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Old 07-09-2014, 10:46 PM   #1
luuuc OP
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Joined: Apr 2014
Location: somewhere out west on a 2 month tour
Oddometer: 18
A couple months out west

So I'm now a few weeks into my first big trip and finally have a bit of forced downtime and good internet access to begin documenting things.

The seed for this trip was planted about 3 months ago when a friend suggested we take a weeklong adventure ride out to the black mesa area in Oklahoma. I rode his KLR650, and he borrowed a friend's. This was my first time on a motorcycle. I've been a backpacker and mountain biker for years so it didn't take much convincing and I was hooked.

The seed for this trip -- backpacking on wheels

After returning from that trip, all I wanted to do was get back out on the trail. After recently finishing a master's and needing time to decompress and plan what's next, I figured a couple months of wilderness would probably do some good. I'm planning to move to the Seattle area but couldn't get excited about making the drive out, which I've done a few times before, so I decided to do it on a bike and the planning began. After some research I settled on a DR650 and picked up a 2013.

Trying to get my nephew hooked early

I spent most of May preparing the bike, researching routes, getting my gear together, learning how to do basic maintenance, riding local trails, etc.

Modifications and accessories:

IRC GP-1 tires front/rear
removed the upper chain roller (a DR preventative thing)
Pat Walsh bash plate
Pat Walsh luggage rack
PMR luggage racks (big thanks to Lee for helping custom fit the racks to my DR which is apparently notorious for having frames that vary in dimension)
Pelican 1520 top case
Wolfman expedition dry duffel and saddle bags
2" mirror extensions
Signal Dynamics headlamp modulator and rear brake flasher for the sections around cars
Acerbis 5.3 gal fuel tank (I get 200-250 miles (40-50mpg) now before reserve)
Extended fuel mixture screw for high-elevation tweaking
Heavier fork springs (0.55 mm/kg) with Cogent DDC cartridges and 5W oil (kit from Procycle)
Cogent Mojave shock with 8.15 kg/mm spring (from Procycle)
14T 525 sprocket up front for about 7% lower gearing (has been very nice with all the climbing)

The initial plan had me picking up the TAT in OK and riding through CO, but a friend moving out west at the same time convinced me to go camping around the 4 corners area for a week or so. In addition, a run in with wildlife (discussed later) set me back another week or so. So the report will be pretty sparse on the first couple weeks and then pick up in Moab after I set off again, solo.

The goal of the first day on my modified route was to get from Oklahoma City to Lake Meredith, just north of Amarillo, TX. Tried to knock out as many miles as I could on Rt 66, but tried to get into that red Oklahoma dirt as quickly as possible.

Rode into dark and arrived at the Lake Meredith campsite near the marina with the guidance of a friendly, former "biking minister" that led me there. Winds were 25-35 mph which made setting up the tent an interesting experience. I slept with two legs in the air bracing the tent from collapsing in the wind. But woke up to a really nice view and calm air:

June 15. Day was spent mostly on boring highways getting to Santa Fe. Miserable headwinds riding on I-25. Nothing more to say.

June 16. Rode to Bandelier NP on highway 4 which was beautiful, lots of winding roads.

Tried to ride up to San Antonio hot springs, but the trail had been blocked off, so ended up hiking about 4 miles


As it was getting dark, I found an unpaved back road into an abandoned camp area full of amazing tall pines

35.864845, -106.627762

June 17 Rode thru Los Alamos—it was weird to have to stop at a guard gate just to enter the city (not even a base/facility). I guess the town is full of high value PhD’s at coffee shops. Streets were named Bikini Atoll St; Einstein St; Manhattan St, etc. Pushed onward thru Abiquiu to ghost ranch to hike. Nearing dusk, took a nice dirt road toward the monastery, camping along Rio Chama, across from the little island:

@N36° 18.750' W106° 35.283'

Wed 18. Tried to diagnose a squealing noise coming from the front hub, and discovered it was coming from the speedometer assembly. Will need to remove the front wheel, clean and grease the part when I get a chance. Probably all the dust has dried out the grease.

