Northern eXposure - gold roads, wilderness trails, and bacon.

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by JMo (& piglet), May 23, 2017.

  1. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Day 34: Sunday 16th July - Lake City CO to 3-Step Hideaway UT (181 miles)

    "Saving the best 'til last..."

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    photo. Another coffee and crunch-bar campsite breakfast.

    I'd slept well and was packed and ready to leave by 7.45am, with the intention of making it as far as the Utah border this evening all being well... this early in the morning I pretty much had the trail to myself, and bopped along, taking in the scenery as the road deteriorated into trail, and wound higher and higher up the valley...

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    photo. What a stunning location for a holiday house!

    Engineer Pass is not especially technical, not on this east side anyway - just a few sharp switchbacks with some loose rock a mile or so before the summit to contend with... however, this guys was not having so much luck:

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    photo. It might be 4wd, but 'high clearance' is actually more important on this particular trail...

    As I came over a crest just before the summit, I could see a the rear end of a car - seemingly stuck, engine revving, going nowhere. An old gent was behind the wheel, while his two younger companions offered a series of increasingly desperate instructions, before doing their best to manhandle the vehicle backwards (and even forwards at one point I recall) in an effort to free it from the mire.

    Of course it didn't work. Not only was the engine and transmission comprehensively bellied out, but the tyres had no purchase whatsoever, spinning all available power away (not sure if these have an axle diff-lock, if so, it was not engaged or they didn't know where it was.

    Clearly there was nothing I could really do with a bike, other than to ride back down the mountain to that cabin I'd seen, and see if the owners would come up in their Jeep with a tow-rope... so off I went on my mission of mercy!

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    photo. The gate to the house was locked, but fortunately the occupants were on the terrace drinking coffee...

    I have to say, it actually took quite a bit of convincing - this was a rental property (it's on AirB&B apparently!) and the occupants had also rented the Jeep, and clearly they were not particular experienced in either four-wheeling, or even towing a stricken vehicle. I assured them that all that was required would be a tug with a rope/strap on their respective tow-hitches to free the Subaru, and eventually the husband got behind the wheel and followed me back up the trail...

    As it turned out, by the time we both arrived back at the scene, a Suzuki 4x4 had eventually come over the Pass in the opposite direction, and was in the process of effecting a recovery just as I had envisaged above. Before we all departed our separate ways, the owner of the Suzuki gave me a wink, and explained he'd recommended the Subaru crew not try and drive that particular vehicle any further west - as the Pass on the far side was more rough and rocky, with some tight switchbacks and serious drop offs. Of course from my perspective, I couldn't wait!

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    photo. apparently the highest point on the trail is actually 100' higher than the Engineer Pass sign itself, but the photo opportunity is better here ;o)

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    photo. This was the highest I'd been all week... and so far this trip!

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    The west side of Engineer Pass is barren and windswept - very dramatic, with panoramic views across the surround ranges and into the valley below...

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    photo. California Pass in the summer - hardly any snow at all by this time of year!

    I breezed through Animas Forks and up California Pass in no time, pausing for the obligatory photo with Piglet of course:

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    photo. Just shy of 13,000ft, and the perfect weather to ride these high passes...

    It was now mid-morning, and there was a steady stream of OHV traffic heading in the opposite direction - Jeeps and other 4x4s, ATVs and dozens of side-by-sides, plus a few dirt bikes...

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    photo. Halfway down the far side of Hurricane Pass - the uphill [four-wheeled] traffic was pretty busy here, although being on a bike there tended to be enough room to pass.

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    photo. This made me laugh - a crapper in the middle of nowhere... but what a location eh?

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    photo. Ha ha - sure enough they'd put a window in the far side so you could look at the view while you're doing the do!

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    photo. Corkscrew Pass didn't appear to have a sign, and again was busy with uphill traffic...

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    photo. ...including this little kid following a grown-up group up the trail - in fine style on a tiny smoker... ring a ding ding!

    Corkscrew Pass spits you out at a huge OHV staging area on hwy 550, just a few miles south of Ouray. The TAT route heads uphill here, over Red Mountain Pass via a particularly epic section of the twisty Million Dollar Highway, where you continue west of Ophir Pass. An alternative is to take the infamous Black Bear Pass (and it's numerous switchbacks) downhill into Telluride, and pick up the TAT again west of Ophir.

    First thing this morning I was all set to include Black Bear in today's itinerary - it's the most obvious route west from here (via Telluride) towards Utah, without heading unnecessarily south on the TAT first, but something was nagging me...

    Subconsciously I must have been aware that on this sunny Sunday lunchtime, it was likely to be choc-full of 4x4s by now - and any resultant traffic jam would be compounded by the fact the trail was steep and narrow, and that 'lane-splitting' would probably be frowned upon by the frustrated four-wheelers. The fact it is also one-way (downhill towards Telluride) was also likely to limit any chance of passing slower traffic, and I didn't come all this way just to stare and the blacked-out arse-end of a frikkin' four-by - no offence fellas ;o)

    If my subconscious would ultimately be doing my nerves a favour, then equally, my conscious was doing it's best to placate my grumbling stomach... It had been hours since that meagre breakfast-bar, and I knew of a great cafe in Ouray ('Roast & Toast' - which had just opened during my Trans-Am trip) that did a mean scrambled-egg and avocado sandwich - decision made!

