Heart of the West on five LC8'S
This whole thing started like so many other hair brain ideas, around a campfire. It was early November, 2012. My buddy Anthony and I had been riding dirt bikes hard all day, and were camped on a bluff at Westwater, UT. The conversation eventually turned to our next big adventure on the “big bikes” – we both ride KTM 990R’s:freaky. After numerous suggestions, I mentioned that I had read a really cool ride report from Docking Pilot about a new route called the Heart of the West created by Tony Huegel aka byways. The route was made up of fairly easy but remote tracks in a loop through CO, UT, NV, ID, MT and WY.
Docking pilot was obviously very impressed with the route and wrote an incredibly detailed and inspiring write up. http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=647968 :deal
We both agreed that this was something we should look into.
As the winter rolled through, I re-built my 990 after a high speed incident with a now deceased deer. :evil
I then started to research more about the Heart of the West route and contacted Byways with a brief PM:wave. I had met Tony in 2009 in Dinosaur CO on the side of the road. I was on my way up to Canada to begin a North – South CDR ride on my old 990 Adventure, and he was on his way south to meet up with some buddies to ride the TAT on his KLR650. He pulled over and we had a brief chat. He emailed me back quickly and he remembered our meeting. He answered all my questions and sent very detailed information about the route:clap. I was in, and was going to happily purchase the route from him. I wasn’t quite sure when I was going to be able to do it, but I would do it sometime this year.
After a few smaller rides in the Spring, I got busy with work for Summer:huh. I was hoping to ride the Heart of the West in July, but after talking with Byways, we decided that the incredibly hot temperatures we were having alone were enough to dissuade me from riding – especially as I would probably be going solo because Anthony could not get any time off work.:puke1 A few days later, Byways contacted me and said that he had been contacted by a guy called Stan who was also considering doing this ride with a buddy, and they were going to start after the KTM Rally in September. That could work. While I am generally reluctant to embark on a 3000 mile off road trip with complete strangers, I received Stan’s contact info from Byways. After a long phone call with Stan, he mentioned that he was doing a 2 week ride around CO and would be coming to Aspen for a day, so we set up a quick lunch date.:beer
Anthony, Stan and I met in late August and immediately hit it off. We exchanged lots of war stories, and it seemed that we all had similar riding experience and skill levels. More importantly, we would all be riding the same bikes - which should help out with equipment, parts etc. It was decided that we should set a firm date and get this thing rolling. Byways has obviously put a great deal of time and effort into this route, as his notes were very detailed complete with good – great campsites, scenic loops and historical points of interest.
While I am certainly not talented enough or thorough enough to compete with Docking Pilots awesome report:bow, this is my attempt to cover my experience on what is sure to become one of the “big” adventure routes in North America – the Heart of the West. Hopefully my travel partners will be able to chime in with their insight.:deal
This is a great trip!
Been waiting for one of you to start this up.
Look forward to following along
In & taking notes..:deal.
Heart of the west! :clap
Day 1: Aspen to Echo Point.
I rolled my bike out of the Dave Cave at 7am and warmed it up – ready for our latest 2 week adventure. I said my good byes to my family:wave – who are by now quite used to me leaving on multi-week rides and have come to understand how much I enjoy these types of rides. I considered how lucky I am to have such and understanding family:feelgood.
As I rolled down the street from my house, I was filled with the usual energy and excitement of beginning a new adventure:ricky, but also with a small amount of trepidation. I mentally ticked off my packing list (which has become quite efficient over the years), and my bike felt tight. I knew it had been well maintained. I had just returned from a 1000 mile High Country ride throughout Colorado with some BMW buddies and had had just enough time to clean and service the bike, as well as dry off my camping gear. We had ridden through some of the wettest weather in CO history (resulting in massive flooding throughout the state):dog, but had still had a really great time.:D
It was a pretty cool start to the day, and I turned on my heated grips:vardy. I had deliberately left my heated vest at home – I couldn’t possible need it……we were riding in the desert….in September…..:mully Byways had been very thorough with the GPS tracks and his follow up incredibly professional. Over the past couple of weeks he had emailed updates on track conditions due to fires and floods – complete with re-routing information :clap:clap– which was now loaded into my Zumo 660.
