|07-24-2012, 12:28 PM||#31|
Joined: May 2008
Location: Huntsville, AL
I'm enjoying following along. I completely understand the issues of riding in the heat, I live in the Southeast where it's hot much of the year. I highly recommend buying a couple of cooling vests. They do help a lot. If you pass by a Cycle Gear, they sell them for $35.
|07-24-2012, 09:27 PM||#32|
Joined: Jun 2009
Location: Cambridge, MA
Day 6 - Holton, KS to Colby, KS
Yesterday involved entirely too much hair-dryer action. Today we would get up even earlier to avoid it. So, we got up at 4:45 which is actually 3:45 in our home time-zone, which we left less than a week ago. As I write this it’s 6:20 PM and Dachary and I just forced ourselves up from a nap, because sleep is an evil thing that must be avoided at all costs…. or something. I’m not sure. I think I hear its siren call still.
Day 5 - Chapter The Second
After we posted the Day 5 report we went out and finished Day 5, which involved the 5,000km service on the bike. Oil looked good, hardly any schwarf in it (yay) transmission oil looked good, and had… less schwarf than the last time (almost yay). It had started out as a Pepto-Bismol pink and had ended up a dirty sock pink. I demanded that the final drive fluid be changed because after checking it’s level earlier I knew that it no longer resembled Pepto-Bismol in any way, shape, or form. It was just disgusting and nasty and filled with schwarf, although, in its defense it was less than last time.
Dachary and Ben got things started, Dido guarded the tools, and somehow I ended up covered in fluids and grime. I always seem to be the one who ends up covered in fluids even though Dachary is the gear-head.
… There’s always oil in the air-box. It seems to just be what Ural’s do. Or, at least what our Ural does.
This, of course took way too long. It was 103° when we started with a mild-hair-dryer of a breeze. It was fully dark by the time we finished. Fortunately there was an auto parts store still open at whatever late hour it was, and I carried the container over to them for disposal of its fluids. The container itself magically disappeared sometime thereafter. It’s my story and I’m sticking with it.
Day 6: for real this time.
Like yesterday, I walked the beasts while Dachary addressed the assorted little bags and things we’d left scattered about the room. From the hill of desiccated grass behind the hotel (all the grass is desiccated out here) I could see the nearby bank sign reading, “5:15 AM” and then “88° F”. The air felt slightly muggy.
The dogs climbed into the sidecar while we finished packing it, and after a quick stop at the gas station we were on the road again. We’d decided to try and take back roads today, rather than the interstate and a couple hundred yards after the gas station she said “I was looking for 24 but I don’t see it. Let’s take this left. (onto 16).” It was going west. Who was I to argue.
With the sun just peaking past the horizon we whooped as we crested the rolling hills. The air felt cool… er than yesterday, and the sun wasn’t trying to blind us with her bazillion watt bulbs yet. After a certain crossroads Dachary felt the GPS was being led towards it’s own siren call of Interstateness, and called a halt. A map needed to be consulted. The GPS was instructed to stick-it, and we turned the other way.
In Randolph, KS we found a gas station, come convenience store, come hardware store, come local farmer’s hang-out, with some shade, and a bench. at 7:30 in the morning shade was already a significant criteria. We talked to some interesting folks, ate some bleh pre-made food followed up with two delicious home-made danish-like things and hit the road after first forgetting to check the oil level.
Dachary’s Note: When I was coming out of the gas station after a quick bathroom break, one of the guys at the table asked me: “Why are you guys wearing those jackets on a day like today?” I explained that it’s to keep our skin on in case the bikes go down. “But they’re not supposed to go down!” The only thing I could think of to answer was that we do a lot of off-road riding, and they have a mind of their own sometimes. Later I thought of a bunch of other things I could have said. “Other cars aren’t supposed to cut you off or hit you, either.” Or the one that Kay came up with: “Would you wear a hard hat to a construction site? But why - they’re not supposed to drop things on your head?”
Anywho - one guy asked if they weren’t hot and I answered that they had good ventilation, and when we saw the only other motorcyclists we saw ALL DAY LONG later in the afternoon and they were only wearing a t-shirt, we were both like “I wouldn’t want to be them!” We feel like the gear keeps the sun off our skin and helps us stay a little cooler in this extreme heat… there are so many misconceptions about wearing good gear and I wish we could somehow explain all of this to people who just don’t get it. End Dachary’s Note
I was having trouble staying awake again, even though we were on a more interesting back road. The heat? The fact I’d just eaten? I dunno. At the next gas stop Dachary made sure I drank some Mountain Dew. Then we took off after first forgetting to check the oil level…. again.
Dachary remembered less than a mile down the road, and we decided to pull into an ex-gas station that was in the midst of being transformed into a mexican restaurant, across the street from another mexican restaurant in a town with probably less than 1,000 people. I don’t foresee a great future. I parked in the shade of the ex-gas pump overhang thing, and quickly checked the levels, trying to get the dogs back on the road ASAP because the sun had caught up with us, and everyone was hot. The level was perfect. I don’t know how we managed to guess it so well.
Ride, gas, ride, gas, ride, gas, ride… Dachary needed a pee break. We pulled into a Casey’s General Store, which is quickly becoming our favorite gas / convenience store chain in the midwest. This is due to the fact that they’ve got clean non-stinky bathrooms, tasty cookies when we want them, and in this case A SHADE TREE!! We were thrilled. What was supposed to be a quick pee break turned into a break where the dogs got out, we got fresh cold water, and shared a diet coke. All because of a shade tree.
While there a couple guys came by and checked out the Ural. One of them owned a BMW R1100, talked slowly, and had zero emotional response. I am convinced he was a robot. They have stuck him in this small town because people expect robots in big cities but no-one expects a robot in the middle of nowhere Kansas.
At some point in the day Dachary spotted a sign as we entered some town proclaiming it to be the home of The Worlds Largest Ball of Twine. Dachary laughed. As soon as she told me what she was laughing about I demanded we find it and stop. I explained that I’d been wanting to see this for years. It is one of the great American… insanities. Such a ridiculous thing to create.
I was thrilled. I was so glad we got to see it, but it was so hot we had to pull in, set up the camera, run up, pose, repeat, get and hop back on the bikes as fast as we could to get airflow back on the dogs. I barely had a moment to touch its twiney goodness and walk quickly around it… so awesome.
There’s hardly anything growing out here.
Ride gas, … ri…I’ve got too many ride gasses in here… maybe. There was a lot of riding and a lot of gassing up. Eventually we found ourselves behind a Prius, surrounded by corn, and moving nowhere thanks to a scary-thin woman with a cigarette and a very large stop sign on a pole.
We waited. My bladder pulsed. We waited. I eyed the telephone pole. We waited. I eyed it harder. I tried to focus on keeping myself between the sun and Ben. My bladder pulsed. I would have totally gone and peed on that telephone pole with the lady standing right there but I was convinced that the moment I got off the Ural Murphy’s Law would kick in and I’d be stuck peeing on a telephone pole for the next two minutes (it was a lot of pee) while the line of unhappy drivers behind us got even more unhappy. I should have taken a picture. I would have taken a picture, but I was all focused on the telephone pole, the sign, and keeping shade on the dog.
After fifteen minutes a Pilot Car showed up, the sign woman switched with another woman, and we were off, at a very sedate pace, past a road crew laying a very nice looking bit of new asphalt. They were probably insane for laying asphalt in that heat, but they were still doing a good job.
Six miles later we reached Colby, my bladder still pulsing, and went with yesterday’s plan. Get a hotel before everyone fell over dead from the heat. Hotel acquired, we went to the room, to find the cleaners hadn’t finished our room yet. They’d open the doors of all the rooms along this stretch of the wall for some reason. Dachary was all “Go tell the manager and get a different room.” which I was about to do until the cleaners popped out of the next two rooms and in that very happy to please you head-bobbing Indian way. “10 minutes” the man said, with a thickly accented grin. “ok” I said, only to look over and see Dachary glaring at me.
I took the dogs for a quick walk while we waited, and Dachary started grabbing stuff off of the bikes and piling it in front of the room. She didn’t talk to me for the next five minutes, which I think was one-part glare residue, and one part sheer exhaustion. Soon though, we were in air-conditioned goodness, and my bladder was finally allowed its release.
When the topic of food came up, as it is wont to do after hundreds of miles spent in 3 digit temperatures, Dachary practically cried when I listed off the places I had seen within walking distance of the hotel: Subway, Arby’s… I would have continued the list of similar venues but for the cry of “No more sandwiches!!!” She had previously made it clear she wanted a “large chunk of meat”. I would have been happy to oblige her, but had no clue what was available in town. Fortunately, the Quality Inn had provided a large folder listing things like that, including a listing for an “Authentic” Mexican restaurant that lived within this very hotel, and displayed pictures of things you would never find in Mexico, one of which was “Steak A La Mexicana”. She ignored the obvious and focused on the “large chunk of meat” that it promised.
