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Old 07-07-2011, 08:10 PM   #1
rats4ever OP
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Eh? Engineer Pass, Wee-Strom, 2-up, Hail.

It started with a promise 3 years ago to visit my aunt and uncle in Albuquerque. At the time, I was unemployed and needed to get away from the small apartment I was sharing with my parents while I searched for a job. Shortly after the promise was made, I finally got a job. I was busy, and used what little vacation time I had to ride Nicaragua and Costa Rica. And then I was busy with a girl. And then I bought the Wee-Strom I wanted, partially because it was more comfortable 2-up than my Ninja 250, and partially because I had wanted one for a long time. Fast forward through rides, chasing a couple of Okie tags in the regional forum, a house purchase, a marriage, and a green card application. It was about time for my aunt and uncle to meet my new wife.

We rode to Albuquerque from Oklahoma City on July 2nd, leaving around 6am to beat the heat. It was nice to reconnect with my family after 8 years of not seeing them. The next day, we continued to Acoma Pueblo, which claims to be the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the US (founded AD 1150). Initially we had planned to head up to Santa Fe and Taos and check out the national forests in the area, but as they were on fire, we (meaning me) decided to make a longer trip to Ouray and southern Colorado.

Between Acoma and Farmington, NM, I discovered that there was really nothing between Acoma and Farmington. I found myself at a closed gas station in the middle of the desert, wondering if I would make it to the next town. The GPS indicated a gas station 6 miles off the main road ("Main" being a euphemism for "paved to prevent tumbleweed growth"). A slow ride through the desert sun conserved gas, and we found ourselves at the intersection that led off to the supposed gas station. Glancing around, seeing oil or natural gas wells and pumps, I wondered if this "gas station" might not be an office for a drilling company rather than one of their commercial ventures. The only other evidence of civilization was signs for various missions and churches. Apparently, in the New Mexico desert, man can live on the word of god without fuel... With possibly 20 miles or less left in my tank, and 23 miles left to Farmington, I couldn't afford to lose on this gamble. At least the occasional vehicle passed us on the paved road. We continued to town, finally making it without running out of gas. I discovered I still had half a gallon left in the Wee, and found myself wondering about the new 2012 Wee. Is the engine so efficient that I would have made it without the extra half gallon of gas they cut out of the tank?!

The Million Dollar Highway was a hoot, and we got to our hotel in Ouray. The next morning we left the saddlebags in the room (i.e., the luggage, not the wife...) and went back to Silverton. I had read that Engineer Pass was easier if one started from Silverton, and I wanted to see Animas Forks. Once we made it to gravel, I dropped the tire pressure to 18/30 psi, and softened the rear shock rebound damping. While this was a wise move, we had already made a mistake: I had mentioned that we should get out earlier rather than later, just in case a typical afternoon storm rolled through the mountains. Instead, we were lazy, and didn't leave until after the Ouray Independence Day parade was well over.

The ride up to Animas Forks was beautiful, and validated that I had installed my new skidplate correctly:


Animas Forks was about as expected, but with more Jeeps due to the holiday:


The weather stayed lovely, and a passing Jeepy told me that Engineer was in "pretty decent" shape. We continued up:


Eventually we got to some really tight, steep switchbacks that required my passenger to dismount while I jockeyed around to find a good line. As it turned out, a 475lb bike is much easier to thrash over rough stuff with out the **censored** lbs of wife on it. Some 4x4 people we passed laughed as my lady walked 100 ft or so to reach me. Some others (Californians) gave me a surfer-dude hand signal and told me to "rock on," as they didn't actually expect my "street bike" to get to the top.

I should mention at this point that a bash plate was 100% necessary for surviving this trip. If you think a 'Strom has acceptable ground clearance to start with, head up to Engineer Pass. 2-up riding left my plate dented, but my oil cooler and filter intact. Arrogant from all the damage my clever purchase had prevented, we continued on to more great views:



Eventually (2 wife dismounts later), we reached the scenic overlook:



It was here we made the fatal mistake. A man in a 4x4 walked over to "shake the hand of the man DUMB enough to take that street bike to 13,000 feet," as well as shaking the hand of the PhD dumb enough to ride behind him. He asked something to the effect of when she was going to leave me. I told him that this was actually our honeymoon. Another person mentioned that the best photos he ever took were just on top of the mountain behind us. Engineer Mountain was a short, steep climb, with a summit that surveyed all around it. You might have noticed the threatening clouds behind us in the photo above. Well, the pass pull-off surveyed enough for both of us to know it was raining to the west. I should have just refused and said, "We need to get going NOW," but instead decided to go up to the peak of the peak.

