Friday, August 15, 2008

(Day 14) Elevation and emotions synchronize…

Thursday, July 17th, 2008
Day 14
Salida, CO to N38 20.108 W106 46.334

Up until this point, I was in a good rhythm, staying on top of things, keeping all of my gear organized and staying on schedule. Not so much today…

The alarm on my watch went off at 7am and I came to with a stiff neck and swollen head. Normally I would leave myself with only 2 or 3 things to do in the morning before I hit the road. Today, I had about 15-20 things to do as I had gear lying everywhere, stinky clothes and unfamiliar surroundings.

Luckily, I had the whole room to myself (remember, I’m in a hostel w/ bunk beds, everyone sleeps in the same room). Maybe this is because I was overloading someone’s sense of sound and/or smell last night? Entirely possible, but I wouldn’t have known… Also remember that I have minimal clothes and toiletries to work with and to get to the bathroom you have to walk thru the living room and kitchen. I did this with minimal clothes because I was still in a mental state to where I just didn’t care about too much.

Luckily for everyone else, I was the first one up, got a long shower in and felt slightly better. The gas station I patronized yesterday had 32oz Gatorades for .99 cents. I had a little less than 2 bottles remaining and drank it all right there on the spot. Gatorade was just what the doctor ordered as I immediately start to feel better and get motivated for the big day that lay ahead.

For the record, I managed to get all my crap together and loaded on the bike by 8am. Back to the gas station for the typical gas, granola and water, but also some more of that special potion they call Gatorade Lemon-Lime. Back on the trail and feeling about 90%:

A steady flow of water from the camelback, cool temperatures and scenery like this:

…really made my slow start a distant memory.

The scenes were getting better and better:

I pass directly through a bunch of campsites along the way. Most of the campers seemed to be ATV riders (only saw 2 motorcycles all the way across the Rockies) and were just starting to get prepared for the day. Their looks were priceless as I apparently didn’t fit the mold. Had they been under my tutelage, they’d be packed and rolling by now, but I guess that’s just the difference between us and them.

I was really awestruck by the terrain and it was only getting better as I moved along. I wasn’t paying much attention to signs, so I had no idea where I was at; I was just following the purple line on my GPS and drooling at the landscape.

The GPS routes led me to what seemed like a major highway, but it was all dirt. This road was full of ATVs and school buses. Yes, school buses. I guess they were carrying the hiking tourists to the passes and peaks. Anyway, I guess the school buses started to make me feel like a kid again, as it was an absolute blast to blow by them and the ATVs on the way up, fast and fun.

But, the school buses eventually reached a point where they could go no further and this is where things started to get tricky. At this point, the GPS was basically blank with a purple line running through it. These trails were not mapped out, so I had to basically pick a direction and run with it. Eventually I saw a sign showing the way for Hancock pass. I remember reading about this on the other TAT reports, so now I feel comfortable with my direction again, but the terrain changed considerably. Here is the easy section looking up:

…and looking down:

One of my goals was to get pictures of “the good stuff”. And “the good stuff” began after the pictures above were taken. But even on my farkled-out $8000 dirt bike, stopping to take pictures would most likely mean taking a tumble.

The rocks were football-sized and loose. The trail was ATV wide (at most), relentlessly steep and at one point, passed over snow. I selected 2nd gear, kept my RPM’s in the power band and just let the suspension do the rest. This lasted for 2.2 miles and 14 minutes straight. The Orangutan ate up Hancock pass like that was it’s job. Me on the other hand, I was whipped just by hanging on and keeping her on the trail. I took the first break I could here:

Looking back 180 degrees from that point:

Four tenths of a mile later and I’m on the continental divide. If there is a picture that I would have to call my trophy, this is it:

I was rewarded with this view of the remaining trail:

And it was just as awesome as it looks. It would lead me to Tomichi pass:

4 wheel drive? How about 1 wheel drive? Will that suffice? Yes, I believe it will:

So, that would be all of the passes I would do today. Now, elevation would drop back down to 8000 feet (still 2000 feet higher than anything on the east coast, but still kind of short for Colorado). And, as the title of this post suggests, so will my emotions. But, not before I run into a little traffic jam:

And run into a lot of orange at Sargent’s General Store where I had lunch:

The guys above were running single track. A couple of them were jealous of my trip, and I was also jealous of theirs.

