ack in 1849, the forgotten soul who gave Death Valley its name escaped that godforsaken desert with fewer men in his party than he started with. In the years since, infernal heat and scarce water have killed quite a few more. My buddy Jeb Scolman and I hoped that with a couple of modern machines and some gasoline we could do better. We figured that the diverse topography of the Panamint region would be the perfect place to test the 2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT to answer the question: Can $2,300 worth of tires and accessories (primarily from Twisted Throttle) transform a beloved budget middleweight into a workable, or at least enjoyable, desert exploring machine? Three days of dunes, salt flats, jagged boulders, steep canyons, and sandy washes should help us find out.