Adventures in Abbeyland

After plans fell through for a long weekend in California campering, I decided to head up to my beloved Southern Utah and visit Abbeyland with the dogs.

Pugsly was an excellent navigator.

As we headed toward Thursday nights camping spot outside of Mormon Lake, Az, a downed tree blocked our way! Oh no!

I summoned my super-powers and moved the tree out of the way with brute strength! (Pugsly might have helped a little)

We found a nice spot to overnight and settled in.

Friday travels took us through John Wayne country: Monument Valley.

It’s pretty amazing area.

Fridays plan was to go up Moki Dugway (it was constructed in 1958 by Texas Zinc, a mining company, to transport uranium ore from the “Happy Jack” mine in Fry Canyon to the processing mill in Mexican Hat.) Instead, I decided to explore a bit. There is a road at the base of the climb up Moki Dugway called “Valley of the Gods Road”. How could I resist checking that out? The dirt road wound around and parallelish to a pretty major wash. Of course, I wouldn’t know about that until after I’d found a beautiful campsite.

It’s wonderfully isolated. This was a dirt road off of the dirt Valley of the Gods road.

I checked in with my mom, who mapped my location. She noticed a wash not far. I took Argos for a walk, and found it 100 feet away. After some consultation, and sky-watching, I decided to move camp lest I get washed away in a flash flood. Mom recommended I camp up top of Moki Dugway. That sounded pretty fantastic, so up the crazy, scary switch-backs I drove.

We took a pit-stop on the twisty-turny hair-piny road and Argos took survey of the land below.

Unfortunately, as I drove up the Moki Dugway (SR261), a storm was approaching. My mom who has been there before was helping me navigate via phone. She instructed me to turn left down the dirt road off the SR261 and drive on it for three miles, where it would open up to an amazing view.

The road did indeed open up to an amazing, and vertigo inducing, view. However, right after I got parked and camper set up, it started to rain. Then pour. The storm finally cleared, with enough daylight for me to enjoy the beautiful vista.

Set up for the night on top of Moki Dugway

That night, the wind blew something fierce, and I had imaginings of being blown right off of the cliff. It caused some pretty good anxiety. Luckily for me (not so much for my dear friend who was on the receiving end) I had cell service. We texted back and forth for a while and she sent me articles about how rare it was for a camper to actually blow over. And it would take some gale-force winds. Of course, in my mind, this was close to hurricane level, so I was only somewhat comforted. Finally, not long after midnight, the wind blew itself out and I was able to get to sleep. 

I woke up to a beautiful morning. After breakfast and walking the dogs, I left to head north to meet a friend of mine outside of Moab. Unfortunately, while I was getting camp broken down, a dense fog rolled in.

This weekend I had one job for this adventure up to southern Utah. It was to trek up one of the most dangerous roads in the U.S. and get a photo of the sign to Muley Point.

I left into the fog and kept watch for a sign for Mulay Point, but didn’t see any signs.

I had one job. One stinking job….

Saturday morning meant visiting with my friend Melissa! When my plans changed suddenly last week, I scrambled to make new plans. Melissa lives up in Logan, Utah, and I thought she might be crazy enough to drop everything and meet me halfway-ish, so I sent her a note on Wednesday (I planned to leave my cottage Thursday after work). She was up for the adventure! However, because of work, she couldn’t leave until Saturday. We arranged to meet at a rest stop about 30 miles south of Moab around 11am. That’s as far as our planning went.

I left the Moki Dugway and had a very uneventful drive down the backside – still SR261 and drove North, East, then North again back on 191 towards Monticello, past turn offs for Canyonlands. It was difficult to drive by, but Canyonalands was for another day.

Our meeting location was right next to Hole n” the Rock. Which isn’t near as interesting as I thought it would be. Well, it is pretty neat, but I thought there would be a hole. in a rock. Turns out, it was a home carved into the rock, and a tourist trap.

Fortuitously, I had actually missed the turn for our meetup rest area and had to drive an extra 2.3 miles before I found a turn-around spot. I turned right into what looked like a trailhead for horse riders. I did a u-turn in the parking area, and was getting ready to pull back on the highway when I saw a car with a camper trailer pulling out from a dirt road across the way. Curious….

It was early afternoon by the time Melissa arrived at the rest stop next to Hole N” The Rock. I made some lunch and we took a walk through the sagebrush to see what this rock hole was. When we got back to our vehicles, it was later afternoon and we talked about where to camp. I mentioned the dirt road and so we left her car at the rest stop, and piled into my truck for a scouting mission.

The dirt road was BLM land and appeared to be a popular OHV area. Kane Creek Canyon Rim. Past that “2 miles” of no camping, there were some nice camping areas!

We saw a number of four-wheelers and dirt bikes riding around. We also found a perfect camping spot with a gorgeous view of snow-capped mountains. Mount Peale?

We had to retrieve Melissa’s car. What happens when you put two Chicagoans in the woods? They save their camping spot with a chair, of course!

We got her car, and set up camp. I wish I had a picture that could capture how beautiful this spot was, but this is the best I got.

I’ve gotten to where when I pull the truck up, I can tell if it’s level – or close to it. This time, I was spot on!

There was enough daylight left for us to explore the area some. Argos and Pugsly enjoyed getting out of the truck!

After nightfall, it drizzled some, so we hung out in the camper, played cards, and enjoyed some single-malt scotch. We headed to our respective beds and slept soundly.

