Rumsfeldian Zen on the Road to Moab

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by ScottFree, Mar 1, 2019.

  1. ScottFree

    ScottFree Been here awhile

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    Important "Google Be Annoying" Note:

    If you are trying to read this after around the second week in April, 2019, you will probably find that all the photos have disappeared. This is because the place where I stashed them on Google was an (unidentified as such) part of the now-dead "Google+" service. Thanks, Google... While Google claims they will move all the photos to another Google product (Google Drive), that product doesn't allow in-line display of images on third-party websites (thanks again, Google), at least without doing the digital equivalent of standing on your head, putting all the URLs on little slips of paper in a bag and spinning it around while standing on your front lawn screaming like a chicken...

    So, to at least somewhat archive this tale, I will print this entire report, with pictures, to a PDF once I've finished it, and place a link in this note once I've uploaded it. Not at all a great solution, but it's better than nothing, in case somebody at some future point wants to have a look at this diminutive opus. Which, I admit, ain't bloody likely...

    Here are the links to the ride report PDF: Page 1 Page 2

    The YouTube videos do still work. Until Google decides to "improve" YouTube, anyway...

    ---------- We apologize for the inconvenience ----------


    "You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might like to have."
    --Donald A. Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense, 2001-06

    This is the story of what was supposed to be my Big Adventure Trip to Moab and environs in August of last year. Things did not go as planned, despite much planning.

    Prologue

    I fell in love with the canyon country of southeastern Utah back in 1977, when I happened upon Zion and Arches on the way back from a trip to Oregon and California with my girlfriend of the time. We were both enchanted with the wild scenery of the redrock country. We promised ourselves we'd be back.

    We returned in 1980, riding our street bikes to Moab and renting an International Scout with no roof and a carburetor that killed the engine if it got bumped too hard (which was to say, several times each mile). We had a fantastic time in Canyonlands National Park, going over the infamous Elephant Hill, getting stuck in deep sand in the Grabens, going up to Land's End on what was at the time a dirt road... though we didn't go down Shafer Trail, because She had an issue with Edges. And that was enough to make me pick up some additional trail maps and Jeep guides, and promise that I would be back... this time to explore the area (and, in particular, ride the Shafer Trail) on a motorcycle.

    Which I did, after spending the next year learning to ride in dirt (this required buying a competition bike and riding a few AMA-sanctioned enduros, as there were few other opportunities to ride dirt in the Chicago area) and outfitting an XT500 as a proto-ADV bike, with a plush seat, big tank and panniers made from K-mart suitcases. I rode across the prairie, the Rockies, into Utah, and eventually to the Shafer Trail, as promised:

    [​IMG]

    And Lockhart Canyon, Kane Creek, Pritchett Canyon, Behind the Rocks, and some trails that may not have officially existed. It was a blast.

    [​IMG]
    (ATTGATT had a different meaning in 1981)

    I came back (via southern Arizona and Texas), and then... that was it. The Usual Suspects--job, marriage, family--pre-empted any further explorations for, well, a long time. I got back to Moab in 1990 and 1992, but both times I was on a Harley with a sidecar, so it was all paved roads (except for one memorable construction zone between Hanksville and Green River, anyway).

    In 2013, having reached the age where I no longer had a kid at home and could start raiding my IRA, I got the bug to go back to Utah. In particular, to ride the Shafer Trail again, and maybe some of the other scenic trails. So, I bought myself a KLR650 and started playing around on gravel farm roads. Quickly decided the KLR was a bit of a torture rack on long days of highway, so in 2015 I traded it in on a 2006 R1200GS. Spent a couple years getting comfortable on that bike, rode some dirt/gravel stuff in Missouri and Arkansas (see my tale, "Steamed And Baked In The Ozarks"), took an off-road training course at the BMW rally, made reservations and plans. Things were all ready to go.

    The First Day: Known Unknows and Unknown Knowns

    I set off on the thirteenth of August (which was a Monday, not a Friday), in the company of an old riding buddy on his Buell Ulysses.

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    We headed across northwest Illinois, skipping the interstate in favor of "Former IL Route 2" along the Rock River, crossed the Mississippi, ran a hundred miles or so of I-80 to Iowa City (stopping along the way to see the World's Largest Truck Stop, which is... large, and a truck stop), and started picking our way west on Iowa's well-mapped, well-marked network of county roads.

    Mid-afternoon, we stopped to stretch our legs (that's code for take a pee) in a little park in Montezuma. That's where I happened to look down, and saw...

    [​IMG]

    Uh-oh.

    Let us now pause to discuss Rumsfeld's taxonomy of knowns and unknowns. There are of course the things you know, and know that you know (which included how to change a leaky final drive seal, as I'd read it in a BMW Owners News magazine); and there are the things you know that you don't know (how much fluid had leaked out). And there are "unknown knowns," the things somebody knows, but not you at the moment (like how to tell when you've got the right amount of fluid in the drive, which Jim von Baden knows and posted online, as I found when I got home).

    It didn't help any that the only dealer who was open on a Monday told me "well, we might be able to get to it by the end of next week." And she was "pretty sure" they didn't have a seal for a bike that old (never mind that same seal was used through 2017).

    Now, had I known that the correct oil level is right around the bottom of the fill plug on the back of the drive, I would have bought a pint of lube and a roll of shop towels and continued till I found a dealer who had the seal in stock. Not knowing how to check lube level, other than by draining the drive (which requires separating the drive from the driveshaft and draining through the fill hole, as the '06 model had no drain plug) and refilling with a measured amount, I was stuck. There's a lesson in that: learn how to limp along when things break!

    So, I did the wimpy thing: nursed the GS to a U-Haul place and rented a trailer. A friend dragged the trailer and bike as far as Moline, while my wife drove out in my car, met us, and we hauled it the rest of the way home.

    I told my traveling companion to keep going; somehow I'd catch up to him in Estes Park.
    #1
  2. black 8

    black 8 coddiwompling motographer

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    good start... IN :lurk
    #2
  3. ScottFree

    ScottFree Been here awhile

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    Day Two: The Army You Have

    I thought hard about trying to pick up a seal from one of the dealers near Chicago, but figured this would have me setting off on a thousand-mile ride on Wednesday morning if I was going to catch up... and I didn't have the paperwork to ride an Iron Butt. Besides, I had a spare bike in the garage...

    [​IMG]

    Though it was certainly going to change the trip a bit. Still, as Rumsfeld said, the army you have...

    By the time I had my stuff all loaded up (including such things as pulling off the GS's tank bag, which included the USB charger for phones, cameras, etc., cramming it in a corner of the Harley's trunk and making a new hole for the wire to pass through), the trailer dropped off at the liquor store, reservations made, and so forth, it was way too late to take the scenic route. So, good old I-80. Lawdy, lawdy, how I hate that road... for one thing, whenever I cross Iowa on 80, I'm guaranteed a spot of rain...

    [​IMG]

    But the rain wasn't too bad, my Aerostich kept me dry, and by the time I reached Columbus, Nebraska, and checked into my hotel, the sun was out again. Time for The Reward...

