The Western Tattenback 2020

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by JMo (& piglet), Jun 24, 2020.

  1. veriest1

    veriest1 Minimalist Gear Hoarder

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    I'm waiting for my RR wheels to head across the pond and have been trying to decide what to mount on them. Since we're on the topic of tires here already have you ever considered the 140 series K60 Scout? It seems, from my minimal research, to be a different beast than the 150 series (which I'm not fond of). The TKC has never let me down on any bike but there's always a hunt for a better mousetrap so to speak....

    Even with a K60 (or whatever) on the rear I'd probably still stick with a TKC up front. I trust that tire and while I don't much care what the back end does I like to know the front will stay planted.
  2. Twempie

    Twempie Been here awhile

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    A popular compromise for a lot of GS riders is a TKC80 on the front with a TKC70 on the rear.
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  3. veriest1

    veriest1 Minimalist Gear Hoarder

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    I run a TKC80 front and Shinko 705 rear on my GS and it does work great on those bikes. I want to keep the CB setup more dirt biased so, unless things change, I plan to go TKCs front and rear.
  4. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Hi Veriest1 - I've written a lot about tyres on other CB related threads over the years (a recent example on the main CB500X thread here) so I don't want to repeat myself unnecessarily here - but in a nutshell, I'm a bit of a tyre snob and not a fan of budget-brand tyres regardless of whether some might potentially offer greater longevity, as I do not wish to [personally] compromise their outright performance with regard to grip and traction, both on and off road... after all - although I'm pointing out the obvious here - ultimately they are the only thing which makes you stop, go, and steer.

    I also consider that each manufacturer [at least ought to] design their individual series front & rear tyres to work together as a matched pair, so an not a fan of mixing different brands or tread types either - since you are basically undermining all the R&D the respective tyre manufacturer has put in, so the result is unlikely to be optimum in that regard either.

    That said, I appreciate different people may have different priorities and trip circumstances, and certainly if I had to replace one in an emergency I'd ride any old tyre if that was all that was available for me to continue on a trip - as long as the tread pattern itself was still suitable for the conditions I wanted to be riding in... and would suggest that really is the limited factor when riding in mixed terrain - for example, personally I'd rather continue to ride a worn TKC80 than fit something like a Shinko 705 which is basically just a road tyre with deeper grooves.

    Certainly if I'm spending my money on something from the outset, then for this bike particularly I consider the Continental TKC80 is the best 50/50 tread tyre, ie. for both on-road and off-road handling. The Michelin Anakee Wild I like (being already familiar with them, I had no qualms fitting those as an alternative during this trip), and I suspect those Bridgestone AX41s that Honda used for their US press event last year are probably pretty good too, although I've yet to try those myself.

    Ultimately of course, all tyres wear out at some point - so by all means take a punt on anything which takes your fancy, since tyre choice tends to be a very subjective subject.

    Hope that helps...

    Jenny x

    ps. I see you mention the mixed combo you use on your GS - and certainly it appears the larger heavier and more powerful bikes can chew through a rear TKC80 quite quickly. However, on the CB500X I find you can get a good 5000 miles from a rear (unless you are being really ham-fisted on rough and gravel roads), and between 7000-9000 from a front... although again, as the saying goes: YMMV - very much on the load and terrain (and indeed tyre pressures) you're running during a particular* trip.

    *For example during my Northern eXposure trip on the CB500X in 2017, I made it all the way from California to Toronto and back to Colorado Springs (9000 miles!) before absolutely having to change my rear TKC80, although admittedly it was already pretty shot before 7000 miles, it was still able to cover another 2000 miles on the highway sprint back west, rather than me start to wear out a brand new replacement before I got to the good stuff again ;o)
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  5. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Right. shall we crack on again? - we've got some new tyres to get fitted!

    Day 22: Colorado Springs to Cripple Creek CO (wild camp) - 87 miles (plus another 30 running errands in the morning)

    "Rubber, Silicon and Gold"

    Having been unsuccessful in either of us obtaining some suitable replacement tyres yesterday, we factored the best thing to do would be to detour off our route to Colorado Springs where there were any number of motorcycle dealers, including one [Apex Sports] who I have visited regularly in the past, and always have a good selection of quality tyres available in both dual-sport and typical adventure bike wheel sizes.

    We also arranged to meet a fellow CB500X owner (the latest 2019-on model no less!) Eric, who'd been in touch during our trip and offered to show us some of his local trail network, should we be passing through... we were, and he would!

    However, this things always take a bit more time that expected don't they - and the result was a bit of waiting around to be done for most of the morning... Fortunately Apex not only have a well-stocked parts, clothing and accessory department to peruse, but along with some nice old Hondas on display, they had also just received very latest Tenere 700 in stock - and the first chance I have had the opportunity to see and sit on one. The Apex workshops are very thorough - and along with fitting and balancing our respective new tyres (a 150/70x17 TKC80 on the back of Juan's bike, and a pair of Michelin Anakee Wilds in 110/80x19 & 150/70 x17 size on mine), they also checked and cleaned adjusted our chains and cables etc. and made sure we were all good to go again...

    The prolonged down-time meant we ultimately rescheduled our proposed ride together for after lunch that afternoon - allowing Eric to run some errands, and me the opportunity to also replace my now full iPhone with a new one (how decadent eh?) at a local store.

    Now I ought to point out that in keeping with this 'micro v-logging' set up that Juan was trialing during this trip, I too had forfeit much of my traditional tech set-up, and was relying on just my ageing iPhone SE with a paltry 16Gb (oh the indignity!) for camera duty, plus a few stills and video using my Nikon Keymission 170 - which you've probably noticed glued to the side of my helmet for much of the time.

