American Loop – Western USA

American Loop – Western USA 1000 667 Michael

Until Colorado the route in the second part is absolute chaos. There are many highlights waiting Las Vegas, Valley of Fire, Grand Canyon, Zion etc. a straight route becomes secondary. In Colorado Greg joins. Together we continue along the TAT to Oregon for the UnRally. The small meeting turns out to be a real highlight and a lot of dust is stirred up.

South - Highlights and Dirt

All over California

The flat tyre I got in the queue at the border station is quickly patched, but my air pump fails. Interestingly it is a Mexican who helps me. He does not speak English but the problem is quite obvious. He makes a phone call and waves me off to a garage with a small compressor. I thank him and a short time later the bike is ready to go again. The daily goal is Temcula there is the office of the Motoz tire import company in the USA. In Europe you don’t hear much about these tires, but in Australia and the USA you hear a lot of good things. So it was worth a try. I knew Brian from the Intermot, unfortunately he wasn’t there, but Rafael gave me a nice welcome. The photo of Brian and me was taken later because I had to stop by a second time due to delays. My choice is the Desert HT a classic profile for desert rallies. I am allowed to do the assembly at Marks place, thanks to Facebook for the contact and Mark for the hospitality. We also change the oil and cleaned the air filter. While admiring his 701, i notice the trailer he has for it and the preload adjuster from XTrig. While I can hardly understand the benefits of the trailer in summer, I have to think directly about a solution for winter meetings like the Primus Rally. But now and currently I am interested in the XTrig. I have an appointment with Racetech in two days to have the shimsetting of the rear shock adjusted. ESP has it in stock so I decide to pick it up spontaneously and let it be installed too. If I had known what Racetech explained to me I would have stayed with ESP. They want to replace the original piston with the self-developed gold valve. They do not carry out any tests on original components and therefore do not know how they behave. But they know exactly how to tune the gold valve. In my opinion, this is an active method for customer loyalty, because apart from them nobody knows what the tuned shock absorber does. Not necessarily what I expected from a certified WP service partner. One call to George from ESP and he agrees to help me. I am not only allowed to remove the shock absorber myself, i’m also allowed to be there when it is disassembled. That every detail is explained to me was a real highlight. Grateful for the help to George and his team I continue to drive with the destination Las Vegas. I haven’t seen much of California except highways, but my motivation for the state is gone after many traffic jams and the self-made chaos.

Nevada - Stripclub, No thank you

It dawns on the way and as desired I drive through the absolute darkness of the desert to Nevada, until an orange shimmer on the horizon announces my destination, Las Vegas. The lights of the city fascinate me and so I walk enthusiastically for several hours along the strip to capture the world of lights in photos. The constant offers for strip clubs are annoying. The hotels hide a part of the price in hotel fees to get a better ranking on, if you book fast you pay too much. Get out of the city and finally on the TAT is the goal of the next day. But I can’t ignore the Hoover Dam and so at the end of the day I pitch my tent behind a truck stop and not yet in the wild. The next day I am fascinated by the sandstone formations of the Valley of Fire, before I can finally play in the sand again at the Virgin River. To reach the necessary speed on the narrow path surrounded by bushes is not without danger. When the bushes suddenly end, I realize how close I am to the river. While the ride there was already exhausting on the motorbike, I could hardly believe it when I met Eric there on the mountain bike. The necessary speed on sand can’t be reached with muscle power and so it doesn’t surprise me that Eric has to push his bike there. The minimalist luggage is also fascinating, definitely less than I can imagine for the several months of travel he is planning. What Eric posts under his Instagram account @dg.alfresco is impressive, even though the professional camera equipment is missing. A visit is highly recommended.

Utah - Frostbites instead of Rampage

I’m heading towards Utah, but unfortunately there is still a little problem. While removing the shock absorber at ESP I broke off an angle piece of the fuel line and without this filigree plastic part my rear tank is not worth more than a canister. At Rocky Mountain ATV in Payson this part is in stock. 400km from my position, but without a second tank I can not make the planned route to the Grand Canyon. It Sucks but there is no choice and I thunder on the highway to Payson. The detour is not completely in vain after all. Along the route is Bryce Canyon. When I arrive, all campgrounds are overcrowded. The hint of a lady that it might be possible to camp for free in the National Forrest seems to me quite unrealistic. But it is true, my tent is set up and I can replace the angle piece. A rental camper approaches my place and the driver asks me if he can turn around when he drives deeper into the forest. I have no idea, but offer to share my much too big place. The young family is from France and I am not only happy about my neighbours because of the cold beer. The night was the coldest of the trip. Light frost on bike and tent, quickly into the motorbike cloths and Au Revoir to my neighbours. The hot coffee and breakfast at Subways seems like a feast. The Hodoos of the Bryce National Park are definitely worth seeing and who is not there in full motorcycle gear should also go hiking. I content myself with pictures at the viewpoints and move on to Zion National Park. My original plan to go mountain biking at the venue of the Red Bull Rampage is thwarted several times. It is raining and the hotel prices are so astronomical that I don’t want to afford any of the available accommodations. Also the unpaved roads all carry the note “impassable when wet” which is not really motivating. There is not much choice I enjoy the easy view from the road and drive on to St. George to wait for the rain to stop.

