5 Cylinders vs. Moab
Last year I got a KTM 990 Adventure and loved it so much I convinced my dad to find one as well. Didn't take a whole lot of arm twisting come to think of it. Finally found on in Grand Junction, Colorado which normally would have been an issue for someone from Tennessee, but as it happened Padre had to be in California so he just grabbed it on the way. I get a text message one day when I'm walking into my Federal Income Tax Accounting class (YAY!) and it's from Padre:
"Realized that Moab is just down the street. Going to stay there a day or so and ride."
He later goes on to send me pictures, while I'm in class, of Shaffer Trail switchbacks, rock formations, and goes on to say how beautiful and different it is from Tennessee. Needless to say I didn't pay very close attention to anything that was said in class. This was in May and by the time he left to continue to California the plan was already forming for an assault when it wasn't hotter than 7 hells.
For 5 days I lugged around my Nikon D300 and took over 400 pictures with it alone, not to mention the 150+ pictures from my little point-and-shoot Olympus that did most of the panoramas. As a result this will be a photo heavy thread.
Looking forward to this!
:lurk :lurk :lurk
It was nice meeting you guys. Glad you are doing a report. You can't post too many Moab pics. I'll be watching for more. Still have to finish my report.
You can't ride in Moab and not have a photo heavy thread! It's not allowed! :lol3
Very cool pictures.
Due to the unpredictable weather over the Rockies this time of year and to simple time constraints Dad just loaded all the bikes up in his trailer and hauled them out there. This allowed us to do a few things: 1) we didn't destroy our knobbies on mile upon endless mile of tarmac and 2) it gave us more time to ride, always a plus. Dad just retired so he simply needed to be home "sometime mid-November".
The trip out to Moab started for me at Nashville airport. Instead of driving for 4 hours from Johnson City, finding a room for about 3 hours, then getting back up I just headed out at about 11:30 pm the night before my flight. Thanks to Cokes, Snickers bars, and homemade cookies from my awesome wife I was ready to go at 5:00 am when I watched the employees head in for the morning routine. You know you got there too early when you beat the employees at an international airport. I'm sure most everyone has seen an airport so no pictures there, but I did fly out on a Frontier Airlines Airbus 318, N802FR with "Montana the Elk" on the tail. Took off in the dark and watched the sun rise so that was pretty neat.
Landed in Denver and then the fun started. Scott and I were on the same Frontier flight and headed down to Great Lakes Aviation, the airline that would take us over the snow-covered Rockies into tiny Canyonlands airport in Moab. Got down to the desk and our flight was delayed. I literally backed up 3 steps, counted the Beechcraft 1900's, and said "Huh?" Turns out Canyonlands airport was having problems with their weather transmitter. Boom! Right there went our flight. My family has been involved in aviation through our publication since the 30's and through WeatherTAP for the last several years. The lady at the desk didn't have to say anything more; I knew that if the transmitter was down not a chance in hell FAA would let in any inbound planes. Long and the short was 7, thats right 7, hours later we were on a flight to Cortez, CO where Padre was picking us up.
Climbing onto the plane the only thing I could think of was Ron White: "Hey hey hey man, how far do you think we'll make it on one engine????"
"All the way to the scene of the crash. Put 'er in hard, I don't want to limp away from this one."
In reality the flight was smooth. Beechcraft has been around forever and make some fantastic planes and the pilots were very skilled. I wouldn't hesitate to get on another with them at all. Scott, however, said he probably wouldn't eat the Kung Pao Chicken from Panda Express before flying next time. I think it might have been the turbulence coming out of Denver. If you've ever seen a toddler fly a toy plane, the way they shake it and everything, you've got the general idea. At one point we were flying sideways and I'm pretty sure I saw the pilot and co-pilot looking almost a full head turn left to see where we were headed.
When we finally got into Moab it was dark. Now I've seen many nights outside but nothing compares to darkness out West. East of the Mississippi things get dim. Out there it's dark. Damn dark. But the next morning man did we make up for scenery...
