Well, I guess its about time that I write a trip report of the most EPIC and yes my first long range trip on my 11 KLR 650. The trip started in its conception as a 4 day ride across Colorado, staying to Forest Service Roads as much as possible. But after many nights laying in bed in anticipation of this 4 days of riding, it dawned on me...why not try to range the Grand Canyon? I have always wanted to see this incredible American landscape, and why, after some quick Google Maps reconnaissance, realized it was very possible. I quickly referred this plan to my riding buddy, who would be saddled on a 09 KLR 650, and of course he quickly agreed to this.
So, the first thing I did was plan my route, I wanted to have everything down to a science being that this was both of ours first long range trip. I routed out 'gas legs', called to make sure that gas stations still existed in these small desert towns, mapped out any and all motorcycle shops along our route, and printed imagery of all potential overnight stops. Our plan was to sleep in National Forests at night along our route to the Grand Canyon (GC).
Both of us were still running the stock KLR tires, and decided this was the time to change up to a more aggressive tread pattern. We decided that we would both run a different set of tires, so that we could test both, and know what a better follow on tire would be. On my bike, I installed a set of Michelin T63's and my buddy went with the Dunlop 606's. The Michelins went on relatively easy, did completely on my own in my garage. The Dunlop's gave us quite a challenge. The front 606 went on quite easily, while the rear nearly buckled us to the dealership to pay the dreaded $45 "I couldn't figure it out" penance. But, we prevailed through some swift forum searching.
Now, we were near ready, in the few days leading to our adventure, we took an extra day off of work on the front end for an added bonus of now having 5 days to complete the trip. Our new itinerary had us leaving on a Wed immediately after work, and returning on Mon afternoon. Tuesday night, we met up at my house loaded up the KLR's into gypsy camp pack mule configurations, and washed it all down with some Fat Tire.
As in a watched pot never boils, a watched clock never moves...Wednesday couldn't have taken any longer, I kept staring out the window at my loaded down KLR, waiting to carry me to the GC. But, finally it came, and we were off. We fueled both bikes to capacity at the last gas station before the interstate and headed south on I-25 towards Walsenburg Co. My excitement quickly turned to "you have got to be kidding me". If I ran above 60, the death wobble was unbearable. I had read that one of the downsides of the T63 was grooved concrete. I couldn't tell if it was this, the high cross winds coupled with my huge silloutte of gear, or what. All I can say is that I was sucking, but my buddy seemed to be sailing along with no issues. Bottom line, the first part of the ride along the eastern rise of the Rockies was not enjoyable. Once we headed west on HWY 160 towards our first gas fill in Alamosa, the winds subdued, and my life felt a little more within grasp. There was a pretty thick blanket of dust in the air mixed with smoke from the big New Mexico wild fire going at the time. There were spots on those high desert plains that definetly reminded me of elsewhere in the middle east. We finally made our first gas stop in Alamosa by about 1930 or so. I explained to my riding partner the nightmare of the death wobble, and he laughed saying how when he was behind me, he could literally see my front wheel being pushed around...THE FRONT FENDER!! He had "downsized" his with a hack-saw some time ago...maybe this would explain the difference in our ability to push past 60 MPH. I vowed to myself that I would cut mine down tomorrow at the first place to sell a hack-saw. We still had another hour or so of riding to our first overnight camp spot, so we had to get going. We stopped and ate, bought and packed on some cold beer on the bikes, and took of for the Rio Grande National Forest.
After dodging some Mule deer, we found a nice spot to fit two KLR's, set up our hammocks, cracked some brews, told some stories and lies, cracked some more brews, and watched the stars. We awoke before the sun climbed the mountain to our east, broke down camp, and were on our way. Today was going to be a long one. We had to range from South Fork Co, all the way to the GC National Park.
Within a few miles back on HWY 160 west, I realized my ass was already getting soar from the seat...Durango Co's Walmart would be a place of improv fixes for sure. We arrived at the Wally World of Durango, I went in for a Hack Saw, a roll of Duct Tape, a Twin sized memory foam bed pad, and some red bull. You can't imagine the look on my face when I was checking out and the woman working the register (in her 70's mind you) looked at my selection of wares, and stated, "Well I see someone likes it Kinky!".....Wow.
We were on the road again, new hand made custom seat pad, and a new custom parking lot bobbed front fender. This fender modification could probably prove to be life saving for the next few hours.
As we passed through Cortez Co, the terrain quickly left the mountains behind and adopted the desert as its keeper. The wind was starting to show its face as we neared the Four Corners monument. After some quick pictures, we hunkered down for our burn across the desert, next stop was Kayenta AZ for fuel. This leg of the ride found us in some of the most incredible wind riding I have ever done. If not for the fender being cut down, I am sure I would have found the soft sand of the shoulder at 60. We crouched into our KLR's as deep as one could get, enough to make it rideable. I would watch my buddy in front of my leaning easily 30 degrees into the wind to keep straight down the road. There was one spot with a wide sweeping curve to the left, in which I made leaning to the right to counter the wind, I didn't think this was possible. After hours of juking tumbleweeds and dirt devils, we made Kayenta. As we pulled our helmets of and unearthed our faces of the red dust, we both had a look of WTF was that on our face.
