Day 7 – Oklahoma clutch disaster

July 15th 2017. Today began great. We were motoring through Oklahoma enjoying the scenery and the dirt roads.

ok

waterfall

waterfall2

ok riv

Then the wheels came off. We had to cross what looked like a simple washed out road. What we didn’t do was actually walk down into the ravine and verify the consistency of the mud. It was soft and deep -really deep. I went first and immediately buried my front wheel. After much manual labor tugging out the bike we were physically smoked.

STUCK IN MUD

mud

Then it was Chris’ turn. He took a better line but the mud sucked his rear tire in. We pulled and cajoled it out of the ravine but sure enough he had smoked his clutch.

PULLING CHRIS

We were stuck. The maps showed us about five miles from Nowata OK (pop 3726, and I was sure that Nowata was Indian for no water…it was well over 105 degrees in Oklahoma). I towed Chris for about a mile until we arrived at a hardball road.

BIKE TOW

The temp was over 105 degrees and we had to resort to calling for help.

tow

We were towed to the town of Bartlesville OK and had the driver drop us off at an Econo lodge. Chris Pulled out his clutch plates and it was done.

clutch
We had to come up with a plan as there was no way to get a new clutch anytime soon. We decided to rent a Uhaul and have Chris skip ahead to the maintenance stop in Gunnison CO.

Update: After Chris received the new clutch friction plates and compared them to the old ones it was apparent that the friction plates really weren’t worn but more “slick”. We determined that he had used an inferior oil and it simply got too hot and coated the friction plates rendering them useless. Hindsight being 20/20 we could of used some emory cloth and cleaned them and we guess that would have worked just fine. A $1000 mistake.

Tomorrow we truck it to Boise City OK.

Day 8 -All Uhaul All Day

July 16 2017. If you were following along from day 7 you know that Chirs’ bike was done. We managed to get a uhaul late last night (40 miles from Bartlesville OK).  We loaded both bikes and headed for Boise City OK which was about 7 hours away. Boise City would put us back on track to arrive in Gunnison on the 18th. Chris will be heading out to Gunnison direct tomorrow with the Uhaul and I will get back on the trail and head to La Veta CO.

We didn’t see much on the highway to Boise City but we were making good time. One thing I would recommend if traveling hwy 412 is get gas early as there are very few stops along the way.

paint

motel

Day 9 – OK, NM, CO

July 17 2017. Today was a solo day as Chris fast forwarded to Montrose CO to pick up his clutch.

On Day 8 my GPS fell off the bike and exploded so I had to get one from Wal Mart. Not ideal as the the ones they sell there are designed for autos. I uploaded the routes but the device performs completely differently than my previous one. Also I had no sun shade for it making it very difficult to see  the screen.

I traveled from Boise OK to La Veta CO and that should have been about 250 miles. I ended up traveling about 330 due to missed turns.

Sante Fe trail (2)

pano

Cow (2)

This cow was king of the road. He stood his ground for awhile. None shall pass!

The route was full of wildlife. I saw fox, coyote, hawks, antelope, and elk. Unfortunately they move fast. The GoPro is great for video but it somehow makes things seem much farther away than they really are.

This series of photos is from the GoPro and it is of an antelope that was on the road running about 40 mph then took a hard right ducking under the barbed wire fence. In reality he was right in front of me and I could see him very clearly but again the GoPro makes it seem distant.

Antelope1Antelope2Antelope3Antelope4Antelope5Antelope6Antelope7Antelope8Antelope9Antelope10

NM was relatively flat until right at the border. This hill climb led right into Branson CO.

climb in NM

climb 2

Entering Co the temp changed to the cooler side and I could see a looming storm. My goal was to beat it. This is about 50 miles outside of La Veta.

Storm in the distance

The terrain changed to rolling hills in Southern CO.

entering southern co mountains

southern co

These old relics are dotted throughout Southern Co and NM.

old houswe2

I arrived in La Veta around 4pm local time.

la veta

I checked the local hotel but it was a two story historic place and I wanted a bit more rustic. They guided me to a place that rented cabins but they were out but offered their other place called the Ranch House. They literally told me to go to room 14 “it was open, just swing by in the morning for breakfast and settle up then”. You gotta love Colorado hospitality. I arrived at the Ranch House motel just as the skies opened up with a brief but fierce hail storm.
ranchhouse la veta

Tomorrow I head over to Gunnison CO for new tires and oil.

Day 10 – La Veta CO. to Gunnison CO.

July 18 2017. Another solo day.

La Veta to Gunnison, 260 miles.

Departed La Veta at 8am and immediately headed for the hills.
church2

I came across this old church. When you get up close to these structures it amazes how long the have been standing. All hand built, no power tools and the wonderment of who has been here before.

xo mtn

co mtn4
scott

After about 100 miles I stopped for gas and ran into Scott. A young guy riding the TAT solo from OK to OR. We had lunch at the gas stop and compared notes and maps. He is traveling about 180 miles a day and camping the whole way.

