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Old 10-04-2015, 04:00 PM   #1
The Bruce
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Ride the Western Trans America Trail 2015

Hello. My name is Bruce and I have an addiction. I love visiting remote parts of the country and I love getting there by motorcycle; a.k.a. adventure riding. This addiction became evident in 2007 with the purchase of my first dual sport motorcycle; a 1983 Honda XL600R. My riding buddies quickly named it the Honda Davidson as parts tended to vibrate lose and develop oil leaks while we were riding. My initiation into adventure riding took place at the very first Texas Adventure ride in 2007. That wasn't enough to satisfy my new addiction so I started planning my own rides and searching for routes that challenged and satisfied my addiction. My first ride of my own was near Leakey, TX on the dirt roads mingled among the Twisted Sister. We called them the Dirty Triplets. I lost the love of the old Honda after receiving a sprained ankle on the kick start only beast. I caught my toe on the foot peg while kicking down. My fault for bad technique and not wearing proper boots but the damage was done and the love was lost. Next I tried a 1985 Triumph Tiger. After a single trip to Big Bend I learned quickly that big heavy bikes have their place and deep sandy places are not were they belong. So, I began searching for a better fit for my addiction. I began reading ride reports on ADVRider.com to see what others were using for their adventures. Might as well try to learn from others experience, right? This is how I was introduced to the Trans America Trail (TAT) and how I settled on the Suzuki DRZ400 as the bike that I would use to get through the challenges of those remote places. So, this trip has been on the list of rides to do since early 2008 when I spent the first months of that year pouring over ride reports. Many rides have come first but this one was always looming large as the one I had to do. All the others have really been preparation for this. The ride was completed from September 14-October 30.

My partner in crime for this event is Perry; a.k.a. the Nomadicfireman. He was with me on the first adventure ride in 2007. In fact if I recall correctly it was he who named the Honda Davidson. He helped me pick up the Tiger every time she went down in Big Bend. He rode the Great Divide Route with me. And we have been on many fantastic trips to Big Bend as well as many road trips. This trip would not have happened without his eagerness to go along.

Many have contributed to this effort and I'd like to thank them before I start the report:
My wife Sandy for understanding and supporting me in coping with my addiction.
Perry's family for letting him go away for an undetermined amount of time whenever I have a crazy idea for a ride. His son Jacob for helping with mechanic info when it was needed.
My niece Lindsey, and her in-laws Bob and Tina, for letting us park the hauler in front of their house.
Scott, a.k.a. M38A1, for babysitting the SPOT tracker; ready to assist as needed and rallying the help when it was needed.
Erik, a.k.a. E.Marquez whose mechanic expertise probably saved the trip.
The people who started Two Wheel Texans and ADVRider.com who are responsible for my addiction. Thank you!
Sam Carrero for pioneering the TAT
The many people who have ridden the TAT before and shared their adventure on the motorcycle forums.

So, let's get on with it! Thanks to all of you readers in advance for your patience as I struggle through the photo processing and writing of this report.
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Old 10-04-2015, 06:41 PM   #2
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Getting started

The plan: Ride approximately 2,200 miles of dirt to the Pacific Ocean.



The trip really started early this year when I approached Perry with the proposal. I was nervous bringing it up as it is quite a big commitment of time and money. He accepted with little hesitation. Prepping the bikes for a trip like this is a serious undertaking. New tires and tubes (spare tubes), new chain and sprockets, a spare for everything that could break (cables, levers, bolts, bulbs, etc.), and checking every bolt and connector to make sure things are tight and secure.

We would start the ride in Colorado Springs and ride west to meet up with the TAT east of Salida, CO. My plan was to ride from sunrise to sunset to make the most of every day so we would carry camping gear. Many have done the TAT while staying in hotels. But this ties your day to the towns with hotels. Depending on challenges along the way you may loose riding time by having to stop early. Since Perry was using vacation I wanted to take full advantage of the daylight. So we would get up with the first light and start looking for a camp spot about an hour before sunset. From my research I allowed 14 days riding west from Colorado Springs and 3 days for the return trip. I allowed a couple of days for unforeseen issues. With a couple days hauling the bikes each way from Austin to Colorado Springs we had 3 weeks.

I retired from the Austin Fire Department in May so our start day depended on Perry's work schedule. He had to work a shift of overtime on 9/13 so we loaded the bikes on the trailer on the 12th so we could leave ASAP when he got off work on the 14th.

