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