"When I get to a place
for the first time and know it like home, this is when I know my journey
will be over"
We Make a
Living by What we Got, but we Make a Life by What we Give
"I have never
been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks"
Well! It was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to
you by your Children
good things come back
"Your job won't take care
of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch"
“Never go on trips with anyone
you do not love.”
“We may run, walk, stumble,
drive, or fly, but let us never lost sight of the reason for the
journey, or miss a chance to see a rainbow on the way.”
"Time You Enjoy Wasting, Was
People May Doubt What You Say, But They Will Believe What You Do
happiness is a way of travel -- not a destination”
"If we're still
alive in the morning, then we'll know we're not dead"
God is more easily found in
Nature than in works of Man
The Best Way To Predict Your Future, Is to Create It
We can Never have Enough
Nature....in Wildness is the Preservation of the World
Look at life through the windshield, not through the rear view mirror
If you do not question and just believe what you are told to, then keep on living in the dark
The happiest of people don't necessarily have the best of everything; They just make the most of everything they have...
The Best Things in Life Aren't Things!
"All that is necessary for the
triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
Without question, the greatest
invention in the history of mankind is beer!!
"I drink when I have occasion,
and sometimes when I have no occasion"
“We should come home from
adventures, and perils, and discoveries every day with new experience
I don't mean to sound bitter,
cold, or cruel, but I am, so that's how it comes out
"I drink to make other people interesting."
Who has time for a second childhood? I'm still not finished with the FIRST!
"Besides the military,
photography is the only profession of where you can be proud of shooting
'True religion is real living; living with
all one's soul, with all one's goodness and righteousness'
I see my path, but I don't know where it leads. Not knowing where I'm going is what inspires me to travel it.
Heaven is my Father
I've always been Crazy, it's kept me from going Insane
I've often been asked, 'What do you folks do now that you're retired'?
Well...I'm fortunate to
have taken chemistry in High School and one of the things I enjoy most
is turning Beer, Wine, Scotch, and Margaritas into urine.
"One person with one camera and one idea
can make all the difference in the world"
Bad decisions make good stories.
The only people who fear death, are those with regrets
Map Quest really needs to start their directions on #5. I'm pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.
Pat's October 2009 Blog
If this is your first time here, you might want to start from the beginning of our fulltime RV Journey with our Past Blogs
Camper Check List - A list of things we do before leaving camp. Again, this isn't gospel, but its a good start for those who might not already have a list made up.
Thursday October 1st - Last Day of Work in Yellowstone
The last few days have been a very chilly experience here in Yellowstone. With last week being in the 70's every day, I was starting to forget about how cold it can get here in the fall and was really enjoying the Indian Summer we were experiencing.
Then on Tuesday night, the temperatures dropped to their normal averages and we woke up Wednesday morning with a nice, white blanket of snow on everything. Winter had arrived in Yellowstone. Luckily I knew the temperatures were going to drop and unhooked the water hoses and filled the fresh water tank so we could draw off of that.
This allowed us to still have water as long as the tank heaters were on, which they were.
The fresh blanket of snow changed the normally bright green landscape into something reminiscent of a snow globe. It was as beautiful as one could expect and I wanted to call into work so I could go out and take some pictures. But it was my last real day of work, so I felt obligated to go in.
Since we're out of power due to the fires, we're running the cash register off a little Honda Generator, and I was finally able to start a fire in the wood burner to keep the little log cabin warm.
At first, I was excited thinking this would be warm and cozy. Then I realized without a fan or anything to distribute the hot air, once you start a roaring fire in a few hundred square foot cabin, it becomes quite hot, quite fast.
I kept the front door open most of the day to try and regulate the heat and laughed when park visitors would come in all bundled up and just turn around saying "Wow, its way too hot in there for me!' and walk back out the door. Me, I sat in my t-shirt all nice and cozy and enjoyed my last day of work.
As soon as I got off from work, Cindy and I headed into the town of West Yellowstone to go to the 7th Annual Yellowstone Photo Show. This is a laid back show where a bunch of local photographers get together to show off their work from the previous season.
I was excited for tonight as I love to see other photographers work. It gives me a way to judge my own photography, and it usually gives me a few ideas on new angles or a different approach to the same old subject that I might have shot a hundred times already.
By the time the show was finished, I was happy for Cindy who was really nervous about showing her stuff. When it was all said and done, of the 20 photographers who showed off their work, Cindy's photos were some of the best, and I've seen every one of them a million times. It was a really cool show and the place was standing room only, so it was fun to be able to narrate our photos and show them off to new people who might not normally follow the website.
The drive home was different than the normal drive back from West Yellowstone. With snow coming down the whole way, the roads a very slick, very dark path, and the park completely empty, it seemed like we were lost in Neverland.
Amazing what a cold snap and some snow will do to empty out the busiest park in the country.
Today Cindy and I went into work to do inventory, which only took a few hours. Once that was out of the way, we had lunch with our boss and talked about what our plans were for next season. They keep asking us to come back to work here in Yellowstone, but when we dont really know what we're doing next week, its really hard to plan for next summer.
Our boss was kind enough to give us a plaster cast she had made from earlier in the year when she had tracked some wolves up in the Lamar Valley. She made a cast of the wolf print and gave Cindy and I a copy. Its honestly the coolest thing I've seen in awhile, and I'm amazed at the size of it. Thanks Cherie, and I'll always look back on this present as one to remind us of our amazing time in Yellowstone!
Now that we're 100% done with work, we came home and Cindy started packing things up and getting the camper ready to roll. We got a package delivered today from Larry and Michele, the couple we had hiked with earlier in the month from South Florida, and we both thought that was so nice of them to send us something.
Larry is a retired Fire Captain from Miramar Florida and he sent us a couple of t-shirts and a hat from his fire department. We'll have to get some pictures of us showing them off with a beautiful scenic background and post them on the site.
Thanks Again Larry and Michele!!
While Cindy got the inside ready, I loaded the mountain bikes on the rack, got a few things ready inside the truck and took the windshield off the motorcycle so it could be loaded on the back of the camper with the Dirtbag Cover over top of it. Why I didn't do this a few days ago when we were wearing t-shirts and shorts is beyond me, instead I chose to risk frost bite on my finger tips and curse the fact that I could barely hold the allen wrench to unscrew the bolts.
Once the motorcycle was loaded up, I threw the Dirtbag Cover on it and except for pulling up the stabilizer jacks, we're ready to go as soon we hook the truck up. That was till Cindy said "I think the water tank is empty?"
I went to check and sure enough, we were almost out of fresh water.
I had unhooked the hoses and had put some water into the fresh tank a few days ago, but I didn't fill it up 100%. My Mistake!
The hoses that I had unhooked had been left outside in this freezing weather which wasn't a good thing. This rendered them useless as they were frozen solid with the water that was left inside the narrow cavity of the hose.
I brought the hoses, the water filters and everything else inside and put it in the shower inside the camper so they could thaw out. We put the little ceramic heater in the bathroom with them to speed up the thawing process and hoped I'd be able to get the spigot running.
This too was frozen solid and if we wanted to leave, we'd have to fill our fresh water tank, flush the gray and black tank and have access to some fresh water.
I came inside and grabbed Cindy's hair dryer which started a huge argument. Apparently she thinks that if I run the hair dryer outside in the cold weather, it'll fry the heating element. I argued 'Bullshit', and took it outside agreeing with her that if I burnt it up, I'd buy her a new hairdryer.
It only took a few seconds for the spigot to thaw out and start flowing freely, but the levers that release the contents of the gray and black tanks were a different story.
These both required at least 20 minutes each of me lying on the frozen tundra with the hair dryer only inches away from the lever before they thawed out enough for me to pull them open.
By the time this was done, I was frozen to the bone, and had gloves that were soaking wet from working with the hose the entire time.
Luckily my wife is so awesome and she had a steaming cup of hot chocolate waiting inside for me, but holding it in my frozen hands stung like I was grabbing onto a scalding pot. It took a while before I could feel anything with my ice blocks for hands.
Once I thawed myself out, I headed out into the park to see if I could get some photos of the wildlife in the snow. This was the main reason we wanted to come back to Yellowstone.
Cindy decided she wanted to stay back at the camper as she didn't think heading out into the storm was a good idea. So I bundled up and headed out by myself to see what I could find.
Just as I crossed the Continental Divide, I noticed a few cars stopped in the middle of the road. I slowed down to see a coyote hunting through the snow about 50 yards off the road.
I couldn't believe the cars just drove on and left me there all by my lonesome. This is when you know its the Off Season. The first thing I noticed was how full the coat was on the coyote. I remembered when we first got here in June and the animals were just losing their thick winter coats. Now they're back with coats as thick as a down blanket and look so fluffy and warm even this frigid weather we're experiencing right now doesn't look like it even affects them.
I watched as the coyote stalked something moving under the snow that was invisible to me. I could see its body tense up before it leaped up into the air, landing with its face buried into the snow.
It came up with some sort of rodent in its mouth, flipped it up into the air, swallowed it whole and moved on like it was nothing.
I watched as it did this a few more times and finally yelled a loud "Thank you for the show!" as it trotted off into the woods and out of reach of my cameras long lens.
I always say to Cindy that I want to come home each day with at least one shot I can be proud of. Some days I come home with multiple shots I'm happy with, and those are really good days, but they dont happen all that often. Other times I stay out from sun-up to sun-down and come home with nothing....these type of days seem to be more the norm.
I knew as I sat in the truck reviewing what had just taken place, I had at least one shot I'd be happy with.
So.......I turned the truck around and headed for the warmth of home and the comfort only a good friend and loving wife can provide.
We've decided since they're opening the road up to the northern end of the park for limited runs, that we're going to stay around one more day to see the park blanketed in snow, and Saturday we'll leave for Moab.
I spoke with Jim, the guy we're going to be staying with about our route. I got suggestions from both Ryan, our friend who stayed with us earlier in the month and from Wes, our friend from Casper and hopefully the drive from Yellowstone down to Moab should be a picture perfect route.
Thanks guys for all the suggestions! It really helps when you can talk with people who know the area and they can give first hand knowledge of which roads to take and what not to miss along the way.
Totals for Month of September
Total Miles Traveled for the month of September = 1701.20
I also logged close to 1000 miles this month on the motorcycle. I've been riving that as much as possible, but I forgot to record the exact mileage at the beginning of the month.
90% of these miles were logged in the park as we've spent this entire month working in Yellowstone for the Yellowstone Association.
Total Water Used in Coach = Hard to tell exactly because we were hooked up to a city water connection for the entire month in the employee campground in Grant Village? But when we shower and use the hot water, we still use it like we would when we're dry camping because we only have a 6 gallon hot water tank. So our total consumption is far less than a normal household would use. We only turn the hot water tank on a few minutes before we shower, and turn it off immediately after we're done
Total Fuel Used in Truck = 119.71 Gallons @ a Cost of $346.13
I haven't refilled either of the propane tanks this month, but I've been carrying around one of the empty tanks in the bed of the truck for the past few weeks. So once I get it filled, I'll add it to this months totals.
Campground Costs - 30 Days total in the employee campground in Yellowstone at a cost of $5 per day for a total cost of $150 for the month
Of the 30 days out of this month, all 30 were spent in the camper. Except for the one night we slept in the truck while we were stayed just outside the Nevada City Ghost Town in Montana
That brings us to 232 days so far for this year that we've spent in the camper and a total cost spent on campground fees at $643.
Friday October 2nd - One Last Time Around Yellowstone
With a fresh layer of snow on the ground, we wanted to see if we could get some shots of the wildlife out in the wintery white stuff.
Because of the Arnica Fire along the edge of Lake Yellowstone, the road is only opened for short periods during the day. 6am to 8am, 12noon to 1pm and 6pm till 8pm was going to be our short windows we had to meet if we wanted to make it back to the West Thumb area and be able to get home tonight.
We were up before dawn with lunches packed, a thermos full of hot coffee to keep us awake and the camera gear all loaded into the truck.
The temperature was bitter cold and luckily we've been plugging in the Engine Block Heater otherwise we would have had to let the truck warm up for about an hour. With the block heater plugged in, we can start the diesel up and leave within a few minutes time.
Pulling out of Grant Village, we spotted a few Bull Elk right along the edge of the roadway.
Good start to the morning already!
We snapped off a few shots before we got on our way, not wanting to miss our road opening window and wanting to be coming through right at the 6am opening time.
Driving up the Grand Loop Road along Yellowstone Lake, the rumors that the road was damaged due to fire is false. There are tons of trees that are down and a bunch of heavy equipment that is along the road edge cleaning up the debris, but the road itself is fine.
There is still a large section that is smoldering and the smoke is still heavy through this section.
We were heading towards Swan Lake, an area we've been told has had a ton of wolf activity and a few bears in the last few weeks.
As we passed the Brink of the Falls pull off, on the opposite side of the road we spotted a monstrous Bull Elk and pulled over to get a better look. This was our first Royal Elk of the season. An Elk with 7 points on his rack is considered a Royal Elk as this is the largest their racks will ever get unless there is some form of deformity, which can happen and then they're known as a irregular or non-typical.
This big boy was a monster alright, but he paid no attention to us, and went about his morning feeding without a care in the world. Every now and then another Bull off in the woods would let out a screeching Bugle which would make this Bull raise his head immediately and sound off with a loud reply.
We watched and admired this trophy Elk till he became bored with us and headed off into the woods and out of sight.
We got back into the truck to warm up and probably should have turned around and went home while it was still early. Unfortunately the rest of the day wouldn't match up to this sighting.
Almost to Swan Lake, we pulled over to check out a Bison that was standing with one side of his body covered in thick frost while the other side was just wet fur. The side that was wet was the side that was facing the morning sun and the nights frost had melted off already.
The bison wasn't smart enough, or his fur was thick enough that he didn't notice that the side opposite the rising sun was still covered in icy frost. Sights like this are what makes exploring Yellowstone so fun, how often do you get to see something this simple, yet something so pretty?
Once we got to Swan Lake, we got out the binoculars and the spotting scope. We sat glassing the lake, the hillside behind it and the surrounding area for any movement.
Other than a Bald Eagle that flew over the lake without stopping to fish or hunt, we were totally skunked when it came to wildlife viewing.
After an hour, we were both bored with just sitting there and decided to head down to Gardiner to get one of our propane tanks refilled for the camper and get some fuel from a station outside the park. This usually saves us a minimum of ˘.30 per gallon.
By this time in the day, we were fed up with the lack of wildlife we'd seen and both decided to just head back down through the park to try and make the 12noon to 1pm road opening.
Crossing Hayden Valley, I spotted a coyote hunting close to the road and we stopped to watch it for a few minutes. This would later end up to be a bad thing, as it put us 10 minutes too late to make the mid-day passage.
We sat pleading with the Ranger, but she simply told us we'd have to wait till the 6pm to 8pm crossing.
This meant we had 5 hours to sit and wait....UGH!!
We headed back up to Lake Village where we sat watching the white caps on Yellowstone Lake due to the cold, strong winds blowing across the big open body of water.
Cindy made some lunch from the cold cuts she had packed in the cooler and we just sat talking about our next leg of the journey.
Not knowing where the road will lead you can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on which way you look at it. Some need to have their trips planned out and follow and itinerary the entire time. Cindy and I really enjoy to just roam the country side stopping when we see something we might like and staying till we bore with it or decide its time to move on.
We contemplated which route we were going to take down to Moab, what we were going to do with our time in Utah, and what we might encounter on our VW Bus adventure in California. Being so unorganized is fun at times an the lure of not knowing what is going to be around the next turn is what excites me when it comes to traveling.
The rest of the day was spent just wandering around this area of Yellowstone waiting for the road to open. We spotted a few Mule Deer Bucks and sat photographing them for awhile, but other than those two specimens, the day was a bust for wildlife.
I guess we're just too spoiled when it comes to photographing wildlife in the park and we need to remind ourselves that many visitors come to the park without seeing ANYTHING, so we shouldn't complain.
We made it home just after dark. Cindy made some dinner while I did some laundry while we still had facilities at our disposal and we packed the last of our stuff up planning to pull out in the morning.
Saturday October 3rd - Leaving Wonderland
We were in no real hurry, so no alarm clocks were set to wake us up this morning and it was the first time in weeks that both of us slept in. What a glorious feeling to not have to wake up at any particular time and be back on our gypsy schedule of waking when the sun gets too bright in the bedroom or when one of the mangy dogs whines to go out.
Nathaniel had left us a 'Thank You' note on the door step as he had pulled out first thing this morning to make the crossing towards the Northern section of the park. He too wanted one last try at some specific shots before he planned on leaving to make his way back East to Minnesota.
Cindy made us some breakfast while I went about my outside duties of getting the camper ready to move. This took much longer than normal as its been so long since I've done many of these simple tasks.
Plus it was a bit cold this morning, so I wasn't moving too fast and as we were in no hurry, I made sure I flushed everything out of the tanks really good.
We were finally ready to roll around noon time, and by that time of day, it had warmed up nicely. We loaded the dogs up, who both seemed excited to be back on the road, turned in our key to the camp hosts and gave one last 'Goodbye Wave' to Yellowstone National Park.
Its been one hell of a summer, and one I'll never forget for as long as I live. Spending 92 days in Yellowstone this summer has been like a dream for me. The work was nothing when I look back at the photos added to the portfolio, the experiences we gained, the hikes we added to the life list and the good friends we met along the way.
I think this leaving of a place we had become so close to took a toll on our daily drive as the first few hours was spent in silence with just the radio as background noise. I couldn't tell you what we listened to if you paid me. My mind was reliving our summer and all the amazing things we've done and seen.
This is usually the norm when we leave some place special and I think we both enjoy our time spent just soaking up our memories and making sure they sink in to a special spot in the gray matter.
We stopped in Jackson Hole for some lunch/dinner since the Norcold refrigerator is totally empty and we refuse to pay the inflated Jackson Hole prices for basic groceries.
Once back on the road with full bellies, we drove for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. The winds were blowing something awful and it was tough just to keep the rig on the road. Sometimes I wonder if it would be better to just pull over on windy days and sit along the edge of a cliff or somewhere that offers a pretty scene. I do love to hear the wind howl against the side of the camper and its like Mother Nature playing her own form of music to my traveling ears.
Driving South from Jackson Hole is the epitome of emptiness. For anyone who thinks America is over crowded and over developed, I recommend that you drive this route. It will leave you empty and lonely feeling, or if you're like me, and would love to melt away into nature, it would excite you and give you hope that its still possible.
HWY 189/191 is long, winding and lined with pick-up trucks coming or going to work in the mines that line the road. Cindy joked and said "I think if you drive this road, its mandatory that you drive a work truck with either a welder, a fuel transfer tank or some sort of work equipment in the bed."
In the few hundred miles of driving along HWY 189/191, we passed 5 towns with the largest being a little more than a General Store, a Motel and a few bars with the parking lots filled with work trucks. We pulled over a few times and just let the dogs run along the empty fields to stretch their legs.
One thing we have to remember when letting the dogs run in the desert is the small paddle cactus that hug the ground. They're barely noticeable until you're right on top of them. Lucy is pretty good about avoiding them because her nose tends to always be on the ground sniffing her route. Luca on the other hand bounds around just having a blast until he runs through a patch of these prickly cactus.
When he gets one stuck in the pad of his foot, he stops dead in his tracks, lifts which ever foot has the sticker stuck in it and waits patiently for you to come remove it for him. The second its pulled out and you slap him on his hind end telling him he's better, he's gone like the wind running around being a happy dog. As much as I bitch about these two animals that take up so much of our time, I would miss Luca tremendously if anything was to ever happen to him.
Lucy I could live without and not miss in the least, but Luca is a good friend and I would surely miss his companionship. He is the epitome of dog and I love him dearly.
In all our travels, I've never seen so many Prong Horn Antelope and I'm not sure if they've just come down out of the higher elevations or they just like this part of the country, but they were lining the roads in massive herds.
Once the sun went down and the full moon rose up, we started to get worried because the Prong Horn and the Mule Deer were everywhere. We both decided since we dont have a Bull Bar type front Bumper, it wouldn't be worth the cost or carnage of hitting an animal just to try and put some miles between the snow and us.
We finally pulled over near Rock Springs, Wyoming when we found a Wally World. We needed groceries in a bad way and this would kill two birds with one stone.
I counted 13 other RV's in the parking lot, so I'm thinking a few others didn't feel like driving in the high winds tonight either. Wal-Mart after dark is always a fun time and I always make sure I have my small point and shoot camera in my pocket. You never know what you're going to find in one of these diverse stores. Sometimes Cindy and I just go wander around and people watch and we joke that others might be doing the same thing when looking at the two of us bums.
When we finished shopping, I tried to kick on the inverter so we could check the emails and update the blogs, but the power was bouncing around on the meter all crazy, so we both just shut everything down, put the groceries away and called it a night. The Wyoming winds rocked us to sleep like we were wrapped up in a 25' cradle with wheels on it.
Sunday October 4th - Wyoming, Colorado and Utah in 1 Day
Cindy woke me up around 5am asking me if I heard the hail pounding the side of the camper. I'd been sleeping pretty lightly for most of the night due to the wind shaking the camper like we were in rough water and were down in the hull of a small boat.
When she woke me up, the hail was hitting the camper like someone was shooting at us with a shotgun loaded with bird shot. The winds had picked up stronger than when we had went to sleep and if I pulled my arm out from under the thick layer of blankets, it felt like I was putting it into a freezer.
This is not fun camping weather and I was ready to get up and start driving right now just to get to some place warm....where ever that place might be.
Cindy got up and started with her daily things (I'm not sure what these things are exactly, but she always seems to be busy doing something) and I laid in bed for awhile longer listening to the hail and rain come down.
Around 7am, we finally decided to get going, hoping to drive out of this nasty weather. We jumped onto HWY 530 South and drove down through Flaming Gorge Recreation Area.
Talk about a beautiful drive! Cindy and I both just kept saying "WOW!" or telling one another to "Look this way!" or "Check that out!" with each new turn we'd round in the curvy road.
Red rock mountain sides with heavy storm clouds as a back drop makes for a magnificent sunrise. In the first few hours we drove, we might have passed only two cars the entire time. It was like we had the entire park to ourselves.
That's a good thing since I was getting blown all over the narrow road due to the strong winds. One minute the windshield would be covered in dime sized hail with the wipers going as fast as they could go.
