…musings of one easily amused

Ride Reports

Departure

Thursday morning.  Checkout day.  There was a broom supplied with the cabin along with a note that went something like “use it or get charged $200” (I’m paraphrasing of course).  We had quite a bit of clean up to perform before we could leave.

We were able to pack it all up and give the cabin a sweep by 10:30.  The weather was typical… thunderstorms with heavy downpours.

We waited one out before we headed down to the camp store to checkout and get my “Official HMT Gear”.

Tonight’s destination – Hagerstown.

Previous installment – Gas?! I won’t need no stinkin gas.


Gas?! I won’t need no stinkin gas.

Wednesday morning.  Our last full day of riding.

…and all the bikes were running.

The day started with a quick rain shower, just enough to loosen up one layer of caked mud on the bikes.  A couple hours later the Sun had won the battle and burned off the majority of the cloud cover.

Today’s planned route was across Indian Ridge to Northfork and then to hit the connecting trail to Pinnacle Creek but by the time we got to Northfork I was worried the KDX’s would not have enough range.

This is part of the ride out-

I was already carrying all the tools.  The boys decided they were going to go “light” and not carry anything so the extra 2-cycle oil was sitting back in camp.  So, we headed back towards camp to top off the tanks and then spend the rest of the afternoon at Pocahontas.

The ride back up the mountain towards Ashland-

We took a quick break at camp, refueled and finished off the day riding as much of Pocahontas we could.

 

Previous installment – It Always Gets Worse Before It Gets Better

Next Installment – Departure


Success, then failure

I was up at 6:00 am and started tearing the KLX apart.  Extracting the carb is not the most difficult process but it does have its PITA features.  Once out I gingerly removed the bowl and found enough sludge that could be the cause of the problem.  I removed all the jets, cleaned and reassembled.  The pilot crew had a tiny piece of something, perhaps rubber, buried below it.  This also could have caused my problems.  Filled with an abundance of hope I put it all back together and went for a test ride.

It was a different bike.  Success!

We headed out around 10:00 am, Northeast along the main Indian Ridge Trail toward the Northfork/Keystone area.  It was extremely wet, have rained for a few straight days.

Most of the pictures from the GoPro ended up water skewed due to the rain and abundance of water pooled up on the trail.  In one section, a low hanging tree ripped the camera of the top of my helmet and it landed in a pool of muddy water.  I rinsed it with the water in my camelback and continued on.  We seemed to have the trails to ourselves.  It wasn’t until around 12 miles in did we pass a couple 4-wheelers.  The trail was mostly hard pack and wide with an occasional high berm in the corners.  There were a few mud sections and a couple slickrock areas, one located perilously in the middle of a wide corner.  This one had my legs flailing as the bike lost complete traction and ass end started to pass me.  I saved it, but there were certainly no style points won.

The boys stayed with me, the old KDX’s giving them no problems.

The last section of trail 19 leads down the mountain.  A bunch of steep, rutted, loose rock switchbacks.  As we started down I was already pondering how much “fun” it was going to be climbing back up this mess.  The end of the trail dumped us out onto county highway 17.  down the road a few hundred yards was a food trailer with a menu advertising the greatest succulent lunches ever… but noone was around.  In fact, as we took a break and used thier picnic tables to hold bikes and gear we never saw anyone, or anything.  Not even a dog.  The place seemed completely deserted.  We decided to continue south through the town which brought us out to US52 and Northfork.  We passed the firehouse and spotted what appeared to be a restaurant, at least the sign painted on the large window was advertising a “Devil burger”.  We parked next to the oil tank and bike-sized hole in the side of the building, shed our gear and walked in.

There was no ventilation working in the kitchen so the smoke of the grill in the back consumed the entire room.  A friendly guy behind the counter asked what we would like and passed our order to the woman in the back manning the grill.  About a half hour later we had our burgers and fries.  As I said before, nobody is in any rush around here.  What’s the point?

Well fed, we geared back up and started out.  The KLX had different plans as it decided to sputter and die in front of the firehouse.  I removed the drain from the bottom of the carburetor bowl and found what appeared to be sand.  I cleaned it out, re-assembled and continued on.  I didn’t know it at the time but this routine would be repeated several times before we got back to camp.

The climb up the mountain was a bit of a challenge.  It was a good lesson in picking the right line.

After the climb we retraced our path back to camp. The KLX was getting to the point of giving up. It would die every two or three miles. I would drain the carb, then continue. Of course, it would always die on an uphill section, making it all that much more fun. Not.

Remember that slickrock section in the corner? It bit Alex on the way back. I was leading and in one of my over-the-shoulder glances I had lost both sets of headlights behind me. I turned around and met them at the corner. Alex has lost it and slid directly into the mini pond that had developed at the edge. He was a wet, gray, mess. Completely drenched. After it was apparent nothing was broken (Alex was okay too) Austin and I ridiculed him appropriately and we continued. It would only be a mile or so later that Austin would meet his payback and proceed to drown the KDX in a deeper hole than Alex slid into.

What goes around, comes around.

We headed back toward camp. The KLX died at least three times during the 15 mile journey, and always at the most inopportune moment. Upon arrival we hopped in the truck and set out to the “local” Advance Auto to get an inline fuel filter and some fuel line. At the time we still felt there was shit coming from the tank gumming up the works. Parts acquired, we cooked some burgers and dogs, performed the angioplasty on the KLX and called it quits for the evening. Hopefully tomorrow would be worry free.

