Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Short-cut...

My career path has led me to sit in a dark room, stare at a computer monitor and listen to a hypnotic droning sound, for 5 - 7 minutes at a time. When the noise stops I often find that I have been day dreaming. Recently those daydreams have been about past motorcycle adventures...

July 15th, 2001 I found myself in Maybell, CO eating a cheese burger for a late lunch with a critical decision to make. Take the short cut or take the long way? I was on my way to the BMW MOA rally in Redmond, OR, earlier that day I started from Fort Collins, CO and had passed through Rocky Mountain National Park. My goal for the day was Rock Springs, WY. The long way was very simple, continue west on U.S. 40 to Vernal, UT then north on U.S. 191 to Rock Springs, WY (It might have been a really nice ride, I may never know). The short cut would take me northwest on CO 318 to the very northeast corner of Utah and what looked to be about 20 miles of gravel road before hitting Wyoming and a few miles of paved road to U.S. 191. The short cut (see image above, then click on the title link to see what it really looks like.) would knock off 60+ miles, making Rock Springs only 143 miles away. Of course I took the short cut, but not why you think, it had been tickling my brain for weeks. Ever since I first laid eyes on the map and this lonely little road I knew I had to take the short cut. I left Maybell with a full tank and stomach. 318 was a fine road, I know because I don't remember one iota about it. There was a sign when the pavement ended, it said only 40 more miles to U.S. 191, halfway there. I immediately found myself on a washboard surface that literally blurred my vision and banged my teeth together (see below). No matter what speed I drove there was no relief. Occasionally the road looked to smooth out, but when the tire would hit it I found myself in 3-4 inches of powder, not fun. It seemed like I had been riding in this stuff for hours. I soon saw another sign that said only 35 more miles to U.S. 191. I stopped to think about my SHORT CUT, There was just no way I could turn back at that point, it would have added several hundred miles to the day or left me with out a roof for the night. The key to the road was to ride it like I was on a dirt bike, so up on the pegs I went. I was able to cruise about 35-40 mph with out having my teeth fallout, I would find missing bolts and screws for days and weeks afterword's. I guess my brain had softened some and that is why I didn't stop and snap a photo of the next sign I saw. It read something like this: "Caution Narrow Winding Road Ahead. 14% Grade. Trucks should use tire chains." The road went from washboard gravel to a relative smooth crushed red rock, but the pot wholes were of historic proportions. The road was not much bigger than two tire tracks and the thought of meeting one of those trucks needing tire chains was a little unnerving. The other side of the pass was of a much gentler grade down into a large valley. I did scare up a group of 15 -20 prong horn antelope, it was quite a sight to see them running at speed off to my right. It wasn't long before I came to beautiful paved road (I must have made it to Wyoming). When I reached U.S. 191 the sun was getting low in the sky. A few miles up the road the setting sun was putting on a show and forced me to stop for a few photos. After taking the photo above I realized all of the gear strapped to the pillion had worked loose on the gravel roads and was in danger of leaving me on the road ahead. By the time I finished repacking the sun had long since set. The last 40 or so miles into Rock Springs were surreal as I followed glowing white and yellow ribbons. If only I had had a video camera.

I went on to have a great trip I saw Crater Lake national park, had a great rally and did a SS1000 on the way home. I actually rode 1900 miles in 38 hours including a 5hr motel room stay but only documented the first 1100 miles for the Iron Butt Association. But out of it all, the thing that comes to my daydreams is the short cut.


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