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My First Really Long Ride on a Really Big Adventure Bike

Jun 9, 2008
Austin, TX
As an avid reader of ride reports on this forum as well as ADV Rider, I’ve vicariously ridden to far-off places through the adventures of others. I never made a commitment to do such a ride myself. There were always excuses.

Most recently however, I found myself a little short of excuses. I had several days off from work. I have a new BMW F800GS that I’ve properly outfitted with crash bars, skid plate, hand guards, and tires. I have saddle bags, top box, all the camping gear I’d need, and I have knowledge of the route I would ride.

The only thing I did not have is off-pavement riding experience on my new F800GS. I could feel the excuses welling up in my head about learning to ride a truly big, loaded-down, Adventure dual sport bike, on-the-fly, in remote places by myself.

I spent the previous ten years on KLR 650’s. Not exactly lightweight motorcycles to be sure, but not the BMW’s 550 lbs. either, loaded for travel.

My ’08 KLR had 53,000 miles on it when I traded it in. I knew exactly what to expect from it. Riding the KLR was second nature.

(My first long distance adventure ride: My first long distance Dual Sport Ride to Big Bend TX).

The BMW was strange and new, and much bigger. It is longer, wider, taller, heavier, and had very different power characteristics. Gone was the KLR’s tractor-like, flywheel momentum right off idle that would climb tenaciously. The BMW is quite the opposite having instant feather-light revs. It is very easy to stall the engine on the BMW because it has none of that inertia mass rotating inside the engine that the KLR had. Exacerbating the problem was a taller first gear on the BMW. I’d have to learn how operate throttle and clutch to avoid killing the engine at exactly the wrong moments while climbing steep trails on a loose surface…. Yada, Yada, Yada. Time to stop making excuses and go ride!

DAY 1 – 705 miles (30 miles unpaved)

700 miles across Texas. Thank you Texas for 75 mph speed limits, and a tail wind.

Route Map – Day 1 June 28, 2014

I was fortunate to have a tail wind most of the way from Austin to Cimarron NM. I averaged 48 MPG doing 75 MPH. I stopped for fuel every 120-150 miles, in Brownwood, Sweetwater, Post, Muleshoe, Logan NM and Cimarron NM. I lubed the chain every other stop.

The BMW was a much better bike on the open road than my old KLR. I had the stock seat on the KLR and it would have been so uncomfortable on a trip like this. Even with a proper seat, I can’t see myself riding 700 miles in one day on the KLR (though I did 550 miles to Big bend from Austin once).

The KLR would have also been quite cramped with all my gear strapped to it. The power and comfort of the BMW with it’s factory “comfort seat” are vastly superior to the KLR. One thing the KLR does better however is aerodynamics. Airflow around the rider is better on the KLR, and the KLR is more stable in turbulent air.

It was 95 degrees and I was wearing a black Tourmaster jacket (sans liner, vents open, for what their worth), and black water proof riding pants, no vents. I call it my 'sauna-suit'. When I stopped for lunch in Post TX, a guy asked me, “don’t you get hot in all that garb?”, to which I replied, “not doing 75 MPH”. Truth is I was OK as long as I was moving. Stopping for gas and food on the other hand was uncomfortably hot.

Finally I cross over into New Mexico.

Remember that thing I mentioned about how easy it is to kill the engine on the F800GS. Well it bit me in the butt when I stopped in Springer NM at a little local burger joint, Minnie's Dairy Delite. I pulled into the parking lot and waited for a driver to back out of a parking space. When I proceeded to turn to my left and accelerate from a stop on a slight uphill grade, I killed the engine, with the bike leaning left, and down I went at 0 MPH.

My first instinct, as with the old KLR, was to just pick up the motorcycle. Uh… no. Not happening with this beast. I tried; not even close. I removed my helmet and jacket and resigned myself to a 20-30 minute ordeal of unloading all my gear, attempting to lift the bike alone, and then reload all my gear. About that time two guys offered to help me lift the bike as-is, professing to have been in this situation themselves. Thank you gentlemen, I do appreciate your help.

With the bike upright I parked and checked for damage. There were some dimples in the paint on the crash bars, and on the hand guard plastic, and the shift lever was bent-in ever so slightly. I easily pulled the shift lever an 8th inch out to its proper position. I’d say that the protection parts I installed just paid for themselves.

This little fall really shook my confidence and made me rethink what I should attempt to ride on this trip. This would affect my NO-GO decisions while in route (Every rider is faced with challenges, and must work out the relative risk vs reward and decide whether to GO, or NO-GO. The latter is the more difficult decision to make).

Having finished my dinner, I continued the last leg of the trip on pavement to Cimarron NM, refueled and headed 4 miles east from Cimarron on Hwy 64 to NF 1950 which would take me 30 miles on course gravel to McCrystal Camp Ground in the heart of the Valle Vidal unit of the Carson NF.

I stopped just off the highway to reduce my tire pressure now that I’d no longer be riding at sustained high speeds for the next several days. I was surprised at how much the pressure in Heidenau K60 scout tires increased over their cold pressure. The front had increased from 36 psi to nearly 42. The rear had gone from 40 psi to 15psi… WHAT!? 15psi?

Yep. Soon after I’d gotten the bike, I’d lost pressure in the rear tire. Not all of it, just a very slight puncture that barely tapped the tube. I filled the tube with Slime and it never leaked again, for hundreds of miles before this trip. I guess something about sustained high speed riding prevents slime from maintaining it’s seal. I decided that if I were to go to all the trouble of changing a tube, it was going to have to be for a proper puncture somewhere down the line, so I used my trusty foot pump to bring the psi back up to 40, and lowered the front to 35 psi, and was on my way down NF1950 for the final 30 miles of the day, now eleven hours after I left Austin. (Interestingly the tire never lost air again until the ride home across Texas. Something about sustained high speed that caused the tire to leak ever so slightly).

FS1950 is notorious for flattening tires. I’ve had it happen to me years back while driving my truck on this road. This trip I saw a Suburban parked 8 miles up the road with a shredded left rear, and apparently abandoned because this was their second flat and they’d already used their spare.

Nonetheless, NF1950 is a beautiful drive up to 8000 ft AMSL through pine forest thick with wildlife. I saw a herd of 200 Elk, and 3 bears the last time I was here. This time I saw a dozen elk.

