Canyon Run 2007 – Day 8

May 19th, 2007

Departed Page, AZ at 8 am this morning, with the group intact. Steve and Steve peeled off to return to Phoenix, and the rest of us headed down to Marble Canyon and south of Vermillion Cliffs to the Grand Canyon North Rim entrance. Speeds (and spirits) were high – into the 90′s on the dial (or 80′s on the GPS). Following a gas-up at the North Rim junction we headed north towards Fredonia and Kanab. During this stretch I managed to crank the V-Strom up to 113 mph on the dial (about 102 on GPS). But when I let off the gas to slow down, the front end began to oscillate pretty severely, and it only got worse the more I let off the gas. I was getting pretty nervous, so, realizing that slowing wasn’t the answer, I got back on the gas and the oscillation stopped, at which point I was able to slow down more gradually. I vowed to stop my silly experiments.
We arrived at the Bryce Canyon entrance, and stopped for lunch at Ruby’s. Willo and I were both pretty exhausted – thirsty and tired from 200 miles of high-speed riding. After lunch Frank and Barbara separated to head back to Denver, where their bikes are being stored. We lounged with them for a bit while the rest of the group went either into Bryce or onward to Torrey and the hotel. Then we departed ourselves for Torrey. We were too tired to really enjoy Bryce and didn’t want to just give it a quick skim.

As we headed north through the Escalante Grand Staircase, we decided to stop at the Kiva Coffeehouse, which we’d driven by numerous times but had never had the opportunity to explore. This being a kiva, or underground dwelling, the parking was on the roof. Inside we ordered up iced lattes and amused ourselves by doing a bit of work on a partially-done puzzle. Of course there’s always just one more piece to find a place for, and by the time we finished the puzzle we realized we’d been there for a couple of hours.

We took off and climbed through the Dixie National Forest north of Escalante – one of the best roads anywhere, we feel. The curves are so perfectly engineered it’s hard to make a mistake, and riding it is like dancing with gravity. Unfortunately, riding it at 6 pm is also dancing with danger, as this stretch is a favorite with the deer. I only spotted one but Willo saw a group of about 9. Still better than when we came through in 2002 – that time we saw perhaps 50 deer and a small group of elk.

We arrived at the Lodge at Red River Ranch at about 6:30, and I had a little fun riding the V-Strom up the dirt/gravel road. First chance I had to practice some of what I learned in dirt bike class.

Canyon Run 2007 – Day 7

May 18th, 2007

Today we were to depart at 8 am for Mesa Verde. Unfortunately, the rest of the group was ready to roll a little early and by the time we arrived at the parking lot everyone had left. We were somewhat disturbed by this, but made the best of it and decided to have a Bob & Willo day. We tailed the group to Mesa Verde and rode into the park (including ten miles of half-destroyed road).

When we arrived at the first pueblo overlook, I discovered my camera was missing. I remembered taking it to dinner, but not bringing it back to the hotel. Once we got back to cell service I called the restaurant and happily they still had it. We considered our options and decided an extra 70 mile loop was no big deal, so we rode back, got the camera, had lunch, then resumed the original ride.Weathering a few rain squalls, we passed Mesa Verde, reached Cortez, CO and turned south toward Four Corners. We skipped Four Corners (it’s really not that interesting) and turned north to Bluff and then Mexican Hat, where we gassed up. At this point a few clouds moved in and the day, which had been pretty hot up to this point, became pleasantly cooler. We headed south into Monument Valley.

Once or twice each day on these trips, one is reminded of just how vast this area is, and how much empty space there is between the roads. This was one of those stretches. Monument Valley stretches for dozens of miles in all directions, and while the dramatic rock towers are the most attention getting element here, taking a moment to refocus and appreciate the enormous amount of unspoiled space here can be humbling. We have ridden through Monument Valley several times in the past, but this was the first time it wasn’t the middle of the day, and scorching hot. It was humbling.

We reached Kayenta, where a number of Navajo dogs greeted us at the gas station. One sadly had a muzzle full of either porcupine quills or cactus spines. Life is not good for the Navajo dog. Nor unfortunately for a lot of the Navajo people.

kayenta dog

kayenta monkey

From Kayenta it was roughly 100 miles to our destination of Page, Arizona, on Lake Powell. While this stretch lacked the dramatic rock formations that make up much of southern Utah, the ride was beautiful thanks to the light from the setting sun, and the cooler temperature. We stopped a few miles outside Page for some sunset photos…

page cattleguard

page butte

page road

We arrived at about 7 pm (6 pm Arizona time), and once the Flyers realized they had DITCHED – I mean accidentally left – us, they were very nice and apologetic about it.

