40 Years Later in Utah...

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by ScottFree, Jul 4, 2021.

  1. ScottFree

    ScottFree Long timer

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2011
    Oddometer:
    1,034
    Location:
    Ill-Annoy
    In 1981, at the young-and-foolish age of 27, I took off from the Chicago area on a Yamaha XT500 set up for "dirt road touring" (I don't recall anybody using the term "adventure riding" back then), heading for the canyon country of southeastern Utah.

    MiddleONowhere.JPG
    Somewhere between Moab and the Needles section of Canyonlands National Park, I think

    It was one of those "once in a lifetime" adventures. I had every intention of going back, but the Usual Suspects (work, marriage, family) got in the way. While I visited the canyon country several times (1982, 1984, 1990, 1992, 2018, 2019), it was always on a big road bike, sometimes with a sidecar.

    In 2013, at the older-but-no-wiser age of 59-and-a-half, I got the idea of returning to the Moab area and re-visiting at least some of those places and roads. This became an eight-year struggle, as my plans were repeatedly stymied by Unusual Suspects: a series of orthopedic problems (collapsed discs, damaged sciatic nerve that left me with a half-numb foot, rotator cuff tear, hip replacement, ulnar nerve entrapment surgery...), a bike breakdown on the first day of the trip (see the "Rumsfeldian Zen" RR), and most recently a global pandemic. There were times I thought the universe just didn't want me to go on this trip. To keep from giving up on the whole idea, I've been telling myself that Nature just wants me to go on the 40th anniversary, which is this year. At the tender (sometimes very tender) age of 67.

    I had originally planned to title this report "40 Years Ago in Utah," write it up as a sort of "retro-RR" and use it as the introduction to the story of this year's (hopefully) triumphant return. But, here I am, three days from departure, and so far I haven't written a thing. So, new plan: try to write the RR for this trip in more or less real time (wi-fi permitting), and include flashbacks to the 1981 trip. I once wrote a novel that was half flashbacks, so I might be able to pull it off. Then again, the novel didn't sell very well.

    So, let's get started...

    Prologue

    I first fell in love with the area between Zion and Arches back in 1977. My girlfriend of the time and I were returning from a trip that had accidentally sorta followed the "Zen and the Art" route through Minnesota, Oregon, and down the California coast. On the way back, we stopped at Zion and were blown away by the scenery. Then we crossed the San Rafael Reef on I-70 (which was, in those days, one lane each direction with a center passing lane) and spent a good chunk of a day in Arches. We left saying, "we're going to come back here some day."

    "Some day" was 1980, when we rode our street bikes to Moab, rented a Jeep (well, an International Scout with a carburetor that stalled out after every big bounce), and drove it down to the Needles section of the National Park. There we went over Elephant Hill and the aptly named "SOB Hill"

    IMGP2725.JPG
    I am not sure which one this is, but it doesn't matter. Elephant Hill is an S.O.B.

    ...got stuck in the Grabens (which, I believe, are now off-limits to motor vehicles)

    IMGP2729.JPG
    It's not an optical illusion or camera distortion; the cliffs really are leaning in.

    After a few days at Needles, we went up to the Island in the Sky (where the road was still unpaved) to visit the aptly-named Grandview Point:

    IMGP2731.JPG

    It was here that I found the girlfriend had a serious aversion to Edges, particularly being at the top of a thousand-foot cliff. Which meant that no matter how hard I argued that it would be perfectly safe to take the four-wheel-drive Scout down the Shafer Trail Jeep Road ("not for the squeamish," said the park brochure), she remained adamant.

    Shafer cropped.jpg
    1980s tech for creating a montage from multiple photos: an X-Acto knife and rubber cement.

    If I wanted to drive down this road, I would have to first drop her off at the motel and drive back. Which, hearing the Domestic Tranquility Alert Klaxon honking loudly, I decided not to do.

    But it was there that an insane idea entered my brain: I wanted to come out here on a motorcycle and ride these roads. Shafer Trail in particular, but some of the other roads as well. I came home with a sort-of-accurate Jeep Trail Map of the Canyonlands area, and a somewhat-less-accurate Jeep Trail Guide, and started planning how I would return on two wheels.

    There were only two minor obstacles in the way of this plan: first, I didn't have a bike capable of riding from the Chicago area to Moab and then going off-road; second, I knew next to nothing about off-road riding.

    Luckily, these obstacles could be overcome. All it would take was spending enough money and buying enough motorcycles.
    #1
  2. Bighammer49686

    Bighammer49686 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2018
    Oddometer:
    795
    Location:
    Traverse City, Michigan
    Awesome photos!

    I took a bicycle trip of UT, northern AZ, and Yellowstone/Tetons/Jackson in 1991 and Zion just totally blew me away. I had thought the Grand Canyon North Rim would be just an overnight, (look in the ditch and leave) but I met 2 other bikers there and took short rides, hikes, and just took in the sights for 3 days.

