Galloping to Gallup

Yeah, I bet that title has never been used before.

This was the first real ride of the season and I was anxious to stretch the legs of the proverbial pistons in my F 650 GS. Dezso had started out a couple of days before me as I still had work left to do. He departed from Cortez as I left from home with an expectation to meet in Montrose for a late lunch.
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My route took me over Monarch Pass on US 50 which I don’t remember having done on the GS before (I’ll have to consult my maps). Weather was near perfect and I started out to partly cloudy skies and 60 degree temps. Leaving the house after rush hour let me leap onto the highway and ride at highway speeds on C470, getting me into the mountains a whole lot quicker than normal.

I didn’t stop until Monarch Pass for a photo op. Out to the west I could see storm clouds building and dumping. I tried to consult weather maps on my phone, but was surprised to learn I had no cell coverage on top of Monarch. Well, it wasn’t like I could take an alternate route to Montrose anyway.

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I gassed up in Gunnison, sending texts to Deana and Dezso and letting them know my status. The clouds continued to build, but they appeared to move southward and in the end I stayed dry. Dezso was already waiting for me at Don Gilberto’s Mexican restaurant and a storm built up just to the west of town. We expected rain and got a few drops as we rode out, but the storm also moved south and we ended up chasing it to Ridgeway.

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I had this plan to ride over Ophir Pass near Telluride as a little off road practice. From Ridgeway I had wanted to stay on US550 to catch Ophir Pass, but construction had closed the highway down until 6:30 that night and that storm looked ugly from where we sat.

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Instead we turned west on HWY 62 toward Telluride. Outside of Ridgeway Dezso realized he had needed to gas up. But neither of us really wanted to turn around and a quick consultation of my mental map reminded me of a gas station outside of Telluride where we could stop.

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We finally hit rain on our way into Telluride, which ruled out any chance of attempting Ophir Pass from this side. So we pressed forward on pavement.

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Near Lizard Head Pass the off-and-on drizzle finally left us and we dried out quickly.

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Hwy 145 is a nice winding road that takes you from mountain passes and aspens, down into the high desert lands in the Four Corners region.

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Dezso had camped at Mesa Verde the previous night (turns out the campground has wifi), and since I’ve been there many times including mapping, I didn’t feel the need to stop in again.

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In Cortez we had to make a decision. Since we couldn’t attempt any off road riding here in Colorado, we decided to ride part of the Arizona BDR tomorrow. With that in mind, we decided to push on to Gallup. We had every intention of camping (honest!), but we traveled through Native American reservations and there aren’t any opportunities for camping. Dezso even went so far as to ask in Shiprock, NM. But the woman shook her head and said, “You don’t want to camp here.” I got online and booked a hotel room in Gallup.

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We rode the remaining part of the ride in the dark, switching to mp3 players to pass the time. Despite the rain spoiling our off road ride, it was a good day back in the saddle. And since there was no dirt, at least I wasn’t falling down. (Dezso and I signed up for the Rawhyde off road course in Colorado in July, so we’ll see how much that’ll help my riding.)

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Riding the Monitor and Merrimac Trail. Moab, Part 2

We ended up just off of US-191 on the north side of town, easily marked by all the other trucks and trailers parked on the side of the road. The dogs were still exhausted, so Michael and Rachel decided to stay in their Landcruiser and follow along behind (Sadly they had to turn back since the bouncing shook the exhausted dogs too much).
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We off-loaded the bikes and two ATVs and headed up a maintained dirt road that took us to a nice overlook and then into the back country of the Mill Canyon area. The women who checked us out at the rental shop told us that there are dinosaur fossils and a natural arch (Tusher Tunnel) that we could ride to and I was quite interested to see these things.
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The OHV trail quickly took us to slick rock and sandy areas, giving me the opportunity to take the comfort I gained in the morning and apply it with the skills I remembered from my class. Soon enough I was dipping up and over bare rock, rock outcroppings, and bits of sand and silt.

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Deana also gained confidence with her ATV and started to learn her way around and over the bumps and dips in the road.
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I have to say it was nice having the ATVs with us since they had luggage racks and we could store what we need on them, leaving the dirt bikes light and unencumbered—which would turn out beneficial once we hit the deep sand.
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When we made it to the top of the plateau, the rocks went away and the sand became the larger part of the track. Deana loved this since it gave her a smoother ride, but it is also where I had to slow down.

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Fortunately, Alex and Deana waited patiently while Dezso and I conferred about how to tackle the sand. Training had taught me (and it was hard to do at times) to stand on the pegs (lower center of gravity) , knees hugging the gas tank, and bend over the bars so that you’re neither tugging on them or leaning all of your upper body on them.

And if Deana and I felt more comfortable on our machines, Dezso zipped up and down and back and forth, always in the lead and soon enough reporting back when there was a sand trap up ahead.
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I think he enjoyed the high sand berms and we occasionally caught sight of him with a rooster tail of sand kicking out behind his bike. (And now that we’re back home, he’s sent me some photos and links of dirt bikes for sale. Pure evil, I tell ya! Pure evil.)
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And it was about this time that I took a spill. Of course I had to do it right in front of my wife but hey, that’s what humility is all about, right?
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We came up to a large section of sand. Dezso had stopped and warned me about it and we talked about how to approach it. The trick is that you need to allow the bike to go its own way through the sand. But the problem that arose for me is that my bike continually wanted to creep off the trail and into the sage brush.

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Like a horse trying to brush off its rider, my bike and I scraped sage before sinking back into the track. The rear tire would swing out and then up the slight berm I would go, scraping brush again. I wove over to the other side and repeated this process before finding a deeper section of sand and dumping over.

The bike lay half buried in the sand, making it hard to get a grip and prop it upright. Alex came over and together we got it up. I do know that if I had been on my GS and loaded down with camping gear, I would’ve just put a for sale sign on the bike right there.
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Of course, having said that, I am also interested to come out here, set up camp, and then remove the mirrors and Jesse bags (they really don’t need to see any more damage) and go to one of these sand tracks and try to ride. I think what I need to do is practice until I know what the bike is going to do and what I need to do in order to remain upright. I can’t imagine how those people racing in the Dakar can do it at the speeds they’re traveling at. I can’t even get out of second gear!
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We had a few more miles of sand. Some of it deep, some shallow, and some back to dirt and rocks. It really started to wear me out!
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We made it to the turn off for the natural arch. It lay an undetermined length ahead of us and the trail looked like nothing but sand.
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Dezso was getting knackered, but the rest of us still wanted to see it, so we had Deana ride up to the top of the hill (nothing but sand on that hill) and report back using our headsets. She said it looked fine. Once the ATVs made it up, Dezso took his turn, staying on the right track.
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The sand looked deeper on that side and he kicked up quite the screen of sand as the bike dug in. Just at the top he went over. As he and Alex pushed his bike upright, I took the left track where it looked a little easier and my gamble paid off.
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But as we looked over the hill at the rest of the track we saw nothing but sand. It was late. We were hot and tired and decided to turn back. We’ll save Tusher Tunnel for our next trip out. There are lots of trails and side trails to explore in this area and since we all had a great time, we’re already planning a trip in the Fall once things cool down again.

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