Looping the West on the TAT Western Loop *Now with "Photos" and "Proofreading"!*

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Cleverish Moniker, Sep 9, 2019.

  1. Cleverish Moniker

    Cleverish Moniker Old enough to know better, too dumb to quit

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2008
    Oddometer:
    189
    Location:
    Berkeley, CA, USA
    Day 0
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    My son Jack and I are finally on the road for our adventure, long in the works, driving to Boise with the beasts in the back of the truck, a giant GMC 2500, extra cab 4wd service body monster.
    I've been preparing for this trip for myself for a year and a half, since taking a trip to Baja in February 2018 with a couple friends. I had such a great time on that adventure that, having already spent more than made sense to get my '97 XR650L ready for Baja (transmission mod that turned into a bore-out and valve job as well; Acerbis tank; Q4 exhaust; battery relocation mod; brakes completely disassembled and serviced with new pads and lines; every bearing serviced or replaced; heated grips; RSW form brace; Fritzco countershaft sprocket; new chain and chain ring; tires; etc) I went all in and fixed, modified and farkled like a mad man. Super Plush suspension work, RSW upper triple clamp, reshaping and reupholstering the seat, including lengthening the pan to go farther up the tank in front be higher and narrower in the middle and lower in the rear, subframe support and rack, and the piéce de grace or coup de resistance or something - opening up the wiring loom and removing any and all excess wire clogging up the area. Anyway...

    Day 1
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    After months of preparation, Jack and I finally left the house just after 830 am, ½ an hour later than planned, headed for an oil change for the truck and then AAA to register the XR650L in his name. Having finally succeeded at both tasks and with a trip back to the house to grab the hand air pump I'd remembered I forgot, as well as a brand new hula girl, we actually hit the freeway only an hour behind schedule.
    No traffic to speak of and good weather got us over the Sierra Nevada, through Reno and into Sparks with a brief stop for burgers and gas, then on into the hinterlands, the barren outback of Nevada on our way to Boise to begin our two week off-road motorcycle trip tracking a route looping through Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah.
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    I pulled off the road at a "scenic overlook" which scenery I'd overlooked many times before, discovering in the process that I had missed nothing worthy of the stop, all of it seen from the road already in an air-conditioned chariot. The diversion was to install the lad behind the wheel of the Beast and let him take a turn driving. My micro-sleeping had already been allayed by a rest stop break at the summit before the plunger into Reno and the recent In-and-Out Burger, but I was keen to have the boy try his hand, and keen to relieve the cramp in the back of my thigh.
    He was nervous and tentative as would be anyone of sound mind taking over the wheel of a 7-thousand pound vehicle with 800 pounds of motorcycle and gear and two people aboard. Anxiety turned to some degree of comfort and 60 turned to 70 to 80mph, manual (pedal?) control have way to cruise control and I started dismantling my dash board in the novel position of passenger in my own vehicle, cleaning and realigning things I can never remember to get to otherwise.
    An hour or two later, and Jack chirps "what's that light for, dad?", a harbinger of Doom every savvy driver dreads. The battery light had illuminated! Oh dear, what can be the matter?, pull over in that gas station, yes that one, park there...
    A quick inspection let me to a likely culprit - the positive battery terminal was certainly not adequately snug, moreover including a cross-threaded or possibly over-torqued bolt. Hmm... Snugged it up, all seemed well, voltage back to ~14, on our way again with me driving to keep an eye on the gauges. Winnemucca provided a definitely improved connection with a new bolt from the auto parts store I decided at the last minute to visit before heading into even less populated territory on highway 95. The voltage seemed good again at 14, where it had fallen off again twice before getting there.
    Miles further along, the voltage fell, I stopped, thinking maybe a faulty ground, hoping not a failing alternator. Wiggling ground wires and voltage back up. Good. Proceed.
    Nope, stop again, check more thoroughly removing connectors, inspecting same, finding no corrosion, no arcing, no indication, but this time also no improvement. Hmm...
    Turning off the lights, AC, fan, etc., knowing a car will travel pretty far on just the battery... Made it pretty far, but not far enough before darkness required a stop. The BLM kindly produced a convenient spot to lay over, free, by a river, no camping on the lawn please, day use only. The lawn seemed pretty nice, but I completely with reasonable requests and regulations, duly posted and pulled up to the trees at the far end, trees just the right distance apart for my hammock! Ah, such comfort. Such comfort can only be spoiled, not improved on, but spoiled it was by sprinklers, and I, tangled in sleeping bag fly net zippers suspension got a bit of a soaking, un-asked-for, unappreciated, indeed utterly unnecessary, the area having been thoroughly soaked by thunder-showers the day before.
    A reconfigured setup moved us, yes us, Jack simply having jumped up from his ground-based supinety rather a lot quicker than I from my aerie, off what could at an inanely technical stretch have been called a "lawn", called such by officious ninnies whose purpose in life seems to be to impose, as small-minded martinets will, all manner of idiocy on the rest of us not burdened with petty powers or inferiority complexes. Such dastardly behavior, sadly not quickly fatal to the perpetrators, led me to suspect that they might be so wicked as to have a second watering arranged, as terrorists do with their wicked bombs, to catch the villainous who dare to sneak onto the forbidden "lawn" after the sprinklers have subsided. I took precautions against the eventuality and was quite gratified to succeed in thwarting their evil with two trailer hitch inserts and a rock, keeping the second attempt harmlessly at bay, dribbling impotently to the ground, the spray utterly defeated by immovable steel tubing, intelligently balanced, and a rock, crudely flopped amongst a pile of sticks.
    Morning mist gave way to full sunshine in an instant, we packed up, gratefully accepted our good fortune when the truck started right up, and went on our way, expecting and finding a way-station in possession of a battery charger and breakfast. Certain the alternator was at fault, I pushed the truck past all prudent limits, and it gave up 50' from the service door of a Sinclair, 100' from a greasy spoon. I love it when a plan comes together.
    The quick-charge, at a reckless 40 amps, put us back on the road in search of the nearest Napa Auto Parts store 40 or so miles distant. Finding the same, I asked after the alternator required, which they had not, which they found 12 minutes away in ANOTHER Napa Auto Parts store, which seemed wildly excessive, there being exactly no people, or at least very few in that particular stretch of Eastern Oregon. I could hardly have been more surprised had I found two Starbucks kitty-corner at the lonely rural highway crossroads which Marsing and Homedale straddle. 800 pounds of bald, bearded dude, the two Napa store clerks and myself, proceeded to peer into the engine compartment of my truck and cluck knowingly, confirming suspicions, offering encouragement. We rolled into the Homedale Napa parking space on fumes of both lead-acid battery essence and actual fuel, the truck once again quietly signing to a well-deserved halt.
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    The alternator was astonishingly well-placed by GMC's faultless engineers, atop the engine, within arms' reach, two bolts and one belt tensioner away from the easiest auto repair ever. Gasping the hundred or so yards back the way we had come on a dead, but recharging battery, and unwilling to shut the engine off, I put 33.98 gallons of gasoline into the 34 gallon gas tank of the Noble Beast.
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    Disaster allayed, though of course we were never in any real peril, no threat of actual hardship, having two adventure-ready motorcycles, camping gear, food, clothing, and sos-button equipped GPS unit immediately at hand. Still, neatly and calmly and successfully addressing what could have been a really agonizing failure of equipment has left me feeling rather proud.
    @XRobie
    #1
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  2. Cleverish Moniker