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    photo. heading north down hwy 550 into Ouray - plenty of twisty turns in this direction too, and the promise of a decent meal!

    Having succumb to the sense of foreboding about Black Bear Pass, I felt the alternative route into Telluride from Ouray would be equally impressive, if not actually moreso - since the mild weather in recent weeks meant that Imogene Pass - the highest in the region at 13,114ft - was also now open for the season. This had to be done!

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    photo. Starting from the Ouray end, Imogene Pass Rd (CR-26A) is a proper trail - with rocks, roots and a number of creek and river crossings... nice!

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    photo. As the trail started to climb more steeply, on the north side of the Pass there was still snow at the side of the trail...

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    photo. the view back down is magnificent!

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    photo. Finally over 13,000ft! You do start to get a little short of breath up here!

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    photo. The red scree slopes in the background are the other side of those facing Corkscrew Pass. note. I cannot confirm or deny that I may have had a Brian Griffin wee up here, but I'm sure I could hear CB500X owners from all four corners howl in deference ;o)

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    photo. At the official sign... Imogene had already exceeded my expectations - it was epic in every respect!

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    photo. If you're ever up here yourself, you might spot a Trans-Am 500 sticker...

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    photo. Sometimes you just have to play with the camera settings...

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    photo. Imogene offers an impressive view of the ski-town of Telluride in the valley below.

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    photo. There were still snow banks either side of the summit.

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    photo. As you descend the western side of Imogene Pass, you can see the switchbacks of Black Bear Pass across the valley.. sure enough, zooming in I could see a procession of 4x4s nose-to-tail along the terraces... Imogene good call Piglet.

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    photo. If you had the time, then coming down Black Bear (it's one-way downhill towards Telluride) and going back over the mountains via Imogene would be an exceptional day out!

    To be honest, I didn't even stop for breath in Telluride - it was a busy tourist town on a Sunday afternoon... I did top off my fuel on the outskirts however, and took that opportunity to inhale an ice-cream as I plotted a series of intermediate waypoints that would take me back onto the dirt while heading pretty much due west for Utah. Without a doubt, that had to have been the best $4 I've ever spent on fuel - Engineer, California, Hurricane, Corkscrew and now Imogene Pass, all in one day!

    Heading west for a short distance on hwy 145, initially I feared my luck had run out - as I turned south along Fall Creek towards the Lizard Head Wilderness, the rain came down with a vengeance - goodness it hadn't been this bad since Canada! - it was like hail in it's ferocity, and I was soon drenched, although I had managed to stop and don my waterproof over-pants at least. Fortunately it was reasonably warm rain - my main concern was more that the forest trails I was planning on riding would be soaked and undoubtably slimy by now...

    However, by what can only be described as miraculous good fortune, as I climbed higher into the forest it appeared that the thunder storm had concentrated solely on the valley itself, and up here on Little Cone Rd everything was almost dry still - result!

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    photo. The La Sal mountains (UT) in the distance.

    The transition from ten-thousand feet to desert was as seamless as I remembered from the TAT route someway further south, and I made good time once back on fast gravel roads towards hwy 141 which leads to Slick Rock, and just beyond, my destination for this evening - the 3-Step Hideaway, which is in the middle of nowhere, just over the State line in Utah.

    In an effort to remain off paved roads as I had managed to do pretty much all day so far, I pressed 'shortest route' and picked up an interesting sandy two-track that according to my GPS offered a back-way into Utah across the Delores River, all the while heading in the general direction of the 3-Step Hideaway...

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    photo. 'Bald Eagle Rd' [CR-22] in the GPS also has a county road sign, but on the ground it appeared little used to be honest...

    This was essentially my first time in the desert this trip, and it felt like the Honda was home again! Unfortunately, the joy was somewhat short-lived as after only a couple of miles, the trail faded to almost nothing before entering posted Private Property on the far side of a wire-gate fence. I'd come this far so took the gamble, particularly since I could see a similar exit gate only a couple of hundred yards away - and sure enough on the other side of the boundary was another county road sign, so considered I probably had a right of way here after all.

    This two-track eventually T-boned with Gypsum Valley Rd (which also leads off hwy 141), and sure enough, the Garmin was encouraging me to stay on the dirt and follow my original plan to cross the Delores River a few miles further north... I just hoped there would actually be a bridge!

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    photo. And thank goodness there was!

    Had I not already had an exceptional day trail riding, what followed was in my mind one of the best dirt road/trails in Utah (and I trust you appreciate I've already ridden a few ;o) - Island Mesa Rd could easily be considered as a pukka Rally Stage - fast and open (complete with African style scrubby bushes on either side of the trail), then sandy washes, rocky climbs and descents, all the while twisting and turning, complete with an appreciable elevation gain and associated stunning views back across the desert floor.

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    I took a moment to soak it all in, and honestly felt there would be no need to visit Moab this trip after-all - I had well and truly had my fill today!


    More soon!

    Jenny xx
  2. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Bollocks... Photobucket seems to have done the dirty on us...

    Hang fire while we sort this out ;o)

    Jx
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  3. skibum69

    skibum69 slave to gravity Super Supporter

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    Not that I've ever used it but now I decisively hate photobucket.

