Western TAT on a Super Sherpa
About a year and a half ago, I began wondering if I could cover more ground, get to more places and carry less weight on my back, if I had a Dual Sport motorcycle. I have been backpacking with friends for a couple years and while it is fun, healthy and we have a great time...it is sometimes difficult and depending on terrain/elevation gains etc., we certainly cant travel as far nor as quickly as we would sometimes like. I joined ADV after talking to another friend of mine about the possibility of getting a motorcycle. He was a member here and told me there was a great deal of information available here and that the community was great and the people here helpful. (I would find this out while planning this trip)
Long story short, after reading opinions from young and old (I am in the older group) regarding bike size, light vs heavier, distance and recreation etc...I picked up a 2009 Kawasaki Super Sherpa (250cc) late summer of 2011. (yeah I know..its a girls bike...whatever) I did this all the while fantasizing about the TAT, which I thought would be a great little adventure ride.
Longer story even shorter, I convinced two of my other friends to get bikes (One an XT225 the other a KLX300R) and one of them, Jim, (with the KLX) was able to get the ten days off we would need to ride the TAT from Salida, CO thru Oregon. Now it should be noted that Jim picked up the used KLX about 13 days before we needed to have the bikes shipped out to Colorado. More on that later.
So, after replacing two tires on the Sherpa and not having had much luck finding a rack that I liked for my gear, I gave a last minute call out to a gal named Kristen. (member here at ADV) her husband had made some racks for the Sherpa and I decided to see if I could get one before my trip...which was less than 12 days away at this point. Her husband Ken said that given that shipping time, he simply did not think he had enough time to make the rack and get it to me. I understood this, as I had given him virtually no notice. I sent an email back jokingly saying that he could simply just take his wife's off and send it out to me...haha. The next day I had an email saying that the rack was being shipped, and he had taken it off his wife's bike! Are you kidding me? Damn nice people..ADV Riders. Big thank you to Kristen and Ken.
My bike was squared away at this point. (got the rack on the day before my shipper arrived to pick up the bikes) Jim's bike had been dropped off at my house prior to him taking off on a camping trip. He had done a few things to get it ready, but it needed some attention. So, front and rear brakes, new front tire/tube, clutch adjustments, etc etc. The bike was ready to go...and the shipper is literally driving up to get the bikes..whew!
I had arranged for shipping about 3 weeks prior and had used “U-Ship”. (had never heard of this/done this before) We ended up paying 700.00 dollars to ship the bikes (and a laaaaarge bag of gear/tools) to Colorado Springs, CO. I had been fortunate in getting a response back from several ADV Riders from Colorado, when I asked if someone could receive/”babysit” our bikes. Our very own ADV' Rider “Onlead” (Randy) ended up receiving the bikes, inspecting them upon arrival and handing off payment when they arrived. Thanks Randy!
THE JOURNEY BEGINS: Day 1
Jim and I left August 1<SUP>st</SUP> from Sea-Tac Airport in WA and arrived in Denver, CO around 11 am.
Randy had already volunteered to pick us up at the airport (90 minutes from his house) and after a couple cell phone calls, we were loading our carry-on stuff into Randy's trunk and heading back to his place. The fact that Randy drove three hours total to take us to our bikes was not as big a deal for him as it was us. All of these kind gestures are HUGE when you are planning a trip like this...thanks again Randy.
We get to Randy's place and frankly, it is hot as the dickens!! I don't remember the temp, but I know it was not less than 90 degrees. Randy points to the blackened area just north of his place...some 500 yard away or so...where the fires that had made national news, and forced he and his wife to evacuate their house had barely stopped before claiming their neighborhood. Crazy! It takes longer than we thought to get bags packed, gear on the bikes, changed into riding clothes etc...so it is a couple of hours before we can get on the bikes and finally head out. Jim will have the GPS mounted to his bike and I will have the Roll Map mounted to mine. (Along with the supporting TAT maps) Randy put together a route for us, that would get us to Salida via a scenic/dirt ride. He printed out a map for us as well. He warned us about the “pink” gravel that they have out there telling us “not to go charging into any turns” until we get a feel for the gravel there. (He was right, it was a bit slick)
We thank Randy and we head out, glad to feel some wind as we ride..it is freaking hot! We fumble with the directions a bit, but it isn't long before we are enjoying a nice ride along “Shelf Road” in the shadow of Pike's Peak. Beautiful mountains, dirt road..wind cooling us off, it was great!
