15 October 2014

Fall Colors Tour 2014--Part 2 or...

...why I feel sorry for people who don't live here. I mean, look at this!

I took so few pictures. I know you think I'm going to say, But I took this one! I didn't. Photo--M. Landon

So, we started off from Red Rocks Diner in two groups that day. Our group of 5 slabbed it north and west about 40 miles to the spot where we would be meeting the 11 other bikes (led by Rick and Pat--one had the map, the other had the glasses with which to read it. This is how we do it, folks!) who chose to do the ~25 miles of dirt. We gave them a head start as it would take them longer, and rode mostly pavement to our meeting spot. Our group was led by Mark and included Matt, John, and Francis. Francis was the only one I didn't know, but we would have plenty of time to become acquainted....

Matt and I paired our Senas (buying a com system? Get a Sena. All the cool kids have them and they are the best) and chatted a bit as we rode past Grand Mesa and beautiful stands of Aspens. Matt, being a geographer told me all the geographical highlights of the area. You know, things like, "26,000,000 years ago, The Great Upheaval..." and I contributed to the conversation by telling him of "the great upheaval" that was happening in the ladies room of the restaurant when I had gone back in. I like being able to hold my own in conversations with educated, intelligent people.

Our group stopped off the road at the meeting place and relaxed a bit, waiting for the second group. After being there for ten minutes or so, Mark pulled out the map and we all looked over where our friends would be coming from, Mark pointing to road numbers and asking me what they said. (He had forgotten his glasses too...) Eventually, we realized there were two possible places the other group could come out of the hills--where we were waiting, and another spot about two miles back. We waited another 15 minutes, stopping people who drove by and asking them if they had seen a big group of motorbikers waiting back at the other road.

Our small group, waiting for the others--Matt and Mark consult maps....

Forty-five minutes in, and we hadn't seen them. We started to get a little worried, and Mark retold the story of the rider in that group from the previous year who had ridden that route, and broken his handlebars. Yikes! Matt said he'd ride back to the other spot and check for the group.

John and Mark sat on rocks, I sat on the ground. Francis pulled his tent out to dry out from the previous night. And we waited.

Matt returned after about 15 minutes and said he'd seen no sign, but thought he'd come back to where we were to see if they had come out our way. When we said no, he headed back.

Francis went and sat in the sliver of shade next to a sign. Mark went to consult his maps. I moved to his rock. And we waited.

I moved to the shade.

Matt returned again, and we all worried. Just a little. They are all fully capable riders, but you never know when something might happen. We knew that if something did, there were plenty of them to work through any problems. Mark decided he would ride out the road to see if he could find them and John said he'd ride along. No sense in sending a single rider.

Francis and I stayed sitting in the shade, leaning against the sign, and Matt lay down with his head in the shade. And we waited.

Suddenly, we heard them coming. And it was all of them--some completely painted in mud! Somehow, Pat and her F800GS were nearly spotless. They had a great story to tell of a large mud hole across the road, followed by another 30 feet of slippy, snotty, muddy road. Six out of the eleven made it through the mud hole. The larger bikes needed a hand to get them through and there were fantastic pictures of four people pushing one bike as it rooster-tailed mud into the sky. Besides being a phenomenal rider and making it through the mud hole, Pat had then found a water crossing and ridden back and forth through it enough times to clean herself and her bike! Brilliant!

The exhausted group were looking for a bit of a break, but in the hour and a half we had been waiting, we watched storm clouds gather over the area we would soon be riding, and Mark said we needed to move. For the first ten miles or so, which after a short pass of hairpins was flat and a not super interesting, I began to think I wasn't going to enjoy the day. It was a bit of a let down, and all I was doing was sucking down the dust of the riders around me. For the first time, I thought I might not like this whole group riding thing.

We were riding fast and kicking up a lot of dust. I dropped back a bit for a while to avoid some of it, and when I decided I was far enough back, I got on the gas again and cruised. I was moving fast enough that as I came around a curve I had to get on the brakes pretty good to avoid blowing by the turnoff where the riders in front of me had stopped. As I pulled up, there was much laughing. I wasn't the only one who had done that. Whoever was riding behind me was also laughing, telling me he would have missed it if I hadn't been in front of him. We sat and watched others do the same thing I did, and one person who realized too late and blew right by!

This was the start of McClure Pass, and our real viewing of GORGEOUS trees. We all took off as one group, but eventually as some people stopped for photos in different places, we broke into smaller groups. The last 15 or so miles of the pass, Matt, Rick, and I all stayed together. I led which was awesome because I wasn't riding in someone else's dust clouds.... We pulled up just outside of Paonia, to join a group of six. We had snacks, the boys had personal moments in nature, and we waited for the others, taking pictures of each other's filthy faces. Even wearing a full face helmet I managed to look like I had nothing blocking the dust. A shower was going to feel so good!

John! You're so dirty!! Oh wait, so was I....

We slabbed it the next few miles to Kebler Pass. It was a dirt pass which was so well traveled and had so much mag-chloride deposited on it that it almost felt like pavement. It was packed with traffic--people from all over the state, no doubt, who had come to look at the trees. The aspens in this area were very tall and colorful. Stunningly beautiful! People were everywhere on the pass, cameras out, smiling and enjoying. It was a beautiful day and the scenery was gorgeous. How had I waited so long to go leaf-peeping??

