Thursday, 13 June 2013

Back in the saddle

Ok, Sorry for the lack of posting, after a few months off it's been hard to get back into the blogging. It's not something that comes easy for me, I usually get really grumpy around computers (rather be riding I guess). I don't really like them and they don't like me, they usually break out in some sort of virus.

But, for the many thousands of fans out there who have been following Golden Bay to Cape Horn I'm going to try and keep it up, only thing is I've changed to a new blog for this years North America stage. It's just kicked off, a little slow and not as well as hoped but please go over and check it out at:

Cheers Joe

Friday, 16 November 2012

Moab and the canyon lands


I hit the starter and am rewarded with the familiar sounds of a dr650 motor idling away. Well that's a relief, after a week the bike is back up and running, and the only parts left behind in the reassembly process seem to be those that were replaced. It will be at least another 500km before I can stop worrying about a bolt coming loose some where deep in the internals of the engine and causing a major explosion though.

After taking the DR on a short ride without incident on the outskirts of Durango with Omar on his big GS1150 I load up and head for Moab, Utah and the famous canyon lands and slick rock. The 400km highway trip gives the new engine parts a chance to bed in and get to know each other before being subjected to the sand and steep slick rock climbs.

left over parts

Omar and his beautiful Beemer. I can't thank Omar and Susan enough for all their help in Durango.

Russell from Durango Cyclery was a super nice guy and owns a cool little bike shop in down town

The small town of Moab in Eastern Utah is right in the middle of a huge adventure playground that attracts everyone from rock climbers to jeep drivers to challenge the incredible desert landscape. Back in 2005 I spent 2 weeks here mountain biking and knew that I could easily spend another 2 weeks here this time on a motorbike.

I arrive in Moab just on dusk and see a couple of DR650's all loaded up for the long haul. I haven't seen too many bikes like mine on the road so it's interesting to talk with Mihai and Pawel from Montreal. They're just 4 days into their 6 month trip and heading south to S America. I spend a couple of days with the Canadians, firstly checking out the Arches and then riding the stunning White Rim trail in Canyon Lands National Park.

I mountain biked the rim trail back in 2005 and it took 3 days. This time with the motor we easily completed the spectacular 100 mile ride in a day. After almost a year of riding I guess you could say that it takes a little more to get really excited about a ride. The scenery here is so good that I'm more than excited, once again I feel incredibly lucky to be propelling myself through this rocky wonderland of Buttes, Mesas, canyons, and sand. I can't think of a better way to explore this area other than with a motorcycle.

Mihai , Me, and Pawel in Arches National Park

Landscape Arch

If these were horses I'm sure they would have enjoyed the run around the white Rim just as much as us!

Awesome scenery on the White Rim

Basing myself at the Lazy Lizard Hostel each day I head out and explore the country side and also the capabilities of a motorbike on slick rock. One of the highlights is riding the world famous slick rock trail which has become so popular with mountain bikers. It was first pioneered by motorcyclist's back in the 70's before the sport of mountain biking was even born, and thankfully today is still open to motorbikes. The rock is just soooo much fun to ride on, the smooth grippy surface allows you to traverse and climb insanely steep slopes through a maze of humps and hollows, ridges and valleys, natural half pipes and bowls etc. It's a huge play ground that just has you grinning from ear to ear.

One day during my stay in Moab for the first time for my entire year long trip the DR refuses to start. With the ignition on I have no lights, no nothing, nada, which leads me to the blown main fuse. It takes me the most part of a day to track down a pinched wire powering the speedo light. Incredibly this wire decided to short out right in down town main street Moab when I pulled in to stop at a shop. Here, I was able to find more fuses after blowing my spare trying to eliminate all the possible causes of the short. The day before I was way out in the canyon lands, would have been a big walk out. Needless to say I'm now carrying extra spare fuses in my spares kit!

Heading for "Chicken Corners"

This guy was guarding the entry into Lockart Basin

Kane Creek was a great ride, sandy valley floor riding and then a dramatic exit up and out of the canyon that had me and the DR pushed to it's limits.

A hidden gem of a place just off the Kane Creek Trail

A highlight of my time in Moab - the Slick Rock Trail. The rock is just such a unique surface to play around on.

