Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Utah Moto Day 6

I slept peacefully at the lovely "Village Inn Motel" of Castledale Utah knowing that Cody was not rotting in the grey desert of Green River. The normal noise of a busy hotel morning was non-existant only because we were the only guests that night. The owner told us to go ahead and park our bikes on the sidewalk in front of our rooms. We even considered just pulling them into the room and parking them in front of the beds for a little added security. As you can see from the photo, the lodging business is of course thriving in Castledale.

I loaded my bike after repairing my chain guard from the jacket eating incident and we were off to find a nice cafe for breakfast. Imagine that, another bike repair.

After cruising the main drag of Castledale, it was either a harsh Maverik breakfast or a 10 mile ride north to the much bigger town of Hunington. Arriving in Hunington, it was obvious that we were faced with a similar problem. So I stopped at the local Sinclair and asked the attendant on duty where a good breakfast might be found. He said, head back south to "Cindy's Cafe" which he claimed is a local favorite for homestyle cooking. Upon arriving at Cindy's, it was deserted and a sign was hung on the door with the words "Closed due to Circumstances". I was really starting to feel for the people of Carbon County. So breakfast it was at the local Subway inside the gas station. Not exactly what we had in mind, but it was stomach fuel nonetheless.

We gassed the bikes for the final time of the journey and started up SR31 which heads west from Castledale to Fairview Canyon. We immediately started to climb as the forest grew thicker. We passed many coal mines along the highway and I kept my eyes peeled for any sign of the famous Crandall Canyon mine where 9 people were killed a few years back but I think it might be a few canyons over.

Once we hit the top of the mountain pass, it was time to make our way north on the famous Utah Skyline trail. During our last adventure, we came south on this recreational dirt highway so this was familiar territory for us. If you ever get the chance, you should take the family car up fairview canyon and drive atleast a couple miles of this finely graded gravel road. You can see more Utah mountain ranges from the elevation than anywhere in Utah in my opinion. In the photo you can see the backside of Mt. Nebo which you pass when you drive through Nephi.

The purple wildflowers along the skyline trail were outstanding and covered the lush green meadows and fields of the 10,000 foot skyline. We stopped multiple times to capture the beauty.

As we started to descend the skyline approaching US6, we encountered a huge herd of sheep on the road. I thought for sure they would scramble as we approached. After a few "revs" of the throttle, I think they thought I was firing up a chainsaw in preparation for sacrifice so they immediately scrambled.

We met up with US6 and rode a few miles west to the sheep creek dirt road which takes you over the mountains to Strawberry reservoir. Again, this road was the on-ramp to our previous journey a few years back so it was extremely familiar territory. It makes for an excellent, more scenic and safer shortcut to US6 than driving the wasatch front where you might get killed by a cell phone talking minivan on I-15.

As we finally reach US40 and the entrance to Strawberry reservoir, it was time to pull out the license plate out of my pant pockets and use my MacGyver techniques to re-attach it to my bike. I think I failed to mention that I it was destroyed a few days back in Beef Basin while riding out of the Abajos. The extreme weight from my gear caused my rear to bottom out and make contact with the tire. If you don't find enjoyment in fixing your bike everyday, you might want to stick with a conventional hobby such as tennis. Notice the long strip of duct tape attached to my saddle bag.

From there it was maybe 1 hour to home. It was a great journey but in a lot of ways, it was nice to be home as well. Since my expert wife photographer wasn't home to snap our photo, we parked the bikes in front of the garage, placed the cameras on the garbage can and set the timers.

We were standing in the kitchen having a nice cold drink when Allison and kids arrived home. They walked in the house and the first words out of Jonas' mouth was "where is Cody Maverik?". I almost teared up thinking how much worst and dramatic this moment could have been and proudly took him in the garage where Cody was still securely strapped to the handlebars. I said, let's take a photo with you and your stuffed animals by the bikes. Jonas already had his most beloved dog "buddy" with him so he allowed Will to hold Cody. Sasha wasn't about to be left out and ran in the house to grab her favorite doll "baby".

I'm sure there will be many more journeys. Considering how much of Utah we've covered now, we may have to start heading west into Nevada, North into Idaho, or East into Colorado. The list of bike repairs, modifications and tweaks is huge and should give us something to do in late hours of the night when the kids are in bed. It's always nice to have something to look forward to.

