There's been a lot going on in the FakeName world. The economy has whipped the rear end of business, family members have died, connecting rods wore out, etc. I've been wanting to get away for a long dual-sport ride for some time, but postponements kept reoccurring. And it's hard to get away- my wife works an executive job that is a timesuck, and the kiddo needs a parent. So I waited. Rescheduled, waited.
Finally, I carved out a 6-ish days for myself. Arranged for the after-school pickups and the mom days. But where to go? Colorado was calling, but if I went solo, that's nearly four days of just driving. So I poured over ride reports and kept returning to the Crawdaddy and Strega Circle of the Big Ditch. I contacted Strega asking if he a) thought it'd be doable solo and b) be interested in going along.
Strega's opinion was that it COULD be done solo, but he's registered for another ride and was unavailable. So I began to plan.
A day or so later, I got and email from Jim, asking if I'd be interested in a ride buddy, and explaining he was interested in the identical ride on the same days had planned.
Perfect! Planning began in earnest. Jim's an amazing planner, and took the lead. Navajo permits, hotel reservations, fuel range calculations, etc. I began bike prep, installing a rebuilt motor and shaking the bugs out, new tire, etc.
Two days before liftoff, Strega emails with an engine issue that puts him off schedule for his previous plans. After some begging and pleading on our parts, he joined the gang. What was the problem there, Strega?
Strega: "Issue with the bike was an odd one, while removing the drain plug, the wrist pin keeper was attached to the magnet on the end of the plug...time to pull the motor apart :("
And in advance, we owe a lot of this ride to Crawdaddy for the advance tracks and the pre-run he and Strega kindly did for us last year on the same dates. http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=514330 I'd have never seen some of these places without the tracks for Strega to follow. And, without Strega, I'd still be on the trail somewhere huddled under the metal/mylar space blanket, desperately pressing buttons on my Spot.
WARNING: I've been hassled on the subject of photography before, most commonly "Take more pictures" or "Why won't Fakey take pictures?" So I've changed that for this trip- there are LOTS of pics. If you don't want to see LOTS of pics, stop right here. OK? :-h
And off we go:
Day One Vegas to Fredonia
We left San Diego on September 29th, loaded up and driving to Vegas. Here's Jim in Strega's truck pulling a trailer of bikes:
We checked into that off-road cheap room haven, the Orleans, had a quick buffet dinner and hit the hay. Next morning came early- we packed and left.
I'd made a decision to force myself to stop and take more pictures, and despite the slab of the first morning, I kept my promise.
But I got the shots I was after:
We got back on the bikes and headed down the trail. Shortly thereafter I heard Strega on the radio:
See Strega's mic is in an odd place with that particular helmet and that's all I could hear. But it sounded important- and I asked him to repeat.
He said "glurgherarah!!"
Strega: He heard, "glurgherarah!!" cuz not only does he have his radio piped into his helmet, he has an iPod and XM radio (Yes I said XM Radio), probably blaring the Jonas Brothers...
Aw, The Jonas Brothers? You wound me, my friend. 5 days, no Jonas Brothers that I know of. I'm not sure I'd know them if I heard them. Are they a Funk Band like Tower of Power?
I stop and ask again- Strega: "Jim's down, you'd better come back", at which I circle back, tip over, flood the bike and kick (more on that later) kickkicK 'Til Monday get it started and head back. It's not good.
I helped fix the shifter, but there was little we could do for the leg.
Jim: I was starting my biggest ride yet, a loop of the Grand Canyon with Fakey and Strega. Everything started well and the ride was going great until about 25 miles south of Mesquite, on a simple left hand turn of the trail, I was going a little faster than I wanted for the turn, rear wheel locked and the tail end slid around until it was too far out to keep the bike up. Basically fell over on my leg. My ankle hurt, but I could put weight on it, wiggle the toes, foot didn't hurt, etc.