10 minutes later, I met up with Anthony and his Dad, Frank just out of Snowmass. Frank usually rides the first hour or so with us to breakfast and then leaves to head out in whatever direction we are headed. Today was no different. We cruised down HWY 82 to Glenwood Springs and had a very ordinary breakfast at a diner. Anthony and I were in good spirits, and were to meet Stan and his now 2 riding buddies at Meeker, CO to begin the route in earnest. Just as we were getting geared up, I received a call from Stan. It went something like this: “We’re having a couple of electrical issues with Phil’s 950. Don’t worry. It’s under control. We’ll be about 45 mins late.:mully” Ahh, the adventure begins.
Anthony and I cruised west on I-70 to Rifle and then headed north for a fairly high speed run up to our rendezvous point at a gas station just out of Meeker:rayof. We baked in the sun which was nice because we hadn’t seen any sun for the past 3 weeks. I made a few last minute work calls and we both settled in for the wait. Neither of us was annoyed in the slightest, we were just happy to be going for a ride. After about 90 mins, we heard the distinctive rumble of 3 LC8’s rolling into the gas station. They came right over and the introductions began.
We had already met Stan aka gtdsrider aka “Stanopedia” and his 08 990 Adventure.
Then their was Andrew aka ABuck99 and his immaculate 05 950 Adventure S from Georgia who owns a motorcycle adventure store.
Next there was Phil aka????? who was on an 06 950 adventure. Phil was originally English (actually Welsh) but has lived in Georgia for the past 20 odd years. This could be fun – I am Australian and hence the colonial verbal banter started almost immediately:amazon.
Of course, I should probably introduce Anthony (LEFT) aka RockyMountain76 riding his 990R, and yours truly (RIGHT) also on a 99R :
After the obligatory tire sniffing:rofl, we all departed Meeker around 12 noon, and after a little bit of tarmac our GPS took us onto some fun and fast Rio Blanco County roads.
The group spread out to avoid the dust, but all the roads had some obstacles (from the recent rains) that kept us awake. Looking back at the trail of dust, it was pretty clear that our new friends from GA could ride well, and our pace was very similar:thumb. The route guided us through a myriad of dirt roads – many of which were recently created by the oil and gas boom throughout the region. While it took me a little while to adjust my navigation scale to the terrain, after blowing past a couple of turns:deal, I was really enjoying the ride. Even though we weren’t that far away from civilization, it really felt that we were quite remote. Finding a route through this area without Byways guidance could be quite difficult.
At one stage we took off on a rarely used 2 track which looked harmless enough but we were soon to find out that it was full of very slippery bog holes:eek1 – the result of the heavy rains from only 48hrs earlier settling on the clay soil. Byways had clearly marked this section “BAD IF WET”:deal. While not a great problem for us, it could have been a very different story if we had ridden this section only a day before. At the end of this section we stopped for a quick break to re-group and make sure everyone was comfortable with the pace and terrain. Smiles all round:1drink. We had ridden for around 2 hours by this stage, the nervousness of riding a new route with a group of strangers was dissipating.
We continued on over a mix of wide high speed dirt roads, and more remote 2 track :wingsand then dropped down off the mesa approaching the east entrance to Dinosaur National Monument.
While I had ridden past Dinosaur many times, I had never taken the time to explore the area, and I was really excited – this area is only a few hours away from home, but was completely new to all of us. And it didn’t disappoint. The scenery was spectacular, although it seemed that somehow we had picked up the pace quite a bit and found ourselves pushing eachother into corners – a little bit harder than would be considered gentlemanly for a group of guys that didn’t know eachother:evil.
We reached the turn off for Echo Point and had our first decision to make.