    Having filled up the internal memory of my iPhone and the meagre cloud storage you get as standard (5Gb), I was now compromised with regard to how I might expand my memory capability - a simple option is to buy a dongle (and use an app) to download the contents of the phone onto a regular SD card, but that was going to cost me in the region of $50 anyway, so factored I'd be much better off putting that money towards a whole new phone, which I wanted to upgrade at some point anyway - as the latest SE model has a much better camera, appreciably larger screen (for my fading eyesight), and a huge amount more memory - in this instance the 128Gb version. Sorted!

    So, having ingested a huge and hugely expensive hamburger while I waited for my new phone to set itself up, we ultimately reconvened with Eric for an afternoon exploring the Rampart Range mountains to the north west of the city, just across the valley from the mighty Pikes Peak.

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    photo. Rampart Range Rd (trail) climbs directly out of the Garden of the Gods park.

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    photo. for the most part Rampart Range Road is a well maintained all-weather surface, and used to access the numerous OHV and hiking trail-heads and camping locations scattered across these mountains... should you be so inclined you can actually follow this high elevation dirt road [#300] all the way to just south of Denver!

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    photo. Juan getting some air under his new tyre! Away from the main through-route, Eric (in the lead) showed us some of his favourite side trails which typically lead to a series of impressive overlooks on either side of the range.

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    photo. three different versions of the same basic bike - albeit Eric's latest model features a factory [rather than Rally-Raid] 19" front end of course.

    We'd had a really enjoyable afternoon - chatting about all sorts of everything, messing around with the drone, and riding just for the fun of it - so were in no really hurry to go much further west this evening, despite a tentative plan [now] to be back in California a week from today...

    With Eric needing to head home once we rejoined the pavement at Woodland Park, Juan and I decided we'd simply ride on until it got almost dark, then look for somewhere to stay - be that camp or hotel - hopefully around Cripple Creek, where we'd be perfectly placed to rejoin our original route the following morning.

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    photo. the huge Cresson Mine between Cripple Creek and Victor is still a productive operation, now using modern open pit/leach mining methods (rather than traditional tunnelling underground) - they basically cut the top of the mountain off, wash the gold out, then reinstate the hillside - including re-grassing the previously disturbed area.

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    photo. the public viewing platform is actually the bucket from a huge dump-truck!

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    photo. to try and get some sense of scale of the operation - this is actually a second pit on the backside of the main pit (above) - you can see a 'regular' full-size pick-up is dwarfed when parked next to one of the massive excavators!

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    photo. historic Cripple Creek is a typical tourist town, and local gambling laws means that every hotel is typically also a casino.

    It transpired that not one hotel actually had two individual rooms (and no twins either) available, and considered this a sign that we had probably dodged a covid bullet by not staying here amongst all the wheezing ageing gamblers anyway... Fortunately, despite being up at almost 10,000ft elevation again, it was a warm night, with no forecast of rain either - and so the perfect conditions to find a wild camp.

    And what a camp it was... deep in a narrow canyon, a perfect clearing right next to a bubbling creek - not too noisy as to keep you awake (or subliminally making you want to pee in the night!), just enough to soothe you to sleep... Surrounded by trees to keep any wind at bay, and below the sight-line of any traffic using the shelf road above. Perhaps the only cause for concern was the limited access down a narrow single track trail through the bushes at the side of the road. Still, getting out again would be something which we could worry about in the morning.

    cont.
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  6. veriest1

    veriest1 Minimalist Gear Hoarder

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    Thanks for the quick response. I've read all your other reports and many of your posts in other thread in my decision making process on the new bike. You influenced me... let's just say not a little. I couldn't recall you mentioning the K60 scouts in any of your writing so I figured I'd ask specifically about the 140 series version while we were, sort of, on the topic. By your response I'm taking it you don't have any personal experience with them. The hunt continues.

    For what it's worth I'm definitely not a tire snob. I came back to motorcycles on a DRZ where a preferred DS combo was a D606 rear and a Scorpion front so I'm not stranger to mixing and matching tires in search of the perfect combination of traction and longevity. But I do tend to gravitate to what has worked well for me in the past and on the GS the 705 was the best rear compromise I could find after they put the original Tourance out of production. I hear they've reintroduced it but I'm still a little bitter. I'll also flip a front TKC around backwards if given half a chance to wear the knobs off from the other direction (even if it didn't come off my bike!). I tend to get about 7000 miles out of a set of tires on the GS (flipping the TKC of course).

    Given that I'm not a commuter anymore I think 5000ish miles out of a rear TKC should be plenty fine if I can get it so I'll probably just go that way.

    Anyway, wonderful report. Keep it up! I look forward to your live stream tomorrow night!
  7. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Day 23: Cripple Creek to Pitkin CO - 148 miles

    "Not my Tincup of tea..."

    If yesterday had been a relatively easy day with regard to mileage and tricky terrain, today was going to make up for it... after all, we'd both got fresh tyres fitted, so it would be a shame not to take advantage of that right? - right?

    Exiting our campsite was actually far more simple that the twilight last night had suggested it might be... I had trimmed a few branches and felt it prudent to remove my luggage bag, and subsequently rode straight up; while similarly Juan just wafted up there full laden with his usual laissez faire.

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    photo. the Shelf Road between Cripple Creek and Canon City is for the most part a well maintained and scenic highlight in the area. Certainly in recent years it appears to have been improved compared to what some maps might suggest.


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    photo. the further south you go (heading towards Canon City here), the more impressive the canyon becomes...