The BMW is an altogether different animal than the old KLR on this type of road. While no motorcycle is “steady” on course loose gravel over a hard packed base, the KLR had a heavy front end that would soldier straight on most surfaces. The BMW was much lighter in the front end, even without the load it was carrying over the rear wheel. Riding this surface resulted in a lot of wiggling around. I just had to stay loose on the bike, do not tense up, and lean very far forward either sitting or standing, when riding curves. It felt as though the front wheel would slide out if pushed very hard at all.

I also had to learn how to ride with ABS. Once or twice I had to brake harder and faster than expected and found that whatever I lost in rear wheel braking due to ABS, I gained in front wheel braking, as long as I was pointed reasonably straight. Overall I liked the ABS in most situations. I do not yet have the skill nor the inclination to ride the BMW aggressively enough to be hindered by the ABS.

Finally I arrive at my destination for Day 1; McCrystal camp ground. At first I thought the camp ground might be closed as there was no one here. Very strange for a Saturday night. I circled back out to the entrance to be sure I had not overlooked a closure sign, but there was none. So back I went to the best spot I could find.

I checked the engine oil level, which on the BMW must be checked with the engine hot, and found that it had not used any oil. I would have added nearly two quarts the KLR under the same circumstances, and probably would have fouled a spark plug somewhere along the way.

Unpacking at my campsite in McCrystal CG, Valle Vidal unti of the Carson NF


My suite for the evening with nice view of McCrystal Creek below.

A quick look at the problematic rear tire. Pressure was up to 47 psi from 40 psi due to heat.

DAY 2 – 320 miles (170 miles unpaved)

Valle Vidal–Carson NF NM, through Summitville, Cinnamon Pass, Silverton, to Hermosa Park CO

Route Map – Day 2 June 29, 2014

It was nice restful evening. Camping at or about 8000 ft AMSL is ideal for comfortable tempuratures. Not too hot and not cold. No need for a rain fly on the tent, and the clear night sky was thick with stars.
First thing I did was check tire pressure. Both had lost 5 psi due to cool down to ambient air tempurature. I adjusted psi in each tire to achieve minimum recommended pressure.
Continuing west on NF 1950 I enjoy the cool morning air, not a cloud in the sky, and not a sole on the road but me. There is a set of switchbacks that take the road up to the high pass. Here I try different techniques for riding the BMW around U-turns on loose gravel surface. They all seem slow and nervous, but standing and leaning as far forward as possible over the front wheel seems to work best. Once over the pass I begin the ride down the west side of Ash mountain to Comanche creek and Costilla creek .

Western slope of Valle Vidal unit of the Carson NF, NM



Riding Costilla Creek to Amalia NM



Pavement resumes near Amalia NM as a county road, then upgrades to Hwy 196 before intersecting Hwy 522 just south to the Colorado border. I ride a short distance north on Hwy 522 then head west into a grid of unpaved roads in search of a suspension bridge over the Rio Grande river.

I like the vast expanses of open spaces in this area.

There is the bridge I intend to use to cross the Rio Grande River. The last time I tried to use this bridge, a dozen years ago, it was barricaded, and rightly so. The old bridge was falling apart. More recently I was reading a Big Dog Adventure ride report wherein he actually rode across the same bridge which had apparently been recently refurbished.


And sure enough, there it is. Repaired and replaced steel, a fresh coat of paint, and new timber all around.

The old bridge looked grand, and provides me with a straight shot to Antonito CO.

A quick note that if you are on a bike with a 35”+ seat height and you go to put your foot down while centered on the 2.5” elevated tracks on a bridge, chances are your feet won’t touch when you come to a stop. Fortunately I’d worked that out ahead of time and braced myself against the side rail with my foot. The tracks are too narrow to put a foot down on them.


The mighty Rio Grande River looking upstream to the north.

It looks like someone has been riding an ATV under the bridge through the water.


The Rio Grande looking downstream to the south.


Continuing west from the Rio Grande, I ride 14 miles across the arid high plain to Antonito CO where I visit the Beer Can House.




Antonito is the northern terminus for the Chama excursion Rail Road steam train, circa the 1800’s.

From Antonito I head north 14 miles on Hwy 285 to La Jara CO where I intended to refuel, however the only station in town is out of premium fuel (Normally they have premium, but not today). I have to ride another 14 miles north to Alamosa CO for fuel, then return to La Jara to continue west. Alamosa is a good sized modern town where I also bought water and apples, then back to La Jara. West on Hwy 15 to Capulin CO where I pick up FS 255 toward Elwood pass and Summitville.

Along the way I pass Terrace Reservoir. It is interesting to note that all the reservoirs in this four state region were very low on water until this year. The exceptionally heavy snow pack this year has restored lake levels all across the region.

Terrace Reservoir is nearly full.


30 miles later on this easy dirt and gravel road I reach the road that goes south to Platoro CO, if I were going that way. There is a camp ground at this intersection, but I’ve found it to be a little cool overnight at 10,000 Ft AMSL. I continue straight on FS 250 toward Elwood Pass and Summitville.

The road becomes narrower and rougher at this point as it climbs in elevation and switch backs it’s way toward Elwood Pass.

Along the way I pass picturesque Lake De Nolda.

Notice the apples hanging in the white bag on the motorcycle. This would be my lunch later on and possibly dinner as well. Apples are a surprisingly resilient fruit. Despite being banged around all these miles, they were still quite good.

This is where I stopped for lunch at 11,000+ ft AMSL about 5.5 miles from Summitville.





I pass through Summitville and turn west toward Crystal Lakes and Beaver Reservoir. Here again the views of the forest and lakes below under clear blue skies are almost enough to distract me from riding on a very loose gravel surface with at least a hundred turns.

I am surprised to find Beaver Reservoir empty. It has apparently been drained to perform repairs or maintenance on the dam.

The receding waters have revealed a sunken boat, which some enterprising individual has attempted to salvage.



It is only 6 miles from Beaver Creek Reservoir to South Fork CO where I refuel and head north 70 miles on Hwy 149 through Creed to Lake City CO, where I pick up Cinnamon Pass rd.

I was looking forward to riding the mountain Hwy up and over Slumgullion Pass, but the road was being resurfaced with loose pea-gravel and a 40 mph speed limit. Lots of cars moving slowly. Eventually I did get clear of them and had a little fun the last few miles dropping into Lake City.

