Well the prep work is done. The route built and modified. The modifications have been re-modified. The revisions have been revised and the revised revisions double checked and reviewed *WTF?
Anyway, we've flown the route in Google Earth and are confident that we will become hopelessly lost and seriously challenged in some places and possibly maimed or worse, which was my goal in building the route but we tamed it down a bit so we could actually enjoy a moderately leisurely ride dual sport ride.
Our choice is to Moto Camp along the way taking a motel room once every 4 days or so, to wash clothes and regroup a bit.
We were to ride Mosquito Pass but some of us are coming off recent injuries so we determined that it is not possible at this time. As a result, we are skirting Mosquito and instead have chosen Weston Pass as one of many high points (so to speak).
So bikes, minds and gear are prepared properly. We have beaten the proverbial horse half to death preparation wise. Let the fun begin!
Our crew for the trip
The "Toyman" - Mechanical wizard and loves to ride sweep. Whats up with that anyway????
Our very own "Valentino Magoo" - A wanna be fast guy stuck in low gear. Describes himself as being faster than a speeding slug!
"Albie" - Owner of many bikes, absolute excellent all around rider and a fun guy to ride with
"Charlie" - Retired, worn out, and old.
All of us are packed and ready, itching to go, aching to leave. *The trailer bearings have been packed. *The bikes are all serviced, all have new shoes and we leave on this coming Friday at 05:00 hours from Fayetteville, Arkansas. *
Our trek takes us to the start of our route in Cascade, Colorado which is one of the epi centers for the fires near Colorado Springs. *Fortunately for the folks that live there the fire is contained now and our route is secure. *We will over night in Colorado Springs and we start riding on the 21st for 12 glorious days of mostly riding and moto camping. *Our stops include Leadville, , Delta, Mack, Dutch John, Dinosaur National Monument, Browns Preserve, Flaming Gorge and much more.
We have at least one day that we all will have to be conservative with the throttle as gas from fill up to fill up is 231 miles. A test for all of us but we are carrying extra fuel.
The group has been wrangling with what to call our ride for the purpose of a proper ride report and we are settling with "Hogs n Dinosaurs"
(an executive decision) as an applied double entendre of course. *
So, "Hogs" in reference to our allegiance to the Arkansas Razorbacks! (well that's what I told the rest of em...go LSU) and Dinosaurs in reference to at least one of our destinations and I figure it also refers to my advanced degree of decrepitude.
Our departure date also has significance for me personally. On July 20th of 2011 I had my aortic valve replaced. This ride is proof that I'm not done yet.
Go Hogs!....(my ass)...just kidding guys.
The day before departure "T" minus 12 hours and counting
We noticed as we prepared to load the bikes that we were dressed similarly except for the Toyman. We were quickly dubbed "Toyman and his special needs kids"
Our first communal meal of the trip en route
Arrival in Cascade Colorado
After the ride from Fayetteville, Arkansas to Colorado Springs, Colorado. The town of Cascade was established in 1886. The town was named for the many waterfalls in the area. The Cascade Post Office opened on August 16, 1887.Cascade has its very own gourmet popcorn store and amusement park. In 1889, the Pikes Peak carriage road was constructed from Cascade to the top of Pikes Peak
We stayed at a La Quinta Inn which was our staging area. Magoo had made arrangements for us to park our truck and trailer in Cascade, Colorado 16 miles away. So the evening was spent sorting gear and paring it down once again prior to the ride. The four of us had a LOT of gear.
Day one - Cascade to Leadville, Colorado
The next morning (on the 21 of July) we were about to leave the hotel for Cascade and Albie suddenly came to the realization that he had forgotten his riding boots. He decided that he would purchase a regular pair of boots for the ride. So off to Redwing Shoes for new kicks. Just a warning here the next few shots are graphic.
Note the KTM flip flops....the guy bleeds orange? At this point the shoe sales guy looked at Albie's feet and declared "Damn dude, you've got Fred Flintstone feet" which set us to laughing hard.
Look what he picked out? Just like a damn TEXAN! (notice where the salesman's hand and arm are, wink, wink, nod, nod).
Our starting leg for the trip
En Route to Weston Pass
At about this point Magoo started having some problems with his ticker. He wasn't feeling well and were weren't far from Cascade so he opted to go back and end his trip. He would be sorely missed during the upcoming adventure. He was key to helping verify the routes in Google Earth, and to help me plan the intended routes. We were really sorry to see him go but he made the call (the right call) and was cool with it. Reluctantly we parted ways and we were three.