Previous installment – Hatfield McCoy – West Virginia

Next installment – It always gets worse before it gets better


Hatfield McCoy – West Virginia

We got a late morning start on Saturday and began our trek to “Trails Heaven” – the Hatfield McCoy off road riding area located in southern West Virginia.  Loaded with three bikes and gear we only needed to get as far as Hagerstown Maryland that night.  It was the maiden Voyage for the trailer and it pulled like a dream.  The truck probably thought different as the gas mileage plummeted from a typically disappointing 16-17 mpg during normal use to 12-13 mpg range dragging the trailer.  The good news is the price of a gallon of gas dropped from a high in New York of $4.49 to $3.28 in Pennsylvania.

We left the hotel Sunday morning and had an uneventful journey to Ashland ATV Resort in Ashland, West Virginia.  We followed their site instructions to find them as they strongly suggested.  “Road”s in this area can be nothing more than what we call a fire road at home, dirt/gravel and barely a car wide.  Throw in some 180 degree switchbacks and you have county road 50/1 – a time-saving cut across the mountain we discovered when trying to find the quickest way to town.  NOT a road I’d want to attempt with a trailer regardless of what Google Maps says.   At least the truck looks the part now.

The campground is a bit of an oasis in an otherwise depressing area.  The homes and buildings are in various states of dilapidation.  Many look abandoned, even some of the businesses that are open.  The people are friendly and helpful but certainly not in any rush.

It rained most of Sunday but stopped long enough for us to unload the bikes and gear and get setup inside the cabin.  The amenities are good yet basic.  We have a small fridge, microwave, air conditioner and a small flat screen TV mounted on the wall.  Our fridge came stocked with a six-pack of beer. Probably not standard operating procedure, but appreciated nonetheless.

Shortly after unloading the sky opened back up and rinsed everything.

We waited out the storm on the porch and when the rain subsided we geared up and headed out for our first run.  The campground is located in the middle of the Indian Ridge trail system.  You enter the trails right at the end of the driveway.  Indian Ridge has connector trails to the Pocahontas system to the Southeast and the Pinnacle Creek system to the Northwest.

Soon after entering the trails the rain started again. Not a light shower, a steady downpour.  None of us cared due to our eagerness to get out there.  Unfortunately my bike started acting up about five miles out.  It got to point that I had to keep the choke on to keep it running.  We turned around and I nursed it back to the campground.

So, we travel 750 miles to ride and my bike wont run.  Sweet.  The evening was spent online scouring the area for motorcycle service locations and dealerships.  I needed to line up every option possible to try and salvage this week of riding.

 

Next installment – Success, then failure


Westbound

The woodpecker/aluminum gutter alarm went off around 6 a.m.  I rolled over hoping to catch another half hour snooze but after fifteen minutes it was clear that I was up for the day.  I commenced with the pack up procedure, punching my bag and pillow into their dedicated stuff sacks followed by the slow roll of the thermarest before exiting the tent.  My gear included a new dry bag, an “Expedition” model from Wolfman Motorcycle Luggage.  The new bag opens from the top instead of the side like my old bag, giving easier access to stuff on the bottom.

Bruce and Allyson were already up stowing away the “Taj-Ma-Halleran”.  They were headed back home to Factoryville to swap out some gear before pointing westward to the International in Wisconsin.  My destination today, Dillon State Park in Ohio, was only 430 miles away so I was not in any rush.  I fired up the jetboil, made some coffee and reviewed the route.  There were a few squiggly lines on the map to follow before I’d hit the Interstate for a monotonous stretch though PA.

The most exciting part was the tunnels.

Yup. See what I mean? 🙂

I arrived at Dillon S.P. around 5 p.m. The campground has everything you could possibly want when travelling by bike. A complete laundry facility, a well stocked camp store that has everything from hatchets to hotdogs (I bought both) and the sites are grass covered with paved driveways to them. Not bad considering I chose this park only because of it’s proximity to the AMA museum.

I setup and people watched for a while, witnessing what has to be the most inept attempt at trailer parking I had every seen. This husband – wife team were as dysfunctional as the U.S. Senate and House combined. After 30 minutes of forward, back, move it this way, no the other way, too far, too crooked, too tilted, the husband yells out the window to his equally directional challenged wife, “Shut the Fuck up”. And with that, the show was over.

Brian and Jeff rolled into the campground 8 p.m., having started their ride 11 hours earlier from the Boston area. They said very little as they unpacked and setup. That much seat time in a single run takes allot out of you. I got the fire going for the wiener roast and made some Tai noodles and beans for dinner. We burned the rest of the firewood as the clouds rolled in and rain slowly increased from a drizzle to a steady shower. That was our signal to call it a day.

Previous – Art of the Bike

Next – AMA Museum and Illinois


Art of the Bike

I awoke to a woodpecker beating the hell out of John’s aluminum gutters.  Apparently they like to mark out their territory with the loudest sound they can muster and this guy has the neighborhood to himself.  He positions himself in the center of the house to obtain the best resonance and then goes at it.

Bruce and Allyson along with the rest of the Halleran gang pulled in around 9:00 a.m. and we suited up and rode into town for breakfast before heading across the river to Tinicum Park in PA.  The Frenchtown Cafe was packed but somehow managed to seat us quite quickly.  Belly’s full, it was time to check out some classic bikes across the river.