    [​IMG]

    I've been going to the Gottberg Brewery in Columbus for going on ten years now, as it's almost exactly halfway from Chicago to Denver and so the perfect mid-point of a ride to the Rockies. Aahhhhh....

    Day Three: On Relativity

    "You spend an hour sitting with a nice girl and it feels like a second.
    You put your hand on a hot stove for a second, and it feels like an hour. That's relativity."
    --Albert Einstein
    Ever notice that no matter how fast you're going, time seems to move at a snail's pace on the interstate? That's relativity, I guess.

    I decided to speed up the flow of time by moving slower, taking the small roads across Nebraska and avoiding the misery of I-80. As it turns out, most of the two-lane roads in Nebraska are posted 65 mph, so avoiding the interstate really didn't cost me much... other than the ability to get premium gas.

    [​IMG]
    What's wrong with corn country, in one picture

    Four, count 'em, four grades of gas. Any amount of ethanol you want, from zero to 85 percent... as long as you only wanted 87 octane regular. "Super" is just regular with 10% ethanol out here. Luckily, despite the 95-inch stage II kit in the motor, the Harley is fine with 87 octane, as long as I keep the revs up.

    Broken Bow is the home of the Kinkaider Brewery, which I learned about when passing through town at noon back in 2015 (unfortunately, they don't open till four). I had made this a planned stop, but on the "catch-up" plan, I came through Broken Bow around ten in the morning. Next time, I guess...

    Those who know Nebraska only from I-80 may think it's flat as a board. Wrong, that's Kansas. The Sand Hills of Nebraska are actually pretty nice, and the roads even have some curves:

    [​IMG]

    For those who don't know, the Sand Hills are in fact monstrous sand dunes that would march east and engulf Omaha if not for the thin layer of vegetation holding them in place. As Nebraska's climate gets dryer and hotter, this country's going to get interesting.

    This guy operates an extensive junkyard:

    [​IMG]

    Oh, wait, the sign says "Antiques and Colliectables." Can't wait for the PBS crew to come out here and tell us all how much it's worth.

    I re-entered the Platte River valley at North Platte. Planned to take US 30 west, but it was closed for construction and I was forced onto I-80 for a dozen or so miles. Then it was lunch time, at Ole's Big Game Bar in Paxton:

    [​IMG]

    I get the feeling PETA does not meet here.

    Ole's has been around since the end of Prohibition. I first happened upon it in 1989. It hasn't changed any... even the anatomically correct jaguar is just as it was.

    [​IMG]

    Once past the 80/76 split, I got back onto the two-laners into Colorado.

    [​IMG]

    In the very next town, I stopped at an unmanned gas station. A couple people came up and asked if I could direct them to the local "dispensary." Took me a minute to figure it out. Oh, yeah, the place to buy weed... I couldn't, but told them that if I were making a guess, I'd look up by the interstate. Turned out I had to go up that way to get a state road map at the Welcome Center, and sure enough, there was a big dispensary right across the street. Welcome to Colorado, indeed!

    The US highway running parallel to I-76 is really quite nice, well-maintained, lightly-traveled, and down at the bottom of the South Platte River valley, where it's green and a bit cooler than up on the Interstate in the heat and wind. And it passes through towns with names like Crook. Gotta wonder where that came from.

    I headed west at Sterling. The 100 miles to Fort Collins usually takes about an hour and a half. This day, it was over two hours, thanks to Your Tax Dollars At Work. I, along with a lot of other unhappy people, were stuck behind a big ol' convoy, carrying.. what? Beats me, but whatever was under the tarps on that big semi, it was expensive/dangerous enough to justify a dozen black Hummvees (the military style, not the Hummer) stenciled "SECURITY FORCES," whose primary job seemed to be to enforce the rule that NOBODY PASSES THE SEMI, multiple Colorado police cars, and a military helicopter that kept orbiting the convoy as it crept along at 45 miles an hour. Or less. For One Hundred Stinkin' Miles. Ugh.

    That was just enough delay to drop me into the afternoon rush hour in Fort Collins and Greely. Double Ugh. It was nice to get out of town and head up into the mountains and into Big Thompson Canyon... which turned out to be under construction, with lots of skived-up pavement awaiting new asphalt. And a strict ban on parking, or even pulling over. Which I obeyed... kinda...

    [​IMG]

    And that was the day. Into Estes Park with just enough time to set up the tent next to the Buell guy.

    [​IMG]

    ...enjoy a nourishing dinner of granola bars, SPAM and beer...

    [​IMG]

    ...and enjoy a ranger presentation about all the animals in Rocky Mountain National Park. Emphasis on what eats what, and how the Park Service is trying to make sure the Animals That Belong Here are eating the Animals That Don't. I am not sure which group visitors on motorcycles fit into. Perhaps I will find out when we enter the park on Thursday morning...
    #3
    Dillard, flei, DYNOBOB and 1 other person like this.
  4. td63

    td63 Been here awhile Supporter

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    In!
    #4
  5. ScottFree

    ScottFree Been here awhile

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    Day Four: Who needs the Pan American; Harley already makes an overweight dirt bike...

    After a chilly night in which I learned that chemical heat packs always slide off to corners of the sleeping bag where they do nothing to keep you warm, we broke camp, stuffed our faces in Estes Park, and headed into Rocky Mountain NP. One of the small joys was going through the entrance station and flashing my "Senior Pass," which gives me free entry to all the National Parks. I bought the thing two years ago, when it was still a measly ten bucks, but this was the first time I'd gotten to use it at a National Park (there just aren't many of them around Chicago).

    We avoided the heavy traffic on Trail Ridge Road by heading up the Old Fall River Road:

    [​IMG]

    One-way, narrow, steep, and of course unpaved. Wasn't gonna let a little thing like being on a Road King instead of a GS keep me from riding this road--after all, when the big Harleys first appeared back in the '20s and '30s, most of the roads weren't paved. And, of course, I had done this before, twenty-three years ago, on an Electra-Glide Classic:

    [​IMG]

    I remembered to turn on the GoPro:



    Yeah, more than a few embarrassing dabs and foot-drags. At least I didn't drop the big ol' pig. The road seemed to be in worse shape than I remembered from 1995. There was certainly a whole lot more traffic (in '95, we pretty much had the road to ourselves), and some of those SUVs seemed to be spinning their wheels and digging nice ruts in the switchbacks. Eventually I got the hang of bouncing the Harley's fat tires off these things, and they almost got to be fun!

    I don't remember these stepped walls from '95...

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    Yeah, the road's narrow...

    [​IMG]

    We found a place wide enough to pull over and enjoy the view:

    [​IMG]

    And it was a nice view...

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    All told, it was a pleasant ride, eventually dropping us by the loading docks on the back side of the Trail Ridge Visitor Center. Where they now sell oxygen. Ran into a lot of Harley riders up there; couldn't convince any of them to try Fall River Road.

