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71 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
There and Back Again

Part 2: The Journey Home

When last we left our intrepid adventurer, he had lain down for some much needed sleep. We now resume our tale the next morning.

~0800, Sept. 4 (just outside Nogales, Arizona)

Damn, 10 hrs of good solid sleep on a nice comfortable bed was just what I needed to recover from the previous two days of riding. Amazingly enough, I knew I was ready to swing my leg over the bike and get back riding again. No hesitation whatsoever. So I crawled my ass out of bed and hit the shower, having already set out what I was going to wear that day the night before while I was re-packing all my crap. My spirit felt much lighter, as I was no longer on a deadline and I could afford to just take it easy, stop when I wanted to, take whatever pictures I wanted to without having to worry about being in a certain place by a certain time.

Granted, I only had about 6 days to get home, but that?s lot?s of time for someone like me, especially knowing that if I needed to, I could always push a little harder from wherever I was and stop later in the evening in order to make up time.

After loading up the bike, I checked out of the motel and headed back onto I19 and north towards Tucson. I had been hoping to meet up with Gabe, another KLR rider in Tucson, but we never did manage to connect person to person, instead playing phone tag with voicemail for a while.

Stopped to take a couple pictures along the way, and there was definitely one place I knew that I had to stop at, having seen the signs on the way down ? The Titan Missile Museum in Sahuarita. This is the last remaining intact Titan II missile silo in the United States, and it has been turned into a museum. They run tours through the place, and if you are there at the right time, you might even be able to get the full tour top to bottom of the entire complex, from the silo itself (complete with intact Titan II) to the Complex Control Room and Crew Quarters.






After spending some time at the museum, I picked up a couple souvenirs and snapped a couple pictures, then hit the road again. I still hadn?t had any breakfast yet, and was planning to stop in Tucson for that before heading further on, taking a couple secondary highways instead of the hell that is I10. This time I wanted to bypass Phoenix completely and take something a little more scenic.

Snapped a couple more pics on the way, had breakfast at the Burger King just off I19 in Tucson, then, with the help of a young woman from Phoenix, got directions to US77 to take me north to Oracle Junction, where I would pick up US79 to Florence Junction, then on to Apache Junction just on the eastern outskirts of Phoenix. I hoped to meet up with yet another KLR rider there, Perry, with the hopes that he could join me for the run up US87 to Payson and a meeting with John (yes, yet another KLR rider)

US77 was a pretty nice road, very scenic with light traffic. Thinking I could get gas between Oracle Junction and Florence, I passed up on the pumps at O.J. and continued on up US79. I couldn?t believe just how desolate the area was, not in the way of no life, as there was certainly an abundance of plant and animal life along the way, just in that there really wasn?t much of anything out there. Lots of plant life, but not really anything over about 2 ? 3 feet tall. A lot of fencing though, and the occasional sign that ?something? was being done out there, like a partially cleared area with a couple pieces of machinery sitting there, maybe a low rock wall half completed. Then I would come across what looked like a retirement community, low bungalows or trailers spaced widely apart amongst the scrub and rock, miles from anything resembling civilization.

Not finding any fuel along the way, I kept my speed low to ensure that I wouldn?t run out. Running out of fuel in the middle of that??wasteland? does not exactly top my list of fun things to do.

Florence was an interesting place, dominated primarily by a prison on one end of town and a National Guard Reserve on the other. Filled up the tank, then continued on to Apache Junction. Hung out there for awhile while I tried to get a hold of Perry (to no avail), then decided to push on to Payson to see if John was around.

As I climbed further into the mountains on US87, the scenery got much better, and the road got twistier. Woohoo! Stopped for a breather at a rest stop at the intersection of US87 and SR188, about 16 miles south of Payson. It was quite warm there, pushing maybe 28C, but I could see that further to the north there was some serious cloud cover and maybe some rain as well. Oh well, I could live with that. It was nice to be out of the desert for a change. Hitting the road again, I cruised on down the slab, passing through a town called Rye where I saw what looked like a pretty good motorcycle wrecker. I?ll have to get back there someday to check it out.

