Uraling The Great Divide (now with more dogs!)

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by rebelpacket, Jul 27, 2013.

  1. rebelpacket

    rebelpacket four-stroke earth-saw

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2009
    Oddometer:
    740
    Location:
    Missoula, MT
    For those who just want to read through it without the comments, click here.

    There is a lot to be said about the bond between humans and animals. Many of us have had to board our pets, or send them away with friends of family while we go on our motorcycle trips. I don't know about the rest of you, but I've always felt a bit guilty about this. My buddy has to go sit in a box all day, while I get to roll around smelling the world?

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    When I bought my first Ural in October of 2011, I had no idea if either of our dogs (Rory and Lola) would even get in the sidecar, let alone ride for any distance with me. Imagine my surprise, when the day I brought the outfit home, my dog jumped right in and sat right down in the sidecar. The thought that I could now share one of my favorite activities (motorcycling) with man’s best friend was revolutionary. I felt like the first person to put jelly on peanut butter, or boil bratwurst in beer.

    Enter the “Great Divide Ride”. Every year hundreds of motorcyclists, bikers (some unicyclists) and hikers take to the roads and trails, crossing from Banff to Mexico. Fast motorcyclists can do the motorized version in 7-8 days. The best bicyclists have done it in 15 days, while hikers toil on the actual trail for months.

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    Doing it on my GS would be easy. Sure, there might be a few troubling sections requiring some lifting, and general fogging up of the face shield. But what about a Ural? Could a sidecar motorcycle built in the same factory that churned out hundreds of thousands of them for the “Great Patriotic War” make it the length of the United States? And, could it do it carrying an 11-year old dog?

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    In human years, my dog is just about the same age as some of the machines and individuals that are responsible for building my Ural. It seemed a fitting match. Given my dog’s propensity to jump into the sidecar whenever she hears me priming the engine with the kick-starter, I figured we’d at least make it halfway before she’d had enough.

    The main characters in this story:

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    Alex: A 30 year old UNIX programmer currently residing in Colorado Springs. Favorite things are pie, coffee, dogs, motorcycles and fresh pancakes (in any order). He is renowned for his ability to sleep anywhere, anytime, for any reason.

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    Lola: A 11 year old Rottweiler mix, originally imported from the east coast. Favorite things are kibbles, treats, sidecar and truck rides, and butt scratches. She’s known for her ability to poop anywhere, anytime (sometimes on command).

    And since one person and a dog can’t push/pull the Ural out of the woods alone, we decided to entrap some good friends from the West Coast along for the ride....

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    Zina: A well-known writer and motorcyclist from “The Whale’s Vagina” (aka San Diego). Some of her favorite things are coffee, KFC and mountain bikes. Is currently “Queen of the mountain” on several Strada tracks around Escondido. Her favorite saying is “Who’s making coffee?”

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    Wayne: veteran of ironman triathlons, desert racing, and KTM ownership, Wayne is the “Old Sage Master” in our group. Also from The Whale’s Vagina and a A machinist by trade, he is well known for his ability to talk to anyone, anywhere, for any reason. He is also trying out for the “JetBoil” US open team this year.

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    Simon: A 13 year old Jack Russell Terrier, also a veteran of the western portion of the TAT (in a backpack). Favorite things are treats, treats, treats, and large male dogs. Known for his ability to voice his disapproval in any situation to all humans and canines regardless of size or temperament. Also is capable of humping dogs more than three times his size. He’s a veritable force of nature.

    The Plan: Meet up at the Rooseville border station with Canada. Ride the divide all the way to Mexico. Party like rockstars.
    #1
  2. rebelpacket

    rebelpacket four-stroke earth-saw

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2009
    Oddometer:
    740
    Location:
    Missoula, MT
    Preparations:

    The Ural Gear-Up rolls off the factory line, ready to face most roads, and even some snow. However, there are a few modifications that I felt needed be made to make it ready for an extended off-road trip.

    Handlebars: The stock Ural handlebars are of the “come back to meet you” variety. A generous bend makes them very nice for rolling around town, but put your wrists at a weird angle for turning. Being a tall white man with long gangly arms, the stock handlebars always gave me the distinct impression I was driving around a motorized wheelbarrow. I found some used KLR 650 handlebars on eBay for 20$, which gives me a little more room, and leverage on the bars for turning.

