Nevada Run

On the ride to Nevada to rendezvous with my son, Brian, who was attempting to establish a record for the on-foot crossing of the state, I looked for opportunities to break up the long hours on the road by visiting historic landmarks or scenic attractions.


On my second day out, I stopped in Kansas to tour wild and woolly Dodge City. Dodge City was originally named Buffalo City, a name with a sad history. After the Civil War, there were estimated to be sixty million buffalo roaming the western plains.  They were the means of sustenance for Native American Indians. Indians derived food from the meat, clothing from the skins, and weaponry from the bones. However — and here’s the sad part — the white settlers regarded the Indians as a problem, because the white man wanted the land they occupied. Our government, in its infinite wisdom, decided the way to solve the Indian problem was to kill off the buffalo herds. The government invited hunters to the plains and paid them two dollars per hide. Not bad wages when you consider a hunter could kill 150 buffalo a day. Old photos of mountains of buffalo hides attest to the effectiveness of the slaughter. By 1880 barely a thousand buffalo remained in all the Northwest.

Buffalo City is where the hunters came to start their hunt and celebrate their kill later with whiskey, women, and song. Boot Hill Cemetery gained many a reveling buffalo hunter over nothing more than a cross word or a threatening glance.

Dodge City

After Kansas,  I entered one of my favorite states, Colorado, and found a campground near the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. The bridge is the world’s highest suspension bridge. Built in 1929, it is renowned the world over, according to a boastful brochure I picked up. There’s a tourist park built at each end of the bridge and brochures say it is a “must do.”

The bridge was built simply as an attraction, similar to the Eiffel Tower, but it is truly amazing. Eight hundred feet above the Arkansas River, it’s eighteen feet wide, with a suspended wooden roadway that sways somewhat under the weight of traffic. Most visitors walk across, but vehicles are allowed. It’s a “butterflies in your stomach” experience to look over the railing at the slender thread of river barely visible below. Both ends of the bridge are crowded with attractions.

It was still early afternoon after my bridge tour, so I went looking for other activities. Zip Line Tours of the Royal Gorge has zip lines strung across the hillsides of the surrounding area. It looked like fun. The harness you wear is attached to a small trolley that slides along the cable. Nine zip lines make up the Royal Gorge installation, some a half-mile long. The tour takes nearly three hours, since you need to walk from the low landing point to the next-higher launch platform.

Zip ine

Uphill climbs for three hours become part of the price you pay for the fun.

The next day when departing Colorado and entering Utah, I realized I was a day ahead of schedule to meet Brian. Then I saw signs for Arches National Park in Moab. Perfect. I’d find a campground, tour the Arches that afternoon and again the next morning, and still arrive in Baker, Nevada, well ahead of Brian’s arrival. A sweet young ranger in a Yogi Bear hat highlighted what I should see that afternoon and the next morning.

Oh my God! Talk about spectacular! Those hundred-million-year-old rock sculptures are a challenge to describe. I have never seen a sight like it, ever! The red rock towers rise hundreds of feet in the air, so delicately balanced one wonders how they remain upright in even the slightest breeze, let alone through centuries of violent thunderstorms. The colors are a majestic watercolor, changing tint and hue depending on the angle of the sun. Geologists explained the formations by telling us that eons ago this area lay atop a salt bed. Over the millions of years of floods, winds, and oceans, the debris was compressed into rock, perhaps a mile thick. The rock, much of it sandstone, began eroding, resulting in the towers, formations, and arches we see today. It’s still happening; it’s just that a process of a thousand years isn’t much compared to 100 million years.


The next day I arrived in Baker, Nevada, near Brian’s planned starting point. I checked into the motel, and sat outside waiting for Brian’s arrival.  First to appear was his support crew, a father-and-son team, Ted and Trevor Oxborrows.  Ted, the father, is the Nevada coordinator of the American Discovery Trail, the route Brian will run across Nevada.  His son Trevor has a company called Nevada Trailhead Expeditions that organizes cycling, hiking, and horseback tours across Nevada.  It was Ted’s idea that Brian make this run, setting a record for the on-foot crossing, and then to hold an annual competition to break the record.  The state park organization joined in supporting the Oxborrows, because they felt Colorado and Arizona receive all the publicity when it comes to tourism. Ted and Trevor have been on the trail this past week marking the route with flags.  The trail, overlaying the original Pony Express Trail, exists, but some of the turns and routes are unclear because of cattle trails, overgrowth, and unauthorized ATV tracks.

We all had supper together that night topped it off with a celebratory cake provided by the motel’s restaurant. Tomorrow’s plan was to gather at 4:30 a.m. and ride for five miles to the Nevada state line for Brian’s start.

Brian Start

I would accompany the crew for the sendoff, then return to the motel to pack up and head north toward Salt Lake, the Grand Tetons, and Yellowstone. I’d be in touch with Brian by cell phone when communication was possible and get back to Nevada a couple days before his planned finish at Lake Tahoe.

