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Found 41 results

  1. Each summer now for about 4 or 5 years (?), Jesse Kimball has organized this event he calls the "Flying Monkey Adventure Rally." I never knew where that name came from until this last time. Apparently, the first one was held near this old military testing facility that had rocket sleds where they'd put a monkey in a flight seat and blast it off to see if he survived the g-forces. I guess the staff of the facility named the area the "flying monkey" test range or something and it just stuck. The location of the event has since been moved to the wonderful Ponderosa Ranch Resort just east of Zion National Park. Really nice place where you can camp for something like $10/night. Hot showers, jacuzzi, laundry, wi-fi, restaurant, etc... My first FMAR I was still learning how to ride the big bike and I was amazed at how big bike friendly all the trails were. It's like a GS rider paradise. Here's a pretty basic video of my first FMAR
  2. That sounds pretty exciting, doesn't it? It was! Saline Valley Hot Springs is this way-out-of-the-way place in Death Valley National Park, yet fairly well known. This New York Times article is one many people have seen before. It's 52 miles off hwy 190 and 66 miles from the nearest gas at Panamint Springs. Franco had invited me to come and I brought along two nice young ladies, Jessica Washburn and Kim Krause. Jessica showed up at my place the night before and we ended up riding up there together on Friday and met Kim and two of the four (Franco and John) at Panamint Springs. John is actually not Italian, but I'm just going to go with it. It was one of those hectic trip departures where everything seems to go wrong, you forget stuff and have to go back, etc... but we finally made it to PSR around 2:30. I was a bit worried since I hadn't ridden with either Jessica or Kim before and while the road into Saline Valley isn't that bad anymore, you never know exactly what's going to happen. Turns out they are both phenomenal riders! Here we are at the lookout right before the turn to go right up Hunter Mountain and left down Saline Valley Road. I'm really loving this new Arakis line from ICON Raiden. I just posted a review of these. Check it out! This was also my first real off road camping trip with my new Hemisphere soft panniers from AltRider. I'll be doing a review of these shortly as well. Jessica is moving out here to CA from MI and I bet she's loving this weather and wide open space. The two ladies posing for the camera
  3. Main Divide Road - Cleveland National Forest - Orange County, CA Beautiful day for a ride in the dirt. After having knee surgery earlier this year, I've been doing some short conditioning day rides like this. Rode Main Divide this past weekend from hwy-74 going north. Didn't initially intend to go all the way through, till I got past the halfway point and things were working really well for me. Road was in good shape, scenery and temperature was great, and the knee was holding up really well. At the top of Santiago Peak the clouds were low and it was really pretty. Was all going well, till I got to the north end and the gate was locked. This is about when the thunderstorm started to show its teeth. High tailed it back the other way to try and beat as much rain as I could. Then it just started dumping... It wasn't more than a few minutes and the trail became a river in many places. I was cursing myself for potentially getting in over my head, when I turned a corner and found two fellow riders seeking shelter beneath an oak tree. After telling them the gates were locked to the north, and chatting about the quickest way off the mountain, we decided to head to Indian Truck Trail together. Stopped to get this shot at the top before heading down to the north gate. No rush at this point since I wasn't expecting it to be locked. Made it out safe and sound, even if soaked to the bone... at least it was a warm rain. There were some pretty gnarly hill climbs in the rain, and the trail was pretty flooded in some sections. Thankful to have run into those two, it made the next couple hours of riding through the rain much better. Wish I'd gotten their names though... Didn't drop the bike at all so overall I'd say it was a great day!! Definitely will be checking for locked gates online before heading out around inclement weather, I learned my lesson.
  4. Last year we had this ride scheduled and then Franco Testa approached me and said he'd like to provide two dinners and two breakfasts and then charge a fee for that we could donate to Lost for a Reason (lostforareason.org). Well, gourmet food was all it took to get people coming out of the woodwork. I think we had maybe 5 people going and then BAM! 30 ish people showed up! We had AMAZING gourmet meals of lamb, tri tip, etc... It was absolutely amazing. And if you've never hung around 5 or so Italian guys busting on each other all day well then you're in for a treat. This is the OFFICIAL ride planning thread so chime in if you're going. $45 is the official price. Menu will be posted shortly. Gonna be great food! July 24-26. Fish Creek overflow campground.
  5. Rich and I are headed up to PSR today in his Jeep with the bikes on the trailer. A bit nippy today as well as windy! Our friend Ken Mooty passed away last December just a month after he rode with us here. I want us to remember him and to appreciate what we do just a bit more given every day is a gift. Some photos so far... All loaded up Pic from PSR's website Pic of Chris Hunt's little mud adventure on his way down through Nevada And Randy is coming on his KLR Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  6. I ride with a small enduro group thats basically out of Auburn California, we'll do some trips out of the area from time to time. For this meet, we met up in Truckee California around 10:00AM. The plan was for a 4 to 6 hour ride with a lunch stop. The ride consisted of water crossings, hill climbs, long large deep tunnels, and good views. Only one incident that day, a guy on a DRZ 400 in front of me launch himself off a cliff. It was a steep hill with large rocks covering the whole trail, what I'm guessing is his rear tire hit a rock funny and that caused him to goose the throttle then it launched him and his bike right off the trail. Video of the recovery below https://youtu.be/fOYOa6dzzHE I had the only big adventure bike that day! I kept up with them all day!
  7. Rainier_runner

    EuroMoto 2015

    Let me preface with two things. One, the show was not nearly as large as I was anticipating. Two, I was looking at bike way to much to be worried about taking pics. That being said, here is what I did take. Pardon the amateur photography and shitty camera. Dream bike... Super Duke 1290. Mine is way better. Seriously! I'd rock the shit outta this around town. Finished the day at my favorite brewery. Elysian Fields. Had a Pastrami sandwich as well, but this is the important part! My apologies for the shortage of pics. I'll do better next time!
  8. Bryan Bosch

    Open invite - Central FL 09/26

    Small group of us are meeting up at IHop this Saturday for some coffee/breakfast/planning and ride until whenever. So, show up and ride with us! Don't care what you ride, fast or slow. We will be getting in some off-road, so if you avoid sand at all costs, this might not be the ride for you. We're going to hit sand for sure. IHOP 13100 Us Highway 301, Dade City, FL 33525 8:30am EST Sharp Hope to see you there! This is what it's all about!
  9. So this is an 8 minute vid of the prep and ride up to Overland Expo West 2015 near Flagstaff, AZ. I ride up from Orange County, California with Eric Hall, Kim Krause, and Jessica Washburn. No pics of the snow, but I'm sure the other folks have some they'll contribute. Enjoy ...
  10. I think this is very interesting read from a many angles. One of them would be not to underestimate the "desert". It is a beautiful place yet very dangerous if you make a mistake. Second one is the proper search, reading clues and how important is to understand a person's mind when in death and life situation. This is great read, however very tragic and sad. http://www.otherhand.org/home-page/search-and-rescue/the-hunt-for-the-death-valley-germans/ This is the tale of what for me was a rather remarkable adventure. It was assembled on the basis of my personal recollection and experience, emails, GPS logs and some official documents. It represents solely the perspective and opinions of myself, in my more lucid moments. It is in no way intended to represent the position of the Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit, nor any other agency mentioned. Further, my usual writing style tends to be somewhat lighthearted and flippant, which would be somewhat at odds with the serious and tragic nature of the incident being reported. I have attempted to remain sensitive to the underlying events, yet retain a certain level of casual narrative that some might find entertaining. And if not entertaining, then at least informative. As part of due diligence I need to add an important note. In the past I’ve kept certain locations regarding this incident fairly well cloaked for a variety of reasons, explained as part of the narrative. Mainly, it’s a very difficult, even dangerous, area to get into, and there are a lot of armchair desert adventurers possibly tempted to try it. However in the interest of completeness I’ve decided to include images showing the GPS tracks of the various search efforts. I’ve also refrained from my favorite trick of photo-reversing images of the site. What you see it what it was. At this point, there is nothing left at the site for souvenir hunters, so I see no need for maintaining its secrecy. Anyone reading of the difficulties encountered in this search should consider any visitation very carefully. As a point of reference, if you’re not physically capable of doing a day hike to the top of Mount Whitney and back, and aren’t a skilled, off-trail hiker, you should stay out of this area. My opinion, anyway. That’s a measure of how hard it is to get into the area on foot (and out, safely!). At this point I know the location and surroundings probably better than anyone, and I’m not going back. The area scares me just a bit. Introduction, July 23, 1996 The original search and interim years I get sucked in (It never seems crazy at the beginning) A pretty stupid day hike, 10/27/2009 I concoct a theory “Tom, we have some bones here….”, 11/11 – 12/2009 Intermission The Big Search, 12/5 – 6/2009 The craziest day hike, ever, 3/23/2010 Up the N3 canyon, 4/15/2010 Water Carriers, 10/30/2010 A whole lotta nuthin’, 11/13-14/2010 Epilogue
  11. In 2006, my brother got me interested in touring by motorcycle. I've been obsessive about it ever since. Now, I have ridden motorcycles for almost 42 years. But, until he said let's go ride around Yellowstone, I had never thought about travelling by bike. In 2007, I met his friend from Tennessee - Jim Bean (goes by Frijole on several forums. you can guess why). Jim joined our merry band of bike travelers, often instigating the trip by suggesting a destination or three. Fast forward to 2011 and the three of us, plus two other vagabonds we adopted over the years (crazy stories behind each of those. Alaska was at fault), thought we would spend two weeks on the west side of the country. I wanted to hit up most of the great roads in Calif, plus see the Oregon Coast, Idaho, and on and on. Jim is the group photog. Mostly because I rarely see anyone take better pics than he can. We can stand side by side and take pics of the same subject and mine will look like crap, and his could sell for $$$. He also started, with our first trip, producing videos to remember them by. At first, they were slide shows to music, then gopro footage was added. The man is an artist. Here is a link to said 2011 trip. It may affect me more than it will you, because I did that trip. But, it is a great video anyways.
  12. Eric Hall