Total miles today: 167

Total Miles for the entire trip: 1098 (1200 for Van. He had to ride from Kaysville)

We figure atleast 75% of the route was dirt road and trails and of course the grey Green River desert. As you can see, we've made some tracks on the Utah map. There are still a few mountain ranges I've yet to cross in our great state but plan to at some point. Here's a map showing our 2008 and 2010 rides combined. 2008 in Yellow and 2010 in Black.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Utah Moto Day 5

The silence of Lockhart basin was almost spooky. It was the quietest place I had ever spent the night. It reminded me a lot of Lake Powell without the water splashing and sloshing during the night. The moon was full and radiated through my tent light a giant fluorescent light. I slept like an absolute rock after the motorcycle eco-challenge through the Needles. As morning broke, the sun had not yet hit our camp. We decided to get things packed before the heat hit us. I had to re-attach both radiators on my bike which got knocked loose the previous day from the moto-mayhem on Elephant hill. This is why you carry tools. I carry a tool for every single nut and bolt that exists on my bike. You just never know and Lockhart would not be a place to be missing a desperately needed tool.

We still had a good 45 or so miles of brutal rocky jeep trail before reaching Moab. It was definitely slow going but as the trail twisted and turned with the contour of the geography, we would constantly go from sunshine to shade. Occasionally we would hit some climbs which would require me to stop and give it a good look before making the final path selection. Overall the ride was pleasant but slow going to the tune of 15 - 20 mph. This drive would take days in a jeep.

Eventually we came to a fairly steep descent down into the main plateau just before heading up to Hurrah Pass. All of the sudden we passed a group of people riding ATVs with no helmet of course headed out to Chicken Corners overlook on the Colorado. The no helmet thing is quite common with ATV riders.

Hurrah pass felt like a major milestone but we still had a good 15 to 20 miles into Moab. Once we reached Moab, it was time to head to the Pancake Haus which serves up some serious breakfast for the hungry "Moab-ite".

As we were getting seated, there was a guy standing there with his full moto gear and KTM riding jacket. Of course we looked at each other and realized we were from the same tribe and decided to all have breakfast together. Turns out this guy is riding his KTM across the "TAT" or Transamerican Trail which is a special route designed for street-legal dirtbikes. The full ride distance is 4800 miles coast to coast and he was about 2500 miles into it at Moab.

After breakfast, we of course had to go outside and check out his bike fully loaded with every gadget imaginable. He is riding the KTM adventure 640 which is a much heavier bike. His chance of riding that thing up Elephant hill would have been slim to nothing. It would have required a helicopter airlift to get that thing out of the Needles.

We gassed the bikes up at the local Maverik and poured a gallon of ice cold water over our heads and started out towards the Gemini Bridges trailhead to start making our way north-west towards Green River. Here is a picture looking back towards Moab over Poison Spider Mesa and the La Sal Mountain range. The scenery in this part of Utah never disappoints.

We hit pavement on the Canyonlands Dead Horse state park highway and then started west on another dirt road. The original route I had planned was supposed to take us over the Crystal Geyser jeep trail but for some reason took us to a dead end where an old oil pump was slowly sucking crude out of the earth. We back tracked a bit and found a road heading due west. I thought for sure this would take us to Green River. Turns out the road we were on was the "Secret Spire" trail which ultimately took us to the canyon bottom and along the banks of the Green River. The topo map I was carrying in my pack showed the road going north for a while and then a little squigly line exiting out the canyon to the top. We rode for about 5 miles and then decided there was no way we were going to get our bikes out via a little black squigly line on the map. So we turned around and eventually made our way to Green River. This is a photo of the switchback loaded road going under the "Secret Spire" into the canyon bottom.

Our little detour to the "Secret Spire" cost us a lot of time and it was getting late. So after arriving Green River, we decided to call the hotel in Castledale and reserve a room. After all we didn't want to arrive and find a completely booked hotel and have to sleep in the local park. So we gassed the bikes, snarfed down a delicious Arby's dinner and hit the road.

When I planned the route out of Green River to Castledale, I didn't want to ride on Highway 6 at all. So I found an old road on the GPS software which I assumed was the old highway before they built US Highway 6. It looked very legitimate and ran directly parallel to US 6. So that is the one I loaded in the GPS. After riding north on this old road, it basically vanished and turned into nothing but barren grey Green River desert. I was determined to get to the "Green River Cuttoff" road to Castledale so we decided to start riding cross country.

We had to constantly cross over natural ditches and minor crevasses in the earth but they didn't really bother us. As I was riding along, all of the sudden my rear tire froze and started skidding. It brought me to a complete dead stop. This was extremely odd and I thought for sure my bike was having some sort of major mechanical failure. As I looked at the tire to assess the situation, I noticed my riding jacket had vibrated loose from the bungie cords and had become sucked into the chain and sprocket at least 1 full revolution. This was not good considering we were losing daylight and still had a long way to go.

