Once upon a time in the west - the CBXpo ride 2016

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by JMo (& piglet), Jun 6, 2016.

  1. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Wednesday 18th May (Day 5) Death Valley CA to Las Vegas NV : 231 miles.

    Vegas baby!

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    photo. Gratuitous shot of my morning coffee!

    With no curtains in the cabin, inevitably we'd wake up pretty much at first light, which was no bad thing as the sunrise over the valley was stunning, and of course we still had plenty of ground to cover today before reaching our intended destination of Las Vegas that evening.

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    photo. the visitor book is a nice touch at the cabin, and we left the place spick and span of course.

    The trail that continues east through Warm Springs Canyon (that passes Striped Butte) may look very inviting in the photograph, but soon turns into a relentless rough road that follows the wash for many miles (it's my least favourite part of this otherwise spectacular ride), before eventually joining West Side Road that runs up the middle of Badwater Basin - the heart of Death Valley.

    Rather than ride in each other's dust, we took the paved option at the foot of the mountains to the east of the basin, and stopped off at Badwater itself for a few minutes sightseeing...

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    As we pulled out of the parking lot, a parade of Harleys also had the same idea, and we inevitably got caught up in their lurching from 10 over on the straights to 20 under every time there was a corner... I believe Juan has a short video of how we eventually broke free of this debacle on the twisty road through Artist's Pallet ;o)

    Stopping for an early lunch in Furnace Creek, we immediately took advantage of the air-conditioned souvenir shop, spending far too long buying an overpriced bag of ice (to fill our camel-baks) while we waited for the restaurant to reopen.

    We enjoyed a leisurely lunch as there was no real rush today - it's really only a couple of hours or so to Las Vegas by road from here, although our plan was to take an alternative trail route east out of Pahrump, and enter Vegas from the north end. Either way, I was confident we'd get to Vegas in plenty of time to clean up, do some laundry even, and hit the Strip (should they guys wish to) early evening when the place really comes alive.

    Again, Juan's local knowledge offered us an interesting detour to visit the historic Amargoza Opera House (yes really) and Hotel at Death Valley Junction, and learn all about the owner Marta Becket - again, I'll let Juan fill you in on the details via his video report.

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    photo. Originally accommodation for Borax mining in the area, international opera singer Marta Becket was stranded with car-trouble in the town in 1967, and was so taken with the place she never left. The small building on the end is the tiny Opera house she created, and decorated herself - very much worth a visit!


    East of Pahrump lies a large network of trails and camp grounds in the Spring Mountains recreation area - the only through route being the dirt road/Jeep trail that crosses Wheeler Pass (7700ft) to the north of the Mount Charleston Ski resort... (I know, who'd have thought you could go skiing an hour from the Vegas Strip?!)

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    photo. coming up to the pass from the west was fun - a series of banked sandy switchbacks... the eastern side was far more technical and rocky... thank goodness we were heading downhill on that far side!

    Just as we reached the end of a relentlessly rocky wash trail, we spied a Suburban (I'm presuming it was a rental) planing on coming up in the other direction. We stopped to pass pleasantries with the driver, his wife and daughter; and while far be it for me to suggest otherwise, I did wonder if the low-slung Chevy would make it up and around some of those tight and rocky turns we'd just bumped our way down...

    As an aside - it did make me smile when the driver commented "Hey, I see you've turned your street bikes into dirt bikes!" and that he was already familiar with the Rally Raid Adventure conversion "I've heard really good things!" he added, revealing he was a KTM 950 owner himself. When ultimately he asked if we'd bought the kits from Rally Raid directly, he grinned when I explained who we all were "Great to see you guys out there proving the concept!" he concluded, before we both went our separate ways.

    We heard nothing on the local news that evening, so can only presume they did eventually make it to the other side!


    They say what happens in Vegas ought to stay in Vegas, and I can report that other than exploding the contents of our increasingly filthy luggage all over a pair of adjacent motel rooms (fortunately they had a laundry on site) we simply enjoyed a relaxing evening walking a few blocks of the Strip (neither Harold nor Juan had been to Las Vegas for many years, and both commented on how much it has changed since they were last there) to watch the Bellagio fountain display, followed by a somewhat overpriced dinner in one of the hotel restaurants.