Thurs 19. Riding through Cortez, CO on a back road in search of a camp site when all of a sudden I found myself skidding along the pavement. It was about 6pm in broad daylight (sun sets at 9) and I was going about 35. The feeling and crunching sound made me feel like I was back in JV football getting hammered by a linebacker. After standing up I saw a mule deer with a broken leg in a field staring at me like "WTF??" while I stared back at it thinking "WTF??" All I remember after the impact is the sound of my helmet skidding and bouncing along the pavement.

The spot where it happened: tall grass coming right up to the road with only a slight mowed shoulder.

Fortunately a really nice couple came along a few minutes later and helped me out by calling the Sheriff and trailering my bike back to their land a few miles away until I could get things sorted out. I went to the hospital and had my wounds cleaned and was given antibiotics. Fortunately I only suffered minor avulsions

Skin lost on right hip and elbow

The same couple was kind enough to put me up in a spare trailer on their land until I could get things figured out. Just a few of many wonderful people I've encountered along the way.

Since the accident, I've been a bit anxious about deer and am slowly getting back on highways, but easily spooked and riding much slower than before. The scary part is that everyone I spoke with in Cortez had a deer story, and some had hit them multiple times.

Jacket had large tears, helmet was gouged, gloves were trashed, pants ripped, Sidi boots' buckles were ground down, saddle bags were torn through

Despite skidding on both sides, the bike came out relatively fine with scraped plastic body panels, shattered mirrors, and a twisted foot peg.

Fri 20. Spent the day driving the bike to Moab and dropping it off with the good folks at Moab Powersports.

...The next week or so was spent dealing with insurance adjusters (at least I had comprehensive coverage), getting replacement parts on order, and replacing all my trashed riding gear and luggage. In the mean time, drove to CO to get some high-altitude therapy, camping around the blue lakes, visiting Telluride to experience this very *ahem* green city, and returned to camp around Moab in Onion Creek and Kane Creek areas...

Blue Lakes

Friday 27. With the repairs finally authorized by the slow-moving insurance company and parts on order, the shop sent me out with my bike since it ended up being primarily cosmetic damage.

Ready to escape the heat of Moab, I headed off to the La Sal mountains, taking sand flats road out of town.

Riding through deep sand, I lost control and managed to drop the bike on my leg, trapping myself under the bike for about 10 minutes as I struggled to dig myself out, all the while gasoline was boiling out of the tank and drizzling all over the sand and my arm. I had visions of a rattler visiting me while immobilized. I've stopped counting the times I could have broken a foot if not wearing full MX boots.

The messy scene after extricating myself.

Back on the road, I encountered this trail map, and realized my ride was complete:

The ride up to Geyser pass had some incredible views of Moab, Arches, and the mountains beyond:

I decided to camp at Oowah lake, a sleepy, quiet little camp area. Because of the rough-ish road and tight turns to get up there, there were relatively few people and RVs, unlike Warner lake just north which I made the mistake of visiting the next night. Packed with screaming kids and RVs.

View of the La Sal mountains after coming down on the colorado side

After a couple nights of cool weather, I headed back into Moab to pick up the parts. On the way back along sand flats road I found a sweet little "arch/cave" to get out of the heat for a while (I originally stopped in order to do some bouldering on it)

Could have stayed here all day... N38° 33.300' W109° 21.438'
Inside, I found what could only be described as a desert penguin cave painting:

Severe prehistoric global warming!

The next few days I stayed back in Moab and did a few easy rides around the area

After Gemini Bridges (easy), I set off on the canyon rim trail which proved a bit too much for me...

So this ends the first few weeks of the trip compressed into one post. Coming up, the trip finally begins in earnest on the Moab->LA TAT extension trail from gpskevin... More high adventure in Utah!
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Old 07-09-2014, 11:32 PM   #2
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Nice report and great pictures.
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Old 07-10-2014, 01:02 AM   #3
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July 2, Almost escaping Moab

Set off for LA from Moab with the plan to follow the southwest TAT extension by gpskevin. I took off from Moab around 1pm, which was a bit late, but I was anxious to get out. I started by riding the Kane Creek and Kane Springs roads up to Hurrah Pass. Both of these roads led around canyons with spectacular views and some mildly technical parts toward the pass which were fun.

