Sunday, March 16, 2014

2013.06.22 - 07.04 - The Big Ride - Colorado, New York, Canada and Return




2013.06.22 - The Ride Begins


The previous night I frantically completed the packing, re-packing, and final re-packing of the Ural sidecar rig.  One of the great advantages to piloting a hack is the great amount of room available.  One can literally pack the kitchen sink if necessary.  The downside is that it is like a giant puzzle.  Each time that I added or removed something, most of everything else had to be rearranged to accommodate the change.  The process might have been more efficient if it hadn't been for the addition of the alcoholic lubricant I was using.  Alas, I'll never know.

With everything finally in order and a mostly fitful night of tossing and turning behind me, I kissed Zeng Yuan goodbye and bumped and bounded down the dirt driveway at 7:30a on Saturday morning for my first long distance motorcycle trip in nearly 10 years.  The plan:  take some back roads from Colorado (Mostly U.S. 36 & U.S. 24) clear across the country to where my Dad lives in the Catskill Mountains of New York State.  He lives in a sleepy little town that while located geographically only about 80 miles north of New York City it might as well be on a different planet than that huge neighbor to the south.

I've ridden more the 900 miles in a day before, even back-to-back days like that, but I've never tried it at Ural Speed. I've learned a lesson already.  A long day in the Ural saddle is much more punishing than the equivalent mileage done on my Beemer.  On Saturday, I made it from home (About 30 miles west of Denver) all the way to the eastern end of Kansas.  I didn't quite escape the long, flat expanse, but I was close.  The total was 542 miles for that first day.  I pulled into and extremely convenient roadside rest stop at 10p.

You're not in Colorado anymore, Dorothy.
The morning portion of the day's ride while still inside the rectangular confines of the Colorado border  was quite pleasant.  The temps were cool and no winds to speak of.  Even though U.S. 36 is not too exciting, the Ural had no trouble putting along at 50 to 55 mph.  Kansas unfortunately lived up to its reputation as hot, dry, and windy.  All afternoon I endured riding with a hot blow dryer directed at me from a 45 degree angle.  The Ural is usually pretty stable, but mine, loaded with camping gear and what-not was a little squirrelly with those side gusts periodically blasting me.  By the time I quit for the day, my back muscles were screaming!

One of the multiple places that claim to be the geographic center of the United States.

2013.06.23 - Kansas Adieu


I rose this morning a 5:30a and managed to break camp.  Skipping breakfast at camp and intending to stop somewhere and do some route planning, I motored out of the tranquil roadside rest at 6:30a.  Ominously, there was a deep purple rain front closing in on me from the west as I left the rest area.  I got a good bit ahead of it and stopped at Micky D's for breakfast.  The weather front was relentless however, and took no such breaks.  I barely spent all of about 3 minutes wolfing down some grub and taking a few gulps of coffee before tossing the remainder in the waste basket.  I rushed out the door to get back on the road before the storm caught me up.

Continuing east on U.S. 36, I followed it through the last bit of Kansas, then all the way across Missouri.  U.S. 36 in Missouri is a much nicer road than in Colorado or Kansas.  I enjoyed a less windy morning and warm temps as I outpaced the storm.  Before I knew it I was watching Hannibal, Missouri in my rear view mirror as I crossed the wide, mellow expanse of the Mississippi River into East Hannibal, Illinois.

Regrettably, I'd traveled about 30 miles into Illinois before I realized that I'd blown by the point where I wanted to turn north to pick up U.S. 24.  Oh well.  I took the opportunity to stop for a lunch break and a map check and plotted my way back up and east to pick up U.S. 24.  I probably set myself back about an hour, but I did find some roads that were a nice ride and I never would have seen them otherwise.

As I rode more north than east at this point, the stalking storm front from this morning (Was it the same one?  Looked just as purple) caught up with me again.  Just as I was resigned to getting a soaking, I finally reached Route 24 and headed east as fast as those two cylinders and 40 h.p. could push me.  Luck remained it seems, as although I saw lightning strikes off to my left, I never got more than a few fat rain drops on my visor.  My speed was enough to outpace the storm again.

Route 24 through Illinois goes though rolling hills and expansive farmland.  I didn't pay much mind as I motored east.  I was only thinking about making the number of miles that I wanted to click off for the day.  The Illinois/Indiana border slipped by in the early evening.  I started smelling the barn and after stopping for dinner I queried the GPS for a place to rest for the night.  After another day in excess of 525 miles, I was fried.

I'm sitting in a little mom & pop motel in Monticello, IN this evening.  It's about 10:30p now.  Got here about 1 hour ago and I'm working on beer number 2 as I type this.  I am hoping that the weather will hold for me tomorrow.  I am looking forward to reaching Ohio and western Pennsylvania as I remember that the back roads there are rarely straight-line.

I'm beginning to think that my plan to head north, then back west through Canada might be more ambitious than time will allow.  I might have to curtail some of that leg of the trip, but I'll let things unfold as they may and see how it goes.

2013.06.24 - Hot and Sticky!


I knew what was in store for me this day as soon as I opened the motel room door.  A flood of humid air wafted past me.  I could barely see to the other end of the parking lot and the sun was a barely recognizable dim orb in the eastern sky.  

I flicked on the local news station to listen to the weather report as I packed up the bike.  100% humidity and already more than 80 degrees and it wasn't even 7:30a yet!  I am glad that I decided bring my mesh riding jacket for this trip instead of my heavier one!  That didn't help me feeling any less of a wet dish rag as I hit the road this muggy morning however.

At my first gas stop of the day I made the mistake of looking at the pusher tire. Surprisingly, the tread was much more worn than I expected after less than 2,000kms!  I put a brand new Uralshina Russian tire on there just two weeks ago and I had to stop this morning and swap it out.  The tire looked as if the tread would not last long enough to finish out this day, so I am forced to ride for a while longer and make a stop to swap it out.

An hour or so later, I found a half shady spot to swap the wheel out.  It was already about 90 degrees and probably the humidity level matched.

With a three-wheeled bike and the need to place certain tires into certain riding positions, swapping out the pusher wheel was a bit of a ballet.  Well, more like a Keystone Cops routine really.  You see, each of the three wheels on a sidecar bike wears out at a much different rate than the others.  The pusher wheel goes fast because it gets the most scrubbing and spinning.  The front tire usually lasts about twice as long as the pusher and the side car wheel lasts at least four times as long as the pusher.  So my swapping plan required this:

  • Remove the spare wheel (Which has a brand new tire mounted on it) from its storage position atop the hack's trunk. This of course requires removing all of the gear I have strapped on top of it in the cargo rack.
  • Jack up the sidecar and remove the wheel from the it.  Temporarily install the spare wheel in the sidecar position.
  • Jack up the bike a second time and remove the pusher wheel, then install the erstwhile sidecar wheel into the pusher position.
  • Jack up the bike a third time and remove the temporarily installed spare wheel from the sidecar and replace it with what was the pusher wheel.
  • Remount the spare wheel back on top of the sidecar and repack all the gear I had stored on top of it in the gear rack.

Hopefully, you can now appreciate how much fun this process was as I baked and sweated for over an hour to do this.  I was soaking wet by the time this process was completed.  I took advantage of a nearby fast food outlet and grabbed some grub and air conditioned bliss before getting back on the road.

The roads of eastern Indiana were very nice to ride on.  Rolling hills and farm land, but unlike the roads further west, there were actual curves on them.  Before I knew it I was in Ohio.  I learned also that Route 30 across most of Ohio is an Interstate highway in pretty much all aspects except there are at-grade road crossings. Some parts were pretty amazing and dangerous as cars tried to cross high speed traffic at the intersections.

When I got to the eastern edge of Ohio at Lisbon, it was time to turn north.  I got caught in an awesome thunderstorm on this part of the trip.  I thought that we have some seriously bad ones in Colorado.  This one was unbelievable!  I had little choice but to push on.  For half an hour or so I felt more as if I were piloting a submarine, not a motorbike.  My rain gear held the line as it came down in sheets. I was happily relieved when it ended.

