Thursday, August 15, 2013

Up into Canada, again

I neglected to include this video in the last update because I was on a really slow connection, and it wasn't going to be uploaded in time.  But after letting it run overnight, here it is.

This was after I'd had my little crash where I smashed the saddlebag on a rock; I headed a bit further down the road and because I hadn't learned my lesson, tried my luck taking another ATV/Snowmobile trail in search of someplace to camp.  It, uh . . . didn't go well.

The path ended up going straight up a very, very steep hill, far too steep and gnarly for an overweight street bike without knobbies.  I realized pretty soon in that I was in trouble and shouldn't be there, but . . . well, the urge to carry on can sometimes be overwhelming.  I was probably just looking for someplace to turn around, but . . . POWER!

I'm really, really glad I got out of it okay.  The hill ended up being SO steep that even walking up it would have been difficult without crampons, it was at least a 30% grade and probably more.  Eventually, I just didn't have the traction to keep going, nor the skill to control this heavy of a bike on such a narrow path.  I was having nightmare visions of running off the trail, or dumping the bike, and in this location I seriously doubted my abilities to get it back out if that happened.  The solution ended up being to back the thing all the way back down, using the clutch as a brake on the rear wheel.

Anyway, after getting out of that stupid mess, I spent the night along that rail line, and the next morning in the light I could see more where I was.

The damage to the bike from the minor crash yesterday was not insignificant.  Everything was again all out of square, which in addition to being structurally weaker, makes my OCD start twitching.

I got back down from my campsite, down a road that if I'd seen it in the daytime I probably would have avoided.  I was considerably spooked by both the crash and the hill last night, and anything remotely bumpy and lose made my blood pressure jump a bit. 

If you need to almost guarantee that I'm going to try and follow a path, put a "Road Closed" sign in front of it.  When I see it, I'm drawn to explore it so strongly that I wonder if there's something wrong with me.  I just . . . there was a reason for that road to exist, at some point.  It went somewhere, it did something, it had a function, but not anymore.  And I always want to know why.

Back to my situation at hand, and I was feeling pretty down right now.  Having bent up a bike for the second time, I was asking myself what I was doing wrong.  I've done these huge trips before, but I didn't remember it being this hard.  Perhaps it's selective memory; most of what comprises motorcycle touring can be described as "Type 2 fun"; experiences that suck at the time, but in retrospect seem awesome.  Whatever it was, this sucked.  I rode a couple hours west to Kalispell, and spent some time in a library trying to sort out what to do.

I was seriously contemplating ripping off the hard bags and replacing them with some Wolfman soft luggage; I think if the bags weren't solid and rigid, if they were soft and squishy, then dropping the bike and hitting things would result in far less structural damage.  It's much easier to fix fabric with a tube of seam seal and a roll of duct tape, than it is to sort out bent steel and aluminum.

But just the soft bags themselves would be around $400, plus shipping and how long it would take to get to me (this was late on a Thursday; even with expedited shipping, I wouldn't get them until Monday or Tuesday, leaving me four days behind.).  I decided that, for now, I'd stick with what I have, and try to be more realistic in terms of the terrain I could tackle.  But in the future, my next off-road trip will absolutely have soft luggage.

I spent an hour or two riding around Kalispell, looking for an autobody guy who could straighten out the rack.  The first few full-service shops I stopped by turned me away, and one guy in his garage started talking about wanting to take apart the whole frame to straighten it.  This was more than I needed; I just wanted it kind-of straight again, it didn't have to be perfect.

Eventually, I found this guy, working out of his garage at the end of a dirt road.  He looked at the bike, and knew exactly what I wanted and needed.

A hydraulic hand press wedged between the rear mounts shoved everything back into shape suprisingly well; combined with some delicate touches with his shot mallet, it looked almost like it had never been crashed.  Most of the damage had just been to the rear crossmember; straightening it back out held everything nice and square again.

We went into his garage so I could give him some money, and he had this in there.

All-original, numbers matching and frame-off restored Shelby Mustang GT.  He said the owner's insurance company appraised it at a quarter of a million dollars (at least, back before the economy took a dump.  Now the valuation is probably closer to $100k).

I gave the guy $20 for his few minutes of time and considered myself lucky.  It's a little bit neurotic of me, but just having the rack mostly straight again boosted my mood tremendously, and I got back to the business of taking many of pictures of many mountains.

Even with my newfound vow to stay on more developed surfaces, I still find myself inexplicably drawn to the tiny little paths that might not go anywhere, and the more desolate and overgrown, the better.  Because at some point, SOMEONE had to go down that route.  There is, or at least was, SOMETHING at the other end.  There's a reason for that road or trail to exist, and when I see one I have a knee-jerk reaction that I have to follow it.  I'll be riding along and I'll see a path like this, some service road that's probably closed to the public and doesn't go anywhere useful, but I still notice it and I still REALLY REALLY want to try and ride it.

 Just to see where it goes; even if it's a dead-end somewhere, that's fine with me.  I just have to know.

Even when finding someplace to camp for the night, while in National Forest land with super-easy primitive sites EVERYWHERE, I still have to follow side trails off side roads, just to see where they go.

Logic intervened before I tried to take my bike down this path, and with a sigh I gave my my exploring and settled in for the night in a clearing that had been used as a campsite before.  Even though there was a fire ring and abundant downed wood, I didn't build a fire; I almost never do.  I just don't see the point of it most of the time; maybe if I carried marshmallows with me, I'd have an excuse for it.

I stopped at the last town south of the Candian border to do some laundry/get rid of my spare American change.  You have to love a Laundromat with proper hospitality.

Once in Canada and in the Canadian Rockies, I broke out the dSLR again, and resumed my habits of taking copious amounts of Earth-porn.  The reason that some cameras cost $150, and some cameras cost $1500, is that $1500 cameras take pictures that look like this.

For those who care, shot with a Canon 30D w/17-40mm F4L

Yes, this planet.  It is a good planet.  I think I'll stay on it for a while.

This is actually taken with the iPhone, because the auto-panorama is so convenient.
 My lessons that I'd learned a couple days ago regarding staying on reasonable trails . . . well, they hadn't stuck.  When looking for someplace to camp this evening, I started off on this, which seemed sensible.

But then I saw this, and . . . well, I got less reasonable.

My name is Tsaven, and I am an addict.  Addicted to desolate, remote roads.

That eventually turned to this:

Which then turned to this . . . maybe I should turn around?

Nah, screw it!  What could possibly go wrong?

This could have gone very poorly (again), but today it turned out perfectly.  This path ended in this clearing, where I would spend the next hour watching the sun set.

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