Story by: Tom Harmon Photography by: Cory Wilson & Tom Hamby
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|The day we had all been anticipating finally arrived. The motorcycle journey officially began at 10:00 pm on Friday, 9/6/02 when two trucks met at the Wal-Mart parking lot in Salina, Kansas. Lead truck was a big Dodge Ram with matching enclosed trailer in tow. Seated inside were Ken Hill and his Kawasaki KLX 650, Tom Hamby and the orange KTM 640, and Derek Williams with a mint condition Yamaha XT 550. Ken, Tom and Derek are all employed at Honeywell in Wichita. The tail truck was yours truly, Chevy Silverado with both bikes loaded in the back. The Chevys crew consisted of Steve Prewitt and myself, Tom Harmon. Our two trusty steeds strapped in the back were Kawasaki KLR 650s.
We pulled out of the parking lot shortly after 10 pm pointed the trucks north on I-35 for a few miles turned left on I-70 and didnt turn the wheel again for the next 15 hours. We did make a short stop in Rifle, Colorado for a wonderful breakfast at Tom Hambys step-daughter and son-in-laws house. Oh, to be young again, the gracious hosts were in theyre late 20s living in paradise. Plus to make matters better one was an attorney and the other a doctor. Think of the cool motorcycles we could afford if we had only applied ourselves. The hosts, food and company could not have been better. I dont know about everyone else but once my bellys full I usually kick back in a recliner for a nap, but we still had 3 plus hours ahead of us.
We fueled up and jumped on I-70 again. Once in Utah we made a left on highway 128 and headed south. This was a 43-mile twisty road that dead-ends at Moab, Utah. It took almost 2 hours to drive this route because of the numerous photo-op stops we made along the way.
We drove through town to the KOA campground that lies south of Moab. We checked-in and began decorating our cabins with motorcycle apparel. All of us were beat after being awake for nearly 38 hours with only limited slumber during the long drive. But, the adrenaline was pumping after seeing the beautiful scenery that existed no matter where you looked. By 5 pm (remember this is now 5 pm Saturday) we were hungry and thirsty, not necessarily in that order, so we went into town to one of Moabs many micro breweries. After a sandwich and beer I was ready for bed. By 8:00 pm we were all asleep, and we didnt even make the advertised sunset shown on the brochure. During the night, Cory Wilson arrived with his Yamaha TW200 bolted to the back of his Chevy Tahoe.
The next morning (Sunday - 9/8), we were motivating at a rather slow pace but agreed we all had a restful night's sleep. Breakfast was consumed at a highly recommended breakfast buffet. The recommendation was correct. Once back at camp we checked over the bikes and suited-up for the days ride. It was decided to make an easy day of it so our bodies had a chance to acclimate to the surrounding environment.
We fueled and headed north of town through the entrance of Arches National Monument. The next few hours we impersonated tourists staying on the blacktop and making frequent stops to see the natural beauty of the park. Beginning today and the rest of the week Kodak and Fuji must have had a stock rally based on the many times our shutters blinked. The park was breathtaking. Around every corner was a scene grander than the last. We were a rough looking bunch in all our bike gear; we may have caused some nightmares in women and children during our tourist loop.
Early that afternoon our bikes were screaming for dirt. Tom Hamby examined the map and led us to Salt Valley Wash. This was a maintained dirt/rock/sand road heading north within the park boundaries. About 8 miles north we had to make a decision, either continue heading north on the maintained road or turn left on a non-maintained road with a warning sign. Guess what we did? Approximately one mile after the left we came to the first climb. Speed and traction was key for this climb but the deep sand at the bottom made this somewhat a technical maneuver. I stopped at the base and decided I needed more speed, while I was turning around I heard the roar of a mighty KLR, and here comes Steve. He scaled the first climb and disappeared around the corner. Cory, Steve and I stopped at the summit to wait on the others. After a few minutes I rolled back down to the first climb where Ken and Tom were helping Derek who had a small problem on the hill. I have to give Derek credit; he had never ridden any terrain like we had planned this week. He came through a little sore, and most of the time he had a smile under the helmet.
This was a great trail that snaked its way through the canyon. Hard packed, rocks, sand, and deep sand. We were lucky that the recent rains had packed the sand and made it much easier to navigate the heavy bikes. Cory was the only one that had no problem skating through the sand with the oversized tires of the TW200.