Since I'd been riding on de facto Interstate most of the day anyway, I decided to jump on I-80 near Youngstown and headed east into Pennsylvania.  Crossing that border was a real psychological milestone.  For the first time I felt that I had ridden this Ural all the way east.

Interstate 80 and I departed ways as I turned north when I reached Barkeyville, Pennsylvania.  This was the best part of the ride today.  Steep hills and curving road and no traffic for the last 30 miles of the day.  I rode through Franklin, PA.  What an amazing little town.  It looks like all of the old historic buildings have been preserved or renovated.  The place is quintessential middle America.  I wish I had time to actually explore that town.

That evening I wimped out again and got another motel room.  Just 370 miles left to cover tomorrow to reach my Dad's house. The are nothing but two lane roads for at least half of that distance.  I don't expect any amount of traffic, so I am really looking forward to it.  After that, I will enjoy a couple of days rest at my Dad's place while I contemplate the next leg of the journey.

2013.06.25 - Home Stretch


Today was an excellent day of riding.  Not only was it the easiest day yet (Only 370 miles or so), the riding in northwestern Pennsylvania was awesome.  I highly recommend that area.  I got to meet another Ural rider --CDScoot (Craig)-- up in Binghamton, New York.  What a nice guy.  He bought me lunch!

In the morning, while making my way north and east on the beautiful back roads of Pennsylvania, I nearly committed a crime!  I stopped for fuel at a little country store.  I've fallen into a little routine whenever I stop for gas.  Not by design, but just by simple repetition.  Swipe the pump; gas-up; walk around to the bike to check for things getting ready to fall off or fail;  update the log book; saddle-up and ride.

This bucolic little trading post featured some old gas pumps that did not allow for paying at the pump.  I went into the shop to see if I needed to pay first and was told to just pump, then come back in to pay.  I returned to the bike and started my routine.  While I was pumping, I was distracted by some curious fellow tourists who stopped to ask me about the Ural and my trip.  It was a pleasant conversation that took place while I gave the bike the once-over looking for any faults.

I bid my interlocutors a farewell, and completed updating my log book.  With the requisite gear adorned, I kicked the bike to life, checked the traffic on the road and pulled back onto the ribbon of asphalt.

There was not so much a town here, as a small settlement.  It had everything one needs however.  Adjacent river for fishing, swimming, etc.  Gas station and convenience store for those essentials, and a small restaurant.  I quickly passed through and was once again out on the open, twisting roadway.  I was beginning to get back into my stride, when I was bothered by something.  I couldn't put my finger on it at first and kept riding as I tried to fathom the feeling.  You know that feeling if your a rider:  "Did I leave something important laying about at that last stop?"

Suddenly, I realized what it was.  I never returned to the little shop's counter to pay for my gas!  I was already about 5 miles down the road when I realized this.  As I executed a quick U-turn, I expected to see the local Sheriff screaming down the roadway towards me.  I didn't though, and after a few anxious minutes I arrived back at the shop.

Sheepishly, I went back into the shop.  The lady whom I'd spoken too when I fist arrived was no longer behind the counter.  I approached the young lady who occupied that spot now and explained to her what I'd done.  "Didn't you see her?" the clerk asked.  "As soon as she realized you were gone, she jumped in her car to chase you."   As no one had tried to run me off the road, I could only surmise that she had used her 50/50 chance incorrectly and headed down the road in the opposite direction as me.

I paid my tardy bill, and I waited around for 5 minutes in hope of apologizing, but she didn't arrive back in that time.  So, I chalked it up to experience, jumped back on the bike, and headed on.

I followed those wonderful back roads for another few hours and slipped across the border into the southwestern tier of New York just before lunch time.  CDScoot, otherwise known as Craig had offered to meet me for lunch in Binghamton.  Since Binghamton is conveniently located right upon my route, I gave him a call and we arranged to meet.

Once of the great things about the Internet is that you can develop a relationship with folks whom you've never met.  Especially in the motorcycling community, I feel that many of these ethereal are quite real.  Meeting up with Craig was one of those instances where the cyber crosses over to the tangible.  Here's two guys who've never met, but because of an on-line forum, already know each other.

Craig and I met for about an hour over lunch.  Discussed the motorcycling; Urals specifically, and life in general.  Generously, Craig picked up the tab for lunch.  Unfortunately, he wasn't on his Ural this day, so there was no prospect of a rarely seen two Ural parade in Binghamton, NY.  We parted ways with full stomachs and a new friend each.

Even though Route 17 is essentially an interstate highway, it is a very pleasant ride.  There are no real straight stretches.  It has lots of rising and falling and curving, and best of all, not much traffic.  After about 35 miles of relaxing riding, I came to my last major change of direction for this portion of the trip.

Pulling off of Route 17 and onto Route 30 I could now smell the barn, so to speak.  My most eastward destination was now only 40 miles or so distant.  The weather had been wonderful all day, and although it threatened to rain on me during this last leg, I only came upon wet roadway and ominous clouds interspersed with golden shafts of bright sunlight.

The back roads of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York were a gift I most enjoyed.  But now, as I rolled up in front of my Dad's house in Fleischmanns, a great feeling of self-satisfaction swept over me.  Four days and nearly 2,000 miles of riding won't put me in any great company, but it still felt very good to reach my destination.

2013.06.25-27 - R & R ?


The 26th. was supposed to be a rest and maintenance day.  No rest, but a little maintenance did happen.  I got drafted early this morning to help my Dad with his renovations of the local American Legion chapter hall.  It was nearly a total loss in the flooding they had last year.  Since it is so old (1919) they decided to save it and the core members of the post are using their own labor to do everything.

This morning we drove up to Albany, NY using a U-Haul trailer graciously donated by the local U-Haul shop for the day.  We drove the 90 minutes up there and 90 minutes back to pick up a bunch of tables and chairs that were also graciously donated by the owner of an office furniture refurbishment company up there. Let me tell you, I re-learned how humid it gets in this part of the country when it came time to load and unload those things.

In the afternoon, since I was already hot and sticky, I tackled the rubber change on the bike.  I put the Heidenau K37 back on the sidecar and installed the new Uralshina on the pusher.  That was another hot and sweaty job.  Tomorrow I plan to do an oil change and transmission oil change.  Then it's time to pack up the bike to be ready to head out on Friday morning.  Right now the weather doesn't look to promising on Friday, but that's life.

That evening, my Dad and his wife; my sister and her daughter and boyfriend; and I all enjoyed a good dinner at the local country club.  This area of the Catskill mountains is full of Country Clubs and Summer resorts.  Although their heyday is long gone, they still cater to the wealthy folks who come up from the New York metro area in the Summer.  Nice atmosphere and good food.  I slept well that night.

Helped my Dad out again the next morning by delivering the Bingo machinery for their first Bingo night next week.  They've been working on the American Legion Hall's renovations for a year sine the flood and enough of the building is presentable to try and bring in some revenue again.  After that I finally found time to visit my Mom's grave site.   I haven't been there since the day we laid her to rest in 1994.  It sits on a perfectly peaceful mountainside with a wide vista of the surrounding mountains.  R.I.P Mom.

I did the last prep for the next leg of the journey this afternoon.  I knocked out the 22500 km service on the bike (An easy one) but still managed to end up as a wet sponge courtesy of the humidity here.  (Glad I settled in Colorado. . . )  Replenished my food stores and packed as much as I could back on the bike.  Pretty much ready to move out early tomorrow morning.

Thanks to Craig (CDScoot) he turned me on to an excellent route and I'll be travelling through the heart of Adirondack Mountain Park.  Most people don't think past New York City whenever they hear "New York", but most of the state is rolling hills, mountains, and world class trout streams.  Adirondack State Park, at more than 6 million acres is the largest park in the lower 48 states.  I am looking forward to the ride.