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    Skid Plate: From the factory, the Ural doesn’t come with any sump protection. Fine for 90% of the riding anyone might do, but throw in some gravel and large rocks, and you’ll want something to deflect the brunt of anything the front wheel slings towards the engine. I went with the “shortie” sump guard from Ural NE.

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    Tankbag: Not technically a modification, this Wolfman tankbag is right off my 1150GS, and isn’t meant for the Ural (so I think it counts). However, it fits real nicely on the nose of the hack, provides a little wind protection for the dog, and easy access to tools, rags, hats, snacks and other regularly used items.

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    Airbox: The stock air filter on Ural motorcycles works very well, but is prone to clog very easily in dusty, dirty conditions. Since I planned on eating a bunch of DRZ-dust on this ride long ride, I didn’t want to be cleaning air filters every night. I was lucky enough to get on the beta program for the “Windmill MK-III”, made by Barry (windmill)

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    The Windmill MK-III uses regular oiled foam filter elements instead of circular cloth/fabric K&N style air filters the factory airbox uses. Easier to clean, replace, and I can carry 5 air filters in the space one OEM filter takes up. As far as cost savings, the bulk Uni Filter foam is about 16$ for a sheet large enough to make 6 air filters. The original (OEM) filters are around 35$ each.

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    Exhaust: The stock Ural exhaust cans are of great quality. Big hunks of stainless steel which offer pretty decent performance without all the noise. Unfortunately, they hang pretty low. Low enough that large rocks or eroded trails have a tendency to pull them off the mid pipes and leave them along the trail.

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    There are a few options for high-mount exhaust systems to fix this, however most of them are north of 800$. Since I’m a cheapskate, I decided to try and build my own. I started with 165$ worth of mandrel bent tubing:

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    Some cutting, grinding, grinding, and more grinding, and I ended up with this mock-up:

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    I ended up cutting, and drilling the existing mufflers, to make one free-flowing exhaust can that I’ll use with it. I was very concerned that it would be too loud. However, while on the road, I can hear the airbox noise more than the exhaust, so I think it was a success.

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    Did the final welds, painted part of the headers with VHT, played with the jetting for a bit, and got everything right where I wanted it. Runs good, not too loud, and puts almost all the power right in the mid-range. Saved around 700$ compared with an off-the-shelf solution.

    Gas Can / Shovel: There are several 200+ mile stretches on the GDR, without any water, or gas. My Gear-Up came complete with a spare gas can already, but I need an additional can to get through the longer sections. Together, the cans hold around 5 gallons of extra gas, putting my range at about 360 km before reserve.

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    You may think the shovel is for digging the Ural out of a crevasse, or for draining large puddles. You’d be wrong. The shovel is for digging cat-holes and slit-trench latrines. I’ve spent enough time with flimsy plastic trowels, digging in rocky ground over the years. A full size shovel is a luxury when you need to evacuate last nights questionable pulled pork sandwich at 5:00am, pronto. It sounds silly, but it really is the little things.
    #2
  3. rebelpacket

    rebelpacket four-stroke earth-saw

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2009
    Oddometer:
    740
    Location:
    Missoula, MT
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    I woke way too early from a fitful night of sleep. Too many nightmares about seized con-rod bearings, or bent valves. The last three days before a big trip seem to get sucked into a crazy vortex of manic double-checking and last-minute worries. I must have checked oil levels and spare parts three times before I finally left it alone. Lola, on the other hand was still fast asleep without the knowledge of the days that lay ahead for her.

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    After several cups of strong chicory coffee while giving everything the once-over, it was really time to leave. I gave Kait a big hug and kiss, patted our other dog (Rory) a couple times, and heaved on the Ural’s kick-starter. With a faint ‘doff-doff-doff’ we idled out of the driveway, and down the road to the start of our great adventure.

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    Stopped north of Woodland Park, CO to gas up. I scarfed a quick continental breakfast of more coffee and a few donuts while Lola looked on, earnestly hoping I’d drop one. She let out of quiet whimper when I finished the last donut without any of it ending up in her mouth. “If you had a job and paid rent, I’d probably give you one” I told her. She gave me a look, as if to say “Hey man, I don’t have THUMBS!”. Touche.

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    West of Woodland Park, things open up a bit on Rt 9. High mountain plains, with ever-distant peaks. Reminded me a lot of Montana in many places through here. The temperature was perfect, and the Ural held a steady pace at 55mph. The valves clicking softly in the breeze.

