The Midwest meets the West: Another 950 Off Road Adventure

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by gearheadE30, Dec 20, 2017.

  1. gearheadE30

    gearheadE30 @LC8Adventures

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,825
    Location:
    Indiana
    Here begins my second ride report here on ADVrider. The first was a 3 month trip around the U.S. on my then-new-to-me KTM 950 Adventure, which chronicled my first real experiences camping in a tent, traveling on a motorcycle, and riding solo. That ride report sadly lost all of it's photo content with the death of Photobucket, which has made me hesitant to put all the work into another RR. However, after being extremely dissatisfied with the results of my journal in Word, I've decided to give it another go. This time, I'll be saving HTML copies of each page as things progress so that this can still double as my journal of the trip, so hopefully there will be some redundancy.

    Anyway, that last trip was way back in 2014, so things have changed a bit. In the intervening 3 years, I've done a lot of shorter weekend trips and really dove into riding off road, through trials, racing dirt bikes, and still taking the 950 on as much singletrack as possible. The bike, pictured below, has come a long way since that first trip. It's now been rewired a few times, has a fantastic Konflict 265mm suspension under it, and has had a fair amount of weight taken out in an effort to make it better off road. I've also gotten rid of the horribly heavy Gobi bags in favor of the lightweight, compact Kriega Overlander setup. That trend will likely show throughout this report, as I'm really in it for the off road.

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    The following posts will really flesh things out a bit more, but for background until I can get it posted, I took this trip back in July of this year. I had 2 weeks to work with, and the goal was to ride from my home in Indiana out to Moab, bum around Utah and Colorado for as long as possible, and book it back.

    The coolest part of this whole deal for me is that my dad was doing the same thing. He and some other guys from California would ride out and meet me in Moab, and they would also head home after the ride. My dad has only been riding for about 4 years now, but I actually got to ride for a week with him out in the same area, so this was a really, really cool opportunity to make memories on two wheels.

    Naturally, there will be a lot of pictures, and I've got a lot of really good video footage from the ride as well. That's not been edited or posted or anything, so it will probably be a little late relative to the thread posts. Editing video takes so long...

    And so, here we go... :beer
    #1
  2. gearheadE30

    gearheadE30 @LC8Adventures

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,825
    Location:
    Indiana
    Like I said, I've already written some of this down, so I'm just going to copy and paste here even though there is some overlap with the first post.

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    It had been a long time since I’d spent more than three or four days travelling on a motorcycle. The last major trip I took was back in 2014, immediately after graduating from Purdue. I couldn’t tell you what prompted that trip. I don’t come from a family with a history of riding, and I didn’t grow up camping very often. As with anything, I think there was a combination of drivers. I wanted a change – to do something exciting and memorable, like all the post-college trips you hear people talk about every once in a while. I wanted to explore, and wanted to do something on 2 wheels. Mostly, I think I was afraid of the rigid, confining future I saw myself entering.

    By the time 2017 came around, I’d been working a solid engineering job for close to three years, and made a point to take at least one or two long weekend trips on the 950 every year. I was, however, once again looking to get away from the structure and monotony of corporate adult life. Once you’ve experienced life on the road, particularly in a tent or with minimal luxury while traversing inhospitable terrain, it’s hard to get that out of your head. It certainly hadn’t left mine, and any time I went back and looked at pictures of previous trips or looked through ride reports here, I’d get a sense of excitement and longing. It was time. I needed to travel again.

    My destination was to be Moab, UT. It was within reach for a ~2 week trip, and would allow me to spend some time riding in the mountains of Colorado again. The trip duration was fairly constrained, as I have a grand total of 10 days of vacation per year. I intended to use most of them for this trip. An offhand remark from my dad turned into a plan to meet in the middle of the country, potentially with some of both his and my riding friends joining us. By the start of the trip, it was looking like myself, my dad, and dad’s neighbor would be the only ones coming.
    #2
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  3. gearheadE30

    gearheadE30 @LC8Adventures

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,825
    Location:
    Indiana
    Trip Preparation

    I’m pretty sure that my method of preparing for these trips goes somewhat counter to how most people do it. My approach typically involves making sure that the bike is ready and as reliable as possible for the month or so leading up to departure. In the days or weeks immediately before leaving, I would finish off the planning by stitching together a rough route. This time around, everything about it was a rush, and my typical order had to change. Planning a trip that, for everyone involved, spanned most of the contiguous United States meant that the GPS tracks needed to come first. Over the course of a few weeks, I was able to pull tracks together from my previous rides, the internet, and some of the local Back Country Discovery Routes. Special attention was paid to gas stops, knowing that even though BMW F800s (the other two bikes on the trip) get great gas mileage, they were still no match for the 8.2 gallons the 950 can carry. Aside from that, I simply connected points with little regard for difficulty, elevation, or really much else aside from avoiding pavement wherever possible.

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    GPS planning complete, I realized I only had a few weeks to prep the bike – not much time if I needed to order something. New tires (Pirelli Scorpion Rally front, Motoz Tractionator Desert H/T rear) were spooned on, spare levers and pedals were ordered, a new windshield was installed, and quite a lot of time was spent strengthening the bi-xenon headlight I’d fabricated. I also rewired a few things, flushed the fluids, changed the oil, installed a new chain and sprockets, tapped in some new wheel bearings, and generally went through the bike from stem to stern to make sure everything was shipshape. A recent crash in Kentucky meant that I also installed some new side bags.

    The one thing that was a struggle was figuring out what to do for a GPS tracker. On previous trips, I had used a SPOT Gen3 tracker. While it worked well, the user interface was limited and service was quite expensive. In the years between trips, I’d let the service lapse, and wasn’t anxious to spend hundreds of dollars on service that was only needed a few weeks a year. After much research, I ended up buying a DeLorme InReach Explorer used on Ebay. It showed up a little more than a week before I left….and the IMEI number that links it to a user was locked. I had called Garmin (who had recently bought out DeLorme) to clear the number before I bought it, but apparently they had given me incorrect information. Their customer service is phenomenal though, and they were able to send me an unlocked, refurbished unit that arrived a few days before departure.

    Packing for trips like this has become rather simple. All the tools, including spare tubes, a shovel, tow strap, tire pump, levers, and tire irons are all stored on the bike even for my day to day riding. The rest is about the same as what I would take on a weekend trip, aside from packing slightly more clothing and food.

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    Most of what you’ll read in this ride report is coming back to me from journal entries in the notebook shown in the second picture. I strongly encourage people to write their thoughts down every night. Not only does it help clear the mind, it really helps remind you what happened years down the road, and brings it back like the trip ended a week ago. These ride reports are also great for the memory, even though they can be fairly time consuming to write.

    #3
  4. gearheadE30

    gearheadE30 @LC8Adventures

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,825
    Location:
    Indiana
    Day 1 7/20/2017

    Day one was all about the miles. I knew I had limited time, so I left work a bit early on Thursday and struck out for the West. The monotony of slabbing the miles was tempered by the adrenaline of striking out into the unknown once more. I avoided interstates, but even the smaller highways I was running at least 65 mph. My route was direct rather than fast, but meant that I was still able to ride some fun roads on the way out. Indiana was interesting, but it flattened out and became monotonous as soon as I hit Illinois. Temperatures were between 95F and 102F according to roadside signs, so keeping the speed up had the secondary benefit of keeping me (and the bike) cool.

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    The rapid pace meant that I didn’t get many pictures, however I did grab some occasional video with the GoPro. My goal was to make it all the way to the Tom Sawyer National Forest down in Missouri, but that wasn’t to be. Once it started getting dark in southern Illinois, I pulled off and checked the GPS – I still had around 3 hours to go before getting to the forest. Riding through the town of Houston, TX had made me both hopeful and confused, but turns out it was just a cleverly-named town in Texas County.