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    photo. Only in Vegas... Our Motel 6 on Tropicana, just a couple of blocks from the Strip I'd recommend as good value, with all amenities - however, as this Judge-Dread security tricycle suggests, you probably need to keep your wits (and your wallet) about you after dark. Actually, it's not all that bad a place to stay, for one night at least - and there is a great breakfast restaurant and bakery 'Coco's' right next door.

    It was close to 1am when my head finally hit the pillow... Tomorrow would be the final push toward the Expo, where we'd be tent camping for at least three consecutive nights - so I made the most of a warm comfy bed, and tried to ignore the dubious noises from the car park outside. Where was Judge Dread and his scooter when you needed him?!

    More soon!

    Jenny x
    #21
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  2. moto74

    moto74 displaced

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    Great RR! Love your prep detail, route and bevy of gratuitous bike shots! Those 500X's are impressive the way you've set them up.
    #22
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  3. rsteiger

    rsteiger Bob Supporter

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    Ahh yes snoring at night! This is one major benefit to being deaf in one ear like myself. If the snoring commences I just roll over on my side and put the good ear into the pillow and soon I am off adding my own harmony to the nocturnal cacophony of noise.
    #23
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  4. OlafofOregon

    OlafofOregon Long timer Super Supporter

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    Having never been to Death Valley, this was one of my favorite parts of the trip - I could have stayed at the Geologists Cabin for days! Great report!

    #24
  5. CaptnSlo

    CaptnSlo Derelicte

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    Fantastic report. I appreciate the detail and your photos are terrific.
    #25
  6. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Thank you everyone!

    Right, let's see if we can make it to the Expo this morning shall we?

    Jx
    #26
  7. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Thursday 19th May (Day 6) Las Vegas NV to Flagstaff (Mormon Lake) AZ : 320 miles.

    Getting our kicks...

    Although the Expo didn't officially start until tomorrow, most people (and certainly the exhibitors) turn up during the day before, to set up (and blag the best camping spots if tenting it), and generally relax into the whole proceedings. Again, if you rely on Google maps, Flagstaff is only around 4 hours away from Vegas via major highways and the I40 - but we didn't want to do that did we?

    Up early for breakfast (Mmmmmm, cinnamon French toast at Coco's), as we were packing the bikes Harold noticed that one of the engine guard bolts from his bike was missing. On closer inspection, it would appear the it had actually snapped*, leaving the remains of the stud in the engine case - not ideal, particularly as we had a few more miles of dirt to ride and not least a whole weekend of trail riding planned once we arrived in Arizona.

    *I ought to point out that the bike in question had already had a previous [temporary] repair to the other engine guard bolt, which was now much weaker than the original. Since the remaining bolt was correspondingly taking more of the force than would be ideal, a heavy impact the day before was the likely culprit to this bolt shearing. Speaking to John at Rally Raid about this, he assured us that if the two engine bolts are torqued correctly, then there should be no opportunity for the engine guard mountings to move and correspondingly shear the bolts themselves.

    Fortunately we were not far from one of the Giant Loop retailers in Las Vegas, so a quick scoot across town and some gentle persuasion to squeeze us in that morning (since we had a pretty essential deadline) saw the broken bolt out and replaced a little before lunchtime. I have to say, it was getting on for 100°F in Vegas that morning, so we were glad of the opportunity to sit around in air-conditioned luxury.

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    photo. I thought this was a cool spare toilet paper holder in the Vegas Triumph dealer!

    Back on the road, I was confident that we'd still have time to cover our intended route that afternoon - after all, we'd come this far to ride some great roads and trails, and there is nothing so soul destroying as riding the freeway when you know a few miles to the north or south there are some epic alternative backroads and trails - and not least some of the best parts of Route 66 that traverse northern Arizona.