Just outside of Payson, I ran into the rain, so I quickly pulled the bike over and hopped into my rain gear, then zipped the last couple miles into town to take shelter at the local Sonic. Wound up chatting with a couple guys from Phoenix who were riding Ninja 250?s. They had passed me earlier in the day, and they were doing the same thing I was ? grabbing a bite to eat while taking shelter from the rain.

After the rain stopped, they headed out to go back home, and I gave John a call to see if he was around. If he was, I?d spend some time visiting with him, and if he wasn?t then I would push on to Flagstaff or points beyond. I got lucky though, and he was home, so he came down to meet me at the Sonic and I followed him back to his place. We had a bite to eat and chatted bikes and other things into the night, till we were both to tired to stay up. I crashed in his spare room, then got up to fresh coffee and breakfast in the morning. Good cooking John, thanks.



71 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
Day 2 (Tuesday, Sept. 5)

After breakfast, I headed out to do some more maintenance on the bike and get her loaded up for the next days ride. I wanted to get at least as far as Page that day. I had been planning to swing by the Grand Canyon, but after John told me that it was $20 just to get in, I decided to pass on that. I wasn?t about to spend that kind of money to go look at a big hole in the ground.





After saying goodbye to John, and thanking him for everything that he had done for me, I rode away. Taking his advice, I headed north on US260 to Clint?s Well, where I turned off onto the 487 which would take me past Mormon Lake and Lake Mary on the way to Flagstaff. What an absolutely beautiful road, and one which I would heartily recommend to anyone planning on riding in that area of Arizona.




After fuelling up in Flagstaff, I hopped on to I40 for a quick run up to US89 and onwards to Page. In some respects, I wasn?t really looking forward to traveling through the Reservation Lands again, as I knew it was going to be hot, but I had few options to get to Utah and points beyond. That damn Canyon really takes up a lot of real estate and you are stuck going through desert on both ends of it. I did want to see the bluffs of the Kaibito Plateau again though, as my first pass by them early Sunday morning showed them to be a marvelous sight. Rolling through the Coconino National Forest was always good to ease the mind and spirit anyway, with the scent of Pinyon Pine heavy in the air. After stopping for a smoke and a cold drink of Powerade in Gray Mountain, I wound up talking to a gentleman who had a motorcycle repair business in Escalante Utah. He was on his way home after delivering a customer?s bike to Phoenix, and before he left he gave me his card and invited me to stop in if I was in the area for a chat and a beer. One of these days I?m going to do just that, but it wasn?t to be on this trip. Heading out of Gray Mountain, I picked up the slab again and headed north through the rising temperatures into the heart of the wasteland.





Miles of rock and sand in all directions, interspersed with low scrubby bushes and no visible water anywhere. How anyone could eke out a living in this desolate area is beyond me, and I have a great amount of respect and admiration for those that do. By early afternoon, I had reached the foot of the Kaibito Plateau and the road began its ascent up the twisty path to the top and Page just a few miles beyond.

Stopping at a rest stop/parking area near the summit of the ascent, I pulled off to admire the view and check out the wares that several native women had on display. Every piece of jewelry and pottery that these half dozen women had arrayed on their tables was an incredible work of art, and had my budget allowed it, I would have gladly purchased something from each of them. Looking South and West from this vantage point, I could see where Marble Canyon cut its way through the rock and sand to eventually join up with the Grand Canyon approximately 20 ? 25 miles away. I could almost see the rim of the canyon through the heat haze. After killing about an hour here, sweltering in the heat, admiring the view, and talking with other travelers, I decided it was past time for lunch, so I headed off into Page and the local McD?s.




For the record, I never want to see that particular McDonald?s parking lot again; there is not a single level parking space there, and my only option for parking was to point the bike uphill towards the door and actually leave the bike in gear so that it wouldn?t roll backwards down the parking lot, sidestand or no sidestand. I did, however, enjoy the air conditioning that they had, and my typical fare from their dollar menu ? double cheeseburger and two apple pies, supplemented with ?real- iced tea. This surprised me, as usually every fast food place that I have been to has had the fake sweet stuff, but this actually tasted like cold, unsweetened tea and was a very refreshing change.

