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Old 12-15-2010, 02:35 PM   #1
Artlocks OP
Gnarly Adventurer
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Joined: Nov 2007
Location: Raleigh, NC
Oddometer: 157
One foot in the grave out west tour Sept 2010 Part 1.

This report covers my second motorcycle trip ever. Man, it took forever to write this thing and add the pictures. Hope somebody reads it.

There are so many well written and photographed reports that cover the places I went that I hesitate to post this. If there is anything that distinguishes this report other than the bad pictures and crappy writing, it is probably my perspective. I am an older novice rider with one foot in the grave and doubts about what I can accomplish on a motorcycle. This ride was not only a vacation, but a test of where I am at and what I think I can do. Since it was a test I gave myself a grade. If I pass, I can go on to bigger things.

Bio: 52yo, 155#, arthritis, acid reflux, high cholesterol, 6 surgeries, artificial hip, and leaky heart valve.
Other than that, a fine physical specimen.

Now that I am bedridden for many weeks from hip surgery, I have some time to write this report.
The surgery I got is called "hip resurfacing". Unfortunately I did not have good bone density so I have to take the long recovery route. I suppose it is heredity, because with my lifestyle my bones should be like steel. I am not sure if this is going to prevent me from solo travel to those places I really want to go the most. If anyone is interested and has a strong stomach, here is a video of the procedure I had. I was stupid enough to watch this beforehand.

Below is a link to a thread I started in preparation for this trip. It gives some insight as to where my head was at.

My basic plan was to ship the bike to Las Vegas. Fly out and ride it back. Do some dirt roads and camping. Also to generally test myself physically and mentally. Except for the Grand Canyon north rim, I only did general route planning. Most of the my prep time was spent throwing money at the bike and flushing some down the toilet.
The return half of the trip was almost completely unplanned. I was going to do what I felt like at the time. The unplanned portion began when I left Moab. I did some detailed planning for the GC because I thought it would be the most dangerous part. From Google I could see there was a maze of dirt roads out there to get lost on.

Bike prep.


The adventure began with shipping the bike. Below is an edited post I did on another thread about

"Hey I have a story too. I had them haul a bike for me from Raleigh, NC to Las Vegas. I chose them because they had a $508 dealer to dealer special. When I first talked to them I asked if they could deliver by Aug 19. The answer was yes if we can sign a contract right away. They faxed me the contract and I signed. I also noted that there was no delivery date or commitment on the contract.
I called several weeks later and was told they probably couldn't meet Aug 19 and didn't know the date they could meet. After a week of calling every day to get a delivery date so I can make my flight plans, I was finally told it would be Aug 24. I bought a plane ticket for the 27th to give me a little cushion. I didn't want to get there and have to wait for my bike. I made that point clear during every conversation I had with them.

I called on Aug 25 to check up. I was told the bike wouldn't be there until Aug 31st. Well I already purchased my plane ticket for the 27th (Friday). I was beyond pissed. I called and let them have it. I talked to the supervisor and demanded they deduct my airfare. They had to listen to me vent for an hour. However, I didn't use profanity or personal attacks. But the answer was always we are very sorry but we can't reimburse you.

Then I searched for whatever frequent flyer points I had and managed to find another reasonable flight out on Aug 31st. I bought the ticket on Delta and got a year voucher on SW airlines for my first ticket. The next day (Aug 26) the receiving dealership in Las Vegas calls and says my bike arrived. @#$%


Before the trip I had zero knowledge about gps. I bought the Garmin 60csx to keep me from getting lost in the desert. I bought it early enough so I would have time to learn it. As it turns out I spent all my time trying to get maps unlocked and then re-unlocked again! Garmin does not have customer service on nights and weekends, and it is usually a 15-30 minute wait for a human to answer the phone. I had to call them many times because nothing they had me try worked. We ended up having to copy/paste individual files into various directories on my computer to get the maps to unlock.

I could barely use the gps by the time I flew out. I did manage to create some routes around the GC from gps files created by Crawdaddy.

Mostly camp stuff. Wolfman medium duffel.

Clothes/misc stuff. Ortlieb duffel

DAY 1 8/31
I arrived at the airport and took a cab to the dealer. My rig drew some attention as I tried to get everything packed just right. I am the absolute slowest packer. After about 90 minutes I finally hit the road and set the gps to a route I made to get me out of Vegas. After a few miles I see it is taking me the wrong direction. I look at a map and get back on course. In has only been a few minutes and I am already losing confidence in my gps. I don't know what I did wrong here.


On the road at last

I cut through Valley of Fire state park to get to highway 15.
I like this place.