    If you've planed to detour a day or two away from the TAT to ride up Pikes Peak as you pass through Colorado - then I certainly recommend the Shelf Road as one or the other way to get from Canon City via Cripple Creek to Colorado Springs; together with the parallel road #86 Phantom Canyon (another old railway bed) which leads up to the mining town of Victor, from where you can take Gold Camp Road down the far side of the mountains and into Colorado Springs.

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    photo. the view back up the valley, the Shelf Road winding it's way up to Cripple Creek... although the most impressive view is arguably when heading south, ie. the direction we were heading.


    Since we'd already ridden the best parts of the TAT route south of Canon City, plus stopped off at Cotopaxi too on our way east, there was no need for us to to continue all the way south again; so instead took a scenic 'short cut' through the Red Canyon Park, and head due west through the high country towards Salida - rejoining the official TAT route just a few miles out of town, before deviating once again down one of my favourite (and as it turned out, Juan's least favourite!) trails in the area - which is not for a faint hearted.


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    photo. this was when I first rode the Dead Horse Gulch trail, during the return leg of my Trans-Am 500 ride in 2015.


    Unlike the main TAT route which simply sweeps downhill on a wide gravelled road into the north end of Salida, the superficially parallel Dead Horse Gulch is a proper OHV trail and indeed gets so narrow in places that it's really only suitable for bikes & ATVs, and perhaps side-by-sides - although I don't want to be encouraging them of course... bastards!

    I recalled there had been one or two 'testing' spots when I first rode this alone, late in the evening, desperately hoping there would be an affordable hotel once I reached Salida (an increasingly rare thing these days I might add) - and so my focus back then was very much on just getting down the hill in one piece and 'letting it roll' as it were, rather than mentally cataloguing every rock and bump.

    But I factored since I'd already ridden this exact same scenario - ie. on a CB loaded with luggage - I was confident we'd both be fine heading downhill in this same direction... however, the midday heat and general fatigue of having been on the road for three weeks now was starting to take it's toll on Juan particularly - and let's just say it's a good job there is little video footage of this past hour or so, since his is meant to be a PG rated family-friendly YouTube channel.

    Fundamentally though, like many of the 'OHV' trails in Colorado we'd experienced all ready this trip - this one appeared to be in appreciably worse condition too now when compared to a few years earlier - and these days particularly, you would certainly not want to try going uphill in the opposite direction on a loaded adventure bike. That said, the vast majority of this trail was still easy enough to navigate, it's just those few steep and loose sections were now longer and larger and appreciably harder to navigate than I remember.

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    photo. on finally reaching Salida, Juan immediately stripped off and jumped in the river to cool down!


    We enjoyed a lazy lunch at a pricy but tasty restaurant in town (is there any other kind in Salida these days?), which gave Juan plenty of time to recover, and he even found enough energy to tease a local at the next table - who on the face of it sounded like a perfectly rational gentleman at first with his own talk-radio show (which ought to have been a red flag with hindsight perhaps?), but turned out to be an utter fruit-cake conspiracy theorist - it was priceless... but ultimately we felt it prudent to make our polite excuses and walk away.


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    photo. the top of Tincup Pass, one of the more popular trails in the area... way too popular at this time of year particularly.


    Our plan for the rest of the day was to pace ourselves with a ride up and over Tincup Pass - less technically challenging than either Tomichi or Hancock Pass perhaps, but no less scenic - and which all together forms a classic OHV loop out of Pitkin, Tincup or St Elmo (or wherever else you've parked your sodding SXS trailer, bastards) - then grab an early dinner at the famous 'Frenchy's' restaurant in the town of Tincup itself, before finally heading south over Cumberland Pass and down to lower elevation and camping at Pitkin. Well that was the plan anyway...

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    photo. wait, what... the hell has happened to Frenchy's?!

    The climb up to Tincup Pass from St. Elmo was pretty relentless - doable, but rough and rocky, and pretty energy sapping on a larger/loaded bike these days... Plus we were forever dodging those damn side-by-sides on both sides of the pass itself - at one point I counted nine of them in a row, bumper to bumper, bouncing their way up the trail towards us. And then another group of six or more. And then... well, you get the picture.

    Now please understand I'm all for everyone having access to the countryside - hell, it beats wandering aimless around a mall spending money you don't have on stuff you don't want at a price you can't really afford... but at the same time, I can't help but feel that point and squirt side-by-side is the laziest and noisyest way to get your lard-arse out into the back country. I'm also yet to be convinced that they offer any practical benefit to a regular road-going Jeep either? - particularly some of these weirdly low-slung 4 seater versions dragging their bellies across the rocks like some sort of day-glo graphic'd grader... I can also appreciate that local communities need to do what they can to survive financially, particularly in what is a relatively short tourist season each year, but I have to conclude that the current volume of 4x4 traffic in this area is becoming unsustainable - both trailered in and daily rentals.

    Despite the endless traffic, the biggest disappointment of the day turned out to be that Frenchy's restaurant was closed - and seemingly shut up for good, with the windows boarded and even the swinging sign above the bridge removed... With no other option than to seek solace with what turned out to be a rather lacklustre barbecue sandwich at the cafe opposite, it was some comfort to hear that the owner of Frenchy's had simply decided to take a year off (the first time in 20 years no less) due to the property needing some renovation. Phew - we shall return!

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    photo. a full house at the feeder - the humming birds were fun to watch.

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    photo. Tincup town hall, on the way out of town.