Of course Van was laughing and found complete enjoyment in my misery and frustration. After trying to work the jacket loose, we realized there was no way to get it out without removing the entire rear tire and pulling it loose from the rear sprocket. Here is a photo of Van holding the weight off the rear of my bike and the wheel with the destroyed motorcycle jacket. Definitely a task for 2 people.

As I angrily threw my tools back in my front tool bag, I of course forgot to secure Cody to the mini-bungie on the handlebars. I fired the bike and continued my cross country desert race to the "Green River CutOff Road". About 15 miles down the Green River cutoff, and a good 30 miles from the crash site, I had calmed down. I looked down and noticed that Cody was missing. It was then that I realized I had forgotten to strap him back down. This was a very dark and emotional moment of the trip for me. For anyone that has kids, you know how precious these little creatures are to them. I was already preparing myself for the wrath of Jonas when he was to find out that Cody had been left for dead in the desolate Green River desert.

We were making good time along this smooth and well graded dirt road across the desert into Castledale. The whole time I was scheming ways of recovering Cody Maverik in my head. I figured in a couple of days, I could get in my FJ Cruiser and use my GPS to go right back to the crash site and recover the dead penguin. I also came up with an idea to buy the exact Cody Maverik online and roll him in the dirt a few times so he looked beat up worn like the original. This was a very dark and desolate ride for me into Castledale.

We arrived at the hotel where the owner was awaiting our arrival. It turns out we were the only guests for the night. He gave us the keys, turned out the lights in the office and went home.

After climbing out of the shower, Van had carefully placed the beloved penguin on the bed. It turns out, that after he had fallen from my handlebars, Van noticed him and picked him up and stuffed him in his tank bag. Seeing Cody was like breathing fresh air and becoming whole again. I had to go out in the parking lot and give Allison a call and share the whole ordeal with her. She of course understands how much these little stuffed animals mean to our kiddoes. Here is a photo of Cody looking in the mirror at his gnarled hair after the crash.

Total miles today: 227
Total miles since home: 932

Alive in Park City

Just wanted to post and let everyone know I arrived home today at 3pm safe and sound. I'll post day 5 and 6 shortly.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Utah Moto Day 4

Just pulled into Castledale on our way back north after a 225 mile day where I almost lost Cody. Details to follow on the day 5 post. We called the hotel from Green River tonight to let them know we were coming. Turns out we are the only ones staying in the entire hotel. The owner went home after we pulled in.

Day 4 started out of blanding heading northwest into the Abajo mountains. We climbed to about 10500 and were presented with breath taking views of the cedar Mesa looking south. I was familiar with the road as a friend from blanding took me up there once. We saw 2 black bear that time. These are some rugged mountains. Here is a photo of Van at the junction of the beef basin road.

The road from here quickly started descending into the southern part of the needles in canyonlands. I kept thinking how Allison would love the wildflowers up here. Truly amazing scenery. Here is a photo looking down into beef with the LaSals in the background.

There were cows every where. No big surprise considering beef basin is Blm land. We stopped at this old Anasazi tower which is literally right off the jeep trail. Beef basin is famous for it's plethora of ruins. Hopefully I can come back someday in the FJCruiser and see more.

We then arrived at the famous "bobbies hole" which has destroyed many jeeps. Once you go down this hill the only way out is to either come back up or go out elephant hill in canyonlands. In other words you are comittted at this point. Van took it first and lost control of his bike. He shattered his mirror in the process. Here he is descending with his 400lb bike. It gave me butterflies and caused me to curse a bit in my helmet. I read somewhere that a typical bill for the towtruck out of bobbies is about $2000 for a jeep Not sure for a bike and glad I didn't have to find out.

We then proceeded into the back entrance of the needles where we had to open a cattle gate. No fee station or ranger but no big surprise considering we were probably the only people to pass through that day. The needles was empty. We saw no one and to be honest it was almost eery. But considering the mighty jeep destroying elephant hill and bobbies hole are the only way in and out it was understandable. We proceeded down devils lane and stopped to try and find some petroglyphs a fellow jeeper shared with me. After some searching nothing turned up. Here is a photo of myself and the famous needle rocks in the background.

We then made our way over to the confluence of the green and Colorado rivers. The last time I was there was when I ran cataract canyon before I was married. Because of the intense heat I was wishing I was at river level. On our way over we encountered a man and woman hiking to the confluence. They said they were about 7 miles from their car and had no food. I gave a couple cliff bars and they both snarfed them down. Turns out the woman was 15 months pregnant. I would be surprised if they are still married after that hike. Here is a picture of Cody at the confluence. Notice the difference in water colors.