    That left two options: find a hotel and get a good night’s sleep, or find a place to hide. Considering it was the first night of the trip, the choice was not hard. By this point, I’d wicked it up quite a bit to make up time, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a gap in the trees as I flew past. It was the only possibility I’d seen in miles, and as I don’t really like setting the tent up and cooking in the dark, I pulled a quick U-turn and ducked off the road. I managed 265 miles of riding the first day, but that was about 100 short of what I was shooting for. I wasn’t far from traffic, but the dense foliage dampened the noise and the rapid approach of sunset lent me some welcome cover.

    Not much of a view from this campsite...

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    The bugs were remarkably aggressive, but I was able to get set up and cook some soup before it was too dark to see. I actually sat out in the open fairly close to the road while I ate, but none of the passing traffic took any notice. Pretty interesting how something (or someone) can be 20 feet away in plain sight and yet be totally invisible at the same time. As an aside, this olive green color is absolutely the best choice for a tent. As soon as the sun starts to go down, the tent becomes more or less invisible unless you're looking for it.

    When I got to my tent, I discovered that there were already a few ticks crawling on it. Fortunately, I didn’t find any of them burrowed into me. It was so hot that night that I didn’t zip up the rainfly, and I didn’t even unpack the sleeping bag. Even so, I woke up in a puddle of my own sweat that convinced me that it must have rained that night, until I stepped out of the tent and back onto the parched ground next to the field.

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    Day 1 GPS data:
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    #4
  5. gearheadE30

    gearheadE30 @LC8Adventures

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,825
    Location:
    Indiana
    Day 2 7/21/2017

    As I noted at the beginning of this thread, I'm copying and pasting some of this text from an offline journal I had started. The intro posts and Day 1 were written some time ago, and 4 months passed between then and writing Day 2. I haven’t even managed to look at the GoPro video that I was so excited about. Oh well. Hopefully this doesn’t blur my memory of the trip itself, and the pictures and notes in my journal will help bring the details back into focus. I can say unequivocally, though, that looking though the pictures again is reawakening the need to travel. I suppose somewhat fittingly, I’m writing this on an airplane as I fly out to California. No motorcycles this time, but at least it is travel, and is a change of pace.

    I woke up rejuvenated after an excellent night's sleep, which was somewhat surprising since it was my first night in a tent in awhile. I think hammering the miles out really took the energy out of me, though I think the new Thermarest and its miraculous ability to stay inflated overnight didn’t hurt either. As much as I liked the Big Agnes gear, I just can't get those things to live more than a few weeks.

    The DeLorme has a nice feature that allows you to check the weather in any locality, via the satellite uplink. It’s not a fast process, but it’s pretty invaluable when you need to plan your route around major storms. I would end up using this functionality again the next day in Mexico, where I ended up getting pelted with marble-sized hail. That’s far from fun on a bike, but is definitely memorable. This time around, the DeLorme informed me that I was riding into 106F heat in Oklahoma, so I needed to be particularly cognizant of my water supply. At this temperature, riding on knobbies at high speed, you also have to be careful about tire temperatures – knobs melt quickly, and tubes can rub themselves to pieces if tire pressure is too low.

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    Rejoining traffic, I passed through the small town of Licking. I have to assume that this church is only here because someone thought it would be amusing to call themselves the Licking Assembly of God. I certainly got a kick out of it, though some members of the congregation pantomimed their displeasure towards my perfunctory wheelie rather incongruously as I left the parking lot.

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    It soon became clear that I had made the right decision in stopping the previous night when I did. It took me a few solid hours to get to the Tom Sawyer National Forest from where I had slept, which would have made for a very late night. The road through that forest was one of the most interesting in the Midwest, as Illinois was almost entirely flat and the rest of Missouri was similarly featureless. I followed someone in a late 1990s Jeep Grand Cherokee down this twisty road, which would have been fun even at the 55 mph speed limit. This guy, though, was obviously familiar with the road and, as I was catching up to him, stood on the go pedal. I was close to him long enough to realize it was one of the rare 5.9-powered Jeeps, and he quickly exceeded speeds that I really wanted to carry on a public road. No sense losing your license on the second day of the trip. I would reel him in through the corners, and he would pull away in the straights as he was more willing to go 30+ over than I was. It was, needless to say, quite a lot of fun and amusing to see such a vehicle hustle through the corners.

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    From there, things were largely boring until I hit Oklahoma. Oklahoma has more of a reputation for being flat than most of the Midwest, but I have to say, the eastern part of it has some great dirt and gravel roads. Yes, they straighten out moving west, but it was a wonderful change of pace and was really the first feeling that was on an off road trip. By this point, I had joined up with the Trans American Trail, knowing that I could generally make just as good of time in the gravel with no enforced speed limits as I could on pavement when dealing with traffic.

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    I stopped for a brief restroom break, where I also reminded myself that one of my goals was to slow down where things were interesting to take more pictures. This is something that I have struggled with on past trips, and wouldn’t end up doing so well with on this one either. However, those pictures are great triggers and motivation down the road when you need a reminder that you’ve actually done something meaningful with your life. I even found myself a friend as I was standing there taking it all in.

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    I wouldn’t end up stopping again until I reached camp, aside from picking up fuel and water. It was an astoundingly hot day, but the bike never got above 4 bars. Average speed was high enough for it to not be a concern, but the heat coming off the exhaust and radiator was noticeable if I had to slow down for traffic at all. More than 600 miles and hardly any pictures…I guess that’s what happens when you’re trying to knock the miles down. I did see a car show in Tulsa that looked temping, but there are car shows back in Indiana. There is no Moab in Indiana. I later realized that, when I was traveling three years prior, I had actually stopped at the same car show. It’s interesting what the brain remembers. I can’t remember people’s names for the life of me, but if I drive or ride somewhere, there is a good chance that I will recognize it or even know how to get back to wherever I had been before. Hooray, useless skills.

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    One very significant downside of Oklahoma’s terrain is that most areas really don’t have much tree cover. This area is farmed so heavily that most of the trees have been cleared out to allow for bigger fields. Yes, it is the breadbasket of America, but it isn’t that way naturally. Most of it is irrigated, and the lack of trees and natural vegetation means that high winds are the norm. It also means that there aren’t many places to hide a tent. Population density is sparse, but anywhere you camp is going to be visible for some distance.

    As the sun began to set, abandoned properties became more and more inviting. Normally I avoid any place that is obviously trespassing, but at some point you just have to go with it. I rolled through a few areas that looked good, but were either inaccessible due to well-hidden barbed wire or were so overgrown with long grass that I would have to spend a good amount of time clearing grass for the tent. I’d do it if I had to, but it wasn’t sounding attractive considering the ridiculous ambient heat.

    Eventually, I found a property with a driveway that had been matted down. Hopefully whatever did the matting wouldn’t be coming through on this particular night, and the house looked like it hadn’t been occupied for 20 years. It was completely surrounded by hay bales, so I wasn’t able to get inside to see what it looked like.

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    The view from the campsite ended up being spectacular as the sun began to go down. Who knew that Oklahoma could offer such beauty? I don’t know how often they have clouds in the sky, but they really make this picture. If it weren’t for the obvious tick concern with all the long grass, this would have made a great place to sleep under the stars. A clear sky with little moisture and no light pollution makes for an incredible view of the night.

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    Trip info for Day 2:

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    #5
  6. gearheadE30

    gearheadE30 @LC8Adventures

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,825
    Location:
    Indiana
    Day 3 7/22/2017

    This is where the trip really starts taking off, which is kind of astounding to think about as I have already written quite a bit. It looks like I ramble on just as much in type as I do when I’m talking about something I’m excited about. On day three, the goal was to make it all the way to the hotel in Moab where I would meet the other riders. This meant a few things for me: one, I didn’t need to worry about finding camp before nightfall because I could just keep riding until I got to Moab. Two, I would be off pavement for almost the whole day, which is a lot of standing, and a lot of hauling ass. I tend to fall into a rhythm riding off road, which ends up being about 85% of what I feel my limits are. Slower, and my mind wanders too much; faster, and the risk goes up too much for my liking. I end up focused on what I’m doing, working with the bike, and just generally feeling good. The geometry of the 950 works best moving quickly anyway – the rake and offset keeps it stable and planted in the gravel or dirt, and the stiff suspension really comes into its own soaking up the big hits and washouts. Big bikes also don’t like to turn in the conventional sense, and the preferred tail-out slide becomes more stable with some momentum behind it. Get it right, and it’s a smooth brake slide in and power slide out. It's a truly addictive feeling.

