Lost on the way to the End of the World

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by El Explorador, Aug 6, 2012.

  1. El Explorador

    El Explorador Radical Explorer

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    372
    Location:
    Guatemala City, Guatemala, and going down!

    Ask and ye shall receive:

    First order of business in Page is to explore; it’s actually an interesting place to walk around.

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    While chatting with Ron, owner of a local coffee shop, I ask about The Steps, a hike Korey told me about last night. He insists on getting my family’s contact info in case I don’t return. I thank him but insist I can handle myself. Korey himself had told me it was a hardcore trail, and at the park ranger’s office they seem determined to deny the existence of this local legend. Intriguing.

    The path just to arrive is arduous, and the trail itself takes a good hour to locate but finally I spot a cairn marking a path. Twenty minutes later, a very disappointed El Explorador makes it to the bottom. This was not the legendary Steps trail, it was too easy. I must have taken the Ropes trail instead. I’ve brought some nuts and berries and plenty of water along with my camping gear, but this place is uninviting. The dam has lowered the water recently; exposed algae and aquatic life suffuse the shores with a thick marine stench. I wander along the shoreline, hoping to see the steps trail from below and catch it on the return. The water comes from the frigid bottom of Lake Powell – too cold to play in. Clouds of gnats swarm and bother as I make my way to the dam, no sign of any path leading back up. Eventually I admit defeat. It sucks at the bottom of the canyon, I’m not staying here, The Steps has eluded me.

    A crevice leading to the top seems to offer a way to save the day’s underwhelming adventure.

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    I hoist my backpack on my shoulders and begin. Last night Korey and I talked about the sandstone walls here and their tendency to shear off in large chunks. Thoughts of car-sized slabs of stone dislodging with me attached keep my moves conservative as I climb, pulling my bag up behind me by hooking my tripod through the straps. I have to analyze each route carefully before climbing, these ledges aren’t solid enough to stop me if I come crashing down on them. Beautiful hand and footholds reveal themselves to be treacherously unstable on closer examination, most of the way I’m shimmying up the crevice instead of climbing the slick face. I have to deviate at one point when I find myself at an impasse, massive sandstone flakes tempting me to test them but the commitment is too final, their stability uncertain.

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    This looked way easier from the ground.

    The route to the next ledge is sandslick and uncertain. I’m tired, and out of water. Muscle twitches in my legs indicate I still require more hydration. The sun is getting lower on the horizon – even if I make it past this, I can’t see what lies ahead. If I get stuck too much later on I’m going to have to climb down in the dark.

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    It’s a rough call to make, but there’s no question that as close as I’ve been playing it with margins of safety to get up here, to try and make it any farther is a crosses that thin red line past merely challenging myself.

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    I gave it my best shot; the canyon can win this one. With a sigh I begin to head down, the awkward positioning necessary for downclimbing even more precarious with my load. After descending to the first ledge I decide to just toss the backpack over and meet it down there. Thud. Silence. THUD. Silence. The moment stretches, and with a final resounding impact my bag reaches the bottom. The sound reverberates up the canyon walls. That’s exactly what a body would sound like, I can’t help thinking.

    The sun no longer reaches into the canyon when I make it to the bottom. I make swift tracks to the easy path, which is looking harder and steeper as the last of the light slips away. The rough texture of the rocks underfoot is losing definition in the dim light; I have to be careful to avoid tripping. By the time I make it to the top darkness has fallen. Bighorn sheep scramble around me and one stands proudly on a bluff, dramatically silhouetted against the cobalt sky.

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    What DO You Mean My Photo Looks Weird?


