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.
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!|
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.