This August's WeSTOC event started out a little different from those of the past. I would be starting my sojourn alone. Rick was working at his first job on the island of Catalina, at Emerald Bay Scout Camp. Becci's physical condition has gotten worse over the past year and is unable to travel to Durango. Jeff Bertrand and Hal Rumenapp would be leaving a day earlier over approximately the same route as I. I wanted to get in one more SOD (Scheduled Overtime Day) day in before taking off. The dawn cracked early and found me all packed up, filling "Odd Job" my 93 Honda ST1100 ABS/TCS, with 11 gallons of 87 octane fuel. I had installed the last Ron Major auxiliary fuel tank in existence on my beloved ST a couple of months before. Ron's daughter Kathy had been keeping the last tank he had made before his untimely death during the 1997 Iron Butt Rally for sentimental reasons but was now trying to place the last of his possessions with people who knew him. My fortune. The RM tank adds 3.6 gallons of capacity to the ST's already generous 7.4 gal. stock tank. With the ST's 40 -50 mpg that adds up to a range of over 400 miles.
Since the guys had left a day ahead of me and stayed the night in St. George, UT, I would be "bee lining" it directly to Cedar Breaks, UT in an attempt to catch up with them. I made record time crossing the Mojave that morning. I stopped for the first time in Baker, CA at the Mad Greek's for the "Trucker's Special breakfast. The World's Largest Thermometer at Baker showed 104 degrees Farenheight. The breakfast was spectacular as usual, and the price was right as I got the "Trucker's price" by showing my Commercial Driver's license. I donned my Marsee "Cool Vest", which I had previously charged with water and stowed in a ziplock bag. The vest proved to be a real lifesaver as I crossed the desert heat (110 ° in Las Vegas). My next stop was Mesquite, NV for my first fuel stop. I had been maintaining 80 - 85 mph on the superslab in order to keep from being run over ;-} Still, I got 358 miles on that tank. I continued up the I-15 through Arizona and into Utah to Cedar City, where I took the amazingly scenic SR 14 up Cedar Canyon to Cedar Breaks National Monument. Having not made any plans with the guys to meet , I was totally blown away to see four STs at the junction of SR14 and SR148 (the turnoff for Cedar Breaks National Monument). One of the STs was BLUE, so this was obviously Hal and the rest of the STOCers from SoCal. Actually one of the four was Steve Kelly from Mountain Green, UT who came down just to guide our group over some of the most scenic roads in North America. The guys were just getting back on their bikes after stopping to recover from a stinging hail storm on their way from Zion National Park and were just as amazed to see me as I was them. I shed my "Cool Vest" from the desert...it was now 39°F! We continued on SR148 to Cedar Breaks where we stopped to enjoy the view and get our National Parks Passports stamped. Cedar Breaks is one of the least known, but most spectacular of this nation's natural wonders. Some say it is more spectacular than Bryce Canyon. I would tend to agree; it is real "eye candy". We were there right in the middle of an electrical storm, and the ranger had closed the rim trail for safety. We got a very good look anyway. After watching a hawk attack (or was it trying to mate with?) Hal's blue ST, we headed down the hill (10,456' elevation) toward Panguich on SR143. This was a great road with plenty of places to test the ST's ground clearance in the turns. Panguich, just as Steve had promised us, revealed no good places to eat so we headed for Bryce Canyon National Park and Ruby's Inn for a late lunch. SR 12 leads to the entrance of Bryce and is one beautiful ride! The speed limit is artificially low, but that may be all the better to enjoy the sights. After "pigging out" at Ruby's, we sat for awhile on Ruby's patio watching a storm pass. Back on the road again, we headed for our next stop in Torrey, UT for the night. The road that would take us there is, arguably, the best motorcycle road in the West...possibly the world? I have ridden it before with Becci as pillion back in 1996 on our way to WeSTOC I in Park City, UT. I would have to agree that it is one of the best I have ever ridden. SR 12 leaves Bryce and soon is winding its way through the natural painted desert canyons of Little Henderson and Water Canyons to the community of Tropic, UT. This country must be seen to be appreciated, as words simply cannot do it justice. After Tropic, the road follows canyon after canyon as it carves its way out onto the Great Plateau. Just after Escalante, UT and before Boulder, UT the road runs over what is called "Hogs Back". Once there, it is easy to see where it got its name. The road traverses a ridge where the road shoulder drops off 500' cliffs on both sides. Quite a site to behold and an invigorating ride on a motorcycle. Our group stopped momentarily to offer assistance to a mountain bicycle rider with a flat tire and his female friend. As we passed through the town of Boulder, I was reminded of the great sandwiches made with Indian Bread that Becci and I partook of back in 96. If you get a chance sometime, stop there for lunch. You can't miss the place...its the only business in town ;-} Out of Boulder, SR 12 winds its way up the mountain and over a 9,000 ft pass. The sites along this section mostly all have names like Deer Creek, Deer Mtn., Deer Gulch, etc. This is for good reason. This section of road is well known by the locals as "Deer Alley". So many deer hits occur along this section between Boulder and Torrey, that local folks "expect" to hit one each trip. Well, we weren't deterred by this road's reputation, but talk on the FRS radios was definitely deer related. This is also one of the best, twisty sections you will ever scrape a peg on! Steve, Jeff, and Hal took up the lead. I had a great advantage as Jeff and Hal kept up a running commentary of each turn in the road as we ran one switchback after another for the 28 miles to Torrey. I knew before I negotiated each turn when it was decreasing radius or had sand in the apex, or deer standing next to the road, or traffic coming the other way. With our "fun meters" fully pegged, we pulled into the Wagon Wheel Inn at Torrey for the night.
