Return of the Clunk: The CX goes looking for the middle of nowhere

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by jlevers, Jul 16, 2019.

  1. flei

    flei cycletherapist

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    Nice update! Be prepared for a lot more interactions with cattle as you make your way through the Southwest. There is a lot of open range out there and roving cattle are a genuine road hazard. I had many close encounters during my 2 month trip last year and my only fall occurred when a herd that was peacefully grazing the pasture next to the road upon hearing my approach suddenly decided to cross the sandy road right in front of me. I swear they all were laughing at me as I dusted myself off and got back on the bike!
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  2. jwaller

    jwaller Been here awhile

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    Awesome adventure! I've had a few close encounters with cows, bulls, and have broken up a manage-a-trois or two between a bull and a couple cows when riding the open grazing ranges in Texas hill country. Some of those bulls didn't seem too impressed.

    About meeting up with that dude with the chopper and the cabin. That's damn cool. That chopper/bobber looks uncomfy as hell but it's awesome that guy built and rides it like he does. And I think that F250 is a late 70s model. I remember the Fords of the 80s having the more flatter looking, square lights and front end. But maybe they went to that in 81 or something. Doesn't matter, it's a cool truck either way. I love seeing old vehicles still being used and taken are of.

    It's also good to see young folks being responsible AND having adventures such as yours. Gives me hope for the future. Keep it up!
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  3. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    Lol, yep, I deal with a bunch more yesterday, when I rode through 70 miles of ranchland on a dirt road...some of them decided to run right in front of me too! They have the instincts of squirrels, except they weigh a thousand times as much

    I'm definitely going to try not to piss off any bulls THAT badly!

    Yeah, he was a cool guy. He was definitely way too big for the bobber, but I agree that it's awesome that he built it himself. He also did a lot of work on the engine...he said it makes over 70hp, up from the stock engine's 42.

    You're probably right about the Ford, I was guesstimating... I'd love to have a truck like that someday. I think '70s F150s and Silverados are some of the coolest vehicles out there.

    Thanks for the kind words!
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  4. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    I know I haven't updated this is a while...I've been in Boulder for a few days (I LOVE it here) and I've had a ton of work to do. I'll get something up in the next few days :)
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  5. CCitis

    CCitis Been here awhile

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    What do you do for work that allows you to travel?
  6. AdamChandler

    AdamChandler Ascending n00b Supporter

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    If you are in need of work, PM me. But not sure you'd stoop to that level until you got really desperate. Not sure if you realized it but you're technically still in my headcount.
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  7. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    I'm a programmer, so I can basically work anytime I have WiFi...until recently, I didn't have a ton of work I could do remotely, but I found a way to make that happen, which I'm really happy about.
  8. oldtouring B

    oldtouring B Been here awhile Supporter

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    Jesse, I just got back from a 4 day ride to southwest Colorado. Unbelievable!! You need to add these roads to your to do list! 141 north out of Naturita. 65 south and finally 92 south to highway 50 near Montrose. You won’t ever forget what you encounter!

    141 might be the best motorcycle ride in Colorado.

    Ride safe..
  9. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    I actually think I've ridden all of those roads... someone recommended them to me on my last ride. Maybe it was you! I think I'll be passing through there again, though...

    Glad you enjoyed your trip!!
  10. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    I really wish I could take this bike over Engineer Pass, but I think that might be a bad idea... I just tried Hayden Pass, and got about a mile before dropping my bike and deciding I should probably turn around. I'm definitely coming back to CO with a dirt bike!
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  11. flei

    flei cycletherapist

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    Photos or it didn’t happen. ;)
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  12. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    Oh man, it has been a while. I’ve been surprisingly busy -- I basically decided that it made sense to try to make it to California as fast as possible, because I had so much work to do. I’m writing this from Larry’s house in Sacramento, where I’ve been for a couple days. He’s doing a hell of a job going over my bike (as always), and I’m working, working, working.

    Let’s see, where did I leave off? Ah yes, my night in Natural Bridge Park in Wyoming.

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    Well, the next morning, I realized I needed to make a decision. I could either stick to my original route, and hope for warm weather, or go south to Colorado, and ride through a place that I’d been before and knew I really liked. After thinking about it for a while, I concluded that in my few years of riding, I’ve spent more than enough time freezing my ass off, and so while I was bummed to miss out on Montana, Idaho, and western Wyoming, I chose to head into Colorado.