    Moab was also incredible. I stashed my road bike at a shop while I rented one of their mountain bikes to ride the Slickrock Trail. Maybe having spent my whole life in Michigan, I'm drawn to the beauty of the desert scenery because it's so unlike anything around here.
    #2
  3. docwyte

    docwyte Long timer

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2012
    Oddometer:
    3,153
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    In for more, hope your return trip is triumphant!
    #3
  4. ScottFree

    ScottFree Long timer

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2011
    Oddometer:
    1,034
    Location:
    Ill-Annoy
    Preparations (1981):

    Having decided I was going to come back to the Canyonlands on two wheels, I had to find an appropriate bike and learn to ride off-road.

    There weren't a lot of options for a "dirt-road touring bike" (the term "adventure bike" had yet to be coined) in the fall of 1980. In theory, the first BMW G/S model was available, but in those days most motorcycle news traveled by word of mouth, and this particular news hadn't made it to the Midwest yet. It didn't help that the only Beemerphiles I knew were strictly street riders.

    My dirt-riding friends weren't of much help either, as they were into competition and rode two-stroke bikes that would need at least one teardown and rebuild on a trip of this length.

    After reading a lot of magazines and visiting a fair number of dealers, I settled on the Yamaha XT500. This was the street-legal version of the TT500 four-stroke thumper that had won Dakar. With a tiny (but oh so sexy) aluminum gas tank and unsupportive dirt bike seat, it was far from a bike I could just hop on and ride, but it would serve as a good starting point for further development. I had my choice of 1979 or 1981 models. Same price. I chose the '79 because the '81 had electronic ignition--a convenience for a street bike, but something I saw as a risk on a bike I'd be taking into the middle of nowhere. Electronic stuff has the habit of working perfectly and then not working at all, and in those days the "not working at all" happened with disturbing regularity. Points are inconvenient and constantly require fiddling, but you can always get them to work a little longer.

    I of course have no photos of the bike before I started hacking away at it, so this pic I found on the internet will have to suffice:

    [​IMG]

    Mine was slightly different--painted parts of the tank were white, the taillight was bigger, and the rims weren't gold. But you get the idea.

    Digression: While I was looking for a decent stock photo of an unmodified XT, I stumbled upon this amusing video of a guy hooning around on an XT500:

    Ah, they are still fun...

    He mentions almost breaking his ankle trying to kickstart this bike, which brings me to... yeah, it was a cantankerous beast at times. Kick start only, of course. There was a compression release and a little window in the head that supposedly showed you when the engine was positioned properly for safe and successful kicking. Of course, you could only read that little window in direct sunlight, so I quickly developed an alternate technique based on feeling compression and lining up the kick lever with a specific bolt on the muffler mount. The XT's EPA-approved carb didn't help. When the bike was cold, it would start on the first or second kick with full choke. When it was fully warmed up, you pushed a little button to crack the throttle a measured amount and it would start on the second or third attempt. And when it was somewhere in between... you'd just have to wait till it had cooled down enough to use the choke, because in that intermediate range it was not going to start. Period.

    Anyway, the window... was completely obscured by my first touring modification anyway: a five-gallon plastic fuel tank. There aren't always gas stations in the middle of nowhere. My second touring mod was a big, comfortable seat. There were no accessory seats for this bike, but there were lots of companies that would build plush touring buckets to order on your stock (typically Gold Wing) seat pan. So the original seat went off to Florida for this surgery. I suspect the guy who had to do the work did a double-take when he saw the order and looked at the dirt-bike seat!

    Next up was luggage. Again, nothing available for this bike. So, a bit of engineering: a few bolts, some perforated angle stock from the local hardware store, and a pair of cheap suitcases from the local K-Mart (remember those?). Ta-daa! And as a bonus, I now had a luggage rack (of sorts) upon which I could tie down my tent.

    A few more minor mods (relocating the turn signals, adding rudimentary highway pegs to the bash plate) and I was ready to go:

    IMGP1297.JPG
    Ugliest thing on the road, at least until bikes with "beaks" came along...

    With that, I had a bike to make my trip. Now I just had to learn how to ride it in the dirt.

    There weren't a lot of opportunities to ride actual dirt in the Chicago suburbs. There were plenty of gravel roads in farm country, of course, but the kind of actual dirt riding experience I figured I needed wasn't available on a casual basis. My dirt-racing friend had the answer: I could join him for some AMA enduros! Real dirt riding experience for me, and some gas money for him! Perfect! What could possibly go wrong?

    Of course, I was immediately informed that the XT500 would not be an appropriate bike for competition. It is a measure of how ignorant I was that I believed this--had I been paying any attention at all, I would have noticed people were still riding enduros on iron-head Harley Sportsters! Ah well, there is no problem that cannot be solved by buying another motorcycle. In particular, this one:

    IT425.JPG

    Another Yamaha, an IT425. An evil-tempered two-stroke with a clutch that could be adjusted to either slip under load or not fully release when you're desperately trying to kick-start the bike in gear after it stalled. Now, you might think that a 425cc two-stroke would be hard to stall, and in the technical sense you would be right--the bike had gobs of power. But it tended to stop running when it fell down... and my learning curve involved a lot of falling down. Followed by a lot of kicking and cussing. Followed by a lot more rocking and clicking the shifter and trying to get the damn thing into neutral so I could restart it.

