HOT and SANDY, with a chance of SNOW (An XT 225 and KLR 650 do the Americas)

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by MonkeySlayer, Nov 5, 2016.

  1. MonkeySlayer

    MonkeySlayer Been here awhile

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    Fellow Inmates -

    We are about a month in to our ride from Denver, Colorado south to Patagonia, and are currently in La Paz enjoying some A/C, strolling the malecon, and taking care of miscellaneous tasks after camping our way down the Sea of Cortez.

    So why not finally get our ride report started, right?

    HOT and SANDY, with a chance of SNOW

    How do you describe the senses and smells one would encounter on a multi-month motorcycle road-trip through the Americas starting in Colorado and ending in Argentina. The elements we are to encounter will range from sunny and tropical to cold and arid as we reach some of the highest mountain ranges in the Southern Hemisphere and one of the driest points on earth. While we were doing last minute preparations in the final hour we began discussing trip names, and our buddy Ben said it best…”HOT and SANDY, with a chance of SNOW”. It was the perfect description!

    Over the course of this road-trip we hope to dive the uncharted reefs of the Caribbean and explore the beaches of the Pacific, hike the volcanoes of Guatemala and the Andes of Chile, and soak in the culture, the people, and the delicious eats. Cause of this we have no set route, just a departure point and a direction of South! Follow along…

    We plan to update our blog and instagram along with this ride report regularly, so feel free to subscribe to either.

    Justin and Mitch
    #1
  2. MonkeySlayer

    MonkeySlayer Been here awhile

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    Now that we've had a proper introduction here is a little bit about each of us. We both are relatively new to adventure riding and well riding in general. We bought bikes about 3 years ago and have done one long haul trip to Baja last year. We were hooked and ever since that trip we knew we'd eventually be heading back south.

    JUSTIN

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    I am no stranger to travel, short-term or long-term. It has been a part of who I am for as long as I could remember thanks to my mom and dad. Fueled by the passion I’ve done several multi-month trips including nine months through Southeast Asia, three months through South America, and six months in New Zealand. Even with all of my past travel experience this trip excites me more than any other. It is going to be raw and rugged, requiring me to be 100% self-sufficient. It is going to push me outside my comfort zone.

    MITCH

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    My buddy introduced me to a blog 3 years ago of two gentleman riding their motocycles from Alaska to Argentina, at that point I was hooked! Within 2 months I had bought a motorcycle and took my motorcycle license exam – I was ready to go! Next step was riding our bikes down through the Baja, easing ourselves in. The Baja trip was a great introduction to the overland motorcycle world, but it felt a bit rushed. The sights I saw, the people I met, all inspired me to keep moving forward. Returning home, I stepped back into the Corporate world but things just weren’t the same… I had to get back on the bike!
    #2
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  3. MonkeySlayer

    MonkeySlayer Been here awhile

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    Countless hours have been spent scouring google leading to a black hole of blogs and Instagram pages. Overland travel comes in many different forms. Some people choose bicycles or the classic VW Vanagon or Land Cruiser. There is no right answer. Every mode of transport is so conditional depending on the journey ahead and the level of comfort and adventure being sought after. For this adventure we’ve chosen an overland motorcycle journey! Would it have been nice to have a roof over our head and a van stocked with surfboards, fishing gear, and bikes…sure, but being out in the elements soaking in the smells and senses seems like the only way to truly experience it.

    We are far from experts but both have an INTENSE desire to learn what makes these lady’s tick.


    So how do two novices actually prep for a multi-month trip to Central and South America with zero actual plan or route? Planning what gear to pack, shots to get, and the overall logistics of a long haul trip were actually the familiar part due to Justin’s previous adventures. Where we were clueless was in the bike maintenance and preparation department. What do we need to do to make these babies overland ready? Luckily for us we had our good friends Dustin & Ben and their SWEET CLUB HOUSE. Over the summer we made mistake after mistake, learning by losing/stripping screws, forgetting how we took parts off, and through general clumsiness while putting our bikes back together. At the end of the day Ben passed us from motorcycle maintenance 101 to 102…now just to figure out where this handful of extra bolts go!