Hello! Beautiful! Photo--M. Landon

At the end of Kebler, we met up again and dubiously watched as storm clouds moved over our dirt road route. We would have another two hours of riding, most likely in mud, if we headed that way, and the decision was made to slab it. We had lost John somewhere near the top of Kebler, having some sort of fuel problem with his KTM, and a couple of guys said they'd wait for him and join back up with us at camp. The rest of us pulled out and headed for Crested Butte and on to Gunnison.

At the east (?) end of Kebler Pass. I really need to look at a map....

Somewhere just outside of Crested Butte, after we all decided we were fine on gas and would make it easily to Gunnison, my low fuel light came on. Oh shit. I had no idea why my gas mileage was so low, and I had no idea how far it was to Gunnison. I held my breath the next 30 miles, not wanting to be THAT girl, the one who ran out of gas, and breathed a sigh of relief as we pulled into the gas station. As it turns out, of course I had somewhat lower gas mileage, which I had expected, but my low fuel light also came on early. Real nice, BMW--way to scare a girl.

We rode east another 20 miles to the Tomichi Trading Post where we would camp for the night, and by the time we were done checking in, the other group of riders, including Matt who we had lost somewhere between Created Butte and Gunnison, all pulled up.

I had planned to camp that night, but then I discovered there was a teepee available! And it had a fire pit inside! For $30! After I went back to the cashier to change my spot for the night, I hit the shower. Oh god, it felt so good. I was so dirty. I had failed to pack shampoo, but the trading post conveniently sold some really nice, local beeswax products and I bought a small bar of lemongrass shampoo and a peppermint lotion bar.

Tomichi Trading Post teepee! They have propane fire pits inside!

When I left the shower and headed to the restaurant, everyone was there, in some state of being served dinner. The trading post had told Mark, when he let them know we would be coming, they would stay open for dinner for us. And though they don't usually serve breakfast, they told us that night they would do breakfast burritos for us the next morning if we wanted. Everyone was super hospitable, drinks showed up quickly followed by good food.

Our table of eight or nine people played the question and answer game of "How many years have you been riding?" and "What was your first motorbike?" and then moved on to talk of mining and fracking. One of the things I really liked about this group is that although there were differing opinions on these polarizing subjects, everyone was respectful of each person who had something to say. I enjoyed being able to sit back and listen to the conversation without being worried that someone might throw something. The respect that people have for others as riders seems to add up, often, to respect for that person as a whole. I totally dig that about this community.

Eventually, people slowly peeled off to head to cabins and teepees. As Pat got up to leave, she looked at me and asked how I had gotten so sunburned. I smiled and quietly said, "Waiting an hour and a half this morning...."

She laughed and headed for bed.



02 October 2014

Fall Colors Tour 2014--Part 1

It's that time of year, in the beautiful state of Colorado, when the aspens change color and fire up the mountain sides with their vibrancy. What does that mean for me? Time to get on the motorbike, off the pavement, and check out the scenery.

Packed and ready to go. This was the first trip, specifically to go ride dirt, that it would ride fully loaded the whole time.

My friend Mark--see Rendezvous Meeker post day 2--put together routes, lined up places to stay, and spent a good deal of time pre-riding what we were all going to see. Since I met him in August and learned of this ride, I've been looking forward to it, and it was great.

There was a bit of a rough start for me. I left Denver on Thursday around 4:00, and stopped in Empire 40 minutes later to put on warmer gloves. When I tried to start the bike again, nothing happened. I mean, nothing. No indicator lights, no sounds. Ugh! Helmet, gloves, and jacket came off and I started pulling stuff off the bike. Luggage, seat, side panels. I tried to figure out the problem, made several phone calls--including the insurance company to see about towing--and seemed to get nowhere.

I got nowhere for an hour and a half. And no one stopped to help the stranded motorcyclist.

Then, a big-ass Harley riding by pulled a u-turn, and Dave got off his bike to help a girl out. He called his son-in-law, Chris--who showed up with a meter to check my battery--and in no time at all I was back on the road. I'm still sending out my thanks and gratitude to these two men. I was feeling heartbroken at the idea of not making this ride.

Chris and Dave from Empire--my knights in shining armor. Their steeds of choice--Harleys!

After saying thanks and leaving Empire, I rode Berthoud in the waning daylight and cruised into Granby in the dark. After fueling up and checking my directions, I headed towards the home of Pat and Cindy, who were hosting all the riders for the first night. I pulled up to the house to cheers and clapping, and felt relieved to be there, and so happy to be with fellow riders, a couple of old friends, and many new friends-to-be.

In what was perfect timing on all of our parts, Frank and Barbara pulled up on their 1200GS. They were the other two vegetarians in the group, and Pat hauled us all in to feed us. My friend, Matt, put a beer in my hand and I went and sat outside near the fire, eating dinner, having a drink and enjoying everyone's company. The anxiety I typically feel when getting together with a bunch of people I don't really know started to melt away as the evening moved on. There was a prize drawing, thanks to Cindy and Power World Sports in Granby, and I won new grips for my little bike. Woohoo!