    I never successfully finished an enduro on this bike. Made it to the end once or twice, but too late to be an official finisher. Not that my heart was terribly in the competitive side of it anyway. I kept coming around the side of a hill, looking at the trees and meadows and thinking "this would be a nice place for a picnic, wish I could stop and enjoy it." But, of course, the point of the exercise wasn't to win, place or show; it was just to learn how to ride dirt. Which I did. I learned a lot about dirt, and going between trees, and crossing streams, and jumping over logs... none of which I was likely to find on a trip to the Utah desert...

    And so, after modifying the XT500 and beating myself up sufficiently on the IT425, I was finally ready to go.

    To be continued...
    #4
  5. wobbly one

    wobbly one Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2010
    Oddometer:
    319
    Location:
    Billings, MT
    OUTSTANDING!
    #5
  6. TNC

    TNC Candyass Camper

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2007
    Oddometer:
    5,441
    Location:
    Tejas
    Oh my, ScottFree...you should have started you enduro career on the IT175...LOL! This story sounds interesting.
    #6
  7. ScottFree

    ScottFree Long timer

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2011
    Oddometer:
    1,034
    Location:
    Ill-Annoy
    Actually, the first "competitive" event I rode was a late fall hare scrambles (I think that's what they called it--around and around the same track for a fixed period of time; whoever completed the most laps won). I was on my dirt-racing friend's Can-Am 250cc two-stroke. Now that I think of it, this is the only competitive event I actually finished. Dead last, I'm sure, but at least I officially finished!

    The Can-Am was a great dirt bike, and if I'd been planning to continue doing dirt competition, riding through the woods, etc., I would have bought something like that. But the whole point of getting into enduro riding in the first place was to gain experience I could use when I took that (relatively) big and heavy XT500 to Utah the following summer. So, completely disregarding what I'd learned by taking the MSF course on a 175cc bike and applying the learnings to my 500, 750 and 900cc street bikes, I decided I needed to do my "educational" enduro career on a big and relatively heavy competition bike.

    Y'know, for a guy with a master's in computer science, I sometimes miss some pretty obvious logical connections...
    #7
  8. BigDogAdventures

    BigDogAdventures Fart Letter Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2003
    Oddometer:
    7,513
    Location:
    Mt. Vernon, Illinois
    This is going to be a super fun read-------as I think it's going to be a carbon copy of a story I could tell of my exploits starting from 1971. Your a much better story teller than me---------and you've got some old pictures---I have almost none till they invented the digital camera.
    Yes this "Dirt Road Touring" has sure caught on. I started thinking of this way back in the 70's and all my racing buddies thought I was nuts----------riding cross country on a Hodaka Wombat---what a bad (Good) idea.
    BigDog
    #8
    TexasStevo, LC1, HOMER69 and 3 others like this.
  9. ScottFree

    ScottFree Long timer

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2011
    Oddometer:
    1,034
    Location:
    Ill-Annoy
    Preparations (2013-2021): Third Time's The Charm (or Three Strikes You're Out)

    Getting ready for the 1981 trip to Moab required buying two motorcycles. Preparing for this trip has required me to buy three bikes. At least I owned them sequentially over seven years rather than all at the same time...

    When I first got the bug to return to Moab, I did a bit of internet research (because everything you read on the internet is true, or so says Abe Lincoln) and concluded the closest thing to the XT500 was the venerable KLR650. I picked up this blue '08 model with a classy "Afrika Single" oversized windshield (and highway pegs!) in September of 2013, and started making plans: I would use the summer of 2014 to re-acquaint myself with dirt (well, dirt road) riding, and head for Moab in 2015.

    All was going according to plan until June of 2014, a week before the wife and I were planning to ride to New Mexico and Colorado on the Harley. I did a Stupid Boat Trick (for future reference a 17-foot Bayliners is not a Jet Ski) and noticed a little pain in my lower back. Didn't worry about it, because I was busy getting ready for the trip... until the morning I was supposed to ride to Nebraska and couldn't get out of bed because my right leg was on fire. I ended up going to the emergency room instead. Two days on IV pain meds, and MRI, and several weeks of physical therapy followed. Seems that Stupid Boat Trick had crunched my sciatic nerve, doing permanent damage (to this day my right leg doesn't feel like it's entirely part of me). So much for the summer of 2014...

    So all the plans got pushed back a year. 2015 was indeed my year to brush up on dirt roads, with a trip to North Carolina, where I rode the Forest Service road that parallels the Cherohala Skyway.



    Back home, I did a couple camping trips on the KLR and rode a section of the TWAT.

    TWAT2015.jpg

    Things were looking good... but...