Derek (Berger) up in the Ottawa, Canada area has graciously offered me some camping space and he is going to try to meet me at the border bridge that spans the St. Lawrence seaway at Ogdensburg, NY.  Ural riders are awesome!

2013.06.28 - Northward! Ho!


Howdy all,

This day was a fantastic (wet) day of riding beautiful (wetter) roads up and down and around (really wet) mountains and valleys.  OK, I'm being a bit over the top, but the day did include a lot of WETness.

I left my Dad's place at about 7:30a and the skies were ominous. He lives on the north western boundary of the Catskill Mountain Park in NY.  For the majority of the ride today I was headed north and a little west.  I was very lucky in the morning weather wise.  Deep, dark clouds were everywhere, but seemingly impossible pockets of sunshine and blue sky shone through on me.

At least they did until I was about 2/3 of the way through the Adirondack State Park.  The park is a wonderfully undeveloped place.  There are a few roads traversing the park, supporting a even fewer small hamlets and villages, but the rest is essentially undeveloped.  It is interested to look at a map of NY state.  Roads are everywhere, but within the boundaries of this great park are only a half-dozen or so paved ways.  The park is beautiful and I suggest to anyone who's never been in that area that it deserves a special trip just to experience it.

Entering Adirondack State Park in New York
My luck finally ran out and it began to rain.  For the rest of the day, the sometimes mist, sometimes splatter would be a constant companion.  Even so, I enjoyed the ride immensely.

I arrived at the border to Canada about 4:15p.  Derek (Berger) had previously texted me that he planned to ride out and meet me at the border crossing.  I replied back that I would give him a pass on that as I didn't want him to have to ride out in the wet weather.  He is intrepid however and declined the easy out.  The bureaucratic gods decided to intervene and on the Canadian side of the border it was decided that I needed a thorough scrutinizing before I should be let loose on the Canadian public.

Derek graciously waited with me.  After about 45 minutes of standing around and 2 minutes of actual interrogation I was set free.  Derek lives about 80km from the border and led the way as we high-tailed it north.  At one point, we stopped roadside and Derek asked me the strangest question I've heard in quite a while.  To paraphrase: "Do you like beer?"  Resisting a stinging reply upon the one who has granted me hospice this evening, I simply replied affirmatively.

A scant ten minutes later we were seated bar-side at what must be Derek's favorite haunt.  I guess that because the bartender and the waitress both know his name and at least one couple walked up and knew him.  It was a great micro-brew house.  So much so that we brought home a growler of a very nice extra hopped ale with us when we left.

Just a few kilometers from our respite we arrived at Derek's home.  It's a very nice mostly rural area where the homes are on large (maybe 1 acre or more) lots.  Room in the garage for both bikes was no problem.  My eye was immediately drawn to Derek's Pinzgauer.  I've always wanted one of those (or a haflinger).  We spent a few minutes talking about Pinzgauers (Derek knows my local Pinzgauer shop owner in Colorado--small world) as we peeled off our wet clothing.

Arrived at Derek's Home near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Derek and his lovely wife Shelly are awesome hosts.  A wonderful meal and good conversation followed next.  We discussed how both Canadians and Americans hate political advertisements.  We talked about Canadian government structure and its relationship to the British crown.  We even talked about gun control too.  It was an interesting evening of discussion.

In the end, Derek convinced me that I should stay an extra day in Ontario so that I can experience some Ontario trail riding with him and his buddies the next morning.  I think the alcoholic lubricant might have helped, but I didn't need too much convincing to stay.   A great place and great people.  Who'd want to leave?

2013.06.29 - Trail Day


As Derek hinted, this day's ride was excellent and bordering on adventuresome.  I had a feeling I'd be in for some fun when Derek invited me to stay an extra day to go riding with some folks he'd met through an ADVRider sub-group.  I was not disappointed.

Meeting up for a day ride in near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  MIke and Corey in the photo.
The day started gloomy and misting as we met for breakfast not too far from Derek's home.  Two other riders completed our little group.  Both on two wheels.  Mike, riding a DR650 and Corey riding a KLR 650.  If I'm not mistaken, this was the first time Derek had met these two gents.  Both guys were companionable and Mike had a route plotted out on his GPS that was a circular route crossing in and out of Crown Land.  If I understood correctly, Crown Land is roughly equivalent to BLM or Forest Service land in the U.S.

First off, the roads were loads of fun.  Mostly gravel, they were smooth enough that we could keep our speeds up a bit, but with enough sharp curves thrown in to keep us on our toes.  Some of the unmaintained roads were completely overgrown and very narrow, the overgrowth making them almost tunnel-like in some places.  These roads were the best ones as they had the fewest straight stretches and lots of climbing and descending and tight radius turns.  I wish we had more roads like this out in Colorado.  Back home they tend to be too rough or rocky to keep up a spirited tempo.

Most of the morning we were riding in the rain.  My heretofore clean rig is now coated with dirt and mud and a gray slurry compliments of the area's limestone makeup.  My bike looks like a proper transcontinental traveler now!  During the course of the day we stopped at an excellent local race track to ogle the high-speed sport bikes.  This is an excellent facility.  We don't have anything like it in Colorado.  Our tracks are run down and decidedly second class to the Calabogie circuit.
Track cars at Calabogie Race Circuit

Calabogie Race Circuit
After that short stop, we hit the trails again and managed to survive a number of pretty deep muddy water holes.  We were pretty much done for the day and heading for the barn when Mike pulled to the side of the road just past the entrance to another unmaintained road.  After a quick discussion, we pulled a U-turn and headed onto the road.  Ominously, this was the first road we'd been on today where I noted the "Use at your own risk" sign.

The roads was really wet (As were most today) as its been raining up here for a few days already.  Although it had finally stopped raining on us a couple of hours ago, this road featured quite a few deeply rutted and water filled sections.  I made a mental note to myself after we descended a pretty wet and steep section that I don't think the Ural would be able to climb back up if we had to back-track to get out.

Limestone Quarry, somewhere in the middle of nowhere, Ontario, Canada.
Mike and Derek alternately led the trail and I used the opportunity to carefully watch how they each tackled water obstacle after water obstacle.  In one tricky section Derek's bike got bogged down when he tried to make a crossing on the left-hand edge of the hole only to find out that the center was very deep.  His hack dropped down precipitously and his pusher wheel, which was lacking for tread, was levered up and lost traction.  Undaunted, Derek jumped right into the water up to his thighs and began to push and pull.  Mike and I were a little less enthusiastic about jumping in, but we both managed to add some grunt without going for a swim and together we got the bike out of the hole fairly quickly.

Continuing down the trail we attacked and conquered multiple troughs and sinkholes.  When we were within a 1/4 mile of the end of the trail we came to the mother of all water filled ego-eaters.  My view was partially blocked by the overhanging tree branches, so I did not see how Mike successfully crossed.  I got a better view as I inched forward behind Derek as he prepared to launch.  Mike was videoing Derek's crossing and I thought there was a second where he'd lost too much momentum to make it over.  Derek saved it however with a heroic effort and made it to the other side.  Me?  Not so much. . .

Of course, I decided to mimic Derek's path across the abyss.  I figured if he made it, I should be able to also.  With a twist of the wrist and a noble standing-on-the-pegs stance, I was off.  Things were looking rosy until I got to the deepest section.  In a flash, it was all over.  The Ural's convenient forward facing air scoop proved to be just as efficient at sucking in the thicker brown fluid below me instead of air.

Now it was my turn to jump into the muck.  Stoically I absorbed the cold wet embrace of muddy water as it slowly filled my shoes and added tend pounds of weight to the bottom half of my cowhide riding pants.  Oh, the humiliation!  Without even waiting to be asked, Mike and Derek dove in beside me and in a quick minute we had the bike back on dry land.