At one point we were in a beautiful sand wash at the bottom of some awesome cliffs. This looks like a good spot to see if we have a cell phone signal. Surprisingly we did. Who should we call but the webmaster of Backroads Touring - Kansas himself, Roger Baugh in Wichita? We couldnt talk long because I could sense the tears welling up in his eyes. I hate to hear a grown man cry.
On the map it says and I quote; Due to the soft sand and steep grades, vehicular travel is recommended only from the north to the south. This is the one time during the days to come that we followed instructions. By the time we arrived back at the KOA we had clocked 81 miles for the day. The only problem for the day was Toms KTM seemed to have a fuel problem late in the day and was dying every few miles. With our combined motorcycle wrenching experience that probably exceeded 90 years we identified the problem as a pinched fuel breather hose that runs from the gas cap to the canister under the rear fender. Once back at camp Tom was able to fix the problem one handed. Where was is other hand you ask, wrapped around a cold cylindrical container with liquefied barely and hops.
Enjoyed a great Mexican food dinner and drinks that night at La Hacienda Restaurant. Luckily our cabins had windows and there was a gentle breeze during the night. Once back at camp we readied the bikes for the big day that followed.
Monday, the big ride. Today we were riding the notorious White Rim Trail. Tom Hamby had calculated this trip would take us approximately 160 miles to complete, from gas station to gas station. His calculations were accurate. Two bikes would have to pack extra fuel, the TW200 and the XT550. Fortunately we had two Exxon Valdez tankers along called KLR650s. Steve and I still had 3 gallons left when we returned to base. Cory had emptied his three 30 ounce spare gas cans and returned to Moab on a reserve tank filled with fumes. We started out early that day because if estimations were correct it takes 9 to 12 hours to complete. We arrived at the breakfast buffet as they were unlocking the door at 6:00 am. Choked down some biscuits and bacon and headed back to camp. I should have checked my bike closer the night before because on the way to the gas station I realized my front fender had lost a fastener and was close to falling off. A short trip back to the well stocked toolbox to tighten and replace a bolt and we were on our way.
We headed north out of Moab and entered the The Portal on highway 279, which led to Potash Road. This road took us through a beautiful canyon where we stopped to photograph some ancient Indian writing on the rock walls. We continued west then south to the north entrance of Canyonlands National Park. Let the adventure begin.
White Rim Trail is the must do trail if you visit Moab. The local literature rates the trail as difficult. The White Rim Trail is a varied terrain trail ranging from good, improved dirt roads to extremely difficult single track trails! Expect various types of conditions from sand, loose dirt/rocks to steep climbs and descents in all types of terrain. The White Rim Trail is a technically difficult trail and is recommended for experienced riders only. The literature goes on to say you should ride the White Rim Trail counter-clockwise because of a particular section of trail called Hogback, which is easier to ride downhill (counter-clockwise). This is the part of the trip where we decided to stop following the rules and recommendations and clockwise was how we started. But we were just following Hamby. Did I mention we didnt read the part copied above until we ate dinner that night? Thanks, Tom.
This ride was absolutely incredible. The views were spectacular, stunning, impressive, amazing, magnificent, breathtaking, astonishing, and marvelous. I hope you get the picture; Im out of descriptive adjectives in my thesaurus. Some areas of the trail you could approach speeds near 50 mph and other areas only a 3 mph idle. I found the terrain varied without changing its look. One corner the front wheel would plant firmly and the other it would begin to wash. You had to stay alert at all times. We began at a medium pace stopping frequently to take pictures. Soon we realized that based on the time and the estimated distance to go, we had better wick it up a few notches. We began traveling 8 to 10 miles between stops so we didnt have to return to Moab in darkness or use a rock for a pillow. I didnt pack my pajamas for the ride.
During one of the photo/rest stops a search and rescue helicopter came swooping down on us to see if everything was OK. We all gave him the thumbs up; he then dropped out of sight down inside the massive canyon. It was a sight to behold. At another stop just after a reasonable climb, Steve and I found a comfortable rock and stretched out for a short nap. Unfortunately an orange Allis-Chalmers tractor came up behinds us and powered down the mighty diesel. Oh wait, its only Tom on his KTM 640! Funny how the canyon walls change the acoustical sounds of the internal combustion engine. Or, maybe it was time to give Hamby some trouble. After a small technical problem with Dereks bike we moved on. Derek decided to do some freestyle trickery on the last climb thus lowering the fuel capacity of his metal fuel tank.
