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Old 06-16-2007, 02:10 PM   #1
Eastbay Dirtbag OP
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2 Dirtbags dualsport the Southwest

Our 3 week and 3,400 mile dual-sport tour through New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Nevada linking dirt roads, two-tracks and ATV trails. We enjoyed great camaraderie, fantastic scenery, remote traffic-free routes and the comfort of a hotel and hot meal every night. Although things didn’t always go according to plan, it was one of the best trips we’ve ever done. 23 days, May 11th to June 2nd, 2007.

New link to tracks in Layin' Down Tracks added Nov 2014. Try this instead of link elsewhere in ride report. :

Meet the 2 Dirtbags:

Eastbay Dirtbag aka Trail Boss. Ride Instigator, Researcher and Planner. Piloting a new DRZ 400 which had not been used off-road before the trip. Yours truly installed softer seat foam and cut it down with an electric knife. The Team Dirtbag Mechanic (Moragabiker) installed a 4 gal Clarke tank, handguards, Trail Wing tires, luggage rack and pipe guard made from a modified KLR guard. Thanks Sweetie!

Moragabiker. Chief Mechanic and Navigator. Also my Better Half and Hero. Riding “The Great Pumpkin”, a KTM 525 EXC which had not been used on-road before the trip. He added a 6.6 gal Acerbis tank, Corbin seat, radiator guards, Continental TKC tires, steering damper, GPS holder and probably a bunch of farkles that I don’t know about. He custom made the luggage holder and pipe guard.

Also meet Captain Jack who joined us for Week #1 as Fearless Ride Leader, Navigator and Co-Planner on board a proven KTM 950 Adventure with lots of farkles that his wife doesn’t know about.

Oops, and let’s not forget my cheerful mascot, Dirtbag Kitty.

Here is a map our of trip:

Days 1 to 3: Eastbay CA to El Paso TX

We rented a Penske truck and hauled the bikes to El Paso where we visited with Captain Jack and his loving wife while they treated us like royalty. Thanks Patsy! The visit was short but sweet. Thanks for loaning Jack to us!

Finally, after 5 months of planning and preparation, let the fun begin!

NOTE: Penske says you may not haul motorcycles in their trucks. They also have signs posted in the trucks stating it may not be used to carry motor vehicles. If something happens to the truck while you are hauling bikes, the insurance you purchase for the truck may be null and void. We drained most of the gas from the tanks before loading and took our chances. We’re not lawyers or cops so we’re not sure about the legalities.

Penske costs more than U-Haul but their fleet is newer and their customer service is head and shoulders above U-Haul. We had to get creative to secure the bikes because their tie off racks aren’t designed for it. Fortunately Moragabiker was an Eagle Scout and knows his knots. We also needed ear plugs because the trucks are uncomfortably loud.

Attached Files
File Type: gpx May2007TracksJoined.gpx (853.7 KB, 195 views)
"It's not technical if you avoid the obstacles." - singletrack description in a trail guide book

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Old 06-16-2007, 02:21 PM   #2
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This one sounds like its going to be a fun trip

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Old 06-16-2007, 02:42 PM   #3
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Day 4: El Paso TX to Silver City NM

This was an all-pavement day but the roads and views were fantastic. We started with backroads through the Rio Grande Valley past the farms along the river. The coolest section was where walnut orchards were flooded for irrigation and the big trees created a shady canopy over the road. It looked like riding through a shallow lake.

SR 28 & 185 cruise through progressively smaller towns with tiny churches. (I use the term SR but some of the roads might be county roads.) It was obvious that the locals were not used to seeing dual-sporters (especially one in pink) by the stares we received.

At Hatch, SR 26 leaves the valley and connects to SR 27, a Scenic Byway to the ghost town of Lake Valley, once a booming mining town. The schoolhouse and church have been preserved and we got a tour from the docent. An enjoyable stop.

Other buildings are in various states of decay.

From Lake Valley the empty road rolled and climbed to Hillsboro, a tiny burg tucked along a creek on SR 152. It has a museum, a few shops, cafes and a gas station.

Our destination was the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument deep in the Gila National Forest and surrounded by Wilderness. The road really twisted and climbed and the DRZ was gasping for air as we reached the Emory Pass Overlook at 8,200 ft. Elevations over 7,000 ft noticeably reduced the bike’s power.

I lived a while in New Mexico & El Paso and went backpacking in the Gila. That was my first introduction to wilderness travel and camping so it’s a special place for me. It was great to be back.

Did someone say ICE CREAM?

SR 35 is a fun road and took us to the Grey Feathers Lodge near Lake Roberts. There aren’t many lodging choices in the Gila and they were booked for the night. Oh well. We typically don’t make reservations and prefer to be flexible. We had a tasty lunch (try the bbq sandwich) and dessert in the restaurant.

