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Day 1: San Diego, CA to Blythe, CA

After almost a year of preparing for the TAT, we finally left San Diego on September 9 at 2:00 pm. We had hoped to get out a little earlier, but the massive blackout in the SD-Mexico-Arizona area the day before postponed the final tasks to departure day. The crew right before departure:

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We figured that since we had half a day, getting to Blythe would be a good stopping point. We wouldn't do dirt on the first day, but we'd compromise by staying on as many backroads as possible. San Diego had just wrapped up a heatwave and the weather was perfect when we left. I don't why, but I was deluded into thinking that just because the heatwave broke in San Diego, the desert region must've also benefitted somehow. I'm an idiot.

As we made our way past Ocotillo Wells, the heat was painful. I reached my hand around through the side window I had cut into the backpack and poked Simon. He moved, which meant he was still alive. At least the trip was not off to a tragic start!

We stopped at Salton Sea to get gas (does that area ever not smell like spoiled clam chowder?). This should convey how I felt.

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This stretch was through Box Canyon. See those clouds in the distance? They become more meaningful shortly.

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When we finally hit the 10, we had about another 50 miles of freeway before getting to Blythe. No big deal -- the DRZs were running great and we had worked out my nasty front-end weave so going over 70 was tolerable.

Much to my dismay, as the sun went away, it was getting hotter. Yes, it was because we were going deeper into the desert, but c'mon, shouldn't trading the sun for the moon buy you a little love on the thermometer? And what's up with those clouds spreading all over?

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Making our way east, we could see lightning flashing in the distance. As we neared Blythe, we were hit by strong wind gusts that moved us all over the lane. At times visibility would drop dramatically. It didn't help that although the sun had set, I still had my sunglasses on -- when you're slabbing and trying to make time it's hard to pull over for any reason, even mild blindness. It looked like we were passing through patches of dense fog, but it turned out to be sand. I felt like I was one wind gust away from getting mowed over by a semi, so I tore past Wayne and took the next available exit, forcing him to follow. Fortunately, it happened to be the first Blythe exit so we made our way to the campground via surface streets.

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Little did I know my night was only beginning. We got the tent set up, took our showers, cooked dinner, and hit the sack. Wayne was passed out in about two minutes while Simon took an additional one minute. I was tired but the stifling heat of the tent was driving me insane. The wind that was kicking us all over the road only an hour before was now completely gone. I got out of the tent and wandered around. I tried taking photos of clouds lit by the moon and amassed an impressive catalog of fuzzy night photos.

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I tried a second round inside the tent and managed to drift off for a few minutes before waking up startled by the sensation of being suffocated. I jumped out of the tent, taking my mat with me so I could try sleeping anywhere except inside the slow cooker. I put my mat on the picnic table and closed my eyes for a while. Sleep still wasn't possible but at least I could feel the occasional refreshing breeze.

Normally I despise noisy people at campgrounds, but there was something comforting about the people over in the RV section who continued to hoot and holler and clink bottles all night long (we were the only tent campers and had our side of the park all to ourselves). Staring at the night sky from a picnic table at 3:00 am is a lot less lonely when there's a party, even if only your ears are in attendance.

I eventually slept an hour or two. I was never so glad to have morning come so I could leave somewhere. I could only hope that the next sleeping arrangement would be more agreeable than this:

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Day 1 overview: 246 miles

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Tired and Hot,,,great start.

Good that you where on lightweight bikes, so you wouldn't need to pick them up often.

PS, You two where mentally tough to pull this off.

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PS, You two where mentally tough to pull this off.

The humans aged in dog years and the dog aged in double-dog years. We kept our emotions in order by making sure we ate ice cream every day.

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More Please !

Just Kidding-- I know how long it takes to recover. Glad you made it home safe and sound.

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Day 2: Blythe, CA to Crown King, AZ

We were up at 6:00 am. The sun was cranking the second it came over the horizon. I felt like crap, but it was nothing that a good cup of gas station coffee couldn't cure. We were kind of dumb for getting gas on the California side since Arizona was about .20/gallon cheaper, but my need for coffee was a borderline medical emergency.

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We knew from the start that Simon would be a limiting factor, especially where food establishments were concerned. We hit Wickenburg and wanted to get lunch. Wayne saw a place that interested him and went in to ask if it was ok to bring Simon in. The woman said, "He's a service dog, riiiight?" Wayne said, "Uh...yeah?" and then added that I needed him for an anxiety disorder. She responded, "We love dogs!" Simon was such a hit with the crew that the cook brought him his own slice of ham.

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After lunch we hit our first stretch of dirt on Castle Hot Springs Road. There were some interesting structures along the way, including one that looked like a rich person's home in disrepair. Later on we learned that Castle Hot Springs was a famous resort. Although no longer in use, we could see the caretaker's truck on the property so sneaking around for a closer look was out. Probably the most striking thing about the resort were the out-of-place expanse of palm trees. Castle Hot Springs is unusual in that it's one location of note in the Southwest that has nothing to do with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid hiding out.

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We hit a gas station on the I-17 and then made our way to Crown King, a popular area close to Phoenix where people like to go to get out of the desert heat. We were surprised at the amount of traffic going up and coming down the dirt road. Neither of us had ever encountered so many vehicles on any unpaved road at any times in our combined lives: trucks, jeeps, SUVs, ATVs, Rhinos -- even the occasional passenger car reduced to a crawl. At one spot we let Simon out to stretch his legs, but I continually had to scoop him up because yet another vehicle was coming around the bend. Strangely enough, we didn't encounter a single motorcycle along that road -- they must know better than to be on the Crown King expressway on a weekend.

We stopped at the general store to have a snack and to capture important memories for Simon.