As we roll into the small (dying) town of Victor, I notice Jim's rear tire looks lowwww. We check it and sure enough, flat tire. A flat already!!?? The rear tire was new when he bought the bike and I simply had not checked the tube before the bikes shipped. I replaced three tires, checked three tubes...just not this one!
We happen to be next to an old car repair shop of sorts...old...dark..no lights on...looked like it had not seen business in decades. There is an air hose hanging on a hook on the wall in front of the shop, right next to the sidewalk. Is it possible???? We check the hose...its hooked up to a compressor ready for use..just like the old gas stations of days gone by!! (You know, the ones that left the hose out even when they were closed at night, so people could air up their tires.) Nice! A lady sees us and steps out of the shop. She tells us they are closed, but she lets us use an old wheel as a jack stand, so we pull the wheel and get the tire off. We check the tube...stupid “pinch flat”...tiny little pinch hole on the side of the tube. Whoever had changed the tire, was not proficient. ( I am convinced after reading many ride reports that many of the “repeat” flats experienced by folks during long trips are “pinch flats”) This was the only flat tire we would get during the more than 2,100 mile trip.
We throw a new tube in, put the tire/wheel back on and setting the bead...was noooo problem! Haha, gotta love that air hose! The husband see's us and tells us we can use his sink/soap inside the shop to wash up after we had changed the tire. Nice! Thank you! We leave Victor, CO and head towards Salida. We comment to each other that Victor, CO could have been a tiny town you would see in a horror film...it was a bit odd.
It is getting dark by now, and we are just outside of Salida when I tell Jim, I am so tired I am getting sloppy in my riding. It is about 9:45 We had been up since 4:45 am to get to the Airport early etc. The flight, the heat, the 16+ hour day...all conspired to wear us out. We stopped and stayed in a motel just shy of Salida. We threw our gear on the floor, turned the A/C up all the way and after a hot shower we were ready to call it a night.
Tomorrow would be a longer day than we anticipated. It would literally be the start of the TAT for us. 3 passes over 10,000 feet, rain, lightning and just a lot of riding! (a lot more photos too!)
More to come
Victor and vicinity
Best of luck to you on your journey. My wife and I have a new Sherpa and are planning a similar trip. Was the first part of your trip over the old railroad grade from Colorado Springs to Victor? The pic looked like it. If so you broke the rule that train tunnel pics are obligatory...
We thought Victor was really neat when we visited this spring--like going back in time. The old movie theater was for sale.
We will be reading every post. Here's hoping no more flats.
Sounds like a good start, keep us posted.
Thanks for posting this .
I cant wait to hear how the sherpa does for you for obvious reasons .
Keep it coming. I'm thinking about taking my 2002 Sherpa to the Alaska highway and starting to compile a spare parts list. Thanks
We started out the day at about 8 am. We headed west into and thru Salida after fueling up and having "breakfast". Breakfast on this trip (for me) consisted of 2 or 3 cans of V8 Hot and Spicy...or 2 or 3 bottles of V8 Fusion. These would also be my lunch for the most part as they were widely available at the places we gassed up. Thing is, it was hot out and the altitude/dry climate on this trip sucked moisture out of you, so it became a habit with me to simply "drink my breakfast/lunch" so I could hydrate and get some healthy stuff into my system at the same time. It became a habit for me to drink real juice or vegetable juice the entire trip and it really helped extend my 2 liters of water I carried in my backpack. But I digress.
