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Old 08-26-2010, 09:54 PM   #1
LoneStar OP
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Location: Texas Hill Country, Zip Code EIEIO
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LoneStar: Steamboat to Flaming Gorge

Flaming Gorge.

No, it's not a new chef's show on the Food Network. In fact, it's a beautiful canyon area formed by the Green River, lying in the northeast corner of Utah and the southwest corner of Wyoming. The canyon got it's name from explorer John Wesley Powell as his team floated the Green River in 1869.

A couple of local riders had told me this was a good ride, and combined with the fact that I was currently in northern Colorado after my ride to Sturgis, I decided to take a quick trip out west to Dinosaur National Monument and the Flaming Gorge recreation area.

Plans were to ride out on Saturday afternoon, camp and then return to Steamboat the next day.

For various reasons, including general laziness, my noon departure time faded to 3pm-ish. As the sun sank lower, I began loading the bike out on the street, but was accosted by a girl working in the shop behind me to help deal with a pervert who was being sexually "inappropriate." By the time Pee Wee was dealt with and things settled down, it was 4:30 pm and the sun was heading earthward at a good clip.

I fired up the Beemer and headed west into the ever blinding sun, looking forward to the ride. The air was cool despite the hot sun, and the bike purred like a huge fat kitten.

The road west from Steamboat, Highway 40, meanders along the Yampa River, slowly leaving the ski area and gentle mountains as it enters the rolling, sage covered hills towards Craig.

Farmers and ranchers along the way were putting up as much hay as possible for the winter ahead

A tractor show at the Wyman Museum outside Craig

Downtown Craig, a working town with miners and ranchers, a far cry from tourist based Steamboat Springs

From Craig, the terrain offers sweeping views of rolling, tree-less terrain and vast spaces with little sign of habitation.

Lady Liberty is alive and well and apparently now lives on a barn.

At Maybell, the road forks north and south around a mountain range that holds the Dinosaur National Monument. I took the south fork heading towards the Monument entrances and Vernal, Utah.

As the miles passed with gusty winds and sinking sunlight, I saw little signs of man. I passed 2 or 3 oncoming cars, at most, in the entire ride that afternoon.

With ZZ Top ringing in my ears, I settled into the high that is riding alone into new and beautiful terrain.

There is a dirt road into Dinosaur National Monument that one can take from the east side of the park, and had I been able to leave earlier in the day would have ridden through the park that particular way. However, I knew it would be dark long before I made it out, so I stayed on 40 towards Vernal and the Monument entrance, hoping to find a campground for the night.

As I continued west, mountains to the north began to rise, and I could see signs of great upheaval in the terrain. There were gigantic slabs of rock and large twisted areas of white ash layers, and I could imagine why there were so many areas of dinosaur discovery here. It seems as if the earth was split open and upturned, exposing various wedges of time.

From the highway, I could see canyons and rifts deep in the range. It was an area I'd love to explore in the future.

By the time I reached the first monument entrance, the sun was getting low. Entering the park, I followed the road north. Quickly I was entering red rock formations as the road wound up and over a peak, climbing to a magnificent view of the valley south and west. From a viewing point, the valley went to the horizon. Quite a magnificent vista.

I saw no cars or human activity while in the park, and one gets the sense there is very little visitor activity here. Not hard to imagine, as this corner of Colorado and Utah are on the way to nowhere. It is not as far removed as, say, Big Bend National Park, but the sense of isolation is somewhat similar.

I decided to short circuit the full ride into the park since dusk was approaching, so I headed west from the top of the ridge on Miner's Draw road, aka County Road 16 South.

It was a good dirt road and an easy ride for the GS, made a bit more difficult by the setting sun directly in my eyes. The visor of my Arai XD3 made itself useful. Sun and rain are the main reasons I wear one. I spent many years riding and racing dirt bikes and feel naked without a visor :) One can argue the validity of tape across the shield of a full face helmet, but it restricts your view in general and offers no protection from rocks, spray or the occasional bug swarm at 75 mph. So there. :p

But enough of science. The ride to 40 was beautiful as the sun set across the valley.

