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Old 04-22-2015, 07:23 PM   #1
Wallrat OP
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Can't win 'em all - Or how my 7 day Utah RR got demoted to Day Trippin'

Oh man. That time of the year again for my newly appointed, annual trip to Moab (last year being the first of this new tradition - hey don't judge. Traditions have to start somewhere). Last year I trucked the KTM around to different areas around town and used that as my base camp. Aside from sleeping in the back of a truck, the trip was seriously lacking in any semblance of adventure. Well a year has passed, and partly because of that trip, I'm now the owner of a nice little 09 800GS. Awesomesauce.

Got my epic route planned - basically a 7 day, counterclockwise loop around Lake Powell utilizing a bit of AZBDR, UTBDR, and some inmate tracks:


The bike is ready:


Let's do this shit...
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Old 04-22-2015, 10:28 PM   #2
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So day 1 is a 533 mile blur of concrete and asphalt so consequently we're going a bit light on photographic evidence - I've got 500 miles between me and mecca. The plan is to head from Orange County, California, up to Barstow, then jump the 40 all the way to Winona, Az. There, I'll join up with the AZBDR and ride that up to the Grand Canyon. The first problem surfaces about an hour in - my GPS keeps turning itself off despite being on bike power and having battery backup. This is especially troublesome since the ONLY source I have for the AZBDR trails is on this GPS. I have maps for Utah, but not Arizona. I also have a backup GPS, which is sitting forgotten, at home. Yeah I know, I fail. By the time I get to the state line the GPS is so bad I can't keep it on long enough to even get past the splashscreen. So in comes route edit #1: cut out Winona to Grand Canyon leg, instead taking the highway to give me some time at camp to mess with the GPS.

A very brief stop at south rim:


Funny thing there. You know those deer crossing signs you always see and rarely do you see a deer? Well I hit GC and I see a sign with an elk or caribou on it and I'm thinking, "huh I wonder if that's an elk or a caribou." Well not a minute later there's two of the beasts in question munching away next to the road. A few miles later I see another sign accompanied by half a dozen more of the beasties. I park at the canyon and head out on the 'rim walk' and there's another one. All said I think I saw at least 30 of them total. National park must have them on retainer or something.


Then I head east towards Cameron, not really sure where I'll stop for the night but I need to get a pass in Cameron the following morning to cross the reservation. Well I end up seeing a turnoff for Coconino OHV area, and there's a nice spot to pitch a tent just out of sight from the road. Now remember my experience with the elk/caribou signs? Well as I'm heading east, maybe 10 minutes before I find this turnoff I see another new sign - this one with a damn mountain lion depicted on it! Jesus that stupid sign ruined any chance I had at a restful night. I was seriously tempted to ride back there the next morning to seek my revenge on the poor sign.



I tinker with the GPS and try taping the batteries together, thinking that both them and the bike power are being intermittent (yeah good luck with that).
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Old 04-22-2015, 11:48 PM   #3
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Day 2 breaks and I'm tired and already sore. Which reminds me of this RR's sponsor: Airhawk. Seriously to the guys at Airhawk: You're awesome. Being able to feel my balls after 4 hours of straight riding is pretty fantastic. So yes I'm sore - pretty much everywhere except my butt actually. I head down into Cameron and get the $12 permit despite the place being officially closed on the weekends. Few miles later and I finally get on some dirt as I enter the Navajo Nation section of the AZBDR.

I realized I'd never been over a cattle guard on a bike before this trip. I'd cross no less than 48,932 of these.


Just nothing out here. You'll ride for miles and miles and then see a double-wide with at least 6 late model diesel pickup trucks parked outside. Weird allocation of priorities.


One thing I gotta hand to the Navajo is their amazing trail marking system. I've heard of painting-by-numbers but had never seen riding-by-color before. Each type of terrain has its own distinct color, such that you can see approaching hazards with amazing accuracy. It breaks down like this:

Light brownish/red - Most common. Slightly loose. Tends to be a washboarded
Medium red - Hard and fast, as close to tarmac as you'll get.
Dark red - only found in washouts. Slow down and hang on, you're about to get bucked
White - rocky, loose, bumpy as all hell
Combination - Slow down. The spirits had an argument about this section of the trail and threw in everything they could think of. Its gonna hurt if you take this at speed.

Now I dunno who came up with this system but it's great. I think other land managers need to adopt a similar system ASAP. (BLM I'm looking at you)




Made a side trip to this overlook of the Little Colorado. Oh and amazingly my GPS continued to work fine until the last day of the trip. Go figure.









