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...