    From Natural Bridge Park, which was on I-25 outside Casper, I found my way onto some smaller roads heading south. I was cruising along on a newly-paved dirt road, when suddenly it turned to dirt! Aaaand, then I passed a sign saying that the next town was 80 miles away.

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    Well, suffice it to say that I got about as much dirt riding as I could want. The next 80 miles were basically all ranchland -- I’d never seen such massive areas owned by a single landowner. It was mostly open range, so I had a number of cow encounters, but they all eventually moved off the road once I got close to them...occasionally with some encouragement in the form of a rev-bomb :lol3

    As I rode, the landscape gradually changed from plains to rocky outcroppings, and back again. I’d love to come back to that area with a proper offroad bike, and check out some of the many forest roads running through the area.

    It was definitely a new experience going highway speeds on dirt, but when you ride that many miles on a pretty smooth dirt road, you eventually find yourself feeling comfortable at 65mph. On the other hand, though -- it gave me a tiny bit of insight into how INSANE it is that the riders in the Dakar go 100+ on SAND! Wild.

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    I passed by the largest wind farm I’ve ever seen -- there must have been 250+ turbines in a single installation. It was great to see that after the massive open pit coal mine a few days back.

    I spent the night next to the Lake Hattie Reservoir in southeastern Wyoming, where I ran into the first mosquitoes I’d seen in weeks! I’m actually kind of amazed at how few mosquitoes or other biting insects I’d encountered since leaving Michigan.

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    The next morning, I kept going south, and ended up on...you’ll never guess...another really long dirt road! This one brought me way up into the mountains of the Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forest in Colorado. I could tell I’d gained altitude because my throttle hand was twisting more and more, to go the same speed :)

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    I stopped at a beautiful lake to eat breakfast…

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    ...and then got onto the first properly twisty road I’d been on in a loooong time -- CO Rt. 14.

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    It was a Sunday, and pretty trafficky, so I wasn’t going that fast, but then a guy on a Ducati Scrambler pulled up right behind me...and it was ON! We spent the next 30+ minutes flying down 14, passing everyone in sight. We eventually turned off onto a smaller road, and absolutely hauled up a mountain. The other guy was leading, and I was right at the edge of my abilities keeping up. The toes of my boots dragged on the pavement many times, and when I looked at my tires afterwards, I had about a quarter inch of rubber left on each side that I hadn’t used. It was seriously some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a motorcycle...it’s awesome having someone in front of me to get me to push my ability level.

    When we got to the top of the pass, Scrambler guy turned down a side road, waved, and I never saw him again! I was a little sad I didn’t get to say hi, but honestly, I’d had so much fun that I didn’t really mind.

    From there, I rode down the other side of the mountains into Loveland, and then south to Boulder. I’ve long thought that Boulder might be a place I’d want to move someday, and after spending that afternoon downtown, and much of the next few days in the area (more on that later), I’m now literally positive I want to move there. The combination of size, access to mountains/other outdoor activities, young people who’re into what I’m into, and the huge number of tech companies in the area, I literally can’t imagine how it could be better. Plus, while Boulder has expensive rent, it’s a lot cheaper than the other major tech hubs (the Bay area, Seattle, Boston, etc). And smaller, which I majorly prefer. You can rent a secluded apartment in the mountains for $800/mo, and only be a 15 minute drive through the canyons from downtown Boulder! It’s incredible. I love it, and I plan on moving there ASAP.

    I rode back up into the mountains to stay the night, and ended up riding down a decidedly non-CX-friendly forest service road to get there. But I made it, set up my tent right as it got dark, and woke up to a beautiful view and a rooster crowing at a house across the valley.

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    My plan for the day was to take a hike, and then spend some long-overdue time working…

    I chose a hike in the Flatirons, which is part of the Front Range, where the plains turn into the mountains. The Flatirons are basically directly next to Boulder. I’d kind of forgotten about the issue of altitude, so I started flying up my chosen trail...but when it got steep, I got my ass well and truly kicked. I kept trying to go fast, and kept thinking I was going to pass out, so I finally learned my lesson and slowed down. I climbed Bear Peak, whose summit was about 8,500ft, and I’d started around 5,500. It was a great hike, with amazing views of the plains from the top.

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    One of my dad’s colleagues lives just outside Boulder, and she very graciously invited me to stay there for a few days, so after my hike, I rode to her house. Tracy (and Todd), thank you so much for letting a super grimy, unknown kid into your house for a few days! Tracy works from home, and we basically just spent the next few days working in her house.

    I got out a bit to take another little hike (basically just straight up the side of a mountain, as I couldn’t find the trail I’d been looking for). Every time I saw another little piece of the Boulder area, I fell in love with it a little more.