Art of the Bike – Classic Bikes and Blues was started by a couple of local marketing guys that happened to ride motorcycles as well.  The first year it was held the turnout overwhelmed the tiny area of downtown Frenchtown so they moved it across the river to Tinicum Park.

We arrived, parked and after paying the $5 and being branded I made a beeline to the concourse area where all the old bikes were assembling. Every few minutes another owner would turn in off the road and make his way to the lineup.  Out of all the bikes there for judging I only saw two roll off trailers.  All the rest had plates and registrations and were ridden there and parked.

I need another bike project.

Previous – To Frenchtown

Next – Westbound


To Frenchtown

Yesterday’s ride was enjoyable despite a midday thunderstorm and a few showers along the way.  Route 301 out of Carmel, 9D along the Hudson and Seven Lakes Parkway through Bear Mountain S.P. and Harriman S.P. were beautiful even with a dull gray overcast sky.

I stopped for lunch a new place called “The Pizza Pit” in Sloatsburg and had an incredibly tasty potato and cheddar slice.  This is where the heaviest rain began just as I was sitting down to eat.  I took my time and watched the sheets of water pummel the road, quickly overwhelming the sewer drains and creating an impressive lake between the curbed edges.

I picked up 72 then 511 headed south that eventually ran into 287.  From there I stayed on the highway finally exiting onto 513 that took right to the IGA in Frenchtown.

A bag of ice, some sun dried tomato and basil spiced sausage and a six-pack of A&W root beer and I was set for the evening. I was the first to arrive at John & Carols, followed by Bill about ten minutes later.

Bill made the mistake of blindly following his GPS that was bent on having him go through the Holland tunnel.  Unfortunately, he was towing a trailer and because of that was considered a truck.  They turned him around and sent him off to find the truck entrance to the Lincoln.  An hour and a half later he located the proper entry and proceeded to sit in traffic.  Needless to say Bill was a bit frazzelled upon arrival.  We setup, relaxed and enjoyed some of John’s excellent home brew.  Carol arrived and taxied us to “The Ship” restauant in Milford.  They are celebrating thier hundredth anniversary and had a band playing in the local bank parking lot and store vendors has thier wares out on the street.

The dinner at The Ship was great, as usual.  Upon our returned we found Pat had arrived and was sitting quietly in the dark (probably dozing).  His trip down was not nearly as exciting as Bills.  We spent another hour or so fixing the problems of the world and finally turned in.

Previous – Departure

Next – Art of the Bike


Departure

The route out –

The ride out is at a leisurely pace averaging between 300 and 400 miles a day.  I’ll be camping in Frenchtown, NJ tonight with some fellow IBMC’ers and attending the annual Classic Bikes and Blues Festival at Tinicum Park in Erwinna, PA on Saturday.  Sunday I ride out to Dillon State Park in Ohio to put me in early morning striking distance of the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum in Pickerington.  Monday afternoon I’ll point the bike west for a night at Kickapoo State Park in Oakwood, IL.  Tuesday morning will be the final leg to New Lisbon, WI for the IBMC International Campout.

The route back…

…is anything but leisurely.  I and a few other like-minded (some would say “challenged”) individuals plan on completing a 1,500 mile IBA ride by completing all 1,500 miles in under 24 hours.

Weather this morning in Connecticut is typical for any of my departures, steady rain, thunderstorms and winds likely.  At least I’ll be able to test the new “waterproof” boots.

Next – To Frenchtown

 

 


Saturday – Blinders On

It would happen every time my family went on vacation.  The minute my Dad steered the car onto hwy 52 (now I-395) or any route directly connected to the “Connecticut Turnpike”, we all knew we were headed home.  It didn’t matter if we were in Vermont, New Hampshire or Maine, once the car began the trip “back” he wouldn’t stop until the headlights reflected off the garage door.

It was 8:30 by the time I finished breakfast and completed the repacking procedure.  I said goodbye to many new friends and headed to I-70.  After topping off the tank at the station near the entrance ramp I took a few minutes to review the route.  The BMW GPS put me 1045 miles from home.  The chick on the little red scooter (the Garmin Nuvi) told me I had 1035 miles to go.  I had screwed up my “Bun Burner” documentation on the way out to Colorado, failing to collect the last receipt needed to verify 1500 miles in 36 hours or less.  It occured to me that this was a perfect opportunity to at least salvage a “Saddle Sore” award out of the trip, 1000 miles in 24 hours or less.

So, I pushed “Home” on both GPS units and started the ride, refuel, ride, refuel dance.  The music in my ears as the Droid streamed Pandora drowned out the road noise and at 2:30 a.m. Sunday morning my headlight reflected off the garage door.


Friday – 350 miles to Ramsey, and a cold beer

Morning brought another sauna-like day.  I was on the road by 8 a.m. and was looking forward to getting off the highway.  State route 36 would be my yellow brick road as I dodged every threatening thunder storm all the way to Springfield where I picked up 29 and finally 51 south through Pana to Ramsey.

