The Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument was established in 2001 by President Clinton. It is located about 40 miles south east of Santa Fe New Mexico which puts it a little less than an hour and a half north of my current location of Albuquerque. Lets go check it out.
Once at the park, there are two main destinations to check out. The first is an overlook that offers a great view of the tent rocks and the surrounding landscape. In order to get to the overlook, one has to navigate 3 or 4 miles of easy dirt roads. Along with a great view, there is a nice veterans memorial at the overlook.
I say the road was easy, apparently my bike didn’t agree. On the way back down, I stopped at a sign to take a picture and I noticed that my license plate was missing. It was there when I started back down, so lets go find it.
I ended up finding it a couple hundred yards from the overlook. The plate was secured to the mounting bracket with a pair of LED bolt’s. They were cast aluminum and apparently not up to the job. Yet again I underestimate how rough dirt roads are on my bike.
The other destination of note at the Tent Rocks, is the trail head. There are two trails available. The first is an easy loop that is about 1.2 miles long. The second branches off of the first. It is about a mile long and a lot more challenging.
The scenery is definitely worth the extra effort.
The erosion pattern of the rocks reminded me of my trip to Petra.
Zion National Park
The next item on my agenda is to attend a couple of handgun classes at Front Sight in Pahrump Nevada. In order to get there I decided to take a somewhat round about route though Page Arizona and Zion National Park.
As a gun toting, red blooded American, I enjoy shooting as much as the next guy. And if I’m going to do something, I might as well do it well, right? That is where Front Sight comes in. They teach firearms, and this will be my third visit.
Front Sight is very cognizant of the controversial nature of what they do, and they don’t let just anyone visit them for training. Each student has to provide two character witness statements before their first visit and pass an annual background check.
Along with the hands on shooting, they also provide several lectures about what to expect when carrying a concealed weapon. They also cover what to expect should one get in a situation where they have to defend themselves with deadly force.
Handgun training is their most popular curriculum, but they also offer training on rifles, shotguns, hand-to-hand combat, and rappelling. For this trip, I was doing a 2-day handgun skill builder followed by an advanced handgun tactics class.
One thing I really like about Front Sight is that there are no participation trophies. If you can’t pass the skills tests, you don’t proceed to the more advanced classes. And it’s not easy curriculum. Mastering it requires considerable effort above and beyond the training received on site.
Arizona Backroads Discovery Route
Officially, the AZBDR is a trail that runs south to north. From the Arizona/Mexico border to the Arizona/Utah border. It’s about 750 miles of mostly dirt and wanders across the eastern half of the state. The route goes through Navajo Nation land which requires a permit in order to use the BIA roads. I tried to get a permit to camp while I was passing through, but they refused to issue one to me. Too many litter bugs.
I was doing it backwards, north to south, and I started the day in Page Arizona. I checked the weather report before I left in the morning, it said there was a 30% chance of thunder storms in the morning, but clear in the afternoon. Boy where they wrong.
A light rain started shortly before I turned off US89 in Utah and started heading south on dirt roads. Despite the light rain I was having a great time navigating my way south. The road was a hard packed 2-track with a fair amount of nice and slippery rocks. Just what I was looking for to test my budding offroad skills.
I was starting to get pretty proud of myself for navigating the switchbacks, hill climbs and descents with nary an incident. That is when Mother Nature decided to knock me down a notch or three.
I crossed my third or fourth cattle guard and turned right onto a red dirt road which quickly turned into a red clay road. Within a mile I had slowed to a crawl and I still went down three times. The mud had caked both wheels and I had no traction at all.
I cleaned the mud out of the wheels four or five times and tried to walk the bike out of the muck. Eventually it was too much for the clutch and it just let go. Crap, now I’m stranded, the temperature is rapidly dropping and the rain is tuning into sleet which would be followed by snow.
This is pretty much as close to the middle of nowhere as I’ve ever been. According to my GPS, the closest sign of civilization is 15 miles south of me, and I have no cell phone signal. Time to start walking.
About two miles down the road, I finally get enough of a cell signal to make a phone call. Normally I’m a very self-reliant guy and the last thing I wanted to do was call someone to bail me out. By the time I was able to make a call it was around 4pm and I still had a 13 mile hike before I made it to the closest gas station.
In full gear, with snow coming down and literally 5 pounds of mud stuck to each boot, there was no way I was going to make it before sundown. Spending the night in below freezing weather for the sake of my pride wasn’t in the cards. I made the phone call. It took several hours, but shortly after sundown a sheriffs deputy was able to rescue me and deposit me in Kanab Utah for the night.
The next morning I got a hold of the local tow shop and we went to rescue Overkill. The 6.7 Liter diesel made short work of the mud that stopped me in my tracks. Too bad I can’t carry a Ram 2500 with me for emergencies.
After a very expensive recovery, we made it back to Kanab and I started calling motorcycle repair shops in St George (about an hour away). Every place I called was booked for at least two weeks. Well, that’s not going to work.
So much for the AZBDR.
The owner took pity on me and drove me to the local U-Haul store and I rented a 15′ U-Haul truck (the smallest they had available) and loaded Overkill into it. Time to head back to Albuquerque and determine the damage.
Eventually I made it home and started to order parts and clean Overkill up.
I think it is true what they say, every cloud has a silver lining. While my AZBDR attempt did not end as expected, I don’t consider it to be a failure.
I learned a few things that I’m sure will prove helpful. First, they don’t call them “Weather Guessers” for nothing. I should have trusted my gut instead of the weather report. Second, pack a small emergency kit with something to start a fire. I did have food, water and a flashlight with me, but being able to make a fire would have made my wait a lot less miserable. Third, instead of destroying my clutch by trying to walk the bike out, I could have waited the storm out. I had all of my camping gear. I could have pitched a tent and waited a day for things to dry out. And finally, make sure I have everything before I get on the road. By the time I had loaded my bike into the back of the U-Haul truck I had been awake for the better part of 38 hours. I was so focused on getting on the road that I forgot my helmet in the rescue truck…
The tow company owner found it in his truck a couple of days later and was nice enough to ship it too me. Hopefully it will arrive tomorrow. If not, it should be delivered Tuesday. Depending on when the helmet gets here I may have to delay my departure by a day.
I’ve still got one more post in the works before I officially depart on my RTW trip. It is going to be an epilogue of sorts for my build series. I will cover all of the repairs and tweaks I did to address the issues I’ve had over the last couple of weeks. Stay tuned.