    While we'd been lucky with the weather along our chosen route, ominous clouds had been gathering all afternoon over the higher peaks, and neither of us fancied camping at this elevation in what would almost certainly become both cold and wet overnight. There is a rather tasty trail due south out of Tincup, however mindful that we had another potentially tough day lined up tomorrow, rather than fight our way over any more rocks this evening, we simply took the easy graded route south over Cumberland Pass; and as night fell, managed to grab the only free spot left in the huge campground just outside Pitkin - full to the brim of fifth-wheel campers and yes, you guessed it, those damn side-by-sides.

    cont.
  8. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Day 24: Pitkin to Gunnison CO - 99.5 miles

    "Continental Decide..."

    For the first time this trip I woke up in a wet tent. However, after what had been a particularly good night's sleep, I wasn't going to let that bother me - grateful to have camped under tree cover and at lower elevation, I was also determined to put my debbie-downer attitude towards those side-by-sides behind me today too, or perhaps more accurately - simply aim to avoid them completely by plotting a completely new route over some unfamiliar territory, which would specifically be bike-only in places.

    Despite my new-found optimism, I was wary that what appeared to have been some pretty heavy rain overnight may now have jeopardised my proposed 'pioneering' trail route through the forest, resulting in potentially harder work that either of us probably fancied... still, the consensus was we'd give it a go anyway and simply retreat if conditions were not in our favour. Fortunately the particular route I'd plotted through the complex network of forestry roads and trails was primarily rocky or well drained sandy soil, and other than the odd slippery spot, once we crested at around 11,000ft, considered the worse was over.

    Although I'm always impressed just how much [unpaved road and trail] detail there is in my GPS mapping in regions like this, I'd also taken the precaution to purchase some detailed paper maps [the Trails Illustrated series from National Geographic] of this particular area, as they typically differentiate the more established through-routes, and similarly which trails might be more suited to a dedicated dirt-bike, ie. those probably best avoided this time round on our more heavily laden adventure steeds.

    Ultimately we proved what I consider was the perfect 'adventure' bike route - there had been nothing too challenging on the way up, and this was complimented with some easy going single track winding through the forest on the way back down. Emerging close to Black Sage Pass - which you may recall we had already [had no choice but] ridden earlier in the trip, when we'd been beaten back by the landslide on Tomichi Pass - it was a short hop on easy dirt roads to the equally well graded Old Monarch Pass:

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    photo. this is one of the easier passes in the area, close to highway 50 and the Monarch ski resort.

    Old Monarch Pass is another of those high passes all along the backbone of the Rocky Mountains which crosses the Continental Divide - however, being close to the current Monarch Pass (highway 50) it also coincides with one of the few sections of the CDT (Continental Divide Trail) which allows motorised travel - albeit on two wheels only, since this section particularly is strictly single-track between here and Marshall Pass a few miles further south.

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    photo. pausing for a Hobbit's second breakfast at the cafe and gift shop (Monarch Pass on hwy 50) - of course as soon as we got ready to leave, the heavens opened...

    I'd been prompted to include this section of the CDT after seeing a post on a local user group's Facebook page, saying this section was now open (ie. clear of snow) and suitable for 'smaller adventure bikes with lighter luggage loads' - sounds like it was made for us!

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    photo. we'd come this far, we weren't going to let the rain deter us...


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    photo. narrow single track concentrates the mind... you weren't going to die necessarily, but should you slip off the trail any recovery was likely to be hard work, particularly in the wet.


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    photo. in places there would also be the odd technical spot to further throw you off your line...


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    photo. although at high elevation and on a precarious side slope in places, fortunately the trail itself is not especially steep vertically (not in most places anyway), rather it tends to follow the contour lines along the backbone of the Rocky Mountains.


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    photo. after a while the trail crossed a saddle with more level ground on either side.


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    photo. as the trail begins to decent towards Marshall Pass, it enters the forest - with rocks and roots...

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    photo. another slightly more technical spot, fortunately we were heading downhill at this point.


    It does amuse me to be able to write: "...as we descended towards Marshall Pass" - that particular pass being already 10,842ft above sea level of course - and hopefully illustrates just how high some of these trails are in the middle of Colorado! Indeed, it is worth pointing out that while you shouldn't have too much trouble actually riding at that sort of elevation [as long as you are reasonably fit and healthy of course] - should you get stuck and/or have to manhandle your bike for any other reason, you can soon end up out of breath and exhausted; and certainly the compound effect of a series of technical challenges can soon start to ruin your day, if not end up tainting the trip as a whole. The trick of course is to take your time, take plenty of breaks, and keep hydrated.

    Hydration wasn't really a problem for us today though, all we had to do was ride along with our mouths open and fill up with fresh mountain rain... To be fair, it turned out the rain wasn't especially heavy after all, and fortunately even subsided for a period during the middle of our ride (see the video below when we met the father and son team who where hiking the length of the Colorado Trail which shares it's route with much of the central portion of the CDT) - only for it to cloud over and dump on us more heavily as we finally approached Marshall Pass:



    We conceded we'd probably been afforded a lucky break this morning - it looked like the rain was now setting in for the afternoon (at this time of year it typically does rain each afternoon anyway in this part of Colorado) - decided discretion was the better part of valour and would not try and attempt the continuation of the CDT further south of here... although that is certainly something for another time, no doubt!

    Instead we'd aim to concentrate on our onward journey west now, and scoot back down Marshall Pass Rd to Sargents (which you may recall from Day 14 on our way east), grab a bite to eat, and see if this storm would pass over - otherwise we could always bed down there again in one of the cabins of course. After leisurely working our way through their tasty menu once again (including pie!), the weather was clement enough that we might continue - on the highway at least (it's worth noting that the TAT trail south of here, while improved in recent years with a more substantial all-weather surface, can still get slick and muddy after heavy rain) - and we elected to ride as far as Gunnison this evening, and find a hotel... setting us up perfectly for the following day, and our crossing back over the San Juan mountains.