That evening people camped, stayed in guest rooms, or slept downstairs in the house. Magically, no one had claimed the bed in the downstairs, so I got it! After a little slumber party chat, everyone settled in and we woke the next morning to gorgeous views of Granby, the surrounding mountains, and a herd of antelope.

The view from Pat and Cindy's home in Granby. This was sunset, which I missed thanks to my little problem in Empire. Thanks to Matt Landon for the pic.

People all took off at different times, and we met up at the wildlife viewing area at the bottom of highway 125. We had 23 bikes and 25 people--quite the group. After collecting ourselves and chatting a bit, we took off in two different groups: Risky Bizness and the Pro-Leisure Tour. I joined the Pro-Leisure Tour and we cruised up Willow Creek Pass. The first part was mostly pavement, but it was a gorgeous twisty piece of road. I had never ridden the bike more than 8.5 miles up the highway--to Ian McLeod's house--and it just got better and better the further we rode.

Getting ready to head out for the day.
Hi Neil! Poor Neil had two flat tires the day before, and a flat air mattress in the middle of the night. I think he might be a fire sign....

At the first meetup area--outside of Rand--options were laid out for the rest of the day. I chose to join the small group going to Steamboat. By small group, I mean the were originally just three of us. By the time we headed out, however, we had 6 bikes with 7 people. We rode Buffalo Pass into Steamboat. The pass was fun and easy--smooth on the way up and rocky and potholed on the way down--and filled with beautiful trees. Mack, who rode behind me, choking on all my dust all the way down Buffalo, mentioned that all he could look at was my rear fender bouncing around the whole time. When I told that story the next day to Matt and Mark, Mark said, "What was he doing staring at your fender?" As I thought, "I know, why wasn't he looking at the road," Mark finished by saying, "Why wasn't he staring at your ass?"

Right. I do still play in a boy's world, don't I???

Before anyone gets bent out of shape, it was a complete joke, and everyone laughed, including me.

Just past Rand where we all split up. I can't tell you who that is--there was A LOT of Klim gear on this trip!
All the colors were really that vivd!
Poor guy--at the back, he got everyone's dust. He said he kept watching my...fender...bounce around the whole trip down.

That day we also rode Lynx Pass, the Colorado River Road, and Cottonwood Pass--I'm sure I'm forgetting some...--and ended in Carbondale. Somewhere on the River Road, I hit a good deep spot of gravel and had a pretty good tank slapper. I wasn't sure I was going to come out of it vertically, but I did. Mark called it my trick-riding. Woohoo!!!

Hello! Can you say gorgeous!?!
A selfie with Mack.
The line-up: 1200GS, 2-800GSs, KTM 990, R100GS Bumblebee, and my little 650GS.
Gorgeous day for riding. With BV Mark's KTM 990.
Our lunch spot. It was cool down by the water in the shade.

Getting into Carbondale, Steamboat Dave kindly found a liquor store to stop at since I had made the comment that I really wanted cold beer at the end of the day. We all fueled up so we'd be ready for the next day's ride, and headed towards the campground. Somewhere in the last couple of weeks, the campground had changed management, or some such nonsense, and they were having a tough time dealing with all of us. In the end, it all worked out. But, in case they ran out of room, a couple of us ran off to see if there was room at the forest service campground.

There wasn't.

Every place was packed, no doubt with leaf peepers and people enjoying one of the last gorgeous weekends before the snow flies. Bonus though--as we rode into Redstone, we saw a bear. No really. He was a pretty, copper colored black bear, and the idiot locals were getting way too close to him in order to take pictures. Well, that made my night!

We ended up having a really nice night, and a bunch of us sat around the campfire chatting and making rude comments about the sad little fire we had going. Until...Neil came along and took over. He had the magic touch with the fire, and I almost peed my pants laughing when, after being gone for about ten minutes, he came back dragging a four and a half foot chunk of tree that was probably 12" in diameter and tossed it on the fire. It burned pretty well, and I figured the tent was far enough away, that if it got out of control it would take out a few other tents before getting to mine, giving me a good chance to get away!

The next morning, I woke to just enough condensation on the inside of the tent to drip straight into my eyeball! It was chilly and everything was damp. After breaking camp, a number of us wound up at Red Rocks Cafe for breakfast. The sun was out and it was a gorgeous day. Sadly, a bunch of riders had to leave us that day, but we gained one new one. We were down to 16 bikes and 17 riders--still a fairly impressive group.

After discussing the route options, I ran inside to use the ladies room. I walked in to a woman unhappily puking. It was time for me to get back on the motorbike!


06 September 2014

WDKR!--Oh My Dog!

So, ever since the second day of my first RMAR Rendezvous in 2012, I have known the reputation of Mark Odette. Mark is the Director of Promotions for RMAR, and leads these rides which have become fondly known as the WDKR--We Don't Know Rides. As far as I'm concerned, when I think of Mark Odette, I simply think Crazy Pants. Sorry Mark....