Finally dropping back down to the highway.


Somewhere in the midst of that I ran into one of the locals who was riding around on a 4x4 quad. I killed my engine to strike up a chat with the guy and as soon as he pulled up he asks, "what brings you way out here?"
"Just exploring," I said. "On my way to Page eventually."
"PAGE?!? Geez you sure picked one helluva detour!"
"Yeah I guess I did..."

Down on the highway heading towards Lee's Ferry and then Vermillion Cliffs.
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Old 04-23-2015, 01:09 AM   #4
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But why was the trip demoted? You're keeping us all in suspense.

Great pictures by the way.
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Old 04-23-2015, 11:19 AM   #5
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Great start. Unbelievable scenery!
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Old 04-23-2015, 12:07 PM   #6
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Thanks. Was getting kinda lonely in here. So its about lunchtime on day 2, and I'm on the AZBDR heading towards Vermillion Cliffs and the Utah border. I pulled over for a photo op where a nice girl was snapping pics while her mom digested an apple outside of her mouth. Seriously I've never seen anyone eat an apple like that - either that lady hadn't eaten in 6 days or she really loves apples. Anyway the daughter was nice enough to snap a pic of me. I left my helmet on due to flying apple debris.



A nice little ribbon of tarmac led me to the next dirt stretch.


It was a super smooth trail - so smooth the little voice inside my head kept urging me to grab 5th. The soloist in me won however and I kept it in 4th. Good thing too, there were definitely a few spots that I was glad to be doing 50 and not 60. And since I was being so safe I decided that letting the steering damper take over while I snapped a pic was totally acceptable.


There were miles of this super easy, mildly hilly terrain.


Eventually the trail deteriorated into dried mud ruts and I was forced to a more respectable pace. Here's the official end of the AZBDR, although you have to ride another 13 miles on this trail before you get to the highway.


Just after the border I came across a parking lot for some trailhead. 90% of the lot was filled with Subaru's of course, which is sort of the Prius for "extreme sports enthusiasts" of the granola variety. I'm actually fairly impressed that folks brought those cars all the way out there, that is until I round a corner and see a bone stock Honda Civic creeping along ahead of me. What makes this even better is in the 1.2 seconds it's taken me to catch up to him this Civic driver has decided that rather than just let the bike pass he's going to give it the beans and pace me. That canyon has never heard the cacophony of strained unibody and plastic fasteners that echoed for the next 100 yards. I increased my following distance simply because I was afraid of running over part of his car. Several bangs, thumps, and altogether unhealthy sounds later the driver wisely decided that perhaps he should just let me pass. I punched it before the fluids would have time to leak from under his shadow obligating me to assist the idiot. A few miles later I hit the highway and headed east towards Page.


When I described my route to folks back home when they asked me where I was going I just said, "I'm sorta circumnavigating Lake Powell." So it was nice when I finally laid eyes on the lake during the late afternoon of my second day. (Trust me, its there)


Glen Canyon Dam in the background:


And because I like having overweight tourists tell me that "I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to do that," I tossed the bike up here and waited for one to show up, which took less time than expected.


Now I've got a bit of a problem at this point. It's around 5:30PM and I'm absolutely starving, having not eaten since 6am in the tent. I'm roughly 2 hours from Valley of the Gods, where I plan to camp for the night (yay for free BLM camping). So a quick Taco Bell stop is in order, but there's another player coming into the arena:



What followed was the scariest and most amazing ride I've ever been on. Sadly pictures were just not an option but this is Monument Valley:


Now imagine its pitch black. Absolutely nothing exists outside of the dim arc of your headlights. Except that, every few minutes, lightning flashes across the sky and the scenery pictured above lights up all around you in an eerie electric blue glow. Unfortunately that's where the awe ends and the terror begins. It starts raining. Not hard enough to make me stop but hard enough to make things sketchier. The road is in open range, so cows and other livestock are free to roam onto it as they please. Actually what I've found is that they seem to prefer walking on it as opposed to the dirt. The speed limit is 65 but I'm crawling along white knuckled at about 40, praying that a car doesn't come racing up my backside. Thankfully most people were smart enough to not drive in this mess so I only see a few cars before I get to Mexican Hat. It's another 11 miles to camp but I'm terrified and setting up a tent in the dark and rain sounds like total hell to me. So I stopped and got a room at the very basic (and very cheap) Canyonlands Motel. Best $35 I've ever spent. Total tally: 375 mile day.
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Old 04-23-2015, 12:28 PM   #7
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Nice!
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Old 04-23-2015, 01:15 PM   #8
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Day 3 opens with a bit of chain maintenance and a view of where I'd spent the night. Interestingly, when I arrived the night before it looked like this:


The next morning this is what I saw however. They must have taken down the facade due to the rain or something.