Then the clouds would open up and sun beams would shine down onto the jagged, mountain sides. As quick as they would open up, the clouds would close and rain would start to fall again. Its obvious that Mother Nature is a woman because of how fast she changes her mind, how beautiful she can be one moment and how violent she can be the next.
At one point, lightening came crashing down all around us as it began to snow. Hearing thunder crack while snow is covering your windshield is a strange feeling and we soon came to a screeching halt in the road to let a flock of Wild Turkeys cross to the other side, for what ever reason that might be?
We climbed up steep switchbacks with drop offs hugging the roadsides plunging a 1000' below into dark red rock canyons as we crossed the border into Northern Utah.
HWY 44 brought us East over to HWY 191 which would bring us down to the town of Vernal. This stretch of road is much more flat than our last few hours and I could finally release my death grip on the steering wheel and relax my butt cheeks.
The weather was still pretty wacky and we were still driving through pounding rain one minute then into bright sunshine the next. At least the truck and camper were getting a much needed washing, for free, with all this heavy rain.
When we hit the town of Vernal, we turned East on HWY 40 headed towards Dinosaur National Monument. We figured since we're this close, we might as well go a few miles out of our way to add another stamp to our collection of National Park Stamps we have started collecting.
When we pulled into Dinosaur National Monument, the lightening bolts were cracking all around us and we ran into the visitor center dodging the pounding rain drops.
If you're planning a visit to this area of the West, skip Dinosaur National Monument. The main attraction, The Quarry, is closed for the next two years! It looks like it would be great in the middle of the summer when you could paddle the Green River that flows through the park, or hike some of the many hiking trails, but we werent too interested in hiking in the pouring rain and this late in the year, the river is running pretty low.
The Quarry area looks really cool, but I guess the area is sinking and their trying to shore it up. So we'll have to come back for another visit once they have it fixed and actually be able to explore the park some more. Just gives us another reason to come back this way.
Oh Well, we got our Stamp in our National Parks Book, so we were back on the road headed towards Rangely Colorado along HWY 139.
When I had spoken with my buddy Jim Ryan a few days ago, we sat talking about routes to take down to Moab. I asked which route would be better and he said "HWY 191 is faster and less scenic, and I know you and Cindy like to take the back roads, so I'd take the longer route, taking HWY 139 down through Colorado. Its much more scenic and a really pretty drive."
Jim was spot on as this road is as narrow, as backroad and as winding as any road I've ever been on. Being as we're towing without sway bars, which really help to distribute the load between the truck and camper, I'd wish I could talk to the guys that designed the suspension on our truck and camper.
Even though we were bouncing around like we were racing the Baja 1000, I never felt like we were out of control or it was too much to handle. If you've ever driven this road, then you'll know that is a very strong statement for a truck towing a camper and maintaining the speed limit.
When we turned onto HWY 139, our elevation was at 5300'. At one point we topped 8800' and when the road reached the summit and started to head downhill, the signs posted said in big, bold letters "Steep, Sharp, Switchbacks for the next 10 miles...Speed Limit 15mph."
I'd recommend this road to anyone who is into scenic drives, I just dont know if I'd recommend pulling a camper along it. Tackling it on a motorcycle or a sports car that likes and can handle sharp curves with ease, it should almost be a 'Must Drive'.
I probably shouldn't talk about this, but sometimes I like to point out how stupid I can be. And I think its good if you can make fun of yourself from time to time.
I was talking about how much the weather had been changing all day long, and I was going from having the windshield defroster on high to turning it down to low every few minutes it seemed.
Well at one point the temperature had dropped about 20°, so I naturally reached up to switch the fan control from low back up to high.
As I was reaching for the fan control, the scenery we were passing was spectacular, so I was looking out at the surrounding beauty and just let my hand reach for the control without actually looking.
I switched the control over which immediately made a horrible metal on metal sound that jolted the entire truck like we had just hit a speed bump in the road.
Cindy and I both looked over and to my amazement, I had switched the truck from 2 Wheel Drive into 4 Wheel Drive while driving at 60mph, going uphill and towing the camper!!!!
Cindy screamed at the top of her lungs....I switched the knob back over instantaneously and we just kept rolling along like nothing had happened. I honestly cant believe the transmission, the front drive shaft or something.....anything, didn't break!
But except for the horrible noise it made while trying to engage a driveshaft at 60mph, the ol' truck rolled along just fine.
Of course I got an ear full from Cindy, but there was nothing to do other than laugh on my part. I mean, what was I supposed to do? I'll be the first to admit that was a total bonehead move!
So we kept driving waiting for something to break or fall off the truck, but nothing happened, and its more of a testament on how stout these trucks are built.
When HWY 139 hit I-70, we decided to head a bit further East and visit the Colorado National Monument.
Neither of us had heard anything about this attraction, but we figured "We're this close, we might as well see what its all about." Plus, we can add another stamp to our Passport Collection.
The drive up to the visitor center, the only section of the park we drove because of how late it was in the afternoon, is out of this world!
Probably in the Top 10 of scenic drives!
Breath taking views, multiple tunnels to drive through and hair pin turns that leave your stomach dropping out each time you look over the edge.
While we were in the Visitor Center, I overheard a Ranger saying that the wind gusts were over 30mph and he couldn't believe the bicyclists were out riding the roads.
Cindy and I were wondering the same thing when we watched a group of bicyclists trying to ride up the hill earlier. Think about 30mph winds...then think about peddling up a 10% incline for miles upon miles. These guys have a death wish or just like sheer pain.
This is another park we're going to come back to and do some of the many hikes it offers. Its beautiful and looks like it would be a great time camping, hiking and just soaking up the sights.
From the Colorado National Monument, we headed West down I-70 and crossed back over into Utah. A few miles into the state, we pulled over to let the dogs out and take a break from the strong winds, when we decided to just stay the night in the road side truck stop we were pulled over in.
We're only a hour or so from Moab, and I'm thinking this week is going to be a great time of exploring new areas, meeting new people and getting back into the groove of our Gypsy Lifestyle
Monday October 5th - Moab and Land of Red Rocks
Luckily the winds died down enough to get us back on the road and we were headed towards Moab.
Coming in from Cisco offered a strange start to the day. I had spoken with Jim from DualSport Utah earlier this morning when he called to see what our E.T.A. was going to be.
When I said we had spent the night in Cisco last night, he busted out laughing saying "Are you serious? That town has maybe 8 people in it and they're all weirdo's!"
We had actually gotten off at the Cisco exit and just saw a pull-off that truckers would use to sleep at on the edge of the barren desert. The winds were so strong and it was getting dark, so we had decided it might be better to wait out the afternoon gusts. We hadn't actually gotten to the town of Cisco yet, but I saw what Jim meant as soon as we got on the road this morning.
This looks like it was once a major stopping point when the railroad was still the chosen mode of transport, something that has gone to the wayside for a number of decades now along with all the buildings and crumbling structures left behind in this almost Ghost Town.
The left behind buildings are a testament to how well the desert preserves wood and metal structures. The amount of vehicles left scattered around this town would be a collectors dream come true.
I wanted to stop and explore the forgotten buildings and vehicles, but Cindy, the worry-wart is always so freaked out with various horror movie scenes flashing through her head, of course this was off limits.
The route into Moab off of I-70 is one bumpy ride and HWY 128 is not that great of a road to be towing a camper down. It would be a riot in just the truck or better yet on a motorcycle, but with the camper behind us and no sway control bars, we were bouncing around like we were in the Baja 1000.
This just gave me all the more reason to go really slow. And that helped soak up the views.....some of the best I've seen in awhile.
I remember when Cindy and I had spent so much time in and around Sedona, Monument Valley and the Northern Arizona/Southern Utah area a few years back. We were both so sick of Red Rocks and Sandstone after a few months of seeing it non-stop that we were glad to leave.
Its amazing how you get so complacent with sights that normally leave Virgin Explorers in awe. We just left the majestic granite peaks of the Tetons and now we are surrounded in deep canyons lined in dark reds, auburns, oranges and black desert varnish.
The green water of the Colorado River cutting its way through these ancient canyons and a twisty road that bounces you beside the river, keeping your senses alert to make sure you dont fall off the narrow road and go swimming was more than enough to have us saying "WOW!" every few seconds.
HWY 128 dumps you off right on the outskirts of Downtown Moab and within a few minutes, we were in Jim's yard. His place is only a few blocks off of Main Street, and right in the heart of Moab.
Cindy, Jim and I spent the first few minutes greeting one another and catching up on the last 2 years of travels. If you dont remember, we had spent the weekend partying with Jim when we had drove up to Northern Texas to cover the Red Bull Last Man Standing motorcycle event.
Jim was also the guy I had talked about who had slid off the road in the crazy ice storm we drove through on our way back to Arizona from the Last Man Standing Race, almost rolling his Toy Hauler and narrowly made it out with just a few scrapes and bruises.
He had a spot all cleared out for us beside his workshop and in no time we were backing in the rig and unhooking the camper.
Sitting beside the DualSport Utah Bike Shop was our Camping Lab Roof Top Tent that had just been delivered! I was jonesing to unpack that thing and check it out. But I didn't want to unpack a bunch of stuff before we are ready to give it a few hours to really work on it and get it mounted, so I had to just sit and look at the big box drooling over our new toy.
Cindy and I headed into town to scope out the Moab area and see what its all about while Jim had a few things to finish up around his shop.
Moab is a cool little mountain town that looks like it lives and breathes Outdoor Activities. Mountain Bikes outside EVERY store, mountain bikes and bike lanes along every roadway. Jeeps, 4x4's, touring motorcycles and Custom Off-Road trucks are every where and even Cindy was pointing out cool looking trucks or off the wall rock crawling rigs that rolled down the streets.
After a short tour we came back to our new campsite so Cindy could get some dinner ready while Jim and I went out to the desert to play with one of his new guns. You gotta' love it when your buddy asks if you want to go plinking in the desert and holds up a new AK-47. Something tells me Jim and I are gonna get along great these next few weeks.
Jim also runs a Shuttle Service called Road Runner Shuttle, that transports people up and down the Colorado River, around the slick rock desert on their mountain bike excursions and back and forth from the local airport, so he's quite the tour guide.
While driving out of town, he was constantly pointing out various rock formations, spouting off their names and telling me their ages and what type of rock it was formed from. He would tell me what ancient era each formation was from and explain all sorts of geological information. It was like a mini tour of the area at a very high rate of speed.
It seems everything in Jim's life is done at full throttle and it shows by how busy he is. We were flying down the HWY around 90mph when he just drives off the road bouncing down a narrow dirt path while I'm holding on for dear life in the front seat of his van, as he's still pointing out Big Horn Rams and ancient dinosaur tracks along the roadside like it was nothing.
We came sliding up to another vehicle that was parked at the base of a big red rock cliff where two girls were lying behind rifles with high powered scopes and bi-pods mounted to their stocks.
The girls just looked over and waved at Jim and went back to shooting. Jim and I donned our ear protection, grabbed the AK-47 and a few boxes of ammo and walked up to meet them.
The girls stopped shooting at targets hundreds of yards away long enough for introductions to be passed around before we all got to firing ammunition downrange.
I hadn't brought any of my guns, so Ashley went to her truck and grabbed her Springfield XD 40cal. Pistol. She handed me the pistol, a box of ammo and two empty magazines and went back to her high powered rifle. You gotta love meeting new people who are so generous with their toys.
Ashley was behind a custom Savage High Powered rifle with a big Nikon 10x scope on it and was plinking off targets a few hundred yards away. Her girlfriend Susan was behind a little Varmit Rifle who was also dropping targets at various distances along the hillside.
Jim walked up to the firing line and proceeded to empty his AK at a high rate of speed and yelled out like some Taliban thug when his magazine was empty.
The next hour was spent pushing lead downrange at targets strategically placed around the hillside. Then they brought out the big guns.
Ashley went over to her truck and got out a canister of Tannerite, which is a major binary explosive that needs to be ignited by a high charge blasting cap, something her rifle would take care of.
Jim ran it way down range to make sure it was way out of harms way, and Ashley waited till he got back behind the firing line before she plinked it off with her first shot.
Even with ear protection on, the sound of the explosion was deafening and echoed off the canyon walls. Of course this brought a loud round of cheers from our small group of banditos and we commenced to firing off a few more rounds.
We were supposed to be meeting the girls for dinner around 6:30pm and it was now 6:45, so of course this gave Jim a good reason to use his lead foot and we were soon flying back towards Moab.
We drove back to the shop, picked Cindy up and headed to Jim and Leigh's house for some dinner.
Leigh and Cindy had both made some scrumptious meals and the rest of the night was spent sitting around a giant table filling our bellies with gourmet food. You gotta love when two women who both know how to cook get together.
When the yawning contest started, we decided to head back for our camper and Jim suggested we just drive his scooter. Desert nights are freezing, and Cindy and I were both laughing so hard at how cold we were on the ride home, that it was probably dangerous to be driving and laughing that hard.
At one point, I said to her "This totally reminds me of the scene in Dumb & Dumber" and before I could say any more, we were both crying we were laughing so hard.
That ended our night and we were soon sawing logs in the heat of our little cabin on wheels.
Tuesday October 6th - Hiking Devils Canyon, Arches Nat. Park
Cindy and I awoke early this morning and were doing our normal routine of sitting around the camper, sipping on hot coffee and checking the emails, maybe browsing some forums and the usual what-not's that happen each morning.
Leigh stopped by the shop and knocked on the camper door to see how we were. She was letting us know that her and a friend were going hiking in Arches National Park and asked if we were interested in joining them.
Cindy had just finished saying "Lets go hiking somewhere today, I'm really in the mood for a good, long hike!"
So of course we were both excited and said we'd love to go along.
She said she'd pick us up around Noon and we told her we'd be ready.
This is perfect because I just had said to Cindy that I'm a little upset with myself right now. My entire life I've been really into Mountain Biking. Moab is considered Mecca for hard core mountain bikers and we're here, and I cant remember the last time I've ridden my bike. I'm wayyyy out of shape when it comes to time in the saddle.
This coming weekend is the infamous 24 Hours of Moab Race, not that I'd be able to ride that anyways, but just being here makes me want to go out on my bike. At least hiking would quell some of those muscles that want to be sore from miles of slick rock pedaling.
Leigh picked us up and introduced us to her good friend Christy. These girls have lived here for years, so they're great tour guides and could answer all of our questions that Cindy and I were asking about each arch, rock outcropping or type of tree we were seeing.
Leigh even made us some turkey roll-ups for lunch that smelled mouth watering and it was all I could do to put them in the backpack and not gobble them up right there on the spot.
Our hike for today would be a 6 mile loop in the Devils Garden area of Arches. Its at the very end of the park and took us a short drive to get to it. Not that the drive wasn't completely filled with quality conversation while we all got to know one another.
Just as we were pulling out of the shop, the UPS truck pulled up to deliver my new ThinkTank Belt System which I've been saving for going on a year now! I was so excited, I brought it along even though I hadn't planned on using it while we hiked.
I did unpack one of the lens pouches and brought it along so I wouldn't have to bother Cindy each time I wanted to switch from a wide angle to a telephoto lens and have her dig into my back pack to get it out for me. Stay tuned for a full review after I've used it a few dozen times so I can give an honest synopsis of what I think.
The hike was as one could expect when you have 3 beautiful ladies to keep you company, deep blue skies to act as a backdrop, 2 of the ladies knowledgeable in the local flora and fauna and a postcard view in every direction you pointed your lens.
Its days like today when I have to keep pinching myself to make sure I'm awake and not dreaming.
Between Leigh and Christy, they answered and elaborated on every question Cindy and I had. Christy's husband is a geologist, so she knew tons of info about the various rocks and sandstone we hiked past, and the hike was more like a geology class.
When we finally stopped to eat, I couldn't wait to get at that turkey roll-up Leigh had made for our lunch. You all know how I brag about Cindy's cooking so much in my blogs, well Leigh is right up there with my Master Chef and comes up with homemade concoctions to die for.
After lunch, we hiked up and around some arches and Christy showed us some secret places that not too many people know about. I promised I wouldn't tell anyone on my blog, but I'll say having a tour guide that knows of secret hiking spots makes for a great hike.
As the sun was setting and we were within a mile of the vehicle parked at the trail head, Christy and Leigh mentioned the iced down beers in the car. Are these two some sort of angels or what? This thought of ice cold beverages to soothe the aching muscles was enough to give me a second wind and got us moving to the car at a faster pace.
Once back at the trail head, we all sat around sipping on cold ones and talking about this and that....Yes, I pinched myself again to make sure I was awake.
Leigh had a dinner arrangement in town with some ol' friends that were visiting and asked Cindy, Christy and I if we were interested in joining them.
Now who can turn down authentic Mexican food, strong Margarita's and more good company? Not I! So of course we joined them and had a wonderful meal filled with more good stories passed around by all who attended.
How do you top a day spent like today? Did I mention that Jim had asked if I wanted to go along on one of his guided motorcycle tours tomorrow in the Moab desert with his DualSport Moab Motorcycle Company?
We hurried home so I could clean the Compact Flash cards of today's photos and charge the batteries for tomorrows adventure. I think I went to bed pinching myself, but at this point, I wanted to fall asleep and couldn't imagine any dreams I'd have that could match the last few days of excitement.
Wednesday October 7th - Dual Sport Utah at its Finest
Jim had asked my at dinner last night if I was interested in going out on a guided tour he was doing today. This is like showing a dog a juicy steak and asking if its hungry.
He said I had to be ready around 8am this morning, but I had been up since 6am getting my stuff ready and was out helping him load up the KTM's and gear and I was chomping at the bit to get out on the trail.
I should say right now since I'm typing this after the fact, if I was to never get on another motorcycle for as long as I live, I think I would be more than satisfied after my day spent with Jim, Chad and Colleen in the Moab Desert with DualSport Utah.
Problem is after you spend 8 full hours logging some 60 some odd miles of trail, it only feeds a hunger I didn't even know I had for adventure riding.
I've been born and raised on motorcycles. My brothers and sisters and I have always owned numerous bikes, four wheelers or some other form of motor you put between your legs to race around the backyard or local trails for our entire lives.
Growing up, I spent countless days riding the trails and woods around our house with my friends. But all of that riding put together couldn't compare to the first few hours riding with Jim in Moab.
I should first tell you that Jim is an amazing rider, he's raced in the Baja 250 down in Mexico, he's been a guide in Moab for years now and has probably logged more miles around this area than multiple guides put together. Jim would be guiding for Chad and Colleen, a couple who was visiting from St. Louis Missouri and were both very talented riders themselves. They both had their own bikes, and Jim was going to let me ride one of his rental bikes....a 4-stroke KTM 450 EX.
Granted, this bike is just a tad bit too tall for me and would leave me on the ground numerous times during our day spent on the trail, but I wasn't complaining one bit.
We had the bikes loaded up in Jim's trailer and were headed out into the desert just as the sun was starting to crest the mountains on the horizon. The morning started out on the chilly side, but this is totally the norm for temperatures in the desert so we were all dressed properly for the day.
We got the bikes fueled up and as soon as possible started to put some distance between us and the truck in a fast way. First thing I noticed about this KTM was its torque. Its not like my Suzuki DRZ which is geared for street riding and seems much more mellow.
It seemed like I could point this bike in any direction, up any incline and tap the throttle and it would climb right up. If only I could touch the ground so every time I came to a stop, I didn't have to find a rock or ledge to put my foot on to keep from falling over....although I'm sure this was very funny for Jim, Chad and Colleen who watched me pick the bike up so many times throughout the day I lost count.
Each time Jim would bring us up to a different overlook, I would think to myself "The view cant get any better than this....This is the type of views postcards, movie posters, tourism advertisements and dreams are made of!" yet each new stop seemed to get better and better looking.
After numerous miles of single track and slick rock, we hit what is known as the 10 mile wash. This was mile after mile of deep sugar sand. The type that leaves a skinny wheeled motorcycle pretty useless. But Jim promised us the payoff would be worth it and we should just take it easy, keep our speed up to drift over the top of the sand and keep our weight on the back wheel.
That sounds very easy and even though I could recite those words in my head, when you're flying along in 3rd gear, floating over the sand and the bike decides it wants to go one direction, if you try and turn the front wheel to turn yourself out of that unintended direction, it doesn't do any good to actually turn the wheel.
Turning the wheel only acts as a plow and you soon find yourself lying in the sand spitting out gritty granules of Utah quartz and cussing Jim for this route.
It doesn't help that while you're fighting the handle bars that feel like they weigh a few thousand pounds, Jim will come riding up beside you with one hand up in the air like he's questioning what the problem is only to dump the clutch and wheelie ahead of you like he's on pavement.
Once the 10 mile wash was finished, we hit the spot that leaves a seasoned rider feeling like they found the Holy Grail of trail riding. A very narrow slot canyon with tons of big drops, deep puddles and slick rock walls that you can ride up like you're on a roller coaster ride....only you have the controls at your finger tips.
Colleen stayed at the entrance to let Chad go in first with Jim and I to see if she could handle this section. This gave us boys a few times to ride up and down the slot canyon soaking our hot, worn out bodies with the cool water and deep puddles that lie in the bottom of the deep canyon.
There were a few times I'd watch as Jim would drop off a big ledge only to sink up to the middle of his bike in a puddle when I'd be thinking to myself "I dont think I can do that!" I'd then remember that I had Chad rolling right behind me with the helmet cam recording and peer pressure is a bitch.
I'd tap the throttle and be airborne one second only to be cooled off with steam rising off the motor the next as I plunged into the deep puddles. I kept thinking to myself, "Ok, this is the spot I want to get off and sit to take some photos of these guys riding." That is till we'd round the next turn and hit something even more spectacular.
The hits just kept on rolling and each new drop was better than the last. When we hit the end of the slot canyon, we all sat exhilarated and out of breath throwing around High Five's and talking about how amazing that was.
We then turned the bikes around and went back at it in reverse. This time climbing up many of those steep drops and launching ourselves into the air out of the water rather than into it.
When we reached the mouth of the canyon, we all sat on some slick rock and took our first break of the day. We scarfed down some snickers bars for that sugar buzz and talked about the highlights of the ride so far. There were too many to talk about and we were all spouting off like kids on Christmas morning talking about what our favorite sections had been.
While they sat putting their gear back on, I rode on ahead to scout out a spot to set up so I could get some photos of everyone coming back down the slot canyon.