    I’m completely disoriented, so I aim for the power station, deciding to play it safe instead of bushwhacking through the desert at dark. Safer, anyway, I remember the refinery incident in Louisiana and decide not to use my light. Nobody bothers me though, and I jump a gate to the main road. I’m lucky to get a lift to town, where I stop in at the only game in town open Sunday evening for some much needed revittleization. While waiting for a table, I have a conversation with a guy who ran a hundred miles over 28 hours. Suddenly I feel less tired. After being seated I order the cheapest thing on the menu and have a chat with the Ali, my cute waitress, about my day. She returns later, “I told the other servers about you, we’re going to buy you dessert since you’ve had a hellacious day”. Well all in all I thought it was fun – but I’m not saying no to free pie, which is heavenly, warm, and served with ice cream.

    Nourished by the adventure and the kindness of strangers, I walk over to the ridiculous golf course. I think of the conversation I had with Kenton about how much need there is in this country, and how regardless every suburban house sinks resources into utterly useless grass maintenance. Wonder how much water it takes to keep that lawn green. I tie my hammock between two posts demarcating the border, and lie down to reflect.

    It’s been a good day to be stranded in Page, Arizona.

    The next morning I visit Beans coffee, just to let them know I’m alive, and they treat me to a fantastic pancake for the accomplishment of waking up not dead.
    I use most of those calories on what is to become my daily trek to bathe in Lake Powell. After washing, I approach some Mormons in their late teens and tell them I’ll hurl myself off a cliff for a ride to town. They bite, and we fling ourselves into space again and again from higher points each time. The highest point is apparently 90 feet to the water. The empty sound of rushing air after our lungs run out of screams is engraved in memory, a moment entirely captive to gravity and momentum. I almost break my nose from the force of the water. 90 feet is high. After climbing a massive metal chain back to the top, Justin tells me he’s broken his nose twice off this one, then invites me for a burrito.

    Seems falling is the thing to do around here, the next day I run into another group, one of whom turns out to be named Blake as well. I declare a Blake-off, only the most radical of us will keep the name. The inevitable cliff-jumping contest ends in us wisely calling it a draw. After talking with him and his friends for some time they try to offer me money. I refuse, telling them that they should keep it for their own adventures – I live like this by choice, if I wanted more money to live on I could earn it, and even then I would probably just save it and stick to my budget. Regardless the argument culminates in them stuffing five bucks in my shoe, and gifting me another dollar folded into a triangle. Keep this in your wallet and you’ll never go broke, they say. I gratefully accept the token, rethinking my reluctance. I value independence, but it is rude to refuse the generosity of others. People may be charitable to reinforce a self-image or as part of their values as much as anything else - it's not all about me. I give them a crazy-looking spiral bone I found as a token of appreciation.

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    I’ve managed to be pretty frugal here, but still need to tighten my belt to undo the damage this stator is doing to my cash buffer. Conveniently the tourist setup here provides an excellent opportunity for the creative forager – hotel morning buffets . The food is pretty decent, and the price is right – I just walk in, sit down, and eat like a regular guest.

    For a few days of waiting I just wander around, trying to subsist off as little as possible during this unscheduled detour. My internal alarm does a good job of waking me with the first hint of dawn to break camp before my nest is discovered. Breakfast, chill, wash up in Lake Powell, explore, hang out around town. The stator does come in eventually – Angela from the gas station sees me hitching out the post office and gives me a lift, invites me to come out and play “antelope” in the evening. The engine thrums, and I bid an excited adieu to the wonderful people at Page Honda whose charitable assistance I won't soon forget.

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    I've enjoyed the relaxed pace these past few days... but now I am reborn. Getting to the lake takes mere minutes now, I find a new friend and we enjoy the lakeside together.

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    I stop around town to prove to everyone I really did have a bike and wasn’t just another hobo with a good story. Korey suggests I use my newly regained mobility to check out this cool hike nearby.
    I do, and it is, once again, one of the most gorgeous and unearthly places I have ever had the privilege of visiting.

    Words can’t do this place justice. The Wave, Arizona.