The International Brotherhood of Motorcycle Campers is a diverse collection of motorcycle camping enthusiasts brought together by the enjoyment of the outdoors and the love of camping on two wheels.  Loosely organized, the members host campouts in whatever location they choose and notify other members through the web or a newsletter circulated every other month.  All types of camping goes and it is not uncommon to have combinations of dual sport bikes, sport tourers, touring bikes and scooters all at the same campout.  Accomodations range from the bivouac style to tow behind trailers.

Arriving at the campground I was met by Paul from Illinoise. He was just headed out for refreshments and offered to split his site with me and I immediately agreed.  He pointed me to the spot, took my drink order and headed off into town.  Great service, huh?

I completed my setup and walked around meeting and greeting everyone.  Many of the names were familiar but this was the first time I was putting a face to them.  Paul returned, delivered the cold ones and we sat with everyone swapping stories of adventure and disaster.  A perfect wind-down from the whirlwind journey I had been on for the past week and a half.

The campout was scheduled for the entire weekend but unfortunately I was headed out the next morning.  It was just over 1000 miles from Ramsey to Colchester and I didn’t want to be pulling into my driveway late Sunday evening.  A shower, and to bed by 11 p.m.  The trip was indeed coming to its final stages.

Next Installment


Thursday – South Dakota Has a Tail?

Thursday morning broke with some sunshine, enough to dry out the tent before packing it away.  All the gear had survived the torrential rain and blasting wind without a problem, including the garbage bag encased riding suit.

The next target was southern Illinois.  There was an IBMC campout in Ramsey that would break up the (mostly) dull ride back East.  Being just shy of a thousand miles away I figured I’d try to get 600 miles out of the way this day leaving a nice “under 400” day for tomorrow.  The route was dead simple – 90 East to 29 South, all superslab.  There isn’t much to see in eastern South Dakota and I settled into the highway cycle of ride, refuel, ride, refuel.  Entering Sioux Falls it felt good that the day’s halfway point was near.  I would soon realize that the boredom of eastern South Dakota could only be surpassed by the seemingly endless stretch of highway south on route 29.

When I’m on the interstate with the sole purpose of covering as many miles as possible I find myself picking an arbitrary point on the GPS and tracking my progress as the small blue arrow slowly creeps its way across the screen.  State lines are an obvious marker, as are rivers, large cities, interchanges, and so on.  The minute I turned south onto 29 the next logical marker was the Iowa state line.  My Garmin Nuvi allows the customization of the display so instead of a small blue arrow representing “me”, I’ve set the pointer to be the chick on the little red scooter, the one with the light blue helmet.  No, I don’t believe this is due to suppressed emotions or some call for help, I just dug the chick on the red scooter.

Like waiting for water to boil, the ice maker to spin a new batch of cubes or the clock to hit 5, the Iowa border just seemed to keep evading my scooter.  I finally backed the GPS view out so I could see the South Dakota state line and much to my surprise I found that SD has a damn tail!  Now, I live in a tail state – Connecticut, so I am familiar with the whole concept.  Hell, we even have a notch cut out of the top of us due to poor surveying and 1740 tax disputes.  Prior to this trip I lumped South Dakota into one of those square states like Colorado, Wyoming and even their neighbor to the north, North Dakota.  Yet there it was.

Eventually, the light blue helmet made it to Sioux City.  It was hot.  I pulled off the first exit where I could see the Missouri River and parked.  I walked down to a boat launch area, peeled off my boots and waded through the muddy brown water.

The day would end in St. Joseph, a bit north of Kansas City and just shy of 600 miles from my start.  A Super 8 with a Red Lobster in the parking lot screamed for me to exit off the the highway.

Next Installment


Wednesday – Black Hills to Badlands

As usual, I was on the road by 8 a.m. and entering Custer State Park which is a launch point for some unbelievable roads including Needles Highway.  The plan was to take the long way up to Mount Rushmore then complete the loop running the Needles southbound.

Every road in the park is beautiful.  There’s some re-paving going on right now but that was only in one section and only a minor wait.  A major benefit for going this time of year is the light traffic, and this road requires light traffic.  The loop contains switchbacks, sweeping curves, banked corners, drastic elevation changes, 360 degree turns that cross under themselves and tunnels only as wide  a single vehicle.  One slow moving Acura can ruin the ride but I was quite fortunate in only having one truck spoil a short section of the Needles.

I created video for the entire ride but will have to do some (allot) of editing to condense the good stuff.

There are a few sections as you climb north when Mt. Rushmore suddenly appears directly in front of you.

The best pictures of Mt. Rushmore, however, are taken from within the monument area itself.  The sculpture itself is of course, impressive, but the story behind the creation of it is simply unbelievable.  The tools that were used and the stories of the workers that did the actual “carving” is fascinating.

Upon leaving the park you get a cool vantage point of Washington’s head…

I traveled south down the Needles Highway after leaving Mt. Rushmore (video to come) then exited Custer State Park out the east side and headed toward Badlands N.P.

I entered the park from the “North Loop” road, off of 44 just past Scenic, SD.  I didn’t know it at the time but this bypassed the official entrance and I never had to pay to enter the park.  I had to navigate approximately 30 miles of loose gravel but I would have done that even if entering through the “normal” route.  Coming in the way that I did you run through the prairie and climb slowly to the top of the “Wall”.

…then there was this.

The Prairie Dogs were absolutely hilarious to watch.  I couldn’t get a good shot of them due to my lack of camera equipment but I would have paid the entrance price to the park just to see these guys.