Even Colleen rode down the big drops and despite her short size, which meant like me, rather than being submerged up to their motors like Jim and Chad were, Colleen and I were submerged well over the tops of our boots. But that didn't stop her and she rode through like a champ.
Numerous times throughout the day she'd amaze me at the climbs, the drops and the sand traps she'd ride through. Dont get me wrong, there wasn't one of us who didn't take our turn at eating some dirt as we would lay on the ground cussing the Gravity Gods, but that's just part of riding, especially when you're riding trails this technical.
Even Jim, the guy that can ride up and over things most people wouldn't think rideable was on the ground almost as much as I was. But that's just showing that he too is human. Of course the rest of us would heckle, hoot and holler each time Jim would hit the ground and he would look at me right away yelling "Get that damn camera away from me!"
I cant wait to see the Helmet Cam footage because as Jim would be yelling at me for snapping pictures of him on the ground, Chad would be right there silently filming the entire thing with just his helmet pointed in that direction.
I could make this post last for days as we spent over 8 hours out riding the Moab desert. We rode along some trials that left my arms like jell-o. We rode along some areas that made me stop and just sit for a minute to take in the beauty. At one point we were riding along a fire road when a herd of Prong Horn came running beside us spooked by the sounds of the motorcycles.
It was a very awesome feeling to be racing down a dirt road with wild animals running at speeds of 30mph right beside you with the herd kicking up more dust that my rear tire was. I was a little ahead of the pack as I smacked the throttle to get in front of them, which made the herd turn right behind me and cross the road in front of Chad, Colleen and Jim.
At another point in the day, as we were flying down one dirt road that happened to be cutting through some open cattle range, we spooked a herd of cattle. I was at a loss when a few of the steer came charging up onto the road as one came right for me. When I slowed down, it too slowed down, when I sped up, it too sped up. I finally down shifted thinking I was about to get gored and punched the throttle which left the scared cow far behind me in a wake of my dust.
Something tells me being trampled in the desert by a spooked cow while on a motorcycle isn't something Cindy wants to be getting a phone call about. I'm not even sure if my Life Insurance company would believe that story...LOL
By the time we got back to the truck and trailer, my odometer told me we had logged some 63 miles. By butt hurt, my arms were like rubber and my back felt like I had been hit by a baseball bat, but if you would have asked if I wanted to go back out again the next day, I would be waiting with bells on for another experience like today.
We came back into town, picked Cindy up at the camper and went over to Jim's house for another gourmet feast. Normally I try and monitor my intake of food to keep my girlish figure in check, but tonight I scarfed down anything that was put on my plate. I think my exact words to Cindy when we walked in the camper and cracked open a couple of ice cold beers was "I'm so damn hungry right now, I could eat the ass end out of a mule!"
Luckily, our two beautiful wives had been home slaving over the kitchen counters and had a meal fit for kings ready for Jim and I. Home made spaghetti sauce, a big salad with tons of fresh vegetables and mouth watering Pineapple for dessert.
Jim barely made it through Dinner because of how heavy his eyelids were, and I wasn't too far behind him. Once we were fed up, we said a heart felt "Thank You" to our Gracious hosts and rode the scooter back to the camper. I was almost asleep while I was brushing my teeth and hit the pillow within seconds of putting the tooth brush down.
Cindy asked me if I was going to check my emails or update my blog since I had been away from the computer all day long...to which I replied "The last thing I'm worried about right now is that damn computer!" and I think I was snoring within seconds of saying that.
Today was another Good Day!!
Friday October 9th - Getting Ready for the Swell
We spent the last two days fooling around Jim's shop in Moab, updating the blogs, packing things up and un-boxing the Camping Lab Roof Top Tent (RTT).
This weekend we're headed up to the San Rafael Swell area of Southern Utah to meet up with Ryan and Nanette and some of their friends and family to do some off-roading and exploring.
As always happens, we had planned to be ready to leave by Thursday afternoon, till I found that despite having two sets of Roof Top Load Bars to hold the various toys we've hauled on the roof, I seem to have left both sets of them back in Michigan.
Remember, these things aren't cheap and after emptying every storage bin, the entire garage we haul on the back of our truck, that alone takes a few hours to unpack everything and then repack it, I had to go find a local Outdoor Store and buy new bars and mounts. This means I now have two full sets of mounts and 3 sets of load bars.
I'm sure when we left Michigan and I thought to myself, "We're not bringing the Kayaks, why do I need to carry all this stuff with me?" I must have thought that was a good idea at the time????
So our plans of leaving on Thursday afternoon were now pushed to Friday morning. I worked, BY MYSELF, out in the dark because Cindy felt it was Stupid to work by the light of the headlamps to get the roof racks installed so the RTT could be put on and mounted.
This morning I was up early and outside finishing up the installation so we could be on the road first thing. Around noon, I was finally ready to go, and went to start the truck so I could hook up to the camper and found out the batteries were dead.
I guess opening and shutting the doors for two days straight while working on the roof racks and RTT, which meant the interior lights would come on with each door opening or shutting, drained the juice out of both batteries.
I grabbed one of Jim's battery chargers and hooked it up to the truck. Just then, my phone rang and it was Jim who asked if I could do him a huge favor and take one of his shuttle vans and go pick up a guy that had just flown in to compete in the 24 Hours of Moab Mountain Bike Race.
Jim had drove down to Lake Powell to pick up a group of paddlers that had floated out of the Moab area on the Colorado River and one of his other drivers was out on another run. So while the truck batteries were charging up, I became a driver for Road Runner Shuttle and went to work.
By the time I came back from my run, the batteries were charged and we hooked everything up lickity-split.
We pulled out of the shop and were headed North up HWY 191 about 12 hours later than we had planned, but we were finally moving and that's what mattered. Driving North, we passed sections of country where one can look out over the desert and see time unfold before you.
The sandstone looks like its flowing and you can see the ancient oceans that have eroded sheer mountains into smooth sculptures that only millions of years of wind and water can do so beautifully. In the late afternoon sunlight, the lighting was perfect and we both sat quietly just soaking it all up. Sometimes the driving sections of our adventure can be the most Zen like of all the moments I have.
Once we hit I-70, we pointed the truck West and the views unfolded even more spectacularly with each mile we drove further into the San Rafael Swell.
Ryan had suggested we take a shortcut called the Moore cut-off which would shave some miles off our route. This road was only recently paved and is as smooth as one could hope for. I could see automobile commercial after commercial being filmed along this road with its winding turns, scenic beauty on each side and the roller coaster ride it offers.
In 20 miles of road, we never passed another vehicle and except for a few abandon homes along the way, we never saw any sings of civilization. Cindy commented that we were driving through Mars and I cant think of a better way to describe the surrounding scenery.
We found the road we were supposed to turn onto, the one that would lead us out into the heart of the San Rafael Swell, and with the sun now setting behind us, we turned East to head out into the desert.
15 miles along a narrow dirt road kicking up a storm of dust in our wake, we finally found Ryan's camp and backed into our camping spot. Lifted Jeeps, Adventure Trailers with RTT's and a dozen four wheelers were scattered all around the campsite. Our modern day covered wagons resembled the same scene this desert might have seen a few hundred years ago when the early pioneer's came west camping in this same spot.
Only difference is sitting around the roaring bonfire tonight was a group of modern day explorers with exotic toys and modified modes of transport compared to a rough bunch with horses and chuck wagons.
Other than the technology and exotic metals used for our toys, things haven't changed too much in the past few hundred years.
We met the family and friends and moseyed up to the fire for the warmth it was throwing off in the cool desert air that had settled in. The rest of the night we sat around BS'ing while one by one, people slowly dropped off from the pack and headed back to their tents, campers or where ever their pillow might be laid.
Ryan, Jake and I were the last ones still standing and the 3 of us talked long into the night contemplating life's mysteries and the worlds problems. Ryan was the first of the trio to peter out, but Jake and I threw another log on the fire and sat up till after 2am.
Around the fire, we both figured out the Earths problems, many of life's mysteries and how to solve a few of our countries economic issues. Now if we could only figure out how to implement them, I think we could do some good and turn this country around.
When I finally crawled into the camper, Cindy about rung my neck because I scared the crap out of her when I walked in the door. She looked at me with my headlamp on top of my hat and screamed at the top of her lungs as she was was standing in front of the kitchen sink getting something to drink.
I yelled for her to quiet down as the entire camp was asleep and asked why she was so scared.
She told me she thought I had been in bed with her for the past hour and when we both looked into our bedroom, Luca was sleeping right where I would normally be with his head up on my pillow....under the blankets and all! She said she had been spooning him and thought it was me in bed with her...LOL
When I finally did crawl into bed, my two feet were a couple of ice blocks and my hands were also something she didn't want snuggled up to her. She got over it quick and we were both soon sleeping soundly.
Saturday October 10th - Exploring San Rafael Swell by Jeep
Ryan, Steve and Clint had big plans for us today with plenty of miles to be covered, so we were all up early planning on getting a good start.
I'd ride with Ryan in his Jeep, Cindy would ride with Nanette, Ryan's wife in her Jeep, Steve and Sarah and their adorable little daughter Gabby would be somewhere in the convoy along with Clint and Rachael in Clint's Jeep.
The rest of Ryan's family and a few more friends of the family would be following along on their ATV's and Sport-Ute's. The four Jeeps would more or less stick together because of the slower speeds we'd have to take compared to the smaller four wheelers, but we'd meet up off and on throughout the entire day at various sections of the trail.
The San Rafael Swell is in Emery County, Utah and the County is in charge of maintaining the trails and roads that criss cross this wide open expanse. To look at the Swell on a map, it takes up a humongous section of the middle of Utah and is an Off-Road Mecca, much like Moab, only without the hordes of people to clog the hundreds of miles of trails.
The nearest place for supplies if you're visiting The Swell, is the town of Ferron. It has a fuel station, restaurant and services to load up on supplies before you head out into the desert, but once you're in the heart of the Swell, you could explore for days and not see another human....which is just the way we like it.
I was amazed at how well marked the trails were with road signage to guide you along, trail markers indicating which section or route you're on and they all coincide with the Map Emery County puts out to keep you from getting lost. Each time you get to a point of interest or a major intersection, the county has story boards built to give you information about much of the surrounding area you'll be driving through.
This is a destination anyone who is into off-roading should put on their 'Must See' list.
Rolling along the routes Ryan and Clint were taking us on, you would have to have a good 4x4 vehicle with high ground clearance and good suspension to enjoy your day. A stock truck could make it, but you'd probably need a new paint job when you're done and the stock shocks would probably be blown out.
I had asked Ryan if I could drive my truck today, and he told me "You're more than welcome to drive it, we'll just have to take different trails than we have planned so you can fit and wont get stuck." He went on to say "We have some pretty knarly stuff planned for the two of you and I think you'll be happy with just kicking back and riding in one of our Jeeps."
In hindsight, I'm really glad we didn't drive our truck because it would have taken a serious beating and would have never fit on half the sections we were able to go with the Long Travel Suspension and narrowness of the bodies on their Custom Jeeps.
Plus, our truck is our daily driver and tows our house behind it. This is much different than their Jeeps that are built specifically for trails like this and the abuse we were about to give these Jeeps.
Ryan, Steve and Clint all have Jeep's that have thousands of dollars worth of aftermarket suspension that allow the wheels to articulate way beyond the ability of a stock vehicle. Bumps, rocks and drops that would leave you bouncing into the roof in a stock truck felt like you had rolled over a pebble in these vehicles.
A few different times I'd have my butt cheeks clenched as we approached a big rock or steep ledge and a few times I wouldn't even have realized that we had already rolled over it and I hadn't even felt the truck move. Its amazing how well these trucks absorb the bumps.
Even traveling down the dirt roads with heavy washboard bumps and ruts, the Jeeps could hold a much faster speed than a stock truck would have been able to and the ride inside the vehicle felt like we were driving down a smooth, paved road.
I also learned a lot from watching how the guys and Nannette navigated the deep sand, the steep rocks and the narrow switchbacks along with Clint having the motor of his Jeep cook his lunch while on the trail....Something Cindy and I will have to try while driving from now on. Of course this makes me want to go out and get a Jeep of my own to be exploring in, but for today, I was really happy with being a passenger and having a guided trip through this beautiful section of Utah.
The area the San Rafael Swell encompasses alone is large enough that I think it would take a year or two of non-stop exploring before you'd have seen it all.
I think you could spend more than a year in this area before you'd start to get bored with its beauty. Each turn offered the types of views that win awards in Landscape Photography Contests and every time I think I'd have seen the best there was to see, the one view where I'd say to myself "Ok, that was my 'WOW' view for today", we'd come around a bend in the canyon and I'd see something better.
This is when I wish I had a video camera and one of those Sport-Ute Vehicles so I could have driven ahead of the Jeep Convoy to find a spot up in the canyon and video tape them crawling up the amazingly steep climbs. I've been off-roading all my life, but never to this extreme and never in areas that offer such beauty as the San Rafael Swell.
This time of year, the bottom of the washes which are lined with big Cottonwood Trees, are rimmed with a bright yellow color to offset the deep reds of the sandstone canyon walls, the dark blues of the sky and the light greens of the sage brush that dots the hillsides. The colors are bright and vibrant and the temperatures were perfect to be out exploring in.
Most of us had a light jacket on even though the temperature was in the mid-70's. The slight breeze had a coolness to it that when it picked up, you got a chill knowing winter is just around the corner.
We had originally planned on taking Eagle Canyon all the way up, but I'm thinking that as many times as I made the convoy stop so I could get out to take pictures, Ryan, Clint and Steve had a change of plans and we went for an alternative route in order to be back to camp before dark.
This new route would take us across I-70 only to cross back under it through a narrow concrete tunnel. Our new goal was to see some Pictographs that were left from ancient Indian tribes that called this area home long before any of us were around or thought of exploring it by 4x4.
This series of paintings on the wall is different from any Cindy and I have seen around the country. This particular set resembles aliens or something you might see in a description of beings from another planet. Was this particular tribe trying to tell us something, or is it just my imagination running wild? I cant decide, but its not your typical Kokapelli type figure.
From this stop, we were all pretty hungry and it was getting pretty late in the afternoon. We had at least an hour to get back to camp and that would be driving paved roads the entire way back. So with growling stomachs steering the vehicles home for us, we called it a day and headed for some chow.
When we pulled into camp, the rest of the group that had turned back a long time ago was already in the process of cooking up a big dinner with nothing but Dutch Ovens. Ryan had already told me that the family was going to have a Dutch Oven Cook-off and we should be ready for a great dinner.
While the cast iron ovens were doing their thing, a bunch of the guys and girls were out behind the camp plinking off clay pigeons and bowling pins. The back end of one of the pick-up trucks resembled a gun shop with various pistols, shot guns and boxes of ammunition scattered all over the tailgate.
I grabbed the Beneli out of the camper and brought it out for everyone to give it a go. Its probably one of the smoothest shot guns on the market, and almost every person that has ever shot it will come away with a smile on their face.
They had one of the coolest Skeet Throwers I've ever seen. It was fully automatic with a remote control that would allow the operator to hit a button from a wireless remote to throw the clay pigeon when the shooter yelled "Pull!"
It would throw the Clay Target in a different direction each time to give the shooter a harder target to hit and made for a great time of shooting.
Soon enough, the dinner bell was ringing and all the guns were put away so we could go fill the bellies with food.
Of all the Dutch Oven food I've had in my life, Clint's Corn Bread Topper concoction was the best I've had to date. This mouth watering mixture was made up of Seasoned Brown Rice, Smoked Sausage, Baked Beans, Onions, some sort of BBQ Sauce and the entire combination that had been slow cooking in a big Dutch Oven was then topped with a crumbly Corn Bread.
I tried everything else, but I'd be lying if I told you any of it compared to Clint's dish. Everyone had been talking about it all day long, and I now know why. I think I went back up for a 3rd helping even though I had to unbutton my pants after the second heaping plate I had Shoveled down.
By the time dinner was done, and everyone was good and fed up, the winds had picked up something awful and the temperature had dropped about 30 degrees.
Since most of the gang was camped in tents, our little living room became the spot to escape the wind and Clint, Steve, Ryan, Sarah, Cindy and I all huddled in the camper talking the night away till one by one, the food started to set in and the eyelids started to close.
With muscles still sore from riding motorcycles back in Moab with Jim that were now starting to feel sore in different spots from bouncing around in the Jeep all day, I took a few Vitamin I (Ibuprofen as Jim would call it) and hit the bed.
I went to bed with dreams of Red Rock Canyons and Long Travel Suspension.
Sunday October 11th - Happy Birthday Joe!
Today's my little brothers birthday, so I wanted to say a big 'Happy Birthday' to him and I hope he's doing really good. I know the last time I spoke with him on the phone, he said he was doing very well and was happy to tell me that he's been clean of any drugs or drinking alcohol for almost 10 months now.
He also just closed on his first house back in Michigan this month and seems to be on the right track with a very successful life. It makes me feel good knowing he's doing well and the family no longer has to worry about his well being.
Waking up in the desert, the weather had become quite chilly and there was a thick layer of clouds hanging low over the camp site.
We had another full day of exploring the San Rafael Swell in store for us today, but since everyone other than Cindy and I had to be back home tonight so they could go to work tomorrow morning, things would be done a little differently today.
Camp was all packed up first thing this morning, and we pulled the campers into the town of Ferron where Clint's aunt lived. This would mean we wouldn't have to drive the 15 miles back into the desert when the day of exploring was done and everyone would be able to leave right from Ferron.
Steve was pulling his little Adventure Trailer, which after seeing one for the first time left both Cindy and I with a lasting impression. They are so well thought out and after seeing one up-close for the first time, if we ever wanted to travel very light yet still have all the luxuries of home and still be able to Off-Road, this would be the route to go down.
Steve and I would be dropping off our trailers at Clint's aunts house where Clint would also be dropping off the trailer he tows his Jeep on. Once we dropped everything off, Cindy and I jumped in Clint's Jeep and rode with him and Rachael for the rest of the day.
Ryan and Nanette use a RTT atop Ryan's Jeep, so they didn't have to follow us into town. They took their time packing up camp and took a short cut down one of the many dirt roads that crosses the Swell.
We all met back up at a spot called the Wedge. This enormous valley is called the Grand Canyon of Utah and is amazing to see from the edge.
Driving up to it, you never feel like you've climbed up a hill yet you're looking a 1000' into the valley floor. The wind whipping up from the edge of the canyon is enough to make you step back for fear of being blown over.
As we all sat looking over the edge, Ryan and Nanette pulled up and we all sat around just enjoying the views while they decided where today's route was going to lead us.
Once Ryan and Clint figured out our route, we piled back into the Jeeps and headed out to explore the desert in more detail. Again, we never felt like we were driving down a hill, but we suddenly started to notice the canyon start to rise up all around us and soon we were walled in with steep sandstone walls.
It reminded me of driving through the bottom of Canyon de Chelly and the steepness of its towering walls. Just looking out the window of the Jeep leaves you unable to see the sky. If you want to see all the way out of the canyon, you have to crank your neck all the way over with your head stuck way out the window of the vehicle.
The road winds down through the bottom of the canyon following the San Rafael River at times which is lined with big Cottonwood Trees glowing in their bright yellow fall colors.
Clint stopped along the edge of the road where there was no road signs and asked "Want to see a Dinosaur foot print that only us locals know about?"
Of course we said yes, so we all piled out of the Jeeps and crawled up on a nearby ledge where there was a small pile of rocks stacked up. He moved the rocks and brushed away some sand to reveal a three toed foot print of a creature that hasn't walked the earth for millions of years.
How cool is that!!!! I love having tour guides that know of secrets that only locals know about, especially when their as cool as a dinosaur footprint.
From this stop we drove down the winding road a few miles to our next attraction, the Buckhorn Wash Pictograph Panel.
This is a section of paintings made from two different groups. There is little known of these particular groups of Indians, but they know one group was called the Barrier Canyon Culture. This group roamed this area over 2000 years ago, before the birth of Christ!
The second group, the Fremont Culture is over 1000 years old but still little is known about either.
Its amazing that these paintings have survived this long and its a shame to see them slowly fading away due to water running down the canyon and the sun naturally bleaching the surface of the rocks let alone idiots who think its cool to vandalize the age old paintings.
We all sat around looking at the paintings, again, commenting on how alien looking the drawings resembled. We joked with each other about the meaning of these drawings and whether it would be the same thing as the youth of today's generations spray painting the walls of a city building with their gang signs or slogans.
Did these ancient cultures chastise their people who went around marking up the canyon walls, or were they trying to leave their mark for the rest of humanity to question? Are future explorers that might find graffiti on a building left from this generation going to hold it up as ancient works of art and question its meaning, or will it be tore down and painted over as time goes on? All serious questions one must ask themselves as they find the writings on the walls.
From the Buckskin Wash Pictograph Panel, we motored up the canyon floor as the walls slowly got smaller and the horizon came back into view. At no time did it ever feel like we were gaining elevation or climbing out of the canyon. Maybe its an illusion because of how tall the walls are or the angle of the tops of the walls compared to the angle of the road, but its one that all of us noticed and commented on.
The trails we took today werent nearly as rough as the ones we were on yesterday. Clint told me that yesterdays mileage totaled up to 60 something miles of just dirt travel, and we had traveled well over that today in half the amount of time.
The difference is today we were on Emery County Maintained roads that were really smooth considering they were dirt roads and miles from any civilization. Yesterday we spent the entire day on narrow two track, climbing up and down mountains or in the bottom of deep, sandy washes. Today was a much smoother ride, but just as scenic and pretty.
Again we crossed I-70 and headed to an old abandon Uranium Mine the guys knew about and wanted to show us newbie's.
I probably could have drove my truck on any of the roads we took today, but again, with the stock suspension on our truck there would be no way we could have traveled at the speed and comfort that was allowed with the smooth suspension of these custom Jeeps.
Clint, Rachael, Cindy and I spent the time between stops talking about the surrounding beauty of the countryside and with Clint having grown up around these parts, he knew tons of history and local lore about the area and was able to answer any question we could come up with.
Plus, all the Jeeps were equipped with CB's, so there was a constant chatter between all four Jeeps about what we were passing, where we were going or just basic BS.
I'd really like to come back to this area and spend more time exploring it. Its amazing how beautiful it is yet so unheard of. I've never heard of the San Rafael Swell in all my life, let alone see any photos from this area. Yet Cindy and I were constantly pointing out areas to one another where we'd say something like "Can you imagine that hillside at sunset!" or "Those rocks would look so amazing with a full moon positioned behind them as dusk."