I was sent to retrieve meat.
Meat was retrieved, along with other protein sources and general insults to the fine cuisine found on roadsides throughout Mexico. The crap they serve in restaurants in Mexico isn’t insulting, but it isn’t particularly good either…
When I returned, Dachary was in the shower, and upon emerging mentioned that she has discovered a heat rash on her lower right leg. This compliments the sun burn on my neck and ears quite well. The last few days I’ve been somewhat religious about wearing my Buff and tucking it up under my helmet to keep the sun off of my neck.
After our 3:30 lunch / dinner …thing I declared that a nap was required. Dachary disagreed: responsibilities, posts to write, Ural dealers to contact, headsets to acquire (I’ll get to that). Damn these nap thwarting things! I looked up. I called.
Dachary had written both posts yesterday because it took almost that long for me to select, edit, and upload the images. She felt I’d gotten the easy job. Today I would write and she would do all the imagey goodness. I’m almost done with this and they’re still uploading. ;)
However, as she climbed onto the bed beside me to start the image work, while I started the writing the horizontality of the bed captured her. She was convinced. A nap would be had!
The alarm was set. The dogs were loaded onto the bed. The sleep was upon us. Then the Ural dealer returned my call. Argh! I never really made it back to sleep before the alarm went off.
As for the headset. Dachary’s Uncle does seem to have fixed its dying problem, but Dachary and I are both getting frustrated at the fact that I can only hear 80% of her words when at speed. It doesn’t sound terrible, but you try understanding a conversation when 20% of every sentence is missing. It gets very annoying very fast. Some sentences are never fully comprehended.
I know it’s gotten worse since the trip. I think the degradation has coincided with Dachary getting the upgraded headset. We used to always have some trouble at speed, but these days she claims to be able to hear me perfectly. Tomorrow we shall switch helmets to confirm that it’s not just old age catching up with me. For reasons we don’t understand we both wear the same size helmet, gloves, and shoes. It has its advantages. Assuming she has as hard of a time hearing me tomorrow morning as I do hearing her normally, a new headset shall be in the purchasing, if for no other reason than to stop filling her rides with frustration. I’m not quite as frustrated, but that’s because what I’m trying to communicate is always understood. Unfair, but true.
Dachary’s Note: When we went to walk the dogs before our nap, it was friggin’ hot outside. Kay ranted about it feeling like we were walking into a furnace, and he kept going on about the insanity of the heat, and how he didn’t understand how anyone could grow anything out here and how he kept expecting to see cactus farms… I kinda agree because the heat is extreme, but I think I’m getting used to it. Today didn’t seem as bad as yesterday to me (although I was still feeling like falling asleep by the time we got to the hotel at the end of our day… the heat just takes it out of you.)
Dachary’s Note:When we disconnected the airbox last night to check/change the oil filter, we discovered that the air hoses from the airbox to the carb weren’t fully seated. At the bottom of the hose, they’d slipped off the carb, leaving a tiny gap - even though the clamps were still intact and from the top it looked like they were fully sealed. We fixed this when we reassembled the airbox/carb, hoping it would boost our performance today. (We also found quite a bit of oil in the airbox while we were in there, but I have no idea where it came from because our levels have been good.)
Today, I wanted to drive the Ural even though it was Kay’s turn to see if there was a boost in its performance compared to yesterday. It might have been ever-so-slightly better… I managed to pull 65MPH again a few times - but it was still being inconsistent. I just crunched the numbers on mileage for the past few days - I’ve recorded every tank of fuel since we got the Ural - and yesterday all of our mileage was below 20 MPG. (For comparison, though, we’ve only been getting around 21 MPG on the trip before this… yesterday was 18.5 to 19.5 MPG so it was only a slight fuel economy loss. Today we were back up to 21 for one tank, then down to under 20 again for the next two tanks (19.8 and 17.46, which is officially our worst mileage ever) and then up to 25.86 MPG… but all of this was at roughly the same speed range and conditions. The Ural definitely has me scratching my head.
On a related note, when we disassembled the petcock we found a disturbing pile of metal shavings around the bottom of the straws. The filters on the straws seem to be doing their thing and keeping the debris out of the fuel line. For the non-Uraling readers, this is not unexpected.
|07-24-2012, 09:32 PM||#33|
Joined: Jun 2009
Location: Cambridge, MA
We've actually owned a couple cooling vests. The last time we tried them they did us no good at all, but I think that's because it was so humid out that it couldn't evaporate, so it just prevented air from getting to our skin. The vest got all hot and moist and "nasty". Dachary felt as if she was "...going to start loosing skin from swamp rot". Dachary has since thrown hers out. We could have brought some but we've got so much crap I'm not sure where we would have put them.
I'm not sure what we should get rid of, but something's got to go before the next trip. I know some people love those vests. I believe in the possibility of them, but I've not seen them work personally. As noted though, that's mostly our fault.
|07-24-2012, 10:07 PM||#35|
Joined: Feb 2007
Location: Corvallis, OR
Hang in there folks... it's 65 degrees and raining lightly here in Colorado. Forecasted highs in Grand Lake through the weekend are in the mid-seventies
You're almost there!
There is no problem so big you can't make it worse
|07-25-2012, 09:40 AM||#36|
Joined: May 2010
Quick update: we made it to Colorado! Yay! The Ural is still doing its normal quirky performance thing, but today for the first time Kay got to see firsthand (as he was driving) the "inconsistencies" I've been referencing. We've been maxed out today at around 58-60 MPH, which is worse than usual, when all of a sudden on an uphill stretch the Ural started speeding up and actually got up to about 70 MPH for about half a mile! But then it went back to normal, with a top speed of around 60 - but now that Kay has experienced it firsthand, too, he agrees that something is going on with the bike. If only we could figure out what!
|07-25-2012, 10:01 PM||#37|
Joined: Jun 2009
Location: Cambridge, MA
Day 7 - Colby, KS to Denver, CO
The day started with a bit of extra sleep and some decent complimentary hotel breakfast of eggs, sausage, biscuits, and gravy. When I went out to walk the dogs it was eighty-something, but there was a cool moisture in the air. It was nice, almost refreshing.
We got on the road at 8:30, somewhat later than usual, but we needed the sleep, and the food. It was 11:30 at our second gas stop, but it had a Wendy’s and I invoked the rule about having to stop and eat if it was even remotely close to meal-time. Unlike Latin America it wasn’t an issue of there not being food at meal-time, it was an issue of eating gas-station food at meal time if we skipped this.
I went in to order for us, and just as I was approaching the counter everything seemed to break down. A senior citizen at the drive through didn’t get his dollar off and demanded it, which involved taking over the one terminal, canceling out a past order, crediting it, creating a new one, telling the kitchen not to make one. Then a man came back with an order that was wrong, and when asked which sandwich was wrong didn’t know, so the manager proceeded to open one of the sandwiches, stick her finger in it to peel it open and see, decide it was the one that was right, grab the other one, throw it out, tell the kitchen to make a new one of the right thing, bring that back, drop it off start to turn around only to hear the man say “I don’t want that one.”, pointing to the one she’d peeled open “It’s had your fingers all over it.” As she wasn’t a cook, and had been handling money, I can’t really blame the guy.
While these things were all going awry Dachary was outside with the dogs wondering what had happened. She contemplated the possibility that the restaurant had been held hostage, until a woman walked out. She also considered that I may have keeled over with a heart attack. But, eventually I returned with food in hand.
On the road again we saw the most literal implementation of “scattered showers” you could imagine. There were three clouds with maybe one acre areas of rain falling down, but the really cool part was that the rain fell straight down about a thousand feet (I’m guessing here. It’s so hard to judge scale with clouds) and then turned at an abrupt 45° angle. We’ve got some pictures of that effect, but they really don’t do it justice.
This one is just some of the other showers.
At some point along the way the Ural decided that 55 was just too fast. 50 was the speed it would go, as we past a constant stream of “Speed Limit 75” signs. “Ahh, you say. Your carbs are running too rich for 4,000 feet.” But no, we’ve got the right jets in. And, after an hour of fifty, I magically got 65… for about 3 minutes. Then back to 50. Everything was passing me.
Eventually we crossed into Colorado, and it kind-of rocked, because the whole way we’ve been telling people that we’re headed to “Colorado” and now, here we are.