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    Early on, I met a hitchhiker (in the pic above). It didn’t look like it was working out too well for him, and I didn’t have room on the bike to carry a passenger. Around the same time, I had another moment where I realized just where I was – close to Buffalo! Last time I came through here, I was going the other direction and spent about an hour at the gas station in town talking to a few of the locals. Regardless of the reality, I’ll probably always associate this little town with friendly people and interesting stories.

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    It was just to the east of town that I had gotten a flat front tire and ate asphalt at highway speeds. I recognized the intersection immediately, though there wasn’t any debris left from my shattered turn signal, and time had long since washed away any memory of the gasoline stains darkening the asphalt. I crashed in the bend pictured, and slid straight toward the camera. To date, it's still the hardest I've gone down on pavement, though the only real damage was to my ego, turn signal, and my week-old gloves. It's also my constant reminder that you shouldn't try to stand up until you are completely stopped - you feel so fast sliding along at 60+ that, by the time you get down to about 10 miles an hour, you feel like you've stopped. Digging your heels in very, very rapidly flips you onto your chest and hands, which is more painful than the fall itself. :muutt

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    Buffalo is also home to this cool old Caterpillar crawler. As best I can tell, it’s a ~60 hp 4 cylinder model. I don’t know a whole lot about these old machines, however this one was a carbureted overhead valve model and looked to be in surprisingly serviceable shape. Considering diesel was still relatively new to the scene at this point, I would guess this ran on gasoline or some other slightly-refined oil. It appears to have been built around 1926 by the Holt company. The massive dry clutch and flywheel are directly under the operator’s seat without so much as a scatter shield. Definitely a different era compared to today’s relentless (and occasionally debilitating) push for safety.


    Out in the flatlands west of Buffalo, the 950 hit a remarkable milestone: 80,000 miles. I bought the bike about 4 years prior with a hair less than 40,000 miles on it, so this also marked roughly 40,000 of my own miles on it. Maybe not the most scenic place for this momentous occasion, but I am very glad that it happened on an actual trip instead of a boring ride in to work or something. Sure, new bikes are nice, but I don’t see myself trading in the 950 any time soon.

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    Kind of an inauspicious place to hit landmark mileage, but still worth a picture:

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    Many of the fields in this part of the country exist mainly because of irrigation, and most of the systems are operated by engine-driven water pumps. Power comes from a variety of sources, with most being small- and big-block Chevy power. These engines are run remotely and are fed from massive tanks, and almost all of them are equipped with long tube headers and nothing in the way of muffling. As a Cummins engineer, I was hoping to see some of my products out in the field, however I only saw one or two diesels out there (yes, Cummins diesels). It must be so cheap to get and maintain those chevy V8s that it doesn’t make any sense to spend the money on a diesel, and if something fails it can be replaced very easily.

    Somewhere along the way, I also kicked a grasshopper:

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    Somewhere after leaving Buffalo, I started seeing occasional evidence of other adventure bikes. As a result, I ended up riding quite a bit more quickly than I had been previously in hopes of catching up with them, however that didn’t pan out. I did end up bypassing a section of the TAT in favor of pavement, simply because the grid of dusty gravel roads had enough stop signs that slowing down, accelerating back up to 70 or so, and slowing back down for the intersection was starting to get old. I also knew that I was going to be a little tight on time if I didn’t take a more direct route occasionally.

    I didn’t want to stop for too long in Boise City, so I pulled over at a roadside picnic table to make myself a burrito. It was windy and hot, but at least this afforded me some shade. All of the graffiti scribbled on the enclosure and the table itself also provided some entertaining reading material while I ate.

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    The next stop was in Boise City, where I stopped at a gas station that I’d been to before. I did meet a few people on BMW GSs while I was there, and they would end up being the only TAT riders I would meet on this trip. I did also meet someone who had driven the TAT in a Wrangler Rubicon – I’m not sure if the 4x4 route is the same as the motorcycle route, but I know I saw a few people when I rode the TAT who were attempting it in FJ Cruisers. I don’t really remember any areas that wouldn’t be possible in a 4x4 with a skilled driver, I suppose.

    Just outside of Boise City is the Great Plains Bunkhouse, which actually advertises itself as the start of the western part of the TAT. If I were traveling and wanted a place to stay other than my tent, it would be a fantastic place to stay. I believe it’s #16 on Sam’s tracks. There wasn’t anyone there when I rolled through though, so I’m not sure if I was early in the TAT season or if it was just a slow year. Frankly, I was expecting to see a lot more people out there.

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    The Bunkhouse is more or less at the end of the Oklahoma panhandle, and I continued east into New Mexico. The terrain really doesn’t change much, but there is even less evidence of civilization and the land picks up a gently rolling quality as elevation increases. I rolled through here about as quickly as I could, knowing that I was about to reach the foothills where riding would become more interesting.

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    Just as my tracks started to diverge from pavement and head to the north, the sky began to darken. My first view of the mountains was shrouded by a dense storm cloud hovering overhead, and the energy in the air was palpable. I’d been riding in temperatures near or over 100F all day, but as I came under the edge of that front, I had to flip on the heated grips. In a matter of minutes, the temperature had fallen to around 50F. Hoping to avoid the worst of the storm, I took off in a northwesterly direction towards Trinidad, CO. I wasn’t moving fast enough, though, and endured about 10 minutes of pouring rain and marble-sized hail before popping out the other side. Knowing that I wasn’t out of the woods yet (the storm was taking a much more direct route than I was, and was propelled my a massive change in atmospheric pressure rather than a comparatively inconsequential mixture of air and gasoline) I really poured on the speed. Fortunately, in the muddy road conditions I only managed to slide into a ditch once. It was a fine balance of speed, maintaining control while not really being able to see or move my cold, wet fingers. I stopped just long enough to take one picture, thinking I had covered enough ground to be safe from the storm.

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    Shortly after resuming my ride, I hit a dead end. The GPS, with its 4 year old City Navigator maps, were starting to show their age – the proposed route traveled through a fence with no gate into a uniform, road-less field. The only way out of the valley was to turn around, hightail it to the last intersection, and hope I could still stay ahead of the storm. Now facing the ominous clouds, I beat a hasty retreat, all the while noting uncomfortably that I could no longer see through the valley I was now trying to get out of due to the density of the rain. Fortunately, I hit the intersection and found myself on a wide, relatively dry dirt road promising high speeds and a way out of the storm, which was voicing its displeasure at my escape vehemently enough to be heard over the thunder of an LC8 exhaling heavily through a Yosh exhaust.

    In reward for my successful escape, I ate a delicious french dip sandwich at Tony’s Diner in Trinidad:

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    While I no longer needed to worry about the rain – I was north of its easterly path – I was done with sunlight for the day. That did nothing to dampen my excitement at being in the mountains, though. My plan was to head over Medano pass between Mt. Zwischen and Mt. Herard just to the east of the Great Sand Dune, camping somewhere along the way. The recent rain made this a really nice ride, firming up the sand somewhat. There are a few remarkably deep water crossings on this trail, made more difficult by the stagnant, muddy water that doesn’t allow any view of the bottom, but a 4Runner in front of me gave me some idea of what I was in for. There aren’t any other roads traveling this direction, though, so I didn’t have much choice in my route.