The trail seem to go on forever, from being scarey close to the canyon edge tracks to open desert scramble like paths. We then arrived at the next obstacle, Hogback. After all of us breached the summit we took a good long rest, which allowed time for a few hands and legs to quit shaking. As a side note the White Rim has several identified camping areas if you like sleeping on rocks. But within each camp boundary are nice clean outhouses. Obviously, flown in by helicopter or toted by 4-wheel drive vehicle, but all set atop a concrete slab. Imagine, semi-modern facilities in the middle of nowhere. For more detailed information ask Steve Prewitt he was like a bear marking his territory at almost every one-holed shack. He even said you could probably sleep in them if pinned down by weather. That was one of many times I became concerned about my choice of traveling companions.
After several more miles, I looked down at the mileage clock, which at the time showed over 100 miles. That told me we should be seeing the end of this trail soon. We began ascending out of a canyon with lots of switchbacks. Derek neared the top of one and was soooo close but flamed out near the top. I walked back to help try to start the XT. Im not use to kick starting a bike anymore but I do have a blister on my right thumb from hitting the electric starter on my KLR. I kicked a few times without success. I kicked again, nothing. I then had a tirades attack on the next series of kicks, it fired and topped the hill.
We then descended down a nasty sandy switchback laden trail to Hardscrabble Bottom. I stopped because guess who had to inspect the outhouse. I promised Steve I would wait on him. I looked at the mileage clock again, which was starting to concern me. Especially when Tom rode by, didnt stop and yelled while he sped off damn we have a long way to go. Now Im getting scared, I didnt bring enough trail mix for everyone and I am not into cannibalism. Following Tom was Derek, Ken and Cory. I turned around to see if Steve was out of his domain just in time to see him walk out, Steve please pull your pants up before you exit the bathroom next time. I swear we can take him anywhere nice. Good thing we were in the middle of the desert.
The next roadblock was a huge sand wash with lots of standing water. Tom was far enough ahead that no one saw where he turned and his tracks had vanished. Directly in front of us was a long water hole with no depth identification on the pool walls. I closed my eyes and went for it remembering my science teachers instructions that gasoline is lighter than water. I still had over three gallons left so if the bottom falls away I could use the KLR as a raft. Once on the other side what we once called a trail disappeared and we dropped into a deep sand wash obviously cut by substantial rain fall. Shortly we found Tom stopped and accessing his GPS to see where the hell are we?. The GPS said we were close but the fact remained we had no trail. Ken pulled up behind us and spotted the road some 100 yards away. Somehow we needed to get out of the wash. Its just sand so what if I lay it down, how bad can it hurt? I lowered my shield lit the engine and popped the clutch. When I opened my eyes, I was on top of the wash. Of course, I pretended it was easy, but I really didnt expect to make it on the first try. The next 100 yards was a nasty series of ruts with mud sprinkled throughout just to add some technical difficulty. Once through that you were back on hard pack. I looked back waiting on the rest and saw that someone with an orange bike was having trouble. Tom went down and his length-impaired legs would not allow him to mount the bike. Steve climbed aboard the KTM and took it the five feet to the top. The rest of the riders, Ken, Derek, Steve and Cory made it without incident. Of course, once Cory rode the fat tired TW200 up the wash it was like a highway had been constructed.
After a few more miles we arrived at the welcome exit of the park and a well maintained dirt/gravel road. I breathed a sigh of relief. The road ahead allowed us to blow the cobs out of the bikes approaching speeds of 70 plus mph. I noticed on this stretch my needle was laying at 0 mph but my RPM was above 5000 which told me I was near 70 mph. I didnt want to stop and troubleshoot the problem because I was afraid Steve would run over me. Besides my testosterone levels would not allow me to let him pass. When we stopped to rendezvous at the highway I reconnected the speedometer cable, which had rattled loose during that last 150 miles. The KOA was a welcome sight after 10 long hours. Everyones odometer was showing just over 160 miles for the day.
Cory was carrying an awesome digital camera during our adventure. Every night we could review the days journey on the full size PC he was transporting in his Tahoe. Cory, they do sell laptops at Circuit City. I bet the other campers heading towards the showers that night wondered what we were doing gathered around the backside of a Chevy Tahoe with the illumination of a computer monitor casting six shadows across the campgrounds.