A couple of months ago, I saw he was going to lead a monthly RMAR ride, known as the WDKR. I wanted to make the first one he did, but I was traveling. Or maybe I was not yet traveling, but was too scaredy-pants to go on it. A couple of weeks ago I saw that he was going to do another one, and I thought I'd put on my big-girl pants, get on my little bike and go.

The day was gorgeous, but as I dropped into Monument, I dropped into that cloud. It was cold and wet! Thankfully, we were out of it quickly, and the day warmed up. Pic--M. Odette

The ride was to be a meet-up for breakfast, then a quick 2-3 miles of pavement to some dirt. Then, some more dirt roads, then some trails, then some ATV trails, then some more dirt and some more dirt. A quick 20ish miles from Hartsel to Fairplay, on to Alma, and Mosquito Pass to Leadville. And back. Holy shit, it was going to be grueling for me.

It was great! Now, to be honest, I only did the first five hours to Hartsel. It was so much fun, and the views were gorgeous. I was on the road a little after 5:00 am (!), in order to meet Mark and one other rider, Richard, in Monument. We had breakfast, and were quickly on our way, with me in the middle. Btw--the last time Richard rode with Mark, he broke his thumb and had to ride twelve miles with a broken thumb pointing in a direction one's thumb should never be pointing. I saw a picture. So...that's not terrifying at all.

Mark took off! I valiantly tried to keep up, and a few miles in, ate shit at about 35-40 mph when I came upon a switchback and hit loose stuff. Bent the snot out of my handlebars, but Richard helped me get my bike back up and we were off again. At the first (and almost only) stop, Mark looked at me and told me Richard knew why he stopped where we did. I looked around thinking maybe it was because of the nice views, somewhere to take a good picture perhaps. But no. He gestured to a huge--quite large, really--boulder and said we could ride over it.

I'm pretty sure what came out of my mouth was, "OH HELL NO!"

In the end, though I didn't do it, I watched them do it, two times each, and next time I will be all over that! I really wanted to do it, but just wasn't ready. We rode, and rode, and rode, without stopping much. At one point, as I followed Mark around a curve, I looked ahead and saw an intimidating hill climb. I had just gotten done watching a video of the Romaniacs enduro race with tons of footage of a crazy hill climb. Bikes and bikers were eating it and riders were desperately trying to make it up, only to fly backward with their bikes. This was all I could picture in my head. I was thinking about how heavy that bike was going to be when I got halfway up and my bike slid backwards and ended up on top of me.

I started up, chose a line, yelled at myself in my helmet to "just fucking commit!" And I made it up! I came to a stop behind Mark, no doubt with a big goofy grin, and he looked back at me and yelled, "You made it up the hill climb!" Hell, yeah I did.

The most difficult part of the day for me was the ATV trail. It was narrow with a 10" rut in the middle, and berms on each side. The very first thing I did was auger my bike into the rut, about 10 feet into the trail. I walked right off the bike. Richard came up, helped me pick my front wheel out of the rut, and I walked it up onto one side. After slipping and sliding a bit, I got a leg over and rode on. A couple of times on that trail, I could hear Richard yelling at me that I was doing great or I was doing an awesome job. Richard is a pretty great guy, and I will happily ride with him anytime!

I feel like this pic does not do justice to the steepness of this hill.... Pic--M. Odette
Mark took this with the ATV trail sign in it because it was my first!
Richard coming down right behind me. Pic--M. Odette

Eventually, we hit some wide, well-cared for dirt roads, and I almost hit some deer. But, I'm pretty aware of them now after that little incident two years ago, and when I saw the first fly across the road, I slowed way down and watched for the second. We got to the end of those roads and we could see highway 24. Mark stopped, and when I pulled up next to him, he explained that he wanted to avoid 24, and we were going to continue on dirt. Well, fine by me. Then he told me not to be surprised, but he would be turning off the road and it would look like he was just riding through the fields. But, in fact, they would be real roads. A lot of years ago the area was divided up into what promised to be subdivisions, but hey never took off, and the roads grew over. They're pretty great roads, and occasionally, there were even street signs in the middle of nowhere. As well as cattle. And one lone, terrified, unshorn llama.

We turned onto one, wound up the side of the mountain, and stopped for the view. It was pretty stellar. A wide, beautiful view of what seemed like all of South Park.

Taz in the foreground (225) and Mark's 650 behind my little bike.
Richard is having, as Mark Ferguson would say, a personal moment. Pic--M. Odette (well, you know I didn't take it, but I'll post it!)
Pic--M. Odette
Mark and Richard on our one break we took. This was where Mark told me, oh yeah, I don't really stop. Five hours in.

From there, it was just a few miles into Hartsel. I had to flip my tank to reserve about a mile and a half out--I was 60 miles further into my tank than the other two--and we stopped at the gas station. After chatting with three guys from Wyoming on KTMs and KLRs, I fueled up. I had told the guys I would be leaving them there. I was exhausted, and didn't think Mosquito Pass, twice, was a good idea as tired as I was. However, after I paid for my gas, I came out and the were Mark and Richard, just waiting. I sent them on their way and went over to the Hi-line Cafe and Saloon for a buffalo burger. What I really wanted was a nap, but I settled for waiting out the rain while listening to tunes picked out on the juke box by a happy group of Harley riders who had come in. I made friends with the bartender Adam--we talked climbing and motorbike riding, and it was great.

