Author [ES] [CA] [PL] [PT] [IT] [DE] [FR] [NL] [DK] [NO] [GR] [TR] Topic: The CBXpo ride 2016 - 12 days of dual-sporting in the wild wild west!  (Read 2206 times)

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Online JMo

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A brief preamble…

Some of you may recall that last summer I embarked on >>>> link hidden <<<<
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Both of those trips were solo endeavours - traditionally my personal preference for adventure travel - and while I am always happy to ride alone, at the same time I really enjoy hunting out new routes (well, new to me anyway) and finding interesting and forgotten places, and subsequently sharing them - not least here on CB500X.com...

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photo. In Death Valley CA May 2015, at the start of the Trans-Am 500 ride...


Certainly I’d had any number of positive responses regarding my epic Trans-Am ride last summer, both directly and more often via Harold at Giant Loop*, who himself hankered after a little piece of some similar action - business commitments allowing of course.

*for those unfamiliar with last year’s trip report, Giant Loop are the US importer for the Rally Raid range of CB500X products, and were very generous in lending me their CB500X demonstrator for the Trans-Am 500 ride.


Go West!

Last year the start of my journey east coincided with their decision to debut the CB500X at the Overland Expo West, held each year towards the end of May near Flagstaff Arizona. The event itself is a huge mix of two and four wheeled (and sometimes more!) overland vehicles, parts and accessories, camping equipment, product manufacturers and travellers themselves. As such, Harold is typically shackled to a trade-stand during the event, which is a shame as you often miss out on the simple social side of mixing and mingling with fellow riders and travellers, and not least the opportunity to explore some of the stunning scenery that surrounds the region.

So this year we planned to mix things up a little, instead of shlepping down (usually at the last minute) in the van, this year Harold elected to take a few extra days away from the phones and the emails, and having joined him in Bend the weekend before the show, we would then actually ride our bikes all the way from Oregon to Arizona (and back again) - taking in a few of my favourite roads and trails en route, and really make a mini adventure out of it all.

Without any official work commitments at the show, it would also mean we’d be free to ride out from the show during each day, take time to chat with friends and colleagues, and generally take it easy around camp - exactly what Overland Expo is all about really!

This somewhat loose and low-key plan also appealed to a few fellow CB500X owners and local friends, so having used a metaphorical digital digit to sketch out the proposed route (see below) all that was required now was for me to actually get my bike assembled* and meet them in Bend - with the kick-off scheduled for 9am on Saturday 14th May 2016.

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The proposed southbound journey:

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photo. rather than try and fathom out Basecamp and plot a complete turn by turn track into the GPS, I simply elected to create a series of waypoints at key roads/trails/locations en route, and use the regular routing function (typically set to 'shortest route' when off paved highways) to navigate between them, and select the next waypoint in series closer to the destination as required... works well.


The route (I hoped!) promised to offer a little bit of everything that makes owning a bike like this such fun - scenic paved highways, backcountry byways, dirt roads and Jeep trails - and fundamentally a mix of each each day... and all the while passing through some of the most epic scenery the western states had to offer. Once we'd arrived at the Expo, I'd also planned a couple of scenic dual-sport ride-outs in the local area (the green flags above).

Being familiar with the complete route south at one time or another, my primary role would be to initially lead this merry band - all of whom, while having travelled extensively themselves, would be visiting some of these locations for the first time.

While I planned to recount the ride from my own perspective - using a camera and a notebook, Juan Browne would also be joining us to video record the trip in his own unique style...

There will ultimately be a whole series of short videos on his Youtube channel - not just showing the riding and route, but extras that include more technical preparation and packing videos, and even the odd interview (some very odd!). I fear some of you are likely to learn some new words too!

But hey, I'm getting a little ahead of myself already... so in the meantime, here's a trailer of what you can expect:

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More soon...

Jenny x
« Last Edit: July 07, 2016, 11:32:46 AM by JMo »

Online JMo

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Prologue

Thursday 12th May (Day -2) San Jose to Crescent City CA : 441 miles.

In an almost exact replay of a year ago (albeit heading in the opposite direction), for the first couple of days I'd be travelling solo, and shaking down a bike I'd only finished building the afternoon before...

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Having travelled as light as I'd considered possible last year, I actually managed to reduce my packing even further this time, so that all of my camping and clothing/personal kit was inside my Giant Loop Coyote bag (39Litres); along with a spare tube (a 120 x 18" size, that, I hoped, would prove suitable for both the 150 x 17" rear and 110 x 19" TKC80 tyres, should I suffer a puncture) in a Kriega Kube 1 pouch - to stop any potential rubbing agains the rest of my chattels; and my trio of Motion Pro T6 tyre levers, plus the usual handful of zip-ties of course.

The rest of my tools I'd managed to stash in the nooks and crannies under the CB500's seat:

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Tool Time

Taking a leaf out of Dave Lomax's (he of Adventure Spec and Salt & Gold fame, amongst others) comprehensive yet compact 'book' and his associated travel seminar 'Overweight is underprepared', I elected to forfeit my usual 'Rally tool-kit' tool roll (a series of individual primarily 1/4" drive sockets, open ended wrenches and allen keys, all of which are small enough to be completely contained in side a Kriega Stash wallet), and go with what he considers are the two key trail tools required on the modern trail/dual-sport motorcycle - the Motion Pro Metric Trail tool (a sort of oversized self-assembly T-handle version of a bicycle multi-tool), plus a suitable Leatherman multi-tool* - again with only the key/core elements required to save size and weight.

*for info. I chose the Leatherman Fuse model, which I believe is now discontinued, although still available from ebay sellers.

This core combo offers the following tools:

Motion Pro Metric Trail tool

• 8 / 10 / 12 / 14 mm box wrenches and/or sockets

• a 1/4 and 3/8th inch square drive adapter for additional sockets (typically those bike specific, such as engine and axle nuts - I carry a 17mm for the engine guard and 19mm for the opposite end of the rear axle).

• A combo 5 & 6 mm allen wrench, plus their additional 3 & 4 mm allen wrench.

• A combo cross-head screwdriver

• A combo flat-blade screwdriver

• The all important bottle opener

While the Leatherman Fuse also offers flat and cross-head screw drivers, pliers, wire cutters, a decent length blade and in this instance even some scissors.

Personally I always like to use individual tools (not least for those instances where you might have a nut on the back of a bolt for example) however, I would concede that most modern motorcycles tend to use captive nuts or have bolts and screws threaded directly into a casing etc. and therefore, only one tool at a time is required.

However, I did supplement this core combo with a pair of open ended wrenches (a 10/12mm and 14/17mm - that are Honda OEM toolkit parts and very inexpensive on Ebay), plus the Rally Raid CB500 specific wheel-nut wrench which features a 24mm ring on one end (for the rear axle nut) and a 17mm hex/allen wrench on the other for the internal front axle. It also features a spoke wrench for their heavy-duty spoked wheel-set. Nice one.