Even though Cindy and I have yet to explore the Grand Canyon, driving through this section of The Swell reminded me of Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon combined.
Finding areas like this for photographers is the equivalent of gold miners finding a new vein along their claim. We both kept talking to one another about the possibilities of being in different areas of The Swell at certain times of the year, or climbing certain canyons just to see where they might lead you to.
Clint would show us different arches on the map he was using and tell us that many of them cant be seen from the road, that you have to hike back to them in order to see them. Many of them are very remote and barely ever seen.
We talked of how much stuff must be in these canyons yet undiscovered and how many years it would take just to explore this one area of Utah.
It was really getting me excited and my mind was racing with thoughts of getting lost out here for years just wandering around soaking up the beauty. How long would it take before you would drop off the face of the earth in the eyes of normal people who would continue to go about their daily tasks, yet you could be perfectly content exploring and finding new things all around you?
My mind was snapped back to reality when we pulled up to the side of a towering red rock wall with bright green piles of tailings flowing down the side. High up on the mountain a few different mine shaft openings clung to the face of the cliff.
Below one of the mine openings was a rusted old metal tube that probably was used to load trucks or some sort of carts to haul out the Uranium they used to mine here. If you panned out and looked at the entire side of the mountain, above and to the left of the mine was a giant arch at the very top of the cliff. This arch is known as Hondo Arch.
We all got out of the Jeeps and scrambled up the side of the cliff. The mountain is soo tall, you can see millions of years of sediment compacted into various layers right before your eyes. Its almost like you're looking at a diagram in science class that shows the various periods of the time table only its right in front of you and you can see evolution at work.
Looking on the ground around our feet, Cindy pointed out a big piece of coral that looked as if it was petrified. We both laughed saying it was so scared because it has been out of the salt water that used to carve these canyon walls that its now petrified....get it? I know, we're pretty nerdy when it comes to our sense of humor.
We walked up to the edge of the mine shafts and entered in one of them and waited to let our eyes become adjusted to the dim light. Steve had brought a flashlight so we followed one of the tunnels down a ways till we found another opening where you could see light streaming in from the outside.
We walked towards the light and were blinded when we emerged back out on the face of the wall looking down at the group of Jeeps hundreds of feet below us.
I was a little nervous to be in the mine shafts because it was a Uranium Mine at one point, and the floor of the tunnels are lined with such a fine powdery substance that any movement kicks up a bunch of dust. Add a group of people all wandering around, Ryan's kids just being kids and running from opening to opening, and I could feel my nose and throat closing up with nuclear dust.
We fooled around in the mine for awhile before we headed back down to the Jeeps.
From the Uranium Mine and Hondo Arch, we headed back towards Ferron and our waiting trucks. The ride back was much faster as Clint took us on a route of Maintained Roads the entire way which we could travel at a high rate of speed due to their super absorbent suspension.
When we finally reached pavement, Steve came over the CB singing a religious hymn "Halleluiah...Halleluiah.....Halleluiah!"
Clint looked down and read off his odometer saying "We've just ran 110 miles of dirt today!"
The rest of the ride was quick and painless and even though we were traveling along paved roads, the scenery was still beautiful. Granted, not like sitting a 1000' below a towering red rock canyon, but with the sun setting behind the surrounding mountain side, it made for a pretty ending to a great day out exploring.
We all pulled back up to Clint's aunts house and while Steve hooked up to his trailer, Cindy walked the dogs and Clint loaded his Jeep up on the trailer for their 2 hour drive home.
We swapped addresses so I could send a copy of the photos of the last few days of exploring and promised to keep in touch.
Hugs and hand shakes all around, and the group went off in separate directions as they all headed back towards Salt Lake City and Northern Utah, and Cindy and I headed down towards Goblin Valley.
Clint had pointed out a free, community dump station that the town of Ferron has for its residents who own RV's or travelers passing through like us. Rather than drive with the extra weight in the black and gray tanks, we stopped and emptied those while we had the chance. Thanks Ferron, if only more towns offered free services like this!
By this point the sun had long set and it was that last little bit of twilight. We started to drive towards I-70, but it didn't take long before the night was as black as ink. We pulled over at a spot Ryan had showed us a few days ago that isn't marked, but has a ton of petroglyphs carved into the rocks along the road.
We called it a night and hit the sack pretty early, exhausted from a great weekend spent with new friends.
Monday October 12th - Exploring Goblin Valley Utah
Its amazing how quiet this area is. The road we were parked off of is rarely traveled and I dont think a single car came down it last night.
Cindy and I had sat here eating breakfast all morning and had yet to hear a car pass by to interrupt our silence and solitude. The morning had warmed up nicely and the sun was out in full force charging our bank of batteries so we'd have plenty of power for the computers.
While Cindy was making breakfast, I took the dogs out so they could run around and burn off some energy. They love to play in the rocks and sniff out the tiny rodents that scurry along the cracks and crevices. Not that they ever catch any of them, but they do wear themselves out trying.
I like to get Luca riled up and get him to chase Lucy who isn't into Rough Housing. Luca will antagonize her to the point that she gets so mad at him she chases him around biting at his face and cheeks till he's running for protection to Cindy or myself.
After breakfast, we all went back out and climbed around on the rocks just enjoying the morning in our quiet little camp. Who would think we were camped right beside a main road? I'd pay serious money for a campsite this beautiful and peaceful, yet we were staying here for free. Another reason why I love the wide open spaces of the West so much!
While Cindy was standing outside watching Luca and Lucy play, she yelled for Luca to calm down which meant he heard Momma say his name, he must come running towards her as fast as he can.
He came barreling down the hill and plowed right into her legs knocking her down which made her spill her full cup of coffee all over her jeans. Even though she might have been hurt, I was laughing so hard at these two clowns I thought I was going to wet myself.
Of course Cindy didn't think any of this was funny and Luca and I both got scolded something awful. If you look at his face in that picture, you can just tell he's laughing as hard as I am.
When we had the dogs good and worn out, we loaded them up in the truck and headed out for the day. Our plans were to visit Goblin Valley State Park which was on our way back to Moab, only a different route than we took to come up for the weekend.
Driving down I-70, Cindy let me know that she was starting to feel car sick which is strange and something neither of us ever feel.
I asked if she wanted me to pull over and let her get out to get some fresh air and she told me to hurry up because she was going to get sick. Oh Man, this not good!
I brought the fun train to a screeching halt and she went barreling out of the truck to give her breakfast to the ravens along the side of the road.
The rest of the morning was this way and we pulled over a few different times so she could do this again and again.
When we finally got into Goblin Valley, she crawled back into bed and laid down for awhile till she felt a little better. A few Tums antacid, some Ibuprofen and a glass of water and she said she was ready to head out for some fresh air and a short hike.
We found the Carmel Canyon hike which was only 1.5 miles and took the dogs with us to see if some exercise wouldn't make her feel better.
This park is like nothing I've ever seen before and I would compare it to a mix of Monument Valley National Monument, the Vermillion Cliffs in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Park and the lunar landscape of Petrified Tree National Park. Goblin Valley State Park has a lot of its own uniqueness to make it something spectacular in and of itself.
I dont even know if I have the vocabulary in my limited literary mind to describe the views we saw today. The valley floor is filled with various sized Entrada sandstone outcroppings that look like little mushrooms, goblins and other things you'd expect to see in a Steven Spielberg film, maybe if Spielberg was tripping out on a few hits of LSD.
When we finished our hike, Cindy said she wasn't feeling all that good again, so she laid back down for a nap and I worked on some photos from this past weekend.
Parked in the State Park parking lot, I had an amazing view of the surrounding landscape and couldn't imagine how much an office view like this would cost someone in the business world. Luckily for me, my office has which ever view I decide I want it to have each day, and today it was Goblin Valley.
I wanted to wait around for the late afternoon light anyways, so this worked out perfect. Even though Cindy kept saying she felt bad that we couldn't be out hiking, I'd rather have her rest and work out what ever type of bug she caught than have it get any worse.
Because I know a few of our friends will probably email us commenting it was just a bad hang-over, neither of us have done too much drinking in the past few days and Cindy hasn't drank anything in the past two days at all. Who knows, maybe that's why she's sick....LOL
Later in the afternoon, I made us some lunch, shocking as that might sound, and Cindy said she still wasn't feeling up to another hike, so I went by myself.
Our first hike this morning took us along the edges of the valley and through some narrow slot canyon type terrain, but this time I wanted to walk right down through the middle of all the little Goblin'esque sandstone monoliths.
If you've ever seen the movie Galaxy Quest with Tim Allen, this park is where they filmed a some of the movie.
Walking through the valley floor, if you had blindfolded me, walked me down into the valley and took the blindfold off in the middle of the Goblins, then told me you had injected me with some sort of hallucinogen, I would believe you 100%. There is no way to describe how out of this world it looks and must be seen to be believed.
I wandered around down there by myself for a few hours and started to see faces and the Goblins started to resemble various animals. I thought about how easy it would be to get lost and a few times I'd think I was at a certain spot only to climb onto a taller mound and realize I was in a totally different spot than I thought I was. Think of an ant climbing around a giant chess board and you'll get an idea of what I felt like down in Goblin Valley.
I'm not a talented enough photographer to capture the strangeness of this place so you'll have to just take my word for it and visit yourself. I was disappointed with all my pictures because they dont show how weird it felt to be amongst these ancient pieces of earth.
I kept asking myself why I've never heard or seen of this place before? Granted its not that big, and it is out in the middle of nowhere, but its soo cool and different at the same time. Being in Yellowstone for so long I think I was starting to get burned out on seeing such well known beauty.
The last few days have been so amazing because everything we've been seeing and doing is something that I've never even heard of before. No crowds, no tourists and no tour buses of people lined up snapping the same picture you've already seen a million times.
Who knew that the San Rafael Swell could hold such diverse attractions all within its boundaries? I'm starting to think that Utah is now one of my favorite states if not my most favorite of all we've visited.
When I finally came back up to the camper, only because it was starting to get dark, windy and cold, Cindy asked me what I thought and was it worth waiting around another day so when she felt better tomorrow we could both go out and explore the Goblins.
I told her it was one of the strangest things I've ever seen in my life and its like wandering around in a dream, only you're wide awake. I told her that I really hoped she felt better tomorrow so we could both go out hiking again.
Since the State Park is surrounded by BLM Land, we pulled out of the park and found a two track trail leading out into the desert so we could find a free place to camp for tonight. When we parked the camper and came in for the night, I was still trying to think of words to describe what I had seen and experienced today.
Simple words like Wow, Amazing, Spectacular, Beautiful, Awe Struck or other adjectives like those are too boring and over used. They dont do this area justice and I'm going to think for a day or so to come up with some new ones that will let you know how wild this place is.
Thursday October 15th - The Start of the Dual Sport Utah 500
The last few days have been spent getting caught up from our past weekend of Jeeping with Ryan, Steve and Clint and editing the photos for the San Rafael Swell Gallery, mailing photos and disc's of photos to those involved and getting things packed up for this weekends Charity Motorcycle ride here in Moab.
I've never been involved with a multiple day ride unless it was Mountain Biking, Snowmobiling or Four Wheeling on ATV's, and those rides were always with good friends. If we got too tired or wanted to slow down, I knew all involved well enough that I could just say I needed to turn around or the group needed to slow down. Usually this never happened as these rides were when I was in very good shape and I was usually the one keeping the pace up.
When riding with a bunch of guys I've never met before, all of which are accomplished motorcycle riders and at riding levels way beyond mine, I was a little worried I'd be the one holding everyone up this time.
The first to arrive was Len and Gary. These two guys were older than I expected the group to be, but right away I was even more worried after listening to them talk about past rides, events they've done around the country and their riding abilities.
Something in a mans pride usually allows himself to understand when a younger, stronger guy can whip his ass, but if a guy old enough to be his grand father can outride him, that's much harder to swallow.
Needless to say, the rest of the weekend would be spent with me getting my tired, sore and worn out butt handed to me by men twice my age.
By late Thursday afternoon, Jim was finally ready to go. For those that dont know this guy or have yet to meet him, getting him out the door is a task in and of itself. His phone is always ringing non-stop with his multiple businesses he operates and he's usually buzzing around in the middle of multiple tasks like some kid who suffers from A.D.D. and has drank a few Red Bull energy drinks.
Our goal was to pull out of Moab by 5pm.....around 8pm, we were finally rolling. Jim would be towing his toyhauler for riders to use as a dressing room/bathroom or a place to rest if they needed it. I was towing the cargo trailer loaded down with fresh dual sport bikes we'd be using this weekend.
Jim has 8 KTM 4-stroke, street legal bikes for his rental business, and we'd be using 7 of them this weekend. A group of guys were flying in from Michigan that we were picking up in Grand Junction Colorado tonight. Len had driven up from Texas and Larry had driven down from Washington.
Tomorrow we'd be meeting a few more guys who would be coming over from various places in Colorado and one other rider was driving in to Utah, but I'm not sure where his home base is because he talked of fulltiming in an RV like Cindy and I do.
I thought it was funny when Jim asked me where the Red Dog Saloon was located in Michigan. When I told him where it was, he told me the guys we would be picking up from the airport said they knew of it and lived close by.
Little did I know they'd be from the next town over (Highland) and I'd be able to talk about places from Michigan and have people know exactly what I was talking about. I swear that the more we travel, the smaller this Earth becomes.
Once in Grand Junction, we dropped off Gary at a local motel, picked up the guys from Sicass Racing at the Airport and headed to another motel where they'd be staying.
I thought it was strange to see 3 guys walking out of the airport with motorcycle seats strapped to the top of their carry on luggage, but soon found out that one of the products they make is custom seats that are much more comfortable than the stock seats manufacturers put on their bikes.
It makes sense to bring your own seat which would make any bike feel more like your own, but I still laughed that they were carrying them through the airport. Since I'm not one to fly around the country to ride motorcycles, I'll learn alot this weekend on ways to travel to new destinations and still enjoy the freedom to explore.
Jim's Dual Sport Utah rental business allows riders to do just that. Fly in from anywhere in the world, have a high quality, street legal bike at their disposal on some of the best terrain in the world. I guess before this weekend, I hadn't realized how cool this really was.
Once the boys from Sicass Racing were checked in, we had planned to head out and get to know one another at a local bar. By this point it was getting pretty late and the bar in the hotel had already closed. Luckily, I rarely travel without a cooler full of iced down Silver Bullets in the bed of the truck, soo true to our Michigan roots, we all spent the evening standing around in a parking lot drinking beers and swapping stories of past rides.
During our BS'ing, Mike who is in charge of designing the catalog and website for Sicass Racing told me that he had bought some of my photos from a supermoto race I covered in Michigan last summer. Mike had raced in the event and I snapped a couple of shots of him jumping his bike with the full moon rising right behind him. I thought it was cool when someone had bought the photos, but never knew they would be used in a catalog that does business all over the world.
Another piece to artwork to add to the always growing portfolio I guess.
When the cool Colorado air finally had us all shivering, they headed into bed and Jim and I snuck into the toyhauler and camped right in the hotel parking lot. So even though it would be my first night in a LONG time away from Cindy and the camper, I still slept in an RV.
Friday October 16th - Dual Sport Utah 500 Begins
We were up early this morning with a huge day ahead of us.
Breakfast in the hotel. Meeting a bunch of new riders in the parking lot. Fueling up the bikes, the gas cans and grabbing some coffee before we headed out for the Kokopelli Trail.
Today's ride would lead the guys along one of the West's most sought after trails, some 142 miles of rough Jeep roads, narrow single track and rock gardens that had me wondering how anyone could ride up and over them.
The purpose of this weekends ride would be to raise money for the Rider Down Foundation. This is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping responsible off road motorcyclists and ATV racers who have been injured while riding. Proceeds are used to provide assistance to the riders and their families when faced with medical expenses and related issues.
Everyone involved with this weekends ride had paid their entrance fee which would go towards the guided riding, the lunches and dinners Jim would provide, the 2 nights stay at the Red Cliffs Lodge and the bike rental. Proceeds raised from the weekend would be donated to the Rider Down Foundation.
I've always heard of events like this and was never sure if I'd like spending multiple days with a bunch of guys I had never met before. After this weekend with this group of men, I'd have to say that I've been missing out.
Back to our day and the story.
We pulled the trucks up to the trailhead and started the unloading process. This is a process Jim and I can now do with our eyes closed after a long weekend of loading and unloading them so many times.
At the trail head, we met Bruce who is the main guy with the Rider Down Foundation. We met Grant who is a guy in his Golden Years that still rides like a young pup and Doug Hayduk from Wicked Gravity Video who would be the videographer for the ride.
The riders suited up and made adjustments to their bikes to personalize them to their riding styles. It didn't take long before Steve, the guide for today, was ready to lead these men for their introduction to the first Dual Sport Utah 500.
Jim and I wouldn't be riding this section of trail with the rest of the gang. We had to go back into Grand Junction and get lunch for the riders, then take the trucks to a section of the trail where we could get our big trucks into.
We picked up BBQ from a local restaurant and grabbed water, ice and drinks . By the time the rest of the group caught up, we had tables, chairs and food set up for them.
They pulled up to our makeshift picnic and dug in like they'd never seen BBQ before. Everyone sat around talking about sections of trial they liked and the past few hours of riding.
While they ate, Jim and I topped off all the bikes with fresh fuel and made any repairs that needed to be made. With full bellies and rehydrated systems, as quick as the group pulled in, they roared back up the trail headed towards Moab via the Kokopelli trail.
Jim and I loaded everything back into the trucks and headed for the Onion Creek trailhead where we'd race up the trail to meet the rest of the group at one of the gnarliest sections of the trail, the Rose Garden.
A few riders had followed us down the main road from the lunch spot to avoid this nasty section of the trail.
At the Trailhead, Jim and I suited up, unloaded our bikes and headed up the road to find the rest of the gang.
I'm not sure how Jim had this timed so well, but as we pulled up to the backside of Rose Garden, we watched as the first rider in the group came down the near vertical descent.
Doug and I stayed at the top of the hill to try and get some pictures of them coming up and out of the canyon.
We thought this would take a few minutes, but ended up sitting on a giant boulder talking for about 45 minutes. As we sat there talking about photography, riding and travel, we could hear voices echoing off the canyon walls and kept hearing the sounds of screaming, metal grinding on rock and crashing sounds.
We had no idea what was going on and kept contemplating about going down to see if they needed any help. We both kept saying by the time we suit back up, ride down the very narrow, steep hill we'd more than likely come face to face with the group coming up the mountain. And there was 10 guys down there, so adding more people to the problem would probably only make it worse.
So we just sat there wondering what the hell was going on? The outcome of the situation would be something that will stick in my brain for the rest of my life and be laughed about over beers for the rest of the weekend. It would also prove that stupidity should be painful and might even win an award in this years Darwin Awards Contest.
After the 45 minute mark hit, I stood up and said to Doug, "Watch, if I start to walk down the hill, they'll start riding up."
I didn't make it 100' before we could hear the bikes revving up and the sounds of metal scraping rocks getting closer. We had no idea what was going on and figured a bike had broke down and they were trying to tow it up the hill.
When the first two bikes came around the corner, I was relieved to see they pumping their fists and riding wheelies up the hill.
You'll have to wait till Doug gets the video edited and I can post a link to it, but when the Toyota Yaris car came around the corner with the rest of the group all riding around it like they were escorting the "Idiot of the Year" off the mountain, my voice squeals about 10 octaves higher and you hear me say "Is that a Fucking Car!?!?"
I'm not sure if I was even taking pictures at this point. I mean the trails we were riding are some of the roughest Jeep roads in the United States. This trail, and specifically this section is one that even a custom built Jeep like the ones we were riding in last weekend would be hard pressed to be attempting this section.
When I finally remembered that I was supposed to be taking photos of this event, I picked my jaw up off the ground and snapped a few shots of the very small, very low clearance vehicle bounce past us scraping his undercarriage off every rock he drove over.
Hub caps were missing, the front end was barely holding on and the idiot in the drivers seat had a huge smile on his face like he was out for a Sunday drive. I had to find out what kind of drugs this guy was on.
The rest of the group rode up and over the hill and kept going as Doug and I suited back up and climbed on our bikes. The next 1/4 mile had at least 3 drop-off's that were over 3' tall and they were a blast to ride on the KTM. I was having a riot jumping off the rocks, climbing back up rough sections and getting comfortable on Jim's bike.
We rounded a turn to see the Yaris stopped in the middle of the trail with the owner of the now trashed car trying to pull the front end out from underneath the wheels.
Doug and I pulled up to him and the first words out of Doug's mouth were "Is this thing a rental?"
The guys laughs sheepishly and says "Yeah, its a rental. Do you think my insurance is going to cover this? I never got the rental insurance and I'm worried my normal insurance wont cover this damage."
First and foremost, I couldn't believe the dumbass was from America. I was expecting some foreigner who had gotten lost not knowing anything about this trail. But someone from the States, and someone from the North West who should know that this entire area is a Jeep testing grounds....Come On!
Doug's next question was "Where are you from?"
They guy said "Portland Oregon."
"Where were you trying to go?" Doug asks.
"I had left camp early this morning trying to find the highway and when I got to the bottom of that hill, I figured there was no way I could climb up the other side, so I've been sitting there since 6am." He told us.
"Are you on Mushrooms?" Doug asked
The guy laughed and replied "No I wish, I kept thinking the trail was getting rougher, but thought I'd find the highway soon enough."
The rest of the group would later tell us he had been sitting there reading a book when they pulled up because he was so stuck. The group was able to basically pick the car up and turn it around to head back out. Numerous times they would stop to push him up and over big rock sections.
This had been the metal scraping that Doug and I had kept hearing while we were waiting for them to come back up the hill.
When we met back up with the rest of the group, we all sat talking about this 'Idiot of the Year' and all of us were having a pretty good laugh waiting for him to come rolling up.
We waited at the fork in the trail for about 20 minutes for the guy to pull up so we could point him in the right direction, but he never pulled up. One person questioned whether we should go back to see if he needed more help, but the majority of us all agreed that we'd call the BLM Rangers when we got back to the trucks and he deserved to sit out here and contemplate his actions for a while longer.
By this point, their helping him for so long would mean most of the riders would be coming back to the lodge after dark, which is something you dont want to be doing with how technical this trail is.