That little orange speck in the left side is my 990.
If you look closely you'll see Padre coming down the road.
I come in peace...
We were on 313 headed into Canyonlands to hop on the Shaffer Trail, Scott and I breaking our necks because we'd never seen anything like this. I'd been to Montana (slept through all of it) as a kid headed to Wyoming but this was just strange. Whole lot of nothing then BAM! rock formation the size of a 4 story building in the middle of nowhere.
We did the obligatory pictures at the top then proceeded to stop every 300 yards for me to take pictures. Not that I had much trouble making everyone stop and just look.
Right as we were heading out of the switchbacks out of the corner of my eye (remember I'm riding half sideways looking at scenery) I see something jump the road in front of Padre. He starts pointing and all of a sudden these pop out from behind a rock.
Work with me, work with me.....
Click! Thank you very much, hellooooo National Geographic. :lol3
Desert Bighorn Sheep literally right there. They were about 30 yards above us on the rocks just hanging out, not paying any attention to the rather dashing riders below them. For you photo buffs these pictures were taken with an 18-200 mm lens. We were that close. I could have tossed a rock underhanded and sent it past them. Finally after about 20 minutes of watching the one with the radio collar eat anything green and Mr. Photogenic sit there we got bored and got back to this.
Shameless plug for a friend. Those in the know, know...
So we're riding along...
looking at the sights...
and finally decide to stop beside the Colorado for a snack.
The view was pretty decent but I kept looking for Sasquatch. Great advertising by Jack Link's, I can't eat their beef jerky without laughing.
Time to head on back down the trail. Probably won't be too long before we stop again.
And I was right. Padre spots a high spot on the trail and we decide that even though we stopped 5 minutes ago and took pictures by golly we need to do it again. And hang over the edge, hoping that the rock that has been there for countless eons doesn't decide at that point in time to say "Screw it" and chuck itself off the top of a 500 foot cliff.
Now heights don't bother me since I'm an old rock climber and Dad I think just isn't scared, but Scott's body language is telling me something here.
"I am slightly uncomfortable in my surroundings," it says. "While I'm not scared there are other places I'd rather be, such as over there, increasing the distance between myself and a fall so great from which not even an Arai helmet, in all it's awesomness, could save me."
All kidding aside Scott is one of the few individuals I've ever seen that will run full tilt-boogie between trees that are barely handlebar width. If heights make him nervous then that's the only thing I know of that does. That and Kung Pao Chicken.
I turned around and saw this. Oh yes. It is good.
We realize that we're coming to the end of Potash Road and after breaking out the map decide to try Gemini Bridges trail, which turns out to be one of our favorite trails. Not difficult technically but just the right ratio of rough:open that makes a 990 just oh so happy.
On the way Dad and I are typical tourists.
At the top of the hill on Gemini Bridges trail.
The light at this time of the day was getting so low in the canyons that it was screwing with the metering of the camera. No matter what I tried I couldn't find something that would work. Oh well. Just another excuse to head back out there.
After that we decided it was just time to start heading back towards something resembling civilization, like maybe Paradox Pizza. With Scott in the lead on his 690 the GNCC racer came out and we were hitting a good pace on the way out. He scared the bejezzes out of a quad rider in a blind corner though. Back in Moab it was food, drink, showers, phone calls, and bed pretty much in that order.
That was cool seeing the bighorn sheep. Wish we had seen them.
The next day came with with temps too cool to ride in the morning so it was down to Pancake Haus for some pre-ride food. This place was so good that we ate there 4 out of 5 days. Moab Diner = not so great. The previous night over some Paradox Pizza we decided to head down towards Mineral Bottom just to get a general idea for what was down there. Now I've read all sorts of stuff about the White Rim trail and this was one that I really wanted to do but the time just wasn't there. We could make it before it got too dark to see around 5:30 but with it being 100+ miles we wouldn't have much time to see anything. Also if anything happened, even a flat tire, we'd be in the dark and that just wasn't acceptable with the temperatures at night. So the plan was to just ride until we felt like turning around.