I eventually made it to the actual entrance to the park where the “normal” people come in and was able to get a site at Cedar Pass Campground without a problem (I did pay for that).  Setup and eat, in that order.

I was even treated to a rainbow.

Not a bad view for the night.

Before turning in for the night I secured everything, putting the helmet in the drybag that normally contained the sleeping gear and tying up the “stitch”.  The riding suit is too big to keep in my one-man tent so I typically tie it up somewhere, hanging from a tree or in this case, the picnic table shelter.  I had picked up a couple of huge garbage bags from an extremely understanding woman at Yellowstone that would almost entirely cover the stitch like a dry cleaning bag.  The nightly routine complete, I went to bed.

I believe it was around 1 a.m. when I woke up the first time.  I stuck my head out the tent fly to check the sky for stars, but unfortunately due to the cloud cover there would be no stargazing tonight.  What I did notice was non stop lightning to the south.  The sky was lighting up like an arc welder with non-stop strikes.  Oddly, there was no sound at all.  It had to be a long way off not to hear any thunder.  I rolled back over and went to bed.

At 3 a.m. I awoke to wind howling and the sound of the tent fly being blown as if hanging off the back of a tractor-trailer at 75 mph.  Everything was still tied down but the thunderstorms that were rolling through were producing wind strong enough to flex the tent downward toward me about a foot and half.  The tent only stands 3 feet tall to begin with so needless to say it was getting a bit “cozy” inside.  The water was being blown under the fly and collecting on the groundcloth right outside the door so I folded it under the tent to stop any further pooling.  I started re-running the nightly checklist through my head as the gusts began to get more violent.  Would the cases be blown off the picnic table?  Which way was the bike pointed?  Could it be blown over?

Then it hit me.  The stitch “was” hanging from the picnic shelter by a bungie cord.  I could picture in my head the sewn loop tearing free and the suit being carried somewhere into the campground.  With any luck it would be blown up against a motor home somewhere and I could retrieve it in the morning.  Worse case, I’d never locate it.  With over 2,000 miles yet to be traveled that really wasn’t an option.

As I began sticking my feet into my boots so I could then trek out into the storm and secure the wayward suit I heard it.  Faintly at first, but then more prominent with each gust.  The distinguishable sound of the garbage bag flapping in the wind.  I figured as long as I could hear the garbage bag, the stitch was still there.  I must have laid there for a good hour, with the Star Spangled Banner playing in my head as I wondered if the stitch “was still there”.

Eventually the rain and wind subsided, I poked my head back out of the fly and shone the flashlight over to the picnic shelter.  Only Francis Scott Key knows the joy I felt when I could make out the swaying silhouette of the stitch hanging there right where I had left it.

Next Installment


Tuesday – Eastbound to the Sun

Morning arrived and it looked as it did for the past two days, only colder.  33 degrees and heavy fog.

To leave Yellowstone out the East entrance you need to climb over Sylvan Pass.  That meant more altitude, lower temps and possible frozen roads.  Near the summit sits Sylvan Lake.  It’s still completely frozen over.

The good news is that while taking these pictures a strange glow appeared through the fog.

The rest of the way down the other side of Sylvan Pass I saw increasing sunshine and rising temperatures.  Not to mentions some awesome scenery on Rt. 16. as you pass through the Shoshone National Forest.

Buffalo Bill Reservoir just before you enter Cody, Wyoming.

The road out of Cody.

The Bighorns.

Leaving Bighorn National Forest.

I hit South Dakota around 4 p.m.

I grabbed a motel in Custer and after taking a few pounds off the bike rode a few minutes up the road to Crazy Horse.  The task of completing this gargantuan.  I can only hope it is done in my lifetime.

Tomorrow, Rushmore, Needles Highway and the Black Hills.

Next Installment


Sunday, Monday – Growing Gills

I left the Hotel Sunday morning, gassed up and picked up some grub from the Albertsons supermarket in Jackson Hole. I was able reserve a campsite for two nights inside Yellowstone so I needed some camp food. There was a drizzling rain as I headed North to the Tetons.

I had to grab some pics of downtown Jackson Hole…

By the time I entered Grand Tetons NP it was a steady rain and clouds hung low.

As I passed Jackson Lake more clouds rolled in…

The rest of the pics from the Tetons look like this…

Perhaps Yellowstone would bring better visibility.

Yellowstone Lake, still showing some ice.

Yellowstone’s year-round residents are probably enjoying the weather more than I am.

You begin to smell the rotting egg smell of the sulfur pots long before you can see them.

My campground was central to the park, on the east side.  Canyon Village sits at the top of the “Grand Canyon of Yellowstone”.  When I reached the giants falls that welcome you to the area the camera had begin to freeze up.  I was having a difficult time keeping the lens clear and the closing mechanism was hanging.  I had to squeeze the camera body in just the right locations to get the cover to close over the lens.

These were the best I could get…

I reached the campground and ended up going to the wrong registration area.  I was standing at the reception desk for the cottages, not the campground.  Just for the hell of it I asked if they had any available for that night.  “Negative”, said the clerk.  “We do have some available tomorrow night”, he added.  Knowing that the forecast had predicted more of the same for Monday I opted to reserve the cabin.  This would give me a place to dry everything out.

I then made my way over the the actual campground check-in and gathered my site and instructions.