    The Hoover Dam is a 20th century engineering marvel no doubt, however, it is also a popular tourist spot (you no longer cross the dam itself on your way south, they've built a huge multi-lane bridge above it now), so rather than endure the one-way in and out behind a typical tail of RVs, we broke south before Boulder City on hwy 95 instead, and took the dirt road Christmas Tree Pass over to Bullhead City on the banks of the Colorado River:

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    photo. Which came first, the name or the decorations? Christmas Tree pass is so called because of the number of trees along the side of road. It has become a tradition for people to decorate the trees around the pass with all manner of Christmas decorations (and in this case, an old MX helmet?!). Apparently the Parks Service consider this littering and tend to remove the decorations on an [ir]regular basis, only to have them replaced just as quickly it would seem. This year there were fewer trees with decorations, but when I passed by this way myself the same time last year there were a dozen or more covered in tinsel and baubles - it's a surreal sight in the desert!

    From Bullhead city, there is a short dirt road that cuts across the desert (for info. there are some great side trails here by the way - not necessarily official OHV, more made by the locals I would suggest) that intersects with the original Route 66 just north of Oatman AZ.

    Oatman is perhaps best known of the wild burros that roam the streets, and are usually more than happy to pose for a photo with the tourists passing through.

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    photo (courtesy of Harold). Say "carrots!"

    The Oatman Hotel does a roaring trade in hand scooped ice-cream, and also features this bizzarre restaurant and bar, covered in dollar bills:

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    There are purportedly over $200,000 US dollars pasted to the walls here... probably more than the property itself is worth!

    Back on the road, I was delighted to find the series of twisty bends (and I mean proper twisty) heading north out of Oatman had been resurfaced recently, but not so recently that there was loose chippings and wet tar - and it was an utter delight to rag the three CB's around those bends on our way to Kingman, again another key stop on the old Route 66.

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    photo. Cool Springs Gas Station on old Route 66 between Oatman and Kingman. Restored and now trading (drinks and snacks, no gas), with a tiny museum of the area inside. Located above what was once an old cavalry trail that ran up the canyon below, originally this service station was a necessary stop for early motoring pioneers travelling Route 66. Being on an uphill grade (when heading west) and equidistant between Kingman and Oatman 20 miles in either direction, motorists could typically top off with water (and fuel) en route for the coast. The properly was eventually abandoned (and subsequently burnt down), before being rebuilt more recently by an aging local resident.

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    photo. Visitors from all over the world have left their mark here, and the new owners intend to make it into a camping destination for future travellers.

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    photo. not having received my TA500 stickers until Expo last year, I'd saved one especially for this place. According to the owner, this abandoned gas station was where the writers of the Disney movie Cars decided to green light the project.

    As the afternoon drew to a close, we felt it prudent to leave the Mother Road behind us, and pick up I40 for the final push towards Flagstaff - stopping off for a diner dinner in Williams (the last town on Route 66 to be bypassed by the interstate network, and full of 50's memorabilia) followed by a Safeway on the outskirts of Flagstaff to stock up on provisions for the next three nights of camping at the Expo itself.

    We eventually rolled into Mormon Lake a little after 10pm that evening, and were directed to a corner of an empty field to set up our respective camps by torchlight... what would we find in the morning?

    More soon!

    Jenny x
    #27
  8. visualizerent

    visualizerent Raconteur

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    #28
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  9. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Friday 20th May (Day 7) Mormon Lake - Sedona - Jerome - Mormon Lake AZ : 153 miles.

    Expo-nential curves!

    For the last week we'd been averaging around 300 miles riding a day, including plenty of dirt, and all manner of weather conditions - from wind and rain below freezing, to scorching sunshine and wind and dust...

    I was confident we would have all slept through an earthquake had one happened, but sure enough, tent camping meant once again we awoke at pretty much first light, and subsequently set about the business of the day, that primarily involved coffee of course.

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    photo. Juan in his compact one-man camping set-up. Happy with his location.

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    photo. Harold doing his best Santa impression, and brewing up using his extremely compact and lightweight multi-fuel stove.

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    photo. I love camping - it's when I can legitimately eat chocolate chips for breakfast!