Now when 3 woods riders have the option of running 10 miles of trail or 30 miles of pavement there is no choice: we'd start out on 191 headed north and then catch Gemini Bridges Trail back over towards 313, hook a right, then a left and we'd be on some great fireroads headed to Mineral Bottom. Didn't get too many pictures on the way out because it was too much fun launching the 990 off the rocks on the side of the trail and pretending to be Marc Coma in South America. Sadly even in my dreams I lost the Dakar. Eh, there's always accounting.
By the time we had reached the bluff above the switchbacks the air temperature had risen about 10* so it was time to drop a few layers and have a gander. The impressive thing, excluding the 1000 ft. bluff overlooking the ambling Colorado River, was this tiny little speck just passing the turn for White Rim Road. We sat down, had some peanut butter crackers, took pictures, and generally just killed about 20 minutes, all the time watching that little speck come up the switchbacks. It was a mountain biker and in the length of time we stayed there he had made it to the top and cracked open a beer. Apparently he was training for something as he had two people in a truck following him yelling inspiring words of encouragement. If you've ever been there you know that to clear that in 20 minutes is pretty good, I'd still be out there if I had to ride a bike up it.
*Valentino Rossi*: Ah yes, today was very very good, I find my reethem very early and just have good ride.
Same with us Val, we found a good pace and just headed down the trail. Couple of "OH SHIT" moments when we realized that at the bottom of anything resembling a river, creek, ditch, or anything that carried water in the last 10,000 years was sand. Sand is not fun on a big bike when you're not prepared for it, and this was playground sand. It wasn't fesh fesh or Bull Dust (depends on what side of the Equator you're on) by any means but it was nicer than some sand I've seen in the Caribbean. Finally get to a place to stop and wind up at Labyrinth A Campgrounds.
Looking on the Trails Illustrated map I saw where the big dashed lines changed into little dashed lines just up ahead. This meant that the trail got rougher, no big deal, but we set a turn around point of 15 more miles. That would get us back towards the main road plus we'd decided to head upriver and see where the trails dead ended. The last landmark would be the Hardscrabble camping area because after that it supposedly got a bit rough.
The ride up was pretty nice, nothing too difficult, until I come around a turn and see this.
Granted, it's not too bad and all of us had ridden much worse but the kicker was if you hit any rock wrong you wouldn't have enough speed to go over it. There wasn't much room for a run and if you got it wrong it'd launch you over the side. I stop and do some quick math: we would have to turn around in 4 miles. I ask everyone what they want to do and Scott says "Let me go check and see what's ahead."
Now Scott is about 6'3", 6'4" and not overweight but he's a big guy. He's on a 690 with 50/50 tires on the side of a hill that's about 30-35* of angle with his tires in the sand. He just eases out the clutch and off he goes, doesn't spin, slide, or do anything. Sure he's a GNCC racer but I mean come on. I look back at Dad and he's shaking his head. Do we just suck that much at riding or what? Should we just man up and ride the 990's up just to say we did it?
Scott comes back and says there's nothing spectacular, more of the same, and since we have to turn around he says let's go check out Taylor Canyon, a road that kicked off up a canyon just after we left Labyrinth A. So that's what we do. We find the road and head down it maybe a mile when we drop into another river/creek/ditch that's dryer than the Sahara and sure enough we find sand. Lots of sand. Hooray. I'm paddling with my legs like I've never ridden a bike before and when I finally get some speed up I hit a really deep section and just stop. I turn around and I can see Dad's thinking the same thing: why did we not pack the dirt bikes? We don't feel like struggling through this so we just turn around. At least try. I run up a "bank" with the front wheel so gravity will help me turn the bike when I realize that it's just different colored sand and all I've done is bury the wheel up to the axle in the crap. I look over and Dad's bike is on the ground. :scratch
Turns out that the front wheel started to wash out and instead of trying to save it he just laid it down. He'd hiked part of the Appalachian Trail the week before and his knee was bothering him a bit so it was a good move on his part. We get it picked up, head back out to White Rim Road, and have a snack.