I stopped to listen to the sound of nothing and nobody. Just the wind across the sagebrush and a bright rising moon. No chupacabras were seen.

Did I mention I love my bike?

Continuing to 40, I looked for any sign of a camping area but none was found. Oh well, I pinned it for Vernal and a hotel room, eventually passing the main entrance to Dinosaur Monument before hitting Vernal at dark. On the way in, I passed a motocross park replete with a dust cloud across the road and then a large area of grey sediment hills covered with dirt bikes and fourwheelers. Woohoo!

Vernal appears to be a base for oil and gas production, as there were many trucks and oilfield equipment barns, as well as many gas stations set up for big rigs - at least on the east side of town.

I stopped at a couple of motels checking prices, but continued on til I spotted a new Days Inn sign. It was dark but I stopped in for price check. There were no other cars in the lot, and upon entering the office understood why. The strong smell of curry greeted my stuffy nose.

Oh well, the room was cheap and fairly clean, and despite having been updated, still felt run down and cheesy. I hadn't eaten since breakfast, so I unpacked the bike and rode into town, stopping at a KFC. In the parking lot, an older man was slowly climbing off his Goldwing and wandering in.

During my meal, I watched the old rider at his table and wondered if he was alone, having lost a wife, and now living his life riding to fill the time. I wondered if I was looking at my future.

The next morning, I woke early and loaded the bike, not sure whether to reverse back and go through Dinosaur Monument or continue on to Flaming Gorge. I wanted to see the park, but had read that the main display was closed for construction, and I knew I had a long riding day ahead to see Flaming Gorge and then get back to Steamboat.

Aaaah, the smell of curry in the morning...

Firing up El Puerco Germano, I rode a few blocks to Betty's for breakfast.

There were three other men in the restaurant, all being served by a nice looking blonde gal who looked like she'd been beamed up from North Park Mall in Dallas and beamed down into this restaurant. To make matters even more interesting, she then began telling two of the men at the table near me about how she'd just shot a bear while hunting a few days before, and what a rush it was...
Be still my beating heart.

Anyways, I finished breakfast and paid at the counter, later remembering that I forgotten to leave a tip. Crap. Now I felt bad, and knew that a bear killing waitress had a clear mental image of what I looked like. I accelerated hard and headed north for Alaska.

Actually, I felt bad and if anyone goes in there, please apologize for me and give her a big tip til I mail her one.

But I digress.

I headed north on 191 for Flaming Gorge and Manila on the west side and Dutch John on the east.

Leaving Vernal, the road passes through various rock and sediment foundations, each marked along the road with signs stating which period and what is found within the layers. Very cool and very interesting. Quite Cretaceous actually. In fact, I'll see your Cretaceousness and raise you two Triassics.

It really is an interesting place and I want to come back and spend time in the park.

The view back to Vernal, home of the world's prettiest bear-killing waitress

A mine adjacent to the turnout. I rode over to take the pic, and as I sat there, I realized I was sitting at the end of a runaway truck ramp... time to move on

Heading north, the road climbs into the mountains and enters the classic high pine forest and aspen groves of the high passes, though the pines and aspens were different than the ones in Colorado. They were shorter and more stunted for lack of a better arboristic term.

The road is wide and meanders gracefully along, with not much but large ess curves and few tight twisties. It is an easy ride but not spectacular or challenging. As you enter the mountain area, there are any number of campgrounds and camping areas, and it looks like a good place to stay when tent camping. I wish I'd made it this far the previous day to camp. Oh well, next time.

I reached the fork where one either heads northwest to Manila or northeast for Dutch John and the Flaming Gorge dam, staying the course for Manila.

As the miles passed through high meadows and forest, one is suddenly greeted with a beautiful view of a blue lake far below, ringed with high red cliffs along the shore. It was a nice surprise and a beautiful sight. I stopped beside the road for a quick pic and heard a herd of Harleys rumble up behind me.