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    Our trusty steeds are comprised of the little Yamaha XT 225 (La Tortuga) and the beastly Kawasaki KLR 650 (El Tractor). Both bikes are proven and reliable. The KLR had remained unchanged from 1987 to 2007 and is no stranger to overland adventure travel. The XT 225 on the other hand, most people would laugh at. It’s small and slow and typically classified as a beginner or kid’s bike. In other words, it’s perfect for Justin as he is no goliath of a human.

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    Yamaha XT 225

    Mitch’s bike was kitted out for an overland trip fairly well when he bought it, while Justin’s was bone stock. The first order of business was distance. While La Tortuga achieves outstanding gas mileage (approx. 70 mpg, which is proving to actually be less on the road) the 2.1-gallon tank was no match for the large tank of the KLR, and was quickly replaced with a Clarke 4.1-gallon tank. Next up was storage. It would have been nice to have locking storage, but the extra weight simply didn’t seem necessary. A set of Ortlieb dry bags (on a set of Happy Trails pannier racks) and one small Wolfman Luggage duffel bag would be the pack mule for the trip. For anyone who knows Justin camera gear was essential, and it needed to be secure. A pelican case mounted to the tail rack would do the job!

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    Kawasaki KLR 650

    Mitch was lucky enough to find a bike on CL that had recently been completely re-tooled. The previous owner, Sledge, was planning on riding from Alaska to Argentina on El Tractor and had put several G’s into modifications/upgrades. Everything from a Moose Racing pannier set (side bags) to heated handle bars, the guy had thought of everything! Thankfully, Sledge had eaten one too many tacos and concluded that the KLR just wasn’t going to be sufficient for his increased bust size – he upgraded to the F800GS BMW and Mitch scored a helluva deal while perusing Craigslist right around Xmas 2013 (Thank you Baby Jesus).

    Leading up to the trip the following maintenance was performed:

    • Front/rear sprocket and 0-ring chain (both)
    • Front/rear wheel bearings (both)
    • Front/rear brakes (both)
    • Air filter (both)
    • Clutch & throttle cable (both)
    • Brake line and flush (La Tortuga)
    • Valve adjustment (La Tortuga)
    • Over-sized footpegs (La Tortuga)
    • Shinko 705 tires (La Tortuga) TKC70 (El Tractor)
    • Rear preload adjustment (La Tortuga)
    Other Gear

    Without going into the technical details of our remaining gear too much it is comprised of a few different categories: spare parts, electronics, camping gear, and clothing. Here it is dispersed out moments before departure.

    Mitch’s Gear

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    Justin’s Gear

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    #3
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  4. The Breeze

    The Breeze Been here awhile

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    Looking forward to following along! In!:clap:lurk
    #4
  5. fabriktr

    fabriktr Build it if you can.

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    Oh man! I am primed for this report. I ride a 2009 KLR and like reading about their explorations around the world.
    #5
  6. Alaskan_IB

    Alaskan_IB Adventurer

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    Alaska the last frontier
    I will be in La Paz on the 17th, will you still be there?

    -Robert
    #6
  7. Vampir

    Vampir Aimless Wanderer

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    Not sure about the name (MonkeySlayer) as we are 3MonkeyCircus, but consider that we are subscribed. We're about a 1500 miles in front of you.
    #7
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  8. MonkeySlayer

    MonkeySlayer Been here awhile

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    The KLR has been holding up well minus a few minor things and some disappearing screws from miles upon miles of washboard roads.

    Possibly?? We stopped through here after camping for a week+ to shower, rest up, etc. We also took care of our TIP for our bikes for when we decide to take them to mainland, which was fairly simple. We plan to go down to the East Cape and over to Todos Santos before coming back and catching the ferry.

    Haha. Just saw your thread and slowly getting caught up. No harm...it came from a story where I hit a monkey on a motorcycle in Asia shattering my radius. Monkey 1, Justin 0.
    #8
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  9. LittleEagle

    LittleEagle On&Off Road since '63

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    I didn't know there were any monkeys that rode motorcycles at all, and for you to hit one that does wasn't very kind, and may bode ill for our inter-species relationship. ;{
    #9
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  10. Alaskan_IB

    Alaskan_IB Adventurer

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    Alaska the last frontier
    That's a terrible story......but funny.
    #10
  11. peergum

    peergum Been here awhile

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    I'm in since I'll probably take the trip early next year...