Arizona - Mud battle at Grand Canyon

Two days in a cheap motel in the USA and you see the social abysses this country has clearly. For this reason alone I want to continue to the Grand Canyon even if the weather is not yet ideal. Bad decision number 1 on this day. When I follow a TAT track that is described as “more hard” I realize that this is wrong decision number 2. With flying lumps of clay my front wheel announces the transition from the vertical to the horizontal. At the end I have to unload the bike and bring luggage and bike separately back to the main track. Also this is actually a clay track, which is not dried up yet. A few cars have cleared away the greasy upper layer and in the gullies you can ride reasonably well. Unfortunately this was not the case everywhere and until I reached the Grand Canyon Mathilda was lying in the mud several times and my motivation was decreasing by the minute. But all this was forgotten at the Toroweap viewpoint. For more than an hour I had the viewpoint only for myself and I could end the evening outside the park with a nice campfire.

The Antelope Canyon was my next destination and one of the many places that magically attracts me because of the special light conditions. The guided tour is not a bargain and you only feel a small part of the fascination that the photos promise. Nevertheless this was a worthwhile stop. I stay in Navajo Land and spend the night at the Navajo National Monument and meet the tough German immigrant Carola. I follow her tips Gooseneck Canyon and Valley of the Gods directly after crossing Monument Valley.

North - New Friends and more than expected

Colorado - Mountains cancelled

The desire for sightseeing is satisfied and I am again magically attracted to the TAT. In the short stretch through Utah I am mostly between fields before I finally get to see beautiful mountain landscapes in Colorado. Unfortunately, there was a lot of snow and long snow, so my only highlight is the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River. Anyway, my most important goal in Colorado was to visit Greg anyway. I had only incidentally mentioned my travel plans in the Husqvarna 701 Enduro group on Facebook and he invited me directly to his place. That was over a year ago and after many social media posts I was curious to finally meet him and his wife Paige. It was fascinating to see how well the positive impression they gave me through their social media posts was true in reality. I stayed with them for nine days and am still thankful for their hospitality. Greg showed me some single trails on the second day and I was allowed to ride his KTM 450 EXC. I wish it was that easy in Germany. But what impressed me most was how their patchwork family worked within themselves. Paige’s daughter Charlotte suffers from epilepsy and needs help around the clock. She gets this help not only from her mother, but also from her siblings Chase and Max as well as from her stepfather Greg. I was also impressed by the fact that Greg is fully accepted by them and her biological father. It was unexpected but in fact this family showed me that the classical way, which dominates in my environment is not the only one. I am grateful for this lesson and if I should become a stepfather one day, you know who gave me the courage to do so. Enough sentimental talk. It’s time to get back on the bike. The next destination is called UN-Rally and I am happy that Greg is accompanying me. But to be able to visit James (see the Big Bend Part of the TexMex Report) I drive to Denver one day before Greg. A nice reunion, and insight into the local food truck and craft beer scene seal my time in Colorado.

Wyoming - Oil pumps, Farms and endless Land

The next morning we continue and after Greg has joined again in Morrison the trip continues on the TAT. In the first TAT section we are in Wyoming our time there is almost uneventful. The gravel roads are mostly straight as a die and anything but tricky. The only evidence of human existence are the oil pumps, horses, cattle and occasionally a few barns or even a farm. The absolute highlight is definitely a camping spot in Wyoming. Bleached bones of sheep line the camp, a herd of horses grazes on the opposite hill, our campfire is burning and the sunset conjures wonderful colours on the slightly cloudy sky. This is the only way to get the real Wild West feeling. At the end of the Wyoming part (3:02) in the USA North West Video Greg gives an overview of exactly this campground with the Drone . But the landscape changes rapidly the closer we get to the border of Idaho. The Wyoming Mountain Range between us and Idaho is a problem. On the Smith Fork Road a snowfield is waiting for us and forces us to make a big detour.