    The plan for today was initially to make sure the Giant Loop booth was ready for trading (fortunately Harold had arranged for one of his Arizona dealers MotoCity to host a range of his products as part of their impressive KTM/Husqvarna and other franchise display in Moto-row), before the three of us CBeebies planned to head out and explore some trails in the area.

    I've been fortunate to pass through this part of Arizona before (only once before mind you, in early 2009), and so was already familiar with a couple of key riding areas that I was confident would provide an entertaining and scenic day out...

    The venue for the Overland Expo West is right on the edge of huge forest, itself up at over 7000ft (yes, it's cold at night!) with a network of trails in pretty much every direction. We headed west for Sedona, and descended the popular Schnebly Hill trail that leads down off the rim and straight into the centre of town.

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    photo (courtesy of Harold). "Look, down there - even more scenery!"

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    We then took the highway south, and up into the hills above Cottonwood AZ to enjoy a delightfully long lunch at Bobby D's barbecue joint in Jerome. Highway 89A (between Jerome and Prescott) is utterly epic in every sense, and Harold and I scratched our way around slower traffic (while Juan took his time filming), before spending the rest of the afternoon riding the terraced trails around the mountains, and ultimately heading back to Expo our bellies full and our cameras bursting with photographs.

    It was a wonderful way to end an extremely full week of riding, and we all agreed that Saturday (traditionally the busiest day of the Expo) ought to be considered our 'rest day', when we could take it easy, mix and mingle, and see what all this 'overland' fuss is about.

    More soon!

    Jenny x
    #29
  10. advmoto66

    advmoto66 Ride On!

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    Enjoying your RR Jenny, thanks for taking the time to share the great narrative and pics/videos.
    #30
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  11. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Ha ha - yes, lucky Harold was already there to capture the moment ;o)

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    I always say: "Take the photo anyway - if they survive they'll want to see it in hospital, and if they don't, well, the family will probably want it for the funeral ;o)"

    And you can always delete it these days of course...

    Jx
    #31
  12. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Saturday 21st May (Day 8) Mormon Lake AZ : 0 miles!

    Showtime!

    Today was all about taking it easy, meeting a few familiar faces and being introduced to some new ones, and typically spending a lot of the time chatting about Giant Loop products and the trio of Rally Raid CB500X Adventures we had casually parked next to the booth.

    We were busy all day, and yes, I have a silly sunburn to show for it, so for now here are a few highlights:

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    photo. Overland Expo started out as primarily a 4x4 Overland event, and many of the major manufacturers and camper conversion companies have some impressive rigs on display - this one for example built on a small forward-control truck chassis by All Terrain Warriors. However, looking is all most of us are ever likely to do - this sort of camper costs around a quarter of a million dollars!

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    photo. similarly this converted Hummer H1 (despite the bed-liner paint job) must have cost a pretty penny!

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    photo. This was likely to be a little more affordable... a cool stainless steel fold-flat fire-pit for Jeep fans!

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    photo. This was available for hire (well, you probably wouldn't want to own it!) - beach party in style!

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    photo. This made me laugh - another eye-catching vehicle on the Findlay Toyota stand - a FJ Cruiser golf-buggy (which was more often out and about doing the rounds around the showground!)

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    photo. Moto-row, once little more than a side-show gets more and more popular each year - this year saw big-name brands such as Alpinestars, Klim, and KTM (with a full demo fleet) in attendance, together with the RawHyde BMW off-road school offering training and ride-outs each day.

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    photo. this was a clever conversion on the Jesse Luggage stand - a top-box that can slide back and forth depending on if you have a passenger or not, complete with solar panels to charge any electronics stored inside.

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    photo. the little CBs face-off with the giant GSs...

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    photo. The anti-GS in all it's glory... C90 pioneer Ed March paused from his current trip from Alaska (via Canada and the US east coast, and back again via the TAT) to South America to drop by the Overland Junction stand on Moto-row.

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    photo. I got to meet the legend himself - he later poked fun at a number of riders who felt it essential to stand on the pegs as they rode out of the car-park, waving a placard that said: "Sit down, you look silly" - priceless!

