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Old 07-13-2008, 06:14 PM   #1
winterhk OP
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NO CLEVER TITLE... (another SW Colorado ride report)

As a paramedic and a part-time ER tech, I get to make my own hours and work in bursts. Another way of looking at it is > I can take off whenever I want. With temps hovering in the high 90's and nary a drop of moisture or relief in the foreseeable future, I did what any intelligent 20-something with a GS would do; loaded up and headed north!

There would be no plan. I had a plan, but it fell through. I'd planned to take a 3 week trip with a friend up the coast and into B.C., but a couple of things happened to stifle that. The first: the wildfires all over northern Kalifornistan. The second: my adventurous friend, who has spent the last year and a half as a nomad working for a marine conservation organization in RI, teaching marine ecology in Mexico, and the last four months educating kids about marine ecology in Washington's San Juan Islands, decided to take a 5 week gig in Alaska to cook and deckhand on a commercial salmon boat. How could I blame her? That sounds awesome to me - and beside, it pays extraordinarily well.

So, I decided to hit the road solo and meet up with some friends along the way. I left Tuesday morning after changing the engine, transmission and final drive oil. I must say this bike impresses me more and more every time I ride it or work on it. There wasn't a single shaving on the magnetic drain plugs after 54,000 miles! Not only that, but she looks brand new under the valve covers.

Leaving town, headed north, the high desert was absolutely gorgeous. Even in the heat, I absolutely love the southwest.



Heading up north of Flag, the temps really began to escalate. Somewhere around Cameron, I decided to pick up the pace a bit. Cameron, by the way, has incredibly huge natural terrain jumps if any of you FF's are into freestyle..



Yes, that's 100 degrees by noon.



I continued my schlepp (sp?) across the desert, through the Navajo res. I really enjoy times like these - they're almost spiritual. Certainly, they are meditative to say the least. My Ipod crankin, vents open, windscreen removed and GPS dialed, I had everything I needed just incase I decided I didn't feel like returning. (I threaten myself with the idea of not returning every time I leave - it's part of the game I play to keep myself entertained while slabbing long distances)



And finally into Colorado. No relief from the heat, but there is something mental that shifts when I see these signs. Colorado represents enormous mountains, overpriced lattes in quaint mountain towns, earthy-yuppy-yoga chicks in old Land Cruisers and other such romanticized mental images. Conversely, seeing a welcome to Arizona sign represents ungawdly heat (this time of year) and a long ride to get home, since I live near the geographic center of one of the largest contiguous 48.



Moving up in latitude and elevation, it began to cool off. Thankfully. I was a little on edge and the heat wasn't helping. I hadn't been up here on a bike in over a year. The last time was not such a pleasurable ride as I was following a helicopter, racing for Flagstaff Medical Center from 8 hours away - all the while not knowing whether my dear father was alive or dead.

One last stop on the Ute res for water and I would be in Durango at my buddy Eric's place well before dark. I couldn't resist snapping a photo of this trailer. There is cetainly some degree of craftsmanship involved and it is of course eye-catching advertising, but goddamn would I feel like a cheesedick pulling such an eyesore. At least he could have fashioned it after a car that's cool - but a MUSTANG? Even a Fiero would have been satirically endearing. I walked right up to these guys, ignored their questions since I had my Etymotics in, snapped a few pics, turned around, got on my bike and rode away. Yeah, I guess I can be a bit of a pompous asshole sometimes.



Arriving in Durango, it was great to see my old buddy Eric. We haven't had a chance to spend a few nights bullshitting over beers since we took a three week photography expedition to California's Central Coast three years ago. He is in the middle of building an impressive green palace on 38 acres south of Durango by about 9 miles. We split a 12 pack, sauteed some veggies, made a couple of burritos on the camp stove in what will be the kitchen and jammed out to some music under clear sub-alpine skies. I pulled out my sleeping bag, plopped it on the porch of said half-constructed house and dozed off. It would be a long day tomorrow...
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Old 07-13-2008, 06:31 PM   #2
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Old 07-13-2008, 07:01 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by firerigger
+1

Looking good so far!
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Old 07-13-2008, 07:37 PM   #4
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Old 07-13-2008, 08:17 PM   #5
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Old 07-13-2008, 10:08 PM   #6
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Day one was pretty long since I didn't end up leaving until about 10 a.m. I ended up clocking just about 450 miles in all that heat. Today would be less mileage, but still pretty exhausting. Eric has a DL1000, but is intensely commited to finishing his house. Shane (Firerigger) was working and Scott (fire_strom) was putting his 950 back together. Those are the three people with bikes I know in Durango, so I headed out alone to explore.