I did not need anything in Lake City so I turned directly down the road that leads to Cinnamon Pass. The road is paved and hugs the shore line of Lake Crystobal, which was quite full with a strong current flowing out of the lake and down the river.

The pavement ends at the western end of the lake where the road is wide and smooth treated gravel for the next 8 miles, then the road narrows and begins to climb. The surface becomes rougher and rides on a shelf above Bent Creek.


The road keeps getting rougher and rougher until the last ¼ mile before the turn-off to American Basin. At this point the road is very technical, climbing steeply over larger boulders, through puddles, around trees, and over craggy rocks protruding from the road surface.

Then I reach the American Basin turn off where Cinnamon Pass continues to the right, and where it climbs steeply via switch backs up to Squires Cabin.

This is my first major challenge and the point where I make my first GO/NO-GO decision. I sit at the outside edge of the first switchback to assess the likelihood of stalling or spinning the rear wheel and losing control of my direction and ultimately dropping the bike. I pick a line through the ledges and protruding boulders and loose rock cutting diagonally across the road to minimize steepness and decide to GO.

I have about 10 feet to get underway from a dead stop, get up on the pegs and stabilize before hitting the hard part. I get 3 feet and kill the engine…Doh! Now I only have the length of the bike get underway.

Take-two, more revs, easy on the clutch, up on the pegs quickly, and go for it. The front wheel pops up as it climbs the first big boulder forming a ledge about 18” tall and I throttle up the rear and then steer my way through boulders and ruts another 20 feet to clear the switchback.

Now I’m underway up a steep shelf road that is rough with loose rocks, ruts and embedded boulders. I keep my momentum going. I have about 100 ft to a craggy rock outcropping. I decide which track looks best only to find that just out of sight over the top of it is a very tall square embedded boulder, so I move abruptly to the opposite track.

I continue up the 1000 foot section in this way to reach another switch back at Squires Cabin. I am relieved to find that the BMW pulls nicely from 2k rpm once I get her moving and the clutch action facilitates feathering below that. I negotiate another half dozen steep loose switchbacks before the road straightens out, but they become progressively easier; steep but relatively smooth road surfaces.

Sorry for the lack of pictures, but I was a little pre-occupied until reaching the summit.



The downhill side of Cinnamon Pass westbound is merely an exercise in controlling speed down steep grades on loose craggy surfaces. The ABS proves useful in these conditions as it does allow lockup at near zero speed if I need it. I just stand on the pegs and apply the brakes and let the ABS do all the work while I steer. I never had a problem stopping the bike, even on loose steep downhill surfaces.

Once down to the junction at Animas Forks, I passed an old guy in a side-by-side ATV who was all over the road, not sharing the limited road width with me at all. Later I look up at the trail I’d come down and notice the same ATV hanging off the edge of the road. He later managed to get back up on the road with the help of some Jeepers and tow strap.

Years ago I saw the remains of a sheep herder’s wagon littering the side of the very same mountain after it had gotten two wheels off the edge (Sheep are grazed on the high meadows in these mountains for the duration of the summer, tended by herders who live in what look like gypsy wagons, ).

From Animas Forks my original plan was to continue on California Pass to Lake Como, and then over Hurricane Pass and down to Silverton. I headed up California about ½ a mile and decided that I did not want to ride a surface that rough anymore.

These mining roads have all become so rough in the last five years or so that all the fun is taken out of riding them for fear of damaging your vehicle, not to mention slogging along picking your way through craggy embedded rock road surfaces for miles on end. I had enough and turned around to ride down to Silverton via the main road, which turned out to be rough as well for ½ the distance to Silverton, but not as bad what I had been riding on California Pass. I won’t even bring my 4x4 truck up here anymore. It’s just too slow and rough, suitable only for ATV’s, which ironically are what cause the rapid degradation of the trails.

Once in Silverton, I get gas, water, check tires and lube the chain, having ridden through some water on the trails. Then I head south on Hwy 550 to Old Lime Creek road. This is a road that I’d read about in a ride report, but had not heard of before. Old Lime Creek road parallels Hwy 550 and in fact was the only road through the area, predating and ultimately being replaced by highway 550.

Old Lime Creek road is 12 miles long and started out OK, but eventually became rough and craggy, but not difficult. I stopped at the point where the road circumnavigates a rock cliff. There are remnants of old stone masonry blocks built decades ago to prevent vehicles from going over the edge into the creek below. Ironically, the smoothest stretch of the road was at this point.

Old Lime Creek road, CO




Back up on Hwy 550 I roll south a short distance to the Purgatory area. I think the ski resort has been renamed Durango Mountain Resort. I pick up Hermosa Park road which switchbacks up the side of the mountain.

The road is wide and smooth gravel for the convenience of homeowners who own large estate homes in the area. Further west, over the summit Hermosa Park road gives way to wilderness and the road narrows and become rougher.

I ride the last leg of my journey for the day down the west slope of the mountain to Hermosa Park trailhead where I camp beside the east fork of Hermosa creek.

There are numerous camp sites along Hermosa Park road and Sig Creek CG, a somewhat formal camp ground, is just off the road. The nice thing about camping in this area, as opposed to areas around Silverton, is the elevation. Around Silverton, at nearly 11,000 ft AMSL, the overnight temperature is typically close to freezing. While at Hermosa Park the elevation is 8400 ft AMSL, and the overnight temperature is cool but not cold.

I unpack and set up my tent and then tend to the bike. It is a habit of mine to loosen all the handlebar controls and mirrors so that they will move in the event of a fall, rather than break. The beating doled out by the rough roads I’d ridden all day had taken its toll on the left mirror, which had come loose and was swinging around and getting in my way while riding. I tightened the mirror, and checked everything else.

I had a concern about a rattle or clanking I’d started to hear associated with the rear wheel bouncing over rough terrain. I’d pretty well decided that it was the chain slapping the guides on the top &/or bottom of the swing arm, implying that the chain had more slack than was optimal. I did not hear the noise under throttle which lead me to believe that with the chain tight under power it would not slap against the top of the swing arm. The chain tension was a little more loose than when I began my trip, but not excessive. I prefer to have my chain a little loose rather than a little tight, so I left it alone. Everything else on the bike seemed to be OK despite the beating it took most of the day.