Canyon Run 2007 – Day 6

May 17th, 2007

We rolled out of our Moab lodging at 8 am and headed into town for gas. On the way we found Rich Marin pulled over by the side of the road. Something was wrong with the rear end of his bike (Bob Kirby’s former K1200LT). He waved us on and showed up a short time later at the gas station. When he stopped, a puddle formed beneath the rear wheel. The bike had lost its final drive bearings – a known issue on the LT – and the bike was dead in the water. Rich decided to call the Salt Lake BMW dealer and have them pick up the bike, and bring him a replacement. He delegated pathfinding to me. The route was familiar enough – turning east at La Sal junction, descending into Colorado via Bedrock (and the historic Bedrock Store) and continuing east to Telluride for lunch.

The Bedrock Store was enjoyable as always – the classic metal signs just as classic, the aging outhouse slightly more decayed. Unfortunately my camera chose this moment to quit working, so it was no more pictures for me for the day.

bedrock store

frank takes photo

We met up with Deb, Mardie and Kim in Telluride and enjoyed a fantastic lunch at Rustico – replete with the only (so far) decent espresso outside Seattle. After lunch we looped north to Ridgway, then south to Ouray (say “you-ray”) and over 11,000+ foot Red Mountain Pass. The road up to the pass is terrifying – no guard rail, steep drop-off, and we’re on the outside edge most of the way up. On the other side we descended to Silverton and took a break for coffee, funnel cakes, and kissing the safe, solid ground. Then resumed course to Durango, where we stayed at the General Palmer hotel.

We dined across the parking lot at the Palace restaurant. Dinner was punctuated by a lively mix of political discussions, reminding us that some things are better left said when you’re not on a long trip together. All ended well though, with no limbs or eyes lost. I brought my resurrected camera, this fact being instrumental in the following day’s events…

Canyon Run 2007 – Day 5

May 16th, 2007

Today was the first official day of Canyon Run. We rose early for a planned departure at 8 am. To add spice to our morning, the power chose to fail about 7:30. Fortunately a fresh pot of coffee had recently been made, and we were able to construct breakfast out of a vast array of cold options.

Flyers and their bikes assembled in the Marin driveway. The trailer was loaded, and we variously rode or were towed backwards out of the driveway, and set out on our way. Rolling out of town, we noticed the inbound traffic backed up for at least a couple of miles. We were glad to be heading the opposite direction. We took a new route this year over Wolf Creek Pass. The road wound upward past aspens, conifers and remnant patches of snow to the pass at about 9400 feet. It was sublime. We descended the other side and ran smack into a cattle drive. Wisely judging that bikes vs. cows = cows, we stayed put until the cowboys had driven most of the herd past us, then slipped past the remaining bunch.

cattle drive

We stopped for gas in Duchesne. Knowing (or believing) we would be stopping in Price for lunch, 60 miles later, I decided to wait on the gas. Unfortunately we reached Price about 11 am – too early for lunch – so we pressed on an additional 60 miles to Green River. I got a little nervous as I approached the 200 mile point, but we made it to Green River in another 20 miles and all was well.
After lunch some of the group chose to take the straighter road to Moab via Crescent Junction, while the Beilmans, O’Connells, Arthur, Willo and I went another 20 miles on I-70 so we could follow the Colorado River to Moab the back way. The ride was hot but spectacular.

colorado river 1

colorado river 2

colorado river 3

colorado river butte

About 15 miles in we reached our motel. Arthur and the O’Connells peeled off, and we and the Beilmans continued on the the Moab junction, then turned north to Dead Horse Point state park. The road in to the park was a blast – a few slow cars to pass, but otherwise smooth, fast going. Dead Horse Point is awe inspiring – the viewpoint is very high and offers a panoramic, unobstructed view of the complex maze of canyons, with the river snaking through.

dead horse 1

dead horse 2

While photographing I set down my bottle of water and we wandered off. When the time came to leave, the water was nowhere to be found. After hunting around for a while I had a brainstorm and checked the garbage. Some well-meaning tourist had decided to clean up after me. Fortunately garbage water tastes just the same as regular.

We raced out of Dead Horse ahead of a thunderstorm and managed to miss most of it – only in the last few miles did we get hit by a couple of squalls. Back at the Red River Adventure Lodge we met up with Steve Larsen and friend Steve Pittenridge, who had ridden in from Phoenix.

Canyon Run 2007 – Day 4

May 15th, 2007

Today was a slog – 320 miles from Sun Valley to Park City, most of which was interstate. Unfortunately the only reasonably direct way between the two is the string of interstates that run from Jerome/Idaho Falls east and then south to Tremonton, Utah and then Ogden. Today’s mission was “endure”. Luckily iPods made the intolerable tolerable. At Ogden things get interesting – we turned east and headed up into the mountains. Utahans (is that right?) respond to hills the same way horses do – they hurry to get the top as fast as possible. This can be a little disconcerting if you’re not used to it – the trick is to adopt the same mindset, and so avoid being run over.