    Cleverish Moniker Old enough to know better, too dumb to quit

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2008
    Oddometer:
    189
    Location:
    Berkeley, CA, USA
    Days 1½ and 2
    No plan of battle survives contact with the enemy
    In the late afternoon on Saturday, a day behind schedule after one day, we arrived in Robie Creek at the home of Walt and Linda Wieme. Walt had answered a request I made weeks before in a Facebook XR owner's group asking if anyone in Boise would be willing to let me stash my truck with them for 2½ weeks. It was perfect, because their house was a 10-minute ride from the path of the TAT, so close it couldn't have been written in a story without staining (or straining) credulity.
    They have a large field on their property, in which we could leave the truck for weeks with no bother to anyone and camp for the night in yard sale fashion without being embarrassed.
    A burbling creek passes right in front of their property, Robie Creek itself, draining into the large reservoir we passed on the way there. A better situation than they previous night byIt seemed we took to reach other rather well, as they offered us burgers at their house and then feed is breakfast too!
    Our night's stopover made us two for two on getting wet while bedded down. The lowering skies and humidity from the previous days' showers turned to a long soaking storm which started Jack into the little barn and had me up shuffling everything that shouldn't get wet under cover. This was about 3 am. By the time we were really all sorted and having given up on waiting out the downpour, we got on the road and traveled overland along glorious forest roads in rain that never quite let up and was at times quite strong.
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    The trail wound along a reservoir, one above the Robie Creek reservoir, two dams stacked up. We rode along a reservoir and it disappeared into the river that feeds it. We followed along the water for many miles, past wild hot springs flinging steam and boiling mineral water into the air. Tempting to stop, but the rain made any stop a drag. Better to just keep riding.
    The riding up and over and down until Featherville was terrific. Along the river for miles and miles, through mud and rain, up over a mountain pass, climbing through the eerie fog of the clouds, through the black sticks of a burned forest, down through pines and switchbacks to lunch at a little place at the crossroads where I had my third burger in three days. Rested and warmed up a bit, we were ready to press on.
    Unfortunately, we had to take our first detour as we were told by the cafe owner that the road we planned on taking was missing about a ½-mile section where the river had simply changed its mind about the just course, taking back the land that formerly comprised the road, which of course had probably formerly been the river. Rivers go where they want.
    After that, we rode on pavement all the way to Bellevue, outside of Sun Valley, where I called it quits for the day, 70 miles short of our goal of Arco, Idaho.

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  3. Cleverish Moniker

    Cleverish Moniker Old enough to know better, too dumb to quit

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2008
    Oddometer:
    189
    Location:
    Berkeley, CA, USA
    Day 3
    Monday, or "Craters of the Moon" day.

    The day started sparkling and crisp, with a heavy dewfall making everything good and wet. Jack hadn't slept well, but I had not moved all night as best I could tell. The coffee maker provided the needed hot water for some excellent instant oatmeal as well as actually making coffee, or "coffee" as many would put it, not me though, as to me coffee is always good, sometimes excellent. A white-trash mocha of hotel coffee and Swiss Miss rocks it for me every time.
    I sent Jack over to the service station to fuel up while I finished loading. He came back pretty quick and said "Remember when I said my wallet was packed down inside deep..." I admitted to having heard that and also to having forgotten.
    Rolling along at last, through Sun Valley at the crack of 9 am, it was brisk, uncomfortably so. First tip-over for me as I struggled with hydration pack jacket armor off-camber gravel shoulder kickstand - you know the drill. Gravity called and the 690 answered and flang me staggering. Dang, my auxiliary tanks will leak fuel if the bike is in its side, Rally Raid custom billet aluminum tank caps notwithstanding. They won't keep the fuel in, but they're certainly good for at least 4 hp, I reckon.
    Up up out of the valley we climbed, in the shade, grip heaters alternating between not adequate on low and painfully hot on high - maybe a waterproof potentiometer, maybe one for each grip independently, maybe just connect the throttle side low circuit and the clutch side high and just one position... Turns out, you can put the latex gloves you carry with you for rainy riding on the OUTSIDE of your thin off-road gloves and they're suddenly very warm and you can feel both grip heaters just fine on low. But I digress...
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    The hills above Sun Valley have some pretty peculiar characteristics. They seem to all be talus slopes, dropping at the angle of repose onto the flat valley floor. Some of them have the strangest plant formations, vertical stripes as though seeded by something rolling straight down the hill. Took a while to recognize them as plants even, as I thought them something geologic at first.
    Ran off the GPS route and had to double back, thus seeing the windsock of a rather oddly placed airstrip twice in ten minutes. Back on the right path, passed road grading equipment in use - the grader no surprise, but the rollers somehow comic on the desolate dirt road. One friendly wave out of three operators - good enough for baseball...
    I honk at cows and other livestock to give them the idea that they'd rather toddle off away from the oncoming what'sit rather than make a last minute panicky dash in front of me. Talked briefly with a Jeep driver who advised me that the other side of whatever we were about to summit was kind of "greasy", which I took to mean slippery. No trubba.
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    Down and up and down again, the road turned graded gravel from rutted dirt and we blasted along towards tarmac and a date with a gas station. Which we found, where we filled, where we asked after lunch options. Pickle's or Golden West were choices with Golden West getting the stronger nod. Judging by the wonderful smell smelt blatting past and the mediocre food after, Pickle's might be the better choice.
    Nonetheless, we caloried up, fourth burger in four days for me, which is how you spell "trend" in case anybody asks. Circling around a bit in the parking lot got the GPS arrow pointed in the right direction and we were off towards Twin Falls.
    This part of the ride is not to be missed unless you have literally anything else to do at all, no matter how trivial. It's pretty hard to imagine why there's a road where we were, and harder to imagine why it twists and turns so much. There is nothing but nada out there, yet the road wanders like a drunk, avoiding... what, exactly? That "Craters of the Moon" reserve is tedious to ride through, it seems to be made of nothing but horizon, though you can't do anything other than pay strict attention, or you'll have a tete-a-TAT with the road on the subject of owies.
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    I had that conversation, when the road beckoned, or rather, grabbed me by the collar and gave me a nice kiss. Ironically, I was slowing down after an hour of blasting along, enjoying the rebooting of my dirt riding chops, if not the scenery...
    Yes, quite the fall out there in the horizon. Ironically, I crashed while slowing to make sure Jack was alright. Too long a look at the mirror, too little attention to my own trajectory and BAM! Head and shoulder pounding the hardpack. Once again, fuel leaking out. Jack was fine, of course, setting the 690 back upright, no doubt, probably hopefully alarmed to find me splayed out in the middle of the lane, then flopping himself down on the road, perhaps in solidarity, perhaps just a joke, but he said he almost fell asleep lying there. My stainless steel reinforced collar bone didn't break, which is good, because I remember that feeling and it bears repeating that it doesn't bear repeating.
    The GPS navigation can be rather weird. I missed a turn out there, realizing again when the red line diverged from the blue arrow; several turnings and ponderings and a bit of riding perpendicular to the road across the scrub and I finally found the track. I could see the Y on the screen, but where it branched and the branch we were supposed to follow seemed pretty unlikely. Ah, this is it, no, this is a driveway into a corral... After the head-scratching and scrub-crossing, the sought after trail did cross the corral, though why, exactly, or maybe when exactly, that track had been laid was hard to fathom. It looked as though, yes, someone had once driven a truck through there, but the spoor was so faint as to leave me doubting repeatedly that I was following anything. Jack was following me, but I was following a whisper. Whisper reconnected with utterly obvious road again and then we were surely on the right line, but how the track we followed could have been on a map, and it was, is probably only explained by satellite imagery - you can see it from orbit, but not when it's right in front of you.
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    We also rode the length of another even more unlikely airstrip to find our way back to the track again, passed what looked like a paper plate spiked to the road and came across a couple of people assembling a drone from the back of an SUV. Land survey, with permission, or so they said. Glad I didn't stop to pick up the plate. It had probably been nailed to the road very deliberately.
    After following a waypoint very neatly into what might have been someone's back yard, (we had certainly ridden through someone's recently tilled field a little before - not easy, very soft, hard to steer), the reemergent cellular data stream allowed me to locate an approved, rather lovely campground called Massacre Rock State Park, of all things.