I get on highway 15 and head up to Mesquite. I felt like I was being shaken in a jar every time those big trucks passed me at 80mph. I couldn't wait to get off that road. It is getting late when I finally get to Mesquite. I ask around to see if there is a campground nearby. I am told there isn't. I almost pussed out and stayed at a motel my very first night. What an adventurer! My shame made continue on to the Grand Canyon despite the late hour. So I got water and filled up my (@#%$) MSR bottles with gas. I discover that MSR bottles and arthritis do not mix. On the gps I pull up the route I made to get me from Mesquite to the Bar 10 ranch. I hope this one works better.

Away I go.

I followed the dirt road for about 16 miles before I found a suitable camping site. It is nearly dark. I would have to ride across a sandy, rocky wash to get to the site. It was probably a good thing the light was dim when I crossed because in the morning light it seemed a lot worse. Or maybe I crossed at a different place on the way out.

I set up camp at a tortoise pace. It took me over an hour an a half. This needs to improve. I had to empty all the luggage because the panniers were packed almost 2 months ago, and I couldn't remember where I packed anything. It is so quiet and there are a million stars out. I felt like I was in someone's ADV ride report. Later I hear some 4 wheelers and loud voices. I am hoping it isn't a bunch of kids, or meth addicts looking for a place to party. After a few minutes it is quiet and serene again.

DAY 2 9/1
When the sun comes out the next day I realize what a great campsite I found. I enjoy the surroundings for a moment, then set about breaking camp. Takes 1.5 hours.

I check over the bike for loose parts and empty an MSR bottle into the gas tank. I start up the bike and the hand guard starts rattling badly. The allen wrench is wisely stored at the bottom of the pannier. I can’t get the lid open with the bags mounted. I have to unpack to get the wrench. I tighten the hand guard and repack. Packing for me is a three step process. Pack, then unpack then re-pack. I am ready now and set off across the sandy wash.

I feel something wet spray me as I cross the rough wash. Being in the desert, I jump to the logical conclusion that it is water. Then I feel it again. I see that I left the gas cap off after I emptied the MSR bottle. There went about 10-15 miles of gas wasted. I get back on the main trail and put on the gas cap. I turn on the gps and start following my Bar 10 Ranch route.

I look down the road and think, this is exactly the experience I am looking for.

The road is getting a little rougher.

But I make it through, no problemo.

Here is where the excitement really begins.

Now the road is heading uphill and getting rougher yet. I feel a little sense of pride making it through this.

I come around a blind corner and the road turns into this! OMG!

The trail is narrow, gnarly and uphill now. I think there is no way to stop and turn the bike around. I know I am not strong enough to wrestle all this weight by myself if I can’t make it up the hill. But there really is no choice other than to go up. I get about 2/3 up and stall. Damn that tall DR650 1st gear. I feel the metal panniers hit the back of my calves. I start to recall all those warnings about breaking legs by going off-road using metal panniers. I feed my anxiety by thinking about what all could go wrong. Again, there really is no choice for me. I have to make it up. I start the bike and manage to get into a standing position quickly. Lucky for me the traction is good. I go faster than my ability because I absolutely don't want to stall again. I am so relieved to have made it up.

Yea, I know, some of you could do this on a Gold Wing.....fully loaded....riding two up...with a fat girlfriend….using street tires...pulling a trailer....after dark...under a new moon...with a burnt out headlight. But it was nerve racking for a frail old guy like me.

I am thinking what do I do now? What if the rest of the trail is like this or worse? If something happened, maybe it would be a week before someone else ever came by this way. Why did I wait to the last minute to rent a SPOT only to find out they were all rented out? I really didn't want to go back down that hill. It is not even my first 24 hours yet and already everything I planned against is about to come to pass. I say to myself “don't panic“. Just keep following the gps route. The Bar 10 route has been pretty accurate so far.

I go maybe another mile or two and notice that the magenta line of my gps route has come to an end yet I am nowhere near the Bar 10 ranch. OK, can I panic now? I allow myself 5 minutes of panic time. WTF am I doing here? I am totally lost .. bla bla bla. Then I reason, it looks like I still have a lot of gas and water. I will just continue on the path I am on and avoid any turns. I see some cattle watering holes and I have a filter so I am not worried about water. What seemed like days (but was really less than 2 hours) I am dumped out on a well maintained dirt road. I find a sign that says St George 60 miles. I decide to go to St George and get fuel, water, a Subway and regroup. On the way I pass a pack of riders mostly on KLRs. It looked like a tour group maybe. After my pit stop I head back down the same road to find the Bar 10 ranch and come to this familiar landmark.

