Nevada 200 Trail Ride | Father/Son Fun
When I was a kid, my entire family would pile into our Mini Wini, with the flatbed trailer in tow, bound for a weekend in the wide-open Southern California Mojave Desert. Trips like that were some of the best memories of my childhood—trying to look like my heroes while I chased my dad over the rocks, whoops, and sand. I still remember the day that we stopped on the side of the trail—I was on my CR80; my dad aboard his KDX200—and he said to me with honest excitement in his voice, “Wow, you’re gettin’ fast. Every time I looked back to check on you, you were right behind me.” As the years went on, I progressed, racing took over, I soon went off to college, and our regular trail riding trips became fewer and fewer. But to this day, every time we get a chance to ride together, I never pass it up. Riding with my dad is one of coolest things I get to do on a motorcycle. And when we got the invite from our good friends Larry Atnip and Massis Chahbazian to attend the annual Best In The Desert Nevada 200 Trail Ride, we couldn’t pass it up.
The Nevada Trail Ride has been going on for over 30 years. Originally promoted and organized by the late Casey Folks, along with his son Darryl and off-road legend Scott Harden, the ride covers 200 miles of picturesque Nevada terrain just north of Las Vegas, and as an invite-only ride, the number of riders is usually kept at the perfect amount for the miles of single-track trails and abundant good times. Since I wanted to enjoy every moment of the ride, though, I decided to leave my professional camera behind—something that was tough to do—and just enjoy the experience with my dad, stopping only to bench race, drink some water, and take casual cell phone pictures.
Being that it was our first year attending for my dad and I, we didn’t really know what to expect, but as I drove to the small town of Caliente on the first day to meet up with my dad and everyone else, I began to climb over the mountain that led into town, and the snow on the ground became more and more abundant. After checking in, we unloaded our bikes, geared up, and attended the rider’s meeting before embarking on the first day of riding, which was without a doubt going to be cold and interesting.
My dad and I left base camp together and rode down a transfer road with everyone else before jumping into a soft snow covered sand wash. Having little to no experience in the snow, I watched my dad in front of me pinned aboard his CRF250R with his feet off the pegs, paddling through the snow, and I thought to myself, “Wow, if this is how difficult snow is, this is going to be quite the day…” But after a couple falls, and stopping to put on some rubber gloves to keep my hands warm, the sandy trail soon wound into single track through the trees. After that, the entire day was spent cutting in fresh tracks and enjoying the scenery. With that said, though, the day wasn’t without sketchy moments. If I got out of the main line, I found myself all over the countryside on more than one occasion, bouncing off rocks like a ping-pong ball. I also got the chance to see a guy wrap himself around a tree after he hit a hidden rock, swapped out, and promptly high-sided directly into the side of an immoveable nearby tree. It all goes into what makes trail riding so fun. As long as you can laugh about it later, it was a good idea.
The next day, we woke up bright and early to blue bird conditions and perfect springtime temperatures. But while I shoveled in some fresh scrambled eggs with everyone else at the local American Legion Post, I couldn’t help but wonder how muddy it would get once the snow began to melt. As we made our way into the mountains during the first part of the day, we wound through perfect desert single track. After hitting the gas stop, though, the conditions changed drastically, as we began to hit melting snow and supremely muddy conditions in the higher elevations. Being that we’re all from California, the mud was nothing short of a challenge, and I followed behind my dad during the final 20 miles before lunch. Every time we stopped to regroup, he kept asking if I wanted to pass, but I never did. Instead I decided to keep a safe distance back in order to watch what lines he took or where the rocks were to miss. Basically, if he got loose—and he definitely did a few times—I knew not to take that line. Sorry Dad, but just like when I was on my 80, you were the trail guinea pig. After miles of sloppy mud, we made it to lunch with huge smiles on our muddy faces, thankful to get a break and a chance to bull shit with everyone else.
Arguably the coolest aspect of the ride is the camaraderie, which is very apparent at the lunch stop during the second day. Out in the middle of nowhere, the BITD crew organized a fully catered lunch, and before you even eat, you grab a hot towel to clean up with and play a hand of electronic poker, which the winner is announced at the wrap-up dinner later that night. Everyone sat at the tables, ate homemade pulled-pork sandwiches, and bench raced about the first half of the day. And once our stomachs were full, causing a few guys some unpleasant heartburn for the last section, we jumped on our bikes for the final 20 miles back to town.
That night, the annual Easter Egg Run was held right before dinner followed by the hilariously entertaining Whistle Dick awards. If you’ve ever been to a Best In The Desert event, you’ve likely heard BITD founder Casey Folks lovingly—or not so lovingly—refer to people who make dumb decisions as “whistle dicks”. This year, in keeping with Casey’s fun-loving award ceremony, his son Darryl and Scott Harden did the honors on Casey’s behalf, awarding various riders with a small pink whistle dick for their actions over the past couple days. Each award was just as funny as the previous, and everyone drank beer, laughed, and had a good time the only way Casey would have wanted it—a bunch of motorcycle riders making fun of each other.
When I sit back and think about where I’ve been because of motorcycles, none of it has been as cool as the times I’ve spent with my dad—either chasing him or him chasing me. Since I first started riding, he has been by my side through it all and even though neither of us are as quick as we used to be, or get to ride together as often as we used to, twisting the throttle, throwing mud, and laughing still is at the top of my list of things I love to do with my dad. Getting the opportunity to participate in the Nevada Trail ride was rad, and as long as my dad or I can lift our legs over the top of a dirt bike, we’ll be attending. Until next time—as Casey would say—booyah!!!
By Brendan Lutes