Dachary was thrilled when we finally saw the Rockies. But this was almost immediately after I fell asleep for a moment while riding so I wasn’t able to fully share in the moment and totally forgot to take a picture. The Ural seemed to get excited about the Rockies too and decided to give us 65, and more, until we exited the freeway and came up to the land of stop lights.
A few stoplights in and Dachary’s noticed a Starbucks next to a gas station. She was craving, and I wasn’t complaining. We stopped, and took the opportunity to call Unique Rides (the Ural dealer here in CO). Randy wasn’t able to get us in to look at the bike (booked solid) but took a good amount of time to go over a long mental checklist of the things it could be and the things to check. Sadly, we’d checked them all. He also suggested that the stock jets were what was appropriate for this altitude, but suggested that maybe the original dealer had drilled the stock jets out to make it run better at sea-level.
The one thing Randy suggested that we hadn’t tried yet was to run it in prime for at least a minute when it was showing poor performance. Dachary had tried that before, but hadn’t left it in that position long enough. He suggested that it would take about a minute before you would start to notice an effect, if any.
Ural of New England didn’t sound like a tweaking kind-of place, but then again, it really didn’t feel like it was running lean back home. So, we called up Dmitry to see if he had any ideas too, and to check on the jets. Turns out they do adjust the jets. The basic tale, as we understand it (not coming from Dmitry) is that dealer’s aren’t allowed to change the jets from what it was rated for with whoever tests emissions for a vehicle when it comes onto the market. They can tweak the jet itself, but not replace it, a loophole that works well for people at different altitudes than the thing was set up for at the factory. Plus, we think IMZ-Ural intentionally runs them lean to make them test better on emissions.
Anyway, Dmitry had a couple good ideas too. He suggested that the gas cap might be sealing incorrectly and creating something of a vacuum which results in gas starvation. He thought there also might be an issue with some piece of grit in the carb, but he seemed less confident in that suggestion. He agreed that the gas mileage we’ve been getting was poor and thinks that it might be a symptom of whatever’s going on. His actionable suggestions were to unscrew the gas-cap enough to break the seal when we get below half a tank and see if it has an effect. Also, to pull over when it’s running poorly again and listen to the idle. We should report back if it is rough or not. I’m pretty sure it’s not since we have pulled over for gas when it was running badly and I don’t remember any rough idling, but I wasn’t specifically listening for it either.
He suggested that if the gas cap was the issue we’d likely hear a whooshing intake of air when we opened the cap. We hadn’t been hearing that either, but we also wear ear-plugs under our helmet and hadn’t specifically been listening for it. Sadly, at the next fill-up I didn’t think to take off the helmet and ear-plugs first, so I can’t say if it’s sucking in air upon opening or not, but it was also running better at that point too so… We’ll have to wait and see what tomorrow brings.
Major props to both of these guys for taking the time to brainstorm the problem with us.
As for Denver… I really don’t like it, or Aurora. The place has no personality. It feels like a bunch of streets with a haphazard assortment random crap on them. We made our way to Performance Cycle of Denver, who I’d called yesterday to see if they had a Cardo Scala Rider G9.
Just to confirm that it wasn’t early-onset-oldness we’d switched helmets when we started out in the morning. I was quite relieved / satisfied to hear a somewhat constast stream of “What?” “Yeah, I didn’t get that.” “Huh?” “Say that again?” and “Yeah, I can’t understand you.” coming from Dachary. At the same time, it kinda sucked. We switched back at the next stop. Here cheek pads are a bit wider after 30,000+ miles in that helmet and the little bit of extra room was kind-of wigging me out. Plus, she wanted her good headset back. ;)
Performance cycle is huge, and has almost nothing we want. It was kind-of weird to walk into a motorcycle store and really not care about anything they had. When we walked into Revzilla’s showroom I was all “ooh” and “ahh” and “that’s nice.” and “I wouldn’t mind having that.” Not that I needed any of it, but still.
One quick purchase later and we were back on the bikes and heading to the hotel in the heart of Denver. Why, you ask, are we staying at a hotel in downtown Denver? Why would we even go to downtown Denver? Because my little brother lives just down the road and I haven’t seen him in about 15 years. So, we’re going to get together with him and his wife (who I only just found out about).
The hotel is the worst of the trip, but the dinner with my brother was great. It was really good to reconnect with him.
I’d insert a picture here but there were only three taken after dinner, each is screwed up in one way or another and we were interrupted from taking more by a pan-handler who didn’t understand the concept of no and decided to tell us a story about a monkey (with it’s balls in the sand) a lion who kicked its ass, an elephant who kicked it’s ass, and some complicated series of events involving the monkey pulling its balls from the sand, fighting the half-dead lion who picked a fight with it, and… things I didn’t really understand.
This was probably the fifth person begging money in the past seven minutes and maybe the tenth of the night. There was, of course another one, on the way back to the hotel, but it was only a half-assed walk-by begging from a guy who looked like he really didn’t need to be bumming money off of people. My first thought was that we must be the only white people around, but that thought was immediately followed by the fact that we were in denver, and while there were a lot of non-white folk there were at least as many white folk running around. A quick glance down the street confirmed this.
Anyway it was good to see my brother, but it’s late now, and we’re damn tired, and seriously lacking in the sleep department. Goodnight Folks.
The view from our hotel room:
The view from our hotel room when you look down:
Denver at night:
|07-26-2012, 04:03 PM||#38|
no, no I guess not
Joined: Oct 2008
Location: Salem OR
Thanks for the new report. I really enjoyed reading your South American ride, your posting style really captures a lot of the feelings, both up and down that goes with a long ride. Plus taking the pups . Looking forward to more.
My Alaskan ride
|07-28-2012, 01:12 PM||#39|
Joined: Jun 2009
Location: Cambridge, MA
Just a note that we're not dead yet. We've been hanging withe the F650.com folks w/ essentially no net. Plenty of pics to upload when we have some. Colorado is beautiful.
|07-30-2012, 10:07 PM||#40|
Joined: May 2010
Day 8 - Denver, Colorado to Lake Granby, Colorado
It was a nice day, and we were excited to finally get to our destination: the F650.com 2012 High Country Summit at Lake Granby, Colorado. At the last minute, we’d remembered that two of the people we met on our Americas trip, Eric and Sabrina, lived somewhere in Colorado. A little poking on the internet led us to Eric’s website, so Kay emailed and texted him… and Lo! and Behold! They lived in Denver! Woot! So they were able to meet up for last-minute breakfast, which was awesome. We caught up a bit on how our respective trips had gone, talked travel and motorcycling, and had an all around good time catching up with them. It was so fortuitous that we were able to meet up with them!
After breakfast, we headed up to Unique Rides in Fort Collins to pick up some new head gaskets for the Ural. We wanted to check the valves, but weren’t able to get the cylinder heads open without sticking something in there to pry them off… and we were afraid of screwing up the gaskets so we gave up until we could find replacement gaskets. It also gave us a chance to meet Randy, who had been so helpful in trying to troubleshoot our performance problems over the phone, and potentially talk a little shop. Unfortunately, somewhere in there I was trying to meet up with one of the Ural owners from Denver and we completely missed the connection. That was a bummer.
On the way up to Unique Rides, I wanted to try what Dmitry had suggested about the vented gas cap potentially being a problem, so I tossed my tank bag into the nose of the sidecar with the dogs. And Lo! and Behold! The Ural ran like a dream all the way from downtown Denver up to Fort Collins! It seemed like our problem might actually be the vented gas cap. No missing power suddenly appearing and just as suddenly disappearing - she just ran like a top. It was fantastic. If the Ural always ran like that, it would be a joy to ride.
Got up to Unique Rides and chatted with Randy for a bit. When we shared the idea of the vented gas cap, and our experience driving up with it slightly open, he said he should have thought of that. He’s had scooters in his shop that have had problems with the vented gas caps, and as soon as the gas caps were replaced, problem solved! It was looking more and more like this would be a simple fix and we were thrilled.
Gassed up and got back on the road a little after noon, and took the advice of another Colorado Ural owner about heading up to Estes Park and across Trail Ridge Road. The ride up to Estes Park was really pretty. We were finally getting into the impressive mountains that had been lurking just outside the city, and the pace was nice and easy - just like I like it. It was a bit of work manhandling the Ural through the twisty bits, and I slowed way down to the lower posted speed limit for the narrow, tight turns (unlike when I’m on the F650, when I take turns with confidence and may… occasionally… find a slight discrepancy between my speedo and the posted speed limit. Ahem.) The Ural requires a lot more body english, but I was still in a relatively contained area so the thought of running into a canyon wall or running off a slight embankment didn’t really bother me.