    Death Valley Nov '14

    The year before, this trip was just like five of us going to DV for the weekend and having a good time. Early Nov is a good time before it gets too cold and the days aren't too short yet. Actually, it was because Chris White, who normally lives in Costa Rica, was going to be in town and wanted to see Death Valley for the first time. It was Chris and I as well as Mike, Zach and Tim. I hadn't met Tim before and was a bit leery as I wasn't sure he was going to be able to keep up and given I had listed the ride as "intermediate" or above, but he ended up doing fine. Not just fine, but actually got a lot better by the end of the trip. That's some good advice; to try and ride with people you can learn something from; people who are willing to give you feedback rather than just speed off into the dust. Last year's video. I put Tim's picture as the thumbnail because he really showed up to ride and did not give up.
  13. Eric Hall

    2014 LAB2V - Prep rides

    James Valentine came out the week before LAB2V and since he's from Kansas, I thought he might want to get a taste for what LAB2V is going to be like. Honestly, I thought he might struggle given that I've never seen him ride before and to my knowledge he's never ridden in the desert. Boy was I wrong! This guy can RIDE! He had a camera on his helmet and since we were riding side by side, this song "Dueling Banjos" came to mind...
  14. GSDUDE

    Hola from Louisiana!

    Long time BMW rider working for BMW (retail side) and glad to see a fresh, new forum without all the bs.
  15. So about a month ago one of my riding buddies invited me on a 5-6 day run from our home in lovely overcrowded Los Angeles to areas around Zion National Park. As all trips of this nature go we had more people wanting to go until the details were getting sorted out and then a few people dropped out for the usual reasons of work/family/fear of adventure/alien abduction etc. The trip turned into a group of 3 of us, Orbel the route maker, Dusty and Myself. Some usual last minute maintenance problems, banter and one brand new GS1200Adventure later we hit the road. Day 1 Nice and early 6am meet-up at Starbucks in Upland, CA for a quick shot of java before we slab it out town through Vegas to Saint George Utah. Now is when the smaller range of my Super Tenere started to play a roll, the GSA can manage an easy 350 miles a tank VS my Tenere’s 175-200 mile range. Our first break in Primm, NV so that we can blast through Vegas without stopping. On the way up It was a pleasant 92F or so. Not bad for June in the desert! Then back on the bikes and through Vegas stopping in Mesquite for gas and lunch. Some really empty boring sections on 15N through this part of NV. Orbel leading the way Dusty who just got his 600 mile service done a couple days before on his brand new Beautiful GSA Passed a test car getting put through it’s paces Then lunch in Mesquite where I sent the mandatory check in photo to the wife, showing I wasn’t really hiding out at the local strip club for a 5 day bender again. Then a stop at the BLM office in Saint George to inquire about back country camping permits for the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, however the storm clouds we had been flirting with apparently left that area pretty wet and mostly a muddy mess that we weren’t up to dragging our bikes through yet. Then we left Saint George through Hurricane, UT and I see a Drive Thru Pawn Shop Which continues to baffle my imagination, but I guess when you need to pay the rent getting cash for your Rolex is easy that way.
  16. Can't say for sure, but it SEEMS like not are there just not a lot of ADV riders in central Florida and those that are have a hard time finding others to ride with. That's been me the last year, but through this website, I met up with a great bunch of riders yesterday. Not that I lost my passion for riding, but riding with a good group added back in the dimension that my solo riding has been missing. So, needless to say, had a great time yesterday getting dirty. We met up for breakfast at IHOP. The plan was to talk about where we'd be riding, but we ended up eating good food and just bs'n. SWL knows Richload the best, so he kindly led the group. I never see Tigers here, but they were half our group Our challenge for the day was water. As in, too much. So many of the trails were covered in water and while I love water crossings, most have been crossed by 4x4 trucks with 38" tires. So, if you don't pick the right line, you can get in deep, fast! I had installed new TKC80s, so brimming with confidence, I decided to bomb just a "big muddle puddle". Yup, found one of those 38" tire holes with the front end of my Tiger that that was all she wrote. Dropped her on the left site and got a bath in brown soup! The new waterproof Samsung Galaxy phone? Pffffft. Don't need it! My old S3 came out of my pack dripping and covered in mud. She still works great! Damn! I wanted a phone! There is always a lot of sand at Richloam and we found our share. Everyone did just fine. But, we did encounter an older rider on a GSA that looks like he broke a leg. I hope that he heels up soon! He didn't look none too pleased. He was not from our group. Rider Down! On the smoother, damp sand sections, drifting with the throttle was an absolute hoot! I think I think that I got 10mpg yesterday! But, I was just having too much fun. XMXVET thanked me for roosting him with sand; he said that it brought back some pleasant memories of his motocross riding days. Only a true dirt bike guy would say that! Later in the ride gsadvrider also decide to bomb one of those black water holes that are like a box of chocolates (never know what you're going to get) and he dropped in DEEP. When he hit the other side, when he tried to throttle out, the big girl dug a hole and the sand created suction on the rear tire & wheel. The more he tried to ride out, the worse it got. The big girl was stuck! Even with all four of us working at it, she wasn't budging! SWL, the man that has all the critical stuff with him busted out a tow strap and between his Tiger 800XC and some sweat, we managed to liberate the big girl. She fired right up, shooting water out of the exhaust. We dumped the black water out of our boots and continued the ride. Coffee Crossing Wet, dirty day and had an hoot of a time. Nice to meet all of you fellas! Let's do it again soon before FlyingTiger is off to Colorado for good. Lived up to the sticker Looking her best! New boot drying rack that I designed and am testing for market.
  17. It all started in June of ’14. I found out I had a few days of vacation to use or lose at work, and at the last minute (3 days before departure) I decided to take a few days off and do a ride from Salt Lake City up through Yellowstone National park to Montana, and then back down through Idaho and back to Salt Lake. I called one of my riding buddies, he jumped on his Harley, and off we went. A motley pair - Me on my Tenere, and him on his Harley. There was no plan. It was ride, find a place to camp, ride, repeat. On day 1 we rode from Salt Lake up past Jackson Hole Wyoming with plans to camp in an ‘un-reserveable’ campground right outside the South entrance of Yellowstone. Well, as things sometimes go we found the un-reserveable campground not only full but half reserved. We rode around the loop of the campground once, and then started to ride the loop again just in case we’d missed something. As we rounded a corner on the second circuit of the campground this crazy German guy in a Touratech riding suit came bounding out of the bushes holding up his hand for us to stop. We did, and he began to inform us that the campground was full, but we we’re welcome to share his campspot with him and his wife! What luck! We quickly agreed, and thus a long-standing friendship was born with Claudia and Mirko of http://www.2ar.eu. 2 Adventure riders on the ride of their lives through the Americas on a charity Mission. We ended up spending the next few days with them as we explored Yellowstone, but I won’t get into that in this account. It was decided in those days that we would meet again in the Fall as they made their way back South from Canada to central America - we’d meet back up in Salt Lake City and do a tour of Southern Utah! Throughout the rest of the Summer I planned the Southern Utah Tour, figured out the routes we would take, and in early October Claudia and Mirko showed up with John Colyer of https://www.facebook.com/anomalyadv in tow. We spent a week in Salt Lake getting everybody ready, and then off we went - South for a planned 9 day tour of 6 National Parks - Zion, Bryce, Escalante, Capital Reef, Arches, And Canyonlands (Moab). It turned into 10 days however, as it got really windy on the day we we’re supposed to ride back to Salt Lake from Moab, and we all felt that was a good enough excuse to extend the trip another day! Hahaha. I won’t bore you with a long-winded account of the trip. That’s what video is for! Here’s a rather long, 15 minute account of the trip. Obviously you can’t fit 10 days of fun and adventure into a 15 minute video, but this was the best I could do! Enjoy! Oh, and if anyone wants to enjoy this route themselves HIT ME UP!!!! I’d be more than happy to do it again with a group, and I won’t even charge a tour-guide fee! Or, if you're interested, I can provide some links/coordinates of camping and trails along the route.
  18. Story by Rob Dabney. Photos/video by Stephen Gregory RawHyde is known for off road instruction and tours. ADVPulse put together this stunning video and story about this tour you should check out. I'm on my way to ride CO in a few days so this got me really pumped! Read the whole thing here
  19. Bryan Bosch