After lunch, I headed off to cross over the Glen Canyon Dam for the second time, only this time I would actually be able to see just how far above the river I really was. Given that I?m not a real big fan of heights, this was more than a little scary for me, but I just focused my attention on the other end of the bridge and motored across. Of course, I?m also a little bit of a masochist, so I had to stop by the visitor center on the other side and take a few pictures. It?s very sobering to look a couple hundred feet down and see the dam with Lake Powel on one side, and not be able to see the river coming out the other side of it.



Continuing on down US89, I crossed into Utah and admired the scenery around me. It was still fairly barren, but there was more plantlife here in the highlands than I had seen down in the valley in Arizona. Stopping at a rest stop/historical marker, I took the opportunity to park the bike in the shade provided by an older couple?s motorhome and have another drink of Powerade. Reading the information post, I found that just on the other side of the fence was the site of an early 1800?s Mormon town, called Pariah. I talked with one of the older travelers there about the landscape and how it was remarkable that anyone would want to build a town in such a remote area that seemed to offer so little. He quite accurately commented though that people were a lot tougher and hardier in those days than they are now, and I can?t help but agree. Nowadays, we can?t seem to live without our air conditioning, central heating, indoor plumbing, cable tv, what have you, but back in the pioneer days, they had none of those amenities and still managed to survive and prosper.


Hitting the road again, I cruised into Kanab for gas and a quick bite, before deciding how far I was going to continue that day. It was still relatively early, only about 5pm or so, and I wasn?t really in the mood to stop, so I continued on up US 89 to a rest stop just outside of Glendale, where I ran into ?The Desert Doctor? once again (this was the guy with the motorcycle repair business in Escalante, who I had last seen about 6 hours earlier in Gray Mountain). He was taking a quick break before heading off on his last stretch toward home, and I was putting on my cool weather gear and having a smoke before I headed off to finish my day in Panguich, where I managed to find a motel room for only $30 (The Bryce Canyon Motel) and called it a day. I lucked out and arrived in time to catch that week?s episode of Rockstar:Supernova and enjoy some really good rock and roll.

71 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Day 3 (Wednesday, Sept. 6)

Woke up early, sans alarm clock, as I had done the last couple days, and decided to repeat my routine of checking out, then riding for a few hours before grabbing some breakfast somewhere. After leaving Panguich, I stopped at a rest stop between Marysvale and Sevier for a couple pictures, then headed on to breakfast in Sevier. After a good cup of coffee and a Croissanwich at the local Burger King, I continued on up the 89 to Salina, then hopped on the 256 up to Gunnison. I had to choice to make here, whether to get back on the 89 and continue up through the mountains to where it came out by Salt Lake City, or get on the 28 and take it back to I15 just outside of Nephi. Looking at my maps and my budget, I decided that I wanted to make some good time today and get back on the slab, so onto the 28 I went. As I got closer to I15 and started coming out of the mountains, the temperature began to climb again, and this just inspired me to put as much distance on as I could, and hopefully make it at least into Idaho before I stopped for the day.





Somewhere between Salt Lake City and the Utah/Idaho border, I had a yellow Triumph Daytona come up behind me, and as he passed me and gave me a thumbs up, I noticed the Alberta plate on the back. Someone else heading home. Utah went by in a fairly quick blur, and even the extensive construction work taking place on I15 didn?t really slow me down that much. Before I knew it I was crossing into Idaho and rain was threatening. As I felt the first drops start to hit, I quickly pulled over and threw on my rain gear, then roared off again, tucking my chin down onto the top of my tank bag to keep as much rain out of my face as I could. This was one of the rare times in my travels that I wished I had my full face helmet. Within only a couple minutes though, I came out of the rain and it started to heat up again, so I pulled into a rest stop to take off my extra gear.