Scott had done the first portion of the trail years earlier and just wanted to finish it. He was riding the WR250 and his father dropped him in OK the day before. I knew I was following someone based on the fresh tracks in front of me but never saw them until catching him at a gas stop.

co mtn2

I kept climbing headed West.

storm

The looming clouds were a sure sign of very cold rain.

salida

I made it into the Town of Salida. They were hosting a Art walk so the town was full of local artists displaying their work along the main street.

I only stopped to remove my rain gear -that stuff gets really hot if it isn’t raining.

mars pass

After Salida I went straight up through Marshal Pass. The climb was narrow and incredibly rocky. I think I ended up taking a trail that was only passable by dirtbike or quad. 10.000 feet up.

clutch

After Marshal Pass, the rain started again and Gunnison was about 30 miles away. I got into town and found Chris waiting on the tools to put his clutch back in. It was joyus to see him still excited to be on the trail.

Steve is close by at a KOA campground with some other Florida Trail Riders out in CO for the week. One of the guys caught 15 salmon today. He sent these pics over.

steve

steve fish

Steve will join us tomorrow and we will take a maintenance and rest day. We head back on the trail Thursday.

Day 11- And Then There Were Three

July 19 2017. Steve met up with us this morning.

three
bfast

We had breakfast at the W Cafe and it was fantastic. The biscuits and gravy were recommended by the locals and it didn’t disappoint.

We spent the day having new tires put on and changing oil and filters. While we were waiting for the tires we decided to get some laundry done. While waiting in the local laundromat I picked up a magazine and flipped it open to this ad:
ad

I stared at it for a second and then flipped to another:
ad2

Of course I had to look again at the magazine and the publish date:
smith

1988! The year I was married!. The magazine had no wear and tear especially since it was in the local laundromat. I was fascinated to see the ads from 1988. Anyone remember the Tandy 1000 or the Olds Touring?

After laundry we walked the town and ended at a local microbrew – High Alpine Brewing Company. Yes I am sure there is a double meaning to the name since there are legal cannabis dispensary’s all over the place here.

dinner

from bar

bar

We ended the night early as we have to get started early tomorrow heading for Utah.
night

Tomorrow we plan to end at the Three Step Hideaway. It is off the grid and we will be staying in a teepee so no internet. I’ll post in a couple of days.

Day 12 CO Mountains and the 3 Step hideaway

July 20 2017. Today was our first day riding with Steve and we were headed for the Colorado Mountains. Once we cleared them we were headed into Utah.

outside of lake city co

small lake in co

pano in CO

steve at cinnimon pass

cinnimon pass in co

chris and snow

chris snow2

This happened coming down from Cinnamon Pass…Chris and I both boiled our brakes and therefor had no rear brakes coming down.

dumped bike co

Taking a break after making our way all the way down.

resting in co no brakes

Checking the Spot tracker

spot

These bubbas stopped to chat while we were waiting for our brakes to cool off. We learned later that night that the guy on the right is the inventor of Monkey Butt anti friction powder. (similar to Gold Bond but better).

monkey butt

After the mountains we headed southwest into Utah. The weather was turning on us quickly as we headed west. You could see the lightning and storms rolling across the plains.

dark skies inutah

looming rain in Utah

Our goal was to get to the 3 Step Hideaway. An off the grid 80 acre ranch that caters to weary motorcycle riders. The proprietors are Julie and Scott. Scott was off riding through WY thus Julie was there to greet us.

meeting Julie at 3 step

all of us at 3step

The hideaway offers tee-pees and cabins for rent. They have a bathhouse with running water. Everything is powered via solar and batteries.

3step2

jb outsidef of teepee

Chris and I shacked up in a tee-pee and Steve chose a cabin.

Steve at 3step hideaway

3step2

We spent the majority of the night kicked back on the porch drinking beers and enjoying the sundown. Tomorrow we head to Moab.

Jb has asked me (Steve the 3rd wheel) to chime in on the blog now that I have joined in on the ride.  I can’t express enough how grateful I am to be allowed to join in on this adventure.  I feel very lucky to have met JB in January at an advanced riding class in Florida. At the end of each day of the class JB and I would talk about bikes, riding, goals etc and we found we had a lot in common.  When he mentioned he was outfitting his KTM 350 for the TAT in the coming Summer I immediately started sharing stories and started reliving my own TAT adventure…….By the second day I realized that this may be the perfect time and group to finish the TAT with.   I realized after talking to Jb a few times that these guys are as prepared as you can be and are serious about finishing this journey end to end no matter what.  Its definitely important to do long adv travel with riders with near the same skills and goals.

In 2009 I did the TAT from Memphis to Moab with two friends from Key West.  We were on big bikes (800 /1200cc) and since finishing that trip I have longed to finish the Tat from Moab to Port Orford…. And for sure on a smaller lighter bike.

