..... Scotty's Travelblogue ......

Rides & reports of motorcycle adventures..


Moab 5/13

Moab is a classic off road riding area.  The views are spectacular, & the terrain varies.  It can be very challenging, to pretty easy.  It's only about a 6 hr ride for me to get there, so a few years back i decided i'd add moab to my annual riding list.  Last year, we had a group ride planned, but the day we were to leave, some of the guys saw that there was a storm brewing in the west, & canceled out.  I went by myself, & got a couple of days of riding in before the rain hit.  Kim was the  mover & shaker this year, & had several neighbors & road riders who wanted to come.  Most of them i did not know, and had not ridden with.  But we had several months before the ride, so there was time to ride together on warmup rides, & make sure everyone was good to go in moab.

Kim made the hotel bookings for us.. we stayed at the Big Horn Lodge.. a nice hotel centrally located in town.  One of the guys, Ken, wanted to ride up on his new triumph tiger, so i rode up with him.  The other guys trailered up.  We left on Monday, May 5th.  There was another storm coming into the area.  It was sprinkling when i loaded up my gear, so i made sure i had all my rain gear with me, & waterproof gloves & boots.  Ken & i met in uptown Sedona ~ 9am, & rode up the canyon.  It was chilly through flagstaff & over the mountains in monticello, & we got a bit of rain here & there, but it was a great ride through the reservation & monument valley.

We all got into moab in the early afternoon, & checked into the hotel.  Chuck wanted to do a short ride through arches nat park.  So a few of us suited up & rode out.  It was still pretty chilly from the rains, & there was more in the forecast, but Chuck wanted to ride a dirt section he saw on a map that cut from inside the park back to the highway.  Mark & Ken were camping, so they stayed to set up camp.  That left 5 of us to ride.

We rode up through the park, then turned on a dirt road next to this view area.  After a couple of miles, it started to get sandy.  I felt the back end wobbling around through some of the sections, then came upon Chuck, with his Versys on top of him in a sandy wash.  A couple of us lifted the bike off, & helped get it upright.  Bob had gone back, since he only had his mesh jacket with him, so that left Kim, Chuck, Cliff & I as the riders.  After this mishap, Cliff decided to go back, too, so 3 remaining riders pressed on.  I brought up the rear, & rode about 1/2 mile until i met Kim & Chuck coming back.  They pointed to the rain in the distance, so i turned around, too.  Within a mile, it was sprinkling again, & in a short time was raining heavily.  But we all made it back, dried off, & met at the micro brewery for dinner & beer.

Kim had asked me to set up the rides for the 3 days of riding.  He wanted one of them to be a very easy ride, to gauge the abilities of the riders.  No one went on any of the pre ride warmups we planned in the earlier months.  They only wanted to do easy cream puff rides, so that is what they did.  So i planned the first one to be up gemini bridges, which had some fairly easy hills & winding around, with rocky sections.  The second day was to be the white rim trail, the signature ride of moab, & one of the most spectacular motorcycle day rides in the world.  The last day was to be onion creek, a fairly easy ride winding along a creek.

We met for breakfast at the adjacent diner, & planned the day.  It had rained the night before, & rain was in the forecast.  One of the guys said it would rain all day, & did not want to do a long ride in those conditions.  So we decided to ride up to gemini bridges, & see how it was.  Mud & sand were the biggest worries, & it seemed that several of the riders were not up to riding in that kind of terrain.  We finally decided that we'd ride up to gemini bridges & see what the conditions were like.  If it was wet or muddy, we could turn back & sulk in the rooms all day.  It started to sprinkle again a few miles into the ride, so we stopped to decide what to do.  A couple of the riders were afraid the rocks would be slick when wet, so wanted to turn back.  Kim & Mark wanted to go on, but the rest of us turned back.  It poured on us on the way back, but evidently cleared off for Kim & Mark.  They rode up to gemini bridges, then to canyonlands park, & down long canyon.  They told us everyone should have continued on, since the weather wasn't that bad.  Even on the way back, the rocks were not slick from the rain, & we had good traction.  It was near noon when we got back to the hotels, & some of the guys went for lunch, then planned another pavement ride into arches nat park.  I had just been there the day before, so opted out.

At dinner, the decision was made to put off the white rim trail until the last day, so there would be time for it to dry out, since the weather was supposed to clear.

