The Final Push to Prescott

“If we’re riding on the BDR tomorrow, we’re getting up at five,” Dezso said, sounding petty adamant.

I had another friend on another road trip so very long ago that was also adamant that we get up at five. He said he’d even start off driving so everyone could still sleep. And sure enough he’d get us all up, hop in the driver’s seat and thirty minutes later ask someone else to drive because he was tired and wanted to nap.

They never did find his body.

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“No way! Seven”

“Six, “ Dezso countered, “and we’re getting up and getting on the road. We’ll stop for coffee later.”

“But there’s free coffee and breakfast downstairs!”

So we settled on 6 and free coffee, not even realizing that in a few short hours we’d pass into Arizona which doesn’t believe in Daylight Savings Time, thus gaining another hour to ride. It was my turn to panic. My odometer showed two hundred miles and I figured I had about seventy miles left. Dezso said he still had half a tank and we both know my single cylinder 650 gets way better gas mileage than his. So once the morning fog cleared out of my brain, I figured I hadn’t zero’d out my trip counter from the last fill up.

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Our first stop was the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest national parks. Last year I had purchased a national parks pass and shared it with Dezso, so he did the same this year and I got in for free. I haven’t been here in decades. I remember having gone here on a family vacation, but I can’t really tell you how much it’s changed over the years. I’m pretty sure the adamant tone regarding not collecting things in the park and the search stations at the exits are a more recent addition. But if you really need a chunk of petrified wood there are a million shops right outside the park.

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I was surprised to see a lot of desert flora in the area (duh).

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I guess I didn’t know what to expect but grasses and brush grew in the area.

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We pulled in to each turn out, sometimes getting off the bike for photos and sometimes just standing on the pegs to get a look out over the edge.

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We were both suitably impressed with the park, and I’ve love to see it from the air as the maps show a large swath of geography that “looks like tye dye” covering a good chunk of the area. From the ground, there are lots of colors although none looking like an old weathered hippie.

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The landscape range in colors from faded desert tans to reds and purples. It almost reminded me of the colors of Petra, Jordan. Most of the overlooks (by definition) looked out over the landscape from the top of buttes, but there were a couple at ground level that looked up onto hills (named the Tepees) which gave a different perspective.

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Just before we crossed over I-40, there’s a pullout for Historic Route 66.

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Jack Kerouac traveled this often, so it always holds a little place in my heart. Pair that with my love of maps and travel and I’m hooked. I want to have the time (and money) to travel its length on my Ural.

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To be fair, I would also like to travel Rte 66 in a car like this.

We took a side road leading to Newspaper Rock. I assumed a place where people came to sign their names in the soft rock (there’s a place like that out…somewhere. Montana? I’ve forgotten where because I think I’ve seen a couple of them. One in Montana where Lewis and Clark signed their names and one in Nebraska or Kansas.) This one had Native American Petroglyphs instead. You could stand on a platform and use scopes to look down on a couple of large boulders that had been covered in glyphs.

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Soon we started seeing chunks of petrified trees. Dark brown chunks of rock laying on the distant landscape. Since we rode from north to south, it took a while to hit the more grand chunks of forest and they saved the grand finale for last.

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At the Petrified Forest Museum they have a park you can walk around in. Some have the upper formations of roots, some are really large in diameter, but they’re all just gorgeous to look at.

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Crystals mixed darker minerals, all showing tree rings. It really is amazing to see and I highly recommend a stop if you’re passing through.

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We stopped at almost every pullout and it only took us an hour. There’s building labeled as an inn inside the park, but it only functions as a museum. All I can think of are the millions of stars over this stark landscape that would make for some amazing photographs (provided you know what you’re doing). Oh well, another vague plan thwarted.

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The wind picked up and as we rode into Holbrook, we got hit with some significant gusts that had us leaned far into the wind and weaving in our lane. We stopped for lunch at a mom and pop Mexican American restaurant that hovered right around mediocre. We jumped back on the road and headed into Heber. We were still bucking a strong crosswind which didn’t stop until we got into a landscape with a few more trees.

The landscape started off with a windswept prairie that graduated to pinions which eventually changed to a pine forest. The temperature dropped and clouds built up. Mom wrote and said it was overcast in Prescott and so we might get some rain. Not a good sign since we still hadn’t started riding where the pavement ended.

