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Yermo's 2016 Trans-Am Trail Trip

'Wednesday August 10th, 2016 10:00'
This ride is over.

I am still in Los Alamos staying with my buddy Bruce and his family but should be making my way homeward in the next couple of days. After he drove up in his pickup truck to come get me and my broken motorcycle, we spent the last few days working on his 2001 BMW K1200RS that he recently bought. He wanted to make some modifications to it so we've been focused on getting that done. He had a wrecked 2003 K1200GT with an aftermarket exhaust and wider rear wheel that he wanted to salvage along with some other parts. So we were moving parts over to the new bike. He also needed tires so we did that. Changing big tires without a tire changing machine is quite tiring. I am, once again, much more sore than I think is reasonable. After two and a half solid days of wrenching, we got his new bike sorted. Once that was completed, I turned my focus to my own bike. The Mighty DR now sports a shiny new Barnett Clutch to replace the one I destroyed outside of Ephraim, UT in that gawdawful mud. Interestingly, online all the reviews of that clutch that I've read say the clutch lever becomes very difficult to pull but it doesn't seem that bad to me at all. I still have to take the bike for a shake down run to make sure all is in order. That should happen later today, weather permitting. 

It's now been well over a week since I've been in Green River, UT.

A major storm had been predicted with heavy rains and wind gusts over 60mph. I had decided to hole up at the Motel 6 for an extra day to rest and do some writing. I was still quite sore from my time in the high mountain passes. I had been thinking that this whole body ache I feel is much worse than it has been in quite a few years. Back in the 90's, when I was terribly ill for years on end, I hardly rode because it simply hurt too much. Every joint and fiber of my being would just ache making any kind of movement burdensome. In the early 2000's, when my health really crashed and doctors started talking about removing large parts of my innards, I happened across the suggestion that maybe excluding starch, sugar, and lactose might improve my situation. I tried it as an experiment and the improvement was nothing short of miraculos. It took me some time to realize most of my joint pain and ache had disappeared as well. My suspicion on this trip is that maybe I have not been eating well enough and it's been taking it's toll. Or maybe this is what arthritis feels like. I don't know. 

But I hurt.   

A lot.

Because of the Miles By Motorcycle page, I get friend requests on Facebook from people I've never met pretty regularly. I tend to accept them if any of the photos depict motorcycles or we have any friends in common. One such request came from a woman named Ariel, after the famous motorcycle. Her primary bike is a BMW K100RS, which is the same model as my Beloved Blue Oil Burner (that sadly I've had to leave at home for this trip). This makes her the only woman I've ever heard of that rides a K100RS. She's owned hers for about as long as I've owned mine but has significantly more mileage on it. When she heard that I was going to be in Colorado riding the Trans Am Trail, she reached out and said she would like ride down and meet up with me when I was in the area. Meeting people in person that I've met first on Facebook is always interesting for me. There's how you experience them through a computer screen, largely just in the world of ideas, and then the way you experience them in person. Ever since the Big Deadhorse Trip, there've been a few brave souls on each of these rides who have ventured out to cross paths with me. I remember in 2014, riding with John St John, Bob rode out on his FJR and at a different point so did Michael on his Harley. I saw Bob again on this trip but missed Michael. Since I'm going to be going home on the Southern route I may meet up with him yet. There were others who reached out, but the timing or distances didn't work out.  

This year, more so than any year I've been riding, has been filled with accomplished women riders. I remember telling Megan as she and Marisa guided me along Witt road for a shake down run that I could not remember ever riding with two women on their own bikes before. Megan thought that was surprising. There was Amber on his DRZ400 making things I considered challenging look easy. 

And now there was Ariel and her K100RS. The timing looked like it was going to work while I was in Salida so I let her know in advance. She hit the road. "140 miles is nothing for me." she had said, but her bike broke down on the way leaving her stranded for quite a number of hours. Her son reached out to me through Facebook Messenger. "She's on the side of the road fixing her bike." he told me.

That was the same day I crossed paths with Dave and Amber. I had first met Amber through Facebook as well.

The next day Ariel messaged me mentioning she had been planning to camp in Moab and that we might still be able to meet up when I was in that area. I reached out once I arrived in Green River. 

She had fixed her bike in the interim and headed out to make the 5 hour ride which coincidentally was right during the heavy rains and wind that had been forecast. 

There are some people who "endure" adversity. They'll push forward but with the understanding that something, like riding in 60mph gusts of rain laden wind, is "adverse".

Then there's Ariel. She arrived just after the heaviest rains had come through and had the demeanor of someone who had hardly noticed. 

We talked about the bike for a while and the modifications she had made to it. She turns her own wrenches. She mentioned the rain and wind in passing but didn't seem phased by it at all. If it had been me, riding through a storm like that would have been the focus of my attention. 

"She's made of tougher stuff than I." I thought as I said "After a ride like that, the least I can do is buy you dinner." She reluctantly agreed and we walked over to a nearby restaurant with a view over the river. 

We had a liesurely dinner filled with intelligent philosophical conversation. She's a scientist with an interestingly cross cultural view of the world. 