My digs for the few nights I was there:



The living room:



Bedrooms:



The kitchen:





The utility shed that allows this fine place to be completely off the grid:



Reverse osmosis to pourify the water from the 600' well:



Part of the solar set-up:



The panels:



The views were pretty spectacular in all directions. You can see Farmington, NM to the south and Mesa Verde to the West. The mountains to the North and another large mesa to the East:



The posts are all ponderosa that Eric cut, shaved, stained and polyurethaned:



They get a lot of of poly, so they have a marine finish feel to them. Really nice:



This house is Eric's dream. And mine too. I would love a place like this in the high desert at the base of the Rockies, let alone completely off the grid. That's just fuggin sweet!

I just can't imagine how I could ever swing that! It's good to have dreams though. Maybe if I stop buying bikes all the time I could save for a place like that!

Next up, the million dollar highway to Silverton, Engineer Pass to Lake City and beyond...
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Old 07-13-2008, 10:13 PM   #7
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Old 07-13-2008, 10:21 PM   #8
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That house is freaking rad. Brian would rather have a house in a gated community though, he rides a BMW.
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Old 07-13-2008, 10:45 PM   #9
firerigger
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Speaker
That house is freaking rad. Brian would rather have a house in a gated community though, he rides a BMW.
__________________
"The eyes are the groin of the head.."
"I never fail...sometimes I succeed in finding out what doesn't work."

Current rides:
'04 KTM 450 EXC
'07 Triumph Tiger 1050
'07 Triumph Daytona 675

Gone but not forgotten:
'00 KTM LC4-E Sixdays
'06 KLR 650
'06 DL-1000

Save yourself (and me!) money at SmugMug: Coupon code YE2eMDKcBDhGY
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Old 07-13-2008, 10:45 PM   #10
winterhk OP
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Day Two Continued...

By about 8 or so, I headed into town to fuel up and fill my camelbak. There were a bunch of bikes running around town. Not just Wings and Hardleys, but all types of dualsports too. I couldn't help but imagine myself living there one day. I guess I do that in every little town I visit out West. I love it out here. As a native New Englander, I feel fortunate every time I walk outside to live in the American West. It's really like a dream for me.

All filled up, I hit the pavement up 550 toward Silverton. I passed the beautiful Durango to Silverton narrow guage railroad. Along the way. If I ever have kids and a family, I will definitely take them on that.



A modest gain in elevation showed the first signs of what I came for - SNOW!



I've seen enormous amounts of snow in my life. I was born in Bulington, VT and raised in CT and Mass. I even went back to college in Burlington, but I don't see all that much of it these days and it was a real treat to see. What can I say, I get excited easily.

Along the way, I passed a lot of cars and RV's and even some cruisers. The best part was that I kept passing the same ones. I'd rail the twisties for a bit, then pull over and take photos. OK, so I did a little posing. Here I'm trying to hide the ugly silver wheel on the front of the GS. It'll be black eventually. If I ruled the world, I would decree all motorcycles to have black wheels. Even minivans look cool with black wheels. Just sayin':



I also don't see much water these days:







After a dream of a ride filled with track-quality pavement, perfectly engineered banked turns and view that have to be experienced to be understood, it all came to an abrubt halt. I sat in traffic waiting for a pilot car to take me past the lovely construction crew so feverishly improving said track-quality pavement. At least I could see Silverton. What a view.



Wouldn't you know it? The car in front of me was from Prescott. The cute driver didn't look too stoked to be shuttling her mother around.



I came into Silverton and left almost as soon. It was slammed with tourists. And I mean slammed. No thanks, not today. A couple of years ago, however, my ex and I had a blast making fun of the tourists one afternoon:



Easing out of town, the road almost immediately switches back and begins to climb. Lucky for me there is enough of a straight beforehand to pass every last vehicle in my way:



Ahh, desolate sweepers. Who could ask for more? An ipod, a bike and no one in my way - paradise! (I know, I apexed way too early)

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Old 07-13-2008, 10:50 PM   #11
winterhk OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Speaker
That house is freaking rad. Brian would rather have a house in a gated community though, he rides a BMW.

Ouch! So true though. Gawd, the one thing about Eric's house is there is no espresso machine and it's easily 15 minutes to the closest Starbucks! That's roughing it a little much for my distinguished taste.

