Howard's Colorado Adventure Ride

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Howard's Colorado Adventure Ride

Post by 4Strokes » Tue May 17, 2016 10:10 am

Howard's bike sitting in front of a turquoise lake
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Day One
Left work at 3:30. Truck full of gas. Straight out of town and on my way. Truck was overheating through the mountains. Not a good start. Stopped in Yuma for gas, and when I got back in the truck it was way overheated. I had added more fluid to the overflow reservoir earlier, which must be part of the problem. I figure it can't breathe like its supposed to since its too full. I pull up into Denny's parking lot to investigate. I can't go on as it is. Bright idea (NOT!) -- I'll open the bottom drain plug and let a little fluid out, then close it and be on my way. When I opened the valve, which I thought was a 2-way steel valve was really a cheap plastic valve, the pressure broke the plug and fluid sprayed everywhere, burning my hand and leaving me stranded. The threads of the stem were still in the radiator, and all the fluid was on the ground. Obviously I'm spending the night in Yuma. Luckily there's hotels all around but that was about it. Now how in the hell am I going to find a drain plug for an old Chevy on a Friday night in Yuma?

I head into a hotel and ask for the Yellow Pages, and start calling parts stores. Out of business, number's been disconnected, no we don't carry those, etc.. No luck! I don't even know where I am in relation to these places. Finally I call Apples Garage... "We closed an hour ago, and we're not open on weekends". But ma'am, I'm totally stuck and need some help. 'Let me get my husband'....'Yea I have one of those right here, but I'm about to leave and you'd have to get here in 20 minutes'. Well I know he's on the same street as me, but how far? I figure I can't chance it. I unload the bike, and take off on my first ride of the trip, down the streets of Yuma! Shorts and tennis shoes and all, I find the garage only blocks away. They're just closing the doors, and I slip in and buy the plug for $5. He even gives me a used spare and tells me how to change it out, including the busted-off threaded part. I told him he saved my vacation, and headed back to the truck. I'll have to take the radiator out to do it, so I spent the night there. Only 3 hours into the trip, the adventure has clearly begun.

Day Two
5:30 AM -- I take the radiator out and change the plug, no problems. Couldn't have gone smoother. I take my bike out of the hotel room and load it up, got lots of Gatorade in case I get stuck on the highway, and head out on the road. Much better. Seems to be running good. I drive about 14 hours this day, making it to Silverton, CO. Main St. seems closed. I found 1 payphone and call the wife. Then I made it in a restaurant as they were closing the door for a chicken fried steak and a cold Avalanche brew, couldn't have been better. I then pulled the truck onto a side street, pulled out the bag, and slept in the front of my truck. Not bad.
Howard's bike sitting on the Alpine loop
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Day Three
Woke up early and started getting my stuff ready for riding. With the bike unloaded, the Sheriff stops to talk to this boy from California. 'You know you can't ride that bike out of town. You'll have to drive up to such and such mine and park there.' But I.., Can't I just... But would you let me... 'No, you'll have to at least drive out of town to unload.' We look at the map and he tells me I'll get stuck around Lake City since I'm not street legal. So I drive 3 blocks to the fire road and park and unload, again. With all the bags loaded, I head out. The bike is running funny, the suspension is too stiff, and I don't feel all together, so I head back to the truck for some fine tuning. I adjust the suspension easily, but the idle adjustment is a different story. With the big tank, its darn near impossible. I stay stubborn and finally get it close. A bit too high, but better that than too low. I'm off again, and I head to the hills. Within the hour I'm over Hurricane Pass. That just seemed too easy. Lots of jeeps out too. I stop by a turquoise lake and take some photos of the bike in the snow. I load up again, checking to be sure I have everything. I head up the road about 100 yards, hesitate going uphill since I don't know which way to turn, and laid the bike over. Its just too top heavy to hold up in an uphill rut. I break the clutch lever and bust my elbow on a rock, going zero mph! Flustered, I pull over and bandage my elbow, and replace my clutch lever. As I'm re-packing the bike, I realize I don't have my GPS. But I just had it at the lake. So, I head back to the lake, and its nowhere to be found. I mean nowhere -- Its gone! One hour into the trip, and I've used my spare lever, have a numb elbow, and no GPS. The adventure must go on!

