Friday, November 22, 2013

Roel's Play-Day at Canyonlands

We met up with Annemieke at the Moab Brewery. She introduced us to Dave, Andy (who happens to also have a Honda Transalp), Tom and Duval. Before long we were talking to Dave about all the dirt roads around Moab and we were invited to tag along the next day on a ride through Canyon Lands National Park; The White Rim Road. My eyes grew bigger hearing about the landscape we would find ourselves riding through. The road conditions worried me a bit though. Everyone said Azure should definitely come along for the ride but I was not sure she had enough experience to pull it off. We talked about it and decided that I would go but Azure would stay in Moab to catch up on some blogging. Which is why I am writing this blog post now…

The next morning we stripped the Africa Twin. All the luggage except tools and water came off. After a big hug from Azure, Dave, Annemieke and I hit the road.
Eating dust
Half an hour later, after riding over winding blacktop roads that took us through some colorful canyon valleys, we kicked up the first dust clouds. The Africa Twin was clearly enjoying a day of doing what it was built for instead of hauling around all of the world tour gear. Effortlessly the Honda ran up the dusty rock scattered roads. We made a quick stop to deflate the tires for more traction in the loose sand. The road ascended and bent off to the right. Dave however, kept going straight. We followed him over some slick rock and couldn’t believe our eyes when the canyon opened up in front of us.      

After taking in the view we quickly got on our way again since we had over 90 miles of dirt to cover.
Musselman Natural Bridge
It was getting warm so I decided to try the vents on my new KliM riding gear. I never owned any gear with vents before so I was thrilled to feel the air flow around my body that took the heat away. This was going to be a great day of riding!

Dave let me ride in front and the Twin sped off on a road that appeared to be going straight for a while. After a crest I found out that that was not exactly the case. Another canyon revealed itself right in front of me and the gravelly road bent sharply to the right. I stood on my rear brake but the tire did not find any grip and slid along. The canyon was getting very close now and I was not going to make the corner. It was the dirt or the canyon so the bike went down only two meters from the drop off. However well my vents were working I got quite hot there in that moment. I picked up the bike and checked for damage. All was well and after catching my breath we were on our way again, taking it a bit slower being aware that Mother Nature had some beautiful but dangerous stuff in store for us today.

The road kept following the red rocked canyon. The landscape was very dramatic and changed continuously. Steep red rock formations, flat savannah-like land filled with sagebrush and deep canyons with tall rock pillars that reminded me of ancient Roman ruins. Nature’s show was stunning and the road took us right up to the highlights. These are the days on which I particularly enjoy riding a bike. It is just not the same in the safety of a car. You feel vulnerable, you feel the heat, you smell the air and taste the dust but it all contributes to an amazing experience being engraved in your mind, never to be forgotten.

The sun was getting low on the horizon, blinding us for a while as we were still going west. Our progress was slower than expected because of all the breathtaking scenery and the technical riding. The best was kept for last however.
The loose sand road started climbing steeply and it took a lot for the bikes to make it up. The view on top was priceless but the sun setting behind the deep red colored mountains in the distance was making me nervous. We still had a long way to go. And riding through the dust in the dark is not without risk. The road leading away from the top opened up like a hole in the earth.    
It was even steeper than the way up. After choosing the safest path along the drop-off we descended. The wheels started sliding again and I decided to just let the bike roll. I came to a stop on a straight stretch and, in my mirror, saw Annemieke come down almost sideways.
She managed to keep it under control and rolled it to a stop next to me. Dave who had ridden the road many times enjoyed it so much that he took his KLR and went up and down again. The last bit of light disappeared in an orange glow covering the mountains.

The road kept going. Canyon after canyon and there was no end in sight. Another steep climb made me think we were finally getting out, but soon we were riding down again, riding along a deep canyon when something jumped out on the road. I rode closer and saw a mule deer buck trying to get off the road. He couldn’t make it up the steep side of the road and started running along the road. I followed him slowly. The rock face on the right and the drop off on the left kept him on the road and after sharing the road for a minute he was getting annoyed with me. He stopped and turned around. In the light of the bike I could see the 4-year-old buck. He came right at me and bent his head to charge the bike. A loud rev of the engine made him reconsider. He turned again and ran off, finally finding a spot where he could get off the road.

The canyons finally became lower. After navigating some riverbeds and very fine loose sand roads, a sign told us that it was only 26 miles to the highway.
Safe & Sound @ Moab Brewery
We blasted along the well-maintained dirt road and rode into the cold night ending up where it all started the day before; at the bar of the Moab Brewery with a nice cold beer and my girlfriend, very relieved to be next to me, given that we returned over 4 hours later than expected.

With our new friends @ Moab Brewery

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