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While there we met Cameron and Mike. They were camping over at Hazlett Hollow and highly recommended that we check it out. We happened to be in search of a camping spot and the place sounded perfect so we headed over there. Sure enough, Hazlett Hollow had something I'd never seen before at other camp sites: permanent lean-tos. Bonus: They weren't filled with trash and they didn't smell of urine left by generations of outdoorsmen who couldn't stagger over to a bush with their load of processed Bud Light.

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Each lean-to also had a fire pit with a "backboard" that radiated the heat towards the shelter. Maybe as a naïve camper I'm easily impressed, but I was impressed.

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The shelter came in handy during the night. We didn't put the rain fly on the tent since it was a nice night, but some time after we had fallen asleep the clouds moved in and started to dump its load. I yelled for Wayne to wake up. We both jumped out of the tent and dragged it into the shelter. I can't remember if Simon was in or out of the tent when we did the frantic maneuver -- if he inside, he got an awesome "bouncy house" ride.

The bonus of being in the lean-to was that it kept us out of the impressively annoying full moon, which is comparable to sleeping with a headlight in your face. You may fall asleep, but odds are that you'll dream you're a political prisoner under interrogation.


Day 2 overview: 239 miles

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I gotta say, as I sit here working on the write-up, my butt still hurts from all that sitting. I think we actually did ok painwise for the trip, but I feel like I need a silicone butt implant to not feel my "sit bones."

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Day 3: Crown King, AZ to Camp Verde, AZ

Our tent was dry in the morning thanks to the lean-to (little did we know we'd have plenty of time to learn about dealing with wet tents...).

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We said goodbye to Mike and Cardinal-loving Cameron...

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...but not before Simon left them something to remember him by. I know it wasn't much consolation, but I apologized and told them that Simon had pissed on my gear bag more than once. If Simon was trying to get back at us for the last few days of being bounced in the backpack, his anger was misdirected. If he pissed on the bag because he doesn't like the Cardinals then his aim was true, albeit devoid of class.

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We started the day with a stop at Horse Thief Lake. It was here that I first became impressed with Arizona's trust in common sense. See this dam? You can walk on it.

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If this were California, it would either be gated or there'd be multiple warning signs about your impending death if you ventured out on it. It was refreshing to see nothing.

We left the lake and headed on the route that Wayne had created tracks for. We travelled along a well maintained road for a while but then it got a little rocky. No big deal; we picked our way through the minor obstacles and continued on. But then we'd hit another rocky mess, followed another rocky mess. It would've been fine on Wayne's KTM or my Husky, but it was punishing on our ass-heavy DRZs. The bike had a tendency to rear up on the larger rocks and I just wasn't awesome enough to pick my way around them while also coaxing the little motor to get the whole package up the hill.

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After I dropped my bike a few times we had a choice: turn back or continue for another ten miles of unknown terrain. We were sweating like crazy and Simon's face was twisted up from all his panting, so we thought it prudent to turn back. We also decided that whenever we had to stop for more than a few minutes we needed to let Simon out of the pack. We really couldn't tell how uncomfortable he was in the heat other than his speed of panting, so even though it was a bit of a production to load and unload him, we had to err on the side of conservative care. I gave him another opportunity to escape his backpack when I sent my DRZ into the trees thanks to a rock deflection.

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I'm thinking at this point that maybe installing a steering stabilizer should've been given higher priority but there's nothing to be done about that now.

We didn't have breakfast and we had blown a few hours in our misadventure so we decided to backtrack to Crown King to have lunch.

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Wayne saw some other dirtbikers and asked them about his route selection. The guy told Wayne, "Oh no, you don't want to do Orobelle." Yeah, we learned first hand that we did not want to do Orobelle. He set us straight on the direction we should go, which was to stay on Senator Hwy. If you can't trust an Open Carry dirtbiker, who can you trust?

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We had a problem-free ride down the mountain. A comfortable afternoon breeze was blowing which was good for Simon.

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When we got to the small town of Mayer we fueled up. We also gave Simon his standard food test to make sure he was ok -- the day he doesn't jump all over human food is the day I give him the Pulp Fiction adrenaline stab and then run every red light getting him to the vet.

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It was around 3:30 so we decided to look for a campground in the area. We stopped at a couple of RV parks, but they didn't take tent campers. One RV park owner did warn us of a big storm coming in, so we were extra motivated to find a place where we could hunker down before the weather unravelled.

We finally found the USFS Clear Creek campground, where we were the only campers (aside from the camp hosts). We asked the camp host which tree was least like to have its limbs snap off. He pointed out the most stable one and we set up our tent beneath it.

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Time for a country-style hair washing, some dinner, and another night of sleep.

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Day 3 overview: 101 miles

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Day 4: Camp Verde, AZ to Bluff, AZ

A thunderstorm hit overnight that was rousing, even by the locals' standards. I never thought we were going to be directly hit by lightning, but a nearby tree strike seemed quite possible, so there I was inside the tent in a crouch position. Wayne told me to lie down, that if it was my time to go, it was my time to go. Folks, let me tell you that "if it's your time to go" does not facilitate relaxation. I stayed crouched for a while longer but eventually gave in when drowsiness set in (but not before I took a picture on my phone of the blob that passed over us...this violence doesn't happen in San Diego!).

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In the morning we spread the rainfly, tent and floor out on various picnic tables in the direct sun to dry them out. We were still learning how to efficiently de-camp, but seeing how we were still far from being efficient, our tent had plenty of time to dry. I also had plenty of time to scratch the 50 or so insect bites I acquired the night before. I was prepared for mosquitoes with my mosquito jacket but I was not prepared for the no-see-ums, which had pretty much destroyed me before I realized what was going on.

Before leaving Clear Creek campground, let's talk about their toilets.