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    We headed north towards Breckinridge and Silverthorne. The mountain peaks became sharper, the valleys narrower. On some grades, I was reduced to 30-35mph. Rather than wring the engine for everything it had to try and get one gear higher, or 5mph faster, I was very happy to just let it purr along.

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    I did find a few trucks and RV’s stacked up behind me, and I smiled deviously. For all the previous times campers, or trucks towing RV megahomes had held me up on my motorcycles on twisty mountain passes, I felt now that I could finally return the feeling to them in full.

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    I passed quickly through Breckinridge and Silverthorne without stopping. Flush with tourists and guests for the fourth-of-july weekend, both towns seemed to be bursting at the seams as I rode through. Throngs of people of all ages, races and creeds wandered around with fanny packs, cameras and “Colorful Colorado!” t-shirts.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to see so many people enjoying our fine state. I just prefer to enjoy it somewhere with less people. While the British may be great at “queuing”, Americans seem to loose IQ points the longer they are standing in line with each other. Rude behavior, harsh words and sometimes even fisticuffs are usually the result when the line is long enough.

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    After gassing up in Kremmling and chatting with two riders on their way back to New York, we rode Rt 40 northwest out of town. The sharp peaks and narrow valleys opened up into rolling hills, and green plateaus of cattle festooned National Forest land. Right at 55mph, the Ural was tuned spot-on for the undulating roads,

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    I didn’t have to downshift until I approached Muddy Pass on Rt 40, before Steamboat Springs. The road wound up the mountain slowly, and I chugged along at 40 mph with a slow even rhythm. The Ural is oblivious to throttle input at certain grades. No matter how much you twist the throttle, it simply won’t go any faster.

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    With the sun low in the western sky, and Steamboat Springs on the other side of the pass, we stopped for the day. Only 7$ for the night, I paid the “honor system” campground fee, and picked a spot as far away from the generator-run tow-behind trailers as I could. Shortly after I set everything up, a big one pulled up into a spot right next to me. Oh well.

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    After a day of new towns and places to poop, Lola was in good spirits. I do keep her off leash most of the time (outside city limits) and she seemed pretty happy to be in the country.

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    Hard to believe on a rafting trip years ago, we fit two humans AND two large dogs in this tent. Sleeps a man and his dog very comfortably though. Note how Lola always sleeps with her head facing my feet. This is so she can use her aging digestive system, to fart in my face all night long.
    #3
  4. Lacedaemon

    Lacedaemon Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2007
    Oddometer:
    628
    Location:
    Northern Virginia
    Subscribed. This is great!:clap
    #4
  5. on2wheels52

    on2wheels52 Long timer

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2006
    Oddometer:
    2,844
    Location:
    northern Arkansas
    :lurk, tuned in, may use your RR for a blueprint.
    re ".....built in the same factory that churned out hundreds of thousands of them for the “Great Patriotic War”"
    I think it was more like 10,000, but who's counting?
    Jim
    #5
  6. bigblockbarry

    bigblockbarry Random Misfire

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2009
    Oddometer:
    59
    Location:
    Millington TN
    In:lurk
    #6
  7. Lacedaemon

    Lacedaemon Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2007
    Oddometer:
    628
    Location:
    Northern Virginia
    The more I think about it, the more I think this is front page material.
    #7
  8. Rango

    Rango Phaneropter

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,203
    Location:
    Kingdom of Belgium
    I like your set up, mind set and writing. :clap

    Greatly attracted by Urals, but not up to it yet. What's holding me back are their poor mileage record and unfit for the congested roads here.
    On the other hand, I enjoyed your pay back towards RV's and campers and the like. Well played. :thumb

    Looking forward to the events on the trail.
    :beer
    #8
  9. Blue Mule

    Blue Mule Persistent Slacker

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2011
    Oddometer:
    12,631
    Location:
    The Land of Cheese and Beer
    Gonna actually subscribe to this one(a first), just to watch Lola grin the whole time.:D


    Between You and Sallydog (another ADVer) I'm inspired to set my dog up for bike trips as well.:deal
    #9
  10. Downs

    Downs KK6RBI

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,620
    Location:
    MCAS MIRAMAR
    Since I live in the Whale's Vagina also I have one question...................is Zina single haha :D:norton:freaky
    #10
  11. Bonnie & Clyde