View from the pass

From the pass I descended on Lockhart Basin Road for about 6 miles, stopping after coming across a broken down 4x4 to see if I could offer any help. He sent a text to family on my Delorme satellite messenger, but eventually got things running again after returning 20 min later to deliver a response message.

Back on the trail, I started to lose my way and went down the road toward Chicken Corners, realized my mistake, came back, and tried finding the road, going down two different paths and returning before finding the 'road' on the GPS.

Exhausted after hitting a second dead end into a small canyon.

3rd time was a charm and I started climbing some doubletrack until I got to a fairly steep rocky area that finally did me in. The path I chose required a quick veer after climbing and I couldn't keep the bike up.

I was pretty drained by this point and managed to clamp the vent tube on the bike but forgot to close the petcock. After unloading all the luggage, I had to tie some rope to the low side in order to pull it up and get a knee under it. After pulling a muscle picking it up earlier, I was beginning to question the sanity of doing this by myself in the middle of the summer. After finally getting it up, it wouldn't start--flooded. So I waited a few min as usual and it still wouldn't start. After noticing a slight drip from the air box, I pulled all of the air intake out and drained about 6oz of fuel and dried out the air filter.

I hiked up the rest of the trail to see what I was facing and found piles of boulders that apparently other people ride over, but my overloaded, inexperienced, exhausted self would never be able to tackle. Without a bypass in sight, I decided to call it a day and head back early the next morning since I'd already used 8 of the 9L of water I'd brought in my dromedary bag.

There are worse places to have to camp

Sunset @N38° 25.286' W109° 41.056'

Didn't get the best sleep that night with visions of rocks tumbing down the slope and squishing me in the night. Early in the morning, the wind picked up and blew fine red sand into the tent, covering everything in grit. I had a whole new respect for the soldiers stationed in Iraq who had to deal with sand all over everything for years--I was annoyed after one night.

As for navigation--I really should have done more research on the trail rather than taking the gps tracks at face value. If I'd looked at my paper map of the area, I'd have noticed the sections I got hung up on were rated as double-diamond/"expert". But there is something fun about diving in, not knowing what to expect.
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Old 07-10-2014, 03:56 AM   #4
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Sounds like quite an adventure! Great report & pics!
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Old 07-10-2014, 01:59 PM   #5
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Great post! Thanks for sharing!
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Old 07-10-2014, 02:58 PM   #6
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what an adventure!
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Old 07-10-2014, 03:14 PM   #7
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Super pics! What site are you using for hosting them? What camera?
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Old 07-10-2014, 03:43 PM   #8
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Location: somewhere out west on a 2 month tour
Oddometer: 18
Originally Posted by Mustang28027 View Post
Super pics! What site are you using for hosting them? What camera?
Hey! I've been using a sony dsc-rx100 for some photos, mostly landscapes, low light, timer shots, and panoramas; for quick shots, I use my motorola moto x phone cam. The camera phone uploads directly to google+ and the other images go there as well via iphoto and the google+ image backup program. Then I can pretty easily just copy the image URL from google+ and paste it into the forum.
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Old 07-10-2014, 04:09 PM   #9
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July 3, Actually escaping Moab

After my failed bid to take a small trail south out of town, I awoke early, licked my wounds, and backtracked into Moab along Kane Springs and Creek roads. Not that I'm complaining (now)--it was a beautiful ride worth doing twice

I took a quick but boring ride south on 191 to get to Monticello, which was just as well because it got me caught back up and let me tackle the next section the same day. After filling up in Monticello, I headed west out of town and began climbing into to the mountains again. The soft, loamy forest service roads were a welcome change from the hot sand.

Big Notch

Due to the backtracking and late start, it was starting to get dark well before reaching the next destination, Hite. Just as well as we soon find out...