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The camp host was bragging on how their composting toilets were awesome because they didn't smell. Trading one boast for another, Wayne declared "It will when I'm done with it!" The camp host seemed slightly alarmed, as if the threat might actually be carried out. He made some comment -- mostly to assure himself -- that the toilets were the best and would not smell. To his credit, he was absolutely right. Even with the lid up, you couldn't smell a thing from this non-flushing toilet. Having had to endure some of the foulest bio-receptacles, I found this to be nothing short of revolutionary.

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I have to confess that even though they had a [strange] illustration of the process, I remain unclear how the stench is suppressed since composting materials -- fecal matter side -- usually stink. Seriously, this was some impressive engineering.

We left Camp Verde and headed north to Sedona. The highway leading in and out of Sedona looked brand spanking new.

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The red sandstone formations are every bit as beautiful as they're touted to be. I would've taken more pictures, but I know there's no shortage of scenic photos of Sedona on the internet.

We transitioned away from the sandstones of Sedona and into the forest surrounding Flagstaff. An awesome winding road climbed the 2500 feet between the two towns.

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When we got to Flagstaff, I was surprised to see snow on some of the rooftops. Early winter? Upon closer inspection, it turned out that the snow was actually unmelted piles of hail from the night before.

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We were once again on a hunt for a place to eat where we could have Simon. We eventually found a Mexican place with outdoor seating. Simon lives for these moments where he use his selective stereoscopic vision -- he knows his powerful tractor beams will safely guide any and all food into the docking bay that is his face.

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After eating we headed north out of Flagstaff. The sky was getting grayer and it wasn't long before we pulled off the road to put on our rain gear. Just as we had put on the last of our gear, the rain started to fall steadily. I made a rain cover for Simon's backpack and it was about to undergo its first test (um, yeah, maybe it should've been tested beforehand).

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We continued through the rest of Coconino County, which happens to be the second largest county by land area in the contiguous US states (after San Bernadino, CA). We passed through Navajo lands, with possibly some Hopi mixed in. The trailer homes in the mud capped by the dark clouds made for a bleak landscape. The velcro I had sewn onto one side of the rain cover couldn't stay attached in the wind so I spent much of the time with one arm behind me holding the flap in place.

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The rain had stopped by the time we got to Kayenta in the late afternoon, Wayne checked his phone for camping options nearby. He found an RV park with camp sites in the direction of Monument Valley so we headed east on the 163. As we climbed in altitude, the weather got worse. By the time we reached the RV park we were being pummeled by heavy rains. There were camp sites available, but they were nothing more than patches of mud. Rivers of red ran down the streets. We decided to focus on a motel room instead.

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We stopped at several towns along the way but all their motels were full. We were hoping that by leaving after Labor Day there'd be fewer tourists out, but maybe they were all thinking the same thing. The rain continued to come down. We were starting to feel like drowned rats. ANY room would've worked at this point -- seediness would not be a disqualifing factor.

We eventually found a place that had "cabins" in Bluff. Wayne waited at the window of the Dairy Café to register. Another guy was ahead of him and the older woman working the window asked him if he had a dog. He said no. Another guy walked up while Wayne was registering and she asked that guy if he had a dog. He said no. Using the power of extrapolation, this probably meant they had a no-dog policy. However, the woman never asked Wayne if we had a dog so we never had to lie. Don't ask, don't tell!

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That lucky rainbow guided us to a dry place for the night.


Day 4 overview: 291 miles

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We eventually found a place that had "cabins" in Bluff. Wayne waited at the window of the Dairy Café to register. Another guy was ahead of him and the older woman working the window asked him if he had a dog. He said no. Another guy walked up while Wayne was registering and she asked that guy if he had a dog. He said no. Using the power of extrapolation, this probably meant they had a no-dog policy. However, the woman never asked Wayne if we had a dog so we never had to lie. Don't ask, don't tell!

How many dualsport motorcyclists carry a dog with them? The woman probably thought that there was no real reason to ask. :whistle:

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Day 5: Bluff, UT to Moab, UT

Ever meet a stranger at a bar, go home with him/her, and then wake up the next morning only to be slightly alarmed at what you resorted to? Me neither, but I suspect the feeling you get is not unlike how we felt when daylight cast its harsh light on our "cabin."

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Don't get me wrong: I was delighted to find a port in the storm. I was just a little surprised that they could consistently extract $80 from travellers for this oversized tool shed (this particular shed held two units). Then again, it's on the way to Monument Valley so location is king.

The inside was no more charming with its cold white cinder block walls, but at least the lodging fulfilled two very important requirements: 1) It didn't stink and 2) It didn't make me itch.

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Really, I'm glad it was there, but I probably won't ever need to drop in again...although if it gets sold and they spruce it up with a paint job, I'll reconsider. I did like the protective stable for our horses.

We left Bluff and made the hour-long trip to Monticello, where we stopped for breakfast. Just outside of the diner we saw ourselves in motorless form. Two guys were travelling by bicycle and had pitched camp on the far end of the parking lot. People think that travelling by motorcycle is tough, but I personally tip my hat to cyclists. They have all the challenges that we do, and on top of it they still have to pedal, no matter how shot their legs are.

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We were once again faced with the issue of bringing Simon into a restaurant. This time we didn't bother asking if it was ok -- I just put the backpack on the seat next to me. The waitress took our order and never even noticed Simon, who was silent (I also did my best to hold my menu in a way that would block her view). Simon can get a little vocal if we make him sit and watch us eat, so I slipped him little pieces of my pancake at regular intervals to secure his silence.

After breakfast we picked up the TAT on the north end of Monticello. It was exciting to finally get on the trail we had been preparing so long for. The initial stretch was wide dirt roads through farm lands.

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Not sure where the owner of this was, but it was worth a picture. It definitely wasn't loaded down for the TAT.

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At one of our bio breaks we wanted to see if Simon could be defeated by a cattle guard so we left him on one side while we went to the other. At first we thought maybe he was the stupidest Jack Russell Terrier ever, but it became evident he was fixated on the ground below. When he was done with his investigating, he finally stepped his way to us. Dogs: 1, Cows: 0.