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    A gorgeous interlude in my satisfyingly comfy collapsible chair on a floating dock on a placid river, great trout or bass or who knows what creatures of the depths flinging themselves skyward in search of things that actually can fly, a packet of Indian curry veg and weak cocoa by my side then in my belly.
    Shit! Lightning in the distance, check the weather, gad, 60% chance of rain between 4 and 8 am...

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  4. Cleverish Moniker

    Cleverish Moniker Old enough to know better, too dumb to quit

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2008
    Oddometer:
    189
    Location:
    Berkeley, CA, USA
    Day 4
    In which lemons turn to lemonade, and ok to good to bad to great.

    Today we rode from American Falls, Idaho to Afton, Wyoming.
    The day started. Kinda. Slowly...
    It rained overnight, from about 4-8 am. Not heavy, but plenty to have made an unprotected person unhappy. I boiled water with the Primus stove I got from my father's discarded camping gear along with a bunch of other stuff. The Primus is charming to a nerd like me - no moving parts except the valve, will burn gasoline (and probably about any volatile liquid, for all I know) from the moto's tank, compact as can be. Oatmeal, instant coffee with instant cocoa.
    As I emerged from my floating tent in the sky, the ranger showed up. I reached for my pants to pay the camping fee, not having had a pen to fill out the envelope the night before, not having wanted to make an anonymous donation to the Idaho State Parks and try to sort it out later. Instead of paying, I received a refund of $10! Someone else had paid for our site and left, perhaps alarmed by the impending weather, perhaps boxing each other's ears and deciding to go get separate hotel rooms... Who knows?
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    Anyhow, after consultation with the park staff, we decided to take the slab instead of the dirt because of the potential for impassible sections due to rain soaked dirt equaling greasy mud. Foregoing any and all interstate slab we kept to the backroads and what a fine drive we had. Gorgeous countryside - rolling hills, green fields, collapsing barns, tractors tilling, ancient vehicles rusting - in short, picturesque.

    We passed one place with dozens of vehicles of various vintage and state of decay, from 50's station wagon shell to modern derelicts. What were they there for? Who knows? They were adjacent to a half dozen crappy mobile homes and trailers. I thought they might, some of them, make for good hotrod stock...
    We stopped for gas and grub at a truck stop after following along the interstate on a much nicer road a few hundred yards off, with views across a wide flat valley between low hills. Nicer to a motorcycle is quite different from nicer to a car. Cars are on four wheels in two tracks so uneven pavement, potholes, bumps can twist the car, rolling it side to side as well as bumping it up and down. Bikes only use one track so no twisting, rolling, pitching, just up and down, balanced in gravity, free to wander around potholes. The super-slab of the interstate is fatal to motorcycling pleasure.
    We stopped for food and gas, but forgot about the gas and bought a lighter and some cellular phone accessories instead - Jack, a wireless charger to deal with his phone's charging port having crapped out on him, causing him, and me by extension, much grief, much brown funk; I a Bluetooth earbud set and a tiny, cheap wired pair (too cheap, as only one ear worked, I found later) so I can listen to audiobooks, having broken one of the helmet to helmet communicators. Now, instead of taking to each other, we're doing the more typical group motorcycling thing of parallel play - kind of like going with someone to the movies - you're both there, you're both doing the same thing, but you're doing it separately, only to talk about it afterwards. Maybe a little more removed, as you can't hear your mates laugh or gasp or exclaim on a bike.
    Leaving the gas station sans gas, we continued on, up and around the hills, sprinkled by a little rain, up and over a surprisingly sharp ridge, the road going up steeply, then over the summit, and down, down, ack where's the road? Oh, right under me, but like going over the top of a roller coaster rise, not knowing when it will stop getting steeper. It was real step, uh huh. I had to stop though and turn around to go back up and take a photo because the far hills across another perfect valley floor were like nothing I'd ever seen before - a strangely striped grey, bewildering my sense of shape, how can they look like that? Beautiful.
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    We got fuel in that valley before continuing on to a campsite I'd sussed out near Montpelier, Idaho. Oh, yes, and we'd popped out of Idaho into Utah for a hot second then back, Google interrupting my Cryptonomicon listening to welcome me across both frontiers.
    The campsite was not appealing, being literally hacked out of the tangle of low willow wallow by a creek - a loop of gravel road with a dozen or so pullouts, each with a picnic table and fire pit, but literally chopped out of what amounted to a hedge, a hundred feet wide, from the highway to the unseen creek. A couple other sites further along the road might have been more promising, but the first we went past without even seeing it and the second I turned into finding it to be a larger version of the ones just declined, but solo, right on the shoulder! Basically, a deep pullout you could stop in. Nah, I'm good. Puzzled, I turned the GPS back on only to discover we were coincidentally ON the track again, less than a quarter mile from the return to dirt!
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    We elected to chance it, thinking we might find a more appealing feral campsite along that road, which was where we wanted to be anyway, but ended up just riding along through what was the most beautiful section yet. Simply breathtaking low hills with creeks and dales and vales and dells and and... Oh! And aspens quaking as they do and deer bounding off and trailers nestled into choice spots and ranches settled off in the distance and hunters with binoculars and bows looking for elk and and...
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    Too beautiful to stop and no place suitable for a hammock anyhow, so we just kept on, my mouth agape, my heart full, to Afton, Wyoming where, it now being night and actually cold - 7000' - I searched out lodgings after a nice dinner. Laundry washed in the tub, festooning the light fixtures to dry.
    Upcoming tomorrow: thundersnow! It's that cold.

