Monday, November 17, 2014

I hate sand


Cabot park PEI
DON'T get me wrong, sand can be good... like take a beautiful beach for example.  Sand is good there.  Or an icy road, likewise.  A horseshoe pitch, check... a kids playground, check check.

...but, when you are following a dry wash, and it's narrow, and it twists every fifty feet, and gets narrower, sucking you in, and you begin dragging your feet, slipping the clutch 'cuz it's now a foot deep, and then there's boulders so even if you had enough, you can't turn around.

You keep going, hoping you will climb out of it back onto solid ground, there are ATV tracks you're following, but then the ATV tracks peter out, no idea what became of them, sand so deep maybe the quad got swallowed up, and it's just you, your skinny tired dirt bike, sun beating down, the hills are getting higher and you are getting in deeper.

I 15 heading south


Finally you say...

"F it!"

Your patience has run out, your arms are beginning to feel like Gumby arms, your legs like Pokey legs, tired from constantly trying to keep you upright, you can't park the bike on it's side-stand without it sinking out of site. Even getting off and on requires extreme care, your boot disappears up to the ankle and the seat is several inches taller than your inseam...

After dragging, pushing, clutching, throwing rooster tails twenty feet high, with sand up to the rear axle... and finally getting turned around, you gulp down half your remaining water, you  re-mount and drape yourself over the handlebars, gasping for air, heart pounding.

Now, you have to re-trace your route, hundreds of corners, same axle deep sand for 3/4 of a mile until you hit solid ground again.

THIS... is when I hate sand.

I talked to a couple from Minnesota, who were camping for the winter in a huge RV towing a small pick-up and a large 4x4 Quad.  They tell me the riding is great back on the ORV* area, but I might not appreciate the sand.  I ask them if you cross the washes or follow them.  You see, crossing doesn't pose much of a problem, its when it suckers you in for miles at a time, hoping for a way out.  I've run into this in Mexico, on a mountain top in B.C. and of course here.

Like me, they are strangers to the hood and in truth have only begun exploring.  I chance it and immediately ride down a steep gulley I am pretty certain (99%) that I will not be able to ride out of.  I am in sight of the campers but still a mile away.  I find an alternate route out that says, 'Vulture Mine road alternate route .9m'  



Vulture mountain/peak in the back ground.

It's steep and rocky but I'm pretty sure more do-able than what I just rode down.  See, here... when you get to one of these places, once you've committed, you don't have a choice.  It's virtually impossible to S T O P re think and change plans.  The gulleys and ravines are too steep, too loose, too rocky, too washed out to change directions.

I rode out.

The highway was indeed 1 mile away and I was never so glad to be on blacktop as I was at that moment.

Then I found Vulture Peak road with a nice green Mile '0' sign and a wide gravel road, smooth as silk.

By the time I passed mile marker '3' and then somehow missed # 4 with my trip meter moving past mile 5 since leaving the highway, I got suckered!  Of course instead a single road, there are dozens back here.

Until then the 'road' had been nothing overly difficult, but then I dropped off into a ravine, crossed a dry stream bed and climbed back out onto the road.  Another half mile and down again this time round a bend, seemed okay, the stream bed was 25 feet wide here and easy to thread my way around the really deep sandy bits.  The little voice was calling me; 'c'mon... it will be fine, you can do it... sucker'


Deep, narrow sand wash, lost off Vulture Peak road.

Within another half mile the hills climbed over me, the stream bed narrowed to 15' then 10', then barely the length of the bike wide.  I was in.

I was so knackered when I climbed out of that first rough downhill, drenched in sweat, I just wanted to lay down and snooze.  I wished I'd packed my little one man/woman tent, that I had put out on my spare bed.

At mile 1, I saw a guy loading gear into a pick-up truck, obviously preparing to depart.  Normally I don't ride up to strangers in the back country but he had a Harley sitting there so I took a risk (oh what a surprise)



Larry was very congenial, he hailed from Nevada, was 69, left the US army at age 21 just prior to the first escalations of a police action in a place called Viet Nam, has felt guilty ever since, and at age 69 now explored the deserts, camped out in his Toy Hauler and rode his Heritage Soft tail around helmet-less.

I eventually regained some strength as the sun slowly sunk into the west, and shook hands and bid farewell to Larry.

Same mountain from closer and different angle.


From here on in I stuck to pavement passing through Wickenburg... a very neat little town, and didn't think twice as I passed the Castle Hot Springs turn off.  I would normally take this road from here all the way to Lake Pleasant.  This trip I rode the carefree highway (state route 74) all the way into Peoria.  I was too bushed to ride off road, and pretty pleased that my new gearing worked exceptionally well for me.

I could now cruise at 60 mph without feeling the engine was going to explode like my very first ride on the bike just before buying it, an in fact even saw 70 mph on the speedo for several miles.

When I pulled into Olive Green Villas at 5 pm in the fading light and cooling temperature, the odometer showed just over 130 miles and I had been on (or off) the road since 9 am.  You can work out the average miles per hour if you like.

*ORV off road vehicle

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