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Why’s it always gotta rain when I want to ride off road?

Just west of Heber we picked up the AZ BDR on Rte 300. This is a section that follows the Mogollon Rim. We had climbed about 2000 feet in elevation, so we had to pull over and don some warmer layers. Just then the drizzle started and we watched the side roads to see what they ground would be like once we hit dirt. Since we’ve never ridden off-road here, we weren’t sure what the ground would be like (mud, gravel, quicksand) and since I’ve already taken a good spill in the mud, I wasn’t too keen on repeating the maneuver.

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Fortunately (or un) Rte 300 was paved for a while. We stopped for a photo-op looking out from the Mogollon Rim and could see the wall of rain approaching. Still optimistic we continued on. Eventually the pavement ended, turned to eroded pavement, then gravel, and finally hard packed dirt which slowly turned to mud in the rain.

We turned around based on my “recommendation.”

On the plus side it knocked a couple of hours off of our trip.

We back-tracked a mile or two and rejoined Hwy 260 and rode into the Verde Valley. As we descended in elevation and the rain stopped we had to take off more and more layers until we were sweating in our Kevlar. We passed quickly through Cottonwood, and started our climb into Jerome.

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Yeah, this is Arizona, so it is best to leave people alone.

Jerome is a fun little town with a motto of “We’re all here because we’re not all there.” It used to be an old mining town and is the home of Caduceus Cellars, expensive wine made by the front man of the band Tool and Puscifer. I would normally scoff at such a wine, and I did so until I tried it on a previous trip. In fact wines from this area are pleasant and I’ll usually buy a bottle for special occasions (like the one I’m saving for when I finish my second novel) or friends who’ll cook me a nice meal. But paying $40 for a bottle of wine is something I’ll rarely do. There are too many great bottles under $20 that are just as, if not more, enjoyable.

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(Looking toward Sedona)

Since I still had a fair amount riding left to do today, and had been riding for two days straight and was tired, I just popped in and purchased two bottles of wine I had previously enjoyed without doing a tasting. Now it was the final stretch into Prescott. We were tired and saddle sore and Mom had mentioned dinner at a deli near the house. I was sad that I didn’t get a chance to ride off-road, but we’ve got the Rawhyde class and Colorado BDR coming up in a month. Stay tuned for more reports!

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.)

Great Divide Fail. Days 1 and 2.

For once I got to have a lazy Saturday morning before our trip, as we would ride only as far south as Santa Fe to stay with some friends. Dezso showed up around 1 and with loaded bikes we took off down I-25, wanting to make good time.

Near Walsenburg, Dezso said his Scala rider intercom system had come off, the sticker portion having finally worn away.

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We pulled off at a no name exit and made it secure with a little JB Weld. It held for good.

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The rest of the ride to Santa Fe was uneventful aside from a deer that ran out in front of Dezso around dusk. We stopped for a 6-pack, then zipped over to our host’s place for a dinner that awaited us. Best meal of the trip.

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I had agreed to wake up early on this trip, due to concern about afternoon thunderstorms bogging us down. I struggled awake at 6:30 each morning, groping for coffee until my mind was relatively clear.

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(My vice. I’ll always stop at Whataburger.)

We loaded up and talked about dual sport riding and our Beemers with Dave and Faith, noticing the same glimmer in their eyes that I had before I bought mine. Sure enough, not even an hour down the road, Dave had emailed that they were looking at GSs in their area. They are not strangers to motorcycles, having ridden Harleys since their teens. Dave has always been a font of information to help me when I’m ready to pull out the Emergency Roadside Dynamite (patent pending) for a more permanent solution to something I can’t figure out. But I believe this was the first time they’ve been tempted by dual sport riding.

South of Albuquerque things (yes things) crawled across the road. I thought they were tarantulas as something in my brain remembered something about those hairy little monsters being prevalent down here. I mentioned it to Dezso who rode for about 50 miles with his feet on his handlebars (in full disclosure, I’m even worse when it comes to snakes. I just hate those little bastards). At some point we realized they weren’t hairy, crawling death, but monster sized grasshoppers (locusts? I don’t know,)

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We passed through Hatch, NM and could smell the roasting chiles in the air. Each restaurant featured red or green chiles on their store front, and I wished I could’ve picked up some for the trip. We pushed on, passing a border patrol checkpoint before fueling up in Deming.