We turned north on SR 15 which dead ends at the Cliff Dwellings. They are a worthwhile stop. It’s a steep ½ mile hike but you can almost feel the spirits of the Indians in the place. It’s interesting that one of the docents mentioned it too, even though I didn’t bring the subject up. Years ago, three friends and I camped below another set of cliff dwellings upriver. We didn’t sleep a wink all night because we felt like the ghosts of the Indians were watching us.

SR 15 south to Silver City was incredible. Narrow, twisting, scenic with tight turns. Too much fun! I remember getting motion sick on this road in a car way back when. Much better on a motorcycle. I was wishing for more power at this point, but overall the DRZ was a great choice for this trip.

Outside of Silver City is the old mining town of Pinos Altos. We had dinner at the historic Buckhorn Saloon. Highly recommended. The place looks abandoned and the bar is dumpy but don’t let that stop you. The restaurant requires reservations, the food was great and the place fills up even on weeknights. Be sure to check out the Opera House and Indian relics next door. They have melodrama performances on weekends.

In Silver City we stayed at the somewhat shabby Motel 6. There are rooms on both sides of the motel, but only one side has a real parking lot. Guests drive over sidewalks and what used to be a lawn to get to the de facto parking lot. The pool was boarded over and being used as a kid’s playground.

"It's not technical if you avoid the obstacles." - singletrack description in a trail guide book

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Old 06-16-2007, 02:48 PM   #4
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This is going to be good......

I can't wait.

More! More!

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Old 06-16-2007, 02:56 PM   #5
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Keep it comin'! I'm enjoying the story and pictures. Have to get down to the Gila National Forest one of these days myself, and will keep those roads in mind.
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Old 06-16-2007, 03:53 PM   #6
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Day 5 Silver City NM to Reserve NM

Breakfast was at the dirty but popular Grandma’s Café. It looked abandoned except for the cars in the lot. No one got food poisoning so it was ok.

Outside of town we joined the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDR) mapped out by the Adventure Cycling Association.

Not far away is the cemetery for the ghost town of Georgetown. We saw no trace of the town although the mines are still visible.

The cemetery had separate Anglo and Hispanic sections and some unique headstones and grave markers.

We chatted with a group of hunters near the cemetery carrying enough ammo and firepower to start a war. Fortunately for us, dual-sporters were not on their target list. They mentioned that they were mountain bikers but had never heard of the GDR even though they were standing on it. Then again, the GDR isn’t marked as such anywhere except on the ACA maps.

Quaint Bear Lake. Looks like a nice place to spend an afternoon.

The lake outflow near Mimbres.

Here’s where the rubber really hits the dirt. Be sure to have plenty of gas for this section! You will be alone out here!

It is FR 150, aka Star Road, aka The Geronimo Trail Scenic Byway. It seems that different websites show the trail with different routes.

The trail wound through forest and grasslands and varied in quality from smooth 2-wheel to washed-out, rocky, high clearance 4-wheel.

We only saw one vehicle in 100 miles.

Don’t mess with this dude. He’ll use you for traction and leave knobby prints on your face. Naaahhhh – he’s like a big teddy bear.

Alas, poor Youric, I knew him well. Anyone recognize this critter skull? Small mountain lion maybe? Seems too large for a bobcat.

Moragabiker is still smiling.

There are only a few man-made lakes in the Gila. Here is Wall Lake. Private, I think. There is a dude ranch nearby if you want to try your hand at being a cool dude.

One of my favorite shots because of the contrast.

Follow the bouncing GPS west on SR 59…

Storm clouds chased us all day. Love those dramatic clouds.

Snow Lake. It was deserted except for us.

Our intended route was 159 through Mogollon to Glenwood for gas then up US 180 & SR 12 to Reserve but the road to Mogollon was closed. Hmmm. But we can easily ride around that Road Closed sign can’t we? You bet!

Flooding had torn up this area. The road was washed out but we could get through this section. There was also a bridge sitting in the middle of the creek but no longer attached to the road.

We stopped for a snack on the side of the road and after a few minutes a black bear burst out of the bushes and ran past us. Did it smell our munchies or just happen to be in the neighborhood? No photo. He was too fast.
Eventually a large gate blocked the road because of another washed out bridge. We tried a nearby detour but it disappeared into a flood scoured creek bed and turned into a National Trials Test Section through big boulders. Nix that idea!

Where’d the road go?

The only road open to Reserve was a long way through the Gila. This stretched the KTM 950 to the limit of its gas range. Captain Jack arrived in Reserve on reserve with 0.1 gallons left.
We stayed at the Rode Inn and had a tasty dinner at Ella’s café across the street.

