ELKO – He can normally be seen at his desk planning city projects and trying to calculate sales tax revenue for the state, but on the weekends, Elko City Manager Curtis Calder hops on his motorcycle and takes on the dirt roads that pave Nevada’s backcountry.
Calder, along with city council member John Patrick Rice, goes on off-road motorcycle trips to remote areas of Nevada, Colorado and Utah.
Always a fan of adventure bike riding, Calder started a small club called Greater Elko Adventure Riders. Group members travel down some of the most difficult terrain in the state.
He said that adventure bikes allow riders the freedom to explore almost anything that catches their eyes.
“That’s the fun thing with adventure bikes,” he said. “You can ride them on the road, and they’re great on the street, but when you see a gravel road that goes off some direction, you can just pull that thing right off the road, and it’ll handle anything you can throw at it.”
Rice and local attorney Robert Salyer joined Calder on his latest trip from southern Nevada near Death Valley all the way back home to Elko.
Rice and Salyer were familiar with riding street bikes before Calder pushed them to get an adventure bike and give off-roading a try.
Rice said he enjoys riding on trails more than riding on the streets, but the initiation process to get into Calder’s club can be painful.
“The key to Curtis is that you wind up breaking a limb one way or another when you’re with him,” he said. “Me and Robert both rode with him and ended up breaking bones. That’s one of the initiations of getting into GEAR.”
Rice suffered a broken ankle when trying to traverse some rocky terrain and had his bike fall on him.
Salyer said that his broken fibula makes for a good story.
“I got my broken bone on something referred to as ‘the screamer.’ It’s a pretty serious downhill,” he said. “If you say you broke your leg on something called a screamer, that sounds pretty cool.”
When GEAR completes a trip with all their bones intact, riders get to see parts of the state that even some locals might not be aware of.
On their last trek through the state, the trio of riders stopped in small towns and got to see some historic structures along unpaved roads.
Rice said he is impressed by some of the scenes he sees close to home.
“Part of getting an adventure bike was being able to see more of Nevada than you can see from a paved road,” he said. “The middle section of the ride from Tonopah to Elko was some of the most spectacular scenery because of the lengths of the valleys.”
Salyer said that there are parts of the state he had never seen despite growing up in Las Vegas and living in the state his whole life.
“I am native Nevadan, so for me to say that I haven’t seen a lot of the state or to say that I didn’t know this even existed is pretty significant,” he said.
Despite being in somewhat familiar territory, Salyer said the worst part of the recent trip was a stretch that took them through southern Nevada. Hot temperatures and rough riding conditions took a toll on everyone, especially Rice.
Calder’s father followed them on the highway with a trailer in case anyone was in need of assistance, and Rice had planned to ride in the truck toward the group’s next resting point. However, after visiting a McDonald’s earlier in the day and being disappointed with the value of a Big Mac, Calder reminded Rice what he would be in for if he rode with his dad.
“I told him that that was fine, but you’re going to get there about two hours before we do and you’re going to have to listen to my dad’s Big Mac story hours before we get there,” he said. “After five minutes of that he decided to keep going on the trail.”
GEAR members experienced swings in weather on their last run through the state with temperatures of 100-plus degrees outside Las Vegas and snow flurries in the higher elevations around Tonopah.
Calder and the rest of the GEAR group have already started planning their next trip through the backcountry.
The city manager said he is looking forward to facing some of the same challenges on the trails as he had on other rides.
“I’ve touched every Western state at least once in all the trips I’ve taken,” Calder said. “I like it dirty, I like it nasty, and I want rattlers all over the place, if had my preference.”
“I’ve touched every Western state at least once in all the trips I’ve taken. I like it dirty, I like it nasty, and I want rattlers all over the place, if had my preference.” — Curtis Calder, Elko City Manager and Greater Elko Adventure Riders motorcyclist