These wrenches are perfect for adjusting the chain tensioner bolts for example, and in that regard I also packed a 13mm ring wrench as Rally Raid recommend replacing the 12mm loose nuts on the chain adjuster with nyloc locking nuts, and similarly the nuts that hold the headlight/fairing tower to the headstock - both of which are 13mm size.

Puncture kit and bodge-it repairs

To compliment this modest collection of hardware, I packed my Cycle Pump compressor in the space under the seat, together with a puchture repair kit that consisted of patches and glue, a Motion Pro Trail Bead-buddy and valve stem puller (you know, the cheese-wire T-handle contraption that helps guide the valve stem though the rim hole, very handy).

Because I'd just fitted a brand new shiny set of gold anodised rims, I also brought along a pair of Motion Pro rim shields, and rounding off the tyre kit - a small (1oz) Nalgene bottle that contained a solution of dishwashing soap and water - excellent lube for tyre fitting.

Bodge-it spares included a selection of M5, M6 and M8 bolts/nuts/washers, plus a selection of fuses, electrical tape and the ubiquitous Quik-Steel in a tube. I also added a small tube of blue thread lock a few days into the trip, always worth remembering initially ;o)

Finally, I tightly coiled a suitable length of webbing strap which fitted perfectly in one of the slots in the under-tray - this is ideal as a makeshift tow-rope, or to lash anything to anything as required. A small ziplock bag with some rag and latex gloves is always handy for messy jobs too.

So, in combination with my 22mm / 24mm and 27mm Motion-Pro T6 combi tyre levers/axle wrenches (plus their optional 3/8th drive adaptor), I was confident I could adjust and repair any part of the bike out on the trail - certainly enough to get going again and find a safe place/workshop to carry out any more extensive repairs.



Carry on Camping

Since we'd certainly be camping during the Overland Expo weekend and had elected to spend at least one night during our ride down out under the stars, I'd also parred down my camp to basic essentials, while remaining comfortable.


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My kit consists of a Big Agnes Seedhouse 2 tent (ideal as it can be erected on hard ground, and also used as just a bug-hut without the fly if required, and packs down nice and small). The Seedhouse 2 is the perfect size for one person and all your riding gear to be kept inside, and it has a small porch for cooking and keeping you boots outside if you prefer.

A Big Agnes Air Core inflatable mattress (I'd rather puff for a few minutes and be properly comfortable, sorry Thermarest ;o) and my trusty albeit now rather thin, 3-season sleeping bag, that I stuff into a dry bag to ensure it remains that way.

A Jet-boil cooker takes care of coffee duty each morning, and inside the stuff sack I also crammed a dozen Starbucks Via sachets, and half a dozen Clif bars in an effort to sustain me before I could typically find any pancakes... The Jet-boil is fast and efficient, and perfect for one person cooking - you can make coffee, heat soup or stew, and even fry and egg in the bottom - and eat out of the cup too. All you need is a Spork, and perhaps a pocket knife for cutting bread etc.

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The rest of my camp kit consists of a folding travel towel, a Petzl LED head-torch (kept in my Camel-bak just incase), a couple of pairs of earplugs (yep, those were necessary a couple of times), a small roll of bin-liners ('trash bags' for you Americans) and a zip-lock bag with half a roll of toilet paper and a bottle of hand sanitiser that fits inside the cardboard tube. I also brought along some storm matches, although a lighter is equally useful.

Together with my tyre levers and a spare tube, also stuffed inside the Coyote is a second Kriega Kube 1 bag that contains all my cables, connectors, spare batteries and chargers for my camera, my phone, my iPad and iPod.


Clothes

It's surprising what little you can get away with if you're not being invited out to cocktail parties each evening, and particularly if you intend to be riding most days anyway. In general I like to have a complete change of clothes that are more comfortable for sight-seeing and relaxing around camp, and at a push could double up to ride in if I damage my riding pants or jacket - at least as far as the next motorcycle clothing store. Ideally these will also be suitable as a mid-layer to supplement your core riding gear if the weather gets cold and/or wet. Indeed I have been known to wear pretty much everything at once on occasions, so it helps if your riding gear is cut generously!

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In addition to a pair of lightweight jeans and a couple of t-shirts, two vests and five sets of underwear (hand-washing or laundry in motels stops things getting too anti-social), I also had a fleece sweatshirt, a wind-stopper fleece jacket (to layer under my bike jacket on cold days) some thermal long-Johns and some winter/waterproof gloves. Together with my wash-bag or daily essentials, my final dry bag contained a pair of 'action' sandals (usually I prefer closed-toe kind so you could ride the bike in them more safely, but this trip I packed my summer ones). Oh, a sarong also has a multitude of modesty benefits should you be suitably inclined.

The result of the minimalist approach is a neat luggage solution, that does not encumber you riding on or off-road:

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photo. Using a modular system of packing in a series of small dry-bags, it's surprising just how much you can fit into such a modest capacity soft luggage bag.

So where was I? Ah yes devouring a delightful sandwich and an epic 'espresso milkshake' in a coffee house in Calistoga CA (my new favourite cafe) - having endured the bun-fight that is the interstate network around the Bay Area, I was now finally heading for the hills - having already picked some delightful rural roads that parallel the main highway up the middle of the Napa Valley.

Rather than simply shlep up I5 (as I have done too many times in the recent past it feels), I had elected to take the far more scenic route from Napa via Clear Lake and over to hwy 101 that heads north through endless acres of Redwood forest, all the way to Oregon and beyond. It is admittedly a far more convoluted route (but in a good way - that is twisty and scenic) but I was in no hurry and basically just fancied the change.

Of course not leaving San Jose until almost lunch time, followed by a massive sugar hit and all this scenery meant that I'd underestimated the chance of making it as far as Grant's Pass (OR) that evening, so elected to duck into a motel in Crescent City on the coast, and enjoy the final few miles in the morning (worth remembering too, as hwy 199 is one of those roads that is best enjoyed in daylight).

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photo. Refuel at Klamath on 101 - I'd been running on fumes and it was getting foggy, cold and dark by now... It was surreal riding through the giant Redwoods in the dark and fog - once the trees started to look like monsters it was time to find a motel...


Jx
« Last Edit: July 07, 2016, 11:54:54 AM by JMo »

Online JMo

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Friday 13th May (Day -1) Crescent City CA to Bend OR : 349 miles.

Super-stition

I’m not a superstitious person, but at the same time, I was conscious I had a time commitment to cover the last 200 or so miles to Bend today, so wasn’t planning on anything too ambitious today of all days. I was however eager to try my new bike off-road for the first time, and being now just a stones-through from the TAT route I’d ridden last summer, wanted to join a few dots and see why the current route had been subtly changed from that which I’d ridden back in 2008. Of course inevitably that was soon to become clear...

