You've Been Riding that Thing for How Long?

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Adventure is overrated (Part II)

By Mark

You'd think we'd learn our lesson (about this whole "uncertain outcome" thing. But no. We have to ride more 4 wheel drive roads to get to South Colony Lakes trailhead to do a technical rock climbing route (old school 5.7) to the summit of a 14,000 foot mountain. Everything went fine (for the most part) getting there, and we had a nice quiet evening eating and preparing for the coming day-- 4 mile hike to the base of the Ellingwood Arete, about 3,000 vertical feet of climbing, and then an easy walk back down the "standard route". We went to bed early.

So I'll try to make this brief. The climb went well, and we thought the crux was in the first pitch. Turns out it was on the third, which surpised us. Katie was leading at the time, and decided to lower off and let me try. Let's just say that 5.7 in 1920 (during the first ascent) is a little different than the 5.7 we are accustomed to. We summitted with clear skies but ferocious winds-- with all the cliffs surrounding the summit, Katie didn't even bother with scrambling the last few feet to the tippy-top.

We had the summit all to ourselves which is kind of rare in Colorado, and the view was fantastic.

We ate a bagel with tuna salad for lunch, and began what we thought would be a fairly casual and quick "walk off" type descent. It was not casual, it did not involve walking, and it was certainly not quick. ...And all that was my fault. I made some assumptions and didn't research the descent route. Katie trusted me, and we unwittingly walked right past the ridge we were supposed to scramble down, and headed into the gully from hell. The photos below don't do it justice. High winds, Loose rock, steep snow, and some rappels from dubious anchors made the 3,000 foot descent a 4 hour, miserably scary and cold experience. We took our time, helped each other, and eventually made it to the bottom, utterly frazzled. In the first photo below, notice the lake at the bottom of our gully. We looked down at it the whole way, judging our progress.

By the time we reached the lake at the bottom of our gully, we were out of water, energy, and in the wrong drainage. This is where we had our second "trail angel" experience. The guy in the photo, whose name we didn't get either, gave us elk jerky he had made himself, let us use his water filter to pump some clean water, and most importantly, gave us directions out of the drainage. Again we were struck by how uncanny it was to have someone just "show up" at the right time to help us out. My heart still fills with gratitude even as I write. Katie even got a bit of a dog fix, playing with Gracie, the man's energetic dog.

It eventually got dark, and with one meager headlamp, we stumbled down the trail to our campsite. 15 hours round trip to the summit of Crestone Needle and back.
We woke up the next morning with a definite "mountain hangover". We were exhausted, sore, and hungry. After a leisurely breakfast and pack-up, we rode to my parents' house, only 60 miles away. While telling them the story of our harrowing descent and miserable, dark walk out, my mother retrieved a photo album from 1981. She produced the photo below, and reminded me that when I was 4 years old, and at almost the very same spot, I had declared that, "I hate hiking. I never want to climb a mountain again!" At least I'm wearing a 'Dukes of Hazard' shirt.

My whole family (parents and sister) along with my mother's parents. Funny how my dad is wearing a cowboy hat in this photo. I wore my own cowboy hat for the hike... right past the same spot. We are greatly alike, in ways I don't even notice sometimes.

Since then, we've been recovering and enjoying Southern Colorado. We've walked around the local lake with my parents, done a few small projects around the house, and cleaned up the bikes. It's of course great to be with my parents, and we've enjoyed many good conversations and small cups of ice cream out on the patio.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Adventure is overrated

By Mark

So if you walk into a motorcycle shop (particularly one that sells adventure-touring bikes), and start looking at a bike that can "do it all", you will inevitably hear the buzz word: Adventure. Let me tell you. In real life, its not as glamorous as it might be in your mind. An adventure is an endeavor with an uncertain outcome. Two days ago I talked Katie into riding Ophir pass-- a 4-wheel drive road connecting the Telluride and Ouray areas. The crest is 11,743 feet above sea level. On the map this road looks like a glamourously red dotted line-- a true scenic route at the very least-- at the best, an adventure. Hey, I've drank the Kool-aid from time to time...

So we start up, and Katie rides like a champ. We kept our cool, and with our intercoms on, we could warn each other about hazards, recommend left or right sides of the track, etc.

I was headed up through some loose scree (rocks of similar size), and with a heavily laden bike (Arrrg climbing gear!!!), basically slick tires (which I should have let some air out of), and generally the wrong bike for the job, and I dumped it. Fell onto my left hand side. Katie was coming up behind me, and I directed her to the other side of the track. This was a squeeze, but she rode it perfectly. She got to a spot higher up on the track and parked. So now we were having an adventure. There was an impressively steep slope dropping off to my right, and I wasn't sure I was skilled enough to ride the rest of the road. Doubts flooded my brain. I don't think I could turn the bike around if I tried-- what if I had fallen off the side? This is supposed to be our honeymoon! This isn't fun anymore--at all. The dark side of this huge marketing scam-- Adventures can turn out poorly. You'll never see that written on a poster in the motorcycle shop.

So then our guardian angel showed up in the form of a (nameless) man riding a KLR 650. He was calm, strong, and helped Katie and I pick up my bike and walk it up the rest of the loose rock. I'm glad I had the presence of mind to take a photograph.

We owe a great debt to this gentleman.

My bike wasn't damaged, and the gentleman had encouraged us that the road quality improved higher up (before mysteriously disappearing down the trail). We talked, decided to carry on, and soberly began shuttling some of the extra weight from my bike further up the trail.

The road quality did improve, and Katie and I finished the ride to the top without incident. Eventually the anxiety started to leave our bodies and we were able to celebrate a bit.

