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Old 06-08-2012, 11:16 AM   #1
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Questor rides the empty deserts of SE Idaho and NW Utah

Hello All.

Work has been crazy recently, and I just needed some time to myself to clear my head and live in the moment.

So I took a look at Google Maps, and was drawn to the big empty area to the north west of the Great Salt Lake. It was just so striking when seen from the satellite view.

If you zoom closer you see the most amazing terrain and geology.

I could see the straight line of the old railroad bed and was intrigued.

Also on Google Maps was the Lava Fields south west of Idaho Falls.

I wanted to see what these exotic areas looked like from the ground.

So I did a bit more research and set up a two day loop that would take me through the empty lava fields, high desert and remote valleys down to the northern edge of the Great Salt Lake, then across the old 1880 Trans National Railroad grade to Promontory Utah, and then back north though some empty valleys I had not been though.

The route looked something like this.

I was expecting some desolate and empty places, but was sort of unprepared for how remote some of the areas I would pass though were.

Some teaser pictures:
The high desert of Idaho near the lava fields.

The saline desert near Lucin UT.

The edge of the Great Salt Lake.

and some of the beautiful mountain passes of Idaho on the way back.

Along the way I would see old abandoned towns, the old steam locomotives at the "Golden Spike", huge rocket engines and over 500 miles of scenic dirt roads and ride for hundreds of miles without seeing another living soul.

So stay tuned, and get ready for an incredible journey though emptiness.


Questor screwed with this post 06-08-2012 at 03:37 PM
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Old 06-08-2012, 11:36 AM   #2
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Day 1: June 2nd, 2012 - The Start...

On Friday night I planned the details of the trip.
I pre-ran the route using Google Maps to make sure the roads went though.
I double checked the mileages and made sure I had enough range between fuel stops. Once convinced that the trip was logistically possible, I plotted the route into the GPS software, packed the luggage for the bike including camping gear, cookset, food, 2.5 gallons of water, tools and spare parts, and fell asleep dreaming of empty places and solitude.

Saturday morning, I woke up, packed the luggage on the bike, got my riding gear on and got ready to depart.

Here's my prized possession, my KTM Super Enduro, all loaded up and ready for the trip.

Yes - that's a winch on the back, as well as 2.5 gallons of water, 33oz of oil, 33 oz of cooking fuel, and 24oz of white lithium grease for the chain.

Our first stop was the gas station.
The Super Enduro can be a thirsty beast.

And it's particular in terms of what fuel is likes.

This is me.

I work to earn money, so my bikes have a place to live, and so they can have lots of fuel and tires.

We fill both fuel tanks, and are soon carrying 10.5 gallons of fuel giving us a range of nearly 400 miles.

Then we hit the road and head west out towards the lava fields and the empty desert south of Arco.

The clouds indicate that there could be rain.

That could be really bad. The volcanic dirt gets REALLY slippery if it's wet.

Fortunately, it was just a brief shower, and soon things dried out again.

After about 30 minutes we get to the end of the pavement, and the dirt begins...

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Old 06-08-2012, 11:42 AM   #3
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A Quick Trip to Big Sur

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Old 06-08-2012, 11:45 AM   #4
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Ride much Q?

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Old 06-08-2012, 12:24 PM   #5
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Day 1: June 2nd, 2012 - first part

So there I was, sitting on a bike that weighs about 400 pounds, with another 50 pounds of gear, and over 60 pounds of fuel and about another 15 pounds of water, and the road consisted of 6" deep large gravel.

That sucked!
The bike was all over the place on the loose gravel, and the only thing I could do was to go fast and stay loose over the bike, as the fuel and water sloshed from side to side, and let the steering dampener do the work.

The gravel road went on for miles...

But eventually the gravel disappeared, the road become more hard packed.

Now that I was no longer fighting for control of the bike I could look around and see the views.

The road continued....

Finally a sign.

and we ride on...

Later we stop to shed a layer, and I take a few pictures.

Look at the pretty motorcycle.

A panorama shot.

A section of natural Terran road.

And the road goes on.

A volcanic remnant.

A happy KTM.