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    #11
  12. MonkeySlayer

    MonkeySlayer Been here awhile

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    Mitch had finished work on Friday, October 7 and the Team was ready to ROCK! La Torguga y El Tractorwere licking their chops in the garage, yearning for the open road and for their overland motorcycle trip to really start. There were only a few small items to tie up and the Boys would be ready to hit the road early Sunday AM! Saturday was another day in the garage w/ Ben, making final preparations to the bike. Justin flushed his brakes and adjusted his pre-load while Mitch had to completely strip down EL TRACTOR to install some new, sweet, heated handle bars. After the garage, the fellas wandered over to the local watering hole (Vine Street) for a final beer with their Pit Crew Captain, Ben. The beers flowed and the discussion meandered….

    FUCK!!!!!!! Mitch had a moment of clarity (about 3 beers in) and realized he had not yet received his Debit Card, despite his bank promising an overnight delivery the previous Tuesday. GOD BLESS! The Team was now 99.99% ready. That debit card meant a lot to the trip, it allowed Mitch to not pay ANY ATM fees the whole trip. Imagine, if you will, how this would severely cut into the taco fund! Sunday came and went, all the Boys could do was kneel in the living room and pray to the FedEx gods.

    The extra day actually became beneficial as we wrapped up loose ends. Would we be here a day, a week? It was getting cold and we needed to get get south! In between packing and making breakfast every time one of us walked past the front door we did a FedEx mating call hoping the stork would deliver. Our cutoff for a Monday departure was approximately 2:30 – 3:00 PM as we were trying to make it 158 miles to a cabin outside Salida (thanks Ken!). At around noon, Justin and Tyler were taking Tina’s car to the shop. For some reason as we left the house all three gentlemen walked out together. Maybe it was intuition? The FedEx man steps out of the truck shocked by the site of three grown men doing backflips. It was game on, the card had arrived!!


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    We scrambled and shoved the remaining items into our duffel bags and panniers as quickly as possible before hastily making our departure towards Salida. Hasta Luego, Denver! The drive was one we’ve done numerous times on HWY 285 southbound towards HWY 50. However, it felt different this time. We both knew that this was the beginning of something that neither of us could quite comprehend. Leaving our family, friends, and most of our possessions behind this simultaneously was a joyous and saddening moment.

    We rolled into the cabin slightly before dusk and grabbed a good nights sleep. The cabin was well equipped yet off the grid.



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    The Team was up early the following morning ready to head to Pagosa Springs to meet up with some local friends for the evening. Little did we know that CO would show us all four seasons within the first couple hours on the road! But first things first, we had our first bike drop! As we were pulling out of the cabin, Mitch got a little a head expecting Justin to be close behind…He got to the closest intersection, and waited, and waited, finally returning back to the cabin a couple minutes later to see Justin laughing at himself for dropping the bike while standing still on flat ground, picking it up and subsequently dropping it on the other side! Back to the weather, when we first pulled into Salida it was raining, and then the sun came out, and then it rained again and then the sun came out…Can we get some consistency here! Things cleared up outside Saguache but got a little windy until we got to the WOLF CREEK PASS ascent. The scenery was beautiful but the temperature began to drop, fast! When we reached the summit believe it or not it was snowing! Mitch took a moment to snap a quick pic with his camera while they both did jumping jacks to stave off frost bite (it was damn cold!). They busted off the summit and within minutes the temperature was back in the 60’s. There was only one reasonable explanation for the today’s weather…Colorado was drunk again!! As they came down into the Pagosa Springs Valley the view of the Aspens were incredible! Stopping at a pull off, the fellas joined other onlookers to snap some photos of the breathtaking scene. The aspens had been beyond peak for most of our drive, but the Valley was a kaleidoscope of colors. Some of the best aspen groves we’ve ever seen.



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    Finally in the town of Pagosa Springs, the Team met up with one of Mitch’s hometown buddies. They all went out to his house and joined the team (Peter & Bri (not pictured), Nova, Cozmo, and Lola) for some beers and a delicious home cooked meal! THANKS AGAIN FOR THE HOSPITALITY PETER AND BRI!