We had read that Echo Point was a really cool camp site:thumb, so we decided to check it out. We continued down the trail, through some really beautiful sheer cliff’s on either side (including some petroglyphs – that we decided to check out on the way back out), and then into the camp site proper – a nicely allocated camping allotments, and nice new toilets. Anthony always rates the toilet facilities on all our rides (I have suggested for years that he write a book about his bathroom experiences across the country – how does “Great Adventure Riding shitters of North America” sound?:rofl:rofl:rofl), and this one received a 9 out of 10 based on cleanliness, 2 ply TP, solar powered lights that come on when you open the door, fresh fluffy white towels………We quickly found a fairly big campsite complete with lots of shade and freshly stacked firewood. Even though we had a couple more hours of easy riding daylight, we decided that we couldn’t pass up such a great camp location.
We all quickly started setting up our camping arrangements, and then went for a romantic group stroll to find the Green River:rofl. Wow – this place was stunning. There is a boat ramp for rafters shadowed by a huge natural granite outcrop that the Green River wraps around making for a spectacular portrait that someone with some photographic talent (such as Casey B) could make look really nice. Andrew and Stan worked on filtering some water, and Phil, Anthony and I bullshitted for a while.
We eventually started up the fire, dined on a tasty array of dehydrated offerings, and got to know eachother. While not a particularly big riding day, we were all fairly tired, and set off to bed around 10pm:snore.
Yeah, I know. I have been a bit slack in getting this RR going:cob. It was great riding with you Your photo's look awesome!
It has BEGUN!
MOAR Ride Report NOW! :pierce
This route/ride is on my short list for 2014!
HOW Preamble: Limey Perspective.
I became aware of this trip only about 5-6 weeks before departure. Andrew owned a local adventure bike clothing/accessory store and after I had stopped by a few times on the 950, he mentioned the possibility to join this little odyssey. In reality I knew him only vaguely and the other three potential riding companions were a total mystery at the time. However, compared to previous experience - particularly the South African affair (sigline link if you're curious), which had been organized exclusively via e-mail with a group of complete strangers - this seemed pretty straightforward and didn't seem to present too much cause for concern. Additionally - and I'm sure this is an issue familiar to many on this forum - encountering a group of riders who are contemplating a ride like this and - more importantly - are prepared to follow through and actually do it, is a rare gift that can't be ignored. So it was then, that - even though I'd blown off a number of alternative spousal trips earlier in the year, on the pretense of incompatible workload - I sheepishly laid out the basic premise of this journey to my wonderful, adorable and ever understanding wife. :D
As portrayed by Andrew, the riding itself didn't seem like too much of an issue. Even though my off road exposure on the 950 has been extremely limited, and recent experience of any kind amounts to nothing more challenging than a short daily commute, I felt I'd had enough prior dirt riding experience to adequately fake whatever turned up in the way of riding technicalities. I was even less concerned about the daily mileage requirements, given prior excursions into the outer limits of motorized masochism, mainly courtesy of my old buddy Gary - who ensured that 300+ mile tank-to-tank, mixed with a generous 15 minute (max) refueling break, is a recurring nightmare that still delivers. (sigline link)
So, the riding aspect looked like it was reasonably under control. What I was really concerned about, was the CAMPING. :eek1 Apart from a couple of nights spent sleeping next to the Colorado River during an organized raft trip, the sum total of my adult experience under canvas (or whatever synthetic material passes for it these days) was one whole night. And while that was with my very lovely wife, this would be in the company of three extremely un-photogenic hairy-arsed locals and a rancid Aussie. The next few weeks therefore were spent frantically trying to become familiar with the intricacies of camping and the myriad of associated gear selections (paying particular attention to selecting an industrial strength bear spray - to fend off the potentially amorous advances of the Aussie, obviously). For the gear selection, I decided that I would place a premium on comfort combined with packing density (paying less attention to weight requirements since there would be 100 horsepower hauling everything around). However, an initial 'test lie' with what the outdoor magazines considered to be the most comfortable Thermorest available left me a little concerned. Let's just say 'inflatable 2x4' was one of the first things that came to mind. Ultimately however - and what hopefully will become apparent in this narrative - camping was the biggest revelation and one of the best parts of the trip (even for this outdoor neophyte).
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