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We started into the Manti-La Sal National Forest, where we'd encounter the first of a recurring theme: cows (yes, the very ones who are also fooled by painted stripes!). Simon took exception to how slowly these two moved and had an extensive barking session to air his disgust; his head and neck were sticking out as far as it could through the porthole. Wayne's main animal concern were deer, as one had already jumped in front of him and they only missed colliding because the trajectory was just off.

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There was a light rain at about 10,000 feet so we put on our rain gear. At about 8,000 feet the rain stopped and in another couple thousand feet the temperature had gone from kinda cold to uncomfortably hot. As we stopped to strip off our rain gear, a group of riders came by. I think they were with Butler Maps and were doing some filming as well as map research.

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When we arrived in Moab we got a camp site at Slick Rock RV park and then headed over to Moab Powersports to get tires we had purchased in advance. They started working on our bikes as soon as we got there. Yes, we could've changed them ourselves, but four tires were just enough of a pain in the ass that we were glad to pay someone else to do them.

Simon, surly from having been trapped in a backpack for several days, took it out on Jake, the shop mascot, with a solid left hook.

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After the tires were on, we returned to the RV park to set up camp. It's about this time into the trip when the days start to blend into each other. It hasn't even been a week yet and I can no longer tell what day it is. Sunday? Wednesday? Friday? I suppose it's not really important, but it just feels somewhat disconcerting, like everyone in the world knows something I don't. I'm just going to have to get used to it.


Day 5 overview: 162 miles

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Day 6: Moab, UT to Salina, UT

Wednesday 9/14

Fresh knobbies: Is there a thing more beautiful? I think not.

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After a brief pavement stretch we were back in the dirt. The climb gave us a nice view of the area below. The morning was cool and rain was in the forecast.

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We rode a great stretch of road with lots of beautiful scenery. Between the dirt and mountain biking opportunities, if I had to leave the People's Republic of Kalifornia, I'd definitely put this area on my list of places to consider.

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After leaving the Moab area, we continued through the desert landscape. Everything was going fine until we rounded a corner and hit a surprise patch of deep sand. I saw the rear end of Wayne's bike start to swap wildly. He couldn't save it and was thrown to the ground. I had already shaved off a lot of speed when I saw his troubles begin, but it wasn't enough to stop in time or to maneuver my bike around him. I clipped his rear tire and then pitched my bike over.

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This was Simon's first official get-off. Because I modified the backpack to have a solid plastic base, Simon couldn't be outright crushed. The biggest danger to him would be if he had his face protruding and didn't retract it in time. Fortunately, when the speeds were above 25, he didn''t like to stick his head out so the risk of him grinding his snout off in a high-speed crash was small. We let him out and he happily ran around. He was probably that thinking if crashing was what it took to get out of his rolling prison, then crash away!

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We continued on a mix of dirt and paved roads into Green River.

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Green River is a town that features abandoned/destroyed buildings (at least if you drive down the main drag). What's not ruined exists mainly because the interstate travelers need a place to pee, gas up, and/or eat. I'm not sure why I had it in my head that Green River was more of a tourist destination like Moab. It was disappointing, but since I have a fascination with towns in decay, I'm actually lying: It wasn't the least bit disappointing. It's places like this that stoke my curiosity. I want to ask people: Why are you here? Would you leave if you could? Where would you go? I'm reminded that life is one big existential exercise: Use it or lose it.

Once again we brought Simon into a restaurant without asking. The waiter saw Simon and kept staring at him but said nothing. He was a young Mexican guy whose English was spotty so I don't think he had the vocabulary to courteously throw us out. Honestly, I don't think he cared; he probably just thought dragging a dog around in a backpack was incredibly weird. Wayne, who will talk to anyone anywhere anytime anyhow (no topic required!), was chatting with some guys in the next booth about the Silver State Classic Challenge, in which they were racing for the first time.

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We had a bit of hard time getting out of Green River. Once we found the stretch we needed to be on, we travelled on a wide dirt road until a turn took us into lumpier terrain. The road eventually ended and we were stymied. Wayne did recon on foot and determined that there were shallow rock steps the DRZs were capable of dropping down.

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The problem was that a storm was coming and we didn't want to spend a couple of hours trying to get our DRZs back out of some pit while getting rained on. The rain wouldn't have been the primary problem; having our sauna suits on while wrestling with our DRZs would've been the physically taxing part. We headed back to the main dirt road and made our way to I-70.

We headed to the next stretch of dirt, the Black Dragon. We stopped at the overlook near the entry point and assessed the situation. The clouds were dark and undoubtedly making their way to us. We decided that being in a rocky wash during a storm could've been disastrous. It's one thing if Wayne or I as consenting (and sentient) adults got washed away, but I think we would've taken a lot of heat if Simon was the one who ended up white water surfing to his death.

We continued on the I-70 and tried to hook up with a section of the dirt past the Black Dragon. We could see the dirt road running parallel to the freeway, but there was no way to get to it. We cut across the freeway to find out what the situation was on the other side. Looking down the embankment, we could see a fence cutting off our access to the dirt road. We went back across the median yet again and found the road coming out beneath the freeway, fences all around. We could see no way to get to it so we were resigned to continue on the interstate.

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Having learned our lesson the hard way that you don't wait for the rain to come before donning the rain gear, we pulled over and tediously pulled everything on. Because it was cold, Simon already had his rain cover on.

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The rains eventually came and when they did there were no breaks in the action. We slogged down the interstate, the wind and rain forcing us to cruise at just below the speed limit. Semis would bear down on us before changing lanes and then blind us with their passing spray. With the altitude pushing 8,000 ft at one point, it felt like the dead of winter.

We finally hit the frontage road so we could get off the freeway.