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  5. Cleverish Moniker

    Cleverish Moniker Old enough to know better, too dumb to quit

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2008
    Oddometer:
    189
    Location:
    Berkeley, CA, USA
    Day 5
    Siren, the disaster, calls

    Woke up this morning to snow on the hills, freezing weather, intermittent rain - living the dream! We discussed the option of skirting all of Wyoming by taking the slab to Baggs, but decided to go ahead and go over the mountains. Our maps have a warning on them that the dirt-based roads in Wyoming may be impassable when wet, and they would be wet, but we just didn't want to forego trying at least.
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    I started by popping over to the hardware store in Afton, Wyoming, to see if I could get a few things - screws for Jack's helmet visor, warmer gloves for me, and a balaclava, if they had them. No luck on the balaclava, but I did get just what I needed otherwise. Fueled up on the way back to the room, then breakfasted on coffee and leftover chicken from the previous day's truck stop stop.
    We headed out and down the road, turning off after a few miles heading up into the hills. The road was great, though, not slick like I'd feared and the forest was heart-breakingly lovely - just what you'd want to see - low, aspen-filled hollows with streams made almost entirely of oxbows. The aspens are starting to turn and the golden leaves amidst the green are just so beautiful.
    The trail was mostly gritty with outcroppings of rock, edges and points sticking out all over. Lost the line on the GPS, telling us which way to go, doubled back and then doubled back again, when I figured out that we were right the first time. Quite the big loop in the GPS route cut off by rounding error...
    Stopped many times to take photos and gasp at the beautiful scenery and path of the beautiful road - decomposed granite - grippy and confidence inspiring.
    Over the summit and down the other side, no less wondrous. Very few other people, occasionally a truck or ATV coming the opposite way, a brief wave and then solitude, a quick check of the mirrors to see that Jack is following close enough, don't want to push him to go faster than he's comfortable with, nor get very far ahead of he were to fall.

    Came across a slow moving car and timed a nice pass only to run onto a horrifyingly potholed section of what had been a nearly flawless forest road. It was right after passing the car, right after a little blip of throttle just at the very worst of times.
    (The photos were taken the next day, when it was much drier; imagine the road in the photos being simply greased with mud, glossy and treacherous)
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    A huge water-filled ditch to the left, potholes everywhere else - a minefield with no time to brake, not that the greasy mud would have allowed it, throttle down, blip to loft the front, blip again and again to keep from going over the bars, no chance to change line,
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    a huge hole 6' across looming, full of head-size rocks, blip again, over, but no more road on the other side either, blip, blip, blip, last one, shit!
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    Lost my phone! Shit! Lost the rear end! Fuck! Blam, crash, oof, oh my god are you alright?!
    I had almost succeeded in crossing the worst stretch of road I've ever seen in person, when the last mud-filled rut into which I was bounced sent my rear end to the right and my front to the left. A truly awful crash, with me thrown off the bike into the face of the road cut. Fuck me, that hurt! A lot! My neck feels like someone grabbed my head, twisted it very hard and slammed me head-first into a wall. All my fingers and toes work, my Klim Krios carbon helmet is trashed, neck and back are real sore, and my bike! Jesus, face first into a ditch brought up short by the steep bank. Fairing crushed, substructure twisted, can't turn to the right, something blocking it. Jack stunned, car driver and passenger stunned. Offers of help, get in the car, we'll get you to help, you might have a concussion...
    No, I'm alright, Jack look for my phone.
    No you've got to come with us, we'll go get our truck, even have a hitch carrier, you don't want to stay here.
    No, I'm staying here. I've got to find my phone, it has all my photos...
    Finally, they are convinced I'm not seriously injured, won't freeze to death, won't suffer from the rain, and will not be getting in their car. But they do go to get their truck..
    Meanwhile Jack and I look for the phone, which must be in one of the car swallowing holes, as it isn't to be found on the road or the verge. We need a rake, but the best I've got is a selfie-stick I've been carrying along, with which I drag the lakes looking for the corpse. No luck, not even with sage-brush brooms I yanked up, some holes are just too big and too deep. So, I start to dismantle the front end of the bike to get at what is hitting the fork. Right panel off, it's been severely damaged - gashed from within, bent the wrong way from without. Left panel off, it's not too bad, but the large plate between the two has to come out and... Headlight and shroud off - boy, KTM headlights are tough stuff - just a few minor scratches. Clip this zip-tie, clip that zip-tie, holy shit there are a lot of zip-ties, remove screws, bolts, this, that, pick up those pieces, don't lose anything. Finally, the badly bent plate is free to be tossed on the pile and the front end turns fine.
    In fact, the fairing took all the force, absorbing what would have certainly damaged the motorbike otherwise. Its substructure is badly twisted, and will require expert repair to fly again.
    The car drivers finally come back in the truck and we load the bike onto the hitch carrier, all the bags and broken bits into the bed and me into the front seat. Jack we sent off early to stay ahead of the storm - it was snowing up at their camp - and we make our agonizing way down to scenic La Barge, Wyoming, suffering the rough road as four wheelers do, crawling along swapping stories.
    Jeremy and Banes, the couple in the car, my rescuers, tell me that the section of road that was my undoing is private - Forest Service before that and county after, but that section is privately owned "and the bastard won't fix it".
    We meet Jack at the chosen gas station and dump me and my shit and broken bits and dither a bit about what to do. There's a motel a little over the distance I could throw a broken fairing piece, and I twist their arms into letting me buy them lunch, a desultory affair of four bacon cheeseburgers with American cheese and jalapenos prepared and served by a tall, furtive looking young man with the sides of his head shaved and the rest long and shaggy. Copious tattoos, piercings, cutoff jean jacket, but his teeth don't say he's a tweaker...
    The motel is surprisingly decent for what and where, cleaner than most and a pretty generous size for two queen beds. I can convalesce here fine. I pack my neck in ice finally, take a hot bath at the same time, manage to rig up a traction device and sooth my battered upper body with ibuprofen, Norco, and Flexeril. Tomorrow's going to be long long long... And, I switched into present tense there - must be significant...
    #5
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  6. Cleverish Moniker

    Cleverish Moniker Old enough to know better, too dumb to quit

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2008
    Oddometer:
    189
    Location:
    Berkeley, CA, USA
    Day 6
    Recovery

    Dawn dawned, as it does, but we slept on. I woke to painful stiffness, hardly surprising, hardly as bad as I deserved, stumbled about getting some calories into me, did some stretching and wincing and prepared to go back to the crash site to find the effing phone, Google having informed me that they could not replace a lost phone, only a damaged one. Hmm, $500... The motel owner graciously lent me her rake and I strapped it on to the XR650L and took off, back up the valley. It was great riding up.
    IMG_20190912_103947.jpg
    A number of people came by, stopping to ask what I was doing - raking all these leaves, darn aspens are so messy; to ask what I had lost - my mind; to ask if I'd lost something - no, I'm tending the potholes; they won't grow without careful tending; any farmer knows that!
    I returned about 3 or 4 hours later having raked damn near every hole in that road, carefully and systematically, finally finding the phone in the lower of the two ditches in about 18" of muddy muck. I had tried unsuccessfully to drain the ditch, attempting to use the XR as a trencher, but the road-bed rock defeated my efforts and generally kicked my ass.
    IMG_20190912_131204.jpg
    Anyway, I found the $500 I was looking for and headed back to town.
    IMG_20190912_141619.jpg
    Back at the motel, I was just absolutely knackered and collapsed into bed for a nap. Great ride up, but riding back was bunk.
    A couple hours later I woke and took off on the KTM to see if the welder's shop I had noticed on the way back from raking the potholes could give me any help with the fairing substructure. No, because no one there, but I did come across a shop with someone working in it who let me use his tools - vise, hammer, 1x3, 2x4's, wrenches, spare grounding rod, hors d'usage power washer wand, hacksaw, etc. - with which I twisted and pounded the pounded and twisted aluminum back into a pretty darn good semblance of what it was supposed to be.
    IMG_20190912_180506.jpg IMG_20190912_180543.jpg IMG_20190912_180938.jpg IMG_20190912_180944.jpg IMG_20190912_194639.jpg IMG_20190912_194125.jpg
    He gave me a leftover tube of epoxy and some zip-ties even. The next few hours I spent doing my best to repair the fiberglass fairing pieces with epoxy and tape in preparation for reassembly tomorrow. Wiped out again, I slept.