Half the riders split up with the majority of us heading down the easy route to get back to the trucks, the lodge and the cold beers before the sun set.
Once back at the trail head, Jim and I loaded back up our bikes and with street legal bikes, the rest of the group was able to ride down the roads to the Red Cliffs Lodge where we'd be spending the night.
Once back at the lodge, the cooler was broken out of the truck and beers were toasted to a beautiful day of riding. Jim and I had only logged some 30 miles where the rest of the group had put in close to 150 rough miles on their bikes!!
If you're ever visiting the Moab area, do yourself a favor and spend a night, or 5 at the Red Cliffs Lodge. This place is beautiful and the views are amazing any direction you look. It was once owned by the Original Marlboro Man and houses the The Moab Museum of Film and Western Heritage, paying tribute to the tons of Westerns, Cowboy films and tons of other Hollywood movies that have been filmed in this area.
The group had 3 different rooms, so showers were taken and riding clothes were donned for more comfortable street attire. Just after dark, the rest of the riders pulled into the resort and as soon as they were showered and changed, we all headed to the Lodge for dinner.
Over scrumptious food, laughs were heard about different spills, wipeouts and fun times had during the long day of riding. The main topic was the Toyota Yaris, which is now known as 4x4 of the Year amongst our group.
Jim called the BLM Ranger office during dinner to let them know about the guy and they said they had a few other calls from concerned bikers that had passed by the idiot. They told Jim they were going to send out a ranger in the morning to see if he had made it out, but when Jim let them know he had been down there since 6am, and refused water or food from riders in our group even though he had none with him, the dispatch said they'd send out Search & Rescue tonight just to be on the safe side.
After dinner, we toured the Film Museum in the basement of the lodge before heading back to the cozy rooms. Between the food and drinks, riders were dropping like flies and we had another long day planned for tomorrow. Rather than stay out at the ranch and bed down with a bunch of sore and tired riders, Jim and I opted to drive the 14 miles back into Moab and sleep with our wives in our own beds.
One of the older guys asked me if I was sleeping in their room and told me the couch folded out into a bed. I thanked him for the offer but told him my wife was only a half hour drive away and if I had to choose between the feel of a naked woman's body or a soft couch in a nice resort, I'd take the chances of the narrow curvy road in the dark for the first option.
When I walked in the door of the camper, Cindy was shocked and asked what I was doing home? She was worried that something had happened and we had come home early.
I simply told her I came home to see her and we both hit the sack.
My shoulders, back and legs were sore from my very light 30 some odd miles of riding today. I cant imagine the guys that rode over 150 miles of that stuff. Those are real riders!
Saturday October 17th - 2nd Day of Dual Sport Utah 500
Jim and I were up bright and early before the sunrise this morning moving slowly till the Vitamin I (Ibuprofen) kicked in. We had to get fuel to top the bikes off and bring some parts out for today's ride.
We got out to the Lodge and the group had already eaten breakfast and was in the process of suiting up while we topped off the bikes with fuel.
Adjustments were made to bikes, and riders were all ready to go by 9am.
Today would be a big day with more miles put on a bike in one day than I've ever done before, let alone this rough of riding, but it was amazing to say the least.
We rode out of the Red Cliffs Lodge into Moab and out the Kane Creek Canyon trail towards Hurrah Pass. Our first 14 miles of road was paved, then its basically a dirt road as it climbs up the mountain and one I'd recommend to anyone visiting this area.
The road coming out of downtown Moab has the Colorado river on one side with a towering sandstone wall as a backdrop. The left side of the road where we were on has another sandstone canyon with homes built right into the walls, out of caves and tucked under overhangs.
I had to keep reminding myself that this ride didn't have anything to do with sightseeing and I couldn't stop to take photos of interesting things like the ones we were passing by. If one rider stopped, the entire group stopped and we had serious miles to cover today, so stopping wasn't an option unless you fell or the bike broke.
I did make it a point to promise myself that I'd come back to visit this area with Cindy and take photos of the amazing architecture Mother Nature has provided for these homes.
Then the climbing started. As you climb higher, the road goes from being a nicely graveled dirt road to a narrow Jeep road. It soon becomes a rough trail with 1000' drop-offs hugging the tight switchbacks.
It was so hard to keep your eyes on the trail in front of you with the breathtaking views spreading out over the valley below us. This is amazing country and we were coming into the backside of Canyonlands National Park if you were to look at it on a map. We were basically shadowing the western most border of the park and following it the entire way around that edge.
As fun as it was to try and keep up with the group, I had to keep reminding myself that these guys were all very experienced riders and racers and a mistake around one of these switchbacks wouldn't just mean injury, it would probably mean death.
Too many times I would come racing into a turn noticing that if I was to slide past the apex, I'd have a long fall to the bottom of the canyon. This slowed me down a bit, but as the day grew on, my confidence raised and I was soon trying my hardest to stay with the pack at their higher speed.
Once at the peak of Hurrah Pass, we stopped to take in the view and do some video interviews for the Charity Ride video that Doug was putting together.
The main players in the ride each gave little speeches and one in particular struck a cord with me. Len is 72 years old and one of the riders I was having trouble keeping up with the entire time.
When he told Doug "I'd like to say something to the camera." Doug pointed it at him and said "Go ahead, the things rolling."
Len looked into the camera and said "For any of you who gave some reason why you couldn't come on this ride to support the Rider Down Foundation, I've got something to say to you. I'm 72 years old and if there is one thing I've learned, you only get one ride in this life, so get out and take it! Dont pass up the opportunities when they pass by, go out and ride because you might not have another chance. If I can ride this at my age, what is your excuse?"
That might not be word for word, but it was something like that and like I said before, as soon as Doug gets the video posted, I'll make sure I add a link to it. But what I'm getting at is when Len said this speech, both Doug and I sat listening and just said "WOW!! How do you top a speech like that?!"
If this guy can be out here at 72, riding like a mad man, what is my excuse for being sore, not being able to keep up or complaining about aching arms and legs? I swore that I wouldn't comment for the rest of the weekend about any aches or pains I felt, no matter how bad they hurt.
Len's speech gave me a boost of energy and I was eager to get out and ride some more.
Jim took a turnoff down the backside of Hurrah Pass and down a two track that read 'Base Camp'. I wondered what this new route was going to show us. Jim is the Master at taking unplanned routes to show you some out of the way thing that most would just pass by not even noticing.
We pulled up to an Adobe structure that had a huge array of solar panels in the back yard. Jim told us this was a friend of his that owned this Lodge and offered services for people interested in using it as Base Camp to explore the desert.
In a world of alarms, locks, video surveillance and people who are way too worried about getting robbed, it felt good to read a note on the door that read
Welcome to Base Camp Adventure Lodge
We are away from the lodge right now. If you need to contact us, please use the walkie talkie on the porch. If you are in need of water, the orange cooler has filtered water for your use. Please help yourself.
If you need gas or oil, there is gas and pre-mixed fuel (marked) on the side of the house.
If you need to use a phone, Verizon service will give you two full bars at the top of Hurrah Pass. There are no short cuts out.
We spend much valuable time and energy to provide you with these services. If you feel we helped you, feel free to leave a donation in the mailbox.
Be Safe, Have Fun....Dont Die
We were all amazed that in this day in age, these things would all be left out and the house would be left unlocked and open for people to use who might be in risk of dehydration or injury out in the desert.
Jim had wanted to stop here to show us how nice it was, and show us Tom (The Owners) pet tortoise. I just passed the tortoise thing off as one of Jim's many stories when he said "Oh the tortoise isn't here, Tom must be out waking him right now."
We were burning daylight just sitting here admiring the Basecamp, so we pushed on through the desert.
A few turns up the trail, the group came to a screeching halt when we spotted Tom and his giant tortoise. Jim wasn't joking and Tom told us he was simply taking his pet for a walk which he does daily.
Questions were flying from every one of us and I dont even think he could answer them fast enough.
"What does it eat?" - About $100 worth of fruit and vegetables each week.
"How old is it?" - 3 years old and it gains about 20 some odd pounds each year.
"Are you seriously taking it for a walk?" - Yep, I take it for a walk every day. We usually walk for about 4 hours each day. He told us he's learned to read and walk at the same time and has probably read more books than anyone he knows because of how much time he spends walking the tortoise.
"What happens when you get far away from the Basecamp? Do you carry it home?" - Nope, at 85lbs, he's now to heavy for me to carry for long distances. When I know he's done walking, he starts to kick sand up on his back which tells me he's going to sleep for the night. I then leave him there and walk back and get my truck and load him up for a drive home
This thing was so cool and big. I've seen a few tortoises before, but they were all pretty small. I guess this desert lifestyle is just perfect for him. He told us it was an African Tortoise and it cant swim. But he said when he brings him down by the water, he gets in it every time. He has to watch him because he likes the water so much but doesn't know that he cant swim...LOL
We thanked Tom for all the information and once again, headed on down the trail.
From the Basecamp on, the trail got real nasty real fast. Rock sections that had a line of bikers at the base waiting for the few who couldn't make it up to move or get their bikes pulled up for them by fellow riders.
Everyone in our group rode up the steep, nasty sections just fine, but we stopped and helped the other riders just to be nice and show them that's what its all about.
A few miles up the trail, we pulled over one more time to split the group up. Doug and a few of the older guys were going to go on a separate route that wouldn't be as long as our intended ride was planned for.
I contemplated going on that route, but like I said, if these guys are out riding at their age, then what is my excuse? So I rode with the die-hards and went for the butt buster route.
The rest of the day was spent racing across the desert at a high rate of speed. Its amazing to me that we didn't have more break downs than we did. These bikes take a serious beating and all the more reason to be renting a bike rather than beating up your own steed. I'd never ride my DRZ as hard as I was riding this KTM.
Plus, the KTM is made for this type of rough terrain where my DRZ is more for a groomed track and the road.
When we finally made it to our lunch spot, we had logged 84 miles of rough dirt riding. I was so damn hungry at this point, I was reminding myself of the old Looney Tunes when the character would be hungry and anything it looked at it was a juicy piece of meat.
Our lunch spot was the Needles Outpost. This is a little General Store that will also cook you some big, juicy burgers on a grill out on the covered porch. The place is run off of solar panels and its little, rustic and the prefect setting for a ride like we'd just ridden.
Pulling into the Outpost, we found one of the bikes had a flat front tire and one of the bikes was smoking terrible from a bad water pump seal that had caused it to overheat.
We figured we'd take care of the bikes after lunch and let them cool down while we replenished ourselves with food and drink.
While we were eating lunch, Steve looked out into the dirt lot and said "look at those 4x4's heading out to go explore the backcountry."
I sat looking around and couldn't see a single 4 wheeler anywhere?
I finally asked him what he was talking about and he pointed to the two sub-compact cars in the parking lot. DUH!! He was making a joke referring to yesterdays Yaris incident and the Toyota Prius and the Honda Accord were the two 4x4's he was talking about....LMAO
After lunch, while Steve from Sicass Racing fixed the flat tire on his bike, Jim worked on the overheated bike till he found that it wouldn't hold water anymore. This wasn't good since we had another 80 something miles to get back to the Red Cliffs Lodge.
This is where Jim put the Dual Sport in Dual Sport Utah. He gave up his bike so the rider who's bike had overheated would still be able to ride and he climbed on the back of Steve's Honda 650. These bikes aren't really made for two people, especially two fully grown men both laden down with heavy back packs.
Jim found that he couldn't get on the bike with Steve wearing his backpack, and Steve couldn't wear the pack backwards on his chest because of the height of his gas tank.
So Jim threw his back pack on, then threw Steve's back pack on top of that one. This looked like some guy about to climb Mount Everest and when he climbed on the back of the bike, the rear fender was only inches away from the rear tire.
Of course there were no rear pegs for Jim to put his feet on, so they dangled inches from the ground. Due to the extra weight on the back of the bike, any time Steve would twist the throttle with any vigor, the bike would start to stand up on its end making the entire scene look like some sort of circus act.
Mike and I who were riding right behind these two, and both kept laughing so hard at the dangling feet, the bobbing of the bike and the mile high backpack that I was worried I was going to wreck from the tears rolling down my face.
The ride out HWY 211 was long but beautiful. If you ever visit Canyonlands, make the time to come down this far south to see this route, and if you can time it right, do it in the fall.
The Cottonwoods are ablaze with their fall color right now and heading out of the park, the sun was setting behind us only adding to the perfect light. Again, it was all I could do not to stop every few miles to get off the bike and take pictures, but we were way behind schedule now and would be lucky if we made it back before dark.
When we finally rolled into Moab, we had only stopped one more time because another bike had broke, but that was a simple spring holding the kickstand up and was fixed with a zip tie in no time. Once back at Jim's shop, he replaced the spring and grabbed another bike so he wouldn't have to ride that last 14 miles on the back of Steve's bike.
I ran into the camper and grabbed Cindy and she jumped on the back of my bike. I figured since we were this close, she could come out and hang with the boys so I wouldn't have to retell all the stories about our weekend.
We stopped and fueled the bikes up one last time while in Moab, and Steve from Sicass told Jim "You'd better throw some fuel in that 2 Stroke of yours, I dont think you'll make it back out to the lodge with how low it is."
Jim said he didn't feel like breaking out all the mixing stuff and he'd be fine with the fuel level.
Mid way there, while we were all having a blast playing tag and racing down the narrow canyon roads, Jim's bike ran out of fuel. He stopped real quick, threw on the reserve and caught back up to us only to run out another few miles down the road. This was within the last few miles from the lodge and we were in the home stretch.
Luckily Bruce from the Rider Down Foundation had a tow strap in his fanny pack and our last few miles of the over 180 mile day was spent towing the bike back into the camp.
By the time I got off the bike, my butt felt like I had been sitting in battery acid and my legs were almost completely numb. The blisters on my hands looked like I had been digging a ditch all day and I've never been so ready for a cold beer in all my life.
The rest of the night was spent telling stories, hearing how the other guys made their way back from Hurrah Pass and telling them of our adventure down to the Needles Outpost.
There was a big wedding party at the Red Cliffs Lodge that included fireworks that lit up the surrounding sandstone canyons and echoed off the walls for a few minutes after each explosion. It was a great way to end the night.
Its days like today when Every Mile is Truly a Fantastic Memory!∞
Sunday October 18th - Last day of the Dual Sport Utah 500
Getting out of bed this morning was a lesson in self will. I sat up, laid back down, sat up again remembering I'm the youngest guy in this group and willed myself to get dressed despite how tired I was.
Cindy was laughing at the sounds my body was making. Snaps, pops, squeaks all followed by a few groans and moans. 800mgs of Ibuprofen washed down with a cup of coffee and I was ready to go.
The guys were all meeting at the shop this morning and we were leaving right from here to ride Moab's Sovereign Trail. This is the beauty of having the plated, street legal dual sport bikes. We can jump right on the road, ride to the trail head and keep going rather than have to trailer the bikes to and from our riding destination.
Plus, if at any point we want to take a detour or find a different route to explore, we can jump back off the trail we're on and ride down the road to a new destination. Its really the best of both worlds with having a plated dirt bike.
The group of riders grew a bit smaller today with Grant and Len opting out of today's very tight, very technical single track. I think I would have had trouble riding much of this route on my mountain bike, let alone muscling around a few hundred pounds of orange Austrian metal.
I learned today that I have trouble making left hand turns on the 180° switchbacks. It seemed almost every time I found one of these turns, which seemed like every few hundred feet, the bike would be laid down on the rocks with me cussing gravity and my short stature....Sorry Jim!
With my 30" inseam, being able to touch the ground even with my tippy toes is a task on these KTM 450's. Try and get enough leverage to plant a foot as the bike starts to go down and you end up muscling the bike alot more than you need to. At least a lot more than I wanted to, that's for sure.
I finally had to stop, evaluate what I was doing wrong and mentally just tell myself "Just pretend you're on your mountain bike, ride the thing like you would the bike you can whip around like its nothing."
This really helped and I was soon riding over obstacles that I was falling down on earlier. I guess its more mental than it is physical strength and I was starting to really enjoy this trail.
If someone was to come up with a bike that had a lower seat height, yet still retained the grunt and low end horsepower of these bigger 4-strokes, I'd love to try it out. Not necessarily a Trails Bike, because those are too specific for only one type of riding, but one you could ride on all day long and tackle various forms of terrain like we've been riding for the last few days. But built for short people like me.
My DRZ-SM 400 is perfect for the type of riding Cindy and I normally go out exploring on. The majority of which are twisty back roads, lots of dirt roads and the occasional two track or fire road. I dont think my bike could handle much of the terrain we've been exploring on the past few days without a lot of add-on's or aftermarket items to make it more trail worthy.
I'm starting to think that one of these KTM's with a less aggressive set of tires might be the perfect bike to switch to. The past few days of riding one has me falling in love with everything Austrian. If our group of riders can put these bikes through this hard core abuse from sun up to sun down day after day, I'm thinking my 3000 average miles of wimpy riding per year on pavement and occasional dirt would leave the bike angry with my mellow riding tendencies.
The Sovereign Trail is everything it is touted to be and more. Moon like slick rock, singletrack that is as tight as anything I've ever ridden on a mountain bike, and way beyond anything I've ridden on a motorcycle. Deep sand washes that made me glad for a motor while we whizzed by the mountain bikers pushing their skinny wheeled bikes through the deep sugar sand, and steep, nasty descents that left my knees bruised from gripping the bike so hard while we dropped down the backsides of some of the steepest climbs I've ever ridden in my life.
I'm proud to say that the Dual Sport Utah 500 helped me tackle a lot of firsts in my career of riding motorcycles. I cant think of a better way to get introduced to the Moab area and its extensive array of riding terrain than by a knowledgeable guide that knows the area and its extensive network of trails. Knows the various rocks you ride past, the geology of the formations, stops to show you hidden dinosaur bones or foot prints left in the sandstone millions of years ago, and lets you trash a bike that's not yours....Sorry again Jim!
Today would be an early day as it was Sunday and a bunch of the guys needed to start heading home to go back to the real world and that nasty four letter word WORK...even typing it makes me shutter.
We jumped back on the road and headed back into Downtown Moab. Once back at the Dual Sport Utah shop, everyone changed out of their riding apparel and into more comfortable street clothes.
Being as Jim's shop is right in the heart of Moab, we walked a few blocks up the street to Eddie McStiff's restaurant for lunch and beers.
Spicy Hot Wings, juicy burgers, thin crust pizza and microbrew's were delivered to the table as the group all sat around sharing more stories and laughs.
From lunch, the group would split up as Jim would bring some of the guys back to Grand Junction, some back to their trucks left in Colorado at the Kokopelli Trail Head, and leave me with time to lie down and catch up on some much needed sleep.
Another Vitamin I, a cold shower and my bed was like something out of a infomercial for mattresses. Its never felt so comfortable in all my life.
I woke up a few hours later feeling refreshed and excited to start the laborious task of sifting through the weekends pile of digital images I had snapped. There would be much editing involved with this batch of photos due to having the camera dangling from my chest harness all weekend and the majority of the shots snapped without looking through the viewfinder. Just sort of a spray and pray technique....I know, not that professional, but how else do you ride and take pictures without getting the entire group to stop and wait for you to position yourself in the most picturesque of locations?
I've got a few ideas on how to get better photos next year which would involve me pre-riding many of the routes, finding the locations I want to set up and going out way in advance of the rest of the group to be ready for when they pass by.
That or drive the truck which could also carry supplies and extra fuel which would make it much easier for the rest of the riders in the long run. In a perfect world, a Polaris RZR or Yamaha Rhino would be the ideal chase vehicle that would allow me to carry camera gear, fuel, parts and get into many of the nasty locations a truck could never make it without thousands of dollars of suspension work.
The weekend of riding with a camera strapped to my chest left me with my Canon 28-105 lens broken and a camera that is in serious need of a deep cleaning. Even though I had it wrapped up in a Ziploc bag, it still looks like it was dragged behind the bike for miles upon miles. I guess falling to the dirt, or riding behind a group of 10 riders all kicking up dirt and dust isn't that good for electronics.
There were a few other things I've learned over the past few weekends here in Utah. Outdoor enthusiasts hate ATV riders. When Jeeping with the guys in the San Rafael Swell, they all talked about how the ATV riders come out to the backcountry areas and tear everything up, dont help out with the trail maintenance and trash the areas they ride in. This gives all off-road users a black eye and gets trails and backcountry areas closed down faster than anything.
In Moab, everyone we we talk to says the same things. The ATV riders are the ones that do the most damage to the trails and get them closed down faster than any other group.
It seems there are too many groups that are all trying to accomplish the same task of keeping the trails open to outdoor enthusiasts and rather than combining their power and working as one powerful group with everyone involved, they all seem to be fighting the same task with limited power and resources.
One thing that is unanimous is the hatred towards the environmentalists who are trying to get the trails closed off to all forms of motorized traffic. I've never thought about this too much till after I have spent days and long hours riding these areas in both Jeeps, Motorcycles and Bikes.
Many of the areas they want to close off to motorized or any mechanized transportation are barren desert landscapes. Except for a few tufts of desert grass, there isn't much in the way of vegetation. I honestly dont see how you could ruin any of this area with a vehicle, any type of vehicle for that matter.
Unless you were to bring a bulldozer out here, there is nothing but dirt, sand rock and....and....and, Hold on, I'm trying to think if there is anything else? Nope! Just dirt, rock and sand.
I can completely understand the environmentalists viewpoint when it comes to saving or protecting a delicate area that is home to groves of giant redwoods, unique cactus, endangered sea oats along coastal beaches or areas that might have native wildlife in need of protection. But this is pretty barren desert we're talking about.
If you closed any of these areas down to mechanized traffic, it would be impossible to see much of it. On Saturday we rode for hours upon hours into the middle of the desert at speeds that made it possible to cross these remote areas in a short time frame.
If you had to hike into the middle of this landscape, unless you had supplies air dropped in for you, it would be impossible to hike and see the inner most depths of these areas.
Not that my measly rants will do either side of the argument much good, I just felt I should mention something I've noticed in the past few weeks and needed to get it off my chest.
All in all, the Dual Sport Utah 500 inaugural run is something I'll never forget. Hopefully next years will bring in more riders which in return will bring in more money for the Rider Down Foundation.
The fella's I met this weekend were some great guys from all walks of life. We all had one thing in common, the love of riding. I learned that age shouldn't be a factor in anything you do, and all the more reason you should be out enjoying what ever it is that makes you happy.