The alarm buzzed at 4:30, and we assembled in the dark to drive Brian to his starting point. Trevor and I took pictures of Brian at the state line, standing before the American Discovery Trail banner.

Then off he went with the sun rising behind him. It was a beautiful morning. The brilliant orange sun was now fully exposed above the eastern mountains which gave the entire roadside a golden glow.

“Good luck, Brian. We’re very proud of you, no matter what happens over the next ten days.”

Brian replied in his typical casual manner, “Thanks, Dad. I’ll just run this way west for a while and see what happens.”

When I rode into Jackson, Wyoming, near Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, I paid a visit to the visitor’s center to ask advice about camping. The ranger suggested I set up camp at Colter Bay Villages between the two national parks and stay in one location while visiting both parks. Since the parks are only fifty miles apart, that sounded like an excellent plan.

When I first caught sight of the Grand Tetons, my reaction was “Wow!” Now, there’s an expression Ernest Hemingway never used. How creative! How descriptive! Well, I just couldn’t help myself. It was just Wow! Very, very Wow!

Grand Teton National Park is unbelievable! The various lakes reflect the grandeur of the surrounding mountains. That first day I hiked a lakeside trail, taking pictures through the pines of the lake with its mountain backdrop. I fantasized I was taking photographs destined for National Geographic magazine.

First on the agenda for the next day was a ride to Jenny Lake Trailhead, where I’d take a boat across the lake to hike up to Hidden Falls.  Although only a half-mile from the boat landing, Hidden Falls required a five-hundred-foot climb. Already at seven thousand feet, oxygen for heart and lungs becomes an unfamiliar necessity. Our boatload of hikers started up the nature trail, led by a rather heavy-set lady who I knew was walking much too fast. I found her ten minutes later, sitting on a log, gasping for air. She had gone as far as she would go that day.

The snows melting off Teton’s upper reaches comes rushing down in a flurry of whitewater. Hidden Falls drops a hundred feet from a lofty apex to tumble into creeks below. The roaring water rushing past us on the hike up the hill made conversation impossible. It’s quite a sight and sound. Once reaching the base the falls, all hikers take turns exchanging cameras for pictures of each other standing before the whitewater cascade.









The next day I rode into Yellowstone. Although only thirty miles from the campground to the Yellowstone entrance, it would be sixty miles before I reached the first visitor center inside the park. This is big country; it’s hard to get used to that.

The female twenty-something ranger at the visitor center pointed out all the scenic attractions I must see if I would be in Yellowstone only three days. Her suggestions included several eight-mile hikes that I immediately put into the category of “in your dreams, sweetheart; you’re talking to an old guy here.”

My plan was to visit the geyser areas in the park the first  day, then try some shorter hikes on day two. On the third day, I’d do a riding exploration, stopping at various overlooks, putting my photo portfolio together for the National Geographic submission.

First stop in the geyser areas had to be the world renowned “Old Faithful.” I had seen this wonder once before as an eight-year-old. It had changed little. The part I didn’t remember was the throng that gathered for this every-fifty-minute spectacle. With three million people visiting Yellowstone every year, I guessed the attendance to be 5,000 to 10,000 for the hourly show. All raise their smart phones and digital cameras to record the scene. I can’t help wondering about the number of lost film sales these technologies have caused the George Eastman’s company (Kodak).

Old Faithful


One of the remote roads off the main highway, called Fire Hole Lake Drive, takes you within a few feet of bubbling pools, right at the edge of the road. How hot is that water, anyway? I mused. Coming to a stop, I stuck my fingers into the pool. It reminded me of when I was a kid and my mother said don’t touch, it’s hot, and I touched it anyway. Ouch!

Back during the turn of the nineteenth century, fly fishermen would catch fish in the streams, then turn around with the fish still on the line and drop them in the boiling fumaroles to cook. The government outlawed this practice in 1911, insisting the fish must be first killed with a club or a knife before boiling them.

After three days. I broke camp at Colter Bay and exited Yellowstone at its northern entrance. That took me through a small piece of Montana, then into Idaho. Yellowstone had been spectacular. (How many times have I used that word?) What a wonderful treasure it is for America. Yellowstone ought to be a required field trip for every American youngster.

When I entered Arco, Idaho, a very helpful visitor center guide suggested the attractions near Twin Falls were just what I was looking for: Ice Caves, Thousand Springs, and the Twin Falls themselves. “But first,” she said, “you simply must not miss Craters of the Moon National Monument.”

Prior to every lunar landing, astronauts were sent to Arco, Idaho, to train in a setting nearly identical to the one they will encounter on the moon.

The landscape is remarkable. Lava flows from volcanic eruptions two thousand years ago covered 750,000 acres of Idaho. I don’t know what that is in square miles, but it was visible from the road for hours as I rode across the state.

