Vegas 06': Shake-Out ride in preparation for a 2 year motorcycle adventure.----> check it!
The Start: I call Heidi at work to schedule a trip planning / brainstorming meeting. From our Minneapolis uptown apartment we jump on a city bus running up Lake street getting off a mile latter at Lyle's Liquor Lounge on Hennepin Avenue, the best two for one happy hour in town. While heavy into discussions about a next big adventure, the topic about what motorcycle to ride came up. We have been looking at new bikes for a while now but they are more then we want to spend, especially when we have a couple motorcycles already. The bottom bike is over ten grand, and to us that equals 6 months 'living large' in some exotic foreign country. Anyway, to make this next adventure happen soon it became obvious that we need to outfit one of our present set of wheels for two-up adventure travel. We pick the Sportster, it's our newest and most reliable bike, a 1995' Harley Davidson XL1200 (Am I nuts!).
OK, somewhere while talking about schedules and destinations came out the need for a shake-out ride to Las Vegas. "Sounds good!", we do a pinkie-pact (now it is set in stone) here we go....
New Bike Stuff and To-Do List: 4.2 gal tank (ebay), 2-up touring seat (Saddlemen Adventurer). Mount super heavy duty springs, extra long heavy duty rear shocks (Progressive suspension 440’s). Huge aluminum panniers (Happy trails 42L * 2). Custom bracket for the panniers. Relocate blinkers and license plate to make room for panniers. New tires. We have 6 weeks to get the stuff and get the bike ready. It's a ball ordering everything over the internet. The parts start coming in….
Tires are in, shocks, springs, blinker relocate kit. My buddy Tom cames up to help install all the stuff. Tom has worked in mechanical engineering for decades and has a Sportster of his own he works on. Tom is also getting to ride from Creel Mexico to the sea of Cortez and back on his KTM, how cool.
The fish house seconds as a bike mod shop.
The blinkers moved back allows room to mount those huge aluminum bags. How to mount the bags?
My buddy Rich is eager to paint the tank. What a friend, he does an excellent job and only charges me for the materials.
My neighbor Jeff has an idea for custom brackets, I draw up a sketch. I take the drawing to Ornamental Iron in Shakopee, MN. A week later I pick up the two custom brackets. I told the welder that I don’t care how they look, I just need them super strong. The brackets looked beautiful.
I like it!
I’m off just before noon. I see in the radar thin fingers of intense storms marching just west of Minneapolis and bigger cells located near east central South Dakota, just where I’m heading. The cells are not super big, not big enough to alter direction. I hit just sprinkles through most of Minnesota. Near west central Minnesota I planned on turning south but I could see a huge weather cell in that direction. Straight west is South Dakota and I could see just a small storm cell ahead. West I go. The rain was hard and the winds strong but it lasted for less then ten miles. The rain suite came off less then an hour later.
The Blow Out:
I wanted to make some big miles the first day. Just short of seven hundred will put me in the South Dakota Bad lands, a great place to wake up and start a days ride. The more I ride the more I like VFF (Very Few Freeways). State and county roads are just more interesting even in SD but I knew the last hundred miles or so is going to be in the dark, for that I jump on interstate I90 west. I am hammering along doing 75, 80 but not much faster. Those new panniers I have act as big wind flaps causing a strong vortex air wave to form behind me. The bike really wants to start rocking at high speeds. 75 to 78 MPH is my new safe top speed, a little more in a tail wind, a little less in a head wind. Bummer, I like 85 to 90 but this is probably good for me. Ok I’m flying along then go over a bridge with one lane closed for construction. At the end of the bridge was a big lip but not super big. Something felt a little weird then I hear a skitching sound behind me. It was getting dark but I still caught a glimpse of something on the road behind me. I didn’t figure it out until I stopped and looked down at the bike, No right saddle bag! F-------
My father being a WW2 front line soldier and long time backpacker of the Appellation trail and others always taught me to carry survival gear. 50 feet of nylon rope gets me back on the road with the pannier. Lucky for me I only had 40 miles before the Bad Lands exit with numerous camp grounds in the area. I take the first camp spot just off I90. The place had a pool and cold beer. Yes, I will figure this out. Up in the morning I get out the map, 80 miles to Rapid City. I’m confident I can find an aluminum welder there. Somewhere before Rapid City I pull off at a wayside rest stop. The attendants help me with a phone book and suggestions of welders they know. A tall sturdy woman about my age said she didn’t think Joe welded aluminum. She said “that takes a special kind of welder, Joe is over eighty ya know”. I look at the Rapid City yellow pages and pick a welder ad that says “If we can’t fix it we will make it”, Sounds like the place for me. The people at the wayside give me a map of the city and explain how to get to the welder, super nice. I call Adams Welding on the phone and they say “We can do it, where are you? “ I’m an hour away.