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    photo. the cheaper and more quirky end of town...

    More soon!

    Jenny x



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  9. sbtw08

    sbtw08 n00b

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    Thanks for the all your tips, Jenny! Your wisdom and experience with the CB500X has been incredibly helpful. I watched your Giant Loop-hosted video and liked your new water hydration idea, so I bought the Dakine Hot Laps 5L bag you're using, mounted it on the back and went for a ride. A couple blocks down the road, my knee must have knocked the mouthpiece off the gas tank and it went flying, right under the chain guard - oops!

    Looking for a different approach, I found that the hydration reservoir itself fits perfectly into the Giant Loop Diablo tank bag (inside their included dry bag just in case to prevent puncture with the other stuff in there), and the mouthpiece fits through the front of the Diablo's little cable hole, and then it can magnetically rest on the gas tank without any interference from said knee. Works perfectly for long rides.

    I also had a question about your tool kit - where did you find such a thin and compact tow strap?

    Cheers!

    cb500x-dakine-water-1.jpg
    cb500x-dakine-water-2.jpg
  10. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Hi sbtw08 - yes, I've had my drink hose ping off a few times (especially over rougher ground), and like you, once it got caught in what was presumably my chain and actually ripped the mouthpiece off (for info I prefer using the genuine CamelBak bite valves), dumping all my water on the trail before I'd noticed!

    I've actually taken to keeping the hose clipped on the bag now, and reaching round and unclipping on those occassions I want to take a drink - however, if I used a tank bag I'd definitely do it the way you have it set-up now, and indeed Harold at Giant Loop has used a bladder in one of his tank bags for a long time now. Great idea!

    As for the tow-strap, it is actually just a [long] length of webbing strap for a set of ratchet cargo tie-downs I bought a while ago. They were not particularly expensive ones, and I'd say the straps themselves are about 30mm (1&1/4") wide.

    Jenny x
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  11. visualizerent

    visualizerent Raconteur

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    Yes, thanks for reminding me...lol Dead Horse gulch trail sucked as was all tore up and way too hot. But the visit in town was great and Tin Cup and the rest of that day was absolutely fantastic!! Juan
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  12. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Day 25: Gunnison CO to Monticello UT - 259 miles

    "Just passing through"

    It had been a wise decision to embark on that final road ride to Gunnison yesterday evening (and spend the resultant overnight in a hotel), as once again it had rained throughout the night and it would have not been fun camping somewhere along the potentially muddy section of TAT between highway 50 and Lake City, nor even embarking on it this morning had we stayed in Sargents again last night after all.

    We'd also already ridden that particular section over Los Pinos Pass during our outbound journey - and while it's certainly worth riding again in either direction, my intention had always been to not retrace any steps unnecessarily this trip - affording the opportunity for Juan to experience as much of Colorado as I was already familiar with; while affording me the opportunity to hunt out some new additions as part of the continuing effort to piece together my own 'definitive' out and back route using some alternatives to the main TAT thoroughfare.

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    photo. scenic highway 149 - yes, it's highlighted G2 (red) and G3 (orange) on the Butler Maps - south to Lake City.

    Since we were staying in the bum end of Gunnison with no nearby restaurant, we elected to hit the highway straight away for the hour or so it would take to reach Lake City, and aim to enjoy a sit-down breakfast there instead. The initial journey south was very reminiscent of Wales or Scotland I felt - rugged and remote, winding across open moorland - and the experience complete when the heavens opened.

    There comes a time when the rain is persistent enough you need to weigh up: do I stop now and put on my waterproofs, or ride on and hope it will pass and I'll dry out... and by the time we rolled into Lake City it was clear I should have chosen the former rather than the latter. Still, Juan has some video editing and updating to undertake, and I was more than happy to dry out on the porch of the Chillin' Cafe with their pricy but tasty breakfast menu - and figure out just how far was feasible today, in light of the potential [wet] weather forecast.

    Lake City is at the easternmost end of the 'Alpine Loop' here in the San Juan mountains, and similar to Ouray and Silverton, these days is very much geared up to support the relatively short summer season for OHV recreation, together with any overlanding vehicles who may also be passing through. We'd already crossed Engineer Pass during our journey east, so would utilise the southern route across Cinnamon Pass for our return, which is also the official TAT route.

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    photo. the initial climb towards Cinnamon Pass is a gentle and scenic dirt road - and there are only a couple of tricky spots a little closer to the summit.


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    photo. I've been fortunate to ride Cinnamon Pass a number of times, and each time it's been slightly different - be it flanked by snow, bathed in sunshine, and now today, misty and foggy all the way up the eastern side...

    Once we reached the summit (and taken the obligatory photo of course), the weather started to clear, and the decent down the western slope towards Animas Forks began to reveal the true glory of riding the Alpine Loop:

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    photo. Animas Forks is an abandoned mining encampment at the crossroads of four great trails in the area - north towards Engineer Pass and Ouray, south to Silverton, East the way we'd come and and West the way we'd be going...

    From Animas Forks, the official TAT route continues west, and takes in three more high elevation passes - California, Hurricane and Corkscrew - before finally joining the pavement once again half way along the epic hwy 550 aka. The Million Dollar Highway.

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    photo. the whole region is littered with abandoned mining structures - this one in the valley before the final ascent to California Pass.


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    photo. looking back down the California Gulch towards Animas Forks.


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    photo. a common sight these days... the ubiquitous rental side-by-side, swarming around every summit sign board.