    Back on the pavement, and the views remain spectacular:

    [​IMG]

    Of course, no visit to a National Park would be complete without a Wildlife Traffic Jam:

    [​IMG]

    After leaving the park, we headed west on the "Colorado Headwaters Scenic Route," through the interestingly named town of Hot Sulphur Springs. Didn't notice any brimstone smell...

    When we stopped for gas in Kremmling, we faced a decision: the Colorado Headwaters route continued on an unpaved road, or we could head north a few miles and take the paved road through Gore Pass... which, given that I was on a Road King and my traveling companion's Buell Ulysses was on pure street tires, sounded like a better alternative. However, while we were snacking at the gas station, a forest ranger pulled in and posted the latest fire information... which included the fact that the road through Gore Pass was currently closed. So...

    [​IMG]

    Your car will be fine, but will your big Harley? Guess we'll find out...



    Since this is the "Upper Colorado River Scenic Route," we of did get a look at the river from a viewpoint high above:

    [​IMG]

    Then we got to go down the hill, after some contemplation of the sign...

    [​IMG]

    ...where we got a closer view of the river.

    [​IMG]

    ...and the threatening weather. Trough Road's surface seemed to be a mixture of sand, clay, gravel, and a bit of oil, and we were concerned it might turn really slippery if we actually got caught in a storm. Luckily...

    [​IMG]

    ...we made it to "State Bridge," a dot on the map that's not a town, just a bridge on a state highway and a little shop that sells ice cream bars if anybody's in to take your money. They also have a pay toilet. We ran into some guys on KLRs going the other way. Wonder if they stayed ahead of the rain.

    My "GS" plan for this day included following the river a bit further--going a few miles north on CO 131, and taking the (partially unpaved) Colorado River Road down to I-70 at Dotsero. But with street tires and rain appearing to move in, we decided discretion was the better part of valor and took the paved highway down to Wolcott. Good thing, as we did hit a spot of rain. From there, west through Glenwood Canyon... where the sun came back out.

    [​IMG]

    It's amazing how they tucked a four-lane highway into this canyon without wrecking it (much). I still think it was a bit nicer back in the '80s, when you were on a two-lane road a few feet from the river, but I guess the truckers have their needs, too...

    As a bit of editorial comment... one of the problems with a four-lane divided highway is that it sends the message "this road was built for going fast." And sure enough, even though the state lowered the limit from 70 to 55 through the canyon, pretty much nobody pays the slightest attention. In the video, I'm going about 60, and notice how many people are passing me. I edited out a lot more of them. Fine, they're getting where they're going... but I think they're missing something mighty pretty (then again, they're in cars--they're already missing a lot)...



    At the end of the canyon, other side of Glenwood Springs, there's a little rest area with a view of the road, the canyon, and the river... complete with rafters.

    [​IMG]

    I had thought about maybe camping around here--the internet described what sounded like an interesting place a few miles north of New Castle--but I still have memories of the last time I camped in this part of the Rockies: we arrived in Glenwood Springs in a downpour, found all the motels were booked, found a campground up in the hills on a muddy road, set up the tent in the rain, took it down in the rain the next morning, and rode in rain (with a two-hour delay near Vail because somebody in a small plane was lost in the clouds and hoping to make an emergency landing on the Interstate) all the way to the Eisenhower Tunnel. Didn't want to repeat that "adventure." Besides, we had laundry to do... so it was a chain motel, with pool and laundry, and a bar with good food and Scottish ale a few miles down the road. Ahhhhh....

    So, of course, it was clear and pleasant all night. The rain is patient...
    #5
  6. flei

    flei cycletherapist

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    This is a fun ride report! Keep it coming! :clap

    PS- You went in August? Isn't it gonna be freakin' HOT in Moab in August? (Avg. High 96F).....
    #6
  7. haystack

    haystack Just ride

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    :lurk
    #7
  8. ScottFree

    ScottFree Been here awhile

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    Well, as they say, it's a dry heat. Of course, they say this about the surface of Venus, too (800F and 0.000000001% humidity) :D

    Though I don't thrive on heat the way I did back when I was 27, I still do pretty well in the desert. Stay hydrated, find a breeze, and evaporative cooling (something humans do really really well) works beautifully. Moab in August (104F and 20% humidity, heat index 95) was actually more comfortable than Arkansas in June (96F and 70% humidity, heat index 105). The desert also cools off nicely at night, so tent camping was much more pleasant than I had expected.

    Another reason to go to Moab in late August is that there's this dip in tourism. This chart shows how crowded Arches National Park is throughout the year:

    [​IMG]

    Notice the dip in visitors during the last couple weeks of August? It's the least crowded of any time one could ride to Moab from Chicago (yeah, traffic's lower in February, but try riding across the Rockies that time of year). I think this is because most schools are in session, so no Griswold Family Vacations to run into, and it's still hot, so most of the retirees are waiting till later in the fall. So there was a method to our madness...

    But I'm getting ahead of myself... let us resume this diminutive epic...

    Day Five: See It While It's Still There!

    The secret of staying comfortable and healthy in the hot, dry desert is to stay hydrated. I do not think this is the best way to do it, though:

    [​IMG]

    Ah well. Even in the rain, DeBeque Canyon is still pretty. And rain is only a minor annoyance, so let's add a bit more fun:

    [​IMG]
    These guys are paid to spend their day outside in the rain. What's your excuse?

    The rain ended long before we stopped for snacks, cold water and such in Grand Junction. Then, on through a fairly unexciting landscape into Utah, where the speed limit rose to 80 mph.

    We got off the interstate as soon as we could, and took state highway 128 along the Colorado River from I-70 to Moab. First stop was the remains of the Dewey Bridge:

    [​IMG]

    Sad story, this bridge. It was built in 1916, and was the second-longest suspension bridge west of the Mississippi. Though I have no pictures, I must have ridden over it on my way out of Moab in 1979 and 1980. In 1989 the road was moved to a new bridge, and the suspension bridge became a historic site (this did not stop a biker magazine from printing a picture and saying it would "challenge your riding skills"--yeah, mostly because of the barricades you'd have to ride through to reach it). Money was raised, the bridge was restored, and then in 2008 a kid playing with matches in the campground managed to burn up the wooden roadway, leaving only the towers and suspension cables. The cables make interesting sounds in the wind, and when you tap them with stones. Perhaps they are haunted.

    There is talk of restoring the bridge yet again, if somebody coughs up $850,000.

    128 follows the Colorado River as it cuts its way down into the red sandstone of the canyon country. The stone is soft, wears easily, and tends to split in vertical planes, all of which means some pretty spectacular scenery:

    [​IMG]

    One of the little side roads off 128 takes you to Castleton Tower, which featured in one of the more ridiculous car ads ever made. In 1964, General Motors used a helicopter to deposit a Chevy convertible (well, chassis, body, and not much else in order to cut the weight to something the helicopter could lift) and one very nervous model to the top of this 400-foot-tall rock pillar. I'm not sure why they thought this would help sell cars, but then again, the full-size '64 Chevy is one of the most popular platforms for building a low rider... Anyway, we decided not to ride up the dirt road to Castleton Tower, as the car is no longer there. But the ad is still worth a look:



    Having read the Park Service website that warned of full parking lots and long waits at the gate (they even have a live web-cam at the entrance station, to show you the lines), we were a bit nervous about going up to Arches National Park on a Friday afternoon. But, as the chart shows, there's this dip in late August, and we hit it perfectly. No wait to get in, plenty of parking, trails not too crowded. Perfect!