The first day would take us up over Weston Pass. Not every ghost town in Colorado has a name or a history. There is a small ghost town in a beautiful setting at the top of Weston Pass near the Ruby Mine.
This pass was the primary route to Leadville for freight and passengers originating in Denver. As a result, there was a great deal of stagecoach and freight traffic over the pass. At 11,921 feet, Weston is a lot lower than the alternate Mosquito Pass at over 13,000 feet.
The Weston Pass Road began as a toll road, and in 1878, the Spotswood & McClellan Stage Line had a monopoly on traffic between Fairplay and Leadville.
Some of the structures at the top of the pass may have been associated with the stage line, but Park County reports that the buildings were where the miners lived. A telegraph line was also extended over the pass at this time.
In 1880, the Denver & Rio Grande reached Leadville and traffic over the pass declined dramatically. The Denver, South Park & Pacific also came through Buena Vista via Trout Creek Pass, also eliminating the need for Weston Pass.
Many years later, the road was graded suitable for automobile travel, however, during the last decade, the Lake County side has been allowed to deteriorate. A high ground clearance vehicle is necessary. From the Park County side up to Weston Pass, the road is graveled and graded.
Near the top of the pass.
We played tag with a Colorado guy riding a dual sport on the way up. When we got to the top he was already there recording his arrival via photographs. This is his bike in the picture and turns out to be the only other dual sport we saw (being ridden) the entire trip.
Starting the trip down Weston Pass
Day one was to end in Leadville, Colorado so we opted to eat prior to setting camp. We chose Quincy's on Main Street. What a great place to eat. 12 ounce prime rib with the fixins (the best I've ever had) for $12.95. I highly recommend it.
Day two - Delta to Mack, Colorado
After camping in Leadville for the evening we awoke refreshed and psyched and packed our gear for the days ride.
Our route (kinda)
The scenery during this entire trip would prove to be as beautiful as the riding.
We of course had to traverse Independence Pass on this route. I was worried about the jetting on my DRZ but it never proved to be a concern. It just kept trudging along.
Our Camp for the evening
Day Three - Delta to Mack, Colorado
Our route for the day
As we were leaving Delta we passed the Ute Council Tree. The area around Delta Colorado has been the home of the Southern Ute Tribe of Native Americans for well over a hundred years, and their ancestors lived in this land for almost a thousand. The early years of white settlement were very difficult for the tribes who were displaced from their land by miners and homesteaders in the 1800’s. Their land was taken, and their culture challenged by the new residents.
The once widespread nomadic tribes were reduced both in size and in the freedoms they once enjoyed. “The Ute legacy and heritage lives on at the Southern Ute Indian Cultural Center. The only Ute funded and operated Indian museum in Colorado showcases special exhibits and multi-media programs depicting the early history of the Utes.” One of the Great Chiefs of the Ute Nation was Chief Ouray and his wife Chipita who fought to retain the rights of the Native Americans while trying to preserve the culture and dignity of their people.
As we continued on to Mack we encountered many areas that our maps indicated as roads that should have gone through. In reality we found many roads closed as private property. This would become a reoccurring theme throughout the ride. Overall the impact of our route changes took a backseat to our actual ride. We still found good roads and trails despite the reroutes.
Day Four - Mack, Colorado to Vernal Utah
Our route for leg four
Day four took us from Mack to Vernal. Our route put us through Baxter Pass. Baxter was both highly anticipated and feared by me. I knew that if it rained travel would either be impossible or highly difficult. As it turned out it did rain.
The travel through the pass wasn't too difficult but we had to reroute once at the top of the pass. This almost turned out to be our undoing because we got stranded between two arroyo's by flash floods. An arroyo is a steep sided creek or water course that only fills with water after heavy rains. The run off from these rains caused flash flooding and washed out our only access out to Vernal.
In our case Baxter Pass was in back of us, muddy shale clay was on the road and a two flooding arroyo's stood in our way enroute to Vernal. More on that later.
As we traversed Baxter Pass I saw the first wild Mountain Lion of my life. I had come around a switchback and saw something in front of me , something large. Then came the realization that it was a mountain lion trotting down the road. I throttled back (quickly) and the lion stopped dead in it's tracks and then turned to look at me. It was an "awe shit" moment for me. Just as I was weighing my options he started to trot again and headed higher up the mountain. I wiped.
Just after that, I was rounding another switchback and saw a huge black bear sitting on the side of the road. Wild Kingdom indeed.
