Thursday, April 27, 2017

5th Annual KLR Arizona Spring Ride: Ride Report

Ride Report: 5th Annual Northern Arizona Krooked Leg Ride (KLR) Ride: We should’ve called it “Break-Fest 2017”

I just don’t know what it is with me and KLRs, but it’s a marriage made in hades.

So, I’ve just returned from another long weekend of riding through some beautiful Arizona backcountry with some really fun people.

My friend Jon once again put together an outstanding weekend of KLR camaraderie and fun riding. And, as always, it was an excellent mix of the two. I saw some old friends and met some new ones. By my count there 30 riders there, all but 4 were KLRs. There were a few dirt naps and one broken leg. But, after seeing a motorcycle fatality on Friday, we all realized things could’ve been much worse…

So here’s a rundown of how the weekend went:

I left San Diego early on Thursday morning with a simple but fun route planned. I hustled out the I-8 east to Yuma and took the 95 north to Quartzite at the I-10. I then rode the 60, 71 and 89 to Prescott where I met up with an old friend for burgers and beer, arriving to the Gunsite campground facility by 4PM.

Jon had invited a “select few” to arrive on Thursday afternoon and ride on Friday…before the larger group arrived later on Friday. Well, “somehow” the word got out and almost everyone arrived on Thursday. And the party started. The weather was clear and brisk, getting into the low 40’s at night…perfect for drinking and laughing.

Tents were set up, the campfire was stoked and beers were popped. As each rider arrived a welcoming committee would loudly hurl insults (followed by hugs) and assist with the set-up. For me, catching up with friends with whom I’d previously ridden was one of the best parts of the ride. There was Jeff from Napa, the Cory’s, Jake, Sal, Haldor, Robert Z and his daughter (now referred to as DefCon 4), Chuck B, Ray Ray, James, Brian, Big Mikey, Darrel, the other Robert and Ray’s friend Charlie. And there were quite a few others I’ve forgotten.

One of my CA friends, Jeff, was unable to ride out with me but assured me he’d be there. He called on Thursday at 6PM and said he was just leaving the Los Angeles area and expected to arrive by midnight or 2am. We warned him against it, but he was intent on coming out.

I hit the sack early, expecting to get a call from Jeff at midnight or so. But I heard the thumping of a Gen 1 rumbling toward me at 4am. Jeff had made it, though he was frozen solid. “I thought Arizona was warm!” Nope, not at 5,300 feet, pal.

We got moving by 8am the next day. The ride plan called for some off-road riding on the way to two ghost towns—Placerita and Stanton. Well, a challenging hill delayed the ride as we picked up a downed rider and transported him to the hospital. James, the 3rd Annual Ride award recipient, had again earned the trophy for breaking his leg in a fall (hard bags were involved).

Needing an alternate plan, a small group of us headed to the Kirkland Bar & Steakhouse, originally built in 1863…and it shows its age. The restaurant and hotel stands on the site of an 1870 Wells Fargo stage stop, former bordello and railroad hotel. One elderly lady was completely managing the place. We ordered burgers and sodas and were pleasantly surprised at how quickly the food arrived.

The rest of the group—and the injured rider, en route to the hospital—arrived a few minutes later. It was then that we heard of a motorcycle fatality just a few miles up the road near Skull Valley. It was then that we decided to call it a day and headed back to camp.

More shenanigans took place as riders would arrive and set up camp. We all gathered around the campfire and chowed down on burgers and dogs and all the fixings (thanks, Kayla!). It was quite an evening and I called it a night just as the whiskey bottle came out. (OK, maybe I hate a bit of Robert Z’s Bushmill’s…)

The next day we had coffee around the fire as we contemplated the day’s riding activities. Jon had arranged and scouted at least 4 routes and the maps were available for everyone to view and decide on. I wanted to finish the previous day’s ride and see Placerita, so off we went in a group of dusty KLR riders. At Placerita, I decided I wanted to see Bagdad and try their famous burgers. We’d have to get there by 2pm when they closed, so at noon, a small group of us hustled out on the pavement, visions of juicy double burgers on our minds.

We did 45 miles at a fast pace and found that the burgers were everything we’d been promised. While we were stuffing our faces, we decided on the way to get back to camp via the small town of Campwood. There was 80- miles to go and about 60 of that was off-road through some very pretty backcountry. It was an incredibly scenic ride (and only one downed rider…nothing serious) and definitely a ride I’d do again.

That night consisted of everyone chowing down on a HUGE brisket dinner provided by Jon and Kayla. And Sean, already about as tall as Jon, was as helpful as can be. It was only a few years back when he asked if we were his dad's "biker buddies." And I suppose we are! Ride stories were told around the fire well into the early morning. Everyone had experienced a good time and there were no further injuries…though there was a close call with a missed intersection stop. On Sunday, as everyone was packing up and leaving, Jon suggested a quick ride over to Verde River. So me, Sal and the Cory's all followed Jon through some fairly rough, rocky terrain to an o relook high above the Verde River. Again, more breathtaking Arizona backcountry. We also stopped to see some old WPA dams and railroad trestles nearby.

I’d planned to stay until Monday but decided to head back with Sal as far as Riverside and ride the I-15 home. We arrived to Riverside late so I stayed the night, departing on my trusty KLR early on Monday. I was only 40 miles from home when the chain snapped, likely due to a wobbling rear hub. Instead of diagnosing and fixing it on the side of a busy freeway, I used my AMA Roadside Assistance and went the final distance in a tow ignoble end to a great ride.

As I washed the Arizona dust from my bike, I thought of the fine time I’d had…and was already mentally planning the next years’ ride!