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By now I was thoroughly chilled and thinking only about a hot shower. I don't know what it takes for a dog to get hypothermia, but a peek into Simon's bag showed that he wasn't shivering nor did he look to be in duress.

After a brief navigational issue that was corrected by a friendly guy in a truck loaded with his ATV, we made our way into Salina in the late afternoon. Averse to mud camping and in need of the aforementioned hot shower, we got a room at the pet friendly Super 8.


Day 6 overview: 188 miles

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Day 7: Salina, UT to Garrison, UT

Thursday 9/15

On the way out of Salina I took a picture of the Super 8 sign because I liked seeing "Pet Friendly" in such big letters. Looking back, though, I'm kinda bummed because I missed the part about the continental breakfast (not sure how -- it's only on top). I heart free food.

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The next town we were headed for was Richfield. The day was sunny and a heartening change from the dumpy day before.

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On our way into Richfield we passed several dairies. Those big cows were the ones living it up. These little guys would be confined to their hutches until it was time for them to become veal cutlets. Good thing they don't internet access to research their fate.

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We topped off our gas tanks in Richfield and then headed up into the mountains. This is where our two-map system came into use. I bought Sam's TAT maps back in 2008, which Wayne did his best to translate into GPS tracks. I also had the route that Ken and Matt created for their trip a little over a year ago.

We were following Sam's route when at one point we were lead up a goat trail that didn't seem right so we backtracked and took Ken's route which was part of the Paiute ATV trail system. (Matt: We called it "Ken's route" since he's our friend so don't be insulted... we know you were the brains and he was the brawn of the operation!) This section of the Paiute Trail must've been made in the past few years because it didn't show up on the Garmin topo map.

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At one point we pulled up behind a couple of guys on ATVs. They were crossbow hunters who had their eyes trained on the stream that flowed besides us so they didn't realize we were there. I didn't want to beep my horn and be rude so I just waited for them to glance back for some random reason. I didn't have to wait long. Simon let out a string of loud barks like he was lodging a complaint -- perhaps he didn't like the slow pace and lack of air flow? The ATVers turned around, saw us, and moved over. Angry small dog: nature's horn.

We popped out into the Fishlake recreation area where we came across some genuine cowboys moving their herd. Or perhaps they were horse thieves moving someone else's herd. The herd was blocking the entire road so we asked the guys if we should wait -- the last thing we city-tards wanted to do was scatter someone's cattle to the four corners of the world. They told us to keep going and the herd peacefully parted. Simon didn't even need to verbally instruct them to get out of the way.

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At a gas stop in Kanosh we met Bob. He was about 75 and looked like a character actor perfect for the role of small town gas station owner.

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He asked us where we stayed last night and we told him we were at the Super 8. He said that the next time we were in Kanosh we should stay at the Kanosh Motel, which was right next to his gas station. He even insisted that we go over to look at it so we could appreciate it and tell our friends about it. Well I'm here to tell you that I looked at it and the place looked extremely well cared for, so the next time you're in the area, stay at the Kanosh Motel. The $55 they're charging is a bargain (only $10 more than an unreasonably priced KOA camp site).

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When some guys on ATVs pulled up to get gas, Bob asked them where they stayed last night...you get where this is going. If I were a business owner, I'd hire Bob to handle sales.

Simon logged some good morning miles so he earned a treat.

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After leaving Kanosh we began the leg of the journey that would take us into Nevada. The roads were lined with Black-Eyed Susans for miles.

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The landscape of western Utah remained mostly unchanged for a couple of hours: wide roads, distant mountains.

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The geological feature of the day was Crystal Peak, a chunk of pockmarked volcanic rock that's striking in its contrast to the forest surroundings. Crystal Peak Pass took us up to 7800 feet.

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When we reached Highway 21, we headed north to Baker, got gas, and then went back down the highway towards Garrison (home to the Utah Department of Transportation but otherwise devoid of services). Now in the late afternoon, we turned our efforts to finding a place to camp for the night. When you're in the middle of nowhere, the sun's dropping low, and you don't know where you're going to stay, you get a little wistful about the houses you see along the way. You think about how lucky these people are in their warm fortresses and you feel rejected by all their NO TRESPASSING signs.

We eventually moved past the ranches and started to climb out of the valley. We were transitioning into the BLM's Highland Ridge Wilderness Area which meant we were at last free to choose a place to pitch our tent. We found an awesome spot that overlooked the valley.

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It's hard to appreciate the value of water until you dry camp in an environment where future water procurement is unknown (and every liter adds weight to an already-heavy bike). I'd only put a small amount in Simon's water bowl and he'd have to drink it all before I gave him more. We had thought about bringing our MSR water filter, but it was bulky enough that we left it behind. In hindsight, I would've brought it since even in late summer we came across plenty of water sources. Yes, we could've boiled water in an emergency, but the filter does a great job of removing the funk that offends the palate.

One week down!


Day 7 overview: 203 miles

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I don't wanna clutter this up by assuring you that we're all reading this and appreciate the effort of putting the report together.

...so I won't,


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Day 8: Garrison, UT to Ely, NV

Friday 9/16

Ah, sweet sunrise. What does a dog think when a new morning warms his face?

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We left our camp site overlooking the valley and headed on towards Lund, NV. The morning was hazy but it didn't seem dark enough to suggest rain. The first part of our ride consisted of wide dirt roads used by the ranchers. We then turned onto a trail that was narrower and at times would've been hard to follow had someone not left a series of yellow ribbons on the trees to mark the trail. This trail wasn't a part of the TAT proper; it was one that Matt and Ken had mapped out for their trip.

It wasn't a difficult trail, but if you didn't pay attention, things happened. In my case, a branch had caught my side bag and was holding me back -- problem was, I didn't know it as I increased the throttle to overcome the decrease in speed. When the branch broke, it slingshotted me into a tree. The bike was wedged so Wayne had to help me disengage it from the tree. The added width of the sidebags would torment me through the entire trip, as I continually clipped objects (including Wayne).