That reminds me of a joke I heard on SNL's Weekend Update: Officials have located a 13 year old boy who went missing for 13 days in Brazil's famed Amazon rainforest. He was found alive, having taken shelter at a nearby Starbucks.
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Old 07-13-2008, 11:15 PM   #12
winterhk OP
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A little further up the road toward Switzerland of America, I mean Ouray (damned marketing gimmicks!), I turned off to the East and headed up Engineer Pass, much to the astonishment of the Harley, ST and sportbike riders that were taking a break at the little parking area. I waved, they waved. I stood up, turned a hard left, weighted the outside peg and hung the ass out to the side as I motored up the gravel. It was amazing. I actually felt like one of those handsome BMW riders in the $1500 outfit riding by a wide angle lens on those pretty posters that sell GS's. Just kidding, but I did feel the sort of general irreverence I've picked up from this place. I don't know it is dualsport or ADVrider - I found both at the same time. Something tells me it's a little more Jo Momma than anything else. Suffice it to say, my punk attitude while compensating for riding an old man's bike has surely garnered a few black eyes for the motorcycling community. At least I'm ATGATT - if nothing else, that's a good example to set. I'm sure they all just thought I was a showoff.

The views are absolutely orgasmic a mere 100 feet up the trail. If you never leave the pavement in the San Juans, you just can't imagine how spectacular they really are. Here a couple of quads try talking me out of going up the direction I'm headed. They say it's not doable on a "streetbike" with those tires. Like I said, irreverence. Well, actually, I couldn't hear them with my ipod blasting and I decided it more polite to ignore them than to inanely shout some sort of indecipherable noise at them. God forbid one of them have a sensitivity to deaf jokes, then I'd really be an asshole.

Life's too short to take everything so seriously.





I skipped picture time in the rough sections. I was sweating and slipping the clutch a lot to keep the revs high enough to plug along at that altitude. There's nothing too tough, but I picked my lines carefully and bounced the skidplate a few times on some step-ups. It would be much easier going down the other way. That said, it is not a terribly difficult pass for an experienced offroad rider. After the first few miles, it really mellows out.

My newest "Best Old Structure Pic":



Due to an absolutely epic winter snow total, there is still white stuff everywhere!



Hmm, should I do Poughkeepsie Gulch? Not today my good man. (that's a Wayne's World reference) I've done it in 4x4's and it's not the kind of two-wheeled battle I'm seeking on this trip.



More and more snow! I stopped to take pictures and eat snow almost every time I passed it. Like I said, I'm easily amused.



Up above 11,000 feet, the trees take shelter down below and the snow becomes far more prevalent. Here I found my dream house (for a couple of months in the summer that is!):

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Old 07-14-2008, 04:25 AM   #13
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keep it pumpin big man!
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Old 07-14-2008, 11:37 AM   #14
winterhk OP
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Day Two Continued...

The air is getting thinner and thinner as I climb further toward the sun. I can't believe I'm here and able to ride this stuff! What a treat to live close enough to ride here and only need a few days to do this.



As I said, the road becomes significanlty more mellow after the first few miles. Here you can see it's navigable by almost any vehicle. Notice the perfect clouds. They were like something out of a Bob Ross painting. I couldn't ask for more.



The alpine tundra was alive with wildflowers peaking through the snow. The occasional marmot would watch me cruise by. I just couldn't stop snapping pics! I was, however, feeling the effects of the altitude. I'm sure glad I quit smoking! I was a little out of breath from riding and then hopping on and off the bike for pics. That combined with my elevated heart rate and slght sensation of having a "heavy head" told me I was really up at the roof of the lower 48.



12,000 feet and climbing!





The altitude was affecting the old boxer underneath me as well. She was still plenty torquey, but wanted to stall about 800 rpm's lower than normal. It almost felt like there was weight added to the flywheel along with serious rear brake drag. She never missed a beat, but I could tell she was working. I'd frequently rest her by the snowy sections - cause I'm easily amused!





At the top of whatever peak this is, the elevation is about 13,000 feet. The views are 360 degrees and unbelieveable. The temps were in the mid sixties, the wind was calm and there were no thunderstorms to be found. It was a splendid time to be exactly where I was!



Just down the road a few hundred yards and a few hundred feet in elevation, I crossed the saddle that is Engineer Pass and made my way toward Lake City. But not before I snapped a few pics of course!



To the right here you can see the reddish color of the rock. There are some bad-ass frontpage-worthy photos on aDVrider of people riding that trail, but this year it was still sacked with snow and closed up. Oh well, another time.



Note the Irish-faced rider with the sunglasses lifting off of his nose. I swear I wasn't drinking, it was the elevation!



On the East side of the pass, there were even more fantastic views to be had. The speeds picked up and I was able to ride a lot faster without bottoming out the suspension or fear of flying off a switchback. Probably averaging in the neighborhood of 30 mph or so. I was out of water and wanted to get to Lake City for a rest. Along the way, there was a sweet little double track I explored and a few more dream houses. I'll just post the pics...







As you ay have noticed, at some point I lost a filament in one of my FF50's. I hate riding on the street without those and I had a lot more riding to do before I got home.

Next up, on to Lake City...
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Old 07-14-2008, 12:38 PM   #15
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What tires on your bike? Happy with them on those gravel/dirt mountain roads? On highway pavement and speeds?
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