DAY 3 – 145 miles (115 unpaved)

Bolam Pass, Dunton Rd, Miramonte Reservoir, Naturita, Q13 rd, Buckey Reservoir, and in Colorado.

Route Map - Day 3 June 30, 2014

The nice thing about camping next to a stream is that you are not constantly listening for bears or other animals approaching your tent at night. The sound of the water flowing over rounded stones drowns out all other sounds and you sleep better. Last night was no exception, and I looked forward to better roads on today’s route.

Packed up and continuing up Hermosa Park road along Hermosa creek to a wide water crossing. This will be my first fording of a significant water crossing on the BMW.

The water is clear and flowing. Depth is 6-12 inches. The bottom is mostly smooth round stone the size of baseballs and softballs with a few basketballs thrown in to keep things interesting. The feel is like deep loose gravel.

On the KLR I could cross creek at idle speed, and the engine would just chug along at a walking pace. The BMW however hasn’t the flywheel inertia to chug along at idle without stalling.

Instead I have to ride at a faster speed than I would like, at 2k rpm or more, at which point the BWM is strong. This explains why every video of BMW’s I’ve seen traversing water crossings, seem to be moving too fast, asking for trouble if you ask me. Apparently this is just the nature of the beast, and I adapt, clearing the water crossing without incident.

Now on the west side of Hermosa creek on FS 578 the road climbs gradually 4.5 miles to the first of several switchbacks. These switchbacks are wide and littered with loose rocks and powder, but otherwise have no tall steps or ledges. There are 12 switchbacks altogether before topping out at the remains of a couple of old cabins perched on the edge of the mountain overlooking Hermosa creek.

A short distance further I reach Celebration Lake.





Continuing past Celebration Lake on Bolam Pass road a few mile further, I reach the summit at 11,433 ft AMSL. I stopped by a snow drift to take some pictures and found a baggy filled with cleaned trout. They would have made a wonderful meal, but not for me. I tossed the bag off the road a ways where presumably some predator will find and eat it.

Bolam Pass Summit







Bolam Pass Rd. gets a little rough once it starts going downhill from the summit. There is a scree field 400 feet long comprised of nothing but loose stone. From there the road undulates along the side of the mountain up and down around trees, roots, stream crossings (trickles really) for another 4.5 miles, and then the road improves to wide smooth pea-gravel. Another 3 miles to Hwy 145, and then a little right-left jog over Hwy 145 to begin on Dunton Rd.

Dunton Rd., AKA Road 38, cuts a straight line on a diagonal grade along the side of a mountain rising 500 feet in 1.3 miles parallel to Hwy 145, then switchbacks up and over the top of the hill to a high plain heading west toward the town of Dunton CO. The road is 3-tracks wide (room for two vehicles to pass but otherwise the inside tires share a common track down the center of the road) and smooth consisting of 1 in. course gravel.

10 miles later, just shy of Dunton Hot Springs, I turn onto FS 611. I follow FS 611 for 11.3 miles.

VIDEO – FS 611

At the 11.3 mile mark on FS 611 I turn right to pick up FS 616 (AKA road 47/49g). FS 616 starts out with a series of 8 switchbacks climbing the side of a mountain until topping out, and straightening out, headed toward Beaver Creek skirting the western edge of the Lizard Head Wilderness.

This is a single lane road on a rocky soil. The rock content on most of the road is sufficient to make it a rocky road in most places and therefore a little rough with patches of rutted dirt from past rains. There is no mud or water on the road today however. Overall this is an easy road to ride and crosses vast grassy high meadows until I reach Road 619 which is wide smooth gravel all the way to Beef Trail Rd. which is wider and smoother still.

I make my way over to Miramonte Reservoir where I take a break. This would be a nice place to stop and take a swim.

The lake level is a little low but it a nice lake nonetheless.



Camping is available at what is known as the Dan Noble State Wildlife Area.

From Miramonte I ride 16 miles to Hwy 141, then another 16 miles to Naturita CO. I refuel, buy water and apples and eat lunch at a little local burger joint called Blondie’s . It’s pushing 100 degrees as I roll out of Naturita and I am hot in my sauna suit until I get going at highway speed.

Hwy 141 near former townsite of Uravan CO.





I don’t know the history of this little rock structure on Hwy 141 near is intersection with the Q13 Rd., but I find it interesting nonetheless. It is about 10 ft in diameter to the outside of the walls. It’s tall enough to stand inside (over 6 ft), has a window opening and hole at the top to let smoke out. It is constructed of stacked flat stone with each course being offset toward the center forming an arch that leans against itself.

Continuing along Hwy 141 west 23.4 miles to my turn to a little rock Tee-Pee near the Q13 Rd.





From the rock teepee I can see the first challenge on Q13 Rd. I nice steep climb visible just above my wind screen.

I’m sure everyone knows the refrain, “steeper than it looks…”. This proved to be a pretty good climb. This 100 yard long section of the road was badly rutted, lots of large loose rocks and several large embedded boulders forming ledges. The BMW chugged right up; it has plenty of power and torque once you get it rolling. All I had to do pick the correct line and keep her headed in the right direction maneuvering around the obstacles.


Once I cleared the initial hill climb, Q13 Rd. proved to be a nice ride with only a few sections presenting mildly challenging obstacles comprised of short steep climbs up rock ledges.

The road is red dirt and sandstone.

I imagine that a mall in the Flintstones cartoon would look like this sandstone formation. There really is a town nearby named Bedrock.


The Delores River with Hwy 141 to the left and Q13rd to the right

Q13 Rd. has three distinct segments along its 16 mile length. On the eastern end is that initial climb and mildly technical riding on broken sandstone. In the middle is red dirt road through scrub land at times near the edge of the escarpment overlooking the Paradox valley. On the western end the road climbs again through pine forest on either sandstone, compacted sand or loose sand until reaching Buckeye Reservoir. The road is renamed FS 0378 inside the Manti La Salle NF. Overall the road is easy to ride with only a few mildly challenging sections.

Middle section of Q13 Rd.

In this tighter shot along the escarpment, you can see the road peeking through the trees in the upper right quadrant just above the cliff.

Stopping along the road and walking 20 yards through the trees provides an expansive view of the Paradox valley.

