Donning a freshly unwrapped KN95 mask at at 5:30AM I boarded a direct flight from SEA airport to LAS. Blindfolded, calm soothing breathes for the next 2 or so hours while I travel south. Upon landing I endure a 25 minute cab ride to the storage unit where my uncle Curt’s 2009 K1200GT roadster has been gathering dust since the last time I stored it there back in February. Since that time 10 months ago a lot of things have changed and many plans ruined but the day has come to take the K-bike East to its home.
My objective is simple:
My luggage is light:
Getting out of the cab then working the storage unit lock, my greatest fear would be one or more flat tires when I finally lifted the gate. I had forgot my tire pump and did not put cardboard under the tires when I last left it. Aside from a respectable layer of desert dust the bike appeared to be in fine condition however I did detect a slight odor of gasoline when I went in for a closer look. I decided to ignore this clue.
Once I worked it out of the unit I was eager to hook up the battery again. Unfortunately it did not have enough power left to engage the starter solenoid. After I applied the battery pack it seemed to crank over once then die completely. I removed the battery and took it to the nice folks next door at the auto parts store who offered to charge it for an hour or so. This didn’t help the situation so I resorted to roll starting. It can be done but it’s not easy. After stripping off all my gear and pushing this 600 lb monster up and down the storage unit lanes a few times I finally got her off in 1st gear and felt incredibly proud of my endeavors.
No sooner had that smile spread wide across my face did I go to put my foot on the pavement only to feel it quickly slide away. Then I smelled the gasoline again only much, much stronger. I looked down to see a river of fuel pouring from the lower faring onto the pavement and my pant legs. The neighbors also noticed right about now as there was a great deal of pointing and yelling directed at your’s truly. I pulled the bike back into the storage unit lot and cut the engine. Thankfully this also cut the fuel flow. This bike is going nowhere on it’s own today. I know enough about road fixes to know that.
I called my uncle to explain the situation and he responded by telling me to get a cab to Fremont street and wait for him in about 5 hours as he made the trip in his old Chevy diesel pulling that huge trailer. The K-bike went back into the storage unit and I got day drunk. Eww.
Next morning we were in a motel north of Vegas where I got to try out the LTE router aka mars. I had office work for three days and we used the time to get the trailer arranged, figure out a basic doctrine for getting around, and where we should try to go. The K1200GT would remain in the trailer. My uncle had to effect a major repair on the trailer lighting system. We took this chance to test the other two bikes out in the parking lot then closed everything up for travel before about 18 good-sized cement trucks show up to occupy the entire parking lot. The bikes were in fine shape for day trips. They have pannier racks with a rear top plate but no real luggage to speak of. We ate turkey sandwiches and considered the time we had available and the geography we wanted to cover.
I was able to work from the passenger seat of the truck while traveling but I used my phone’s modem because the power supply to mars is not quite road-worthy yet. From Las Vegas, NV we proceeded north on I15 to St. George, UT then east at Hurricane, UT then routed south of Zion with a brief trip thru Arizona again. We checked into a great hotel in Kanab, UT. I had to work one more day while we prepped the bikes for trips. The weather would get very cold in the morning and as soon as the sun set with warm days so we had to be ready to adjust.
We managed our first trip at 17:00 MDT where we turned a 45 minute loop into two hours of semi off-road. I was on the yellow F800GS while Curt was on the black one. We cruised Johnson Canyon Road to Glendale and took a few miles west into the sun on some dirt road dual track. This road was fun with a few exciting parts but the sun was so low that reading the upcoming terrain was getting difficult. We turned around back to the paved road to complete the loop. It was breath-taking at the end during the final descent into Glendale, especially with the long, dramatic shadows. We finished the trip with a quick stop at the entrance to Hog Canyon just off the road back to the hotel. I got more comfortable with the yellow bike here in the loose sand and small hills but we did not ascend the trail into the canyon as it was getting close to sunset. Instead we returned to the hotel, had dinner and called it a night.
The adventure begins.