    Our first stop was the park's signature formation, "Delicate Arch." I have no idea why they call it "delicate," as it's tons and tons of sandstone. Nothing about it looks delicate to me.

    [​IMG]

    The "easy" trail takes you to a viewpoint that's a good mile from the arch. Good thing I had a looooong lens on the camera! Those little dots around the arch are people who took the "moderate" trail (which is mostly just longer, about three miles round trip) to get up close and personal with the formation.

    Our next stop was something that's destined to go the way of Dewey Bridge sooner or later, Landscape Arch:

    [​IMG]

    This is the longest free-standing stone arch in the world, at 290 feet. For now. Like everything else formed by erosion, it's temporary. Big chunks have fallen off it recently (1991, 1995), so you're no longer allowed to walk up under it like I did in 1977. All the arches in the park are temporary things. The park service has a page showing before-and-after pictures of Wall Arch, which fell down in 2008.

    There are hundreds of named arches in the park. We stopped at a few more, the Windows...

    [​IMG]

    Turret Arch

    [​IMG]

    and Double Arch

    [​IMG]

    You may recognize this one from the movies--in particular, "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." Probably others as well.

    After all that sun, it was time to head for the campground, where there was wonderful shade.

    [​IMG]

    Despite my best efforts to stay hydrated on the road and on the trail--I had a water bottle on the Harley's handlebars, and a half-gallon insulated stainless bottle in the trunk and in my backpack when hiking, and both got refilled frequently--I was feeling a bit dry. Luckily, there was a re-hydration facility just across the road from the campground...

    [​IMG]

    ...and a most satisfactory day came to its end. By midnight, things had even cooled off to the point where I didn't need to run the little fan in my tent. Ahhhhhh.....
    #8
  9. ScottFree

    ScottFree Been here awhile

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    Public Service Announcement: On the Adult Beverage Customs of Utah

    It's a bit weird to walk into a bar, see a long line of shiny taps full of fresh craft beer, and notice that everyone is drinking out of cans. WTF?

    Welcome to Utah.

    When I first visited in 1977, you could buy beer pretty much anywhere--gas station, grocery store, bar--but it was only 3.2% alcohol by weight (4% by the more common volume standard). Anything stronger had to be purchased at a state liquor store, which kept banker's hours, charged high prices, and had a lousy selection.

    This has changed, a little: you can still by 3.2 beer at pretty much every gas station. You still can't buy anything stronger outside a state liquor store. But the definition of "liquor store" has changed, a lot: almost any business can now get licensed as a state store, to sell packaged liquor. And there's never been a law against bringing your own, if the establishment allows. So... because the tap beer at the brewery is being sold by-the-drink, it's still limited to 3.2% ABW. But, because cans and bottles sold at the brewery (or the restaurants I patronized later in the trip) are considered packaged, they can be whatever strength the maker chooses. And so...

    [​IMG]

    Now You Know...
    #9
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  10. Black_Sheep

    Black_Sheep n00b

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    That's a helluva convenient campground- we've been going there for years.

    Still have cotton in our tents and bags to prove it! Those trees make a mess of everything in early summer.
    #10
  11. ScottFree

    ScottFree Been here awhile

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    Day Six: The Army You Don't Have

    After a surprisingly good night's sleep in the tent, I was awakened by the sounds of a mechanized battalion entering Moab. It turned out to be nothing more than the garbage truck making its 5 am pickup behind the chain motel next to the campground. This is what we get for camping in the middle of town, so we could be within walking distance of the brewery. Oh well, time to get up...

    [​IMG]
    Morning on Mars

    I turned around to discover that my traveling companion had already pulled down his tent and packed it up on the back of his Buell. I gently pointed out that we weren't planning to leave till the next day, to which he replied "I'm too old for this" and said something about heading for Colorado. Later, he explained that he hadn't handled the heat very well during out hikes in Arches, despite all the water I was forcing into him. Some people just aren't adapted to the desert, I guess... or, as a local said later, "Moab either embraces you, or it spits you out." I'd been coming, always in the summer, for forty years. My friend got spat, I guess. So it goes. Have a good trip, don't forget to write (and he did; I got regular updates as he worked his way across Colorado).

    This left me with a bit of a problem: the centerpiece of this day, and in a way the whole point of coming to Moab in the first place, was to ride the Shafer Trail Jeep road up to the Island in the Sky. I had done this back in 1981, on the Yamaha:

    [​IMG]

    Of course, the BMW's untimely demise had forced some changes of plans, but still... I wanted to give it a shot. While planning the trip, I'd carefully perused YouTube, ADVrider, etc., and I'd asked the rangers at Arches National Park, who thought that if I'd gotten the Harley up Fall River Road, I should be able to make it up Shafer Trail. But... I was concerned that I might get stuck, or have an embarrassing walking-speed fall-over, or for that matter have the thing fall over while parked to take a photo. In other words, I might need a push, or a hand picking up an 800-pound Hog. Which is why I'd been counting on having somebody with me. Now, the question became, did I want to tackle this alone?

    I headed up to the convenience store at the campground entrance to grab something unhealthy and contemplate my risk tolerance.

    [​IMG]
    If you don't have time to visit Arches National Park, all the major features are right here on this trompe l'oeil painting on the C-store: from left, Delicate Arch, Balanced Rock, Three Gossips, Turret Arch...

    Eventually, Caution won out over Adventure, and I took the paved road up to the Island. It was not without its own charms...

    [​IMG]

    I got to the visitor center just in time to hear a ranger talk about the matter of ravens in the park. Seems that ravens are native to the park, but thanks to human activity outside the park (mostly garbage dumping), the birds are multiplying. Which leads to a problem--does the park service attempt to control their population to protect the "natural" ecological balance in the park, or do they let nature take its course, which means ravens will be pushing out (or eating) other native species? Hmm...

    I filled up my water bottles (this is the only place in the park with water) and headed south, toward Land's End. For those unfamiliar, the "Island" is so named because it's an isolated mesa, surrounded by sheer cliffs and connected to the rest of the uplands by a little piece of land barely wide enough for the road to fit. Before it became a National Park, ranchers would graze animals on this land, knowing that all they needed to keep them here was fifty feet of barbed wire fencing.

    The road sorta meanders...

    [​IMG]
    Don't get too excited; the speed limit's only 35.

    First stop was Mesa Arch. As if I hadn't seen enough arches yesterday... This one's different in that it's right on the edge of the cliff. It's hard to capture in a photo, but if you walk under the arch you're standing on a sheer drop of maybe four or five hundred feet.