Looking east-south-east up the valley.


Look west, the agricultural community of Paradox CO

A closer look across the valley. That is Hwy 46 switch-backing down into the Paradox valley from La Salle UT.

Getting up into the western section of Q13, looking north down into Roc Creek canyon and Hwy 141 way off in the distance (not visible).

My destination for the day is Buckeye Reservoir very near the CO-UT state line within the Manti La Salle NF. This lake is at 7600 ft AMSL which is good for mild temperatures overnight. The water level had been quite low the last time I was here, but the lake is full now.

Upon my arrival I rode around all the camping areas on the eastern shore looking for drinking water. I had enough for now, but was planning ahead for tomorrow’s ride.

I stopped at a campsite of a young family to inquire about drinking water and was told that there was none available at Buckeye. The gentleman I spoke with told me about a natural fresh water spring a couple miles up the road.

I was skeptical, but he said he’d been camping here since he was the age of his own young kids, and they always drank the spring water, and were doing so now, with no ill effects.

So I proceeded some three miles south on FS 0371 which borders the western shore of the lake, and found the spring
(Note the white PVC in the bottom right corner of the picture).


I drew water from the outflow of the PVC and it was cool and tasted perfectly normal. In fact it tasted great. I had my fill and then I filled the two containers I drank earlier today and headed back to Buckeye to set up camp.

NOTE: It’s been a week since I drank from the spring, and no ill effects from the water, so it is indeed just fine.

(Location: Manti-La Sal National Forest, Price, UT 84501 38.412683, -109.038945)


This park was recently renovated and reopened just a year or two ago. The east side of the lake now charges a camping fee of $10-$15 a night, but there are free sites on the west side of the lake near the boat ramp. No power boats are allowed on the lake.

I set-up my tent, checked the bike, and then sat and watched a family catching trout at the edge of the lake 50 feet away. They had a dozen trout on a stringer. I walked down to the lake after they left and found a cell phone one of them had dropped. There was no cell service in the area so I couldn’t call any of the contact numbers. I recalled that they mentioned camping, “way up the creek” to escape the camping fees at the park, so I resolved to try and find the owner on my way out in the morning. But for now it was time to call it a day.



I remember the first time I camped here many years ago, I asked the Camp Host if they’d seen any bears lately; “Not since this morning” was the reply. Apparently bear visited the area almost daily, typically coming to the east shore for water. There was no babbling brook to drowned out the various noises, and this is bear country, so I didn’t sleep all that well. I kept hearing something heavy cracking twigs as it walked in the forest around me; turned out to be elk passing through.

DAY 4 – 152 miles (70 miles unpaved)

Buckeye Reservoir, Polar Bear Mesa, Thompson Cyn., Onion Creek Rd., Shafer Trl., Island in the Sky NP

Route Map - Day 4 July 1, 2014

The morning of day four I was in no particular hurry so I slept in a little, then packed up and headed North West on FS 0371. About a mile up the road I find the camp site of the folks who lost the phone I’d found the day before. I confirmed that it was there phone and then told them that I’d left it on a rock where a bait crate was tied off, assuming that the crate was left there by this family, and indeed it was.

A short distance further and I reached the state line.

It’s 16 miles from Buckeye to Gateway Rd via Taylor Flat Rd. which winds around the northeastern edge of the Manti LaSalle Mountains.

Taylor Flat Rd.

The roads consist of a variety of surfaces, sections at a time, including narrow graded dirt, rocky soil, and graded gravel base.

VIDEO – Taylor Flat Rd.

I turn west on the Gateway/Castle Valley rd. (Delores Triangle Safari Route in Google Maps) for another 5.5 miles where I turn right on Polar Bear Mesa Rd (FR0033 in Google maps).

Nice views from Polar Bear Mesa Rd.


I’m riding along minding my own business when I see a herd of cattle on the road headed my way. I pull to the right edge of the road, turn off my engine, and wait for the cattle to be herded past me.


There are five women on horseback herding these cattle. The cattle don’t want to have anything to do with me and start to scatter off the road into the brush left and right, while the lady wranglers give chase.


The bulk of the herd continues past me while the strays are herded back onto the road through the bushes on either side of the road. When the cows would pop through the gaps in the bushes onto the road, between the shadows on the right of this picture, they would jump back surprised to see me sitting in the shadow. Eventually the cows all passed and I was on my way.


I continue another couple of miles down Polar Bear Mesa Rd. riding through 100 ft long patches of sand approximately six inches deep. This is my first real experience riding through sand on this bike.

When my turn-off arrives for Thompson Canyon Rd. (aka BLM100), I find the intersection is all deep sand and I have too much momentum to negotiate the left turn in deep sand. I decide to over shoot the turn and continued down the road to a point where I can turn around and come back.

I see a lone cow that has managed to elude the round up I encountered earlier.

I find a solid surface where I could turn around, then ride back, but the uphill grade of the road and the acute angle of the intersection from this angle would make it difficult to turn in deep sand, so pass the intersection again, turn around and then approach my turn more slowly from my original direction.

The bike wants to push wide in the deep sand and I have to gas-it using the outside edge of the right track as a berm to get the bike going in the direction I want to go. That done, I proceed down the next segment of my route on Thompson Canyon Rd (FR0043/BLM100 on Google Maps).



Thompson Canyon Rd. is a single lane on graded sand stone in various degrees of decay; sometimes compacted, sometimes crunchy, sometimes loose sand. The road is overall easy to ride with the occasional steep uphill or downhill of only 30-50 yards in length. The road is on an elevated mesa so there are good views all around.

I stopped here for a break to drink some water. It was heating up as rode lower in elevation. The ledge pictured provides a grand view over the canyon below. The drop from the ledge is straight down several hundred feet.



I carried two GPS devices; a 5” Nuvi 4500 loaded with two dozen different routes. The Nuvi is not suitable for motorcycling because it is not shock or weather proof. I plugged it into a 12v plug and carried it in the vent pocket of my jacket. I would have to disconnect it and put it away if it began to rain. I only needed it to find detailed points of certain routes, and then I’d put it away.

I also use a self-contained Etrex Vista that I wear on a lanyard around my neck, as you can see in the picture below. It is as old as the dirt I am standing on in this picture, but it keeps working, and its weather proof. It runs all day on two AA batteries, and records my tracks. I figured out that it shuts off if it is bumped, such as against some part of the bike when I get on or off the bike, and that was causing gaps in the GPS tracks. I learned to check it often to be sure it was still on.