I hadn't seen it but apparently Dad had ridden Scott's bike out. When we stop he says, "You've got to go ride that thing. That's almost cheating." I hop on it and realize instantly why he'd been able to climb that hill and make us feel like pansies. It's a glorified dirt bike. It's a 530 EXC with a weight problem. I run back down to that sand wash and blast through it like it wasn't there. When I get back Dad and I agree that we need to learn how to ride the big bikes in the sand. There has to be a technique and we want to know it.
We finally head back towards Mineral Bottom and go upriver to see if we can soak our feet in the water. We pass by the landing strip on the left and then Dad stops, he sees something up on the hillside.
It's some old mining shed. If you look to the left of Padre behind those bushes is a cave and the other is behind the shed to the left of the bikes. We grab the flashlights and head in maybe 20 yards and the tunnel kicked off to the left. I said something about seeing daylight and Scott and Padre go off up that tunnel while I stay behind. My reasoning is I can see them and the way out. Last thing I want to do is get lost in some Uranium mine in the middle of Utah. They start laughing and tell me to come on, that it's a bigger cave that heads back out. We're walking around, wondering what they could have been mining, and I remember reading about the Uranium mines after WWII. We also saw a bunch of yellow veins below deep purple veins in the rock. I tell Dad to smell the rock and see if it smells like eggs, if so then that's sulfur. Nope. Then Scott finds some iron in the rock. If anyone knows I'd be interested to hear the story, I've got the GPS coordinates saved so I can dig them up later.
Continue on upriver and finally find a place to stop.
At this point Padre takes off his jacket and shirt, Scott and I have cameras ready, and he walks into the creek and splashes water on his face/neck/back. At his request the pictures will not be shown because he didn't think anyone wanted to see that but needless to say it's hilarious. The water was barely above freezing and I just about roll off the rock laughing. Pictures and video are recorded for posterity. It's just about another half mile to the end of the trail up Hell Roaring Canyon, it's 4:00, and the only thing we've eaten was leftover Jack Link's and peanut butter crackers so it's time for dinner.
Heading back up the switchbacks at Mineral Bottom.
Note: Both Padre and Scott are riding in this picture. You can just barely see them in front of the dust trail. That gives an idea of the scale of this bluff.
We get back to the top, head back down Mineral Bottom Road at about 70 mph, hit 313 and go back to Moab.
Glad to see that bighorn had a collar on his lady to keep track of her! :poser
Thanks for sharing.
Awesome pics and ride!! Thanks for the updates! :thumb
Today's ride was going to be a bit different because while we'd explored a good deal of Canyonlands there was still a lot of Utah left. Dad had heard how pretty the run up the Colorado was on 128 so I loaded a route into the GPS that would take us over La Sal Loop Road. Scott and I hopped on the 990's while Padre pulled out his backup bike: the R1LE. We took off and had a nice ride all the way to the old Dewey Bridge.
The new bridge on 128. There's literally no way you can miss seeing the old one.
Headed towards the La Sal Mountains.
After getting on La Sal Mountain Loop Road we went through some scrub brush and started climbing the mountain. It was fairly evident that the elevation had been increasing the whole way as the landscape had become less arid. By the time we got to the actual mountain we were dodging mule deer, something that we'd do all day long. This is almost at the top of the mountain.
We rode on and dropped down the side of a cut-out/gully/ravine into an area that had been burned at some time. The road here turned into a loose, fine gravel and initially I was concerned that Padre wouldn't want to take the R1 up here. Then I remembered that Padre was riding and he'd ride it until he ran out of ground clearance. :lol2 Henceforth, we continued our climb before finally topping out at over 8000 feet. We had essentially doubled our elevation from Moab. Here's what we found at the top.