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    Unfortunately, the rain did nothing to slow the mosquitos down. Below a certain altitude, they started swarming me in hopelessly large numbers. At the same time, I began to lose daylight, so finding a campsite was becoming more and more critical. I stopped at one likely spot, tipped the bike over, and then was passed by the only dirt bikers I had seen the whole day. They got a kick out of it, and fortunately stopped to help me pick the 950 up. That was my first tipover of the whole trip!

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    Picking up the bike gave the mosquitos sufficient time to choke me in an almost opaque cloud, convincing me that I should keep going in hopes of finding cleaner air. I ended up traveling too far, reaching the crowds of tourists at the bottom but finding nothing open. I eventually ended up back at the original spot, having wasted another 20 minutes of the dwindling light. As it turned out, the Klim riding gear is mostly mosquito-proof - after watching a few of them probe fruitlessly at the jacket, achieving nothing better than bent noses, I resolved to ignore them. After a delicious dinner of soup eaten while hiking down a nearby trail, I tucked in for the night.

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    Day 3 mileage:

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    #6
  7. gearheadE30

    gearheadE30 @LC8Adventures

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,825
    Location:
    Indiana
    Day 4 7/23/2017

    Well, I am officially into uncharted territory! This is the first post that isn't copied out of my word document, as there were a lot of pictures from Day 4 and ultimately that's what led to my disappointment with that medium. There just isn't a particularly good way to get pictures to show properly in Word, as they are just too small for detail.

    Knowing that I had made fairly good time the previous day, I hung around camp to relax and stretch a bit. I was rewarded with a crisp, bug-free morning with the sun just starting to creep over the mountains. I cooked some breakfast (oatmeal mixed with almonds and granola), which seemed to attract the local wildlife. Unfortunately, I was not ready with the camera, but as I was cooking, a deer walked into my camp area, gave me a suspicious glance, and then slowly continued on its way. A hummingbird also came right up and stuck its nose in mine, hovering for a moment a few feet in front of me. I never realized just how small their feet were. Seeing that kind of thing makes me feel much more at peace, seeing nature go on its way in the silence of the morning before the sunlight washes away the innocence of the world.

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    I went on another walk that morning. This area appeared to have burned recently, as several trees were undercut and charred. This one was particularly interesting - the heat of the fire had caused the sap in the tree to run more freely. This may be some kind of natural self defense, with the tree trying to heal its injury or make it more difficult to light on fire, but I haven't done any research to confirm that.

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    Eventually, I broke camp and headed the rest of the way down the pass. It took me a few minutes to get my legs back under me, and I had a few iffy moments in the sand as I tried to quietly roll past other campers who were still sleeping. I did actually drop it once, as I tucked the front end but was a gear or two too high to save it. It would have been a lot easier to just be selfish and use the throttle to say upright... At the bottom of the pass, I was rewarded with a breathtaking view of the Great Sand Dune. It is a little hard to tell in the picture, but it rivals the mountain ridge behind it for size.

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    There's a feeling that I get doing this stuff that is hard to put words to. I've tried numerous times, but never successfully. Every once in awhile everything comes together and you just feel good, like you're doing something worthwhile and are in the right place at the right time and all that. Nowhere you'd rather be in that moment. This whole morning was one of those, with EDEN's Rock and Roll playing in my helmet. It's definitely a feeling I chase on these trips, since it's not a way I ever feel in normal life.

    My route carried me up another familiar trail, riding along the Rio Grande river and basin headed up over Stony Pass.
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    I had ridden Stony Pass the opposite direction previously, and I have to say it's much easier going from the west to the east. There is one long rocky hill climb in particular that stands out in my head, and I'm pretty sure I have some video of it to put up later. There are also quite a few stream crossings, which can be very deep if there is still a lot of snow melt coming out of the mountains. The last time through here, I very nearly drowned my bike in the crossing below, though it was at least another 6" to a foot deeper at that point. Water had also made it into the fuel pump via the vent tube and resulted in major fuel starvation issues, though once I figured out what was wrong it was a simple matter of draining the pump to fix it. The water was about halfway up the side of the bike on that trip, and some fishermen actually helped me stabilize the bike against the current since I didn't want to risk drowning it. This time through, with a rerouted vent, less water, and better suspension, the crossings were no issue at all.

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    Stony Pass takes you through Silverton, where I stopped for lunch at the Kendall Mountain Cafe. It was really cool riding back through there and seeing the 100 Years Mine and the Silverton rock mill again. There is also a great campsite just to the north of there called Mineral Springs that served as my home for a few nights on the last trip. While I was eating, I met a family traveling through in a 4x4. The father was looking off and on at getting a 990 to get into adventure riding, and I'm pretty sure his wife did not appreciate my influence and enthusiasm towards these bikes.... They were also in an usual rig - a Mercedes G500 with an off road trailer. I've never actually seen one of these seriously wheeling, but this one looked like it had been through a lot. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pics of it, but I'm a big fan of unusual vehicles like that.

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    Unfortunately the rain didn't hold out much longer, and I started to get rather wet as I rode out of Silverton. I ended up talking to a pack of dirt bike riders at the gas station at the edge of town, and they convinced me that I should take Black Bear Pass over into Telluride. This is a one way pass, and is one that I hadn't done before, so I figured I'd give it a try. The ride up to the top was fun, with some steep but smooth and grippy climbs to really get a flow going. There was a large herd of sheep about halfway up, and as I was slowly picking my way through them, a large white sheepdog jumped up and tried to chase me down. Apparently I was a threat, and that was one angry dog when it came to protecting the flock. A twist of the throttle scattered the remaining sheep and away from the dog. I'm a big fan of dogs, but I have to say, that one surprised the crap out of me coming at full sprint out of a wall of sheep like that.

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    As soon as I left the peak, the rain started to come down again. Black bear pass alone on a big loaded up bike in the rain is pretty sketchy, as it turns out. I don't think I'd want to try it again with all the bags on the bike like that, but once you commit, there is no turning around. There's a stream rushing down on your left, a wall of rock on the right, and a sharp, off camber right turn at the bottom that leaves really no room for error if you pick up too much speed going down the stone steps that make up the top of the pass. Obviously, I didn't stop for pictures in the middle, and because of the rain I had turned the GoPro off, but it is something I'd think twice about doing alone again, and I ride alone a lot.

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    On the plus side, the view over Telluride is pretty cool.

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    The ride from there was smooth enough sailing that I didn't make any notes in my journal about it, though I suspect that was more because everything else paled in comparison to feeling like I was about to ride off the edge of the earth on Black Bear. I did take some pavement to get out of Telluride to make up some time, though I jumped off again to pick up an off road path into Moab. By this time, I had outrun the rain and was back into beautiful, warm, dry sunshine.

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    As it turned out, the trail that I was trying to take to Moab was now closed and on private property, but I stopped and talked to some farmers who lived in the area that told me about an alternate route that traveled up over the top of a mesa and into the Buckeye Recreational Area. Their caveat was that if it started to rain, I needed to get off the trail (or at least to the top of it) as fast as possible. Apparently the dirt on that road rapidly turns into a sticky, red, muddy, slippery mess, and the road is steep enough that you don't even want to take a jeep up there because you'll end up sliding down backwards.

    The trail offered a spectacular view, but shortly after taking this picture, a squall dumped just enough rain on me to make things slippery. Fortunately, I was already near the top and the trail was predictable that I could keep my speed up and the tires cleared out.

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    Buckeye lake:

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    Shortly after passing the lake, I discovered I was no longer following my GPS tracks. I ended up on some overgrown twotrack in an effort to head the correct direction, which was probably the result of using an outdated map and not doing much research on trails in the area. Most of it was straightforward, winding its way around the base of a bald mountain, but in some areas, trees were growing on the trail. In others, the tall grass made it fade away entirely.

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    Eventually, with the GPS reassuring me that I was, in fact, still headed the right way, I caught a glimpse of Moab. It's quite amazing how quickly the scenery can change out there.