Shift lever was broken, and Paul and Roger replaced it with my spare. Knew then that my loop was over. Couldn't really move the ankle up and down too well, so we turned back toward Mesquite. I was shifting with my heel, taking it easy, etc.
I ended up at the Nellis AFB hospital. Left the boot on the whole time until xrays to keep it from swelling even more than it did. They told me the fibula was fractured and I had a torn ligament. Put a splint on it and sent me back to my Navy docs.
Wife was already on the way up to Vegas from home, and she picked me up from the ER and we spent the night in Vegas. Got up early Fri morning and drove to Balboa Naval Hospital ER. Went through the whole drill again, with the orthopod telling me I was scheduled for surgery on Thur (today). Went in for the pre-op yesterday, and found out it was still too swollen to operate on, and as they say in the NFL, upon further review, found out that they may be able to fix it with just a cast. Clinical results say you get about the same results with both options. It all depends on how it goes as far as how the tibia stays aligned on the foot bone. Xrays every week. If it doesn't stay aligned, surgery.
So, while I thought I was doomed for surgery, the fibula and ligament may heal with a cast, so that is the good news from this whole thing. But.....I am going to miss the GC loop, a ride to Cabo and back, Cdaddy's Barstow to Laughlin and finally, LABV!
Think of all the money I will save not doing those rides!
With Jim out and safely escorted to the main road, Strega and I had to make up some time. It was HOT that day:
and hydration was key:
We made it to Trumbull Schoolhouse as the sun was beginning to settle down.
We know Toroweap, while in the plan, would put us so far behind we'd be arriving in Fredonia well after dark. And it had been a long day. So we hit the dirt road- with one minor navigation error- what was that Strega?
Strega: "The error was in the Zumo, it decided to take a 'shortcut' which I decided was a bad choice after about 10 miles, so I suggested we back track to the route I was familiar with, which meant we need to haul a** to Fredonia!"
Well, in the defense of the Zumo, it was a track that showed up on YOUR 60csx as well. But the trail eventually started to look like Ranger trail from Corral Canyon, so we doubled back. I'm quite sure however, if we'd just kept riding a little bit further, it would have cleared up and been the perfect shortcut.
Our motel for the night:
This place was terrific, especially if you enjoy smoking and cats. The main courtyard was like a cat zoo- there must have been 20, and of course, where there's cats, there's cat piss. Ugh. But at that point, nobody is being fussy. Got some grub:
And headed for bed.
Here's the first day:
Day Two Fredonia to Cliffdwellers (Lee's Ferry)
All Day One, I was under merciless attack by electrical demons. The starter stopped working, the headlight was flashing, and even worse, the GPSs where randomly shutting down. The latter was the last straw, as the Zumo is the source for XM, possibly my favorite of all farkles of all time. The rest I could live without!
So day two begins like this:
Up at dawn pulling off seat, tank, and checking every connection on the bike. I did find the GPS issue- a wire had come loose from a terminal, but was held in place by the shrink tubing-very sneaky. I buttoned it up after losing an hour or so, and we were on our way. Got to the first gas station, and the starter was working terrific! Unfortunately, it was the last time the starter worked for the entire trip. Arrgh.
I was not alone with issues:
Strega: As you can see in the above photos, the new kickstand is too short so I used my belt as a shim, and I lost a headlight lens due to a rock missile from Pauls MT43 otw to Fredonia.
But soon we were getting the first glimpse of the Grand Canyon- this was Crazy Jug:
Strega discovers a neat function on his camera- automatic panoramas:
I was prepared for plenty of beautiful overlooks, but I didn't consider the fall colors. I'm an urban dweller and rarely see scenes like this:
Next scenic stop- Sublime:
After a couple bags of tuna, we were back on the road- urm- OFF the road:
Had a quick lunch at the North Rim Lodge, etc then back to it.
Lots of varying terrain:
With a couple stops for showtime:
And find Cliffdweller Lodge, our home for the evening.