But first, breakfast - America's Best Value Inn was doing it's best to live up to it's name, having already provided a sound enough wifi connection to allow a skype call home, followed by a more than reasonable complimentary breakfast the next morning (the muffins were fresh, and so huge I took the other half with me for the trail). Had that not been sufficient, it was comforting to find a Starbucks located literally right next door (I had arrived late the previous evening you see), while opposite an even more enticing independent coffee shop. I like this town.

The California side of highway 199 is one of those roads that make you glad you got up early - this crisp clear morning amplifying each glimpse of the river as it sparkled through the Redwoods with each twist and turn, winding it's way upstream towards the Oregon boarder - truly food for the soul.

Being a creature of habit, I rolled into Glendale OR a little before 10.30am to fuel up the bike, and indulge once again in a mighty Krakatoa* at the Morning Star Coffee house.

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*Those of you who followed the Trans-Am Trail section of my cross-country ride last year may well recall that final morning on the big push for the coast, when I happened on this independent coffee house and was intregued to find they actually offered a 5-shot espresso on the menu!



I'm sure Bilbo Baggins would have been particularly proud of this second breakfast - having christened my ADVaddicts tin-mug with the Krakatoa, I also polished off a 24oz strawberry smoothie and a sizeable chocolate brownie, just because...

It was at this moment - no doubt inspired an an overindulgence of sugar and carbohydrate - that I finally slipped into travel mode, and thought "you know what? who cares if I spend a little longer chatting with the girls behind the counter, looking at my maps, sipping on the mighty Krakatoa - this is what the last six months of sitting at home in the UK, in the rain, staring at a computer, has been leading up to - the chance to kick back for a week or two, and enjoy being out and about on my bike."

Certainly that was what this particular trip was meant to be all about - the ride, the scenery and the company. After all, I'm sure most of you already know how good the bike is at this sort of thing - and other than keep showing you photos of its fancy gold wheels and patriotic graphics, I really do not intend to talk about the CB500X all that much - although you are always welcome to ask specific questions of course.

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photo. it was time to go!


Returning to the scene of the crime

Having mentally sketched out the next leg of my journey north (taking in a few dirt roads and trails) I hopped back on the bike, and congratulated myself at my minimalist packing (see post #2 & #3 above) on the bike itself, while my trusty Camel-bak blowfish back-pack contained my personal essentials: 3L of water, a couple of energy bars, first aid kit, space blanket, a Buff, spare gloves, a tyre pressure gauge and small can of chain lube (for easy access), together with my iPad (in a pouch and zip-loc bag) and not least Piglet of course, in his own waterproof papoose (the Camel-Bak itself is not waterproof you see). The Blowfish also expands enough (from 8-15 Litres storage) to fit in a day's worth of food as required.

Meanwhile my wallet, phone, Camera and iPod are kept in jacket pockets (along with my notebook and a pen), and therefore always on my person, and fall easily to hand - you'll be surprised how many photos you don't bother to take (and wish you had) if your camera is buried in your luggage somewhere.

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photo. strapping my tin mug to the top of my luggage was my one concession to a hobo lifestyle... and if you look really closely, you'll see I was actually here before:

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photo. I initially picked up my Trans-Am 500 route out of Glendale, but this time would head north and east, towards Bend.

Up in the hills, the weather and the views were glorious:

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Although before long, my planned route was thwarted by a washed-out trail...

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Fortunately the local 4x4 crowd had not let it beat them:

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So I did the same and continued on... otherwise it would have meant an hour or more of backtracking, which in itself would have been no bad thing since the trails in the area are a delight - however, I did want to get to Bend in reasonable time that afternoon, and still had some further trails I really wanted to include before hitting the highway for the final few miles.

Had the washout not been sufficient warning that the odds were going to be against me today, just a few hundred yards from the main highway, at the end of over two hours riding forest trails... this:

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There was certainly no way around this rope gate - rocks and fences on either side. So this is why the TAT has been rerouted in recent years then.

However, not relishing a huge backtrack when I was now so tantalisingly close to the highway, I quick inspection of the rope gate (yes, it was comprehensively locked with a daisy-chain of local's padlocks), I thought laterally and employed the tittie-gauge, and sure enough my calculations revealed that if I removed the windscreen and the mirrors, then I'd just be able to limbo the bike underneath!

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photo. result!

Of course I would like to take this opportunity to thank the local 4x4 and dirt-riding community for ensuring that rope was not too tight, and rest assured the property was left exactly as I found it.



The TAT route east of I5 (essentially between Tiller and Diamond Lake OR) utilises a myriad of easy-going trails that wind their way around the terraces of the Umpqua National Forest. It's a scenic and shady route, but at the same time is one of those sectors that personally speaking I feel could be streamlined a little - if only to avoid the potential of closed roads and washouts (depending on the time of year), and particularly when there is an equally enjoyable alternative along a minor paved road that runs alongside the delightful South Umpqua river for a few miles, before ultimately turning to dirt as the elevation increases, and to ultimately rejoin the official TAT route for the final few miles.

It was here, at a little more than 4500ft (low enough to avoid any snow at this time of year I thought) that I faced the next series of challenges:

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On the shady northern face of the mountain, snow was still present across the trail. Fortunately the mild weather meant it had a crispy crust and was soft underneath (rather than solid ice), but still I played it safe, removed my Giant Loop bag (just release the two securing straps to the passenger foot-pegs and it slides right off), and walked the bike across the snow, ripping a channel with my still fresh TKC80.

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photo, the final snow-spit also included a fallen tree. Again, removing the screen (and bending the still supple branches around the main trunk) was sufficient to see me under and onto safer and less snowy ground.

All this messing around all morning meant I was now appreciably later than I'd envisaged, so having hit the highway north of Diamond Lake, elected to continue the rest of my journey to Bend on the main highway - and punched my ultimate destination into the GPS: ETA a little after 7pm that evening, so I was confident I'd still get a good night's sleep before meeting the guys at Giant Loop HQ and the start of our trip proper the following morning.

They say bad luck comes in threes, and having managed to overcome the washed out trial, followed by the rope gate and now the snow, I thought I'd now be home and dry... However, lady luck's mean twin-sister threw one more spanner in the works for me that afternoon when my GPS suddenly froze up completely and then went blank.

My GPS, my one and only GPS - with the all the waypoints and the routes programmed in for the next seven days...

Jx

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Saturday 14th May (Day 1) Bend to Lakeview OR : 197 miles.


The inaugural CBXpo ride [2016] officially begins!


Ok, so the title makes this sound a lot grander than it turned out to be. But as they say, from little acorns...

Certainly the original intention was for Harold and I to ride down to the Overland Expo on our respective CB500Xs (he on the Giant Loop demo bike - the infamous Trans-Am 500 bike I rode across the country and back last year, and me on my own personal 2014 model that I'd build up as a replica of the UK 2016 model demo bike in what we've dubbed the Heritage colours - that is gold anodised rims and tradition red/white/blue HRC racing stripes), and subsequently we extended an invitation to any other CB500X owners (and friends) who might also like to attend the show, on the understanding this was just a bunch of friends riding across the country - no sign-ups, no souvenir t-shirts, no support trucks - just a shared experience, and an outline schedule that ought to see us in Flagstaff Arizona in six days time, ready for the start of Overland Expo 2016.