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    After a long, fast ride down from the treeline, I made it into Moab! Amazingly, I even managed to get there before the sun set. I was sure that this day would take me longer than it did, but that Konflict suspension really gave this bike some legs. Since I don't have to worry about bending rims or bottoming out, speeds are much higher, with the available traction and my skill/confidence being the limiting factors. It's an unbelievable amount of fun.

    We were all supposed to meet up at the Virginian Motel in town, so I rolled up and checked in. I was the first one there, and ended up spending a solid half hour conversing with the very talkative proprietor. As I was unloading, my dad rolled up...alone! I would eventually learn why, which I'll put into another post since this one is already quite long. I couldn't believe that, after traversing much of the country and meeting in the middle, we managed to meet up within about 45 minutes of each other. I used some of the remaining daylight to do a bolt check on the 950, as it tends to vibrate things loose after a lot of higher speed off road riding. Sure enough, the thing was about ready to loose its bodywork right there in the parking lot.

    Derpy candid repair shot...
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    Followed by a great reward for a hard day's ride at the Mexican restaurant across the street.

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    And that's the end of Day 4, ready for some 'lightweight' riding in Moab the next day!

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    Day 4 Mileage:

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    #7
  8. gearheadE30

    gearheadE30 @LC8Adventures

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,825
    Location:
    Indiana
    Intermission

    I mentioned in the previous post that this trip had turned into just my dad and I. While I had no problem with this, it was pretty unexpected. I am relaying this from a secondhand account 5 months after the fact, so hopefully I've got at least the most salient points right.

    At first, I believe there were 6 or so people who had interest in coming on this trip. For various reasons (work, family, etc.) all but two had dropped out, so I was expecting another rider to be with my dad when he showed up. As I had not really been in contact over the previous few days, though, I had missed out on some of the excitement. On the morning of my Day 4, my dad and James had woken up at camp near Zion national park and went through the usual morning ritual. However, after packing up, James's bike (also an F800GS) would not start. It would fire briefly and then die, and eventually would not fire at all.

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    After some teardown, they determined that it could possibly have been a failed fuel pump control module or rail pressure sensor. The F650 and F800 use a returnless fuel system with a controller integrated into the head of the pump, which had failed on my dad's bike in the past. Thinking that this was a fairly likely second failure, dad rode to the nearest BMW dealer (some distance away) and picked up a new fuel pump and controller. Unfortunately, this did not fix the issue. It appeared that the bike was flooding badly and that the injectors were running at 100% duty cycle during cranking. In an effort to flood clear the engine, the injectors were disconnected. The engine would run briefly on the fuel in the cylinders, but would then die. No amount of trying to revive the bike worked, so eventually dad continued on the trip while James worked out a way home. I believe the ultimate cause of failure ended up being a bad ECM, so at least on the plus side there was really nothing that they could have done in camp to bring the dead bike back to life. As such, it ended up being just the two of us for this trip.

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    #8
    TwoTiredRiders and redrock88 like this.
  9. gearheadE30

    gearheadE30 @LC8Adventures

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,825
    Location:
    Indiana
    Day 5 7/24/2017

    Day 5 was planned to be the most off road day of the trip. Getting a room in Moab allowed us to leave the luggage behind and tackle some more difficult trails. Lighter bikes also meant a higher chance of survival in the 106F degree heat. It was so hot that day that the GPSs, phones, and GPS trackers would not even charge due to thermal overload. We ended up riding parts of Behind the Rocks and Pritchett Canyon, along with the full Fins 'n Things and Slick Rock loops. Considering the heat, I'd say we did pretty well. The day started off with a wrong turn onto Pritchett, which was fine until the first major rock obstacle. There was some sand - unbeknownst to me, this was my dad's first experience with sand, which was occasionally quite challenging. Unsurprisingly, crashing and getting stuck are also great ways to wear yourself out. Normally I don't have much problem with sand, but I even managed to bury the rear trying to turn around on the trail.

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    Dad got the GS well and truly buried a few times, partially because we could not figure out how to turn the traction control off. Eventually we got it sorted - there's a combination of button holds that you have to do in the correct order to get both the ABS and the traction control to completely turn off. That made it much easier to get un-stuck.

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    I ended up riding down the ledge you see me scouting here, however there was another climb after this that was much more suited to jeeps and trials bikes than a couple guys on ADVs.

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    There's a bit of thumb attack going on in this picture, but on the way back out, dad was feeling the heat so I tried to ride his bike up this set of rock steps. As it turns out, the F800 isn't quite the torquey dirt bike the 950 is, and I failed to pull the front wheel high enough up to get over the last ledge. Yep, crashed dad's bike. I have no idea how all the F800 riders out there deal with that clutch - It's way too stiff to modulate easily, and the gear ratios are so tightly spaced that you really need to use the clutch to compensate for the long first gear in terrain like this. I'm sure it's doable once you're used to it, but this was my first real off road experience with an F800.

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    We took a bit of a breather at the top, as dad had been holding on pretty tight in the sand, and I was worn out from dropping that BMW. Twice. There was a friendly guy at the top (I think his name was Martin?) with a dog who watched this whole circus act, and even helped pick the bike up. He was out there as part of the annual FJ summit taking place around the same time, and was camping out before heading home.

    Having failed to conquer the first trail of the day, we rode into the park to ride Fins 'n Things. Those of you who have ridden that trail know that it contains a few stretches of sand, which proved to be a continuing difficulty for dad. Wondering why he was having so much trouble when it looked like he was doing the right thing, I offered to ride the F800 through a particularly nasty, soft section that was giving him trouble. As soon as that front tire hit the sand, the bike got loose. It was only with a big handful of throttle and throwing my weight back that it stayed up - turns out, the F800 doesn't have that much torque down low, so it's hard to lighten that front end. Compounding the issue is a throttle turn that is so long that you really can't get to WOT without re-gripping the throttle. The steering geometry also, for whatever reason, just doesn't work in sand at low speed. That bike was all over the place. Now I understood why dad was struggling so much - F800s and sand apparently don't get along.

    (Dad has since fitted stiffer fork springs and a steering damper, after which he actually used the words "fun" and "sand" in the same sentence! If you're reading this and want to ride sand on your F800 but don't feel comfortable doing it at high speed where the bike eventually stabilizes, I'd highly recommend a steering damper and/or a pretty aggressive front tire. If you ride a 950 and are reading this, even after a fair amount of sand, I still don't really see a need for a steering damper on that bike. It's quite stable, mainly because the snappy throttle and strong bottom end give you a lot of control to get through the deep stuff.)

    We took a bit of a breather about halfway through the trail.

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    While we were sitting in the shadow of this rock, we talked about some differences between the bikes and why the 950 handles so much differently in the sand than the 800 does. The result was this fairly crude drawing, used to explain rake, trail, triple clamp offset, and how they all interact. My dad and I are both mechanical engineers, and even on trips like this the nerdiness occasionally comes out...

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    After this break, dad decided to head to the Slick Rock trailhead to avoid the rest of the sand, while I rode the rest of the loop. There's quite a bit more sand in the second section, but it has a significant bowl shape that really lets you keep the speed up.

    Even the chipmunks at the Slick Rock trailhead were feeling the heat.

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    By now, it was roughly lunchtime, so we headed back into town for burritos at Giliberto's Mexican Taco Shop. At some point during the morning, dad had realized that he'd lost his camera, so he took this opportunity to ride back down to Martin's camper to see if he'd found it while hiking the trail. While he did that, I took the second burrito that he'd somehow managed to order back to the hotel. The loss of the camera wasn't a huge deal, but it contained all of dad's pictures from the first few days of his trip, so of course we wanted it back if at all possible. Unfortunately, Martin had not found it.

    However, when dad met me back at the hotel, I noticed a dark spot on the catalytic converter of the BMW. Thinking it might have some kind of catastrophic oil leak, I took a closer look.