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    This makes it a bit clearer--watch that next step!

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    The southern tip of the "Island" overlooks the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers. The rivers have worn way, way too deeply into the stone to be seen from up here, though. There is, to my knowledge, only one place from which you can actually see the rivers meet (aside from a raft, anyway), and that's in the "Needles" district of the park, at the end of a road that's pretty challenging for a Jeep.

    [​IMG]

    If you look closely, you'll see the White Rim Road (one of Moab's popular ADV destinations) as a thin line along the middle set of cliffs. The White Rim is at most halfway down to the river from here. I like to think there are two or three GSs down there, but the telephoto lens I brought isn't quite long enough to pick them up.

    Lunch stop! Cold water (I love that insulated growler) and a sandwich from the quickie mart in Moab...

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    Mr. Happy is displeased with me hogging the shade, but such is life.

    My next stop was the Upheaval Dome, to learn the latest theory (guess?) about how it was formed:

    [​IMG]
    You should be able to click this for a big panoramic view.

    First thing to notice is it's not a dome; it's a hole. It got the name because all the rock layers, all the way around the big hole, are angled up, a if there were once a dome here. Back in 1980, the two leading theories about how it formed were volcanic activity (but there's no lava anywhere around here) or an underground salt formation that pushed up a dome, broke the surface, and promptly dissolved in rain. The current theory is that while it might be a salt formation, it's more likely a meteor crater, and the rock layers are angled up because the meteor exploded underground after striking.

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    Three ravens inspect the Upheaval Dome and debate the theories of how it got here. Or maybe they're just comparing notes on tasty garbage piles.

    While you can't see the Colorado River from the Island, you can get a glimpse of the Green River. And again, the White Rim road is just visible as a skinny little line. The fat, curvy line is a dry wash that probably creates a nasty sand pit for riders to cross on the White Rim Road.

    [​IMG]
    See any riders down there?

    And, of course, the Road Not Taken:

    [​IMG]

    I spent a long time at this overlook, asking myself if I wanted to at least ride down the switchbacks, turn around, and come back up. The road didn't look that bad; in fact, I saw a fifteen-passenger van crawling down it.

    [​IMG]

    The sheer scale of the place is amazing. See that tiny dot on the road in the picture above? It's a full-sized SUV going down the hill:

    [​IMG]

    Eventually, my feet made the decision: I'd raised some good blisters hiking around Arches the day before, and the walk back from the Upheaval Dome overlook had hurt a lot. I didn't want to get halfway down the hill, get the big Harley stuck, and have to walk back up in the hopes of finding somebody to help pick it up or pull it out of a sand pit.

    So, channeling my inner Chicago Sports Fan, I said, "wait till next year" and took the paved road down to Moab, hit the pool at the campground, went over to the brewery for another great dinner and beer-to-go for the next few days, came back to the campsite and spent the evening shooting the breeze (and making a substantial hole in my beer supply) with the people next door. Good times!
    #11
  12. ScottFree

    ScottFree Been here awhile

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    Nice campground, conveniently located across the street from the brewery, good pool, and reasonably priced, at least by the standards of Moab. Woof, that town has gotten expensive—cheap hotels seem to start around $150 a night and go up from there. I’m planning a return to Moab this August (can’t get enough of that heat, I guess), and while the rest of the trip will involve staying in motels, I’m probably going to rent gear and camp the two nights in Moab.
    #12
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  13. Dillard

    Dillard Seeker

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    Hey bro, I'm digging your report and I like your style. Nice job letting your feet decide your route, no need putting yourself in a bad situation. It's the wise traveler who listens to his body.
    #13
  14. ScottFree

    ScottFree Been here awhile

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    Day Seven: Spooked and Cracked!

    I got a pretty late start out of Moab on Sunday morning. Chalk it up to having to remember where everything went on the Harley, or more honestly to the fact that I'd made a pretty good dent in the beer supply on Saturday night... Not that it mattered, as I had a short day planned. Just up to Green River, then I-70 across the San Rafael Swell, down through Loa to a campsite at Otter Creek Reservoir State Park. Not even 200 miles.

    Not a lot of photos from this day, as it turned out there wasn't too much to photograph. The one piece of Spectacular Scenery is the San Rafael Reef, on the east side of the swell. It's a wall of tilted Navajo sandstone that runs for miles and miles:

    [​IMG]

    I-70 punches through it about 30 miles west of Green River. According to Wikipedia, Spotted Wolf Canyon was so narrow before construction began that you could touch both sides at once. A whole lotta rock had to be blasted away to make this hole:

    [​IMG]

    Notice the car, for scale. Like a lot of things in this part of Utah, the Reef doesn't look that big till you put it next to something of known size.

    Flashback: Once Upon A Time...

    Since this day's a bit short on pictures, I thought I'd throw in a flashback from a previous trip through the San Rafael Swell, back in 1982. That trip, by the way, was quite an adventure in itself--all pavement, but featuring such things as climbing Mt. Evans (14,128 feet) on a two-stroke Suzuki, losing my keys and hot-wiring the bike alongside the road in California, camping atop a collapsing cliff along PCH, spending two weeks rafting the Grand Canyon... ahhhh... But anyway, back to the San Rafael Reef... here's a page from my trip album:

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    I had made a point of camping in Green River, and getting up and on the road at 6am, so I'd have the sun rising behind me to highlight the colors and textures of the Reef. Just my luck, I also had the full moon going down ahead of me.

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    After back side of the Reef is a jumble of red rock, and the road's pretty curvy by the standards of an Interstate:

    [​IMG]

    Look closely and you'll notice there are only two lanes here. Well, actually three--one eastbound, one westbound, and a shared passing lane in the middle. I-70 wasn't four-laned through this stretch until 1990. The two-lane Interstate was nice in its own way, because I could stop and walk across the road to snap a picture. Today, you can only get to this view from the eastbound lanes. If you're going west, this means a 37-mile round trip detour, so no pictures this time. (If you want to know what it looks like today, Wikipedia has a nice picture, taken from a vantage point close to where I stood in 1982).

    Further along, you come to the Eagle Canyon bridge. In 1982 there was only this one.

    [​IMG]

    Now there are two. Neat...


    Okay, back to 2018...

    Relativity began seriously kicking in the next 60 miles. At the posted 80 mph, it was only 45 minutes... but it seemed like forever. It was nice to get off and head south, toward Loa, and get into some mountains and see some green... even if it was just sage and pinon.