Estes Park is a big tourist town. We’re not big on touristy places, but they do have a lot of amenities. We gassed up there, because the next stretch was going to be through Rocky Mountain National Park with no gas. With the Ural’s gas mileage being so poor, we weren’t sure we’d make it to the next gas unless we topped up - opportunistic gas stops are the order of the day. While we were in town, we grabbed some lunch at KFC, including some chicken fingers for the dogs (which they LOVED, FYI) and had a lot of UDF because all of the tourists were just tickled pink by our dog-mobile. It took a while to get going again.
When we did, though, every moment of this trip was worth it. Because Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park is. Fucking. Gorgeous.
We lost count of the dramatic views and the beautiful mountain vistas. It was simply gorgeous. Words can’t do it justice, so here are some pictures:
If you’ve never been, do it. You won’t regret it.
The highest point on the road is around 12,200 feet. We were still running our regular jets on the Ural, which we’ve discovered have been… modified - so our 122 is probably more like a 125 or 130, and we were running a 42 in the pilot. By the time we got up to 12,200, I could feel it in the Ural. (I could feel it in Estes Park, really… it was starting to be a bit unhappy when idling at that altitude.)
When we reached what I am convinced is the highest stoplight in the world, we had to stop:
And the Ural really didn’t want to get started again. I turned it off rather than leaving it idling, and when I started it up and gave it some throttle to go, it sputtered and died. I started it again, gave it a lot more gas and really wound it up before I let off the clutch, and we slowly, painfully started pulling forward. After that initial inertia was overcome and we started pulling up the incline again, we had enough power to get over the top, but this was the only time the Ural had come close to showing real displeasure at the altitude. Both Kay and I were impressed at how well the Ural handled it in spite of not changing out the jets.
After a couple of absolutely beautiful hours, we made it to Grand Lake, and then Lake Granby! And there was our destination for this trip - Cutthroat Bay Campground for the High Country Summit. Several of the crew were already there, having been out playing in the mountains ahead of time. We found out later that if one of the guys hadn’t showed up early in the day (the campground wasn’t officially ours until 2PM) that we would have been locked out, in spite of having reservations and everything. Luckily, this rather brilliant individual finagled a way for us to get inside, so we were able to drive right in, find a spot and set up camp.
Had a pleasant evening meeting new friends, revisiting guys we’d met last year at the BMW MOA Rally, and finally putting faces to names for some of the folks on the forum. It was really good to be there with everyone and hang out with the guys. This is a great crew. We had an excellent chicken dinner that a couple of the guys went and picked up and brought back to the campground, and then hung out around the campfire, where we received a visit from a local deputy because our flames were too high, to which one of the guys responded: “How else are you supposed to sacrifice the virgins?” or something along those lines. The deputy had a pleasant chat, and we all had a nice visit around the campfire, including a motorcycling rite of passage only extended to a select few. We were honored to be included.
The dogs were torn on this whole group camping thing. After warnings all around “not to pet the dogs - especially the black one” our canines settled into an uneasy truce. Although Ben still got all barky when people got too close. I tried to keep a close eye on him to keep him from getting overly riled up, but one of the guys was a dog person and his own dog had been ill recently, so he patiently fed my skittish dog a steady stream of treats until he was able to come over and pet him without being barked away. But one of the other guys came too close while we were sitting by the campfire and Ben surprised him with a very vigorous bark. We’ve really gotta work with these guys more to get them to be friendlier to strangers if we’re gonna take them on moto trips frequently, because people get a kick out of them and many people want to greet them.
|07-30-2012, 10:10 PM||#41|
Joined: May 2010
Day 9 - Lake Granby, Colorado to Lake Granby, Colorado
Lake Granby by CorporateRunaways, on Flickr
Hooray! We'd arrived at our destination so we didn't have to set an alarm to get up at a certain time! It was worthy of a celebration and sleeping in. Unfortunately, my body has now been programmed to wake up between 5:30 and 6:30AM and sleeping in a tent I'm even more inclined to this timeline, as the sun comes up and it gets light (and I have to put on clothes and shoes and wander off to the pit toilet to pee, instead of having the convenience of a bathroom just a few steps away) so by 6:30AM, I was wide awake. I tried poking my phone, but cell signal in Lake Granby is, unsurprisingly, sparse… so I laid there for a while, and then wandered off to where the early risers were starting to gather.
Morning chat ensued, and eventually the idea of breakfast came up as more people wandered over. Breakfast? On a day with no schedule and nothing on the agenda but to ride around beautiful mountains? Sure! Off to breakfast at the Chuck Wagon with a bunch of the guys, which involved us gearing up and loading the dogs into the Ural and riding our bikes over while the rest of the guys just piled into cars so as to not have to gear up (or because they didn't have bikes because they'd flown in, etc.) Fortunately, they patiently waited for us so they could show us where to go.
Breakfast was tasty, and gave me a chance to chat some more with the guys I was sitting near. Kay had stayed out to make the dogs comfortable in the Ural while the rest of us were seated, so he was on the other end of a table with like 9 or 11 of us and we were each having our own conversations. Amusingly, we each ordered some tasty breakfast meats for the dogs - I ordered a side of bacon, and he ordered a side of sausage. Happy dogs!
After breakfast, we headed back to the campground to see where people were riding. Someone had wisely brought a map which included some dirt roads, which made Kay's eyes light up - he loves riding dirt. I looked a couple of spots and thought we might try Ute Pass south out of Parshall, but first we should stop at the gas station back in Granby and try to pick up our own Colorado map. We did, but discovered that none of the dirt roads we'd seen back in camp were on our newly-acquired map. Yikes! I picked out an alternate paved route for us that would take a nice loop, and we headed off down 40 toward Kremmling. When we got to Parshall, I remembered the name of the road and caught a sign for it, so I quickly told Kay to turn off and we were starting our dirt adventure!
The first several miles of the road weren't dirt at all, and I was starting to get disappointed for Kay that we weren't going to hit dirt. But it was still beautiful. It's hard to go wrong in this part of Colorado. Pick a direction and you'll see something beautiful. It wasn't the same awe-inspiring beauty of the massive high peaks we'd seen yesterday in Rocky Mountain National Park, but it was still beautiful. We were happy.
And then - we hit some dirt! It was flat, hard-packed and so nice we could run along at around 45-50MPH on it, so it barely qualified as dirt… but it was unpaved! There was a bit of loose gravel now and again in some of the turns, but it was easy to avoid on the straight bits and I had absolutely zero stress about it. That's one positive thing about riding Routa 40 in Argentina - the mild stuff really doesn't bother me at all any more. A little slipping around on loose gravel isn't a big deal at all. I enjoyed the ride, and we took in the sights.
The Dirt of the Day by CorporateRunaways, on Flickr
A glimpse of the local wildlife by CorporateRunaways, on Flickr
Pausing for a photo op by CorporateRunaways, on Flickr
Kay commented that he loved this road because it felt like unspoiled land. There were a few houses now and again, and dirt roads branching off in different directions, but for the most part, things seemed untouched. Only toward the end of the road did we start seeing signs of human encroachment… some big industrial development company had been laying natural gas pipelines, had a big holding pool for… something and had some massive plants. And we saw a bunch of signs that said something along the lines of "hunters are no longer welcome." It made me wonder what they were doing that they felt that all of a sudden they had to keep hunters out. It was kinda sad to see the massive industrial complex… but soon enough we left it behind again with only the occasional logging scars to mar the scenery.
Some sort of holding pond at an industrial site in Colorado by CorporateRunaways, on Flickr
At the end of the road, we caught up with 9 and had a pleasant ride up to Kremmling, where we opportunistically gassed up the Ural and grabbed some caffeinated beverages. We've been short on sleep for a while now, since we started getting up before sunrise to make miles before it got too hot, because we're typically up late doing ride reports, uploading photos and taking care of all of the minutiae of life on the road. Last night, we'd been up late chatting with the F650 guys. So the lack of sleep and the early rising was catching up with us, and we were tired. The caffeinated beverages helped, though, so I picked out another loop for us - up to 134 across to Toponas, and then up 131 through Yampa and Oak Creek up to Steamboat Springs, where we could gas up again and pick up lunch.
The wave by CorporateRunaways, on Flickr
The rain falls by CorporateRunaways, on Flickr
Heading out of the gas station in Kremmling, we had stowed our rain gear - I'd insisted that we stop and put it on somewhere on Ute Pass because it looked like rain, but we'd gotten fucking hot and no rain had happened, so we said "screw it" and put the rain gear away. Which, of course, invoked Murphy, because we got rained upon. I didn't care. I'd rather be wet than too hot.