The Etrex also provided elevation and accurate speed readings. The speedometer on the F800GS is 5% fast, and the dial face is difficult to read being crowded with too many MPH increments. The bike can go 125 mph, but the speedometer is marked to 150 mph. I’d rather have a increments to 130 mph spaced out wider to make it easier to read. Still it’s an improvement over the KLR which indicated speeds 10% faster than actual speed.

I’m still in my sauna-suit in anticipation of splashing through Onion Creek numerous times a little further up the road today.



VIDEO – Thompson Cyn. Rd. Overlook

Continuing down Thompson Cyn. Rd.

At this point Thompson Canyon Rd climbs up and over the edge of an escarpment to make its descent into Fischer Valley where I pick up Onion Creek Rd.


This was a moderately difficult climb due mostly to the first 30 feet. You can’t tell from the picture, but it’s a six foot drop to the road from where the picture is take, then across the road on a steep off camber angle down to the left on top of loose dirt and gravel, then climb up out of that trough without losing the rear end as I try to climb up the grade. It all went according to plan.

Steeper than it looks…

The downhill side of this worried me when I planning this trip. The road seems to drop a considerable amount in a short distance into the valley below, but the satellite imagery was obscured by a shadow. Thankfully the descent turned out to be OK. Just keep the speed very low and under control, and there was no problem.

Once down into Fischer Valley I proceed along Onion Creek Rd., in my opinion, one of the best roads in the Moab area. There were reports of flooding along Onion creek a little while ago, and the road was left in bad shape where it crosses onion creek numerous times, but the road was in great shape for my ride.

The Onion Creek canyon is so full of color in the rock and soil, ranging from numerous shades of brown, red, and green, punctuated by the all manner of colorful green flora.


Most of the creek crossings are shallow with a solid road base and not more than 10 ft across. I couple follow the creek bed for 100-200 ft. Water depth is rarely more than few inches deep.

I could not get the camera to accurately record the color of this formation. It was in reality a more vibrant reddish brown. Unfortunately the reflected light renders it too dark or light and the colors muted. The canyon is fairly narrow at this point with the road winding its way through.




Completing Onion Creek Rd., I arrive at Hwy 128, which I ride south to Moab along the Colorado River. The river is teaming with activity. Campers and hikers on the banks, rafters and kayakers on the water.

Once in Moab I refuel, and then round up more apples and water. I get smart and buy a gallon of water, using 1/3 to refill my smaller containers, drink 1/3, and strap what’s left to the motorcycle. A full gallon is too heavy to strap to the motorcycle so it’s necessary to break it up into multiple containers which I can share on the trail if necessary.

It’s 95 degrees and I’m still in my sauna suite, so I remove the riding pants and pack them away. I only wore them that morning because I knew I’d be splashing through Onion Creek a dozen times. All my clothing is soaked with sweat.

I go in search of more chain lube. I wind up with some PJ1 Lube Black Label. This turns out to be mistake. This stuff was black goo. It works, and works well in terms of lubricating the chain, but made a serious mess of my chain, spokes, rim, and even dripped out of the counter sprocket cover on the exhaust header, which smelled awful. I spent half a day cleaning the mess after I got home.

Anyway, with all the pertinent business out of the way, I headed straight to the Moab Diner for a 10 oz Ribeye steak sandwich, and all the water I drink. I actual get the chills in air conditioning because of my wet/damp clothing.

After lunch I head out Hwy 279 along the Colorado River to the Shafer Trail beyond the Potash mines and evaporative ponds.

Here is a feature familiar to anyone who’s ridden the Shafer Trail.



Potash is, essentially, a generic name for several different potassium-laden salts. It's most commonly used as an ingredient in fertilizer, as potassium (along with nitrogen and phosphorous) is one of the three key nutrients plants need to grow

This Potash mine is located 20 miles west of Moab. The mine began underground excavation in 1964 and was converted in 1970 to a solar evaporation system. This mine produces between 700 and 1,000 tons of potash per day.

Water is used from the nearby Colorado River in the production of Potash. Water is pumped through injection wells into the underground mine which dissolves layers of potash more than 3,000 feet below the surface. The resulting "brine" is then brought to the surface and piped to 400 acres of shallow evaporation ponds. A blue dye is added to the ponds to assist in the evaporation process. These ponds are lined with vinyl to keep the brine from spilling back into the Colorado River. A major by-product of this process is salt. The salt is used for water softening, animal feed and oil drilling fluids as well as many other applications.

The Potash Evaporative Ponds along the Shafer Trail.





Thelma and Louise drove a T-Bird off a cliff near here.


Large excursion boats carry tourist up river. These aluminum boats are nearly 10 ft wide at their transom, 30 ft long, shallow draft, and are powered by a pair of V-8 jet drives.

Midway along the Shafer Trail heading toward the Island in the Sky National Park.

Looking up the box canyon with seemingly no way up, but what you can’t see from this angle is the Shafer Switchbacks to the top.

I have to say that I was really impressed by the improvements the park service has made on the unpaved roads inside the park boundaries, specifically on the Shafer Trail and Mineral Bottom switchbacks. Between floods and a lack of maintenance, the roads had gotten to be pretty rough. Shafer trail at one point two years ago could only be driven in a high clearance four wheel drive vehicle within the park boundary. The county road portion of Shafer Trail has always been maintained, so with the recent improvements inside the park, the entire Shafer Trail can be driven in any two wheel drive SUV, or a rental car. You can go anywhere in s rental car.


Here you see the intersection of the Shafer trail, from the left, ‘T’-ing into the White Rim Trail (WRT) cutting straight across the canyon. This is the western (Colorado River) end of the WRT.
Buckeye Reservoir is on the other side of the Manti LaSalle mountain in the far background of this picture.

Shafer Trail Switchbacks.

A nice shady spot to camp at BLM Cowboy Camp Ground. There is a $10 fee to camp here.

I Have to be careful about putting my kickstand down in the sand around here, even when it appears to be a hard surface. It felt solid under my foot, but gave way easily under my kickstand. Fully loaded as it is, the bike doesn’t have to lean over very far before I can’t stop it from falling. I rolled back until I found some harder sand stone to support my kickstand.