I setup and immediately made dinner.  It’s amazing how such a simple meal can taste so freakin good when you have been riding in crappy weather all day long.  Some Knorr “Sides” packages of noodles and coffee tasted like a 5-star meal.

Bears had been seen in the area lately and because I was in a tent and had nowhere to store the stuff that attracts bears (unless I wanted them doing a Samsonite commercial with the side cases) I needed to store all my food, cooking utensils and shower items (soap, toothpaste, deodorant) inside one of the campgrounds steel “bear boxes”.

I crawled into the tent early, around 6 p.m., and read until I fell asleep.  I only woke a couple times during the night to heavy rain on the fly.

Monday started the same way, wet.  I packed everthing up knowing that tonight I’d have a cottage to lay it all back out to dry.

One the the campers next to me, hauling a fifth wheel 25 footer started to tell me about their ride into the park from the Northeast.  They had come across Beartooth Pass where temps were below freezing and the road was iced in places.  So much for that route.  I would have to leave out the East entrance and head toward Cody instead.

Today I would make the northern loop up to Mammoth Hot Springs and back down to Canyon Village, cutting across the center of the park from Norris.  The weather was identical to yesterday, cold and wet.  The main difference was the depth of the snow.  The northern mountain pass still had a few feet at the sides of the road.

Mammoth Hot Springs sits at the top of Yellowstone.  The animals roam freely in the town center.

The pic below shows the self seeding ability of the forest after a fire destroys it.  The pine cones of the lodge pole pines are held together with a strong glue that comes apart only during a fire.  Fire is actually part of the regeneration process.  Without it, there would not be any new trees.

Every stream I passed was at capacity.  A week of rain will do that, I guess.

Once back to Canyon Village I checked into the HEATED cottage and setup camp.

I cranked the heat and went to get some dinner at the cafeteria.  Upon my return everthing was dry so I re-packed it all and went to bed.  Tomorrrow I was going in search of the Sun.

Next Installment


Update

I haven’t had wifi for a couple nights and have a bunch of pics to post (most of them with rain). I evacuated Yellowstone this morning with 33 degrees, drizzle and fog. I’ve found the sun and making a run for South Dakota.

Derrick, that’s Rt. 16 baby, Yea!

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Well, at least it’s not snowing

It has rained all day and temps have hovered around the 50 degree mark. The Ranger says they have had six straight days of rain here in Yellowstone. Tonight I’m camping at Canyon Village near the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

I took some super pics of the mountains coming up through Grand Tetons NP. You have to use your imagination a bit however, since visibility was about 100 feet. I think I was aiming at the mountains.

Here is tonight’s campsite. The white stuff around the fire ring is ice and snow.

image

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Now this is a Big Sky

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Saturday – Northbound

I had been watching the weather in the Tetons for a couple of days now.  The image of the rain cloud and temps in the 50s (daytime highs) seemed to repeat endlessly.  The option of scrapping the northern route had crossed my mind.  After all, I had five national parks to my south and that wasn’t even counting Colorado.  Then Michelle said it. “You know, if you always listened to the weatherman you would never leave the house”.

So I stuck with the original plan and left Al and Michelle this morning headed for Jackson Hole, via Flaming Gorge.  The route was easy, follow Rt. 191 all the way up.

First some pics of Main Street Helper, Utah

The ride north up 191 is a gorgeous route.  There are lots of elevation changes, curvy roads (with a switchback section too!) and spectacular overlooks.

The scenery builds up to the Arch Dam that holds back the waters from Flaming Gorge Reservoir.

The Flaming Gorge area stretches well into Wyoming and produces some of the breathtaking vistas I have ever seen.  The valleys scales of size are so huge they just don’t seem real.

Interstate 80 marks the end of one landscape and the beginning of another.  Still following 191 North the route takes you up on top of a seemingly endless overview, looking down on huge valleys to either side.  I was startled out of the scenery induced trance a couple times by antelope jetting across the road.

I met some southbound bikers at one of the turnouts that were looking forward to some warmer temps.  We exchanged cameras and I believe this is the first pic I have of me so far.  Proof that I am actually on this trip and not doing it from my kitchen table.

The scenery eventually flattens out as you travel between the Wyoming and Teton Ranges to the west and the Wind River Range to the East.  By this point I had stopped and added a sweatshirt as it was beginning to get a bit nipply.

The closer I got to the Tetons the more I could make out the scattered thunderstorms that had been lingering around this section of Wyoming for days.  I wondered what my chances were to dodge them before finding tonights shelter.

As it turns out, I ran head on into a thunderstorm as I entered Jackson Hole.  I had decided to find a motel for tonight miles before the downpour due to most of the camping areas leading up to Jackson are along the Hoback River.  The river was extremely high and fast due to the recent rains.  Not the place I want to be sleeping when the river starts to rise.  The Super 8 proudly flashed the No Vacancy sign as I rolled past.  The Motel 6, however, had no such display and I grabbed  a room and ordered a pizza…delivered.  Nice.

So now I sit here watching the stitch drip dry onto the towel strewn bathroom floor as the Weather Channel delivers the news that I stand a good chance to get wet at least once every day for the next several days.

I’ll make a call into Yellowstone tomorrow morning to see if I can snag a reserved campsite somewhere in the park.

Neither rain, nor snow (please, don’t let it snow), nor dark of night shall keep me from my appointed rounds.

