Well I’ve had to take a lot of heat because I have not posted a Blog update since we launched a few days ago. I’ll cover everything that has happened in this post. I realize most readers don’t care about all our non-riding experiences so I will cover that topic first and then add the miscellaneous events at the end.
As I stated in my last post, the truck and bikes headed towards Lake City, CO on last Thursday. The rest of the riders flew into Gunnison and we all hooked up late Saturday night. Our plan was to launch on Sunday morning with 159 miles planned to reach Dove Creek, CO for our first day.
We left Lake City on Sunday around 8:15 am heading for Cinnamon Pass and then on to Ophir Pass. Our original plan was to use Engineer Pass rather than Cinnamon to give Matty a little easier first mountain ride. Because several of the riders and our bikes arrived a day earlier, they took Matty on the Alpine Loop over both Engineer and Cinnamon passes, in rain! Our day started with bright sun, clear skies and dry trails (it doesn’t get any better than that).
This was a Sunday and we quickly started hitting traffic of ATVs and 4-wheel vehicles. We made it to the top of Cinnamon in less than 45 minutes. Since we had all ridden Cinnamon before it didn’t seen nearly as intimidating as it was last August. It does have a few steep switchbacks with solid rock but even Matty made it with no problems. Other than having to deal with all the traffic we were over Cinnamon and on the other side in about an hour and a half. As we got off the west side of Cinnamon I remember thinking the hard part was over, how wrong I was.
After Cinnamon we went through the old mining town named Animas Forks and continued westbound. This is where I can’t remember exactly what sequence of sections we went through but all I can say is they call it the Swiss Alps for a reason. The climbs were steep and long and so were the descents. Add in sharp switchbacks and lots of traffic clogging the trail, we had multiple dropped bikes. All I can say is I dropped my bike 3 times but every time I was on the kickstand or I thought the kickstand was down when it wasn’t. The terrain is steep and sometimes hard to tell what is really flat. The other dropped bikes were usually trying to work around a steep switchback while a jeep or ATV was in the way. Some beautiful scenery but we were usually too busy to enjoy it. In fact I did take a number of pictures but I had to stop the bike on a slope, hold the left-hand rear brake while I used the camera with only my right hand.
We finally made it to the paved Hwy 550 called the Million Dollar Highway heading south towards Silverton. We had only covered less than 50 miles of the planned 160 miles and it was already 2 pm. The TAT turns off 5 miles north of Silverton but we decided to top off our bikes at Silverton before we started the last hundred miles. With full tanks we went back into the mountains towards Ophir Pass and onto Dove Creek for the night.
Again, lots of climbs and descents but the one that sticks in my memory is the trail up and down Ophir Pass. I had watched several YouTube videos of Ophir and I had noticed sections of the trail covered with big, loose limestone rocks about baseball to football size. They were somewhat packed down by the jeeps but they were still loose as we rode the bikes across them. The only solution was to keep up your momentum and just keep moving forward both up and down. I can’t believe it but none of our group dropped a bike on these sections.
Engineer and Cinnamon pass has some great views but Ophir Pass is just an ugly cut in the loose rocks. As we finally reached the top we could see heavy rain on the other side. This is one of the spots where I dropped my bike while trying to park while I put on my rain gear. We started our descent and quickly entered moderate rain.
It was starting to get late in the afternoon and we still had 75 miles to go. I was really getting concerned that we would not be out of the mountains before dark if our pace remained the same as the previous 75 miles. Luckily we finally got out of the high mountain trails and entered the foothills with much less difficult riding. We started to pick up our pace, the rain stopped and it looked like we might make Dove Creek before 6 pm.
As we got closer to Dove Creek the terrain started to flatten out and was mostly dusty gravel roads. Jeff ran out of gas 4 miles from the motel so we had to use one of the RotoPax to get his back running again. We arrived in Dove Creek worn out and ready to get a drink and have something to eat. Guess what, Dove Creek has a single motel and only one place to eat which was in the back of the only grocery store. We didn’t care. We checked-in to the motel, rode across the street in the truck to eat because it was raining again, and ate out dinner with flies buzzing around our dinner table.
The end of TAT Leg-3 Day 1! The four core riders (Mike, Steve, Terry & Woodrow) all agreed this was the toughest section we had ridden since we started in Charleston, SC. At one of the switchbacks we had 3 of our riders drop their bikes at the same time. In their defense they were trying to work around a truck that had stopped right at the switchback.
