Leaving Simpson Springs Campground the Pony Express Route (PDX) is a wide, well maintained gravel road. The state of Utah maintains it as a designated historic route. Even so it is desolate and I don’t see any riders. The temperature climbs swiftly to 34c and the heat and silence become the dominant features. I spot 4 antelope, two babies and their mothers, and get off the bike and try to get some pictures. I had recently purchased a nice Canon with a telephoto lens and envision myself as Ansel Adams. I track them about a half mile off the road but come up against the border fence for Dugway Proving Grounds, an Army facility where they used to test chemical weapons. Warning signs every 25 ft make it very clear that visitors, and pictures, are not welcome or allowed. Scoffing at the empty threat I take a picture of the sign and trudge back to my bike. As I get on it to continue my ride I notice the dust trail of a vehicle driving along the inside of the fence line for Dugway. Coincidence I think not. Not wanting to end up in Guantanamo Bay I nonchalantly mounted up and rode on. Americans love to joke about ending up in Guantanamo Bay but it is always with a bit of uncertainty.
I ride about 30 minutes and then see a herd of mustangs 500m off the road. Once again I dismount and begin walking towards the herd. When I get about 150m away the herd leader turns my way and starts running toward me. I take a few pictures with the telephoto and then a few more. Finally I view the mustang without the aid of the camera and realize he is about 75 yards away and not slowing down. Having never been charged by a mustang I have no idea how to respond. When charged by a bear they say you should make yourself appear big. This has me thinking about he poor guy killed in Alaska by a grizzly bear. They found his camera and evidently he was taking pictures of the bear with a telephoto lens and did not realize how close the bear was. Since outrunning the mustang was out of the question I decided to back away at a slow backpedal. At 35m I started wondering about how ridiculous this would look on my obituary. “Yeah I remember that guy, always knew he would end up getting run over by a wild horse.”
The PDX thru western Utah is easy, beautiful riding as the road climbs low passes thru the numerous mountain ranges. I stop by Fish Lake National Wildlife Refuge and view the egrets, Great Blue Heron, and terns then strip down and take a quick dip in the cool water. The refuge is utterly desolate with even the gov’t buildings showing no signs of humans. I spend a few hours there and then decide it is time to make time. I take off and cruise at 60 mph over the gravel and reach the town of Callao, population 85, around 2pm. Callao is desolate except for one 16 yr old cowboy standing by the road. He waves and I get off the bike to talk to him. His name is Josh and when not helping his father on the ranch he home schools via the satellite dish in the yard. He doesn’t have much use for cities but laments the lack of girls in Callao. He admires my bike and we shake hands before I head off west. Too often we in the ADV community ignore the human aspects of adventure riding.
Crossing into Nevada the PDX becomes a more respectable adventure ride. The road narrows to an 8 ft track and eventually enters the town of Ibapah. Out of curiosity I follow the paved road from Ibapah to Goshute. Goshute is a Native American reservation that mirrors every other reservation out west. Abandoned pickups and mobile homes dot the roadside along with dusty playgrounds and wandering dogs. There are no gas stations although in a pinch I’m sure some could be bought from a local at a special tourist rate. The Goshutes once volunteered the reservation for a nuclear waste site and the riding reflects it. PDX signage is missing and I suspect the Goshutes, who tormented the Pony Express Riders, had inherited their ancestors dislike of the riders and took it out on the signage. In any case I managed to stay on course and the scenery and riding both picked up as I climbed the narrow rough road over Rock Springs Pass, at 7,890 ft the highest point on the PDX. Descending the pass a huge elk runs in front of my bike and I dismount and grab my camera. Thirty futile minutes pass as I creep thru the underbrush before finally giving up. The rest of the day quickly passes. The riding is fun but challenging as I ride another 4 hours without resting as I finally pull into Ely, Nevada at 9pm. I had ridden about 320 miles and 12 hours so I was pretty beat.