We had great weather this day and enjoyed a very nice ride going up Marshall Pass. In fact, this 10 miles or so of climbing/descending Marshall Pass would be one of my favorite sections of the entire trip. I don't know if it was because it was a beautiful, clear day, or the fact that the climb was gentle and easy...or perhaps it was the dirt roads thickly lined with Aspen trees all the way up to the top. I could not help but say to myself, "This is cool"!...as we cruised past all those beautiful Aspen trees, winding our way gently up the pass. Before we knew it, we were at the top...whoa, that was quick! We stopped for the obligatory "Marshall Pass photo”, and headed out...enjoying more of the same scenery.
We fueled up in Sargents, CO before heading out into some very open “Ranch Country” as we made our way west. There was a lot of scenic vistas with high distant mountains and huge puffy white clouds against a perfectly blue sky. We road more gravel than anything at this point and we passed plenty of Cattle. (and quite a few calves) It took me a little while to get used to running at 45-50 mph hour on this gravel that would move your bike around try as you might to carve a straight line. Certainly had to slow down in the corners! It was a bit different than the sharp edged gravel I am used to riding in WA.
After an hour or two of this we climbed a bit and found ourselves in one of those “big puffy clouds”. It got cold and wet, veryyyy quickly. Now, Randy had warned us that there had been “Lightning/Thunder Storms” in the forecast and he said, “you don't want to be up on top of a mountain” during one of these storms. He mentioned someone had recently been killed after being struck by lightning in that very situation. At the time, I dismissed the possibility, thinking it would be rare to find yourself in that situation. Well, as we rode thru the rather drizzly, misty rain atop one of the tall hills/mountains, we saw a flash of light and an IMMEDIATE clap of thunder that was shockingly loud! This would occur a couple more times, and on one occasion we literally saw the lightning strike the ground not at all far from the road...I mean, it was like something out of a storm chaser video. I admit, it was scary. I pulled over, Jim rode up and said, “we need to get out of here”. I agreed and we headed down the mountain post haste. Strange thing about it, it wasnt as if this was a widespread storm etc. It was like a single dark cloud hanging over a single peak...and we would encounter a couple more of these “isolated” Thunder Storms as we rode up and down the different peaks in Colorado. We would ride into and out of a couple of these...in just a matter of 5 or 6 miles!?
We ended up hitting a “Stagecoach” checkpoint and stopped for a bit, reflecting on the storm(s) we had just gone thru. The old stagecoach road was pretty cool, and we could not help but think how easy we have it compared to the old miners/settlers that came over and thru that road. Geesh.
The terrain leveled out at this point and we made our way thru a wilderness area as we made our way towards Lake City. The sun was out, and we were back to blue skies and it felt good. We stopped along the road to check out a Moose that was wading in a small marshy area before we headed out down the road again, only to have the road blocked by a couple of deer/elk. We took a few pics, waited them out and were on our way again. We stopped at a lookout point and took a break from our torturous seats...ouch.
It was really a spectacular view into the Colorado Rockies. Tough to photograph the 270 degree view we took in as we hydrated and grabbed a snack. (my snack of choice was “Lara Bars”)
We mounted up and descended into Lake City, where we fueled up and ran into more rain.
We were hoping for sunny weather for the ascent up Cinnamon pass, but this was not to be. We started out for Cinnamon Pass and found ourselves soaking wet from the rain after about ten minutes....went from hot and dry to wet and cold in about 15 minutes. We maintained a casual pace as we climbed toward the pass...alot of rocky bumps both loose and embedded stuff. Nothing crazy...just jostled you around a bit as you rode. We passed several folks descending in large ATV's...waved/said hi...kept motoring. The last part of the run up to Cinnamon Pass became a “creek climb”, as it was raining hard enough that there was a constant stream flowing down the trail that we literally rode all the way up to the top! It made it a bit slicker, but again, nothing too tough.
