DR650 rally in LaSal, UT

2019-09-05

I decided to go to a DR650 rally at Three Step Hideaway in Utah that I saw on the advrider.com forum.

Day 1: East Palo Alto to Nevada

I left on Wednesday, Sept 4 at 4:30pm. I had to work that day so I packed my camping stuff onto my bike and brought it all with me to work. First 2 hours of the trip was pretty solid traffic that I lane-split through. Ate at McDonalds near Sacramento. I spent many hours on the first day whistling this melody over and over:

whistle_tune

At Reno I hit a little bit of rain. While I stopped to get gas at 7-11 I transferred the first few episodes of Westworld Season 2 to my phone and to the server at home. Sarah and I had just finished Season 1, and since I wouldn't have cell coverage at the Rally the plan was we would each watch 1 episode per night starting at 11pm PDT (12am MDT for me in Utah).

At (39.2639,-118.3808) I hit a big rainstorm, and the rain stung as it hit my exposed nose. Dang, desert rain drops sure are sharp. I took one of my July 4th socks out of my pannier and stuffed it around my goggles. Luckily it was the first day of the trip so the sock was clean. Roads are usually more slippery after fresh rain, and I had been smelling the petrichor to determine which areas were freshly wet and where I should slow down, but now all I could smell was fabric softener.

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At (39.5023,-117.7812) I decided to find somewhere to camp off the highway. The only vehicle I had seen for the last 30+ minutes was a semi that I passed a few minutes prior. I try to make sure nobody sees me when I slip over to a secluded area to camp, and I figured I had a good few minutes to find a hidden spot behind some desert brush before the truck drove past. I pulled off the road and almost immediately my front tire fell into a yoga-ball-sized pit and I fell over. The first thing I did was to turn off the ignition key so my lights would go out. Then I smelled gas leaking onto me from the vent hose on the top of my fuel tank so I pinched the hose with my hand to stop it. I discovered that my right leg was pinned between the bike and the edge of the pit and I couldn't get it out. I laughed because I thought it was funny, but then I realized that I was only a few feet off the side of the highway when I fell and when the semi drove past it would look like I had had a serious motorcycle crash. I heard the truck coming in the distance, but sound travels far in the desert so I figured I had a few minutes to get myself out of the pit and scramble into the darkness before the truck saw me. I tried a bit more desperately to wrench my leg out from under the bike but it was no use. Just before the semi reached me I figured maybe if I lay completely flat then somehow the headlight beams will go right over me and the driver will ignore me, so I laid down completely flat. Then I realized, now I look like a dead body pinned under a motorcycle. As the semi was passing me I could see myself and my bike completely lit up, and there's no way the driver didn't notice me. Thankfully he was a terrible samaritan and just drove on past.

It took me a few minutes of kicking and wiggling to get out from under the bike, and I stood up, tried to lurch my bike backwards out of the pit, and ended up stepping into a deep rabbit hole with my left foot and the bike tipped over and pinned me underneath again. Finally I got the bike away from those pits and gradually lurched it farther forwards over a sandy hill and into a little cluster of shrubs. I looked over the bike and saw that my right side pannier strap had melted through from the heat of the exhaust pipe. I threw my tarp over the bike to make it less reflective, set up camp, played Piffle on my phone and went to sleep.

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Day 2: Nevada to La Sal, UT

Had some trouble starting the bike the next morning. It was really cold, and when I got to Austin, NV I was shivering. Went to a cafe called Toiyabe Cafe.

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This was a long solitary day of riding. When I ride for hours with no outside entertainment I tend to get pretty introspective. Sometimes my mind will pick a section of a song that I know the lyrics to, and I'll sing that bit of song a hundred times, then I'll do it again in an australian accent, then again in an italian accent, then I'll sing it like I'm disgusted, then I'll sing it like I'm trying not to burst out laughing, and again and agian and again. Sometimes 3 hours can pass by in what feels like 15 minutes, or sometimes a single song can become half a tank of gas.

I started reciting some lines from the movie The Birdcage (1996) and then I started practicing shocked falsetto gasping like Nathan Lane's character. I found that if I do it too fast it sounds like a little dog yapping, and if I do it too slow it sounds sexual. For some reason I had a particular jet of air pointing up into my helmet right at my mouth that I've never noticed before, and if I opened my mouth then it made a sound like a dentist's suction tool. Then I found that I could modulate the frequency by changing the size of my mouth cavity and I used that to perform some sound effects: police car, European ambulance, 1950s UFO sound. Then I found that the jet stream was able to sort of inflate my bottom lip so it would hang down and flap around. I felt like Tony Clifton licking my lips and singing. I practiced doing major and minor scales using the dentist suction sound for a while. Then I sang some more songs:

There was a bit of road work so traffic came to a stop. Two BMW bikes pulled up behind me and we started chatting. They were a husband and wife from Quebec who had ridden up to Alaska, and were on their way to Yellowstone.

