West is best: Albuquerque to Vegas and back (NM, CO, UT, NV, AZ)

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Pr0xy, Oct 10, 2011.

  1. Pr0xy

    Pr0xy Shreddin' the gnar

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    Day 1 &#8211; Albuquerque, NM to Mancos, CO<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>

    So there I was, alone&#8230; nearly lost, somewhere on a Navajo Indian reservation in northwestern New Mexico and I hadn&#8217;t seen Byron in at least 30 minutes&#8230; <o:p></o:p>

    Well, let&#8217;s back up a bit, shall we? Only George Lucas could pull off starting a story after the beginning, and even that is questionable.<o:p></o:p>

    A few years ago, I had my first introduction to dual sporting on my KTM 250 XCW&#8230; not exactly the ideal machine for the job, but adequate for SLAP&#8230; that annual hillbilly dual sport ride in northwestern Arkansas. I had a blast, but it definitely left me with the itch for a machine that was more road-capable.

    2 years passed, I sold my KTM (though I&#8217;ll get another trail bike soon enough), and purchased a mint 2003 DR 650 from a friend several months ago.

    I&#8217;d been jonesing for a TAT trip for a while, but it just wasn&#8217;t feasible with my schedule. I considered doing the western half, but even that was pushing it for the time I had. Shadow of the Rockies was also considered, but early October was my target and the Rockies would be questionable this late in the year. Then, I read wbbnm&#8217;s ride report and checked out their route. I&#8217;d have to cut a few corners, but Albuquerque to Vegas and back looked like a blast, doable in 8-ish days, and ideal for an early October route.

    Iphorde (Byron) and I did some planning, and invited a few others, but work and life schedules kept this to a small (very small) group of only Byron and myself.<o:p></o:p>

    We spent several days tweaking routes, trying to pack everything we could into 8 days of riding. We&#8217;d stage in Albuquerque to avoid wasting tire in Texas. I&#8217;ve seen Texas. I wanted to spend as much time as I could in the western states.<o:p></o:p>

    We ended up with something resembling this:

    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p>[​IMG]</o:p>

    5 days out, 3 back.<o:p></o:p>

    With this my first big trip, I spent several weeks acquiring and installing the required farkles and gear. I met my target of getting the bike to what I thought was a &#8220;ready&#8221; state 1 week prior to departure because I knew I&#8217;d need another week to deal with additional things I&#8217;d forgotten. This strategy worked well and the bike was ready to go on schedule.<o:p></o:p>

    We arrived in Albuquerque on 9/30&#8230; just in time for&#8230; balloon fiesta? Shit. Most hotels were booked, and all of them had inflated rates. Oh well. Maybe we&#8217;d see some balloons (yay?) on our way out the next morning. Remember the 7 P&#8217;s? Proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance. Maybe I&#8217;ll remember that next time.<o:p></o:p>

    We went to Target the next morning to get a few more supplies and were greeted with the presence of the dark side of the force in the sky.

    [​IMG]

    After snapping a few balloon pictures, we got a parking spot at Grizzly Storage for $35 for the week. The owner was very nice and wished us well on our journey. We unloaded the bikes and started getting geared up.

    [​IMG]<o:p></o:p>

    After unloading the bikes, we spent a lot of time trying to get the iAsus radios to work properly with the voice pickup on the FRS radios. They used throat mics that sounded great in the occasional instance they actually worked. This set us back quite a bit and we didn&#8217;t hit the road until at least 11am.<o:p></o:p>

    We never could get the radios operating properly. Mine worked if I &#8220;squeaked&#8221; first, as it wouldn&#8217;t pick up my manly voice. After gassing up, we ditched the throat mics, but kept the radios as a backup. Unfortunately, they&#8217;d pretty much only work if we were stopped since we&#8217;d have to operate them by hand.<o:p></o:p>

    We hit dirt roads just northwest of town and got my first introduction of the dust I&#8217;d be following most of the trip. Byron and I had the same route, but different maps loaded, so sometimes they would route differently. Mine seemed &#8220;off&#8221; at times, so I left it to Byron&#8217;s GPS to lead the way. This worked, usually.<o:p></o:p>

    Did I mention the roads were dusty? They were fun too&#8230; but we did find a dangerous cattle guard several miles into the dirt. My guess is 4-wheeled vehicles hadn&#8217;t been past this point in a while, at least not from our direction. It was a tricky crossing, but we made quick work of it.