Cowboy camp ground is on a knob of a hill providing good views all around Such as this. This little road connects the camp ground to Mineral Bottom Rd., however it looked as though it hadn't been used in years, so I assumed It had been taken out of service.

Nothing like an open-air bathroom in the middle of nowhere.

Cowboy Camp Ground sits at 6100 ft AMSL, so the temperatures are moderate. 85 degrees in the daytime and 55-60 degrees at night. I had a restful evening without a rain fly under a star filled sky.

DAY 5 – 441 miles (70 miles unpaved)

Mineral Bottom Rd Switchbacks, partial White Rim Trail, Long Canyon, Highway back to Texas.

Route Map – Day 5 July 2, 2014

I did not have time or fuel to ride the full length of the White Rim Trail (WRT), but I figured I could ride as far as the deep sand section to have a look.

Perched atop the Mineral Bottom switchbacks, about to ride down to the WRT.

WRT Mineral bottom and the Green River, UT

White Rim Trail Mineral Bottom Switchbacks



Remnants of the flooding that wiped out several sections of the switchbacks a couple of years ago. The National Park Service spent $2 million dollars repairing roads throughout the park in the years since.


WRT alongside the Green River.






It’s only seven miles from the switchbacks to the Upheaval Bottom area, AKA Taylor Canyon where the deep sand section begins. I was told that this section was reopened just four weeks earlier after being closed due to high water levels on the Green river that flooded the wash through which the WRT passes. I’d hoped that would mean hard sand, but in fact, without any rain in the last month, the sand was moderately deep.

The tracks pictured are not mine. I’d already decided that sand significantly increases the likelihood of dropping the bike, multiple times, and I was not interested in spending more than an hour trying to ride 1000 ft. I have to say though, I was tempted to try it anyway based on what I saw.

There was harder sand elsewhere in the wash. I don’t know how well it would stand up under 780 lbs of motorcycle and rider, but it seemed doable to me. As I said earlier, the NO-GO decision is the harder one to make.

I figured I’d already ridden comparable, or more difficult terrain in Colorado, climbing Cinnamon Pass, than I would find on the WRT. Still, I was surely tempted.





This sand is not too bad, but deeper than any I’d ridden so far on this trip. Standing on the sand I’d say it was 8-12 inches deep in most places, and not very soft.



My bike sits and waits for me to return from my walk with news of impending adventure on the WRT. I hate to disappoint her but it’s too risky.

On the ride back to Mineral Bottom, I meet up with a Park Ranger on a Yamaha 450. Our conversation supports my decision not ride the WRT on a heavily loaded big bike. It’s nice to know that Rangers are on the trail riding motorcycles so they can get around quickly if they need to.

Headed back to Mineral Bottom the way I came.


Back at Mineral Bottom I decide to ride a spur road to the boat ramp where river excursions are launched. It turns out that the “boat ramp” is little more than a bank with river access and a parking area.

Apparently they only launch and/or retrieve rafts from here by sliding them down, or up the bank.

The Green River looking upstream (north) from the Mineral Bottom boat ramp.

The Green River looking downstream (south) from the Mineral Bottom boat ramp.

I retrace my route back up the Mineral Bottom switchbacks and ride across Hwy 313 to Long Canyon Rd. Long Cyn. Rd. is fast and straight until reaching the switchbacks that crest the edge of the canyon. The road passes through this narrow canyon. The last time I was here the road was comprised of deep sand with lots of big rocks submerged in the sand. Today however, the sand is hard packed.

The drop in the foreground is much steeper than it looks, and the exposed stone ledge is a 12-14 inch drop. I can easily ride around the left edge of the stone to avoid most of the drop off.


Long Canyon Rd as it exits the bottom end of the narrow canyon section.

This stone monolith is the signature feature of Long Canyon. At one time this was part of the towering canyon wall which has long since fallen to the position seen here. The road passes under the gap beneath the stone.

The canyon wall from which the stone fell.




Back in Moab I stop at the T-Shirt shop to buy some Splat-Man stickers for my bike. Splat-Man is the exclusive character of the Moab T-Shirt Shop.


Splat Man represents the frazzled nerves one might experience driving or riding some of the more difficult terrain around Moab. To me it’s just a reminder that the bike and I have been there.

The highway ride from Moab, through Monticello, Cortez, Durango, Pagaosa Springs, and Chama NM was uneventful until reaching the mountain pass on Hwy 64 in the Carson NF west of Taos NM.

The weather took a turn for the worse in very short order, with the temperature dropping 42 degrees in less than an hour, followed by small hail, freezing rain, sleet and snow.

Car tires had cleared tracks through the frozen stuff, but those tracks were getting narrower and narrower as I rode higher up the mountain. They never did fully disappear so I was able to ride on wet pavement over the pass, but just barely.



I got use my heated grips for the first time. It wasn’t all that cold, and I have hand guards to keep the rain and wind off my hands, but the heated grips meant there was one less discomfort to deal with. The riding pants finally served their purpose, keeping me warm and dry.

The temperature was 38 degrees before I started my descent down the eastern grade toward the Rio Grande River and Taos NM. The fun didn’t end there however.

The freezing precipitation was replaced by rain, and a stiff wind mostly off my port bow. I really had to lean into the wind and ride around the large deep puddles forming on the road surface, not to mention dodging the water splashed up from the puddles as cars passed me by in the opposite direction. I didn’t want to get doused by a passing car.

Then there was the lightning all around. Huge thick bolts of cloud to ground lightning and loud thunder.

I was following a Sheriff in a Tahoe, who was following a Highway Patrol Tahoe, and we were running 62-63 mph in a 55.

One thing I don’t like about New Mexico is the ridiculous speed limits, typically 10mph less than you’d find under the same conditions in Texas. The speed limits also drop a half mile outside of every little town, so you may not even be able to see the town, and yet you have ride 25 mph on a barren strip of highway (While passing through Angel fire the next day I saw five LEO’s in five miles, all from different agencies, and they are fond of their speed limits. I towed the line though and had no impromptu meetings with local law enforcement).

I decided to get a motel room in Taos for the night since the stormy weather was all around. While I parking the bike outside my room, I went to put the bike on its center stand when my wet foot slipped off the stand and bike came back down onto it tires, unfortunately leaning away from me. I tried to stop it, as it fell to the right side, but it pulled me right over the top of it and pitched me on the ground.