    Florida Coast Run 8/13

    In Tampa FL, August is our winter; not only the hottest month, but the wettest. So, most of our trails are 100 yards followed by a dicey at best water crossing. Might be a foot deep, might swallow a GSA. Makes riding loops almost impossible. I wanted to ride with buds, so we did a street run around old Tampa Bay and up the coast (St. Petersburg & Clearwater Beach). It turned out to be a dry day and not all that hot (by Florida standards). You Colorado and Pac NW guys would have melted. John & Pablo, looking NW towards the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. They show this bridge in a lot of shows/movies for Miami, even though it's 5 hours from. This replaced the old bridge that was struck by a ship, where cars went into the water when the accident occurred. About half way through, we stopped at Fort Desoto Park for a swim. Water is awesome this time of year! Probably 85+ degrees. Not a huge fan of street rides, but the worst day riding is better than the best day in the office, right! Soon our killer winter weather will be here and we'll get to ride as much as we can handle. MickyDs stop at Clearwater Beach. Can't believe how the bikini babes ignored all the crotch rockets and cruisers, gathering around our bikes to meet us. ADV bikes baby! Not from the ride, but drove back down to the beach that evening with the family. Nice end to a fun day riding with good people. Pass-a-grill Beach John's Pass Village
  20. Aframe

    Hello from Phoenix, Arizona

    Hey guys and gals, thanks for the add. Fairly new to the larger ADV bikes as I recently purchased a used 2014 KTM 1190 ADV-S. I also own a 2016 KTM 500EXC. Since the purchase of the 1190 I've added the rottweiler performance stage 4 intake and stage 3 SAS removal along with dyno tune. I recently made a mount for a Garmin Montana 680T and look forward to many miles on the back roads. Arizona born and raised. Adam.
  21. Eric Hall

    Mojave Desert Ride 1/31/15

    I had not ridden for about a month (Baja) and was eager to test out my new TFX suspension, so I posted up this ride and only got two takers! Too bad because it was AWESOME! I also had a brand new Mitas E-09 Dakar on the back which made for some excellent traction in addition to some recent rain. Tolga got some fantastic pictures of us (Rich and I) that I hope to post very soon. Doesn't hurt having a professional photographer/videographer with you. We met at 8:45 at the Starbucks (of course) in Adelanto. Tolga rode his 640 because his rear tire on the 1190 R is worn and the new one doesn't come until tomorrow. He also realized he had no plug for his heated vest, so he was pretty cold. The coldest I saw was about 49 but it was basically low 50's. I have been hit with this sciatica and just general soreness recently so I wasn't looking to do anything that hard, but I was feeling fine once we hit the dirt and we ended up doing some really fun stuff. First trail break What turned out to be a lot of fun was just taking random trails to work our way up in a northwesterly direction up towards Kramer Junction for lunch. We went through these hills and Tolga said "let's take that trail over there up that hill." I'm like "dude that's really steep" but we made it up! Hope to have that video soon as well. We were talking to each other on our new Sena com units. I cannot believe I've gone this long without getting one of these! It was so nice being able to talk back and forth about whatever road hazard came up, where others wanted to go, when they wanted to stop, etc... After lunch at KJ, we headed up 395 and went right at a dirt trail and up to a hill top overlooking the dry lake. Then we went down to the dry lake and farted around for a bit. Found these spent rounds. Best guess is a 25mm round fired from some kind of military plane. We found about six and it looked like they were just dumped there. I bet someone found them at a nearby abandoned range and just dumped them on the lake bed because they are likely to just sink in the ground never to be found again. I found nearly identical rounds when I was a kid out near Imperial Dunes in what was Gen. Patton's old training grounds. From Tolga's phone Then over to Husky monument/memorial where a bunch of folks were there placing a new marker for a fallen friend. Tolga did some shooting for his Turkish TV series and took a few more photos. We headed over and saw the petroglyphs at Inscription Canyon and then headed out when Rich got a front flat. We got to Hinckley and pavement just as it got dark, then headed back. Rich had trailered in Adelanto and Tolga and I stopped for a soda at Oak Hills Brewery and a quick burger at Wendy's (brewery has no food). We got home at 9:15! Like I said, lots more pics and video to come. Short review of the new TFX suspension: A lot more robust than I had before. No bottoming out. Lots of confidence. Felt planted. Wasn't necessarily riding any faster as a result, just not fretting over every single dip in the trail. More on that later too.
  22. Took the bike out through Utah's West desert today! Ran out West on the Pony Express trail then South to the Topaz Internment Camp Northwest of Delta. There are definitely some middle-of-nowhere locations out in the West desert! Most of the Pony Express Trail can barely be called "off-road" as it's a hard packed dirt road with a gravel skim in places. Most of the road can be ridden at 60 Mph or more, but there are parts in the passes that slow you down into the 20's. The desert has a beauty all it's own. It's not the dense pine forests of the Pacific North West, or the Canyon lands of Southern Utah, but it certainly holds its own appeal. One can ride for a couple hours and be, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere. Not many people come out this way, so once your out you're on your own! Watch that gas gauge, never let it drop below a half tank, and bring LOTS of water in case you get stuck out - there's no water out here. I Finally found the Topaz Internment Camp, and was super fortunate that the Historical Society was there giving a private tour to some families with roots in the camp. For those of you that don't know, there were 10 hastily built internment camps erected around the US in the 40's where Japanese American's families were held during the early 40's - you can read more about the camps here on Wikipedia. This camp is in the middle of nowhere. The associate museum is in Delta Utah, and I always had the impression that the camp was just on the outskirts of Delta - Nope! It's a good 40 minute ride outside of town in the desert. Absolutely nothing around it. The tour was being given to two gentlemen that were born in the camp and their families, and fortunately for me they invited me to join their tour. Wow... A very sobering location that reminds us that even what we call the "good ol' USA" certainly has its faults. I was amazed that the entire camp is completely gone - torn down as if to try to erase an evil past. The only signs left that it ever existed are a few stone trails between flat spots in the earth where structures once stood, along with a few random glass shards, chunks of wood, and the like. I didn't take a lot of pictures, as the mood of the tour was very somber. Pictures didn't seem very appropriate, but I did sneak a couple. All that is left of the Buddhist temple at the site - a trail of stones around where the structure once stood: A rock garden near the Buddhist temple:
  23. brian.havoc1