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  2. El Explorador

    El Explorador Radical Explorer

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    372
    Location:
    Guatemala City, Guatemala, and going down!
    Just got added by the Page Honda guys on FB, any of you out here on ADV?
  3. RobBD

    RobBD Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2007
    Oddometer:
    442
    Location:
    Perth Australia
    Fantastic pictures - 90feet jumps -Respect!
  4. blake716

    blake716 nine toes

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2008
    Oddometer:
    16,085
    Location:
    Baton Rouge, La.
    :thumb



    :webers
  5. El Explorador

    El Explorador Radical Explorer

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    372
    Location:
    Guatemala City, Guatemala, and going down!
    Thanks Rob, if you ever make it out to Page you should try it!

    Blake, be prepared! hahaha
  6. RobBD

    RobBD Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2007
    Oddometer:
    442
    Location:
    Perth Australia
    Thanks for the offer but that 90ft high cliff will be waiting a long long long time before I even go near the edge let alone jump off!!! like I said "Respect " for those like you who do it.
  7. Sbolin

    Sbolin n00b

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2013
    Oddometer:
    7
    Location:
    Oregon Cascades
    I am so freakin jealous! You have inspired me to ramp up my adventures! Thank you!
  8. RhinoVonHawkrider

    RhinoVonHawkrider Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2009
    Oddometer:
    2,083
    Location:
    Eastern Pa
    +2

    I love jumping into water - My biggest is 75' into Beaver Lake in Ark.

    Keep up the Great RR

    All the best

    Rhino
  9. Banksbird

    Banksbird Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2008
    Oddometer:
    321
    Location:
    Northeast Iowa
    I'm in for this RR, would not even concider a 90' jump! Maybe at gun point.
  10. Hafte

    Hafte Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2013
    Oddometer:
    18
    Location:
    behind the Zion curtain a.k.a. Utah
    Great RR. Awesome pictures. Living in Utah we play down there a lot. This picture is a place we used to camp a couple of times a year. Brings back a buch of memories. :deal

    If this is the right place that over hang was where we would sit around the fire and party after a long day of mountain biking. I showed it to my wife and she agrees it looks like the place. The Monitor and Merimac butts in the back ground are one of our favoride views. I'm really suprised you found the place. :freaky Sat through many a strom there both in the Van and in a tent.

    Can't wait to see/read your Mexico and beyond travels and stories





    Hafte
  11. El Explorador

    El Explorador Radical Explorer

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    372
    Location:
    Guatemala City, Guatemala, and going down!
    Thanks Rhino, there are all kinds of crazy places to jump from on the Way Down

    - In all fairness it was measured by dropping a rock and counting the seconds. Mind going over there with a tape measure and jumping off to check? hehehe

    Cheers mate, yeah it's a killer spot, I wanted to find all the nooks and crannies but you could spend years out there and still be surprised. More to come!
  12. backdrifter

    backdrifter Wannabe rider

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2005
    Oddometer:
    1,370
    Location:
    Belleville, IL
    I've become more silent in this thread, but nothing lifts my day like another installment of your amazing adventure, Blake. This is hands down my favorite ride report ever on ADVrider. You have a great attitude, an uncanny ability to draw the reader in with your extremely well written entries, and a good eye for photography. Grade A, all the way. Keep up the adventure, and stay safe!
  13. KipperMatic

    KipperMatic Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2013
    Oddometer:
    34
    Location:
    On the better side of the Detroit River
    Kinda late in finding this thread... Subscribed and reading as fast as I can

    The very first shot, is that the roof of Place Bell? I used to rooftop in Ottawa a few years ago.

    KipperMatic
    (ex Mutt on UER, former Orleans resident)
  14. El Explorador

    El Explorador Radical Explorer

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    372
    Location:
    Guatemala City, Guatemala, and going down!
    Shucks guys if y'all keep it up I might just have to post more often :d

    Seriously though I really do appreciate the support, I'm honing my presentation skills here with the help of audience feedback so I can put something saleable together when I reach Argentina and hopefully fund a continuation on farther continents. A dream for another day, right now I'm just trying to figure out how to cheaply cross the Darien.