Now, to repair this old KLR…

PREVIOUS (April 27, 2017) POST: Heading out for Paulden, AZ to meet up with 35 other like minded folks on KLRs.

This year's ride theme is Ghost Towns, and the ride organizer, my friend, Jon, has 3 days of riding through northern Arizona planned for us.

I guess I look forward to seeing all of my friends almost as much as the riding!

I have the Burro Blanco loaded up, I've had some toast and black coffee and I'm ready for 1000+ mile s in the next 4 days.

You can track my progress via my SPT GPS Tracker and I'll leave some photos and a ride report when I return.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Baja weekend: How 2 guys on small bikes turned into 6 guys on big bikes

Big Baja weekend: How 2 guys on small bikes turned into 6 guys on big bikes

(Thats the ride report name only because "Adios Pantalones" was already taken...)

My buddy Chris wanted to do a 2 or 3 day Baja ride. Some off-road stuff down the coast, Erendira, San Felipe...something like that. I put together a 2-day ride for April 1-2, staying away from the SCORE San Felipe 250.

He was gonna take his Scrambler, I was gonna take my KLR. Just two guys on smaller bikes. Then the calls started…

Him: Hey, you know Ted really wants to come with us.

Me: Yeah, Ted is cool, but this was supposed to be a laid back weekend.

Him: Hey, also, this buddy of mine, Ian, really wants to come. Super good guy.

Me: Aw, c'mon, man! It's gonna be like herding cats!

Him: Ian and Rob will probably peel off, anyhow.

Me: Wait...who's Rob? And how many are coming?

Him: Rob is Ian's friend. Good dude; you'll like him. So it's just us and those guys.

Oh…and Ruben, one of Ted's friends. He wants to come, too. Super good'll like him.

So...there were two Tigers, a KTM 1190 and an 800GS. Chris ended up taking his new Husky 701 and I loaded up my 990 ADV. It had turned into a big bike ride.

We all meet up in La Mesa on Saturday morning. Introductions were made, a rough ride plan was laid out and we got on Highway 94 along the border.

We crossed through Tecate and slabbed it down Highway 3 to Ensenada, munching on fish tacos by 11.

By 1230 we were in Santo Tomas where the dirt started. After a brief stop at La Bocana, we started on a trail I know that goes toward the coast. (Yes. That’s a Hello Kitty flask full of good tequila in Ted’s hand.)
It was sketchy, with some washed out areas and mud, but we arrived at the first ranch gate after a few miles. I'd been through that ranch several times...sometimes there was no one there, other times a couple of guys would wave to me as I rode by. This time the ranch hand was adamant about the "dust on the crops" and the "noise scaring the cattle." Translated for gringos: mordida. But 3 minutes and $5 later we were on our way.

The trail was rockier than last time and rutted from recent rain but not too bad at all. Though I might've seen a couple of bikes on their sides.

We reached a hill overlooking the ocean: the Punto San Jose lighthouse to the right, the Danish cult compound to the left (they've been building, I see). You can see both in this photo.

(If you’re interested in joining the cult:
We exited the gate at the coast road and rode the couple miles or so to the lighthouse. If you haven't been there, it’s a really scenic area, with the big waves and high cliffs.

After some photos we were off to Coyote Cal's where we'd decided to stay instead of beach camping. The road was pretty torn up in some places but very rideable. We stopped at a couple of picturesque spots to just take in the big Pacific, then made Cal's by 5. We had cold beers in our dusty hands—and lots of them—by 5:01.

Pro tip: CC happy hour bucket of 6 beers: $10.

Rounds of tequila and more beer just kept coming. Like Chris had assured me, these were indeed good guys. And good riders, too. I should really stop doubting Chris like I do.
After a great Thai dinner, we smoked stogies around the fire, talking about the day's ride. Coyote Cal’s owner, Rick, sat with us for a while and reminisced about old Baja.

The next day we all had the Dirt Riders Breakfast Special and planned the route ahead. While Ted was fueling up, he noticed his front tire was flat. Ruben, a longtime Baja rider had a new tube installed in less than 15 minutes. Ruben then headed back to San Diego and we headed south along the coast.

Rob had a very cool drone and got some footage of the guys riding up and through the volcano south of Erendira.

Chris was Jonesing to ride on the beach and I assured him he would...but we turned toward San Vicente instead of continuing to the beach wheelies will have to wait.

Note: I was using a combo of tracks I'd made or collected over the years and Rob was using his recently purchased E32 Baja tracks (I gotta get that) and he also had the classic Baja Almanac (great maps).

The route continued to be rutted and washed out but otherwise rideable…so, typical Baja.

We fueled up in San Vicente then headed a few miles south on Hwy 1 to La Calentura, taking that dirt road to Valle de la Trinidad at Hwy 3. In less than 40 miles we were chomping on carne asada tacos at El Rancho. As always, good stuff. Rob ate 6!
It was about 3:30 and we’d planned to take one of 3 routes back to Tecate: The pine forest via Laguna Hanson and Ramona’s or the Compadre Trail or a secret route I hadn’t tried though El Jamau. However, the decision was made to jut slab it back to Ensenada, then take the toll road to Tijuana. No worries. We headed out on the highway.

Ian disappeared somewhere around the Ojos Negros cut-off and we didn’t see him after that.

We made good time on the way back to TJ then crossed the border in less than 8 minutes. I waved as I headed home on the 805 right before 6pm.

What a great weekend ride. The other riders were top notch: Excellent riders and good people. The weather was perfect and the riding conditions epic.

As I always do, I vowed to return. And 5 other heads nodded in agreement.