Well here we are on day 1 (for me).  A long day of adventure for sure and we were all very glad to finally make it to the 3 Steps Ranch.  I can’t imagine a cooler place for Tat riders to hang at the end of a day.    The only reason we made it from Gunnison to 3 Steps (260 miles) is we had to cut out a portion of the TAT and opt for road.  The change in plans was made when we by chance met Andy and John on the trail post Animas Forks when they pulled over to see if we were ok.   Andy and John are locals ( mentioned above) and know the terrain between where we were and the 3 Steps Ranch.  Like many other things in life,  LOCAL knowledge trumps any other form of information.  Gps, maps, blogs …are all information … Local knowledge is Wisdom and finding it is like finding gold.  In fact on an adventure trip like this… it should be sought out and used as often as possible.  When we told Andy and John our plans ..they looked at each other and sorta said … ” You are going to 3 Steps TODAY ?  Via OFFROAD ???  A little while later while gassing up in Ouray their message was clear… we knew we had something to seriously consider.  We decided it was important to make it to 3 Steps at the end of the day and there was little chance of us making it before dark using the TAT.  So for safety reasons we decided to SLAB it to Monticello then do the last 30 miles offroad. We were right because In the end screaming along at 60+ we barely made it b4 dark.  Anyone who does the Tat should realize that riding at dusk offroad with normal dirtbike lighting is extremely dangerous.  Animals frequently dart out, you are tired and sighting ruts, washouts, ditches and rocks gets sketchy.  

Here we were …..almost at the end of the very long day, stopped to let the active lightning storm between us and the ranch move along at its own pace.

Day 13 -Moab and a bad fuel pump

July 21 2017. We woke up early today to hit the road to Moab. No offense to Chris but waking up next to this everyday would really wear on me.

Chris waking up in Teepee

The road to Moab ran through the lasal mountains, challenging but fun.

Riding to Lasal

approaching moab

stubborn cow

This cow was stuck between us and a steep drop off. We tried to give him passage but he wasn’t having it.

chris and steve outside of moab

just outside of moab

rocks outside of moab

Moab trail

Moab trail 3

Moab trail 2

Exiting the Lasal range we started to see the rocks of Moab.

moab brewery

We arrived into the town of Moab around noon so we grabbed lunch at the best place in town.

Arches Nat parkArches nat park 5Arches nat park 4Arches nat park 3Arches Nat park 2balanced rockme and balanced rock

After lunch we decided to run up into the Arches National Park.
working on bikeworking on bike 2
pulling outthe plug

Right after departing the Arches National park the KTM began to sputter and stall. I initially chalked it up to the intense heat so we let it rest a bit. We still had about 50 miles to go in order to get into Green River UT for the night.

Then entire way to Green River the KTM throttle needed feathering to keep it running. Its top speed became 40 mph and it was apparent that something was really going wrong.

Upon arrival into the KOA campground in Green River we pulled the spark plug out and saw the issue.

We changed the plug and the same symptoms were there. Hard to start and hard to stay running.

The plug was running hot with very little fuel.
lean spark plug

….Well as soon as JB pulled the plug we inspected it close by taking a shot of it with an iphone then zooming in. Before taking that photo though I ran my finger over the electrode and found it to be super rough with baked on deposits. The bike was running lean as far as we could tell … and leanness is NOT good and could cause fatal problems …like burnt valves and a hole in the piston. One thing for sure, the KTM had a fuel issue and we needed to diagnose & solve it with no local help. The nearest mechanic shop for bikes was way too far to drive the bike to. We had to diagnose and fix this ourselves outside of KOA Kamping Kabin # 1 in Green River. Luckily This KOA like many is clean and friendly and we had plenty of space to work. It started to sprinkle so we put the naked bike up on the porch….No one bothered us.  The campground had really good WIFI which is unusual for any lodging place I have stayed.  We all started googling similar issues with this particular bike but didn’t find anything coherent that could help us narrow it down.

Then I remembered to try a FB group I belong to called Team Wanker … They are a group of offroad motorcycle enthusiasts over 700 strong spread out all over the USA but mostly in FL. Well I posted a pic of the plug and described the rough running symptoms and our fate as well. We could go no further on this journey unless this was fixed. Within minutes of the post I started getting responses …then more and more, and still more…. Within a couple hrs was 45 responses. We found out this particular 2016 EFI KTM 350xcfw has a FUEL PUMP issue. One after another the Wankers helped us nail it down. We were very very relieved to have all these gurus chime in and with great surety diagnose the issue: BAD FUEL PUMP.

Well it was Friday night and we were pretty relieved to find the issue but beat from the long hot day in 100+++ weather.  The heat had also caused my SIDI discovery boot to fall apart at the sole… and we are guessing the heat took out the pump as well. The intense heat made visiting ARCHES Nat’l park a brutal experience on a dirtbike wearing full gear.   The Wanker group kept chiming in all night and piled more and more help on us while we slept

Tomorrow we figure out how to replace the fuel pump. An unexpected and unplanned day for the TAT.