    Attached Files:

    #6
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  7. Cleverish Moniker

    Cleverish Moniker Old enough to know better, too dumb to quit

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2008
    Oddometer:
    189
    Location:
    Berkeley, CA, USA
    Day 7
    Reconstruction

    I awoke, dozed off, dozed some more, finally discomfort got me out of bed. I gathered all the pieces of the bike that I had worked on the night before. The epoxy seemed hard, which is good; mixing it with your fingers on a plastic shopping bag, you never know. I commenced reconstruction.
    IMG_20190913_095042.jpg IMG_20190913_103623.jpg IMG_20190913_110645.jpg IMG_20190913_111547.jpg
    It was bright and sunny outside, crisply cold, good for working. Reassembly took several hours, but everything fit, more or less well, and I determined to go to the sheriff's office to file an accident report. I'd called the La Barge police department the day before and left a message. Apparently there is no La Barge police department even though there is a police station and an answering machine which cheerily takes a message no one will listen to. Needless to say, I got no call back.
    I got the correct number from the receptionist at the motel, then talked to a dispatcher at the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department in Kemmerer. She told me to come there, call her when we arrived and she'd send a deputy out to meet me in the lot to take a report.
    It was about a 45 minute drive, but took us over an hour, not wanting to go 80mph on loaded dual-sports. Windy, very windy, but nothing like what locals say is windy. A very pretty lake was just a few miles out of La Barge.
    We arrived finally. I had to go inside because my auxiliary phone crapped out on arrival. Seems it hadn't really been charging, or not fast enough to keep up with the demands placed on it. It's 4 years old, so, yeah.
    I told a woman walking in that I was looking for a dispatcher named Cathy or Cassie; the woman, whose name was Judy, said she'd tell her I'd arrived. In the lobby, a crippled man on crutches told me I had a hornet crawling up my neck. Gah! I swatted it off and the poor thing looked kind of roughed up - probably hit me at 60mph and was not yet back in possession of its wits. It survived hitting me, but didn't survive the crutch. I don't know if the crippled man was merciful or pitiless; I could imagine both.
    After a few minutes, a large and affable deputy came out. Looked like he ought to be pretty near retirement, but maybe he was my age and Wyoming just rough on a guy.
    We went out to the parking lot to look at the carnage, but I had patched things up enough that he asked me to email my photos to him and he'd attach them to the report. Which report ought to be ready by the time we're back in CA. We walked back into the lobby and I asked him whether there's really an Absaroka County in Wyoming. Nope. Made up for Longmire... I also asked him what on earth had happened to the bottles in the vending machine - they're kind of deformed, all of them somewhat shriveled up a little, like raisins. He said he'd never noticed them before and had no idea.
    IMG_20190913_141305.jpg
    Jack and I had thrown the dice and decided to go across to Utah to pick up our route and just loop around Boise like we would have at the end of our planned trip. Unfortunately, that meant cutting off about 80%, but going further into Wyoming didn't seem all that appealing and we couldn't get to Colorado without getting to Baggs. I thought simply turning around and going back the way we came would be great, but Jack liked the idea of something new and I didn't feel that strongly one way or another. I wish we'd doubled back.
    Leaving the LCSD to go back and grab a bite in Kemmerer, we rolled along what seemed a main street and saw no place to eat. We opted for sandwiches from a Raley's which was actually a Ridley's and a little down-market in comparison. We ate in a little park a block away across from what claimed to be the original J. C. Penney store, established 1902 or so...
    Back past the Sheriff's Department and off towards Utah we went. It was slab, but not too bad for it, except that we had a pretty steady headwind and I couldn't stand the noise in my helmet. The visor hinge point had been broken by the crash so I was wearing goggles instead and the result was untenable noise about which I had to DO SOMETHING. Somehow the otherwise very quiet helmet became very very noisy with the goggles. I tried various things, but none really worked and when we arrived at whatever town Bear Lake is next to, I called it quits and pulled into a campground, just fuming about everything. Feeling vicious and ready to fight already, I discovered that the gear for hanging my hammock was missing, presumably left in American Falls at the Massacre Rocks campground, spot 39, hanging from the trees. As soon as I noticed this I flew into a rage and, to avoid biting Jack's head off, I grabbed my chair, a bag of Doritos and my phone and disappeared lakeside to be alone. It worked more or less.
    IMG_20190913_194809.jpg PANO_20190913_194157.jpg
    I ruminated on the happenings of the past week, thinking about knock-on effects - if Jack had figured out how to use the Bluetooth communicators as I had asked him to, I wouldn't have made the erroneous decision that one of them was discharged, which lead to me plugging it in while wearing it which caused it to get damaged when I stepped off the bike without unplugging it. If Jack hadn't been so hideously obsessed with his cell phone troubles he wouldn't have been such a bitch to be around, I wouldn't have lent him my extra phone, I wouldn't have relied on the Ram mount phone holder without the extra keeper which made it too much of a nuisance to take photos with, as I would have been using the old phone for the GPS tracking and my new phone for pictures. If I had been using the old phone for GPS, it would have been extra secured and wouldn't have come loose in the minefield. If I weren't so sick of Jack's foul mood at the American Falls campsite, I wouldn't have been in a foul mood myself hurrying to get everything done. If if if... You work for weeks and months to get everything sorted out, how you're going to do things but something knocks you off plan and the cascade crashes through the layers of planning and organization, throwing things into disarray, requiring improvisation, leading to a breaking point somewhere down the line. Knock-on effects, the cascade of consequences.
    So, I hung my hammock with the paracord I had along for an emergency z-line winch and by morning my butt was touching the ground because the line stretched.
    Jack tried to counter my foul mood by being extra chirpy and proactively helpful, making water hot and heating up the last of our Indian food packets and making cocoa. He even looked up how to use the Primus stove on YouTube. He looked it up on his own. On his own.
    #7
  8. Cleverish Moniker

    Cleverish Moniker Old enough to know better, too dumb to quit

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2008
    Oddometer:
    189
    Location:
    Berkeley, CA, USA
    Day 8
    Grumpy bear at Bear Lake and Really, Sam? This is dirt riding?