We loaded the bikes and gear for an early departure to Ouray, Colorado the next day. Since we conquered White Rim Trail we decided to treat ourselves to a steak at probably the priciest restaurant in Moab. It sits atop a hill that overlooks all of Moab. The food was great, the conversation even better. I wonder why they set us in an area all by ourselves?
Tuesday, (9/10/02). We left Moab early for the 4-hour trip to Ouray, Colorado. The drive passed by quickly with the help of the spectacular scenery. We made a pit stop in Bedrock, Colorado for snacks and bladder relief. The bathroom was rustic. It was around back with a half-moon cutout crafted in the door. Tom was the first brave soul, although I found the facilities just as adequate behind the rustic shack.
We stopped in Ridgeway, Colorado just north of Ouray for lunch and to pick up liquid supplies. This liquid will take the edge off aching bones and can be used as an accelerant for lighting the barbecue.
We arrived in Ouray under the cover of clouds, light rain and drizzle. Around 2:30 pm the rain began to ease and Steve and I couldnt stand it any longer. We suited up, and pointed the KLRs south to the Alpine Loop. Both Steve and I had never ridden in this area and didnt really have a destination in mind. We mainly wanted to check the conditions of the trails due to the recent rains. Just south of Ouray on highway 550 is the entrance to the Alpine Loop. This trail leads to many jeep trails and passes that Ouray is famous for. The area is spectacular with steep grades and lots of rocks. We eventually came to a fork in the road, Engineer Mountain or Poughkeepsie Gulch. Poughkeepsie it is. Yet another time we should have first checked what are the rules and recommendations. I wondered why my map had arrows pointing the opposite direction. We continued on and came on probably the roughest climb Ive ever made in my life. The key word here is made. The description most fitting is rockslide; it was literally like climbing a rockslide. And to make matters worse it was drizzling and the rocks were wet. At least 6 or 7 times I dabbed my foot hard to keep the bike upright, but the KLR prevailed. During a 30 or 40-yard section I had it in 1st gear and the throttle wide open. We made it to an intersection where we either needed to go right or straight. I was glad the ground was level enough to stop and rest. My arms redefined arm-pump and I couldnt feel my hands anymore. Steve had similar symptoms. I didnt take any convincing for us to decide we werent going any higher. By this time the bikes were beginning to feel a little anemic because of altitude. We turned the bikes and headed back down again resting after successfully completing the rockslide area.
Once we returned to Ouray, we headed north of town to the KOA to meet Jim Foley and his clan from Kansas City. It was at that time that Jim told us he would not recommend we go up Poughkeepsie Gulch. Steve and I really need to do more research before going to an unfamiliar area. I apologize, as I did not write down the names of the other riders from KC or the brand of their two-wheeled mounts. Jim is an avid KLR rider, but for this ride his mount was his Suzuki DR350.
Steve and I returned to Ouray, we should have left sooner, as the weather was damp and cold. Fortunately, we had anti-freeze at the hotel. Our odometers for this short trip showed 32 miles. That night we enjoyed a great pizza dinner at a corner coffee house. Our two rooms were next each other so that night we sat outside telling jokes and insulting one anothers heritage. Please note that uncontrollable laughter at seventy-seven hundred feet in altitude may cause permanent brain damage. We all should schedule a EKG upon our return, perhaps we can get a volume discount.
The next mornings plan (9/11/02) was to be ready to ride at 9:30 am. Anything earlier would be too cold. Before we left for breakfast I call the Twin Peaks Best Western to wake up yet another Kansas gaggle of riders. They said they would meet us for breakfast. We returned to the corner coffee house for an overpriced but hearty breakfast. Expect to spend a few more dollars in Ouray for necessities, such as eating. The Best Western group arrived, as we were finishing. This group consisted of three veteran riders, Clay Bastian aboard a KDX 220 2-stroke, Bill Snyder atop a KTM400 and Stu Nowlin sporting a KTM450. 9:30 am departure suited us all.