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    I stayed at Tracy’s for 3 nights, which was more than I’d planned, but she kept telling me to stay, and I kept having more work to do, so I figured I might as well sleep in a bed while I could! Finally, on Thursday afternoon, I hit the road again.
  13. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    From Boulder, I headed south to Colorado Springs. There were sooo many awesome roads on the way. My favorite was a tiny, basically one-lane road along a river in the middle of absolute nowhere.

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    I have a friend who goes to Colorado College, and I went there to hang with her for a day. Mary’s actually Steven’s younger sister -- the guy I stayed with in Minneapolis who goes to Macalester. It was great to see her again -- it had been quite a while! Plus, it meant that I had someone to go to the climate strike with the next day.

    If you didn’t see it on the news, on September 20th, there were massive climate strikes, led by young people, around the planet. More than 4 million people participated globally. I’m involved with the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led grassroots activism movement to put pressure on politicians to deal with the imminent climate crisis. I’d never been to a major protest before, but I helped write some software for Sunrise to help with the strikes, and I went to the protest in Colorado Springs. It was really cool to see so many people united around one issue.

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    After the strike, I hung out and worked for a while, then rode west. I took another dirt road into the mountains, and got some amazing views as the sun got close to the horizon.

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    On the other side of the mountains, I came out onto a rolling plain, with another mountain range on the horizon. After another 50 or so miles, I rode up another forest service road and found a place to camp.

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    The next morning, I looked at the map and saw that to keep going west, I had two options: I could either go back east quite a ways, then north, THEN west, or...I could try to take what was described as a “4x4 trail” over the mountains that were in my way.

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    I’m guessing that by now you can guess which strategy I chose. I started riding up the trail, and it was going pretty well -- I was standing up and just kind of bouncing my way up the rocks. Then, I got a little stuck on a steep section with lots of loose rock, and after trying to get started again a few times and stalling, I basically revved it up, dropped the clutch, and the rear spun up, slid sideways down the hill, and I dropped the bike. While I still think I probably could have made it over the pass, I’d only gone about a mile, and had 9 left to go, and thought I should probably cut my losses. I hauled the bike upright, did a 10-point turn, and with the engine off and in first gear, verryyyyy slowly made my way back down in first gear, just pulling in the clutch a few seconds at a time. I really gotta get a dirt bike :lol2

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    I went around the mountain range in my way, and ended up riding through Gunnison, where I’d been a couple years ago. Lots of people had mentioned I should go to Telluride, so I rode up that way...and it really was a cool town. It’s kind of nestled in the end of a high-altitude valley, with really steep mountain walls all around it. There were practically more mountain bikes than people there -- I can’t wait to head back with some friends and a mountain bike.

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    After riding around Telluride a little bit, I went looking for a campsite. The first place I looked was packed, so I kept riding...it was getting colder and colder, and as I rode farther up a dirt road, I realized I was gaining a lot of altitude. I eventually found a campsite a little below 10,000 feet, with an absolutely spectacular view.

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    It got CHILLY that night! I think it went down to 26 degrees. When I got up the next morning, my bike had a quarter inch of frost on it. I put on literally every layer I had and rode down the other side of the pass, stopping every few miles to warm my hands up enough to hold onto the handlebars.

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    After I lost a few thousand feet of altitude, the temperature got a lot more manageable. In fact, it was one of the weirdest weather days I’ve ever had, because in a few hours, I was here, and it was in the 80s! My body has never been more confused. I was expecting to be cold, but I realized I was soaked in sweat underneath my gazillion layers.

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    After going from all my layers, to as few layers as possible, I rode on through the crazy, red stone formations of southwestern Utah. I realized I was passing by the Moki Dugway, which I’d wanted to ride for years, so I checked it out, and it definitely didn’t disappoint! The views were wild, and I took a little nap on the top of the plateau…

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    ...and when I rode down, I set up camp in Valley of the Gods. It still amazes me that anyone can camp here, for free, in this incredible landscape.

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    In the morning, I kept riding west, dropping into Arizona to visit Monument Valley. It’s inside of the Navajo reservation, and totally owned by the Navajo nation. Pretty cool, and it’s a totally surreal place. I took a little hike, and had lunch there.

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    Afterwards, I started really putting down the miles. It was so windy that I was having trouble maintaining highway speed, but I kept rolling, riding north of the Grand Canyon (I’ve been before, and I definitely plan on going back), and passing back into Utah.