Steve Kelly had been ranting (If you know Steve, you know he doesn't "rant") all day about the great Rattlesnake dishes that were served at the Diablo Inn in Torrey, so we definitely had to go there for supper. After unpacking, we made our way to the Diablo with great anticipation amongst the group. Steve and I were the only ones in our group who had eaten Rattlesnake before, and we filled the others heads with all kinds of legends about eating snake and becoming immune to its bite, etc., etc. We ordered our Rattlesnake Hors d'oeuvre then settled in on our entree's. I had the baby back ribs. The fare at the Diablo is of the gourmet variety, with all of the fancy presentations and sauces. I was a bit disappointed by the appearance of my ribs. They came rolled up into a tight coil and looked to be pretty small by Outback Steakhouse comparisons. However, by the time I finished it, I was absolutely stuffed! After 635 miles in the saddle, I was ready for bed. So, after a quick fill-up at the gas station and an impromptu nighttime demonstration of my HID headlamps and PIAA 910's for the guys, it was off to bed to dream of the possibilities of next days adventures...while the images of Rattlesnake Hors d'oeuvre danced in my head ;-]
The next morning we were up with first light, packing and making final preparations for our ride into Durango. Our route took us through Capitol Reef national Park, an odd name for such a magnificent place. As I rode through this absolutely gorgeous country, I was speechless...simply awestruck with sensual overload. This is another of those places that must be seen to be appreciated. All along I was reminded of the Roadrunner and Coyote cartoons. The originator of the series must have visited this place, as all of the cartoon scenery was here, balancing rocks, high mesas, and all. Our first stop was at the junction of SR24 and SR95 in Hanksville, UT. We ate breakfast in the only place for the next 121 miles called Blondie's Diner. The food was mediocre and cold, but HEY...its the ONLY place in town!!! Back on the road with me in the lead. SR95 begs to be attacked, and attack it we did. With the V-1 doing its job, and no traffic with unlimited visibility, I let "Odd Job" have his head. Needless to say, we covered the 121 miles to Blanding, UT in record time. 95 travels through gorge and over mesa on its way down to Lake Powell at Hite, UT. This is truly motorcycle country and especially ST1100 country. There are long unobstructed straight-aways and twisty canyons with many high speed sweepers for the ST to strut its stuff. During one section of twisty canyon corners, I had to follow an 18 wheeler for several miles as he struggled to negotiate the turns. Once on the straight away he ran up to 90 mph with the big Detroit 8V-92 diesel belching coal black smoke from his twin stacks. The driver must have been juST a bit startled when my big sport-touring bike cruised by at ST Nominal+. As we neared Blanding, I slowed to allow the rest of our group to catch up. It was several minutes until the entire group was back together, and we parked in the shade of an abandoned gas station at the SR95 & US Hwy 191 junction to replenish our bodies with liquid. It was about 15 minutes before the trucker drove by and waved. I'm sure he was happy to have us running radar interference for him so he could put the pedal to the metal for the entire route with impunity. We only stayed on the 191 for a few miles, as this is one busy, busy highway. Lots of RVs and trucks mixed in with mile after mile of road construction. With the aid of my trusty Street Pilot, I was able to find us some fine secondary roads that bypassed the whole mess with little or no traffic and a high fun factor. We took SR262 to Colorado SR41 and US 160 to Four Corners 'cuz some of the group hadn't been there before. My last time was on the way home from WeSTOC III in Taos, NM in 1998.
