Uraling to Moab Pt. 3
Throughout the night the wind carried on, alternating between buffeting the tent and settling a layer of sand over us. By morning the inside of our tent was covered and we attempted to clean the sand out of our ears.
We checked the river and saw it had continued to rise, floating down wood and debris from all points north.
A cold front had passed through, shifting the winds to the West and North and dropping the temperature considerably. I had to put the liners back in my riding gear and even pulled out my balaclava, but at least I’d have a tailwind.
Remembering the 12 hour ride out, Dezso and I (no guesses on how Dezso is pronounced this time. You should know by now.) got up at 7:30, loaded our bikes and set off during a lull in the wind. This time our route would take us through Castle Valley, over a dirt road through the mountains into Colorado, and dump us back on pavement in Gateway.
During this early morning leg, the sky was once again a deep blue and the air had that right amount of chill. No one was out at this time in the morning, so we had Highway 128 and Castle Valley to ourselves.
Castle Valley Overlook
We kept a lookout for dawdling cows and other animals that might use the road as a meeting place, but soon we were climbing out of the valley. The road turned to dirt and sage gave way to juniper and then to pine and aspen.
Since we had had “issues” before with road closures, we pulled over at an overlook to check the maps but they told us nothing of seasonal closures and we pressed on. The roads remained clear of snow all the way through. Yet we only had a vague notion of where we were and we passed no sign welcoming us to Colorado.
Alpine meadows gave way to red sandstone and junipers and then a 16% grade to ride down into a small canyon with a creek running alongside. Suddenly we were upon Colorado Highway 141.
Near Gateway, Colorado
After checking the gas prices at the resort in Gateway, We turned north hoping for something cheaper along the way. I expected something at the junction with US 50, but there wasn’t anything until we hit Delta where prices were about 80 cents cheaper.
We ate lunch in Delta and debated the rest of our route. Independence Pass was open, but the temperature was hovering around 24 degrees with rain. We had already gone over Monarch and looked for something different. We ended up heading East on Highway 92 which took us through Hotchkiss and dropped us west of Gunnison.
This road was made for two wheels as it wound its way around the northern edge of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. The curves twist and turn, rarely letting up until you reach US 50.
As I made these turns on the Ural I felt the bike slide a couple of times and when we reached Gunnison to fill up, I noticed I had worn my tire bald! Fortunately the Ural carries a spare, and it was only a matter of changing out the bald tire for the spare. After an hour of field maintenance in a Safeway parking lot, we were back on the road.
As you can see, time for a new tire
We had received a little snow in Gunnison, and Monarch looked covered in clouds, so we opted for an alternate route via CO Highway 114. This is another excellent road for two wheels and to prove my point we passed many riders heading in the opposite direction. This route will take you south of Monarch and drop you off in Saguache. It did add a couple of hours to our journey, but overall I think it was worth it.
By now “get-home-itis” had set in and we were still about 4 hours (by Ural) from home. I had a grand plan of heading to Woodland Park, then taking Highway 67 for one last run in the woods over a dirt road, but mostly to get out of the wind. I figured a run on US 24 would give me a nice tailwind.
But by the time we turned onto US 24, the sun had settled in behind the mountains and the temperature had dropped. We road the last leg into Woodland Park cold but not frozen so when we gassed up and warmed up over some hot chocolate, we debated our final leg: Highway 67 or I-25?
Due to time and temperature, we opted for I-25. I hoped that due to the late time and the cool temperatures the Ural would perform nicely and I wasn’t mistaken. I was able to maintain an average of 65 mph on I-25 and we made it home safe.
I think if I were to do this trip again, I’d want to break it into two days of travel on the Ural instead of feeling the push to get there or get home in just one long day of riding. Otherwise, I’d just take the 650. Regardless, it’s nice to have these options.
There you have it folks, Jay's long distance ride on his "quixotic" Ural Patrol along with friend Dezso on Jay's F650GS beemer. A few minor issues along the way but nothing they could not handle. I hope you enjoyed his report.