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We crossed a lot of dry creeks in this interesting route. Were it spring, some of them might've been pretty deep.

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That made me wonder: When is the best time to do the TAT? It almost seems like no time is a good time. Up through mid-summer, you could get blocked by deep water crossings, especially if there was a late winter. Any time after mid-summer and your challenge is triple-digit heat in places where nothing grows above waist level. Pick your poison. We selected our departure date because by leaving after Labor Day fewer people might be in the campgrounds to which we might want to avail ourselves. And besides, who can stand the late August tourist inundation of Denio Junction?

As we were heading back towards pavement, I was in the lead when approaching this cattle guard.

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I saw the faded orange tassle at the last second and hit the brakes before getting clothes-lined off my bike. Wayne saw it before I did and was wondering if I had planned to stop. For the rest of the trip, cows wouldn't be the only ones paranoid of cattle crossings. I would slow down no matter how wide or narrow the cattle crossing was.

Back on the pavement, we could see dark clouds dumping rain just to the north of us. As with most of the storms we've encountered on this trip, it was spiced with thunder and lightning.

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It didn't look as apocalyptic to the direct east over Patterson Pass so we put on our rain gear and went for it. Although it was cold, only the occasional drop came down on us.

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We made decent progress until we turned down the road towards Lund. The rains had left a muddy mess on this less-travelled road. We came to a large puddle that we could skirt, but the edges were a lot slicker than they looked. Before we even progressed half way past it, Wayne hit the ground. At first he wasn't moving; his foot looked like it was twisted into an unnatural direction. By the time I got my bike out of the rut I was in so I could get the kickstand down, Wayne had wormed his way out from under the bike.

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I was relieved to see he was ok. Simon, likewise, was unaffected.

We had to make a decision: Attempt the remaining 20 miles to Lund on a muddy road or make our way up to Ely on the dirt road with better drainage. We could see another sizable water hazard just beyond the one we tried to get by, so there was no reason to believe the road would get better than worse. Ely seemed to the better option if we wanted to keep our grief to a minimum.

Wayne brought both bikes back across the bog. It was just one less opportunity for me to drop it and one less need for him to pick it up.

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When we reached Ely, the clouds broke and the sun was starting to make us sweat. We grabbed a sandwich for lunch and looked over our maps to determine our next move. We talked about continuing on the pavement down to Lund and then returning to the dirt, but despite the sun chasing us into the shade, the weather report showed more rain in the forecast. It was only 2:30 but we called it a day. Trying to set up camp in a storm sounded beyond unappealing.

An RV dump station that had a working hose was just what we needed to remove the tonnage of mud.

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The SD card reader I had quit working so we went into town to look for another one. The Radio Shack we went to was across the street from the Hotel Nevada, which happened to be one of the host hotels for the Silver State Classic Challenge. A few cars with numbers on their doors were parked in front of the hotel.

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With Ely being the hub of the event, we were lucky we didn't need a motel room. I'm not sure any would've been available, particularly ones that allowed pets. We went to the KOA on the edge of town, where there were camp sites aplenty. Not long after we got our tent set up, the storm hit and raged well into the night. We were ecstatic with our choice to hunker down in Ely.

Wayne was hanging out in the KOA store talking to a guy working there whose other business was renting porta-potties. He said the organization that does the 90 mile race also holds another race that's a mile long. He told a story about what happened one year: Way past the end of the finish line there was a curve and since no cars went down that far, he was told to put the porta-potties at the curve. One guy in the race accidentally accelerated past the finish line, fishtailed, and then rolled it 10 times, taking out a porta-potty. The driver wasn't killed but the empty porta-potty was.


Day 8 overview: 105 miles

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The pics are the best. looks and sounds like you guys had a blast. I would like to make a trip like that some-day.

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Day 9: Ely, NV to Eureka, NV

Saturday 9/17

I got up at 5:30 since my arm was killing me and there was no way I'd fall back asleep. Hand numbness is a daily morning gift courtesy of a bulging cervical disc, but this morning the numbness was accompanied by pain and no amount of PT exercises would get the pain to subside.

It had rained so much that the rain fly was saturated and heavy against the tent walls. This meant if something was touching the tent wall, the water transferred onto it, which included some of my riding gear. With nothing to do but fixate on the phantom python squeezing the hell out of my arm, I gathered up my gear and Simon's damp backpack and headed over to the bathroom, which I turned into my personal office and laundromat.

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I used the hair dryer on my clothes and the hand dryer on my boots and Simon's backpack. By the time I was done, the bathroom was probably pushing 90 degrees.

After the sun came up, I strung paracord between several trees so we could sun dry some more of our wet items.

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The gazebo was useful for drying out the rain fly and ground cover. I fully expected the control-freaks that ran the KOA to yell at us about doing this (Simon, after all, was not even allowed to walk on the grass), but either they didn't see this or perhaps they took pity on us.

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I also moved my office to the outside location. Professional!

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In the mornings when we were packing up, Simon always seemed a little nervous, like we'd leave without him. He'd sit quietly and watch our every move, which is a complete 180 from his wander-away behavior in the evenings. This morning he climbed up onto his backpack to guarantee that we couldn't ditch him. I took this as a positive sign that he did not yet despise his prison.

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We finally got our junk dried and packed and hit the road at 11, which was the latest start yet on our trip. At least we didn't have a timeline we needed to stick to.

We took Highway 6 down to Lund to get gas. The station had a public scale and for $8 each we could have our bikes weighed. The DRZs felt fairly heavy so we wanted to find out once and for all how much total poundage we were been wrestling.

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Mine came out to 440 while Wayne's was 460 (no human or dog weight included). At first it seemed ridiculously high, but when we considered the weight of the bike accessories (e.g., skid plate, steel front and rear racks) and all our gear (including 7 lbs of dog food), the weight didn't seem so off. Our Clark tanks were full and we also had an extra gallon each in Rotopax cans. Being 115 lbs, the bike was almost four times my weight.