The Four Corners Monument was just as I had remembered it two years ago. We had our pictures taken standing in 4 states at once, ate snow cones, and watched the tourists doing the same. It was here we linked up with Dom Isabella by total accident. We all rode into Durango together. Dom led the way as he had been to the motel already and knew the way...errr, sort of ;-} This Year's WeSTOC host hotel was the Iron Horse Inn. We all pulled into the parking lot together and were immediately greeted by Steve Beckley and his welcoming committee including Don Feyma, of all people (he lives in Minnesota!) with an ice chest full of soft drinks and MGD (Miller Genuine Draft). The MGD is a tradition started by the late Ron Major when he showed up at the firST WeSTOC in Park City, UT in 1996 with a case of cold MGD strapped onto the luggage rack of his ST. After checking into our rooms (nice two bedroom units), we set about downing MGDs and kicking tires with the farkelers in attendance, about 90% overall. Hal, Jeff and I ate dinner at a pizza restaurant in town with Lee Parks. After 566 miles that day, it was off to bed to rest up for our ride tomorrow.
Shortly after dawn the day's riding group could be found in the Inn's "breakfast room" scarfing down the complimentary "continental breakfast". A quick vote was taken, and the group consensus was to ride the Lake City Loop. This is a 370 mile loop through Pagosa Springs, South Fork, Lake City, Montrose, Ouray, Silverton, and back to base camp in Durango in time for dinner. Steve Lambert (Bro Bert the Bago Killer) laid out some educational check points along the way to make it more interesting and slow things down a bit. I started out leading due to my Street Pilot and V-1. US 160 east out of Durango was congested and riddled with construction zones. Almost all double yellow and double fines in the construction zones. The V-1 was kept busy tracking all of the police radar. Not a fun ride but very scenic in places. After our stop in Pagosa Springs to answer Lambert's questions, the road became much more interesting as we headed over Wolf Creek Pass, but traffic and law enforcement was still debilitating. At South Fork we turned onto SR149 and the road got much more interesting as it followed the Rio Grande River on its trek from its source headwaters in the mountains above Silverton, CO. However, mile after mile of construction zones without active construction and artificially low speed limits, mixed with radar speed traps, made for a poor motorcycling experience. We stopped for lunch in Lake City and had a great meal of roasted pizza as we watched the traffic jam of tourists plod by in their overloaded and under powered RVs at the 10,000'+ altitude. After lunch we continued on our travel with the rest of the millions of tourists along SR149. With an overabundance of double yellows and endless streams of opposing traffic we were relegated to poke along between motorhomes choking down their black exhaust smoke for most of the ride. About now we were all thinking that there are WAY to many people in Colorado. The scenery is awesome, but it is hard to enjoy with a giant bus motorhome plodding along, belching clouds of black smoke and blocking the view. We hooked up with US50 at Curecanti Reservoir. The temperature in this part of Colorado was in the 100's and some of the group needed fuel badly. I was still good for the entire trip due to my auxiliary tank. We finally found gas (or something they passed off as gas) in Lujane where those needing it filled up and those not, ate ice cream. Things finally started cooling off as we climbed up into the high country on US 550 south of Ridgway, CO. Traffic was painfully slow trying to negotiate the 10,000'+ passes and twisty road. Of course the center line was double yellow the entire way and none of the cages would use the turnouts. Therefore, some of us had to resort to hair raising passing over the double yellow to keep from dying of boredom. The scenery was so spectacular along this section of the 550 that it was an overload to the senses if one only had the time to look at it. Unfortunately, I was too busy watching traffic for a chance to pass to enjoy most of it. It wasn't until we started downhill around Purgatory where the road opened up and traffic thinned out, that I was able to enjoy the view, and what a view it was. About this time the clouds began to thicken, and lightning filled the sky ahead. As I was riding through Trimble, CO, about 10 miles outside of Durango, the whole sky opened up and it rained a deluge, hailed, and snowed. All within a 5 minute period. It actually got so bad for a moment that everyone on the road had to stop for a few moments due to zero visibility. I made my way back to the Iron Horse Inn and began the tire kicking in earnest again. This went on until dinner. Then it was bedtime again to rest up for the ARC in the morning.