I'd hoped it wouldn't be too bad.  Hope was not enough.  A quick check using the kick starter revealed that there was indeed water in that space that only air and gasoline are supposed to mix. What followed was 45 minutes of grunting and sweating, and a few curses, as we worked to expel the viscous brown sludge from the heart of the beast.

Spark plugs out; Air cleaner assembly uncovered;  greasy brown water sopped up out of the air cleaner box; Carburetors drained and wiped out.  For once I was carrying a spare air filter ready to go, so I was good there.  I was disheartened by the amount of water that was spitting out of the spark plug holes.  This is a new experience for me.  Mike observed that the spark plug holes are in the most inconvenient location when the time comes to empty water out of the engine.

After things seemed sufficiently dry, the bike started right up and idled smoothly, but completely bogged down as soon as the throttle was applied.  We scratched our collective heads for a few minutes.  Drained the carb bowls one more time;  No improvement.  Derek postulated that perhaps my air filter was over oiled.  Mike mentioned that one of the jets might have gotten some crud sucked into it.  After unfastening the air filter box top and cracking it open, I restarted the bike and it began to run normally again.  I've no idea why, but I counted my blessings, refastened the cover and off we rode.

After the flood.  Derek laughs while I tinker.
Since I'm in the middle of a two week sojourn, I was really worried at this point.  However, as soon as we moved a short distance, I could tell that the motor was performing no worse than it had previous to ingesting the witches brew. We three headed back to town and I had no trouble reaching speeds in excess of 60 mph and the motor didn't miss a beat.

Mike peeled off for home when we hit town, and Derek and I made a beeline for the ubiquitous Canadian Tire store where I picked up a few quarts of oil and some gasoline water treatment for added good measure.  We stopped for gas across the road and the two attendants inside the station were both Russians.  After noting that I'd pumped 93 octane fuel into the Ural's tank, the taller one told me I was wasting my money as the Ural doesn't need anything higher than 72.  Where he got that number from I can't imagine, but this was one time I wasn't interested in any Ural conversation.  I was wet from the waist down and soaked with sweat from the waist up.  I replied "No kidding?" and beat a hasty course out the door.

Back at Derek's home, it was time to get that nasty muddy water/oil mix out of the crank case.  As I'd done just this only two days prior, I didn't really get my money's worth out of those two liters of oil.  I was happy to see that the oil still draining out of the motor still looked like golden honey, so I don't think any water got into the crank case.  Even so, new lube went in.

I then spent the next hour or so emptying all of my gear out of the sidecar and trunk and sopping up the water that had seeped up into them via the conveniently located drain holes in the bottom of the hack.  Mission accomplished, everything is re-stowed.  The bike is filthy, but serviceable. And that is all I will need when I turn the key tomorrow morning to continue my journey west.

Derek and Shelly have been incredible hosts to this wandering vagrant.  While I was getting reorganized, Shelly was working in the kitchen alchemizing another excellent meal.  I am really indebted to them for their hospitality.  Thanks to Derek I've seen parts of Ontario that I never would have experienced otherwise.

Tomorrow the journey continues.  I have the feeling it will be less adventurous from this point on.

2013.07.01 - Across Canada


I left Derek and Shelley's house Sunday morning the 30th. of June at about 9a.  The bike was running fine despite the prior day's nautical adventure and the weather finally began to break.  The morning was cool and the traffic clear as I merged onto Route 17.  This two lane road stretches clear across Ontario Province and beyond.  I never realized how large Ontario is.  It is huge!  Conveniently, the maximum speed limit on this road is only 90kph.  Right in the Ural's sweet spot (Most of the time).  Although it is only two lanes, there are multitudes of passing lanes along its length.  Probably every 10 or 15 km there is one, so the traffic does not build up too badly behind me.

Leaving Derek and Shelly's Home on July 1st.
Back on the road.
I passed through some really nice areas, especially the area near Algonquin Provincial Park and Lake Nipissing.  There must have been a forest fire active somewhere near my route as a large part of the morning the sky was tinted a smoky tan and the sun overcast.  I saw numerous fire trucks running east a number of times.

The bike was running fine and the miles slid by, albeit at a leisurely pace.  I decided this day would be a good one to break out the camping gear again, so when I spied a bucolic campground near the road side at Iron Bridge, Ontario, I swung a U-turn and headed in at about 8p.  The thought of a hot shower and a relaxing meal made the 404 miles that I traveled this day melt away.  After showering and eating a quick meal, the mosquitoes chased me into the tent at about 9:30p, and I spent the next hour and a half watching the balance of film Skyfall on the iPad.  I'd started watching it while at Moab with the CZAR group meet in Moab, Utah back in April.  I figured I should use the iPad at least once during this trip since I carted it all this way.

This morning I awoke at 6:30p.  The mosquitoes were still thick early.  I'd hope the cooler temp would keep them down, but they were literally lining the no-see-um netting on the tent.  That made breakfast a movable feast.   I had to keep walking around to out pace the mosquitoes!  With everything packed up again it was out on the road at 8:45a.

Have you ever had that feeling?  As you pull out of the campground in the morning?  A morning cool and clear and sunny; a sparkling clear face shield devoid of yesterday's bug build-up.  Awesome.

Unknown Rest Stop in Canada.
This day's general destination was Thunder Bay, Ontario.  Today was also the first time I experienced a problem that was not self induced.  It could have been a show-stopper for this trip, but thanks to what was essentially an afterthought I was OK.  While passing through Sault St. Marie, the bike suddenly lost power.  I coasted to the side of the road and as soon as I looked down I could see the problem.  The carburetor compliance fitting on the right-hand cylinder had a big split right in the top of it.  Nearly split in half!  The carburetor was hanging off of the cylinder head by a thin thread of rubber.  That makes it tough for a proper stoichiometric mixture of fuel and air to enter the cylinder!

I was saved by one of my Ural rules.  Whenever something on the bike breaks, I replace it and I purchase another one to carry on the rig as a spare.  Well, my left-side compliance fitting had split a few months earlier, so I'd picked up a spare.  Significantly, I originally did not intend to carry it with me on this trip, but at the last minute threw it in my spares box.  I am really glad I did.  I doubt I could have bodged a fix on the road side as it was so badly torn.  Who knows how long it would have taken to get a replacement sent out.  After 15 minutes of unloading things so I could get at the tools and 2 minutes of actual work I was on my way west once again.

Let me tell you, the western end of Ontario was some really spectacular.  The road follows along near the northern shores of Lake Superior.  The section in Lake Superior Provincial Park and later on between Marathon and Nipigon (About 100 km) were winding and climbing and diving near the shores of the lake and had many excellent vistas.

Today's ride ended after 524 miles in the small town of Kakabeka, Ontario.  The sun was falling and the low angle made it impossible to the see the roadsides.  I'd seen too many warning signs today about colliding with moose in the dark.  In fact, I finally saw a moose today but sadly it was a roadside victim and not the majestic sight I'd hoped for.

Tomorrow's plan is to continue west for another 200 miles or so until I reach the border crossing at Ft. Frances, Ontario/International Falls, Minnesota where I will return to U.S. soil once again.

2013.07.02 - Across the Border


I passed back into USA Land at about 12p this day.  Stopped for lunch on the road about 60 miles southwest.  I spent some time plotting a course back to home.  WiFi is a wonderful thing for travelers.  This restaurant has it and Google Maps is my best friend..

Another day marked off of this ride.  I made it to Pelican Rapids, Minnesota this evening.

I packed up and left at about 8:30a this decidedly cold morning in Kakabeka, Ontario.  I was using the heated jacket all morning.  The sky was clear and blue and there was nothing but open road ahead.  After 30 miles or so I departed off of route 17, which was my constant companion for the last 1,100 miles or so and hooked a left onto Route 11 towards St. Frances and my intended border crossing into the USA.

This portion of the ride was just shy of 200 miles.  My GPS's insistence that I was on the wrong road, coupled with the fact that during the first 30 miles of travel I did not see any sign of habitation made me wary.  No other traffic passed me in either direction.  As it was almost 200 miles to the destination, I started to get spooked about the availability of gas.  Even with my spare gas can there's no way I'd get that far.

