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Old 10-30-2013, 04:28 PM   #1
KYMike OP
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Location: Elizabethtown, KY
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The “Well crap, the National Parks are closed” Tour

This year would be a busy one. Busy at work, busy at home. As my kids got involved in different events, it became apparent that this would be the year of individual vacations. As such, I was able to get 11 days off for an epic ride. Well, as epic as you can ride in 11 days. Thanks to The Mobius Trip, I realized the best way to maximize my time was to plan a one-way ride.





My trip would start in early October, but the planning started much earlier. I decided to visit several of our National Parks out West. I’d been to a couple as a kid, but hadn’t seen most of them. I started planning early. So early in fact, I had to abandon the planning phase for several months because I couldn’t deal with the wait. A couple months out I found an ADV’r with great route advice and garage space for the winter. A return plane ticket was bought, and the planning began. However, before this trip could start, I would almost derail it by trying to ride off-road.





So now, the prequel to the “Well crap, the National Parks are closed” tour………..





The LBL200 is a 200+ mile ride in Land Between the Lakes (KY/TN) on hiking trails, gravel roads, and the occasional blacktop. Held in September, it would take place less than four weeks from my National Park tour. I bought a Yamaha XT250 for this ride (and another one in Missouri), and had my friend Voodoo Child mount some knobbies.











I had never ridden off-road before, so of course I had to buy the appropriate safety gear and apparel.











As a hiker, I thought it would be fun to ride the hiking trails. Little did I know most folks would treat it as a race. Long story short, I rode too hard and too fast trying to keep up with all those orange bikes (not sure of the make, as they were flying by me too fast to read). I actually think I did pretty well, but in a low damp area, my front wheel hit a root at ground level and I went down hard. My right foot took all of the force as it hit the ground. I knew my foot hurt, but didn’t know the extent until I took a shower that night.











It was extremely tender. I decided not to ride the second day, not wanting to hurt my foot so badly I couldn’t ride out West. For the next 3+ weeks I let it heal.
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Old 10-30-2013, 05:04 PM   #2
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Old 10-30-2013, 06:48 PM   #3
acidman1968
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Living in a state with five National Parks, I'll be waiting for this one...


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Old 10-30-2013, 08:49 PM   #4
KYMike OP
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Day 1, Thursday October 3rd

First off, here I am ready to gear up and head out. Day one of nine days of riding.


And the bike all packed up.

As I head west on the WK Parkway, it’s a little foggy and overcast.


This highway is actually nice, decent scenery with very little traffic until you reach Paducah. But I’ve driven this way too many times visiting family in Missouri, so I’m not having that “adventure” feeling yet. However, I am riding my bike instead of being at work, so all is well.


I take a selfie and later realize I must have left my neck at home.


By the time I reach far western Kentucky, the sky is blue and sunny. I pass by a few crops….



…and eventually get to Wickliffe, KY.


I cross the Ohio river and briefly enter Illinois.


After crossing the bridge, turning right will take you into Cairo. I stopped here one year on my KLR and looked around. I’ve got a Day Trip on it if you’re interested. I turn left instead and cross over the Mississippi….


….and into Missouri (my home state).


A few more crops, then I just slab it towards Springfield.



I visit a high school friend living in Ozark for a couple hours, but it’s hardly enough time to catch up after 25 years. I then head over to my cousin’s home in Nixa for a home cooked meal and visit with his family. After the bike cools down, we let his girls sit on it. They were cute as can be, and lots of fun. Tonight would be my last night in a bed for a while.
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Old 10-31-2013, 07:21 PM   #5
KYMike OP
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Day 2, Friday October 4th

Of course by now the National Parks are closed. I knew this when I left my house yesterday, but it didn’t really matter. I can’t change my trip dates, and I already have a plane ticket home. I have camping gear and food packed, so I’ll just make the best of it. Besides, it’s only Friday and I’m not planning to visit or stay in a National Park until Sunday night. Surely the government won’t stay shut-down too long….not with this economy.

Today was planned to be the longest, probably most boring, day of the trip…around 630 miles across Kansas and into eastern Colorado. I should mention that I’m technologically challenged. I use a car GPS on my V-Strom, and have some routes loaded for the entire trip. As I leave Springfield’s traffic, I quickly get into the countryside of Southwest Missouri and the riding is nice. It’s a beautiful morning and traffic is minimal. Before long the GPS takes me North, then East. Hmmm….I shouldn’t be heading East. After some goofy routing, I go through Nevada Missouri and start heading West again. I snap a picture of their water tower. After all, I’m not visiting the state of Nevada on this trip.


I soon reach the border of Kansas….


….and the scenery is what I expected.


I don’t mind the miles and miles of flat grassland, but it’s the wind that gets to me. I ride with the bike leaning sharply to the left until I reach Wichita. I have two things going through my mind: My tire is going to wear out on only the left side, and there’s a 95% chance the next gust of wind is going to blow the V-Strom right out from under me. That never happens, but when I reach Wichita the winds change direction. I now have to lean sharply to the right, which takes care of the tire wear issue. This kind of riding is not enjoyable.