A storm followed me for a few hours and I hit some hail. I had to pull over and cover my exposed nose with a sock again, but this time the sock was dirty so it wasn't so pleasant.

I pulled into La Sal at around 6pm, checked into the rally, had some dinner and set up camp. Lots of little burrs in the dusty ground. Met some folks camped near me and went to sleep.

Day 3: First rally day

My air mattress sprung a leak during the night. Talking with some other campers, it sounds like the same thing happened to quite a few people. I met up with a group of riders who were going to ride a LaSal pass loop, and I figured that was a good match for my current riding skill level. Their names were Alan, Chris and Hippie Kip, from Michigan. Had a blast riding with them. We took a shortcut through "Hell Canyon" at (38.4276,-109.2786) that was even more fun. I was hoping to really give myself a challenge during this rally so as we were going downhill I was intentionally picking hard lines and trying to make things harder for myself.

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We took a break after hell canyon for some snacks. A rider named Yan rode up to us on a nice Husqvarna 701, he said he was riding the UTBDR with some friends and they had gotten separated. He had a 360° camera mounted to his handlebars.

On our way back we stopped at a gas station in Moab for some snacks. Chris had to do some maintenance on his bike and we were all thirsty and hot.

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Then we went to Gearheads Outdoor Store and I bought a patch kit for my air mattress and a replacement strap to tie down my right-side pannier that had partially melted.

Got back to camp and started fixing my air mattress. I found a big flat rock to do my repairs up and away from all the burrs and prickles. I mixed up some Dr Bronners with water in my Nalgene and poured it on the air mattress, then I folded the air mattress over and found a spot that was bubbling and applied the patch there.

When I took the air mattress out of my bivy sack I found two dead spiders had been crushed under me while I slept. Camp dinner was delicious steak. I talked to a couple from Virginia who had run into Yan and a Canadian guy earlier in the day. They said Yan and the other guy were separated from their group and looked pretty worried, but then a car pulled up, the Canadian went to talk to the driver, and Yan took off, so they weren't sure what was going on.

After dinner everybody gathered together for a rally photo. They gave prizes for youngest rally participant (22 years old), oldest participant (Terry, 89 years old), and another prize for the person who had ridden in the longest distance (I don't remember the guy's name but he was on a mad max DR650 and he rode in from northern BC). Then two people who had installed 790cc big bore kits on their DR650s had a drag race.

Drag race

Drag race

Later in the evening I chatted with Lynn and Terry who had been riding together for 45 years, and they used to repair VW engines in Anchorage in the 70s. Lynn said he had a Chinese bike but the manual wasn't translated in to English, and he asked me to help him translate the buttons on the app and help him tune it. Then I went back to my camp area and sat down in my fancy new REI camp chair and had some beers with Alan, Chris and Hippie Kip.

When I went to bed I saw that ants had eaten the two spider corpses and all that was left was a few legs.

Before

Before

After

After

I lifted up my bivy and used my boot to scrape away the top layer of prickles and burrs in the dirt and create a sandy area to sleep on.

Burrs stuck to bottom of bivy

Burrs stuck to bottom of bivy

Prickles in my finger

Prickles in my finger

Day 4: Second rally day

Air mattress popped again during the night. Got bothered by a little cat during breakfast.

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My riding group from the day before told me they were going to take it easy today, and I said I'm hoping to push my limits today so we split off. I joined a group led by the rally organizer Julio. I told him I was worried about holding the group back, and after I told him that I had ridden Lockhart Basin and he said I should be fine. The full line-up was: Julio, Rick from Cogent Dynamics, Dave, Ron, Lynn, Terry, James, me. Everyone was on DR650s except Terry and Lynn who were riding DR200s. Suddenly everyone took off in the direction of the Colorado border. Thirty seconds in I hit a bump and my spare tube sproinged off my fender and went flying. I cinched it onto my tail rack with my water bladder and continued on. I almost bailed a couple of times but I kept it together. After 10 minutes we stopped to regroup and I noticed that Terry wasn't wearing any armor, he was just wearing a sweater. He said that this kind of riding was easy peasy for him. James said that he had accidentally joined the wrong group, but he was going to try his best to keep up with everyone.

The singletrack turned into rocky scrambles and steep washes and I was really enjoying myself. We came across a guy sitting on the side of the trail with an injured ankle. He said someone had gone back to camp to get him medical help, and we didn't pass anybody on our way over but I guess there are multiple routes.