Naturally, within a few miles of leaving the rest stop, I ran into a spurt of rain again, so once again I donned my rain gear on the side of the road before continuing on. This time though, I decided to keep my rain gear on until I hit Idaho Falls and my second meal stop of the day. While sitting in the McD?s parking lot sipping my coffee, I decided to adjust my chain again and lube it, as it was really starting to show signs of serious stretching.

Maintenance done, I headed off again, and somewhere between Idaho Falls and Camas, I saw a familiar yellow bike come up behind me again ? the Alberta Daytona. Pulling over to the side of the interstate, we chatted for a bit about our bikes and our travels, where we were coming from and where we were going to. We both had the same end destination in mind for that day ? Butte Montana ? so we agreed to ride together and split the cost of a hotel room there. After a few miles though, Alex rode away, being much more comfortable cruising at a higher speed than me. I figured that I would see him somewhere down the road, and I was right. As it got dark, and the road started to climb into the mountains of southern Montana, the temperature dropped. I came upon Alex waiting at the exit to Dillon Montana. It was getting too cold for him, and there was a sign for a Super 8, so we agreed to head in there and grab a room, then some food and maybe a couple beers.

Which of course, is exactly what we did, although it did take us a bit of time to find a decent bar. If you like a darker beer, and it?s available where you live, I highly recommend Big Hole Diablo. Very nice.


71 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
Day 4 (Thursday, Sept. 7)

The next day we grabbed a quick bite from the hotel ?continental breakfast? ? coffee and a banana for me, and Alex had a danish. We also chatted with a rider from California who was on a Concours and heading across Montana and into Idaho, then Oregon before heading back home. Alex and I were going to continue riding together back to Alberta, but he decided that I was running too slow for his comfort, so he took off on his own. No worries, I was happy to continue on my own, stopping when I like and just generally keeping to my own, relatively unhurried, schedule.Grabbed a bite to eat in Butte, then headed off to my favorite stretch of I15, between Helena and Great Falls. This is a very scenic bit of twisty pavement, and my poor bike got a good workout through there.




I wasn?t looking forward to northern Montana, between Great Falls and the border, as it?s a fairly uninspiring bit of terrain with a lot of wind. I knew that if I kept my speed down though, I could easily make Lethbridge or even Fort MacLeod before I would need fuel again, once I had topped off my tank in Vaughn, just a few miles north of Great Falls. I had originally thought about looking up a fellow LDRider in Great Falls, Curtis Barrow, but it was still early in the day and I knew that I could easily make it home by later that evening. Besides, I had already called my girlfriend and told her that I would be home that night, sometime between 8 and 10pm. I was a man on a mission again, only this time my goal wasn?t a foreign country, but the arms of the woman that I love.

Fate was going to deliver me a serious kick in the ass though, as I would learn later in the evening.

Four miles shy of Shelby, and only 39 miles shy of the border, just as I was coming up a hill, my chain decided to come off the rear sprocket. Fortunately, it dropped to the inside of the hub and allowed the wheel to keep rolling and not causing me to crash. Sweltering in the heat, I put the chain back on, then cautiously headed into Shelby to try to find a bike shop and maybe pick up a cheap chain.

Of course, Shelby doesn?t have any motorsports dealers, the nearest one being in Conrad, 25 miles back the way I had just come. They did have a motorcycle repair shop though, but nobody could give me good directions on how to find it ? they knew where it was, they just didn?t know how to tell me how to find it.

Sitting on the sidewalk in front of the gas bar/convenience store, I mulled over my options ? continue on and hope for the best, or turn around and burn precious fuel in the hopes that the bike shop in Conrad would have a chain. I hadn?t been able to get through on the phone to them, so I had no way of knowing in advance if they had what I needed. In the end I decided to take it easy and push on to the border and closer to home. Everything went relatively well from there on, although I did get held up a bit at the border and had to pay duty on some of my purchases, but in the end I got off relatively ok. Made it into Lethbridge without incident, and made a beeline for the nearest Tim Horton?s. It was so good to sit there on home soil, drinking a glorious cup of good coffee and smoke a really good American cigarette.