    Edit: I thought Lyndon & Llewelyn were supposed to be at Lawrence's rally?
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  4. OHjim

    OHjim Been here awhile

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    Looks like your pics are being held hostage too. :(

    Edit: looks like you figured that out while I was typing.
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  5. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Hi Skibum - they were there was last year I think...

    As for Photobucket, yes they are fuckers... It is possible for users to download complete albums* (although my Northern Exposure one is currently 600+ hi-res photos, so who knows how long that would take, or if it's even possible...) - but if you upload/host them elsewhere, then you would have to manually re-enter every IMG code into the various thread posts - which for my ride-reports and John's Rally-Raid Vendor threads would be massively time consuming...

    It is tantamount to blackmail, and the fuckers know it.

    Personally speaking, my next ride-report will have the photos hosted on Smugmug.

    Jx

    edit. *What do you know, turns out that facility isn't working... anyone would think this is a conspiracy to extort.
  6. docwyte

    docwyte Long timer

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    Yup, I have several long build threads on car forums that are all broken links thanks to Photobucket. I don't have an issue paying for a service, but I'm using 2% of the space allotted to me in a free account. So it doesn't seem fair to me to have to spend $400 a year for hosting. If they had tiered plans based on how much space you're using and I could get away with $50-75 a year, I'd pay it.
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  7. skibum69

    skibum69 slave to gravity Super Supporter

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    Back to supporting the guy who keeps this forum ad free through paying for SmugMug.

    I missed something Jenny, I thought they were going to be there this year. Bummed I couldn't make it as I was looking forward to meeting you too.
  8. swamp

    swamp Shut up. Ride.

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    Meh.. I knew the whole "free " thing would implode one day. Sucks for ride reports for sure.

    Have you made it home yet?
  9. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Hi Swamp - yes, if you read back a couple of pages, I got back to San Jose on the 18th July, and then flew back to the UK at the end of the month - chosing to bank all my ride report notes and photos en route, and continue the story once I was back in front of a proper computer keyboard rather than via an iPad (don't get me started on have Photobucket still doesn't actually work properly with IOS either...)

    As for Photobucket, their hosting isn't just free - both Rally Raid and myself personally were already paying an annual fee to them - primarily to stop the all the ads that gum-up the system, and also to host more storage.

    The issue isn't so much that Photobucket has now started charging if you want to display your photos via an IMG code, but the fact they have quadrupled their annual fee and fundamentally limited all 3rd party display unless you pay their maximum fee - which is now $400 a year (and more if you pay it monthly). If that were not insulting enough, this block has also been applied retrospectively, so that all existing photos are now disabled unless you pay their ransom.

    The problem we have now is the amount of work that is going to be required to host everything elsewhere... I've been a member on this forum since 2008 (plus any number of others to which I/we continue to contribute regularly), and here on ADVrider alone there are many hundreds if not thousands of photos that have been shared in various threads over the years... It would take many weeks if not months of work to re-host and then re-enter every individual IMG code in all of those threads - and while some threads may not be as current as others, they are still all relevant - if only as a resource and reference for people using internet searches for information and images.

    Obviously both Rally Raid and myself have no choice but to host our images somewhere, the question is how long it's going to take to sort this mess out, and the implications for long-term hosting stability.

    Stay tuned as they say...

    Jenny x
  10. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Don't worry Skibum, I'm on it ;o)

    It's going to take some time to edit each post with the new photo codes... quite a considerable amount of time I'm afraid - but we'll have this thread up and running again soon enough.

    Jx
  11. NSFW

    NSFW basecamp4adv Super Supporter

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    awesome rr and amazing pics.

    honda should capitalized on this report to sell more 500.
    Patobez, ShimrMoon and JMo (& piglet) like this.
  12. skibum69

    skibum69 slave to gravity Super Supporter

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    Thanks for putting in the effort for at least the last few pages, I really enjoyed seeing the pics. :thumb
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  13. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    OK Piglet, now the Photobucket debacle is over (and all the previous and remaining photos for this thread are now safely ensconced in SmugMug), it's time to get back on this particular trail...

    Day 35: Monday 17th July - 3-Step Hideaway UT to Boulder UT (268 miles)

    "Manic Monday"

    I think I must have been the only person to ride the TAT in recent years that hasn't stopped off at the 3-Step Hideaway en route for Moab - and this was something I finally readdressed the previous evening:

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    photo. I have to admit, somewhat sheepishly that I have blasted past this sign at least once, and never realised it was here!

    The 3-Step Hideaway's reputation as a 'must stop' on the TAT is well deserved - a renovated rancher's homestead that now features a series of cabins, tee-pees and camping facilities just a short way off the main TAT route south of the La Sal mountains, which is run by husband and wife team Julie & Scott who are both keen outdoor and trail-riding enthusiasts.

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    photo. The bathhouse building is beautifully appointed, with wonderfully warm showers, and features a wood-fired hot-tub!