Only one more major Eco challenge adventure before departing canyonlands. We must exit by climbing the famous and mighty elephant hill. This thing has caused lots of damage to both jeeps and motorcycles. I only dropped my bike twice but luckily caused no damage to bike or bone. Here's a picture where we have carefully backed my bike down and I'm getting ready for run number 2.

After a few tries and some time we finally conquered and were on our way to Needles outpost for gas and water. Because it was 6:30 already we decided phone the wives using the satellite phone and let them know of our intentions to stay on route and head north into lockhart basin where we would camp. Turns out the outpost was closed so we couldn't buy fuel. No big deal considering I still had 1.5 liters in the rear and a good solid 2 in the front. We filled up the water and headed into the super desolate and seriously slow moving lockhart basin towards Moab. Here's a photo of van using the SAT phone at needles.

The first part of lockhart road was loaded with campers and hippies but no surprise considering highway 211 is right there. After riding a few miles it was obvious they didn't come down the basin from Moab. We rode late into the evening and watched the sunset as we slowly navigated. The lighting was seriously magical in this fabled valley. We passed where you could see the needles overlook above the valley floor and wondered if anyone was up there looking down at these 2 clowns on their dirt bikes riding into the sunset. We finally came to a section where the road started climbing and was getting very rough and decided to setup camp and call it a day. Here is a photo of camp just as the sun was coming up. This goes down as one of the most magical days of motorcycling for me. Camped in the middle of nowhere along a jeep road in the middle wild Utah. We wouldn't see another person until leaving the lockhart trail.

Total miles Today: 123
Total miles since home: 705

Alive in Moab

Just arrived Moab after camping in Lockhart basin for the night. Details to follow.

Just a quick photo of Cody on Hurrah Pass.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Utah Moto Day 3

Note to self: don't buy a motorcycle battery from Walmart. iPhone charging system is having problems due to the failed battery in my bike. So basically this means I'm not uploading gps coordinates as often. Not a huge deal considering were pretty much out of any coverage area most of the day. Just a side note, Van is carrying a sattellite phone in case of any unexpected emergency.

Day started with a ferry ride across Lake Powell to Halls Crossing. The Colorado river is definitely a geographical obstacle inside our state. No riding through the middle of it like muddy creek.

A few miles down the highway we stop at Castle Creek ruins which I've never seen despite the fact you can pull over in your air conditioned car and walk right up to them.

Now a good 60 miles of pavement to the Kane Gulch ranger station at the head of grand gulch where we are supposed to pickup a permit to visit the spectacular but hardly known "Moonhouse" ruins. But of course the ranger station is closed so we proceed anyway and pay our fee at the start of an old pioneer Mormon trail heading east into comb wash.

The moonhouse is considered the largest Anasazi ruin complex on the entire cedar Mesa. Consisting of approx 49 rooms in a quarter mile, this site housed many ancient people. The white paint and dots in the photo below is where it's name originates.

I'm sure the reason they aren't more popular is because of the location. The road itself would not be good for the mini van and the hike down to the canyon floor would not be suitable for the elementary field trip. Definitely an experience to check off my bucket list.

We then descended into comb wash which gets it's name from the huge comb ridge to the east. This entire ridge is loaded with Anasazi ruins which I've yet to see. Here's a photo of Van resting as we head north along comb wash.

We then crossed hwy 95 and rode our bikes up the posey trail to the top of butler wash where we ended our day hiking down to the tower house ruin. This was my 2nd time to tower house. I took Allison and the kids a couple weeks ago while the weather was still spring like. Here is a photo of tower house with a rare candelabra cactus which I've only seen here in Utah.

Tomorrow we head north through beef basin and enter the needles district of canyonlands national park on the south end. We hope to make Moab tomorrow night via the lockhart basin. Stay tuned.

Total Miles for the day: 139
Total Miles since home: 582

Utah Moto Day 2

Up and over the Henry mountains out of hanksville crossing bull creek pass at 10500 feet. I've driven by these mountains many times on my way to lake powell and always wondered what is up there ? Today we found out. A view of the Colorado plateau quite unlike any other.

On our way down we came across an old abandonded Wayne county school bus. It was identical to the one from "into the wild". Kitchen matress and poisonous plants. We pumped a few rounds frond Vans weapon like a good redneck and moved on.

The temperatures were sure nice at 10500 but quickly started to bake us as we dropped west into Capitol reef national park where we headed south on the famous notom dirt road. The scenery along this primitive road is breathtaking and somehow made us forget about the blazing heat. We rode to the junction of the burr trail and made our way up the switchbacks to the strike valley overlook which is a great place to see the entire waterpocket fold of Utah. Cody maverik seemed to like it and wasn't bothered by the un penguin like heat.