    2014 LAB2V on Big Bikes (hard way)!

    I highly recommend clicking this link for the PDF version of this ride report with all of the pics embedded and all of the equipment linked. I spent a ton of time getting that all set up, and I'm just not going to screw with getting all the pics inserted here. **************************************************************************************************************** 2014 Los Angeles – Barstow – Vegas Dualsport Rally or “I feel like I just spent two days in an industrial washing machine full of rocks and sand!” BACKGROUND At some point this year, several particularly sadistic riding friends recommended the annual Los Angeles to Barstow to Las Vegas (LABV or LAB2V) Rally hosted by AMA District 37 on Thanksgiving weekend. Upon first glance, it seemed completely over the top to take a 2005 BMW R1200GS there—especially with limited off-road experience. Perfect! Right? This is where adventure is born! Nevermind that I’m new to big bikes off-road or that I had very limited serious sand experience other than a few patches here and there up in Washington State. I’d seen Dust to Glory, right? Hell, I’m in good shape and I’m a pretty determined guy. I can do this! And yes, there was beer involved in these conversations. A lot of beer. Again, this is where the best plans come from…right? Back when I taught courses for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, I always stressed that the secret to good riding and good times is to know the capabilities and limitations of the rider, the bike, and the environment. Of course, I didn’t tell my students that the true secret of fun is to push a bit (ok, a lot) in each category! The challenge in this case was that I know myself and my bike, but didn’t know the terrain or expected difficulty. As always, when you hear, “Oh, it’s too hard!” on an internet forum, that’s an individual opinion and it’s generally impossible to gauge how seriously to take it. Difficulty is a relative measurement, and I don’t need easy. I just need possible. As with many plans confronted with data (n ot information) overload, I eventually decided that I’d just have to see for myself. After all, that’s the point of adventure, right? Overplanning sucks. PREPARATION AND TRAVEL A million details and major items fit here. I lost a couple of riding partners before the event due to unfortunate timing and circumstances, and the pool of willing participants is limited by the holiday and the distance (Thanksgiving and nearly 1200 miles from Seattle), to say nothing of the course itself. Meanwhile, I ramped up my social media prep and found some fellow lunatics from the GS Giants crew. For my 2005 BMW R1200GS, I changed the oil and air filter, and replaced the battery because I thought it was having problems. That’s about it. Thumbs up for Motobatt, as it performed brilliantly under extremely high demand on Day 1. More on that in the next section. I had already mounted front and back Mitas E-09 tires which were close to new, so I rolled with those. Otherwise, the bike was already well outfitted with the equipment described in the table at the bottom of this report. Skip to Day 0 for the meet-up and the riding. My last riding partner pulled out literally the morning before we left. Unbelievable. Within about 30 minutes, I transformed the event into a family vacation, with my wife, SunJa, and three kids (ages 11/9/7) piling into my little Nissan Frontier crew cab. Planning took all of two hours because that’s what I had to work with before heading to the office. Close-knit takes on a new definition in those quarters! It was a tight fit; a bit less than ideal for 23ish hours of driving/travel each way. Departing at noon on the first day due to kids and dogs and kennels and a hundred other small complications I hadn’t considered when it was just a guys’ weekend, we drove until nearly 0200 for our first night. In the interests of time, we droned straight down I-5—which I absolutely detest. Running on proverbial fumes, we finally stopped outside Sacramento and stayed with a buddy who had just retired from the Army. Seven hours later, we started the second leg to Irvine to spend the night with another friend (Eric Hall) and pick up my new armor from Motoport. The new armor had taken a bit longer than expected because I’d sent in my old stuff for upgrade, only to discover it couldn’t be worked on because it was 12 years old. To ensure I’d have it for the rally, I shipped my pants just up the road to Irvine rather than gamble on receiving it on time up north. Anyway, in terms of the drive down, the big mistake here was transiting across to the south side of Los Angeles on the day before Thanksgiving at around 1700. Traffic. Was. A. Nightmare. As payoff though, I got to meet Eric Hall—a rider after my own heart! Marshall, an old Army buddy and fierce gentleman, lives nearby, so the three of us spent an excellent evening over cigars and beers, enjoying conversation and some excellent elk sausage from Marshall’s brother Pierce. For the record, 10 Barrel Brewing Company’s S1nistor Black Ale pairs excellently with a Nat Cicco Cuban Legends cigar and good company. As far as preparation and research via the District 37 or LABV website, I couldn’t get my forum account activated in time. This complicated coordination a bit because I didn’t have access to a dedicated pool of like-minded fools. Again, not many people are crazy enough to journey to this event from 1200 miles away on Thanksgiving weekend! You have to be a special kind of crazy. D37 did finally get my account approved…the night before we departed. No hard feelings here, as most are volunteers and do what they can. Everyone I met from LABV and District 37 was great, and I truly enjoyed talking with them. Heck, Kieth Huff offered me a 50% active military discount! Nice! Then there’s the guys who recovered me from the desert and a gentleman named Rod who loaded my bike in his trailer and had me ride sweep with him to Vegas…but I’m getting ahead of myself. LODGING Speaking of travel and lodging, my recommendation for before the rally is for the Holiday Inn in Palmdale. Plenty of room to wrench, braaaap, BS, and a good buffet while being away from population that could make trouble for bikes outside. Plus no one hassled us for drinking beer in the parking lot while bench racing. Next up, choose the Ramada in Barstow because it’s LABV HQ for the Day 2 launch and has a good party at the end of Day 1 (from what I hear, dammit). It’s right across from the secure Cub Scout bike storage area too. At Vegas, no question, you want the Orleans since it’s the stop point. Note, the walk to the Orleans hotel from the secured parking area is LONG. A lot of the hotels actually fill up, so keep that in mind if you still haven’t made reservations 30 days out. Day 0 – Thanksgiving Unless you’re local, you don’t want to travel and arrive for this event the morning of. There’ll be enough fatigue and stress, start time is 0600, and you want to be in the parking lot at 0500 to beat the lines. We got to Palmdale in the early afternoon, downloaded the bike with the help of folks in the parking lot, and got to know each other in person since James Valentine, Yut Ughh, and Landon Norman were basically Facebook personas to me (and I to them). We did the last-second coordination and agreed on hit-time for the next morning (which was ridiculously early—damn James and I with our military issue requirement to be early!). Then we drank beer and beat up the buffet at the Holiday Inn, which was a bit pricy but not half bad. James had already coordinated with Jeff Kurtz to do a publicity “live-blog” on Where Does That Road Go? for the GS Giants group, which I’ll admit, turned out pretty darned good. There’s room for improvement too, just in terms of venue (Facebook is a very short-lived medium), but there are trade-offs in terms of simple and instant update notifications for internet spectators. Further research is definitely required for LABV 2015, because we had challenges with multiple threads getting comments, pictures getting posted in a dozen different places (riders, groups, private messages, smugmug), and simple control of an overwhelming amount of information. The importance in doing this right is the potential for sponsors and greater support and involvement from the community. I’m not just talking about Facebook followers, but possibly mechanical pit support, equipment lending, comms and navigation assistance, and central coordination--heavy duty help. From my standpoint, this resembles a company command post (CP; sorry, I go with what I know), which incorporates focus on operations, lateral coordination with outside elements, maintenance, supply, communications, movement, intel, etc. LABV is a fairly expensive undertaking, and the impact on both bike and wallet is significant—especially for big bikes. Help is welcome, and we want to continue to put the GS Giants and BMW Motorrad on the map! Day 1 - Friday James set the time and three of us showed up at Palmdale Supercycles (1/4 mile from Holiday Inn; closer to Motel 6) at 0330. Yes, James and I fell victim to years of military conditioning, demanding that we show up early for first formation. Neither of us can turn it off. We’re hard-wired that way now. Yut was the only smart one, sleeping in and arriving at around 0500, which was plenty early. We got through tech inspection (park the bikes immediately to the right just as you enter the parking lot) with hardly a glance when we said we were on the GS’s. Next, we queued up second in line to receive our rider packets and GPS tracks. We may have lost 1.5hrs sleep, but it was good to BS and get the last-last-second coordination done. On recommendation from James and Landon, I loaded the Real Time GPS Tracker in my phone and we exchanged usernames. This app is awesome for the Android, as it gives real-time position, speed, and status on your fellow riders…so long as the phone has data connectivity. It also makes for great spectator feed, since people could see the screen-shots that Jeff Kurtz posted. (Note, there are privacy concerns, and the status also posts your speed, which could be of greater concern. Manage it accordingly). With our roll charts laboriously loaded (scare tactics to sell $35 roll chart holders were overblown—we had no problem fitting the tapes in ours), we fought the GPS (Nav V for James and Montana for me) to get the tracks to display properly. That was a bit irritating, as the tracks broke down into about 10 individual bits that weren’t necessarily well-named, and the bug-outs were tough to see. By this time, the sun was coming up in a clear sky, and we ditched our excess gear at the trailer. We hit the road at a fever pitch, and promptly got separated. I didn’t see anyone from the team until the next day! No worries here, as I knew I couldn’t keep up with Landon or James, and Yut is from another damned planet (and on a KTM 525EXC). I generally prefer to ride solo anyway, as I don’t have to speed up or slow down for anyone but me, and there are plenty of people on the course early on, should you break down or have a total yardsale. Yes, I’m foreshadowing here. For the ride itself, words cannot adequately describe the terrain for someone who hasn’t been there. Some of the horror stories are overblown, and some are true. It’s hard—sometimes almost insanely so--but the true challenge is the marathon aspect of the ride. Terrain that was simple at the outset is increasingly difficult eight plus hours later. The variety spans the spectrum from deep/soft sand on giant whoops, packed dirt, dirt/large rocks, loose