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Old 04-20-2012, 10:21 PM   #1
gregdee OP
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First "Real" bike trip

First off I want to thank all the great souls on this site for inspiring us to do this. It was this post that got us hooked: http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=704429. Thank you so much Henriette and Lars for sharing this great adventure with us.

And now on to our story. Since we became inmates last Fall my wife and I have undertaken the task of learning how to ride off road on "big" bikes, learning how to work on them by doing routine maintenance and performing many upgrades, and researching the endless amount of information regarding gear, farkles, places, and everything else adv related. So far we have just been out on day trips close to home but we've been training and gearing up for our first bike packing trip. Kerry had never been on the front of a bike before this past winter. She took the MSF course in January and has been making steady progress ever since. This is a huge step for her to be heading out on a self-supported trip into to great beyond.

As it is Spring in New Mexico we wholly expect the wind to blow 30+ mph from late February through mid-June so picking the right weekend to get out is critical. Last Saturday was hellish windy with brown dirt filled air as far as the eye could see, but this weekend is supposed to be picture perfect with highs in the mid 70's and very low wind conditions so we're going for it. We will be heading south from Tijeras towards Mountainair along the local twisty highway known as South 14 and then taking Forest Service Road 422 across the southern portion of the Manzano mountains where we'll intersect highway 60. From 60 we will head west about 10 miles and then turn southwest and head about 70 miles across the desert cutting behind the Sevillita National Wildlife Refuge and over to Socorro on what I expect to be reasonably easy dirt roads. After lunch we'll continue west on 60 over to the sleepy town of Magdalena where we'll stop into the ranger station to get any local beta we can. Then, the plan is to head south into the mountains and begin our search for a suitable camp site for the evening. This will be a short one night trip just to check out the gear, see how it packs and rides, and to determine what we should have left behind and what we should have had with us.

Generally we prefer to not camp in campgrounds as we have found the bears seem to know this is a great place for snacks during the wee hours of the mornings. (Let me tell you about the time I was standing on the steps of our camper in my under wear at 2:00 a.m. banging pots trying to scare off the local black bear who was having his way with our trash. Yes, we were bozo's for leaving it out, but I digress....) If possible we'll search out a spot near a stream yet far away from any campgrounds, which shouldn't be too difficult as this is a seldom visited part of the state. We'll bring enough water just in case as water can be pretty darn scarce in these parts.

So the first step is the gear list and the packing that ensues. Here is a picture of all our stuff laid out on the garage floor:

We will pack all of this into our newly purchased Wolfman Luggage medium sized duffel bag, a double ended stuff sack, and the two Givi boxes/crash boxes/bike savers that came on Kerry's DR650. Our gear list includes:
  • gloves, 2x each
  • Croc's
  • spoons, forks, knives
  • Lexan bowls, 2x
  • yellow plastic cups, 2x
  • Brunton stove + fuel
  • pot set
  • dish soap + sponge + dish towel
  • Gaz lantern
  • head lamps x3
  • a couple of Bic lighters
  • Big Agnes tent + sleeping pads (super comfy)
  • Sleeping bags + liners
  • home roasted coffee beans + filters and drip filter holder
  • Mountain house freeze dried cuisine
  • Oatmeal + dried fruit
  • Cliff Mojo bars
  • Trader Joe's chewey soft chocolate chip cookies
  • Small bunch of clothing for off-the-bike camp-lounging time
  • Puffy's, one each
  • Warm winter hats cuz it gets darn cold in the mornings
  • camp chairs scored at REI using our dividends + 20% off coupon last week
  • the trusty Canon EOS40D trail-worthy DSLR to document this adventure
  • Trail tools including big MSR tire irons and a c-clamp - I'm deathly afraid of getting a flat as my experiences changing tires have been quite traumatic so far.
And that's it for now. We head out first thing in the a.m. Can't wait.

gregdee screwed with this post 04-24-2012 at 07:50 PM
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Old 04-20-2012, 10:46 PM   #2
RedRockRider
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Nice prep!

