Friday, May 04, 2012

The In-Between Jobs Ride - Day 6 (Last Day)

I woke to temperatures in the high 30s in Silverton, Colorado.  The plan was to ride Valencia home, via US 50 from Montrose to Colorado Springs where I would pick up the I-25 Super Slab homewards.

As expected, the engine cooling down overnight permitted enough working movement on the clutch mechanism to enable me to ride and work my way up and down the gear range, though not very smoothly.

I got packed up and left Silverton around 8:15 AM and rode north on US550 towards Ouray, the crisp morning air and clear skies made for some nice riding.  Montrose turned out to be a medium sized-city which probably would have a motorcycle shop or two but since Valencia was rideable, I motored onwards onto eastbound US50.

The rest of the day was just riding through the middle of the state of Colorado, over passes such as the Cerro Summit and Monarch Pass, past the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a multitude of farms and horse ranches and only moderate traffic.  I held an average speed of 55-60 MPH and still, was passed by everyone, wonder why they were all in such a rush?

I changed my mind at Salida, CO and turned north towards US285 and took this road instead.  Fairplay and Jefferson went past and I crested over Kenosha Pass with no issues.

Traffic got heavier the closer I got to Denver along with wind speeds.  By the time I got to the C-470 Highway, the winds were really blowing strong from the south, at times causing me to ride as if I was in a right-hander turn to keep the sidecar steady.

Got home around 4:30 PM, roughly 350 miles of riding in a bit over 8 hrs, pretty good for a Ural with a sick clutch don't you think?  These Ural motorcycles are built tough I must say!

A good enough ending to what was a very good trip for me.  It was a needed trip to "reboot" my brain between jobs.  While rideable, I am going to replace all the clutch components on Valencia for my own peace of mind.  I am scheduling a "Tech Day" on the 20th of the month where Valencia will be worked on and inviting all the Uralisti in the area to come watch and learn.  Craig H, a fellow Uralista who's experienced in such matters and has done the actual clutch replacement, will be tutoring me.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

The In-Between Jobs Ride - Day 5

Started out from Durango, where I'd overnighted, around 8:30 AM.  I headed North out of town on US550 which is also known as the San Juan Skyway; a part of the highway between Silverton and Ouray is known as the Million Dollar Highway.

The weather was beautifully sunny and cool but not cold.  Traffic was light and my rig was running well.  I'd ridden this road before on Brigitta, my 1987 R80 Airhead Beemer and it was time to introduce the scenery to Valencia, my 2011 Ural Patrol Sidecar Rig.

 Rocky cliff sides near the settlement of Needles, CO

 Above and below, the mountain views from the
Durango Sports Center

 Twilight Peak

 Engineer Mountain

 Above and below, more views of
Twilight Peak

 Turks Head and Grand Turk Mountains

 View of several peaks from near Molas Pass

 Some more peak views from north of Molas Pass

 Approaching Silverton, CO

 Riding North of Silverton on US550

 Part of the Million Dollar Highway

After shooting the pics along the Million Dollar Highway, I tried to start up the trail to Engineer Pass from the western entry point near the above picture but the way was blocked by a truck!

I got to Silverton and after asking for directions, found myself on County Road 2 leaving Silverton and soon found myself at the start of the Alpine Loop which is how you get to Engineer Pass:

Alpine Loop entry point north of Silverton, CO

 Not much remains of the town of Eureka which
is on the Alpine Loop enroute to Animas Forks

The road to Animas Forks is "maintained" according to the lady at the visitor center but it's very rocky and rutted and not for the faint of heart.  Still, it wasn't too bad really and soon I was at the outskirts of the ghost town of Animas Forks:

 Animas Forks, a Ghost Town where I should have turned around.

From Animas Forks, the road got much more rough and conditions were pretty iffy.  Valencia was doing fine for the most part but I could tell the clutch was starting to overheat so I stopped often to let things cool off.

 Above and below, are the last shots I took on the way up.  

Less than two miles from the close and yet so far

After the above stop, I continued on and got within 2 miles of the summit according to my odometer.  Then I hit mud and this in combination with the steep dirt trail led to my clutch finally being "smoked".  The theory is that the clutch plate had overheated and gotten "stuck" to either one of the other plates or the pressure plate, preventing smooth operation.

Got myself turned around, the clutch not seeming to want to disengage the transmission from the engine when the lever was pulled in.  Still, it was all downhill, I had first gear and could shift up as needed even though the clutch wasn't working.

I slowly made my way back down the mountain, past Animas Forks was back at Silverton shortly after 5:45 PM or so.