large rocks, and rock/sand crap in Last Chance Canyon that is probably at the outer limits of the R1200GS’s capability. The first part (sections 1-5) consisted of a quick tarmac run to get out of Palmdale, and then turned into shallow to moderate sand and packed dirt roads that could be taken at very high speed on the big GS. Goooood times! I found my biggest challenge in identifying the whoops early in the morning shadows and seeing the roads which cross the path laterally and have little sand berms on either side. In a moment of distraction, I hit one at very high speed and had just enough time to scream in my helmet before launching the GS over an entire road, bottoming out on the far side, and continuing on my way. Cool! But not! Touratech Explorer rear shock and Twin Headlight Ernie bash plate did their job! I continued to refine my sand riding technique, confirming that the secret is neutral body position while keeping that front tire light with the throttle and allowing the bike to dance underneath me. Once you learn to relax and let the bike work, the ride gets a lot less nerve-wracking and the fatigue from your death grip on the bars is greatly reduced! Speed is the key. Pulling into the gas station at the end of section 5, I noticed some stalling issues. At first, the bike wouldn’t idle, and would instead die each time my hand came off the throttle. I had not initially noticed because I was hauling ass and the throttle never really closed. I called Eric Hall to get a question posted in the GS Giants forum for crowd-sourced diagnosis, then fiddled with a possibly bound up throttle cable. The bike settled down and started running well again, so ever the optimist, I headed off for the hard route of section 6 into Last Chance Canyon. Last Chance Canyon started off with deep sand and quickly turned into technical stuff, shooting between, around, and over rocks the size of small (and sometimes large!) dogs. This tested the bash plate and my balance pretty extensively, and I frequently found myself trying to pick better routes, only to get stuck and backtrack. The 2005 GS clutch is dry, and the brakes are semi-linked, so a burn-out turn in tight quarters is challenging. Not surprisingly, I spent more than my allotted share of time picking the bike up, and played leapfrog with some 4x4 guys who gazed upon me multiple times in (incredulous) wonder. Really. Still, despite the sweat and quickly mounting fatigue, I felt good to continue on. I passed a British guy walking his BSA back down after losing his clutch and thought to myself how much that sucked. Unfortunately, I soon reached a similar fate as I found the riding challenge greatly compounded with the return of the stalling—this time accompanied by surging. That’s right, the initially intermittent fault hadn’t been resolved, and it was making an already difficult ride damned near impossible by compromising my control and balance. At first I thought it was just the fatigue or my imagination, but about a mile into the canyon, I reached my limit after dropping the bike several times in the rough rocks and deep sand after stalls or surges. As I mentioned, when riding in deep sand, the biggest advantage on a heavy bike is to keep the front tire light and attempt to control the line. It’s hard to do that when the bike stalls, so the front tire sinks and you quickly end up destabilized and on the ground. Admitting a temporary setback, I headed back down the canyon, reasoning that I could at least ride the easy course as the bike was running fairly well under acceleration and constant throttle. This was a mistake…and yet not. Had I thrown in the towel, I’d have missed the rest of the course. As the throttle/ignition trouble worsened, I found myself in a place where the best option was to simply ride through and finish, since going back would have been just as long and difficult. I’m always a route optimist too, and figured that it wouldn’t be worse up ahead. I may have been mistaken, because the loose sand whoops exacted a serious toll, and as I got more and more fatigued from stalls and falls, I became more and more likely to do it all again. It’s a rather nasty feedback loop. I picked that bike up more times in that 8 hour period than I have picked up a bike in my entire life. No exaggeration. Five days later, my hands still feel arthritic. Along the way, I enjoyed some absolutely amazing scenery. I hit some portions of the “easy” route which I’d classify as somewhat advanced. Highlights included loose, rocky hill climbs and washes where if you don’t hit them just right and power out, you end up stuck at the bottom in the sand and will definitely need an assist to get a big bike out. Sunset on the open valley floors paints everything in vivid colors, as if life is over-saturated. It is breath-taking…if you’re not already out of breath from wrestling the bike through the sand. Of course, the beauty of sunset comes at a price, because I was soon riding in the dark. At this point, the Cyclops LED driving lights and H7 headlight replacement paid for themselves. They were absolutely AWESOME! Big props to Daryl Van Nieuwenhuise at Cyclops for a great product that throws a ton of light and survived multiple crashes. In some instances, it was actually easier to identify the whoops because of the shadowing, but the ride demands total concentration because the sight distance is reduced and shadows could be rocks or merely little piles of sand. Think the course is hard to ride in the day? Think again, because it’s something completely new in the dark! Funny note: at some point after gassing up at the end of section 5, I discovered that in an emergency phone replacement several days prior, I’d managed to back up all of my files…except for my music. On the sections where I wanted music, I ended up with five tracks and a handful of podcasts from Neil Degrasse Tyson on a science-oriented show called “Star Talk.” Nothing like bombing along at speed while listening to an interview with Joe Rogan! However, Avicii’s Addicted to You happened to be on there, and it was fantastically appropriate! Absolutely perfect for the moment! I'm addicted to you, Hooked on your love, Like a powerful drug I can't get enough of, Lost in your eyes, Drowning in blue Out of control, What can I do? I’m addicted to you. Grabbing lunch and gas at Ridgecrest, I appeared to be running on time. Jeff Kurtz offered encouragement, though the bike was still acting up more frequently rather than intermittently. I thoroughly enjoyed the course where I could run hard or at least run constantly, and also happily chatted to a guy riding the course 2-up with his wife on a 2014 BMW R1200GSW. Turns out, that was Roger and Carla Norman—parents to my riding buddy, Landon! The bike continued to deteriorate, stalling any time I let the revs get under 2500. Acceleration remained strong, but constant throttle resulted in surging, with gear shifts an easy way to stall. I found myself horizontal in rather spectacular fashion just below the crest of a steep, rocky hill at some point as the bike had surged and run me into a boulder, which absolutely launched both of us. My new QuadArmor from Motoport paid off, preventing what no doubt would have been a radius and ulna fracture when I landed directly on my forearm on the edge of a rock at speed. A week later, the bruise has nearly faded. Twenty minutes of sweating and cursing later, I’d dragged the bike around and pointed it downhill and narrowly avoided cartwheeling it back down. At the bottom, I met a guy on an XR650L at the bottom who’d watched the whole debacle unfold, but was simply too tired to come help—I assume. His bike wouldn’t start…until I remarked that his fuel petcock seemed to be pointed in the wrong direction. Sure enough, two kicks later, off he rode. And there I stood, gathering my wits to bypass this ridiculous hill via cross-country movement and continue the run. On the easy course. Difficulty aside, I semi-successfully rode the rest of the easy routes until, about 18 miles from the finish, I ran out of gas. What kind of stupid noob runs out of gas on the rally on a big bike!? The type who suddenly gets only 88 miles out of 4 gallons instead of at least 120! Wow! The fuel gauge had been giving warnings with wildly different countdown mileages, and I discounted them because the bike had been horizontal so many times that I figured the sensor strip was screwed up. I mean, going from 40mpg to 22 is a bit extreme, right? Yeah, stupid me. By the time I found myself running out of gas, I could find no obvious bug-outs to take. Remember the earlier GPS track difficulties? I pressed on, reasoning that anywhere closer to rescue was an improvement over where I was at. Thankfully, I’d been moving so slowly and with so many crashes in the deep-sand whoops that the sweep team caught up few minutes after I rolled to a stop and then called it in at around 2030. At that point, 4x4 sweep was an hour away, so they headed on to continue sweeping the course. No big deal, as I’m quite confident alone in the desert, and it was a clear night. Did I mention that this is the desert? And I was soaked with sweat? Yeah, it was soon a brisk 40F. Nice for an hour. OK for two hours. Meh at three. Dammit! at four! Still, I’m no stranger to hypothermia. I’ve had far worse. Intermittently, the phone would beep to life, having found enough signal to receive and send text messages to the GS Giants support crew, who were absolutely great “virtual” company and hilarious at the same time. Concern for my safety was expressed, so I had to tell them not to come out for me, as I was perfectly safe for the long haul right where I was at. Much crap-talking ensued and many beers were proffered, if I could just figure out how to get to Barstow! Thanks for that Yut…jerk. You guys make me all warm inside. That could be the fires of rage though… I considered lighting a signal fire like the unfortunate guy from On Any Sunday who ended up burning his bike. Lucky for the GS, she was out of gas, because I could hear Steve McQueen’s deadpan voice in my head describing the event! “That’s a $10,000 signal fire.” 4x4 sweep eventually arrived at around 0100 and heckled me a bit (deservedly so). Damn, I hate being “that guy.” Turns out, the driver was Jim (Hayes?), who started the LABV rally back in 1984! Rescued by a celebrity! My heroes! We dropped about 4gal in the tank, and they followed me out as I limped along in first gear. I was stiff and cold at first, so I executed a couple of warm-up falls and was soon on my way in warmer, more controlled fashion. Or the road got better. Maybe both. I fought through a couple of tough climbs into and out of a wash and was soon fighting the urge to fall asleep on the final leg of the ride. Amazing how the body can do that. I rolled in to Barstow at 0145, long after the more intelligent and less hard-headed crowd had gone to bed. I’d departed Palmdale around 0630 and arrived at Barstow nearly 20 hours later. The town was just dead, so I was overjoyed to see live Cub Scouts who stored my bike and very kindly gave me Gatorade, orange juice, and a banana. Best $10 I’ve spent in recent memory! See, along the way, I’d screwed up my water and calorie management. I started off well-hydrated, but with the hose to my bladder in my tailbag, my drink breaks generally coincided with crashes. Duh. Same for power bars. If it’s tough to get to and you’re motivated to keep going, you’re not going to use it. I started off the day with a coffee cake at 0430. The next thing I ate was at 1330. Duh. Fatigue? Yup. Glad I only ate half a 6-inch sub at lunch, since I ended up eating the