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Wild Roads: Desert Speedway  
The race is on in the Nevada highlands—pit stops include spanking-new singletrack and singing sand dunes.  Text by Andrea Minarcek


The Nevada desert is a magnet for seekers, dreamers, and—at least this month—turbocharged speed freaks. October 2-7, dozens of recumbent cyclists converge near the town of Battle Mountain and race at speeds of up to 81 miles (130 kilometers) an hour during the World Human Powered Speed Challenge. The competition is for pros only, but on the four-day circuit below you'll get your own chance to bike the playa—not to mention scuba dive a cerulean alpine lake, board high-desert sand dunes, and cruise the "Loneliest Road in America"  (U.S. Highway 50). Whether steering through craggy, snow-tipped peaks or on desert flat enough for speed records, you'll have every reason to lay off the accelerator.
 
Day 1
Crystal clear Lake Tahoe, with visibility of up to 150 feet (46 meters), channels the Caribbean in more ways than one: Enjoy baby blue waters, the occasional shipwreck, even scuba tours. Take a novice-friendly plunge with Reno-based Sierra Diving Center, then drive to Old Pioneer Garden Inn, in Unionville, home to Mark Twain's 1861 mining cabin.
 
Day 2
The Hamilton/Bullion Trail, in Elko, provides the rare chance to make fresh tracks in the Old West. Opened in August, the 17-mile (27-kilometer) loop dips through piñon pines, then climbs 500 feet (152 meters) for views of the Ruby Mountains. Come evening, cull some cowboy cred overnighting at Red's Ranch, in Lamoille.
 
Day 3
Great Basin National Park's full range of ecology, from ancient bristlecone pines (the oldest living trees on Earth) to one of Nevada's three glaciers, is cataloged on the six-mile (10-kilometer) Bristlecone-Glacier Trail. Cap off the day on a ranger-led trek through Gothic Palace, a sweeping cathedral of calcite columns, in Lehman Caves.
 
Day 4
The quiet peace of the desert is broken near Fallon, where Sand Mountain, aka the Singing Mountain, generates a steady rumble as its quartz particles shift and slide in the wind. Brave the 600-foot-high (183-meter-high) mound on a snowboard (BYO board), but make sure it's an old beater—ripping the sand can rip your board.
 
THE VITALS
Do: Sierra Diving Center ($125 for a day trip; www.sierradive.com); T-Rix Bike
Shop:
($25 a day for bike rental; 775-777-8804); Lehman Caves Tour ($10; www.nps.gov/grba); Sand Mountain Recreation Area ($40 for an access pass; www.nv.blm.gov/)
Sleep: Old Pioneer Garden Inn ($75; 775-538-7585); Red's Ranch ($200; www.redsranchnv.com); Hotel Nevada ($125; www.hotelnevada.com/)

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