After a chunk of uphill rushing, we came to the town of Morgan. Exiting at Morgan we headed toward East Canyon, the enjoyable “back way” to Park City. Last year at this time the East Canyon road was still closed due to snow, but this year it was open (warm and sunny, etc.) and we reveled in a dose of real curves after the day’s dreary straights.

(Stopping to remove layers in East Canyon)

East Canyon

We finally arrived in Park City around 5:30 and found our way to Rich Marin’s new house on the golf course.

As has become customary, we were treated to a delicious cooked-on-site dinner by Josh Yenny, official American Flyers chef and soon-to-be restaurateur (or so we are told). In honor of his continued hosting generosity, Rich was presented with a crown and scepter appropriate to his office.

(Rich with golf ball retriever and “helmet” (novelty helmet – to be worn only for protection from golf balls))

Rich in helmet

This annual trip also marks the birthdays of founding members Walt Lynd and Frank O’Connell. Josh presented them with a cake, complete with working motorcycle decor (which Frank enjoyed):

Cake

Frank

Canyon Run 2007 – Day 3

May 14th, 2007

A mere 220 miles today, and we ended up in yet another ski town.

We were actually ready to roll by 9:30 but first we had to seek out a replacement pair of headphones for Willo and a small dry bag (too much stuff for the saddlebags). The first 20 or 30 miles heading south from McCall were pleasant enough – green and a lot of straight, with occasional curves. This part of Idaho is a broad valley at about 5000 feet between two mountain ridges. In spring the valley is lush with grass, and very satisfying to look at.

After the town of Smith’s Ferry the road gets a lot twistier as it follows the tumbling Payette River, with corners rated as slow as 30 mph (“rated” I said – not that we went 30). 60 miles from McCall we turned east at Banks (home of the Banks Store, where signs complain about the number of non-customers using the bathroom – Willo bought a V-8 so I didn’t feel so bad, but they definitely have bathroom issues in Banks).

The Banks Store

Riding east from Banks, the road follows an even steeper valley with another plunging river in the bottom. Last year on this section we ran into many small rockslides on the road. This year there were only a couple. We stopped in well-named Garden Valley at another traditional lunch spot – the Runaway Bear (according to the restaurant sign, the bear is being chased by bees – that’s why he’s running). The food was mostly interchangeable with any other roadside joint, but the Hungry Bear does offer something unique in the form of tater tots – delicious!

This got me wondering about how tater tots are made. It’s too much to expect they are individually hand formed, and they seem too naturally rough to have been extruded from a tube and sliced. Note to self: research tater tot manufacture.

After lunch we rode another 75 miles to Stanley, the last stop before Sun Valley. Last year we didn’t come through this section until well after dark (with temperatures in the 30s). This year it was warm and sunny. The Stanley area features the dramatic Sawtooth Mountains – similar to the Tetons in that they poke straight up with few intervening foothills.

Outside Stanley

Sawtooth Mountains

Another 30 miles brought us to the twisting climb up to Galena Summit, at 8700 feet. Two years ago on the way south there was snow on Galena and we had to detour 200 miles (in pouring rain). Today it was… sunny and warm (this is a theme). The road over Galena is a lot of fun, though we got stuck behind an SUV for most of the twisty part on the way down. Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t just be better to pull over and wait – let them get ahead and then play until we catch up again. Rinse and repeat. Maybe someday.

Another 20 miles brought us to Sun Valley, playground of – whoever plays here. That would include swans – the Sun Valley lodge has a small herd of swans they use to threaten the children of guests. Here is one of the boot-eating swans working on Willo:

Boot-eating swan

We’re now basking in the sun, sipping espresso and listening to DeBarge on the ice rink sound system. What more could you ask for?

Canyon Run 2007 – Day 2

May 13th, 2007

Today was relatively short in terms of mileage – about 260 for the day – but we lost an hour due to the change in time zones. We’re now on Mountain Time.

We left Dayton at about 9:15. The weather was cool and very windy, but the sun was out. As we wound east through more dramatic rolling hills, the wind would occasionally gust strongly enough to force us to lean over sharply to compensate. I thought it was fun. Willo however did not, especially when a particularly strong gust caught her magnetic tank bag and flipped it off her gas tank and into the road (at about 70 mph), taking her iPod with it and jerking her earphones out. I was riding ahead and when I noticed she wasn’t in my mirror I pulled over and waited, figuring she was adjusting something. After about 10 minutes “something bad happened” started to outweigh “nothing bad happened” and I rode back to check. Of course she had it all together by then so we passed each other, and I turned around again and caught up. The top of the tank bag got pretty scratched up and the earphone wires are living on borrowed time but the iPod survived. We will be on the lookout for a new set of earphones.