After the rain, I got back on the road and slabbed it back home. 280+ miles on the day. I had a fantastic day. Mark and Richard were great to ride and talk with, the scenery was great, and I rode some stuff I had never seen before. I was exhausted when I got home, and stupid sore the next couple of days, but in a good way. Thanks Mark!


P.S.--I went immediately to Let It Ride on Monday and bought a new dirt helmet and goggles!

Ok, it has pink on it, but it's metallic dark pink. Almost red, really.



05 August 2014

RMAR Rendezvous 2014--Meeker, CO Part 2

Saturday was a whole new day. Going to bed the night before, I didn't think I would ride much, except maybe over to the county fair. When I woke up Saturday morning, however, I had of course changed my mind. I was ready to get back on the bike. We headed for Cuppa Joe again, then everyone was meeting up at Elk Moutain Inn (one of two hotels--The Blue Spruce Inn being the other--that not only hosted riders who wanted a hotel room, but offered inexpensive showers for those of us camping) to figure out what rides were happening where and when.

Meeker locals.

Thursday evening after arriving in town, I introduced myself to a guy named Marty. His wife Laurie was there, also riding a Yamaha XT225. He had mentioned that it might be nice if we could ride together, and I was all for it. We found that one of the riders, Mark, was planning on taking her to Trappers Lake, then showing her out towards Ripple Creek, and pointing out the good ways back to camp. We decided Trappers Lake would be a great ride after having been told by a local not to miss it, and joined up with them. Two young guys on KLRs, RJ and Bobby, said they wanted to join us also, so six of us headed out highway 8 up to Trappers Lake.

A view of our 6 bikes as we came back down the trail from the lake.

The first 30 miles of highway 8 is paved. It's kind of a bummer, but the road was a little twisty and the scenery was gorgeous. When the pavement ended, the road was a wide open, hard-packed dirt road with light gravel. Super easy conditions, and since it was the second day of riding, Josh led at an easy pace of 40-45 mph. Eventually we turned right to head ten more miles up the mountain to Trappers Lake. We encountered a couple of herds of cows right on the side of the road, and three SUVs full of people who, like complete assholes, had parked their vehicles right in the middle of the road and gotten out to wander around. Seriously, what is wrong with people? At least the cows are courteous enough to pull over to the sides.

L-R: Mark, RJ, Josh, Laurie, and Bobby. You can't see my bike, it's hidden behind RJs huge KLR.

Once we reached the end of the road to the lake, there was a short hike up the mountain to actually get to it. About ten years ago, a fire raged through the area, but there is already tons of new growth, and the dead trees have been bleached white by the sun and stand as ghostly reminders of the event. The lake, nestled amongst the Flat Tops, is quite beautiful.

Josh and Mark at Trappers Lake.
Just above Trappers Lake, in the middle of the burn area.

The road to the lake is an up-and-back, so we would all be headed back down to 8 and Mark suggested we all head to the overlook to see the Flat Tops from a higher angle. As we came around a long sweeping bend in the road, a baby cow decided he wanted to race us around the curve. It was a little nerve racking, wondering if he was going to bolt INTO the road, but he just wanted to run alongside. Mama had started running for a bit also, but she quickly decided running wasn't fun. We made it up to the overlook, took pics, had snacks, and read and questioned some historical markers at the top.

Looking across the meadow at the Flat Tops. This ride was part of the Wagon Wheel Trail System.

From that point Josh, RJ, and Bobby headed back down 8 to find a couple of Blue-rated trails and play in the mud, and Mark, Laurie, and I continued up 8 to where it dead ended into county road 29. Here, Mark showed us on a map the route to get back home with the options of either dirt or asphalt for the last chunk of the ride. He went the other direction, and headed up to Walden for the Moose Run Rally. Unsure of what the total mileage would be, Laurie made the decision that once we reached Hamilton, we should slab it up to Craig in order for her to fill her gas tank. Because I have the Clark tank on my bike, the mileage would be no problem for me, but she was still running the stock tank which is kind of wee.

At the gas stop in Craig, Laurie wanted a break for her rear end, and I wanted a break to eat. We stood in the parking lot as a large group of Harley riders pulled in. Many other Harley riders rode by on the highways, and I realized we were the only dirt bikes up that way. We seemed to be the only group that was just women also--two dusty, dirty, women on their little dirt bikes, hauling ass through town just trying to find the next dirt road! That was a great feeling. While relaxing and watching, we realized dirt bikes aren't the only ones which wind up with problems starting. It was funny watching three guys push a Harley to bump start. My observation was that I thought it would have been a lot easier if the chick had gotten OFF the back of the bike before they did it.

With Laurie and our (almost) identical bikes. Although they don't look the same, they are both Yamaha XT225s. It was fun to get out and ride with just another woman--I had never done that before!