I should mention a couple things at this point. First, we had swapped out tires prior to this trip and our tire of choice was the Pirelli MT-21. I wont bore you with details, but this was an EXCELLENT choice! The tires were good in the gravel, great on this wet “creek climb” and just plain “grippy” throughout the trip. I recommend them highly. Second point, especially those of you with Super Sherpas, there is a significant power loss that seems to kick in at about 8,000 feet. It is a bit worse at 10,000 feet and above. I stayed with the 130/20 jet sizes (Up from the stock 127.5/17.5) as I wanted to make sure my air cooled motor wouldn't run too hot in the desert areas etc. I also figured that leaner jetting might keep the bike from “loading up”/fouling a plug, but it was NOT going to help the power situation as there is only so much air at 10,000 and 12,000 feet. So, I stayed with my jetting...the bike ran great, never fouled a plug...it just felt a bit anemic at altitude! If I had to characterize it...lets just say...it was tougher for me to get into 3<SUP>rd</SUP> gear and maintain power on a steep climb, unless I really got the rpm's up in second gear before I shifted to 3<SUP>rd</SUP> gear. Hope that makes sense.?! Otherwise, the little Sherpa handled the climbs at altitude no problem. Just don't think you are going to lug the bike in 3<SUP>rd</SUP> or 4<SUP>th</SUP> like you would at sea level. Lastly, as I write my observations about the Sherpa, keep in mind I am 5' 11”, 205 lbs...220 lbs with riding gear on...with a bag on the back that weighs 25 lbs , a backpack that weighs 15 lbs and a spare fuel bottle that weighs 2.5 lbs. Again, I digress!
A couple more turns, several splashes and wet rocks later and we are at the top of Cinnamon Pass. It feels good to have made it. It is a bit surreal as I realize that 24 hours ago I was in Tacoma, WA?!?? Crazy. We take in the view..the cinnamon colored slopes that paint the surrounding mountains...the HUGE valley off to our west. We comment on not having brought rain gear..(nope, we didn't...I decided last minute to leave mine with Randy back in Colorado Springs) we take a few pics and I record on video (more for the sound than anything else) the threatening, rolling thunder that we have been hearing during the ride up. Lightning is out in the distance, not terribly near, but the thunder rolls thru and echoes throughout the surrounding mountains like a distant artillery barrage!
We ride west into an enormous valley, still getting pelted by rain. We curse the sky and try not to think about how cold we will be if this rain doesn't let up. Neither of us really complains about it, we just hope sun is around the next bend. It isnt long before we find ourselves descending into Animas Forks...a deserted old mining town that looks exactly like you would think an old, deserted mining town would look! We ride down into Animas Forks, and go into one of the small buildings to get out of the rain for a bit. As we take a break, the clouds move off, and the sun comes out! Nice!! Heck, we even get treated to a rainbow as we look west onto a picture perfect scene of the Rocky Mountains that moments before had been invisible!
We spend a little time exploring and looking thru the deserted town...we imagine what it might have been like there all those years ago. Everyone does this I suppose...these places just draw on your imagination, compelling you to contrast today with yesteryear. Jim loves this old stuff.
As much as we like checking this place out, reality soon hits you that you have a schedule of sorts to keep. We head out again towards California Pass. It isn't long before we find ourselves in a lush, green valley that you swear is Scotland! This valley is simply enormous. I slow down to take a photo or two, and when I catch up to Jim a few minutes later, he has a quizzical look on his face. I take off my helmet and I hear strange sounds..like a low “moaning” that I can't place. He says, “what is that”?? We look out into the valley...and finally see a few sheep that are only about a hundred yards or so from us. We take another look out into the valley and we realize that the tiny little spots that we initially didn't think much of....are all moving. It was sheep...hundreds of sheep!? The entire valley echoed with their “baaaaaah's”! Jim tells me there is a guy standing on a rock a bit further up the trail. ( I look, I see him) He is whistling...we look a good ¾ mile into the valley below...there is a dog down there herding the sheep and responding to this guy's whistling!! I can barely even see the dog...how the heck can he even hear the whistling commands?! Crazy. I try to get a photo of the whole scene, but the sheep are like pinpoint dots! I record the sound so my daughter can hear it, lest she not believe what I am saying. We ride off thru the valley to the fading sound of hundred of sheep, it was awesome.