As we filled up a red mustang with Minnesota plates pulled in too. The driver got out and asked me what that checkpoint was all about, which kinda amused me. There’s quite a different border up north.

We made it to Segar and jumped on the Great Divide Trail. Light gravel made it easy for Dezso to zip off in front, but it had been awhile since I had been on anything other than pavement and I took it slower, still remembering the highlights reel of my greatest slips and spills.

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I still put Dezso in the lead when it comes to off-road riding as I like the warnings of what’s to come. In the washes and gullies, the sand was thick and deep, so we both took it slow in these areas, speeding up for stretches of road that were on high ground.

In a surprising turn of events, Dezso was the first to go down. He made it through deep sand in a dry creek bed, but his balance got thrown off bumping up the other side. Two wobbles later and he went down, somehow getting his pants leg stuck on his pannier and giving it a good whack. I rode over slowly and made it without falling before helping Dezso pick his bike up. He limped around on his leg, trying to work out the pain. Nothing felt broken and no ligaments seemed torn, so he’d probably just end up with some bruising.

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A few more turns, and we got to the next sandy creek bottom, this time with river cobbles as well. Dezso made it through, and I took a spill, pinning my ankle under my pannier (I am SERIOUSLY thinking about getting soft bags!). You know the calcaneus?

Yeah, that was the contact point with the pannier.

“Dude,” Dezso said. “Did you just face plant?”

“Yeah, and I can’t get up. I’m pinned under the bike. Come help me.” I was face down and couldn’t twist around to lift the bike off of me. I tried using my free foot to dig out from around my pinned foot, but it didn’t work as I intended.

I bet we made a funny sight: me, face down kissing America, and Dezso hobbling over as fast as he could to help get me out from under the bike. Me, cursing in pain because of the pannier, and him cursing in pain because of the weight he put on his leg.

Once again, we got the bike off of my ankle and onto its kickstand to assess the damage. The mirror had twisted loose and once again, battery acid leaked out—I really hate this function of my 2001 F650 GS: the open cell battery. As many times as I fall over, there’s always battery acid leaking out, and from what I’ve been told, I can’t put a closed cell battery in! (Someone who has one please tell me I’m wrong.)

We rode for a little while longer, stopping for Dezso to walk out his leg and to take some photos. I looked down and noticed my handlebar weight was now missing. I guess the drop had loosened it enough to vibrate off. And where my hand rests on the grip and my arm angles up, I couldn’t have seen it drop off anyway. I rode back for about a mile to look for it, but I couldn’t find it.

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(Never seen anyone actually put the “no pants” part of this sign. I wonder if they actually had people come in sans pants.)

We rode into Silver City, NM and stopped at a gas station. A truck blasted Tejano music which put Dezso in the mood for Mexican food. (To be fair, the wind changing direction could put Dezso in the mood for Mexican food.) I got on Yelp and found a few places, but as we rode around town from one restaurant to the next, it became clear that this town shuts down on Sundays. We ended up at a bar and grill on the main highway with fairly tasty food and a cute bartendress to boot. We got a hotel room so Dezso could ice his leg and we could decide if we’d hit the trails or go to the ER in the morning.

Utah Back Country Discover Route, Part 2. Moab to Moab

The next portion of the BDR started in Southeast Moab and looped through the LaSalle Mountains before dropping into the Colorado River Canyon near Fisher Towers along Hwy 128. If anyone has just a couple of days in Moab, I’d recommend riding this portion. And when I return on my Ural, I plan to ride this part again.

We grabbed a quick smoothie for breakfast, meeting a Tenere rider who was out breaking in his bike. After swapping stories and destinations, we rode out of town on Sand Flats Rd, past the landfill, stopping inside the recreation fee area where high clearance 4X4s lined up to try their skills on sandstone ridges. I certainly wouldn’t ride it on my Beemer, but I would have considered it on the Ural. And I’m sure we would’ve made quite a sight since the Ural could have fit under most of those trucks.

Due to the silt factory we rode through yesterday, I wanted to bang out my air filter before we got any farther down the road. I pulled off the panel and opened up the air intake, but didn’t get a lot of dust out of it. I did find a seemingly large amount of oil in there which freaked me out, but after research on F650.com it turned out this will happen if you fall over. I sopped up as much as I could and replaced the panels.