Safe trip. Patiently waiting.
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Old 04-22-2012, 09:40 PM   #3
gregdee OP
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We set off about 8:45 a.m. on Saturday morning, about an hour later than I had anticipated. There's always those last minute gotcha's that creep up on you. In this case, I still wanted to print a few paper maps of the general area we'd be heading into because reading the GPS screen all zoomed in can be quite confusing. And I needed to wash the bikes because they still had caked on dirt from muddy snow melt sections of dirt during our quick run down the dirt road on the back side of Sandia Crest a few weeks back. By caked on dirt I mean the same stuff they make adobe houses out of. Seriously, I had to use a scrub brush to get this stuff off.

So here's the bikes all packed up. Amazingly all of that stuff fit pretty easily into the two Wolfman bags and Kerry's panniers.



Kerry ready to roll....





Anyhoo... we're off and rolling to the closest gas station which is up the hill a mile or so to top off the gas tanks before heading south. On the way back down I realize I never checked the fuel level in the bottle to our camp stove so I pulled in front of Kerry and signaled that we needed to head home. I got home first, pull out the fuel can, find the funnel, and then Kerry rolled up. I dug through her Givi box to find the bottle. I open it and realize that it is plenty full, but I topped it off just in case.


And so we're off a second time, now heading south along the rolling twisties through the Manzano mountains cruising up to just over 8,000 feet. The temps are a little cool and the sky was a clear blue. No wind at all. Perfect morning. We cruise through Chillili, and Escobosa, both primitive Land Grant towns that are a bit scary to outsiders. Eventually we T into highway 55 and take right towards the small town of Torreon with the burt scars around Capella Peak from a fire two summers ago visible beyond. Next we pass through the town Manzano and cruise by the Tiendita. I should have stopped at the store for a picture and a pack of tortillas as I realize I left those in the firdge, but I kept on cruising because it is just so nice to be riding. After another 20 miles or so we roll into Mountainair and stop for gas. We've only gone about 60 miles but it will be another 80 by the time we cross the desert and Kerry's DR650 only gets about 145 miles with the stock tank so we'd be cutting it pretty close if we didn't stop for gas at this point. New black Acerbis 5.3 gal tank is on order.


At the gas station a short stocky fellow inquires about her bike. I think he likes it because it's small, but I tell him it's a 650 and he backs off a bit saying, "oh, I need something smaller". He was real nice and this was our first encounter with a person wanting to discuss something motorcycle related. Does this qualify us as "studly adventurer's"?
We carry on about another 10 miles until we hit dirt and head south and then southwest.

This section started out to be pretty boring as it was just ranch land and a few houses out in the middle of nowhere. At the first wide section in the road I pulled over so we could lower our tire pressure, something we know all about from driving our 10,000 lb 4x4 camper off-road a bunch. We set the tires at 16 psi front, and about 18 psi rear. Much nicer. After a while the terrain became more rugged and the road less well maintained, which of course means more fun.

Here's a few shots of us riding along.





And then I came over a ridge and saw a couple of antelope just hanging out in the middle of the road. I stopped 100 yards away and pulled out my camera but then they bolted off into the surrounding bushy areas. I creeped up on them and took out my camera again. This time I was able to rattle off quite a few shots but most of them were shaky and out of focus. Here's one that came out OK.




After this brief encounter with the local wild life I wondered if we'd spot an Oryx as they are fairly common in this area as well. (Down at White Sands Missile Range, another 100 or so miles further south, they actually have a call list for when someone hits an oryx on the highway.) Who needs to go all the way to Africa anyway? We rolled on crossing some gentle washes and some tighter twisty sections that made for some slow going with these heavier bikes. My bike was handling OK with the added weight as I had bumped up the rear shock one notch. The ride was noticeably stiffer but was manageable on these good roads. I do wonder what it will be like when we come across any more technical terrain? I did give myself a scare in a few patches of softer dirt with the front end drifting away on me a bit. I almost dumped the bike when we pulled off highway 60 onto the dirt as the shoulder was packed pea gravel that I hadn't noticed until I was in it. Fortunately I escaped with a mere dab of the left boot. All is well.




