|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.|
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?|