I'd managed to rendezvous with Harold the evening before (lucky I knew my way to Bend/the shop anyway, and even more lucky my GPS miraculously started working again later than evening once I'd removed the battery for a few hours - and with all tracks and waypoints fortunately still intact), and he confirmed there would be four of us leaving Bend the following morning, with Juan Browne (from California) aiming to meeting up with us later that evening in Lakeview - our stop over for the first night.

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photo. Background left to right: Brad on the KTM1190, Neil on the CB500X (LEVEL 2) and Harold on the CB500X LEVEL 3. Foreground, another gratuitous shot of my bike of course ;o)

The plan for the first day was to take it easy on some wide gravel roads (China Hat Road for anyone familiar with the area) that winds through the forest past a series of OHV play areas, before opening up into the high desert, and ultimately passing by the unique formation that is Fort Rock.

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photo. that is Fort Rock in the distance - it is a lot bigger than you think!


By starting off on an easy dirt road, I'd hoped that everyone would find their own rhythm, and it would also be a good opportunity for everyone to shake down the security of their packing if they'd not had a chance to beforehand. It was soon obvious that we were all going to get along great as a team, and we cracked on at a good lick towards Fort Rock.

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photo. see, it is pretty sizable after all!

I have only been past here once before, back in 2007 (the current TAT route stops short of Fort Rock itself and heads west instead), but it was no less impressive to see a second time. Similarly, although Harold has lived in this part of the country for almost his whole life, he had never been right up to the Rock itself, and nor had Neil seen it in person. They joked it took a Brit to show them their own backyard!

Pausing to refuel at the Fort Rock grocery store (not always open and/or fuel available it would appear), we pressed on south past Silver Lake (apparently little more than a ghost town these days I'm afraid... apologies to anyone who still lives there), and ultimately decided to picnic lunch at the edge of the Thompson reservoir - a quick re-route away from the official TAT route here allowing is to narrowly avoiding a storm brewing just to the west.

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photo. we'd had the forethought to pick up a series of Subway sarnies before we left Bend that morning - a good job since there is little opportunity for food during this first leg.

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photo. back on the TAT route for a while - the first day would include some sections of the Trans-America Trail route (albeit in reverse of course) as we headed south for Lakeview. Yes, that's another TA500 sticker on a suitably subtle post ;o)


Snow joke

While I had breezed through here the previous summer (early July), being only mid-May, and more importantly having had a harsh winter over much of the Cascades and the Sierras, there was still some snow at 6000+ft elevation:

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photo. initially it didn't look too promising - look a the size of the snowbank in the distance!

To compound matters, that storm that had been brewing to our west during lunch, was now rapidly moving overhead.

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photo. fortunately an innate sense of adventure in all of us meant we elected to see how far we could get around the snow banks rather than simply retreat at the first sign of a few flakes...

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photo. Harold on the TA500 bike, with a full compliment of Giant Loop luggage and accessories... the set-up worked very well!

Ultimately our perseverance paid off, and having reached the summit of the trial (over 7000ft), we were confident we'd have little trouble making it down the far side. However, the rain, sleet, hail and snow was now making the dirt surface treacherous, so once the TAT route criss-crossed over a minor road, we elected to stay on the paved surface for part of our decent, to avoid our tyres clogging and/or an untimely dumping of one or more of us into the mire.

Rolling into town late afternoon in glorious sunshine, I hoped we'd leave the worst of the weather behind us for the rest of the trip now - and we all bunked down in the Lakeview Lodge Motel (the cheapest place in town as a heads-up for any other TAT travellers), and waited for Juan to join us for what turned out to be a fabulous steak dinner as recommended by the motel owners.

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Jx

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Sunday 15th May (Day 2) Lakeview OR to Reno (Sparks) NV : 342 miles.


Ambitious, but rubbish...

So with the whole team together at last, bellies full from a huge dinner the night before and fuller still from a breakfast at Jerry's diner, we hit the road before 9am in an effort to reach Gerlach NV somewhere close to late-lunchtime at least...

If you draw a straight line (which presumably is what the road builders do in this part of the country) then it's not actually all that far from Lakeview to Gerlach - hence my confidence that we'd be there around 2pm or so to gas up, and enjoy a late lunch at Bruno's diner that had recently re-opened after a period of refurbishment.

However, this sector south and east of Lakeview is also one of my favourite parts of the Trans-Am Trail, and I wanted to show the guys a few of the sights and points of interest along the way.

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photo. the rivers were in healthy flow after all the recent rain and snow melt.

The TAT leaves Lakeview and almost immediately climbs up into the forest again (OK, so technicaly descends out of the forest and right into Lakeview if you're riding it in the usual East to West direction), and although still a little chilly this early in the morning, the weather was bright and the trial in good firm condition, with mercifully little dust.


Introducing the CBeeBies!

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photo. Juan on his LEVEL 3 bike - this was actually the first US customer kit delivered last summer, and Juan's videos have been both hugely entertaining and influential in getting the message out about the attributes of this bike.

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photo. Neil on his LEVEL 2 bike - initially wary of the smaller OEM front wheel, the bike handled everything in fine style!

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photo. Harold on his LEVEL 3 bike - this bike has now covered more than 20,000 miles (and a lot of off-road riding) since we built it together in May 2015.

I have to say, while we were bang on the TAT route the whole time, much of the first few miles seemed strangely alien to me - most likely as the last time I was here (in the opposite direction) I was still half asleep, and probably not paying the attention I should have been. Certainly heading up-hill from Lakeview afforded a very different view of the surrounding countryside, that if anything was even more spectacular, especially when highlighted with a dusting of snow on the hill tops.

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photo. Easy going in the dry, this sort of surface soon turns into a slippery mush in the wet.


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photo. However, while the sun shone brightly, once up around 7000ft again the remaining snow on the ground was packed hard and with no easy way around (the surrounding grassland soft and wet) ultimately we had no choice but to retrace our route a few miles and find an alternative route down off the mountain...

Fortunately my GPS showed a huge network of alternative routes, one of which (the one we took no less) was little more than a faint impression on the ground, and overrun with new shoots and saplings, rocks and washouts "Proper off-road!" said Neil with a cheering grin, despite the irony of that particular trail being clearly marked in City Navigator!

Our detour route threw up it's own set of surprises, including an abandoned farmstead that was now seeming home to a roost of incontinent birds:

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Once we'd rejoined the TAT route east of Fort Bidewell, we stopped at this popular overlook (and rightly so) which ought to be instantly familiar to any other TATies:

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And similarly passes directly through another farmstead (this one seemingly still in temporary use at least) on the Trans-America Trail:

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I was starting to be concerned that time was marching swiftly on now, and we were still heading essentially due east rather than south... Unfortunately, once committed to this section of the TAT, there really is no choice but to continue until you pass Andy's Place* and can pick up some alternative dirt roads south again.