    The facilities are first-rate albeit simple - which I'm sure is the key attraction of the place. The whole homestead is completely self-sufficent - utilising solar power and their own water well (backed up by propane for the furnaces), and, well that is pretty much it! No phone signal, and only very modest internet (note. I didn't even ask at the time and it didn't seem appropriate somehow... but for info. I notice it is mentioned on their website). After such an intense day of riding, I was utterly content to just sit on a log stool outside my little cabin, airing out my tent and riding gear, marking up my maps by battery lantern and finally watching the sunset throw long shadows across the desert floor.

    The next morning, mug of coffee in hand, Julie offered me an extended tour of the facilities - explaining how they are able to manage their limited [electrical power] resources successfully, including their refrigerated store room/s, laundry and even a full workshop - and how the homestead had evolved over the years. I have to say, such was the simplicity and serenity of the place it would have been so very easy to have just kicked back for another day or two... and I certainly intend to return next year for an extended stay!

    But Piglet and I had a job in hand now - not least as we really wanted to be back on the California coast by Friday evening at the latest - and ahead of us lay many hundreds of miles of prime desert riding!

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    photo. this is the TAT route (in reverse) heading towards Monticello - that's the Abajo mountains on the left, and the La Sal mountains to the right.

    I knew Monticello has a Subway and fuel (and a Wells Fargo bank/ATM if you're making notes) so was able to properly restock my supplies for the day ahead...

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    photo. Heading up into the Abajo mountains from Monticello - it's an easy graded dirt route right around the south side of the range...

    I have ridden in this region on a couple of occasions before, but never been all the way through the mountains - since typically as with my forays into neighbouring Colorado I've always been a little out of season - and here too the roads and trails are typically blocked with snow, or at least way too wet and muddy to be any kind of fun on a motorcycle.

    This time of year was perfect though - the elevation (up to 10,000ft again) meant it was cool[er] compared to the surrounding desert, and the views across southern Utah as impressive as ever:

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    photo. Initially I thought this girl loves her chubby guy... but then it could also be Melania finally throttling the Donald! ;o)

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    photo. I have a very similar photo from 2009 when I rode my Tenere along this same trail...

    edit. found it!
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    I'd already ridden 120 miles of dirt by the time I rolled into the marina (gas station and store) at Hite at the head of Lake Powell. In the past fuel availability in this area has always been a bit sketchy, but now the pumps here are 24h, which is good news for anyone not wanting to divert too far off the main through route... Mind you, despite ragging the CB along on the fast dirt trails all morning, I only managed to squeeze a miserly 1.3 gallons into the tank before I set off again!

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    photo. Lake Powell is finally filling up again after many years of low water...

    I don't have a copy of the G1 Butler Map for Utah (only their BDR map - hint hint ;o), but I imagine the section of highway 95 just north of Lake Powell is another of those Gold sections - twisty and remote, with minimal traffic and stunning views both up and back down the Devil River canyon.

    My plan for the rest of the afternoon was to ride an alternative dirt/trail route to that which I've taken when heading west before in this area, and once again I found myself climbing to much higher elevation over Bear Creek Pass (10,500ft) in the Henry Mountains...

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    photo. Wickiup Pass (9200ft) is at the intersection of another trail running north - a great option if you wanted to loop back north past Goblin Valley State Park and Temple Mountain, and pick up the official TAT route west of Green River for example? Either way, the level ground around this pass would make a lovely camping spot too!

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    photo. The view back north and east from Bear Creek Pass (10,500ft) - I was lucky to dodge that rainstorm!

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    photo. Still at high elevation, at one point a herd of buffalo thundered across the trail ahead of me... I hope I caught it on my GoPro!


    While the ride up to the summit was not especially taxing and you could even begin to admire the view, once I descended the west side of the range, it was back into the desert and some very deep sandy sections that immediately re-concentrated the mind - and required full-commitment if you weren't to end up unceremoniously dumped into the soft powdered fesh fesh.

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    photo. Another strange Utah rock formation - this looked like a sleeping lion to me?

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    photo. I love riding in the desert in early evening...

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    photo. My route rejoined the Burr Trail at the base of the switchbacks... note. that's the Henry Mountains (that I'd crossed earlier) in the distance.

    The race was now on to reach Boulder (the nearest town with the possibility of any accommodation) before nightfall, and fortunately the Burr Trail turns to single-lane pavement a few miles further west of here...

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    photo. I've also got a photo of my Tenere at pretty much this exact spot too!

    Ultimately, I decided to forfeit the last few miles into town and the risk of hunting for an [potentially overpriced] motel in the dark, and dipped into a BLM campground at the side of the road instead. It was small, but an excellent facility - a vault toilet and just seven small secluded sites, each complete with a bench, a fire-pit, and raised sand bed on which to pitch your tent. Perfect!

    More soon...

    Jx
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  14. Cabrito

    Cabrito On the mend 76% Supporter

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    Jenny,
    Thanks for taking us along on the ride.

    Loving all of it!
  15. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Day 36: Tuesday 18th July - Boulder UT to Mesquite NV (279 miles)

    "Casino Royale"

    I fumbled around camp feeling particularly pleased with myself this morning... not just the fact that I'd probably saved myself at least $80 be electing to camp last night (vitally important by this stage of the trip, as I'd been hemorraging money on hotels all the way along this time - sadly prices ain't what they used to be... even as recently as 2015), but that it was a really nice location, shady and peaceful and right on the trail too. I also considered that this was probably going to the be the last time I camped during this trip, so wanted to make the most of it!