Idaho - Maniacal aberrations of the nuclear age

When we are finally along the TAT again in Idaho we take the opportunity to take some driving pictures. I am very thankful that Greg here has the necessary patience. While driving selfies alone are already time consuming, with two riders they are even more so. In the evening our patience is rewarded with another really great campground. After a few more demanding kilometres we camp in the Craters of the Moon National Monument right next to Kings Bowl and the ice cave. Unfortunately both were closed years ago. The entrance to the cave is insurmountably closed but Kings Bowl was not. Suddenly the rattling of a rattlesnake and with the pounce Greg makes I thought it got him. Luckily nothing happened and I am relieved that these animals can scare a local so much too, I was no different in Texas. While Greg is waiting at the crater I can’t resist climbing down but, I have to admit that the risk was out of proportion to the benefit. At least Greg took a risk the next morning that was in proportion to the benefit. A big stone slab offered itself as a ramp and the jump allowed some cool pictures. In the small town of Arco our journey took a surprising turn. Through a coincidental small talk I learned that the first nuclear reactor of the world is very close by. Unlike most others, EBR1 is completely out of order, has been decontaminated and turned into a museum. To hear how carelessly radioactivity was handled was just too frightening. Nearly all the people working in EBR1 have been radioactively contaminated. Considering that it was not built until 1950, it is clear that when the Americans dropped the atomic bombs on Japan, they were not really aware of the consequences of the radioactive fallout. If you look at the huge prototypes of nuclear powered aircraft turbines outside, you can see the enthusiasm with which nuclear energy was seen at that time. If you want to know more about EBR1 and the ANP program I recommend to read the Wikipedia articles:

After this short excursion into the history of nuclear energy we follow the TAT in Idaho a little bit before we continue to Oregon.

Oregon - The Unrally, no rally but also not a ordinary meeting

After a short section on BLM Land (public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management) we already reach our destination. But because the UNRally starts the next day and we are not ready for so much bustle we camp at Mann Lake, 30km away. First step the next morning refueling. The only gas station within a radius of 100km is in Fields. Much more sleepy you can hardly imagine a village, if there was no gas station there would be nothing. The place is so remote that even airplanes land on the road to refuel there. Shortly after our arrival a motorcyclist on a KTM 640 Adventure arrives. I love this bike and the small talk was pre-programmed no matter if Mike wanted to or not 🙂 During a common breakfast we soon found out that we were here for the same reason. Mike also came to the UNRally, but we declined his offer to follow him to the meeting via his favourite route. The description a “breath of Dakar” doesn’t sound like something you want to try with our heavily loaded motorcycles. After the boring gravel road follows the ride over the Alvord Lake or the Alvord Desert depending on the water level the one or the other or a bit of both. While you ride with up to 160km/h over the encrusted surface, constantly thundering towards the mirage, you start to wonder if you will end up in the mud. Fortunately not, we arrive as desired at the meeting and park for the first fuel talks at the “hub”. Compared to my previous meetings it’s a bit unusual that even sofas are available. While exploring the camp we meet Mike again and set up the tents next to his trailer. Bit by bit the camp fills up and reminds more of circle of wagons than a motorcycle meeting. What is rolled out of the trailers has almost exclusively KTM logos. Two cylinder bikes are clearly in the minority – it is sports enduros and dual sports that dominate the picture here. Why is this so? Firstly, the USA offers much more opportunities to ride legally on dirt roads than Europe and secondly, everything is much further apart. From our location it doesn’t matter in which direction you drive, under 300km you won’t get into a city that exceeds the 50.000 population mark. Most participants come from the metropolitan area around Portland which is 600-700km away. You have to be honest and say that for most Europeans these distances are too far to travel by car or motorcycle. Most Americans have their trailers loaded for the weekend trip at home anyway. The American lives with 10 days vacation anyway only for the weekend. Therefore I am not surprised and disturbed by the circle of wagons . The motorcycles just gather at the hub and the fuel talks work similar to a European meeting. At least I meet a well-known European face again Roel from Mosko Moto. I am still grateful to him for this tip, without it I would have definitely missed this great meeting.

In the meantime, Mike’s friend Mat has arrived and we saddle the bikes for the first of three rides. Both of them know the region very well and led the group on all 3 days, thank you very much! The landscape around the Alvord Desert is an El Dorado for enduro riders and you understand immediately why organizer Pete Day chose this place. A second possible reason becomes apparent later in the evening. The venue is very similar to the Burning Man Festival, so you can use all the crazy vehicles like the “chair” that are common there a second time a year. The next morning Greg surprises me with the fact that he really wants to make his announcement come true, he drives back to Colorado earlier. The whole time I had tried to persuade him to stay at least one day longer and to make up for the loss of time until an unfortunately fixed appointment over long marathon stages. Unfortunately without success but I understand him. The goodbye is short, but I know I will miss his company. At least I am not alone immediately again. Bit by bit more friends of Mike and Mat arrive. John and Martin join us on the second ride while Bob is only with us on the third ride.