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Photo courtesy of Dezso Adai

With that taken care of we started up the road again, stopping to take photos and videos as we rode through a landscape that looked like a vegetated Martian surface. The campsites here made me want to camp the next time through, but the idea of needing to reserve a campsite then didn’t cross my mind. It turns out campsites in Moab fill up rather quickly, but we didn’t learn that until the end of the day.

The landscape was red sand dotted with low scrub and the occasional juniper trying to break rocks in half with roots and patience. Rock formations like the backs of monsters broke through the ground in arcs of sandstone and the tracks of 4X4s showed the recreation trails through this playground. We passed some cyclists and dodged sand drifts in the road, climbing further into the mountains and away from the crowds.

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No longer on the desert floor, the roads had gravel on them which required different skills to avoid slipping. Aspen and pine forests closed in with the occasional house or pasture coming into view. Somehow we missed the Kokopeli Trail, but didn’t mind too much since the roads we rode were still new to us. The next time we’re back, we’ll ride this missing section. We consulted the maps when we reached the Mountain Loop Road, turned left and headed back down the mountain until our next turn onto the proverbial road less traveled.

Despite Dezso’s warning that there would be more sand along this portion of the route, we had somehow forgotten to let air back out of our tires. Over the course of the day these gravel and dirt packed roads had started building my confidence (Seriously. Riding is a mind game. You want—need—a certain amount of confidence in order to tackle what’s in front of you, but not so much that you’re riding like an idiot.) I do know I lack confidence in many areas that can only be eradicated with hours spent riding. And I plan on getting as much hands-on experience as I can and follow up with a few classes also. But for now, I had hands-on experience right here in the field.

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At Castleton Road, we returned to dirt and gravel roads, once again passing a few cars and trucks out for pleasure drives, or dropping off cattle which had started moo’ving (Sorry) to higher pastures. We were still up in the mountains, but the topography had changed again. We returned to junipers, red dirt, and rocky outcroppings.

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We stopped a few more times for food, photos, and breaks, and two times in a row I (cough) experienced a sudden shift in Coriolis Effect. Each time I stopped, I would suddenly list to starboard and topple over. I couldn’t explain it. Perhaps I was tired; perhaps I thought I rode my Ural. But it only happened twice before I stopped doing it.

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The route took us on Onion Creek and Hideout Road, which dropped down into the canyons. We started to warm up with the drop in elevation, but the weather held and kept things perfect all day. We hit farmland, and returned to sagebrush country except when following creeks and other water sources where trees grew.

Continuing on Onion Creek Rd, we rode the spine of some of the erosion that happened in geologic time, able to look down from both sides of the road.  It was a great twisty, dirt-packed road that afforded lots of photos and videos, and we took our time, fearing the end of the ride was near and not really ready to let it go.

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The road dropped into a narrow, red canyon that had many small stream crossings. I got my boots wet over the course of splashing through, and soon enough my socks were soaked.

I really need better boots.

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Photo Courtesy of Dezso Adai

It’s times like these that I wish I had a camera mounted to my bike so that I could snap photos whilst I ride. Chances are the camera couldn’t capture the height and red of the canyon walls, but still wanted to try (just another thing to add to my wish list, right?). Campsites appeared full of campers so we rode on. We had talked about camping, enjoying a fire, and trying some night photography, but as we rode through each campground all we saw were reservation tickets posted before each site. Lesson learned, we road back into town and got our same room from last night and then went straight for margaritas.

Are you wondering about the above photo? Did I sink or swim? Read on.

Dezso had texted me to see if I was interested in riding another section of Great Divide Trail. I was in the middle of packing for a week-long work trip followed by another week of camping. Needless to say I was quite busy.

“Sure,” I texted back, showing my first lapse in judgment.

“7am at the Conoco in Morrison.”

“Really!? Freak. Make it 8.”

“7:45.”

“Fine.”

The rising sun and I are rarely on the best of terms, but I had to concede an early departure would mean an early return to packing for my trips. It would be a simple ride up I-70 to Frisco where we’d head north on the trail to Kremmling. I consoled myself that there is a great coffee shop there.

So I strapped on my still banged-up pannier, loaded my tank bag, and filled my jacket and pants with their winter liners (Colorado has become cold in the mornings). It seemed like no time had lapsed from laying my head on my pillow to cursing my alarm at 6:30. But I had my first cup of coffee and was on the road by 7.