Continuing further, I again stopped at an overlook for a few pics, pulling up next to a man and woman on a yellow 1200GS. I walked to the edge for a better shot, and enjoyed the view. Turning for the parking lot again, I saw the couple taking pics of my GS while the Harley herd pulled in. One of the ladies riding a Harley struck up a conversation with me, the group being from Texas and heading to Jackson Hole. We had a y'all fest for a bit, and it was good meeting some fellow Texans. Wished them a safe trip and motored on for Manila, the wind picking up on the way.

I gassed up and grabbed a water and Twinkie, the former to hydrate myself in the growing heat and the latter to provide the necessary chemicals needed for preservation of my body when I'm dead.

Sufficiently fueled, I headed back the way I'd come to see Dutch John. I simply had to go there since the name was cool. Also, that was where the dam was and my alternate route to Craig.

The winds had picked up, and my climb back towards the mountains was kept interesting by the gusts blowing my across the lane. Ah, the winds of Wyoming, Utah and northern Colorado...

Spotting a sign for "Sheep Creek Canyon" I turned off the main road. It turned out to be a beautiful ride through some amazing rock formations. The rough blacktop road turned out to be a great ride and it eventually led back to the main highway.

I headed on to the fork for Dutch John and turned northeast, quickly entering an area with campgrounds, cars, boats and raft rentals. The road led to a bridge over the Green River, where I stopped for a pic and then went on.

The area is definitely a water destination, and the lake is relatively busy. I say relative since I'd been riding in areas where you see no one at all. Two people can seem like a mob after that

I reached the dam, and stopped at the visitor center to inquire about the dirt road north of Dutch John that I was seeking. The guy at the visitor center said it was just north of the Wyoming line, and that the road was good and he traveled it frequently in his FedEx truck. He said "Just stay to the right at each fork and you're good". Hmmm.

I rode across the dam and on to Dutch John, which basically consisted of what appears to be housing for all the government employees in the area.

After gassing up, I went in for a couple of large bottles of water since I had a lot of miles ahead in remote areas and the heat was fairly intense. I was still wearing my Teknic jacket which is not a warm weather jacket, and is black as well. I would have preferred something cooler, but up here you go from sweating to cold in a matter of minutes sometimes, and I err on the side of warmth for a little sweating now and then.

I asked the lady behind the counter about the road over to Craig and both she and another lady bolted upright and said "Oh no! That's a dangerous road. We're both EMT's and just took a guy out with severe head injuries and he's in a coma right now!" Wow. Ok, I said, was he wearing a helmet and what was he riding? He was on a Harley and not wearing a helmet was the answer. She explained he had ridden with some others down this road and hit gravel and crashed. I explained to her that I was in full gear and on a bike designed to handle rough stuff (well... sort of lol). She relaxed a bit, then commented on how many people without helmets go for a short ride and end up dead or vegetables. I agree.
Seen it right before my very eyes when a Harley rider without a helmet crashed on the road a few moments ahead of me near my home. We had to hold him til the paramedics arrived and took him away with severe head injuries. He died on the flight to San Antonio and we had to pull his bike out of the creek and console his wife and kids who came to the scene.

With this fresh in my mind, I headed north for the Wyoming border, passing large formations of canyons and plateaus on the way. The Wyoming winds greeted me as they always do, with a hug and tug and a slap across the face.

Shortly after crossing the border, I turned left onto Brown's Park Road, aka County Road 70, and headed east for Highway 318 and eventually Craig.

In theory, the dirt road I was on connected directly to 318, but I also know how the best laid plans of mice and men often go.

The road was a well maintained dirt road, made grosser by the ever thoughtful and caring road departments who love to pour an inch of gravel on top just for fun, and apparently to keep the local EMT's in business.

Still, despite the weaving and wobbling, the scenery was beautiful and the landscape devoid of man except for the occasional gas well sites with maintenance roads to each.

I passed into a group of pronghorn antelope whose herd straddled the road, all bolting away in two directions to run forward of me before joining up and racing north. Very cool.

I had to travel slower than usual with the gravel and the heat had gotten stronger or I had gotten hotter in the black jacket. About that time the road became a wide blacktop for a few miles which was nice, but weird at the same time since it was in the middle of nowhere. I wondered what contractor had gotten this job from his buddy the county commissioner.