The bikes loaded and ready to go.



Everyone was anxious and waiting for Perry to get home so we could go.



We were able to get on the road north to Colorado by 1 PM. We drove as if it were an Iron Butt ride only stopping for fuel. We traded driving duties with each stop to avoid fatigue and made Clayton, NM around 10 PM. We had called ahead and reserved a cabin at the former KOA that is now just Clayton RV Park. At about $45 it was less than half the cost of the hotels there and was quite comfortable. The next morning we were greeted by a wonderful sunrise to start the day.







We stopped for breakfast at the Denny's in Raton, NM. Maybe we were both real hungry because we both agreed it was very good. We make the climb up Raton Pass and were in Colorado by about 9:30 AM.



I've always loved making the crest of Raton and seeing the mountains off in the distance. It just says welcome.



A couple of hours later we were parked in Colorado Springs at the house of Bob and Tina who graciously allowed us to park there for however long it took to get back.



My niece, Lindsey, made the arrangements with her in-laws and met us there on her lunch break.



It wasn't the plan, well there wasn't much of a plan, but since we still had half a day we decided to get on with it and hit the trail. It took about an hour to unload the bikes, load up and gear up and we were ready to go! Me on the right and Perry on the left.



We got moving about 12:30. We rode across Colorado Springs the the southwestern part of town near Cheyenne Mountain. We passed the Broadmoor resort and connected with the Old Stage Road. Winding through the neighborhood it starts to climb up from the town. And just like that we were on the dirt.



View of Colorado Springs from up on the mountain.



Old Stage Rd. turns onto Gold Camp Rd. and provides an easy start to the trip that allowed us to get the feel of the dirt again. It is very different than riding on paved roads as the bike moves much more underneath the rider. The road follows and old railroad route as do many of the back-country roads in Colorado.





We got back on pavement just before Victor, CO.





After Victor and Cripple Creek we had about a 30 mile run to Guffey on pavement before we would get back on the dirt. This is where we connected with the TAT.



We rode through the hills north of Salida...



and made it just in time for supper at my favorite pizza place. Amica's



I wont' post a picture of every meal; only the ones that were exceptional. And pizza at Amica's is always very good. Possibly the best I've ever had. They are also a brewery and they have a green chile ale that is amazing and goes very will with the pepperoni/sausage pie.



We had a just enough daylight left to continue on toward Marshall Pass and our first camp sight. The first day was only about 140 miles but we were on the way and that was great!.



Tomorrow: 8 Passes!

Last edited by The Bruce; 10-05-2015 at 10:17 AM.
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Old 10-04-2015, 08:29 PM   #3
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Re: Ride the Western Trans America Trail 2015

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Old 10-04-2015, 10:02 PM   #4
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Re: Ride the Western Trans America Trail 2015

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Old 10-04-2015, 11:37 PM   #5
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Re: Ride the Western Trans America Trail 2015

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Old 10-05-2015, 01:16 AM   #6
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Re: Ride the Western Trans America Trail 2015

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Old 10-05-2015, 06:39 AM   #7
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Old 10-05-2015, 07:41 AM   #8
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Re: Ride the Western Trans America Trail 2015

in


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Old 10-05-2015, 08:43 AM   #9
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Re: Ride the Western Trans America Trail 2015

Nice!
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Old 10-05-2015, 09:09 AM   #10
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Re: Ride the Western Trans America Trail 2015

Nice report, so far ... I have to agree with you about Amica's, some of the best pizza I have ever had.
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Old 10-05-2015, 09:11 AM   #11
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Re: Ride the Western Trans America Trail 2015

Awesome, I love TAT reports.
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Old 10-05-2015, 10:16 AM   #12
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Re: Ride the Western Trans America Trail 2015

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Old 10-05-2015, 10:19 AM   #13
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Re: Ride the Western Trans America Trail 2015

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Nice report, so far ... I have to agree with you about Amica's, some of the best pizza I have ever had.
And good brew too
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Old 10-05-2015, 12:32 PM   #14
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Day 2: 8 Passes

We spent the night at a nearly new campground located a few miles off the highway on the Marshall Pass Rd. or CR 200. It can't be more than a couple years old as the landscape timbers still had that new from the lumber yard look to them. The place was called O'Haver Lake. Since we are usually racing darkness setting up our camp you will get to see the photos the following morning. A little pricey for primitive camping at $20 but a very nice spot.