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photo. *Andy's Place is a small cabin and collection of corrals somewhere in the middle of nowhere, Nevada. Of course the real question is: who was Andy? why did he build this place? and why didn't he have any friends?!

It was with some embarrassment that we finally turned south and away from the TAT for the last time this trip, still with some 80 miles or more of desert trail between us and Bruno's restaurant. It was now late afternoon - way past the time we'd originally aimed to be at Gerlach to meet with NevadaWolf - and of course being this remote, none of us had cell-phone signal either. I was ashamed at my over ambitious route plan (well, ambitious in that I'd intended to be in Gerlach for lunch you understand), and spent a fair few following miles planning a suitable contrite apology.

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photo. the trail south via Summit Lake and Soldier Meadows was a fast and easy graded dirt road... it was still a long way to Gerlach mind you!

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photo. Harold was just pleased to be out of the office and out on the trail!


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photo. I remembered this track junction from 2008 when I passed this way - there were more licence plates back then as I recall.

By the time we got close to Black Rock Desert, it must have been after 6pm, and we felt that Teri would have been long gone by now (and almost certainly cursing us, or me at least), so we couldn't pass up the chance to ride out on to the playa and take a few photos:

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photo. One for Dave Lin of ADVaddicts - the fastest cup of coffee in the world!


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photo. Neil in Land Speed Record mode!

The Black Rock Desert playa is where the supersonic Land Speed Record was achieved back in 1997 (yep, we still hold that one Mr Breedlove ;o), the first civilian space rocket was launched; and of course the spot where 50,000 people build a temporary 'village' and hold the Burning Man festival each year.

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photo. Essental gassing-up at Gerlach, there in no fuel for at least 100 miles in any direction.

Gerlach is the nearest town to the Black Rock playa, and to be honest there is not much there - fortunately fuel is available (and they now have 24h pay-at-pumps, I recall a few years back that if you arrived once they were closed, you were camping there the night...), and of course 'Bruno's' which seems to pretty much cover every other base:

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photo. Yep, a Motel, Cafe, Casino and Bar all in one!

It was almost 7.30pm when we finally sat down for dinner in Bruno's, and another three hours before we eventually rolled into Sparks and shored-up at the Motel 6 - having ridden the final 100 miles in the dark of the desert night.

In a display of heroic stocism, by electing to have dinner with family, Teri had actually made a huge glass of lemonade our of my lemon that evening - and we finally met, albeit briefly, once we arrived in town. Again, I can only apologise we kept you waiting for quite so long, and hope that next time we do get to ride together and have dinner at the brewery ;o)

Jx

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Monday 16th May (Day 3) Reno NV to Bishop CA : 309 miles.

Tarmac and gold

After starting off with two pretty full-on days of mixed and primarily dirt riding (including our rather epic route yesterday), my plan for day 3 was to stick mainly to paved roads - staying away from the major highways of course - and enjoy the other side of adventure riding on bikes like this - taking in some choice curves and stunning scenery as we dipped in and out of the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

This would also allow us to get a good distance further south in a relatively short space of time (the intention being to overnight in Bishop CA on hwy 395) - keeping us on schedule for the rest of the week, rather than have to endure an overlong day just to make sure we arrived at Expo in time. It would also give us brief respite before embarking on what I considered the 'main event' of this particular trip - crossing through Death Valley on dirt, and wild camping somewhere en route.

But fear not - along with allowing us enough time for a relaxed lunch-stop at a great Barbecue restaurant in Walker CA, I had also planned a short dirt excursion for later this afternoon - taking the back way into the abandoned mining town of Bodie, which is now a State Park and kept in an authentic state of disrepair. Again, while I have visited here in the past, the rest of the group had never had the opportunity to visit Bodie until now. I hoped the fact the town itself which is located at 8300ft would not prove inaccessible outside of the main road in and out.

After a fruitless search for a Starbucks (I'd had enough of weak Motel coffee), the group rejoined and refuelled, and we headed out of Reno and up into the mountains - taking hwy 341 via the Mt. Rose ski resort over to Lake Tahoe - as Brad suggested "Any road to a ski resort is going to be good!" and this one certainly didn't disappoint!

We were still a band of five this merry morning, although Neil had commitments back home in northern Oregon the following evening, so would have to break north again later that afternoon - a wrench no doubt as the day promised a series of wonderful roads, scenery and points of interest.

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photo. I say were a band of five, but of course there is also Piglet - who gets to ride in my backpack on trips like this. On this rare occasion, he broke cover to enjoy the view over Incline Village to Lake Tahoe with the rest of the group. (hint. it's behind you Piglet...)

Having suitably refuelled ourselves at Starbucks in Incline (a ski resort town without at least one Startbucks - unheard of!), we took off around the west side of the lake, and despite the odd section of roadworks and corresponding traffic, got to ride the best twisty sections with a clear road in front - wonderful!

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photo. a typical picture postcard view of Emerald Bay on the west shore of Lake Tahoe - of course we've all got one, but that's because it never fails to inspire.

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photo. A brief pause in Markleeville from the epic road ride that is hwy 89 south though the Sierra foothills.

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photo. heading down from Monitor Pass (8314ft) towards the valley between the Sierras (California) and the White Mountains (Nevada), and which contains a righteous Barbecue joint in Walker CA - fortunately we were bang on time for lunch today.

I was confident that with the lack of snow at 8300ft as we crossed over Monitor Pass, that similarly Bodie ought to be free of snow too, albeit still rather chilly I suspect.

A lazy road-side lunch ensued, and clearly Neil was having too much of a good time to turn round and head north just yet - so we continued south together to Bridgeport, where there is a 'back way' into Bodie on an easy gravel road that winds through Aurora Canyon - a climb that tops-out a little over 9600ft, and which affords spectacular views over the surrounding area.

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photo. sure enough, while the vast majority of the trail was clear, at this altitude, snow was still present in pockets on the north facing slopes. We got around most of them on a knife edge, but this particular one needed a more major deviation - you can just see Neil heading downhill in the distance.

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photo. Made it!

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photo. When approaching Bodie from the north (on Geiger Grade), you can see just how remote this mining town was.

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photo. Up to 10,000 people lived and worked here during the boom years at the end of the 19th century... after a huge fire destroyed much of the property, it was partially rebuilt, and later in 1962 became a State Park that offers a unique glimpse of how life used to be.


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photo. Bodie was an all-year-round working city - at this altitude, sleighs were required during winter of course!

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photo. While some municipal buildings were later built from brick and stone, the majority of the property was wooden construction (hence the devastation from the fire). This one survived - although how much longer is in question - look at the way it's leaning!

