One think you can say about dualsport-adventure riding is: you never really know what to expect. Rob and I had originally thought we’d do a “self-guided” Olympic Peninsula GPS-based tour, but we found out from locals that the increased snow pack this year would be prohibitive. That “snow” theme was pretty much constant most places that we were considering (any place up in the mountains has a high chance of snow anywhere in the shade). If you’ve ever tried to ride a dirtbike in the snow- you know that it doesn’t take long to get stuck when things get deep. Hence our Central Washington theme for this ride: go to the desert, and be free from snow. Sounds reasonable, right? Well, there were other things in store for us in the desert that you don’t get as much in the mountains. More on that later.
I left off in the last post when Rob and I were at “Big Wally’s” in Coulee City. From there, we formulated a plan (using our mobile Wifi, the Toughbook, my GPS, and a napkin/pen) that involved riding South on gravel/primitive roads, going through Moses Lake, jumping on I-90, riding through the ORV park, and then down into the Potholes area (a network of small and large lakes). Rob put the “Cliff’s Notes” napkin in the transparent window of his tank bag, I fired up the GPS to get us to Pinto road, and we headed out – keeping in mind that we could only stop places that rob could “prop-up” his bike due to the broken kickstand.
Here’s a view of our Big Wally’s planning from the GoPro:
For fun, here’s a view of the cockpit on my 2009 TE-610 at the Moses Lake ORV park:
I’ve been working for a few months on getting this bike prepped as a daily rain commuter and all-around trail-worthy dualsport adventure bike. Here’s a breakdown of the features:
- Folding mirrors (these things work GREAT)
- Triple switch cluster (to the left of the GPS) – left: LED fog lights, middle: accessories (GPS, 12V outlet), right: heated grips (low/off/high)
- Garmin 60CSx GPS in RAM mount
- 12V outlet (next to lower right bar clamp bolt)
- 12V fog lamps (in front of hand guards)
The bike (which I got in October) has been working great – and I’m thinking it could also use some MSR Elephant Ear wind guards over the hand guards. Rob has some on the KTM and really likes it.
Back to the riding!
Our route from Coulee City didn’t turn out as we hoped- it was paved the whole way! It was still a very interesting/beautiful ride, except we got a taste of our nemesis of the day: really strong winds from the South.
Once we got to the ORV park, we found out that our “route” (a pink line on the GPS topo maps) was really just a deep-sand road:
I had re-packed my bike so that more of the weight was lower on the bike, but it was still real challenging to navigate the sand, and we would have to ride for miles and miles in this stuff to get where we wanted to go (with various hills to navigate on the way). We decided to change our route.
The view leaving the park:
I shed a quick tear wishing I had my big-and-bluky 5D Mark III for this amazing lighting/terrain, but it suffered the last minute weight-reduction chopping block, so the Panasonic FZ-28 would just have to do (a great mega-zoom advanced point and shoot).
Time for some route improvisation! We looked at the GPS and saw that there was another road that provided access to the Potholes reservoir from the other (West) side, so we headed up North to cross over and give it a try.
Entering into the area, we found that it was a “Discover Pass Required” area- and I didn’t have my pass with me! We explored none the less. This was my first good look at the Potholes – and we had some great lighting from the setting sun:
After contemplating the consequences of the Discover Pass situation – we decided to look yet further at our options for camping for the night. We explored a bit more and ran across some helpful locals that told us about an area near some lakes where we could camp. It sounded good- and it wouldn’t involve any enforcement/access issues – so we headed out.
We meandered for a while trying to figure out exactly what “keep right” meant in the context of countless farm access roads, and finally found the spot.
The plan was simple:
- Quickly setup camp
- Gather sage brush to burn and start a fire
- Place 1 large can of Dinty Moore beef stew in the fire
Again, what could go wrong?
I had my tent setup and staged for the night in record time:
As we gathered fire wood bush, we noticed a pattern- steadily building winds, and ominous skies all around. Rob and I prepared for an evening of bad weather….
The winds got stronger as we started the fire with Rob’s patented 3-matchstick method (2 times in a row getting the starter sticks to light first try!). Before long we had a small fire going. I used my Gerber multi-tool to open the Dinty Moore can (a good 10 minute process with it’s tiny can opener) and we prepared for cooking. Rob thought- let’s put the can on the stove… The only problem was – the stove would not stay lit in the wind, and our fire was starting to spew embers 30’ or more directly into the dry sage brush. I started to imagine my face on a “Smokey the bear” poster describing how not to behave…
The final straw was a moment that was both hilarious and disturbing- the high winds had blown one of Rob’s cheap mechanic’s gloves (which I though were Klim ) into the small-but-dangerous fire. I was sitting right there tending the fire, but didn’t notice – sorry Rob! Rob flipped out for a moment over the burnt-off thumb which was partially melted into the palm area. The mood was shifting rapidly.
It was decision time. We could dig in and be miserable the whole night, or we could quickly pack up and head for a hotel in Moses Lake. We decided for the latter. The mad dash began as drops of rain started to fall down on us. We both did a super-careful job packing – resulting in tents and bags that were 30% puffier than they should be… Oh well we thought, let’s get out of here! The 20-30 mph wind gusts made tent pack-up a complete exercise in futility.
Almost ready to go:
The sand road out towards I-90 was a super-fun ride at night (no kidding) – we rode next to each other so as to avoid riding in the dust clouds constantly trying to see where we were going.
We rode fast towards Moses Lake away from the inbound rain and managed to stay ahead of it! It was an awesome sight riding in the night towards the lights of Moses Lake. It was now pushing 10pm, and we hadn’t had dinner yet – another part of adventure riding – you have to be flexible.
We checked in to a discount hotel, locked up the bikes, and packed our gear into the room. The stark contrast between the ~42 degree 20-30mph wind and the 72 degree hotel room was amazing.
Next up was a visit to perhaps the dirtiest Arby’s in the nation. I mused that we didn’t need to buy food, we would just rake curly fries and other scraps from the floor. As we ate I just hoped we wouldn’t get sick from the horrible condition of the restaurant. The sandwich tasted good anyways…
A shower was pretty much “priceless” at this point, and it was great to finally feel warm on this trip. I should have used my one-piece suit for this trip, but the weather forecast said “60-s” for the high, so I thought my back country gear would be enough. Live and learn!
It was great to sleep in a room that was too warm. At this point, it was a great problem to have.
What will tomorrow bring? The only thing I was sure of was: it would start at Starbucks – a two-parking lot walk from our hotel.