The trail got tougher and we started riding faster and James started having trouble keeping up. I think he fell a few times on some tricky uphills and had exhausted himself trying to manoeuver the bike back down the rocky hill for another attempt. While the group was resting he apologized for slowing everyone down and I told him I really appreciated him coming along for the ride because he was distracting everyone from howpoorly I was riding.

Part of the group took a wrong path and sort of got split up, and at one point I was in the rear group and I wanted to let the front group know that there was someone behind me still. The rider behind me was Lynn who has 100x better offroad riding skills than me, but I still wanted to make sure they knew. I was riding along a mostly flat dirt road and I saw the group stopped ahead at (38.1295,-109.0274). They started leaving just as I was approaching, and I wanted an opportinuty to tell them about Lynn, so I was riding faster than normal as I approached them. At the last minute I saw a big diagonal rut running across the road. I tried to hop my front tire over it but my tire came down on the far edge of the rut, slid to the left, and I crashed onto my right side. My right foot hit the ground as I was falling and got twisted backwards and pinned under the exhaust. I yelled toward the group but they were accelerating away so they couldn't hear me. I could feel my ankle getting hot through my boot from the heat of the exhaust pipe, but I didn't have any leverage to kick the bike off of me with my other foot. I panicked a little bit from the sharp burning heat I could feel so I started pulling my ankle harder, but I could tell that I would probably cause more damage to my ankle if I just yanked it while it was pinned backwards. I started yelling and panicking and trying to drag my ankle out, and finally with one last kamehameha scream I managed to wrench my ankle free. I was still winded from the crash so I took a minute to catch my breath, and then I turned off the ignition key and rested my head on the ground. A few minutes later Lynn showed up and grabbed my water bottle from my bike and gave me some water to drink. Then he help me slowly limp me over to some shade by a nearby tree. Then Lynn said he would catch up to the group and tell them to go back to camp and get medical help and then he would come back and wait with me.

Lame

Lame

Lynn came back with Rick and we chatted for a while. I was confused . I joked with Rick that I should have upgraded to Cogent suspension.

I want to push myself today. suddenly everyone takes off down a single trqck trail, headed towards Colorado. 30 s in and I hit a rut and my spare tube flies off. hmm, ok. I strap it with my water bag on the back of my bike and continue on. after 10 minutes we stop to regroup and it turns out Lynn and Terry are on this ride on their dr200's, Lynn had a riding jacket but Terry is just wearing a sweater and jeans. one member James says he accidentally joined the wrong group but he's going to try his best. it turns into some Rocky scrambles and some really fun stuff. we come across a guy sitting on the side of the tail in the blazing sun, he says someone sent back a few mins ago to get help for him but we didn't pass anybody. we assume he took a slightly different route. we help move him to some shade under a tree. trail gets funner and funner, and hired and hotter, James goes down a few times and is getting pretty tired, James takes Lynn's dr200, Lynn takes Ron's mostly stock dr650, and Ron takes the 790cc bike. Ron has previously raced KTMs but this is his second day on a dr650, so he's learning very fast. I took a wrong turn and got separated from the group for bit. we all took a wrong turn and had to backtrack a bit. I went down on a steep downhill and bent my clutch lever. met up with everyone at a fork in the road. readjusted clutch and it was good. Julio said the left path was easier and the right path was harder. I said I was interested in the harder route but we sort of took a vote and decided we wanted to stay together and take the easier route which was totally fine with me since we were so hot and tired. the easier route ended up being a dirt road with long straight sections so we were all going very fast. at one point I was second last with Lynn somewhere behind me. I saw the group stopped up ahead and add I ride up they took off. then I saw a big rut across the road and add their were talking off I tried to hop my front tire over it  but the front tire jumped to the left and the bike fell to the right and I was laying chest down with my right foot twisted backwards pinned underneath the hot muffler. I yelled for the others but they had just rode off. I smelled the familiar aroma of my gas tank leaking gas onto me from the breather tube. I felt my ankle getting hotter and hotter so I did a Dragonball z scream and kicked the bike with my left foot to pivot it a bit and used all my might to yank my right ankle out from under the bike. my able felt pretty sprained but not broken. I laid down in the dust and caught my breath. after 3 minutes or so Lynn rode up and asked me if the bike was okay. he gave me some water to drink and helped me get my helmet off. after a few more minutes he helped me hobble over to under a tree with some shade. them he brought me my water and my phone and rode out to get help. damn, no signal. so I played piffles for a while and then found that my kindle app had a cached copy of the Lord of the rings in Chinese, so I read that for a while. then I opened up Google maps and took a look at where I was. after maybe 30 minutes Lynn came back and told me he had relayes the message to Rick that there was a rider down and Rick said he would ride out and come back with a truck and a Polaris SxS. shit, that's a lot of commotion for a twisted ankle. I jokingly asked Lynn to pick up a rock and hobble me so I'd have an injury worthy of emergency rescue.