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    photo. Ed's partner in crime Rachel Lasham was also there on two wheels again (her C90 having recently been converted back from the ATV trike), complete with HID headlight hidden inside a Minion - again, another Ed March masterpiece!

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    photo. More home-brewed madness, this time from a rider who had literally used Samsonite suitcases as his luggage!

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    photo. As the afternoon turned to evening, traditionally a number of the manufacturers host their own VIP parties and barbecues... Juan had already blagged this cigar earlier, and after dinner we gate-crashed the Fox (suspension) party for beer and a souvenir glass (honestly, they were there for us to take home ;o)

    In all honesty we retired reasonably early that evening, as the plan was to leave the Expo in good time the following day (to beat the rush) and visit the Grand Canyon on our way back north... otherwise the plan for the next few days (and our ultimate journey home) was refreshingly undecided... we were going to wing it.

    More soon!

    Jenny x



    #32
  13. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Sunday 22nd May (Day 9) Mormon Lake to Page AZ : 229 miles.

    A new vocabulary!

    I have to admit, after three nights camping, I was looking forward to finding a motel this evening, even if it meant riding in the dark (yes, spoiler alert - it ended up that way). It's not that I don't like camping, and I have to say it was utterly refreshing to have my phone battery die two nights previously and have no easy way of charging it (so I didn't!), while I am also quite happy wet-wipe washing and peeing behind bushes as required - it's more that camping at 7000+ft in what is a worn-out summer-weight sleeping bag is what got both tiring and freezing very quickly...

    In an effort to inspire the guys to get a wriggle on that morning, I was packed and my bike loaded a little after 8am. It's not as if we had a particularly rigid agenda now (my work was essentially done - being primarily in charge of the route and logistics heading towards Expo), but at the same time, we were all around 1500 miles from home, and conscious that real-life was still out there, somewhere, waiting for us to return.

    I'd previously planned a second ride-out from the Expo to the Grand Canyon (Desert View point, my personal favourite), which included some promising dirt-roads/trails en route. Since we had decided to continue homeward together for the time being, it made sense to incorporate this excursion as part of our journey north that afternoon.

    Having finally fulfilled our respective commitments at the showground before leaving, we topped off our fuel in Flagstaff, stocked up on sandwiches and wound our way north across the high desert towards the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

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    photo. at the fuel stop on our way out of town... how many wheel-nuts?!

    The trail network that criss-crosses the plateau is extensive, although the terrain itself it not especially challenging - mainly fast graded dirt roads, that in the dry at least, would make an excellent rally stage - with enough ambiguous track junctions and occasional hazards to keep you on your toes. I have to say, I really enjoy riding the CB500X Adventure in this sort of wide open country - it really is exactly the sort of terrain we built this bike for - covering a lot of unsurfaced ground quickly and with the minimum of rider input required.

    Knowing the sort of [fast] riding we were likely to encounter that afternoon, I had already snicked up the rebound damping a touch on leaving the Expo, and sure-enough felt I'd really got the CB dialled in now - the only real input required was to weight the pegs every so often as the trail carved it's way left and right through the desert.

    Then, without warning, a familiar feeling... the rear wheel started to feel heavy and the bike immediately required more input to turn. Damn, a puncture.

    I rode on a little way, even though it was obvious there would be no shade - but at least it helped to break the bead, on one side of the rim at least. Stopping by a suitably sized rock (we don't need no stinkin' centre stands!), two straps and I quickly pulled my luggage bag off, lifted the seat and set about utilising the various tools I had squirrelled away in the various nooks and crannies underneath...

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    photo (courtesy of Harold). "That's OK Jen, it's only flat at the bottom..."

    I have to say, replacing the tube was actually pretty straightforward - I was already confident my Motion Pro T6 tyre levers would do the job efficiently, and their heavy duty Rim Shields I'd bought with me (to save scratching my precious gold wheels) worked perfectly too. However, I feel I can comment with some authority that their 'Bead Popper' (which looks like a small plastic beach spade) is a waste of time, well, unless you plan on digging a latrine perhaps... We soon resorted to using the side-stand trick with a second bike, and that recalcitrant bead popped off a treat!

