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Trans-Am Trail - Days 13 through 16 - Salida, Colorado to Moab, Utah

Today is the 20th August, the 16th day of our trip and our 2nd "day off". We're in beautiful Moab, Utah, staying at the Bowen Motel, which is where Aaron and I stayed with the Globebusters group during our Trans Americas trip in 2009.

Last time I updated the blog we were in Salida and heading to a sports bar in a shuttle bus. The bar had plenty of draft beer and some rum and coke for Aaron. We were joined by Rick and Mike (not Mark and Nick as previously reported), and the evening was a roaring success. Needless to say it wasn't a "dry day".
Day 13 was just stunning, once again maintaining the trip's tradition of being better than the day before. The sun was out, the trails in excellent condition and the scenery just stunning. The trail took us up into the foothills of the Colorado rockies, through green forests as we followed the old stage coach routes West. Once again, it's probably best just to let the pictures do the talking...

Beautiful lakes and mountains, Colorado

Riding through the forest, Colorado

In the middle of nowhere, Colorado

Historic Stage Coach Route, Colorado

Our overnight stop was in Lake City, Colorado, a town apparently devoid of motels, so we checked in to our own lodge for the night. With 2 bedrooms, a lounge, kitchen and bathroom, it was ideal. Outside under the trees of an adjacent lodge sat a couple of deer. Yes, that's right, deer.
Deer outside the lodge in Lake City, Colorado

After the excesses of the night before, our evening in Lake City was somewhat reserved. Aaron and I wandered into town and ate at Al Packers Cannibal Grill Bar. The story goes that Mr Packer, who had been bounced out of the army way back around the time of the civil war, went prospecting in the mountains with a group of friends, despite being warned of the terrible winter weather that was approaching. He returned alone having shot dead one of his friends who he claimed had killed the others with a hatchet and then come after him. Rumours that he had in fact killed them all and partially eaten them persisted and he was eventually tried for murder, but later released. The chicken wings I had were very good, and didn't look like a part of a human...

The following day we started our ride towards Cinnamon Pass. This was riding day 13, and it would turn out to be a real challenge. Cinnamon Pass itself was a spectacular ride, the trail heading high up into the mountains above the tree-line all the way to 12,640ft. Initially the trail surface was the usual hard-packed mud, but as it got higher it got more rocky and the riding more technical.

At the start of Cinnamon Pass, Colorado

Aaron nearing the summit of Cinnamon Pass, Colorado

All smiles at the summit of Cinnamon Pass, Colorado

The descent down from the top to Animas Forks wasn't too difficult, although we had to dodge a large number of guys on KTM enduro bikes hurtling up the trail as part of a charity race called the Colorado 500. Animas Forks is an long abandoned old mining town nestled in the valley between Cinnamon Pass and California Pass, the wrecked shells of the old wooden buildings all that remains of what must have been a very remote community.

Animas Forks mining town, Colorado

The climb up California Pass should have served as a warning as to what lay ahead. First, we had yet more of the Colorado 500 riders to dodge as we climbed upwards, second the trail was getting looser and rockier making the riding more challenging, and thirdly, my bike started to overheat. At one stage I had to stop to let it cool down as the fan wasn't kicking in, but at least that gave me chance to soak up the scenery, which was truly beautiful.

The Colorado 500 riders on the trail near Animas Forks, Colorado

California Pass, Colorado

As Harold was riding at the back of our group, when he saw me stopped at the side of the trail he pulled over to check everything was OK. When he tried to get going again he got his front wheel onto the loose rocks at the side of the trail and dropped his bike.
Harold's bike takes a rest on California Pass, Colorado

Fortunately we were joined by some of the Colorado 500 guys who helped us get the bike upright and away from the loose rocks. Picking up a bike so heavy at over 10,000ft was seriously hard work. But there was more to come. I rode up to the top of the pass where Aaron was waiting without further incident and soon Harold joined us. We looked at the trail heading down the other side of the mountain with some concern. It was steep. Very steep. And covered in loose gravel with a very loose rocky centre. By now we were at 12,930ft and the lack of oxygen was already having an effect as we struggle to get a decent lungfull of air. I set of first down the path, keeping my speed really slow and managed to get down to the next valley without too much trouble, as did Aaron and Harold when they followed on. But then we had to cross over Hurricane Pass...

Aaron coming down California Pass, Colorado - the steep bit is right at the top

Aaron reaches the bottom

Hurricane Pass was not so much fun. Going up is always easier than coming down, but even the ascent was hard work, tbe bike bouncing over the rocks and the wheels rarely pointing where I wanted them to. But all credit to the bike as it kept chugging away hauling itself ever higher up the steep, rocky climb. Once at the top though it had started to overheat again so I stopped at the top to let it cool.