Me: I’d like low-fat milk please.
Waitress: You aren’t in The Big City anymore, ya know.
Me: Umm…ok…regular milk is fine…
The breaded trout hit the spot while we watched Dancing with the Stars on the café TV. Yes Toto, we’re not in The Big City anymore and that’s the way we like it.

"It's not technical if you avoid the obstacles." - singletrack description in a trail guide book

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Old 06-16-2007, 05:11 PM   #7
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Day 6 Reserve NM to Grants NM

Breakfast at Ella’s and then to avoid backtracking many, many miles, we buzzed north on SR12 to Apache Creek. We picked up a forest access road and headed back into the Gila to rejoin the GDR.

This first section was a blast, like a mini roller coaster and we had it to ourselves. Actually, we were usually alone on ANY dirt surface on the entire trip except near mines and wells in Colorado and Nevada.

Good thing someone placed some tree limbs in front of a deep washout on this road or it could have been a nasty surprise. There was an easy way around.

The terrain opened into grasslands with wonderful vistas and only a handful of ranches.

We met three backpackers hiking the Continental Divide Trail. Puuwee, they were ripe from days on the trail, but more power to them. One of them had an artificial hip.

We detoured to the Mangas Mtn Lookout but the access to the tower itself was closed. It still provided a good view.

We descended from the forest and into ranch land. You’d have to be a tough cookie to make a living in this area.

This unfinished log cabin is for sale. Probably a bargain since the nearest city is 100 miles away.

But enough of these trivialities! On to the highlight of the day! THE DAILY PIE CAFÉ! Yes, one of the famous pie cafes in Pietown (the other being the Pie-o-neer). This trip would not be complete without pie in Pietown!!!

We have no idea who this woman was but she decided I needed bunny ears (maybe it was the 4 beers she had with lunch…).

Ok, one more without the local miscreant…just the miscreants from out of town.

The pie was might tasty. Lunch was good too (try the bbq sandwich). I could get used to this dessert with lunch concept. And I got a cool t-shirt.

Be sure to follow the house rules though. (Yes, my small mind is easily entertained.)

There was a windmill museum advertisement in the café so we putted through town (2 blocks long) but didn’t see anything resembling a museum.

We jumped off the GDR and onto US 60 to get gas in Quemado. We were still learning what our gas range would be in different terrain and were cautious based on yesterday’s closed roads episode. For most of the trip I averaged 60 to 70 mpg.

Not much you can say about Quemado. It has the basics and a tidy church.

We tried backroads off SR 36 near Quemado but dead-ended on sandy roads at locked gates. The DRZ does not like sand! Maybe with a local map we could have found a way, but these roads were not on The Leader’s GPS.

Up SR 117 to the Chain of Craters Byway and more of the GDR.

Looking back towards the Gila from whence we came.

The craters are extinct volcanoes in the El Malpais National Monument. This road starts out casually enough but eventually becomes very tight and twisty and seemed to go on forever. We saw the only mountain biker of the trip in this remote section.

The Byway ends near the Bandera Crater, an extinct volcano and lava flow.

The ice cave contains ice year round. Cool. Very.

It's green with algae and the locals used to chop it out and use it.

This is really rugged terrain. Bad place for a dairy farm... or any farm...

He’s still smiling. This beats a day at the office.

The temperature dropped quickly and the wind began to gust. A storm was closing in fast and provided us with an awesome lighting display. Couldn’t catch the lightning on the camera (forgot about the video option). The lighting started a fire nearby being fought by a forest crew.

We hightailed it to Grants on SR 53, bypassing the GDR. These clay roads are not the place to be during a downpour. They turn into slippery quagmires. We checked into the quiet and comfortable Days Inn and headed to dinner just before the storm hit.

We dined leisurely across the street at the New Mexican Steakhouse while the rain came down in torrents and briefly flooded the streets.

No, it is NOT nighttime, just storm time.

"It's not technical if you avoid the obstacles." - singletrack description in a trail guide book

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Old 06-16-2007, 05:50 PM   #8
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Old 06-16-2007, 06:14 PM   #9
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More! More!
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Old 06-16-2007, 06:17 PM   #10
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Day 7 Grants NM to Aztec NM

Back on the GDR, we headed into the San Mateo Mountains in the Cibola National Forest and detoured up the steep climb to the La Mosca Mtn Lookout.

Brrr, it’s darn cold up here but has great views.

We went down the “backside” of the mountain, which turned into a rocky jeep road.

Complete with snow.

The KTM 950 decided to lie down in the snow next to the log and take a nap on top of Captain Jack. No photo of the KTM since we were too busy responding to his yells of “Get this thing off of me!” No harm done.