Oh well. Anyway first order of this 244 mile day is to head out to Moki Dugway via Valley of the Gods. I'll admit I'm more than a bit concerned by the rain - there's a lot of Utah trails that become completely impassable with just a bit of the wet stuff.


Looking good. Just damp enough to keep the dust down. Not that there's anyone behind me to appreciate it.


This is the kind of road that makes you appreciate alcohol. Not imbibing it yourself, rather, appreciating that there was an engineer drunk enough to look at this cliff and say, "Hic! No looksh, dars a spoft for dish road righth dar!" This country would be a cooler place if we had more drunk engineers calling the shots.



At the top there's the road out to Muley Point. These there-and-back sightseeing trails are always rough for me. As with most of my trips I tend to set excessive daily mileage expectancies and I'm constantly fighting against the sunset. So its really difficult for me to swallow 15 miles for a few pictures. But it was warming up and I promised myself I'd use the lookout as an excuse to shed a few layers so away we go!

There's a ton of cows on this road. Really stubborn ones that don't want to get out of the way too. Thankfully the BMW horn that has thus far been useless against distracted drivers, worked flawlessly when used against even the most stubborn bovine. So who's the simpler species?




Several layers thinner I returned to the tarmac and had a really pleasant ride - so pleasant I wasn't watching my GPS and missed the turn for Snow Flat Road by 2 miles. Bah! Anyway this is all officially on the UTBDR which, from the small selection of BDR trails I've seen, seems to mean that its going to be a top-notch ride.
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Old 04-23-2015, 04:01 PM   #9
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Great RR so far keep it coming - I like that Mosko bag. What is your review of it?
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Old 04-23-2015, 06:50 PM   #10
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Great Pics. Lucky dog!!!
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Old 04-23-2015, 07:39 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by utefan View Post
Great RR so far keep it coming - I like that Mosko bag. What is your review of it?
Its made of equal parts awesome and win. Super versatile. I try to keep soft and light stuff in it since it is so high on the bike. So clothes, spare tubes, some snacks. Best feature I've found is the beaver tail. Especially on a trip like this where I'm changing layers 2 or 3 times/day, rather than pack all that stuff away I just toss it under the beaver tail and its ready to go whenever the weather changes. Plus it holds way more than a typical top box. I do plan on getting the Mosko panniers as well once money allows.
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Old 04-23-2015, 08:16 PM   #12
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So I double-back to Snow Flats and immediately I'm feeling a bit concerned. The large brown sign with the words 'Impassable When Wet' is glaring down at me as I stare at this thing.


Hmm well I guess we'll see how this goes...
Really well as it turns out. The first couple miles are this sort of shaved rock (bumpy but easy),




or fast soft sections, which were now nice and loomy from the rain.


Traction was insane. Even on the fully loaded GS, I found myself locking up the rear and sliding into corners - then dropping the clutch and spinning the ass end loose as I tore off in a new direction. Of course this is Utah, which means as fun as fast and loose is, there's always a CLIFF OF DOOM somewhere nearby. Sure enough, I noticed it on the GPS before it poked out behind the foliage.


The fast and loose trail gave way to a slightly more technical descent towards the valley listed as 'deep silt' on the UTBDR map.


A few mildly interesting drops came up. This was probably the worst of the whole trail - should be fairly doable by anyone but a total beginner. More scary looking than difficult.


Once again that bit of rain was all kinds of awesome as the silt plains were transformed to this crazy 4th gear slidefest. I cranked up the Scotts and opened her up, flying down this section at no slower than 45mph the whole way. I stopped once to take these pics.



This is where I learned a valuable lesson. This nice, damp, and loomy top layer was only a couple inches deep. As soon as I stopped my tires sank down and the earth swallowed my bike. I looked like a damned sperm when I tried to get going again. Took awhile before I was back on the crust and humming along.

The trail ends at the highway and the UTBDR has me go a couple miles down the road to join Butler Wash. I'm actually feeling pretty tired, and in California any trail with 'wash' in the name means 3 possibilities:
1. Sand
2. Rocks
3. Sand and rocks

None of this sounded at all fun and I was very nearly tempted to skip this bit. Plus it was pegging 77 degrees which is just ridiculous. You know the weather has been awesome when 77 feels objectionable. Thankfully I was feeling too lazy to reroute and preferred to just mong out at my GPS. Turns out this trail is named completely wrong. I submit the name: 'Awesome hard-pack roller coaster ride next to Butler Wash' for consideration.