Along this segment, I saw probably a dozen deer along the route, causing anxiety, slowing me down, and pushing back my arrival further. Most got out of the way long in advance; some let me get within 10 feet; others ran off. The whole time I was thinking about modifying my old destroyed riding suit into an orange camo hunting suit...

In search of a remote camp site, I headed down a steep rocky 4x4 road into the dark canyon wilderness where I managed to drop the bike again. After struggling to right the bike and find a place to turn it around, I headed back to a site I passed on the main road called little notch.

I rode across an empty field to some trees on the edge where I could find some good cover.

Try to spot the bike!

I pulled off the conspicuous yellow bags and dragged a downed bough over the bike effectively camouflaging it.

It was private enough to have a drip shower @N37° 41.617' W109° 48.563'

This turned out to be one of the better camp sites so far. Good night's sleep and close to good day of riding.
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Old 07-12-2014, 07:25 PM   #10
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Location: somewhere out west on a 2 month tour
Oddometer: 18
July 4. Happy Birfday, Merica

Slept in and had a slow morning, making cold instant coffee and eating a cliff bar for breakfast. After about the first week I’ve stopped using my stove to make real, hot coffee, oatmeal, soup, or anything really. I think I’m going to ditch the MSR liquid fuel stove, pots, and four 1-liter fuel bottles when I get a chance. The tedium of cooking bad food and having to clean pots without enough water aside, I really brought the bottles for reserve fuel, and a liquid fuel stove to run off the bottles. But I’ve yet to have come remotely close to hitting my maximum range which is somewhere between 225-275 miles depending on riding conditions. For phase 2 of the trip, I think I’ll just bring my stainless steel cup, a mini isobutane stove, and a small fuel canister. This should be enough for making hot instant coffee, a dehydrated barf-in-a-bag meal, boiling eggs, or purifying water in a pinch.

Lentil/rice/mushroom/Harissa/cheese dreck from the night before. I'm though with trying to cook on the trail unless someone has some really awesome, easy recipes

My destinations today were Hite, which is a fuel stop, followed by Bullfrog. As I descended from the mountains, I entered the Glen Canyon area. Back to the red rocks.

Back to lots of red dirt, rocky roads, and the promise of more distant mountains

When I arrived in Hite, I saw a sign about beaches and was very excited as the temperature was reaching 100 degrees. But when I stopped at the convenience store/gas station (basically the town of Hite itself), it was eerily empty. I asked the attendant, Melissa, why this was so and she pointed to the empty lake. Long term drought. Amazingly the store, just down the street from the ‘residential’ district of 5 inhabitants, stays in business probably from cyclists and motorcyclists looking for refuge from the heat. I asked Melissa if there was a local bar, “my living room,” she laughed.

I met Alex, another of many friendly cross-country cyclists, coming from Virginia. I think we were each a little jealous of each other's setups: he was exhausted, always eating, and confined to roads. I was jealous of the simplicity and lightness by which he could travel.

With the lake Powell ferry not yet running, there was no way to get from the east side to the west side without crossing at the Hite bridge, so this ended my plans to keep riding trails down south. Instead I took two highways around 95 and 276 which lead through some nice views of the lake and glen canyon area.

Before stopping at Bullfrog, I stopped at the town of Ticaboo (basically just a hotel as a town) for dinner and continued south on 276, a stretch littered ghostly desert flotillas:

I ended up camping at the Stanton primitive campground, but that was possibly a mistake… There’s really no point in going into Bullfrog if you come from the north, because the next section of trail splits off north of the national park pay area. But I didn’t realize this and paid $15 to get into the lake area (despite being on a M/C and not boating, driving a giant truck or RV). Then they wanted even more for the privilege of pitching a tent on soil riddled with thorny plants.

First glimpse of the lake, a desert oasis

I had a bit of a hard time finding a nice campsite, as it was july 4 and the campers and boaters and house boaters and house land yachters and truckers were out in full force. Power boats raced and skittered across the lake. Police boats chased drunken boaters around. It was a bit of a shitshow.

