Thursday, June 11, 2009

June 9

On June 9th we had breakfast together and planned the day. Joe would ride on hard surface because of his injured knee. Steve, who recently bought a new BMW 800GS would travel with him because the front fork on this new bike was leaking oil. Roger, who is delight to ride with and with whom I will be riding again from Mexico to Tierro del Fuego in January 2010, decided that he would drive to Boulder CO to visit his daughter and new grandchild. That left four of us for the next dirt road experience. Our goal was to meet the others in Jackson Hole. Pete replaced Joe as our leader. Here we are after breakfast about to leave.

I was not reading my GPS properly. It appeared to me that we were randomly moving overland – getting lost from time to time, spending a fair amount of time off our “bread crumb” tracks. But a beautiful ride through big sky country.

We stopped for lunch and were amused by the tractor seat bar. It might be a good idea for the decorating committee at the Kirtland Country Club.

The going got rough after lunch. We had some trouble finding our way to the proper trail. The road/trail at times seemed to disappear.

This, of course, is the ultimate of adventure motorcycling – getting lost, not knowing what will happen next; all the challenges of exciting riding – sharp corners, combinations of loose sand, deep gravel and mud. This is adventure motorcycling at its best.
Frequently there would be cows on the road and we saw dozens of pronghorn antelope and elk.

Peter, the veterinarian, can’t keep away from the cows, but he gives them wide passage as he goes by. There are numerous cows and almost as many calves on the range.
The vegetation seems to be an equal amount of scrub shown here as there is grass. The scrub has a woody-like stalk and appears like a tiny tree. It is a wonder to me that there is enough grass to feed the game and livestock that we see.

We are riding well as a group, but Frank’s numerous spills have certainly hampered his ability to see in his rear view mirror.

The Rockies in the distance are gorgeous and the expanses are enormous.

As we move up through Union Pass into the Tetons, at only 7,000 ft. we begin to see snow. We should have known by this that we would have trouble up ahead. We begin to encounter snow drifts covering the entire road. We bypass these areas by going across alpine meadows that also have both snow banks and are saturated with water and do not provide footing for large motorcycles.

It is also impossible to ride a motorcycle in deep snow. The approach we used is to get a running start and blast through as fast as possible - then the four of us pull the bike the rest of the way. By the time we reach 9,400 ft., we are more or less trapped – there is snow covering the road and the alpine meadow routes are blocked by streams, snow and soggy footing. The small motorcycles are also running out of gas and if we got over the top of the pass, we would have the same trouble getting down. Gerry acts as the recon guide and with his lightweight Kawasaki and remarkable skill, is able to scope out possible routes.

As dusk is coming and the small bikes are running out of gas, we decide to turn around and go back. Gerry does not want to sleep on the mountain and the rest of us are not particularly excited about it either.

Retracing our steps is a lot easier than finding the original route, but it is still taxing. There is less falling, but there is a big concern about running out of gas. We raced down the mountain to beat nightfall. At the end the sun has set. It is wonderful wild ride that reminds me of college when my roommates, Wilbur Shenk and Michael Malm, and I would race through the Berlin Reservoir outside of Hartford with our motorcycles.

On the way back, Gerry ran out of gas first. We took the tube off my camelback and tried to siphon gas out of my motorcycle, but we were unable to do it. So Frank contributed one-half of his gas to Gerry. Later down the road, Gerry ran out again and Frank devised a way to siphon a gallon of gas out of my tank. He took a large gulp of gasoline in the process – I don’t think he will be kissing his wife for a month. We ended up back in Pinedale WY at 11:00 p.m. - exhausted and black and blue with a wasted round trip of 70 miles.

We called Joe when we got cell phone connections and he and Steve were somewhere in West Yellowstone.


  1. What amazes me is that you are all still smiling!

  2. Even though it took all day to try and go through Union Pass and finally return to our starting point by 11:00 PM it was the highlight of the trip for me. Franks comment was that June 11 was the best two days of riding on the trip.