    The culprit was the rusty remains of a fencing nail, and while the tube had initially deflated gently, my fruitless search for some shade had resulted in what was now an inch long rip in the tube.

    Fortunately the wide rear rim makes removing and replacing a tube simple enough, and the tyre was reseated with similar ease... it then took almost as long to get the damn wheel back in the bike! - and I fear my companions have now been introduced to a whole new dictionary of cusses. Had I been alone, then I'm confident I would have eventually completed the repair myself - but I certainly have to extend my gratitude to them both in making the whole procedure a lot easier with some extra pairs of hands - thank you!

    So, an hour or so delay aside, we rolled up to the Desert View overlook late in the afternoon, and despite the haze, the 'Canyon at this point was as dramatic as ever:

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    photo. Of course it's been photographed a million and more times from this angle, but for good reason - the view along two axis of the Grand Canyon from here is breathtaking!

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    photo. The Watchtower visitor centre at Desert View - this is a fantastic building and facility, and personally believe it is an excellent example of National Park investment.

    It was also fun to bump into Chris (on another CB500X) and his buddy (on an F650) who we'd already met over the weekend at the Expo, and had had the same idea to take in this particular view in the late afternoon sun... I trust your onward journey home was both safe and rewarding.

    Mindful there was little in the way of [affordable] accommodation anywhere within a hundred miles or more, we elected to head north to Page at the head of Lake Powell near the boarder of Arizona and Utah - the twilight zone between Mountain and Pacific time zones (certainly my GPS couldn't decide which was best) - book in to another overpriced Motel 6, turn on the shower, turn up the heating, bed down, and finally begin to decompress after what had been a relentless few days.

    Jx
    #33
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  14. garzan

    garzan Been here awhile

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    I'm really looking forward to Juan's tire video. :-)
    #34
  15. Hootowl

    Hootowl Long timer

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    Why not put the rear axle in from the right side?
    Wouldn't that make installing the rear wheel much easier?
    #35
  16. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Monday 23rd May (Day 10) Page AZ to Bryce Canyon UT : 226 miles.

    Utah Saints... and sinners.

    I was pleased the guys had wanted to take this route north, and fundamentally that we all had a day or two longer to explore before we absolutely had to be home for our respective commitments. Harold had only one request, that we visit Bryce Canyon (that he'd only ever driven past before), and perhaps spend one more night under the stars - the masochist!

    From my own point of view, this dove-tailed perfectly with my desire to explore one of at least two dirt roads/trails that run north from the AZ/UT boarder towards Escalente; plus the opportunity to finally ride the (unpaved) backcountry byway: Hell's Backbone which runs around the perimeter of the Box-Death Hollow Wilderness (great names eh?). Linking these two key 'stages' would also be the wonderful hwy 12 that winds along the backbone of the Grand Staircase National Monument (with which I am familiar), and of course ultimately we would aim to reach Bryce Canyon before sunset, for the opportunity to marvel at that natural wonder in the fading light.

    It was a tall order all in one day perhaps - but whatever happened, I was confident these guys would be in for a real treat, and as importantly, it would undoubtably be a fitting scenic finale for our overland adventure, before we broke for home the following day on primarily paved roads.

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    photo. Heading north out of Page (that is the Glen Canyon Dam in the background, with Page beyond), a scenic overlook above Lake Powell.

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    photo. Wahweap Marina. As the second biggest lake in North America, it's probably worth mooring a boat here - even though it's a thousand miles from the Ocean.

    Just a few miles from here up hwy 89 is the blink-and-you'll-miss-it town of Big Water... however, I suggest you pay close attention at this point, because at the far end of an otherwise unmemorable industrial park, is the start of one of the best backcountry byways in the region (if not the whole of Utah) - Smokey Mountain Road stretches for over 75 miles of remote wilderness, and offers some stunning scenery throughout.

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    photo. Geological wonders early on...

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    photo. The 'road' soon climbs to an impressive altitude, affording fantastic views over the surrounding area (if you look closely you can still the the chimneys of that huge power station near Page that is also in the photo at the top of this post).