I pulled over at a convenient stop and perused the maps and futzed with the GPS a bit.  I finally decided I was on the correct route and there appeared to beat least one town along this route that should have fuel.  I traveled on and put it out of my mind.  Later on, as I approached the vicinity of Atikokan, there was a small roadside building with gas pumps outside.    I figured this must be the place and I pulled up to the pumps.  To my surprise there was only two flavors:  Diesel and Regular gasoline.  I wasn't real keen on putting Regular into the Ural, so I balked and rode on.  Luckily for me, I was actually still a few miles from the turn-off for the town.  I eventually found good gas there.

Being from Colorado, I'm used to seeing lots of Continental Divide watershed signs on the tops of passes.  As I continued along Route 11, I saw a very similar sign by the side of the road.  At first, I just blew by it.  A few second later, realizing that there was no discernible rise in the roadway at that point, I got curious.  I decided to back track and check it out.  It turned out to be something I didn't expect.

It was a watershed sign, but not the east-west Atlantic-Pacific ones I've seen many times before.  This one proclaimed ARCTIC WATERSHED - From here all streams flow north into the Arctic Ocean.  I figured that one was photo worthy, so I dug out the camera and took a few snaps.

Crossing the Divide.
The rest of the ride to St. Frances was uneventful, but beautiful.  As I got closer to the town the road once again came close to the shoreline give one some very nice views of the small islands close by shore and the expanse of water beyond.  So close, yet so far, was the United States less than a mile across the water.

At just about noon I arrived at the border control point.  Unlike my experience getting into Canada a few days ago, it was quick and easy to leave.  The only eyebrow I raised was when the border officer asked me how I got into Canada in the first place.  I told him I rode the bike in.  He seemed not to believe me and asked me a second time.  Is it really so unusual?  The next words were "OK, you may proceed" I don't need to be told twice, so I was off like a shot.

Next stop, gas.  I'd been paying the equivalent to nearly CA$6.00/gallon for gas in Canada.  The average was CA$1.40 to CA$1.60 per liter.  I can't believe I was happy to pay US$4.09/gallon in International Falls.

It's amazing how the character of the landscape changed so completely on the south side of the border.  Once again I was riding on mostly straight roadway with a wide vista of plowed fields in all directions.  One thing I hadn't expected was the sheer number of Resorts in Minnesota.  It seemed like every few miles there was yet another lake and yet another resort attached to it.

Luckily for me, International Falls seemed to be the starting point for the only road in Minnesota which doesn't run east-west or north-south.  US 71 runs diagonally to the southwest.  This was just the direction I wanted to go to eventually intercept the Colorado state line in a few days.  Travelling along, I came upon some thunder showers but was again lucky.  Twice I was going to pull over and put on the rain gear and both times the rain abruptly stopped.  Nice.

The miles continued to tick off as I mulled over the decision to camp or get a motel room.  I was beginning to tire and started looking.  The GPS showed nothing but "resorts" anywhere. Nothing was along the road and all required a detour of at least a few miles to reach.  I just kept riding hoping to stumble upon something roadside.  Eventually I came upon the town of Pelican Rapids and the first thing I saw was the Pelican Motel.  Right out of 1961 and lacking the usual run down look of most Mom & Pop motels these day. A quick check of a room;  a reasonable rate;  and Wi-Fi.  I'm sold.

Check off another 434 miles. . .

2013.07.03 - Ride the Wind!


Boom!  Suddenly I'm back in the West!  It sneaked up on me when I wasn't looking.  One minute I was riding the southwestern part of Minnesota.  Rolling hills, lots of trees, many, many lakes.  Then I crossed the border into North Dakota.  Worse, I went south and west and entered South Dakota.  Where are the trees?  Why is there so much Wind?  Yes, I'm back!

OK, a bit over the top, but the change in geography is fairly sudden.  I was battling winds from the south all day.  As I crossed North and South Dakota, all the roads run roughly east-west and north-south.  Heading south I was being beaten badly every time a semi-tractor passed me in the opposing direction.  It was like hitting a wall of air each time.  Regardless, I was lucky again and the weather was fine all day.  Not even any afternoon thunderstorms to deal with today.

I thought I might try to make it all the way to Rapid City, South Dakota today.  That would put me with in one day's striking distance of home.  As I rode, fighting the wind, I began to get fatigued.  Not only that, at my last gas stop, I checked the pusher wheel and the tire tread was just about gone.  This means its time to do the tire ballet again.

Just past the gas station, I saw a sign that meant Rapid City was no longer in today's plan.  The sign read Belvidere KOA - 15 miles.  At this point that was all I had to see.  Even though this would be 15 miles out of the direction I planned to go, there was no question.  I pulled the bars to the left and ignored the GPS's assertions and headed south.

I was all set for another night of camping.  However, when I realized the cost of the comfy KOA cabin was only $15 more than a tent site, I didn't think twice.  No time spent setting up and breaking down camp would be worth it.  Plus, I had to take time to change the pusher wheel out so I'd have more time for that.  To add a bonus, I also realized that I'd finally crossed back into the Mountain Time Zone, so I got myself a free hour to boot.  The icing on the cake was when I walked into the little cabin.  Air conditioning! Cable TV!  KOA has changed since the last time I camped at one.  And if you haven't already surmised.  They have WiFi too.

KOA Belvidere Campground.
Unpacking the hack tub took all of 5 minutes interrupted by the 1 minute it took me to open the first beer.  Then it was on to swapping out wheels.  I'm not happy unless my life is more complicated than necessary so that process required me to remove the side car wheel (Drink some beer), then install the spare wheel onto the side car (Drink some beer).  Then remove the pusher wheel (Drink some beer).  Then install the erstwhile sidecar wheel into the pusher position (Drink some beer).  Remove the sidecar wheel again (Drink some beer) and put the old pusher wheel in that position (And the bottle is empty).  I made it even more interesting by doing it on a slightly sloped grassy surface.  Oh, the joy. . .

So now, I only have one task left that I need to do early tomorrow.  Time for another oil change.  I've got 1 quart of oil already, but I need 2 and I'm also sans drain pan.  I'm hoping that the nearby Interstate 90 interchange will provide what I need.  I'll deal with that in the morning.

This day the bike hummed along without missing a beat.  Another 426 miles on the clock and on my butt.  Nearing the end of this trip, but still looking forward to more.

It done!  It's in the bag!

I arrived home in Colorado about 7:30p this evening.  After a shower and a beer and a good meal made by my wonderful wife Zeng Yuan,  I have a few minutes to sit down and record today's events.

What can I say?  How about Today was perfect!

For some reason I woke up this morning earlier than any other day on this trip.  I was out of the sack at 5:30a.  In keeping with all other mornings, whether camping or in a motel, it took me 1 1/2 hours to pack up and hit the road.  The weather this morning was clear with a little breeze and warm enough that all I needed was a pull-over underneath my mesh riding jacket.

My first priority for this morning was to change the motor oil on the bike.  I'm only about 125 km over the interval, but I plan to do about another 750 km today.  The KOA I stayed at was within a mile of an I-90 interchange.  I'd hoped to pick up another quart of oil and do the change in the parking lot, but there was only a single service station there and they didn't have any 20/50.  So I continued on my way and about 20 miles down the road I had to exit and head south anyway.  There were multiple stations at this interchange and one had the 20/50 I needed.

I purchased the oil and a 1 gallon jug of drinking water and headed around to the back of the service station.  It was out of sight and out of the wind and sun.  I'm sure I am not the first one to think of it, but the gallon jug of water makes a perfect oil drain pan.  I cut off the top 25% of the jug, leaving part of the molded in handle intact.  I used the bottom portion as the drain pan.  I didn't bother changing the oil filter (I'll do that at home tomorrow) so this was a real quick change.  15 minutes tops.  Leaving the jug handle intact made the handle portion a perfect pouring spout for me to drain the old oil into the empty 1 qt. containers I now had.  I discarded the empty water jug and packed the old oil on the bike and was on my way.