So, back to trail which took me off Hwy 50 (before you reach Gunnison) and into some ranch land. This was my first experience with opening gates:

I didn’t realize it to be a gate at first, but after reaching some other dead ends; I was back here for a second time and figured out how to make it through:

Some of the roads/trails that I had mapped out were there, but apparently not used anymore because there just happened to be a fence intersecting it now. No gate:

To make a long story short, I reach 5 or 7 more impassable fences or locked gates. Each time I reached a road block, I would reroute, which would lead me a mile or two deeper into the ranch land and into the next dead end. Eventually, I’m running down a trail that popped up when re-routing and I’m less than half a mile the way the crow flies from the next highway. The only problem is that this highway is at the bottom of a canyon, and I’m on the top (pictures are terrible, but you’ll have to trust me on this one):

So now I’m 20 miles deep into ranchland, only a stones throw from where I need to be, and I have run out of progressive options. At this point, I’m really frustrated at the notion that I’ll have to re-open and close all the gates that I just passed thru, all the way back to Hwy 50. Stats for the debacle are 35 miles, 19mph moving average and 1 hour and 51 minutes wasted; so demoralizing.

Rain clouds were also in the area. I had prior knowledge from the TAT group I met in Salida that all of the Lake City rooms were booked. When I reached hwy 50, I aimed west for Gunnison to find a room. The radar refreshed and told me what I could already see, there was rain in Gunnison. So, I turned south on 114 which would lead me back to the trail.

114 was actually a cool canyon carving paved road. It would have been a ton of fun had I not been exhausted from Hancock, Tomichi and the impossible maze of the ranch land. At about 3pm, as I was cutting through 114, I spot a few campsites along the river that looked really cool. I eventually come back to them to scope them out. It turns out that they were free to use. The scenery was great, so I just called it a day and bowed out:

Today was the first day that I didn’t make my destination. I was also down to 1.5 liters of water. It was a roller coaster ride all day long, both mentally and physically. I suspect it probably had something to do with starting the day off in bad shape.

Even though this campsite had the best scenery of any campsite I stayed at the entire trip, I can point to this as the low point of my trip, even though just a few hours ago, I had reached the high point of my trip atop Hancock pass.

Tomorrow I would travel to Lake City and reevaluate my condition before tackling Cinnamon and Ophir passes.

Total mileage: 2860
Daily mileage: 154
Wildlife observed: Groundhogs/marmots, chipmunks
Favorite Sight: Hancock pass vistas
Favorite Scent: Fresh air atop the mountain passes
Favorite Sound: KTM guy at gas station: “Are you somebody famous we should know about?”
Favorite Taste: Gatorade by far
Favorite Feel: Reaching Hancock pass, no doubt.
Ailments: Mentally drained and tired.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

(Day 13) These Rocky Mountains are a cakewalk…

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008
Day 13
Trinidad State Park, CO to Salida, CO

At 7:35am, I was on the bike and making my way back to the trail. Rather than riding all the way back through Trinidad to pick up the trail where I had left it, I made a 20 mile short cut through Reilly Canyon and intersected the TAT here:

Locked. Bummer. But, by having taking this shortcut, I saved myself 9 miles of backtracking, and backtracking was never fun. I believe this is the Reilly Canyon area:

After a 13 mile re-route through Aguilar, I was back on the trail. More moo…

Indian tribes called what we know as the Spanish Peaks, “Wahatoya”, meaning “Breasts of the Earth”:

A TAT report wouldn’t be complete without a picture of this old church:

One thing about Colorado is that all the roads are in excellent shape. Good for those who like to boogie down:

That’s a cabin back there. No driveway, no crops, no barns or shed. I dunno:

There were some distinctive birds in the area, one of which you can see in the picture above. They were solid black and solid white, the first and only time I’ve seen these types.