    [​IMG]

    An hour or so later, we ended up on a Navajo reservation for a while before hitting US 550. More of the same, but we somehow got separated on the Navajo reservation and my GPS wasn&#8217;t routing correctly. I came to a T in the road and had no idea where Byron was. No dust, no sound, no tracks, nothing. Oh boy.<o:p></o:p>

    I went left for a while&#8230; then went right for a while. Still nothing. I noticed a few Navajo guys turning around in their SUV a hundred yards away or so, so I stopped them to see if another bike had gone through. The driver answered my question with more questions, like &#8220;What are you doing out here?&#8221; and &#8220;Can I have a ride?&#8221;. I humored his responses, but got him back to my original question of whether he&#8217;d seen another bike. He said with a straight face &#8220;No, sorry man, but watch out for wild Indians.&#8221; The passenger laughed. I chuckled, and pressed on.<o:p></o:p>

    Then, I went back to a few more questionable splits in the road, each time exploring for a mile or so before heading back to the main road. Still nothing. This could get interesting. I had about 120 miles on this tank of fuel, and knew I was good for 200-ish, but I couldn&#8217;t afford to spend much more time or fuel exploring and still make it to the next gas stop.<o:p></o:p>

    I then decided to go back to the last point I know he saw me, probably 5 miles back at an intersection, and waited. Then, I went to the nearest high point west of that location as this would be best for any kind of radio/cell signal. I knew he had to be west of me, I just didn&#8217;t know where&#8230; or how. I parked the bike, took off my helmet, and turned on my radio. I tried the radio, but only heard static. Byron was probably on his radio also, but neither of us could hear anything but static. I didn't know when... or how this would all pan out, but I was anxious for some progress in the direction of success as I pondered that.<o:p></o:p>

    Finally, I heard my phone receive a text. Wow, didn&#8217;t expect that&#8230; not out here. It was Byron. Excellent&#8230; I called him and he was at the other end of the reservation on 550. From my position, it was easier to just route straight to 550 instead of the intended road, so I went to 550 and fueled up at a gas station that just happened to be at the exact spot the dirt road met 550. From there, I rode the 4 miles to Byron&#8217;s location. <o:p></o:p>

    Once re-united, and at least 45 minutes later, we hit the road north for about 30 more miles of pavement. We then followed a sandy wash down a road with some OHV trails. It was tempting to play around, but we had some time to make up (a common theme of this trip).

    [​IMG]

    Darkness approached, and we rolled into Mancos, CO just after sunset. The first stop was the liquor store for some whiskey. Next stop was the state park. We noticed the motel was $50/night and at the state park, it was $46/night combined for both of us, so we opted for the motel. <o:p></o:p>

    We ate and drank at the Millwood Junction restaurant (the first of many times we&#8217;d be the most oddly dressed patrons in a restaurant) and psyched ourselves up for day 2...

    Day 1 summary:

    [​IMG]
    #1
  2. CodyY

    CodyY ADVenture Capitalist

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    Coulda, shoulda, woulda.

    :baldy
    #2
  3. iphorde

    iphorde Been here awhile

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    You would have slowed us up. :lol3

    #3
  4. Paloma Paul

    Paloma Paul Paloma At Its Best

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    More please!:clap
    #4
  5. Pr0xy

    Pr0xy Shreddin' the gnar

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    Day 2 &#8211;Mancos, CO to Hite, UT

    The scheduled route today was from Mancos, CO to north of Hite, UT.

    This is probably a good place to mention an interesting fortune I received a few months ago&#8230; maybe the only one that has ever been correct. I thought it fitting to bring it with me:

    [​IMG]


    We gassed up in town and asked the gas station cashier where the best local breakfast was. She sent us to the Absolute Bakery, where we waited a while for our food. Such is the pace in small scenic hippie towns I suppose.

    [​IMG]<!--?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /--><?xml:namespace prefix = o /><o:p></o:p>


    The late breakfast led to another late start and we had some serious mileage to get on the bikes.


    We headed north out of town and rode through the pine and aspen forests. Awesome roads.

    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p>[​IMG]</o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p>[​IMG]</o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>

    The forest disappeared quickly as we headed west. We gassed up again in Cortez, CO and headed west into Utah, where we were greeted with desolation, but more great roads.
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p>[​IMG]</o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p>[​IMG]</o:p>


    A few miles later&#8230; I allowed some space between myself and Byron so I wouldn&#8217;t have to breathe more dirt. Once again, I came to a T with no clear direction. Great.


