It was a cold morning when I fired up the BMW it was going to be a long day but first I had to get through some very slick roads until I left Lake Tahoe and got down to the Carson Valley, to lower elevations. We had some snow the day before and luckily it has melted, just in time. I was on my way to Pahrump Nevada to give a presentation at a tourism conference and was going to meet a buddy who was also going to the conference and we were going to ride together. We were going to ride to south through the rugged Nevada high desert and spend a few days at the conference in Pahrump my friend was the going to head down to Las Vegas to visit his brother while I was going to meet up with some other friends in Beatty Nevada and spend a weekend of riding in Death Valley.
Once on Highway 395 my buddy J and I headed east to Fallon on Highway 50. Fallon is the home of the Air Forces Top Gun program from there we headed south on Highway 95 through Walker Lake and Hawthorne (home of a US Army Ammunition Depot and on to Tonopah with temperatures in the 40’s. Now if you are in a car that temperature is no problem but on a motorcycle well that’s a different story. You have to prepare accordingly with the right gear including an electric vest and grips to keep you warm.
If you have never been through the interior of Nevada towns can be very small and isolated and to many the driving can be lonely one long highway after another, but I find the rugged vastness humbling and it makes me feel alive and Nevada has become one of my favorite places to ride. While most people think of Nevada as mostly flat it isn’t, Nevada has more 6,000 foot peaks than any other state in the union.
Once we made it to Tonopah we stopped inside the combination Chevron gas station, Burger King, Subway and convenience store for some hot coffee and to warm up.
Once we left Tonopah we headed south to Pahrump still several warmer hours away. Once just a spec town Pahrump, located in Southern Nevada, has grown to be a bedroom community for Las Vegas employees and it’s the southern gateway to Death Valley, most of the visitors to Pahrump are just passing through.
Pahrump has a couple of mid-sized casinos, motels a steak house or two so imagine my surprise when I found out they had several wineries. Wineries in the middle of this rugged outdoor sage brush desert? Why not? The Pahrump Valley Winery which was planted in 1990 only to have wild horses damage the vines which were replanted with a fence and the Sanders Family winery are both located in the Pahrump Valley bordered on each side by the beautiful Spring Mountains to the East, and the colorful Nopah Mountain Range that defines the Nevada-California border to the West. These wineries plus wineries in the Armgosa valley and Crystal Heights about 30 miles outside of Pahrump is the basis of the wine industry in the region. Small but growing nicely. As you might imagine there are many challenges to growing grapes in such severe conditions and the results have been mixed over the years, but the area seems to be making progress.
As I packed up to head out to Death Valley for a weekend of riding I left Pahrump amazed that this area one at first glance would be Nevada’s wine region but Ill remember to keep an eye on this budding wine area of course I’ll be back it is after all the gateway to Death Valley, a motorcycle riders deam.
Carl Ribaudo is a consultant and travel writer located in South Lake Tahoe and can be frequently found touring with his motorcycle throughout the west.