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    The next morning we got a slower than expected start which we can thank to the copious amounts of beers. However, this is one of the joys of having a “no timeline/early retirement” type adventure. We enjoyed the creature comforts of the house well past mid-morning having a nice breakfast before continuing further southwest towards Mesa Verde National Park. The scenery changed drastically from jagged mountains to high altitude desert with a majority of the driving being lined by colorful fall foliage. Once in Mesa Verde we quickly signed up for a 4 PM tour of the Balcony House cliff dwellings (for $4, why not??). The park seemed seldom visited, but way surpassed our expectations. We met David NightEagle, a googly-eyed 68 year old 20+ year park ranger, and his thirteen year old volunteer Cannon. From the get-go the charisma and passion David exuberated was contagious. He explained the hike and the history behind the cliff dwellings before the group descended 92 stairs into the 11th Century, before climbing the 32-ft ladder up into the dwellings where we got a chance to step back in time and see and learn about the communities that once thrived here.



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    At the conclusion of the tour David, who makes his own flutes, played us a song leaving a lasting and magical impression over Mesa Verde. We left Mesa Verde shortly before sunset in search of free camping on BLM land thanks to the advice of the park rangers.

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    We were only four days into the trip but it felt like weeks! We had already seen and done so much. It was sensory overload. From Mesa Verde we continued on towards northern Arizona/southern Utah to explore the slot canyons. As we descended the heated handle bars were shut off/the second pair of gloves were shed and the warmth was much welcomed. The scenery became flat, dry, and desolate. At first, we both cruised right by the 4-corners exit. The signage was dilapidated and we were both expecting more, however, it was fun to play tourist and take some photos before continuing onward. The four corners monument was on Native American land and thus they charged $5. The monument was surrounded by stalls manned by the local Natives which were selling a bunch of tacky touristy shit.



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    From the four corners we continued to Page, Arizona, where we regrouped and tried to determine where to go. Realizing we had run out of time to make it further towards the slot canyons we decided we would spend the night in Page. There was one free campsite close to town, but in order to get in we would have had to battle sand dunes that rival the Sahara…NOPE! Instead we stayed right in town at the Page Lake Powell Campsite, reasonably priced and had all the amenities. Before heading to the site we drove out to Horseshoe Bend for our first glimpse of the Colorado River. The contrast of colors was stunning. It was touristy and way busier than what Justin had seen 5 years ago, but still stunning. Despite not doing much, Page ended up being a fun stop as we met some great people. Eugene at Horseshoe Bend, who was a recent grad relocating from California to Chicago sleeping in his car and exploring along the way, and Tessa and Brook at our campsite, who were on a 2-3 month road-trip of the US. We had a fun night of swapping stories and playing cards with the girls at camp.



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    When we awoke the next day little did we know what the dirt road to Wire Pass would have in store for us…deep sand, rocks, and coyote hunting were to be in our future.

    For the full gallery of pictures see here.
    #12
  13. MonkeySlayer

    MonkeySlayer Been here awhile

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    Waking up early, we mounted our steads and headed towards Wire Pass on HWY 89 to continue our overland motorcycle trip. We were looking for House Rock Valley road. Should be easy, right? Nope, we blew past it! Hanging a u-turn in the middle of the road, our first long haul on dirt started off on hard packed gravel road and we proceeded quickly with confidence until we came around a corner to the sight of a big, deep, sandy, wash. Oh fuck! We stopped and assessed the situation geez there’s a lot of sand down there we thought. Do we go back and around the long way or just go for it? After some deliberation, Mitch said fuck it and got his throttle hand ready. Justin smartly walked across the wash to gain a good vantage point for some photos if/when some shit went down. Switching into 1st gear, Mitch gave El Tractor everything she had and was almost immediately off course! The front wheel gripped the sand and was pulled deeper and deeper into the grainy abyss. Before you could count to 3, Mitch was down and so was El Tractor!