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Friday – Al Leads the Way

Knowing locals is a good thing. Not only did Al and Michelle provide food, laundry, power, and shelter (the minor conveniences) but most important, Al knows all the good spots 🙂

We headed South around 10 a.m. toward “The Wedge”. There is a long gravel road that takes you up to the northern section of the San Rafael Swell where Utah’s “Little Grand Canyon” dives 1,500 feet to the San Rafael river below.

Al led me from the top of the canyon down to the “Buckhorn Draw” area.

Buckhorn Draw has a huge natural rock panel containg petroglyphs and pictographs dating 2000 years old.  This area, known as Buckhorn Wash or the Buckhorn Wash Panel is amazing.  We were there at midday so the Sun made it difficult to make out the details of the images.  They were fascinating nonetheless.

The temps at Buckhorn Wash had to be in the 90s and in full gear it was slightly uncomfortable.  Deciding that it was time to cool down, Al led the way north.  Within a half hour we were cruising along the mountain roads of what he refers to as the “Scofield Loop”.  This route climbs to over 9,000 feet and the temps dropped into the 40s.

…and then the battery in the camera went dead.

This was close to a 200 mile loop and an absolutely fabulous ride.  Living in Connecticut I don’t have to opportunity to change climate as drastically and as quickly as it can be done here in Utah.

…and no, there aren’t any “Little Grand Canyons” either.

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Notom Road and the Waterpocket Fold

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Thursday – The Loop

I pulled out of the campground at 7 a.m. and headed south on 191.  Destination – Mokee Dugway.  This a switchback that climbs out of the Valley of the Gods in Southeastern Utah.  The weather was cool, as the cloud cover was keeping the Sun’s rays from reaching the ground.  As they started to break up I was able to grab some awesome pictures of the light beams knifing through the clouds.  You will have to take my word for it.  I can’t retrieve them from the camera because the memory card was in the laptop at the time I was snapping these incredible pictures.  Since these fantastic shots are now on the internal memory, and I did not bring the cable for the camera with me (why would I need that?) you will simply have to take my word for it.  They were phenominal.  I can’t wait to see them myself for the first time  🙂

Shots that DID make it onto the card – Route 191 headed south.

Approach to the Mokee Dugway.

At the base of the switchbacks I had turned on the helmet camera to record the climb.  Unfortunately it ended up in “picture” mode, not video mode.  I didn’t discover this until the end of the evening…when a re-do out of the question.

The Dugway successfully ascended, it was on to Lake Powell and ferry. If you are not careful, Utah can leave you stranded without a gas station.  You need to pay close attention to the miles between locations and gas up often.  By the time I arrived at Lake Powell I was running on hope.

The ferry captain brought it in for one of the smoothest touches I’ve ever seen.  I was now headed for the Burr Trail and Notom Road that leads up into Capitol Reef N.P. and the Waterpocket Fold.  This was about an hour long ride where I got to goof off with the camera again.

Burr Trail starts off paved then changes to gravel.  The road was in good shape at first, mostly hard packed gravel, but once on Notom road the washboard surface was brutal. There was no escaping it.  I tried different speeds, riding the edges, nothing was working.  To make matters even worse, there were sections of front wheel swallowing sand dotting the edges of the road.

I did get to enjoy some of the scenery between the butt puckering episodes of sand and bone jarring washboards.

Once I got the feeling back into my arms and legs I headed north 24.  There is a section on this road that makes you wonder if you have left this planet.  A barren moonlike landscape, tortured from the baking sun.

Your reward for pushing on through the moonscape is an oasis called Hollow Mountain.  This is a gas station/convenience store that has been carved out of the side of a huge rock.  I was here two years ago with the VStrom and took a pic in the same spot.

From two years ago-

I consumed two large bottles of gatorade and refilled the camelback.  Next stop, friends in Helper Utah.  They have a spectacular view, a fire ring and WiFi  🙂

I’m trying to get a video uploaded to YouTube of the Waterpocket Fold.  First try has been unsuccessful….

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Wednesday – Gunnison to Moab via Grand Junction

Black Canyon of the Gunnison is an awesome area with sheer cliffs, broken rock and a tortured landscape.  The width of the canyon is not wide, nothing compared to the Grand Canyon, however its depth is comparable to what I saw at Toroweep on the North Rim.  It’s as if Mother Nature took a carving knife and slashed a gash into the earth.

When I arrived at the Canyon it was cool and windy.  The Ranger at the entrance suggested I camp at the bottom of the canyon next to the river.  Sheltered from the wind and with the rocks holding the days warmth it was perfect.  The switchbacks down to the river were also a treat.

Gordon’s classic dinner for one.

I had been up and rolling for 34 hours straight.  Once the camp was cleaned up and the the food stowed I went to bed.  It was 6 o’clock.  I wouldn’t even roll over until 6 a.m., 12 hours later.

Well rested, I packed up and walked down to the entrance to the tunnel that was constructed in 1909 to divert water from the river to the valley, some 6 plus miles through the canyon base.  The campground actually sits on the site of the old town that sprang up to support the workers as they lived and worked on site.

I rode up the switchbacks and proceeded down the South Rim Road.  This offered some incredible vantage points for seeing the canyon from the top looking down.

An amazing place.