We wake at sunrise to room coffee and hotel breakfast. I put on just about all my clothes under my riding gear and climbed onto the icy F800GS. Our immediate destination is Mt Trumbull Rd where we turn south to a point called ‘Toroweap’ which means dry or baron land. It’s 61 miles of dusty off-road with plenty of flood warnings with some scary patches of fine silt potholes that will ruin a rider’s day. At the end there is a few miles of somewhat technical but smooth rocky terrain and an incredible view of the Grand Canyon like I’ve never seen before. We stayed, took photos, and hiked a few hundred yards up and down the area. Anytime this destination is an option I suggest you take it.
That day we had also planned to reach the North Rim Visitor’s center and explore the side roads there but once we got back to the motel and had lunch it was a bit too late with the sun low we decided not to go out. Instead we stayed inside and celebrated. It was a great joy to be together with family again after so long.
My first priority today is figuring how to pack my luggage onto the bare pannier on the bikes. Using a system of bungee cords and nets we were able to get it secured. We headed north on 89 where we took a detour thru the Dixie National Forest and saw the beautiful Panguitch Lake. We stopped for lunch in Panguitch to talked to some of the locals about good place to ride our bikes and camp when we return in the Spring. People in Utah can be very nice. I was able to show Curt my favorite little town, Manti, UT where everything is made of gorgeous stone and brick with a stunning temple at the end of town.
The final place to explore on this day was called ‘Nebo Loop’ and looked very interesting from the map. Here is where we decided to swap bikes for the last leg of our journey together. The black bike feels in many way just like my V-Strom… only more-so? The position is aggressive in the way that I prefer however standing up is by far the most comfortable way to ride. The BMW suspension is miles beyond the V-Strom for sure. The front tire is a few inches bigger in diameter then the yellow bike and it feels much higher. At first I noticed the yellow bike seemed to have more low end torque like my V-Strom where the black bike seems to hesitate just a bit at low RPM before bringing up the power.
The south end of Nebo Loop Road started with a dramatic climb up to the Devil’s Kitchen with jaw-dropping views of Mt Nebo followed by more stunning vistas between the mountains to various lakes below. There were patches of ice on some of the corners eventually (at about mile marker 21) we decided it would be wise to return back the way we came. The ice was well established in spots and again the low sun was making the terrain difficult to read. We returned via the south end finishing the northern run by taking I15 to Payson, UT to stay the night.
We awoke and said our good byes. My uncle is always a grand traveling companion and trips like these are my favorite times to spend with him.
He said after sleeping on it that it would be best if I took the black F800GS north for the winter and got it ready for serious fun. He was going to keep his yellow bike to take back East along with the disabled roadster. We took about an hour to move all the luggage and divide the accessories. His plan was to risk the cold and head over to Bryce, UT to get in position to ride the White Rim trail before looping back to Kanab, UT.
My plan was to get miles all day to Baker City, OR where there is a place I like to stay that is within easy striking distance of Seattle. The first time I fueled up I remember to check the rear caliper as suggested by my uncle and sure enough it was a bit too warm for my comfort. The rest of the trip I avoided using the rear brake and since it was all interstate I only used them to get off for fuel so I could just pry the caliber back before returning to the highway. Speaking of which the fuel gage systems on these bikes are really funny. The drive was mostly uneventful. The weather felt warm in the 50s mostly and the golden hills of Northern Utah rolled by easily on the big F800GS. Since it was Halloween and I was on a black bike, I brought a big orange jersey to wear over my gear to look like a pumpkin. Sadly I didn’t think I’d have enough daylight to stop in Twin Falls, ID. Next time I will not skip it. I made it to my room in Baker City, OR before dark and hurried to get some food before the holiday rush.
After a good nights sleep I was cautious to leave too early since I knew the final day of this trip was to be the coldest. I packed up, checked out before 9am then hit the road. I thought it was cold on the end of my Friend of the Devil trip but this was worse. It got so cold that I could see my breath in the helmet. The bike’s thermometer read in the 20’s at times and the heated grips were not getting thru my heavy gloves. Once I made it out of the canyons and down the mountains to Pendleton, OR things warmed up and I was comfortable the rest of the trip.
Since I had enough day light left I could not help myself but stop for a few minutes drive up Tinkham Road to splash some mud on bike before I brought it home. Great to be back in Seattle.