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    Justin dropped the camera and ran over to help Mitch get the bike off his leg. Quickly approaching was a BLM fire ranger, he asked Mitch if he was ok and then standing up he quickly said “My bodies fine, but my pride just took a nasty woopin!” Damn, that was a close one! Of course, Justin casually dropped into and through the wash without a problem. Lesson of the Day: Going as FAST as you can through a sandy wash area probably isn’t the best approach!

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    Safely across the wash, the Boys drove a couple more miles to the Wire Pass trailhead. Stripping down to shorts and chacos, the Fellas were ready for some slot canyons! There was one particular 12 foot drop that gave hikers issues both coming and going. We took turns lowering and guiding each other down.

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    Along the trail, we met several interesting people. An accountant from Iowa and his girlfriend, and Tim from Tucson who was hiking with his son. After the hike, we had a lengthy conversation with Tim about how his cousin had done a very similar trip the prior year. The only difference was that they were in a Honda CRV (Destination South). We picked up several good pointers – 1) Language school in Mexico could be the most beneficial thing we do 2) If you have a disagreement with your tow truck driver don’t let them ANYWHERE NEAR your gas tank, or you may wind up with sugar in it 3) Peruvian women are seductive and will quite certainly have you yearning for a return trip 4) If you trigger your Delorme InReach in the Bolivian Salt Flats you’ll have 20 Federales surrounding you in no time. We exchanged information with Tim (which we subsequently lost – sorry Tim) and continued down the gravel road with a final destination of the North Rim Grand Canyon.

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    About 12 miles from the trailhead, we spotted a somewhat conspicuous truck and trailer hanging out in the middle of the road. As we got closer and closer we heard gunshots coming out of the truck and Justin was sure he saw a shotgun barrel coming out of the driver side window! Approaching the vehicle with caution, we came upon Buck Tooth Billy, PBR in hand, explaining that he was on his daily coyote hunt! You never know who/what you’re going to run across while out in the sticks!

    After a total of 30 miles of dirt, we ran dead into HWY 89A before making a hard right hand turn steadily climbing in elevation towards the North Rim. As we ascended, the scenery changed from desert and red rock canyons to lush green forests and the temperatures plummeted with the setting sun. Once again, Justin busted out the second pair of gloves,while Mitch continued to be warmed by the lavish heated motorcycle grips. Running out of day light, we found a National Forest Service road about 6 miles outside the park entrance. We promptly set up camp, made a fire, and sat down to enjoy a nice hot meal of mac n’cheese and tuna, mmm mmm good!

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    Entering the park the following morning, we headed straight for the backcountry permit office after learning about some dirt road access from one of the lodge maintenance workers (he also told us it was a great place to take your lady, but that’s a WHOLE different story!). Steve, in the permit office, was equally, if not more, excited about the possibilities at our finger tips. Within the first 14 seconds he had printed out 3 maps for us that showed various dirt roads outside of the park leading directly to the canyon edge (all offering free rural camping). After a drive out to Point Imperial and being annoyed by the masses of people in the park, we left in search of some good backcountry riding and our free camping spot! Using Steve’s collection of maps as our guide, we thought navigating the labyrinth of roads should be no problem. NOPE! We ended up off course finding ourselves on the low side of a HUGE hill we should have been on top of…SHIT!

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    The road was pretty cool though but obviously didn’t get much use and eventually turned to mud. DOUBLE SHIT!! Mitch, utilizing his “gun it till you make it tactics” was able to blast through while Justin’s “slow and steady wins the race” methodology found him in a messy situation (literally). He got stuck for a couple minutes, covering his pants in mud. Shortly after the mud pit, the road sharply turned right and up, straight up (TRIPLE SHIIITTTT!!!). The trail was loose, rocky and rutted enough to qualify as BLACK DIAMOND in any arena. The Team struggled, stalling multiple times, sliding backwards, and profusely sweating. Let me assure you, this isn’t easy when you have an additional 100 lbs of gear on your bike! By the time we’d reached 2/3rd of the way up both bikes had been dropped (only once). We eventually made it to the apex, exhausted and thirsty, finding our intended route. After a few smooth miles, we reached our campsite at North Timp. Sitting just 50 yards from the canyon rim, it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves! After we got camp setup, we grabbed the IPA’s we purchased from the local country store and walked to the edge to enjoy the sunset.