    Day 8, a Saturday, started out and ended with a lot of frustration with the pointless resistance to my wishes by inanimate objects. All of a sudden, my stuff was too big for my bag, then I found part of one of my Rok-straps had gotten chewed up and lost its half of the buckle. I had a spare, so I swapped out the half of the spare needed, which required significant disassembly of my gear, and packed it all back up only to find that the spare strap and the broken strap, same brand and model, didn't share the same buckle! Rage boiled up in me as I angrily unpacked everything again to get at the anchor for the other half of the failed strap, then put it all back together again.
    Waking up with my butt on the ground, the improvised ropes stretched a bit overnight, didn't help my mood, but I had been pretty chipper before. A luke-warm shower and a shave in the campground facilities, had helped...
    We continued on to our goal of Burley via our actual dirt route, once we re-encountered it near Tremonton. We stopped for pizza in Tremonton, which wasn't bad at all. A couple people were real interested in us and what we were doing, one guy asking extensive questions, or rather, questions involving extensive replies. He'd just discovered advrider.com and was keen on getting into adventure riding, Harleys no longer filling his tires.
    Found our route again and rode on, but the route was a cheap imitation of dirt riding, being nothing more than gravel roads through farm country, even being just the frontage road alongside the freeway! I finally got so ticked that we hopped onto the dreaded interstate for a few miles and rode the slab all the way to our campground in Burley.
    Many many bugs meet their maker on the front of my bike, but this time a quail managed to get tagged by my helmet! I had even ducked. Dunno what happened to the creature, as Jack didn't notice.
    We had to follow Google maps to the campground and there Goog ended its direction nowhere, literally on a road with nothing at all in sight. Already frustrated immensely with the delays and recalibrations necessitated by switching devices, as well as the inability to use the interface with gloves on - meaning any time we stopped for any reason associated with navigation, I had to remove my glove, switch between apps, etc., then take them off at least a second time because I inevitably forgot some step - I was boiling over. I did find where we were going, with yet another engine off glove off zoom around the map session, just 100 yards down the road but still it was invisible from the road. I took the turn anyway and saw a self-pay station. No other signage indicated anything and we rode to the end of the one bit of pavement without seeing anything that could be called a campsite, though there were some trailers smooshed into where the tangle of riverside willows had been hacked out a bit. The pavement ended at what seemed to be just a burned wasteland strewn with small boulders! It made me so mad, I just rode across it, following some faint tire tracks from a 4-wheeler of some sort and finally did come across some campsites. Signage must be very expensive around there...
    All the way to the end of the road, which ended in a cul-de-sac, were crappy campsite after crappy campsite, a few even occupied. I stopped and stomped over to the river and determined I could hang my hammock, so we were home for the night.
    I hung my hammock up a different way, and was slightly less cranky by the time I'd gotten it right, which it turned out very right indeed, granting the best sleep I'd had yet on this trip, with the last of my Flexeril, a Norco and 3 Ibuprofen helping as best they could. I'm actually fine all day, it's just that when I really stop moving, I cramp up, and lying down, trying to really relax, is hampered by gradually intensifying discomfort. I also brought along one of my massage balls. That was a super good idea, which I had already appreciated prior to the wreck.
    Jack and I really just crashed out completely, both exhausted from the day's ride - winds, dust, boredom take their toll.
    #8
  9. Cleverish Moniker

    Cleverish Moniker Old enough to know better, too dumb to quit

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2008
    Oddometer:
    189
    Location:
    Berkeley, CA, USA
    Day 9
    Really, Sam? You call this dirt?

    The moon last night was one night past full, thus still very bright. The riverside camping spot was alive with life of different kinds the entire time we were there. Big thumps from large-ish fish gulping unwary insects, croaks from frogs, chirping of crickets, geese, ducks, owls, a flight of small birds we actually heard go by from the sounds of their dozens of tiny wings, and craziest of all - a catfish (?) that was feeding on algae growing on the rocky shore, occasionally making some weird noise of slurping when it would get stuff right at the surface. I have a video of this fish, but it was shy and didn't come to the surface for me when I wanted. So, despite being a crappy campground, it was a nice spot for one anyway.
    We decided that we would bail entirely on the rest of the Idaho TAT loop after looking at the map and seeing that it would be more, a lot more, of the pseudo-dirt riding consisting of long straight sections connected by other long straight sections... No thanks. Back towards Arco to backtrack from there, skipping the horrid Craters of the Moon section.
    Slab and more slab, gas stations, open farmland, not awful, not inspiring.
    We passed by the Craters of the Moon interpretive center in the middle of a black lava field, miles long, and realized that there might be something of interest there after all. If you've never seen a lava field before, this type of lava looks like a huge harrow has just torn the ground up, leaving enormous clods of dirt just jumbled all over. It's not the only sort of lava flow, but I've seen the same elsewhere, like Maui and the Galapagos. Just bragging, yeah I I've traveled (buffs fingernails on shirt).
    This time through Arco, we stopped at Pickle's which wins in the two-restaurant-cook-off. We got a lot of stares in there, I did especially, looking just enormous in full off-road gear. They sat us at a table shared with a couple with a little boy and some sort of baby. The little boy kept furtively reaching over to touch my helmet. His daddy scolded him the first time, and then after another couple attempts, I asked him if he'd like to look at it and turned it to face him. Man, did his eyes go wide! And so pleased was he that he asked me if I ride a bicycle. No, a motorcycle. Just now, I realize I should have said yes, I do ride a bicycle, but right now I'm on a motorcycle. Wouldn't want him to get the idea that bicycles are second rate or anything. The baby was completely silent and I asked if they'd given it wine. No, they laughed, he's just that way unless he wants something. I bumped into the young father by the kitchen and was pretty surprised by how much bigger than he I was. Aren't people supposed to be big in farm country?
    Blah blah, we got going again, back along the route over the mountains from Arco to Sun Valley and it was really pleasing to be actually riding again the way we intended. From Arco to Sun Valley, you cross two saddlebacks and three scenic valleys. It seemed quite different without the rain, but we got our boots wet at the water crossing just the same.
    Coming down the valley that leads to the Challis National Forest, the wind really got up, gusting strongly at times.
    IMG_20190915_153833.jpg IMG_20190915_163011.jpg
    Traffic picked up too, including the only other motorcycle we saw on the dirt. We passed two huge articulated rigs, one oncoming at what must have been 50mph trailing a huge dust cloud, the other going our same way barely moving after crossing a narrow bridge onto an incline. Blew the doors off it, yeehaw! Then promptly stopped to take a photo of an incredible scree slope.
    IMG_20190915_163520.jpg
    Running through the Challis and into the Sawtooth forests, we slogged through a stiff headwind finally dropping into the long narrow valley ending at Sun Valley. It's really pretty, but I was ready to get my ass off the seat, so just pressed on, back into Bellevue to the High Country Motel where we'd stayed just a week before.
    We ordered Thai food delivered and the delivery guy was a 70-year-old on a DR650 who told us several times that it might be his last bike, that he had raced motorcycles when he was Jack's age, and that he'd ridden the DR across the country to go to a high school reunion. He struck me as a bit addled, but he guessed my age exactly and Jack's he missed by 4 months, so...
    Anyhow, we'd bunked down for the night, laundry washed, wondering how we'd turn a one day ride into two so we wouldn't get back too soon. We thought to ride from Ketchum to Featherville to Robie Creek going the way we'd been told had a blockage, as in no road at all anymore, just to see it, then turn back and figure out an alternative route to get to Featherville, making camp somewhere along the way, moseying on the day after tomorrow to Walt's place and the truck.
    #9
  10. Cleverish Moniker

    Cleverish Moniker Old enough to know better, too dumb to quit

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2008
    Oddometer:
    189
    Location:
    Berkeley, CA, USA
    Day 10
    Bringing it (almost) home