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    photo. These sand-boxes are a great idea - it's like sleeping on a beach!

    Having finally packed my [dry!] things away, I then utilised the rockery to clean and oil my chain again:

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    photo. Fred Flintstone centre-stand...

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    photo. Look after your chain and it will look after you!

    Despite this somewhat leisurely morning, I was back on the road in plenty of time to find somewhere for breakfast - dipped into Boulder (6 miles up the road) to check out the facilities (food, fuel and a couple of motels after all), but ultimately elected to continue further west on a particularly scenic section of hwy 12 that traverses the Grand Staircase National Monument, en route for a coffee shop in Escalante with which I'd been previously acquainted...

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    photo. This particular section of Utah's 'All American Road' (hwy 12) is fantastic at any time of day...

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    photo. Undoubtably another Butler 'Gold road' for sure!

    I was all set to stop at my previous coffee spot, when I spied a colourful chalk-board sign outside 'The Merc' organic grocery store, advertising smoothies and coffee... well that was all the incentive I needed to try somewhere new!

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    photo. Front of house it was all hand-made soaps and other smelly stuff; and out back, a well-stocked store full of yummy treats and wholesome produce!

    I presumed I must have arrived just moments after opening, as I was told somewhat curtly to make myself at home before the owner promptly disappeared, with no hint of when they might actually return. Initially I wandered through the store, ogled longingly at the cabinet full of fresh pastries, then sat at the table twiddling my thumbs for what ended up being about ten minutes with no hint of activity anywhere!

    Eventually, when I'd all but decided to gather up my things and quietly leave, she finally burst back in with my coffee, swiftly followed by an assistant carrying a huge berry smoothie... this was more like it! She then proceeded to fuss all around the store with her brow-beaten assistant in tow, and I couldn't help but smirk to myself when some minutes later, a young couple walked in the door - having been similarly swayed by the chalk-board outside - and asked the see the smoothie menu: "Watch my mouth very closely" the owner replied rather sternly - before proceeding to list the various ingredients they had on offer today... I'm still not sure they actually appreciated this bizarre brand of sarcasm!


    Escalante is the jumping off point for a number of fantastic long-distance dirt roads and trails in the area. To the south east there is the famous Hole-in-the-Rock Road that stretches for fifty-five miles to the top of Lake Powell, and is where there used to be a wagon train crossing of the Colorado River, before Glen Canyon was flooded to form part of Lake Powell.

    To the north is the Hell's Backbone Road (those of you who followed the CBXpo ride report last year may recall Harold, Juan and myself rode this, before almost freezing to death camping in Brice Canyon!) - on the whole an easy going gravel road through the forest that runs a ring around the "Box Death Hollow Wilderness" (that name conjures up all manner of images doesn't it?!), the highlight of which is a narrow bridge crossing over 'Hell's Backbone' itself - a knife edge ridge with fifteen hundred feet straight down the cliffs on either side!

    Meanwhile, due south of Escalante is one of my favourite roads/trails in the whole of Utah (again, Harold, Juan and I rode this last year heading north towards Escalante - see the link above) Smoky Mountain Road - and as such would be more that worthy of inclusion in my 'High to Low' through-route this year, were it not for the fact that it would take around half a day to ride the 80 miles of dirt south towards Page AZ before having to work my way back north again over a similar distance on Cottonwood Canyon Rd, before I could pick up my intended [more direct] south-westerly route today...

    So I continued west for a few more miles on scenic hwy 12 (still a beautiful ride in itself of course) to Cannonville, and picked up the dirt again there...

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    photo. The trail actually crosses Bull Valley Gorge on a narrow [unfenced] dirt 'bridge'... it doesn't look so deep here does it? - look again at the photo and see the size of the people in the background!

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    photo. Lunchtime, so it must be pie time!

    Mt Carmel Junction is the intersection for Zion National Park - and hwy 9 here (and other 'Gold road' for sure) is a fantastic paved route west - although being a National Park of course there is an entry fee, even if passing straight through.

    Since I intended to stay on dirt as much as possible now, I elected to head south for the Arizona border, and then pick up the network of dirt roads and trails that criss-cross the desert north of the Grand Canyon. It is a region I've passed through before, so kind of knew what to expect - but none the less, it would still be a remote and potentially challenging series of sandy desert dirt roads, particularly if the surface was at all wet.

    Mind you, right about now some rain would actually have been a welcome relief... It was in the high 90°s here in south west Utah, and I'd spotted a sandy two-track just south of Mt. Carmel Junction that looked enticing to say the least - especially as it appeared to link to my intended route across the State-line a few miles further south...

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    photo. Initially a fun series of creek crossings and soft sandy two-track, following the course of the East Fork Virgin River...

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    photo. This is where it started to get a lot less fun - just through the trees here was a steep 100yd climb of soft sand, already chewed up by ATVs and SSVs - impossible.

    I looked at the sand bank ahead of me - a hundred yards of soft loose sand, at a good 20% grade... I don't know why I even bothered to be honest, I was already sweating profusely after manhandling the bike up a previous shorter sandy climb where the rear wheel had started to dig in.