At the top of Hurricane Pass, Colorado

Going down the mountain was sheer hell. First, I got stuck in the middle of the trail on the large loose rocks when the wheels slipped sideways off the slightly easier paths at the side. Then, as I was trying to ride it down very slowly the front wheel caught on a rock and slipped sideways, throwing the weight of the bike over and I couldn't hold it. My 2nd drop of the trip...

Down again

Picking it up was a struggle, even with Harold helping me, but getting it to the bottom of the incline was harder, and by the time I was on a short patch of level ground I was exhausted. But the scenery was still gorgeous...

Still able to admire the view

Finally and with a great sense of relief we were able to get off the trail and head into the town of Silverton for lunch. We had ridden just 40 miles in over 5 hours...
We were joined by Rick and Mike again, both recounting tales of dropping their bikes on the passes. It had been a very hard morning, and we were all hoping that the afternoon's ride would be easier - especially as we still had over 140 miles to go. The first section took us out of Silverton and once again on a trail leading up into the mountains, towards Ophir. It was looking good...

Starting Ophir Pass, Colorado

Little did we know what was in store for us this time. As we started the descent, my bike once again began to overheat, just as I reached where Aaron and Harold had stopped. As I pulled up, Aaron set off down the steep descent. It looked tricky indeed. Especially as he passed a large scree wall and we could see him struggling to control his bike. Then down he went...

Aaron drops his bike on Ophir Pass

When my bike had cooled a bit, I set off down, trying to pick a safe line through the loose rocks at barely walking pace. At one stage I turned off my engine to help it cool and walked the bike down, the steep gradient at least helping me get the bike over the larger rocks. By the time I got to where Aaron was waiting I was totally exhausted. Harold followed and made it down OK, then came Rick and Mike, their much lighter bikes making the going easier, but still they looked shattered too. With a long way still to go to our destination, a unanimous decision was made to get off the trail and take the highway. We were simply too beat and if we had another pass like the 4 we'd just done we probably would still be there.
Some 120 miles later we crossed the state border into Utah and rolled in to Monticello, finding a motel and getting a much needed shower before heading out to eat. Utah being largely a dry state we couldn't even get a beer, but perhaps that wasn't such a bad thing, as for once, I was too beat to drink...

After the sleep of the dead, I woke to face another day on the trail, in full knowledge that we would be crossing more mountains on the ride to Moab. But whereas yesterday had been very hard, today was a breeze. Just over 100 miles saw us head out of Monticello across flat lands towards the mountains, once again riding excellent quality dirt roads in warm sunshine.

Heading towards the mountains in Utah

Even as we climbed the trail remained in excellent condition, probably as a result of the widespread use it seemed to be put to by RVs and campers that were dotted around the lower forest. We climbed higher and deeper into the forest and then, all of a sudden, we emerged at the top to the most amazing sight...


There, right before us, were the canyons of Canyonlands. Simply stunning.
From here we rode down into the familiar red rock landscape of Utah, the trail becoming instantly more sandy and the views more and more beautiful. Once again the trail was back to its normal pattern of each day being better than the previous. The photos don't begin to do justice to how beautiful this part of the world is...

Beautiful trail, Utah

Beautiful Utah

Beautiful Utah

We rolled in to Moab around lunchtime and quickly changed our motel plans, as the Super 8 (where Aaron had shipped our new rear tyres to) was too far from the centre. Unable to check in until 2pm we headed down the street to The Peace Tree, a really nice place to eat where we could sit in the shade on the terrace and watch the world go by. With a hearty salad for lunch to restore our lost vitamins and the sun shining brightly life was good. I like Moab a lot, it's an outdoors town, with lots of adventure things to do, with Arches National Park just a couple of miles up the road and Canyonlands just a little further away. Our motel also had a bike wash, so after checking in we washed our bikes and I managed to get all the dirt out from the radiator fan, solving my overheating problem at a stroke. I also took the opportunity to move my GPS mount so I can see my instrument panel better in case of future problems. When the tyres arrived, Aaron and I rode our bikes to Moab Powersports where we left them to get fitted, the owner's son kindly giving us a lift back to the motel. With the bikes gone, there was only one thing to do and that was to go find some beer. Which we did, in Eddie McStiff's (I'm not joking) where they also made some excellent mojitos much to Aaron's delight. We left after a few beers to go and eat at the Thai restaurant I'd found last time I was here, the food as good as I remembered it, the Singha beer instantly transporting me back to Bangkok and flooding my mind with memories of happy holidays with Tracy. With our food consumed we headed back to the bar and were joined by Mike, his dad Rick preferring to rest rather than face another night of drinking. Which is exactly what it turned out to be, the pitchers of beer and mojitos flowing and working their magic on our aching bones.
With today being a rest day, we've all had plenty of time to recover. The bikes have their new tyres and I even did an oil change in the car park to make sure the bike was in as good condition as possible for the remaining 10 days riding. With us heading through the desert landscapes of Utah and Nevada next, it's looking like the trail is going to continue to be great fun!

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