rest while sitting in the desert. I also screwed up in not topping off my water bladder at lunch. Too focused on the bike’s problems and my time, I pounded a bunch of fluids, but took off with probably around 2.5 liters. For a guy who sweats like me when working hard (and I was about to work my ass off), that’s just enough—no extra. Busted one water bottle in a crash, worked the cap off another inside my tailbag (&%$#@!, how does that happen?), and finished the last pint in my bladder at the final waiting site when the bike quit. I wasn’t in trouble, but it would have been a miserable walk out without water. Again, duh. This is something I do professionally and I have a lot of experience with it. I know better. Adult supervision is apparently required when childlike enthusiasm is the order of the day! My gear in the LABV truck had been secured for the night, so I trudged to my hotel across from the bike paddock with the gear I’d carried. Once checked in, I fought sleep through a quick shower, let the internet team know that I’d survived, and settled in for a couple hours of sleep. Lior the mechanic had long since gone to sleep (and who can blame him!), so I left him a message that I’d need help in the morning. Lights out. Day 2 - Saturday After lounging about from 0300 to 0530 (sometimes it’s the small luxuries that make life worth living), I headed back to the action, praying for a miracle. At that point, I’d have been fine with finding out I’m a dumbass and the fix was a simple switch or connection that had simply come loose. If that was the price of another day of riding, I’d gladly pay and suffer the humiliation later! Unfortunately, this was not to be. As a rundown of symptoms, the bike was stalling under 2500 rpm, surging and fading when holding the throttle constant, but accelerating fine. The 4x4 sweep guys could smell the gas while following me, and I found a coat of black soot on everything aft of the exhaust. Dan Stys, a fellow Giant, arrived and we chatted while Lior pulled the coils and found multiple weak sparks—not a good sign, since I highly doubt there’d be multiple failures in one day of riding. Not surprisingly, the plugs were fouled. The GS911 returned no codes, which complicated diagnosis, while the display panel showed a fast alternating blink of the “Brake Failure” and red triangle lights. After an hour, I had to concede defeat. Lior had done what he could in a parking lot with limited spares and facilities. Reliable repair was not possible in the allotted time. Nuts. Time for Plan B. Doing what I do best, I began schmoozing the crowd, looking for a ride to Las Vegas. I certainly didn’t want to add insult to mechanical and physiological injury by calling my wife to come rescue me from my own stupidity and stubbornness! (Not that it would have been the first time…) Thankfully, within 15 minutes, I’d met with an older gentleman named Rod who was driving one of the sweep vehicles and pulling a recovery trailer. We’d actually gabbed a bit on Friday morning when he was taking the bags for the chase trailer. I bartered a ride for the bike and myself in return for my assistance with navigation and mechanical or medical recovery if needed. As a bonus, we got to BS for hours about dual sport history, motorcycles, and every riding topic under the son. Never underestimate what you can learn from an old-timer! I had a great time! Speaking of silver linings, I was able to post live-blog updates to the GS Giants out there following Yut, James, and Landon via social media. Check their write-ups of the first half of the route prior to Baker, but I understand the sand was a particularly evil endurance trial for guys running heavy. Animal that he is, Yut was long gone by the time I arrived in Baker. Instead, I tracked James via phone and SPOT as he moved towards Baker and I stayed in contact with Roger (Landon’s father) to see when they connected at the Rasor Road Shell station west of town. James arrived with his windshield strapped to the back of the bike—casualty of a nasty get-off. He was otherwise in good spirits, though tired, and headed out after a sandwich and drink. Landon didn’t arrive until a couple hours later. Apparently the sand which had slowed him had also claimed some other victims, whose bikes I helped to load into trucks. With the finish line in Vegas to prepare, Rod and I headed out of Baker for the Orleans Hotel. I alternated unloading baggage and gear with posting updates and checking the status and location of our riders. The continuous comments on the GSG Facebook thread served up plenty of amusement as guys watched and commented upon progress. I honestly couldn’t believe how many folks were out there following us and wishing us well! Loss of cell signal was an occasion of particular sensation as speculation ran wild on the status of the riders and where they’d gotten to. One of the more entertaining moments arrived when it became apparent that James had likely crashed and lost his phone. The phone remained stationary while the SPOT tracker eventually continued to move. (Note, Eric Hall returned a week later and retrieved the phone at coordinates 35.5842, -116.1230! No way! At this point, able to step back from the immediate demands of riding, I truly saw how we needed a better method of centralizing live-blogging, commentary, photo hosting, and tracking feeds. We need a means of combining both Facebook’s ubiquitous ease of delivery and notification with some sort of online forum for longevity and ease of display for those who’d perhaps missed a few hours or wanted to read the entire thread another day. The hunt continues for a better online venue to combine all of that with planning for 2015! The wife and kids arrived in short order, bringing the gift of beer! We tracked the progress of our crew as each approached the city, standing by for each to arrive and get a photo with the GS Giants flag, as well as the show-girls—tradition!. I hung out with John Colyer, a GS Giant passing through on his way from Calgary enroute to Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. Very cool, and I envy him the amazing trip! There’s not much to say about the rest of the day here. We got some great pics of our friends, gabbed with riders, helped get people lined up for photos, and snapped our own photo with the showgirls before loading the bike in the truck for the night. The banquet sort of dragged, simply because I was nearly asleep on my feet. But I didn’t sleep through hearing my raffle ticket called to win a Scott’s steering stabilizer! Wow! Guess I should find a bike to put that sucker on!   EPILOGUE – The Journey Home Two observations bear mentioning here. First, if you’re driving back to Palmdale…don’t. At least not on Sunday and certainly not via I-15. The Google map traffic overlay showed it as a parking lot for many miles with the trip taking several hours longer than normal, while US-95 headed north was deserted. Second, I absolutely could not stay awake. Despite a decent night of sleep (after nine hours in the past three days), and more than a passing familiarity with my own ability to operate under extreme fatigue, I just couldn’t keep my eyes open for more than an hour at a time. Thankfully, my wife had managed to catch up on her rest without me, and she drove the entirety of the first day to Klamath Falls, OR. First, she indulged me in my lunacy when it was a guys’ weekend. Next, she picked up the family at the last second for this trip with hardly a plan beyond, “Let’s get to LA! Leeeroooooooy! Jenkins.” Once in LA, she drove on her own to Vegas without me, while entertaining the kids. Finally, she drove 700 miles the first day on the way home, stopping only because we ran into thick snow falling just south of Klamath Falls! Yeah, I love this woman! GEAR AND EQUIPMENT REVIEW RIDER Bilt Explorer helmet (high vis) – a tad heavy and fogs quickly with my windshield setup. A $25 stick-in insert works great since there’s no pin-lock. I’m happy with this, though I’d like an adjustable bill, and the bill tends to rattle at speed (I can probably adjust). It came in at $200 (Cycle Gear discounted it to $100 two weeks after I bought), and I wasn’t willing to spend big money on Arai or Shoei, but wanted a dual-sport helmet rather than my motocross helmet. Others I considered were the Icon Variant, Strength and Speed S2500, Fly Trekker, AGV F41, and a couple others, but ultimately, I couldn’t find any to try on, even at the international motorcycle show. Advantage to Cycle Gear is that they have a great return policy. Actually, they only had black, so the guy had me take a black one and ordered an “exchange” high-vis since a special order has a fee. Nice! Scala Rider G9X Bluetooth headset – I love how this can work, but it consistently pisses me off by not connecting the way I want it to, or by not reconnecting after we get temporarily out of range, or by having a hard time with other models. Operator error, no doubt, but trying to get more than one other person connected always leaves me baffled. Still, music from the phone and voice prompts from the phone are awesome. It’s funny when I forget to turn off my phone and get a call in some remote place because I suddenly get some signal. When I told the Cardo/Scala rep at the IMS that I was having charging problems, he told me to send it in for replacement. Great customer service! Motoport Ultra II cordura jacket (quad armor) with goretex liner (removeable) – one of the spendier manufacturers, though I bought my setup in 2002 and it’s still going. I sent in the armor for refurb and paid rather handsomely for the new quad armor. Shipping was delayed to the very last minute, which had me packing old gear just in case, but it arrived in time. I took a fall at one point that absolutely would have resulted in a bilateral radius/ulna fracture when I landed on a rock. Ended up with a bruise. Excellent. Only wish they’d come in a color other than black back in 2002. I’ve got the Aerotex waterproof liner and quilted liner. Motoport Ultra II stretch Kevlar pants (quad armor) – same comments as jacket. It’s reasonably waterproof, so I don’t use a purpose-built liner. I did have hip and sacrum armor added. Gaerne Balance Oiled boots – not true motocross, but a compromise to comfort because I have this expectation that some day I may have to walk out. These are stiff enough to protect, flexible enough to walk out, waterproof, and pretty sturdy. Love these boots! Olympia 340 armored gloves – standard leather street gauntlets. Thin and comfortable for better responsiveness. Reinforced wear points and knuckle armor, balanced with supple palms. Moto-Skiveez – I bought these on a whim at the IMS in Seattle. $66 is a lot of money for a damned pair of drawers, and I’ve worn Underarmour happily for years now. I’ll say that I didn’t suffer any monkey butt, and they seemed to filter some of the Taco Tuesday madness while stuck in the truck, but I don’t generally sit down enough while riding the hard stuff to find these necessary. Now a multi-day trip would be something else. They do make a version for cruisers, sport bikes, and dual sport, so the other versions could be great. I just didn’t test them very well. They wash and dry quick and seem comfortable for walking around. Freeze Out balaclava – I got this with my helmet at Cycle Gear. Worked great, though I quickly heated up to where I didn’t need it. Better to just wrap the neck. Polysorb heavy duty insoles –The soles of the Gaerne Oiled Balance boots are a compromise in flexibility, so even with wide pegs, feet start to hurt after a lot of standing and pounding. These insoles help a