    I killed the bike and took off my helmet, as I needed a break anyway. A few minutes later, Byron comes back to that point. He circles around my bike as I&#8217;m taking a sip of water and&#8230; what the&#8230; why is my bike falling over with me on it?!! I jump off.


    The left pannier on the 990 had clipped the tail of my bike and sent the bike and I down. Apparently Byron forgot how fat the ass was on the 990 with panniers and turned too sharp behind me. Fortunately, it was just a flesh wound.

    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p>[​IMG]</o:p>


    A quick re-install of the license plate light and we were on our way.


    Found some Indian ruins near Dead Man Canyon:<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p>[​IMG]</o:p>


    &#8230;and stopped for some lunch under some rare shade:<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p>[​IMG]</o:p>


    As it turns out, some people still opt for cliff dwelling:


    [​IMG]


    We passed through Blanding, UT for a gas stop and continued onward towards Lake Powell. The next stretch afforded us some spectacular scenery. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p>[​IMG]</o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p>[​IMG]</o:p>


    We were quickly running out of daylight when we hit highway 95 and there was no way we&#8217;d hit the next stretch of dirt north of Hite before dark. The decision was made to head west off of 95 towards Lake Powell for a camp site. Found one.

    We both had tents, but the weather was perfect and driving stakes into solid rock seemed like it would be a wasted effort, so we just threw down our tarps, pads, and sleeping bags and that was that. I wasn't sure how comfortable I'd be on a 1.5" pad on solid rock, but it was just fine.
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p>[​IMG]</o:p>


    The views that night were flat out amazing. You could look up at any point and see 1 or 2 satellites at a time crossing the darkest sky I&#8217;ve seen in a while.<o:p></o:p>


    The views from camp the next morning:<o:p></o:p>


    [​IMG]



    [​IMG]

    Day 3 coming up...
    #5
  6. tx246

    tx246 Adventurer

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    Keep it coming Jason. Did you dirt to Hite or White Canyon aka 95?
    #6
  7. Pr0xy

    Pr0xy Shreddin' the gnar

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    We took dirt from Blanding, through the "Bear's Ears" to the 275 / 95 junction and took 95 into White Canyon.
    #7
  8. Brian 250

    Brian 250 Captain Insane-O

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    DO WANT.

    The DR looks good with a proper set of tires fitted.
    Keep it comin'
    #8
  9. Pr0xy

    Pr0xy Shreddin' the gnar

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    Day 3 &#8211; White Canyon, UT to Caineville, UT

    The dust buffet continues.

    We only ended up 15 miles short of our destination today, but I'll get to that later.

    From White Canyon on Lake Powell, we had another 30 miles just to get to where we were supposed to camp last night. Turns out the decision to camp at Lake Powell last night was a wise one. That would've been a rough 30 miles in the dark... and we would've missed LOTS of scenery.

    We were first greeted with 30 miles of the Flint Trail out of the north end of Lake Powell. This was primo riding. Fast, yet at the end... quite technical with a 1,000 ft climb from the canyon to the mesa.

    At first, fast and flowing...

    [​IMG]

    ...then some climbing:

    [​IMG]

    Time for some photos:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The view to the valley and Canyonlands National Park... the canyons seem to go on forever.

    [​IMG]

    Up next was the climb up the 1,000 ft. or so to the top of the Flint Trail. I have several years of trail experience, and was at home on DR 650. Byron did very well considering the behemoth 990 he was on, and didn't get up quite as fast, but made it without issue.

    The sandy 180° switchbacks were the toughest part. It's tough to turn anything with any kind of weight on it that sharp in sand... uphill.

    Flint Trail video:
    http://vimeo.com/30351112

    Once at the top of the Flint Trail, we were going to go up to I-70 to refuel in Green River, but that was a long way out of the way just for fuel. Before the trip, I found a route that would take us across the high plains to highway 24, where we could head south to refuel in Hanksville. This is the route we ended up taking.

    It was a stark contrast to the canyons we'd just conquered. We blasted across another 80-90 miles of dirt to get to 24 and saw 1 other soul in that time. Most of that section was fast, though there were some spots with deep sand.