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    That's right, it was the melted remains of the missing camera! Somehow, it must have fallen off the seat of the BMW and into this little pocket constrained by the cat and the skid plate. Most of that plastic is the melted strap, but it destroyed the camera as well. We were, however, able to recover the memory card so that dad didn't lose all of his pictures from the first part of the trip. Amazingly, after letting the camera and swollen battery pack cool off, the camera actually powered up and worked!

    Crisis averted, we headed back up into the Sand Flats park and rode the Slick Rock trail.

    The Slick Rock trail is almost entirely sandstone, and while it is billed as a mountain bike trail, the big bikes handled it fine.

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    Some of the gaps between rocks are filled with loose sand, however. This one bit my dad pretty good - he hit the grippy rock after the sand with the front wheel turned, which caused the bike to buck and high side pretty hard. He had enough speed to make it a few bike lengths up the rock before getting pitched off; fortunately he was okay.

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    Even if you don't ride the whole loop, Slick Rock is worth checking out. It's the kind of terrain you'd think of when you talk about Moab, and it's like riding on the surface of the moon. The rock also has pretty much endless traction, like lumpy asphalt. Unfortunately, that means it hurts just as much as asphalt to fall on.

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    The wall of rock that shadows Moab is beautiful in the sunlight.

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    Remember my earlier comments about a difficult clutch and general lack of bottom end torque on the F800? This slow corner resulted in a stall, falling down the low side of the hill. Dad was able to jump clear and we were able to ride the bike out the bottom of this chute, but it was still rather exciting. Of course, I had to get a picture before helping get the bike up...

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    As I mentioned earlier, it was over a hundred degrees that day, and was fairly humid. While this terrain isn't horribly difficult, it's hard to go over it quickly because there are so many sharp edges. You end up low in second gear for much of it, to keep the front rim round and to avoid getting bounced around too much. On a 950, that low speed means that both fans are running almost constantly, blowing a steady stream of scalding hot air on your knees. The exhaust also conspires to fill up the low pressure area behind you when you're standing that those speeds, cooking both your back and the back of your right leg (2:1 exhaust). The worst part, though, is where the front cylinder header runs over the clutch cover, right next to your foot. At one point on the trail, my right foot got so hot that I literally couldn't stand it anymore. We stopped, and I pulled my boots off to air my foot out. The right boot was almost too hot to touch.

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    In that picture, you can see that there are clouds creeping in. Once we finished Slick Rock, it was quite obvious that we should head back to the hotel to stay out of the rain. Shortly after our arrival, the skies opened up.

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    The rain really cooled things off, and also gave us a chance to record the rather high attrition from this trip. The F800 lost some windshield parts, a highway peg, and a turn signal not pictured here. This is also a great picture of the melted camera and its swollen battery.

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    We also washed the dust and sweat out of our base layers. As you can probably imagine, the hotel room didn't exactly smell fresh or clean.

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    And that was it for Day 5. Extremely hot, with some terrain challenges for both of us. The terrain and heat meant that we didn't ride too far, but we did have a lot of fun. I've now been to Moab twice on the 950, and would love to go back again.

    Day 5 mileage:

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    #9
  10. Critic

    Critic More or less!

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2005
    Oddometer:
    1,794
    Location:
    West of the Illinois, heart of the state!
    Thanks for the RR, it takes me back a few years! I have ridden several parallel routes, as well as some of your route, across the same country with the same thought processes and sometimes on the same Moto (950).

    Again, thanks for the memories for an old man!
    #10
  11. gearheadE30

    gearheadE30 @LC8Adventures

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,825
    Location:
    Indiana
    @Critic glad you're enjoying it! There are so many good roads and trails out that way...I definitely wish I lived closer than Indiana!

    Day 6 7/25/2017

    After cooking ourselves and working pretty hard in the heat the previous day, we were a little slow to wake up. Since we were still in civilization, it seemed like a good idea to buy breakfast rather than spending time cooking something, so we ended up eating across the street at the Pancake Haus. This crepe thing was just what I needed to start the day!

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    We pulled out of the hotel lot, and dad immediately called in over the radio that his bars were hopelessly tweaked, and there was no way that it would be comfortable to ride like that at pavement speeds. We stopped at the gas station barely a block from where we started and took a look at the bars, quickly realizing that it would take some disassembly to fix the issue. Dad's F800 has Rox risers on it, clamped to the stock rubber-isolated bar mounts. However, unlike the 950, those factory bar mounts are not connected to each other, so the rubber mounts were all cockeyed, the risers were twisted in the mounts, and the bars were twisted in the risers. Too many degrees of freedom! Taking the whole shebang apart, cranking the rubber bushings down as tight as possible, and reassembling seemed to solve the issue, though the left side of the bars also ended up being a tad droopy as a result of a forceful encounter with the Moab rocks.

    We left town through the Sand Flats park heading back towards the east. It's a nice smooth gravel road with some great views as the elevation increases, and is frequented by all kinds of two wheeled vehicles, powered and not.

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    Eventually, it climbs up into a forest full of smooth, slippery sweepers. Roads with a rhythm are always fun, though the trees did limit sightlines a bit.

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    As we climbed, the clouds gathered. It never really dumped rain on us, but it sprinkled intermittently and built up a layer of mud on the road. These roads were all around Mt. Peale, which was 12721 feet of elevation at our highest point. Unfortunately, due to the clouds and mist, we never did get a great view of the top of the mountain.

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    This road links into the San Juan National Forest, and we ended up following the tracks from my previous TAT trip for awhile.

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    We stopped occasionally for pictures, because the scenery was pretty amazing. Dad had his GoPro taking pictures intermittently most of the time, which is where a lot of these 'action shots' of riding came from. I've never really tried to do that, but after seeing the results on this trip of getting great pictures without having to think about it, I might have to give it a whirl. For a day with very little sunlight, a lot of those pictures came out really well.

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    We eventually popped off this trail and into town to get gas. It wasn't my intention at all, but it was a Sinclair station that I actually remembered stopping at the last time I rode through here because of the giant concrete dinosaur. We never ate lunch after the big breakfast, so I got pretty hangry and ended up buying some peanut butter to snack on. Dad set his camelbak down for all of 5 minutes to buy some food and managed to flood a sizable portion of the gas station since the valve ended up opening under the weight of the pack. We scarfed down some food in the lot and then headed back in the right direction. We were almost immediately soaked by a pounding rain, so we stopped to zip up our gear before punching through to the other side.

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    Since dad started riding a few years back, he's become a very prolific traveler on 2 wheels. As we continued east, he began to recognize the area we were in - sure enough, he and his group from California had stayed out here at the three step hideaway earlier in the year!

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    This picture should dispel any doubt as to the effectiveness of BMW's low fender/beak combination for keeping dirt off of the headlight.

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    Roads quickly gave way to trails again, with a few steep and rocky challenges here and there. As always, the views were spectacular.

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    We got into a really good rhythm up here, and dad was for sure pushing himself. He did great, but that mud did sneak up and bite him a few times. You're not supposed to carry that bag, the bike is! :D

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    We actually did see one other rider on the TAT, however he was riding solo in the opposite direction and showed no interest in stopping to chat.

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    Someone had started a bit of a fire up in the forest, which fortunately had been put out before it got too out of hand. It was so wet up there that I'm not sure how you'd get anything to light up unintentionally.

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    You can see in many of these pictures that it is either cloudy, misty, or raining. There was a fair amount of mud on the trails, and it proved to be a bit of a struggle to get through. With some confidence, it's easy enough to carry speed through it, stay loose, and keep the tires cleared out. As soon as confidence is lost, though, the reduced speeds that come with it make the tires clog and it's like riding on ice. Dad, having learned to ride off road in southern California, hadn't really done much mud riding, and even then most of it was short patches. Longer patches and roads resulted in a few exciting downs, and an excursion below off the road and into the very soft, slippery grass.

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    Those of you who have ridden the TAT through Colorado will likely recognize the following pictures, as I've found this to be a pretty memorable area.