Couldn't have done it without you (Part 2)

By Mark

It's amazing how much can happen in a few short days-- We're taking a rest day in Gunnison, CO today (staying with our favorite teacher-ranger-teachers Mitch and Brittany. They've provided us with a real bed, good food, and a place to let our guard down a little bit. Here they are, managing the wildlife of the Curecanti area (they manage human adolescents most of the time).

So before we get too far into the travels of the last few days, we need to give some more shout-outs to folks who worked extra hard to make our trip possible.

First, Jason Ward at Happy Trail Luggage in Boise, Idaho. Short story: Katie's motorcycle, (KLR 250) has been in production since the 80's (I think). Although the bike is now out of production, no racks were available for the machine. No racks mean no cases, and this great little bike that suits Katie's riding needs had no way to carry her gear. This was a problem. Enter Jason and the rest of the staff at Happy Trails. We told them about our trip and begged them for a rack. There was a prototype, but nothing had been put into production. Being springtime, Jason was BUSY with all the other motorcyclists who needed something urgently for their own trips-- but he put the rack for Katie's bike at high priority and it's beautiful. We got #1 off the production line, and it fit perfectly, and has withstood the few bumps we've put into it. Thanks Jason and everybody at the Happy Trails office in Boise! Here's the rack, brand new, just a few weeks ago:

We have many great friends in Salt Lake City. I could write a lot about this subject, since contemplating leaving for a year brings to mind all the folks we'll miss. We're guilty of taking our friends for granted. It's easy to say, "we'll go over to so and so's house another night." Well, it's another night, and we're gone. We know better--time is of the essence. So here are folks in SLC who are not only good friends, but who own houses, and have donated room in their basements, closets, and garages to store our stuff. We could not afford to pay for a storage unit big enough for all our crap! You've literally made it possible, friends! Here's Scott and Tracy Hove, who took the lion's share of our pile:

Another couple in town who have been good friends to us through thick and thin: Polly and Eric Dacus. Eric is our official trip beginning and end photographer, whom we don't pay, but takes photos for us anyway.

And of course, we couldn't leave out our musical friend Chad Sanders. His basement swallowed an awful lot of gear and furniture. His band the (one and only Peter Harvey, who also played at our wedding) was playing the night before we left, which was great-- I'm so proud of how much better of a musician he is every time I see him.

Okay, our next post will have more trip updates and photos, promise!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Couldn't have done it without you (Part 1)

By Mark

In any trip, there are lots of people to thank. The first installment of "Couldn't have done it without you" is here:

Katie and I have long desired to be able to talk to each other while riding. For our upcoming trip (especially Phase 2, Central America), I believe being able to communicate will increase our safety (slow down, Monkeys in road!). So there were some setbacks: First, our chosen brand of intercom device (Autcom) has changed U.S. distributors, so the items we need have been tough to get. Secondly, we had some of the Autcom bits (we DID have) stolen out of the garage. Beleagured, I called Matt down at BMW Motorcycles of Utah enough times that he simply hooked me up with the new U.S. distributor, who happens to live here in Salt Lake City! Enter Troy--he patiently listened to our sob story (we're leaving in 8 days!!!), and went far above the normal call of duty-- he came to my garage, brought the equipment we needed, and stuck around long enough to make sure it all worked just the way we needed it to. A rider himself, he had some great installation and operation tips, and of course, showed up just in time.

You may notice Troy's shirt color changes between these two photos-- that's because he actually came over TWICE-- on successive days. This also proves that, unlike me, he changes his clothes on a daily basis.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

T-Minus 4 days, or maybe 5

By Katie

Okay, here it is folks, the last pre-trip blog. I should be cleaning or packing or doing something productive right now, but I can't bring myself to do so. I'm so over all those little details. It has been a good but hectic last couple weeks.
For those of you who didn't know, last weekend was particularly packed. We had my mom, my bro and his gf Kasie, my grandparents, and Mark's parents all in Salt Lake for one last visit before we leave. Of course we were also celebrating my graduation (from Westminster with an MAT, woot!), my birthday, and my papa's one year anniversary. Whew, it was quite the weekend. But so great that everyone could be here to join with us.

Some photos of grad weekend. I kind of felt like a wizard in the costume..

My gramps and I showing off our fancy shoes!

This last week has been filled with packing, cleaning, logistics, and of course our good-byes to everyone. It's funny how easily I take my community for granted, until I get ready to leave and I think about all the people that I want to make sure and see before departure.

Here is our little friend Alexander giving the big motorbike a testride when he came over to say goodbye.

Also, as a sidenote. Anyone with blog experience- help me out. How could I post our itinerary on the side bar of the blog so that people can see where we are? And is there a way to put a tracker of some sort at the top of the blog to keep count of the number of days we have been on the road? Any advice gratefully accepted.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Breaking the piggy bank

Over the course of the last two weeks we've moved most of our stuff out of the house, our parents have taken our vehicles to their respective states (Idaho and Colorado), and we've celebrated Katie's new status of Master. She's a master at many things, but this time we are celebrating her Master's degree and a new career.

One hobby that my wife enjoys is collecting pocket change. Seriously. If you have a few nickels, give them to her and watch how excited she gets. She seperates the silver from the pennies, and we cashed them all in today. She guessed that there would be $214 total. I guessed $150. The guy at the bank (who does this stuff every day) guessed $65. After being run through a coin-counting machine (what a country! it turns out that there was 211.69. When we stood there astonished that Katie's guess was $2.31 away from being exact, she shrugged and stated matter of factly, "must have been all the Sacajawea dollar coins I stole out of the pockets of your jeans!"