I follow the Alpine loop for 40 miles over to Lake City, passing over Cinnamon Pass. Awesome scenery, but way too many jeeps and quads. Most are courteous, some are not. Took some work to pass some of those folks. This is clearly a different crowd than the Gunnison area gets. Nobody was wearing helmets, and there were many infants on the fronts of quads. Most of the jeeps were rentals. Before Lake City I hit the signs -- 'No OHV's... Prosecuted to the fullest extent... don't even try it...' I stop and weigh the odds. I don't even have a map from Lake City to Gunnison, and its Sunday evening. I definitely don't want to ride on the major highway to get to Gunnison. I figure the only way to meet my friend Ted (from Denver), my brother (from TX), and Alan (friend from work on the CO 300 ride) is to get to Crested Butte, ASAP. Back to the truck I say. I went in reverse for the 40 miles back in race mode. Full steam ahead, no stops. I load up back at the truck, and start driving to Crested Butte. What an awesome drive! Ouray must be the nicest town I've ever been through. I'm glad I drove up through there.
Howard's Camp
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I got to Crested Butte and unloaded again, immediately heading out to the remote spot I found last year. I rode through the campground and hit the single track trail. I parked in the woods, grabbed my bags, and went down the embankment and into the stream. Crossing the stream a few times, wearing MX boots, I hike to my spot a few hundred yards down. Perfect. I set up camp and go fishing real quick. I pumped water and made dinner, and packed everything up and hung it from a tree. All before dark. What a long day. Looks like a perfect spot for bears, but I'm too beat to care. The rain started as soon as I got in the tent, and continued all night.
Howard's bike parked at Pearl Pass
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Day Four
I got up early, cooked breakfast (2 packets of oatmeal a day), went fishing, and started to pack up. Everything is wet, and I'm in the woods where the sun can't reach. Its sunny across the stream on a rocky shore, so I wade across a few times with the wet gear, laying it out to dry. On my last trip across, the wind blew my almost dry tent right into the stream. Now its full of water. Oh well, the sun dried it out without much delay. I hiked on back up to my bike, and changed back to riding gear. The mosquitoes were relentless. Dozens all around me.

I rode back to Crested Butte for gas, then headed straight for Pearl Pass. This is the good stuff! Just what I'd been hankering for. The first half is smooth, fast, and fun. I'm getting used to the weight and feel of the bike. That's a good thing, because then the rough stuff hit. Those that have done the pass know, those who haven't beware! This is the roughest, rockiest route I've been on up there. My goal was to make it to the top without touching down or laying the bike over. I laid the bike over once last year right near the top. I did great all the way to the last stretch, where you can see the elusive pass. That last hill climb is completely covered in helmet size loose rocks. Darn near impossible to ride on top of. I laid the bike over not 10 feet from where I did last year! I got up, lifted the bike, and made it to the top without further incident. Woo-Hoo! I parked the bike in the snow and took a picture. I had made it to the top without injury. The Moose guys were on top doing a photo shoot. They were all decked out in their shiny new logo-laden gear. (The Colorado 300 was this same week in the same area) I felt proud to be on a work-horse, sticker-free bike wearing camo pants and a North Face jacket. They sure looked out of place to me, but just by being up there they had to be good riders.
Howard's bike sitting in the Aspen trees
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Now I was thinking 'Its all downhill from here', which is true, only that the backside is just as gnarly! After much work and energy loss, I was down the backside and headed toward Aspen. Before Aspen, I headed east up to Taylor Pass. I took a quick look at the bike and realized I had crushed the pipe protector and dented both head pipes during the lay over on Pearl pass. The bike seems to be running fine though, so its onward. This is another rough climb, but really fun. I went all out on this one, just as I did on Pearl Pass. I made it to the top, and the downside was much friendlier than Pearl had been.