    Good to see you here Mutt, your footprints were the ones I was following in as I began to peer behind the curtain in the Kapital. The view in the first shot is a construction crane, I suspect it is around the Elgin/Somerset area as there were a bunch up there before I head off into the sunset. I've got the same post on UER but let it die when I realized there isn't much urban about my explorations on average. Some good exploring down here, let me tell you!
  15. El Explorador

    El Explorador Radical Explorer

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    372
    Location:
    Guatemala City, Guatemala, and going down!
    I’m done in Page. Strike gold in the breakfast buffet – today they have a bacon tray. And I’m off.

    From the desert rise strange forms and images to occupy my mind with questions as I ride towards Flagstaff.

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    I’ve been fortunate to find myself invited to Arizona’s airy heights where Lost will gain a new heart and kick her drinking problem thanks to fellow KLRista Chuck. He’s offered to fix my bike for me.

    Shortly after acquiring my steel horse, beat up and beautiful, I went to go visit a friend in London. I rode seven hundred kilometers as fast as I could, not that my dear Lost is designed for speed, but that it’s exhilarating to feel so naked, exposed, free on this contraption hurtling down the highway. Around the 140 Kph mark the machine protests, knees slapping the tank as the front traces increasingly faster and wilder parabolas on the pavement. The game is to see how close you can cut that margin, coax those last revs out before the machine begins to shift and shudder. Prior to returning I checked the oil and was horrified – it was almost all gone.

    My first ride and I’ve already destroyed my bike.
    Clearly a sign.
    Going to be getting to Argentina by bicycle.

    I swallowed my histrionics and refilled the oil. What else to do? The guy where I bought my oil told me to keep an eye on my RPM on the way home. Sure enough, riding above 4500 RPM the oil level plummets. Below, and losses were barely noticeable. My first lesson in motorcycle ownership: Keep an eye on your oil level because you never know.

    Well, actually the first lesson was “if you might drop your bike while loading it onto a truck, have a friend handy to lift if off you”, but that’s another story...

    Anyway, I discovered the bike’s drinking problem was so fierce the oil was changed frequently without ever needing to drain. Plan A had me stopping in California for a rebuild that would solve the issue, but while in Page I missed my window of opportunity. Chuck got me rolling again by mailing me a stator. Another reason to love the KLR – what other bike has this kind of community built around it?

    A new 688 piston is included in the rebuild, adding power and reducing felt vibrations. The vibe reduction is a real bonus – after a few hours on the road, when I get off the bike my palms tingle and if I clap them together I can feel it resonating in waves of intensified pins and needles.

    Chuck is younger than I expected, or younger looking at least. For some reason I always expect these crusty old misanthropes with hands like baseball mitts and brows creased from furrowing at mistreated motorcycles. Instead he’s a genial and welcoming host; I am impressed by his professionalism as he efficiently takes the bike apart and critiques my work. Looks like I had my valve clearances wrong. He warns me to be careful with the spray he gives me to clean the parts while he walks his dogs. By the time he returns I’ve managed to spray myself in the eye and my mouth tastes like radiator fluid. But the parts are clean and polished, beautifully precision machined metal awaiting reassembly – to be completed tomorrow.

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    Dinner is capped off by margaritas and my shelter by the golf course seems worlds away. Like so many other people I’ve met on my journey, Chuck’s story seems larger than life. A world traveller like myself, and ex pro track racer and instructor. Racers are already nuts to my mind – someone who teaches it has to be on another level. I love feeling the pegs scrape, but at 30 KpH, not 90. He reminded me in many ways of Curtis from Texas – assured and disciplined, and with his own story of perseverance over tragedy. He shattered his leg on a hidden rock in the sand while riding one day, and the doctor said he was going to have to lose it. He refused, and not only did they manage to save it but he now runs daily with his two dogs around the gorgeous trails through the pine forests of Flagstaff. That they would have amputated his leg if he was a smoker is an eyebrow raiser for me.

    The next morning Chuck is already hard at work, Lost is looking a little thin and I get to know her insides a little better.