    [​IMG]

    Off the interstate and into some mountains, a bit higher up and cooler. Nice, except that the bike was feeling a bit squirrely. Cruising at 80 on the interstate, it had felt over-sensitive to truck wakes and crosswinds. Now, on the mountain road, it was being over-sensitive to tar snakes and/or bits of gravel left by the last coat of chip-seal. Or maybe it had a low tire? This is where I stopped to check. No problems with air pressure... On the theory I might be a bit dehydrated, I gulped a half-liter of Gatorade and a bunch of water. This didn't seem to help either. In time I came to realize there was nothing wrong with the bike, its tires, or the road... it was just that something had spooked me and I was riding like a little old lady. Ever have that happen? Something knocks down your confidence, and suddenly your own body refuses to push the bike beyond a few degrees of lean in the corners? I suspect it was triggered by a minor surprise on Saturday afternoon, when I pulled out of a gas station in Moab and the back end of the bike hit something slippery (a banana peel?) and went sideways a few inches. At the time it didn't seem like much beyond a "whoa, (bad word)" moment--I stayed up, kept going, and didn't think much of it afterwards... but Sunday, I was just spooked. I ended up fighting with this most of the rest of the trip... sometime in September I noticed it was gone. Go figure...

    Despite the late start, I found myself at Otter Creek far earlier than I'd intended. Did I really want to stop yet? In all truth, Otter Creek Lake didn't look all that attractive. If it's not quite the geographical center of nowhere, it's pretty close. The main reason I'd planned to stop here was to be conveniently located for an early arrival at Bryce Canyon on Monday morning... but Bryce Canyon is all about hiking, and those blisters on my feet weren't getting any better. So I decided to go a bit further, made a gas stop in Antimony, and took the little county road through "Black Canyon" down toward Bryce.

    [​IMG]

    Out of the sandstone, into the black volcanic rock for a while...

    [​IMG]

    And, into Cannonville, where I was supposed to arrive Monday night. The campground owners were nice enough to just move my reservation up a day.

    While unloading the bike, I noticed the camping gear on the passenger seat was loose... because the bungee wasn't hooked properly under the luggage rack... which was broken:

    [​IMG]

    Oops. Apparently the Genuine Harley Nostalgic Three Channel Luggage Rack was not intended to support a heavily loaded Tour-Pak... this is gonna require some thought... in the morning. For now, dinner (a decent pizza and a cold, full-strength beer) up in Tropic, a shower, and a quick visit to the campground laundry. Ah, the romance of motorcycle travel!
    #14
    Muscongus, Trip Hammer and Dillard like this.
  15. ScottFree

    ScottFree Been here awhile

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    Day Eight: One Road. Easy Navigation.

    This day had been planned to include a visit to Kodachrome Basin State Park, home of interesting rock formations. But... the broken luggage rack (supporting a fully loaded trunk) seemed higher priority. I had no idea how long ago the thing had actually broken, but knew that according to the Laws Of Cartoon Physics, a disastrous failure was inevitable now that I'd noticed it was broken. And anyway, I still had those blisters on my feet, so hiking a scenic trail was still pretty much out of the question. There were rumors of people with welding ability somewhere up the road, so I set off on Utah 12, one of the most scenic highways in the country.

    [​IMG]
    For once, the rock's not red!

    I stopped for gas in Escalante. The day seemed to be warming up pretty quickly, so I grabbed a Gatorade and a snack, and while I was sitting on the bench in front of the gas station feeling sorry for myself, a guy pulled up in a battered pickup truck and asked if everything was OK. Turned out, he was the "Desert Doctor," specializing in motorcycle repairs, tire changes, and... welding. So, over to his shop we went...

    I wish I'd shot some photos, because the shop was one of those places you just don't see in this age of antiseptic boutique dealerships with "technicians" instead of "mechanics." A mountain of used tires, a planter made from a deceased CX500 engine, and all sorts of motorcycle stuff everywhere. But I was too busy pulling off the Harley's Tour-Pak, and then the luggage rack, so he could weld it back together. Turned out that in addition to the broken side plate, two other mountings had cracked clean through... so, of the rack's four mountings, only one was still unbroken. An hour or so, and maybe twenty bucks later, I was on my way out of Escalante... almost. Went to upshift, and... nothing. Looked down at the shifter noticed...

    [​IMG]

    Oops. After fourteen years and 50,000 miles, the ball-and-socket joint on the shift linkage had let go. I pushed it back together and rode gingerly over to the hardware store, where I picked up the Universal Repair Kit:

    [​IMG]
    Zip-ties. Is there anything they can't fix?

    And yes, the zip-ties lasted till I got home, at which point I replaced the whole shift rod, and its rather cheesy stock joints, with an aftermarket assembly including real Heim joints.

    The other thing I noticed as I headed out of Escalante was that the Tour-Pak seemed to be bouncing around a whole lot less than it had in, oh, the last couple years. Apparently that rack had been breaking in different places for a while. Guess I've got an engineering project for the off-season...

    But that can wait; the bike's working, let's enjoy one fantastic road!

    [​IMG]

    Utah 12 is fantastic for its entire length, but two particular spots stand out. The first is a crazy corkscrew through an other-worldly landscape of white slickrock sandstone:

    [​IMG]
    This panoramic shot is a big file. Don't know if you can just click, or right-click and open in another tab...

    See where the road comes down around the curve? Insane engineering...

    [​IMG]

    While my feet prevented me from attempting the hike to Calf Creek Falls (sigh... yet another thing for "next time"), the map seemed to indicate there was an overlook of the falls right about here. Well, I didn't find it... but then again, the scenery was a bit distracting.

    The other famous spot on Utah 12:

    [​IMG]
    This is actually a montage of two photos. Can you find the seam?

    The famous "Hogback" is really just a simple S-curve... if you ignore the sheer drops on both sides of the road...

    And now... down into the red rocks for a while...

    [​IMG]

    See the road?

    [​IMG]

    After the town of Boulder (where the Burr Trail heads off toward some spectacular-but-unpaved switchbacks and the ferry at Bullfrog), the road gets into Something Completely Different--a stretch of Real Mountains.

    [​IMG]

    Even in August it was a bit chilly up here.

    [​IMG]

    Utah 12 ends at Capitol Reef National Park, which was my destination for the day. Fruita, a former town at the entrance to the park, is an amazing little oasis in the red-rock desert. There are orchards with fruit for sale (hence the place's name), and a campground with both shade and grass!

    [​IMG]

    It's all because of this little river, one of the few streams in this region that runs all year.

    [​IMG]

    To the left of that little dam, there's an inviting little pool. Which could be a good thing, because the one thing this campground doesn't have is showers. Which is a bit surprising, since it has flush toilets and running water.

    With my tent set up, I decided to take the scenic road down into the desert. It's more or less a dead-end unless you've got a Jeep or a dirt bike.

    [​IMG]

    Oh, yeah, in places the road is also the bed of an intermittent stream that runs (as a flash flood) after there's rain. Sometimes flash floods wash sand and mud onto the road and block it until the park service can get in with heavy equipment. Not today, but according to the forecast, maybe tomorrow. Something to keep in mind.

    Here we see the Giant Desert Clam just waiting to gobble up an unsuspecting hiker:

    [​IMG]

    Pretty soon I came to the end of the paved road. From this parking lot, one dirt road goes east, to the Pioneer Register...

    [​IMG]

    Capitol Reef gets its name from a number of dome-shaped white rock formations. Surprisingly, I didn't photograph any of them on this trip.