Bart, the guy I talked to on the phone walk’s me over to bay-4 and introduces me to Mike. He says Mike is the best aluminum welder in the country. I take the bike apart and give Mike both custom brackets. Both Bart and Mike look at the failed bracket parts and say that the weld had no penetration and that they can do a much better job. Sweeeet!
Mike comes back about 30 minutes later with the brackets, they look great. A beautiful weld bead along the entire joint. I go back into the office to get the bad news from Bart, how much? $21.70 (Un-real!) I am liken life. I go into this euphoria mode now, I know that the brackets are better then ever, I’m putting it all together just right and all is cool in my world.
Just after noon I’m back on the road. This trip has already worked as a shake down ride. I have two more modifications I will do to the brackets later but for now I’m sure they will hold. I will test them….
I only lost a half a day. I plan on blasting through the Black hills to make up time. Been there, done that. I want to stay off the interstates so I take a highway that runs west starting in the middle of the black hills running into the heart of Wyoming. The road is marked as a scenic byway and is a nice ride.
When I ride alone I don’t like to consider where I will look for camping until I have a good idea of how far I will be. It was getting late and I could see some points of interest marked on the map just ahead. Always my first choice is to find primitive camping in some great wilderness setting. It’s the way I’ve been brought up, primitive camping just feels good.
‘Hole in the Wall’, this is the point of interest I saw on the map. I think it’s the place where Jessie James and Billy the kid hid out. My father wanted me to be named Jessie after Jessie James. I gotta check this out.
Nice bar. I complement it right away and the bartender says “Thanks, I just finished it”. One guy at the bar, he introduces himself and says “Now you know someone at this bar”. The place had a good hometown feel, like places in northern Wisconsin except this had drive up window service, nice. The guy at the bar enjoyed watching the bartender lean over to serve and talk to people at the window. He was telling stories of when he was young and use to ride “sport glides and pan glides and stuff”. When he was young and worked in the mines he had money and would ride all over. The bartender talks about wanting to see Africa and New Zealand. This is cool but it feels a little like the ‘twilight zone’, I can’t quite put my finger on it. I was in a hurry and had to run, we all wave goodbye.
Outside the bar I was looking over the map. From here starts a forty or fifty mile road that loops in and back out of this area. This is the Hole in the Wall site. The road is marked paved for about ten miles then dirt. A pickup truck pulls in and out pops what looked like the brother of the guy in the bar. He asks “Where ya headin?” “I’m thinking about the Hole in the Wall” He asks “You camping?” “Yup” He looks me over and the bike while he digs out what looked like black tar out of a can of chewing tobacco. He says “You better camp at the end of this paved road about ten miles up at the Hole in the Wall RV park. The owner works at the other bar and she will set you up nice.” I said “I want to drive all the way through.” He spits some chew and looks at the bike again “Not with that thing your not, there rocks the size of this up there” motioning the size of a melon with both his hands. I thanked him for the advice and I said I will go check out that RV park. (Ya Right!) He says “Ya, you go up into that canyon and have yourself a smoke, ya that’s what you should do. Hey, do you smoke?” Looking back just before entering the bar. I say “No” He says “Well you should go up there and have a smoke”….
Now I’m getting into the cool scenery but the sun is getting low and I need to get a camp spot.
I push further down the road, it keeps getting better. I really like the performance of this new camera for low light shots.
OK, big rocks and steep crap. I can do this….
Going up..... I get to the top of the hill and take the first side path leading off. A perfect camp spot hidden from the road overlooking the canyon. I know Jessie has spent time on this ridge with his horse, probably camping right here where I am. This is a perfect lookout over the valley with a fast getaway behind.