    On the NC trip, I rode with a friend on an R1200GS and developed a serious case of Boxer Envy. I had ridden around northern California on a rented R1100R, and promised myself that someday I would own a Boxer with a Telelever front end. Why not upgrade? Why not, indeed? So I went off to the dealer and traded in the KLR (for nowhere near what it was worth) on a ten-year-old R1200GS (for which I paid far more than I should have). Fully equipped with those big aluminum boxes. Definitely a step up from the KLR, with its "trunk" made from a Plano Molding Company "Sportsman's Box" on the back! Moab, here I come, in style, summer of '16!

    Or not, as the Orthopedic Curse struck again: May of 2016, I was on a Habitat for Humanity crew building a house in New Orleans. Four of us picked up a big sheet of "OSB" chipboard, lifted it into place and positioned it on the side of the house. Then the other three reached for their hammers, leaving me to hold this four by eight foot hunk of lumber... with one hand. I felt an odd sensation in my shoulder... which steadily got worse over the next few days and weeks. Eventually I acknowledged it wasn't just a sprain and went to the orthopedist. You can probably guess where this is going. I got through the summer, even rode the GS to North Carolina again...

    IMG_1089.JPG
    I am trying to look casual in this picture. Why do I instead look like my bead cushion isn't doing its job?

    ...but as the summer progressed, the shoulder got worse, to the point where a 100-mile ride was about all I could take. An MRI verified I had torn the rotator cuff. So, at the end of summer, I got it fixed. Surgery, a couple months off, a winter of physical therapy... I wasn't cleared for "full normal activities" until August of 2017. But, by the spring of 2018, I was charging full speed ahead. Rode the GS to Arkansas to explore some of the "Dual Sport Adventure Rides" listed in their tourist brochure (see this Ride Report), even took an off-road training class at the BMWMOA national rally in scenic Des Moines. Made camping reservations in Estes Park, Moab, Capitol Reef, and a couple places near Bryce Canyon, planned to drop in on a friend in Denver on the way back. In the company of a long-time riding buddy on his Buell Ulysses, I took off for Utah on a bright, sunny morning in August...

    ...and less than halfway across Iowa, the BMW changed its mind about going. The final drive seal started spewing oil, none of the dealers in Iowa (the few that would even answer the phone on a Monday) were interested in looking at it before Labor Day, none had the seal in stock (even though it was still being used on the R Nine T). So the bike came home on a trailer and I sprinted out the next morning on the Road King. Though we still went to Colorado and Utah (you can read the story here), it just wasn't the same staying (mostly) on pavement.

    Adding injury to insult... a few days after I got home from Utah, my tricky right hip went out. Completely. On Halloween, I had a new one put in.

    The new hip, as it turned out, put an end to the GS, as I just couldn't get on and off that bike without it hurting a lot. A whole lot. In all fairness, this was the last nail in the BMW's coffin. The trip to Arkansas and the off-road training had taught me that while I could ride the GS the way I had ridden the XT, it was a ton of work. I was ready for something easier.

    Enter the Royal Enfield Himalayan. Just before going under the knife for the hip, I had ridden the GS up to Janesville, Wisconsin, to take a short demo ride on the Indian bike. I was interested, but wary--I had already bought two "Utah trip bikes," and neither had gotten any closer to Utah than Iowa. It was going to be either "third time's the charm" or "three strikes and you're out." So I decided to take an extended "demo ride"--in the summer of 2019, the same guy who'd accompanied me to NC in 2015-16 and Utah in 2018 joined me for a ride to Montana, where we rented a pair of Himalayans and rode around the Gravelly Mountains for a few days. That's documented in this RR. Suffice it to say I was impressed, sufficiently that I had located a slightly-used Himma in Kentucky within a week of getting home. Then, while recuperating from yet another orthopedic procedure ("ulnar nerve release," which involves poking holes in one's elbow) I discovered a low-mileage one with a year and a half left on the warranty, just three miles from my house. Didn't even bother to take a test ride, just wrote the check and rode it home (no doubt against doctor's advice, since it was just two days after surgery).

    I haven't made many modifications to the Himalayan. It already has an adequate gas tank, plus actual brakes at both ends (vs. the XT's tiny mechanical drums, which were more decorative than functional), an electrical system that can not only power a real headlight (55-watt halogen, baby!) but also support heated grips and electric vest, a modern monoshock suspension, fuel injection (no more fussy EPA carburetor), and an electric starter (absolutely necessary given the fake hip). Talk about luxury! It weighs a bit more than the XT, but somewhat less than the GS. It's slow, but at my age that might be a good thing. And it's a tractor, with a power band that's wide and flat if not particularly tall.

    So my customizations have been all about carrying stuff. The stock luggage rack is a toy, so I fabricated a sturdy steel replacement to support a small Givi trunk. I added some wire loops (originally intended for a Harley Softail) to support the Ortlieb dry bag soft luggage, and a pair of plastic imitation ammo cans on the gas-tank racks. I fabricated a little box under the main trunk for chain lube, chain brush and a pint of oil, and an aluminum storage box to replace the passenger seat; it both holds tire repair tools and provides a better support for the saddlebags. A magnetic tank bag (supposedly capable of holding eleven cans of beer) and a rudimentary navigation system (a retired iPhone on the handlebars) round out the storage.