Made it into town with no further issues, I rode over to the Triangle Motel which had a Vacancy sign and got myself a room.  I called a fellow Uralista: Craig H. and also my friend Oscar and discussed the situation with them.

Between our talks, it was decided to adjust the clutch cable to allow engagement of the clutch to some extent (not perfect but usable); called the dealer and ordered parts and turned in for the night.  The hope is things will become "unstuck" overnight as the rig cools to allow better clutch operation.

That's it for the pleasure riding for this trip I'm afraid.  I pushed Valencia way too hard on the way up to Engineer Pass.  I will ride her home tomorrow, using the route with the least amount of city traffic!

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The In-Between Jobs Ride, Day 4

Today I got a late start and some needed rest overnight.  I left Monument Valley after a quick visit to the movie location where John Wayne's character in some of John Ford's movies staged in Monument Valley had "lived".
 Valencia parked outside Captain Brittle's Cabin

The "staged contents" of the cabin

One of my favorite movies: Fort Apache

It was an overcast morning over Monument Valley and even though I waited for the occasional glimpse of sunshine to illuminate the rock formations visible from the highway, the pickings were slim:

Monument Valley's highly recognizable skyline

I headed North on US163, past Mexican Hat and following the signs for Bluff, Utah.  Soon I was watching lovely rock formations to my left and I found the entrance to the Valley of the Gods.  The BLM or Bureau of Land Management runs this site but they don't seem to advertise it well.  I only found out about it when I saw a small leaflet about it at the Utah Visitor's Center.

If you blink, you'll miss the sign to the US163 entrance
point to the Valley of the Gods

I have to say, the Valley of the Gods is at least as scenic if not better than the rock formations in Monument Valley!  The road is dirt and gravel but not as bad as some of the spots within Monument Valley.  The rock formations are just as impressive as the stuff in Monument Valley and you can get quite close to them as you can see.

As it was a weekday, I had the place pretty much to myself.  I doubt I saw more than five cars the whole time I was there.

Don't get me wrong, Monument Valley should be on every rider's bucket list....I am just saying that you shouldn't miss a ride through the Valley of the Gods as well!  They're both within sight distance of the other!

 Valley View

 I saw the rock formation above, all I could think of was a 
cold glass of beer drawn from a bar tap....

They call this rock formation The Seven Sailors.....

The road that one takes from CO163 eventually winds among or near most of the rock formations in this valley.  If you take it all the way to the end, it dumps you out on the paved highway that leads one to the Moki Dugway.  I had missed the entrance when I came off the Moki Dugway yesterday as it's not marked at all by the side of the highway.  

For those of you coming off the Moki Dugway, keep an eye out for a blue State Highway sign 422 on the left.  Once you've turned off the highway, then and only then will you see the bulletin board sign from the BLM.

I resumed my way to Bluff, Utah to pick up US162 towards the town of Aneth and the entrance to the "Canyonland of the Ancients".  I mean, with a title like that, you'd think it was another area with breathtaking scenery and geological features right?  Wrong.  The canyons I did spy were shallow ones, of the clay/sand color variety, not the red colored rocks of other parks.  Its basically flat lands, covered with shrubs and bramble.  I checked out the Hovenweep National Monument and it wasn't my cup of tea as well so I didn't go inside.

All this caused me to loose an hour or more being disappointed.  I finally made it to the town of Cortez and from there rode to Mancos for refueling.  I got to my final destination of the day, Durango shortly after 3:00 PM Tuesday.

First thing was to find an auto parts store for some new oil for Valencia's engine as she'd reached a bit past the 4900 Km mark during the last few days of riding.  Found myself a room at a Quality Inn and did a quick oil change of the engine oil in the hotel parking lot:

Think the oil needed changing?

I swapped in a new oil filter, reglued the left hand grip onto the handlebar and tomorrow morning I will be riding up towards the North using the San Juan Skyway.  Valencia continues to run great by the way.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

The In-Between Jobs Ride - Day 3

So, Day Three of the In-Between Jobs ride.

I left Moab heading south on US 191 with an eventual destination of Monument Valley in mind.  First however, there were a couple of parks that I wanted to check out.

 The above is Wilson Arch, one comes up on it shortly after 
leaving Moab while on US 191

I turned West on State Road 95 headed towards the Natural Bridges National Monument.  Turns out, it was Utah's first National Monument as well.  

The park, and its touted bridges, turned out for me to be a big disappointment in terms being able to pose one's motorcycle by landmarks.  It's definitely a hiker's kind of a park as its just short hikes to the underside locations of the below bridges.  From the overlook, they were OK but just that.