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photo. The mine working continued into the early 20th century, and was originally hugely profitable for the owners.

Our visit to Bodie was a great way to finish what was effectively the first half of our journey south, and where ultimately we'd have to say goodbye to Neil (this year at least ;o). We'd already covered a sizeable distance over the first three days - ridden through deserts, forests, sand, gravel, mud and snow. Oh, and scratched some absolutely epic paved highways too of course! We'd seen some wonderful natural and man-made sights (for some of us, for the first time), filmed, photographed and wondered inwardly at what we'd seen and experienced - and all the while bonded as a group of adventurous riders.

With a cheery goodbye, the remain four of us headed south onto hwy 395 (and ultimately took hwy 120 east to Benton Hot Springs in an effort to avoid a massive rainstorm over Mamouth Lakes - recommended!) - we still had a long way to go before we'd arrive at Overland Expo.

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photo. Juan and another 'piece-to-camera' high above Mono Lake on our way south to Bishop CA on hwy 395.

More soon!

Jenny x

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Tuesday 17th May (Day 4) Bishop to Death Valley CA : 203 miles.

Sightseeing

Despite paying way too much for a Motel 6 in Bishop (I recommend scouring Booking.com for alternatives in town), it was clean and comfortable and just across the road from a reasonably priced Pizza joint in which we ate too much and drank too much beer... well, I did - those guys can put it away no problem ;o)

Having all got up in good time the following morning, unfortunately Brad had no choice but to return home for some last minute work commitments after all, so there would be just three of us (all on LEVEL 3 CB500X Adventures) heading on for the Expo this year.

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photo. After refuelling, we took the opportunity to remove some of the dirt that had accumulated over the first three days.

Originally I'd hoped we could ride up into the White Mountains to the east of Bishop, and visit the ancient Bristlecone Pine forest before heading south to Death Valley later that morning. However, while the roads and trails had been reasonably clear at up to 9000ft, Patriarch Grove is at over 11,000ft, and I felt it prudent not to waste time only to potentially be beaten back by snow drifts and closed roads.

My contingency plan was therefore to simply head down the main highway, pick up some essential provisions at Panamint Springs, and subsequently spend more time riding some addtional trails in and around Death Valley...

Fortunately Juan's local knowledge of this area also offered a few extra points of interest we could visit along the way:

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photo. Manzanar is a preserved WWII Japanese internment camp, sited just of hwy 395 north of Lone Pine CA.

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photo. East of Lone Pine (home of the famous Dow Hotel, which was often frequented by Hollywood stars and crews who filmed locally in the area) are the Alabama Hills - the location for many Wild Western movies from the early 20th century.

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photo. A pair of cowboys ;o)

And we spent an enjoyable morning taking it easy and poking around this corner of the Owens Valley desert, before heading into Panamint Valley (and ultimately Death Valley) on the sinuous hwy 190 - another one of those epic roads in the region.

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photo. halfway down hwy190, overlooking Pananmint Valley. L-R: the first CB500X Adventure in the US, the first customer CB500X Adventure in the US, and the first Heritage version of the CB500X Adventure in the US.


You're on your own

The plan for this evening was to wild-camp somewhere along the dirt-road/trail route that crosses through the southern part of Death Valley National Park, which encompasses: Golar Wash, Mengal Pass and Warm Springs Canyon - and that ultimately enters Death Valley itself at the southern tip of Badwater Basin, which at -281ft below sea level, is the lowest (and often hottest) point of the continental USA.

This route is an established 4x4 trail, and for the most part is reasonably easy-going, although there are a handful of spots (not least the rocky side of Mengal Pass) that require all your concentration if you are not to dump yourself uncermoniously in the dirt when on two wheels.

The route also loosely parallels the original 'Escape Trail' that Manley and Rogers pioneered in 1849 when they essentially walked out from Furnace Creek and into the unknown - in an effort to obtain help and afford a rescue of the remaining families trapped in Death Valley during that winter. Their bravery was ultimately a success, and while the original route runs a little to the north of Golar Wash (there is a huge mine there now), should you wish to retrace much of the route, heading south on Panamint Valley road towards Trona CA, will allow you to pick up an entertaining 4x4 trail that again parallels the original route through Fish Canyon.

But first it was time to stock up on provisions - primarily water and fuel, for the remote route and subsequent wild camp that evening. We then took a brief detour to visit the ghost town of Ballarat, chat with two of the three inhabitants that apparently still live there, and enjoy a cold soda from their rather tired refrigerator.

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photo. The 'general store' in Ballarat is still trading (sort of) and run by a handful of locals who clearly enjoy life way off the grid. It is a regular stop-off for those riding in the area, with some great trails up in the mountains behind the town.

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photo. Juan gave us a tune. We didn't know if he could play or not, since the old Joanna was so far out of tune anyway!

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photo. Dang, we'd missed it today...

Leaving Ballarat behind, en route towards Trona we climbed up above Panamint Valley on a short but entertaining side trail, and continued to witness two jet-fighters practicing various low-flying maneuvers. Juan's extensive experience and knowledge of flying meant he was a wealth of information as he described the various techniques and technical details of what was going on, often just a few hundred feet above our heads!

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photo. The trial climbs steeply up from the valley floor, and overlooks a particularly sharp highway corner where many wrecks of cars can still be seen littering the bottom of the basin - some from many years ago!

The Escape Trail itself was pretty uneventful (save a couple of rather hairy rocky descents) and affords a wonderful view back up Panamint Valley with Ballarat a tiny spec in the distance, and we crossed over the valley floor on an entertaining sandy trail in front of a modest audience:

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photo. I can't tell you how pleased I was when these guys finally lined up in the correct colour order so I could take their picture!

Before we embarked on the steady ascent though Golar Wash itself:

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photo. Cactus growning seemingly straight out of the rock!


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photo. Newman's Cabin a little way along Golar Wash. In the past this cabin has been reasonably well stocked, but is starting to deteriorate - although someone has built a new vault toilet nearby and the site is regularly used for camping. And yes, as you can see, I have been here before ;o)

We also took the side trail to the infamous Barker Ranch - which I'll let Juan describe in more detail via video - but suffice to say it is where the notorious Charles Manson and his 'family' hid from the authorities, and where Mason himself was eventually captured back in 1969.

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photo (courtesy of Harold). The Baker Ranch used to look like this, and I was lucky enough to visit it late in 2008 when it was still standing. Although always a private property, being just inside the National Park, they have erected this sign to give a brief history.

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photo (courtesy of Harold). Unfortunately some idiot burnt the place down early in 2009, and this is all that remains today.

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Photo (courtesy of Harold). When I originally visited in 2008, the kitchen was intact (including a 1950's refrigerator complete with bullet holes, and a macabre bookshelf 'shrine' to Manson), as was the bathroom - Manson was eventually found hiding inside the tiny basin cabinet in the corner of this room, which is what I'm pointing out here.


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photo. Back on the trial, and one of the few tricky spots - heading towards Mengal Pass...