The hail started while we were posing for pictures on top. It was small, but big enough to know it wasn't sleet. The 20-30 minutes we lost could have seen us get past the worst of the steep switchbacks on the Lake City side in dry weather. It might have seen us through all of them before they changed from damp to saturated. As we rushed down, wishing our helmets were on our heads instead of the bike, others headed up the mountain. They turned around damn fast.

We got geared up ASAFP, and headed on to the sign. The weather seemed to ease up a bit, but perhaps we were just in the lee of the mountain. I needed my prize, a picture with the Engineer Pass sign in the background:


Someone in the 4-Runner in the background of this pic took a photo of us as we plowed through the hail and rain up to the sign. He had the luxury of getting his head back inside the car. We were going to endure a couple more hours of hell. As you might understand, there are no further pictures of this fiasco. We fell a total of 3 times (I believe only once with my wife on board). The first time nearly launched us off a 100ft. cliff. The bike ended up 90 degrees to the path of the road, with its rear tire in a mud puddle / pot hole. Trying to go forward would literally mean committing suicide. Backing up wasn't working. My feet slipped in the mud, and the bike was just too heavy to get its rear end farther back, even using the momentum from springing the suspension. A passing pickup truck stopped, and the passenger offered to help. A gentle push allowed the bike to go far enough forward to get out while turning to avoid going over the edge. As the man returned to the safety of his vehicle, he warned us that it was really slippery a little farther on. My wife later told me that he had handed his baby to the driver to help us. Thank you, kind 4-wheeler!

We passed some muddy, rutted areas, and hoped that this was what the person was referring to. After all, on a bike you can just go between the ruts. 2 falls later, we fell while both of us were on the bike. We were only beginning to get to the really slick, steep stuff. The second fall busted my turn signal. It was a chore getting the bike up while keeping my footing. I held the bike up while my wife collected the pieces of the signal. Long story short, my wife walked about half a mile to a mile of the worst stuff. We pressed on, hoping that my recollection of advrider posts and Google Earth was correct: the Lake City side was easier than the Animas Forks side. Fortunately it was. I don't know if I could have made it down the way we came.

Lo and behold, at the same time we reached consistently manageable road, we reached dry road. The gravel road to Lake City was remarkably easy. We made relatively good time, and breathed a sigh of relief when we saw our first 2-wheel drive car. Needless to say, we took the 2.5 hr trip via paved highway back to Ouray. The day was a bitch, but satisfying to accomplish. I enjoyed it while the weather was nice, and might tackle Cinnamon Pass on a day when I can be more sure the weather will be nice. I'm certainly less afraid of doing rough roads now.

It took us an hour of waiting in traffic (construction, the wait due to inept flag people), and riding through more sleet and rain, but the next day, we did make it to our honeymoon suite in a South Fork B&B to enjoy a well-deserved expensive meal, bed, and Jacuzzi. As well as other various honeymoon-associated things. The ride to South Fork from Lake City is beautiful, but can't compete with the western side of the San Juan range:


Freeway blasting from South Fork to OKC (12 hours, including stops) sucked in heat up to 106 degrees. This was our first trip with intercoms, which made it more bearable. I think the next investment may be a custom seat or evaporative cooling vests, but I'm up for more CO Jeep roads once my recovers. But maybe in better weather.

-Matt

rats4ever screwed with this post 07-08-2011 at 12:31 PM Reason: *!(% photo host
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Old 07-07-2011, 09:47 PM   #2
Wolfgang55
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Good job.