Oregon - Mandatory break with surprises

It feels good to be so welcome in a foreign environment. That the Americans are simply nice people is confirmed when I get myself into trouble. The video ends with a crash where I unfortunately destroyed the radiator of my 701. It is still unclear to me where the impact took place, but if the radiator was completely ok until a crash and leaks immediately afterwards, the correlation is quite clear. At least it happened on the last day and 2km before camp so it was still reasonable to go back. Mat offered directly that I could wait at his place for a spare radiator and Martin had still place on his trailer and delivered the bike free of charge. Many thanks to Martin again at this point! The emergency solution to patch the radiator with JB-Weld and fill it up with water was avoided thanks to the help of the two. Now you know how the gap in the track between the Alvord Desert and Salem comes about. I spend five days with Mat. My consolation is at least some time to edit photos and videos. On the third day Mat surprised me with a phone call. “Get my Beta RR200 and my KTM450EXC from the garage, we’re going for a ride.” I have never ridden a two-stroke in the dirt before and the trails in the Shotgun OHV (=Off Highway Vehicle) system were just great. The moment I remember best was when Mat asked me where I wanted to drive next. My answer doesn’t matter as long as it’s not the hardest ones. His astonished question: “Why? We’ve driven some of the hardest ones already?” Caused me at least the same astonishment, but also a lot of pride. I’m still infinitely grateful to Mat for his hospitality and I’m pessimistic that it will most likely remain the most enjoyable mandatory break on my travels.

Oregon - More sand please

Two highlights are still open in Oregon. The traffic in Portland definitely wasn’t. But there I had to go to pick up my new Backcountry 40L Dufflebag. From the outside the shipping warehouse of Mosko Moto is not visiblem, but I was already expected by the staff. A overlander who picks up his bag himself is obviously not the standard. My old Ortlieb 50L Rack Pack has been patched up several times and I am curious to see how more functional the Mosko Moto bag performs. Highlight number 2 is from my friend Sayan. He had told me that there are several OHV parks along the coast where you can ride on large sand dunes. I could not miss that. You need a flag to be seen better in the dunes and the OHV sticker from Oregon. Together with the campground the fun costs me about 60USD. After I parked my bike in a parking lot where two fifths wheelers (camping trailers in semi-trailer construction) could be parked and put up my small two person tent, I started to prepare the bike. Luggage off, air pressure lowered and small sprocket in front. Then I went off. I was a little nervous at the driveway then nevertheless. It is not that there is room to hide your inability, there is enough audience there to amuse. Luckily my mistakes are not too many – only when I got stuck in a mud hole I had to ask for help. My helper also remarks that this is a pretty big bike for here. On this day I was the only one who rode such a big bike in this terrain. Quads dominate, in between a few off-road vehicles and light sport enduros. Full of pride and exhausted I drive back to the camping site after about 3 hours. The place is completely full and I am almost surprised that nobody asks if I would share my place. On a European campsite the space I had for myself would be occupied by at least 6 tents. In the end it happens, Mircea asks if he and his son may join us. Of course I am happy about the company, the offered beer and the common fire. Mircea comes from Romania and is also a mechanical engineer, which gives us enough to talk about to end my last evening in Oregon.

Washington - On the trail of the Hoh

Why did I want to go to the Olympic National Park? Clearly because there is a Hoh River and a Hoh Rainforest. If you don’t understand this, please read the imprint. But some funny photos and souvenirs are not everything. The huge trees and the vegetation are very impressive. I stop several times in the park to get some deeper impressions even with heavy motorcycle equipment. About the name givers the Hoh Indians I find out unfortunately nothing. They seem to have nothing to do with the tourism around the places named after them. Unfortunately, it becomes also clear quickly why there is a rain forest here and why the area is called with pleasure by the Americans “The North Wet”. It is raining and when I stand in front of Jeremy’s workshop in Tacoma it is even pouring. I was so enthusiastic about the Motoz Desert HT and at the same time surprised because it held 9.000km and there was still some profile left for at least 2000km. I just had to test it again and Jeremy organized the last one in the whole USA for me. After some small talk it is clear that I can test his Rabaconda (a tyre changer for enduro tyres). Not changing tyres on the ground is something I can easily be encouraged to do and the work is indeed much easier. More small talk follows and in the end Jeremy just doesn’t have the heart to send me back out into the cold rain. I am invited for dinner and am allowed to spend the night in the camping trailer, what a luxury. Not only his wife Shay is happy about the unexpected visitor but also their bird has found a friend in me. We didn’t capture the moment when the little guy cuddles my ear, but with a little fantasy you can imagine it. The evening will be long, very long and therefore my departure will be delayed until the afternoon. I am very grateful for their hospitality and can only recommend JSpeedshop very strongly. Jeremy knows his job and it’s hard to find better advice. Meanwhile, I’m off to Canada, while my friend Frank, who I haven’t seen since the Baja, is heading south. With the prospect of a reunion on Vancouver Island this part of the journey ends.

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