For me, mixing motorcycles with exploring new areas is about as good as it gets. My only thing I'd like to have added was being able to bring Cindy along with me so she could experience the amazing beauty this desert has to offer.
Getting her to learn to ride a bike, let alone getting her to ride one well enough to follow us on these trials is something I'm thinking isn't going to happen any time soon, so I guess she's the one missing out. ∞
Monday October 19th - A Long Day of Rest and Recovery
My internal clock had me waking up at 6am this morning because that's what I've done for the last few days straight. I contemplated going back to bed, but lying there in the cool morning air, with the windows open and the quietness all around me, my mind was already writing out these words you're reading.
I figured I had a few days worth of photos to edit, and they needed to get done as soon as possible so sponsors involved with the ride could be posting them up to their sites to help build a buzz about next years event while it was still fresh in everyone's minds.
I figure my donation of photos makes up for the lack of money I would normally donate if I was to have any money to my name. It seems my photography takes me to wonderful places and allows me to meet exciting new people and I really couldn't ask for anything more satisfying, I only wish more people understood the time and effort that is involved with capturing the images we post on our site.
All too often people ask for photos or leave comments like "Can you send me this photo of your adventure as I'd love to use it as a screen saver." I guess most people dont understand that this love for travel and photography comes at a cost of leaving us broke and utterly penniless, except for the money we have invested in our camera gear and travel equipment.
But those aren't worth too much if you cant go out exploring due to lack of funds. So its sort of a trade off.
I've been thinking alot about California and our upcoming VW Bus adventure with VW Surfari. I'm really looking forward to this trip and I told Cindy the other day that I'm going to live for the two weeks we roam up HWY 1 like we would if we were seriously homeless and lived solely out of the VW van.
Maybe this will be what the Every Miles A Memory adventure has boiled down to, the two of us living off of Ramen Noodles out of a vintage VW Bus and selling our bikes, the truck, the camper and most of our other 'THINGS' in order to keep up this gypsy lifestyle.
Either way it goes, the next few months should be interesting to see where the road takes us.
After too many hours of sitting in this hot camper working on the computer, Cindy finally said "Let's Go Do Something!"
She made a pitcher of margaritas and we filled up a couple of Nalgene bottles to go walk around downtown Moab now that the days heat had burned off. I didn't know that Utah got Santa Ana Winds like California does, but this afternoon was really windy and terribly hot. Almost like someone had opened up the door to a blast furnace.
As the sun set and the temperatures dropped, we walked into town and spent the evening window shopping, kicking around a million ideas the two of us always are coming up with on what to do next and just enjoying some alone time together.
I missed having Cindy at my side for the entire weekend while I was out having fun with the boys. I like that away time, but I still miss our time spent together as weird as that might sound.
I think its funny that most of my friends always say they would last about a day or two cooped up in our camper with their wife. Where Cindy and I cant imagine being away from one another for more than a day or two.
We found a nice local restaurant and had some appetizers while we just sat telling one another what we did all weekend. I guess Cindy and Jim's wife Leigh, had gone on a few hikes that were pretty spectacular and she was showing me photos and getting me all excited about them.
We walked home from dinner and I think the margaritas and my lack of sleep had me jonesing for my bed again. Even though it was pretty early, we both crawled into bed and called it a night loving the fact that we knew we didn't have to do anything tomorrow.
Wednesday October 21st - Testing out the Camping Lab RTT
After spending the morning just fooling around with the truck and the camper (Trying to get rid of some unneeded weight) we packed up the truck with the camera gear and drove up Cane Creek Road into the Red Rock Desert above Moab.
Cindy and Leigh rode a short section of this road on their mountain bikes last week and this is the area I talked about that we had ridden on the Dual Sport Bikes saying that I wanted to bring Cindy back up here so we could stop, and see more of it in detail.
We're planning on tackling the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park either this weekend or the first of next week, and other than the one time I had it opened on the ground while installing it, I really wanted to test out the Camping Lab Roof Top Tent (RTT) before that adventure.
It was quite windy today, so I figured this would be a perfect opportunity to set it up and see how the tent held up to the winds when we're not trying to crawl into it in a hurry for shelter or protection from the elements.
Cane Creek Road is an oddity with one side having a very tall Sandstone cliff along its border, and the Colorado River on the opposite side. The Sandstone Cliff has a few different caves carved into the wall that are used as garages and places of residence. That would be so cool to live in a cave with the Colorado River right out your front door!
There are other neat structures that are built, but aren't used for a dwelling, or at least not yet. It looks like someone started building a house or some sort of structure under the natural overhang of the sandstone, but has left it empty for sometime now. Without Jim or Leigh here to answer our questions, we both just explored it and pondered why its sitting empty.
Once you pass the unique caves, the road starts to climb up into the mountains with towering red rock cliffs all around you. The views are to die for and the narrow road has major pucker factor going on with no guard rails and numerous washouts from the recent rains.
We pulled over a few different times to play on the rocks and jump out onto some Hoodoo's that leave you clinging to the small surface like a gecko with the strong winds trying their best to blow you off the side.
There is something about the butterflies you feel when you look over the edge of a cliff knowing one slip, and life would end really painfully that gets the blood flowing. Despite Cindy's self proclaimed fear of heights, I talked her into climbing out there with me because of the exhilarating feeling it gives you.
Of course, once I got her out there, she loved every second of it. The hard part was getting her over to the edge and holding onto her while she got herself comfortable with the 1000' drop below us. That-a-girl, over come those fears of yours no matter how bad your knees are shaking!!
Deeper into the desert, the road got worse and the suspension in our truck told us we werent in those plush, long travel Jeeps anymore. This road isn't all that bad, just lots of deep washboard and a ton of rocks to climb over, but nothing a stock vehicle with high clearance cant tackle.
I wanted to get up to the top of Hurrah Pass where I knew the winds would be at their strongest and set up the RTT. This way I'd be able to test how long it took me to set it up in the worst of conditions and if I needed to practice anything while I wasn't being pushed to get it up so we could climb in and go to bed.
I found a nice outcropping of rock that jutted way out into the canyon. The winds were whipping something fierce and it was hard to just stand up normal let alone climb up onto a ladder to unzip the waterproof cover.
Cindy took the dogs for a walk while I went about setting the thing up. Its really a one person job, and except for having a hard time because of my short stature, its a very simple task to get it erected.
Its good that I keep a small aluminum step ladder in the back of the truck for when we have the Kayaks with us, or it would be much harder for me to reach everything.
Even in the high winds, I crawled inside the tent and was amazed at how well it blocked the breeze.
Cindy came back and said she wanted to check it out and told me she was putting the dogs away because she was too afraid they were going to jump off the edge. I told her that if Lucy, the only one who likes to play Mountain Goat and climb along the edges was dumb enough to fall off, then it would suit me fine.
Luca is really good about staying right at your side and usually isn't too interested in going off exploring on his own.
Cindy climbed up into the tent with a magazine tucked under her arm and told me she was going to take a nap while I was waiting for the sun to set a little below the mountainside behind us.
I was sick of listening to the dogs whine about being locked in the truck with all this wide open desert to be out exploring in, so I let them out with me to go for a hike. Of course Cindy threatened that if anything was to happen to either of them, it would be all my fault and she'd never forgive me.
Just then my mom calls to tell me about their long day of moving my little brother into his new house he's recently bought.
As I'm talking to her, I look over to see Lucy jump over the edge of the cliff and disappear. My stomach drops thinking "Oh Shit! Cindy is going to kill me!"
I told my mom I had to go and went running over to see if we had an opening for a new dog in the back seat.
Of course, all she was doing was looking for food or chasing lizards and was on another level about 10' to 15' below me. Problem was, when ever I yelled for her, she would look at me, then my echo would come back up the opposite side of the canyon and she'd turn around to see who was behind her.
In reality, the only thing behind her was a very long drop to doggie heaven, but with her head cocked sideways in that cute puppy look, she'd stand there looking over the edge trying to figure out how I was both in front of her and behind her.
Luca, the always obedient and smart dog was sitting patiently at my side watching all of this and I'm sure egging her to jump so her half of their food would now be in his food bowl.
Just then Cindy looks out the door of the tent to see why I'm yelling at Lucy and freaks out. She starts screaming which only makes Lucy more confused because now the echoes are coming from a bunch of different angles all around her.
Now she's climbing up and down the edge looking all over for where Momma is while I'm trying to tell Cindy to shut the heck up before she makes the dog jump over to see where she is hiding.
With the lure of food and me pretending I'm eating something and feeding this imaginary substance to Luca, always a good ploy to make Lucy come running, I get her back up and off the edge and spent the next few minutes getting scolded by Cindy.
With the light right where I wanted it, I snapped my shots and packed the tent back up.
It might have took me 15 minutes total to get it packed up and again, that's probably more because of my height limitations and the need to always be relying on a ladder to reach any of the straps.
The ride back home was uneventful as it was in the dark, and I was cussing the fact that I haven't got any of those High Powered driving Lights to aid in our night time driving abilities.
Thursday October 22nd - Canyonlands National Park
When we were on the Dual Sport Utah 500 Charity ride and had one of the KTM's break down, we had to leave it out behind the Needles Outpost.
This is a small general store/gas station/cafe just outside Canyonlands at the southern most tip of the park.
Jim is out of town this entire week due to a death in the family, so I offered to drive out there and pick the bike up with a trailer. It would give Cindy a chance to see this section of the park, a section she has yet to see, and give us some new exploring to do for today.
So we made a day out of it, packed a lunch and some drinks and headed out to see what we could find to point our cameras at. That's not all too hard in this state. I've fallen madly in love with Southern Utah in a bad way and could see us settling down here when and if this adventure ever ends.
Driving out of Moab, we stopped at the Hole in the Rock road side attraction, which is a cool house that was built in the side of a sandstone cliff with a host of other road side attraction type of oddities.
From Hole in the Rock, we pulled over at Wilson Arch to snap a photo, then down HWY 211 towards the south entrance to Canyonlands National Park.
HWY 211 offers some serious eye candy for any lover of nature and desert landscape. Miles of red rock buttes jutting up from the valley floor all rimmed with a bright base of neon yellow cottonwoods.
We stopped off at Newspaper Rock and sat pondering the etchings left by ancient cultures on this one giant slab of sandstone. Again, we wondered if it was simple graffiti, if it was artistic drawings or some sort of message trying to tell us something? What ever the meaning is or was, its still cool to see markings left from a culture that roamed our country before Christ walked the Earth!
While walking back to the truck, I spotted a Dodge Sprinter conversion van that had a Los Cerrito's Beach Club sticker on their back bumper like we do. I didn't see anyone around the truck, but thought it was cool that someone else had visited one of our favorite places in Baja Sur and was now at this same place with us.
We stopped and picked up the wounded KTM and loaded it on the small trailer we had brought with us. We had a friendly talk with the owners of the Needles Outpost who were sitting out in the parking lot of the general store sipping on beers. The woman who runs the place looked like she had been sipping on them since she woke up this morning or maybe a bug had stung her and her eyes were swollen shut? Either way, you could have blindfolded her with dental floss and she was half lit at 2pm on a Thursday afternoon.
Cindy warned me that if I was to get any ideas and hold her hostage out in the middle of the desert at this type of business, she'd be right where that woman was, drunk as a skunk by mid-day without a care in the world.
Once inside Canyonlands National Park, we stopped at the visitor center to get some maps and see what sort of day hikes were offered. While walking into the adobe building, the folks in the Dodge Sprinter pulled in and I asked about their sticker from Baja.
They told us they had spent 3 days camped out at the beach side bar and loved it just as much as we did. They asked why my truck didn't have a motorcycle behind it while at Newspaper Rock, yet only a few miles down the road and we've managed to find ourselves a Dual Sport bike?
I explained about the Charity Ride and how two of the guys had to double up for over 80 miles back into Moab. They both laughed saying they would have rather walked or stayed the night out at the outpost rather than have their legs dangling off the back of the bike for that long.
Talking with the rangers in the Visitor Center, they pointed us on a hike that was just down the road. We first stopped off at a roadside ruin to get our legs warmed up.
A short hike off the main road, nestled up and under a natural rock overhang, there is a crude rock structure built to hold grain or seeds and keep it cool and protected from the elements.
I find it amazing the architecture these cultures knew to build eons ago and they're still here and could work just the way they're designed to if you wanted to store something in them today.
From the roadside ruin, we headed a mile or so up the road and found the Cave Springs turnoff. Cave Springs is a little area where the Scorup-Sommerville Cattle Company, once the largest cattle operation in Utah, used to set up their outdoor cowboy camp.
This area was used from the 1800's through 1975 when Cattle Ranching was discontinued inside Canyonlands National Park. There are numerous items left behind from the cowboy days, and those rugged group of men werent the only ones who used this area because of its reliable water source.
The Cave Springs area also has remnants from Ancestral Puebloan Indians that once used this area for protection, cover and its water source. Tucked up under some of the caves are painted hand prints, painted figures and grinding depressions left in the rocks around the area.
Luckily for Cindy and I, we timed it right that the afternoon sun was offering us some amazing light and we had the entire place to ourselves. It was like we had found someone's fort and had the run of the place.
Crawling under overhangs with dark soot left from ancient fires 1000's of years ago, climbing wooden ladders to get an aerial view of the lush area, watching the sun set lower which amped up the already bright colors of surrounding Cottonwoods.....the afternoon was one that will be etched into my memory banks for years to come.
When the hike dumped us back off at our truck, I was tempted to turn around and do it again. This place is pure bliss and the scrambling up and over boulders, crawling through the cool sand with Cindy at my side felt like we had found a giant grown-up's playground.
It was getting late, and we had left the dogs at home, so staying out here was out of the question, so we pointed the truck back towards Moab and headed for the camper.
On the way out along HWY 211, we kept stopping every few miles as the surrounding sandstone Buttes grew deeper and deeper red. With the sun setting behind us, it was as if someone was upping the saturation of the colors with each mile we traveled.
Numerous times Cindy would grab the door handle and start to open the door saying "OMG! Stop right now, I have to take a picture of this!"
I love it when I see her as excited about our surroundings as I always am. It makes me feel like she's enjoying this adventure as much as I am, and I often wonder if anyone could enjoy what they're doing as much as I enjoy each and every day....even the crappy ones.
Friday October 23rd - Shuttling People Around Southern Utah
With Jim being out of town for a family members funeral, I had offered to help him out with his Road Runner Shuttle business he operates here in Moab.
He had called and asked if I could drive down into Glen Canyon National Park where I was going to be picking up a group of people who needed to be shuttled back up to Canyonlands National Park.
This group was planning a 5 day float trip down the Colorado River and was spotting their cars so they'd be waiting for them when the trip ended.
This also meant I needed to be down in Glen Canyon at 7am, which was a two hour drive from Moab. That meant I needed to wake up at 3:30am in order to make it in time.
The drive down was long and boring and I was bummed I was passing through such beautiful landscapes in ink black darkness. As I slowly came down in elevation and could see the towering canyons I was driving through because of the sun slowly rising, I was even more bummed with what I had missed.
This countryside is out of this world and like nothing I've ever seen before.
I met the group beside the river, and spent the next few hours enjoying my conversation with one of the most interesting guys I've ever met. Craig Irwin rode up front with me in the shuttle van and I dont think there was one minute where one of us wasn't talking. Its hard to find people that like to talk as much as I do, and especially hard to find someone who has as interesting things to talk about as Craig did.
This guy has traveled all over the country and taught me tons of interesting things about geology, wildlife and natural history as we drove.
Once back in Canyonlands National Park, we turned off at the Mineral Bottom road and started our wild ride down the narrow switchbacks. Talk about a task to build this road! What ever engineer thought this road up should win some sort of award!
I now understood why Jim had told me on the phone "If there has been ANY rain in the past day, DO NOT try and drive this road!"
On numerous occasions you can see right off the edge at the road below you that looks like a left handed toddler doodled on a piece of paper.
Once at the bottom, the crew met up with the rest of their party and started loading up the boats. What a fun sounding trip. 20 people on a five day float down the Colorado River. This is the perfect time of year with the right kind of weather for a float like that.
Its rare that I envy what someone else is doing, but if they would have had an opening on one of those boats, I'd have jumped on right then and there.
I wished them well and came home to my wife who had our little camper cleaned from top to bottom and lunch waiting on the table for me. I scarfed down some food, laid down on the couch and passed out till mid-afternoon.
Waking up at 3:30am isn't conducive for me being a bundle of energy for the rest of the day and I'm glad Cindy knows to put up with me during times like this. While I slept, she went out and walked around downtown Moab window shopping and getting to know the area.
Saturday October 24th - Another Day of Exciting Shuttles
I had another shuttle run that I was doing this morning and this one turned out to be quite interesting. Not that yesterdays wasn't interesting, but today's was different in a good way.
I was picking 9 people up from the end of the Porcupine Rim Trail and shuttling them up to the top of the mountain. At first they said they wanted to go to Hazard County Trail Head, then decided they wanted to go to a different trail head, one further up the mountain.
I could care less where I bring them, and was just happy to be learning about their mountain bikes they make. Two of the guys in the group own Pivot Cycles out of Tempe Arizona and were telling about their line of bikes and riding in general.
As we climbed up the mountains, the temperatures dropped and we were all joking that they were going to be riding in snow.
The road turned to dirt and soon became dusted in a light snow itself. The higher we climbed, the colder it got and the more snow was on the ground. We rounded a turn and felt the van kick sideways as the tires broke loose.
This left everyone cheering and hollering with jokes flying about wiping out and getting the van stuck. A mile up the road, the back tires started spinning and all forward momentum was lost. Actually, the van started sliding back down the hill on the icy roads and if it wasn't for the banks along each side of the road, we probably would have went over the side of the mountain.
When the van finally came to a halt lodged between the two banks, everyone piled out knowing this was as far up as they were going.
With the help of the guys, they straightened the van and as soon as I got dislodged, I started sliding back down again.
We decided since there was about $90,000 in Mountain Bikes on the roof of the van, it might be a good idea to take them down incase the van was to flip over we'd at least have a means to go for help.
Once all the bikes were down, the guys helped push the van up enough that I could nose into a turn around where they then had to push me out of. Its weird to not have four wheel drive and especially weird to not have snow tires on a vehicle I'm driving. Two things I've almost never been without while living in Michigan.
After I was turned around, I started down the hill and finally made it to level ground that wasn't covered in ice.
I wished the group well and we snapped a few pictures of everyone in the snow. Imagine last week they were in triple digits in Arizona and this week they're biking in snow.
Luckily for them, I like to take photos and stopped a bunch of times to get out and snap some images of the snow on the aspen trees. One of the riders caught up to me and I asked how he was doing. He said they were just going to ride the road down to the main road and ride over to where they had originally wanted to be dropped off.
I asked if they wanted to load back up the bikes and I'd drive them over there and he chuckled saying "I was hoping you'd make that offer! Yeah, we'd love that."
So we loaded the bikes back on the roof and I drove them over to their original starting point that was on a side of the mountain with the sun beating down on it so no snow was present. If they would have had to ride their downhill bikes along the road, they would not have been happy campers with the amount of climbing that would have been involved!
The evening was spent with another shuttle run. This one was a group of people out of Moab who were headed to the Grand Junction Airport.
The ride there was very interesting with Cindy and I talking to one of the couples about Non-For-Profit business they were starting up that keeps them traveling all over the globe helping to teach people how to grow and eat organic vegetables.
They're in the process of building their website, but once its up and running, I'll be sure to post a link to it because it sounds like something we'd love to volunteer some of our time at.
Cindy rode with me because on the ride home from Colorado, we had to stop at the West Water Boat Launch and pick up a truck and trail that needs to be spotted down to Glen Canyon.
Before we leave for California, I'm going to throw my motorcycle on the trailer behind this truck, drive the combo down to Lake Powell and ride the motorcycle back so when the group is finished their paddle trip, their truck will be waiting for them.
Jim's shuttle business is busy and its helping put some fuel money in our pockets. I'm happy to help and the scenery while out shuttling people around is enough to not even let you realize you're doing any type of work.
Sunday October 25th - Bouncing Along the White Rim Trail
For years on end, I've dreamt of tackling the White Rim Trail. I've read and re-read about it on various off-road sites and drooled over photos of the narrow two track roads that cling to the sides of the towering cliffs it navigates you through.
There is something about actually completing it that excites me to no end. Of course, we got a late start because if we were to get on the road early or even on time, it would just go against everything we stand for.
I mean we try and always have good intentions of getting started early or at least be on time, yet we're late to everything we attend and seem to be about two hours behind when it comes to getting started.
Around noon, once the truck was fueled up, the cameras were cleaned, charged and packed, the cooler was iced down and loaded in the truck, we left Jim's shop heading for Canyonlands National Park.
I even washed the truck since I was planning on taking so many photos of it that I really wanted it to be glistening. Something I rarely do and normally dont care too much about....but this was a special occasion for Big Bubba and I wanted him to look pretty.
We pulled up to the Visitor Center in Canyonlands National Park and I went in to get our permit and pay our $30 permit fee. The fee is good for 14 days of backcountry camping, but we werent planning on staying out there that long. I'm just saying that incase anyone is planning a longer White Rim trip, they'll know there is a fee to camp. You can drive the trail during the day for free, but if you plan to camp, you have to have the permit.
The trail gets under way very quickly and within the first few miles, you're already offered amazing views out into the deep valley below you. Then the fun really starts and you're heading down your first descent.
We're talking tight, narrow switchbacks with a vertical drop off that wouldn't just mean a dented bumper or bruised ego, we're talking instant death and no chance for survival if you were to slide off the edge.
Luckily if you put our truck into 4Low, and put it in first gear, the top speed is about 4 mph and you never have to touch the brakes the entire time. We'd end up using this technique alot over the next 100 miles, but only for downhills. We drove 99.9% of the trail in 2 Wheel Drive, but more on that later.
The first section down the Shafer Switchbacks already had me wondering how people tackle this trail with Slide-In Campers on their trucks or in larger vehicles like Earthroamers or bigger Overland Vehicles. There were a few sections along this old cattle trail where our truck only had inches on each side to scrape past the rock walls. I wouldn't recommend this trail to anyone with a Dually or a Slide-In Camper.
I was amazed when I suggested that Cindy drive this first section of switchbacks because I wanted to get out and take pictures and she simply said "Ok, I'll do it!"