But my persistence paid off and I found a sweet waterfront property from which to watch the sun set and see the flicker of fireworks over the mesa cast their colorful glow on the shoreline. Bike parked on the rocks.
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Old 07-12-2014, 07:39 PM   #11
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July 5. Bullfrog to Boulder

In the morning I did some laundry and dishes, and took off for Boulder, UT after stopping at the gas station north of Bullfrog for fuel, 2 gallons of water, and some snacks.

The first section contained a lot of winding, rocky roads with low-slung hills

And continued on into Capitol Reef...

Which was miles of mysteriously repetitive rock formations:

And an arresting section of switchbacks through massive rock formations, followed by the reef and mountains in the distance:

After making it to Boulder, I stopped at the Boulder Mesa Restaurant for dinner and ordered the Bison BBQ ribs, but wasn't expecting to get this--a nearly 2 lb. slab of meat:

On the advice of the owner of the restaurant, I rode out of town and started onto Hell’s Backbone road. Just after the dumpsters, I took a left down a dirt road and half a mile later arrived at the Boulder airstrip:

"Boulder Airport and UFO Landing Site"

I'm not sure if airplanes actually use this anymore, but I may have been visited in the night by a UFO (they're sneaky like that).

Continuing on the road cutting across the airstrip, I found a bald area and camped there. After a rain storm passed and I emerged from my tent, I noticed lots of downed, burnt trees and realized I was close to highest point in the area and lightning was no stranger to this clearing. There was a 30% chance of storms overnight so I decided to stay put. Fortunately the storms never came.

N37° 53.016' W111° 27.854'
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Old 07-12-2014, 07:58 PM   #12
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July 6. Boulders from Boulder to Escalante

Today I rode Hell’s Backbone road with the intent of getting to Escalante.

Hell's Backbone is a nicely graded gravel road with hellish washboard. I was initially happy to get off it and onto the Boulder Swale ATV road which lead through some nice pastures and into a forested area:

Then it got a bit rougher and slowed me down quite a bit

And after a few more miles, got rougher still, ending my journey:

With nobody around, I really didn't want to take a spill on this long, steep climb.

So I sadly turned around and returned to the road for a few more long views and a quick descent into Escalante

I stopped at Escalante Outfitters just to get a new bottle after this happened:

Lesson 382: always tie everything down
Lesson 383: always tie everything down with the shortest length possible

But was quickly taken by their cabins,

excellent food,

smoked trout salad and amber ale

and wonderful, friendly community staying and working there. Escalante is definitely on my list of places to return to.
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Old 07-12-2014, 08:58 PM   #13
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July 7, the longest day

Today, Escalante to Bigwater.

This was the longest and hardest day yet, but was rewarded by the best scenery.

Lots of stopping and lots of elevation change.

The day started in Grand Staircase National Monument. Flat, sandy roads. No indication of what was to come.

Before long, the main road was abandoned in favor of a smaller jeep road which started to criss cross a dried creek bed and eventually started following the creek bed for long periods

But the creek bed began to get rougher and rougher

and rougher

Eventually coming to a series of spots I couldn't pass while loaded (or unloaded), requiring me to get off and unload, and build ramps from rocks

And build another ramp

This series of impasses required probably two hours to make it less than a mile. Every time I had to unload the bike, modify the trail, reload the bike, cool down, etc. was about 30 minutes.

My personal rule is to get into shade, drink a quart of water, and sit there until I stop cursing which indicates I've regained my sanity and my core temperature has returned to normal...

"Is this shit over yet?"

After a steep, rocky climb out of that hellish pit, I took a big hit and heard a crack. After making it to the top, I realized the bump had sheared the bolt holding the luggage rack on

Classy repair

After finally getting packed and ready to get underway, I realized I'd lost my water bag. Dejected, I set off back down into the pit from which I'd narrowly escaped.