"At some point you make the conscious decision to be kind." she said as we talked about intolerance and judgement in the world. I told the story I sometimes tell about how I challenge myself with every human being I see or hear of to ask myself the hard question, "What would have had to have happened to me for me to think that or end up like that?" I can always find a path, no matter who it is. I find, as a result, I've come to have more compassion for others, even those whose views I find distressing. 

After dinner, despite the continued rain, we said our goodbyes and she got on her bike and rode out into the dark and wet to Moab where she intended to set up camp. 

"There's a difference between doing something uncomfortable and forcing yourself to do it, like riding off into a cold rain, and being able to do it and enjoy it." I thought as she rode off. 

The next morning I walked over to the same restaurant. They have pretty good omelettes. I saw a BMW R1200GS parked in the lot with a rain suit draped over it. It was super clean and I noticed the "Iron Butt Association" license plate holder. You can only get one of those if you ride an authenticated 1000 miles in a single day. It's called the Saddle Sore 1000 and is one of those little checkboxes people fill to communicate "hard core". 

I sat inside and had breakfast. I noticed a woman sitting across the room. She had a helmet. I scanned the room to see if there was another rider, but it then dawned on me she was by herself and the bike outside as in fact hers.

I chuckled to myself thinking, "Women riders." as I momentarily admonished myself for the assumption that it had to have been a guy. I've never met a woman who's done the Saddle Sore 1000. 

She was getting up to leave when I asked, "Is that your bike out there?" She came over and we got to talking. 

"Have you ever heard of the BMW MOA?" she asked as I chuckled. "Yup. I'm a member." I told her. I mentioned I knew several people involved with BMW MOA, but as has become more prevalent with me in recent years, I couldn't remember a single name. Troubling memory loss.

Her name is Jean Excell and she's on the board of directors for BMW Motorcycle Owners of America, one of the largest motorcycle organizations out there.

It's such a small world. 

I asked her if I could snap a photo.

We connected on Facebook. Later, despite the fact that I was not on my Beloved Blue Oil Burner or any other BMW, she reached out when I was down with my broken Suzuki in Manti, UT asking if she could help out. 

That was kind.

I walked back to the motel and gathered up my gear. I was concerned about how much it had rained the previous night and what trail conditions might be like. Ariel had said that the terrain around here dries very quickly and that I was likely not to run into much trouble.

As I rolled out of the motel I noticed a KTM that had somehow managed to avoid the Devil's temptation to ride in mud that's too deep.

Photo (13391))

It looked like a TAT bike to me. 

I arrived back at the trail shortly there after and at the first turn was greeted by some proper flooding.

"Hmmmm. Foreshadowing?"



Photo (13284))

I thought it was going to be more challenging than it was. I walked across the muck carefully but the mud was pretty fluid. I crossed this expanse without incident. Within seconds, I was presented with yet another landscape that was in stark contrast to all that had come before.

And moments later the terrain changed again and began to resemble an alien moonscape.

I came across areas where it was clear there had been significant flooding very recently, likely just hours before.

In places there was still evidence of flowing water. I was very surprised how quickly conditions could change. I imagined that if I had tried to come through this area just single digit hours earlier that none of this might have been passable.

I came across one wash that was still filled with violently flowing water. Fortunately for me, a bridge had been built over it recently. The path on the GPS went a bit further to a point where it crossed this body of water. If the bridge had not been here, there would have been no crossing it. It was deep, muddy, and very fast moving. I stopped on the bridge for some seconds and watched as the water brutally excavated a small wall of rock and earth. 

Soon the landscape changed yet again and I was presented with significant sand.

Conditions like these went on for miles. At one point, I happened upon what looked like "real desert" to me, a kind of which I have not seen in years.

Desert soon transformed into canyons.

But even in these canyons there was plenty of evidence of a deluge and it's resulting erosion.

Unfortunately for me, there was still evidence of significant rain all around me.

Rain to the left of me. Rain to the Right. Here I am stuck in the middle again.

And while I thought the scenery changes could not get more dramatic the path descended into this deep huge canyon with vertical walls.

Photo (13299))

At first I thought a formation on the cliff wall was a man made cut out sculpture. It looked like a Picasso to me.

"Mother with Child in an Archway"

I snapped countless photos but there is a futility to it all. A photograph simply cannot capture what it feels like to be "in" these scenes.


Around each bend in this canyon I was convinced the canyon could go no further but this thing extended for miles upon miles. Eventually the path ascended up a cliff wall face as the sun was setting.

There were no hotels available in Castle Dale so I had to take a 30 mile detour up to Price, Utah where I had made reservations. Price sits below a range of mountains.

As I rolled into town I scanned the mountain peaks as has become a habit of mine of late. I've been concerned how late in the season it has gotten. 

I look for snow.

I was just ever so slighly unsettled when, for the first time, I saw that a number of the peaks to the Northwest were white with snow.

"This ain't gonna be good." I thought in my inner Gomer Pyle voice.

Little did I know that my time on the Trans Am Trail would come to an abrupt end the following day.

TAT Day 22 - Incredible Landscapes in Utah

You can click on the map for an interactive version, if you are on a desktop machine or larger tablet. I'll get it working correctly on the phones once I have a chance.

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