The next leg of our ride was a much needed break from the wind, our landscapes were improving with every turn and overtaken ridge line. We arrived into Page AZ to collect some fuel for our KLR's and our packed on 2.5 gallon cans. We bought our groceries and booze for the next few days, and took off for the last 100 mile leg of the day to the Kaibab National forest. As we headed south on HWY 89 for Bitter Springs, we entered into a gorge, when we came out, I was forever changed.
This is where I layed eyes on the Vermillion Cliffs, it was like nothing I have ever witnessed before. I can't remember the last time a view made me say to my self, "OH MY GOD". We tore up the blacktop for the next few hours, crossing the Colorado, and making our way at dusk into the National Forest. Once again, dodging Mule deer who time their road crossings just for you on a motorcycle. The dark found its way to our ride into the forest, we found a hole for two KLR's and set up. We were completely wiped. We rode for what at times felt like through hell over 450 miles.
The next morning we quickly packed up, and rode the last 10 miles to the entrance of the GC National Park. Our plan was to see all of the touristy spots first, then ride out the Point Sublime, then head north to the border of the National Forest and camp, then go from there. As we entered the park, I saw the backcountry permit office, and thought, what the hell, maybe they have a permit available to camp at Point Sublime. I was quite shocked to find that on a Friday of the 4th of July weekend that they did have permits available! I quickly bought it, and we spent the morning riding all the "cager" routes. We found a gas station at the park, filled on some incredibly overpriced but convenient gas, and made last minute tire pressure checks for our next leg, 18 miles of high clearance four wheel drive trails to Point Sublime. We were super excited, we were starting on the heart of the trip. We left the hardball, and made it all of a 1/4 mile until I noticed my buddy wasn't behind me. Hmmm..so I turned around and he was on the side of the road, taking off his helmet. "Bikes dead dude". What?? To say the least I wasn't near as excited about this new development as I was the prospect of Point Sublime. When I say dead, I mean D-E-D. No electrical anything.
His bike quickly turned into a parts and gear yard sale on the side of the road. He had recently installed a cigarette lighter charger, and a head light cut-out switch. Our first diagnosis is that it had to be something to do with this. We inspected all of the work, and it was all sound. I had my Clymer's manual, and from studying the wiring diagrams, we checked the 20 amp main fuse...blown! Yes! Problem solved. We put in the new fuse, it starts...Bammo! We put the bike and gear back together, hop and take off....about 10 feet before it dies. OMFG!! Yard sale...blown main fuse again. Now, we are out of the spare fuse. I ride to the gas station and buy every fuse they have, 3 of them. We now suspect that something must be rubbing, and shorting out the system. We spend HOURS inspecting everything, nothing visible. We tear out the cigarette lighter charger, and the head light cut-out switch. By this time, a park ranger has stopped by, who also is an avid KLR rider. He takes sympathy in our plight, and offers us emergency camping in the park if we need it. We finally decide to try another fuse, start it, and shake and bounce wires and harnesses to try and find the point of contention. We can't not get it to die. Ok, now what?? My buddy put his seat back on, and decided to just give it a rip up the road to see what happens. I stay with the gear, and I hear him make it quite a way before it dies again. He comes back rolling it down the hill, and says, "When I let off the gas, thats what killed it!" After some pondering, he realized is was when he hit the Brake! We quickly disconnect the wiring connectors from the front handle, and rear foot pedal. Bingo! After 5 hours of pulling out our hair, we figured out how to continue with the mission, minus on bikes brake lights.
The next 18 miles were an incredible journey along the canyon, we saw only one other person camping around mile 9 or so. We pulled out on to Point Sublime about 30 minutes from the sun setting. If you have never been to Point Sublime, put in on your bucket list. There was absolutely NO ONE around, and the camp site is right on the edge of the world into the Canyon. We quickly excavated our beer from the bikes, and put down some warm, no..hot canned Fat Tire as we watched one of the most memorable sunsets I can ever remember. Words cannot explain the absolute solitude out there. The best part was all the hell we went through to get there. But in the end the bullet proof zombie attack bike of the KLR 650 prevailed.
The next morning, we packed up, and left. I believe, as I am sure others who have been there, part of me stayed on that point. The ride back just wouldn't be the same, knowing we had witnessed such an incredible place. We rode the next day all the way to Blanding Utah, and spent the night in a small National Forest there. Our next day's ride to us to Telluride Co, over Ophir Pass, and spent the night in Ouray Co. We cached our bikes and gear in the woods, and enjoyed the nightlife of Ouray. We hitched a ride back into the woods, spent the night on the ground, and packed up for our last leg back to reality. The final day was long, as is any in the end of a incredible journey across the American South West. We arrived back to Colorado Springs around 6 that night, beat down and tired. In the end, we broke two mirrors, had one major yard sale repair job, one new custom fender, lost one lawn chair and water bottle, and had one hell of a ride!!