It was pretty cool. My cheap button thermometer was registering around 45* so we bundled up and headed up the pass. We had broken clouds which got thicker as we neared the top. They would often form along the ground resembling smoke which gave a first impression of a fire.



It took about half an hour to make the summit of Marshall Pass; #1



And looking west; some clouds to the north and on the horizon.



From the summit we descend towards Sargents, CO and the Tomichi Creek Trading Post. We both had plenty of fuel and no need to stop so we continued on. A bit of backtracking on US 50 then north toward a bit of a loop through another pass. The final hay harvest for the winter was in full swing. Most get at least two, sometimes three cuttings in these valley pastures.



There was pavement up until the large ranch complex that ran the valley then we were back on dirt. The road twisted up the hillside winding it's way through an aspen grove to the summit of Blacksage Pass; #2.



The other side went into a large park that was private land. Public road but all the surrounding land was private property. We had to slow down and always proceeded slowly through the groups of cattle that seem to like to hang around the roadway.



The big cows mostly just stare as we ride by. You have to watch the young ones. They don't know what we are and are unpredictable as to which way they will run. They will wait until you are close, maybe 20 feet, then bolt in whatever direction their instinct tells them. So go slow and then maneuver around them was the plan that always works. We also tried to avoid making them run. The ranchers appreciate that as it doesn't stress them .

The trail loops back to the south then crosses US 50. For about 30 miles we were on well maintained dirt about 40 feet wide; smooth and fast. Most of the back-country roads were comfortable at 20-30 mph except for the really rocky sections of the high passes, they were first gear climbs. This particular section was really fun at 60 mph. This continued after crossing CO 114 for a while then slowed down to the usual pace; 20-30 in second or third gear. It was in this section that we met several riders out for a day trip. The first help up 4 fingers, meaning 4 riders following. The second help up 3 fingers and so on. The last rider held up a clenched fist meaning the last one. A great way to communicate so you know what is coming down the trail at you.

More lovely scenery as we headed generally southwest.



We came back onto the highway at the summit of Slumgullion Pass; #3.

There is a downhill ride of several miles into Lake City. I've read of some riders being low on fuel and coasting into town. I don't know about that. We had plenty of fuel and just enjoyed the twisty downhill pavement. It was about 1100 or so and we had been just snacking on trail food so it was time for a meal. We stopped at this place; Poker Alice. I had read about it in reports and had been by on several road trips over the years but had never stopped.



These stops are always good opportunities to interact with local folk and are a fun part of any trip. We placed our order; I believe we ordered the same calzones and claimed a booth. While Perry was taking care of some personal business a guy walks in and sits in the booth next to ours and facing me. He asks is we were out riding passes and I tell him were we have been and were we were headed. He asks where we were from and I replied. He asks if we had heard of this forum. Well, yeah and he tells me his is Scott; a.k.a. Tourmeister the owner and founder of Two Wheel Texans! Well, small world isn't it? What an amazing encounter. Of all the folks to run into on a trip I never would have imagined this. He was vacationing with his family. We had a great time with Scott and his family visiting with them. Had to take photos.



A great lunch and pleasure meeting Scott and his family. But time to get back on the trail.
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Old 10-05-2015, 02:59 PM   #15
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Day 2: 8 Passes cont.

After lunch we continued on the TAT heading generally west winding our way through mountain valleys headed towards the high passes. You can see from these shots how the aspens had started turning at higher elevations.





It takes exposure to a freeze to start the leaves turning. So, higher elevation and trees that are exposed to the wind get to change first. The process continues as the fronts move through until the winds has blown all the leaves off the branches. I love this time of year in the mountains.



As we climb in altitude the road gets narrower and a bit rougher.



The rub is that we are so concentrated on not making mistakes, and not being able to stop in the steepest roughest parts without much difficulty in getting moving again, you only get to see the pictures of some of the better road conditions. If you stop in the middle of a switchback, of which there are many and they are usually steep, you may have to go back down to be able to get momentum to get through it. Remember, it is always steeper and rougher than the pictures show. Then we made the summit.

Cinnamon Pass; number 4. 12,640 feet.



The bikes seemed to be handling the elevation pretty good. My DRZ was having trouble idling but not anything I couldn't deal with. The vistas are, of course, amazing.





The road goes down this valley towards Animas Forks.