The riding was beautiful. The day was beautiful, in spite of the rain. Temperatures were comfortable and it was a pleasure to be out riding because we wanted to ride, not because we had to make miles to get somewhere. The pace was whatever we wanted it to be. This is the kind of riding we truly love.
The only drama came when we paused for a moment on 134 a few miles out from Toponas. There was a really cool looking rock that we wanted to photograph.
That's an interesting looking rock... by CorporateRunaways, on Flickr
Kay pulled the Ural over on the side of the road, next to an embankment, and I pulled behind him on the F650. I didn't even bother to put my kickstand down because it was supposed to be a quick photo stop, so I'm standing there holding my bike up. Kay takes a photo, and then walks a bit further down the road to get a shot without a telephone pole in the frame. He's walking back toward the Ural and he's almost there when I suddenly see the Ural starting to roll forward and right… right down the embankment! It was probably 20 feet down a very vertical slope, with lots of prickly little bushes and scrub grass and a barbed wire fence at the bottom. And the dogs were still strapped in!
I yelled something over the headset - I can't even remember what - and Kay dashed toward the bike. I remember thinking by the time he reached the bike that the momentum was too great and there was no way his body weight would stop that massive thing from going down the embankment, but Kay had a stroke of brilliance - instead of grabbing the bike and trying to dig in his heels to keep it from going over, he grabbed the handlebars and turned the front wheel back uphill. The bike skidded to a stop a few feet away, on the edge of the embankment at a very unpleasant angle but still upright and thankfully, blessedly stopped. The dogs seemed unaware of their averted brush with disaster.
This all happened in just a few seconds, during which I put the kickstand down on the F650 and had dismounted and was dashing toward the Ural myself. I grabbed the little bar above the fender behind the seat, although I dunno what I thought my body weight was going to do if the thing decided to take a header - and tried to steady it while Kay hopped on and invoked 2WD in the gravel, loose dirt and scrub brush to get the thing back up onto the road. It was our first time using 2WD, but it worked like a charm! (Although it was a little difficult to disengage it when we were done.)
*Kay's Note:* The 2WD did *not* want to engage. You have to get the gears in just the right position to make it slip in, and it was not there. Eventually, I was able to move it enough in 1WD to get it to let me push it in, with some elbow-grease. As for my "brilliance", my first thought was actually more along the lines of "Where's the brake on this side?! I'll stomp on it! Where is it?!?!? Fuck! Turn the Handlebars." There is, of course, no brake on the left side of a motorcycle.
Phew. That little adrenaline blast saw us quite a way down the road. I just kept thinking about what a disaster that could have been - I dunno how we would have gotten the Ural up the embankment again if it had gone down, although it probably would have involved a tow truck or potentially even a wrecker - and no idea what would have happened to the dogs if they went down with it. I think it would have rolled down, gathering speed as it went, and tangled abruptly with the fence when it hit the bottom, which probably would have involved stopping with sudden force… the dogs may have been fine, but they may not have been.
Either way, I was just really, really grateful for Kay's quick reflexes and quicker thinking that saved the day. Otherwise, what had started out as a very pleasant day could have turned ugly very fast. If I'd been the one closest to the Ural, I don't know that I would have had the presence of mind to turn the front tire uphill. I probably would have just grabbed it and tried to stop it with brute force, which wouldn't have worked… so I'm glad it was him.
So public service announcement, Ural owners: if you're ever parked anywhere remotely near a hill, use the parking brake! Even if it seems stable when you walk away from it! Oy.
Eventually, the adrenaline rush faded and I was able to go back to appreciating the scenery, and being thankful that I could share it with someone I love and our dogs. We're really lucky to be able to travel like this, and that near brush with disaster just reminded me of exactly how much so.
The rest of the day passed rather uneventfully, although it was still quite beautiful. We made it to Steamboat Springs and had lunch - an assortment of sliders - on the patio so the dogs could hang out with us instead of waiting in the Ural. Then it was back on the bikes and heading south again back to the campsite. It almost rained on us when we were sitting on the patio at the restaurant - we were watching the sky and refrained from ordering more food or dessert because it was starting to sprinkle - so when we headed out this time, we donned our rain gear again and closed up the sidecar so the dogs wouldn't get wet. Which was definitely called for on this occasion, as we got poured on when we headed south out of Steamboat Springs.
Rain in the distance by CorporateRunaways, on Flickr
For the first time I can remember, my helmet visor got really obscured; I kept swiping fingers across it to try to clear some of the water but it didn't seem to help. At one point my visibility was complete and utter crap, and I could barely see the road and the turns. I tried flipping up my visor but the rain stung on my face and made me close my eyes, which didn't help… so it was back to partially-obscured visor. I just kept following Kay's taillight and was riding more by feel than by sight, but eventually we made it into a heavier rain that for some reason helped to clear my visor, a bit, and I could see again.
*Kay's Note:* For reasons I can't explain, I was having no visibility problems. There was plenty of rain on my visor, but I was still seeing fine. Not sure what the difference was.
We rode in the rain for probably 20 minutes or so, but then came out of it and managed to skirt cells all the way home. We saw rain all around us - at one point there was rain in front and rain off to the left and there was a little spot of light in between them where there wasn't any rain, shining down on the mountains like a spotlight. It was truly spectacular. As we were nearing Kremmling again, we got to watch an awe-inspiring electrical storm off to the right that was slowly moving across our path. I've never seen anything quite so impressive as this electrical storm that was moving across the mountains, and I grew up in the midwest - I've seen plenty of good storms. There was frequent cloud-to-ground lightning, and the clouds were dark, ominous masses, but the light was absolutely amazing and the color was just fabulous. We kinda wanted to stop and set up with the good camera so we could watch it roll in, but we were both tired and just wanted to get back to camp… and tiredness won out. But it's right up there with the storm we encountered in Bolivia on our way to La Paz. Maybe it's something about the altitude that makes these storms so spectacular? I dunno, but I'd love to see it again.
Luckily, our path continued to go right between the cells. We unloaded the dogs and hustled them into the tent and started charging our headsets right as the rain struck camp. And it rained. And rained some more. And kept right on raining. We made it over to the shelter where the rest of the crew was trickling in after their respective rides and dinners, and traded stories and BSed. A couple more guys showed up in the midst of the rain - I felt bad for them until I found out they'd gotten a hotel in town. With a shower. And a place to hang up their wet stuff. Bastards.
Had another enjoyable evening hanging out with the crew, although the rain prevented us from seeking dinner, and the tiredness sent us to bed before 10PM. I got up at some point to make a visit to the pit toilet in what felt like the middle of the night, and some of the guys were still going strong. I'm sorry I missed out on the time to hang, but we were exhausted. It was time to pass out.
|07-30-2012, 10:20 PM||#42|
Joined: Jun 2009
Location: Cambridge, MA
Day 10 - Lake Granby, CO to Wheatland, WY
The original plan was to leave Lake Granby, and the rest of the F650.com folks on Sunday, but then we realized that we’d set ourselves up to do 420 miles to the next campsite, just around the corner from Mt. Rushmore.
On the F650s, without dogs, that wouldn’t be a problem, but the Ural is still being inconsistent, and generally tops out aroud sixty even when it’s running well. The dogs slow things down even more.
But, we really didn’t want to leave the guys. We’d barely had any time to hang out, and last night’s hanging had been cut short by the rain and chill wind. We rode into town to have breakfast with the guys at the same spot we’d enjoyed yesterday, and the final decision was made on the way back from breakfast when the Ural wouldn’t exceed 50MPH. (We also heard from several of the guys that they were heading out today, so it would be a diminished crew around the campfire tonight… at least we weren’t the only people who would be cutting out early.)
We hung out for a while, as our rain-fly dried, listening to Ike’s tales, until most everyone has suited up for the day’s rides. We packed at a leisurely pace, said goodbye to the last two, then set out for gas, where we met four more of the band, said more goodbyes, and hit the road to Wyoming.
Dachary was a little saddened that we’d had to skip another day of riding for nothing more than the pleasure of it, but the route she’d picked was part of one she’d wanted to do anyway, and it did not disappoint. Maybe half an hour into it I spotted an odd sign on the side of the road: large, green, and pointed towards the side instread of oncoming traffic. What was it?
OMG. I didn’t realize we were crossing it. I called for Dachary to stop. Pictures must be taken.
For the most-part, we simply enjoyed riding. No highways, and the Ural decided to hit 70MPH on the straightaway. Dachary checked for a tail-wind, but no, it was all Ural goodness.
Wyoming surprised us both. My impression, from my last time through, was of a state mostly covered by wide, mostly flat, grassy plains. I was sorely mistaken; different from Colorado, Wyoming presented us with beautiful hills, rolling terrain, and goregeous vistas.