We then proceeded to drop in elevation ad eventually found ourselves at bullfrog marina on lAke Powell. Unfortunately there were no rooms at the inn so we found ourselves camping after paying 50 dollars for dinner and $2 for a hot shower.

Off to catch the lake Powell ferry in the morning and onto Cedar Mesa in search of the ancient ones.

Total Miles Ridden Today: 131
Total Miles Since Home: 448

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Utah Moto Day 1

After my first motorcycle trip through Utah several of my family members asked me if we were really related. I think what they were really trying to say is why would you ride a dirty dangerous motorcycle across Utah on trails and dirt roads when you could be playing golf and lounging by a nice pool sipping cold beverages ? I guess some things just can't be explained.

So Van arrived at my house and we were off. First stop Kamas which is the gateway to the uinta mountains. There we fueled up and picked up some chain lube at the local auto parts store. My chain was filthy and also required a few minor tension adjustments. Good thing we are carrying a walmart worth of tools on board.

My youngest son Jonas really wanted to come with us but since he is just barely learning to ride a bike he agreed to let me take along one of his cherished stuffed animals. So the third member of our team is "Cody Maverik" from Surfs Up. So most of my blog photos will include Cody posing while I take the photos. Here is one of Cody sitting on the bike at the Wedge Overlook in the San Rafael swell. Many locals call this Utah's Grand canyon.

On our way down buckhorn wash we stopped to take a look at this massive petroglyph panel. This is considered one of the largest found anywhere in Utah. Definitely the largest I've ever seen.

The most dreaded part of the route today was the crossing at muddy creek. The trail basically goes right across the muddy river and during high waters it can be impassable. If that were the case we would have had to back track 50 miles to get to Hanksville. Luck was on our side after performing some reconnaissance. Here is Van sitting in the middle of muddy creek.

A trip to Hanksville is never complete without a burger and shake from Stans. My kids love this place and so does Cody Maverik

4 advil and a goodnights rest before tomorrows ride over the Henry Mountains and down into Bullfrog basin.

Stay tuned for more adventures from the Utah trail.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cookiecutter Petroglyphs

I spent the day in cedar city programming the phone system for the famous Utah Shakespeare festival which gets under way in a few days. After completing my work I decided to take a quick trip over to Rockville to check on a few projects. It just so happens that my KTM was strapped to the back of my car so I decided to take a quick 40 mile test ride upon the Mesa around Smithsonian Butte. I've spent my last few trips up there hunting for ancient Indian petroglyphs which rumor has it are plenty in the area. I've managed to find a few so this time I crossed the highway searching in the little creek Mesa area. Thanks to the help of the Internet and my trusty GPS I located a massive panel called the cookiecutter petroglyphs. A fine day of work indeed.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Final Preparations Begin for Utah Moto 2010

As if I haven't seen enough of Utah already? Yeah, right, I think it would be impossible to see the entire state in a lifetime. The annual dual-sport motorcycle trip is in the final planning stages. I'm posting this as a test of some of my new gadgets. This year, I will attempt to post a few highlights of each day using my iPhone and blogging software. I am also embedding a live map of our progress into the blog page. (you'll have to refresh this page to see our progress unfortunately) To do this, I have wired my iPhone into the dash of my motorcycle and will transmit live GPS coordinates to a web server every 2 minutes. This way you can see our last transmitted location, elevation, speed etc. on a live map. Of course this technology only works when the phone has 3G or Edge coverage which surprisingly was quite often on our last ride. Coverage comes easier when you ride high mountain passes and ridges!

After our last big ride, we learned a few things. Here are some new modifications and changes to the bikes this year, besides applying loctite to every bolt and screw on the bike.

New Touratech GPS Mount and Bracket. If you read my last report, you'll understand why I'm ditching the RAM mount:

(2) Primus 1.5 Liter fuel bottles which I'll carry in my backpack. Just in case I burn the already 4.3 gallons of fuel I'm carrying on the bike. It's estimated we get about 40 MPG on these beasts:

KTM Radiator fan. These KTMs run extremely hot and therefore require some additional cooling. It's a shame they don't come stock with this item. This will be critical especially since we will be riding in summer heat:

JDJetting kit in the carbeurator. Supposed to make the bike more spunky and responsive. Installed it myself. Nothing like tearing the carb to pieces and tweaking it.

Custom built jumper cable: One thing we've learned about these bikes is they are impossible to kick start when they get flooded. Van built us some cables that are hard wired into our bikes. We can easily connect to each other and jump if required.