This day dawned much the same as yesterday and found me and some others partaking in the "free" continental breakfast. I met Lee Parks and some of the others in the class at breakfast, so we went over the itinerary for the morn'. Once we were all assembled at the University parking lot, Lee, with the help of his assistant, demonstrated the proper focus and direction of the rider's eyes before, during, and after a turn. Then each student rode their own bikes around a cone to practice this technique of looking at the exit of the turn with a wide view. Lee and assistant broke us into two groups, then explained each step in the proper technique for turning a motorcycle followed by a demonstration of the right and wrong ways to perform these techniques. After a skill was taught and demonstrated, each student got the opportunity to try and practice the newly learned technique under the watchful eyes of both instructors. One step at a time all of the steps to turning a motorcycle (move inside foot up on the ball, transfer weight to inside of turn, look toward exit, push inside grip/relax outside arm, keep eyes on exit, at exit apply throttle to lift bike upright, once upright transfer weight to center) were taught and practiced by each student. These themes were taught and practiced all morning until lunch time. By the time of lunch break, most of the students were negotiating the 40' circle far more leaned over than they ever thought possible. At one point during the morning session, Lee demonstrated the ST's abilities (and his also) by dragging his knee slider puck as he circled the 40' circle. He later did the same trick with a student's full dress Goldwing to the amazement and pleasure of all in attendance. After lunch in town (which was paid for by Lee :-), we again broke into our two groups to practice the techniques learned that morning in more advanced drills, including a figure-8 course. While one group practiced riding, the other group received a seminar on suspension setup where each student's bike was evaluated, measured, and properly adjusted front and rear. Recommendations for aftermarket spring and shock changes were discussed. Each student received a book with a comprehensive guide to suspension setup and a special tape measure from Race Tech to make suspension measurements. Also that afternoon, we were taught the proper (Freddy Spenser) technique for smooth brake-on/throttle-off and throttle-on/brake-off. We also learned and mastered a technique for turning the ST during slow speed parking lot maneuvers in as little as 1-2 bike lengths. Amazing stuff!!!! A very light sprinkle almost ended our Advanced Rider Clinic early, and some of us had the opportunity to experience first hand what 1 or 2 drops of rain can do to traction on white painted lines :-0 Fortunately, the rain missed us (while giving us a spectacular lightning show in the nearby mountains) and the clinic was completed. We bid each other and Lee good by and made our way back to the Iron Horse Inn promising to practice our newly learned skills on the ride home tomorrow.
That evening, all who were left attended the traditional WeSTOC dis-organizing committee dinner and non-awards ceremony. This year instead of the planned barbecue and promised Haggis by Victor Pritzker, Steve Beckley managed to get a local up-and-coming caterer to supply the feast. And a feast it was. All in attendance managed to gorge themselves without remorse with some of the best food to be sampled at a WeSTOC event. Next year's host will be hard pressed to match, let alone exceed it. Many door prizes which were donated by motorcycle accessory suppliers nationwide were raffled off. Also the traditional awards for various dubious achievements (ie: most performance awards, longest ride to event, etc.) were handed out. After much ROFLOL by everyone, the event was drawn to a close with the announcement by a group of Canuks, that they would host WeSTOC VI on July 31 - August 2 in Kimberly, British Columbia. Good luck boys! After a little demonstration of my HID headlights for a few late nighters, it was off to my roof for the last night in Durango.