I came across a nice view and pulled over waiting for Kerry to pass by. I took a number of shots and got at least one good one. I really enjoyed the scenery along this route.




The desert scenery here is beautiful. I just love the never ending skies and rolling mesa tops. The more time I spend in New Mexico the more I love it. Going on 19 years since I moved here to go to school.


It was now nearly 2:00 p.m. and the mercury
was in the mid-70's. The last few miles across the desert were slow going along a route across a ridge line just east of Gordy's Hill. The road surface was gravel and the turns were tight and frequent. The last mile before hitting pavement and crossing the Rio Grande was very sandy and there was a beater truck going about 10 mph. Kerry couldn't get up the nerve to get around him so we were just crawling along. We were hot. The bikes were hot. I was thinking we would hit I-25 at Lemitar but we actually hit it at the Escondido exit which was maybe a 60 second ride on the freeway down to the exit for highway 60 which would take us through Socorro and then west out towards Magdalena.The 60 seconds on the freeway at 70 mph didn't help to cool things down much. We rolled into Sonic as a large cherry limeade sure was sounding good.






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Old 04-23-2012, 08:33 PM   #4
gregdee OP
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We rolled into Sonic and parked in the first spot. Next to us was another fella having his lunch while perched upon his bike - a Yamaha cruiser of some sort. We chatted a bit and then ordered lunch. We chatted some more and he seemed impressed that we rode all the way across the desert from Mountainair. He wanted to know how fast my bike would go. After telling him I was comfortable cruising at about 70 mph but much faster was pushing it with the current gearing he seemed to lose interest. Guess not everyone can love a KLR.

After eating I went over to the bikes to pump up the tires a bit as the next 30-40 miles would be back on pavement. I noticed a bit of coolant dripping from the skid plate. This can't be good. I investigate further but I couldn't see anything obviously wrong. I just assumed the reservoir had overflowed as the bike had been running so hot for the past few minutes before we stopped for lunch. It could have just been that last mile of slow going in the sand.

Tires pressed up we got on our way again. We rolled through town and then began to climb out of the river valley up on the the mesa to the west. The spring rains had given the hills a slight green tint and the Magdalena mountains in the distance had some nice looking rain clouds surrounding them. We pressed on up the hill enjoyed the view and the perfect 70 degree windless afternoon. Then my bike starts surging a bit and begins to lose power. I notice the temperature gauge is pegged. The bike slows to 60 mph, then 55 mph, so I pull over at the first side road I see. This can't be good. I get the bike parked on level ground and begin to investigate. Soon I realize the cooling system is shot as more coolant drains out on the ground.

After some discussion it was decided that Kerry should ride home and get the truck. The quickest route is about 70 miles up I-25 to Albuquerque and then another 20 miles east to our place along I-40. Kerry has never ridden on the freeway and was quite afraid of doing this. I was more afraid to leave her sitting on the side of the road all afternoon if I had taken her bike home to get the truck.

I found a nice gravel parking area down the hill a little ways that I was able to coast to. I pulled in there and set the bike up to my west. I then inflated my sleeping pad and took a nap in the shade for a while. I think I actually slept for about 45 minutes. I got up and wandered around checking out the ditch banks to see if there was any way we could make a natural ramp to load the bike. I had previously tried unsuccessfulIly to get the KLR in the back of my truck, almost falling over part way up the ramp more than once. I didn't really want to go through that again. I set up my new camp chair to try that out. It worked pretty well so I sat and watched traffic roll by for an hour or so. I checked my watch and decided Kerry was still at least an hour out.

During my 4ish hour rest on Saturday afternoon several folks stopped by to see if I needed help. The last dude was riding a Harley and had left Austin about a day or so earlier. We chatted a bit but then Kerry rolled in so it was obvious the help had arrived. He was on his way to Vegas. That was going to be one sweet ride out highway 60 but by this time it was after 7:00 and would be dark in an hour or so. Not sure where he was headed for the evening but riding through the night and missing all the great scenery would be a shame, not to mention a little scary.