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photo. Mengal Pass is the saddle just ahead in the distance.

Having made good time that afternoon, and enjoying the long evening sunshine, we elected to press on down the far side of Mengal Pass, with the aim of camping overnight at the Geologist's Cabin in Striped Butte Valley.

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photo. Harold heading down Mengal Pass... it might not look so steep here, but those rocks are sizeable and typically covered with a loose dusting of sand.

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photo. Easy does it...

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photo. Done!


The Geologist's Cabin

A mile or two on from Mengal Pass (just after you've caught your first glimpse of the striking Striped Butte) the trail splits, and to your left in an elevated position is this tiny stone cabin:

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It is actually maintained (by the Park Service and users/volunteers) and available to stay in on a first come first served basis - basically you raise the flag to say it's occupied. Being midweek, we were confident we'd have the pace to ourselves, and sure enough, the cabin would be ours for the night.

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photo. initially we couldn't find the flag, so Harold dried his shirt (which he'd washed in the nearby stream) on the makeshift washing line.

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photo. the cabin is well maintained, and the onus is on anyone using it to leave it in exactly the same way.

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photo. Visitors often leave extra provisions for subsequent guests, the idea being if you use something, leave something else in return.

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photo. The view of Striped Butte and the valley from inside is stunning...

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photo. Just imagine waking up to this view in the morning! - and we would be!

With four stone walls and a solid roof, there would be no need to break out our tents tonight. I however had to break out the earplugs not long after we'd all settled down on our respective air-mattresses on the floor. The snoring was intense!

Jx

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Wednesday 18th May (Day 5) Death Valley CA to Las Vegas NV : 231 miles.

Vegas baby!

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photo. Gratuitous shot of my morning coffee!

With no curtains in the cabin, inevitably we'd wake up pretty much at first light, which was no bad thing as the sunrise over the valley was stunning, and of course we still had plenty of ground to cover today before reaching our intended destination of Las Vegas that evening.

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photo. the visitor book is a nice touch at the cabin, and we left the place spick and span of course.

The trail that continues east through Warm Springs Canyon (that passes Striped Butte) may look very inviting in the photograph, but soon turns into a relentless rough road that follows the wash for many miles (it's my least favourite part of this otherwise spectacular ride), before eventually joining West Side Road that runs up the middle of Badwater Basin - the heart of Death Valley.

Rather than ride in each other's dust, we took the paved option at the foot of the mountains to the east of the basin, and stopped off at Badwater itself for a few minutes sightseeing...

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As we pulled out of the parking lot, a parade of Harleys also had the same idea, and we inevitably got caught up in their lurching from 10 over on the straights to 20 under every time there was a corner... I believe Juan has a short video of how we eventually broke free of this debacle on the twisty road through Artist's Pallet ;o)

Stopping for an early lunch in Furnace Creek, we immediately took advantage of the air-conditioned souvenir shop, spending far too long buying an overpriced bag of ice (to fill our camel-baks) while we waited for the restaurant to reopen.

We enjoyed a leisurely lunch as there was no real rush today - it's really only a couple of hours or so to Las Vegas by road from here, although our plan was to take an alternative trail route east out of Pahrump, and enter Vegas from the north end. Either way, I was confident we'd get to Vegas in plenty of time to clean up, do some laundry even, and hit the Strip (should they guys wish to) early evening when the place really comes alive.

Again, Juan's local knowledge offered us an interesting detour to visit the historic Amargoza Opera House (yes really) and Hotel at Death Valley Junction, and learn all about the owner Marta Becket - again, I'll let Juan fill you in on the details via his video report.

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photo. Originally accommodation for Borax mining in the area, international opera singer Marta Becket was stranded with car-trouble in the town in 1967, and was so taken with the place she never left. The small building on the end is the tiny Opera house she created, and decorated herself - very much worth a visit!


East of Pahrump lies a large network of trails and camp grounds in the Spring Mountains recreation area - the only through route being the dirt road/Jeep trail that crosses Wheeler Pass (7700ft) to the north of the Mount Charleston Ski resort... (I know, who'd have thought you could go skiing an hour from the Vegas Strip?!)

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photo. coming up to the pass from the west was fun - a series of banked sandy switchbacks... the eastern side was far more technical and rocky... thank goodness we were heading downhill on that far side!

Just as we reached the end of a relentlessly rocky wash trail, we spied a Suburban (I'm presuming it was a rental) planing on coming up in the other direction. We stopped to pass pleasantries with the driver, his wife and daughter; and while far be it for me to suggest otherwise, I did wonder if the low-slung Chevy would make it up and around some of those tight and rocky turns we'd just bumped our way down...

As an aside - it did make me smile when the driver commented "Hey, I see you've turned your street bikes into dirt bikes!" and that he was already familiar with the Rally Raid Adventure conversion "I've heard really good things!" he added, revealing he was a KTM 950 owner himself. When ultimately he asked if we'd bought the kits from Rally Raid directly, he grinned when I explained who we all were "Great to see you guys out there proving the concept!" he concluded, before we both went our separate ways.

We heard nothing on the local news that evening, so can only presume they did eventually make it to the other side!


They say what happens in Vegas ought to stay in Vegas, and I can report that other than exploding the contents of our increasingly filthy luggage all over a pair of adjacent motel rooms (fortunately they had a laundry on site) we simply enjoyed a relaxing evening walking a few blocks of the Strip (neither Harold nor Juan had been to Las Vegas for many years, and both commented on how much it has changed since they were last there) to watch the Bellagio fountain display, followed by a somewhat overpriced dinner in one of the hotel restaurants.

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photo. Only in Vegas... Our Motel 6 on Tropicana, just a couple of blocks from the Strip I'd recommend as good value, with all amenities - however, as this Judge-Dread security tricycle suggests, you probably need to keep your wits (and your wallet) about you after dark. Actually, it's not all that bad a place to stay, for one night at least - and there is a great breakfast restaurant and bakery 'Coco's' right next door.

It was close to 1am when my head finally hit the pillow... Tomorrow would be the final push toward the Expo, where we'd be tent camping for at least three consecutive nights - so I made the most of a warm comfy bed, and tried to ignore the dubious noises from the car park outside. Where was Judge Dread and his scooter when you needed him?!

More soon!

Jenny x

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Thursday 19th May (Day 6) Las Vegas NV to Flagstaff (Mormon Lake) AZ : 320 miles.

Getting our kicks...

Although the Expo didn't officially start until tomorrow, most people (and certainly the exhibitors) turn up during the day before, to set up (and blag the best camping spots if tenting it), and generally relax into the whole proceedings. Again, if you rely on Google maps, Flagstaff is only around 4 hours away from Vegas via major highways and the I40 - but we didn't want to do that did we?

