Out of Gas in the Middle of the Arizona Desert
November 10, 2012
Riders & Bikes involved:
Wild Bill Kelso -- KTM 950 SE
Mr. & Mrs. Yardstick -- KTM 990 R
Initially the plan was to ride from Phoenix to Lake Havasu mostly off-road. I have done it before (RR's from 2010 and 2011) and wanted to take my wife along on this trip. The plans changed when we learned about a triathlon in the city by the lake. We shortened the trip to an out and back to one of the main attractions, the short-lived town of Swansea out in the desert, east of Parker, AZ.
The idea was to hit the dirt fairly early, but we also didn't want to start TOO early since a cold snap brought temps down to digit-numbing levels for the weekend. We agreed on meeting up with Wild Bill Kelso at 8 a.m. a short distance to the first dirt section. He passed us in his truck on the way to the staging area. Probably sipping coffee and blasting the heater. He was smart. We had the heated liners cranked to the max and the heated grips on sizzling bacon mode.
Highway riding is pretty boring, but occasionally you just have to take a picture:
We were on a mission and made few stops on Castle Hot Springs Road. My camera battery needed a change at the Castle Hot Springs resort site and Wild Bill Kelso did a quick GPS check.
Then it was gas-ON until the turn north to bypass the highway into Wickenburg.
After a quick stop for fuel, snacks and a water break in Wickenburg we headed north to the next section of dirt on Alamo Road. The first few miles of dirt have random washouts that check your speed. Hit one too fast and bad things can happen (check the 2010 report)! There was no carnage today! :clap
Farther west the road turns into about a six lane wide, flat out, dirt superhighway. I used hand signals to my passenger 1 -- 0 -- 0 and got a thumbs up. The only problem with doing that speed on that road is the long, low rises that look like the face of supercross triples when you're above about 90 mph. There is enough distance between them to touch the century mark and then back off to ~80 mph to float over the next rise.
Approximately 50 miles from Wickenburg, near Alamo Lake, is the Wayside, a small RV park that occasionally has small planes fly in. They are the only fuel stop between Wickenburg and Parker on our planned route. And we weren't going to Parker. :eek1 Since we have been averaging 40-42 mpg on the 990, we figured we were fine for the ride out to Swansea, approximately 50 miles away, and all the way back to Wickenburg. The SE was the big question mark, so Wild Bill topped off.
At the end of the dirt-superhighway waiting for Wild Bill.
We took a little side trip to the Bill Williams Overlook at Alamo Lake.
Alamo Lake earth dam.
There's about 20 miles of blacktop between Alamo Lake and the next dirt section. It's a lonely stretch of road until the powerline road turnoff, appropriately named: "Powerline Road". :lol3 Then it's fast gravel and occasional sugar sand chicanes around the bases of big transmission line structures to a gate and eventually a seemingly random turn north toward Swansea.
Near the town is one of Arizona's arches, Natural Arch.
A closer view.
Wild Bill Kelso arriving.
We spent a little time looking around at the decaying structures, speculating what life was like out in the middle of the desert back then. There's not much left of this town.
Mrs. Yardstick livin' on the edge!
At this point we were at least 50 miles from gas at the Wayside RV park. I know the SE to illuminate the fuel light at around 90 miles and be nearly out at 120. We also took that side trip to the overlook, so we added mileage on the way out. Wild Bill dumped the extra gallon of fuel in his bike and we all crossed our fingers. The clouds were rolling in and it looked more and more like we were going to get wet.
Time to retreat!
The return was surprisingly uneventful. I felt one drop of rain. The 990's fuel light came on, but that was expected. It came on a few weeks ago on another ride and we went over 40 miles before we filled up with 4.5 gallons of fuel. The tank capacity is supposed to be ~5.5 gallons. We worried about Wild Bill on the SE, but he made it back to the Wayside just fine.
From the Wayside we decided to nurse the 990 back toward Wickenburg at a more relaxed cruising speed. Wild Bill was going to live up to his name and flog the SE, so we let him go ahead.
Four miles from the RV park I felt the 990 lose power. Sure enough, I pulled in the clutch and the V-twin died instantly. :doh At 176.9 miles on top of one of those humps in the road, we were out of gas in the middle of the Arizona desert! Apparently running two heated liners and heated grips at full bore, plus the full-throttle pulls up to triple digits has a profound effect on our fuel economy. :dunno
With the 990's two tank system, I figured there might be some fuel remaining in the right side tank that the pump on the left side wasn't scavenging. I leaned the bike over as far as I could without laying it on the ground and waited for any residual liquid to transfer through the 1/4" connecting hose. Before up-righting the bike again, Mrs. Yardstick shut off the right side petcock (I should have had her do the left one!). I wheeled the bike around, pointed us toward the Wayside RV park and turned off all the electrical draw I could then thumbed the starter. The bike was alive!
I ran the bike up to about 70 mph and held the throttle steady to maximize our chances of making it back to fuel, even if we were coasting in. As we were closing in on the RV park the bike started losing power again. It would run at ~2k RPM, but no higher. I applied as much throttle as I could give it, but it eventually died again. We rolled right up to the entrance, turned the corner and ran completely out of fuel again at 181.1 miles.
We made it to within ~25 yards of the pump! :clap
Three gallons of 87 octane RV park fuel got us back up and running. We caught up to Wild Bill as he had just turned back from the highway to find out what went wrong. On the highway it was a cold, dark ride into Wickenburg and then a slab ride to Wild Bill's truck and home for us.
I think I'll be doing my cranial mileage calculations based on five gallons of usable fuel in the 990 and 36 mpg from now on!
Great report and awesome ride!
I'll add that even though the Yardstick family warned me about Mil T's Chasm of Frame Sorrow AND I had seen and navigated it carefully on the way in; I was just far less cautious on the way out. Upon seeing the telltale cattle crossing which had me reduce from 75 to 60 I forgot about the ditch until I was upon it - so i juiced it. A loud metallic clunk alerted me to maxium suspension travel exceeded :huh Fortunatley the fresh suspension job was forgiving as were the frame bolts for the skid plate and frame in general - at least to visual inspection. Whew!
The ride back on that road at sunset was sweet as attested to by several other suspension-trying moments - my trepidation for the SE on high speed largley cured now :evil
The Yardsticks were eminenlty patient with my gas range issues which were not the most well planned for. Thanks Yardsticks let's do it again on the same ride or anywhere else!
Wow! Triple digits, two up, on dirt..... that Mrs. Yardstick is a keeper. :clap
Thanks for taking me along Allen!! Glad you only had to push a little ways!
This is gonna be fun! When did you decide to do it? The overnighter that is.
See you soon, hello to Mrs Yardstick!:wave
Nice! This ride is on my list for the winter.
We will definitely do this ride again -next time ALL the way to Havasu! Timing is the only thing I'm not sure about. Big E, you'll probably be back by the time we do the next one.
I finally got the map out of the GPS. It was 414 miles door to door for us. A few of the key locations are marked on the map:
Nice report! I have done the Alamo Rd. to Alamo Lake ride on a KLR, awesome trip. The KLR has a 6 gallon tank so I did not have the excitement of running out of gas like you did. Beautiful country and Alamo Road where La Paz picks it up is amazing. It does resemble a dirt superhighway!!! :lol3
Nice RR Yardstick! Exquisite distance on running out of gas. Well played. :thumb
Thanks for the RR and the map. I'll be out there in a couple months to try it myself.
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