    Bonnie & Clyde Wishing I was riding RTW

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
    Oddometer:
    2,976
    Location:
    Gardnerville NV
    In way in! Following your exhaust thread on soviet steeds too.
    #11
  12. Bob

    Bob Formerly H20Pumper

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2002
    Oddometer:
    3,094
    Location:
    Corral de Tierra CA, Ketchum ID
    Watching both reports!
    Twice the fun.
    #12
  13. rebelpacket

    rebelpacket four-stroke earth-saw

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2009
    Oddometer:
    740
    Location:
    Missoula, MT
    Yea, you're right. I think they only had made 30,000 by the time the war ended. But hundreds of thousands sounds WAY better. :D

    I felt the same way. However, around congested areas, most of the time Ural causes the traffic delays. Not because of speed, but because everyone is hanging out of their cars to get a picture. Throw a dog in the hack and its pandemonium.
    I can't imagine how many blurry instagramish photos of Lola and I are running rampant on the internet. Definitely not the rig to get if you are running from the law, or need to keep a low profile for your pot-farming operation.

    Sorry Jeepin' Bandit... Old sage master Wayne is Zina's knight in Klim armor. However, I do think she'd entertain the idea of a cage-match fight with pointy tire irons for her romantic loyalty. You'd have to ask her on that though.
    #13
  14. Downs

    Downs KK6RBI

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,620
    Location:
    MCAS MIRAMAR
    #14
  15. Mastercylinder

    Mastercylinder Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2008
    Oddometer:
    116
    Location:
    The Western Frontier
    Hey, rebelpacket
    Way back in 2009, My wife and I rode 2 Ural Patrols from the Owens Valley, CA. to the start of the ALCAN Hwy to the Arctic Circle via the Dalton Hwy and back with 2 dogs. The dogs loved it and I developed a great respect for the Ural dependability during that trip. They are slow, but built tough. I was told I was just lucky that nothing happened to the Urals since they are a piece of crap. But hey, I guess everyone has their opinion.:D

    Subscribed!
    #15
  16. rebelpacket

    rebelpacket four-stroke earth-saw

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2009
    Oddometer:
    740
    Location:
    Missoula, MT
    Most excellent! That is a lot of miles with the pooches.

    I think most of the reliability stuff is based on the early 90's imports that (even when brand new) ate alternators and gears. The 2007 and up machines are pretty rock solid. There is a guy with over 400,000 miles on one of his rigs.
    #16
  17. rebelpacket

    rebelpacket four-stroke earth-saw

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2009
    Oddometer:
    740
    Location:
    Missoula, MT
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    I woke at dawn to a surprisingly chilly morning. Unzipping the sleeping bag briefly revealed that it was far too cold yet to attempt putting on pants. Lola (curled up into a tight little ball) opened up one eye briefly to see if I’d get up. I elected to sleep a little longer, and hope the sun breaking over Walton Peak would warm things up.

    But, it didn’t. Admitting defeat, I quickly put on pants, my jacket liner and packed up camp thinking that by moving really fast, I would warm up quicker. I could see my breath as I was priming the engine with the kick-starter, and made a personal note to pay more attention to the altimeter on my GPS. 9600 feet is bound to be a bit chilly in the mornings. What was I thinking climbing into the sleeping bag in my skivvies?

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    Down the other side of Muddy Pass into Steamboat, I was greeted with a few low-flying hot air balloons drifting lazily in the morning air. I attempted to find a nice coffee shop with some outdoor seating, but didn't find anything that wasn't jam-packed with people. Nothing a little more right hand twisting couldn't solve.

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    An hour down the road, I came across the Wild Goose Coffee (at the granary) in Hayden, CO. Situated inside a 1917 granary, it had a cool “industrial” feel of days gone by. Like someone had put a coffee shop inside a garage, or the old Villers-Norton factory. Outdoor seating and some funky metal art sealed the deal for me.

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    Just a cafe-au-lait and a muffin is all I’d need to keep going through the afternoon. Lola got some water from the owners and a biscuit for not pooping on their patio.

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    Some cool uses of old railroad spikes and rusting old wheels. Patriotic too. Go America.