Yesterday, Notus was my enemy, bashing me with stiff headwinds most of the afternoon.  Today, it was the turn of Boreas.  But Boreas was on my side.  His stiff winds are from the north and these pushed me along mightily!  I haven't done my gas miles check for today's riding.  I will no doubt find today's gas mileage the best of the entire trip.  For certain portions of the ride the north winds were just about equal to my fairly consistent 55 mph speed and it was as if I were just floating along the road.  There was barely any discernible air movement around me.  Quite a surreal effect.  The winds were so strong, as I approached Scottsbluff, Nebraska, the entire town was barely visible in the distance as a giant dust cloud filled the air as far as the eye could see.  Again, luck was on my side as I had to skirt around the east side of town and the air was clear.

Wild (?) Horses, South Dakota
Surprisingly quickly, I was over the border and into Wyoming.  I was starting to see familiar landscapes and for the first time I could finally see the distant 10,000' peaks of the Continental Divide west of Cheyenne.  What a great sight!  I was now less than 150 miles from home.  A quick fill-up in Cheyenne and I was on I-25 heading south.  Just a few short miles and I crossed the border into Colorado.  What a great feeling to cross that line.  Now I was closer to the mountains and for the first time I could see the snow which covered the upper reaches high above the tree line.  I was home.

I bailed off the Interstate as soon as I could and took the back roads diagonally south and west towards Boulder, Colorado.  Boulder is the home of my Alma Mater and the gateway city to the canyon that would take me the final 25 miles to my doorstep.  As I climbed the canyon and then turned off on to the notoriously steep Magnolia road, the rush of cold air coming down from on high held a deep scent of rainfall.  I thought for once that I would not dodge this storm, but for the last time I was lucky with the weather and I was only hit with a few drops.  The cold air however still forced me to pull over and add a layer of clothing.  The last 15 miles or so are almost all familiar dirt roads for me.  Well worn curves and turns that can catch the uninitiated off guard--evidenced by skid marks in the dirt at well known places.

Finally, I made the last turn into my little mountain subdivision.  Up the final dirt road.  Around the final bend.  And up the driveway.  Finally.  A couple of beeps of the horn and Zeng Yuan came rushing out of the house to greet me.  That first embrace was just what I needed as the perfect end to today's 468 miles.  The perfect end to this trip's 4,363 miles.  I'm home. . .

2013.07.06 - Tallying the Cost


I spent yesterday unloading the bike and doing some of the chores that have built up about the house over the past two weeks.  This morning I sat down to do some gas mileage calculations for the trip.  As I expected, my mileage is lower than what I normally get running around Colorado, but not much so.  The bike was loaded down and and had two extra spare tires and cargo strapped on and out in the wind.

I saved all my gas receipts and wrote the mileage on them each time I filled up.  Unfortunately, I discovered that a few of the Canadian ones didn't print the number of liters I purchased.  Also, there were a few stops where I got no receipt, so my end figures don't include all possible data, but the large majority of it.

Best tank: 34 mpg

Worst Tank: 13.5 mpg - I'm not 100% certain I didn't write the miles on this one down wrong as it is way off the others.

Average for the entire 4,364 miles: 27.22 mpg

Three worst tanks:  13.5; 21.2; 22.8 mpg - All were in Kansas as I headed east with a very strong wind hitting me from the front and side at a 45 degree angle

Three best tanks:  34; 33.24; 31.6 mpg - All were on the final day as I had a strong tail wind pushing me along.

Gas averaged about US$5.40 per gallon while in Canada.  Ouch!  I don't plan to calculate exactly what I spent on gas for the trip as it might be too depressing to know.  As an aside, I chose 3 of my credit cards to use for the trip to better track expenses.  I called all three creditors to let them know I'd be travelling so they wouldn't flag the cards for fraud.  I also checked the international transaction fee that each charges (A total rip-off in my opinion, but unavoidable)  Every card company I called told me their fee was 3% of the transaction, except for USAA, which only charges 1%.  So I used that card in Canada.

I put about $622 in charges on the card I used to get me from Colorado to New York State and $512 on the card I used while in Canada.  When I crossed back over the border into Minnesota I started using my regular REI Visa card again, but haven't gotten the charges sorted out yet.  That'll probably be about another $300 or so.  So all told, this trip cost me about $1,500 or so.  Do you remember the days when we could fill our bike's gas tank for less than $5.00?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

2013.04.21 - 27 - Moab, Utah with the Colorado Zidecar Adventure Riders (CZAR)




Every year a loose-knit group of Ural sidecar riders heads out to Moab, Utah in the Spring to ride trails and tell lies.  Having been to Moab many, many times on two wheels and four, I'd never joined the group before.  This year I decided to succumb to the temptation and ride out.


The morning of 21 April 2013 was crisp and a bit on the cold side, but sunny just the same.    My heated jacket, gloves, and even socks were plugged in and doing their thing nicely when I arrived in Idaho Springs, Colorado at 8am.  I live about 20 miles north of this old mining and hot springs town which straddles Interstate 70 about 20 miles west of Denver.



Our group had agreed to meet at this convenient location to begin our group ride to Moab.  John Spatafora and his wife Cookie; Darrell Spitzer, his wife Piper and their son Licari; Tim Laughlin and I met up; fueled up; and ate-up at the McDonald's restaurant on the east end of town.


Here's the ride map for today.  Approximately 325 miles.



John (Known as Spat) was riding his white Ural Patrol.  Cookie drove the truck pulling the trailer with their two Suzuki dual sport bikes on it.  Darrel rode his Patrol while Piper rode hers; Licari was riding shotgun in the cushy sidecar.  Tim was riding his Patrol and I my Gear Up.

The climb up to the Eisenhower tunnel is steep and long.  The tunnel is up at over 11,100 feet.  Our Urals, sporting only about 40 h.p. each, were slogging up the road in the right-hand lane, accompanying the tractor trailers in the slow march to the summit.

Passing through the tunnel is always a demarcation point for me.  From this point you are really in the Rocky Mountains.  And as every motorcycle rider knows, the best roads are never the Interstate Highway, the best roads are small, forgotten back roads.  I-70 for the next 125 miles is the exception to that rule.  Even though the Urals are comparatively slow, the traffic is manageable and I-70 winds its way through some really spectacular scenery.

We were in for a bit of a shock as we were spit out of the west end of the tunnel.  Although the sky was still sunny, the wind, mixed with what looked like a healthy snowfall from the previous night, conspired to make the steep 10 mile ride down the west side of the divide quite exciting.

The road was covered in deep slush.  It didn't take more than a mile for me to regret not stopping to put on my rain gear.  Myself and my bike were coated in a quarter inch of rime ice by the time I got to the bottom.  The steep descent had us wending our way around tractor trailers which threw up nice big waves of wet slush.  I must say this was not the way I wanted to start a week's worth of riding.


Spat and Cookie discussing the conditions after they safely made it down the west side of the Continental Divide near Frisco, Colorado (Photo Tim Laughlin)


Luckily, the conditions improved substantially and my spirit lifted equally.  We endured one more steep climb as we chugged past Copper Mountain Ski Area at 9,712' and up to the summit of Vail Pass at about 10,600'.  The west side of Vail Pass is even steeper than the west side of the divide, but now we had a much drier road.

From this point until we reached Glenwood Canyon, it was smooth sailing.  Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon is one of the great road engineering feats in our state.  This section of the Interstate was the last piece to be finished.  Due to engineering problems and environmental constraints it wasn't finished until 1992.

The canyon opens up again at Glenwood Springs.  Glenwood Springs is best known for its multiple naturally fed hot springs pools.  The picturesque town has many building dating back 100 years or more and also has some interesting spelunking opportunities.

