You will notice that this next bit is pretty light on pictures. I was busy. Deal with it.
Insanity loves company. 11 days into a 17-day stretch at work (yes, 24-hr call plus 10-hr days), I
visit the Lobos web page (www.lobosmc.com
). The Lobos are a club in Oregon who put on some
really fun races in the China Hat area; we've had a lot of fun up there. Good group.
Anyway, turns out that there's an AMA National Dual Sport ride coming up in a week and I've got it
An email and phone call later and I am reassured that this ride will be big-bike friendly, kinda.
The exact quote: "Hell, we had a guy ride it on a KLR...once
I emailed my least-employed and therefore generally available riding buddy, Harley, who just bought
a plated XRR, and told him that we've got a week before we leave.
I proposed an approximately 900-mile round trip, with as much dirt as we can find. I get a call 10
minutes later: "Are you INSANE?"
I must be doing something right.
It turns out that Harley, nearly 20 years my junior, has never been on a long ride, nor camped for
more than overnight. As well, the XRR he was bragging on is in pieces in his backyard, and he's
waiting for a new radiator, as his has a leak, and it needs jets, and...
Well, maybe I'll go by myself. Two big problems with this: 1) I can barely lift the bike by
myself and I anticipate dropping it more than once on the organized part of the ride; and 2) My
wife is decidedly NOT on board with the plan as a solo ride.
1) is surmountable as it is an organized ride and someone will probably come along eventually
(although I hate--HATE--depending on the kindness of strangers), but 2) is looking kinda
--OK, REALLY-- bad.
Thankfully, just about 24 hours later, an email arrives:
"Dude, I'm totally in."
This results in a couple of days of frantically digging in the basement looking for camping gear,
etc. It's unclear what's available for camping in the metropolis of Fort Rock, Oregon, but it's
described as, "I think they mowed a field for camping..."
I find most of what I need and agree to haul all the food, tools, and anything else heavy for
Harley, since he's worried about his aluminum subframe. I don't have sidebags or boxes yet,
but he's got a pair of saddlebags bought at a yardsale and mostly intact that will kinda fit my
bike. It's gonna be ghetto packing, but it WILL work.
It. Is. ON.
The next week is full of projects; not the least of which is finding a roll chart holder in time for
the event. We meet a couple of times, and I am surprised that Harley seems OK with the proposed
mileages. We're looking at 200 on Friday, which isn't bad but a good chunk is interstate and if we
are VERY lucky, we'll get into staging right at or just past dark. He's OK with that. 120 miles/day,
mostly dirt on the dualsport event is a good chunk as well, especially camping out and
200 miles from home and support, but he's OK with that as well. I have visions of spending both
days picking up the beast and am pretty apprehensive, but Harley....he's good with it. Maybe he's
planning on pointing and laughing a lot...
The trip home is a different matter. I've got the Monday off and plan to make the most of it. This
is my first decent ride in a VERY long time; kids and family life have pretty much shut down the
touring for me and I am READY TO GO! I've got loops from 400 to 600 miles long laid out for the way
home, planning to see how worked over we are on Sunday night to decide how long the trip home will
be. Lots of dirt on the map, too. Looks to be a very long day. Harley's good with it--strangely
so. Ah, youth.
Now, you gotta understand. I don't ride to talk, I don't ride to smoke, and I don't ride to eat.
Riding time is too hard to come by to waste. You need to stop, say so. You need to fix something,
say so. You need to pee, hold it. You wanna ride with me, you gotta be upfront about what you need
and what your plans are, because I am here to ride. I'm pretty easygoing about changes to the plan
as long as they involve riding, but you wanna stop and watch a movie, you have fun with that,
because you're gonna be alone. I've ridden with Harley enough on day rides to know that he'll be OK
in this respect, but I am a little surprised that the potential of 400 plus miles home, after over
400 in the prior two days, including two of mostly dirt, isn't getting his attention. It sounds
long to me...
Anyway, at the last minute, I get an extra day off. Now we don't have to arrive in the dark. We
spend a little thought on hitting some dirt on the way up to Fort Rock, but decide not to since
we're gonna get plenty of riding in once we arrive.
What? You wanted a riding picture? Not too many of those this trip. Here's one of me that Harley
took when we stopped to see the buffs, though.
Man, look at all that crap.
I usually pack better than this, but I'm out of practice and did have
food for four days on board, and Harley may be about 6'5" and, oh, like 150 lbs, but that kid EATS.