    [​IMG]

    We somehow skipped gas in Hanksville and went straight to "let's eat!" mode and had some grub at whatever restaurant is across the street from the Inn. Lucky we got there today too... the owner was closing it up tomorrow for the season.

    From there, and without more fuel, we decided to slab it west on 24 and find a place to turn in for the day. We ended up skipping Goblin Valley, but we were beat and a shorter day would recharge us for the continued push west.

    On the way though, we found a cool OHV area off the side of the road and stopped to have some fun.

    [​IMG]

    We ended up at the Rodeway Inn in Caineville. The owner had quite an assortment of essentials for sale in the lobby, including a modest beer selection. I couldn't pass up the Polygamy Porter. When in Rhome... or Utah.

    [​IMG]

    It was actually quite good, though contrary to what the bottle says, I did just have one.

    We were 15 miles short of our planned destination for the day, but that's not bad for starting 30 miles behind, right?

    Ahhh, that's better. Now I'm relaxed. On with the now daily questions... What day is it again? Where are we headed tomorrow? What's the weather going to be like? Does it matter?
    #9
  10. CodyY

    CodyY ADVenture Capitalist

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    So you had the GoPro set to time lapse? At what intervals?
    #10
  11. Pr0xy

    Pr0xy Shreddin' the gnar

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    Yes, had the GoPro set to 30 second intervals.

    I had a 16 GB SD card in it and carried 2 batteries. The batteries were the limitation and it was difficult to keep a spare charged when the only way to charge it is on the bike when you're in the middle of nowhere. I could've run 7 hours of pictures every day and might have come close to maxing out the 16 GB.

    As it was, I ended up with 2,126 photos from the GoPro, taking up only 4.52 GB.
    #11
  12. bigdon

    bigdon Long timer

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    Bring it on. It sounds like a great trip.:freaky
    I am planning something similar next year. Probably go more North than West. I love Utah!
    #12
  13. ekms377

    ekms377 The 2-Stroke Guy

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    Keep it coming.......
    #13
  14. iphorde

    iphorde Been here awhile

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    You forgot to mention the guy and his brand new 4 Runner bouncing his poor girlfriend around. :lol3


    Oh, and what about the other guy in the Jeep taking his women out to the middle of the desert. That looked interesting. :huh
    #14
  15. Pr0xy

    Pr0xy Shreddin' the gnar

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    The 4Runner guy was hauling ass... a lot more ass than I would haul on that road in a brand new 4Runner.

    Yeah, the Jeep guy almost had that "Oh crap, there are people out here" look, lol :patch
    #15
  16. Pr0xy

    Pr0xy Shreddin' the gnar

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    We're only on day 4? Time for me to crank up some tunes and get this thing moving along...

    Day 4 &#8211; Caineville, UT to Cannonville, UT

    Starting a few miles short... again. The target today was northwestern Arizona, and we almost made it. "Almost" only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and adventure riding.

    Having skipped our last scheduled fuel stop the night before, we awoke to the typical continental waffle breakfast and planned our route west from Caineville to the next fuel stop in Torrey. I looked out the peephole and yes, the bikes were ready for another day.

    [​IMG]

    We'd pass through Capitol Reef National Park on our way to Torrey for fuel, and head south from there through Boulder, riding on Hell's Backbone to Escalante, then take 12 to Cannonville where we'd hook up with some dirt again.

    The ride through Capitol Reef was spectacular, even if it was pavement.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The scenery was cliffs on both sides while the road paralleled a lush creek. There were scenic spots, petroglyphs, etc., though we didn't stop for any of that at this particular point.

    Once in Torrey, Byron reminded me that my rear tire might not make it the entire trip. He'd already placed an order for a new Dunlop 908 for his bike at Champion Motorsports in Vegas. After fueling up, I made a similar call and made sure they had a Dunlop 606 for the rear. They did and I informed them we'd be rolling in late tomorrow or early Thursday.

    The housekeeping was out of the way and now it was time to ride. We headed back from whence we came on hwy 24, with plans to take dirt from Capitol Reef National Park, south to Boulder.

    After hitting the road in Capitol Reef, however, we saw a sign that said "No through road". Hmm. Was there no way to punch through to Boulder from here, or was this sign just pointed at tourists with rented RVs?

    We stopped in to the visitor center to find out.