A few miles up the trail, and we see California pass. Its a gentle, yet steep climb and Jim has the KLX up top before I make the final turn to summit the pass. The air is so thin, that I have to wind out the Sherpa in 2<SUP>nd</SUP> to make 3<SUP>rd</SUP> gear work well enough to climb. I slow down and go with 2<SUP>nd</SUP> gear...there's no hurry... It is a nice, picturesque climb as I look back down to the valley on my right, and on my left is another mountain...Jim is already soaking in the 360 degree view at the top. As I roll up and dismount my bike, I see a group of 4 or 5 riders on big BMW adventure bikes starting up the last hill towards us. I wonder what they will think when they see my tiny Sherpa..haha.
We take a good long break at the top of California pass. We grab a few photos..and we contemplate where we will stop for the night etc. We figure we will head to Silverton, CO and get a motel for the night, as we are really tired again. We started the day 40 miles out of Salida, so we put in over 220 miles today, and we felt it. We were still wet and it rained off/on the whole way to California pass. We had some sun breaks to help us out though, so all in all, not bad. The Super Sherpa kicked butt all day...
We arrive in Silverton, CO about an hour later.
As we settle into our room (that had the heater stuck at 90 degrees.. I swear!!) we consider how much we had seen that day, it was amazing. We grabbed a bite to eat at a local tavern (great Burgers!) and headed back to our room. It was smoking hot in the room, the windows were all nailed shut...(Hotel California??!!?!?) and I got the worst headache of my life. Did not have one all day, just now. I never get headaches. The other thing that was strange, was my heart rate was unusually fast? I layed down to get some sleep. Jim had 2 beers at dinner, so he was out like a light. (the next day he would tell me he had a splitting headache as well) I just lay there..heart racing, with a pounding headache. I literally had to concentrate on getting my heart rate down by measured breathing and not moving. The damn sauna we were in did not help...It was pretty strange/spooky as I am in good shape/physically healthy. I chalk it up to the altitude?! After a couple of hours of this I fall asleep for an hour or two. Worst night of the trip.
More to come
like that minimalist approach - subscribed! :freaky
Cool report! Hiker to motorcyclist. Had you ridden motorcycles before? I tell a lot of non motorcyclists that they are great exploration tools.
PS - At altitude - I get the same things the first night or two - headaches, racing heart rate, can't sleep etc. By the second or third day, for me alpine Euphoria sets in.
Thanks for taking the time to write the RR - looking forward to seeing the rest of your trip!
Yeah, I have ridden bikes in the past...mostly street bikes. It had been quite a while since I had been off road on one though. I am a novice, but Im not afraid to give any terrain, hill climb, or trail a try. I have found the Sherpa to be just as willing!
We woke up today with no headache...feeling pretty good, though neither of us got the sleep we really needed. Oh well. As another member here commented, I think the altitude might have been a contributor to the headaches...who knows.
We packed our bags onto the bikes, fueled up at the end of town and I downed a few V8's and some fruit juice. It was relatively cool, so I threw on a sweatshirt I had bought in town the night before. It came in handy, but I knew it would be hot in a few hours. We headed out of Silverton, Co the wrong way...oops...and after 15 minutes we got turned around and headed towards Ophir Pass. The trail picks up just several minutes out of Silverton...so before we knew it we were heading uphill. Loose and in some cases, large gravel, lined the trail. It was a flat grey in color and seemed out of the ordinary, given the beautiful green of the forests and the shades of brown and tan that painted the mountains around us. After downing all that juice, it wasnt long before I needed a break...and Jim couldnt resist taking a scenic pic of me relieving myself!? Really??!
It was a pretty chill ride up to Ophir Pass. We had 8 or 9 Jeeps pass us on their way down...packed with wide eyed tourists that had just made a rather steep ascent up the pass from the other side. I imagine not being in control of the vehicle added to their anxiety! Haha. We crested Ophir Pass and took a break. There was no sign at the top, but you certainly knew you were there. The view west was fantastic! You could see the road/trail descend steeply down and into a very large valley surrounded by adjacent mountains.