    Day 10 was our last full day of riding, going from Sun Valley to Featherville and then some. Gassed up and ready to go, laundry done, showered, etc., room key located, left over Thai food gobbled, we set off for the part of our trip we had skipped the last time through. Our plan was to go all the way along the route to where the river removed the road from reality, if not the map.
    Caromed our way through Ketchum the usual way - overshooting our turn, stopping to zoom in and out on the GPS map, altering our heading, then doing it again. When we were finally on the correct road there was no deviation for many miles. Outside of Ketchum, to the West, the forest has been burned recently, so it's not nearly as pretty as the the other side to the east, which I think is the proper "Sun Valley", so named.
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    Up and up, over a ridge, down and down, along a river. Passed a deer carcass just after seeing what I thought was an eagle taking off, followed by a vulture, but was probably two different kinds of vultures - one with a big white tail, the other the usual tatty looking black. The carcass was practically just ribs, a leg or two thrown into the mix.
    We passed many hunting camps and a few ATVs and UTVs with hunters actually visible in person instead of by implication. It seems like the hunters set up a camp with an RV trailer or some equivalent thing and come and go during the season, otherwise we'd probably see them more frequently.
    We actually saw a family of moose! Bull, cow (? mare?), and youngster. Big, they are, indeed. This was right after a camp where there was a guy on horseback with two black herding dogs frolicking ahead of him. Crossed the bridge right after seeing him and there were the moose. I guess he wasn't a hunter... In the center of the photo, if you zoom in...
    IMG_20190916_131526.jpg
    On down the valley, we came to the Big Smoky store. I rode all the way around it looking for the entrance so we could buy a soda, but it's only open Thursday through Sunday. Jack found a beautiful little snake sunning itself in the drive; glad I didn't run over it.
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    Just a little past Big Smoky, the rode is closed - concrete barricade, which we rode around, of course - and just 100 yards or so further, and yup, that road is super gone, drops 6 feet into river. It's deep enough and the current stiff enough that you'd have to be pretty desperate or just bonkers to try to get a motorcycle across. There's a foot path hacked out of the scrub along the collapse, but the first place you'd fall with a motorbike is only about 10 feet along. The next is about 15 feet along. After that, it might be possible, but no, it's for hikers and cyclists.
    IMG_20190916_134315.jpg
    We turned around as planned, timing to follow some of the lesser roads around to get to the other side of the washout, but our first try went from two track to single track to nothing doing pretty quickly. Jack dropped the XR twice, on the way in, then after we'd struggled to pick it up from the awkward place it had fallen and I'd managed a 5-point turn to head back to saner lanes, he overshot a turn and fell again. He went nuclear right away, swearing and hissing and waved me on. I waited back at the more road-like road and when I saw him coming started up again. He didn't see me though and that pushed him over the edge so when I heard him yelling for me, I honked and turned around, but he was coming towards me as well. I stopped and he rode up and slammed on his brakes, locked the front and fell over again, spitting mad. I rode on a bit and turned around again, but three more false leads had us just turned around back to the main road we'd come in on, no way to know which roads marked on the map were going to go anywhere for real. We decided Fairfield Idaho would be our only option to get to Featherville, which was a huge detour. At the top of the ridge after a couple stops on the way up for a picture and to put my jacket back on, Jack pulled up and held up his shift lever. It looked like it had lost the bolt that keeps it in place. I told him he had a spare in his pack, the shift lever on an XR650L being something I've heard described as slightly stronger than a wet noodle. Closer inspection on my part revealed disaster - he'd sheared the shaft off! His angry stomping of the shifter trying to get it into first gear when sitting still had finally done him in. No heed to the warnings not to do that was paid.
    Luckily, he was stuck in third, so we could actually continue without too much difficulty. Down the side of the mountain towards Fairfield, then onto the flats. I waved him ahead so he could set the pace, but I saw that he was having surging problems - running rich - at 50 so I overtook him and kept us at 40. Forcing Google maps to keep us off the highway wasn't easy, but I can do it and the ride along the dirt roads wasn't that bad. Some long, loooong, straight sections through mown fields, but then a nice winding, up and down bit to get to the pavement that goes up along the reservoir and the the river, past Pine, up to Featherville.
    Jack ran low on fuel, and we finally used the gallon I'd carried for the last ten days so he could make it all the way. Running rich and stuck in third was using up fuel fast. Luckily, there is fuel to be had in Featherville, for a bit of a premium, out of an archaic but working fuel pump and a barrel. Pizza, too.
    We decided to press on and make it over the ridge into the Boise National Forest to camp there, hoping to find a hot spring to enjoy.
    20190916_183719.jpg
    The XR is a capable, if inelegant beast and Jack had no trouble going up the side of the mountain in third gear, no less going down. We even found our hot spring to warm up in.
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    We waded across the river to where the spring comes out of the rocks maybe 10-15 feet above the water. It's not terribly hot and sitting underneath the little fall was very soothing. It made up for a lot of things.
    20190916_195706.jpg
    We got back across the river as it was getting uncomfortably close to dark and hurried down about ½ mile farther to a situation camping spot I'd found while checking if there were any other hot springs more accessible nearby. We set ourselves up, my hammock, his sleeping bag on the ground, made some cocoa with the Primus and went to bed. While I was writing this, it started to rain. Out of the hammock, throw up the fly, throw pinecones at Jack to get him up, gasping with back spasms, trying to get all under wraps or sealed up. Lol.

    Attached Files:

    #10
  11. Cleverish Moniker

    Cleverish Moniker Old enough to know better, too dumb to quit

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2008
    Oddometer:
    189
    Location:
    Berkeley, CA, USA
    Days 11 & 12
    A rainy - soft but steady - night, a wet sleepy breakfast of the usual instant oatmeal, dried fruit and nuts with a sidecar of coffee and cocoa.