Eventually the blacktop ended again and the road climbed some and got a little rougher. It was a nice ride and ended up in some tight switchbacks heading down into a canyon. From there I continued on until catching a glimpse of a valley below, and the road suddenly became wide, freshly constructed and paved with guard rails. this went on down the canyon until the bottom. It was very odd since it was so far from anything. The old road must have been a real bugger if they replaced it with this highway section. Sheesh.

The Green River wandering through the valley

Down in the valley, at each intersection I bore right as per Mr. Fedex's directions, which happened to match up well with my British tongued GPS. Cool!

I finally reached a spot with a Detour sign pointing right, and my GPS agreed, so I crossed a bridge leading over the Green River, which, by the way, is actually green.

This cloud was really cool - hopefully a cloud nerd can tell us what it is

From there, I passed through an area of shanties and travel trailers known as Taylor Flats, the road becoming noticeably rougher, narrower and less traveled. I continued on as the road became rougher and climbed upwards. The terrain was rocky with scrub cedar type trees and red sand, but it felt good standing on the pegs and enjoying the scenery.

Time passed and I eventually reached a junction in the road. A hastily made sign with "Detour 83" pointed to the right, up into the mountains. My GPS said "Turn left" in it's usual demanding, snotty way. (Side note: I generally do not use a GPS, but bring one with me for emergency gas directions, etc. and to see how well it agrees with mapping in remote areas)

The map and the GPS agreed that Highway 318 was to the left and just a few miles away. It was imperative that I reach Steamboat, as I had to meet Charlie and Ewan for tea and crumpets, so I headed left and the road led back down to the Green River. Heading east along the river, ahead I could see a pickup truck and a bridge. Woohoo! Back to civilization and the blacktop to Steamboat. I loved my GPS.

As I got closer to the bridge, I could see it was actually a suspension bridge. How cool! Somehow it seemed smaller than normal.

Upon arrival, I could see clearly it was not a car-width bridge. As well, it had a gate across my side which was closed. Hmmmmmmm.

I pulled up, got off the bike and sure enough, the gate was locked and chained. Suddenly I hated my GPS.

On the far side, I saw a couple of parked trucks and two guys with a dog walking towards the river edge. I took off my helmet and crawled under the gate, heading for the other side. By the time I got there, they had climbed down to the river and were about to dive in for a swim. I yelled down and asked if there was another bridge further along the river, and explained that I was trying to get to Highway 318. One of them said "No. This is the only way across. Highway 318 is about a mile up the road."

Why are sinking feelings so sucky? Not only was the gate on my side locked and chained, but also on the side they were on. I foolishly asked if they had a key, hoping somehow they were magicians. "No" was the response. "They won't be here until tomorrow to unlock the gates."

Stupid @$*&%$ gate locking people I thought to myself.

I heard, "You'll have to go back the way you came which will take you over an hour. Either that or take the detour up and over the mountains, but it's a 60 mile dirt road all the way to Vernal." Crap.

I whined that I had just ridden 2 hrs to get here and didn't relish riding all the way back to Dutch John and then still have a 4-5 hour ride back through Vernal to Steamboat. Charlie and Ewan woud be in a huff. Behind me, a storm was building up the mountain, and the dirt road detour leading up into it did not sound appealing. I had visions of dying in a mountain rainstorm in Dinosaur National Monument, my Twinkie preserved body found amongst the dinosaur bones.

"Well, you're on a dirt bike, just drag your scoot under the gate and ride across" one of them said.

I was filled with mixed emotions. How could I explain that my scooter weighed 600 lbs without all the extra cases on it, and once on it's side, only God could lift it. Secondly, it was a BMW with the frickin' cylinders being as wide as the handlebars.

The idea both disgusted and intrigued me. Eyeballing the space under the gate, it seemed slightly possible that the great white whale could conceivably be finagled through. Could a camel really go through the eye of a needle?

I was hot and tired, my choice was hours of backtracking, or riding 60 miles through a rainstorm on dirt roads over the mountain. I yelled down "I'll pay you each $20 if you'll help me get the bike over!" Foolishly, they agreed.