The next morning, it was raining, & had been all night.  We had a long breakfast in the diner, & decided to wait a couple of hours & see if it would clear enough to ride.  It was still cloudy & overcast, with obvious rain in the distant mountains.  But everyone suited up & off we went to onion creek.  It was about a 20 mile ride up the colorado river on pavement, then turn on an improved dirt road to onion creek.

The on & off rains left the roads wet.  It wasn't too bad along onion creek, as it was rocky enough to get good traction.

Here's a longer video clip of this ride:

If you have a fast internet connection, be sure to play it in HD.. it is clearer & sharper that way.

I took several clips going through this section.  You can see raindrops on the camera lens sometimes.

Cliff coming up the road..

We rode through the winding roads for ~ 10 miles, until we got on top.  There, the road had some muddy spots, & Ken slid out in his triumph going through one of the ruts.  We decided to turn back, as there was likely more mud ahead.

We had no other problems going back.. just more rain..

We got back on the pavement, & stopped for a bite to eat by the river.

Some of the riders wanted to keep riding someplace else.. so a ride up pavement to long canyon was suggested.  There would be ~ 40 miles of pavement, then 10 miles or so down long canyon, and 20 miles back on pavement.  While the merits of this were being considered, Bob & Chuck rode off.  They wanted a proper lunch, it seemed, & were not interested in any more rainy day riding.  That left 5 for the rest of the ride.  When we got to the junction, Ken decided he'd had enough, too, so turned back to moab.  That left 4 of us to ride long canyon, which Kim & Mark had done the day before.  It was chilly going up the road on top to canyonlands, but we were geared up for it.

There were great views on top, & the ride to the switchbacks had a few puddles, but the road had good traction.

This is a ride that is often done by the jeep groups, & it has a fun rock to go under.  It is a good summary ride for moab.. great views, winding switchbacks, but not tough terrain.  The roads are steep in places, but you have good traction.

The rain was not a problem.  It was cool, & the roads had a few puddles, but that kept the dust down, & the views were terrific.

Once we got down to the river level, it was ~ 20 miles back to town.  We made it back with no issues, & no more rain.

We were hoping that the last morning would be sunny & clear, but we got up to wet pavement & dark clouds overhead.  I looked at the radar maps, & it seemed to be just clouds.. no heavy cells of rain showed up.  A couple of the guys had read on the internet that the white rim trail was impassable if it rained the day before, & were skeptical of my claim that it was sandy & rocky, & would be drained off & dry for a ride.  Ken decided not to ride at all, & the rest would ride to the mineral bottom road to see what it was like.

I suggested we start at mineral bottom road.  That way, if the sand was too difficult, they would know right off & could turn back.  Or, if it were muddy, we would know, then.  But someone had read that the best way was to ride from the potash ponds.  I've done it both ways, & don't understand these bloggers & their authoritative declarations of the 'right' way to do something.  I didn't really care which way we went, i just wanted to ride.  But my reasoning about sand & mud seemed to be persuasive, so we left for the mineral bottom road after a hearty breakfast.. likely our last.

It was about 22 miles of pavement from moab, then another 12 miles of dirt road.  The upper dirt road was wet, & it had some slick spots on it.  But everyone stayed in the packed down tire tracks, & there were no issues.

The mineral bottom switchbacks are terrific.  It is an easy road, but steep, winding, & scenic.

I waved everyone ahead so i could get them in the video, going down the switchbacks.  The problem was when we got to the turn at the bottom.  All of them continued down the road to the boat launch, another mile down.  I stopped & began waving & honking my horn, but to no avail.  No one seemed to think to look back, to see if 'the guy who knew the way' was coming.  I guess it was good i did not slide off the road, broken up in a pool of blood.  They probably wouldn't even notice.  I figured they would all ride down the boat ramp, into the river.  I am beginning to understand lemmings more, now.

But they did finally come back.  So now the muddy, impassable road lay before us.  Here is a bit of video of that section, that held such terror for some of the riders:

The sandy sections were packed, like i had predicted, & there was very little mud.  The major difficulty was some ruts, left by jeeps & support vehicles for the bicyclists.  Some of them were deep, & Chuck had a few get offs in them.  But we stopped & helped pick up his bike, & pressed on.  Chuck got beat up a bit and banged his elbow on one of them.