Ahh, yes... the lovely section that claimed the bag and presumably the rack

With the lost found and bike reloaded, I bade this section adieu and gave it the proper cathartic salute

Now late afternoon, I was ready for some smooth sailing to knock out some miles, but instead learned the meaning of grand staircase:

Essentially, a roller coaster covered in rocks

Sprinkled with oddly shaped rewards

And a schizophrenic landscape:

and steep descents, keeping me on my toes (my right toes, specifically)

Approaching sun set, the landscape began to mellow as the shadows grew longer

Thus nearly closing the longest day yet. Finally camped, I narrate the balance of the day:

This is the worst campsite ever, an all new low. It is now 10:30. I got in a 9:30 and the sun was going down. Which means I rode for about 11 hours straight, just to cover 100 miles. I’m laying in a tent with no pad or sleeping bag. I just threw up the tent, didn’t remove my contacts or brush my teeth. Still wearing my riding suit. So exhausted I jus set up the tent and got inside. But I’m in weird crushed shale/dirt dunes, which are soft, or at least appeared to be. I’m on a hill, somewhat inclined so I keep sliding downward. I got in to Bigwater after 11 hours of riding--I saw the town on the horizon and was very excited to be done. But when I got into town, I was creeped out. Boats and pickups on cinder blocks, pit bulls barking, razor wire fences everywhere. No gas station, hotel (or I’d be staying there now), or restaurants (or I’d be drinking beer and eating pizza). So I took off from town back where I came from. I took the first turnoff I could find and began riding through these dunes which were streaked with the scars of ATVs and dirt bikes gliding over the hills. I made for some distant hills to get some privacy. But finally it got too dark and I couldn’t go any farther. So there I stopped. I was so hungry I greedily ate raw tuna out of a bag, and kipper snacks from a tin, and an apricot cliff bar and water. Used the kipper stack tin under the kickstand. Then threw up the tent and crawled in. I’m camped below the highest point, so no lightning fears; but high enough that flooding won’t be a problem. There is literally nothing out here—I shouldn’t be out here—so i don’t think animals will be a problem. Everything is trying to kill you in the desert. So I have a feeling I’ll be passing out soon. The bike is packed and ready to go because I want to GTFO here ASAP. Just throw the bike on the tent and ride to the next town at daybreak to get fuel and clean up.

Camp site, the next morning

In retrospect, this was one of the most memorable, funnest, and beautiful segments--it's amazing what a little sleep and A/C will do :)

luuuc screwed with this post 07-13-2014 at 09:15 AM Reason: typos
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Old 07-12-2014, 11:54 PM   #14
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July 8. Forced rest

The goal today was to get from Bigwater to Kanab, but the bike said no.

After a quick jaunt south down 89 to find gas, water, and food, I turned around and re-entered Grand Staircase NM to continue the trip.

Soon I got into deep sand and found the engine to be racing erratically. After stopping I realized there was no more free play in the clutch. I stopped quickly to make an adjustment and let the bike cool

I got a bad feeling about the clutch, so I decided to bypass a section of the trail on the highway, but as I was going up a steep section of the road, the RPMs shot up again and the bike slowed from 55 to 40. Quickly pulling off, I found the free play had evaporated again. I adjusted it one last time, exhausting the full range of adjustment and decided to bypass all of the trail and limp to Kanab.

I stopped at Troy's Desert Powersports where he got me set up to do an oil change which revealed bits of the clutch

and a tiny ball bearing in the oil

Which nearly gave me a heart attack until I traced it back to the magnetic drain plug that had disintegrated. Troy was very helpful and directed me to motozoo in St. George. So I limped another 60 miles or so and got the clutch swapped out with a heavier-duty EBC package. Big thanks to the guys at motozoo for getting me back on the trail so quickly!

I think the combination of temperatures over 100F, slow travel up steep hills and in windless canyons, a heavily loaded bike, technical sections where I relied on the clutch too much, and an oil level right at the lower limit cooked the clutch and the oil. The grand staircase was brutal.

My bike and body were telling me to stop after the last couple days, but we're both ready to go again.

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Old 07-14-2014, 01:09 PM   #15
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Lefthand brew, a weber grill and the rocky mountains, all goes away!
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