Almost 2 miles above the ocean:

…where I got into my first section of birch trees:

Here is where I thought I was in Jellystone National Park and thought for sure I’d eventually see Yogi and Boo Boo around the next corner:

Another locked gate, but I could see National Forest trail markers on the other side…weird:

More scenery:

I could have spent months taking pictures around here. Every 100 yards you’d see another angle of the mountain range and want to take another picture… a new mountain back there, birch trees here, rock slides there, a waterfall in the distance, so forth and so on. Finally, I just stopped here, sat on a rock ledge, ate some granola bars and soaked it all in for myself:

Hrmph? A leak?

Doh, must have busted an oil bottle in my pack. What a mess, but no need to tear into it now:

Eventually I made it into Salida. The chain hotels were going for 90 bucks and the private motels…80 bucks… Next stop was Hayduke’s shop to get the skinny on where to stay. He wasn’t too hard to find:

And just as I had hoped, he told me about a hostel a couple blocks down that had beds for 23 bucks. I had never heard of these before, and it sounded sort of peculiar to me at first, but I figure saving 57 bucks and being located downtown would set me up nicely for touring the area. But, before I headed out, Hayduke got my priorities in order:

The Hostel didn’t open until 5pm, so I looked for a gas station to re-supply and organize. On the way, I spot the 3 guys that I had been following the tracks of for the second time (the first was at Valcom in Trinidad):

I never got their names or handles, so if any of you guys are reading this, post up and let me know how the rest of your trip went! The guy on the right had a little spill on a gravel switchback and got some top-notch medical care from the guys on the left.

I find a gas station and start investigate my oil spill a little further:

One of the oil containers had pinched itself and was leaking, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be; I only got oil on a spare tube and gear shifter. A local phone
company guy had some crazy tape that he patched it up with:

This worked well. Everyone in Salida was really cool. The vibe here was much more active and friendly than that of Trinidad. Hindsight is 20/20, but it was obvious that I should have spent my rest day here instead… oh well.

Anyway, it was around 5pm, so I head back to the hostel and get a bed for 23 bucks:

The girl running this place was really cool. I think she just opened it up making this her 3rd concurrent job. As I was unloading my bike, I met Bronco638 who had just finished up 4 days on the trail. I was hoping I’d have a riding partner for the mountain passes tomorrow, but unfortunately Salida was his final destination this go around.

So, the rest of the night was a blur. I unpack, shower and purchase another quick dry shirt (lost one in Alma, AR) and dry bag (for the clean clothes). I go to a bar called Benson’s and eat this:

I try a couple pale ales, hit another bar/pale ale and then head off to Amica’s Pizza/Brewery where I order another pale ale. The older guy sitting next to me was telling me all kind of cool stories. So, I go ahead and order a beer sampler too. Every sampler I’ve ever had has been served in shot glasses. These guys serve their sampler in what seemed like pint glasses and there were 6 or 8 of them (can’t remember, go figure). Soon after I sample the first, the guy with the cool stories leaves. So, now it’s just me and about 40 more ounces of beer. All of the cute waitresses made comments about my task and how strong some of the samples were, so there was no bailing out. I get the job done, pay my tab, get out the door without running into anyone and walk back to the hostel. Lights out.