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    I set up camp in Virgin, UT. I stayed in the area for a day or so, working at a local public library, and then rode into northwestern Arizona to camp for the night. My campsite was right off of I-15, in the Virgin River Canyon, and I had very low expectations...but it ended up being incredible. I started setting up camp right on the very rim of the canyon, but it was so windy that I almost lost my tent! So I just ate dinner there, and then moved farther back. I wanted to get a good night’s sleep, because I knew I had a lot of miles to ride the next day.

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  14. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    And I was right! I ended up riding more than 450 miles the next day, mostly through Nevada. I was planning to go through Death Valley, but when I looked at the weather, I saw that it was supposed to be 108 degrees there! I decided that the low 90s was already plenty hot, so I skipped it :lol3

    The last 100 or so miles of the ride to California was the exact same route as on my last ride, and it was a really weird experience to recognize the roads I was on, in the absolute middle of nowhere on the opposite side of the country.

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    Just after I crossed into California, I rode through Benton, where I remembered that there had been a gas station, which I was counting on. Well, they were out, and I wasn’t going to make it to the next gas station without finding some more. I asked one lady where I could find some gas in the town, and within the hour, half of the (10 person) town had mobilized to find me some gas. I ended up at the local pastor’s house, where I tried to siphon gas out of his quad, but it turned out the tank was empty, so I was just sucking fumes...but he eventually found an old gas can with some decent-smelling gas in it! After many thanks, and lots of good wishes, I was on my way! People are so damn nice.

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    I slept in a campground in Lee Vining, CA, where I slept almost exactly two years ago, up an extremely sandy road (I mean 6+ inches of sand in places), somehow avoiding burning out my clutch or dropping my bike. I crashed hard that night.

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    In the morning, I felt a little less rushed, because I knew I’d be at Larry’s that night, so I decided to go take a hike. I rode a hundred or so miles northwest into the Sierras, near Carson Pass, and hiked Round Top Peak.

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    It was one of my favorite hikes I’ve taken -- less than 8mi roundtrip, but almost totally deserted, nice and scramble-y at the top, and with incredible 360 degree views from 10,500 feet. Totally awesome.

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    From there I rode down into Sacramento, and pulled up to Larry’s house. It’d been a while, but it’s been great to hang with Larry, and he’s going to town on my bike, doing an incredibly good job as always. I’ll be here for a while, and then I’m heading down to LA for the next couple of months. Here’s my bike before Larry really started in on it, and my newly rebuilt set of carbs:

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    I’m stoked to see what it looks like when Larry’s done with it.

    This is pretty much the end of the ride, and it’s been awesome. It changed a lot along the way, but one of my goals for this ride was to be flexible and not hold onto my plans too tightly. It was also cool to see how different the second ride was from the first -- it was so much less scary, so much less stressful, and just went far more smoothly. I didn’t even have a single major motorcycle issue!

    I really enjoyed the trip, and I’m also going to enjoy being stationary for a while. I left home in the middle of July, and it’s now the end of September. I’m stoked to just hang out, work hard, and know where I’m going to sleep every night. Part of what’s so cool about trips like these is that afterwards, they make you feel ok about not seeing anywhere new for a while afterwards...it silences the wanderlust for a while.

    Thank you so much to everyone who helped me out along the way. I really, really appreciate it, I enjoyed meeting all of you, and I’ll do my best to pay it forward. And of course, thank you to everyone who followed along!

    Ride on, ride safe.
  15. engineman

    engineman Been here awhile Supporter

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    Looks like an epic ride. Great pics and writeup. that CX looks like a pretty versatile machine. Thanks for posting
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  16. B10Dave

    B10Dave Long timer

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    Thanks Jesse. Enjoyed the pics and write up.
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  17. motoqueen

    motoqueen One Life. Live It.

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    Thank you for sharing !
    I really enjoyed your pictures and appreciate you documenting your ride. :beer
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  18. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    Thanks guys, hearing that you enjoyed reading it is what makes it worth it to me to write it :)
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  19. ChopperCharles

    ChopperCharles Long timer

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    There are a bunch more of us who are reading and enjoying and not saying anything too. Your adventures are great and thanks for posting!

    Charles.
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  20. staticPort

    staticPort Meditrider Supporter

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    Reading the prose of a young whipper-snapper out exploring the world all on his own, on a classic old bike from 'back in the day', seeing the world up close and personal, learning and sharing the wisdom of the road--is surely enjoyed by older riders. Thanks for sharing with us, Jesse! All the best as your journey continues . . .
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