    I unclipped my Coyote bag, and also discarded my jacket nearby. Aired down my rear tyre, wheeled the bike back to the edge of the river crossing, then jumped back on and attacked the slope at full throttle in 2nd gear... nope, still not a chance. Less than half the way up the initial climb bike started to dig down, and before long I was paddling along in a vain attempt to try and maintain some sort of grip and momentum, and perhaps pop back out of this trench I was digging...

    As the trail got steeper, inevitably I ground to a halt - although at least I'd had the sense to let off the throttle before the bike totally buried itself. Since I'd managed to make it this far, I figured I might as well walk up the hill a little further just to see if trying again would be worth the associated effort, and to my dismay realised that this was just the first ascent - there was actually a 90° corner followed by an even steeper section of sand to navigate.

    It wasn't even worth having another attempt. I dragged the bike around on the soft sandy slope, and picked a haphazard line back down the hill to where I'd left my gear. Somewhat dejected, I marked this waypoint with the skull & crossbones symbol in my GPS, and the name "Know when to quit #2" - although similar to my abandonment of Napoleon Pass in Colorado a few days earlier, I would like to come back this way one day and perhaps try it in the other direction - ie. downhill!

    So it was back to my original plan after all. I returned to Mt. Carmel Junction, reset my trip meter, topped off my fuel and drinking water, and embarked on a necessary sugar influx before setting off again for Arizona, and would see how far I could get now - having wasted what had been a good hour & a half messing around in that damn sandy canyon!

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    photo. Having crossed over hwy 389 near Colorado City AZ, I'd plotted a route in my GPS using a series of intermediate waypoints on the network of country roads that cross the desert. This mile-marker was a good indication of just how far I'd have to ride before seeing tarmac and civilisation again!

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    photo. I love these smooth winding desert dirt roads...

    I was making good time - despite heading due west now in the late afternoon, the sun was still high enough in the sky not to be too dazzling, and the GPS guided me through each trail intersection just as if these were paved roads. After a while I passed through a burn area that I recalled from almost ten years ago, although at least there were hints of new growth in this harsh and barren landscape.

    Certainly the trails here seemed little used - barely any trace of vehicles at all to be honest, although as the trail got more sandy, I noticed what looked like a recent pair of four-wheeled tyre tracks in the softer surface. This was encouraging, as it suggested this was currently a through-route at least...

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    photo. Although this is desert, rainstorms and flash-floods can happen at any time, and certainly this section had seen some recent bad weather...

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    photo. The single set of tyre tracks gave me confidence that this particular vehicle had not needed to turn around at least...

    I continued to pick my way gingerly around the worst of the wash-outs and avoid the darker softer quick-sand sections, only to find that the vehicle (and trailer) that had been making these tracks all along, was now parked at the side of the road just before a huge flooded section that spanned the entire width of the trail...

    There seemed to be no sign of life, and as I approached, noticed a second set of tyre tracks, more narrow than the first - and sure enough, it appeared the truck owner had abandoned his pick-up and continued on an ATV - at this particular point picking a line through the scrub alongside the main trail... so I too hopped up the bank and followed his lead around the flooded trail.

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    photo. Back on the main road, the ATV tracks continued to give me hope of a successful passage!

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    photo. Joshua trees - how I've missed you this trip!

    Although the ATV tracks eventually disappeared (I can only presume they turned off on a side trail for hunting or camping), the trail itself continued to improve, and as the sun began to drop behind the mountains ahead, my route turned more northwards and headed for Mesquite - a shabby casino town on I15, just over the State-line in Nevada.

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    photo. As I crossed over the final pass, the trail improved into a graded gravel road... just what I needed at this late hour.

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    photo. As I got closer and closer to Mesquite, so the sunset became more and more magnificent...

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    Having stopped time and again to capture this series of images, it was now pitch black when I finally rolled into the outskirts of town - but grateful that what I'd originally dismissed as having wasted time earlier in the afternoon meant I was now able to witness one of the most spectacular sunsets I think I have ever seen!

    This elation was even enough to carry me through a tedious wait amongst the hordes in McDonalds (I know, but needs must - 3G was sketchy here so I wanted their wifi) - and in what would turn out to be the perfect end to the day, I managed to land a luxury room in a brand new resort hotel situated on the other side of town, for just $40!!!

    One thing is for sure, I was going to sleep well tonight!

    More soon...

    Jenny x
  16. skibum69

    skibum69 slave to gravity Super Supporter

    Joined:
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    JMo (& piglet) likes this.
  17. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

    Joined:
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    Day 37: Wednesday 19th July - Mesquite NV to Las Vegas NV (157 miles)

    "Mormon on and on..."


    Today would be a short day in comparison to the past week - I'd arranged to stop over in Las Vegas and see some friends this evening, so this morning all I really had to do was pick a slightly more interesting route than simply shlepping down the I15 for an hour or so to make my way south.

    I had two options, and with hindsight, I probably chose the wrong one...

    The first was to head down the highway and turn off through the Valley of Fire State Park, then take the Bitter Springs Backcountry Byway - which I'd only ever ridden once before, back in 2007 (in fact if you skip back to the third post of this thread, you'll see a photo of the Tarantula I spied on the trail there), but recall was a lot of fun. The only downside was the need to pay to enter the Valley of Fire, and most likely again to exit the Lake Mead National Recreation Area on my way into Vegas; and cheapskate that I am, so far I'd managed to avoid all areas with park fees while compiling this 'High to Low' route...