Total mileage: 2706
Daily mileage: 255
Wildlife observed: Mule deer (they pranced on all 4 legs, unlike the white-tail deer around home who actually run instead of skip, it was actually kind of weird seeing this), ground hogs.
Favorite Sight: Birch tree forest at 10k feet
Favorite Scent: Probably that first pale ale
Favorite Sound: Hayduke: “There’s a hostel down the street for like 20 bucks”
Favorite Taste: Probably the Amica’s India Pale Ale…I think.
Favorite Feel: Just the general kindness of everyone I met in Salida.
Ailments: Nothing at all at this point… maybe tomorrow morning will be different.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

(Day 12) And on the 12th day, Nick rested…

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008
Day 12
Trinidad, CO to Trinidad State Park, CO

I don’t know why I eat the hottest chicken wings on the menu. They make me feel like doo doo. And, the beer sampler at the brewing company last night didn’t exactly have me beating the sun up this morning either.

I finally get up around 9 or 10am and walked to a café about 3 blocks down the street and got some really good breakfast. Back at the motel, I was prepared to buy another night at this fine establishment (ignore my sarcasm though, the owners were really nice even though this was the cheapest place in town, a common theme across the country):

“I think I’d like to stay another night”
“OK, [walking towards cash register]… my girlfriend was telling me you were thinking about camping out at the park…”
“Actually, yes… I was…”
“It’s really nice [handing me paperwork], I’ve stayed there a few times myself”
“OK, well… I think that’s what I’ll do then…”
“… oh… OK [takes paperwork back]”

Check-out is at 11pm and I have about 45 minutes to get all of my junk organized. I put all the gear that I haven’t used or don’t plan to use in a big pile for shipment back home:

-Air filter oil/cleaner
-Extra spare tubes
-Platypus bottle
-Nalgene bottle
-backup camera
-extra computer wires
-extra batteries
-a mouse
-some extra bottles
-stack of receipts

I get everything loaded and ready to go to the post office minutes before checkout time. The Orangutan is looking HAWT with the new stickers and fresh shower:

I found the post office, a perfectly sized box, paid the lady 13 bucks and bam! I just lost 10 pounds and gained a lot of luggage space… that was easy.

I took my time at the grocery store, all I purchased was water and granola bars. I stopped by every automotive parts store in town and none of them had good oil. They said Wal-Mart was my best bet and the ONLY way to get there was the interstate. The were very adamant about that. Psshh.

I go ahead and make my way to Trinidad State Park and spend about 30 minutes picking out a campsite. It turned out to be only 10 bucks cheaper than the downtown motel. I think I paid 20 or 25 dollars and ended up with a handful of paperwork. At least I got to pick out the best spot:

I set up camp and went back out to find Wal-Mart. And, amazingly, I never hit the interstate. Go figure. Anyway, I find some plush Mobil 1 15w50 and, from the looks of the local patrons, confirm my suspicion that Trinidad is a quirky town. (I suppose walking around in dirt bike boots and armor didn’t help my own case, but oh well). I stop by the Mexican restaurant on the way back and have myself a nice afternoon lunch.

Still with loads of time to kill, I decide to call Garmin again, if for nothing else, just to harass them. After taking the first 10 seconds to fully describe my exact problem, the Garmin guy finally concludes the same 15 minutes later and tells me how smart I was to update my maps 2 days before my departure date. But I guess he felt he could get his own frustrations out now because he would later apologize by saying that he could burn a CD and ship it to me overnight. My GPS routes really got screwy around the west side of Utah, so I had him ship it to Green River, UT.

The sun was about to retire for the day, so I figure now would be a good time to get some sunset pictures. I walk the nature trails around the park and lo and behold, what do I see?

…The Rockies. They were right over my shoulder the whole time. This certainly whetted my appetite for tomorrow’s ride to Salida.

Good night:

Total mileage: 2451
Daily mileage: 30
Wildlife observed: Nothing of note
Favorite Sight: The Rockies in the distance
Favorite Scent: Margarita
Favorite Sound: Local radio station
Favorite Taste: Margarita
Favorite Feel: Walking the nature trail with absolutely no timeframe to worry about.
Ailments: None

Monday, August 11, 2008

(Day 11) No man’s land...