As I mentioned, we were stopped by flash floods as we passed Dragon, Utah. We had ridden past Dragon and came to the first flash flood. The road was impassable at the time so we decided to go back to Dragon where there was a Kiosk set up with information about the former town. We hung out here under the cover of the small roof of the kiosk waiting for the rain to stop, weighing our options and having some snacks and water.
The kiosk offered some information on the rich history of the town and area. There was a narrow gauge railway over the pass. The pass switchbacks were so tight and steep that special locomotives called Shay Locomotives were built specifically for the pass
. The locomotives were large to gain mass and weight to keep the wheels pinned to the ground and they were also articulated to allow for the tight turning radius of the switchbacks.
The mine there produced "gilsonite". The following was taken from Wikipedia: Gilsonite, or North American Asphaltum is a natural, resinous hydrocarbon found in the Uintah Basin in northeastern Utah. This natural asphalt is similar to a hard petroleum asphalt and is often called a natural asphalt, asphaltite, uintaite, or asphaltum. Gilsonite is soluble in aromatic and aliphatic solvents, as well as petroleum asphalt. Due to its unique compatibility, gilsonite is frequently used to harden softer petroleum products. Gilsonite in mass is a shiny, black substance similar in appearance to the mineral obsidian. It is brittle and can be easily crushed into a dark brown powder.
Gilsonite is found below the earth's surface in vertical veins or seams that are generally between two and six feet in width, but can be as wide as 28 feet. The veins are nearly parallel to each other and are oriented in a northwest to southeast direction. They extend many miles in length and as deep as 1500 feet. The vein will show up on the surface as a thin outcropping and gradually widen as it goes deeper. Due to the narrow mining face, Gilsonite is mined today, much like it was 50 or 100 years ago. The primary difference is that modern miners use pneumatic chipping hammers and mechanical hoist.
Originally, Gilsonite was sold as "Selects" and "Fines"; the low softening point ore with conchoidal fracture was known as "Selects". The higher softening point ore with a pencillated structure was known as "Fines". Selects commanded a higher price than Fines because of its better purity, good solubility, and usefulness in the paint, stain, and varnish industries.
The town of Dragon was the hub for the workers and their families. It had residences, a hotel and of course a train station. The railway was built in 1904 and was called the Uintah Railway.
We stayed at the Kiosk for quite a while. Albie spotted a waterfall on the mountains above the flash flood and continued to watch it until it stopped flowing. Once that happened we ventured back to the area where it had been raging across our intended route. We decided to go for it with about a foot of water still flowing. I walked out searching for severely washed out areas and found none.
So, I went first finding that there was very deep muddy silt but we were able to power through it. Once on the other side we started our route again. We passed an oil compressing station bustling with activity. There were perhaps 5-6 trucks there with workers about to leave. As we continued we found a bigger flash flood. It had at one time been maybe 25-30 feet deep and was still flowing fiercely.
The trucks and workers were headed to Vernal also and pulled up to see the road and decided that they would take CR109 to Rangely to avoid being stuck at the compressor station. My concern was that we needed to stay ahead of them or the muddy road would be so rutted it would be impossible to ride without great difficulty. We made it out but it was hairy for a while. Albie and Bill should have some pictures and videos of the floods. They were impressive.
We over nighted in Rangely.
Day Five - Vernal to Duchesne
Today our route took us to Echo Park. All I can say is it is a very unique and beautiful place. As you get into the park the road takes you through the Chew Ranch. The place seems frozen in time. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.
On the descent into the park
The Chew Ranch
We collectively agreed that this must have been the smokehouse
Sheep herding wagon. Used during the summer when grazing the sheep up on the plateaus
Inside the wagon
Outside the wagon
Recognize the brake shoes?
Recognize the brake shoes now?
Cabins and sheds on the ranch property
Nearing the bottom of the canyon and Echo Park
The Historic Green River
Next we headed to Grand Mesa
. It was spectacular and it was a welcome relief to hotter weather in the valley below.
A view into the valley below. Fruita is off in the distance.
Once we got to the edge of the mesa we wanted to walk to the where we could get pictures. Bill parked his bike on the pavement and off we went. We got about half way to the edge of the precipice when we heard a crash. Bills bike decided that it needed a nap. Turns out that the kickstand went through the blacktop road and when the bike hit the pavement his clutch side hand grip went straight through the pavement as it dropped. The hand grip is completely buried in the road!
On the edge of the Mesa
More to follow