We rode back through Hamilton, and about three miles on, we chose to get off the highway and onto Yellow Jacket Pass. Another easy, wide open dirt road through stunning scenery, and apparently a short cut. When we got back to the Elk Mountain Lodge, our friends from Canada, saw us and said we must have been hauling ass. They had seen us at the gas station in Craig as they left and slabbed it back on the highway, and had only beaten us by a few minutes. We weren't riding that fast, but I do think it was a more direct route. In fact, we even had to stop once. We rode through a couple of miles of what appeared to be a grasshopper convention. No really, I think all the grasshoppers in the world were there on that road. The road exploded with them constantly, and I could feel them bouncing off my torso, arms, legs, neck, and face shield. Laurie pulled over very quickly at one point, and as I stopped to ask if she was okay, she yanked her face shield off and pulled a grasshopper off her face. Ewwwwwww! While we were back in the parking lot of the hotel, I bumped the bottom edge of my jacket and a grasshopper flew out. He had apparently caught a ride down the mountain into town with me.

Back in the parking lot, Laurie let me take her bike for a spin. As I rode the day before I started making a mental list of some of the mods I needed to make on Taz if I'm going to keep her and continue to ride her off road. Laurie had done a number of them to her bike, and I was eager to see if they would work well for me. She had much larger, more aggressive foot pegs, Rox risers on the handlebars, Dunlop 606 tires, and a pad on the seat to help improve the "sitting on a two-by-four" feeling. What a difference all those things made! I now have a better idea of how to make my riding more comfortable and efficient. And although I believe good riding is on the rider, a comfortable, well-equipped bike can make a big difference in learning and growing.

After riding Laurie's bike, I went back to camp to say hello to the group gathered there. I sat for a few minutes, then realized how filthy and stinky I was, grabbed some things and headed right back to the hotel for a shower. It was so satisfying! By the time I got back to base camp, I felt like a human being again, and I was ready for a beer and some conversation. It was an easy day of riding, with stunning scenery and good people, I was clean and smelled good, and two beers in, and we all wandered over to the pavilion to meet for raffle prizes, stories, and a small auction.

Chris photo bombing Brian, Abbi, and me.

As I watched people walk up to claim prizes, I commented on how many people were limping their way up and back. Apparently, I was not the only person who had some rough times on his or her bike. Though I didn't win any raffle prizes, I had the highest bid on a certificate for Billet Racing Product hand guards. Mark Odette took a picture with me holding the prize--they wanted to send it to the owner of the shop, showing him that a woman had claimed it.

Mark Odette, Louise, Mark Ferguson--can't say thanks enough, you guys!

I chatted with the Marks--Mark Odette and Mark Ferguson--and thanked them for a great weekend. Some really nice planning had gone into it. Swag bags with DVDs, stickers (!), piston key rings, and a whole bunch of other stuff were handed out along with our Rendezvous t-shirts. In the bags, beautiful maps of the Wagon Wheel Trail System had been given to each of us. They were very detailed, and all trails were rated in a similar fashion to ski runs--greens, blues, and black diamonds. It gave people a great idea of where to head and what to ride, based on each person's skill level, experience, and desire for difficulty. Lots of time communicating with the town itself and researching trails and areas to ride had also been put into planning the weekend, and that effort made it easy to have a great time.

I was not really in need of a piston key ring, but I took two and turned them into earrings. Crap, I'm really becoming that girl....

The Italian restaurant two blocks away from the park was overrun that night with riders who wanted dinner after the festivities were over. Ma Famiglia had great food, and it was fun to see tables and tables of riders supporting the local community. After dinner, a number of us headed back to a bonfire and we sat around and told a continuing campfire story which included Sasquatch, natives beating drums, Esperanza the nun, and a 13 year old Brazilian girl. There was also the main character, the White Ghost, who may or may not have been modeled after one of our riders....

It took a while to get the mud off, it had dried and hardened into concrete!
The Grunge Brush is the BEST way to clean a chain!
Taz has no center stand, so this is how I spin my wheel to clean and lube the chain. Pull the bike over on the kickstand, and spin the wheel with my foot. It isn't terribly efficient, but it works. And I'm only a little worried I'll pull the bike over onto me....

That was pretty well the end. My heart was sad the next morning as I watched everyone load up, and as we all said goodbye. After 220 miles of I-70, I was home, cleaning mud off my bike, de-gunking my encrusted chain, and collapsing into a comfy chair. It was such a great weekend, and despite my injuries and all that needs to be done to that bike, I am ready for another one.


RMAR Rendezvous 2014--Meeker, CO Part 1

Gettin' dirty again.


I have been looking forward to the RMAR Rendezvous for two years, since the last one I did in 2012. That was my introduction to off-road riding, and the event that made me love it! This year, although it was originally scheduled to be in Silverton again, it was moved to Meeker that weekend because 400+ jeeps would be arriving in Silverton for a huge rally. That wasn't going to be fun for anyone on motorbikes, so a new location was chosen. And it was chosen well!

Having ridden Rollins Pass the previous weekend, I decided I would take Taz, my XT225. Some quick thought and preparation had to go into that decision, including a windscreen and dealing with the luggage rack. When I bought the bike, the seller threw in a rack and soft bags for an extra $100. Monday night as I installed it all, I realized it had never been used. It all worked out perfectly, but I kept repeating to myself, "It's motorbiking--make it up as you go." Everything I needed fit easily in the soft panniers, and the sleeping bag, sleeping pad, pillow, and Dog went into the dry bag where they belonged.