This next section is usually pretty tough.. it has a lot of powdery, loosed dirt & it is pretty steep.  But the rain packed it down & made it an easy climb.  At the end, you can see a pack of ktm riders passing us by.  We played leapfrog with them for a few hours..  All in all, the rain made conditions pretty good.. the sand was packed down, as well as the loose powdery soil.  The dust was minimal.  It was the best conditions i had ever ridden on the white rim trail.

This section of the trail is pretty cool.  It winds along a bluff overlooking the green river, with nice views in the distance.

I should make up some tall tale for this next pic.. but the truth is, Kim was stopped, & while trying to get his kickstand down, the bike fell over.  Too bad there wasn't a more dramatic story behind this one..

More riding along the green river..

There were lots of ups & downs, following the green river.

Then, we start getting into the canyon sections.  This is where we are on top of the rim, with the canyon below.

I even got someone to take my picture, so you can see i was really there!

I had issued a disclaimer about murphy's hogback.  One time, it had some big steps, & was a tough climb.  Another time, it had been graded & was easy.  I did not know which would be there when we got there.  But at every stop, someone wanted to know how much further it was..  it was almost like going on vacation with kids.. 'Are we there, yet?' every so often.  It was a mild distraction, but i was enjoying the views & the ride.

The riders:  Chuck, Bob, me, Mark, Cliff, Kim.

The bikes: Mark- klx250, Chuck- Kawasaki Versys, Me- yamaha 250, Bob- klx250, Cliff- klx 400, Kim- klr 650.  All Kawasaki's except for the lone little yamaha!

But the views were always spectacular, & you are overwhelmed by the distances.
We were nearing murphy's hogback.. a high plateau with panoramic views.

The climb up murphy's..

This is Chuck riding up the steep climb to murphy's hogback.. no issues.. good road.

The view from the top:

The descent can be tricky, too, but the rain gave us nicely packed down dirt.. good traction, no slipping.

This is the last of my videos.. my battery ran down, & the rest is pretty much the same, except for the views along the colorado river.  But those are in a previous year's ride report, if anyone wants to see them.

Some of the riders were getting tired.. 'how much longer?' became more frequent.  So i stopped less for pictures, & picked up my pace a bit, even though i always had to wait a bit for the others to catch up.  Kim & Mark were excellent riders, & Kim rode sweep, to make sure there were no mishaps or lost riders.  But the purpose of this ride was to enjoy the scenery & the ride, not to race or set a time record.

Here's Bob with the 'white' rim in the background..

Kim, riding sweep:

Cliff, Bob, & Kim, coming down the trail:

When we got to the shafer trail junction, Chuck had been studying a map.  He thought it would be less dirt to go up the shafer trail to the top of canyonlands, then take the highway back.  There was ~ 12 miles of dirt to the potash road, & another 20 back to moab.  We debated for a bit, but most riders wanted to continue along the potash ponds, & see the views along the colorado river.  I volunteered to take Chuck up the shafer trail, but Kim vetoed it, & told me to go on.  The road wasn't that rough from here on, & there were few hazards, other than a few puddles.  We made it back to moab by ~ 6:30, & everyone stumbled to their rooms.

The white rim trail is still probably my favorite overall ride.  I like the grand canyon rides & many other regular ones, but the WRT has it all.  When you add some human drama, it completes it.  It distracted a bit from the ride, but anytime you ride with others there will be some personality issues.  That was one of the things i liked riding with just Kim & Tom.  We seemed to be on the same page, and didn't have any unmet expectations or disappointments.  I guess i prefer smaller riding groups for this reason.. 3 or 4 seems to be about the max you can have without drama or dissappointment, but even then it depends on the riders.  I suppose my group riding days are winding down, anyway, & i doubt i'll volunteer to 'lead' anything like this again.  I was always having to think about the trail.. was there a way through the mud?  Is it passable for everyone?  Will someone crash & get hurt?  There were some mild sections that weren't really that tough, but i had to worry if all could get through, & look for a line that made it easier.

I'm sure in a few weeks, i'll forget all about the personality issues, & remember only the ride.  That is why we do it, anyway.

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Sedona, Arizona, United States
Semi-retired home builder. Musician. wr250x adventure rider. Amateur philosopher. Innovator. Tech & gadget freak, genealogist.