Right on time was the KOA group. Ken, Tom, Cory, Derek, Steve and I were staying at the Cascade Falls Lodge, and we too, were ready. We decided to split up in different groups, some on the easier stuff and others on a little more technical terrain. As it turned out, we really split into three different groups. The KOA riders went their own way, which started out going up Engineer Pass. Cory, Ken, Tom and Derek also went up Engineer Pass but only after a short delay for Cory to change the jetting on his TW200. Im told the bike was suffering from severe emphysema. After installing the new lung component they were on their way. This group made it over Engineer pass into Lake City for lunch. Then on to Cinnamon Pass and eventually finding their way to a cool ghost town called Animas Forks. When Steve and I returned to the hotel we could tell they must have had a good time evident by the smiles on their faces.
Steve and I linked up with the Best Western group. For the next two days we rode with Clay, Bill and Stu. Stu Nowlin is a 62-year-old veteran who smokes the trails. I hope I can ride half as well when Im his age. Stu, you dont have to thank Steve and I for tagging along. We were glad to take the brunt of the insults that came from Clay and Bill. Like Steve said, do you know how you can tell when Bill and Clay are lying? Their lips are moving.
This first day we headed out of town to the Alpine Loop only this time we turned left instead of heading to Poughkeepsie Gulch. Steve and I learned our lesson. This trail took us to Mineral Point then on to Animas Forks. From there we headed to Picayune Gulch, Placer Gulch, California Gulch then we topped Hurricane Peak. What a view! Hurricane Peak was indeed true to its name. As you breached this peak, the wind velocity increased 10-fold. We then descended down Poughkeepsie Gulch. During the descent we were met by some jeepers that had busted an axle the day before and had came back to make the necessary repairs. Luckily they were able to give some welcomed information on the next steep downhill that lied in front of us. It was just steep enough that you couldnt see the terrain without getting off the bike to look. Steve dismounted to examine the situation. He rides better than he walks, and within three steps he did a face plant of some rocks. Good thing he still had his helmet on. He got up rubbing both wrists. Steve had put his hands out to break his fall, and ended up adding wrist muscles and tendons to his list of sore appendages. We wont go any farther regarding this list. Meanwhile Stu was in a bad way trying to get his bike facing the other direction. His next maneuver found him with the KTM on its side facing the downhill side of the mountain. Not an easy lift to right the bike. But nobody had time to help we had problems of our own. Besides, I was laughing too hard as Stu was grunting to put the bike back on two wheels. Steve was still shaking his hands like he had just put on a fresh coat of finger nail polish.
I let off the brake and rolled with a dead engine through the recommended passage. Next came Clay, Bill, and Steve followed by Stu. We made it. The next obstacle on Poughkeepsie was the rockslide area that Steve and I embraced the day before. Once at the bottom we again took a break, at least four of us did. Stu handed his camera to Clay and headed back up a short section for Clay to photograph. After the photo Stu returned to the bottom but unfortunately tried to dismount at a bad spot. This was the type of spot that you wished you had Magic Johnsons inseam. The right handlebar slowly made its descent to the ground with Stu wrestling it the whole time. Fortunately Clay is a talented, multi-tasking type of guy. Even though it was difficult enough to walk the jagged rocks back down, he was able to snap a Kodak moment of Stu. Best of all, the shot was made with Stus own camera.
We proceeded down the rocky trail that eventually intersected with highway 550. We turned left and head south to Corkscrew gulch. We then blasted up Corkscrew to the summit. Gave our camera shutters some exercise, and then started our descent. On the way down we ran into Jim Foley, and together we all descended from the mountain. Back at the bottom, we agreed that H2O was not quenching our thirst anymore. Back to Ouray and the tiny refrigerators at the hotel room.
Another great day, the odometers clocked 57 miles. My body was beginning to get sore. At one point during the day Stu was of course ahead of us down by an old mine. The rest of us were resting a few switchbacks up the mountain when we spotted a fox, not just one but two. Four legged for those of you that are wondering, you know the animal type. Come on, were in the mountains! Bill grew concerned because he thought they were stalking Stu, who was only 50 yards away. Bill yelled, Stu, run for your life, theyre stalking you!. Obviously Stu couldnt hear us, or was he just ignoring us. Doesnt matter, turns out they werent stalking him, so we stowed our camera. Dreams of photographing a fox/human mauling quickly vanished.
I cant tell you how many times Steve pulled up next to me and told me he was scared, I responded, "Im scared, too" and off we went. During one descent we stopped at the bottom looked at each other and decided it was time to slow down the descents. You heard about riders that ride on the edge, I think we may have crossed the edge a few times. As for being scared we really were just kidding until the next day when we came down Black Bear, read on.