    A bright-eyed young lass working the counter informed us that yes, the road did go through, but it was 4wd only. Awesome, because you only need 1wd on a properly equipped bike. She worried us a bit with her comments about possibly navigating 20" - 36" creek crossings, but we'd at least find them and make a judgment call if we saw any.

    We headed out from the visitor center, south to where the pavement turns to glorious dirt.

    [​IMG]

    Let's hit it.

    As it turns out, this was the only wet crossing for the entire distance of this road. Not much to look at, though the few people parked on our side of it seemed to get some enjoyment in seeing some bikes go across.

    [​IMG]

    The road was varied with terrain. Most of it was rocky, with some stretches of sand... but the road in general was not groomed at all.

    This spot on a short climb was a little more technical:

    [​IMG]

    On this road, I had my only get-off of the entire trip, but it was a slow sandy spot and my front wheel just caught an edge and the bike got sleepy and fell over. Nothing much else to tell, but I did have to re-adjust a mirror and my clutch lever.

    We hooked up with road near Boulder and stopped to put on some wet weather gear as it looked quite cloudy on the back side of Boulder mountain. As was the case for most of the Utah portion of the trip, the pavement was an unexpected blast.

    [​IMG]

    Once in Boulder, we stopped at the Burr Trail Grill for some fantastic food. The burgers come from the local cows, and the homemade ketchup is amazing, even if it is a hippie town.

    Out of Boulder, we took Hell's Backbone Road to Escalante. As was the case so far, any road in Utah referring to "satan", "devil", or "hell" was absolute cake and any road involving the words "trail" or "pleasant" was more technical than you'd think.

    Allow me to illustrate this with a shot of Hell's Backbone. It all looked like this:

    [​IMG]

    Obviously, the name refers more to the effort involved in creating it than it does to the experience of those riding/driving it. Scenic and fun, but nothing to intimidate, other than the name.

    The Hell's Backbone Bridge offered a nice view.

    [​IMG]

    Once in Escalante, it was time for more fuel and more pavement down hwy 12 to Cannonville.

    [​IMG]

    Gee, that sun sure looks kind of low on the horizon given our current position and how far we have to go.

    In Cannonville, we head south to our next dirt road, but the sun is even lower on the horizon and it's at least a 2 hour ride to our destination for the day. Looks like it's time to search for another motel.

    The only one in town was booked, so we rode a few miles up to Tropic and they were all booked.

    We ended up with a cabin at the KOA in Cannonville.

    While I was unpacking the bike, I found that a bottle of strawberry jam I had in one of my saddle bags had exploded. Crap. The only good news is that everything else in the same bag was sealed. The bad news is it was still covered in jam. Blah. I'll deal with it in the morning. There's a public kitchen at this KOA, so I'll just rinse out everything there when I wake up.

    While dealing with the exploded jam, I noticed that Byron befriended 2 women from Holland next door to us and he invited them over for a campfire. Being the happily married guy that I am, I just played wingman for Byron and tried to get the fire going. About that time, a good shower poured on us and I didn't have much luck with the fire, but that's what gasoline and lighters are for, and we had both.

    By the fire, we mostly compared and contrasted various facets of life in the U.S. and Holland, discussed our family lives, and turned in to our respective cabins late that night.

    We slept like babies that night... no, wait, babies don't sleep well at all. We slept like rocks that night. The cabin and supplied space heater assisted with that. Well, a little tequila and whiskey might have helped too.

    "Whoaaaaaaaah, we're halfway there, Whoaaaaah! livin' on a".... sorry, had a Bon Jovi moment.

    Operation "Sensory Overload" continues...
    #16
  17. hyperboarder

    hyperboarder Potato Farmer

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    Did you mount the GoPro on your helmet? Or the bike?
    #17
  18. Pr0xy

    Pr0xy Shreddin' the gnar

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    It was mounted to the bike, on the wind screen:

    [​IMG]

    I had a mount on my helmet, but never used it. The only time a helmet mount would've been better is when shooting video. It was a little shaky for video when mounted to the bike (see the Flint Trail video linked on page 1).

    Also, with it on the front of the bike, I could lean over the wind screen and make sure it was properly set up and turned on.
    #18
  19. Signal

    Signal Belly of a Whale

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    Great route :freaky

    Excellent stuff in this report :deal
    #19
  20. dirty adventurer

    dirty adventurer Been here awhile

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    Nice pics.

    Keep it coming....
    #20