Day two, and the last day I remembered to take Zumo snapshots until the end:
Day Three Cliffdwellers (Lee's Ferry) to Yavapai Lodge, Grand Canyon's South Rim
Strega's got clock problems. There's some odd time zone issues between California, Arizona and the rest of the world. And it appears iPhones don't know what time it is, either. So I'm packed and ready at dawn, and Strega's nowhere to be found. Apparently, his iPhone mislead him to oversleep. But he gets it together and we're off to breakfast.
Strega: By 'clock' problems, he means that he called me at 6:02 and said, "Are you ready for Breakfast?" I said, "Ah sh!t, cya over there in TWO minutes." Then we find out the restaurant doesn't even open till 6:30...
Well, to be fair, they did TELL us the night before they opened at 6. But the hours changed overnight. Yes, I wake up early.
Cooking and eating are two of my favorite activities, and I decide to give something unusual a try. At Cliffdwellers, the big breakfasts are named after flies (the fishing type) and I chooses something called a Woolybully (I think), with a nod, perhaps unintentional, to Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. It's essentially biscuits and gravy with eggs, sausage and cheese. It's a tempting thought, but not eggactly photogenic. I ate half, arteries clogging as I went.
We headed down to actually touch the Colorado River at Lee's Ferry
And then hit the off-road.
Picture this- riding over a old track- it's hardly visible, following the GPS. One carefully picks along, aware of the danger, and then you come upon this-can you spot the Strega in this picture?
Strega- what's the name of this overlook?
Or me in this one?
There are some pretty good images, but it's NOTHING like being there. It sucks the breath right out of your lungs.
There are no fences, no guardrails, no signs out here. If you're stupid enough to ride fast towards the edge, you'll have plenty of time to contemplate your foolishness before, like Wile E Coyote, hitting the bottom with a puff of dust.
And off we go to the next scenic overlook. This is typical of the terrain around this spot- we rode stuff like this for HOURS, my head shaking at the beauty of it.
Strega: Remember earlier when I talked about Paul having XM Radio? ^^ Check out that antenna on the tail...
and just when I thought I'd seen it all:
One thing about this ride- you have to keep moving. I'm no A rider, but I thought we were keeping some pretty good time across these tracks- up 50mph sustained. But there's a lot of mileage to cover between gas stops- big tanks are necessary or carry lots of fuel. So we hit the off-road again.
Strega: Paul likes to say he's no A rider, but I don't know too many guys that can ride 1100 miles and only tip over 1 time at the speeds we were holding and some of the technical sections we hit with a loaded bike and a 6 gallon gas tank...
OK, I forgive the Jonas Brother comment.
Our overnight stop was the Yavapai Lodge. We arrived tired and hungry. Lots of tourists here, lost of traffic. Plenty of fences, guardrails and signs.
And signs of trouble.
Day 4 Yavapai Lodge, Grand Canyon's South Rim to Peach Springs
I'd installed a new MT43 trials tire a couple days before our departure, and it had been sticking like velcro to the terrain. But on our arrival at the lodge, I noticed some issues:
Knobs were being torn out, leaving big craters in the carcass of the tire, and horizontal cracks were forming between the knobs. If I were just riding in my local spots, I'd keep hammering it until it failed. But I was not going to ride it in remote areas nor on the highway, both of which was in the plan. Problem was, we were on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, and it was after six pm on a Saturday evening. Closest motorcycle shop with a tire for my bike would be in Flagstaff, 75 miles away, and unlikely to be open on Sunday.
Further, we had no internet access. Might as well cut off my arm, or pluck out my eyes.
I called our friend Ken (TrophyHunter) in San Diego, and suspect I was the callus interruptus for his anniversary romantic evening. Ken began smiling and dialing for me, and somehow reached Jim at the Coconino Trail Riders in Flagstaff. Jim, my hero, had a worn but serviceable Maxxis that he'd taken off the rear of his bike and (get this) offered to deliver the tire the next morning!