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    photo. the far side of California Pass - looking down on Lake Como and beyond to the tricky Poughkeepsie Gulch 4WD trail to Ouray.


    The main road/trail downhill towards the lake and then back up again (to the left of the photo above) is easy enough on a bike - more tricky in a 4X4 (particularly with a longer wheelbase) as there are a number of switchbacks and the surface has patches of loose rocks - but you're soon over Hurricane Pass and heading downhill again before the climb back up to the final pass of this trio - Corkscrew, which is typically the one everyone on social meeja posts a photo of, since it is surrounded by bright orange scree slopes, punctuated with lush green alpine forest patches:

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    photo. and it's even prettier with blue skies!

    Winding downhill from California Pass is again an easy enough route on two or four wheels, and you can see why Sam Correro incorporates this series of passes into the TAT route - the surface is for the most part level, well compacted, and offers plenty of traction - with none of the ascents or descents overly steep. All around you the scenery, even on a cloudy misty day like today is world-class dramatic, and for that reason alone you can see why this trail, and the Alpine Loop as a whole is so popular with recreational vehicle users these days... Indeed, I suspect much as with that 'destination' highway 129 aka. the Tail-of-the Dragon back east in North Carolina/Tennessee - any criticism is primarily due the over popularity and resulting traffic in the area, and certainly if you pick the right time of day/year to go, you'll appreciate just why these roads themselves are well deserving of their respective reputations... Certainly this particular through-route from Lake City to hwy 550 is a great way to experience this part of the country, and for many I suspect will be the outstanding memory of traversing the TAT.

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    photo. the rain run-off had flooded the creeks - the discoloured water a legacy from historic mining activity at Ironton.

    The official TAT follows what is arguably the 'best' and most twisty part of hwy 550 right over the summit of Red Mountain Pass to the south, before rejoining the dirt again to traverse the final mountain range in Colorado using Ophir Pass. More hardcore adventurers (especially on 4 wheels) may chose one of the more challenging alternatives - either Imogene Pass from Ouray to the north (which as you will recall we had ridden ourselves a couple of weeks prior on our initial route east), or the infamous Black Bear Pass - which is accessed close to the summit of hwy 550.

    for info. the Black Bear Pass itself is not especially difficult to reach, and is a popular out-and-back for stock 4x4 and OHV vehicles approaching from hwy 550... rather the notoriety is as a through-route primarily due to the steep decent to Telluride on the west side, featuring a series of tight switchbacks, and one particularly nerve-wracking rocky step section just before you start that final descent. Indeed, if you're unfamiliar, then its worth checking out a few 4x4 videos online to see what I mean (and if you would want to attempt it yourself, especially on two wheels!) - and let's just say the guy who actually rolled his Toyota FJ Cruiser is assured his place in YouTube history... which reminds me of one of my favourite quotes: "If all else fails, immortality can always be assured through spectacular error."

    It is also worth noting that due to the severity and narrowness of this trail, Black Bear is also unique amongst the passes in this region in being one-way only once you're heading downhill towards Telluride, so if you wish to travel beyond the summit itself, you have to be heading west. Fortunately this was exactly the direction Juan and I wanted to be heading. Unfortunately, it was a Saturday afternoon in the middle of July, and the switchbacks particularly were likely to be one long Jeep parade, or more accurately a car park - as they take it in turns to shuttle their fat arses around each 180° turn. Tedious.

    So instead, we embraced the true 'dual purpose' nature of our particular motorcycles, and hammered south on the utterly epic paved highway, all the way to Silverton to find some late lunch, and plan the remains of our day.

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    photo. The Brown Bear Cafe in Silverton - a great spot for a big feed on a rainy day.

    We'd actually been pretty lucky with the weather today all things considered - avoiding the heaviest of the rain showers while actually riding the trail sections - and at this juncture, electing to prolong our late lunch and with a slice of pie for dessert as the heavens opened with a typical mid-afternoon storm which tends to hammer the higher elevations in Colorado at this time of year.

    Sure enough, the streets were soon awash with the deluge - gutters and drains overflowing and pedestrians diving for cover in any building available. Fortunately this part of Colorado was not being so precious about allowing diners to eat-in, as long as they remained reasonably socially distanced of course. We had been afforded a window seat in the corner, allowing us full view of the chaos going on outside - goodness this was a monsoon! But then as quickly as it came, it was over - and we factored we ought to make the most of this break in the weather and keep pushing west now...

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    photo. rolling out of town - Silverton is a wretched hive of SUVs and side-by-sides.

    Rather than continue to follow the TAT route [which would mean tracking back north a short distance and heading west over Ophir Pass] I suggested we now streamline our final approach towards the Utah border, and at the same time explore an alternative pass to the south of here which I'd spotted on the map, and wanted to add to my arsenal of knowledge for future reference... It would also mean we got to ride even more of the epic hwy 550 - up and over Molas Pass then down the valley towards Durango, before picking up our trail again close to the ski resort of Purgatory.

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    photo. the trail from Purgatory towards Bolam Pass is easy for the most part, although again the recent heavy rain had made the creeks swell significantly, and here the whole road was now a river...

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    photo. more 'Welsh' scenery... this would be the theme for the rest of the day, mud, puddles, rain, trees, and rough rocky trails...

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    photo. Almost at the summit of Bolam Pass... taking shelter in a trailside cabin. Until this point we'd been optimistic on our way up - heading towards what appeared to be a tantalising break in the clouds... sadly it never actually appeared.