That night the Cascade Falls Lodge and Best Western group assembled at a local Mexican restaurant. Stories of the day were exchanged and plans for the next day were set.
Thursday (9/12/02) Cory decided to head back to Kansas and Derek opted to set this day out. Tom and Ken took off to the mountains, after first waiting for the rain to stop. Our group opted to venture out regardless of a little rain. Bill needed to stop for fuel, which gave me time to slip on my rain pants and warmer gloves. We headed south several miles to Black Bear Pass. There are two passes feared by off-roaders. Poughkeepsie and Black Bear. The climb to the summit started fairly easy but became more technical the farther you went. Frequent stops were made along the way to take photographs. The scenery was once again awesome. As we climbed the backside of the mountain a storm was paralleling us to the south. When we reached the summit it began to rain ice that quickly turned to snow. Time to check cell service and call a friend at work that has taken a Ford Bronco over Black Bear years ago. He also told me he would never do it again. Good signal, one ring, two rings, hello, Jerry its Tom, guess where Im at. On top of Black Bear and its starting to snow. Jerry was envious but also told me he would never do Black Bear in bad weather. We had no choice. I hung up the phone and we started down Black Bear, next stop Telluride for lunch, we hope. The views were breathtaking, but breathtaking took on a new meaning as we approached the legendary stair steps. I had heard of the famous stair steps but so far this was a piece of cake. For a while you could see Telluride then it disappeared around the ridge. After a series of rocking downhills and left and right turns we made a right and found ourselves looking down a what seem like a bottomless drop-off.
We have arrived at the stair steps. With each step the front forks of the KLR were hitting bottom. As I crept through the steps I was stretched as far back on the seat as my arms would allow. Clutch in so I wouldnt stall the engine, Ive never been more focus on what I was doing in my life. Feathering both brakes I finally made it through only to be greeted by a hard right turn that is a must make turn. Rolling down to the next switchback turn was a level pull-out that allowed me to park my bike next to Stus KTM. I took my helmet off and decided it was OK to breath again. Stu had been at the bottom of the steps photographing the scary section. He unfortunately ran out of film before Clay came down, but he captured the rest of us. Good thing because I wont do it again. I tried to run up to the corner before Clay arrived but due to my physical condition, the altitude and the weight of the camera I couldnt make it in time. Clay came by and I turned and stumbled back to the bikes. Steve walked by and said again, That scared me, he then turned around and said, and Im not #*$*%# kidding, that really did scare me. I said; Scared me too, hold me. I was kidding about the embrace but not about being scared.
The next stop after a series of the sharpest switchbacks weve seen yet was the top of Bridal Falls. A very impressive 300-foot water falls. This is a popular spot for weddings. The road from Telluride to Bridal Falls is two-way. After that, its strictly one-way. You are not permitted to climb the stair step area. No need to convince us. The bottom of the falls was even more impressive than the top. We rolled through Telluride checking out the scenery and trying to find a place to eat. We followed Clay to the end of Main Street made a U-turn then rode another block and parked the bikes. We all purchased parking tickets just to find out later that motorcycles are free. Our eatery was named Jacks Place. Clay wanted a Café-Au-Lait. This was a manly establishment that offered no wimpy drinks. We all consoled him until he decided on a beer. Thanks again to Bill for buying everyone lunch. We then walked the streets to purchase a few souvenirs.
Departed Telluride via Imogene Pass. This pass was a good climb to Tomboy Mine. Tomboy Mine use to be 3,000 people strong at one time. Food was carried by stagecoach everyday. This according to a historian we spoke to at the Mine. A lady sitting in the back of a jeep asks surprisingly, You guys are riding bikes up this mountain. I told her, Yep, I just bought this bike yesterday, this is the first time Ive ever ridden a motorcycle. She bit hook, line, and sinker. I let her off the hook before we departed. On the way out, several ATVs and Jeeps going our directions greeted us. This added some technical difficulty to an already difficult trail. The difficulty of passing other vehicles is compounded when they are traveling slower than you. You first have to make the vehicle aware your trying to pass which requires you to feather the clutch. Not easy when you're on an uphill grade. Clay flamed out trying to make a pass, when the bike stopped he was engulfed in white smoke. The bike was overheating and boiled a sizable amount of coolant out of the radiator. Bill and Clay waited for the bike to cool then added liquid. They made me believe the rest of the day that they had urinated into the radiator. Something you certainly dont want to do when the radiator is hot. I should have known they were lying, their lips were moving again. Camelbacks serve more of a purpose than just personal hydration.