Exiting "Hells Revenge"

Out in the middle of "Fins and Things" jeep trail I meet up with riders Joe, Randy and about another half dozen riders whose names I can't remember. I 'm invited to join the boys from Oklahoma on a ride out into the Soverign single track trails, I'd just been out there they day before punting the big Dr through some fairly gnarly and tight trails that had me back tracking out of there so the invitation of riding a light and nippy XR250 was too hard to pass up. It was a great ride and fun to be out with a group...and at the end of the day little did I know that I had just passed the test to sign up on team " Oky" to join Joe and Randy the next day to tackle the infamous "Five Miles of Hell" which is supposedly Utah's and possibly the US's toughest trail.

Second attempt on this little rock ledge on the Soverign Trail. The first had me upside down, wheels in the air and stuck under the bike with my knee pinched between the pannier frame and a rock. Took some painful leg twisting to get out of there, I felt like a cast sheep for a while!
Funky Rocks out on the Soverign Trail

The Oklahoma Boys

Enjoying the unique rock landscapes

I first heard about the Five Miles of Hell trail back in Durango from Tim, he said it was the kind of ride you did once and would have no desire to go back, and that it would be just suicidal on a big DR650. I remember thinking way back then that this must be an interesting ride....and what do you know I now have a chance to check it out. I'm a little apprehensive and unsure about this one though, I'm only a couple weeks short of heading home, maybe I should just finish up while I'm ahead and still walking, after all I've allready had an awesome time in the area. "Oky Joe's" dead keen to have me along though, his group of around 7 or 8 riders has for some reason shrunk down to 2 for the trip out to Hell and he wants some extra mussel along. Well, what the hell, it can't be that bad, and I know I will regret not having I go, so the next day we load up and head off to the trail head at Hell.

The ride turns out to be a lot of fun..... that is when you block out all the worries and just focus on the ride. You pick your way over rocks and sand set amongst a maze of mini canyon lands, and you have to have your eyes peeled to follow the white dotted lines marked out on the rocks. There is no track as such, the route simply takes you over and around the rock formations and down into the canyons. In places you have to traverse narrow ledges, turn on a dime and then launch up steep faces. The slick rock enables you to ride up stuff that you wouldn't normally shake a stick at!

I enjoy tight technical mountain biking and I think this is helping me out on this ride. The level of fitness is demanding too, it's just relentlessly hard work as you continuously wrestle the bike around and up the natural obstacles. The challenge is such a buzz, and you know if you get it wrong in some of the more exposed sections you could go straight to...well... Hell. And a break down out here would be serious too, there would be only two options really, walk out and back with replacement parts or fly the bike out. To walk or tow a bike out of here would just not happen!!

After about 3 hours we manhandle the bikes up an exceptionally difficult climb and having completed 2 miles of " 5 Miles of Hell" we opt to take the optional early exit. Like I said you need to be fit for this one. I didn't feel disappointed at all about leaving early, this has been some of the most ridiculous riding I have ever done and was surprised at what we had accomplished. The rest of Hell will keep for another day.

Oky Joe and Randy take a break half way through 5 Miles of Hell

The ride at Hell was a great climax to the incredible riding here in Moab. And, my two weeks at Moab was a great way to end up my year of motorcycling. I leave town feeling that I could still spend plenty more time here, but with the differculty of some of the trails it's probably a good thing I'm leaving before I can't help myself but beat up the bike and my body more than I should!! If you enjoy taking anything with wheels off road you can't help but be amazed with the scenery and unique off roading opportunities here, it's that good.

I have a night camping out in the canyon lands and then a couple of chilly days traversing the high mountains of New Mexico before making my way across to the plains of Oklahoma. Here I have planed to leave the bike at my friends place. I rode with John for a couple of weeks down in Colombia and he has kindly let me store the bike in his shed while I head home for 5 months of work. Dead flat agricultural plains are not what you would call great motorcycling but it's worthy time that adds to the overall experience that is America.

The roads in eastern Oklahoma are flat, straight and deserted. I have it all to myself and without the usual curves and oncoming hazards to take my focus I spend my last couple of days riding reflecting back on the trip from it's early beginnings to now, some 12 months, 50 500km, and One thousand and Fifty hours of ride time later. I'm still trying to absorb it all, I feel like I've had about ten years worth of life experiences instead of one. So now I'm looking forward to seeing family and friends, not living out of a pack, having a decent wardrobe of clothes and just spending some time back in Beautiful Golden Bay. Tune in again in 5 months time for part two!