Up early for breakfast (Mmmmmm, cinnamon French toast at Coco's), as we were packing the bikes Harold noticed that one of the engine guard bolts from his bike was missing. On closer inspection, it would appear the it had actually snapped*, leaving the remains of the stud in the engine case - not ideal, particularly as we had a few more miles of dirt to ride and not least a whole weekend of trail riding planned once we arrived in Arizona.

*I ought to point out that the bike in question had already had a previous [temporary] repair to the other engine guard bolt, which was now much weaker than the original. Since the remaining bolt was correspondingly taking more of the force than would be ideal, a heavy impact the day before was the likely culprit to this bolt shearing. Speaking to John at Rally Raid about this, he assured us that if the two engine bolts are torqued correctly, then there should be no opportunity for the engine guard mountings to move and correspondingly shear the bolts themselves.

Fortunately we were not far from one of the Giant Loop retailers in Las Vegas, so a quick scoot across town and some gentle persuasion to squeeze us in that morning (since we had a pretty essential deadline) saw the broken bolt out and replaced a little before lunchtime. I have to say, it was getting on for 100°F in Vegas that morning, so we were glad of the opportunity to sit around in air-conditioned luxury.

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photo. I thought this was a cool spare toilet paper holder in the Vegas Triumph dealer!

Back on the road, I was confident that we'd still have time to cover our intended route that afternoon - after all, we'd come this far to ride some great roads and trails, and there is nothing so soul destroying as riding the freeway when you know a few miles to the north or south there are some epic alternative backroads and trails - and not least some of the best parts of Route 66 that traverse northern Arizona.

The Hoover Dam is a 20th century engineering marvel no doubt, however, it is also a popular tourist spot (you no longer cross the dam itself on your way south, they've built a huge multi-lane bridge above it now), so rather than endure the one-way in and out behind a typical tail of RVs, we broke south before Boulder City on hwy 95 instead, and took the dirt road Christmas Tree Pass over to Bullhead City on the banks of the Colorado River:

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photo. Which came first, the name or the decorations? Christmas Tree pass is so called because of the number of trees along the side of road. It has become a tradition for people to decorate the trees around the pass with all manner of Christmas decorations (and in this case, an old MX helmet?!). Apparently the Parks Service consider this littering and tend to remove the decorations on an [ir]regular basis, only to have them replaced just as quickly it would seem. This year there were fewer trees with decorations, but when I passed by this way myself the same time last year there were a dozen or more covered in tinsel and baubles - it's a surreal sight in the desert!

From Bullhead city, there is a short dirt road that cuts across the desert (for info. there are some great side trails here by the way - not necessarily official OHV, more made by the locals I would suggest) that intersects with the original Route 66 just north of Oatman AZ.

Oatman is perhaps best known of the wild burros that roam the streets, and are usually more than happy to pose for a photo with the tourists passing through.

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photo (courtesy of Harold). Say "carrots!"

The Oatman Hotel does a roaring trade in hand scooped ice-cream, and also features this bizzarre restaurant and bar, covered in dollar bills:

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There are purportedly over $200,000 US dollars pasted to the walls here... probably more than the property itself is worth!

Back on the road, I was delighted to find the series of twisty bends (and I mean proper twisty) heading north out of Oatman had been resurfaced recently, but not so recently that there was loose chippings and wet tar - and it was an utter delight to rag the three CB's around those bends on our way to Kingman, again another key stop on the old Route 66.

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photo. Cool Springs Gas Station on old Route 66 between Oatman and Kingman. Restored and now trading (drinks and snacks, no gas), with a tiny museum of the area inside.

Located above what was once an old cavalry trail that ran up the canyon below, originally this service station was a necessary stop for early motoring pioneers travelling Route 66. Being on an uphill grade (when heading west) and equidistant between Kingman and Oatman 20 miles in either direction, motorists could typically top off with water (and fuel) en route for the coast. The properly was eventually abandoned (and subsequently burnt down), before being rebuilt more recently by an aging local resident.

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photo. Visitors from all over the world have left their mark here, and the new owners intend to make it into a camping destination for future travellers.

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photo. not having received my TA500 stickers until Expo last year, I'd saved one especially for this place. According to the owner, this abandoned gas station was where the writers of the Disney movie Cars decided to green light the project.

As the afternoon drew to a close, we felt it prudent to leave the Mother Road behind us, and pick up I40 for the final push towards Flagstaff - stopping off for a diner dinner in Williams (the last town on Route 66 to be bypassed by the interstate network, and full of 50's memorabilia) followed by a Safeway on the outskirts of Flagstaff to stock up on provisions for the next three nights of camping at the Expo itself.

We eventually rolled into Mormon Lake a little after 10pm that evening, and were directed to a corner of an empty field to set up our respective camps by torchlight... what would we find in the morning?

More soon!

Jenny x

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Friday 20th May (Day 7) Mormon Lake - Sedona - Jerome - Mormon Lake AZ : 153 miles.

Expo-nential curves!

For the last week we'd been averaging around 300 miles riding a day, including plenty of dirt, and all manner of weather conditions - from wind and rain below freezing, to scorching sunshine and wind and dust...

I was confident we would have all slept through an earthquake had one happened, but sure enough, tent camping meant once again we awoke at pretty much first light, and subsequently set about the business of the day, that primarily involved coffee of course.

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photo. Juan in his compact one-man camping set-up. Happy with his location.


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photo. Harold doing his best Santa impression, and brewing up using his extremely compact and lightweight multi-fuel stove.

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photo. I love camping - it's when I can legitimately eat chocolate chips for breakfast!

The plan for today was initially to make sure the Giant Loop booth was ready for trading (fortunately Harold had arranged for one of his Arizona dealers MotoCity to host a range of his products as part of their impressive KTM/Husqvarna and other franchise display in Moto-row), before the three of us CBeebies planned to head out and explore some trails in the area.

I've been fortunate to pass through this part of Arizona before (only once before mind you, in early 2009), and so was already familiar with a couple of key riding areas that I was confident would provide an entertaining and scenic day out...

The venue for the Overland Expo West is right on the edge of huge forest, itself up at over 7000ft (yes, it's cold at night!) with a network of trails in pretty much every direction. We headed west for Sedona, and descended the popular Schnebly Hill trail that leads down off the rim and straight into the centre of town.

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photo (courtesy of Harold). "Look, down there - even more scenery!"


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We then took the highway south, and up into the hills above Cottonwood AZ to enjoy a delightfully long lunch at Bobby D's barbecue joint in Jerome. Highway 89A (between Jerome and Prescott) is utterly epic in every sense, and Harold and I scratched our way around slower traffic (while Juan took his time filming), before spending the rest of the afternoon riding the terraced trails around the mountains, and ultimately heading back to Expo our bellies full and our cameras bursting with photographs.

It was a wonderful way to end an extremely full week of riding, and we all agreed that Saturday (traditionally the busiest day of the Expo) ought to be considered our 'rest day', when we could take it easy, mix and mingle, and see what all this 'overland' fuss is about.

More soon!

Jenny x

 


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