lot. Certainly better than stock! I’ve used these for over a decade in combat boots, and I’m happy. Would be nice to have something even stiffer though. Polartec base layer “Ninja suit” – military issued light/thin stretchy silk-weight base layer. Love this stuff for warmth and wicking. Fox River socks - I live on my feet. Socks are something I know. Fox River works. For my sweaty feet, they’re better than Thorlo when it’s warm, and they pad better than regular issue socks (which I consider disposable for the price). Thor Enemy goggles – worked just fine. Couldn’t find tear-offs. Didn’t need them anyway. BIKE Garmin Montana 650t in powered AMPS mount – once you get done fiddling and figuring out the horror that is Garmin Basecamp, this is a great unit. Note, talk to someone savvy on this, as the old MapSource (2012) is easier to use. My complaint is that there’s something possibly wrong with the AMPS mount where it intermittently cuts power, which then drives the GPS to go into shutdown mode. Despite changing the power settings to not conserve battery, you then have 30 seconds to punch it so it’ll stay on. When I’m concentrating on riding or can’t take a hand off the bars, it turns into a 2min boot-up sequence. My other gripe is that I should have gotten a model with Bluetooth, for interface with headset and for ease of upload/download using phone. Twin Headlight Ernie bashplate - Ernie custom makes his plates, and had done one in the past for an R1200GS with the old SWM crash bars. His was the only choice, other than the anemic OEM plate. His is excellent, and he made it the same day I asked—on a Sunday afternoon—along with a centerstand plate. Note, the Blackdog Cycle Works plate is the standard by which all other plates should be judged, just from its heft and from its mounting system, but I don’t have that choice without replacing my crash bars. Cyclops 10W LED driving lights and H7 headlight replacement – I got the 10/20 degree combo with the dimmable Skene controller. These lights survived impacts that shattered the signals above them. They throw amazing amounts of light and greatly improved my night riding. I have them mounted to a bar running level with the bottom of my oil cooler. The Skene controller is more important for on-road use as driving lights, because I run them wide-open slaved to the high-beam off-road. I use filters more as lens protection than for focus. Also, the Darryl the owner is a great dude and will definitely take the time to figure out what you need. Highly recommend him! No-name LED parking lamp – works fine; should never have a burned out bulb indicator again Moose roll chart with the big metal knobs – held the roll chart without a problem. Big knobs make it easier to roll by running your finger along them rather than pinching. Rick Mayer vinyl solo seat (no pillion). - I don’t use a plate because my Jesse Bag brackets make it easy to secure stuff. Note, I did not bring the Jesse hard bags. No way. Slime 12V compressor set – note to self, when paring down the parts to save room, leave the alligator clip adaptor in there. Other people who break down may not have a handy SAE plug. Otherwise, this thing has worked well. Mitas E-09 front/rear tires – these are an awesome combo of longevity and traction. I’ve not yet compared them to the de facto standard Continental TKC-80, but I probably won’t because they’re so good. I’ll never touch Heidenau again after the atrocious performance of their K60 rear in sand and mud with that stupid solid center strip. I’ve bought happily from MotoRace via their eBay store and from Durelle Racing (who advertised a Dakar front at a great price and sent the regular—irritating mistake). I see that Twisted Throttle and Revzilla now carry them too in the US. In Canada, look at MX1Canada Rokstraps – I resisted buying these for the longest time (seems like a groupie purchase at first), but they are simply awesome for securing stuff to the bike. I use the heavy ones to strap down my assault pack, and the smaller ones in conjunction with a small bungee cargo net to put stuff on top. SW Mototech old-school lower crashbars – These have absorbed some serious damage and held up well. You won’t find these anymore, as they’ve been re-designed and taken the lower cross-bar (under the bash plate—weird, I know) off. I can’t vouch for the new ones other than their reputation. Touratech Explore HP rear shock – this was a night and day improvement over stock, but I’m still out-riding it, even with pre-load set all the way up. I must need a class on this. I also need to upgrade the front, but the stock has been “good enough” up until now. Motobatt battery (200CCA) – I like that this has four terminals on it. You can run your primary leads to two and all of your accessory stuff to the other two. You also can’t accidentally end up with a battery where the terminals are backwards. This thing is AGM, was charged out of the box, and performed brilliantly for well over 100 starts as my bike stalled over and over again. It never showed signs of faltering or failing. I’m a believer. OEM R1200GS tank bag – I’d rather burn this than run it off-road again, and the retail for this POS is $330! No matter how tight I make it, the front hook comes unhooked from time to time, and it sloshes back and forth laterally. The zipper is a pain in the ass to re-zip from on the bike once you get done fueling, it’s too big, the map pouch yellowed quickly, it’s not especially waterproof, etc. Everything about it pisses me off. Fail, fail, and more fail if you’re working the bike as hard as I do. I expected better, BMW, but this is an example of paying for a name, not a quality product. Risers of unknown origin that go 1” up and 1” back (link is approximate) - I’d prefer the Rox, but these work and I haven’t broken them in many falls and pickups. My pickup technique is almost 100% on the bars, so that’s a lot of torque and weight. Never seen these anywhere else. Wunderlich flip-down Lexan headlight protector – works just fine. Just have to stop occasionally and wipe it off. OEM tall windshield – It’s a taller version of stock. I like it, I still look over it, and the price was comparatively good. Touratech sidestand foot – works fine…except I crushed mine while bottoming out and need to pound it flat with a hammer and re-install. Not the first time. Oil cooler guard – never caught a rock in there. Potentiometer guard – never smashed it Jesse Bag brackets – I think mine are the old style and the are beefy. These things are rock solid and make for great grab-rails when having to man-handle the bike either on the ground or to lean and pull it out of a hole. They’re also good for securing my Rokstraps or tie-downs. Only drawback is no lower frame, so they can’t easily be adapted for soft baggage when the hard bags come off. OTHER SPOT 2 satellite tracker – even though the SPOT page has improved, it still sucks for mobile use. WhereAmIRiding and SpotWalla do it better. Unit itself offers tracking at a several-minute interval ($150/yr package as opposed to the base $99/yr) as well as three buttons to which you assign pre-configured messages for a personally selected group of phone numbers or emails. The emergency button summons the authorities. Be sure to press it only once, as the second time will actually deactivate it. SPOT 3 buttons are easier with gloves, and the battery life is allegedly better, but I already had this one, so no need to upgrade. Of note, when my SPOT 2 failed (not common), SPOT replaced it under warranty very quickly and easily. Droid Razr Maxx HD using OSMAnd+ and the contour/topo plugin - Best $10 in Google apps you can spend! Completely data independent once you download the base maps by state (or country), I love that with data enabled, I can overlay imagery maps on top of the base and topo maps and use a slider to change the transparency. This really makes the map come alive and tell you what terrain you’re going to hit. I’m going to get a RAM x-mount and use this side-by-side with the GPS because I honestly like it better. Faster, more intuitive, easier to share, tracks show up easily, etc. I also use My Tracks+ app to record on the go, as I’ve had problems with OSM’s recording of GPX. Tools - MotionPro Beadpro irons (T6 shorties) and a MP spoon with 24mm wrench end, MP axle tool. All are well worth the price, which is somewhat steep. All appropriate wrenches, sockets, and bits. Extra hose clamps, zip ties, safety wire, and lengths of duct tape and electrical tape wrapped around a screwdriver handle. 12V tester probe and cheap digital multimeter. Some extra metric stuff for people along the way, just in case (no 12mm on a BMW for some odd reason). Pay it forward, ya know? Spare fuses, valve cores, valve stems. Silicone self-sealing tape for temp fuel and other hose fixes. Folding 15in Sven saw because I’ve been stranded by fallen trees before. Snacks - Assorted energy bars from Clif, Marathon, Builder, and other. Clif Shot Bloks (caffeine & electrolytes), Powerbar Gu gel packs) for that point at 1400 when I turn into an 8-year old girl (it’s a circadian thing). Military issue MOLLE II assault pack (backpack) – used as my tailbag. I could get a purpose built tailbag mounted back there but I still plan for the worst of having to walk out. This is programming I just can’t turn off. Pack is 1000d cordura with enormous zippers and PALS webbing that I can strap different pouches on. Improved First Aid Kit (IFAK) – contains the military-grade items I’m trained on, to include tourniquet, hemorrhage control bandages (combat gauze), Israeli pressure bandage, cravat, superglue, sutures and needles, nasal airway, flexible SAM splint, kerlix, assorted bandaids and steri-strips, tiny bottle of eye-wash, shears, and OTC meds (primarily naproxen and Tylenol). Plug/patch kit with the trucker plugs - Forget bulky Stop & Go with the gun. I’ve had those plugs rip and fail multiple times, but rarely have I had a problem with the standard string plugs. Rasp, punch, strings, and vulcanizer, with some patches thrown in for tubes just in case. Get the t-handled tools, because these tires are tough! STI Exteme duty 19” 4-ply (3mm) tube (good for front and back) – still haven’t used this, but it’s seriously beefy. It’ll do the front and, in a pinch (pun, get it!?), stuff into the rear to limp home. Probably better to have this in the tire and a thinner one as a spare. Real Time GPS Tracker app – excellent for real-time tracking of multiple users on Android phones, so long as data connectivity remains. Privacy concerns. James’ lost phone was recovered by Eric Hall, who went to the last good coordinates and searched a bit. Cool! Spares - If I was going to use something like spare ignition coils or other large-ticket items, I wouldn’t’ carry them. That kind of crap shouldn’t fail in a day. Put them in the baggage, because this isn’t a RTW trip. Nikon Coolpix AW100 – this little P&S camera has no optical zoom to speak of, but the after-market batteries are cheap on eBay, they seem to last, and it’s water/dust/shockproof. The photos are fairly good too, though I wish I could do panoramas. It also allows me to geo-tag photos, which is cool for figuring out where I took them. If I replace it, I’ll get a version with wi-fi or Bluetooth for ease of upload and sharing. Ain’t nobody got time for pulling the memory chip out and plugging it in elsewhere or playing with cables. Speaking of which, other than the mini-HDMI, the output is NOT micro-USB like everything on earth except Garmin. It’s mini-B, which I guarantee you don’t have in the house. Also, it doesn’t have a built in lens cover like the Olympus Stylus that it replaced. For riding, that means I frequently have to blow dust off the lens. Survival stove & stuff – Remember, I pack for the worst case? I was carrying an Esbit alcohol stove (with HEET methyl fuel in it), titanium cup, titanium stand, lighter, Nalgene bottle, spoon, and backpacker food (Mountain House and Backpacker Pantry are my favorites).   