    The other dirt road goes south, eventually curving back around to meet Route 12. But, despite the name "Pleasant Creek Road," it's not a pleasant ride. At least not on a big ol' Harley.

    [​IMG]

    Time to turn around and see what the country looks like going the other way.

    [​IMG]

    Yeah. Big. Red.

    I had just enough time before dark to ride back to Torrey and grab gas and dinner, and get back to the campground for the Ranger's talk. This night it was about the women of Capitol Reef, all the way back to Indian legends, Mormon settlers, and others who came and went in this little oasis.

    [​IMG]
    The deer know they're in a national park.

    And that was the end of another day.
    #15
  16. ScottFree

    ScottFree Been here awhile

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    Day Nine: Mud on the Wind

    As I packed up my tent and headed out of Capitol Reef, I was thinking that even though I was on the Road King and therefore staying off the dirt roads that had been part of my original plan, I could still ride the Moki Dugway. After all, YouTube is full of videos in which people ride full-dress Harleys and Gold Wings down the dirt switchbacks.

    [​IMG]

    The morning light really brings out the texture of the rock formations. Highway 24 follows the Fremont River (that little stream next to the campground) to Hanksville, were it joins Muddy Creek to form the Dirty Devil River, which in turn meets the Colorado River at Hite (keep this in mind; there'll be a test later). That little river provides enough water to irrigate fields and support grazing cattle. After all the red desert scenery of the last four days, this green field was a nice sight.

    Stopped for gas and a monstrous breakfast burrito in Hanksville, got a few miles south on Highway 95 and realized I was looking down at the Road King's dashboard rather than my map holder. Oops... did I leave it at the restaurant? Nope, as it turned out, it was sitting atop my pile of gear on the passenger seat. Not that it particularly mattered; there wasn't much navigation to do in this part of Utah, but I would have missed it later.

    Route 95 ("Highway of the Ancients") starts out in wide-open desert country, with mountains in the distance.

    [​IMG]

    The frosting on the sandstone layer cake that makes up southeastern Utah is this white rock that erodes into softly rounded domes. In some places it makes formations that look oddly like a soft-serve ice cream cone. But not in this picture.

    [​IMG]

    I think this pull-off was for a trail that led (after a few rugged miles) to a small spring. Hence all the greenery.

    [​IMG]

    Rather quickly we get into the Colorado River canyon system, and start descending into the red rock formations.

    [​IMG]
    A monument to '60s optimism

    What's that huge concrete slab? It's the boat launch ramp at the now-closed Hite Marina. When the Bureau of Reclamation built Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell, they based their river flow and water depth estimates on recent weather records. As it turned out (after people started looking at the thousand-year records contained in tree rings), the dam was built right at the end of a 100-year period when the West was relatively wet. The Hite complex was supposed to be in a bay at the northern end of the lake. Now that we're in the much-longer dry period, the river contains a lot less water, and this marina sits high and dry, a good fifty feet above (and maybe a quarter-mile from) the Dirty Devil River. Oops.

    [​IMG]

    The Colorado River is completely within its banks (the Dirty Devil enters from the right, below the cliff in the foreground). According to the original plan, the entire green area should be under 50-100 feet of water, but the water just ain't there.

    Fun fact, by the way: late July and August are the time of the year when Lake Powell is at its highest levels, because the water from snowmelt in the Rockies has finally made it downstream. So this is as good as it gets. I was keeping an eye on this because at one point I was thinking about the ferryboat at Hall's Crossing, which doesn't operate if the lake level gets too low. It hasn't in the last few years, but it's come close.

    [​IMG]

    The bridge over the mighty Colorado. If you've read Edward Abbey's novel of eco-terrorism, "The Monkey Wrench Gang," this is the bridge the heroes (?) tried--and failed--to blow up.

    [​IMG]
    "Cheese Box Mesa." I guess somebody from Wisconsin was feeling nostalgic.

    Southeast of the Colorado River, the road just rolls on through a heck of a lot of empty land. There are dots on the map that look like towns, but that turn out to be nothing but a ranch, or a failed resort. Looong way between gas stations out here.

    So... while I had thought about going down to Mexican Hat via Moki Dugway, I was looking at the sky. Clouds were starting to stack up a bit.

    [​IMG]

    And the forecast called for some heavy storms to start in the late afternoon--not just the usual monsoon-season pop-ups that drop a bit of rain and are then followed by more sunshine, but an actual weather system coming in from the north, with rain through the afternoon and into the next day. So, not wanting to be on dirt switchbacks in a rainstorm, I continued east on 95 to Blanding, where I stopped for gas and a snack. Leaving Blanding, the clouds closed in and I got a few sprinkles of rain and stretches of wet road. Decided to stop in Monticello, found the cheapest motel in town, and got settled in... maybe fifteen minutes before...

    [​IMG]

    Combination dust and rainstorm! The dust blew in, then the rain started. Rained pretty heavily for the next hour or so, then intermittently well into the night and the next morning. A couple days later (in Salida, CO, of all places), I was talking with a guy who was out in the middle of this--rode his Harley down to Bullfrog, intending to catch the ferry, only to find it closed because of the storm. So he got to ride a hundred or so miles out of his way in the downpours. Said it was really miserable. Meanwhile, I got to watch the storm from the comfort of a motel room. Some days things just work out.
    #16
  17. Trip Hammer

    Trip Hammer It's not the years, it's the mileage Supporter

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    Excellent report, ScottFree! This is just what I needed to read this morning. I'm headed to Moab/Southern Utah at the end of April - first visit for me. I have a healthy fear of heights, and I'll admit, the Shafer trail has me a little worried. :D
    #17
  18. ScottFree

    ScottFree Been here awhile

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    When I rode down the Shafer Trail in 1981, I saw a Park Service sign warning that the road was "Not For The Squeamish." I didn't personally think it was that scary, but for some reason natural heights don't bother me (I do get to feeling a bit squinchy inside when leaning over the guard rail on the Royal Gorge bridge, though). Keep in mind that the fisheye lens on a GoPro tends to make roads look narrower than they actually are. This is particularly true if the camera's mounted on top of the rider's helmet and he's standing on the pegs (and since most YouTube videos of the Shafer Trail are made by GS riders, you can pretty much guarantee this is the case). It's certainly narrow in places, and those drops are long, but most places you're not completely on the edge. And, of course, doesn't matter that the drop's five or six hundred feet in places--twenty feet will kill you just as effectively!

    OK, after a break to march in St. Paddy's Day parades, play bagpipes in the bars, and consume massive amounts of free Guinness (remember, the best beer in the world is the one somebody else pays for), let's get on with this story...

    Day Ten: What State Are We In?

    I have a map of Colorado at home, on which I've highlighted all the mountain roads I've managed to ride since I first visited the state in 1977. By now, there aren't many un-highlighted lines left. But, CO 141 from Dove Creek to Naturita had so far escaped, so it was my first target for the morning. After grabbing emergency rations (little chocolate donuts and bottled-from-concentrate orange juice) at the gas station, I zipped up my Roadcrafter suit against the chilly drizzle and headed southeast on US 491. Sixteen miles later I was in Colorado, and a few miles after that I made my turn onto a new-to-me road.