We grabbed a bite to eat at Whipple's Country store. You know you're in a small town when anyone who wants a running tab for groceries can have one.

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We finally returned to the dirt portion of the TAT, making good time on nice roads cutting through a stretch of national forest. The roads were in surprisingly good condition considering the storm that had just passed through. We did come across water obstacles now and then, but they were all easy to get around.

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As we got closer to Highway 50, we'd occasionally lose the route. I found this turnoff and was waiting for Wayne to return after he went off on a recon mission.

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The Lincoln Highway was America's first trans-continental highway (not all of it was paved). This section of the highway was reduced to a faint trail.

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We came across our first wild horse. "Majestic" would certainly be the word for it, as it stood right in the middle of the trail staring us down. After a little bit of stomping, it eventually took off, stopping now and then to give us the stink eye.

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Another lightly used road brought us closer to Highway 50.

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When we crossed Highway 50, we found the trail fenced off. It was hard to tell how old the fence was, but the trail on the other side looked to be in decent shape. We could see tracks around us where other riders had turned around. We took the pavement until we could reconnect with the trail.

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It was getting late so we started scoping out a place to set up camp. We found a turnout where others had obviously camped and decided to stop there for the night. I took a walk back into the trees and found an even better spot away from the road where no one could see us. The benefits of being a dualsporter are many, including access to camping spots away from prying eyes.

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We were at about 6,500 ft and the location was blissfully light on bugs. I had been living on antihistamines and had only begun to stop chronically scratching the 50 or so no-see-um bites I got back in Camp Verde.

While looking around in our camp site, Wayne found a warning for those who took the TAT too lightly. Always pack enough water or you're the next skeletor!

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Day 9 overview: 126 miles

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Day 10: Eureka, NV to Battle Mountain, NV

Sunday 9/18

We woke up to a cold morning -- the digital thermometer read 42 degrees, which was the coldest night we've had so far. The wind was blowing so it felt like we were in the 30s. I put on everything I could and drank my coffee inside the tent.

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We rode for less than an hour and arrived in Eureka, where we got gas. Just across from the station was the Eureka Fire Department. For a county that has less than 2,000 people, they must be waiting for a mine to blow up. Seven awesome doors!

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Trying to get out of Eureka was a little problematic. Sam's route led us right to Ruby Hill mine, where a newish looking gate and a very clean sign told us not to trespass (remember, my maps are from 2008). With the price of gold running up to $1900 per ounce, I'll hazard a guess that just about every inch of the property was abuzz with digging, stripping, hauling, crushing, and processing, so that an adventure rider wandering onto the property would probably get accidentally scooped up into a loader and deposited into a processing machine. A year down the road somebody's mom getting a gold bauble from Kay's Jewelers will be wondering what the jagged little piece of metal in the design was...um, it's a piece of a DRZ footpeg...

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Even our other option -- the road that ran along their fence line -- had been rendered unfriendly for travel. The message was clear: Go away.

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We switched to Ken's route and found ourselves at the gate of another mine. Although there was a sign that said all visitors had to check in at the office, 1) we didn't know where the office was, and 2) we weren't visiting -- just passing through. Semantics? Perhaps, but the place looked abandoned and if there was someone who gave a sh!t, they weren't in range to convey that to us. Ever mindful, we closed the gate after we went through.

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After getting through Eureka -- Native American for "Too Many Mines" -- we rode for hours through a variety of terrain.

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One of my least favorite flavors of dirt is silt because when you crash in it, it becomes the gift that keeps on giving.

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My front wheel snagged left and before I knew it I was tossed off the bike. The brown powder was everywhere: in my helmet, in my pants, in my jacket. It was even stuffed into my pockets, which was sad because that's where I carried my toothbrush.

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My teeth are crap -- I started the trip missing a molar and a pre-molar -- so it was always in my pocket and ready for duty after every snack. I'd continue to use it, but not until I ran it under scalding water for a minute.

The bonus gift of the crash was that Wayne was riding to my left and couldn't avoid me. As I was falling I heard a loud CLUNK and felt my head jerk. I ended up with my face buried into the silt. I immediately got up to my knees so Wayne could see that I was conscious. I was glad not to be hurt, but I was incredibly bummed that I was now so filthy. I know it's every dirtbiker's fate to get dirty, but it's different to get powdered -- there's an invasive insult to it.

We picked up the bike and figured it was a good time to take a break. I'm not sure why, but I thought I had hit his swingarm on the way down since it seemed like I had been falling for a while before I was clunked. Wayne said my head actually connected with his handguard, which surprised me. I guess the mind isn't all that great at trying to dissect events taking place over a few seconds.

The rest of the day went on without drama. Here is Simon enjoying an in-flight refreshment.

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When we pulled into Battle Mountain we found an RV park that didn't have camp sites, but the owner was willing to let us pitch our tent behind a building on the property. We would've gone for it if there were showers, but he said they wouldn't be in until next week. With the day's silt assault I was in desperate need of a shower so we ended up at the pet friendly Big Chief Motel.


Day 10 overview: 142 miles

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Wow! what a trip. Thanks for putting so much time and effort into such a terrific ride report. Beezz & I were wondering in retrospect if you were content with the bikes you chose to do this trip. Wayne, do you think the DRZ was the best choice or would a KTM 990 be better. And Zina, we were feeling for you on that bike with all of the weight, were you happy with your bike choice, and do you think you will be getting a steering stabilizer? ( I know I would be lost without mine. )And, would less weight have made it a bit easier? Is there anything you brought that you didn't need, or other choices to make it lighter if it mattered. Anyway, we were VERY impressed.