We'll throw this one in simply because I like the colors.
Now the interesting thing was the night before, while eating our $2 a scoop ice cream from Moab Creamery that was worth every single bite, we'd seen this massive GMC truck go by, one of those baby semi deals, pulling a trailer that was obviously really tall for a reason. It said something about aviation and Padre or Scott commented, "I bet that's a helicopter". Low and behold we find that same truck and trailer at the top with us and sure enough, there's a helicopter. They were prepping it when we got there so we did the picture thing and when we heard the engines fire I got ready.
Being the extremely curious lot when a USFS truck drove past we flagged it down and asked what was going on. We couldn't figure out why there was such a huge drop tank attached when we hadn't heard about a fire. The FS lady explained that they'd had a fire caused by lightning that had burned 40,000 or 400,000 acres, can't remember which, and that they were using the drop tank to reseed the mountain side to help prevent erosion. The seeds were a mixture of plants that were native to the area, mostly wheats and grasses, and that they were getting it ready for all the water in the spring. It didn't matter that if it snowed on them before germination that the seeds were pretty tough and could take being frozen.
We get maybe 200 yards down the road and we run into these guys.
I had earplugs in so I could barely hear myself think but Padre and Scott heard something "blow" in the trees to their right. That may not be the correct term but where I come from that's what they call it when you spook a deer and it makes that certain bleat as it hightails it to the next county. Animal experts may correct me without fear of retribution.
So we've let Bambi get out of the way and probably another 4 miles down the road I stop to take pictures of Padre and Scott as they ride past with this gorgeous snow capped mountain in the background. I look in the mirror and they're stopped pointing at something. Dad comes up and says, "Did you see how blue that lake was? Let's go try and find it."
Lake? What lake? I hadn't even seen a puddle save for the glorified ditch there where we saw the helicopter. I turn around and we head down this gravel road, conveniently called "Road" on my GPS. Road, really? Well now that just takes all the confusion out of where we're going now doesn't it. We ride for maybe 200 yards and see this ATV trail off to the right but it's kind of ratty so we go a little further and find one that is slightly less chewed up. Since we had left Michelin's new Z-rated knobbies back in Tennessee the R1 got parked for a second. Scott and I go on a recon and it's a Jeep trail going in the general direction of said lake. Problem is it's been torn up during the last heavy rain. I look at him and we both have the same idea: if it's dry then there's no issue, if it's not then we may not make it. Scott heads off first and sure enough it's dry so I follow suit and we're at the lake in about 50 yards. I go back to get Padre and give him the bike saying I'll just hike back. He pulls up beside me and says, "Hop on".
Now the last time I'd ridden pillion was when he had to double me back from Tabcat Bridge on his 625 SMC up about a mile to where a cruiser had wrecked on Deal's Gap. We were shuttling bikes to get the guy home. I just about freaked. I finally had to just stare at the DOT sticker on Dad's helmet and not move. Now I'm in the middle of Utah riding down a muddy, rutted out trail with hard bags on holding my big camera. "This could be interesting," I thought. We hit the ruts, get slightly cross rutted, Dad whacks the gas (When in doubt, power out!), the Wings exhaust bellows, Padre cleans it but I get a point deducted for dabbing with my left foot. So what was so special about the lake?
There was a little water crossing, and by little I mean it probably wouldn't get all of a 21" tire wet, but it was about ankle deep so it won the title as being the Deepest Water Crossing that we'd seen.
Scott's a sucker for raw power and Dad knows it. "Scott go wheelie across it."
Unfortunately all the 990 does is spin. Too much power for loose mud.
We finish out the loop and head back into Moab. All the rest of my pictures are on the other camera for this day so I'll have to edit this later.
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