    So the alternative, and arguably more appropriate route to take if heading [directly] west towards Death Valley, was the Mormon Well Rd - which cuts through the mountains directly north of Las Vegas and spits you out almost opposite the road to Wheeler Pass, which in turn leads on to Pahrump NV.

    Either way I was going to have to endure a few miles of the Interstate first, and ultimately elected to keep my money from The Man, and to maximise the amount of dirt riding instead...

    Mormon Well Rd is a very remote rocky road that links hwy 93 to hwy 95 - neatly avoiding the bun-fight that is every major route in and out of the Las Vegas basin. Once you're on it, you pretty much follow your nose for sixty miles or so - there are a few camping spots along the way, and the odd fun technical section where you cross through a dry wash or two; but on the whole, it is just a long and rough rocky road. I have to admit, for the first time since leaving Colorado Springs, I actually began to feel I was riding [this particular section of] dirt just for the sake of it... it was definitely time to take a break.

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    photo. The end of the road (or the beginning of course) - Mormon Wells Road is a great way to continue west over Wheeler Pass to Pahrump (and Death Valley) while avoiding Las Vegas completely, should you wish...

    I rolled into north Las Vegas on autopilot, and dropped by a familiar dealer to pick up some fresh rear brake pads:

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    photo. I'm pretty sure they would have got me home, but it made sense to change them now since I had the opportunity.

    The rest of the afternoon and most of the night was spent catching up with some good friends at their new home south of the city, where once again I was able to recharge my batteries both literally and metaphorically.

    As my head hit the pillow, I realised that this trip was all but over now - after all, technically it was only a day's ride [on the highway] to San Jose from here - although personally I needed to complete my dirt route to Death Valley first of course, and had also penciled-in a new to me alternative route for my ongoing journey across the southern Sierras.

    Jx
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  18. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

    Joined:
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    8,459
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    Day 38: Thursday 20th July - Las Vegas NV to Ridgecrest CA (225 miles)

    "Into the valley of Death!"

    There would be little chance of making it the whole way home this evening, especially if I stuck to my tentative plan to actually continue my ride through Butte Valley and Mengal Pass once I'd arrived in Death Valley, rather than stick to the paved [and much longer] road option. So this was all the excuse I needed to have a leisurely breakfast, sort the brakes on my bike, and pack my gear that save my toothbrush and a fresh set of underwear, would be for the final time this trip.

    I rolled out of town along Blue Diamond Rd (a huge multi-lane highway these days) - which leads over the Spring Mountains to Pahrump, although I of course had a slightly different route in mind - soon picking up a familiar rocky trail south towards Goodsprings, then west on faster gravel to Sandy Valley, before ultimately embarking on a faint sandy two-track across the desert towards Tecopa Hot Springs.

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    photo. Heading north from Tecopa towards Shoshone, in search of a late lunch...

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    photo. ...and I found it right here, at the Crowbar Saloon - a tasty burger and a huge iced Coke.

    It was mid-afternoon now, and the heat was intense - it was 110° in Shoshone. I'd long since removed and strapped my jacket to the top of my luggage, so the air-conditioning inside the restaurant an utter relief to my now sun-baked skin. I stretched out my second glass of cola for as long as I could, really not wanting to go back outside into the searing heat of the afternoon...

    Eventually I had no choice, climbed back on board in my short-sleeves, and finally dipped below sea-level at bang-on 4pm. It was still hellishly hot, perhaps even moreso here - certainly as I descended into Badwater Basin from the relative cool of Jubilee Pass, you could feel the temperature climb right back up again with every few feet drop in elevation...

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    photo. My elected 'finish' point would be the southern end of West Side Rd that runs up the middle of Badwater Basin, and where you can ride/drive at around 250ft below sea-level.

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    photo. I considered this junction the official 'Highest* to Lowest' finish point: -224ft below sea level... Rather handily it is also the start of Warm Springs [Canyon] Rd that leads to Mengal Pass.

    *This is probably as good a point as any to reveal my geographical ignorance - it turns out that Pikes Peak is NOT the highest 'motorable' road in the USA after all - that honour actually goes to the Mt Evans Rd (Scenic Byway) just west of Denver Colorado... and therefore technically this whole undertaking has now been utterly in vain... ;o)


    So with this particular challenge completed, what was I going to do now? Ripping up West Side Rd is always fun, and the paved-road ride from Furnace Creek past Stovepipe Wells and over the pass into Panamint Valley is wonderfully scenic. However, this was also an awfully long way round, especially when my goal was to reach Trona and hopefully continue on to Ridgecrest before dark.

    Of course, I was going to carry on due west on the dirt wasn't I... ;o) Fortunately I have become pretty familiar with this trail over the years, so factored there would be no nasty surprises, and the only potentially challenging section would be navigating my loaded bike up the rocky side of Mengal Pass itself...

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    photo. Striped Butte in the afternoon sun... You may recall from the CBXpo ride report that Harold, Juan and I spent a night in the Geologist's Cabin just up the trail from here - a stunning location!

