slot Machine prize!
Forget an HD, a KLR as Slot Machine prize!

For hardened 990 Adventures, to R1200GS with wife or boyfriend on the back, to V-Stroms and KLRs the high desert is accessible; it’s not high dunes and deep sand, but hard pack, gravel and amazing vistas.  So flat it isn’t, for the record Nevada is the most mountainous state below the 49th parallel, and the rides reflect that crumpling of the Sierra Nevadas and ancillary ranges.  There is diversity and contrast in abundance, from narrow dual track, to high speed desert, to hardy alpine greenery, and stark umber of the steppe; all as you ride from crowded tourist destinations to abject solitude within an hour.

Jimmy Lewis does the business on the KTM 990 Adventure.
Jimmy Lewis does the business on the KTM 990 Adventure.

Part of the philosophy of last year’s event was to equip riders for independent and adventurous travel, expressed as seminars, and this year’s event will be no different.  Jimmy Lewis will be giving free hour long off-road seminars throughout the event, as well as a special one day training class Thursday August 22nd (http://carsontahoemoto.com/jimmy-lewis-training-class/) that requires separate registration. If you want inspiration for what can be done on a 990 Adventure or other big bike, Jimmy is it.  The former Dakar Rally podium holder tosses these beasts around like a dirtbike.

A flat repair seminar has been added to the event too, which is essential for adventurists.  The suspension setup seminar will be a must do if you’ve not dialed your bike in for off-road riding.  Topping my list is the National Outdoor Leadership School Wilderness Survival Seminar, handy for taking one of the loneliest highways out of Nevada or even lonelier off-road adventures of which I’ve had a few this season.  Finally, to help you tell your adventures of daring-do, a Travel Writing Seminar  — which is likely not going to recommend drinking more to keep your writing interesting.  That’s on top of the standard complement of BBQs, Beers, Coffees, and of course rides one expects from an event such as this.

Wild Mustangs
Wild Mustangs

Based on our experiences at last years event, and the press preview tour I’ve taken this spring, I’d highly recommend the Carson Valley / Lake Tahoe Adventure Motorcycle Ride & Rendezvous as a destination event.  It offers your yearly riding dose of big sky, fresh air, clear water, wild mustangs and no Gila monsters, all wrapped in Carson Valley’s exceptional hospitality.  To help you on your way we’ll be posting a couple suggested ride routes to make your trip to Carson Valley a true adventure.

More Information:
Name: Carson Valley / Lake Tahoe Adventure Motorcycle Ride & Rendezvous
Web: http://carsontahoemoto.com
Cost: $95/day or $205 for all 4 Days (if purchased before Aug. 6th)
Or Hotel Package here: http://www.bookrenotahoe.com/index.php?client[id]=253

Additional Words: Neil Johnston

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