I gas up just before leaving Wichita and soon realize my ipod shuffle mounted to my tank bag is gone. I wear ear buds for noise reduction, and listen to music when on the highway. I can’t believe I’ve lost my tunes and it’s only Day 2.

Not too many photo ops along the way. I pass through Dodge City and like their sign.


Eventually the sun starts going down.


I see this sign and think “not likely”.


And then I’m in Colorado.


The rest of the day is progressively worse. The only bright spot is a conversation I have with an older gentleman who rides a GS. I don’t take any more pictures, so I’ll boil it down for everyone.

First, I start to wonder if shoving my ear buds down into my jacket might have caused the ipod loss. Gravity would make them slide down the inside of my jacket and eventually out the bottom. If this happened I would find the ear buds wrapped around the rear wheel. Sure enough, the next time I stop I look at the rear wheel and see what’s left of my ear buds. That ipod must have been launched from the tank bag and I didn’t notice in all the wind. A homeless guy is probably enjoying some ‘80s music right now.

Next, the temperature drops and I add my down puffy jacket which helps until I reach my destination, John Martin Reservoir State Park. I get to their campground and it’s completely dark and windy and cold. I’m used to the wind dying down in the evening, but here it’s gusting. I can’t find a spot with any cover, so I just pick a spot near the bathrooms/laundry. Once I get off the bike I realize I’m freezing. I try to quickly get my tent together (and do), but it’s literally flying in the air like a kite. I take the footprint and wrap it around part of the bike so I can use both hands to stake a corner in the ground. No dice. The ground is too hard. I finally decide to pack it up and sleep in the laundry room. I take the tent apart and stow it. When I look for the footprint, it’s gone. Must have blown away. I never even noticed. I got my sleeping pad and bag and went in the bathroom. It was warm and dry, and I got a few hours sleep. Not the best, but good enough.

So, no pictures to capture the wind, lost ipod, lost footprint, or having to sleep in the bathroom. But, very memorable. It’s part of the adventure, right?
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Old 11-01-2013, 08:35 PM   #6
dave6253
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Thumb Subcribed!

Nice! I always enjoy reading about someones first long trip. I'm looking forward to the rest.
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Old 11-02-2013, 10:29 AM   #7
KYMike OP
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Thanks Wdwrkr and acidman1968 for joining in.

Thanks Dave. The trip and pictures get better, although nothing close to yours.

I'm taking my youngest daughter on a overnight backpacking trip into Mammoth Cave NP today, so the RR updates will have to wait a day or two.
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Old 11-03-2013, 08:40 PM   #8
KYMike OP
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Day 3, Saturday October 5th

I didn’t sleep too well last night, probably worried someone would come in the bathroom and find me. I wake up early, pack up, and move out of the bathroom. It’s still dark outside as I load up the bike, and I’m amazed at the stillness. No wind at all, nothing like the night before.

I decide to make breakfast. I brought it with me after all. That was the plan…cook breakfast and dinner while camping, and buy lunch on the road. I take my stove and some oatmeal into the laundry building and boil some water. I take advantage of the power to charge my camera battery and phone. Soon I’m eating hot oatmeal and drinking instant mocha coffee from “Four Bucks”. The oatmeal brings some warmth to my body, but the coffee doesn’t taste like the real thing. Maybe it’s the lack of whip crème.
I fire up the bike (which takes longer than usual), and head out. After about 30 minutes I come to Las Animas, CO. It’s cold.


While stopped I notice the history museum next to me. It’s one of the nicer buildings in town, and I like the pictures they’ve put in the windows.


I continue riding towards Pueblo and finally see something other than flatlands in the distance.


I reach Pueblo, get gas, and park at the nearest McDonald’s. I need to warm up and (like the Hobbits) decide to have 2nd breakfast. My credit card is declined twice, so I just pay the $3 in cash and shed a few layers in a corner booth. I wouldn’t mind traveling with one or two other people, but traveling alone allows me the luxury to go where I want, when I want, and stay as long as I want.

I leave Pueblo and before long reach Canon City, CO where the terrain finally changes. It’s at this point, I feel as if my trip has actually begun. This is what I crossed Kansas to see. I head north and then I see it…snow covered mountain tops.


A little further up the road I see the first of many aspens.






I make my way to Buena Vista with plans to ride through Aspen. Signs indicate ice on the road, and I turn back.


I get gas then stop for lunch so I can review my map. As I park, four deer walk through the middle of town right between two buildings. I grab my camera but only quick enough to catch the last two.


Over lunch at Jan’s Restaurant I decide to head south towards Salida, then west on 50 towards Gunnison. Along the way I start to climb and see the combination of aspens and snow.






Then it’s just snow.


I reach the peak and stop for a minute. I’m feeling good about riding my bike up here until I see a guy on a bicycle.


On the way down the aspens reappear.


I pass through Gunnison then stop at Curecanti National Recreation Area.


Somewhere along the way the blacktop disappears for a bit. I then come to a road crew and must follow an escort vehicle. The heavy rains have washed out a section of road. Fortunately they’ve put enough new dirt in place to keep going. It’s not the smoothest road, and I’m riding slowly with cars in front and close behind. I’m tempted to take a few pictures but decide it’s not a good idea.