    After riding the southern portions of the TWAT last summer

    D3P08.jpg

    And some "grade B minimum maintenance" stuff during the Hugellandschaft Adventure Rides

    IMG_2135 2.JPG
    I'm as ready as I can get. There were a couple stretches of the "B roads" (not photographed; I was too busy having fun) where my brain said oh crap what have I gotten myself into, but my muscle memory said relax, we still remember how to do this. It is a neat feeling.

    So, that's the seven years of preparation. Tomorrow I hit the road, finally. This time it's gonna work.

    I hope...
    #9
  10. ScottFree

    ScottFree Long timer

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2011
    Oddometer:
    1,034
    Location:
    Ill-Annoy
    Yeah, it was a thoroughly weird idea when I first brought it up to my friends. Street riders were of the opinion that if you can't reach it from a paved road (hell, if you can't see it from the seat of your bike in the parking lot), it wasn't worth seeing. Dirt riders were of the opinion that dirt's for riding fast and hard for a couple hours (what's this "scenery" you keep talking about?) and then kicking back for some beers before you load the bikes back onto the trailer.

    Hodaka Wombat... wow... I vaguely remember those. 1971 is when I graduated high school!
    #10
    Loadtoad101 likes this.
  11. CoyoteThistle

    CoyoteThistle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2014
    Oddometer:
    227
    Location:
    Ventura, CA
    Brilliant! I talked my brother into a ride across Utah on vintage bikes a few years back. I would have loved to find an XT500 but I settled for an XL250S and my brother got an XL500S. Dual shocks, kick start, homemade racks and luggage; this is bringing back great memories already! Best of luck and safe travels sir!!
    #11
  12. ScottFree

    ScottFree Long timer

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2011
    Oddometer:
    1,034
    Location:
    Ill-Annoy
    Monday Morning: Are those butterflies in my stomach, or cicadas?

    Let's review, shall we?

    In 1981 I rode my XT500 to Moab and had a fantastic time. A "once in a lifetime" trip, perhaps.

    In 2013 (32 years later, if you're counting), I got the bug and bought a KLR650 with the intent of going back in 2015. Instead, eight months later I was on my back in a hospital bed, hooked up to IV painkillers, with a collapsed disc and permanently messed up sciatic nerve.

    In 2015, recovered from the back injury (to the extent I could recover), I went for some nice rides in the woods on my KLR, then "upgraded" to a GS, with the Utah expedition now planned for 2016. Six months later, I tore my rotator cuff.

    In 2018, with a healthy shoulder and a well-equipped ADV bike, I got some practice and training (in that order), finally got on the road to Moab... and made it halfway across Iowa before the GS, the Bike That Never Breaks, broke.

    In 2019, after the doctor replaced my hip, I replaced the GS with a Himalayan. 2020 would be the year... and we all know what happened next.

    You can see how I might be a little nervous about today's departure. It would not be hard to conclude that for some inexplicable reason the universe does not want me taking this trip. I have thought that at times, and at times all that's kept me plugging ahead with this is the unspoken credo of all engineers: Mother Nature can't push me around.

    Sometimes I suspect, or better, hope, that there's some cosmic reason that I couldn't make this trip till the 40th anniversary of the first one. After all, 40 is a significant number. It rained on Noah for 40 days and 40 nights (hmm, sounds like my last trip to Deals Gap). And the Hebrews wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before they were allowed into the Promised Land. Yeah, that sounds like a good rationalization.

    Anyway, the bike is packed, the sun is shining (for the moment; I will be riding into a 60% chance of rain later on), and the biggest decision facing me is which boots to wear. The Marine Corps surplus hot-weather infantry (desert tan) combat boots are decent for hiking, fairly protective (leather and Cordura), not too hot, and (despite being listed as "desert" equipment) totally waterproof. Then there are the 20-year-old Danner Pronghorn Snake boots--not snake-skin cowboy boots (those would be more Harley-riding equipment), but snakebite-proof (or so they say) hunting boots. Leather and Mossy Oak pattern Cordura, thickly padded but surprisingly a bit cooler than the Marine Corps boots, more comfortable for hiking, probably a bit more protective by virtue of being almost knee high... but, despite the GoreTex liner, not fully waterproof (probably has something to do with their age).

    I did not face such choices in '81, as my footwear of choice was cheap sneakers without socks. The idea, of course, was that when (not if) they got soaked, they'd dry out pretty quickly. I was also a pioneer in the "textile gear" field, choosing to leave the leather at home and just wear a denim jacket. Same idea, that it would dry out quickly after getting soaked. Yes, I had a rubber rainsuit, and like all such gear, it leaked... and when it didn't leak, it trapped sweat, leaving me marinating in my own juices and invariably wishing I'd just let myself get soaked by the rain.

    I am a bit more advanced this time, with an Aerostich Roadcrafter two-piece that I bought back in 1997. One of the best purchases I ever made. I replaced the original jacket a couple years ago, with something over a quarter-million miles on it. The pants get worn less, and so are still the originals. Nice gear, if insanely expensive.