We continued on.  The Interstate lives up to its more mundane reputation the further west we ride.  Additionally, a bit of a head wind has me working hard to keep up with the group.  I recently fabricated a mountain bike carrier for my rig.  It seems that the added air drag of the bike is noticeable.

We rode the interstate most of the way. At Fruita, Colorado, best known to me as a mountain biking gateway and basically the last inhabited stop on I-70 in Colorado, we bailed and took old U.S. 6 across the border into Utah.  U.S. 6 used to be the main east-west road across Colorado until the interstate highway was completed.  Now the sections that are left mostly serve as local access along the interstate corridor.

The condition of the road clearly shows its status.  West of Fruita just a few miles the road is these days used only for local ranch access.  Consequently, I don't think they put too much money into maintaining it.  Without gross exaggeration the road is more patch than original surface!

We took old U.S. 6 to it's terminus and dodged under I-70 to join up with the paved road that heads south and west toward the popular whitewater rafting put-in at Westwater.  Just shy of Westwater we dove off the tarmac and onto the dual-track dirt road that is part of the Kokopelli Trail system.  We followed that about 20 miles or so weaving up and down the undulations and washes.



Kokopelli's Trail dumped us out near Cisco, Utah.  Cisco is essentially a ghost town.  There are some signs of life, but not the kind of life I'd like to live.  Cisco does have a claim to fame however.  It served as one of the filming locations for 1991's Thelma and Louise.




Just west of Cisco a few miles Utah Route 128  starts to head south and west as it wends its way down to the Colorado River where the two cross at Dewey Bridge.  Dewey Bridge was once the longest suspension bridge in Utah.  Sadly, its listing on the National Register of Historic Places couldn't save it from a child playing with matches at the nearby campground.  The bridge's wooden planking burned in 2008.  Today, only the suspension cables and girders remain.

We continued down the winding and increasingly picturesque river road for about another 30 miles until it abruptly ends at an intersection with U.S. Route 191 at the northern end of Moab.  Route 128 is a road that one must see in person to appreciate.  I can't recommend it enough.

Our accommodations awaited us at the Archview Resort about 9 miles north of Moab on U.S. 191.  Although the term Resort is a little bit of a stretch for Archview, it is clean and friendly  and is situated perfectly for easy access to some excellent trail riding, not to mention Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.  Like not-too-distant Cisco, Archview also has a Hollywood connection.  Many scenes from the 1997 film Breakdown were filmed at the resort and on the surrounding highways.  The resorts convenience store has an ample supply of memorabilia from the shoot.

Being fat and lazy these days, I bunked in one of their cabins.  Our group had all four cabins in a row and this spot became "expedition central."




The cabins were comfortable.  They had bunk beds; cooling and heating; and a little cube refrigerator   All the comforts of home.


The First Day's Ride


Here's the ride map for today.



Monday morning was our first riding day.  Dana Williams (a.k.a Dirty DR) knew some folks in a large group of Honda CT-90/CT-110 riders.  That morning eleven Urals in a row wound their way up Utah Route 313 to meet up with the CT'ers at their camp site off of Dubinky Well Road.  





Those CT's are cool little bikes.  They have a dual range gear box that allows them to climb like a mountain goat.  The CT'ers joined us for the first part of our ride to Long Canyon.




The ride down long Canyon really begins in a narrow, steep notch in the edge of the mesa.  The photos don't do justice, this was pretty freakin' steep.  Everyone made it down fine however.  Here's Randy Fritch, our local Colorado Ural Dealer leading a group down the slope.





At the first convenient view point we took a break.







I had to get at least one shot of the group with the banner I made.




From there we continued all the way back down to the Colorado River a few thousand feet below.  This brought us out onto the appropriately named Potash Road.  This paved road on the river's northern bank leads a parade of trucks up to the Potash plant a few miles up the road.  We continued along and made another rest stop at the boat ramp that sits right below the start of the Shafer Trail.




The Shafer Trail winds it's way back up from the river at about 4,000' then passes into Canyonlands National Park and on up to the plateau high above at about 6,000'.  The last 1,000 feet or so are done on some spectacular switchbacks.




For the most part, it's not difficult except for a few rough patches that include stepping the bike up and over some rock humps.  Although a bit hair-raising, everyone made it over the difficulties presented.  There are spectacular views and rock fortresses as far as the eye can see.





We stopped at yet another river overlook to allow the group to consolidate once more.  These two veteran riders (Dana Williams and Dave Hooker)  were our guides, mentors, and inspiration for the duration of this week.


Dave "Mr Cob" Hooker and Dana "Dirty DR" Williams having another spirited debate.  







On the final stretch of the Shaffer Trail is where things got interesting for me.  I've been up these switchbacks on both motorbike and mountain bike before, but they take on a whole new level of difficulty in the hack


The scene of the crime


These photos don't do justice for the switchbacks.  They are steep and off-camber in the right-hand turns.  Add to that the fact that the  Ural is no power house.  A rider has to keep up the speed to make it up the climbing curve. Too slow and there's not enough oomph to make it.  Too fast and the side car reaches for the sky.  In this photo, the lower switchback proved to best my skill.  I came around too fast and the hack flew.  Chopping the throttle did nothing and I headed off straight into the rock wall at the just past the apex of the curve.





I wound up with my rig sitting on its side stuck into the drainage ditch at the base of the cliff.  Luckily I wasn't hurt.  My head speared the rock wall, but I was wearing a helmet.  Perhaps to save me some disgrace, no one took any photos of my rig until we got it back onto the rubber.


I look like I'm laughing it off in this photo.  In reality, I'm gasping for breath.



Getting the bike out of the ditch proved more difficult.  The first attempt was successful.  I used 2wd and she tractored right out.  Stupidly however, I left it in 2wd as I tried to pull forward and to the right so that I was parallel to the road.  Instead, the Ural's desire to go only in a straight line when in 2wd put my front wheel back into the ditch!  

We Ural riders pride ourselves not only on being able to get stuck in the middle of nowhere, but being equally adept at self-extricating.  Dave Hooker's rig has an electric winch installed on it.  Too bad he was already up the road while all this was happening.  More than one of the riders today were carrying a Maasdam rope puller.  However, at the most convenient moment. . .



. . .a benevolent Jeeper arrived on the scene.  He was probably very happy to get the chance to use his winch.  I was out post haste.






We Ural riders will never be able to boast about speed or power, but we can rely on Soviet over-building.  You're hard pressed to find any plastic on a Ural.  It was designed in the 1940's and still uses mostly 1940's materials.  In fact, you can pick up the bike by the front fender.  Luckily for me the Ural's massive steel front fender and grab bar met the rock face first and took the brunt of the impact.    





The front fender and grab bar are both quite out of kilter.  It was difficult to tell by just looking, but once I jumped back on the bike, she was ride-able!  


Takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'

I left my mark on Moab!

The bike handled fine on the rest of the ride out of the canyon. As soon as I hit pavement however, it was obvious that my front wheel was bent.  It was a slow, ignominious ride back to the campground at 30 mph.   That afternoon, I pondered what to do.

A stroke of luck hit me on that evening.  I rode monkey with Tim Laughlin back into Moab for dinner.  One of Moab's signature joints is Eddie McStiff's on the main drag.  Tim and I were relaxing at an outside table when we heard the unmistakable whine/rattle of a Ural motor approaching.  We were confused when we saw someone pulling into the parking lot on an old 1990's model Ural Deco.  None in our group was riding such a beast.  

The rider turned out to be Michael Hallberg, a recent Florida transplant and now Moab local.  It really is a small world sometimes.  Mike is a really eclectic guy doing everything from graphic design, to photography, to writing computer apps.  He'd come to Eddie McStiffs to work on entree' photos for their new menu.

As we conversed and I disclosed my front wheel woes, Mike, through the powers of facebook tried to put me in contact with Chris Brunner, his trusted Ural mechanic and friend in Moab.  Talk about luck!  Amazingly, later that evening Chris took an unsolicited ride out to Archview to seek out our group and I made arrangements with him to see if he could straighten out my front wheel at his shop the next morning.