[Dachary’s note]At a gas stop around 3PM, I observed that we should probably have lunch as it was about that time, and I don’t function well when not fed regularly. We asked a local at the gas station who was checking out the Ural where was a good place to eat, and he sent us down the road to a local inn and restaurant. “Just look for the logs.”
The logs turned out to be beautiful wood beams and majestic wood pillars, and the ambiance of the inside of the place was just excellent. The light was great and it felt dark, comfortable and inviting after the bright, hot outdoors. The waitress was nice, and when Kay asked what she recommended, we both got dishes she listed. Kay’s was a steak sandwich with a “cowboy steak” on it - and the steak was delicious. Beautifully cooked and seasoned. The fries were kinda lame, though, but in the end he took the steak off the bread and just ate it by itself. He said it felt like sacrilege to eat it on the bread. I got their country fried steak (called chicken fried steak in other parts of the country, apparently) and was less impressed. But we both still really liked the spot. Score for a local recommendation![End Dachary’s Note]
As we were suiting back up a bicyclist we’d passed earlier came through town with a grin the size of Texas. He just pedaled through, looking around and smiling at everything.
At the end of the day we had a little beautiful drama… would we beat the rain?
We decided that, being so far behind in our posts, it was best to stop a little early and just grab a hotel with plugs, and Wi-Fi, then spend some time typing, and uploading. We hadn’t accounted for Frontier Days in Cheyenne. When we pulled into the first hotel a group of Harley riders let us know that it was full before I opened the door, and warned us to steer clear of the Wyoming Inn, which had rooms, but they were “gross”.
A helpful lady at the Best Western down the road had just been on the phone with all the local hotels and knew them all to be full except for maybe the All American Inn (back by the first hotel) but its prior owners had a bad reputation, and she warned me to look at the room before taking it.
The All American did have a room, and it wasn’t spectacular, but it didn’t smell weird to my nose, and had a clean bathroom. The door was a bit… sketchy, but we’d already spent 45 minutes hunting hotels at this point and neither of us wanted to drive the 50 miles to the next town.
Unpacked and inside, Dachary, feeling very gross from days without showers, decided to shower twice while I walked to the nearby Arby’s. We ate, had a somewhat stressy discussion regarding the state of the laundry machines, got that going, and sat down to work. It was nearly 10PM at this point, and while we really wanted sleep, and Dachary looked like she was going to fall over at any minute, we set about our jobs.
Our business cards don’t say “Professional Adventurers” for nothing. We really do want to turn this into our full-time gig, and that means not getting behind in the writing.
We both fought with the crappy net connection, Dachary, being a professional writer, set herself on autopilot while I fought with the iPad’s inability to keep up with the hundreds of images we’d taken over the past few days (there are so many we don’t upload). Skip Duplicates on import from cameras had utterly failed, leaving triplacates in places, iPhoto can’t correctly handle the rotation from the Photos app, the photos app has crap tools for organizing albums, no ability to flag photos, and iPhoto can only save edited photos to the “Camera Roll”, and only one at a time, with a complete reload of the entire library after each one.
When all was said and done I’d had to do a magic dance and pray to the gods of interconnectivity to get my messages through. I placed the holy tablet down, and hoped that by morning the 15 photos I’d selected, and tweaked, would have successfully uploaded. It was around 11:30PM, and I was still 2 days behind in images processing, but at least I’d gotten the photo library more organized, and backed it up to the laptop, where I could more quickly prep the next day’s batch.
All day we’d both had happy thoughts about getting clean and making love, but now we were both exhausted, and Dachary was sound asleep. It was a kind-of sad ending to a beautiful day’s ride.
|07-30-2012, 10:30 PM||#43|
Joined: May 2010
Day 11 - Wheatland, WY to Keystone, SD
I should have gotten that Diet Coke. As I sit here typing today's report, I'm longing for that Diet Coke. I'm dreaming of its sweet not-sugary goodness and blessed carbonation bubbling down my throat. But no. I walked away without getting it.
Let me backtrack to this morning.
We woke up in the sketchy motel, and I was happy to discover I seemed to be free of the little red bites that indicate bedbugs. (Don't ask me how I know what bedbug bites look like. I live in a big city. 'Nuff said.)
Got packed up at a fairly leisurely pace as we didn't have too many miles to make today - only 220 miles to Mount Rushmore and our campground as we'd cut the distance in half by leaving early yesterday afternoon. I'd spotted a diner just across the street from the motel where we stayed, and asked Kay if he'd prefer to take time out to have a diner breakfast or just grab some food at a gas stop. He professed to be quite hungry, so diner breakfast was elected.
Parking lot was full. That's typically a good sign. Unfortunately, the food didn't live up to the hype. Eggs so undercooked that I didn't dare eat them for fear of making myself ill, and a steak so full of grizzle and fat that I couldn't carve off more than an ounce or two. I ate every bite of the limp, lame, under-seasoned home fries just because I was hungry and it was the only thing left on my plate. Even the sausage that we took out to the dogs gave Bandido the runs later. Not the breakfast of champions.
*Kay's note:* My French Toast was chewy around the edges, the Bacon was overcooked, but tasty in bits, and the waitress had suggested that the French Toast was one of the more popular items on the menu. I fear the rest. My egg, however, was sufficiently cooked.
I asked Kay to check tire pressures while I ran to the bathroom at the gas station next door, and he discovered that the front tire was low on the F650. We've got an electric Cycle Pump at the bottom of one of the panniers, and a hand pump (the one that came with it) in the trunk of the Ural. Kay had opted for the hand pump, which I discovered when I returned to the bikes to find everything dismantled. While he had it all out, I grabbed the socket set and checked the final drive fluid on the Ural, as it hadn't been puking out final drive fluid in the past couple of days (since ascending the mountains in Colorado.) It was close to the low line so I topped it up. We lubed the chain on the F650 while we were at it. What started out as a brief gas stop before hitting the road turned into a 20-30 minute stop while we did some basic stuff to the bikes and added water to our Camelbaks. We also used the Gaffer's Tape to compensate for a piece of rubber that had fallen off of our door somewhere, and the remaining metal l-bracket had been doing its best to remove all the paint from the edge of the Ural.
We finally hit the road at 9:30, which still wasn't a bad time as we had a short riding day today. I was struck again by how pretty this part of Wyoming is. Kay had told me Wyoming is flat and boring, but I don't know where he was, because this is just beautiful. An amazingly varied landscape that had us climbing and descending roughly 2,000 feet throughout the day.
At one point, I noticed we were turning off onto a scenic "Oregon Trail Byway." I got a big kick out of that. One of the first computer games I'd played as a kid was in junior high when they had Oregon Trail on old Apple IIE computers. It was almost all text based and kinda boring. I've played various iterations of the game since then, mostly out of nostalgia. I even have an Oregon Trail game on my iPhone.
Driving through the actual landscape, I was struck by the amazing spirit that the brave souls who undertook this crossing must have possessed. To cross this vast landscape with nothing but a couple of oxen and a wagon cart, even as part of a caravan, must have prevented grave hardship. Even knowing the basics of how the Trail worked, I was still struck by the difficulty of carrying sufficient food and water, and all the supplies you'd need for 4 to 6 months of basically crawling across this country. We carry a fair amount on our motorcycles, but we're never far from food or fuel or water, so we don't carry nearly the supplies that the settlers would need. And of course, we can cover far more ground on our bikes - even the Ural - than those explorers and settlers would have been able to cover. We cross in a day what probably would have taken a week (or several) for them to cross - assuming nothing went wrong. It's truly humbling to contemplate it, when we have everything so easy today.
So when we saw a sign for Oregon Trail Wagon Ruts, I was intrigued. I was struck with a fancy to see something that these settlers had left behind, and to better imagine the journey they must have undertook. When we rolled into town and I saw an arrow pointing right, I asked Kay to turn at the last minute. He obliged. We went a mile or two down…
And saw some bucks grazing in a National Guard Armory parking lot and front yard along the way…
Wyoming wildlife by CorporateRunaways, on Flickr
And then made it to the wagon ruts.
Oregon Trail Wagon Ruts by CorporateRunaways, on Flickr
Oregon Trail Wagon Ruts by CorporateRunaways, on Flickr
Oregon Trail Wagon Ruts by CorporateRunaways, on Flickr
Frankly, there wasn't a ton to see. It was a nice little site with a pathway that wound up to the wagon ruts carved into the sandstone above the parking lot, with some informational placards along the way the talked about the journey when undertaking the Trail, the role of the military in guarding and protecting the settlers, and things you generally don't think about. The placards were interesting and gave me more food for thought, and the ruts themselves were impressive, but smaller (narrower) than I had expected. Without context, they were kinda meaningless. But I'm still glad we stopped. It's a piece of American History from an era that has lingered at the back of my imagination for decades, and it's nice to be able to sort of watch living history come to life. It's a lot more meaningful than staring at words in a textbook, or even playing a simulated computer game that encompasses the experience.
