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.