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    He throws more information at me than I can really absorb – coarse thread bolts are better on single cylinder bikes for resisting wear on threads, the wobble I feel on curves is due to overloading the capacity of the rear shock, carb troubleshooting tips, long-haul riders use lemon oil to stay awake, Inuit villages have polar bear alarms. I even discover he taught at the school that made the manual on motorcycle racing I have been studying. Figures.

    He deftly manoeuvres the 688 piston in just past the rings leaving enough room to attach the connection rod. I wish I’d seen the whole process but a soft bed has some powerful gravity and I missed the beginning. He buttons Lost back up in time to go for a late lunch, delicious pulled pork.

    Chuck offers to let me crash at his place another night since I still haven’t planned out my route and he has so many suggestions, so I decide to make my famous Asian-ish Chicken, though I cut the meat too small and it overcooks. One more night in a bed is irresistibly tempting. He doesn’t want to send me down the hardcore trails, which I appreciate as much as I bristle at the implication. To be fair, this is my first bike since that little 100cc Honda in Vietnam, and I am not yet two months deep into learning how to handle riding with all the luggage offroad.

    I go for a run the next morning, thankful just to be able to. A pink-bottomed tarantula stops when I crouch nearby; it rubs its abdomen releasing irritating hairs into the air to drive off predators and curious explorers. I note with a smile that Chuck has replaced various missing non-essential bolts and cleaned my filthy chain.

    I get some final advice and inspiration from his stories, naturally sober advice sticks less than the adrenaline exciting tales of bike wrangling and I am eager to measure myself against an offhand comment he makes – I don’t bother airing down the tires much, if the back tire wants to drift I just let it, keep the front up and the rear follows. Anything he can do I can do better!

    No prize for predictions: I drop the bike trying to drift around a gravel corner later. It hurts just enough to knock the humility back in me. Something about superior riders, they seem to inspire overconfidence.

    This is after winding through dirt roads to reach a serene overlook where I take a long nap just because I can. From there I make my way down dirt trails to a series of gravel roads that take me to a truly magnificent vista. The ground is littered with shell casings and I consider camping out, but there’s still too much light to end the day so I ride on towards Phoenix through the impressive Saguaro forest. And finally lose the GPS track in a series of winding gravelly hills near the city (where I lay down the bike).

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    Chuck's route takes me two days to complete, though it looked like 6 hours from the map. Good thing he didn't send me down the rough path. Camping by an abandoned trailer that night, I decide not to go to California after all. I’ve overspent my budgeted time here almost twofold already, and there is plenty of world to get lost in yet. Just pick up some new shoes for Lost in Phoenix and head on to Mexico. I have a plan.

    No plan survives execution.
  16. Kevan Garrett

    Kevan Garrett Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2009
    Oddometer:
    731
    Location:
    Benicia, CA
    Hey El Ex.

    Just loving the RR. My new favorite line: "It hurts just enough to knock the humility back in me." Heh. How many times have I felt that pain? :clap

    Keep the pictures and report coming. Be safe.

    Kevan
  17. selkins

    selkins Gotta light?

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,698
    Location:
    The Frozen North
    Hard to find unique praise to add on to this report. Remarkable. Thanks and keep it coming!
  18. rootsy

    rootsy Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2012
    Oddometer:
    160
    Your adventurous spirit has captivated my imagination.

    Thank you for your thoughtful narration and vivid images.

    I look forward to the tales of your spontaneous exploits.

    Be well!
  19. Sbolin

    Sbolin n00b

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2013
    Oddometer:
    7
    Location:
    Oregon Cascades
    What camera are you using? I love the composition as well as the quality of your pictures. Truly inspirational stuff.
  20. El Explorador

    El Explorador Radical Explorer

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    372
    Location:
    Guatemala City, Guatemala, and going down!
    Thank you sirs, always love the feedback.

    Stuck here in Nicaragua trying to find replacement parts for the rear wheel hub. What are the odds anyone around here knows of a junked KLR kicking around Central America?