*Kay's note:* The pictures aren't inspiring, but their meaning is. Sandstone isn't particularly hard, but it would take a lot of effort to dig ruts four feet deep through it simply by pulling a wagon over it. How many wagons were there? What kind of inner strength, hope, and faith, must it have taken to set out on a journey like that?
Back on the road and more beautiful Wyoming landscape. I was enjoying the state highway, even if the speed was 55-65 MPH most of the time - it still feels a lot more intimate than an interstate. By the time our next gas stop rolled around, though, Kay was getting tired and having trouble staying awake. He asked for a break so we could drink something caffeinated. While we were gassing up, I saw a van full of young kids (who were just thrilled to see our dogs in a sidecar) eating some ice cream, so I decided that sounded good. It was already around 92 degrees and something cold would hit the spot. So we had ice cream and caffeinated beverages whilst sitting in the shade, to refresh us for the next leg.
More riding. More beautiful landscape. Toward the end of this leg, we found ourselves fighting a gusty headwind. Stravinsky had been running pretty well today, without the niggling inconsistencies we've been seeing - regularly holding 60-65 MPH, and even holding 60MPH up a grade that would otherwise have knocked hi back to 48-50MPH on a "bad performance" stretch. When we hit the headwind, we found ourselves maxing out at around 55MPH, but it was a relief to have a reason for it this time. We didn't really mind.
*Kay's Note:* it should be noted that the gas cap was screwed on tight, and there was a tank bag on it. I think the gas-cap-venting theory is pretty well shot at this point.
I consulted the GPS as we were nearing the next town on the map - gas here, but none for the next 23 miles. We probably could have made it, but with the uncertain gas mileage and with fighting a headwind, Kay didn't want to risk it, so we stopped for gas again. And grabbed some gas station sandwiches and sodas for lunch. Along with a road atlas, because we're kinda sick of relying on the GPS and not really knowing where we're going. We used a combination of map and GPS to navigate on the Americas trip, and that worked really well for us, so we thought it was time to go back to that for this trip.
Back on the road again after this gas stop, and we were getting close to Mount Rushmore - our destination for the day! It was looking like we'd probably hit there around 3-ish, so I decided we should see it today instead of in the morning so we could get an early start heading over toward the Badlands. It's supposed to be over 100 degrees tomorrow in the Badlands, which means we wanted to get started early and get the bulk of our sightseeing done before it got too hot.
Made it to Mount Rushmore, where Ben tried climbing out of the sidecar into Kay's lap when we got to the parking gate. He'd never done that before. The leashes are tied into the sidecar in such a manner as to try to keep the dogs from climbing out the outside of the sidecar - there's more slack inside so they could probably actually climb out inside and get themselves wedged between the chair and the bike, which would be very bad with hot pipes and a hot engine. Kay shoved Ben back into the sidecar, but I could tell he was stressed and it made me stressed to think he might try to climb out again, or might somehow wiggle out of his harness and run off and get lost so far from home.
We found pretty much an ideal parking spot in the corner of the structure where we could park with the dogs to the wall, and the F650 between the dogs and the wall, thus discouraging people from coming around to see the dogs. We took off our hot jackets and grabbed our Camelbaks and cameras and headed toward the monument. As we were walking off, 'dido started to jump out the side of the sidecar and got himself wedged halfway over the door. There wasn't enough leash for him to get all the way out, but it was enough that I was worried he could hurt himself or somehow wiggle out of his harness and go running around. Kay ran back and scolded him and shoved him back inside the sidecar again, and we walked halfway across the parking structure, out of site, and waited a few minutes. Kay went back to check on the dogs. Bandido looked over at him, but they had calmed down and both seemed content to sit in the sidecar, waiting for us. But I'd never seen both of them so determined to get out before, so I was stressed about something happening to them while we were gone.
Off to the stairs, where I discovered that my sore left calf was agony when trying to climb up stairs. Ow. Ow. Ow. Made me far less inclined to want to do any walking around, unsurprisingly. By the time we got to the top of the stairs and into the monument proper, the sun was blinding me - I had to squint just to see anything - my leg was in agony and I was completely stressed about something happening to the dogs while we were off playing tourist.
I took one look at the presidential heads and was… underwhelmed.
Tourists at Mount Rushmore by CorporateRunaways, on Flickr
That's it? Really? by CorporateRunaways, on Flickr
Mount Rushmore by CorporateRunaways, on Flickr
All of the pictures you see of Mount Rushmore? Those look a lot more cool than the actual monument itself. They're smaller than you expect when you see it in person, and while it is cool to think of the work that went into carving them… meh. We've seen a lot of cool ruins throughout Latin America, and even the wagon ruts we'd seen earlier captured my imagination more than these giant busts carved into the side of a mountain. I didn't feel the patriotism I think I was supposed to feel. I just felt… underwhelmed. I was hot and blind and worried and in pain and I had no inclination to walk around this contrived monument composed of some giant sculptures. I'd far prefer to get back to the bikes and the dogs, find some dinner and set up camp for the night before the rain rolled in.
Kay was very good about the fact that I stayed less than 5 minutes, and didn't want to take the little walk around the monument. He'd gone to see it before on his US Tour in 2008, and he had pictures from all of the interesting angles, so we had mostly gone so I could see it.
I came. I saw. I left.
*Kay's Note:* I was really hoping she'd want to walk around. I totally agree that the heads are sadly unimpressive in person, but I think they deserve some serious respect, and… I dunno, walking the path around them, and learning more about them… It makes them a little more… something. They're still unimpressive, but...
Back at the bikes, I was relieved to find the dogs calmly lying in the sidecar waiting for us. They'd chilled out when they realized they weren't getting a walk right away. We loaded up and ran into Keystone, which is only a couple of miles from Mount Rushmore, and stopped at the first touristy mall we saw to grab some food at one of the restaurants. Ate outside at a picnic table and shared some food with the beasts, and I pondered getting a Diet Coke for the road before we headed back to the campground just 2 miles from Mount Rushmore to set up camp. Kay said he's good with water, so I opted to skip the Diet Coke.
Now I regret it. I'm sitting here typing after a brief romp around the lake with the dogs, and I *really* want that Diet Coke. But not enough to suit up and ride the 5 miles into town to grab it, and the 5 miles back to drink it.
If you want a damn Diet Coke, get a damn Diet Coke.
Camping at Horse Thief Lake Campground by CorporateRunaways, on Flickr
Our view from camp by CorporateRunaways, on Flickr
Running after Ben by CorporateRunaways, on Flickr
Horse Thief Lake by CorporateRunaways, on Flickr
(Camp is nice, though!)
|07-30-2012, 10:50 PM||#44|
Joined: Jun 2009
Location: Cambridge, MA
Day 12 - Mt. Rushmore, SD to Mitchell, SD
The Badlands awaited us, along with the burning sun. Determined to avoid her killing rays, we got up at five… much to the annoyance of the tent dweller in the next space, I’m sure.
On the road at 6:30 through the touristy town of Keystone. No breakfast for us, as everything was still closed. In addition to being a day of miles, today would be a day of oil changing, and we had no oil, and no oil pan. A Walmart was needed. Fortunately Dachary spotted one not far out of Keystone. “It’s probably closed.” we thought, but as we rounded the curve we saw a bunch of cars out front. What we didn’t see until later was the row of porta-potties, the craft paper behind each window, or the construction workers out front… back on the road.
Just outside the Badlands we came to the town of Scenic, which was recently up for sale at the low, low price of $799,000. The last time I came through Scenic the doors were not boarded over, there were a couple cars in driveways (of which there are only a handful), and general signs of life, if not actual people. Now, it’s a ghost-town in the making. Kind-of sad really.
We pulled over because we weren’t sure we’d make it to the next gas station without adding in the spare gas. We decided there was no way we could make it if we took the scenic route (Scenic, the town, deserves its name in much the same way Greenland does) through the Badlands, so instead we took the main road to Interior (the town, and presumably the location). We passed through the entirely disappointing five foot section of Badlands National Park that intersects with that road, and spent the next few miles rather depressed. I had really wanted Dachary to see the “real” Badlands; the incredible weathered formations that, as far as I know, exist nowhere else in the United States.