We started down and I was almost immediately surprised by the steepness of the grade. Alot of loose gravel, so this might have added to the effect. After a steep descent into the woods we rode the ridge into the very small town of Ophir. It was an interesting little town, with speed bumps literally on dirt roads!? We kept our speed very low, as it seemed this was a sensitive issue with the residents of Ophir. (which I can understand)
We rode thru town and came to our next “left turn” which would put us onto some pavement for a few miles. We smell tar and asphalt...and we soon realize that there is an entire paving crew...huge paver machines and all...making their way west on the road we would need to take. We ask the guy flagging if we can make our way onto the road and head west, and he tells us, “No, we have a traffic escort with a line of cars coming e/b that needs to come thru first”. He adds “once the paver machine gets to this point, it will be a few hours before you can even enter the road from here....it has to dry”. We look e/b and the paving machine is literally 20 yards away....creeping forward. We cannot believe we might have to re-route because of this. A few minutes later, and I am not excaggerating...the escort car comes by and the traffic moves past us as the paving machine is literally 5 feet east of us. The flagger gives us, and 4 other cars behind us, the go ahead and we speed up the road/hill just as they close traffic down at the intersection. Whew...!
We take the soon to be paved road west for just a few miles until we see our turnoff, and we are back on the dirt. This section would take us thru an interesting off road section that was as close to single track as we would see. Twisty, bumpy, lots of standing mud holes and cows scattered throughout. As we rounded a few corners, I am not sure who was more surprised, the cows or us!? I will edit this and post the name of this area, as I cant remember it now for the life of me!?
We made our way west, steadily gaining on Utah. A few hours later we found ourselves slowly descending from an average of about 8,500-9,500 feet to around 5,000-6,000 feet elevation. We felt the temperature rise and enjoyed a bit more power from our bikes!! We also watched as the terrain went from the mountains we were used to, to a high desert terrain as we dropped out of the Rockies. As we entered …............ CO, we found a small, self serve car wash so we sprayed down our bikes, getting rid of the dried mud that had accumulated over the past couple days. We did the usual pit stop...fueled the bikes, checked the oil level, and I sucked down 3 V8 Fusions and filled up my water bladder as did Jim. Not a lot of photos today. We seemed to have been more focused on the riding/getting to Utah, than taking in the views etc.
This is something that bears some consideration. I think 120 miles per day would offer a better chance to “look around”, and “explore” some things vs the 200 mile per day goal we set. (and is recommended) We had a time limit of 10 days, and we had to keep this in mind as a practical matter. It is something worth considering should you plan a trip like this. Re-routes and errors in navigating the Roll Maps etc., can easily chew up an hour or two per day in some cases. Again, I digress...
We rode miles of dirt roads thru eastern Colorado as we made our way toward Utah. Pretty easy to make good time on these roads, but they were NOT very well marked and even our GPS wasnt cooperating. In hindsight, it is often better to just go in the “general direction” of the TAT directions, vs following them to a “T”. You wont miss anything by using a path ½ mile down the road to get to the next turn etc. In contrast, the dirt roads were unusually well marked in Utah!?
As we travelled down one of the many tan colored dirt roads....standing up off our seats to give our butts a rest...we found ourselves in Utah. (According to the Maps) No sign, no notice...no welcome. We had made it to Utah, and while the change in scenery and terrain had been gradual, there was no mistaking it for Utah. The almost burnt orange color of the mountains in the distance, the change in the texture of the dirt and the significant rise in temperature, (near 100 degrees) all told us we had arrived.
We stopped in the town of Monticello, completed our requisite pit stop and walked out of the air conditioned convenience store only to have the 100 degree heat smack us in the face and remind us it was still HOT OUTSIDE! We headed out toward Moab, Utah. We re-routed a bit to save some time, taking the pavement (Hwy 191) for about an hour to ensure we would get to Moab before sunset.
After almost 240 miles on the day, we turned onto the main drag and entered Moab, UT.
It had been a long day and Arches National Park was just up the road. The sun would be setting in about 40 minutes....we were tired. We stopped and got a motel room. We then walked out, got back on the bikes and rolled the throttle on as we headed to Arches National Park. We got there 30 minutes before sunset, but if we could take in even a bit of Arches tonight, we could ride a bit of Moab and not have to go back to Arches before we headed west.
