2011 Adventure-Touring Expedition – Day 3

August 25, 2011
Bart Madson
By Bart Madson
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Bashing away at the MotoUSA keyboard for nine years now, Madson lends his scribbling and editorial input on everything from bike reviews to industry analysis and motorcycle racing reports.

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What’s the saying? The best laid plans of mice and men… No surprise then that the slapdash open-ended itinerary of Motorcycle USA’s Adventure-Touring Shootout is going under heavy revisions. Day 3 should have ended somewhere north in Wyoming or Idaho, en route to this weekend’s Big Sky XC race in Montana. Instead, the crew is stuck in Utah, holed up while one of our testing mounts gets repairs.

The day started with a promising 80-mile run in the dirt from Price to the Uinta Basin. A cooling thundershower greeted the morning departure for nearby 9 Mile Canyon. A critical overland route in the late 1800s (the road was originally built by the 9th Calvalry, AKA the Buffalo Soldiers, to link Price with Fort Duchesne) today 9 Mile Canyon remains unpaved as a backcountry byway.

Curious tourists visit 9 Mile to gander at the prehistoric rock art that lines the steep canyon walls, the most prolific area of pictographs in the nation. We took a gander too, but had to keep on the lookout as the road is heavily trafficked with equipment for natural gas extraction (keeping on the lookout comes natural, reminding us of the logging trucks on our favorite Oregon backroads). Climbing north toward the Uinta Basin the road deteriorates, with the surprising washes of deep silt a bit alarming on big heavy AT bikes (at least for this tester).

Nine Mile Canyon runs through the much of the same old road  originally built in the 1880s.
Nine Mile Canyon runs through the much of the same old road, originally built in the 1880s.

We didn’t get through the dirt completely unscathed, however. One particularly nasty bump launched a bungeed top case bag into dusty oblivion. Luckily the trailing rider didn’t hit it, and that this article exists proves the laptop inside said bag didn’t suffer any ill effects (so far we’re averaging once sacrificed laptop per AT test this year…)

The Ducati Multistrada also had an issue, aside from its gorgeous red bodywork being debased by grimy dirt. A fuel sensor glitch convinced us the ‘Strada was coasting on fumes, but proved faulty, and never resolved. It did make the final 25 miles or so interesting, hoping we wouldn’t have to find our emergency syphon hose.

Crisis averted. The tanks now full, even if one of the bikes continued to think otherwise, our five-rider troop hammered the throttle down scenic SR 35 to Kamas. From there the day was to crescendo with climb up through the High Uintas on SR 150, the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway, motoring into Wyoming and beyond.

But the Multistrada acted up again. Its rear brake, which had given us fits earlier in the trip, finally went kaput in Kamas. A quick bail out to Salt Lake City got the Italian beauty to a Ducati dealer within an hour. Expecting weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth for debauching such a beautiful bike, instead we got their best men on the job ASAP.

So the trip’s running a day behind schedule. In other words, perfectly in sync with MotoUSA standard time. No matter, our Duc should recover tomorrow morning. After that, time to saddle up and head north. Squiggly lines on the map will have to be bypassed for a more direct route… but there’s plenty more roads, paved and dirt, on tap.