It was so good I got really lazy with the camera duties. Whoops.

This queues in another thought I had on my ride. All of these crazy rocks have names, and I know absolutely none of them. But I do know that, this being Utah, they're all biblical in nature. So I decided to take it upon myself to make up names as I go. (Please note that all names will have some religious reference, either blatant or vague, but all will be blasphemous and/or offensive. If any bother you, please feel free to move to Canada. I'm kidding, they don't want you either.)

Here we have 'Judas Drops the Soap'


Butler spit me out onto this tar snaked ribbon of fun somewhere near Blanding.


My iPhone was really persistent in renaming this town 'Blending'. Personally I think that Blanding sounds rather, well bland. Meanwhile BLENDING conjures images of half-naked senoritas mixing margaritas inbetween body shots that would be illegal in several US States. So I was obviously quite excited as I rode into Blending. 2 minutes later I happily left Blanding, dejected and not at all amused. Stupid Apple.

Quick gas stop in Monticello (not the one on the nickel as it turns out - another disappointment, but this time I blame Google), and I was heading off towards Canyonlands, not knowing that my ride plans would change into a retreat home by the next morning.
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Old 04-23-2015, 09:01 PM   #13
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Lovin' it!

Now get back to work






Nice job.....thanks for taking us along!
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Old 04-23-2015, 09:17 PM   #14
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This is what the inmates want . . .
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Old 04-23-2015, 10:24 PM   #15
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Ah yes. Back in the national park system where the speed limits defy all semblance of logic in favor of "additional revenue". This is a really interesting route into the park, and one I've not taken before. You essentially go from flat cow fields to majestic red rock canyons in the span of 5 miles. Newspaper Rock is right at the entrance to the really scenic stuff:




I thought the sign was amusing in that the "meaning" of the rock is unknown. You've got crappy flat fields all around - but good for crops, livestock, and raising a family. Then there's this hidden canyon with waterfalls n shit just a couple hours from your wife and teepee. Doesn't take a genius to figure out that this area was the OG man cave.

Continuing on we find the well-known 'A Busy Virgin'


'Peter Bakes a Bundt'


So the goal here is to take Lockhart Basin up into Moab, spending the night somewhere on the far side of Hurrah Pass. There's several issues with this:
1. Its seriously isolated. Like wait-a-few-days-before-you-see-somebody-else kind of isolated.
2. Its hard. On the KTM it would be a breeze. I'm not on the KTM. I'm on a 500 lbs iron pig.
3. There's nobody around to help me pick up that 500lbs. This is especially concerning if its laying on top of me.
4. There's still the issue of the rain last night. It's looking like this area got a heckuva lot more than further south.
5. The trail is 48 miles to Hurrah Pass. The first two-thirds of that are pretty easy so its the furthest section that could potentially cause problems.

But hey everything seems good to go and I have enough fuel on the bike to just make it back to town should I need to turn around even just before Hurrah. I decide to swing by Needles Outpost to top off my tanks just to be on the safe side.


Yeah okay a-holes you're not bringing this gas in on a pack mule. It's 40 miles to the next gas station, we're not talking about being on some deserted island somewhere. Screw it, I've got enough gas.


Yeah so right away I have to cross this.


There's a bunch of little puddles and one big one that I just barely have room to squeeze by, but otherwise the trail is pretty darn nice.




It takes about 18 miles before I hit any noteworthy terrain, right by the 1950's aircraft wreckage actually.


Nothing major. Small rock garden, a couple of steep washouts. Then at 18.5 miles I come to a crappy almost-can't-see-it barb wire fence strung across the trail.


My first thought is that there must have been a landslide and the trail is closed. So I parked the bike and removed some gear so I could hike up around the corner and survey the damage. Well as soon as I strip down and actually look at the gate I can see that its actually quite easy to open. Hmm. I noticed my headlight was on so I went back to the bike and took my key with me - I chuckled to myself as I pictured sand people descending on my now-protected bike crying, "UTINNI!" Hiking up around the corner not only revealed no landslide, but there was a much better area for fencing off the road if there was indeed a landslide ahead. Ah so that dumb fence must be an attempt to keep livestock where they belong. Wow what a bad spot for it! So I head back to the bike, throw all my gear on, mount up and...hmm my key won't turn.
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