Uraling to Moab, Part I
I had seen enough of Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor going the long way anywhere, drooled over the photos Hubert posts on his The Timeless Ride blog and have read enough ride reports to feel that my time was long overdue. So when a friend and his fiancée suggested a camping trip to Moab in order to find wedding locations for their upcoming marriage, I countered that the boys would ride the back roads while the ladies traveled by car (loaded with supplies) along I-70.
We took my Ural Patrol and F 650 GS, loaded ourselves down with overnight gear (in case something unexpected happened) and prepped the bikes for a long ride which included an oil and air filter change for the Ural.
Immediately after hitting the road I noticed a distinct lack of power on the Ural and had to pull over. We had oiled the air filter too much and there wasn’t enough air getting into the carburetors. Fortunately I had another air filter at the house, so we returned to the house and changed filters.
My Patrol ran great at highway speeds for the short jaunt along C-470. We exited on US 285 South and rode through the mountains, stopping in Fairplay for lunch. By now the wind had picked up and we were fighting a massive headwind which slowed me down to 45 mph. Trucks and RVs were passing me! A quick check of the weather verified it wouldn’t let up.
We turned South on US 24 in Buena Vista, all the time fighting the winds that had Dezso (Pronounced: Day-zure) leaning the 650 GS into the wind just to ride in a straight line and me, a little more stable with the sidecar, slowing down even more, much to the dismay of the line of cars behind me. More than once I had to pull over to let others pass.
We filled up in Salida, and still with the relentless winds, we crawled up Monarch Pass at a steady 35 mph. Once we reached the top, it was a little easier to coast most of the way down, using the throttle as needed. Although coasting helped, 40 miles outside of Gunnison the engine chugged and I had to switch to the reserve tank.
As we gassed up we spoke with another rider coming from Montrose. He warned us about gusting winds around Blue Mesa Reservoir, but that it would let up after that. We had about another ten miles of buffeting before ducking into the mountains near the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and finally settling into a pleasant ride where I could travel between 55 and 65 mph!
It was about 4pm when we rode into Montrose to gas up yet again. We wanted to have enough fuel to make it into Utah as we were losing daylight and still wanted to ride CO Highway 90 over the Uncompahgre as it cut time and distance off of our trip.
Highway 90 is a bit misleading since it is seasonal dirt road across the Uncompahgre plateau. As we rode out of town we saw a sign that said the road was closed, but we didn’t really think it’d apply to us. We rode into the hills, past houses, then campsites and finally nothing but pine trees and snow drifts. Water from melting snow crossed the road occasionally leaving a few muddy patches. A few patches of snow still littered the path.
When we finally reached the end of the cleared road, where the snow still covered any forward progress, a bulldozer blocked our turn. The 650 GS could squeeze by, but we weren’t sure about the Patrol.
End of the road? Not quite.
I squeezed pass first, scraping through a snow bank that fell onto the bike causing a steam bath that erupted all around me. The back wheel spun and I lost forward progress until I slipped the Patrol into 2-wheel drive and motored on through.
Dezso followed as I cleared the remaining snow from my bike and we set off down the closed road.
As we continued it became quite clear as to why the road was closed. Deep ruts in the mud and dirt, snow and snow melt made the going slow. Twice Dezso dropped the 650 GS due to the magnitude of the ruts.
Now you may remember my arduously slow journey on the paved highways and mountain passes? The stuff we were crossing now was where the Ural shines and is in its element. Snow, mud, dirt, rocks—it doesn’t matter to the Ural as it will putter along quite pleasantly.
Many times I had to stop and wait for Dezso, and once, in a particularly deep and muddy rut, he buried the 650 up to the axle, effectively knocking off the chain (The Ural has a final drive and my uneducated guess says it’s a lot better than a chain).
A minor setback
We pushed the 650 GS out of the mud (next time I'll pack a tow rope), set the bike on its center stand and fixed the chain. By now it was close to 7:30 and we were getting concerned about spending the night on the mountain. We worried if we were on the right track or not, and what our ladies were doing right then in the comfort of their car with music and conversation abounding.
Soon we passed houses again and finally hit pavement. One more stop for gas in Naturita as they were closing (we lucked out there), and we rode the final leg in total darkness, getting to the restaurant 15 minutes before they closed. After 12 hours on the road, that Margarita couldn’t have tasted any better!
The guys pose for their heroic achievement shot
The reality of 12 hours on the Ural
Stay tuned for more adventures of Jay and his Ural Patrol!