It seems the last few weeks, she's been tackling any obstacle that normally leaves her scared to death and doing it with a smile on her face. I was shocked when she crawled behind the wheel of the truck and continued to drive for the next hour through some seriously rough terrain.
Our first stop was at the Goosenecks above the Colorado River. This is a section where the river makes a series of 180° turns with unique cliffs along the edges. We found a cool hoodoo to climb out on for the mandatory jumping pose when you're perched on a edge like this.
Our second stop was Musselman Arch. This is a long arch that is big enough to walk across the top of. I was the first to go across the top after talking with a group of photographers who were out here from Arizona.
After I walked across, stopped to pose for photos out in the middle, Cindy piped up saying "Ok, I'll do it!"
What in the Hell has gotten into her? She walked over to the edge and proceeded to strut right across the top of this spectacular arch. She was walking so fast, I almost missed the shot because I was looking own to change a setting in my camera, and when I asked her to walk back across, she said "Nope, I did it once and that's all I'm doing it!"
We talked camera talk with the group of photographers for too long and were now way behind schedule, but it was fun to hear about their adventures and talk a bit about ours.
The trail was everything I expected it to be. Sections of deep sand, miles of teeth chattering washboard, slickrock climbs, big boulder navigating, loose gravel descents that leave your butt cheeks sore from being clenched so tightly and then there are the scenic views that make it all so worth while.
When I was in the Visitor Center talking with the Park Ranger, he had asked where we wanted to camp for the night. Since we were getting started so late, his first suggestion was the Airport Campsite because it was only 18 miles into the trail. There isn't really an Airport out here, its just the name of the campsite.
I told him that 18 miles would be way too short of a day for us, and asked what the next available campsite was. The next few sites were already reserved for the night, so our only other option was a campsite called Murphy Hogback, which was 44 miles into the trail.
I figured the trail was over 100 miles long, we were starting a little after noon and the sun was supposed to be setting around 6:30pm. That would give us 6 hours to travel 44 miles. No Problem!! WRONG!!
If you're ever planning on tackling this trail, and by all means you should if you're into off-road exploration. Do yourself a favor and give yourself two full days minimum to complete the trail.
The endless views are around every turn and we stopped so many times to get out of the truck, walk amongst the slick rock and peer over the cliffs, that we barely reached the Airport Campsite as the sun was starting to set.
We both looked at one another knowing we didn't want to be driving one foot of this trail in the dark, let alone 30 more miles of it. Since we knew this campsite was available, we decided to call it a day and set up camp before it got dark. In retrospect, this was the best thing we've done in a LONG time.
I got to setting up the Camping Lab Roof Top Tent while Cindy made us some dinner. Since we only brought cold food, our nightly meal was thick sandwiches made from cold-cuts with carrots and dip as an appetizer.
But no adult drinks or beers since Cindy say's we're back on a strict diet so we can slim up for the VW Bus trip next week. Of course this infuriated me since a camping trip seems so wrong without some cold drinks to sit and watch the sun set.
As we were sitting outside and I was sulking without an Adult Beverage, the wind started to pick up and unlike last weeks winds that felt like they were that warm Santa Ana type breeze, tonight's gusts were dropping the temperatures every time they blew through.
Cindy said she was heading into bed, and I took a walk in that early evening glow all by myself. It was amazing to climb up on a section of boulders the size of semi-trucks and just sit there taking in the surrounding beauty.
There wasn't a sound to be heard except my blood pumping through my veins and the wind blowing through the sage brush. The sky went from a soft blue, to a warm orange to a dark pink before it slowly started to turn black. As I walked back to the camp, I could see the stars starting to peek out from the heavens and knew this was as good as one could hope for in life. I mean at this point, what more could you ask for to be completely satisfied? I couldn't think of one thing to make this a more perfect night.
Soon we were both inside the RTT giggling like kids in the back yard. One reason was I forgot the headlamps at home (They were left on the kitchen table where we were sure not to forget them) so we only had one flashlight to try and read by; the second reason was the wind gusts were blowing so strong, it sounded like we were sitting beside a freight train inside the tent.
Cindy told me I had to go outside and take off the Rain Fly because that's what was flapping so loudly. I crawled out onto the roof of the truck and realized that in order to remove the rain fly, I'd have to un-strap 6 separate straps that were holding it down. I made a mental note to buy quick release buckles as soon as we got home, but this wasn't something I was going to be doing in the dark in this strong of winds.
With the glow of my flashlight in front of me, it was as if we were getting sandblasted from the desert floor being picked up by this crazy storm. I hurried myself back into the tent and told her we were just going to have to deal with the flapping sounds as there was nothing I could do at this point. In the few minutes I was outside, my eyes were filled with gritty sand and stung something awful.
Its not like the strap thing was any fault of the tent manufacturer. Even if those straps had quick release buckles, I'm thinking the winds were blowing so strong, that if I was standing on the roof of the truck and unbuckled the big rain fly, it probably would have carried me off the roof like I was holding a sail.
A little ways in front of us was a few hundred foot drop off that would have taken the sail/rain fly for a ride and I more than likely would have lost it forever. So I'm glad I couldn't take it off at this point.
Back inside the protection of the RTT, we sat there listening to the wind howl around us and do its best to tip the truck over. There were times the gusts would blow so strong, that the section of the tent that flips out over the ground would be lifting up a few inches and slamming back down! This was a bit scary at first, but after the 4th or 5th time of feeling it lift up, we both just started laughing because of how wild the storm was.
After about an hour of this loud train like sound, Cindy finally sat up and said "Ok, I'm going inside the truck because I'm starting to get scared!" I just laughed and told her she'd be fine, to just sit still and ride it out up here with me.
She was starting to unzip the door when she looked out and said in almost a scream "Where did the ladder go?"
Now the aluminum ladder is normally at such an angle that it makes it very easy to climb in or out of the tent. If you wanted to lift the folding tent up to put the ladder at a reverse angle (Like it was now), you'd have to lift the thing pretty high off the ground to do so.
I guess one of the times the tent was levitating, it must have been high enough that the ladder was able to swing under the folded section and was now actually at an angle that would make it almost impossible to climb down. At least for Cindy to climb down in the dark in these winds would be impossible.
I'll bet this isn't something that happens often, and I'm thinking our first night in the RTT was going to be one we'd never forget. (NOTE TO SELF: Stake down the bottom of the ladder from now on!)
This sealed the deal and Cindy was now trapped up here in our elevated cabin for the night and we proceeded to sit and listen to the freight train rumble past us for hours on end. The wind was so loud, that in order for us to talk meant we were almost yelling so we could hear each other.
There would be times the wind gusts would blow so hard, that I was sure the tent was going to blow off the top of the truck. There was nothing we could do but laugh at our situation. I mean what were the chances that we wait to tackle this trail our whole lives and the night we're camped on it, we're about to get blown over the edge!
There was nothing we could do but sit and laugh at how hard it was blowing us around. I couldn't imagine how bad it would have been if we would have been in a normal tent on the ground and how bad we would have been getting sandblasted. The Camping Lab Roof Top Tent has thick aluminum poles and a thick nylon cover that kept the wind and sand off of us and never collapsed despite how hard Mother Nature was trying.
I am currently reading a book about a guy that paddled the entire Missouri River and I was just reading a section aloud to Cindy where he talks about the Wyoming Winds blowing so fierce that he once sat for 45 minutes with his tent plastered like a pancake to the ground on top of him. He talks of being claustrophobic and said it was like he was held captive by the winds.
Thankfully this never happened to us!
At one point, I screamed over the sound of the wind to Cindy "Did we do something bad to piss off Mother Nature in the past few days?"
I followed that with "It sounds like we're standing beside a train track and the train's doing 100mph!"
Cindy yelled back "I'm pretending that we're sitting on a sail boat in a tropical storm and the sail is furling out above us."
I replied with a humorous yell back "Or we're under water in a capsule and there is a giant octopus trying its hardest to get us and its tentacles are attacking the bubble we're in."
Cindy punched me and screamed "Dont scare me, why do your scenarios always have to be big scary monsters or fast moving trains?"
I yelled back, "Ok, its not an octopus, its a giant Humboldt Squid and its trying to get into our submarine!"
Again, I got punched and was told we were on a sail boat in a tropical lagoon and it was just the sail above us.....That was fine by me! Warm tropical scenes is a nice sound to fall asleep to with dreams of warm breezes and turquoise waters all around us. The truck was rocking and moving from the wind so much, it actually felt like we were floating, so it was very believable, if you had your eyes closed. But so was the octopus or the squid in my twisted mind.
I'm not sure how, but eventually we both fell asleep and to show you how your mind uses the surrounding noises to help you sleep, I had dreams that I was on a motorcycle all night long riding through the desert. I kept thinking how loud the exhaust was on the bike I was on, but in reality, it was just the loud wind working its way into my dreams.
Amazing enough, we both slept good all night long despite the winds and the frigid temperatures. I guess the Camping Lab Tent passed the test with flying colors and our first night on the White Rim Trail would be one we'd never forget!
Monday October 26th - Sun Up to Sun Down on the White Rim Trail
We were up before the sunrise this morning getting things packed up and getting ready to tackle the rest of this monumental trail. We figured since we moved so slow yesterday, we wanted to make sure we'd get an early start so we'd be able to see it all today.
Surprisingly enough, we awoke to a dead calm this morning which made us both question last nights wind storm. In reality all we had to do was look around the campsite and notice that any signs of tire tracks or foot prints had been erased by Mother Natures broom.
Thank goodness the trail is well marked or finding our way out by yesterdays tire tracks would have been impossible.
Cindy wanted to do more driving today so I got down my Mountain Bike to ride along and snap pictures when the scene looked too good to pass up. Many of the trails I've ridden in the Utah area so far would suck on a mountain bike, even though this is the Mountain Bike Capitol of the world.
Luckily each trail I've ridden I've been on one of Jim's Dual Sport KTM's, but I've thought to myself each time that I'd never want to ride any of these trails on a skinny wheeled mountain bike due to the deep and constant sands. The White Rim Trail is different as it allows you to ride faster than you can drive in the truck with very little effort.
Most of the trail is hard packed gravel or a slickrock type of surface, and except for a few brutal climbs, it wouldn't be all too hard to complete by pedal power. Something I'd love to come back and do another time.
Jim had an extra bike rack lying around the shop for when he needs to shuttle mountain bikers from Point A to Point B, so I threw one of them on the back of the truck so I could bring my bike along.
This gave me a chance to get some exercise and not just sit in the truck all day long. It also gave me the opportunity to either ride ahead of Cindy and get shots of her crawling up a particular nasty section or wait back and get her driving down the tight switchbacks.
I was really impressed with her driving abilities and to think the last time we had driven something like this in Arizona, she got out of the truck and walked most of it because she said it freaked her out too bad. Maybe driving with Nanette in the San Rafael Swell helped curb her fear of off-road driving and give her a new found passion for this type of adventure.
There are a few things you should know about the White Rim Trail if you plan to drive it from tip to tip. First and foremost, your vehicle needs to have high clearance. You wont need a jacked up, long travel suspension like the Jeeps we crawled through the San Rafael Swell with, although it would make it much easier and a much smoother ride, but at least a 4x4 type of vehicle with better than average ground clearance, I dont think a Toyota Yaris would cut it, but who knows, they are the new 4x4 of the Year.
Like I said earlier, there had only been two sections where we switched the big Ford into 4High, and only because Cindy was scared we'd slip back down because of loose gravel and the 20% grade the narrow trail was climbing. But 99.9% of the trail is do-able with a stock 4x4 in 2 Wheel Drive.
There were a few sections that I heard the undercarriage scrape on bigger rocks, and I probably could have avoided them if one of us had gotten out to spot who ever was driving at the time. But that was only a few times and we were always crawling at a snails pace, so I wasn't too worried about tearing anything off.
Even though the trail is only 100 miles, there are no services and no easy ways out if something is to happen to your vehicle. Its not like you can be in the middle and decide you want to get out in a hurry and can jump onto a short cut. So make sure you bring enough fuel, food and provisions to make it the entire way through.
Strangely enough, we had a signal on our Verizon phones the entire time! At one point it scared the heck out of me when we were just crawling along with no sounds but the motor winding up when a call came in. I about jumped out of my skin because it just wasn't a sound I was expecting to hear miles from any type of civilization.
Dont try and do the White Rim Trail all in one day. It would be a simple one day ride on motorcycle because of the high speeds you could carry over much of the mellower sections. For us tackling it in a truck, the top speed we reached was about 15 mph through some of the sand washes, but those were few and far between. During most of our slow pace we had snails and desert tortoises passing us complaining about the damn tourists and their slow speeds.
In a truck, especially a stock truck like ours, you just have to know you're gonna to take it slow and enjoy the scenery. Jim told me when guiding tours on motorcycles, they average about 6 hours to complete the entire thing, but that's just buzzing right through without stopping to do any of the hikes or take in the sights....which are around every turn and are pure eye candy for any nature lover.
Another thing we had in our favor that made the trail much easier than it normally is was the recent rains. The trail was very dusty, but nothing like it would have been if we hadn't had a 1/2" of rain a few days back. The Park Ranger warned me of a few sections that can be very sandy and numerous people get stuck in these sections because of the deep sugar sand.
We never even noticed these sections he warned us about because of how packed down they were from the recent rains. But could easily see the potential of it being a sticky spot.
Another thing that made today 100% better than yesterday was the airing down of our tires. Yesterdays ride was pretty rough due to the fact that I hadn't stopped to air down our tires when we first started.
When we pulled into camp last night, the first thing I did was drop the tire pressure from the normal 80 pounds of pressure down to 30psi. This was like a new truck or at least a truck that had new suspension put on overnight. Its amazing how much better of a ride we had with the tires aired down all day today.
We could both tell a difference in the sandy sections too. Instead of the truck bogging down when it hit the sand, it seemed like it would float over top of the sand with the newly deflated tires.
Ryan and the Jeep guys had their tires aired down to 12psi, but I was too worried being out here by ourselves to attempt that low of a pressure fearing I might pop a tire off a rim. These guys have high powered compressors that are capable of reseating the bead back on the rim and being in a group means someone could always go out for help if a tire was to be damaged beyond repair.
Traveling the trail today, we passed a total of 3 other cars. One was a group of mountain bikers that had about 15 bikers in the group with two trucks acting as support vehicles. Probably the best way to mountain bike the White Rim Trail so you dont have to lug all your camping gear and food on the bike, and can just enjoy the trail on a much lighter ride.
The other vehicle was two older gentleman in a brand new Toyota FJ that was bone stock. They looked like they were just out for a Sunday drive and both men were in button up dress shirts with pocket protectors almost like they were business men on their lunch break. It was sort of funny because they had no camping gear and seriously looked like they were just out for a drive.
We did pass a few other mountain bikers who were riding the trail solo and a few Dual Sport motorcycles that were loaded down with camping gear and touring bags.
Along the trail we stopped at a Slot Canyon where another large group of mountain bikers were all hanging out playing in an around the narrow canyon walls.
Cindy and I hiked down into the canyon with a few of the group members and luckily with their aide, I was able to scurry down into some of the steeper sections of the canyon where I would have been too worried to go by myself.
Not that I needed their help to get in our out, but I probably wouldn't have risked it if I had been by myself, and I know Cindy wouldn't have been able to pull herself up and over the vertical walls we needed to climb to get into and out of these narrow sections. So I was glad we ran into this group of bikers when we did.
Slot canyons are so fun to explore and their beautiful water polished walls are mesmerizing to sit and photograph. As crazy as it sounds, I'd love to be sitting in one when a flash flood comes roaring through, obviously sitting high up in safety, but to see the force of the water that carves out these curvy walls would be just amazing.
From the slot canyon the road became much more fun, at least for me it did. There is one section called Potato Bottom that was pretty demanding on the suspension and a few climbs that had us clenching the cheeks till we reached the peak.
Rolling along the trail with the lush Green River on one side and a steep slope on the other side of the truck, you either hugged the wall the entire way or went for a swim.
I'd have to agree with Cindy that its much better to drive these sections than it is to be a passenger. When she was driving I was holding onto the 'Oh Shit' handle with white knuckles. But when you have the steering wheel and can decide which course you want to take, it keeps your mind at ease.
3 Different times Cindy's head bounced off the side window so hard I cant believe the window didn't shatter. Of course each time I couldn't do anything but look at her and laugh, which only made the situation worse. I asked her if she wanted me to go get one of the motorcycle helmets out of the storage bin in the truck, but this wasn't funny to her at this point while she sat there rubbing her throbbing head.
This also made me start teasing her about a big waterhead on top of those shoulders that couldn't be kept in check due to its size.
This only resulted in a punch from her, but made her forget about the knots forming on her head and neck area.
There are a few more sections that I would think impassable with anything wider than a full-size truck. Forget taking a dually or a larger Overland vehicle along the last 5 miles of the trail, although I've seen photos of them doing it, so it must me do-able.
We had to fold in our mirrors to hug the passenger side rock cliff because of the trail being washed out in sections with a long drop down to the Green River on the drivers side.
Again, with a motorcycle or mountain bike, this section would be simple and a walk in the park.
There was one last climb that had me switching into 4Low in order to crawl up this loose, 20% grade with the tightest switchbacks we've ever driven. These 180° turns were so tight, that they required 5 point turns in our long wheelbase truck. This is where a Jeep or Toyota FJ would shine and you'd be able to make the turns with ease.
A Ford Powerstroke dropped all the way down into 4Low becomes a crawling machine. You dont go anywhere fast, but there aren't too many things you can point the truck at that the big diesel doesn't just crawl up and over like its nothing.
At one point when we were mid way up the hill and our Pitch & Roll Meter was telling me I was just over a 20% grade, I stopped so I could snap a photo, which had Cindy screaming her head off....."Why the hell are you stopping right now!?!?"
When we started back up, the trucks turbo just needed to be spooled up and we were soon climbing back up the hill like it was a level surface. Cindy didn't think it was all that fun.
A few of the turns were so sharp and at such angles that there was no way to see what was around the other side no matter how far we hung out the windows. There would be times both of us would be hanging way out the windows till one of us could see over the edge of the climb and know where the trail was leading us.
When we finally reached the top, we both got out to let the blood start flowing back to our butt cheeks and stretch out the legs for a few minutes. Standing on the peak of Taylor Canyon, we had amazing views for miles in every direction.
There wasn't a sound to be heard except for the random raven calling out over the desert. Even the swift moving Green River far below us was quiet and Cindy commented "I can hear my blood flowing through my veins its so quiet!"
I knew we were close to the end of the trail and I was savoring the moment I had waited so long to accomplish. No form of diet could quench the celebratory Margaritas we had both been talking about for the last few miles. While we were climbing out of the Slot Canyon a few miles back, we overheard one of the ladies talking about the strong margaritas she had drank the previous night and it was making our mouths water in this dry desert heat.
It had been our only topic of conversation for the past few miles and I could now see salty margaritas dancing in my head.
You know what comes after a super steep climb dont you? I super steep, narrow descent. Again, with the truck in 4Low, we let the transmission carry us down the hill so there would be no chance of touching the brakes or slipping in the loose gravel.
One slip would mean a quick introduction to the Big Man upstairs if you know what I mean.
Once at the bottom, we had a long drive of sand washes and we were dumped out of the park onto Mineral Bottom Road. This was the road I had driven down last week when bringing the paddlers down to their put-in spot and knew we were within 45 minutes of Moab at this point.
Climbing up and out of the canyon, the sun was setting behind us and we had knocked one more thing off the life list. We talked of the wind storm last night and joked that ever person we passed along the trail today would ask "So, what did you think of that wind storm last night? Pretty brutal wasn't it!" would usually be the first thing out of their mouth.
We talked of the beautiful scenes Mother Nature offered to us throughout the entire day and how amazing this entire section of the Country is. It literally has to be seen to be believed as I'm not eloquent enough to convey the sights we see into words. I'm bored with describing things like Beautiful, WOW images or breath taking. Those words dont do the scenery justice and I feel like I'm lying when I type something that boring as to say it was simply beautiful.
Its so far beyond those simple words that I'll just say "If a scene can bring tears to a grown mans eyes by simply looking at its wonders, you know it has to be pretty spectacular."
When we pulled into Moab, Cindy saw the local Mexican restaurant that is known for their strong margaritas and yelled out "Pull Over, Now!"
We bellied up to a table, ordered two drinks and plates full of Mexican Cuisine.
You know when you see a couple sitting in a restaurant and neither one of them even speak to one another? Not that they're fighting, its just that they are lost in their own thoughts.
Well that's the way Cindy and I were during this meal. We both sat quietly with our own thoughts and just enjoyed the last few days of adventure. This drug we're both addicted to, the travel drug is as strong as any on the market. Its not illegal, but damn is it expensive and time consuming.
Two margaritas and a belly so full I had to loosen the belt a few notches and we were home in Jim's yard unpacking the truck. We've got this part of the adventure down to a science. Neither one of us need to delegate tasks, we just know what needs to be down and go about doing them.
Before long, we were both unpacked, showered up and laying soundly in bed. When we heard the surrounding trees move in the strong winds that were blowing in, we both sort of chuckled saying "Its alot quieter in the camper with those winds than it is out in the Canyon!"
For some reason the winds didn't hold the passion they did last night, and I thought about going out and setting up the Roof Top Tent.....Just Joking.
Make sure you check out the full White Rim Trail Gallery for tons of photos from our two day adventure.
Tuesday October 27th - One Chilly Motorcycle Ride
I had told Jim I'd help him spot a truck that needed to go down to Lake Powell while he and Lori are out of town. The truck had a trailer on the back for the owners inflatable raft they were floating down the Colorado River on, so we planned to load my motorcycle onto the trailer and I'd be able to ride that home...no big deal.
That was till I woke up this morning and the temperatures had dropped into the 30's and there was a light rain falling. Not good weather to be riding a motorcycle some 150 miles in.
I put it off and put it off till it started getting later in the day and I couldn't wait no longer. I loaded up the bike, packed up my riding gear and bundled up in a few warm layers.
The drive down was long and boring. I was spotting an old Toyota pickup truck with a 4 cylinder motor. It had trouble pulling itself any sort of incline especially pulling a long, home made trailer with a light weight motorcycle strapped atop it.
On top of the painfully slow speed, the area I was driving through has little in the way of radio reception. I would hit seek on the radio and for the better part of an hour, the display would be a flurry of numbers as it raced through the spectrum of stations it couldn't find.