My final day in Durango started a bit later that usual as I slept in ''til about 8 a.m. After packing and exchanging good-byes with Clay Gradis and Michelle Tenebruso,and a few others, I ate my continental breakfast. By 9 a.m. I was on the road for home. With a full tank of fuel, I headed out hwy 160 through Cortez, CO and past Four Corners National Monument. I was moving at a pretty good rate, and at the junction of US 160 and US 64 in Teec Nos Pos I passed Clay and Michelle as they stopped for a break. At IR (Indian Reservation) 35 I headed south, deep into "Indian Country" and the Navaho Nation. At US 191 I continued south toward Many Farms. I passed "many casinos", "many pickup trucks", and "many Indians". I didn't really notice any more farms than usual, but it was beautiful country anyway. I only got one hit on my V-1...one by a Navaho patrol car that had another "Yankee" pulled over. I gave quick thanks to the founder of V-1 and continued on deeper into Indian country, hoping I could hold onto my scalp for a couple of more hours. Seriously, the road I traveled through the Navaho Nation was as beautiful as any I have cruised anywhere, and much less traveled or patrolled than most. It was refreshing to just sit back and take in all of the beauty of the desert without worrying about cages and LEOs. There was a point somewhere inside of the Hopi Indian Reservation near the village of Pinion that I missed the turn off and wound up on a dirt road...20 miles of dirt road. I continued along this dirt road through ancient Hopi lands until it merged with SR 264 near Oraibi and the old villages of Old Oraibi and Pi Va Hon Kia Pi. I stopped at one of the Indian stores for a cold drink and felt very safe and comfortable among these ancient people. Even though they may have thought that this was some very strange Yankee in his Aerostich Roadcrafter riding suit in the 100° temperatures. A fast run down IR 2 over some very flat and arid mesa terrain for about 30 miles brought me to the town of Leupp where I turned West onto Leupp Rd and headed toward Flagstaff, AZ. As I neared Flagstaff on the Townsend/Winnona Rd, lightning was flashing as gigantic forked streaks directly ahead. Some of the thunder claps and flashes were less than a second apart as the temperature dropped from the 100 degree range to the low 40's in a matter of a few miles. I was really contemplating putting on my Gerbing electrics when the outskirts of Flagstaff came into view. I stopped at the first gas station as I was now running with the "low fuel" light on. I filled up with 9.4 gallons of 87 octane and drank a cup of cappuccino. While I was standing there, Clay and Michelle drove by on US 89 and honked and waved. They must have stayed on the "red" roads.
I was planning on stopping for the night in Flagstaff. But, after 360 miles and 6 hours since leaving Durango, I was still fresh, and it seemed way too early to stop, so I continued on, thinking of maybe stopping for the night in Laughlin, NV. I hopped on I 40 and headed west in the cool, sometimes rainy, air. The trucks were running 80+ mph, of course. Near Williams, a threesome "convoy" seemed irked that I passed them and turned on all of their ECM in an attempt to make me think that a LEO was near. My V-1 was squawking X, K, and Ka band radar plus laser as I put distance between us. I think they thought that stuff made them invisible to LEO radar or something, as they kept the pedal to the metal running 95 -100 mph with those 18-wheelers out across the high plateaus of Arizona. They turned into little tiny images in my rear view mirrors, and I never saw them again. I got off I 40 at Kingman and took US 97 to SR 68 into Bullhead City, AZ. I negotiated Union Grade as it dropped 3000 feet in elevation, and the temperature rose 'til it read 116° F. It was way too hot to stop, and there was still plenty of light, so I continued on across the Colorado river, past Laughlin, up the Newberry Grade to US 95. Even in those temps, my trusty ST1100 didn't even raise its coolant temperature above the 1/2 way point on its temp gauge. I turned south on the 95 and headed out across the barren East Mojave toward Goffs Rd. I was wishing I had my Marsee Cool Vest on but didn't want to stop as it was TOO HOT!!! The temperature was down to 104° now, and it felt like a cool balmy day compared to a few miles ago. As I passed through the little "whistle stop" of a town of Goffs, CA, my mind flashed back to the many times my family, friends and I have come through here on our trips into the back country of the East Mojave. There is an old school house here that "desert rat" and historian Dennis Casabier restored with the help of the Friends of the Mojave Road (FOMR) of which I am a member. Dennis and his wife have lived in the old school house for a number of years now and maintain an excellent museum on site of the East Mojave and its history. Dennis wrote a series of books on the Mojave Road and the East Mojave Heritage Trail that provide a mile by mile interpretive guide while traveling the backroads. One day I will document some of our many backcountry trips in our Toyota Landcruiser. I continued on out of town this time, heading instead to the ghost town of Fenner, CA for gas and a well needed rest stop. What was once a major stop on the Santa Fe Railroad, is now a recently re-modeled filling station and snack shop. The temps were still in the 100's so, after filling "Odd Job" with gas (at $2.25 a gallon!!!), I ate a burrito and an ice creme while recharging my "Cool Vest". It was just getting to be sundown, and I was feeling pretty refreshed, so I called home and told Becci I would be home by midnightt. It was approximately 230 miles. I rode a rather uneventful ride back to Reseda and arrived in my driveway at 9:38 p.m. 12 hours and 38 minutes after leaving Durango, Co I had ridden 836 miles. After all the miles and days on the road, I still believe that the trips to and from Durango were the highlight of WeSTOC this year.