Had to remove the handles and turn signals, then retire the turn signals to fit on the luggage rack.
Sequoia luggage rack with Nelson-Riggs luggage. Worked out perfectly, except for the missing hardware to secure the turn signals. Boo!

Getting there on Thursday was not exactly easy. Riding out of Denver, there was rain. It was slow going through the tunnels and into Silverthorn. It cleared up for about two minutes, then began pouring again. Somewhere around Copper, I think I actually yelled "OUCH!" in my helmet as I was briefly pelted with hail. Right around Avon, the skies began to clear. I stood for the entire ride through Glenwood Canyon which, due to construction was down to one lane and moving slowly. At that point, my rear end was already so sore from the XTs awful seat.

Because of the rain and crappy conditions, I decided to ride all the way to Rifle before stopping. About five miles before getting there, I had to switch to reserve on my tank. We stopped in the town of Rifle for gas, and that's when I began having reservations about taking my little bike. After getting all gassed up, the bike wouldn't start. This happened once on Rollins Pass the previous Sunday, but the time I had to start it after that, the starter seemed to work. Something about the bike being warm was affecting the starter--this also happened with my old little Honda, but that bike had a kick starter so it was never really an issue. After bump starting the bike at the gas station, and again, half an hour later after eating, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. I did not want to be on a trail and have to bump start that stupid bike.

We continued on, and 40 miles later Meeker came into view. As I pulled into the park where base camp would be, I immediately recognized the first person I saw. I couldn't place him immediately, but I knew I had pictures with him in them. When I got off the bike and talked to him, he said his name is Garet and we had ridden together on Big John's Big Bike Easy Ride two years before. That started the weekend off right--meeting old friends again and new ones to keep for next time!

At base camp. The first group in all rode red bikes. Red is faster, right? Everyone camped on the grass, and we woke the next morning to a herd of cattle right behind us.

We got the bikes unloaded, tent up, beer purchased, and returned to camp to start meeting people from all over. In the first half hour, I met people from Wisconsin, Illinois, Canada, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Aspen. We were greeted by Mark Fergusson and met the whole group around 7:00 in the pavilion, to talk about the course of events for the weekend, and hear people from the area give us some great info. Meeker's mayor was there to welcome us, as were representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, the county, the Forest Service, and the BLM. The whole group was welcoming and encouraging, and it was great to listen to their enthusiasm for the town and the sharing of roads for everyone. That evening we had dinner with Brian and Abbi--father and daughter from Aspen--and Mark and Gaylene--husband and wife from Oklahoma--at the local Mexican restaurant. The decision had been made that we were all going to do Norm's Dinosaur National Monument ride the next day, and we all went back to our respective "rooms" for the night.

Everyone getting together for Norm's ride to Dinosaur NM.
With the luggage rack on, I had to remove my Moose Racing tail bag. The stuff sack for my GoLite jacket worked in a pinch to carry granola bars and the GoPro when it wasn't on my head.

The next morning, after finding Cuppa Joe cafe to get morning coffee and breakfast, a group of about 14 of us met up at 9:00 to head out on our ride. Two people from Big John's BBER in 2012 were on the ride--Garet who I had met again the day before, and Clare, who I was happy to ride with again! The ride was going to be long that day, but it was big bike friendly and there was a diverse group of bikes and riders. Most bikes were 400s or bigger, but Abbi and I, the only women in the group, were on a 250 and 225 respectively. This is where I need to mention that Abbi at the age of 19, could ride the hell out of her little bike. This girl has been riding since she was 5, and was a total inspiration.

Abbi and Brian from Aspen. Mark and Rick are in the back paying no attention to the camera.

The route was a ton of fun, but these guys knew the area well, and rode at top speed. Being the third back in the pack forced me to push myself and keep up. In one instance, this meant we got far enough ahead of the pack, that as we turned up our first narrow, slightly more technical part of a trail, we left the rest of the group behind. Once the road got up the hill and straightened out, it became mud. Slick, greasy, nasty mud. I rode on, slipping and sliding, but managing to stay upright. At the top of a hill, Norm pulled off the road into a field. Garet and I pulled off with him, and Rick came up alongside. The decision was made to turn around and not take the group over that stuff--who knew how long it would go on for.

That was some good mud! Slicker than snot, but sticks to everything and dries into concrete. Pretty sure that's what they used in the past to make homes out of.

I was a little relieved, until I realized I was going to have to go back down through that nasty crap. We all got turned around and Norm and Rick headed down. I went down next, and did fairly well, until one particularly deep section. My front wheel turned sharply right, and I ate it in the mud. I tried once to get the bike up and realized I needed to take a breath first. On my second try I got it halfway up, and as I was slipping and sliding in the mud, Garet came running up and helped me the rest of the way. He headed back to his bike and I noticed that I had a custom, newly bent front brake lever. I did a pretty good job on it, not gonna lie. I also noticed my tires were packed with the super sticky, yet slick mud. They were so packed, there was no tread, and they were perfectly smooth. I looked back and saw Garet attempting to kick the mud out of his tread with little result. We were riding mud on mud.