Tuesday morning I drove Dana Williams' road sofa, the Buick Road Master dinosaur into Moab to visit Chris' shop.  Chris has an interesting past, spending his late youth in Germany gaining experience and taking advantage of a formal training and apprenticeship program.  He's a master mechanic.

We discovered while examining by egg-shaped front wheel that the impact had actually broken the wheel bub at the place where one of the spokes mounts.  This put an immediate end to the idea of straightening the wheel.

However, my luck had not run out.  As soon as the damage to my front wheel was known back at camp the day before, Darrell Spitzer stepped up and volunteered the use of his spare front Ural wheel to me.  In fact, Darrel remarked later that he'd been carrying that spare front wheel around for a couple of years hoping to get a chance to use it.  

Thanks to Darrell's largess, Chris was able to simply swap my front tire onto Darrell's wheel and I was back in business!  Thanks Darrell!  I drove the road sofa back to the campground with a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.  I'd be able to keep riding.

I didn't mention, but Randy Fritch, our local Colorado Ural dealer, had already agreed to make room in his trailer for my bike if it proved unrideable.  He was willing to take it straight back to his shop in Colorado.  How's that for more incredible luck?  I'm happy I didn't need to take him up on the offer.

I returned to the camp ground, mounted the replacement front wheel and spent some time going over the bike to ensure that nothing was amiss.  

That evening we all relaxed around the camp fire and swapped riding stories.



Sand Flats and La Sal Loop



Here's today's ride map:







The next group ride that I joined, we headed up Sand Flats road, past the famous Slickrock cycle trail and headed up to the base of the still snow covered La Sal Peaks.


On Sand Flats road, just past the Slick Rock trail

Along the way, I was bitten in the butt by another minor mistake.  When I had installed my motor sump guard a week or so earlier, I'd never re-tightened the bolts that hold the in-board muffler to the bike.  A day's ridding on trails and rocks loosened it up and set it free as I was riding this fairly smooth trail.  A quick 10 minute pit stop and it was back in place.





The group stopped for a lunch break at a beautiful spot right on the sheer edge of the mesa.  I'm not certain if this is still technically part of the Porcupine Rim, but it looks down into the bottom of Castle Valley a few thousand feet below.  An awesome place to stop and a good excuse for many more photos.  


Here's Darrell Spitzer grinning the Ural grin.

What a great back drop


No stop is complete without a good bull session.





Here's Walt and his wife (I'm so bad with names!).  He's got a uniquely modified Patrol with lots of hand crafted do-dads.  That's an Aprilia sport bike muffler grafted on there.





Yours Truly










After the lunch break it was a wonderful ride up to the La Sal Loop Road and down into Castle Valley.  It was interesting to note that only a few meters from where we broke for lunch, Kokopelli's Trail intersected our dirt road.  At this point Kokopelli's Trail is a single track mountain bike/hiking trail.  It's amazing to ponder the endurance necessary for riding it from it's origins all the way back in Colorado, up through these mountains and down into Moab.  Awesome.

We continued higher until we intersected the paved Mountain Loop Road that skirted the still snow covered lower slopes of the La Sal peaks.  It actually got pretty chilly way up there.  The road is narrow and curvy and takes you from green alpine forest back down into arid Castle Valley.  

We eventually met the Colorado River again as we merged onto Route 128.  We took one last break at one of the boat ramps along the river then broke up into ones and twos and everyone went their own way for the rest of the day.







Arches National Park


Here's today's ride map:






Of course, no trip to Moab is complete unless a few more arch photos are added to the collection.  

The next day (Thursday, I think) I took off into town to get my front tire balanced and then I rode into Arches National Park to revisit some of the places I'd been to in years past.  It was basically a nice slow day with a leisurely ride into the park and a little hiking to grab some snap shots.


I think this is Turret Arch.


North and South Window Arches


Views of South Window Arch and the La Sal mountains in the distance.


















OK, that's enough of Arches National Park.  I headed back to the campground.  This evening we had a group barbecue.  A good time was had by all.  Too good for me, I got no pics!



Willow Springs Trail


Here's today's ride map:







Friday morning I did my last ride with the group.  We headed into Arches National Park again, but this time using the Willow Springs Trail to enter through the undeveloped portion of the park.  This proved to be an excellent ride.  One minute on deep sandy track, the next minute on a bone jarring rock trail ripped out of the ground by some sort of giant scraper as far as I could tell.  

 
Here's Ernie and Sandy from down El Paso, Texas way.





Richard and Cynthia, who live in Grand Junction, Colorado.





Another obligatory group shot




Left to right:  Ernie; Sandy; Tim; Licari;Piper; Dan; Spat; Cookie; Darrell; Dana; Cynthia; Richard; Dave

This is as close as we got to the developed part of Arches.  That's the well known Balanced Rock formation.








From there we doubled-back a little and headed up a seriously fun, deep, sandy trail that challenged our abilities a bit.  I didn't get any photos of that section (I know someone did.  Where are they?)  Some sections were very narrow, deep sand, hairpin curves where the bike's wheels were riding on one wall and the hack's wheel on the other.  Priceless!  This brought us out to the Eye of the Whale arch.  I wasn't impressed with that one.  


On the way back, I sit contemplating the landscape.


We stopped for a break at a section that had dinosaur tracks in the horizontal sandstone.  They didn't look much more than nondescript indentations in the rock's surface to me, but who am I to judge?




It looks like Spat and Cookie are deep into cow pie contemplation.




Here's Ernie.  Good guy who I bet has a lot of good stories from his days at the Cop Shop in El Paso. On the right is Sandy, Ernie's gal Sandy





Tim (left) and I shared one of the cabins at Arch View campground for the week.  I think were still friends. . .  Paul (right) rode his Yamaha TW200 all the way down from Laramie, Wyoming to join us for a few days.  I love those fat wheeled bikes.





I sneaked a quick shot of the infamous Predator.  I'd been warned not to divulge any IMWA prototype gear that might be in use.







Our last test of the day was driving up a steep deep sand trail out of low area.  Gotta love that two wheel drive!




Everyone made it up the hill with seemingly little effort.  Dave Hooker gave it the old college try using only single wheel drive.  It took a few extra runs, but he made it up.





Dave really puts the Predator through its paces without a second thought.  Just for kicks he dropped down into a dry wash on this slab. . .



Rode back out. . .




Then went back for seconds.





What a great week it was.  Plenty of lie tellin' and hard ridin'





With a few minutes of introspection thrown in here-and-there.




On Friday evening we all gathered in town to dine.  


Clockwise from left: Licari; Cynthia; Paul; Dan; Mike; Darrell; Piper;
Tim;Dana;Spat;Cookie;Ernie;Sandy; and Dave's legs.


This particular Friday evening features a procession of classic and hot rod cars parading down the main drag in Moab.  There is a car show on this weekend every year.  We had our Urals lined up at the curb in front of the restaurant and they garnered nearly as much attention as the loud motors and occasional burn-outs on the street.


Headin' Home



My original plan for Saturday morning was to leave Moab and travel south, then east through Paradox Valley back into Colorado via Gateway.  I stopped for gas in Moab and gave my wire, Zeng Yuan, a call.  She asked me to try to be home on Saturday.

After having a week away from home while Zeng Yuan put up with more snow storms in Colorado, I could hardly argue.  So my route plans changed and I basically back-tracked home via the same route that we rode out on.

For the sake of expediency I skipped the section of Kokopelli's Trail and suffered the badly patched section on Old U.S. 6 once again.  The day was mild and sunny and a perfect day for a long distance ride.  Too add to the pleasure, the majority of the ride was in very light traffic.

I made it home that afternoon at about 4:45p, exhausted but happy.

It was an awesome time.  Thanks to everyone for the fun, camaraderie, and help when I needed it.

Cheers,

Dan K.