A little mud. How deep? Very deep. This guy is not going anywhere anytime soon. He even left his tow straps lying in the mud.


Once was enough.

We reconnected with the GDR and dropped out of the mountains.


The route enters the Badlands. Look at a map of New Mexico. This area is blank.

This is remote, unoccupied, and eroded terrain. The roads are not marked. The floods last year tore up the roads in many places.

The arroyos were filled with mud. Keep it pinned and paddle!

Although the surface of the road was dry, it was wet and slick underneath from yesterday’s downpour. Plenty of “Oh sh…. ” moments when it felt like ice skating with a 300 lb partner with two left feet. I worked up a sweat from my death grip on the bars.

I discovered that the DRZ has sharp cotter pins on the foot peg pivots. My Gore-Tex pants which have served me well for years looked like they had been slashed with a razor – half a dozen “marks of Zorro” on each leg. The Chief Mechanic bent the pins inward and off we went.

Are you guys sure about this? Oops, this was my idea wasn't it?

Captain Jack doesn’t fear mud…or snow… or rocks…or creeks…

We said goodbye to the GDR and BLM land and turned west to Torreon to get gas and see Chaco Canyon Historic Park. This appears to be Indian land although it’s not shown as reservation on my maps.

It was amazing to see the primitive conditions of some of the dwellings. No power or running water in many areas but a hogan in every yard. Bad photo. I was trying to be discreet. It was also sad to see how obese most of the Indian children are.

The dirt roads on the reservation are terrible. They will shake your fillings loose. The Park is paved, but outside it there didn’t seem to be any logic to the locations of dirt and paved sections.

There is a nice visitor center with displays of Indian artifacts and videos about the celestial alignments of the ruins. Interesting stuff.

The Chaco Ruins are impressive but you must really want to see them to travel out here. This is the biggest ruin but there are many in the canyon.

We spent the night at the basic Enchantment Lodge in Aztec and dined at Oliver’s Restaurant down the street. The food was good enough that we returned for breakfast in the morning.

more to come...
"It's not technical if you avoid the obstacles." - singletrack description in a trail guide book

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Old 06-16-2007, 06:17 PM   #11
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Great pics! I love New Mexico. Can't wait to ride there again.
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Old 06-16-2007, 08:07 PM   #12
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Laugh Day 8 Aztec NM to Dolores CO

We had planned to take SR 574 &140 to avoid dirt reservation roads, but 574 was closed for unknown reasons. So, we took US 550 to backroads southeast of Durango. This is a very active drilling area. Gas wells and trucks everywhere. We ended up at several locked gates before giving up, but got great views of the snowcapped mountains.

We had lunch in Durango then took a out-an-back detour from US 160 to the ghost town of Mayday. Not much left of the town but the high mountain scenery was neat.

Not summer up here yet.

I love finding stuff like this.

From the town of Mancos we headed back into the mountains. It was beautiful and we were loving it. I want to move here.

Notice the dark clouds moving in...

It was fantastic until the storm hit. Lighting flashed and thunder boomed around us. The road turned to slop. The sane thing to do would be head down out of the cold rain. So that's what we started to do.

BUT, we’re a hardheaded bunch and darn it, we came to ride dirt even if it IS buried under mud! We turned around and headed back into the mountains.

This minor water crossing had whitewater?!? I could tell it was going to be “interesting” because Captain Jack was giving me the “pin it and don’t let off” signal. Hmm. You first. No, YOU first.

Fortunately, there was a slippery log bridge nearby. But which is better – to fall in the water or fall off the bridge into the water?

The roads were badly rutted from 4 wheelers. Let’s see: ruts + mud + steady downpour = more “pucker” ice skating moments.

We worked our way down the mountain toward Dolores. The rain stopped.

Back to pavement. You never know what you might find.

We checked into the tidy Dolores Mountain Inn and had a great meal at the small but popular Naked Moose at the other end of town.

Dolores is quaint and comes with a Galloping Goose and two old birds.

the fat lady hasn't sung yet...
"It's not technical if you avoid the obstacles." - singletrack description in a trail guide book

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Old 06-16-2007, 08:17 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Eastbay Dirtbag

No, it is NOT nighttime, just storm time.

Looks like the KTM and the DRZ are snuggling up for warmth
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Old 06-16-2007, 08:27 PM   #14
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You sure don't dissapoint when it comes to ride reports!!
Be sure the safest rule is that we should not dare to live in any scene in which we dare not die. ~Lewis Carroll~
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Old 06-16-2007, 08:56 PM   #15
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Glad you liked our Mountains...

...This is an awesome ride report!!
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