Around the next corner we came upon a rather wide and deep-water crossing. Stu and Steve had already made the crossing. Clay, Bill and I stopped before the crossing, Stu signaled for us to come across three wide so he could shoot a picture. We waited awhile for him to get ready. Bill was on my right, complaining about how this is CRAZY, we cant do this, there must be some kind of law against this. Clay was on my left trying to choose his line through the water. The flagged dropped and we throttled on. I didnt realize till later that it was really stupid for me to be in the middle. I was dowsed from both sides. Bill washed enough water in my filtered air box to almost stall my engine. When I reached the other side I had to choke the engine to keep it running.
At the intersection we were faced with yet another decision. There was a bridge to cross the river or a jeep trail going through the river. Clay and I opted for the jeep crossing. This was another time I almost lost it. That would have made a good Kodak moment.
From there, we headed up Yankee Boy Basin. Lots of creek crossing along the way. This area is where the waterfall on the front of a Coors can came from. Stu stopped to take a picture on the way back down.
We returned back to Ouray and Steve and I mooched another beer from our riding companions. That night after a refreshing shower and a rum and coke, we headed to a premium steak house, to celebrate life after Black Bear. Bill never ceases to amaze. The restaurant was packed, plus all seats were full in the staging area, yet we were immediately seated. I didnt notice, but I suppose its possible that Bill was packing a firearm. The steaks were excellent, and after all, we deserved it.
The next day, Tom, Ken and Derek were returning to Kansas. Clay, Bill and Stu were moving to the Taylor Park area near Salida to ride a few more days. The Taylor Park boys came to our hotel yet again that night so they could examine the map of the area I had. Goodbyes were exchanged and we went to bed shortly thereafter.
Friday (9/12/02) we walked down for breakfast at Cecelias, a place we had frequented the last two mornings. Ate breakfast and waved good-by to Ken, Tom and Derek. Steve and I headed to Engineer Pass. This was the heaviest rain weve seen all week. The clouds were hanging low. The ride up the pass was interesting. The higher you climbed the colder and icier it became. The ice slowly became snow. Steve and I were both icing up. My shield was covered with ice and my clear glasses were fogged. Every 20-feet or so you could get a good glimpse at the trail just enough to keep on track. We reached the summit, took some pictures, at least I think we did, I couldnt feel my fingers. Steve and I descended as fast as we could to a warmer climate. On the fast descent I saw in the mirror that Steve was only inches from my rear tire. Good time for a brake check. I nailed both brakes for about a half a second, then throttled on. I could hear Steve behind creating a rock slide with both knobbies locked up. My laugher echoed through the valley.
It was only 9:00 am when we reached Engineers summit and we were back in Ouray by 10:00 am. We loaded the bikes and headed for Salida, Colorado to stay at the "Beddin Down and Horse Hotel Bed and Breakfast", an establishment owned by my aunt and uncle. They stuffed us with ribeye steak until we couldnt our breaths. Steve retired to the sleeping quarters, I stayed up for a while talking old times with Uncle Jerry and Aunt Carolyn.
Saturday morning Steve and I sipped a cup of coffee and hit the road for the long trip back to Kansas. My truck recorded right at 1,800 miles for the trip.
This has to be the best bike trip Ive ever had the pleasure to participate in. The fellow riders on this trip were great, although at times their sense of humor was very disturbing. The joke that Bill quietly told at Jacks Place in Telluride was sick. Thanks Bill, I enjoyed it immensely! He said it was the only joke he knew. Its disconcerting to me that this is the one joke he chose to remember. This also had to be the thickest-skinned group of motorcycle riders there ever was. Of course, you didnt have much choice, if you dished it out, you had better be ready to take it.
This was not only a fun trip, but one with no broken bikes, injuries, nor even a flat tire. They say that your only real friends are those you went to school with or those you go to battle with. I feel weve shared the heat of battle together. The mountainous and desert terrain that we rode could not have been done alone.
Ill go out on the limb and predict this will become a yearly event. You can add my name to the list right now.
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