We've been riding for about two hours now and haven't seen any signs of life.

The views go on forever...

and so does the road...

A couple of Pronghorn watch me ride by.

Eventually we come to some kind of structure.

I guess it's some kind of water pumping and storage station.

Looks like tanker trucks pull in down here to get water.

Time to take a break.
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Old 06-08-2012, 01:27 PM   #6
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Day 1: June 2nd - Second part

So after a break, and a drink of water, we get rolling again.

We come to this huge hole in the ground.

This is called Bear Trap Cave near Minedoka.

It's part of a lava tube system, and supposedly is over 15 miles long. However, it is apparently blocked by a cave in near the entrance. It's still pretty cool to see though.

OK. Let's keep riding.

This is KTM country!
Yee Haw!

We cross under some power lines that head off into the distance, seemingly forever.

The road goes on...

In the town of Minidoka, I cross the railroad tracks and see this huge old water tank.

Back when steam powered locomotives used these lines, they would have to refill their boilers every 20 miles or so. They would get their water from tanks like these.

I learned an interesting bit of trivia regarding these...
Do you know the expression "Jerkwater Town"?
The Etymology is a small town with minimal facilities or conveniences.
The expression comes from these water tanks. Since steam engines needed to pickup more water every 20-30 miles, these tanks were built. The locomotive would pull up under the filling tube and the engineer would "jerk" the filling tube to begin the flow of water. Small towns grew up around these filling stations. Hence, Jerk Water Town. Pretty cool huh?

Anyway, we need to get moving again.
We continue past the railroad yards.

And follow this irrigation canal for miles.

Eventually we get near I-84 and we stop to get more fuel.


Enough said.

It's lunch time.
The burger was really good.

After feeding, we head south again towards Mt. Independence and the town of Almo. I was here about a month ago with Dr. Rock. It's a neat area.

Through the irrigated farm lands.

Up over Conner Ridge.

And into the Almo Valley beyond.

It's nice back here.

It turns out were on the old California Trail of 1849.

That's quite the valley, and full of history.

These '49ers weren't riding KTM's when they crossed this valley.

More History...

These are replicas of the wagons used.

Imagine crossing the country in these...

Adventure Riding then... with all their hydration and panniers.

Adventure Riding now...

Times have definitely changed....


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Old 06-08-2012, 01:53 PM   #7
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Laugh Questor rides again!!!

No, I don't know where that road goes, let's find out!
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Old 06-08-2012, 03:12 PM   #8
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Day 1: June 2, 2012 - Third Part

We leave the carriages, and continue on our way.

Out here you can go as fast as you want.

But when you see cows, you gotta slow down.
Cows are big and unpredictable and cost a lot if you hit one.

I see this...

The classic standoff. 100+ HP KTM vs 1 cow-power.

With the bovine hazard negotiated, it's back to cruising.

Two perfectly shaped mounds.

(I've been alone too much...)

Keep riding.

We enter Utah.
(It's real easy to get a firearm permit here...)

We gain some elevation and head a bit west into the next valley towards Grouse Creek UT.

Looking back into the valley we just came down.

and into the valley we are headed into next.

Ahhh.. this is nice.

As the road continues, we begin to loose elevation.

Finally we hit the booming Metropolis of Grouse Creek.

We stop and check out this old brick building.
Was it a school at one time?

If we needed gas we would be out of luck.

We've done about 100 miles since our last fueling. It's a good thing we carry lots of extra fuel.

We continue on...

Another old abandoned building.

It's about 2:00pm and it's getting really hot.

Mostly sage brush out here...

This road goes on forever...

It's getting really hot now. It's like an oven.
It's gotta be over 100 degrees now. I stop briefly to get a picture, and the KTM's fan instantly comes on.

We gotta keep moving to keep air moving through the bikes radiator.
These 950's get really hot, really quickly.

So long as your moving....

everything is OK....

So we keep moving...

Is that a sandstorm out there?

Finally a sign.

Looks like we are on track to get to the old Rail Road grade.

This is getting really remote.

I haven't seen another person since lunch some four hours ago.

Have I said I love my bike?