I looked around and saw a guy who worked for the hotel cleaning crew standing nearby and asked if he’d help. He was a tall, fit, guy and had no trouble helping me lift the bike. He even made it seem easy compared with the two guys who helped the first time I fell in Springer NM. Once again, no damage thanks to the crash bars and hand guards and saddle bags.

I was able to take a shower for the first time in five days. I then had to plan my final days’ ride home tomorrow. Part of my route from Taos involves a 44 mile unpaved section of NM Hwy 120, and I don’t know if it will be wet or dry, so I plan a contingency route just in case it is impassable.

DAY 6 – 755 miles (44 miles unpaved)

Route Map – Day 6 July 3, 2014

Up early since it’s going to be a long, long, ride back across Texas today.
I Had my free cooked-to-order breakfast at 6:35am and on the road by 7am.

I got fuel and lubed the chain and checked the oil; all good. I’d checked the tire pressure last night and it was fine. I double checked this morning and still good, but I knew that I would have to check the pressure at each fuel stop when riding sustained high speeds today.

I rolled out of Taos and headed for Angel Fire NM on Hwy 64. Then south on NM Hwy 434 to NM Hwy 120. So far it appears as though no significant amount of rain fell here last night, so I can ride the 44 mile unpaved section of NM Hwy 120. It’s a nice compacted gravel road over a mountain pass.

When the pavement resumes Hwy 120 rolls through high mountain plains with green grass and hill tops and trees here and there. The road is especially picturesque where it crosses the Canadian river east of Wagon Mound NM.

I made a significant error not buying fuel in Wagon Mound NM on IH 25. I only had 69 miles on this tank of fuel and figured I’d get fuel in Mosquero NM 50 miles away, or I could go as far as Logan NM 100 miles away, both within my 200 mile fuel range based on my average highway mpg thus far on this trip, not to mention the even better than average mpg I achieved at the muted speeds ridden out of Taos and through Angel Fire at 45 MPH, and on the dirt section of the highway.

No problem, or so I thought until I got to Roy NM and headed toward Logan. There was a stiff head wind coming at me, and my usual 48-50 highway cruising MPG had dropped to 35-39 MPG.

There was no gas in Mosquero and I started to do the math in my head. I figured at my current MPG I had a range of 160 miles and I had to ride a total of 170 miles to Logan; I’d come up short 10 miles reaching Logan.

I slowed down and tried to achieve the best balance between speed and MPG. The BMW has a computer that displays MPG on the fly. The wind was relentless and there were no other vehicles on the road to draft.

I went on reserve about 20 miles from Logan. If I figure correctly, my reserve is ¾ of a gallon and at my current MPG that will take me 30 miles… I hope.

I’m glad to report that I made it. The bike took 3.568 gallons of fuel out of 4.2 useable, so I had more range than I counted on after all.

The wind made the ride back to Austin most unpleasant, but at least I now knew to stop more frequently for fuel. I stopped in Muleshoe for food, fuel, and to check the rear tire. Sure enough it had lost five pounds. Out came the foot pump to add air to the rear tire. What ever happened to compressed air at gas stations? I don’t recall seeing any compressed air at any of my fuel stops, not even the compressors that you feed quarters.

There were storms near Lubbock, but somehow the path of the road wound between the downpours and I managed to stay dry. The riding pants were serving duty as my back rest stuffed inside the duffle bag behind me on the seat. I really didn’t want to have to pull them out if I could avoid it. I got lucky.

The final run from Brownwood TX to Austin puts me in the thick of deer country at dusk; a bad combination. I decide to follow other vehicles that would serve as blockers. I don’t want to be the point-man in the event a deer wanders onto the highway in our path. I can also use the headlights of the vehicle ahead of me to see deer before they become a problem.

By the time I reach Lampasas TX it’s apparent that it had been raining in the last hour. As I continue the last 50 miles south I begin to catch up to the rain. First the pavement becomes wet and then there are sprinkle on the visor, and then occasional brief showers. At this point I don’t mind getting wet.

As I get closer to Austin around 9:30 pm I can see fireworks in the distance. It seems several local communities are having fireworks displays. I can see Georgetown’s, and Leander’s or Cedar Park’s, and maybe even Jonestown. Four distinct fireworks shows going on at the same time across the horizon of the dark night sky backlit by the city lights glowing in the distance.
And so ends my first really long motorcycle trip on a really heavy adventure bike.

TOTAL MILEAGE: 2518 miles (500 miles unpaved)
Last edited:
Apr 6, 2008
Pflugerville, Texas
Re: My First Really Long Ride on a Realy Big Adventure Bike

Nice ride report. I enjoyed the writing and the photos. Thanks for posting!

My wife and I left Austin on the same day you did, but we cheated, as we were in her 2001 Suburban. We went through Moab, but ended up driving highway 101 on the Oregon coast and up into Washington state. It was nice and cool up there, 52 degrees F on July 4th morning.

Looks like we almost crossed paths in Moab.



Last edited:
May 9, 2013
Leander, TX
Re: My First Really Long Ride on a Realy Big Adventure Bike

Just WOW and thanks! Never wanted an adventure bike more than at this very moment...


Aug 31, 2013
Re: My First Really Long Ride on a Realy Big Adventure Bike

I can't say i have ever had a tail wind riding in Texas! Great ride.:clap:
Oct 10, 2010
San Antonio, TX
Snuggs, Great report as always :thumb: my favorite Snuggs0802 utube video is the James River Crossing.....oops.....I mean duelsport m/c ride on Hackberry Rd.....oops.....I mean TX Hill Country Romp Part 1..... :ponder: or was that Part 2 :rofl: -MR
Apr 24, 2014
San Antonio
awesome report, pictures...It always amazes me how people take the time to do these, and how cool it is to read them (live vicariously thru them). thanks! Makes the work day a bit more tolerable... :lol2:
May 30, 2006
Spicewood, Tejas
great ride report!.. I just got done mapping a ride out to Moab to hook up with my dad to ride to Canada in September.. my route is real close to yours.. best part is some of the roads I wasn't sure about, You've confirmed to be good ones!!. thanks.. next time.. Ping me if you want someone to ride with.