Heading for the Needles district of Canyon lands National Park

Free camping just outside the National Park

In New Mexico I ride through the Earth Ship community. These houses were popping up all over the desert and made from recycled tyres and bottles etc.
Last days on the road in Oklahoma
After 5 months it was great to catch up with John again at his home town of Pryor, Oklahoma.
God dam that's a big set of handle bars! Checking out famous Fort Worth stockyards in Texas.
Bikes and action at the Dallas motorcycle show
Omelet for breaky in a typical US diner, you don't go hungry here, the servings are generous!
Cruising on the Amtrak train from Texas to LA just before flying home to NZ

Thursday, 18 October 2012

United States of Motorcycling

With all the media hype and violence surrounding the Us - Mexico border I must admit it was with relief that I had this border crossing over and done with. The crossing at Tecate was not as smooth as hoped though. It seemed as if the Mexicans didn't care if you were leaving their country, this border was all about whether the US would let you in through the massive security fence which stretched away in either direction from town.

There was no Mexican Immigration to get our passports stamped out which is usual at all of the previous crossings, instead the US officers were already processing my entry visa and when I questioned where the Mexican Aduana was to retrieve my US $400 bond I was told not to worry about that just yet. So eventually I get my visa processed and while waiting over hear two armed officers talking about a video game that one played the night before where he had to shoot up a bunch of people, it just seemed a little in appropriate from some one who's profession envoles security and handling firearms!!

So I get specific directions from the Us Customs officer on how to find the Mexican Aduana. I have been told I must leave the bike in the US and walk back across the border. I find the Aduana and the guy needs to see the bike but get this, he can't cross over the border to look at It, what the hell, this whole process is just backwards. I have no choice but to cross back over to the US get the bike and bring it back into Mexico!! I try walking directly back to the bike the wrong way and a US security officer comes out of nowhere and he's not too happy, "you can't do that, you have to go back through US immigration" for the second time, bloody hell.

Meanwhile, Patrick is having problems getting his bond back as the credit card he used to pay for it had to be cancelled when it was lost. So, after a stupid amount of time and several "loops" across the border on foot and then again with the bikes we were finally through.

We called in at the Sidi boot Distributor in San Diego and I managed to get my beaten up boots replaced under warranty which cheered me up, thanks to Motonation. That was followed by a high speed freeway run into LA to Patrick's sister's apartment. Several days of City time and I was ready to get back to the Country. So after a couple of months with some company I was back on my own again. I have a couple of stops to make on the way out of LA. The GPS is a life safer as I am guided through what seemed like 70km of concrete jungle highways. I make Joshua Tree National park just on dusk for a nice camp.

Day two back on my own and I almost get stuck out in the desert! This trail near Joshua Tree National Park was steeper than it looks, and loose. I had to turn around and ride back up this after it become un-rideable. It took several attempts with the loose rocks, I dropped the bike a few times, and during one fall I ruptured my water bladder which I have mounted on the side of my tank. It's 40 degree C and I loose all my water, and I've almost broken my golden rule of off road riding, "never ride down something that you can't ride up" It was a close call.

The largest motorbike shop I've ever seen, lots of goodies here, Chaparral's Motor sports in San Bernardo, California.
I'm sure there's a TCK 80 front tyre with my name on it somewhere in here!

Time for some new rear wheel bearings, again!

On the classic route 66

No shortage of signs here in the states

With Grand Canyon not far off route I decided to call in for a look and find a free bush camp