    Bolam Pass (11,350ft) was the last of five unpaved passes we'd successfully navigated today, and the only one where view was barely a few hundred yards. The decent on the west side was uneventful, although the persistent rain dampened our enthusiasm for any more actual trail riding today. We were soaked. And so I feared was all our luggage too by now. Once we hit highway 145, I tippy-tapped the GPS, and knowing there were a number of hotels in Monticello Utah, we made a bee-line for the border and beyond:

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    photo. finally, after another hundred miles, we'd left the rain behind at last...

    It had been an epic day all round really - endurance and reward - and having reached the warmth and comfort of a hotel in Monticello, we'd be suitably refreshed and ready for whatever challenge Utah had to offer us in the morning.

    cont.
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  13. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

    Joined:
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    9,147
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    Day 26: Monticello to Joes Valley [Reservoir] UT - 283 miles

    "Just by-passing though..."

    If yesterday had been cold and wet, today was going to be the complete opposite. It was scheduled to be around 100°F again in Moab, and already as we packed up our bikes with our now dry - if not actually laundered - clothes, it was already getting way more than warm.

    In that regard, my proposed route today was considered 'ambitious' by Juan, although personally I felt we'd be able to pace it just right with regard to the forecast temperatures - starting off in the Abajo Mountains just to the west of town, where we'd soon be riding a series of OHV trails at elevation on our way north... Rather than shelp up the highway towards La Sal and ultimately Moab, my plan was then to ride the Lockhart Basin trail from the southern end of Canyonlands National Park northwards to where it joins the trail network alongside the Colorado river just to the west of Moab. This would mean the one or two tricky spots (and the one particularly tricky spot) we'd be navigating in a downhill direction... easy, right? From there I factored we could decide over lunch how far and over what type terrain we'd ride for the rest of the day - depending on the heat.

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    photo. up on Shay Ridge OHV trail - an entertaining way to cross north-south (or indeed south-north as we were) the Abajo Mountains on two wheels, or anything 50" wide or less - thank goodness!

    I'm fortunate to have ridden and catalogued all of these proposed trails before today, so was able to navigate our way with only a cursory glance at the breadcrumb trail on my GPS every so often to make sure we were still on track. We spent a fun couple of hours in the Abajo mountains - Juan was familiar with the main through-route from east to west, but was even more inspired once we left the wider dirt road behind and proceeded though the 50" gate on Shay Ridge and onto the dedicated OHV network.

    note. It's worth keeping in mind that Shay Ridge is suitable for both motorcycles and ATVs (and in that regard would pose little problem to our loaded 'Adventure' bikes), but that there are also a number of dedicated single track trails in these mountains, which really are only suitable for a more lightweight dual-sport or enduro bike. As an example, I have also ridden the 'MC only' Lower Indian Creek trail (on the G310GS back in 2018) and that has a couple of very narrow and rocky ledge sections not really suited to larger bikes.

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    photo. fun [ATV width] single track through the forest.

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    photo. Juan was already working up a sweat on his more heavily laden bike...

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    photo. Shay Ridge is one of my favourite trails in this part of the country - technical enough to keep you on your toes, while offering excellent views of the surrounding Canyon Rims Recreation Area and the Colorado river in the distance. Best of all the 50" gate means no sodding side-by-sides!

    On reaching the paved road (hwy 211) which accesses the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, Juan was now in no mood to tackle Lockhart Basin in the increasing heat of the day. It was a shame, as I really wanted to incorporate this trail into my 'definitive' TATn'Back route - but at the same time, I've ridden [and track-logged] it already, so would be easy enough to incorporate into my final GPS files as an option - indeed much as the UTBDR map does, marking that particular trail as an 'experts only'* alternative route (*it's really not, but be aware there are a couple of tricky spots you need to be a confident rider to negotiate, especially on a large or heavy bike). Instead, we decided to forge an appropriate 'bypass' route towards Moab as part of today's track-logging - which in turn would offer a more easy going option depending on your own experience, type of bike, and the time of year in which you might be riding - ie. not the height of summer when it's over 100°F in the desert!

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    photo. 'Newspaper Rock' is a point of interest along hwy 211, on your way into Canyonlands NP.


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    photo. we headed in the opposite direction - this is the landmark Church Rock at the junction of hwy 191 and hwy 211.


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    photo. cutting diagonally across country to rejoin the official TAT route in Lisbon Valley (near to where the 3-Step Hideaway is located - which you may recall from our journey east).

    I always say if you're rolling along in good weather on a motorcycle, then it really doesn't matter which road or trail you choose - it's all good! And certainly here in south east Utah especially, you are surrounded by unique and visually stunning geology and geography regardless of what surface is under your tyres.

    On reaching the nondescript outpost town of La Sal - while the TAT route would take us up and over the mountains via Geyser Pass (an easier alternative to La Sal Pass which we'd taken on our east-bound leg), I suggested we continue in a more direct line and at lower elevation, along a route I'd ridden for the first time many years prior on my XT660Z Tenere; and as it turns out, is also marked as an 'alternate' route on the BDR maps - typically for either early or late in the season when the high elevation La Sal Mountain passes may be blocked with snow.

    It's a fun ride - starting out as a fast high-desert piste track, the trail then becomes much more twisty as it winds through a series of small canyons, and ultimately emerges onto hwy 191 just north of the 'Hole n' the Rock' tourist trap spot, and also passes the notorious 'extreme' rock crawling park known as Area BFE - located a short way south of Moab itself.

    Because we'd forfeit Lockhart Basin this morning, we arrived in Moab in plenty of time for a lazy air-conditioned lunch at a restaurant at the south end of town with which we were both familiar from a previous trip here. I say 'south end' of town, but with all the recent real-estate development in the past couple of years, the are now a huge number of housing complexes and apartment buildings all along hwy 191 in the Spanish Valley - and what was once a sleepy neighbour to Moab, is now more a bustling suburb.