We rolled up to the entrance and got ready to pay the entrance fee. No ranger there...all closed up with a sign that said “Open”! We win! We cruised into the park and enjoyed a very relaxing drive thru much of the park. As we sat in front of a “Balanced Rock” with the worst, overcast lighting for taking pics of this beautiful sight....the clouds moved away for a few minutes...just long enough for us to see and capture the beautiful colors of the massive stone strucures! Wow! e continued on thru the park and we were able to snap a few photos of the sun setting behind “Balanced Rock”...and a massive Arch called "The North Window"! ...Until the the sun completely dissapeared. We then enjoyed a leisurely and cool (as in temperature and view) ride back out of the park at twilight. It was an amazing 90 minutes of riding and scenic views.
Upon returning to the motel, we dumped our dusty gear, washed up a bit and headed to a Mexican Restaurant. I cant tell you how good the chips and salsa (and in Jim's case...the cold bottle of beer) tasted! We enjoyed a very good meal and returned to our room. We then did the nightly planning of the next days ride/reviewed the maps etc. We decided we would play in Moab for a bit before getting a late start...I mean..we are in Moab for crying out loud!!
I sent the nightly text update to those that wanted us to keep them in the loop on our adventure, and hit the sack. We had covered 260 miles for the day, 200 of that was on dirt. of that was dirt.
More to come.
Moab!!! We headed straight out to Slick Rock Trail. We had been told by Randy (“Onlead”) that this was a “must do” trail, as it was non-technical and was unique given the sandpaper like rock surface. He had told us the trail was slow speed, but was a nice warm up. We hit it straight away and enjoyed the unusual terrain and the almost “trials like” low speed, as we wound along the trail. It was simple and very much a novice exercise, but fun nonetheless.
We then hit “Hell's Revenge”, also a well known trail in Moab. This was a bit trickier, in that it contained some 1-2 feet...and in some cases, 3 feet vertical walls/shelves that one had to overcome, in a few cases...right out of some soft sand. There were a few steep hill climbs/descents and some drop-offs on either side at times...a few were 40 or more feet down. This was also a blast to ride as the surfaces were verrrry grippy....soft MT-21's on sandpaper...was certainly unlike anything I had ridden before!
After playing around a bit more on some other rocks and hills etc., we knew we needed to get moving to get our 200 miles in for the day.
We headed west again, and it wasnt long before we were climbing some dirt on our way to “Gemini Bridges”. As we climbed we were treated to a very nice view overlooking Moab and the surrounding area. The paprika color of the dirt, the rising monolithic structures and the deep valleys were an amazing sight. We stopped a few miles in, at the Gemini Bridges Trailhead. It was only a 300 yard walk, and we were curious. We found ourselves atop two large “Bridge” formations that stood literally next to each other. They were about 100+ feet across and looking over the edge...one would be looking an equal distance down! We explored a few other ledges and overlooks, finding one that put you about 200 feet above the canyon floor to the west. We couldnt resist a few “precarious” pics of each other at the edge of this overlook!
We walked back to our bikes, sweating profusely as the temperature was already over 90 degrees! We rode out of Gemini Bridges and west thru the northernmost part of Canyonlands. We were able to move pretty quickly along most of the dirt roads we encountered and while we made a few wrong turns, none were more than a few minutes until we got straightened out.
We rode for a few hours until we again, re-routed along I-70 for about 40 minutes, to make up for some lost time. We got back on the dirt and hit it hard until we closed in on “Swaysey's Cabin”. We saw a few signs and before we knew it, there it was...the simple, one room cabin that serves as a landmark for all TAT Riders before and after us! Towering over the cabin was what appeared to be a giant stobne...Eagle! The guardian on the “Eagle Canyon Trail”. We entered the trail and were immediately impressed with the towering canyon walls, as we rode what appeared to be almost a creek or river bed type of trail. Pretty easy going, but twisty, rocky and sandy.
We rolled under the interstate bridges that appear in every Western TAT ride report and we stopped just before a left turn takes you up a gnarly hill that starts you off in deep sand before you must make an immediate and sharp left turn up the hill. Jim went first, telling me..”You just have to hit it hard and commit...make the turn and head straight up”! Jim being the more skilled rider would provide me with some wisdom prior to obstacles that required a little thought.