Animas Forks



Animas Forks was populated from 1873 into the early 1920's when precious metals prices fell sharply. The Gold Prince Mill was built in 1904 with a price tag of $500,000 making it the most costly mill of it's time. The mill had 100 stamps and processed 500 tons of ore each day. It was connected to the Gold Prince Mine by a cable tramway 12,000 feet long that brought the ore to the mill in buckets. The mill only operated for 6 years. It was built with structural steel instead of the normal timber construction and was later salvaged to build the Sunnyside mill in Eureka in 1917.







We could go into many of the houses. "Enter at your own risk." This one had indoor plumbing.



This had quite a view from the front bay window.







The above property actually had a for sale sign next to it and a modern cabin on the hillside behind it. Off The Grid of course.

After our sightseeing stop we continued west up California Gultch.

The summit of California Pass; #5 12,960 feet





Down the other side to the next pass.



Hurricane Pass; #6 12,730 feet.



I took a shot of the sign but Perry said his bike wanted to be up there behind it so I took this one.

Another breathtaking view around every corner.



This was from a wide pullout at the summit of the next pass.
Corkscrew Pass; #7.



Heading down from Corkscrew Pass.



After taking this photo as I was riding down I took my first tumble of the trip. The road is narrow, varying from 7-10 feet maximum width. And remember the roads are always steeper than they look in the photos. After making this corner there was a white Jeep Unlimited crawling up the road. The general rule is that uphill traffic has the right of way so they can keep their momentum. The secondary rule is the rule of gross tonnage; the bigger less maneuverable vehicle has the right of way. So I did my best to make room for him to pass; I stopped at the inside edge of the path as close as I could to the drainage ditch leaving him plenty of room to pass. Problem: he would not move any closer to the edge. He had at least two feet of road but he stayed square in the middle with a white knuckle grip on the wheel and wide eyes glaring at me. So I tried to move over more into the rocky ditch to help him out. When I did this my front wheel, which was carrying most of the weight of the bike due to the downhill slope, got tangled in the rocks and I fell over into the road. I was able to wrestle the bike back up in the ditch and the guy rolled by barley missing my left handlebar and still not using any more room on the opposite side. He wouldn't even look at me as he rolled by and I mentioned through his open window that he had 2 extra feet of room on his right. I climbed back on, not easy facing downhill in the ditch, and continued on. Perry told me later he had Texas plates. A rookie flat-lander.

At the end of this trail we got on the pavement and soon made another summit.

Red Mountain Pass; #8



I noticed that Perry's headlight wasn't working on the old KLR. We were also getting short on fuel. So, as we rolled down the highway I made a command decision to head on down to Silverton for fuel and to see if he could remedy his headlight issue. It was getting late in the afternoon and I rely on that headlight to make sure he's still back there. We stopped at the gas station on the south side of town, filled up the tanks, and he went to work.



After a bit of poking around under the seat he found the problem. A bit of melting from overheating (he had been using a heated jacket liner) had caused him to loose power to the headlight circuit. This is the little box that holds the fuses.



After scraping the melted goo off the fuse clips and with strategic application of some electrical tape he was back in business.





It was getting late in the day and the clouds were looking a bit dark so we didn't spend too much time getting back to the trail.



When we turned off the highway I saw a couple of folks on bikes that were stopped beside the road so I stopped to check if they were OK. They were fine just had stopped to take a photo. I remember seeing them as we descended Corkscrew and they must have passed us as we made repairs. This is Ed and Rachel who have been traveling from Alaska to Argentina on Honda C90's modified with a 120 cc engine.



I had read about them over on ADVrider.com while doing my research for this trip. An amazing couple with a real spirit of adventure. She started talking and telling stories while he started circling my DRZ giving it a real close look. He mentioned the manual cam chain tensioner and a couple other modifications from stock so I knew he was the mechanic of the pair. He had a bit of an envious look in his eye and would probably trade if I asked. It was great meeting them but light was fading as we had to move on.

Heading west we made another much easier climb to another summit.
Ophir Pass; #9.
Oops I lost count.



Close up of the sign as it is kinda hard to see in there.





I tried to get a couple of shots to show the scale of the scenery. It's a bit hard to find Perry in the second one. I think he is only a couple of pixels.





We rode down through the town of Ophir (pronounced o fer by the locals ) and then made a short detour north to Telluride for supper.