Giving adventure riding classes.

I am not sure what happened with my Bar 10 route. I created it in mapsource by tracing a GC north rim track posted by Crawdaddy. Maybe there was some limitation in my 60csx where the route got truncated when I downloaded it and I didn't even realize it. Another fundamental mistake I probably made was not making sure the route was suitable for me. The track was made by a strong rider, with a riding partner, with dirt oriented bikes loaded for a shorter trip and hotel stays. I suppose 99.99 % of that route was suitable for me, but it only takes one bad section for things to go wrong.

I easily get to the Bar 10 ranch. It is almost a straight shot from St George. I continue down a jeep trail to the Colorado river overlook. I notice that the closer to the river the trail gets the rockier it gets. Especially the last little downhill to the overlook. That observation stayed in the back of my mind preventing me from fully enjoying the overlook.

That last downhill (now an uphill) is pretty rocky and has a turn in the middle. I don't want to make the mistake again of stalling the bike so I go a bit faster than I am comfortable with. Just before the turn I hit a rock which throws me back on the seat. Now I can no longer steer with my feet and the bike starts to buck. I quickly stand up but am too late to save it. The bike dumps me on one of the small cactus lining the trail. I pull about a dozen needles out of my hand. The needles are so fine that only a couple draw blood. Between the panniers and the built up side of the trail, the bike is sitting at about a 45 degree angle. It didn’t flood and I stand it up without too much trouble. The traction is good so I am able to get going.

Here was a situation I always worried about. Dropping my bike in a remote area and having no help to pick it up. I was lucky it fell the way it did. I have watched many videos of people picking up heavy bikes. None of the techniques seem to work for me. It is like the bike is anchored to the earth. Even the XR200 I used on my last trip was a strain for me to right. I need something like an adrenaline shot to give me a short burst of superhuman strength.

My plan was to spend this evening at the Toroweep campground. I wasn't even close to making it before nightfall. The last 5 miles are in the dark and the DR's headlight is pretty stingy with the lumens. I select a campsite and set up the Luxury Lite cot. I am amazed at all the stars and the Milky Way. Turning on the mp3 player and just looking at the night sky became my favorite activity. An hour later the moon came out and gone was the Milky Way and about 2/3rds of the stars.

DAY 3 9/2

The next morning I went to the canyon rim to watch the rafts tackle the rapids. The rapids look so small from way up here.
Yea, I could swim those.

Views from the rim.

Today the plan is to head to Fredonia for gas and water.

When I saw pictures like this (lone bike in the middle of nowhere) on other reports, I was always a bit envious.

After Fredonia, I head for Crazy Jugs point. Looked for something that looked liked crazy jugs but couldn't find it so I am not sure I am in the right place. I wanted to camp here but like all good camp sites, I only find them early in the day.

After Crazy Jugs, I hooked up to the highway going to the North Rim lodge. I head to the lodge to take a break and call home.

It is getting dark and cold. The North Rim campground is full. I was told about the Demott campground up the road. On the way I see these boys playing in the dirt.

I stay tonight at the Demott campground. Again I am setting up camp in the dark. I paid $17 to camp and they didn't even have showers. It is quite cold here at night.

DAY 4 9/3

Today the plan is to make it to Utah. I head up 67 to 89a. I come up on the Vermillion cliffs. There is a dirt road to the left of the cliffs that looks inviting so I to take it.

Again I find just the kind of campground I am looking for. It is on the trailhead for the Arizona trail. But it is only 1pm (sigh). I underestimate the sand wash leading into the campground and almost dump the bike.

This road eventually dumps into 89 so it is just a connector between 89a and 89. It was a very nice alternative to the paved road I planned to take.

The road had some sandy sections near the end. One of the sections had deep sand in a sharp corner with an uphill exit. I wasn’t paying attention and it came on me quickly. I didn't have any time to think or prepare. I just went through it at speed and hoped for the best. I made it through surprisingly easy. Often when I come across something like this that looks challenging I will stop and ponder. The more I ponder the harder it is for me to do. I do this on a mountain bike and skis too. I am a serial ponderer. Something may be a minor obstacle, but if I ponder enough, I can make it almost insurmountable.

Once on 89 I find another scenic campground. I decide to stay there even though it is only about 3pm. It was good to set up early and relax and enjoy the surroundings. This is the Whitehorse campground. The road to the campground is kind of sandy. The campground was empty when I arrived but it eventually filled up with backpackers. This was the trailhead for the Pariah Canyon trail.

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