TAT Leg-3 Day 2 started at 7 am with a plan to ride 35 miles on the TAT to Monticello, UT for breakfast before continuing on to Moab. As we were loading the bikes two key items were observed; My KTM had a flat front tire and Woodrow’s CRF was leaking shock fluid from the right front shock. I had been worried the day before about our speed on some of the very rocky trails. I was afraid of bending a rim or having tire damage due to all the sharp rocks. I guess I was right because I had new tires on the bike and still pinched a tube from a hard hit (my opinion only). We aired up my tube and deiced to ride it to Monticello and check the pressure again. As for Woodrow’s leaking shock; we had no choice other than to ride the bike as-is to Moab or load it onto the trailer. Woodrow refused not to ride so decision made. 35 miles later at Monticello I had lost only 1 pound of pressure so I was sure I could make the last 100 miles to Moab.
We had called MADBRO Sports at Moab (435-259-6232) to see if they could get in our 2 bikes for repair if we got there around 1:45 pm. They agreed they could fix my leaking tire and try to fix Woodrow’s leaking shock. After arriving in Moab, we left both bikes and went on to the motel to get cleaned up. The Hampton Motel was excellent and after taking a quick shower we went to dinner and a beer at the Moab Brewery.
Woodrow and I picked up our bikes at around 5:30 pm. My bike’s front tire had been repaired with a new heavy-duty tube and spin balanced for around $70. I would have paid twice that much. They didn’t have the seals for Woodrow’s shock but they dropped down the dust shield and tried to clean any dirt out from the seals. His bill was around $60 for labor. I highly recommend these guys. They said they give priority to the TAT riders going through the area and their prices are excellent considering they are in a pretty remote area.
Summary of Day-1 & 2 is that this is a beautiful section of the TAT. We clearly loved the experience. No one got injured or had any bike damage. Lots of dropped bikes but all but 1 were slow moving events that were basically just laying the bikes down. The only exception was we were riding fast on gravel roads to get to Dove Creek and while making a 90 degree turn Matty got into some deeper gravel, pulled his front brake and that’s all it took. The bike slid out from under him and he was skidding across the road. No damage to the bike but Matty got a few road rash burns on his hip and knee. More importantly he got a very valuable lesson about making turns on gravel and when not to use his front brake.
I have to say one more time; anyone riding the TAT on a heavy adventure bike or a heavily loaded dual-spot has all my respect. I know there are riders that say this is an easy ride but just do your research. There are lots of YouTube videos for most of the TAT. I learned a lot from watching them. When we got to the Ophir pass rock garden, I knew exactly what it was because I had seen it on a YouTube video.
That’s the rider info for Day 1 and 2. Now I will describe all the trials and tribulations we have encountered since we launched last Thursday.
First of all the truck left Little Rock as planned on Thursday with Woodrow, Steve and Matty then picked up Jeff in Okla. They encountered no problems and arrived in Lake City in heavy rain on Friday around 5 pm. On Saturday, they decided to do a local ride to give Matty some dirt time before Jeff had to drive the hour to Gunnison to pick up Mike, Terry and Michael at the airport. They actually started up Cinnamon and planned to turn around if it started to get too tough for Matty. What they did was go over Cinnamon and then returned to Lake City on Engineer! They even ran into rain on Engineer and even hail in some stretches. That’s why we decided that Matty had earned his wings and we rode Cinnamon again on Sunday for Day-1.
As for the flyers (Mike, Terry and Michael) it didn’t go as well. We left Little Rock on schedule at 2:55 pm for Houston. At Houston as we were on approach, I saw a lighting bolt from cloud to ground just to the left of the airplane, not good. We got to the terminal and to our connecting flight but then found out that all departure flights were stopped because the ramp was shut down due to lightning. We waited for 2 hours until they started departures again which means we got the Gunnison around 10:00 pm rather than 7:30 pm as planned.
When we got to the Lake City cabin, Terry and I find our bikes covered with all kinds of decorations including a bicycle bell on my handlebar. Those boys will pay for this disgraceful disrespect of the only two KTMs in the group.
We then had to find places to sleep. I finally went out to Terry’s truck and slept in the back seat. I should say I tried to sleep in the truck; his back seat is extremely uncomfortable. I think I may have gotten maybe 2 hours good sleep before we had to get up for Day-1.
One last comment. You’ll see a couple of pics of us passing another TAT rider group on one of the trails. You will see that a couple of the other group bikes almost hit our rider head-on because they where high balling to fast up the trail. Just lucky that both our guy and the other TAT rider were able to miss each other. Speed just isn’t safe on the TAT; enough said.
It’s the end of Day-2 and we are in the Moab Hampton motel, it’s T-storms outside and while I write my blog, the others are planning our Moab local ride tomorrow. We are going to try and get a day-pass for the White Rim Trail In Canyon Lands. They only issue 50 per day so we’ll have to find out early tomorrow how well that works when we ride to the visitor center. BTW Terry has been preparing Makers and Diet-Cokes for me to make sure I don’t write any negative comments about his TAT ride so far. It worked!!