Monday, July 14, 2008
Day 11
Liberal, KS to Trinidad, CO

One benefit of riding solo is that you get to pick your own schedule. Today, I beat the sun up:

This was so cool that I'll share another one with you:

I put my camera away and just soaked this in for about 15 minutes.

For what seemed like 30 radial miles, there was just me, the land and the sun. There was nothing around to obstruct this 360 degree display of pure dawn. The sun promised to warm the chill out of the morning and gave me inspiration to race it westward. Life has never been so simple.

Well… except for those dastardly birds:

I was making some extreme westward momentum. For example, on one particular stretch of the OK/KS border, I gained -0.002 degrees of southward longitude and 0.500 degrees of westward latitude without making any turns… now that’s what I’m talking about… especially through No Man’s Land:

The few trees that were out here grew with the wind. I’ve never seen anything like it (there’s little to no wind in this picture):

Pictures can never tell the whole story. But, try to imagine riding alone on these roads and having seen hardly any sign of life for the past 60 miles (it looks the same all the way around):

It was actually quite laughable, but luckily, I was dealt a good bike and had enough fuel to reach Boise City, OK where I met DurtRider and his son. I hadn’t seen a dual sport the entire trip, so I pulled over and noticed the ADV sticker and knew it was just another one of YFFs:

I thought for sure DurtRider would be riding west on the same trail I was, why else would these bikes be in Boise City, OK?

So, I rolled into the café where they were ordering breakfast and introduced myself. I find out that they were headed east from Colorado back to their house… bummer. We told some lies about our trips, checked over each others bikes like dogs sniffing rear ends, and then parted ways. It was nice meeting you and your son, DurtRider. You’re an awesome dad for taking your son on a trip like that.

I got some gas and marched towards state number 3 on the day, New Mexico:

Ahh, some shrubbery and elevation changes:

I tried my best to get some antelope pictures, but they would dart off well before I reached them:

Not so with the cattle, they run AFTER you reach them:

Finally, some new scenery:

And, what’s this? Some real off-road riding? Sweet:

The Orangutan was happy:

It didn’t last long at all but at least the shrubs are getting bigger and the sky is beautiful:

And, by the way, so am I:

The lady who took this picture of me in Branson, CO was chasing 3 other TATers. They were from Missouri and we would eventually meet in Trinidad and Salida, CO but took different paths into Utah where I think their trip ended.

I was expecting to see The Rockies right after entering Colorado, but all I got was this:

I think that John Denver is full of ****.

Anyway, I didn’t get many pictures after this point; I was already over 250 miles on the day and was ready for a rest. I rolled into Trinidad, CO around 4pm and immediately look for Valcom Motorsports. I still had some tread left on my Kenda K270s, but I had already lined up some new rubber here in Colorado. Both fork seals were leaking pretty bad, so I had Valcom replace them as well:

Mmm, Dunlop 952 up front:

D606 in the rear:

Gotta love that. PJ at Valcom kept the shop open past business hours and gave me great deals on the tires, fork seals, motor oil and seal savers. Valcom rocks, if only dealerships on the east coast were as cool…

I got a spacious room at the Downtown motel:

And called it a day:

I had already scheduled tomorrow to be a rest day, so I walked over to the Trinidad Brewing Company, got some dinner, beer and wings (wings were a bad idea).

Trinidad seemed a little quirky and I didn’t really fit in, so I called it a night and would figure out what I would do the next day after some sleep tonight…

Total mileage: 2421
Daily mileage: 283
Wildlife observed: Long-eared rabbits, short-eared rabbits, 10 million birds, antelope
Favorite Sight: Spanish Peaks
Favorite Scent: Nose wasn’t working today
Favorite Sound: My thumper thumping
Favorite Taste: Water
Favorite Feel: New rubber = Awesome grip
Ailments: Jammed thumb