    [​IMG]
    Looks like Colorado... even though the mountains in the background are actually in Utah.

    As I headed north, the terrain got a little hillier, the road a little curvier, and the weather a little drier. These are all good things. There is one named geographic feature on CO 141, Gypsum Gap:

    [​IMG]

    By the time I made a gas stop in Naturita, things had improved enough that I was revising my plans: rather than taking the more-or-less direct route to Gunnison through Ridgway and Montrose, I decided to stay on 141 up to Grand Junction. This turned out to work pretty well, as the sun came out by the time I reached the spot where the road starts running along the Dolores River:

    [​IMG]
    Another Road Not Taken, sigh...

    The dirt road down by the river is called "Y11 Road." It follows the river south to CO 90 at Bedrock, and had been on my "To Ride" list for this trip before I switched from the GS to the Road King. Sigh... next time...

    [​IMG]

    I ran into this couple while getting gas in Naturita. They're from England, on an all-summer ride around the western US. Flew into Houston (I think; at least I'm sure it was Texas), bought this Triumph Tiger, and were riding generally toward the northwest, with a plan to then ride down the coast and back to Texas before they had to return to England for the winter. They were considering either selling the Triumph before going back home, or parking it with a relative and coming back in 2019 to continue their adventure. Neat. I wish them well.

    [​IMG]

    A bit of history: around this stretch, there are a couple places where you can pull over, stick your neck over a fence and see a bit of the "hanging flume," a trough attached to the cliff face that carried water to a gold mine. The thing was built in the late 1880s, by workers suspended on ropes from the top of the cliff. It operated for three years before the mine company folded up after spending over a million bucks and only recovering about $80K worth of gold. Oops... Remnants of the flume--mostly framework and supports driven into the sandstone--are still visible, and I wish I'd stopped to shoot a picture. I did that in 1994, when I first found this road.

    [​IMG]

    Along the Dolores River, wondering what state I'm in. The map says Colorado, the geography says Utah. Guess I'm in the State of Confusion... yet again...

    [​IMG]

    Somebody built a little cistern at the outlet of a water-seep in the sandstone. In 1994, there was no hose. Somebody's making improvements.

    At the town of Gateway, you make a right turn and head northeast, toward Grand Junction. Gateway's changed a lot since I was last here in 1994--back then it was maybe two or three small businesses, and I don't remember gas being available. Today, it's still pretty small, but there are a couple diners, a resort, and a gas station with four or five Harleys filling up. The place has been Discovered... as I learned when I got home, pulled the new BMW MOA magazine out of the mailbox, and found they'd done the press introduction for the new F850 models in Gateway.

    Just down the road from Gateway, the scenery changes. A lot.

    [​IMG]

    Just like that, I was out of Utah-in-Colorado, and back in the part of Colorado that looks like Colorado.

    [​IMG]

    The biggest part of the Colorado Plateau (the big multi-colored rock layer cake that creates the canyon country) is not in Colorado; it's in Utah. Second-biggest part of it is in Arizona. This is because the plateau's not named for the state; both are named for the red color in the rocks. Cue the echo chamber, "Now--You--Know..."

    [​IMG]

    Not a dirt road (sigh), just a turn-off for a picnic table, a porta-pot, and a pretty little stream.

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    When I stopped here in '94, somebody had piled up enough stones to dam the creek and make a nice little swimmin' hole (well, maybe not actual swimming, but at least soaking in the cool water on a day that was pushing 100 degrees). No sign of it in 2018... but also no sign of the heat, so the universe is still in balance.

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    Colorado 141 runs into US 50 just southeast of Grand Junction. That's Grand Mesa, "the world's biggest flat-topped mountain," in the distance. Another of the Roads Planned But Not Taken runs up the side of it: Land's End Road. I tried to tackle the road on my Super Glide back in 1989, but the washboards were too much for the FXR's suspension and I turned back. Rode to the observatory at the top of the Land's End switchbacks on my wife's Sportster in 1991, hoping to see the "vanishing waterfall" mentioned in Road Rider magazine. Unfortunately, it being August at the time, the waterfall had vanished. As has RR.

    I toyed with the idea of riding down to Gunnison on Colorado route 92, which runs along the northern edge of the Black Canyon. But, with those clouds piling up and rain still in the forecast... I remember riding down 92 in the late afternoon back in 1991 and getting caught in some hellacious monsoon thunderstorms that had me feeling shocks between my fingertips and the bike. So I stayed on 50, which is a four lane with a generous speed limit... and what feel like paved whoop-de-doos.

    When I got to Montrose, of course the weather seemed to be improving, so I grabbed a sandwich to go and decided to have a late lunch at the Black Canyon National Park. Which might sound just a bit extravagant, but... when I turned 62 a few years back, I made a point of getting one of those "Lifetime Senior Pass" cards. Not only does it grant half-price camping in NPS and Army Corps sites, it also gives me free admission to National Parks. On this trip it got a workout--Rocky Mountain, Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and now Black Canyon!

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    Parking on the edge.With a view like this, even a gas station sandwich washed down with Gatorade tastes good.

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    But, the weather continued to threaten, even with sunshine where I was.

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    And I still had a few miles to go, so I cut short my sightseeing and headed back to Route 50. I've been to Black Canyon before, I'll no doubt be back again.

    When I was in Cannonville, I had attempted to plan ahead, and reserved a "cabin" in a campground outside Gunnison. It turned out to be somewhat less than I had expected:

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    Smaller on the inside:

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    Tried laying down on the bed, and cracked my head on the ceiling each time I got up. Enough of this. Got on the phone to Mission Control, and my wife (who is one of the best in the world at working the phones) quickly set me up with a motel room in downtown Gunnison. Not cheap, but good: nice room, lots of other riders staying there, and best of all... one whole block from a brewery:

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    Ahh... dinner, some fine locally-brewed beer... oh, and as soon as it got dark, the rain ended.

    And so, having gone from the state of Utah to the state of Colorado to the state of Confusion, I finished the day in the state of... inebriation. Perfect.
    #18
    15's Pop, Speedtrap, AHRMA17L and 3 others like this.
  19. Bullseye

    Bullseye Mr. Bad Example Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2006
    Oddometer:
    863
    Location:
    VenCo/CA
    Terry aka 'The Desert Doctor' is a character! He helped me out of a bind a couple of years ago. The walls of his building are covered with strips of old tires with the hometowns of all the riders he has helped out over the years.

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    #19
    AHRMA17L, Muscongus and adixxon like this.
  20. Tadpole

    Tadpole Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2006
    Oddometer:
    33
    Location:
    Kathleen GA
    You visited some of my favorite areas so far and a few I'd like to visit. Nice pictures! As for the shift linkage, the same happened to my buds bike on a Colorado trip...used a small bungee to hold it together the rest of the trip.
    #20