    OK, enough babbling; time to hit the road. Next report (I hope) tonight, from scenic Ottumwa, Iowa.
    #12
  13. Vrode

    Vrode Still half-fast... Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2014
    Oddometer:
    6,692
    Location:
    Northern Vermont
    In. Good luck. Safe travels!
    #13
  14. AHRMA17L

    AHRMA17L Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2006
    Oddometer:
    963
    Location:
    Corvallis and Dundee, OR
    This is going to be awesome! The Rumsfeldian Zen ride report is on of my top three favorites on ADV.
    #14
  15. bomose

    bomose Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2007
    Oddometer:
    4,396
    Location:
    Dixie
    Awesome prologue! Should be a great ride report. I was first in Moab in '81 on a street bike. I remember looking down a dirt road and wondering where it went. I found out years later.
    #15
    pratered likes this.
  16. ScottFree

    ScottFree Long timer

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2011
    Oddometer:
    1,034
    Location:
    Ill-Annoy
    Day One: You Gotta Start Somewhere

    I rolled out only ten minutes behind my target departure time of 9 am. The last couple minutes’ delay were caused by a realization that I hadn’t cranked the shock preload to maximum, to accommodate both my own fat arse and the cargo I was carrying.

    42FF4914-5B35-4BED-AEF5-07CB40D3DA97.jpeg
    Not too much of a load here, thanks to the decision to camp in motels…

    At least I had put proper pressure in the tires…

    6885EE0A-C2C4-4673-AB47-3B0685E2873F.jpeg
    Beats the hell out of looking it up in the manual every morning

    Now, what can you really say about northern Illinois? Well, not a lot—there is some neat riding up in the northwest corner of the state, in the Driftless Area, but I was going well south of that. And I had some miles to cover, so I was taking a more or less direct (and far more paved than not) route. Still, I was on a Himalayan, and Evvie* has a penchant for sniffing out roads like this one:

    4CC32E39-16DE-4E79-9C98-2C4A5B8A7FE3.jpeg
    I’m still six states away from the real Shafer Trail Jeep Road (and that one’s spelled differently), but it’s still a little reminder of where I’m headed. The Jeep in the background is a nice touch.

    And this one:

    4FD887E0-F91B-4594-ADBD-C1CE8ECC60A0.jpeg

    And this one…

    51DE5EB9-9B65-4989-BA7B-8282AA57C439.jpeg

    Discretion is the better part of valor… I stopped by White Pines Forest State Park (primarily to take a leak—I’m 67 years old, and a lot of my stops are motivated by that kind of pressure) and was briefly tempted by its two (paved) water crossings:

    649395D3-6239-4DE7-B7F3-13EC1E0A68B4.jpeg
    Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!!

    These fords are sneaky. A dozen years ago, I’d ride my Harley through the “self service bike wash,” two up, without a second thought. Then the DNR “improved” the crossings, first by lacquering the concrete with some kind of “sealant” that’s so slick pickup trucks have been swept off the fords by six inches of water, and then by adding speed humps at both ends so you’re forced to accelerate across the algae. The last time I attempted this ford, both my Himma and my riding buddy’s slithered around like they were on ice, and we both decided to exit the park via the secret back entrance to the campground rather than tempting fate a second time.

    I think I should learn how to master these crossings, but… it would really suck to fall and hurt myself badly enough to end the trip on the first day! Discretion is the better part of valor; I can come out and attempt the White Pines fords any afternoon I want.

    Blast from the past:

    5BEDC514-D1A3-4F58-AFDF-A299E2F3CDB4.jpeg

    Somewhere near the town of Polo is the high point of my brief enduro career. In the early summer of 1981, I rode the Polo enduro. I didn’t finish, of course. I started off in the usual manner, going over the handlebars and head first into a tree, then getting stuck for twenty minutes or so in a massive mudhole (I was not the only one—Polo was famous for its mud). But… later on, I came to a stream crossing. Maybe a forty-foot-wide creek, eight or ten inches deep, half a dozen bikes already down, or stuck, or both. It was, of course, also a spectator point, with lots of people enjoying the show. What the hell, I thought, and screwed on a bunch of throttle. The IT did the one thing it did well, which is pick up the front wheel and go. I never knew where it was going to go when I did this, but on this particular occasion it went straight across the creek on one wheel, up the other side and down the trail with me looking like I actually knew what I was doing! I suppose somebody, somewhere, has some really impressive pictures of this. I never saw them.

    I had sketched out a route from Polo to the Mississippi River on county roads. Wrote it down this morning so I wouldn’t have to bring a big Illinois road atlas along. In Milledgeville, I found I hadn’t written down the name of the east-west road I was planning to take. Well, one E-W road’s as good as another… except that in this part of the state, the roads keep making turns. And while I knew I wanted to end up on Penrose Road, I didn’t know there’s more than one Penrose Road! Eventually I found my way to the River, a bit north of Fulton, exactly where I wanted to be. But it was more dumb luck than skill.