    IMG_20190917_101631.jpg
    We packed up, not too carefully, since it was our last 40 or so miles before being back at the truck. While we had been eating, then again as we were strapping things on the bikes, a grader came along the river road pushing a thick berm of earth in front of the blade with the occasional great clangs when the blade hit large rocks.
    IMG_20190917_104021.jpg
    This gave me pause, as the formerly wonderful surface of damp decomposed granite was now scraped mud with a foot high ridge of loose dirt in the middle.
    We finally got going and it turned out the grader hadn't gone more than a few hundred yards past us, so we were back on what should have been nice d.g., but was much more used than what had just been graded and had many puddles, washboards, and potholes, the dg having been smashed into the mud.
    Nonetheless, the riding was fine, few others on the road, gorgeous scenery - a road taken in the opposite direction has a very different look. Oddly, we saw none of the hot springs we expected from the ride in a week earlier. I reasoned that the heat had been diluted by the heavy rains of the week before, the springs getting a large increase in flow from the previous week's soaking.
    IMG_20190917_113528.jpg
    It makes a lot more sense following a river into a reservoir than the other way around. The river gradually widens and deepens, then starts to cut down through the bed, which is actually the silt laid down when the water is high in the reservoir. Layers after layers show the various levels the reservoir has held, which I surmise changes a lot during the year - high in summer then lowered in anticipation of winter rains. Farther down, the reservoir is revealed to be so low that several trucks that had driven down the exposed bank for some water activity or other look like small toys, the people like the tiny plastic effigies on model train setups.
    IMG_20190917_120756.jpg
    Yet farther down, the dam rises startlingly from the water, so high it seemed the reservoir could conceivably hold 10 times as much water as was in it at the moment. This was the upper of the two reservoirs, though, so maybe they keep the lower reservoir as high as desired by draining the upper one.
    The road out was both longer and shorter than I expected, anticipated landmarks not coming along at the anticipated intervals. Pavement appeared, wandered, then ended at the highway, a right turn, five miles, a left turn, a few more and we were back at the truck.
    Stuff off the bikes, bikes into the truck, a quick change of clothes at the back of the truck with an eye to Jack's modesty, perhaps just a horror of seeing his dad, or perhaps any old man unclothed. Took my wallet from the motorcycle pants, bundled everything up and climbed in. The truck fired up without incident, all hard feelings from the previous week's drive calmed by the fresh alternator and 10 day's rest.
    Off we went without saying goodbye, Walt and Linda not yet home from their own trip during the same period. The extremely washboarded road of the way in was a great deal smoother on the way out when simply rolling under no power.
    Shortly after leaving, about 5 miles up the highway, another pickup pulled up alongside and waved me over to the side. I had no idea what he wanted, but he said he saw what he thought was a wallet fall off my truck about 5 minutes back. I thanked him and did a quick, illegal u-turn and raced back, Jack and I peering stupidly out the truck windows hoping to see the improbable, seeing nothing.
    Awareness slowly dawned on me, to my horror, that not only had I been stupid enough to put my wallet down on the bumper when I changed clothes, but I had let the only source of information about where it had come off drive away without any clarification. I didn't ask him how far back "5 minutes" was, which side of the road, what landmarks, or anything at all. Maybe I was concussed in my crash. Maybe I was simply too exhausted by 11 days of continuous travel, but the immediately obvious best course of action would have been to ask the guy to SHOW me. Instead, Jack and I spent hours walking up and down the side of the road, hoping against the obvious weight of probability that we might find something, I at least, knowing it was incredibly unlikely, though still puzzled by the total lack of evidence - not a credit card, scrap of paper, anything. In my agony of self-loathing, the anger, shame, and humiliation eating at me, I reasoned that the only way the guy would know it was a wallet, per se, would be that it had exploded on contact with the pavement at 50mph, scattering cards, currency, and calamity all over. About hour three, I finally found something - three bills of US currency green, absolutely recognizable as being out of place, which had been the only thing I could really look for - something out of place. Taking heart, I continued in that area, thinking I might find something more. Belatedly allowing my reasoning ability to come up the fore, I started looking on the outside of turns only, but the only other thing I found was one of my business cards. Like a tracker, a shamefully slow-witted one, I started to notice the places where tires has left the pavement, coming to realize that they were from people swerving off the road, gleefully pocketing my lost potential, my dignity, my feelings of self worth. The Brinks truck crash in Watts (Compton??), when millions vanished into the ghetto, came to mind, albeit smaller in scale. I recovered a small portion of what I had been carrying, which was certainly more than I was comfortable losing, and it was at least some evidence, but I was still destitute, without any way of purchasing fuel or getting a hotel room at my disposal. My only hope was that someone had left a message on my phone, but the lack of coverage made checking impossible.
    Footsore and humiliated, I trudged back to the truck, having waved Jack back when I saw him walking towards me, my defeat still ringing around my head, feeling vaguely as though I were hallucinating, objects - cliff faces and the like - seeming to shrink away as my brain tried to process visual stimuli at the same time as the overwhelming emotional beating.
    Two or three miles down the road, or actually up, as we were climbing out of a depression, aptly, I got a cell signal with a notification, then another, then several more, text messages and voicemails from a Tennessee phone number of a woman telling me that she'd found my wallet and wondering if the address on the driver's license was a good one to mail it back to. I called right away and an elderly voice answered telling me yes, she'd found the wallet and cards, thought she'd come upon the scene of a crash with all the people - men - running around, and seeing the wallet and cards. Realizing there was no crash and feeling unsafe, she'd picked them up and jetted out of there. No money, though. Shit.
    I asked her where she was, expecting her to be further down the road in the wrong direction, but she was only 40 minutes away in Mountain Home and willing to wait for me to come pick it up. My glitchy old, backup phone couldn't combine with Google to give me useful directions so Jack chimed in with the first part - go straight. 40 minutes down the road, I blazed past the exit she'd mentioned, homing in on the Walmart she'd mentioned. In that part of Idaho, the exits are miles apart, so it took another 15 minutes to get back to where I'd just passed.
    She was a sweet, fat, limping old lady, though I doubt she was more than 65. She greeted me by joking that if she were feeling catty, she would ask me for some ID. Yeah, haw haw.
    As evidence for how bad I felt, I actually ate at the gas stop Burger King. Yeah, that bad.
    We got going again and I drove us as far as Winnemucca, crossing two state lines, past the first Napa parts store, past the service station battery charger, past the mean BLM campsite, past all of Oregon in the dark, the nighttime insects like a snow of wax balls that don't wash off the windshield completely. A non-mean BLM campsite outside Winnemucca - smooth and flat, graded gravel, ADA accessible concrete picnic table, enameled steel 16' square, roofed shade structure, and even a waste dump fitting for RVs - provided us free space for a lie down; though it was only 11 in Nevada, it felt much more like midnight, as we'd crossed out of the mountain time zone.
    The wind never let up the whole night, leaving me in a fugue state in my bag, dozing certainly, but feeling wired on too much caffeine, finally awakening at the crack of 10 when the sun started getting too warm. My face felt like I'd been in a boxing match, not the bruising or pain, but the swelling, my eyes puffy and unwilling to stay open to meet the light of day. We let gravity pull us down the hill into Winnemucca, to a coffee shop insightfully called Java, breakfast burritos and mediocre espresso drinks giving us enough to get started on the final 6½ hours back to Berkeley.
    Jack's driving had improved, or at least his confidence had, after a week and a half of motorcycling all day, every day, so I tossed him the keys and bade him take over until Sparks while I did not sleep, but did give up the responsibility to pay strict attention, the meditative hyper-vigilance being beyond my reach after the 4 hours of driving deep into the night.
    Sparks came and went, Reno came and went, the Sierra Nevada came and stayed, greeting us with a slight, then intense embrace of rain that finally got the bugs off the windshield by dint of overwhelming, relentless pressure and aggressive wiping at full speed by the wipers to maintain some visibility. I wondered if we might see snow at the 7,000' Donner summit, and indeed we came to a sudden halt right after the climb out of Verdi. Chain warning? 4wd needed? No, just a jackknifed rig, a smashed concrete guardrail and the truck's completely, absolutely totally disabled bulk minus, though not far from, its twisted front axle, blocking three and a half of four lanes. The woman at the CA agricultural station said we couldn't bring the motorcycles into the state, but I corrected her by pointing out their provenance as being from the state. Joking, of course. Heh.
    A stop at Costco in Fairfield, not the Fairfield of Idaho, though not that different in appearance, was our only stop, fuel being once again in short supply. The final homecoming was bedraggled and thankfully enlivened by both the beagle's and my wife's obvious, unfeigned pleasure at seeing us home safe and relatively sound. Perhaps a final synopsis will come soon, maybe even tomorrow. Adventure achieved, contemplation and reflection ongoing, tallying yet to come...
    #11
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