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    This part of the San Juan NF is pretty densely populated with birch trees, though most were fairly young. A few had fallen across the trail, necessitating detours or a small log crossing. The trail up to the forest from the previous picture was one of the highlights, being a somewhat loose series of switchbacks up the flank of the hill. I enjoy a challenge, and it was nice to have to stand up and focus for a bit.

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    As evening approached, we could tell that rain was creeping in. We checked out a few other spots that were either too small, too sloped, or too muddy before finding this clearing, but we had to fight this suspicious cow for possession.

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    Cow removed, we finished setting up camp.

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    Nightfall brought some fairly heavy rain with it, and we got a pretty serious done of thunder and lightning as well. There was enough rain that there was water flowing under my tent, and the storm was intense enough to make me wonder if I shouldn't have set my tent up further away from the treeline. The storm gave one final hurrah with a massive bolt of lightning that struck close enough to camp that the flash and the sound of thunder were almost simultaneous. It was easily the closest I've been to a strike, and was the brightest lightning I've ever seen. Nothing quite like camping at the highest point on a ridge during a thunderstorm.

    Day 6 Mileage:
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    #11
  12. boristhebold

    boristhebold Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2012
    Oddometer:
    186
    Location:
    Yorkshire, England
    Great so far.
    Trip reports that include the terms '...my dad and I..' or '...my son/daughter and I..' always feel special to me. I do hope you appreciate what a great thing to be able to go off travelling with your dad is? I think you will. :beer
    #12
    Allucaneat, gearheadE30 and Critic like this.
  13. Critic

    Critic More or less!

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2005
    Oddometer:
    1,794
    Location:
    West of the Illinois, heart of the state!
    "@Critic glad you're enjoying it! There are so many good roads and trails out that way...I definitely wish I lived closer than Indiana!"

    Yes, if CO was only 500 miles closer! But, there is a lot of good riding around us. MO is one of my favorites for Adv riding, while WI has great back roads of the curving kind. KY can be and is a hoot, try the KAT! I have always found interesting routes going W thru NE KS IA, as I love being in and seeing the heart of the country.
    #13
    gearheadE30 likes this.
  14. MGilman

    MGilman Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2017
    Oddometer:
    61
    Location:
    southern maine
    Keep them coming! Nice report so far.
    #14
  15. barba

    barba Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2015
    Oddometer:
    16
    Location:
    Fano, Italy
    Really great ride!
    #15
  16. gearheadE30

    gearheadE30 @LC8Adventures

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,825
    Location:
    Indiana
    Glad you're enjoying it daryldixon and barba!

    @boristhebold I definitely try to appreciate it as much as I can. It isn't lost on me that many people really don't get to spend time like this with their parents, let alone share a passion like traveling to remote places on motorcycles. I definitely count myself lucky that I get to do amazing things like this with him, and am quite impressed at the terrain he'll tackle after only riding for a few years. I do, however, find it incredibly ironic that he's always the one who takes selfies of us! :lol3 (though I'll begrudgingly admit that they usually turn out well, as it's great to record those memories together)

    @Critic I have not actually ridden much in MO, though Kentucky and Tennessee have both been a lot of fun. I've actually ridden a fair bit of the KAT with friends from Indiana. It's been on a fairly tight schedule though, so we're going to try to make it back down there to finish the loop this year. At some point I need to make it up to Michigan, as it seems like there are a lot of dirt/sand roads and trails up there as well.


    Day 7 7/26/2017

    I know there are a lot of pictures in this thread already, but I think this post will be one of the most photographically prolific. I may end up splitting it up if it gets too long; we'll see. Even with a good internet connection, this thread is starting to get a bit slow to load! Looking back, we covered a remarkable amount of ground on this trip, which meant that even as we took a lot of pictures, there was even more that we didn't stop to capture. I think the videos will fill in some gaps though. I'm not sure that it will make sense to insert them into these original posts, so I'll probably end up leaving them until the end.

    We woke up to nature rejuvenated by the rain, with everything still damp from the night before. The bikes were pretty wet, but most of our gear managed to stay dry through the deluge of the previous night.

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    The clouds quickly rolled in, however. We never really got rained on, but there was enough moisture in the air to ensure that the ground never really dried out. The trail was spotted with big water patches, murky enough that it wasn't easy to tell how deep they were. This was compounded by the layer of mud on top of the trail, leaving the bikes with very little traction. The trail conditions meant that we had to be on the ball right away - there was to be no warming up on nice dry dirt.

    One of the puddles ended up being quite a bit deeper than expected, with trenches from larger vehicles driving through. Dad managed to cross rut one early on, which resulted in an awkward landing on his side with a foot under the bike. Not a great way to start the day, but fortunately resulting in no lasting damage aside from some very wet feet.

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    Eventually, the wooded trails gave way to some rockier solid ground, and the sun occasionally popped out from behind the clouds. With all the fresh rain, it was astoundingly green up there.

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    The road got more and more well traveled, until it became obvious that we were on a section that was being actively graded. Not wanting to miss the perfect opportunity to hang it out on a perfectly smooth, fresh dirt road, I laid on the throttle until eventually catching up with the grader. Otherwise, it was a fairly uneventful section of the ride. We did see an old square body Chevy that had been driven off of a cliff that had been there for years - a clear reminder that it wouldn't be too hard to overshoot a corner and end up doing the same thing on a bike with how wet the ground was.

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    This route took us directly back through Telluride, where I had come down through Black Bear Pass a few days prior. We tried to go up to the old house at the falls, but the road was blocked - apparently a boulder had fallen the previous day and was blocking the whole road. I count myself quite lucky to have gotten through when I did, because I would not have had much of a chance getting back up Black Bear to get out of there had it proved to be a dead end.

    I tried to get a shot of Black Bear from the bottom - you can see the trail cutting off to the left of the waterfall. I suppose it looked about as sketchy from the bottom as it did riding down it from the top.

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    Telluride is a dead end in a valley, with the only way out being Imogene Pass (Black Bear is one way coming down), so up Imogene we went.

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    We passed many, many jeeps on the way up. Motorcycles are definitely the way to go for covering ground fairly quickly off road. We could definitely feel the altitude in the loss of power of the bikes, and it eventually got to the point where dad pretty much had to keep the F800 in first gear because it didn't have the power to climb in second without carrying a rim-bending, tire-puncturing amount of speed on the loose rocks. I was a little surprised that the fuel injected bike had more of an issue, though no doubt the gearing and extra displacement of the 950 helped.

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    The one benefit of jeeps: you can take the whole family! This was an unintentional creeper GoPro shot, but I wanted to include it because there are three kids in the back with NO ELECTRONIC DEVICES! Didn't think kids like that existed anymore, and it made me unreasonably happy to see. Something something families that wheel together something something.

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    Part way up Imogene is the long-destroyed site of an old mine. Dad and I both get a kick out of stuff like this, so we stopped and hiked around the site for awhile. It was very interesting seeing all the old equipment strewn about, and trying to understand why water had been rerouted in different ways and what the massive steam boilers had powered.

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    Even given the rather cool weather, it was a party at the top of Imogene. By the time we left, another string of jeeps had pulled in and people were hanging out drinking beer in lawn chairs. Seems like a culture I could get used to! :beer

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    The view from the top was quite spectacular, as are the views from most of the Colorado passes.

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    I know it seems like a lot of pictures, but we took a ton that day, and even this is cherry picking the best. I liked them all too much to leave them out. Someone said something that made me laugh in this picture....somehow I'm never just being 'normal'.

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    Dad's boots were still pretty wet from his muddy getoff earlier in the day, and there were enough water crossings from snowmelt runoff that he never really got a chance to dry out.

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    The backside of Imogene rolls into Ouray, and the road gradually got wider and smoother. Parts of it had been washed out or damaged over the winter, and crews were working hard to enact repairs. I'm not sure I'd want anything to do with operating a wheel loader that close to the edge...