The GPS claimed we had to get to the next major town to find gas, but Interior surprised us with a gas-station still sporting old-school analog-dial pumps, which I got a great kick out of. We even got to pump first, and then pay. Crazy Talk!
They had some pre-made sandwiches inside, and with this unexpected turn of events we decided to sit down, and see if we could make it back through one of the “real” parts of the Badlands before heading off towards… wherever again.
First though, we had to address the Hornet situation. One on Dachary’s windshield, one on the Ural’s spare tire, and one on the F650. I found a discarded broom head in a nearby pile of… debris? Discarded metal things?… and set to work.
After breakfast, and more Hornet visits, we set off for a slight backtrack through the northern section of the Badlands National Park. This section, being more than five feet long, required a $10, per bike, entrance fee. In the end we both agreed that it was a far better value than the $11 Mt. Rushmore parking fee.
Many photos were taken, and along the way we briefly met Malangi who was spending a month on his own Corporate Runaway and riding from New Jersey to Oregon… the lucky bastard.
At our first encounter I just asked where he was from and going as we made our way back to the bikes. The dogs were getting some strong sun at this point and we didn’t want to leave them there without wind for more than a few minutes, but as we rode off I regretted not offering to take his picture. We never get pictures of ourselves together, and when you’re riding alone you never get pictures of yourself, just the things you see. Road construction would set things right. A line of parked cars, behind a man with a stop-sign, waiting for a pilot vehicle, gave me my chance. I grabbed my big camera, hopped off the bike, ran back the few car lengths to where he was waiting, snapped a few shots, yelled our domain at him (we were both wearing helmets and earplugs) and told him to e-mail us for the pic.
A couple scenic outlooks later and we met again, this time face to face, well… his face to my helmeted one.
As we left the Badlands National Park the billboards for Wall Drug started up again in earnest this time. We’d been seeing them, probably since Wyoming, if not farther, and by the time we came to Wall SD, we had no choice but to go in. We were compelled. We couldn’t say no.
We found a parking spot, and got the dogs out of the tub. I found a bit of shade against a wall and squatted over a little mound of sand to pour out some water for the dogs before we explored. “There are ants by your feet.”, Dachary said, “In fact, you’re standing on an ant-hill.”
I wasn’t just standing on an ant-hill. I was standing on a fire-ant hill. I quickly moved, pulled the dogs with me, and stomped my feet a lot, hoping none had tried to climb my boots. A little ways down the way we stopped again and gave the very parched beasts some water, but then Dido started chewing at his foot. This in-of-itself is not unusual. Dogs get itches, and chew on bits to address them, but he wasn’t stopping. He kept going at it, with somewhat increasing vigor.
I told him to stop, grabbed his foot, and looked, sure enough, there was a little fire ant in between his toes doing its best to bite off ’Dido’s foot. I pulled it out with my fingers, and hurled it away before it could get me too. The damage was already done, and now ’Dido was limping on both back legs (his left one is permanently damaged from a car in Puerto Rico). There wasn’t much we could do though. It’d be hurting him if we left him in the tub and he’d get sun-stroke, better to limp some more.
Wall Drug isn’t so much a store as it is a mini-themed tourist town, but it does it so obviously, and with such self-humor that you just don’t mind.
When we got to the main(ish) entrance Dachary suggested that she’d stay outside with the beasts while I went in and checked it out, but “Excuse me mam…” a man had overheard us from a bench and informed us that dogs were allowed in the main part, just not the part farther down where they served food. Whoot!
In we went, and subjected Ben to about 15 minutes of sheer terror, or… at least a good deal of stress. The problem was that we had to pee, and peeing takes time. Meanwhile there were people everywhere, and noises, and more people, and lights, and and and and… Ben spent the first half huddled against Dachary, and the second half huddled against me. Dido spent both halves chewing on his foot in a vain attempt to address the pain of the bite. For being stressed and in pain they both did exceptionally well.
(there were more people there when we had the beasts in there)
Meanwhile, we saw the most awesome music-machine ever. We had it play a song from The Nightmare Before Christmas, and then then the Imperial March from Star Wars, because it was too awesome to pass up and Ben wasn’t going to get any more stressed than he already was.
The moment we got up to leave Ben was pulling us to the exit. Once outside we went and found the food part, where Dachary went in to inspect the “homemade” donuts that the billboards promised us, and get us some drinks. I sat with Ben’s head poking up between my legs while ’Dido sat under the bench, chilled, and occasionally chewed on his foot.
The donuts weren’t bad.
We saw a Harley Davidson store on the way in and decided to swing by on the way out to grab oil. I walked in the front door and stared in disbelief. T-shirts, hats, vests, doo-dads, doo-hickeys, leathers, and all sorts of assorted other things with Harley Davidson on them, but not a single thing that you could actually use to fix, maintain, or improve an actual Harley Davidson Motorcycle. There was, however, a Harley in the window, which is apparently their rightful place…. either there or being trailered to Sturgis. Later in the day I saw a number of flatbed Tractor-Trailers with ten, or more, Harley’s strapped on the back headed for Sturgis. Wouldn’t want to ride them there, that would be silly.
Oil-less, and back in the bikes, we passed a Napa Auto Parts store before leaving town. They had oil, but not an oil pan. I’m not sure what it is but this is the second auto-parts store we’ve stopped in that has not had an oil-pan with a cover. How do people get their used oil to a recycling place without a cover? What do they put it in? I don’t get it.
Gassed, up, and back on the… er wait… no “Problem… I need to pull over” So, we did. Found some shade along side of a two story chochky store where Dachary removed her helmet and informed me that the clutch wasn’t engaging properly. The cable adjuster had come loose. Silly us for lubing the thing as instructed by the service manual. The lube made the locking finger-nut-thing come undone too easily.
Adjusted, and on the highway the Ural had no power even though it had been pulling great all morning. The clutch must not be fully disengaging now. Pull off at a… pull-off thing (not quite a rest area), adjust, test, pull back on the highway… still no power.
Eventually, we realized that Dachary was encountering what I had encountered on it the day before. Severe Headwind. Apparently when you encounter a severe headwind in the Ural, while sporting a windshield, the Ural ceases to be capable of doing anything more than 50Mph. No joke. The exact same thing happened to me yesterday but it just seemed sensible to me because of how hard I could feel it fighting just to go forwards.
Soon thereafter an hour of our day literally disappeared. It was 2PM, and then it was 3PM. No minutes transpired between the two. This could really add up if we went Eastward around the world. Good thing we’re heading Westward. :)
After a while we approached Al’s Oasis, we didn’t particularly want to attend another tourist trap, which judging by the billboards it surely would be, but it did promise food, and we’d already had one gas-station meal today.
Just before we pulled off the highway, my new headset died. I tried restarting it and it complained about low battery, let me get a couple words to Dachary and shut off again.
We found shade for the dogs, parked the bikes so as to make it damn hard for anyone to attempt to pet them, watered and walked them, and set them back in the tub. They didn’t really want to go and we couldn’t blame them. The past few hours had been hot and tiring for everyone involved.
Inside though, we found air-conditioning, and surprisingly good food. Dachary got a Prime Rib, I got a Bacon Cheeseburger, and we both got the salad bar, which was worth every penny. It wasn’t a particularly notable salad-bar. It was just exactly what our bodies needed. I was… exhausted.
During dinner I grumbled quite a bit about the Ural’s excessive maintenance schedule. Oil changes (and other maintenance) must be performed every 2,500 kilometers, or roughly 1,500 miles, which for us is every five days. EVERY FIVE DAYS. Now, the service manager at Ural of New England had mentioned this to us, but he also is the type of person who really can’t get his head around serious travel on the scale that we do it. He thinks that going to Colorado is a big trip. So, to him 2,500 Km involves quite a bit of time.
I thought he must be mistaken, either that or he just wanted to get people into his shop more often. Most people barely ride their Urals (or motorcycles) so 2,500 km is probably once or twice a year for them. Back at home Dachary had done the research and confirmed that yes, the maintenance schedule is… well, let’s just say “high”. I had either forgotten this, or chosen to not believe it. Today it hit home hard. How the hell are we going to go around the world in a vehicle that requires this kind of maintenance? I think we are literally going to have to pack an entire pannier of Ural oil filters because you can’t buy them anywhere. Either that or pay crazy money to have them shipped to us along the way.
I was not a happy camper… Dachary just kept repeating “we knew what we were getting into”. Well, she did at least. I think she’s right about me living in denial.
|07-31-2012, 09:23 AM||#45|
Joined: Dec 2008
Location: Seattle, Wa
Sounds like your trip is working as intended. It is better to figure out the maintanence items are an issue now, than finding out once you are in a third world country, right?
You have a couple of lucky dogs!
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