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    Long after dark, after filling our gullets with mac n’ cheese (sensing a theme yet?), pepperoni, and some local vegetables, we stepped out under the full moon (or damn close to it) and wandered back over to the rim. What we saw was something that could only be imagined, like a Vinny Van Gogh painting. The moon shined brightly above the canyon, casting its shadows deep into the various crags and crevasses.

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    We spent the next day off the bikes hiking the Rainbow Trail in hopes of catching some more polarizing views of the North Rim. Instead, what we found was a meandering trail that was not all too difficult yet held its own beauty. About 4 miles in, we reached another viewing point. We enjoyed a Lara Bar and then decided it was time to head back to camp.

    The next morning, we awoke at 6 AM in order to catch the sunrise over the canyon. We were joined by the only two other campers, Susan and Doug. They graciously shared coffee with us as we all sat there in awe of the morning light painting the canyon. Susan and Doug are from Seattle and typically travel in their camper for a few months a year. They shared some incredible stories with us about living, working and traveling in the Middle East in the late 70s/early 80s and the genuine hospitality and friendship they received. THANKS AGAIN SUSAN AND DOUG!

    Having been up since sunrise, we decided to pack up and head out of the canyon. The winds had been relentless and blowing at 30-40 MPH the entire 3 days we camped. It was time to head on to Flagstaff. We didn’t make it more than 40 miles before we stopped at The Jacob Lake Inn for a break. Justin immediately approached the baked goods and purchased two peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. If heaven were a cookie, we found it! After trying to coerce the front desk lady to cut us a deal on a room, and weighing our other options, we finally caved purchasing a room for the night. Our pleading must have paid off because the manager gave us a room with two bed…TWO BEDS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE! No words can properly define how we felt after taking a warm shower (separate), eating a delicious meal at the hotel restaurant, and getting a good nights rest (did we mention we got our OWN BEDS?!).

    Thoroughly rested, we woke up early and headed back to the restaurant for some more home cooked deliciousness. Taking off, we quickly dissected HWY 89A and were in Flagstaff around lunch time. After a quick debate in the strip mall parking lot, we decided to keep riding to Phoenix. The views were spectacular and exceeded both Riders expectations. Who knew Northern Arizona had such varying landscapes?! The back roads were empty and weaved in and out and up and down out of forests and mountains. So neat it was. About 20 miles outside Phoenix, with the sun dipping beneath the horizon, the Boys pulled over to take off their sunglasses and determine their final route into the city. Within seconds, Mitch realized El Tractor was getting a little pissy. Why are you running so HOT, he asked? Does your tummy hurt? Usually, he would just give her some Sprite and chicken noodle soup and call it a night but something was different this time. After allowing the baby to settle down a bit, the Team limped into Phoenix eventually rolling into our friend Alex’s house. Just as El Tractor began spitting, steaming, and hissing all sorts of obscenities. Had the radiator taken a shit? Why was there no coolant left in the reservoir? Stay tuned to find out!

    For the full gallery from this part see bottom of blog post.
    #13
  14. wellsit

    wellsit Recently Parolled

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    Beautiful and fun pictures! Subscribed!
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  15. german996

    german996 to infinity and beyond....

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    great RR, sitting just waiting to indulge with the next episode....
    #15
  16. MonkeySlayer

    MonkeySlayer Been here awhile

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    Thanks! We are working hard to get a post up from Baja. We will most likely split it up. Too many amazing things. We just got out of camping in Cabo Pulmo for 5 days snorkeling and diving.

    Justin
    #16
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  17. borscht zanetti

    borscht zanetti Pura Vida ! ... eh?

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    Ooh, Cabo Pulmo camping and snorkelling. I plan on doing exactly that, so very interested! :clap
    #17
  18. MonkeySlayer

    MonkeySlayer Been here awhile

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    Cabo Pulmo was incredible. The diving was great. We asked a few different people and got different answers but ended up setting up camp on the beach a 10 minute walk from town. No one said anything or even cared.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    #18
  19. ViperJustin

    ViperJustin Retired HH60G Gunner

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    Very nice start, so far. I'm in!
    #19
  20. motowest

    motowest Two-wheeled Adventurer

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    good report so far :lurk
    #20