So, I got up early the next morning to locate my bike at a spot where is was fairly discreet (remember, this is a major tourist destination, and I'm confident they'd prefer not to have their parking lot look like a bike shop) get the wheel and tire off the bike, ready to mount the replacement and hit the road ASAP. I found a perfect spot (it was dark at the time) got the wheel off the ground and started to work. And in the process realized that somehow I'd rolled the back tire through a pile of dog poop in the process. So not only did we have to wrestle a cold tire off the rim, we had to do it with a big blob of poop on the tire.
Jim arrived at about 745, we had breakfast, I paid him for his gas and thanked him profusely, got the tire mounted. A kind stranger walked by as we were mounting the tire and dropped these cold ones on us:
Yes, it was morning, but once a tire is mounted, beer is necessary no matter what the time!
Off we go:
Strega: So we headed South West outa the South Rim towards Seligman AZ on route 66 to pick up the pavement to Peach Springs. This route took us down towards the Boquillas Ranch.
Then the weather started to get a little dicey:
We started to get some rain and hail, and added layers to keep warm and dry. We then headed down a pole line maintenance trail that was rocky and what was not rocks was rapidly becoming that evil red mud. The kind that makes the tires look like tractionless donuts of goo. Meanwhile the horizon in front of us is turning black, punctuated by large bolts of lighting. And that tail was 9.5 miles long! We decided to abandon that trail and turn back to civilization. We used a few farm-to-market roads that got us back to the highway and into Seligman.
My bike with it's mud tumor:
I'd been looking forward to Seligman, and I've travelled Route 66, but my timing was always wrong for the Snow Cap Drive-In- finally my chance. We rolled in under a light sprinkle, parked the bikes and ourselves, just before a cloudburst of heavy rain blasted the area.
We waited for the storm to roll through, then mounted up and hit the highway to Peach Springs, dodging other storms. We attempted to ride down to the river just out of Peach Springs, but were turned around by the ranger- after all, it was after four pm, and you're not allowed to see a river after four. So we headed back to that night's lodging with a pool and spa, all immediately adjacent to the railroad tracks. It's never a good sign when the front desk offers free earplugs for the duration of your stay. Fortunately, we knew to get reserved rooms on the highway side of the facility.
Day 5 Peach Springs to Las Vegas
Our last riding day began with another cloudburst. It hit while I was loading the bike, and had to dash in to get a plastic bag with which to cover Strega's fancy-schmancy suede seat. We had some breakfast and waited for the storm to move on.
Once launched, we spent the rest of the day keeping away from the storms, which unfortunately meant lots of slab mileage. We started out on the dirt with the best of intentions, but it began to get that dark-and-stormy feeling again.
Feeling a little boo-hoo ish, we backtracked away from the dirt. This later proved to be the right call.
As we rounded on Route 66 and turned toward the Grand Canyon Airport, we could see Mother Nature issuing a climatic beat-down of epic proportions right where were would have been riding. On the trail. In the mud. With fully-loaded bikes. No, thanks!
It was an easy day- stopped briefly at Hoover Dam
Then hit the DQ in- oh, heck I dunno Henderson? to wait out another storm, then on into Las Vegas.
We retrieved Jim's bike from the parking lot and loaded up the trailer. Strega went to a friend's house for the night, and I stayed at the Orleans.
I'm unfond of Las Vegas. For one thing I can't stand smoke, and another, I hate crowds. And I'm self-employed, so every day is a gambling junket. So Vegas leaves little to be desired- except! Vegas has a Bouchon, one of Thomas Keller's small chain of Frenchy-inspired gastronomical emporiums. Knowing damn well that Strega would have no interest in a stupidly expensive 3-hour foodie dinner, mostly reading a novel on the iPhone and sipping expensive drinks, I made my excuses and took the shuttle over to the strip.
Strega: Next time, I want in on the fancy dinner
Fantastic meal, great way to end a long ride. Next morning, hit the road about 5am for the long drive back to San Diego.