What reallllllllllly sucked about the whole thing, is that a month earlier I had dropped the bike going up a mountain pass outside Silverton and really crapped up the valve covers, mirrors, handguards and head covers. I had decided to freshen up the bike and just dropped a wad on brand new valve covers, mirrors, handguards and Touratech Head covers to replace the scruffy ones. Just the week before riding here, I'd installed all the spanky new stuff. Now I was gonna have to lay the bike down and drag it purposely across the ground. Aaaah, life's bittersweet symphony LOL.

At any rate, Greg and Joe agreed to help me. I got the bike near the gate, took off the side cases and tank bag and slowly laid the bike down on it's side. IF we were able to slide it forward and then turn the bars, it would just barely fit under one side of the gate. With much grunting, sweating and mumbling, we slid the pig partially under and Joe held the front wheel while Greg supported the rear. Cat-like, I lept around and crawled under the gate to help Joe, his dog licking me square in the face as I slid through. Truth be told, it was as hard for me to get under the gate as the Bavarian Pig.

Eventually I got around, and we were able to get the bike back up as it came through. Woohoo!!! We celebrated and Greg said to grab the camera and get a shot of the bike on the bridge. To be honest, pictures were the last thing on my mind, but it sounded like a good idea.

My heroes, Greg and Joe

Pictures done, I loaded up the gear again and drove the bike across the bridge to the other gate. I couldn't help but wonder what it would look like Monday morning to see my motorcycle and a tent sitting on the bridge if we couldn't get the bike under this gate as well.

Pushing El Puerco Grande under the other side was more difficult, as this gate sat lower. I had to remove the right mirror for it to squeeze through, but eventually we did it. Again, cat-like I lept around and under the gate, Joe's dog thoroughly licking my face again as I struggled through. We stood the pig up and I breathed a sigh of relief. Woohoo!

That saved me a BIG hassle and I thanked Joe and Greg for helping. They thought it was a hoot and didn't want any money for helping, but I insisted. Joe and Greg, if you read this you guys rock!

They headed back down to the river for a swim and I loaded up for Craig. The last two miles out to 318 were on a deeply graveled road that made me wish for blacktop. For those who don't ride GS's, you've missed the pleasure of riding one in soft stuff...

By this time, I was really tired and hot from the ride and subsequent pig wrestling. To the south, the storms were coming fast off the mountains so I pegged it for the junction at Maybell, then Craig and finally Steamboat.

318 is a road from nowhere to nowhere, and there is nothing but sagebrush and rolling hills all the way to Craig, some 60+ miles away. The wind had come up hard and fast, and rain was south and ahead with lightning strikes. Crap. I nailed the throttle to try to get ahead of, or at least skirt, the rain, but honestly the lightning was my main motivator.

I saw one car during the ride, and went from rain to wind for a long time. I managed to get ahead of the edge by running fast and was just coming out of the weather when I crested a ridge and there sat a state trooper. No one for a hundred miles and he lights me up. Crap.

He asked why I was speeding, and I explained the storm I was trying to get out of. He said he certainly understood, since he rode bikes himself, then proceeded to give me a ticket. He said he'd do it as fast as possible so the rain wouldn't catch up with me. Very thoughtful indeed.

By the time I reached Craig, the rainy weather had formed over the entire area, and the ride into Steamboat was in spattering rain.

I had a good time and saw some great scenery over the short trip. I look forward to heading back to Dinosaur to explore more back roads and see the exhibits when they reopen. Flaming Gorge is a beautiful area, and though the roads in are not "spectacular" motorcycle roads in and of themselves, the area is beautiful and looks to be a great camping area.

As Greg said to me after dragging the bike onto the bridge, "Don't think of it as difficulty, but adventure!" So true

Total mileage for the ride was 474.7


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Adios my friends!