After spending a few minutes positioning the truck down hill from the bike, and securing the ramp to the bumper using a tie-down, I took a good run at the truck with the bike. My trusty home made step created from an old wooden wine crate was positioned next to the ramp in just the right spot for the step up. Without much effort at all the bike just sailed right up into the bed. No problem.

We then headed up the highway a ways to see if we could find a place to camp for the night as there was no way Kerry was going to make the trip home 3 times in one day. See, we really did take the motorcycle camping:


We got home late in the morning on Sunday. After reading the manual and doing a little research on KLR650.net I decided the likely culprit was the oil/water seal in the water pump. According to the manual you must remove the clutch cover to get at the oil side of the seal. Bummer. I tore into the left side of the bike and then figured out how to get the darn oil seal out from the cover using this great site: http://www.klr650.marknet.us/techarticles.html.



And the seals look like crap:


And while I was at it I checked the oil filter screen. This provided a good exercise in macro/close up photography. Sure glad I checked this one:


I also pulled the clutch springs and a couple of the clutch plates and took a few measurements. Both were still in spec so I left the clutch alone for now. I really am not much of a wrench. Everything I know I've learned in the past few months owning this KLR. It's been a great experience so far as there always seems to be another learning experience around every corner. Now at least I know there is a tiny weep hole under the water pump that drips when the seals go. If I had known I could have at least looked for this problem before it left me hanging on the side of the road.

New parts ordered. Hopefully they'll arrive in time to get things fixed and tested again before the weekend.

Though we weren't successful in achieving our goal of actually camping by bike, the trip was still a great little adventure. We know our packed gear rides well enough. We still question whether we packed the right gear but life has already taught me that you can pack all sorts of crap and not necessarily have the right thing when you need it.

Thanks for reading.
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Old 04-23-2012, 08:48 PM   #5
elgato gordo
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Great report. Now you have the hard part over and you're ready for anything. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 04-24-2012, 02:37 AM   #6
jackisme
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Camping Gaz

OK,

Where in the world did you find Camping Gaz? I see you're in NM, so are YOU the one hoarding the U.S. supply? If you have a source for the stuff, I live in Colorado and am not adverse to making a trip to restock my my paltry supply.
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Old 04-24-2012, 05:20 PM   #7
gregdee OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jackisme View Post
OK,

Where in the world did you find Camping Gaz? I see you're in NM, so are YOU the one hoarding the U.S. supply? If you have a source for the stuff, I live in Colorado and am not adverse to making a trip to restock my my paltry supply.
The stock of Gaz that I have is what I have - about two big cans total. Years ago someone at REI mentioned it was going away. About two years ago I saw a huge stock of it on the shelves there and thought to myself "I should really stock up on that". Of course I didn't. I was there yesterday inquiring about parts for my Optimus Nova multi-fuel stove that quite working over the weekend but was told "we haven't sold one of those in 8, maybe 10 years". While there I checked to see if they had any Gaz on the shelf but there wasn't. I keep thinking that one of those other brands should fit. Have you tried any others to see if the cans fit?

So now I might be out two stoves, as soon as the Gaz is gone. Guess this is the industries way of telling me to upgrade, but then I cannot exactly believe huge gains have been made in stove technology over the past decade.

Perhaps I should figure out a way to carry the Coleman 2-burner stove (of which I have 2 that work) on the back of the bike, along with a table, and a cooler.
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Old 04-24-2012, 07:46 PM   #8
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Yeah, I've looked around and Gaz seems to be the only non-threaded fuel canister out there. I think I've seen an adaptor around, but it cost $70 and ended up just being another part that I'd have to lug around, which goes against the whole travel light theme. Oh well, I guess it IS time to upgrade.
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Old 05-03-2012, 12:30 PM   #9
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Great ride report. Often it is the trips where things go a bit "wrong" that are the most memorable.

I took my first overnight motorcycle trip (solo) last September (http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=724538) and had a bit more adventure than I was planning on. Picking up a loaded DR650 at 12,000 ft is a bit tiring.

If you are ever interested in riding up in Jemez let me know. I might be able to show you around on some of the easy stuff. Lots of great fire roads and nice camping.
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