Morning shoot, tent front door :
I'm heading toward southwest Wyoming. This is a great state for riding.
In the past I’ve visited all the big national parks in Wyoming, I thought I was done with the state but the more I ride here the more I like it. The roads don’t connect like you would expect, to go south you need to go northwest for fifty miles first. This is a formula for wild country and off road opportunities. I can’t believe the vistas here.
There is a big reservoir in southwestern Wyoming with a big canyon system and Indian reservation surrounding it. The maps I had showed a scenic byway running both sides of the canyon with only 2 short paved roads going in dead ending at the lake. I say to myself “I think not” With that much open canyon land I knew there had to be dirt roads everywhere. I start riding down the paved road that dead ends at the lake, I turn down the third dirt road going left and head in. A few miles later I see a two track path. Perfect, this is what I look for. This photo is a re-creation the next morning. It was late in the day when I first come here)
A couple of miles later the trail comes to the lip of the canyon and starts heading down. Just before the road goes downhill a small path leads off over a small mound. I take it and find a perfect camping spot overlooking the canyon. This is an ideal spot in my book, hidden from the trail I came in on and a terrific view.
I set up camp quickly and get ready for the sunset. I’m just chillin out looking over the canyon probably having a beer when I see a set of head lights way down in the canyon. Looking down I can make out the road I came in on winding way down around the hills. It was twilight now and I only saw the head lights for several seconds. It seemed like a half an hour later, I was in the tent when I started hearing the roar of a late model truck. I knew it was coming up the steep hill on the trail I came in on. Seconds later I can hear the loud roar pass just thirty yards away. I stick my head up to verify I can’t be seen. I never saw anything.
Obligatory morning shot :
The next morning I’m heading back out. I’m riding through some deep ruts I didn’t remember last night but everything else looked familiar.
When the trail grew steeper I knew I was going the wrong way. The main paved road that circles the canyon I needed to get to is to the east of me, I’m riding west. I know this because the canyon and the lake are west of where I started. I turn it around and find several options to turn on to another trail. I don’t remember any options last night. I just navigated by the early day sun and made my way out. I knew I was near civilization and the paved road when I saw a SUV parked just off the trail. I could see the silhouette of a female on all fours in the back of the truck with her long hair hanging down. Hummm….. A few blocks later on the paved road I see a father and a young daughter on bicycles. (Killed my vision)
My last Vegas ride I flipped out over Utah. I started out in the four-corners area (Ride report) http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=42810
This is different, Northeastern Utah has more vegetation. I like it aloooot…...
Ride Report Cont: This is the Utah I remembered from my last trip, more of a moonscape or Mars look. These roads are made for biking.
I’m checking out some of the national parks I’m haven’t seen before but it was getting late and I needed to find a place to camp. All national parks are buttoned up tight with almost zero opportunities for primitive camping (unless you have it set up in advanced with the park rangers). I know I have to get out of the park before I find what I want for camping. I reach the end of the national park and a mile later I see a dirt road heading in. Its getting really late and I can’t dally. I Need To Find my Camp Spot Now. The roads are getting worse and the sun is going down, eek.
The roads are getting worse and the sun is going down, eek.
I’m going down into the canyon. This is the sign, Look for the camp spot now…..
Yeah……This will do.
The weather couldn’t have been more perfect for camping. Temperatures were in the mid sixties in the morning with no humidity. I was getting desperate coming in last night and had little memory of how knurly the road was.
Today I’m shooting for Vegas. I need to remember where I started from today.
A guy said the far peaks are over a hundred miles away, wow. I wish that’s all he told me. I did ask him about a dirt road I was planning on doing connecting two paved roads. He says “Yes, you can do it. I did it in a car. I did it on a bicycle” Cool, I will try it, the last hooray before Vegas.
I find the dirt road. This should save me about fifty miles. I go down this road for about thirty miles. Loose sand, side slides, washboards and whoop-dees. After several forks in the road I end at a dead end with parking for a hiking trail. I turn around and do it all over again. It always seems like you ride loose sand and woop-dees twice as fast the second time, once you know what the worst is like. ?
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