Thursday, March 22, 2018

Let's get this show off the road!

I'VE been itching to get some chapters done.  No, I'm not writing a book, although 9 years of this Blog could certainly qualify as one. 


The last time I rode my Phx based XT 350, it was the fall of 2016. 

That's a very long time for me. 

Fortunately I have covered a fair bit of ground on my Canadian bikes in the interim.

No way I'm getting in there...

ON that ride I had set out to find my way to the Old Stage Coach road at the community of New River, which at one point connected the Prescott area to Phx.  I've ridden several parts of this road, my favorite being the southern return from Prescott on the Senator Highway* a few years back. This time I was heading North.

Me on the Stage coach road... Happyface!

Steeper than it looks!
Of course, I got lost, asked directions from a local walking his dog which ended up getting me more lost, when the route he had suggested was crossed by a barbed wire fence and BLM Do Not Enter, warning signs.  Not wanting to 'blow myself up on the Buried Land Mines property (just joshing you, it's short for Bureau of Land Mgt)

I wasted an entire hour riding through the village of old ram shackled double wide's and what I would call 'mansions' at the other end of the financial scale.

FINALLY having found the right track but having to do some freeway riding to do it, I was thwarted by yet another gate, this one very sturdy steel and wire fencing on both sides, with machine gun nests at both corners.  Of course I'm kidding, but not by much.  I had intended to follow the OSCR** to the top of Lake Pleasant state park via West Table Mesa road and traversing the mountains and washouts to connect to the Cow Creek Trail, an area I have explored extensively in past years.  In fact one year I had tried to make the west/east crossing but got into a huge, wide sand wash and simply was too tired to give the trail a try. 

Me having missed the turn off and about to get really lost!

True, I didn't have the latest intel on that trip, it being one of the first times I was out to simply explore about 8 years ago. Having been now to both ends of this 'trail' I was keen to close the loop.  Of course, just my luck, that area of Lake Pleasant regional park has a winter closure to allow for bald eagles nesting.  Closure in affect December 15-June 15. 
Talk about Big Sky country.

It was December 1st! 

No problem, I had a 'back up plan B'  Failing first to find the OSCR** then getting turned back by the iron gate, I could take a trail known locally as the 'North Old Mine road' and thread my way through the mountains bordering the east side of LP on the North Kv Power road. 

Course what I hadn't counted on was first, the Gate closure, next the numerous 'shooters' that were out there practicing their Sunday 'deer hunting' skills, in every nook or cranny. 

You see, this area being only an hour from Phx center via I-17, was a playground for ATV users and shooters. In any case... as luck (bad) would have it, I could not find the Old Mine road.  I'm certain I rode by it at least twice, maybe more, failing to see anything on a sign pointing south. 

By this time I had ridden about 75 miles more or less which for me is a long ass day, dealing with several failures and having ridden off road on a sunny but windy day, for half those miles.  Remember, I'm not as young as I used to be.

Pretty good view from a mountain top.
No problem, I wasn't discouraged because... I had a plan 'C' ! 

Plan C was, if I couldn't find my way across the top of  LP, and was not able to locate N. Old Mine road, there is always a route which would connect me to the latter.  It required retracing my steps to West table Mesa. I would head south and pick up the Rock Spring Road, heading south and eventually via a bunch of itsy bitsy trails/roads, get back onto the El Paso Gasline road and eventually hooking up with something more rugged past Lake Pleasant and home via the Care Free highway 74.

Guess what?

Another sand wash.

I got lost. 

In fact I got so lost I wasn't certain I could find my way home on these desert mountain trails before dark, which was coming fast.  I did find more shooters and did make it onto the Gasline road but it was about a hundred feet wide, mostly deep sand and I was already feeling the effects of a very long and frustrating day. 

The secret to riding loose foot deep gravel/sand of course is to lean back, twist the throttle and shift up.  That takes the plowing effect off the front tire and allows the bikes, theoretically to skim the surface.  You have to be very brave doing this.  The down side is if you do lose traction for any reason, the resulting 'crash' can hurt!  Riding off hard pack into deep sand or gravel is like throwing the anchor out of your Zodiac.  You do a massive head shake and come to a very quick stop, sometimes viewing your headlight beam as you go over the bars!

Imagine how far a 30.06 bullet will travel after passing through 1/8" of aluminum!

I remember riding in Baja on the XT 600 back in the winter of  '98, with then partner Deb on her own identical Yamaha 600.  After leaving Mike's Sky Ranch, I was riding fast (around 50-60 mph) on these great curvaceous  mountain roads, pretending I'm doing the SCORE 1000.  Suddenly and without warning, the bike literally plunged into bottomless fine sand nearly spitting my over the bars, which would likely have resulted in broken bones at the very least, and bent bike plus a helicopter ride to Ensenada. 

Fortunately for Deb, she was more cautious and held back.  Her comment that she'd heroically ride on promising to think warm thoughts of me as I came to rest on the valley floor, impaled on some saguaro cacti, as she pushed on like a good trooper, was small consolation.
I remember distinctly looking over the cliff next to where I stopped to change underwear, it was at least 2-300' down among massive rocks!

I said a blessing to the 10,000 plus foot Cerro Picacho del Diablo for sparing my life!

I digress...

AFTER nearly tossing the XT down the road several times I decided to wend my way back to the New River (paved) road and speed up.  I didn't wish to be, nor was I set up for a night on the side of the Bradshaws with nothing but my canteen and a DOHC 350 as company!

Easy trail in and out of a N-S sandwash looking for the Old Mine road.

By the time I landed in Glendale, it was dark (of course it's December, right) getting cold and I was hungry, thirsty and bone tired. 

That was my last ride on the 350 nearly 18 months ago.

The reason I haven't ridden the XT since of course is the flooding that occurred at my place the day before I arrived in March 2017.  Since that disaster, I have been waiting with growing impatience to get my home repaired.  I have no idea why it took so dam long but after nearly a year (1 week short) the contractor was paid off and I look forward to 'moving back in' shortly.

Top of a mountain.  Just a moment after I snapped this pic, the bike blew over!

If I haven't forgotten how to start the bike... I thinking maybe, this time if I do it right, make zero mistakes and get away early enough... maybe I can do it.  Not the LP connector as we're still in March and the Eagles (the birds not the band) are still making babies!

THIS year, I am going to try 'plan C' first... and do the toughest part of the 120 mile ride early in the morning while I'm still fresh.

* The Senator highway is all off road.  In places a rugged high clearance vehicle could make it through in good weather conditions but previously on another trip at the end of November I encountered snow and ice at higher elevations (~8000') That was a butt clencher, believe me.

** Old Stage Coach Road


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