Much enjoyed the writing too
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Old 07-07-2011, 09:56 PM   #3
Dirt2007
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Looks like fun, with a little adventure thrown in.
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Old 07-08-2011, 09:58 AM   #4
aldntn
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Great trip, great ride, great pics, great wife, great memories.
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Old 07-08-2011, 11:51 AM   #5
ezrdr55
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I did The Loop in 2009 on my Wee, but was solo. I also did Black Bear, and that was all my 55 year old body and the little Wee wanted. I only wished for more ground clearance, which is something I have added since then. I have had my 50 something wife on some forest trails back here in MO and she prefers to ride her CRF250X rather than pillion it on the Wee. Looks like you had a great adventure and something to talk about for sometime to come.
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Old 07-09-2011, 02:57 PM   #6
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Old 07-09-2011, 03:08 PM   #7
xcflyn
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I am impressed. I ride it pretty regular these days and give you and your wife credit ! Be glad you didnt go down to ouray when it was slippery !
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Old 07-10-2011, 12:10 PM   #8
rats4ever OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xcflyn View Post
I am impressed. I ride it pretty regular these days and give you and your wife credit ! Be glad you didnt go down to ouray when it was slippery !
Thanks - I definitely think I chose the right direction to get off the mountain. I find myself wondering if anyone else has done this two-up on a Wee or similar beast.

ezrdr55: What did you do to your Wee to raise it? I can see putting shorter dog bones on it to raise the rear, but there's not really any room to drop the forks through the triple tree to raise the front. Did you just leave the front as is, and deal with the change in rake and trail?

-Matt
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Old 07-10-2011, 01:07 PM   #9
kingofZroad
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I will buy you a beer when you come back to do Cinnamon, you deserve it!!
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Old 07-10-2011, 03:37 PM   #10
rats4ever OP
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I hope to take you up on that - both of us want to get back and spend some real time in the area rather than just rush through. But we also have to keep a travel budget for our 3rd wedding (legal, American reception with Chinese parents, Chinese reception with the rest of the family) in China. The route from my wife's hometown to Lhasa and the Nepali border would kick ass as an advrider thread, assuming foreigners are allowed in Tibet at the time.

-Matt

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I will buy you a beer when you come back to do Cinnamon, you deserve it!!
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Old 07-11-2011, 10:35 AM   #11
ezrdr55
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Originally Posted by rats4ever View Post
Thanks - I definitely think I chose the right direction to get off the mountain. I find myself wondering if anyone else has done this two-up on a Wee or similar beast.

ezrdr55: What did you do to your Wee to raise it? I can see putting shorter dog bones on it to raise the rear, but there's not really any room to drop the forks through the triple tree to raise the front. Did you just leave the front as is, and deal with the change in rake and trail?

-Matt
Raised the rear an inch with shorter dog bones and added stiffer springs to the front. I want to add an inch to the damping rods when I get a few seconds. There is a thread about this over on Stromtrooper call Wee 7.5 or something like that. The guy has raised his 1.5" front and rear.
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Old 07-11-2011, 07:41 PM   #12
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Pix no worky
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Old 07-11-2011, 07:47 PM   #13
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Pix no worky

For me either.
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Old 07-12-2011, 08:16 AM   #14
rats4ever OP
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You'll see that the last reason I edited the original post was because of my stupid file sharing site. For a brief time one of the photos would never load. Maybe it crapped out temporarily again - it's working for me now. If that fails, here are the plaintext links to each photo in order. If they never load, it's the server, if it asks you to login, then they've got something switched around - they are public links. Even when I'm logged out, the https links work, but these should work with plain http:

https://www.sugarsync.com/pf/D680093_3_6820343876
https://www.sugarsync.com/pf/D680093_3_6820343737
https://www.sugarsync.com/pf/D680093_3_6820343782
https://www.sugarsync.com/pf/D680093_3_6820343639
https://www.sugarsync.com/pf/D680093_3_6820343665
https://www.sugarsync.com/pf/D680093_3_6820342408
https://www.sugarsync.com/pf/D680093_3_6820343554
https://www.sugarsync.com/pf/D680093_3_6820342496
https://www.sugarsync.com/pf/D680093_3_6820342478
https://www.sugarsync.com/pf/D680093_3_6820342343

Let me know what sort of error it gives you, or if it's working inline in the original post again.

-Matt
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Old 07-12-2011, 10:00 AM   #15
DougFromKentucky
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The inline pics you posted are working for me here ATM.

Good ride report. Your wife is a real gem. Mine wouldn't do this ride with me on a good day (and we have been married 32 years).
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