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    As I was preparing to leave, a number of local folks came over to ask about my trip, Lola and the Ural. When the local constabulary stopped by for some coffee and words, it seemed like half of the town was outside the coffee shop chatting each other up. I must have handed out 4 Ural brochures in this one town. Real friendly, unassuming place. Before I left, I circled the town on my map as a possible retirement location.

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    Back on US-40, it was more open flat country on straight roads. I gassed up in Craig, CO and filled my spare jerry cans for the first time on the trip. No gas or services for 130+ miles until Rock Springs, Wyoming.

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    At some point after we turned onto 318, Lola decided she’d seen enough of northwestern CO, and took a nap. Whenever I’d downshift or slow down to a certain speed, she’d pop right up again, trying to figure out what was going on.

    “Do I get to poop here too? Shucks. Just another stop sign.”

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    One such stop was when we turned off for the dirt road to Irish Canyon. While it would only be a short 50-60 mile stretch of well maintained dirt road, it did feel good to eat the first dirt of the trip.

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    Irish Canyon is one of my favorite little places along the way into Wyoming from Colorado. Its off the beaten path, and is rarely visited by many tourists and “party” campers. The layers of sedimentary rock, interspersed with brush do give it a clear reminder of its namesake that photos do not do justice.

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    They also have some nice shaded picnic/camp areas, which we decided to take a quick water break at.

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    With the sun directly overhead the temperature was rising steadily into an uncomfortable slow roast. I kept wetting Lola’s bandana down with water when we'd stop, which seemed to keep her pretty cool during the hot open stretches of road.

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    Once I crossed into Wyoming, the scenery changed completely. Grassy-green meadows replaced with grey water-starved scrub brush, and occasional flashes of light green grass in drainages. No cows or ranchers wandering this land today. Only jacked-up overladen 4WD company work trucks, checking on gas mines and pumping stations throughout the land.

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    A hot, dry and dusty slog into Rock Springs, WY. With temperatures around 95 degrees, and no shade anywhere to be found, we ended up holing up in a small (2 foot) sliver of shade behind a gas station.

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    Straight. Flat. Hot. No Shade. On the plus side, there wasn't any traffic or people out here. I could pull over on the side, and pee wherever I want, without worrying about traumatizing some family on vacation. Now THAT is freedom. Don’t be mad ladies. If you could pee like us dudes, you'd totally want to pee wherever you want too. Ladies definitely got the biological short-straw in the urine dispensing functions.

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    Jacket and scarf set to "vent"

    The further north we got into Wyoming, the barren basin started to slowly rise up into rolling hills with a little more vegetation and signs of human life. Didn't do anything for the temperature though, which still hovered in the mid-90′s, even later in the day.

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    Lola isn’t a water dog. She hates getting her paws wet so much, that she’ll often run up and down the bank of a small creek to find the most effective way across without actually getting in. When she wandered into this stream on her own accord, I knew she must have been pretty hot.

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    Outside Jackson, WY

    As we neared Jackson, WY and started winding through the Bridger National forest, the scenery seemed to jump out of the horizon. Compared to the seemingly inhospitable heat of the Basin we experienced, it seemed like another country. Being late in the day, I pulled out my sometimes smart-phone and tried to find a campground. While waiting for pages to load, I looked across the street. “National Forest Access”. Well… hey now.

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    Camping on cowpies...

    Just a little two-track into the National Forest (which was clearly a free-range lease area for ranchers). I motored up to a little flat area (with an amazing view) and decided that some dispersed dry camping would be best for the night. Lola chased off all the cattle that came by to check us out while I set up camp.

    This night however, I kept my pants on when I got into the sleeping bag.

    Total mileage: 383 miles.
    #17
  18. DaFoole

    DaFoole Pacific Avenger...

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2004
    Oddometer:
    4,544
    Location:
    BFE, SW Oregon/SF BayO'rhea
    This is GREAT!! :clap

    Subscribed!
    #18
  19. GypsyWriter

    GypsyWriter Yup, I'm a girl.

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2009
    Oddometer:
    2,117
    Location:
    Visalia CA
    This looks like a total blast, I love reading sidecar adventure stories. Subscribed! :lurk :lurk
    #19
  20. bulwer

    bulwer Adventurer

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2008
    Oddometer:
    74
    Location:
    near Boulder
    :clap. I love a good ride report, but a dog story too! Awesome. Have fun Lola. Who's a good dog? Your a good dog Lola.
    #20