Perry was given the assignment of picking a place to eat. We road all the way through town and came back to a place he picked based on the smells coming out as we passed by, a placed called Butchers and Bakers. Turned out to be a small kinda trendy cafe/bar. Probably not many dirty bikers dining here. The waitress treated us like long time loyal customers. And the food was pretty amazing. This is a 1/2 pound angus burger with pepper jack, onion ring and fried egg.



Daylight was fading so we rolled south in search of a campground. The first couple of Forest Service camps were full so we pulled off onto a side road at Trout Lake and started looking. Perry stopped and asked some bicycle riders if they knew of any spots and got a great tip. We made it there before total dark but were setting up camp with headlamps on.

Had we gone just a few miles further we would have bagged another pass; Lizard Head. That would have been 10 for the day. Oh well, can't be greedy. Nine will go down in the book for this most amazing day.
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Old 10-05-2015, 03:03 PM   #16
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Re: Ride the Western Trans America Trail 2015

233 miles for Day 2 and our "9" passes.



Even got to have a small campfire that night.

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Old 10-05-2015, 03:10 PM   #17
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Request

Perry went to the doctor today and found he has a broken fibula (lower leg) that he suffered in a fall in northern Nevada. He finished the trip injured. I'll tell the story later. He has surgery scheduled for tomorrow morning to straighten out the mess. Prayers for a quick and full recovery will be appreciated. Thanks
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Old 10-05-2015, 03:31 PM   #18
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Re: Request

Quote:
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Perry went to the doctor today and found he has a broken fibula (lower leg) that he suffered in a fall in northern Nevada. He finished the trip injured. I'll tell the story later. He has surgery scheduled for tomorrow morning to straighten out the mess. Prayers for a quick and full recovery will be appreciated. Thanks
Dang Perry! Sorry to hear that but glad the surgery will take care of it! Snoopster just got her cast off for breaking the same bone in her left leg. She followed me down a dirt road that got REAL sandy all of a sudden. He foot got caught under the bike when she went down. Fortunately, no surgery was needed for her, so only four weeks in a cast and then a few more in a walking boot. Hopefully Perry will be that lucky as well. I had to spend 10 weeks in a cast and on crutches the entire time following surgery on my ankle after whacking a deer.

I HIGHLY recommend getting some of those fly swatters that have the twisted metal handles. They are GREAT for scratching/rubbing inside the cast The rounded off metal won't abrade the skin and is thin enough that if you really try to torque it against the cast to rub extra hard, the handle just bends before you can do any damage to yourself. Just be real careful around the actual incision location. You don't want to mess up the stitches.

I used a trash bag with a heavy rubber band to keep the cast dry when showering. I also wrapped a dish towel around my leg just above the cast and then put the bag over it all. The towel kept any water that got past the bag and rubber band from getting down into the cast. I would also strongly recommend one of those little shower stools. They make life MUCH easier...

Keep the pics coming. You have been getting some great shots!! We did Cinnamon, Engineer, and California Gulch in a jeep the day after seeing you guys. The kids loved it! They got a kick out of that "indoor plumbing" in Animas Forks as well.
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It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.' But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance. – Murray N. Rothbard

When one possessed of the Truth suffers from a heavy heart he is susceptible to a more dangerous affliction — the craving for power to eradicate error, to cause Truth to triumph by force. - Frank Chodorov

Where politicians flourish, long history has harshly taught us, people and their liberty wither. Where the state is god and the "public interest" worshipped, individual man will be found bleeding upon the altar. - Karl Hess

The accepted wisdom is that without the state, society would collapse into lawlessness and crime. In fact, lawlessness and crime define the very nature of the state and the society organized by it. - Bionic Mosquito

But the myth of the rule of law does more than render the people submissive to state authority; it also turns them into the state's accomplices in the exercise of its power. For people who would ordinarily consider it a great evil to deprive individuals of their rights or oppress politically powerless minority groups will respond with patriotic fervor when these same actions are described as upholding the rule of law. - John Hasnas
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Old 10-05-2015, 03:50 PM   #19
The Bruce
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Re: Request

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Originally Posted by Tourmeister View Post
Her foot got caught under the bike when she went down.
Yep. Pretty much how it went. We debated going to get it checked and agreed that his full on motocross boot was probably as stiff as any boot the ER would put on. More about it later
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Old 10-05-2015, 04:14 PM   #20
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Re: Ride the Western Trans America Trail 2015

Oops, I missed a pic. Perry caught me taking a photo in a particularly smooth section going up Corkscrew IIRC.

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