 Sipapu Bridge

 Kachina Bridge

Owachomo Bridge

So, somewhat miffed at the park but mostly at myself for not doing the research beforehand; I left the park and soon reached UT 261 which I took south towards US163 and the small town of Mexican Hat.  The detour I'd taken to visit Natural Bridges had taken me a long way away from Mexican Hat I thought and the occasional free range cattle alongside the road added no joy to the ride south.

Turns out though, there was a surprise for me at the end of the straight and boring road.  It was the Moki Dugway that presented itself to me as I saw signs saying that the pavement was turning into dirt.  I'd learned of this mountainside road from Gary France's blog of his travel through the USA with his Harley Davidson, the Leading Ladies.  Now, it was my chance to ride this fabled road.

 Nice surprise at the southern end of UT261

Cruising down the Moki Dugway

 I thought the formation in the distance was the remnants of 
a volcanic cinder cone.

 I estimate the wall heights were about ten stories tall at least

Moki Dugway, is really not bad at all.  It was sure a lot easier than Shafer's Road back at Canyonlands National Park!  Once back on pavement I passed by what I thought had  been an extinct cinder cone, as you can see below, not quite.

Looking back at the heights from which I descended via
the Moki Dugway.

Gooseneck Park is the site of some of the more memorable scenery in John Ford's classic "Fort Apache" which starred John Wayne.  It's also the park where Martha fell and broke her foot while pregnant with our second son Miles.  She's never seen the below scenery with her own eyes.

 Last time I was here, I was riding Maria, my 2004 BMW R1150RT, 
and I was stuck to the parking lot only.

Panoramic view from the main observation point 

Being on three wheels, I wandered off to the side of the park, and I was able to capture this side view of the above rock formation.

A view from the side

Next stop was fuel and a hot dog at the gas station in nearby Mexican Hat after cruising up to and around the town's namesake:

 Mexican Hat

 The above picture can only be obtained by going up a short but
rather technical rocky trail.  There was this huge hole in the middle of the
road which forced me to hug the side of the trail......upon reflection I 
should have just settled for the first view.  Oh well.

Mexican Hat's bridge over the San Juan River

All fueled up again, I headed south again across the above bridge and towards Monument Valley!  I'd tried to get to this place before on Natasha, my 2006 Ural Sportsman, but that ended in a dismal failure.

Today though, Valencia and I would ride triumphant into the Monument Valley area:

 The road that takes you into the valley is very rough in spots, lots of very loose sand
that causes one's wheels to wash out from under you!  
Luckily, I have three!  I didn't even have to engage 2WD.

 Elephant Rock
Above and Below

It was quite a lot of fun three-wheeling through Monument Valley, besides the gravel and the rock outcroppings, there were long patches of very loose sand.  I had to ride standing up on the pegs a lot and I imagine I was quite the sight to the carload of cagers taking in the sights.

 The Seven Totems

 The above is how most folks chose to get around though there
were quite a few cagers in their own vehicles raising dust all over.

The tour drivers must get paid by the tour because there was no dawdling on the road with one of these behind you.  Narrow as the road was, sandy and rocky as it was, they'd still try and pass you!

 Rock formation right before Artist's Point

 Valencia at Artist Point parking lot.

The clouds moved in at this point and covered the valley with a misty look that proved quite crappy for photography.  Sorry but a lot of my pictures just didn't come out right.

 North Window

 Left Mitten
 Right Mitten

Sunset at Monument Valley

Of course, waiting for sunset meant I got back to the campsite at the Goulding's RV Park in the dark.  The town's one restaurant was packed so I went to the the nearby grocery store instead for sandwich fixings.  Yep, the life of a moto-blogger, cold sandwiches while processing pictures in the dark at a campsite.  Thrilling stuff.

Had myself a brief scare near the end of the riding within Monument Valley.  All of a sudden, I couldn't pull the clutch lever all the way back and so quickly lost engine control.  This of course happened on a really sandy portion of a hill leading to the parking lot!

Luckily, I got the clutch lever going enough to get me to the parking lot.  Upon examination, I noticed that the clutch lever was somehow hitting part of the heated grip cable assembly.  Weird.  Then, I recalled how the left grip had started rotating while I was riding the sandy road.  Dang thing had come loose and started rotating!

A simple turn of the grip and I was now able to actuate the clutch lever fully!  Wheeew!  I thought the clutch mechanism had become clogged with dust or something from all the dirt riding.

 I'll be re-gluing the grip tonight.  Hope you like the story and pictures so far.