Although some of the lava fields are smooth and look like petrified ocean swells, most are broken up into jagged chunks of sharp cinders. Their appearance reminded me of the old cinder running tracks before the days of artificial running surfaces. Many of us old track athletes still carry those cinders embedded in our knees and elbows.

I rode to Fallon, Nevada, just one hundred miles from Lake Tahoe where Brian would be finishing. It was time for a motel once again. I can’t remember ever being so filthy. After I coat myself with skin moisturizer and sunscreen, my shirts become black around the collar and cuffs. After sleeping on the ground the last few days, I was covered with a film of dust and dirt. My wrinkles were a collection of western soil samples. I needed a shower and a laundry. My friend David Baer, a fellow Navy pilot, says I should have been a Marine. Love that dirt! Semper Fi.

Just up the road from Fallon,  the trail Brian is running on crosses Highway 95. His mother, my first wife, Sherry Stark, has commitments in Indiana and although she won’t be able to see Brian finish at Lake Tahoe, flew into Reno and renting a car, planned to rendezvous with him at the Highway 95 crossing. She arrived just minutes before Brian came jogging and shouting up the trail, acting like he had been on an errand In the neighbor, rather than running more than twenty-seven miles that morning. Mom gave her youngest a tearful hug.

The three of  us, Brian, Sherry, and I, sat in camp chairs under a sun awning, set up by Brian’s support crew Ted and Trevor.

Brian is amazing! Instead of wearing down after seven days, he seems to have gotten stronger. At the start he was running forty to forty-two miles each day; now he was covering forty-eight to fifty-two miles. The support team members just shake their heads in disbelief.

What a machine he is!

Brian resting

Also gathering at the 95 crossing was a TV crew for a interview with Brian. They set up in a dusty section of the desert. Brian conducted himself beautifully in the interview. He mentioned all the causes the run was promoting, to the beaming delight of the Nevada State Parks director standing off to the side with the American Discovery Trail Coordinator, who organized Brian’s run. He then credited his individualism and courageous independence to his parents, Jim and Sherry Stark, who left him behind at a rest stop when he was seven-years-old and didn’t realize he was missing until they were three states away. The groan from his mom was just barely audible in the interview broadcast.


Brian crossed the Nevada/California State line in eleven days, seven hours, and twenty-eight minutes from the time he started, becoming the first person to run the American Discovery Trail in its entirety across Nevada. He crossed fifteen mountain ranges, for a total climb of 34,000 feet. Mount Everest is only 29,000 feet, so how’s that for a comparison?

What an extraordinary accomplishment. The gauntlet was now down for anyone wishing to beat Brian’s record. And that was the point of Ted Oxborrow’s invitation, to promote adventure tours in Nevada. Whether running, biking, or hiking, come to Nevada and challenge the beautiful mountain topography. Videos, press releases, and magazine articles are planned to tell of Brian’s run.

My ride home included a number of interesting stops: the Bonneville Salt Flats, Salt Lake City, Aspen, (where I finally got some relief from 90 degree Temperatures and actually had to put on my motorcycle jacket.)

So, what is it about this motorcycling thing that I find so compelling? Riding a motorcycle is like pointing your front wheel into the screen of an IMAX, 3-D theater, with surround sound, surround smell, and surround wind. You can’t stop swiveling your head to see it all, All of this with your feet a mere five inches above the concrete highway. You marvel, you gasp, you catch your breath, and you find yourself grinning like a fool. You can see the same scenes from a car, but there you are enclosed, separated, and not part of it. I’ve never been drowsy on a motorcycle. I’ve been tired for sure — weary, bone-aching, neck-throbbing exhausted but I’ve never been sleepy. My senses are constantly stimulated. Even the flat-out nothing of Kansas amazed me with its vastness, and I couldn’t stop marveling at it.

Every day of this trip was exhilarating. Every day there were extraordinary sights to see that just made me want to shout out in exuberance. What excitement, what thrills – and thank you, Lord, I’m finishing this trip all in one piece.

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, ‘Wow! What a Ride!’”

Hunter S. Thompson

4 thoughts on “Nevada Run

  1. Jim,
    Very much enjoyed your descriptive story. You set a very high bar for the rest of us, but indeed this is an incentive to get back out there !
    Thank you,
    Louis F

  2. Wow, what a ride! Congrats, Brian! You might as well have one more. Great read, Jim! I have WOV tomorrow! Hopefully, my editors will be brilliant!

  3. What a great account, Jim. It brought back such wonderful memories. Thanks for vividly recording that special time. A proud mom never gets tired of reading about her sons. 😉

  4. Jim, sure enjoyed reading about your trip to Nevadas. It brought back memories of our trips to Moab, Yellowstone and many of the spectacular National Parks we are so lucky to have in this great country
    Bob Irvine

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