After suffering a badly punctured tire, we were forced to mount a roadrace-compound tire when a proper replacement couldn't be found, making our first day on the road a long one.
Unfortunately, we were out in the boonies late on a Saturday afternoon and had few options for a tire replacement. Barstow was our only hope, but no 150/70-17s could be found, never mind the specific Metzeler Tourance dual-sport rubber. Instead, the GS was forced to soldier on with a 150/60-17 Metzeler - an MEZ3 roadracing compound! While the old Z3's didn't hook up as well in the loose conditions, the Boxer's expansive powerband can be coaxed to tractor its way out of tricky low-speed stuff even with the race rubber.
The time we spent getting the Beemer a new shoe was playing havoc with our schedule. We had planned to include another dirt road that bridged I-40 with I-15, but we were already rapidly running out of daylight. Instead, we raced straight toward I-15 and the bright lights of Las Vegas.
This leg of the trip proved that there's more to an adventure-tourer than just good dirt legs: The road to and from an adventure is most often a boring stretch of super-slab, so some friendly on-road manners are appreciated.
While dealing with the flat fiasco Ken kept thinking how great it was going to be to stay in Vegas. Too bad every hotel in the city was booked due in large part to a big dog show... You read that right, a dog show.
If the Caponord has a niche where it stands out, steaming along a straight highway at 85 mph is it. Here, its heavy clutch and throttle don't annoy and its cushy freeway ride excels. Its comprehensive instrumentation becomes more appealing at night when they glow a soft blue hue.
At a gas stop in Primm, Nevada, only about 60 miles from Vegas, we briefly pondered shacking up there for the night. But this being an adventuresome tour, we couldn't very well ignore the allure of Vegas, so we pressed on.
As it turned out, rooms were as scarce as morals in Vegas, due in large part, we were told, to a dog show of epic proportions. After scouring the city for any room under $250, we gave up our Vegas dream in search for a hotel on the north end of the city. Funny thing, the NHRA was holding its penultimate championship round the same weekend, so again we were forced to slog on up the desolate highway to the next town, Mesquite, Nevada.
Riding a motorcycle through a bleak desert at night gives time to reflect on what makes us happy in this environment: The GS offers much appreciated (though optional) heated grips and a height-adjustable seat for roomy ergos. The Buell's wide seat is supportive over the miles. The Duc's smooth engine is an amiable companion. The V-Strom's rational seat and wind protection pleases. The Aprilia's handy ambient (and quickly plummeting) temperature gauge was handy.
The end of Day 1 saw everyone in varying stages of fatigue by the time a hotel room was finally procured in Mesquite near midnight.
Finally, we found a hotel in Mesquite not long before midnight and tied up the reins. Six hours earlier, we were behind schedule. Now further up the road than expected, we planned to enjoy a languid morning in advance of the most anticipated portion of the trip: a ride down unpaved roads to a gen-you-wine
ranch situated near the northwest rim of the Grand Canyon. It should be a fun day ahead - relatively short with a big payoff at the end.
Diligent Dean was the first of our crew to inspect the group of bikes in the morning. The Beemer was down on oil a bit, but more troubling was some slight seepage from the KTM's water pump. An exhaust header prevented the wrenches from KTM's excellent tool kit from getting a good grasp on the pump's bolt-head so we vowed to keep an eye on it.
The 950 Adventure gained bonus points for its hard-plastic saddlebags that now come standard with 2006 models. Although they stick out quite a bit and can't match the capacity of some others, they have a feature unavailable elsewhere. The bags are double-walled and watertight, so they can be used like a pair of Colemans - just dump in a couple bags of ice and your favorite beverages, and you've got frosty refreshments with you wherever you go! In warmer climes (like Dakar or Baja), the bags' insulating channel can be filled with water and frozen overnight, keeping interior items cold and also providing a source of chilled drinking water via an optional petcock.
Having been stranded for hours in the desert with little to eat and drink during our flat-tire experience, the double-walled watertight KTM Adventure saddlebags were packed with beverages for our long ride to the Bar 10 Ranch.
Loaded up with water and post-ride liquids, we again headed off into Nevada's scruffy desert. This mild freeway ride soon became much more picturesque by the red-rock mountain cliffs on either side of I-15 as we neared Utah's southern border. It made the boys in us want to go play "Cowboys & Indians."
Before long we were in St. George, Utah, filling up for the first and last time of the day. The KTM's water pump was slathered with gasket sealer, and we headed off toward the remote Bar 10 Ranch.
If you want to get to Bar 10 and have a lot of money, you can take an airplane and land on the nearby runway. Or just hover down to the ranch's helipad with your Jet Ranger. For people who have Family Packs of mac & cheese in their cupboards, you'll probably be taking a 4x4 or other dirt-worthy vehicle down 70 miles of remote and unpaved topography.
As with most desert terrain, the consistent factor is rocks. Roads are either: dirt littered with rocks; gravel littered with rocks; or sand littered with rocks. And when I say "rocks," they varied in size from "stone" to "boulder."