As I left the Tim Horton?s though, my chain once again decided to come off the rear sprocket, and I again rolled to the side of the road and put it back on. This was not good, but I figured that I could make it home. I would have to, as it was now too late in the day and the local bike shops were all closed. Ten kilometers or so shy of Fort MacLeod, the bike started to sputter and cough, so I flipped the petcock over to reserve and headed for the nearest gas station, an Extra Foods gas bar that I was familiar with, having gassed up my bike there during the Alberta 2000 Rally back in 2005. The price of gas was even tolerable, at 87.9 cents a litre, a far cry from the ~99cents a litre it had been when I left.

A block up the street, gas was 96.9 cents per litre. I just shook my head at this difference in price. Checking my watch, I knew that I was right on schedule to be back in Red Deer and seeing my girlfriend by 9pm. Fort MacLeod would be my last gas stop before home.

As I rolled out of the city, I was in a very good mood. After 6 days away, I couldn?t wait to be home again.

Then Fate, that cruel bitch, hit me with both barrels.

34.7km out of Fort MacLeod, the master link on my chain snapped apart. As the broken chain whipped around the sprockets, it took a 6 inch chunk out of my rear chain guide, then proceeded to take a large chunk out of my front sprocket cover and slice right through the two wires coming off my pickup coil. All I heard was a loud bang and my bike went dead instantly. I rolled over to the side of the highway, turned the key off, and put the sidestand down. Looking down to see what was wrong, thinking that maybe I had just had the chain come off again, my good mood evaporated like dry ice in a desert. Two and a half hours from home, and the only way I was going to get the bike there was to trailer it. Taking my helmet off, I set it on the side of the road several feet behind my bike in the accepted symbol for ?biker in distress?, then walked 150m back up the highway to retrieve my broken chain from the middle of the road.


Getting back to the bike, I first called my girlfriend to let her know what had happened, and that I wasn?t sure when I would be getting in that night, if at all. After about 40 minutes though, a farmer stopped to see if I needed assistance ? he was the first person to stop. I said I did, so he went home and got his truck and horse trailer to take me and the bike into Claresholm, just a few kilometers down the road. Once there, I could call my friend Darryl in Calgary and hope that he could come down with his trailer and get me back to his place. Darryl was willing to do this, as long as I paid for the gas, which I was more than willing to do.


After Neil dropped me and my bike in Claresholm, I walked a half a block to the Mac?s store to get a coffee and something to eat while I waited for Darryl. As I approached the store, I could see a familiar yellow fairing in the parking lot, and as I got up to the windows, there was Alex, who I had last seen about 11 hours earlier, having a cup of hot chocolate and a snack. He had arrived at the Mac?s store at about the same time that Neil and I were unloading my bike from the back of his trailer.

Alex and I chatted a bit, and he offered me a ride into Calgary, but by then I already had a ride for both the bike and myself, so I passed on the offer. After some more chat, he hopped back on his bike to head into Calgary and some sleep at a friend?s place.

Once Darryl showed up, we loaded Kylie on his trailer, tossed my gear in the back of his truck, and hit the road for his place, where he said I could leave Kylie until the weekend, when I would be able to come down with my dad?s truck and take her the rest of the way home. Once unloaded at Darryl?s place, I grabbed a few necessities from my luggage and started walking. I couldn?t get a hold of my brother, and Darryl had no extra bed for me to crash on, so I was going to hitch it back to Red Deer. At 3:30am, I finally managed to get a ride to the Tim Horton?s in Gasoline Alley in Red Deer, and by about 6am I had finally made it to my girlfriend?s place. I was absolutely exhausted, but I was still coherent enough to give her the silver chain that I had picked up for her in Mexico. She gave me a ride home before she had to head off to a couple job interviews, and I eventually managed to get a few hours of sleep in that day. Saturday was a fairly easy day, and finally, on Sunday, Sept. 10, I drove down to Calgary with my dad?s truck to bring Kylie home.




Thus ends my tale

Owen Clark

Aka Gadget

Aka WhyteGryphon

Aka The Ghost Rider (or simply ?The Rider?)
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