AFTER ACTION REVIEW ISSUE: We didn't have a designated support/pit crew at the end of Day1. DISCUSSION: Pit crew would have alleviated a mechanical challenge that extended the day's activities for already fatigued riders, and possibly could have allowed me to get the bike up and running for Day2. RECOMMENDATION: Get a pit crew involved if at all possible. Standard spares, GS911, good tool-set, good know-how, good shade-tree fixes. Is there a sponsorship action we could pursue? ISSUE: Poor hydration and caloric intake. DISCUSSION: Because my water bladder was in my tailbag, I couldn't reach my hose. Not wanting to stop, I didn't drink until I was thirsty. Too late. Added to fatigue. I had poor calorie management because my power bars were in the same place. RECOMMENDATION: Dual sport "tactical" vest with bladder carrier and pouches for SPOT, camera, fat pills, etc. Best solution may be a surplus military-issue Field Load Carrier vest ISSUE: Tires DISCUSSION: The Mitas E-09 front and rear set was an excellent combo of traction and toughness for a heavy bike. I ran pressures of around 28 and 30 psi and had no issues with rim strikes or pinch flats, even with impacts at speed. RECOMMENDATION: Sustain, but consider Sava and Continental TKC-80. Stay away from Heidenau, which have atrocious wet tarmac and sand/mud traction. ISSUE: Difficult to understand tracks from LAB2V on GPS DISCUSSION: For some reason, the tracks didn't show up without having having to individually display (Nav5 and Montana). Poor understanding of GPS features/capabilities? Coupled with poor naming conventions, the problem for me was not seeing bailouts easily, which I could have used towards the end when my bike was dying. RECOMMENDATION: Know our tech better. Or get advice from someone who does. Or bring a laptop with basecamp, a USB memory card reader, and input the tracks ourselves (slower). Also, James and I had good results getting the GPX files emailed to us, then displayed on our Android phones using OSMAnd+. Next time, I'll have an x-mount ram holder for my phone and deducted power feed. ISSUE: Roll chart fear mongering. DISCUSSION: Everyone kept saying the moose chart holders were too small, urging us to buy $35 holders on the spot. BS, it was fine. RECOMMENDATIONS: Use what we have. I like the moose with the large metal knobs because I can push the knob with my finger rather than pinch and turn. Having tape handy is good too. ISSUE: Rider routing. DISCUSSION: Watching one rider make a mistake was hard enough, but when the next one was tracked headed down the wrong route it would have been really cool to have some sort of communication with the riders. Social media tracking was really fun and even that was a learning experience. The information you share here is valuable to future riders of this challenge. RECOMMENDATION: Look into a communications capability that overcomes lack of cell signal, allows support team to communicate with riders, and still preserves simplicity and fun of the event. This gets into the realm of racing rather than recreation, so it bears much further discussion. The only solution I can think of is some sort of HAM radio rig, which may be overly complex and unnecessary.
  24. I had done this even previously and just called it "WMRS" after the White Mountain Research Station, but that old name is really for an old AOLrider event and there just seemed to be too many better names out there. Besides, I wanted to do a specific event for the GS Giants to try and boost some awareness out here in the West for the group. What are the GS Giants? Well, the short answer is they're simply a great bunch of riders (not even just GS riders either) that originally came out of a BMW MOA rally a few years ago of who preferred dirt to pavement. They started a Facebook page and it kind of just took off from there. They have a number of regional events, but their most popular one by far is "March Moto Madness" and that one is held in Tellico Plains, TN every year in late March. Last year it went global with multiple countries like UK, Spain, Japan, Singapore, Canada, etc... participating. There's no brand requirement; it's just that the BMW crowd tends to put on really good events maybe more so than the KTM crowd. For most, I think what made the event so nice was we chose to get dinner for two nights catered for us by a great caterer from Bishop, Classy Cowgirl. They have actually done events in the past for BMW Motorrad AG there, believe it or not. For me, though, it was that I got to ride up two weeks earlier to scout out some new trails. We also discovered some really cool hot springs nearby that were great to soak in after a day's riding. Here's an idea of how that scouting trip looked two weeks earlier...
  25. Rob Day of Los Angeles, California contacted me in February to see if I may be interested in being his guide for the Idaho BDR sometime in the summer. With all of the commitments I already had on the books the first available dates were the 16th-24th of August. I put it on the calendar and Rob started talking to other guys to see if they may be interested in joining. Guy committed and uncommitted on almost a weekly basis. With about three weeks until kickstands up, Brad Barker of Ride of My Life joined the ride. He wanted to bring along camera equipment and a camera operator to shoot footage to make a film. He talked for about am hour and hatched a plan for me to donate a rental from my company Into the Horizon Adventure Motorcycle Tours and Rentals for the cameraman as well as to equip myself, Rob and Mark McClellen with Sena 10c and prism cameras. About five days out Brad had a conflict with a paying job and left the filming to me and the guys. I was confident that we would be able to get some great footage and gladly excepted the challenge. We had nine days and planned to complete the Idaho, Washington and Oregon BDR rides. Rob, Mark and one of Rob's occasional riding buddies from Malibu Chris showed up at my house in Boise on the afternoon of the 14th. We got the cameras all fitted to the helmets and bike and new tire mounted and made any last minute preparations on Saturday. We had be experiencing a wildfire free summer until the week before departure, but on Sunday morning the smoke was as thick as pea soup. We all agreed that it was really about the ride and not the views the guys, one of my regular riding mates Robbie Musheno and myself put the bikes in gear at sunup Sunday morning. In leu of the southern leg from Jarbidge, Nevada to Trinity Lookout we took a dirt road a couple of miles east of Boise through Blacks Creek Canyon and the tiny town of Prairie up to Trinity. We all decided to give the 1.5 mile side trip up to the lookout a go. These roads have not been maintained in decades and are very eroded. Mark and myself are the only ones who made it too the top, and Mark being the kind and wonderful gentleman he is turned straight around and went to help Chris who he had noticed had dropped his bike. I took the time to shoot some footage and photos before heading down. That night we ended up at Deadwood Reservoir to spend the night. On the Saturday before my group was unable to find a campsite and had to make due pitching our tents behind a road closed sign on a deserted logging road. This night we had the entire lake to ourselves outside of a guy from Florida on a Royal Enfield. The next morning we broke out our Jetboil stoves and made some instant oatmeal and coffee. Yes it was Starbucks. Chris had damaged his front brake line and saddlebag in his tipover and we repaired it the best we could before heading out to Yellowpine. Experience has taught me that you never pass up the opportunity to get fuel so we topped of there. On the way to Big Creek I was run off the road by a pump truck which pumps septic tanks for the summer homes up in this area. the road is basically a two track and we met on a blind corner. My bike and I were unhurt and I waited for the guys to catch up to help me get her back on the road. Unfortunately Chris was to busy looking at my bike that he failed to see that Rob had stopped and ran into the back of his bike. The crash broke the front end of his 2000 R1150 GS up petty bad including putting a hole in his oil cooler. We managed to McGuiver it together by removing the oil cooler and cutting an ear off of it to connect the incoming and outgoing hoses together. It would not cool as well, but it would run. It got us on down to Burgdorf where we made camp for night two. The next morning Chris elected to abort and see about getting his bike fixed back in Boise and Mark went with him. The rest of us carried onward toward Canada. From Burgdorf we dropped down to the Salmon River and then up the other side to Florence, an old ghost town with a rich mining history dating back to the 1860's before finally stopping for fuel and lunch in Grangeville. One hot meal a day is about all you can really hope for on the IBDR. Later that day we decided to give Burnt Knob Lookout a go. This too was a 1.5 mile road that might as well be a river bottom. Again I was the sole surviver to the top, but the other guys gave it a good go before good sense prevailed. We camped that night at Magruder Crossing on the Magruder Corridor. The next morning we stopped in Hamilton Montana and had breakfast with fellow GS Giant and good riding buddy of mine Phil Anderson. Phil was going to join the ride at this point, but had hit a deer a few days earlier and broke his collarbone, six ribs and deflated a lung. It was nice to see him and wish him a speedy recovery. We carried on back over to Idaho and I took the guys on a nice little deviation from the BDR giving them some more technical riding. I could see their riding skills improving by the hour. Robbie rides a 2014 KTM 1190 and Rob was on a 2006 R1200GS. Have of the battle is trusting that these big bikes can do the stuff we ask them to. I was having no trouble with my 2014 R1200GSA. But with 1.5 million+ miles on a bike in my lifetime I have become very comfortable on a bike. I learned to ride on a 1970 Kawasaki 90 when I was 6 years old and have been riding bikes that are too big for me ever since. At 5'8" and 165 that is not hard to do. That night we found a lovely campground on the North Fork of the Saint Joe River north of Avery, Idaho. The next morning we were turned back by fire north of Wallace. Unfortunately we had to take the I-90 to Coeur D 'Alene and the US95 on up to Sandpoint where we stopped and had lunch with the lovely Martha Forget of Black Dog Cycleworks. After lunch we detoured over to Priest Lake and over the mountain to Sullivan Lake in Washington. There we got the bad news that all of the Washington backcountry was closed due to fires. We had no choice but to call it for that trip and make our way back toward home on the tarmac. We totaled up 1650 miles from Boise back to Boise with 1150 on dirt in six days. Rob road home solo and traded for a brand new 1200GSA as soon as he arrived in L.A. We are already starting to plan the next adventure either for Southern Utah of down the Baja to see Kurt and Martha later this year. A lot of that will be determined by whether of not I am riding the GS Trophy in Thailand in January or not.
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