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    photo. the road twists and turns relentlessly, but for the most part is in good graded condition.

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    photo. You know you're in Utah when the rocks start turning red.

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    photo. Juan being brave - it was a LONG way down from these columns!

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    photo. This would make a fabulous camping spot! We'd been riding a good two hours already and yet we can still see that bloody power station!

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    photo. You can just see the road we'd just ridden winding around the headland in the valley below - stunning!

    As the trail crested and reached the plateau, finally Arizona was away behind us, and the desert here started to remind me of Morocco...

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    photo. A suitably shady spot to take a break from the rising temperatures, and would make another lovely camping spot.

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    photo. Very reminiscent of Morocco...

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    photo (courtesy of Harold). "Although if this was Morocco, a guy would appear out of nowhere and ask for a cigarette right about now..."

    As we continued northwards carving our way through the desert, as with yesterday south of the Grand Canyon, I could imagine this route being the perfect rally stage, and my mind wondered off for a moment or two... thinking "what if?"

    Once we'd reached Escalante and refuelled ourselves on some excellent hamburgers at a roadside restaurant (the architecture and spartan decor very reminiscent of that you find in rural Spain or Mexico), it was time to head east towards Boulder, and to briefly embark on one of the finest stretches of pavement in this part of the country:

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    photo. the scenery either side of hwy 12 between Escalante and Boulder UT is as dramatic as it is unique...

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    photo. Thank goodness someone decided to build a road though this!

    As sweet and intense as it was, our primary purpose for heading in what was completely the opposite direction (albeit temporarily), was to reach the eastern end of Hell's Backbone - another backcountry byway (unpaved) that, rising to over 9000ft is typically closed during the winter and much of the spring - and so that we might also maximise the off-road route during our return west towards Bryce Canyon.

    Initially Hell's Backbone appeared to be just a rough (washboard) gravel road though some shady forest, not unpleasant, but hardly the 'must-ride wonder' that I'd been led to believe from friends who have been lucky enough to pass through at the right time of year... However, as soon as the road started to climb appreciably, it all became clear:

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    photo (courtesy of Harold). The lengths we go to to bring you this story!

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    And once we reached the bridge itself - wow!

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    photo. It's 1500ft straight down on either side!

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    photo. The original Trans-Am 500 bike in it's natural habitat - miles from anywhere!

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    photo. The bridge that crosses 'Hell's Backbone' - a narrow rocky ridge that separates Box-Death Hollow from Sand Creek (on the eastern side) - was originally built in the 1930's by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) using two felled pine trees, over which a brave local drove his excavator to help finish the job. By the 1960s the original bridge had become dangerously unstable, so was replaced with a more modern equivalent, and again more recently the bridge is now constructed from steel and concrete. You can still see the remains of the original structure below.

    The ride around Box-Death Hollow actually takes a lot longer than you might think, and having [almost] had our fill of epic scenery for one day, we elected to complete the loop to Escalante and take the highway to Bryce Canyon (approximately 40 miles west) in an effort to reach there before sundown...

    Such is the effortless way the CB500X flick-flacks instantly between off-road adventure ride and effortless highway mile-muncher as required, we reached Bryce barely minutes before sundown, and headed straight for the Inspiration Point overlook... it did not disappoint.

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    photo. having forfeit snagging a campground on our way in, we raced to reach the rim just before sunset...

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    photo. the clouds made the scene even more dramatic...

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    photo. one of Utah's many natural wonders...

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    photo. It might look like the end of the world, but in reality it was only [effectively] the end of our trip...

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    As the sun finally set, I was all for heading a few miles further west and finding a nice warm motel (of which it turns out there are many) in Panguitch - not least as it was over 8000ft here on the rim of Bryce Canyon, and that technically we'd snuck into the park without paying (the toll booths having already shut up for the night by the time we arrived...) and it would be $30 each in the morning!

    In any case, regardless of our status as surreptitious sightseers, every single one of the tent camping spots were already full throughout the park, so I was confident I'd be snug and warm within the hour as we headed out of the entrance - when Harold spied a series of teepees for rent at the side of the road. It was a nice idea actually, especially as the teepees came complete with a picnic bench and a fire-pit - unfortunately both of these were located outside the tent, and it was damn freezing inside!