Every now and then, it would grab ahold of some station that was more static than it was anything else, which would usually result in scaring the crap out of me when suddenly a loud sound would break the silence I was driving in.
When you're used to driving a truck that you could hook a house to, and pull it around the country with no problems, to be in someone else's vehicle without the satellite radio and comfy captains chair made for a long drive.
It made me appreciate our truck alot more with each mile I drove.
The further I drove towards Glen Canyon and Lake Powell, the worse the weather became. I had pulled over along the road to check out a full skeleton of a cow that had died long ago, and was rushed back into the truck because of the pelting sleet and freezing temperatures.
The wipers of this little Toyota couldn't clear the windshield fast enough and I was starting to get worried about riding the motorcycle back to Moab.
When I pulled up to the Hite Marina where I was dropping the truck, I jumped out, suited up in my rain gear that I had luckily packed, dropped the bike down off the trailer and pinned the throttle heading back towards Moab.
Despite the 55mph speed limit, I was willing to bet that I wouldn't be passing too many police officers and decided to see how fast my motorcycle would go.
Mom, if you're reading this, stop here and move onto the next page. Having a brother who died on a motorcycle accident, every time I talk of riding fast or doing anything crazy on a motorcycle, I usually get a scolding phone call as soon as she reads my blog post.
Racing home in a driving rain that was more snow than it was rain was not fun conditions to ride in. My gloves are not meant to keep your hands warm in 30° temperatures at 95mph.
I was thanking my buddy Pat Buchanan, from Michigan who had sent me a warmer, insulated Snowmobile helmet when we were back in Yellowstone. I was talking with Pat a few months ago about how cold it was out and how we needed to be able to ride the motorcycle because I was working at other stores and Cindy was using the truck.
Pat works for Marshall Distributing, and when talking to him about riding, but ending the ride with a headache due to how cold the temperatures were, we ordered a nice Snowmobile Helmet that his company makes.
The helmet is much warmer than my normal helmet I use and it has allowed me to ride further into the winter season. But I think today's weather was pushing it a little.
I was eager to try out another new add-on a reader had sent us. When talking about how uncomfortable our motorcycle seat was, but mentioning that we couldn't afford to upgrade to the softer Gel Seat a few manufacturers make for our bike, Bob Mostue from Texas replied with a great email.
Bob sent me an email saying he had found a seat pad he had been using at none other than the local Wal-mart. It was an inexpensive way to get some more miles out of our stock seats and he asked for my Mailing Address so he could send me one to see if it might help out.
I thought that was so nice of him and we received it in the mail when we first arrived in Moab, but I had yet to go on a long ride to test it out. I've been riding Jim's Rental Bikes, so I didn't want to throw it on one of his bikes because it wouldn't be a true test.
Before I had pulled out of Moab this morning, I had strapped the seat pad on our bike with its quick release buckles and was interested to see how it worked.
I'd like to say a huge Thank You to Bob, because this pad changes the wooden plank we're normally sitting on into seat I can now handle riding for miles upon miles.
Racing up HWY 95 towards Hanksville, I could see a break in the clouds and was looking forward to getting out of the nasty rain. There was also a fuel station where I could grab a cup of Hot Chocolate and bring some feeling back into my hands.
You know its cold when you can reach down and set your hand right on the crankcase of the bike, and it takes awhile before you start to feel the heat through your leather gloves. I could only do this with my left hand because my right hand was frozen to the throttle with it pinned wide open.
Pulling into Hanksville, I chipped my hand from the throttle, and almost ran into the station to allow the blood to start flowing back into my extremities. After a half hour of talking with the attendant about the building that was built 90' into the side of a sandstone rock, I thanked him for the use of his heat and company and went back out to my bike.
Racing up HWY 24 towards I-70, I had the road all to myself. I had only passed a handful of vehicles the entire day, but HWY 24 was void of any other traffic. Maybe Utah motorists are smart enough to stay home when there is a winter storm advisory for the entire state.
It gave me the opportunity to stop a few times to snap some pictures of the setting sun with my bike right in the middle of the road. I could see for miles in either direction and there wasn't a human, a vehicle or anything moving other than some idiot on a scooter.
From the HWY 95/24 junction where Hanksville is located to I-70 is roughly 40 some-odd miles. Except for the time I stopped to snap pictures, I never had the bike under 90mph. I figured that the 30° temperature was just as cold at the posted speed limit of 65mph as it was at 95mph. Since I could see for so long in either direction, it wasn't like I had to worry about police or getting pulled over for speeding.
The only thing I had to worry about was the wind gusts. They were blowing so hard and with such force, that I had the motorcycle leaning over at a 20° angle. When the wind would stop, the bike would go shooting across the lane till I could straighten it and get it under control.
If the gust switched directions and hit me head on, it would almost lift me up off the bike it would hit me so hard. This made for one wild ride that had me fighting the handlebars the entire time.
Once on I-70, the winds only picked up in strength. If you ever travel I-70 between Green River and Moab, you'll know that it is some of the most barren landscape on Earth. Miles of miles of nothing but open, flat desert. This section of openness had signs posted warning of Dust Storms and told motorists to not stop in the road during such a storm.
Well there was no dust blowing tonight, but the winds were whipping me between both lanes of traffic they were so strong. I wish I had one of those little Brunton Wind Calculators to know what the wind speed is at times like this, or times like when we're camped out in the Roof Top Tent, we could say what the actual force Mother Nature was throwing at us.
I had topped off the tank with fuel at Hanksville because I knew I had a long stretch of road with no services coming up. When I passed Green River, I figured I'd be able to make it to Moab with my supply of fuel and passed the exit without stopping.
I can normally squeak out just over 120 miles with my tanks 2 gallon capacity. From Hanksville to Moab was 110 miles, so I thought I'd be fine. What I learned is 95mph for 65 miles burns the fuel at a much faster rate.
While I was racing own I-70 in my tucked, 20° lean, the bike started to cough and sputter with the odometer reading 65 miles since my last fill-up. This was leaving me scratching my head wondering what was happening?
I reached down and turned the petcock to its reserve position and the bike took back off. OH SHIT!! I was out of fuel between Green River and Moab with no services for the next 11 miles.
I dropped my speed down to 55mph where I knew the bike wouldn't be drinking so much gas and tucked myself as tight as I could get against the bike, hoping it would keep me as streamlined as possible.
I sat saying some prayers the reserve would carry me those next few miles as my teeth were chattering inside the helmet. By this point, I had lost all feeling in my hands, feet and knees and was basically frozen onto the bike. I contemplated falling just so the road rash would warm me up...LOL The last thing I wanted to do was be pushing my bike in this weather, at night, along the side of the expressway.
I coasted down the exit ramp with the bike sputtering into the gas station at the Moab exit and walked into the tiny station with my helmet still on.
I sat there undressing as fast as I could with a few truckers looking at me like I was on fire and trying to get out of a burning suit. As soon as I got my helmet, gloves and jacket off, I threw my hands under the hot dog roller that keeps those rubbery looking gas station hot dogs warm.
The heat from the glowing red bulb felt like it was burning the skin off my hands, and I had to pull them out once the pins and needles started to ache too bad.
I poured the biggest cup of coffee they offered and sat there caressing it like it was some sort of heavenly object. One of the truckers who was layering his nachos with pump cheese, onions and jalapenos looked my way and said aloud, "I was just cussing out the guys back in my shop in Arizona because I was making a last minute run tonight and they dont have the heat hooked up in my truck, but seeing that you're on a motorcycle in this weather, I just need to shut the hell up with my complaining!"
I stuttered out a laugh as ice chips flew from my lips and told him about riding out of the rain down in Lake Powell. He laughed saying something about pulling over and getting a room in a motel to wait out the snow, but I told him I had thought about it, but was too worried I'd be waiting a few days because of this time of year.
He wished me well and told me to buy some of those little hand warmers they were selling on the counter. Light Bulb Goes Off above my head!!!
Why hadn't I bought these in Hanksville?? DUH!!!
I finished my coffee, talked with Cindy on the phone who had called about 15 times wondering where the hell I was, and bought a pack of those little hand warmers. I topped the bike off which took 2.15 gallons of fuel for a 2 gallon tank?? And got back on the road.
The drive down HWY 191 into Moab wasn't nearly as bad as the rest of the ride. For one, those little hand warmers get so hot that my hands were nice and toasty warm the entire time. It says on the package "Not recommended to be against bare skin due to high heat produced" But I didn't care, I had those suckers tucked into my gloves just burning the crap out of my hands and it felt great.
Riding down HWY 191, I tucked myself right behind a Moving Van that was in a hurry to get somewhere and let the box of the van block most of my wind. This was like being pulled along by the backdraft behind the van and I could sit up on the bike with almost no air moving around me.
I even lifted the windscreen on my helmet and noticed it was like I was sitting still. Why hadn't this truck being moving out of Hanksville an hour earlier?
When I finally pulled into Moab, I was somewhat thawed and feeling much better.
Cindy had dinner and a hot cup of tea waiting for me....she's the best wife a guy could ask for...and I was showered and asleep in my toasty bed within an hour of being home.
The ride that I thought would put some gas money in my pocket and be a cake walk turned out to be a rough day of work, but snuggled in bed in my SnugWow blanky, I was happy to be home and finally warm.
Wednesday October 28th - Waking up to Snow in Moab!! WTF??
As we went to bed last night, we could hear the rain hitting the camper and commented it would be a good reason to leave for California.
Neither of us really want to leave Moab because we've yet to even scratch the surface of all there is to do here. But when we woke up this morning and I looked out the window to see a fresh few inches of snow on the ground, it made the decision to pull out that much easier.
Cleaning the tanks and packing everything up with it wet and covered in snow, was a glorious task....if you enjoy numb, wet fingers and toes. I was soon cussing Moab and ready to move someplace warm in a hurry.
Knowing California has exaggerated prices in fuel and propane, we topped all those off here in Utah and finally pulled out of Jim's around noon. It was weird to be offered such hospitality by Jim and Leigh, and not have them here to say 'Goodbye' to when we left. We talked on the phone and they know we'll be back to visit, so it wasn't that bad.
Our first few hours were spent slowly driving through a blinding snow storm with icy highways and terrible winds trying their best to blow us off the road.
It was fun to sit in the warmth of the truck and get caught up on worldly news and events going on around our Country. You have to remember that we dont watch television and except for long drive days like today, we almost never listen to the radio for any length of time.
I find it very comforting to live in my own little bubble where wars, recessions, global pandemic's and the worlds problems have no concern on my daily life. Listening to the news once or twice a month is enough for me.
Driving through Monticello, we passed HWY 666 which has now been changed to HWY 491 due to the relation to the Devils Highway. We passed the little towns of Blanding, Bluff, Mexican Hat and a few other towns that have all but dried up and closed their doors to tourists or residents.
Its didn't take long before we were out of Southern Utah and into Northern Arizona crossing the barren Navajo reservation. Its amazing how I've always had the belief that Native American's hold such a high regard for Mother Earth, yet to see their reservation, you'd think you're driving through a 3rd World Country.
We're talking garbage strewn every where along the sides of the roads. Yards that are filled with old vehicles, broken down equipment and garbage scattered all around their barren property.
No plants or shrubs planted, or trees used to shade their leaning shacks they use as homes. Its very depressing to see and makes me wonder what they'd live like if they would have had an equal opportunity to live in this country of ours or should I say 'theirs'. Have they just given up all hope and live like this out of stubbornness for locking them up on these barren reservations?
When we pull over for fuel and we're on a reservation, Cindy wont even get out of the truck and just stays put right in the passenger seat. People look at you funny like you're trespassing and you know you're not welcome here. Not that I blame them, I mean they are living on a piece of property that our Government had deemed useless and is why they were put there in the first place.
We were just passing through this time and quite frankly with this nasty weather, I couldn't get South and off the Reservation fast enough.
Heading South along HWY 160, we had two options. Drive through the higher elevations of Flagstaff, which we were both sure would be getting pounded with snow, or head further West along HWY 64 skirting the bottom section of the Grand Canyon.
Amazing as it seems with all this traveling we've done, we've yet to see the wonders of Grand Canyon National Park.
We couldn't just drive through and not stop, so we took a few minutes to get out of the truck at the first overlook and snap a few pictures. Not that we could have done much of anything else. The canyon itself was totally socked in with low lying clouds as the wintery winds were dumping snow all around us.
With numb fingers and chattering teeth, we both sprinted back to the truck to warm back up as we drove further south and back out of Grand Canyon National Park.
Cindy thought we'd pull over for the night in Williams, Arizona since it was getting late and neither of us enjoy driving in the dark. We drove down historic Route 66 and found an empty truck lot with a few big rigs idling in the gravel parking area. We got out and crawled into the frigid freezer we were towing behind us.
Cindy started to cook some dinner, but the wind was blowing so strong and you could hear every window whistling with Mother Nature still attacking us with the full brunt of her wintery storm.
We agreed that we'd eat dinner and get back in the truck to keep heading South by Southwest. We normally never drive through the night, but I'd rather drive all night long than waste an entire bottle of propane trying to keep this camper warm enough to sleep in.
After a light dinner, we turned on the Tank Heaters in the coach and climbed back into the truck where it was still warm and comfy. The next major town heading West along I-40 was Kingman. It was 3000' lower in elevation than Williams was and on the Eastern edge of the Mojave Desert.
We figured this would have to be warmer than the temperatures we were shivering in right now and it was only some 75 miles away.
As we came down the mountain, the temperatures kept climbing and when we saw the first truck stop, we pulled over again.
Nuzzled in-between the big semi's, we figured they would act as a wind block and the temperatures were a much warmer 46° here, rather than the bone chilling low 30's they were back up on the mountain.
Surprising as it may sound, it was comforting to be back on the road sleeping in a truck stop with the soothing sound of idling diesels all around us. Life of a vagabond can be strange sometimes when you realize these sounds are actually comforting.
Thursday October 29th - Landing in Sunny California
Today was another long drive day. Even though the map only said we had just under 400 miles to San Diego and Jeff's driveway, those miles would take us all day to drive.
With a nasty fuel gobbling headwind to battle against the entire day, it was like I was driving with the parking brake locked up. Cindy even tried to drive today now that she's on her 'I Am Woman Hear Me Roar' kick, but this only lasted a few miles with these strong of winds to fight against.
I talked with Jeff a few times on the phone who kept calling to check on our progress. Each time he'd laugh saying "What is taking so long? Are you driving dirt roads or the highway?"
For those who might not remember, Jeff and his wife Lori are the couple who let us stay in their driveway for a few weeks while we planned and packed for our Baja excursion two years ago.
The same driveway that I left two nice gouges in when I pulled out forgetting to raise the rear stabilizers. Yep that one!
Jeff had offered the use of his driveway again for us, and with the outrageous price California Campgrounds charge, we couldn't pass up this offer. And I thought it would be great to see Jeff and his family again since we've been out of California for almost 2 years now.
Our friend Mike has built a Haunted House that is of monumental proportions for Halloween, and Cindy and I offered to help out working the house of horrors.
Cindy will be handing out candy, taking pictures and working the door and Mike and Jeff have me set up with a Chainsaw and some frightening outfit to put the fear of God into those brave enough to pass through this Haunted House.
I guess Mike has been building this Haunted house for a few years now and gets people lined up around his neighborhood to get the crap scared out of them. There is no charge and he does it all out of the kindness of his heart. I know that sounds strange to be kind enough to scare the crap out of the neighborhood kids, but it will be something all these kids remember for the rest of their lives, so I'm glad I could be a part of that.
When we finally made it into San Diego, it had been a long two days of driving. Cindy and I hadn't spoken to one another for a few hours over an argument we had over laundry, and if we were outside the vehicle, we probably would have thrown punches at one another....LOL
And to think we're going from our normal Spartan 200 square feet of living space to the luxurious quarters of a VW Microbus for two weeks. This should be a very interesting little experiment in marriage counseling to say the least.
Once we had the camper backed in and unhooked safely in Jeff's driveway, we all sat talking with one another and catching up on the past few years.
It didn't take long before we were in bed and sleeping in the comforts of 60° California weather rather than freezing like we were the last few nights. We're lucky we made it out of Utah when we did, because the Weather went from bad to worse and they got a lot of snow dumped on them. I was thankful our house has wheels on it and we can move it to a warm spot anytime we feel the need.
Friday October 30th - Our 1st and Only Halloween Party of the Year
Having a nice place to sit that is warm and sunny was such a good feeling today. We took the dogs for a long walk to a neighboring park so they could run and play and we could shake out the kinks from two long days of just sitting behind the wheel.
It felt good to be in a t-shirt and sitting comfortably in the sun once again.
I had a ton of Computer Work to catch up on before we head out on the VW Adventure, so my day was spent in front of the computer.
Cindy took the dogs for a few walks and said she couldn't just sit in the coach when the weather was this nice.
She jumped in the truck and drove down to the beach to go for a long walk and soak up some salty Pacific Ocean breezes by herself.
I got my White Rim Trail Gallery uploaded and a bunch of emails answered or replied to just in time to get dressed for the Halloween Party Jeff and Lori had invited us to tonight.
Lori and one of her girlfriends had a costume party planned and they even had outfits for Cindy and I to dress up in.
Cindy was going as a groovy hippie chic, which would fit perfect with the VW Bus theme, and I was going as Zorro.
The party was great, their friends were super nice and fun to talk with and they even had Karaoke!!!! You know Cindy was in heaven. We came home after midnight and were both whipped!
Jeff and Lori are so nice and it is such a comforting feeling to have good people where ever we travel that are willing to open up their lives for us to share in.
Its great to be out exploring the wonders of nature, but its just as rewarding if not more rewarding, to have people to share the experiences and great memories with. I thank the Big Man upstairs every night I lay my head on the pillow for how lucky Cindy and I are to have wonderful people like this in our lives.
Saturday October 31st Happy Halloween!!
Spent the morning working on photos and uploading a Halloween Gallery from last nights party so everyone who attended could download photos of themselves.
Jeff and I packed up and rode the motorcycle over to Mike's place where the haunted house was going to be tonight. I had no idea how big this thing actually was and found out later that the local newspaper had already printed an article on it and they were expecting a few hundred people to come through the thing.
Mike even has a website for the place at Dead End Manor....Can you believe that!! I mean Mike and his wife Julia have been working on this since mid-summer and have spent countless hours and money all because they enjoy it so much.
Its free for kids and adults to come through, and they only ask for a donation if you feel the scariness was worth it, that is then given to a local animal shelter.
The afternoon was spent helping get last minute things buttoned up and running a few last minute tests to make sure all the pneumatics and electronics were operating properly.
You'd have to see this to believe it, but this is not just a simple maze with a few scary actors dressed up like ghouls. There is a switchboard of controls to operate everything that moves or jumps out at you comparable to something used to launch the space shuttle.
Multiple things are triggered by motion detectors that will then fire off air cannons that scare the living shit out of you, have things pop up or drop from the ceiling, or crawl across your path all designed to leave you with a bladder you've emptied in your pants.
Just as the sun was setting and the full moon was rising, the pizza's arrived and we filled our bellies with food and drink before the fun was about to begin.
Cindy and the girls arrived who would also be helping out and with darkness soon upon us, kids started showing up to trick or treat.
I would be dressed in a bloody smock with a Hannibal Lector Mask on my face and chasing people with a chain saw that had the blade removed. There is something about the distinct sound of a chain saw motor and a scary looking guy running at you with a strobe light flashing that tends to release ones bowls.
I'm not sure if I should be proud of this (I am!) but I knew I made at least a few kids cry, and one teenage boy later told Cameron (One of the other workers at Dead End Manor, "That was the closest I've ever come to peeing my pants!"
My family has always had problems with scaring people, and its something I've enjoyed doing and having done back to me since I was a young child. Halloween was always a great time for my brothers and sisters because we'd drive for hours to try and hit every single haunted house in the lower part of Michigan.
When our daughter was young, Cindy, myself and my brother Robb would take Donielle to all the haunted houses in our South Florida neighborhood and have fun stories to relive for the rest of the year.
I cant remember the last time I had this much fun scaring people and the night flew by before I knew it. Dead End Manor was only open from 7pm till 10pm, and when Mike came walking out the back to tell me they had locked the front gate, I came running at him with the chain saw trying to scare him. He just laughed and said "Whoa, calm down Pat, the night is over!"
We took our costumes off and everyone had some free time to sit around talking about the folks we had scared the crap out of. The counter at the front door told us over 200 people had come through the Haunted House and they said the line was so long, at least 100 people turned around saying they didn't want to wait that long.
Jeff was proud to have made a woman drop her drink and run away howling, Mike had numerous stories of folks screaming at the top of their lungs when he'd pounce on them, and Cindy was beside me most of the night with her camera capturing the scared looks on kids faces, so I have digital proof.
I should say that kids are much more fun to scare than adults. Most of the adults tried their hardest to act like they werent scared, even though they'd be frozen in place with their mouth usually wide open.
Kids on the other hand have no issues with running as fast as they can or screaming blood curdling screams when they see you start to move in their direction. A few teen aged boys were trying to act all big and bad, but again, when we have pictures of one swinging his candy sack at me with his buddy standing beside him three shades whiter in color, you can say I didn't scare you all you want, but we know the real story.
By the time the night was over, I guess all the screaming and hollering and chasing people around had taken its toll on me. I was beat tired and when I got home to the camper, I brushed my teeth, crawled into bed and was asleep within seconds.
Make sure you check out our October 2009 Gallery for tons of photos we haven't posted here in our Blogs and more fun times we've experienced from that past month on the road.
Totals for Month of October
Total Miles Traveled for the month of October = 2935.10 Miles Total
Total Water Used in Coach = 136 gallons total that we've used out of the tank, but we were able to hook up to City Water for a few days while staying with Jim & Leigh in Utah, so its probably a bit more than this amount.
Total Fuel Used in Truck = 229.26 Gallons @ a Cost of $631.96
Total Propane Used in Camper = 7 Gallons @ $3.20 per gallon $22.40 total
Campground Costs - $10 for the two days we stayed in the Employee Campground in Yellowstone. The rest of the month we camped for free either with friends or Drycamping with no cost
Of the 31 days out of this month, all 31 were spent in the camper. Except for the one night we slept in the Roof Top Tent while we were camped in Canyonlands National Park along the White Rim Trail
That brings us to 263 days so far for this year that we've spent in the camper and a total cost spent on campground fees at $653.