Nice landscapes between Flagstaff and Durango

Historic Durango - Silverton train
After 11 months and 45 000km looking for the ultimate ride I may have found the place. Durango, Colorado! Durango and the surrounding towns of Siverton, Lake City, Quray and Telluride are stunningly situated in the San Juan Mountains and steeped in mining history.
I guess you could argue that the culture experience in South and Central America would be hard to beat, but as a Kiwi I find the American culture here just as interesting. The "saloons"and dinners where you get dished up a big feed of eggs and hash browns, the hot waitresses with their cute accents, the big old gas guzzling pick ups etc all adds up to creating a atmosphere that was a world through the TV as I grew up. These towns have a mix of old time miner types, hippie's and lot's of outdoor enhusist's making use of all the incredible outdoor recreation available. And the people are just really, really helpful and friendly.
Anybody keen on mountain biking would recognise the names Durango and Telluride, these place's are single track heaven. Being a keen mountain biker myself it would have been painfull to be here without a mountain bike...but hang on a minute, unbelievable a lot of the single track bike trails on forest lands are open to motorbikes. With the luggage removed the DR is transformed into a single track weapon, ......well actually it's a long way short really with the highway gearing and porkyness but it's surprising what I end up riding and it's some of the most fun I've ever had on a motorbike. Single track riding back in NZ in the forest is just not available.
There's so much riding that I start worrying about how I'm going to ride it all! I find myself riding technical gnarly piece's of trail on my big dual purpose bike just because you can!! I can't ride past a trail like that and not have a go!! My bash plate is paying for itself here.
And it's not just the techy single track that makes this place so great for motorcycling. The hills are just fill of old gold mining relics from a 100 or so years ago and what's been left behind is a incredible network of jeep trails up over high passes linking up all these sites. It's a superb combination of scenery and riding. It's a bit like the areas of central Otago, Qweenstown and Wanaka all rolled into one on a big scale, and I'm lucky enough to be experiencing some beautiful Autumn weather. For once I'm at a place at a good time of year!!
It's not all good however. My trusty bike is not so new anymore. She's starting to burn lots of oil on start up, I check my valve clearances and one exhaust is out of spec for the first time on the trip. I keep riding for a couple of weeks thinking I may just have worn valve stem seals which is not such a big deal.  My bike is now notably way down on power which gets me worried and at the next opportunity I go to shop and get a leak down test done. The results are not good.
I've been struggling to decide what to do about the bike for the last two weeks, should I just keep on riding, it's running OK after all, or should I open it up and prevent any possible further damage. It's a difficult decision. My undesirable pessimistic nature gets the better of me and assuming the worst after the leak down test I decide to go ahead and pull the engine to bits. So the good/bad news is the leak down test may have lead me astray, on first inspection the engine doesn't look too bad at all!
I'm now waiting on a new cam chain, piston ring set and valves. It's not all bad, Durango is a great place to hang out for a while and I should have a sweet engine for another 50 000km!
First sample of single track. I have to look at the sign three times to convince myself that I'm not going to get shot for riding my motorcycle down this trail
Not a place to go over the edge!
Autumn is a nice time of year to be in Durango 
Tim and Randy riding Husaberg 570's take me on an awesome day out riding single track and jeep trails
Tim slicing it up
A little trail maintenance on the way
Lunch break at Ricco
Base camp, Junction Creek Durango. That's my camp companion Nick in the background. We hung out for a week and cooked up some good meals on the open fire and exchanged a few yarns. It was great to have some company in the evenings.
Tight single track and....
Fast open quad bike trails, and....
Amazing scenery
Engineer Pass on the Alpine loop
Lots of interesting mining relics
California pass at 12 000 ft and some hard as old timer hauled that boiler up here 100 years ago
Beautiful colours on the passes
The nicely set town of Quray
Wouldn't mind a hut like this myself

Oops, got it wrong on Black Bear Pass trying to ride up it the wrong way, it's steeper than it looks and at around 12 000ft both the bike and me are struggling for air!
....and that's Telluride way down there in the background
After the struggle with "the Black Bear" I have a nice relaxing coffee in Telluride, that's the pass up there in the centre background.
Greg from Fun Centre Motorbike shop takes me out on nice evening ride near Durango
I'm riding up over the top of Ophir Pass on my way back to Durango and meet Tess and Evan two up on there BMW 650. Before you know it I'm invited to stay at there house and end up staying a couple of nights, they feed me awesome Mexican food and I get to hear Evan have a jam session with a friend. Was a really enjoyable time, thanks a heap.
Things are getting serious, head and cylinder about to come off
hmm, what am I doing!!
Quality control officer's, Fern and Zoe keeping a close watch
Transportation for town and parts running
And this is Susan and Omar who have opened up there house, garage, and given me the pushy to get around town on while I do the work on my bike. Omar is a keen biker and owns 3 BMW boxers  and a Yamaha WR 400 trail bike. You guys have just been Fantastic, it's so nice to have a place to get the bike sorted. That's us cleaning up a concrete floor that Omar intends to polish up in his new house.