    Our modest bundle of firewood didn't last long, although Harold subsequently scavenged a pallet from an empty pitch nearby, and we were soon roasting our toes around a roaring fire. We were then joined by Sarah - another CB500X owner who'd initially spotted us on our way into the campground, and who was riding around the western States with her boyfriend on a V-Strom on their first big motorcycle trip together - who was now brandishing a handful of beers in exchange for our collective wisdom regarding where to go and what to see in Utah. It was a lovely evening, chatting and drinking, and trying desperately not to think about how cold it might be once the fire had gone out.

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    photo. Thanks to Harold's epic scavenging, we were warm for a while at least...

    I finally went to bed around midnight, while I fear the boys stayed up chatting and drinking way into the small hours... Certainly there were a lot of empty bottles on the table when I emerged from the teepee the next morning - amazed that none of us had frozen to death in the night if I'm honest!

    Jx
    #36
  17. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Oddometer:
    8,383
    Location:
    California
    Having tried it both ways, it really doesn't make any difference to be honest - the main problem is lining the axle up with the chain adjuster inserts which tend to slide out of the swing arm unless you have three hands... that said, a tab of duct-tape on each one is a good solution.

    Jx
    #37
    Cro59 and visualizerent like this.
  18. 2 Dogs

    2 Dogs 2 Dogs Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2011
    Oddometer:
    570
    Location:
    Dirty South- ATL
    Hey Jenny- first, awesome report!!

    Did the 18" tube work for you? Looks like it did, but I wasn't sure if you borrowed a 17" from Juan or Harold.

    Cheers
    #38
  19. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Oddometer:
    8,383
    Location:
    California
    Hi 2 Dogs - thank you! (it's not over yet, but hopefully by about lunchtime today ;o)

    Regarding the spare tube - to recap for anyone else reading, I elected to take a 120 x 18" rear tube with me, in an effort to have one that will fit in either tyre.

    Certainly the disparity in volume between a 110 x 19" and a 150 x 17" tyre was also going to require a degree of compromise if I was not going to carry two dedicated tubes, and certainly while some people suggest "Take just a front tube", in reality while you might get away with a 21" tube in a [correspondingly narrow] 18" dirt bike rear wheel, a 110 x 19" is going to be exceptionally thin inside the huge 150 rear on the CB and other similar adventure bikes, if it would even work at all... certainly the only thing worse than getting one puncture is getting a second in quick succession!

    So yes, I can confirm that in the rear at least, the 120 x 18" fitted fine, and I ran it for what was another 1500 miles at least with no issues at all. However, last week I did notice I had a slow puncture in the rear, and on removing that tube, saw it had started to rub through and had become porous - there was no actual hole, but if you squeezed the tube you could feel the air escaping.

    On inspection, it would appear that the 120 tube inside the 150 tyre had been a little over stretched perhaps, and together with a lot of high-speed riding (including the best part of 600 miles pavement on the final day home) combined with perhaps a slightly abrasive inside face of the tyre, after a week or so it had started to wear through.

    As I mention above, while some dirt-bike riders suggest carrying a front tube (not least as there is a 50% chance you won't have to change it out again) my suggestion for the CB would be to carry a 120 x 18" if you are tight on space, but plan to replace that (and keep the 120 as a spare again) once you find a suitable bike shop*. Either that or carry one of each if you have room in your luggage.

    The other option of course is to also take a patch kit with you, since a lot of punctures can be successfully repaired in the field anyway.

    *note. I elected to continue running the 120 inside the rear after I returned home as the tyre was almost ready for replacement anyway. Once the new tyre was fitted last week, I also fitted the correct 150 x 17" tube too of course.

    Hope that helps!

    Jenny x
    #39
    OlafofOregon and 2 Dogs like this.
  20. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2009
    Oddometer:
    20,570
    Location:
    Edmonton, Alberta
    Great stuff! Just like being there.
    #40
    OlafofOregon and JMo (& piglet) like this.