As if the cool, dense morning air was the best thing in the world for Aunt Bee, my F 650 GS Beemer, she responded quickly to the throttle and we jumped onto C470. In no time we found Dezso waiting at the gas station. He had already been accosted by a seemingly homeless political pundit ranting about conspiracy theories, so he practically leapt onto his F800GS in order to flee. No place is safe or sacred during an election year.

Although the sun struggled to keep pace, we climbed and dove through mountain passes, dodging slow climbing trucks and avoiding sporty cars intent of getting ahead. We filled up in Frisco, and just north of town we found Ute Pass Rd, riding into the hills. The road was paved up and over the pass due to some industry’s factory that had settled on the backside of the mountains.

But soon enough we hit dirt and had to slow down due to spotty patches of gravel that always sends your front wheel wobbling. We skirted William’s Fork reservoir before hitting pavement again and heading a mile north into Kremmling for a late breakfast and coffee at Big Shooter Coffee. We made quick work of their homemade turnovers and green chile breakfast burritos.

Having satiated our appetites but not our craving for adventure, we headed back down Hwy 9 until we found County Road 1 and followed it westward. By now the sun shone brilliantly and in no time I was ready to remove my winter liners. We stopped by the river, watching rafters drift past, content in their lazy pace and shooting water into each other’s boats.

Just down the road, we turned north on County Highway 11 (A misnomer to be exact as the road was a 1 lane rocky and rutted back road.), heading over the railroad tracks and river, climbing up a smaller track that took us into a high altitude desert of pinion and sage. The road wasn’t near as bad as in New Mexico, but I had to remain alert enough to pick my path through the rutted road. Farther on we hit what used to be a pine forest, but had been mostly clear-cut due to the beetle kill. Cows grazed on either side of the road as calves raced across the road in front of us (why is it always in front of us?) if only to reach the other side.

We reached Hwy 134 without incident and pulled over to discuss the plan. To the left was another portion of the Great Divide Trail that had the deepest water crossing the Trail had to offer. To the right was a comfortable paved road that used modern technology such as bridges to skirt potential disasters.

Dezso, already having once forded this water feature let me decide. Still showing all signs of bad judgment, I chose the water crossing. “If only to look at the stream,” I reasoned to myself.

The road took us through sage covered plains and gently rolling hills that followed a seemingly innocuous stream. That is until it ended at a beaver dam.

What seemed like a pleasant creek crossing (willows wisping in the breeze, gurgling water, 70 degree weather), now turned into fear and trepidation at the leviathan in the proverbial room. Just how deep was that crossing?

When I had arrived Dezso already probed its depths. “It seems shallower today,” he offered. “Why don’t you go and I’ll film you?”

“Like hell,” I counter offered. “Why don’t you go and I’ll film you.”

We settled on that and after picking a line of attack on the downstream edge of the crossing, Dezso got on his bike and I pulled out my camera.

He made it look easy, but I was critical. I saw the submerged rocks rattle his arms, saw his rear wheel slip left and right and saw the silt he kicked up. But he made it through with no problems, looking like he was completely in control the entire time. Safely on the other side, we discussed my options.

I could turn around and meet Dezso on pavement. Or I could just plow through and see what happens. Or I could just nullify this friendship right here and return home, locking the garage door behind me.

“What if I followed this line?” I asked, pointing to the middle of the road.

“Too deep. You’re better off following my path.”

The stream gurgled merrily as if eager for the show it was about to see, and I reviewed the facts: I should be packing. I should’ve gotten up much later than 6:30am on a weekend. I was still skittish from falling in the mud two weeks ago.

“All right, I’ll do it,” I decided, keeping up my streak of bad decisions. Dezso set up his camera to record such an event (I’m pretty sure he wanted to see me take a dip as that would get more reviews on YouTube than me just making it across.) and waded into the water to help me.

Help me somehow.

We didn’t really discuss what “helping me” would entail, but it was enough to know he was there. I mean, what could possibly go wrong? I could lose my bike to the river nymphs. I could drop it and call for a tow back to Denver. I could spend a few hours by the side of the road, clearing water from my cylinder. Or I could just make it through and be proud of such an achievement.

I opted for the latter.

I climbed aboard the S.S. GS and rode down the road in order to have a running start at the crossing. Seriously, why was I doing this!?