In Idaho we took the longer, more scenic Highway 12 along the Clearwater River to our usual lunch stop at Grangeville. The hills on either side of the river climb at almost exactly 45 degrees, and are covered with rich green grass spotted with trees and rock outcroppings. Add a few elves and leprechauns and you have a textbook fairyland. Right before Grangeville is an absolutely fantastic tight twisty ascent – about three miles of 20-mph-rated curves that we ended up doing about 45 through, with a lush valley off to the left. We were both grinning when we stopped for lunch.

Following lunch we climbed over White Bird Summit and then descended to the Salmon River – 8 miles of sweeping 7-8% grade:

Descending from White Bird Summit

Descending from White Bird Summit

At the bottom, the Salmon river repeats the fairyland vibe of the Clearwater, though on a smaller scale:

Salmon River

Salmon River

Another 70 or so miles brought us to tonight’s stay in McCall, Idaho. McCall is a ski town serving the Brundage ski area, and is situated on Payette Lake in central Idaho. Apparently May is the shoulder season here, and Sunday night is the “shoulder” night, as everything was closed. We finally got a kind referral to a good restaurant – Babblefish – at the Mile High Marina on the lake. Despite the fact that they tend to shut down in the spring and fall, we often try to stay in ski towns when on the road. They usually have nicer, cleaner accommodations and better dining options, and room rates can be heavily discounted during slow times.

Here is Payette Lake on another trip through the area:

Payette Lake

Canyon Run 2007 – Day 1

May 12th, 2007

Got a leisurely start today, rolling out about 10 am. We knocked out 100 quick miles on I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass, taking our first break at the rest area between Cle Elum and Ellensburg. The ride through the pass was beautiful. Clear and sunny but pleasantly cool. We stuck to the fast lane, keeping between 70 and 80 most of the time. The VStrom felt good but the steering was a bit light and there was a tendency for it to wallow in the turns. I figured this was probably due to the ridiculous amount of stuff on board – especially the dry bag full of clothes strapped high and back on the rear rack. When we stopped I added one step of rear preload and half a turn more damping to the rear, and that shaped things up nicely.

We stopped for lunch in Vantage, next to the Columbia River. The no-frills diner sported about 40 Harleys in the parking lot, but no apparent riders in the restaurant. Mysterious, until we realized they were all in the bar in the back. This was probably a good thing – the beer will help them ignore the pain when they take a slide in their tank tops and buttless chaps. (No judgment here!)

After lunch we turned south along the Columbia, then east at Mattawa for 35 miles of ultra-straight, hot and boring. As we ventured further east the curves began, and finally we arrived at one of our favorite roads, the asphalt roller coaster between Kahlotus and Starbuck. It’s actually better going south-to-north, because the first part climbs and twists sharply for about half a mile – fun when you’re going up, not as fun when you’re going down, trying not to sail off the edge…

We pulled off the road and I decided to go back for a few photos of the river. Unfortunately, the place we pulled off had gravel that was, in places, 8 inches deep. Willo almost made it through, but ended up plowing her front end and tipping over. Righting the bike was a challenge in the deep gravel – the wheels kept squirting out from under – but we got it up eventually and wrestled it onto firmer ground. No damage, just a few scratches on the saddlebag.

The Snake River, near Lyon's Ferry State Park

We ended up in Dayton, WA, with about 280 miles under our belt for the day. Dayton is the heart of Columbia County and part of an area known as the Palouse. This area features dramatic rolling hills covered with grain fields all in different stages of growth. Naturally the roads twist and turn as they make their way around these hills. It’s a beautiful place to ride.

More to come…

Do fish have fisheyes?

January 14th, 2007

Obviously somebody named the fisheye lens after a fish, but I wonder if fish actually have fisheye lenses, or do we just think they do because their eyes bulge kinda like the lenses?

I suppose it’s remotely possible somebody looked at a fish and said “hey – I think I’ll build a lens that works like that fish’s eye”. But I doubt it. Pretty sure the lens came before the name.
Why don’t we call telephoto lenses “eagleyes” or something? Dunno.

Koi in Seattle's Japanese Garden

The blog adventure begins

January 12th, 2007

After much contemplation I am finally starting a blog. Not because I have all that much to say, but because one of my clients wants me to set one up for her, and I believe the only way to do it right is to master the process first.

After some research I settled on WordPress. I wanted something that could be hosted wherever I wanted, is easy to install and highly configurable: WordPress scored on all counts.

Installation was a snap. Learning the WordPress system however is a little challenging. I know what I want to do but figuring out where it is or how I change it has been surprisingly roadblock-fraught. For example, the documentation for adding images misses a lot: it doesn’t actually tell you where the images can be found once you upload them.

Oh well…anything worth doing is usually hard to learn.