More color.


Eventually I reach Ridgway State Park, my camping destination for the night.


Today was good. Good roads, nice scenery. I call my wife and she tells me about the credit card company calling her about potential fraudulent charges. Yup, forgot to tell those guys I was going on a multi-state trip. She cleared it up which explains why the card worked everywhere else today. I eat dinner, get a shower, and settle in for a good night’s sleep.
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Old 11-04-2013, 10:34 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KYMike View Post
On the way down the aspens reappear.
This looks so much like the beginning of the ride those guys did in Cycles South!
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Old 11-04-2013, 10:57 AM   #10
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Ooof.
Rough second night.

By the way, they rent extra long necks if you need one.

Keep it coming. Nice pics.
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Old 11-04-2013, 06:29 PM   #11
KYMike OP
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Hey SRR, it's been a while since I watched that one. I do remember thinking we put too much thought into tires and luggage after watching those guys.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SRR View Post
This looks so much like the beginning of the ride those guys did in Cycles South!
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Old 11-04-2013, 06:30 PM   #12
KYMike OP
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Thanks Questor

I always enjoy a Questor RR. Would love to spend some time in you neck of the woods.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Questor View Post
Ooof.
Rough second night.

By the way, they rent extra long necks if you need one.

Keep it coming. Nice pics.
Q~
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Old 11-06-2013, 10:25 AM   #13
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Methinks we all put a little too much thought into pretty much everything after watching those guys.

Hope you're havin fun out there!
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Old 11-11-2013, 07:39 PM   #14
KYMike OP
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Day 4, Sunday October 6th

I awake to a cold morning. The bike is covered in a thick layer of frost.


I look twice because the sheep skin appears covered in snow.


As the sun rises over the mountains, the park lights up.




I pack up and hit the road. It’s cold and I need gas. The views are nice.


Ouray, CO is only 15 minutes down the road.


I go through town and don’t notice a gas station. Silverton is only 24 miles away, so I figure I can make it there. As I start to climb, I stop to take in the views. Behind and below me is the town…






…and above me lies the Million Dollar Highway.


The ride was interesting with incredible views and no guard rail. Apparently (according to my SD card), I didn’t take any pictures while on the Million Dollar Highway. Oh well, I’ll have no trouble remembering it.
I continue on towards Silverton (I still need gas). The sun hasn’t yet made it over the mountain…


…and then it does.


I take in the scenery as there is no one else on the road.






The 24 miles to Silverton seems to take forever with the low speed limit. I’m cold and waiting to run out of gas when I finally reach Silverton. I am ecstatic and stop for gas, coffee, and a snack. Apparently too excited for pictures.

I head toward Durango and start to see color again.




Oops…a little crooked.


I love to see the mixture of colors and rock.






After going through Durango I head west then north. The terrain is so different.


I’m sure I was on the other side of those mountains earlier today.


And then it’s flat again.


I reach Dove Creek and stop for gas and lunch.


It’s Sunday, my first planned night in a National Park. The parks are still closed, so I consider taking a short-cut over to Monticello, then up towards Moab. I’m supposed to camp in Arches NP tonight, so I need to find a new spot to camp. I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to ride through Aspen as planned, so I tell myself to stay the course. I head up 141 towards Grand Junction, and the terrain changes again.




Down I go into the bottom…


…have to pass this guy first.


The ride is relaxing, and again there’s no one else on the road.


I start to see some canyons.


45 MPH…yeah right!


I reach the Hangling Flume and stop for pictures.






I then start riding through a tight and twisty area…










…and emerge into more beauty. I can't believe I almost skipped this section.






Love the geology.




I eventually reach Grand Junction, and jump on the highway for Moab. Just before getting on the highway I see a sign that says “No services for 70 miles”. Oh crap, that’s cutting it close. I keep going and then regret it.

I leave Colorado…


…and enter Utah.


I exit the highway on fumes (2nd time today) and gas up. Knowing Arches NP is closed, I head for a state park nearby. Before I even reach the park, I see a sign “Campground Full”. I turn back and pull off at Cowboy Camp, one of the BLM sites. It has closed signs and cones, but I’ve got nowhere else to go. I pull in to find other campers not seen from the road. I find an empty site, and try to hide the bike behind my tent.


I think I’ve found a decent spot.


The views are great.


As the sun goes down, I feel better about being hidden behind my tent and blending into the trees.


I enjoy the sunset…


...and then see this.


As I lie in my tent, I hear the metallic sound of my cook kit and stove falling over. It’s in a mesh bag just behind my tent beside the bike. Must have fallen over, I think. I hear it again and realize something is running off with my stove. I rush out into the darkness but don’t see any animals. My leftover dinner is gone (which is fine), and I put the gear inside the tent. Time for bed.
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Old 11-15-2013, 12:09 AM   #15
dave6253
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Nice. I gotta get back up to ride the 141 someday. It was so kind of you to feed the wildlife.
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