Today, Sunday, was a driving day. After a freakishly good breakfast at Eklecticafe in Moab, UT (seriously, if you go to Moab, eat at this place. Enormous, delicious portions and super nice staff even with a line going out the door) we said our good-byes and headed in opposite directions.

I didn’t make it to Arches, or to Canyonlands, but it’s foolish to try to jam that much into one long weekend. This was a fantastic trip, even with the night of insomnia due to fear of being thrown off a cliff by Mother Nature. There are so many places to boondock in these beautiful areas, I could easily spend weeks (or much more) exploring. One day….

 

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Off-Road Fun

It was time to take the 1991 DR350 out for its first dirt-riding experience with me as it’s rider.

When you own a bike, you do stupid things. Those stupid things are usually spread out over many months, or years.
Yesterday, I covered a few of them in one day.

A few of my friends and I planned a fairly easy route that would take us down some very pretty Forest Service roads. The whole trip would take about four hours, including a lunch stop somewhere in the woods.

I packed a lunch of champions and got ready.

The DR is hard to start when cold. It’s kickstart only and the previous owner suggested that the choke channel might be clogged in the carburetor. I haven’t had a chance to pull the carb and clean it out, so I have to be patient and practice a few tricks (like not pulling the choke all the way out and kicking like mad).

Out meetup time was 10:30am, so I got up around 7:00am to get ready. I packed my food into my rigged up tail-bag and got my riding gear together.

At 9:00am, it was time to get the bike warmed up and make sure everything was mechanically sound.
I kicked.
and I kicked.
and I kicked.
Whew.

After about half an hour of kicking, resting, kicking, I was able to get it to burble up and catch but then it would die again.
Why won’t it start? This is unusually difficult.

It helps if you turn the gas on. (1)

I turned the petcocks on, kicked it over and Whooomp! it started right up.

Ready to go!

My friend Peter came by and we set off to ride to the meetup location together.
We got about five blocks from my house, and my bike died.
Adhering to the K.I.S.S. rule, I first checked the gas level.
Whaddyaknow? Out of gas. (2)
I put the tanks on reserve and went to the first gas station, just a couple of blocks away.

Freshly gassed up and a little tired from the mornings exertions, we rode the rest of the way to the meetup location – a gas station further down the road.

We pulled in to park and wait for the others.

As I was trying to shift into neutral with my big, new-to-me dirt bike boots, I lost balance.

Dirt bikes are tall, and I had to do a number of things in order to make this one fit me. Even with the 2″ lowering links, dropped forks, and lower stock seat, I was still on my tip-toes.

Down went my bike, and to add insult to injury, it fell into Peter’s bike, knocking him over. (3)

Gas went spilling out of my tank before we were able to pick the bikes back up.

Luckily, these bikes are pretty decently protected for spills. Dirt biking isn’t always the most upright sport. Both our bikes were fine, my ego and left arm were a bit bruised and I was starting to feel a bit fatigued and hungry.

A few minutes later, the rest of the group converged.
11:00am, kickstands up, time to ride!

I had a difficult time getting my head into the ride. There was a brisk, chill wind buffeting us, my 7:00am breakfast had long worn off, and I’d had a fairly physical and tiring morning. Luckily, the first part of the ride was pretty easy. Pavement to a wide, raked dirt road, up into the hills. I wasn’t exactly having fun, but I wasn’t miserable either. At this point, I was mostly there because I said I would.

After about an hour of riding, we stopped in a lovely little spot for lunch.

It wasn’t the best view, but it was sunny and remote.

I found a rock to sit on, ate some lunch and warmed up.

One of the guys noticed that my license plate was a bit loose. I had wanted to drill some holes in the rear fender and attach it, but had run out of time. The previous owner had duct taped his plate to the fender, so I did the same but with gaffers tape (couldn’t find my duct tape!)
A couple of zip-ties later and with help of my bungee net, the plate was re-secured.

It ain’t pretty, but it works.

After lunch, I was reinvigorated and had a blast. The next section was woodsy and rocky. We rode through a wash with a foot of water and I managed to soak myself. It was great fun!

A couple of hours later of great riding, we returned to pavement and decided to stop for lunch. Two of the guys needed to split off before town, so we went to a gas station/deli nearby for some fine dining.

While we were enjoying our sammiches in the outdoor seating, a couple of other dual-sport riders pulled up.
Turned out we knew them. Small world.

We finished up our lunch and as we were getting our gear together, a few more other riders pulled up.
We knew them too!

Seems this Texaco gas and deli in the middle of nowhere is a popular hangout for the dual-sport crowd.
Good to know.

Even with the morning difficulties, it was a great day.

One of the major things to remember is how much your head-space affects your experience. The roads we were on before lunch vs. after lunch weren’t much different in terrain, difficulty, or grade but I was in a completely different mood for the two different sections and they were completely different rides.

(1) Really? That’s so basic I hardly want to comment.

(2) We all run out of gas on occasion, but it’s still a rookie move. Check your fuel levels! Set your odometer and know at what number you need to refill.

(3) It happens. You slip on a rocks in a driveway, put your foot down in a pothole, knock your bike into your friend’s bike…. It’s always embarrassing no matter which way you slice it. I have dropped a bike once in the past ten years. Well, twice now.

All three of these things do happen, but usually not in the same day.