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    Having seen so many people with beer, we made the only reasonable decision - stop for beer (and lunch) in Ouray! See the look in that guy's eyes? He knows a piece of quality Austrian machinery when he sees it.

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    We had a delicious meal inside, while dad's soaked gear, for the second time on this trip, flooded a respectable establishment by dripping all over the floor. We sat at the bar across from a couple from Oklahoma who were traveling in a jeep, so we traded stories from the road. They had apparently managed to very nearly slide off a cliff when trying to get out of someone else's way earlier in the trip, and had also suffered a blown out u joint in their JK wrangler.

    After lunch, we made a detour to the north because I had completely killed my rear tire by this point. Before leaving Moab, I had called around looking for a decent rear tire in the somewhat small 140/80-18 50/50 dual sport tire market. This shop was the only one around that said they had my beloved Tractionator in stock, so there we went. However, when I got there, what they actually had was a Kenda Big Block. Not really my favorite tire due to the shallow tread and lack of rim protection, and I was annoyed about the miscommunication for a bit as I was (and still am) quite certain they said they had the Motoz, but at least it was only $86. It served pretty well for the rest of the trip though, and lasted an impressive 3800 miles before being worn down to the tire carcass.

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    We then backtracked right through Ouray again, and headed up into the Alpine Loop/Engineer Pass area. I love these "4x4 Only" signs. We showed all those guys right up with our 1 wheel drive machines.

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    Engineer is a fun ride, with lots of switchbacks, some narrow (for a jeep) ledges, and lots of rock steps.

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    There are also tons of abandoned mines in the area.

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    At the top, I once again got a little crazy with the camera. While I did do some very basic processing on a few of these, it really did look like this. I think the overcast skies made for even better pictures than sunshine would have.

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    Realizing we were short of daylight, we jumped back on the bikes and headed down the other side of the pass towards Lake City. It's a nice flowy fast ride on the way down, though we did eventually have to slow down to start looking for places to camp. We tried a few different trails off the side of the main road, but they either had sketchy looking living arrangements on them or were too steep/small to set a tent up.

    I had to pee, so dad took the opportunity to take a picture of this deer while we were stopped. It was completely unperturbed by smelly, noisy motorcyclists.

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    Traveling further east, there are a few houses and a tee in the road. Heading up and away from Lake City puts you in a great birch tree forest with many opportunities for camping. While scouting for a potential location, I discovered a truck that had seen better days. Still had all the drivetrain parts in it, and surprisingly it wasn't rusted solid.

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    We eventually settled on a site and started unpacking.

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    And then, disaster struck! Very shortly after taking the above picture, I heard dad utter a confused expletive. Intrigued, I asked what was up.... one of dad's panniers was missing! Gone without a trace! We had gotten almost completely set up and were getting ready to make some food when dad finally realized it was missing. We looked at the other campsite we had been checking out, but to no avail.

    Dad remembered hitting a berm in the road a bit faster than intended and thought maybe it could have fallen off a little ways back, so I tossed the straps back on my bike, geared up, and took off up the mountain. I blasted all the way back to the top of Engineer before the sun went down and had decent visibility, but I didn't see it. I remembered the berm dad hit as he had mentioned it over the Sena when it happened, but the pannier was nowhere to be found.

    That bag contained mostly clothes and food, so while it wasn't a hugely critical loss, it would be an inconvenient one. Without any spare dry socks to put on, dad made a fire while I was searching to dry his only remaining pair (and his boots) out.

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    I flew back down the hill, and it was complete darkness by the time I got to camp. Fortunately, the 950 packs a lot of light, so visibility wasn't a big issue. I was glad that I didn't see any surprise deer, though.

    I had enough spare food to cook dinner that night (pulled pork on tortillas! With cheese!) and we went to bed planning to head back up over the pass the next day to continue the search.

    Day 7 mileage:

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    #16
    Allucaneat, KLRalph, barba and 5 others like this.
  17. bomose

    bomose Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2007
    Oddometer:
    2,831
    Location:
    Dixie
    Great scenery and report. By the way, those are Aspens, not birch.
    #17
  18. Critic

    Critic More or less!

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2005
    Oddometer:
    1,794
    Location:
    West of the Illinois, heart of the state!
    The more photo's the better! I feel, that is a big part of RR's. Most videos are ok, but show very little of the true environment only motion. Go Pro type video cameras use way to wide of a lens. I like what your Dad does, use the intervalometer function; which to me has far more interesting results.
    Also, I enjoy your small reviews (critic-al annalists) of the Moto's at hand. There is a point of looking right and actually being right!
    And yes Aspens, just didn't want to be the one to tell you.
    #18
  19. TwoTiredRiders

    TwoTiredRiders Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2008
    Oddometer:
    394
    Location:
    The Keystone State
    Hey gearheadE30, this is an awesome RR. Thank you for taking the time to post it. I'll be doing my 4th trip out west this August and planning essentially the exact same route as far as the CO and UT sections are concerned. The pictures, your way of telling the story, and your dad as a riding buddy are all superb. I'm going to try to find a place to basecamp out of like Lake City or Silverton and spend a few days there, and then head over to 3 Step or Moab and do the same. Are the gps routes available somewhere on here that you used to get over to 3 step and up LaSal Mtns to Moab? I've got time to research that but if you had any resources handy that's cool too. Btw how old is pops? He's in good shape and can take a beating on the F800GS. That is a hard bike to ride with the super stiff clutch. My R1200GSW with it's super easy to modulate clutch and low center of gravity is like cheating in comparison. I also had a 950 and 990 ADV before that and miss the rowdy behavior of it but appreciate the comfort and features of the GS. I'm 49 and ride two up with my wife so that bike suits us better right now! Thx again, Chris
    #19
  20. gearheadE30

    gearheadE30 @LC8Adventures

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,825
    Location:
    Indiana
    @bomose thanks for catching that! After doing a bunch of googling, I can finally see the difference in the bark.

    @Critic yeah, GoPros really flatten the scenery out. I use one on my helmet to shoot, which helps keep it stable and shows the viewer more of what I'm looking at, but it still doesn't do a great job of conveying the actual experience. And thanks for teaching me a new word! I had to look up intervalometer, and spell check doesn't even believe it means anything. Feel free to call me out on stuff; otherwise I'll just carry on in ignorance, accidentally acting a fool. :gerg

    @TwoTiredRiders glad you're enjoying it! I always forget how much effort it is to post these; each post is an hour plus by the time I go through writing, formatting, and trying to catch at least the most egregious of my grammatical errors.

    As far as camping goes, my campsite near Lake City was at 38.009726, -107.469925. Funny how the landmarks are so noticeable on satellite view - if you know where to look, you can just make out that crashed truck near the campsite on Google! I mentioned a campsite outside of Silverton in the previous post - I looked it up and apparently it's called Kendall Campground, just to the west of Silverton on the Million Dollar Highway. It's a nice easy to reach spot, and close to town if that matters.

    I have not uploaded the GPS tracks, but I could probably export and attach them as a .gpx here. That would also show where my campsites were. Some of the segment between the La Sals and Moab was from the TAT, but some of it was also just me pointing the bike in a direction and hoping for the best. Dad's about 6 years older than you, and yes, he definitely manages that bike extremely well. He lives a pretty active life these days, hiking and surfing and, of course, riding. I'm always impressed with how well he does; sometimes I forget he's twice my age!

    The only big GS I've ridden was an air/oil cooled R1200GS, and I can definitely see the attraction. Smooth, torquey, remarkable weather protection, and better than they should be off road. It suffered from the usual BMW close ratio gearbox silliness (I don't know why they even bothered with a 6th gear when it's only a few hundred rpm different than 5th on the highway), the telelever front end was more vague than I was used to (love the anti-dive aspect though) and, of course, doesn't have that race bike sound or powerband. Great for the two-up riding though, I'm sure! Hope you have an awesome trip! :beer
    #20
    Critic likes this.