I headed to Montrose, CO to fill up the bike and male some phone calls.  The bike was due for the 6K service and I needed a BMW dealer.  Grand Junction Harley Davidson (and BMW) was just over an hour away.  I made the phone call and they said they could get me right in.

The bike was done and I was back on the road by 1:30.  My original plan was to head back down south to Mese Verde.  I had called the ranger down there and was assured the campground would have sites available so it was a perfect plan.

That perfect plan began to get “adjusted” when the GPS routed me through Moab.  From the moment I realized what it had done I started talking myself into stopping there for the night knowing that if I did I would probably not make Mesa Verde at all this trip.  I blame the Moab Brewery for all of this.

Route 191 headed South into Moab.

I rolled through the center of Moab and pulled into the Canyonlands Campground (directly across the street from the Moab Brewery).  Sites were available and within an hour I was settled into a booth with a Dead Horse Ale in front of me.

Moab is an off-roaders paradise.  The campground was filled with old Broncos, Jeeps and motorcycles.  There is no hint of attitude when you walk in to a business covered in road grime smelling like you haven’t showered in days (it had only been 3 for me).

I love Moab.

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Monday and Tuesday – It’s All The Same To Me

I left New Stanton, PA at 7:30 a.m. and began the tedious trek across the nations mid-section.  The personal goal was to get as far west as possible.  The bulk of the day was spent running from gas stop to gas stop and creating new seating positions to relieve stress on my own mid-section. The most effective was simply standing for a mile or two.

Other than motorcycle yoga I did goof off with the camera a bit.

There were, of course, the occasional thunderstorms.  The one below I had been warned by eastbounders that I had about ten minutes of torrential downpour ahead of me.  They were not exaggerating.  When I lost sight of the tractor trailer 50 feet in front of me I stopped under the next overpass and waited it out.  Several vehicles pulled in behind me.  I’m not sure if it was because they meant to pull over or because all they were doing was following my tailight.  The early warnings were right.  About  10 minutes later the bucket loads gave way to a steady shower and I was back on the road.

I hit the Kansas version of Kansas City at dusk.  Either my cycle aerobics were paying off or the Advil was kicking in because I still felt pretty good.  Too good to stop.  I decided to keep rolling until the crouching tiger/squatting bear contortions no longer eased the pain.  Getting approximately 3 hours between each refill, it was almost midnight when I rolled into the rest stop.  I still felt good.  At this point I decided to just keep going.  The weather was perfect, the air was dry and cool, traffic was light to non existent.  It was later on at one of the rest stops that a trucker came up to me asking if I had a deathwish.  My perplexed look must have been an obvious clue to my not so obvious cluelessness.  He proceeded to tell me that my chances of making it out of Kansas in one piece were 50/50.  This was not due to weather or a drunk driving convention in town but rather due to the deer population.  “Ain’t you seen the blood stained road and the pieces of meat hangin on the guardrails, Boy?”, he asked in a way only a long haul trucker could.  “Well, yea”, I said.  “But I’m following you so the path is clear, right?”, I followed up.  Off he went, mumbling something about the crazy, damn fool yankee.  I’d been called much worse.

Needless to say, I kept a close eye on the sides of the road for the rest of the night and on into the morning.  I don’t have any pictures of Kansas.  I entered it in the dark and left it just as dark.  Close your eyes…now press on your eyelids…that’s what I saw of Kansas.  I did see some lightning produced silouettes as I dove for cover at about 3:15 a.m. Tuesday morning.  No pictures of that either.  I tried to get a video of it with my phone but it came out looking like the previous suggestion of pressing on your eyelids.  Only this time, do it while standing in the shower with a big fan blowing on you .  Have someone flick the light switch on and off quickly to simulate the lightning.

I rolled into the first Colorado visitor center at 6:00 a.m.  They were closed.  The air was cold, I’m guessing in the low 40s, and the fog was heavy.  It was that thick fog that leaves you just as wet as if it was raining.

The fog eventually began to burn off as I headed toward Black Canyon of the Gunnison.  That would be the final destination of a very long day.  From 7:30 a.m. Monday to 7:30 a.m. Tuesday I had travelled 1,398 miles.

…and without even a trace of deer carcase on me.

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Sunday – The rodent gets a talking to.

9:00 a.m. I left the ATM in Colchester.  It was an uneventful ride to PA.  Traffic was light, speed traps were abundant.  The GPS decided it had a better route than the one I had loaded and by the time I realized what had happened I had missed route 99 and was on my way to Youngstown.  I ended up heading south on a secondary road that turned out to be a nice change from the interstate.  This “detour” just happened to route me through the hometown of a character named Phil.  This beady-eyed little bastard has managed to screw me every February 2nd for years.  This time I had the element of surprise on my side.

While checking the route south to get me back onto I-70 I made a few calls to see how my luck was going to be finding a campsite in the middle of Memorial Day weekend.  I found a KOA just south of Pittsburgh that had one site left.

When I arrived to snag it I found out it was basically a gravel driveway crammed between two thirty-foot motorhomes.  Having spent a few sleepless nights in campgrounds listening to generators and air conditioners run all night I decided to pass.

Three miles away I found a “Quality Inn” (term used loosely, of course) and for less money than the gravel pit would have cost me I had a soft bed and a bug free bathroom to myself.

Tomorrow is all I70, all day.  It would be nice to make the western side of Kansas but I’m not sure that GS seat is going to allow for that to happen.

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