Then I went to start it and thought, "Shit!" What if it didn't start? How the hell was I gonna bump start it in those conditions? Apparently, I actually said that out loud, because Garet asked if the bike would start. I told him I didn't know, mentally crossed my fingers, and hit the start button.

It started right up.

In fact, I will just say this here: It has started perfectly ever since. Apparently my starter needed an attitude adjustment, and taking a header into the mud provided it! On the other hand, after Rick had a get-off on his KLR that day, his bike refused to start, and he had to bump it each time. I feel a little terrible about that, like he got my luck.

Garet passed me as I got myself together, yelling, "Don't get stuck in a rut!" and I made it the rest of the way down without incident. When I got down the road, there was the entire group. I found out they had never even started up, and though I kind of wished I hadn't either, I was also strangely satisfied to have done it and come out of it relatively unscathed.

We continued on and headed to Maybel, where we stopped for gas and a quick break, then took off again. I kept to the front of the pack, and pushed myself to ride fast. The roads were good and really easy, well taken care of dirt and gravel. Now and then we got into some tighter stuff with washed-out, rocky areas, but they were easily negotiable.

Until that one time. Where that one thing happened.

Heading down a rocky switchback, I slowed a bit and downshifted. But, as I did, my throttle started to stick and it shot me forward. What I should have done was ride out the switchback, get to the straight, and figure it out. What I did instead, was get on my front brake. So I had my front wheel braking and my rear wheel spinning at a high speed. That back wheel washed right out from under me, flinging me to the ground, and continuing to spin, spinning the bike around. I crawled back to the bike and hit the kill switch as quickly as I could and stood up wondering what the hell had just happened. Brian pulled up and helped pick my bike up, asking what had happened. Four different guys got out tools and went to work on my right handle bar. I'm not sure how much was accomplished, but the problem didn't happen again, and my front brake lever was no longer touching my bark buster, so I was grateful.

Off we went again, and though my knee was hurting--and would look ever so pretty for the unforseeable future--my confidence was still high as we turned off the pavement again at Elk Springs. I had no idea what I was about to hit.

Sand. Oh god, I hate sand. And I didn't even know it. It takes technique to ride in sand, and I don't have it. I've never done it before, and when I came into it at speed and my front wheel began to shimmy, I controlled the bike well enough until it got more than a foot deep. Then I ate it. Thankfully, it doesn't hurt when you have a get off in sand. Well, it didn't hurt anything more than my pride. And I did it in the deepest stuff, which means when I started up again, I rode right out of the other side.

I did this one other time on the ride, in the other bit of deep sand. I would like to say, in my defense, that the first bit of sand was red. When I came flying around the curve at 35-40 miles and hour and hit the second bit of sand, it was the same pale brown/yellow as the road I was riding. I didn't realize it was going to be sand until my wheels sunk in. I threw a little tantrum the second time I ate it in the sand because I was so close to being out of it when I came off. I have watched the GoPro footage and I was about 30 seconds into riding through the sand, and it would have been about 4 more to get out. It zapped some of my confidence.

I think I made one of the riders nervous when I went and sat on the edge of a sheer drop off, several hundred feet down. I liked the view.

Everything was super easy from that bit on out though. We made several stops: Overlooking the river and canyon, Whispering Cave, and Steamboat Rock, near where the Yampah and Green Rivers meet. We had one more section of dirt to ride to get out of the monument, and though it was rutted, washboard-y, and rocky, it wasn't bad. I did stop and wait while an SUV turned around in front of me, and headed back up the road after deciding it didn't want to go any further. I was glad I hung back as I watched its rear wheels kick up tons of rock and dust. The last thing I needed that day was to have things thrown at me.

I like Brian's transformer backpack!
Whispering Cave--over 90 degrees outside, no more than 60 degrees under that lip.
Steamboat Rock

Out of the monument, we rode to Dinosaur, gassed up, ate, and slabbed it back the last 85 miles to Meeker. I was exhausted and sore. It was close to 6:00 when we pulled back in, and all I wanted was Tylenol, water, beer, and real food. We were supposed to be meeting at the pavilion at 7:00, but I had to eat. My neck and shoulders were sore and a headache was coming on at full speed. I had also noticed as I changed clothes that besides the huge hematoma I knew was below my right knee, I had another on my left shin, and two on my left thigh. No more shorts for me for a while--it looks like someone took a baseball bat to my lower half.

Oh god--so tired!

The ride was physically exhausting--a lot of miles and one tough and painful get-off. But for me, the ride was also mentally exhausting. It was clear that I was the least experienced and least skilled rider. For most of the ride I felt like I was most likely holding people up. That weighed on me heavily the whole ride. On my walk back to the tent that night, and as I crawled into my sleeping bag, wincing each time my knee touched anything and my head screaming, I decided I probably wouldn't ride the next day.

I fell asleep before it was dark.

They've been getting more colorful each day. I'm not even gonna show you my upper legs. Oh well, chicks dig scars, right?