I came at it, picking a line that followed Dezso. I could see the river cobbles below the surface, then the dark muddy area that revealed no indication of what was on the bottom. Cold, still water waited.

I hit the water, throwing up a wake from my front wheel. Just past midway the nose took a dip and I sat down in hopes of better stability. The rear wheel slipped left, but I put out a leg to steady the bike. I twisted the throttle and shot forward, amazed that water crested at my knees. The rear wheel slipped right and I now pointed toward Dezso as he yelled, “Go! Go! Go!”

The bike lurched. There was so much water. How was I still upright? Dezso was beside me somehow and I twisted the throttle again, shooting up and out on to dry land. How had that happened? Somehow I had made it! My grand experience of river crossings had been stamping through puddles as a kid, or riding through streams only inches deep.

I picked river debris off my bike. Bits of grass, branches and leaves that were stuck in various places on my bike, making it resemble Luke Skywalker’s X-wing fighter in Degoba Swamp. I poured about a gallon of water from each boot and managed to wring another half-gallon from my socks.

But I felt better. Since wiping out in the mud a couple of weeks ago I still felt a little fearful of going down again. How much more damage could I do to myself and my bike? I know riding in fear is not the answer, and I know building on your skills is. Sure I hadn’t crossed with finesse, but I had managed to stay upright and that is one of the crucial skills of riding a motorcycle.

We pressed on, passing a stagecoach station where we stopped for a few photos. There were a few artifacts across the road: broken glass, pottery, and rusted cans that had been traveler’s meals at some point. A Jeep passed us, heading toward the water crossing and I was tempted to turn around to watch.

Once again we hit pavement at Hwy 134 and discussed our plans. Neither of us wanted to get stuck in traffic on I-70, so I suggested a circuitous route that would take us over Independence Pass. The Colorado River Road that followed (surprise!) the Colorado River would lead us cross-country to Dotsero where it was a simple jump over to Glenwood Springs.

Dezso readily agreed and soon enough we followed the river on thick and thin gravel roads. Other cruising bikes came from the way we headed so we reasoned it couldn’t be that bad. We passed more river runners. Canyon walls closed in and let out, varying from light to dark red rocks dotted with Pinion Pines. Then we were out, entering into Glenwood Canyon on I-70 and stopping for gas in Glenwood Springs.

From here it was a slow ride down Hwy 82, stopping literally at every traffic light between Glenwood and Aspen. But soon enough we passed through Aspen and steadily climbed the narrow road.

Independence Pass is closed during winter and I was reminded why as we rode: a steep drop off into a canyon over what could barely pass as a two lane road that continued for a majority of the ride up. Pull-overs, trail heads and swimming holes offered the only wide spots. Being on bikes, we could squeak by the RVs and trucks, but I couldn’t imagine 2 SUVs meeting along some points of this road.

As we climbed the temperatures cooled, giving us a much-needed respite from the heat. Aspens gave way to Pine and Shrub Oak until we broke out above tree line and crested the pass. By now it was 5pm and we were both sore in the saddle and aching in our shoulders down to our fingers. A nice hike would’ve done us good, but we had to get back home. And that destination was still two hours away. No more dirt roads and passes. We wanted smooth rides from here on out.

We coasted down into Buena Vista, enjoying the view in the valley and observing the other Sunday drivers on the highway. Fortunately for us, most of the traffic drove west and we had our lane to ourselves.

We turned up US 285 which is a straight shot to C470 in Denver. Fortunately we got behind a truck that was intent on making good time staying 5 mph over the speed limit, so we had no desire to pass. Dusk fell and we finally drifted onto the plains, entering C470 and looping around the perimeter of Denver Metro. We ached. Our shoulders ached, our butts ached, and our hands ached. Even my highway pegs weren’t cutting it anymore. But traffic was light and soon we exited the highway, not even a mile from home.

We have nothing fancy for a garage. I’ve always gotten off my bike and walked up the drive to manually raise the door, but I could’ve promised to do the dishes, lawn, and laundry for eternity when I saw my wife had already raised the door so all we had to do was ride in and throw down our kickstands (Fortunately she isn’t aware of this feeling, so we still share the tasks). After 13.5 hours of riding, we were home. Seems like we’re pretty close to attempting the Iron Butt challenge.