And eatsandeatsandeatsandeats. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it...
Anyway, we arrive in fine fettle and are escorted to the nicest lawn I've seen in a long time.
We're the only riders in the event who have also ridden TO the event and are treated like royalty,
especially by the property owner Sherry. She is a great lady and the food at her (event host)
restaurant is excellent, as is the beer. We don't eat much of what I hauled but instead enjoy the
company inside most of the weekend.
The weather is beautiful but windy and that keeps any bugs at bay, so it's just about perfect. We
set up camp and head over to sign up for the ride. We collect our route sheets and realize that
cutting and rolling these puppies in 20 mph winds is gonna be interesting, especially since neither
of us have done this before. We retire to our tents to get out of the wind and figure it out:
I wish I had a photo of the rolling process out in the wind on the bike, but it was basically two
monkeys, one football...
Saturday started out great--for having never navigated with a rollchart before:
Pavement, about a mile, turn here, look there....nice.
Dirt, wick it up, it's a beautiful morning, 50-55mph, SAND!?!?!??
Holy crap. I could hear the steering stops hitting over the scream.
But...yaknow what? Added a little throttle and she settled right down. 'Course that's a good thing
since now I'm doing 60-65 with the added gas...
Excess....The kind of throttle it takes to get over it.
This, basically, was my day. Every time I figured something out, something else popped up. At this
point, I had just about 60 dirt miles on the bike, a lot of it repeated over the same route as I was working
on tuning the ECU, so I had a lot to learn. I've done significant dirt on the WR250F, but that
ain't no 500 lb, 90 horse bike.
It's a whole new world when you're sniffing the orange stuff!
We saw sand, deep sand, rocks, ruts, loose ball-bearing on hardpack roads, deep red-cinder roads,
big rolling rocks, etc, etc. No mud, though. Good thing, too, since I'm still on the stock scorps,
which are about done.
The only riding pic in the dirt, in about the only place the dust was light enough to take the
photo. Thanks, Harley!
I ate dust all day. Learning to ride the bike in the conditions we saw consumed ALL of my
attention; I couldn't even follow the odometer, much less the route sheet.
Good thing I brought along a youngster! I put Harley in charge of navigation and just rode the
And that's the thing about the big KTM. If you merely ride it, it's just not that good in the dirt,
in fact, it can bite ya pretty hard. RIDE it, however, and the whole world changes!
Excess is the name of the game. Don't give her a little throttle, throw her a handful and let 'er
breathe. Don't weight the pegs; STOMP those puppies into submission. Don't turn the bike, TURN the
bike. Stand up and give her the go, and she'll amaze you with what she can do--and how easily she
will do it. Pussyfoot around, though, and you are in for one long day
End of day one:
Harley learns about desert nights--yes, that is frost:
Day two is a lot like day one, but far easier for me. I'm much more confident and there's less
sand, which I've now learned how to handle--the course is much rockier, which I am used to from our
home terrain, and I get a chance to at least look around a little and enjoy some of the day. There
were a few challenging-looking climbs, but again, commitment and excess ruled the day, even on those
The part where they warned me about the sand dunes
--which were not actually on the course-- was
pretty funny, though.
A few from day 2:
And some desert pinstripes on the brand-new (not anymore!) 990:
Dust? Nah, wasn't any...
We ended up doing right at 384 miles home on Monday. Ran through the upper Fremont National Forest
on this "dirt" road (that's what the map said):
Which was a great ride, but not dirt!
This is about where we figured out that hi-viz jackets attract mosquitos. Mine does, anyway; we
think it's the additonal UV reflecting off the material...
Dropped into Bly, OR...
And headed toward Merrill/Tulelake in the backcountry. This road just about disappeared completely
before it picked back up:
And turned into this:
Which dropped us out at high speed near here:
Where Harley suddenly stopped making much sense...
When we got to Merrill, Oregon, Harley was done. Cooked. Fini. Dry and dumb as we've always
called it. Threw some water, food, and rest at him and slabbed it home.
Hit the Shasta Valley just in time to outrun this:
back to the barn.
384 miles for the day. Not bad for an XRR!
She is a flashy, picky, high-strung, high-maintenance broad who lives to be rode hard and dirty and put
away wet. She likes her bling, but wears her scars with pride.
Her name's Wretched. Wretched Excess
...and that just about covers it!