    Speaking of dumb luck, I had a lot of it with respect to weather. Remember that 60% chance of rain and storms? It was looking like a real thing by the time I go to Fulton. A bit of a storm went through that town, but it moved on to the east just before I arrived, so all I found was a bit of wet pavement approaching the bridge to Iowa. I guess getting lost had used up just enough time…

    And so… across the river into Iowa! And on to the rest of the day’s story…
    #16
  17. ScottFree

    ScottFree Long timer

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2011
    Oddometer:
    1,034
    Location:
    Ill-Annoy
    Day 1, Continued: The Sky is Falling! (Oh, Wait, it’s Just the Roof)

    It was a few minutes after noon when I crossed into Iowa at Clinton. Again missed my opportunity to photograph the Golden Dome (it’s just covering a pile of fuel at a power plant, but it’s a cool sight). Did about twenty miles of four-lane to a gas stop in a town with the encouraging name of Dew Itt (or something like that). The Snake Boots got their first compliment of the day in the gas station. Yeah, I went with them rather than the more practical, fully watertight combat boots. They just got style, man!

    Much of US 30 is now indistinguishable from I-80: four lanes, divided, loaded with trucks. Fortunately, the stretch from Dew Itt to at least Clarence (angel or cross-eyed lion? The Iowa map doesn’t say) is still two lanes and rather lightly used, much nicer that the madhouse twenty miles south in the Quad Cities. This part of 30 is a later re-alignment of the old Lincoln Highway. I found a part of it, which turned out to be paved:

    05D712EE-E0EA-4E77-8F16-362B02B93395.jpeg

    Had I been paying closer attention, I could have ridden a dozen or so more miles of the old highway, not all of which were paved. Oh well.

    I had planned to visit the Backpocket Brewery in Coralville for lunch. I’d visited the place when it was a tiny brewpub up on the Mississippi in McGregor, selling beer under the name “Einfach” and reminding customers of important facts like never drop your cell phone into your glass of Einfach beer; this violates the German purity law. They changed their name to Backpocket after it turned out somebody else already owned the name “Einfach” (or so the bartender told me). Then they realized they were making a lot more money brewing beer than cooking food, so they sold the pub and set up a production brewery near I-80 in Coralville. Seems beer is shipped by truck, not barge. Unless the brewery is really big.

    I let the GPS guide me through Iowa City to the brewery. It responded to this rare opportunity to express its full creativity, routing me through every construction zone it could find (in one construction zone, the Snake Boots got their second compliment of the day, from the woman holding the stop/slow sign) and delaying me just long enough so that the last ten minutes of the journey were accompanied by a moderate rain. The GPS also guided me to the loading dock rather than the tap room. But, I made it, around 2:30…

    49FFC1DA-C338-4548-B6AB-4468EB245E10.jpeg

    Alas, the sign said the place didn’t open till four. Funny, I could have sworn I checked that in advance and read they were open for lunch (what kind of tap room has a pizza oven and isn’t open for lunch?)…

    Oh well, no beer, no lunch, and now I had to ride back out of the city center in a drizzle. Or did I? A quick google query informed me that only a half mile away was…

    ED77A205-2E53-4B0E-849C-6363F43384BC.jpeg

    And ReUnion Brewing was open for lunch.

    55C1035A-5C62-4DF0-AC0B-D012EB9B2E00.jpeg
    A flight: four beers, a total of one pint, ten buck. During happy hour, I could have bought three full pints for ten bucks… but I wanted to leave under my own power.

    I left Coralville headed southwest. At some point Iowa 1 turned straight south, but there was a little bitty road that continued on the diagonal. It was imaginatively named “Angle Road.” And imaginatively decorated with parts of a VW van.

    E646DBB1-605C-40AD-BB4B-398652685292.jpeg

    Pavement was intermittent. Now you see it, now you don’t.

    84D01226-CF6E-4D5A-9BAD-FE0C6DCB9908.jpeg
    The sharp-eyed will note the sky. Not quite “Surrender Dorothy” (we’re not in Kansas yet), but getting that way…

    By the time I got to Sigourney, things were looking a bit bleak again.

    8EFE3FDF-37D6-4B22-A4B9-9538E49F6908.jpeg

    I always forget something, and remember it when I’m too far along to do anything about it. At this gas station, I remembered that I had forgotten to bring a little umbrella, in case there was a restaurant within walking distance of the hotel. Conveniently, the station had one (for about twice what it was worth, but sometimes you pay for convenience). So I bought the umbrella, put on my Aerostich pants, pulled the jacket down properly to cover them, and headed into the drizzle.

    Which immediately stopped. All hail the magic of Aerostich gear!

    I rolled into the Superfluous Eight motel in Ottumwa a bit before six, meaning about eight and a half hours to to 291 miles, including maybe an hour and a half of stops. The Himalayan’s trip meter gave an average speed of 41 miles an hour, but I have not yet figured out whether it counts time when the bike’s running but stopped (like at stop lights) or only runs the timer when the bike is actually in motion. Either way, an OK day.