Completely exhausted, I took the fire road toward Taylor Reservoir. I'm beat, tired, a storm is coming, and its getting dark. I pull off into a campground like none I've been to before. The campsites are about 1/4-mile apart. I picked a perfect spot right on the stream. I couldn't see neighbors on either side. Totally quiet. I started the evening ritual -- fish, pump water, cook, clean up, hang the food, and retire for the night. The rain started as soon as I got in the tent again.
Howard's bike sitting at Taylor Reservoir camp
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Day Five
Up early again, fished, and waited for the sun to dry my tent before packing it up. The sun never showed. I packed it up wet, got everything ready, jumped on the bike and realized my throttle was sticking. I took it apart, cleaned it out, and it worked fine. As I'm standing there a deer walks right up, about 15 feet away. It just stared at me, as I remained still, then it just walked up the hill and into the woods. Must have been my camo! This day I needed to get going to make it over Tincup pass to St. Elmo to meet my friend Ted, whom I hadn't seen in 12 years. As I was ready to get on the bike, I looked at the back tire. Doh! Flat as can be! I'm prepared for this. I just need to take my time, do it right, and maintain patience. I wheelie up over a big log, which is perfect to get the back tire off the ground. I removed the wheel, and began the work. I got the tire off the rim ok, and the tube came out pretty easy. I blew up the tube to see how big the hole was and it stayed inflated. I installed a new 21" tube in the 18" wheel, and was ready to air it up with my new cool CO2 kit. Let's see, just hook it up to the valve, then screw in the CO2... nothing. Screw it harder... nothing. I t won't go in any further. Start to unscrew... CO2 sprays everywhere!?! Wasted cylinder! I examined the connection, and a couple tiny pieces fall out. This was the piece that punctures the cylinder and creates a seal around it. The CO2 kit is now totally useless! The best thing I did on this trip was bring a bicycle pump. Totally saved the day! I started to pump... 100 pumps 5 PSI, 200 pumps 12 PSI, 350 pumps 18 PSI, ok, right where I wanted it. I was not unhappy about the number of pumps it took, I had a full tire again! I reassembled the rear wheel onto the bike, and I was good to go. But would it hold? Last time I tried this in Mexico it went flat immediately after changing it. Next time I'm taking a spare 18" and 21" tube.
Howard on the trail to St. Elmo
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Down the road I went to Taylor Reservoir. The tire seemed fine. Now over to Tincup and up and over the pass. This was a fairly nasty road too, as all the passes are. I went slow, and my main goal was not to hit any square edge rocks at speed. I made it over, and the downside was muddy and messy. That's better than rocky when you don't have a spare tube any longer. This road put me directly in St. Elmo, where I needed to be to meet Ted. We were to meet between 12:00 and 2:00. It was 12:09. Perfect! This is a very small town full of jeeps and quads. I found the guys who rent quads, and asked them if they happened to have any motorcycle tubes. 'No, but we have some old motorcycle tires out back I'll sell you for $5.' I go out back and find an 18" rear tire off an old Yamaha. Perfect! This is like a dream. Show up in a ghost town and find an 18" tire. I gave them $5 and started working on getting the tube out. No way! The tire would not break from the rim for anything. There was no way it was coming off. Must have been tubeless or something. So I went back in the shop and bought some fix-a-flat for the road. The leak in my tube was very slow, so I figure that would work if it had to. At least I had some sort of backup, seeing as I still had 3 or 4 days of riding to go.

Ted showed up shortly after, and we headed to the woods for some remote camping. He knew the perfect spot with no neighbors in sight. Everything was wet, but we gathered wood anyway. Then we put his jeep to the test and drove over to an awesome remote lake back in there, gathering wood along the way. We got back to camp and tried to light a fire. The sun had not been out for 2 days, and everything was too wet. No kindling either. We'll burn his shock absorber manual. Treated paper. No luck. I dump a little white gas over it. That burns momentarily. Then Ted breaks out the big guns -- flares! A flare in the pit did the trick. The fire was going. Ted broke out the hot dogs (stomach spikes he calls them), and I thought I was in heaven. After several freeze dried dinners, these were a delicacy. It rained on us all night. We stood around the weak fire in the rain, until we called it a night.

Day Six
The morning was drizzly, with no sun. I packed up a wet tent again, and we both headed out. We split ways when the road to Hancock Pass came along, and I was headed up and over another pass. This pass was about like Tincup, pretty rough but not too bad. After the pass I dropped down into the town of Pitkin. I was really hoping they had gas there, since I was running low. They had one pump with 87 octane. I gladly filled up. I rode around town looking for my brothers car, which was to be in front of their cabin. I found it but they weren't home. I sat on the porch thinking, gee, that smell sure is familiar. Upon closer inspection, I realized there is marijuana growing all over this place. Growing up the walls like ivy. That was pretty humorous, being next door to the town church and all. Evidently nobody but me even realized it.