LoneStar screwed with this post 04-13-2015 at 11:52 AM
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Old 08-27-2010, 03:48 AM   #2
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Sweet, great pics and love your writing style
And now here is my secret, a very simple secret; it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye. - Antoine De Saint-Exupery

The Adirondacks and Beyond ADV ride report
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Old 08-27-2010, 08:24 AM   #3
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Awesome. I was a few hours ahead you.
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Old 08-27-2010, 09:44 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by spice174gs
Awesome. I was a few hours ahead you.
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Old 08-27-2010, 08:04 PM   #5
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Great Photography

I am enjoying your ride report, outstanding pictures!
03 KLR 650
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Old 08-27-2010, 08:47 PM   #6
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Thanks for the ride report and very good photography. I'm a resident of western Colorado, but haven't been to that area since '81 or '82. Nice memories for me! Thanks again, Kelly.
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Old 08-27-2010, 09:11 PM   #7
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Hey guys - thanks for the compliments. Not hard to take nice pix in Colorado and Utah

Hey Kelly - was through Rifle a couple of weeks ago on the way to Moab
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Old 08-27-2010, 10:22 PM   #8
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Great trip. And as stated, outstanding images and great writing. Me and a buddy took a trip (on a 12GS and an 1150GS) from the Front Range to SLC and went through Steamboat and across on 40. We missed the turn off for CR16 and ended up taking the dirt I think CR 95 past Massadona over Jack Springs Pass. Check that road out next time. Really nice and more of a two track than a dirt road up an over and through some beautiful high desert terrain. A couple of big washes were sandy with talcum powder like sand. Wouldn't be a problem with your TKC's my Torrences weren't cutting it, more like my sand skills are non existent. Dumped it but luckily a soft landing and nothing but a hand guard full of red sand. We didn't make it up to Flaming Gorge, would like to get back there and check it out.
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Old 08-27-2010, 10:44 PM   #9
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Great story....I can imagine your thoughts when you found the gate locked. It was a good thing you were able to get your bike under them and to have some help as well! What a relief. And what were those guys doing swimming out in the middle of nowhere?

Very nice scenery. I've been meaning to do a trip into Dinosaur park. There is some amazing photography to be done there.

Thanks for the report.
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Old 08-27-2010, 10:49 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by
We missed the turn off for CR16 and ended up taking the dirt I think CR 95 past Massadona over Jack Springs Pass. Check that road out next time. Really nice and more of a two track than a dirt road up an over and through some beautiful high desert terrain. A couple of big washes were sandy with talcum powder like sand. Wouldn't be a problem with your TKC's my Torrences weren't cutting it, more like my sand skills are non existent.
Sounds good man - I am planning to go back and do the roads in and around the park.

You know, I wish the TKC's would help in the washes, but my 1100 goes down like a deep divin' sand whale heading for China when the soft stuff comes. I have (had?) decent sand skills but I swear I feel like Captain Ahab strapped to Moby Dick when I hit the soft stuff
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Old 08-27-2010, 10:58 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Kodanja
Very nice scenery. I've been meaning to do a trip into Dinosaur park. There is some amazing photography to be done there.
Thanks Kodanja - your ride reports and photography are great man
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Old 08-28-2010, 12:42 PM   #12
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Another Steller Report! Your photos and story telling are always soo good. The GS parked across the road pics really caught my eye. Bravo for squeezing the pig under the bars.

I've explored Dinosaur NM only by the squiggly lines on the map, and have planned to ride there myself someday. Now I'll have to... I'd better go practice the KTM dead lift.

BTW, I'm no cloud nerd, but that thing is shaped a little vulgar wouldn't you say? Or is that why you thought it was cool?
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Old 08-28-2010, 09:38 PM   #13
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Dave, you're my hero

Thanks for the compliments - the bike pix are my favorite shots. Have you done any more awesome exploratory rides along the border? I have been so busy the last few months I haven't had much chance to look at ADV so am not current with your escapades.

I can assure you, I'm wanting a Katoom 950/990 up here in the mountains lol.

I refuse to comment on the cloud shape
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Old 08-29-2010, 12:08 PM   #14
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Nothing real adventureous lately, but I posted a few things this summer.
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Old 09-05-2010, 12:23 PM   #15
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Cool trip man, I really like your pictures, great colors. I want to ride the same areas on my F800GS and I admire your bike as one of the original adventurers!

I had heard about that bridge and have seen it in some other ride reports... I wonder if I can drag my bike through...
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