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    photo. Heading up the east (nasty) side of Mengal Pass...

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    photo. It's easier than herding cats... and I was especially pleased they eventually lined up in the correct size order too!

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    photo. The exit of Golar Wash into Panamint Valley beyond.

    Although I'd made great time though the pass itself, there was still sixty or so miles to go until Ridgecrest, and if I'm honest I thought my luck might start to run out if I attempted to continue on the Fish Canyon/Escape Trail directly across the valley from here. Certainly it's worth noting that while the Escape Trail is not especially difficult, there is one steep and very loose and rocky section of about 100 yards that I would need to climb when heading in this direction - and that a failed attempt would at the very least require a lot of physical exertion to recover from. I'll admit I didn't much fancy that after everything else I'd endured today.

    Instead I headed north on the wide and dusty Wingate Rd to the ghost-town of Ballerat (pop. 3) - there was no sign of anyone, despite the store door being wide open (no air-conditioning here!), and while I would have left at least a couple of bucks on the counter for a cold can of pop, the ancient refrigerator was also propped open and the meagre contents room-temperature at best, so I left empty-handed... denied!

    Back on the highway, it was a lovely run down the valley to Trona - the sun slipping away over my right shoulder, and the Honda just humming along. A quick stop for fuel and ice cream, then on again into the night. We're nearly home Piglet.

    More soon...

    Jenny x
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  19. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    8,459
    Location:
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    Day 39: Friday 21st July - Ridgecrest CA to San Jose CA (382 miles)

    "Home fried"

    By hook or by crook, I was going to make it home this evening - but I was also going to do my best to have one last hurrah on both the dirt and some minor paved roads in between!

    Despite a penchant for waffles (particularly ones I've poured myself into a flip-flop machine) it is actually French Toast that has been my cooked breakfast of choice this trip. Fortunately there is a reasonable restaurant just across the road from the Motel-6 in Ridgecrest, so other than a couple more gas-stops today, I'd figured I use up the last of my budget and go out in fine fluffy sugar-coated style!

    My plan was to pick up the dirt again a few miles south west of town, using the network of dirt-roads and trails that pass through the huge Jawbone OHV area just off hwy 14 (which cuts across the Mojave desert north of the Edwards Airforce Base) and eventually connects to hwy 178 around Lake Isabella.

    Jawbone Canyon Rd is fast and wide, and sometimes sandy - with plenty of OHV options to each side should you feel so inclined.

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    photo. Warning, nerdy photographer alert: The windmills were actually rotating, and I was particularly pleased that I eventually managed to catch them all in the same position!

    Once past Kelso Valley (note. there is an alternative dirt road north from here to Weldon at the east end of Lake Issabella), the road becomes much more narrow and trail-like as it climbs quickly via a series of tight sandy switchbacks to over 8000ft at the summit, before morphing in to Saddle Springs Rd for the final decent towards the western end of the lake - a smooth, easy, twisty and scenic way to end on a high!

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    photo. Lake Isabella in the distance - the fug in the air is actually smoke from a series of forest fires to the north, in the Sequoia National Forest.

    While the dirt may have been over, there was still another treat or two in store - just a few miles north of Lake Isabella is a whole host of red and gold routes on the Butler map for Southern California (yep, I'd remembered to bring that one with me, just in case!). I elected to play it safe and head west away from the burn-zone, and happened on the utterly epic hwy 155 (Butler mark it Red, personally speaking I think they sell it short!), which reminded me very much of the Tail of the Dragon (hwy 129) between North Carolina and Tennessee.

    Even the minor roads they don't highlight in this area are fantastic - I let the GPS direct me diagonally on some twisty rural back-roads to Porterville, where I eventually picked up a series of increasingly major highways, before the inevitable shlep with the herd up hwy 99 - an interstate in all but name.

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    photo. Cutting across the Central Valley on hwy 152.

    Rolling into the south Bay Area at going home time, I was eternally grateful to be heading in the opposite direction to the sea of commuter traffic on the other side of the road - the perfect metaphor for anyone who likes to take the road less travelled perhaps...

    As I unlocked the garage door and rolled my bike inside, I noticed the odometer was now just shy of 11,000 miles since it was last parked here.

    Five and a half weeks doesn't sound all that long in the grand scheme of things, but just looking back at all the photos in my camera (and that I'd already started to post here on this thread of course) it was almost like a whole other time now - riding the BDR with the guys in Washington felt like a lifetime ago... visiting Twin Peaks, followed by that incessant rain in Canada... embarking on my 'Trans-Montana Trail' project, then riding the best of the Black Hills... Spending July the 4th on the shore of Lake Superior... Meeting all those fantasic people at the Overland Adventure Rally... Nailing another Iron-Butt (and more) just because the Honda meant I could... Then perhaps the most ambitious and rewarding element of all - riding more than dozen high passes in Colorado as part of my ongoing dual-sport journey west all the way to Death Valley.

    It had been so intense, I'd seen so much, and so much had happened day after day in between - this trip had invigorated me once again.

    I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did riding it!

    Toot toot for now...

    Jenny xx




  20. PinkPillion

    PinkPillion Husqy pilot too...

    Joined:
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    563
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    Northeastern California