My brother and his girlfriend Cindy showed up and we B.S.'d about our trips (they came from TX), and got some steaks for dinner. Went fishing for awhile. Then, found some back roads to go full bore on with the bike. Serious fun. I took a shower for the first time in days, and slept on a real bed.
Howard sitting in front of an old broken-down cabin
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Day Seven
We got up slowly the next day, and went to eat at the tiny diner in Pitkin. Pancakes, eggs, and bacon. I was ruined, and could not easily go back to the freeze dried routine. I loaded up and was on my way. No particular direction this day. I was headed over the hills to Spring Creek Reservoir. There were about a million turns on the map to get there the way I was trying, but all I had was time. I headed out and about an hour later ended up right back in Pitkin! I tried again more methodically, trying every single road, and ended up back in Pitkin again! I had two maps, and reality didn't seem to match either one of them. With no GPS, I headed down the fire road to Tincup. This took me over another big pass (Cimarron??) and down to Tincup, a different way than I had been before. This was an easy road, which was nice with my limping back tire and all.

I stopped for a double cheeseburger at the only diner there, and sat outside and watched many bikes from the Colorado 300 pass by. I'm glad I was solo. Single file with about 15 riders per group. They all checked out my bike as they rode by, as I checked out theirs. I went by Taylor Reservoir Trading Post for gas. There were about 50 bikes there. I was the definite outcast.

I headed on from there to Spring Creek Reservoir, and camped in a secluded spot near the water. At one of the stops I must have left my map. Now I have no GPS or map. Nobody camped around me there, so that was fine. Of course it rained all night, like it had every night before.

Day Eight (Last Day)
I did the morning ritual of oatmeal, then packed up my wet tent and other gear and headed toward Crested Butte. I had the day to screw around, with no pressure to be anywhere. With no map I took the easy road toward the highway, then got directions to use a cool fire road to put me near Crested Butte. I ended up on the highway about 10 miles outside of town. I jumped on the asphalt, and went into town. I figured I'd go find Alan up the hill since I hadn't done so earlier, and as I was headed out of town a bike pulled up next to me. It was Alan! We pulled over and chatted for a few, then he went on with his group, and I headed up the hill to find the Moose Truck. I was still upset about my CO2 kit. And the handlebar bag they make is not even close to waterproof. Its more like a sponge! That doesn't seem like a 'Quality Off-Road Product' to me.
Howard's bike sitting at Gunsight Pass
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I found the lodge where everyone was staying. I thought I was at Glen Helen! There were lots of EZ-Up tents, and tons of cool bikes laid out to look at. I found the Moose truck, but no one was there. I was told they'd be back shortly to pack up. I sat and waited and finally someone came out. I showed him my broken connector piece, and asked what he could do. He went in the truck, dug around, and came out with a new CO2 kit, with a newly designed connector piece. He also gave me a new extra heavy duty 21" tube. He said they don't make any waterproof bags!?! I got my stuff and went on my way. Now I had fix-a-flat and a spare tube. But it was my last day, and with no map I knew where I wanted to go, up Gunsight Pass. This is an awesome road. Totally rocky and rough on the way up, and fast and smooth on the way down. When I got to the top there were 3 older guys on XR's, and one of them said 'I hate to tell you this, but there's bubbles coming out of your back tire.' Doh! The 'go for it' riding had taken its toll again. I figured I could fly down the other side before it went flat. I went for it, and made it. The downside is fast woods type 2-track. Very fun.

I went straight back into town and loaded up to take off. No point in changing the flat for another hour of riding. I bailed late afternoon Friday. Made it to Beaver, UT before becoming too tired, and stayed at the Bates Motel, at least it seemed like it. Drove straight to San Diego Saturday, and made it by about 2:00, with a day to spare for R&R, which was much needed!

Folks this is the way to go! Ride, Fish, Camp - wherever I ended up. Two flat tires and a failed CO2 kit were the only major problems. Luckily the second flat was on the last pass of the last day. My bike (XR400R) was just awesome, like always. I consider it a successful trip with only enough trouble to make it the adventure I wanted. This was the best ride of my life and I can't wait to do it again! I'm going to try for 2 weeks next year!

Credits: Article written and submitted by Howard McKim and edited by

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