    I found a BBQ joint across the street from the Superfluous Eight, which meant I could walk to dinner (and use my new gas station umbrella, as it was drizzling again). Ordered a brisket sandwich, had a seat at the bar, asked what the “Old Oak 63” tap was. Barmaid didn’t know, said it was new, gave me a sample. It was beer, but I couldn’t identify a particular style and ended up ordering an IPA. “A lot of people have been doing that today,” she said. Yeah, that keg may be on tap for a long time.

    Then came the Bad News: there would be no food tonight because the roof over the kitchen had collapsed! Well, that was interesting… Refunds would be issued, and here’s a beverage on the house. Then… things changed: looks like the meat survived the disaster, only the bread and side orders were destroyed. Fine with me, I said, I didn’t order a side and I had enough bread (in the form of a pub pretzel) at ReUnion. Just bring me the dead animals!

    Which she did… and somewhere they found a bun. It was most satisfying.

    Then I came back to the Superfluous 8 for a quick dip in the pool (yes, this generic budget franchise motel has an indoor pool!) and a longer soak in the hot tub (aw, baby, this is the life) before returning to the Salt Mines of ADVrider…

    Tomorrow: a longer day, a little over 300 miles. Maybe a lot over 300. Depends on the route. Going to Manhattan—the one in Kansas, not the one in New York. Starting the day with a visit to the pyramids of Avery.

    Yes, of course Iowa has pyramids.
    #17
  18. ScottFree

    ScottFree Long timer

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2011
    Oddometer:
    1,034
    Location:
    Ill-Annoy
    Day Two (pre-launch meditations)

    I think I figured out why the GPS took me on a scenic tour of downtown Iowa City, when it could have saved half an hour and a dozen turns by taking three miles of interstate: I had set a routing preference to “avoid motorways.” Which it did… absolutely.

    This is one of my pet peeves about routing software in general (and Google in particular): the algorithms want to put you on the road with the highest speed limit, which is almost always an interstate and about as much fun as watching paint dry. And the only option you get is to completely avoid whatever the programmers view as “highways” (Google) or “motorways” (maps.me and others). This latter leads to such absurdities as Google wanting to route me from Dubuque, IA, to Galena, IL (about 20 miles apart on US 20) via Savanna, IL (a trip of almost 100 miles) because the two-lane bridge over the Mississippi on US 20 was under construction and the US 61 bridge (the posted detour) was a four-lane “highway.” Yes, this actually happened to me (though I was smart enough to just go across the US 61 bridge anyway). And if I ask Google how to get from Glenwood Springs (where I’ll be staying on my way back) to Dotsero (where I pick up an unpaved road along the Colorado River), it will send me on a 70-mile, three hour tour to avoid 20 miles of I-70 (on the other hand, one of the “no highways” options includes a whole lot of dirt roads in the mountains).

    In a better world, there would be a slider in the setting, ranging from “no big roads” to “maximum big roads,” with middling options like “short stretches of big road when it saves a lot of distance.” I’m not holding my breath. Being a “recovering programmer” (I quit writing code for a paycheck almost forty years ago, but programming is an addiction you’re never completely cured of), I know better.

    Meanwhile, the morning is overcast and gray, but the forecast calls for it to clear up and become a nice sunny day. I’m starting with a visit to the Avery Pyramids, then plunging into Missouri before heading west into scenic Kansas.

    Hey, I found that maps.me can record a track of your day’s travels! It can’t do anything with it (can’t send it as a GPX or anything, can’t even save it except via screen snap), but it does leave me with a little graphical record of yesterday:

    9E301B31-77AC-4414-A1CD-97ED5C1A35A9.jpeg

    Dotted lines on a map. What’ll they think of next?
    #18
  19. TNC

    TNC Candyass Camper

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2007
    Oddometer:
    5,441
    Location:
    Tejas
    Loving it. I kept up with another trip involving a RE Himalaya by an older fellow in South America awhile back. He was a good story teller, but I also kind of enjoyed the descriptions of how the bike did, especially since I knew nothing about the RE models. It's neat seeing something other than the normal parade of high end, Gucci bikes...LOL!
    #19
  20. AHRMA17L

    AHRMA17L Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2006
    Oddometer:
    963
    Location:
    Corvallis and Dundee, OR
    That is the best Super 8 I have ever been to. When I read you were going to Ottumwa, I was going to suggest it, but thought you would already have plans.

    I guess ADV minds think alike. Here' the section from my ride report
    about the same exact hotel and BBQ place in 2017:

    "The weather was perfect and we decided to blast down Highway 34 to Ottumwa, IA, the home of Radar O’Reiley. The road signs here were a little off and routed us away from the lodging. We got on track, found a Super 8 with a kick ass pool and hot tub, the guy encouraged us to park under the awning, gave us free food and drink coupons for the BBQ down the road. Simply excellent.

    Went to BBQ and had some Blue Moon with some fries. Came back and hit the hot tub and pool. A perfect ending to a long day where a ton was accomplished. The 80 miles we wouldn’t have to do would start to pay off handsomely."

    Small world sometimes...
    #20