    Suitably refreshed, Juan was up for a little more TAT this afternoon - although we both agreed that if the heat started to become exhausting again, we'd simply break for the highway to Green River, and take stock there.

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    photo. heading up Gemini Bridges Road [trail] north of Moab and Arches National Park, again part of the official TAT route - for obvious reason!

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    photo. everyone who rides the TAT takes a photo in this spot. Everyone!


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    photo. Gemini Bridges Road offers easy access to a number of the more 'extreme' OHV trailheads in the area, and in that regard is well maintained - with regular resurfacing and repairs.

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    photo. Gooney Bird Rock - another immediately recognisable landmark in the area.


    Although Gemini Bridges Road is not especially long nor taxing, we both felt that it made more sense to preserve what remained of our energy now, and stay on the highway at least as far as Green River where I'd proposed we would end today's ride anyway - not least as it would set us up perfectly for our itinerary following day, which included a more technical trail through Black Dragon Wash (part of the original TAT, before the 2015 revisions) first thing in morning before the temperature got uncomfortably hot... Indeed it is worth considering that when planning a multi-day overland trip, you pace yourself to not only ensure you have enough rest, but to also try and take advantage of the potential temperature changes at different elevations and times of the day.

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    photo. leaving the TAT behind once again... passing by Monitor and Merrimack Buttes on hwy 313 - if you want to get up close and personal with these huge monoliths, Seven Mile Rim Jeep trail is the one to follow!

    It was already 5pm by the time we arrived in Green River, where I'd have been more than happy to call it a day - but Juan was keen to keep pressing on west in an effort to escape the heat, plus he'd now had a call to say there was motorcycle meet to coincide with the reopening of a local restaurant in his home town the following Thursday (only four days away now), and they would dearly like him to attend and share some tales of our daring-do in person... so a few more miles this balmy evening would see us that much closer to home of course.

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    photo. approaching the San Rafael Swell, which since 2015 is part of the official TAT route though this part of Utah.

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    photo. riding later in the day in this kind of desert terrain is wonderful - the lower sun enhancing the colour of the surrounding rocks, and castling long and dramatic shadows.

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    photo. the historic San Rafael Bridge is the last remaining suspension bridge in Utah.


    I always like riding at this time of day - but at the same time, stretching our saddle-time to this extent on this particular evening felt like we were blasting past all the good stuff in an effort to find somewhere to camp before nightfall... Again, similar to Lockhart Basin this morning, I've been fortunate to have ridden and recorded all these trails before; but certainly if it's your first time in this part of the country, I suggest you take your time - even to the extent of stopping short and stumping up for a hotel for example - to make sure you get the most out of what's on offer in this region, especially if you're not planning on passing this way again any time soon.

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    photo. would this evening ever end? - yes, in about an hour according to my four fingers against the horizon...


    As the sun slipped away behind the foreshortened horizon, we arrived on the shore of the Joes Valley Reservoir, and picked ourselves a pitch at the official campground. Tonight this would have to do.

    more soon...

    Jenny x
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  14. Great adventure, well done. Agree with tyres, good tyres cost money. Don't chance it on cheap tyres.
  15. eakins

    eakins Butler Maps

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  16. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Hi Ekins - not this time I'm afraid (unfortunately this was one of the things we ended up blasting past that evening I mentioned above), but I have been down to that spot in the past when I've spent time in Green River exploring the area - the 'Little Grand Canyon'!

    I always suggest to people [who are planning on riding the TAT] to try and allow at least a couple of nights/and three days in Moab, plus another night in Green River too if you can - since there is a lovely loop to the east along the cliffs to Sego Canyon and back (which as I recall is also part of the UTBDR of course!) - and currently the TAT route takes you past the Goblin Valley State Park and Temple Mountain too - although personally I prefer the original route through Black Dragon Wash, then up to the San Rafael Bridge that way...

    So many choices!

    Jenny x

    ps. another corking trail is that section of UTBDR which follows Cottonwood Wash west of Green River and hwy 191... I'd planned to include that during our initial route east, but again the temperatures by mid-afternoon were really not conducive to potentially much exertion.
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  17. Madscientist

    Madscientist Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Oxford, MS
    Where's the rest of this awesome report!
  18. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

    Joined:
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    It's coming - I've been away in Oregon this past week dodging fires...

    [​IMG]
    photo. Alvord desert from the Steen Mountains...

    Jx
  19. Jim_66

    Jim_66 n00b

    Joined:
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    Jenny,
    Please keep us informed regarding your modified windscreen & headlights. I really like it. Is the mini tower that holds the speedometer custom made? Also, is your windscreen custom made or is it available off the shelf? Thank you for the info. I loved the video series.
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  20. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Oddometer:
    9,147
    Location:
    California
    Hi Jim - yes, the tower is my own custom-made design that I had laser cut from aluminium, and which ties together the two Baja Designs LED lamps (an S2 for the dip beam and a Squadron Pro for the high beam), the OEM speedo assembly, OEM turn signals (in this iteration the 2019-on model LED version) and also a dual USB socket for charging my phone and camera. The screen is actually an OEM Africa Twin screen, again with my own design brackets to secure it to the tower.

    Along with the 6500+ miles of the TATn'Back trip, I've just covered another 2100 miles this past week going up to Oregon and back again (for the Giant Loop Hot Springs event), so I'd say the design has been thoroughly endurance tested now... there are a couple of dimension tweaks I need to make, but fundamentally I'd say the design is now ready to progress to [limited] production, hopefully in the near future.

    Stay tuned as they say...

    Jenny x
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