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Wow! what a trip. Thanks for putting so much time and effort into such a terrific ride report. Beezz & I were wondering in retrospect if you were content with the bikes you chose to do this trip. Wayne, do you think the DRZ was the best choice or would a KTM 990 be better. And Zina, we were feeling for you on that bike with all of the weight, were you happy with your bike choice, and do you think you will be getting a steering stabilizer? ( I know I would be lost without mine. )And, would less weight have made it a bit easier? Is there anything you brought that you didn't need, or other choices to make it lighter if it mattered. Anyway, we were VERY impressed.


Yes, we were happy with our bike choice and if we were to do a similar ride would use the DRZs again. There were definitely times when it would have been nice to be on a big bike but over all and especially when the going got tough I was glad to be on a smaller machine.

We packed a lot of gear and the weight added up. It did make riding the harder sections (there weren’t many) very hard and it caused a number of “tip overs” that wouldn’t have happened if our load was lighter. That being said, we did use everything we brought and I’ve put a lot of thought into how we could have packed lighter with out coming up with any good answers.

Everyone has their own ideas on what is important to bring on a trip. 25 days and over 4,000 miles.... This was going to be a long trip and our idea was to be over prepared for any type of weather, mechanical failure or situation. We carried a lap top which we used often. Over 3 pounds of maps which were very handy, useful and needed. Each of us carried an extra gallon of gas (never needed but nice to know it was there) and a fair amount of water. We had a good amount of first aid gear, an extensive tool kit and a very complete spare part kit. All this in addition to spare cloths and camping gear.

Lets try to talk at the next SDAR meeting. Hope you 2 are able to to get out on an extended trip, the longer the better.


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And Zina, we were feeling for you on that bike with all of the weight, were you happy with your bike choice, and do you think you will be getting a steering stabilizer?

I'd take the DRZ again, but not without a steering stabilizer. I was going about 50 in a curve when I hit deep gravel and the bike started swapping like crazy. Somehow I regained control before launching into the ravine. It was at that very moment that I vowed never to do another trip on the bike without a steering stabilizer. My bike is lowered so the geometry may be funky and more prone to exaggerating irregularities.

Wayne summarized the weight issue: We used just about everything we carried, except for the emergency items. That was the trade-off: Be stuck in the desert unable to fix a broken DRZ or deal with the weight. We liked the security of knowing we were ready for just about any problem short of a seized motor.

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Day 11: Battle Mountain, NV to McDermitt, NV

Monday 9/19

A motel stay was what I really needed to de-silt myself and my belongings. I took my helmet apart. I turned my pockets inside out. I scalded the hell out of my toothbrush. It felt good to reset the cleanliness clock.

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Unlike the continental breakfast that I forgot about in Salinas, I was all over this one. There were just cheap bread products and cold cereal, but that was good enough for me. I ate a couple of the mini bagels and stuffed a few more in my pocket -- food not associated with gas stations had acquired an unusual attraction to me.

As it was with Eureka, we had troubles extricating ourselves from Battle Mountain. We were just on the edge of town and we were already "situationally impaired" in the farm fields. It seems that we couldn't get anywhere without getting blocked off by fences. Backtracking and investigating various options wasn't a problem; the fact that it had to be done in those cursed silty roads was. If only I hadn't pilfered those extra bagels and negativized our karma.

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The victims on the fences told the story of Battle Mountain: You can check any time you like, but you can never leave.

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After taking about an hour to do what should've been done in fifteen minutes, we finally hit a wide gravel road. We were on it for a while before our GPS took us back onto rutted, silty two-track (#%$@!). The trail was lined with sage brush that grabbed at our side bags. I'm not sure exactly what caught me out here, but I can assure I was very annoyed with the result.

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We eventually arrived at the creek crossing that had caused those who came before us much grief. Since it was late summer the water was about as low as it was going to get, but it was still too deep to cross.

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You can't see it in the above photo, but a hard right just before the creek led to this plywood bridge.

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To negotiate our way to that bridge, we'd first have to squeeze our bikes through a narrow passage (plants on one side, embankment on the other). We could see that "landscaping" had already been done by others; we needed to do a little more before trying to bring our DRZs through.

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Wayne walked the bike down the steep embankment with me anchoring the back to keep it from sliding out of control. When we got to the narrow passage, the left side of Wayne's bike got hung up on branches. We worked to shove the bike through -- I tried to pin the heavy branches out of the way while Wayne muscled the bike forward (remember this moment; it will haunt us tomorrow in the form of a torn bag).

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We were relieved when we finally got both bikes to the other side. The well-shaded property made a nice place to take a lunch break.

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Other riders had left messages so we added ours.

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The rest of the afternoon was long, extremely long. There were plenty of loose and rocky hills that seemed to have a higher than normal gravitational pull. Strange physics, though: it only affected yellow bikes.

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In the late afternoon we once again became "geographically disadvantaged" after following some faint tracks out onto a hilltop.

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We could see the correct path below us so Wayne picked his way down the hillside. I waited to make sure he reached a road before I committed. I was doing ok until I hit the dense brush and got hung up. I tried rocking myself off the plant but I was punished for my efforts.

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Wayne picked up the bike and rode it down while I did the Walk of Shame with Simon on my back.

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The sun was low in the sky and although we were still a couple of hours away from McDermitt, the fact that we were at last dropping down towards our destination was a mental boost. The increase in animal life also made us feel like we were getting somewhere, as opposed to the expansive nowhere we'd been most of the day.

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As we got lower, the creek crossings became more frequent. McDermitt was not going to come easy!

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With virtually no time spent on pavement, it was our longest dirt day yet (Wayne's DRZ had gone on reserve).

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We filled up our tanks and then pitched our tent in a field just outside of town.

We had a cold but undisturbed night of sleep.


Day 11 overview: 170 miles

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Love reading this thread :)

Shh! Don't interrupt!

Go on Zina, go on....

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