Because look at the places we go together!

A little bit further...

and we finally get the the beginning of the old Lucin Railroad grade.

The historical signs.

We've got over 90 miles of this ahead...

More to come.
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Old 06-08-2012, 04:01 PM   #9
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It's been a while since we've seen a Questor pictorial report! Looks like a great ride in big sky country! Thanks for sharing your ride and fantastic pics
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Old 06-08-2012, 04:09 PM   #10
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2003 Gas Gas EC250 | 2004 KTM 950 Adventure
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Old 06-08-2012, 04:17 PM   #11
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It is a REMOTE area
Day Trippin'- Endless Utah
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Old 06-08-2012, 04:28 PM   #12
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I'm envious of the emptimus
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Old 06-08-2012, 04:45 PM   #13
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Flat out! No speed limits! More please!
"For me there is only the traveling on paths that have heart"
~Don Juan
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Old 06-09-2012, 10:25 AM   #14
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Day 1: June 2nd 2012 - Fourth Part

Ok. We were at the start of the Railroad grade.
Let's go.

We come to our first stop.

This area was a town?

As the grade continued, occasionally the Railroad would have to go over obstacles, so the would build wooden trestles like this.

Pretty amazing.

The grade goes on...

Imagine shoveling and digging out here to make this?

With large "Dust Devils" in the distance?

Building structures such as this?

Going and going...


Our next "town".

We continue on...

Next stop, Walden Siding.


Next stop, "Watercress".

Another metropolis...

The railroad grade goes on...

By now the day is at maximum heat. I can see and smell the vapors coming out of the vuel vent line as the fuel boils in the fuel tank. The heat of the day, the intense sunshine, combined with the heat of the 950cc V-Twin motor is causing the fuel to vaporize in the fuel lines. Each time I let off the throttle, I start to get stuttering and hesitation. So each time I stop to get these pictures of the signs, the bike threatens to stall. That would be BAD.

So I turn off the motor here at Terrace and take a break, and hope the motor will start again.

The cemetery at Terrace.

Lots of people died out here due to the extremely harsh conditions, and were buried in shallow graves.

Some were only children.

With my head full of complex thoughts about life and history, I go back to the KTM, hit the starter, and thankfully, it fires right up.

We ride on.

Old Terrace. I didn't get off the bike to take this picture. I was afraid it would stall.

We continue down the grade.

I was stunned by the isolation and the harsh conditions all around me.

Another dust storm in the distance?

It's getting late, probably around 6:00pm. The sun is setting and the shadows are getting longer.

Another extinct town.

This seems to go on forever...

Mountains in the distance.

Evening in the desert.

Another historical site.

Were getting closer to the northern shore of the Salt Lake.

This section of the railroad grade is closed. I guess at it traverses the hillside it's unstable.
We are forced to take an alternate route.

It's been a long day. I'm getting tired.

This is not the place to get careless and make a mistake.
Wadding up here would have consequences, especially since I am alone.

Nice shadows and contrast in this picture.

We come to another, much larger cemetery outside what used to be the town of Kelton.

I shut off the bike and take a few minutes to explore.

Many shallow graves...

Many had caved in once the coffin deteriorated with age.

In the distance was the Railroad bed... That cause of all these people being out here in the first place.

It's getting really late, it has been a 10 hour day of riding and my thoughts were becoming dark and morose.

We need to find a place to camp for the night.
I put my gear back on, start the bike, and we continue on...

This sign is so old I couldn't even read it.

We continue...

A few miles later, I find a semi protected campsite behind a small butte.
It's time to stop and set up camp.

The ground consists of baked saline clay.

It's like chalk.

Camp for the night.

Around 9:30pm the sun sets behind the hills.

and the moon comes up on the eastern horizon.

This is my view as I drift off to sleep.
There were no sounds but the wind.
I was too tired to cook dinner.

Stats for the day:
Moving Average 38.1 Max speed 71 MPH
Moving Time 7:57 Stopped 3:18 Total 11:16
Total miles ridden 302.8

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Old 06-09-2012, 11:05 AM   #15
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Thanks for the ride.
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