Jim takes off, hammers the KLX as he hits the bottom of the hill where there is a bump...or a “lip” of sorts that you need to get up/over. I see the rear tire of his bike literally hit the underside of his fender?!!? I was thinking...”did he mean to do that”??!! I also thought...”How the hell does 11 inches of wheel travel/suspension dissapear like that”!??? I mean, my Super Sherpa doesnt have that kind of suspension!! But....I took the advice and I follow Jim, hit the bottom hard, take the left and hammer the Sherpa up the loose rock hill in second gear. I get to the top and think..”hell yeah...no problem”! I see Jim off his bike....I tell him, “mannnn you bottomed that thing out down there”!!! He says, No way I should have bottomed this thing out...I almost bit it down there...???!!
We look at the rear of the bike...something isnt right. A closer inspection reveals that the frame had broken clean in half, just past the rear-most weld. It seems filling up the 1 gallon fuel tank that morning and placing it beneath a 15 lb gear bag....mounted way rear of the last weld...in conjunction wiith a very thin walled, light, tubular steel frame....results in a BROKEN FRAME! We think Archimedes was smiling at us saying..”remember that saying....if I had a long enough lever I could move the Earth?” We were like...um yeah...we understand NOWWWW! &$&#^$%&*((#)!!
We take the gear off Jim's bike and remove what we have to, to get to the broken frame...with all the plastic off and the muffler out of the way, we take a look...yep, that frame is broke in half kid!!
We contemplate our options...and we soon determine we can use some of my recently modified/shortened (at a cost of 40 bucks) tent poles as internal splints. We shove a few into the tubular frame on both sides..these poles are stiff as can be due to their recently being shortened. We slide the rear fender portion of the frame over the poles and sure enough...excellent support! We throw everything back together, bolt everything up and are surprised at the strength of the tent pole repair.
We are not about to tempt fate and put the gear back in the same spot, so we fill his gas tak up to empty the fuel can and we secure the gear/can right behind where Jim normally sits on the bike...in front of the last soldi weld on the frame that extends back to the fender. At this point it is getting dark and we know we will have to use the freeway to get to Salina, UT. What we did not realize is that the whole darn freeway would be completely fenced off! After considering cutting our way thru a fence to freedom, we take a dirt road on a hunch. A mile or twolater we find ourselves on a ranch road. (the only one for many miles) that actually merges with e/b I-70! We are elated!! We do a quick and illegal U-Turn across the median...I mean...we ARE doing an off-road trip right??!!...and we are soon riding toward Salina, UT.
Even with the mishap and the obvious delay due to the repair etc., we find the very dark, star filled sky to be amazing. We are still able to appreciate where we are and the trip in general. As we see the Salina exit in the distance, we let out a sigh of relief and start looking for a Motel. It is 10 pm and we have still been able to cover 202 miles for the day.
We get a room, and head to a Denny's Restaurant to talk over our next steps....We talk about running with the repair as-is and reconfiguring the load minus the fuel container. We consider finding a welder in the next town...(Ridgefield,UT) ...until we realize tomorrow is Sunday. We call my brother in law to see if he can find a UPS or Fed-Ex facility so we can ship Jim's gear and simply travel light/motel the rest of the trip, but he can't find anything open on Sunday and we really need to use Sunday as a travel day.
We decide to run with it repaired the way it is and consider our options come Monday. After wondering how the Super Sherpa was holding up under a loaded rack, I took a quick look at the frame/sub-frame and discovered that unlike the thin walled tubing on the KLX (made for light weight/performance) the Sherpa was robust, with a flat metal supporting structure welded to the main frame. Whew...I was having my doubts! No wonder they call it a Super "Sherpa"!
More to come...
Thanks for the latest fix .
The sherpa is more of an ag bike in my opinion , just look at the stockman , you could tow trailers with that frame .
Keep it coming.
Really enjoying it.
Go the Sherpa!
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