It's 500 Somewhere.
It's not an adventure if all goes correctly.
I don't regret any of it.
I landed the Jeep in Salmon, ID. Inside of it, was everything I owned.
Having recently quit my job in the Seattle area and given away all my things, I knew it was time for a real adventure.
I grew up in that town, and a lot of my family is still there. I had ten days to spare, so I decided it was a great time to do a multi-state trip on the 500. My only plan was to pick a direction every morning, and eventually loop back to Salmon. No schedule, no rush, no plans.
I wasn't going to be able to feel free enough if I had to keep moving constantly, or always stay on top of checking the clock.
Over the last year and a half, I have spent many weekends on motocamping trips around Washington, but never more than 4 days at a time. Many of those included leading PNW Dual Sport group rides, but this trip would be my first time going solo for an extended period of time.
Time, thought, and trial/error was put into my bike to set up for it to be capable of long excursions, so it was finally time to put it (and myself) to the test. I spent a lot of time organizing and obtaining all the things I needed, and my brother Henry helped me spend two days prepping the bike with new parts and doing the minor maintenance needed before working the dual sport for such a long ride.
Everywhere I go, I am asked about my bike setup. I have used Mosko Moto luggage for almost 2 years now, and always had a great experience. Soft luggage is much more adaptable to different applications, won't break your ankle, and is less likely to be damaged after contacting things like the ground, trees, or your buddy's bike.
My current "main" luggage is the Reckless 40L System V2.0. A very sturdy harness, that houses 3 separate, removable dry bags. Fully waterproof, adaptable, easy to access each compartment, tough enough to survive any adventure, and expandable with other luggage, such as chairs, tent bags, sleeping pads, or smaller Mosko Moto luggage accessories. This system was designed and engineered over many years through rider input, and fits my bike (and my travels) like a glove. I love the way it looks on the 500.
The tank bag I am currently using is the very recently released Nomad Tank Bag. There is absolutely no other tank bag on the market like this one. Everything is compartmentalized, adapts in shape depending on what is loaded in it, is customizable with a MOLLE panel on top, and includes a hydration bladder, map pocket, and deployable rain cover.
I keep all of my tools in the Fatty Tool Roll, a setup that is VERY sturdy, and set up to organize my tools better than any other tool pouch I've tried before. One of the key differences of this one to others, is that it comes with it's own rain pouch. The "belt" makes it easy to keep it closed, and the loop is a handy way to attach it to parts of your luggage and bike. It even has a whiskey drink recipe inside, but you'll have to get one yourself to find out how to make it.
To protect myself from the elements, I chose to ride in the new KLiM Dakar setup. The jersey is mesh, but the toughest mesh I've ever felt. Very strange, but cool. Ventilation is important, and the pants do the job well, also. Comfortable enough I didn't really notice the gear, which is a great sign. I paired it with a Forecast setup and base layers in case of inclement weather. I chose to wear dirt gear over adventure gear, because it's difficult to be comfortable in something so constrictive and hot. May not have been the safest choice, but it was the most comfortable one.
The KLiM Arsenal Vest made it easy to carry things on me for easy access, and to have hydration ready at all times.
I have been wearing the same pair of boots for almost two years. They aren't the safest or sturdiest boot, but they waterproof and very comfortable. I used to not bring shoes on trips, and just wear these MSR Dual Sport boots the entire weekend. The gummy sole on the bottom is great for gripping the pegs, even when it's raining.
The gear and equipment to take along on a trip like this is a never ending learning and adapting experience. Most of it is largely opinion/preference based, so the best way to find out is to just try it on your own and learn through experience. Just grab what you think you need, and give it a shot. You'll figure it out eventually, and may even enjoy the problem solving involved.
Passing over the continental divide at Big Hole Pass, I got turned around numerous times trying to find the CDT, but ran into this old homestead down some rocky two-track road.
Hadn't I gotten lost, I would have never found it. Definitely worth a good photo stop.
Feeling a little down that I couldn't find the trail, I decided continuing down the pass road into Montana was probably the best option. This led me into the town of Wisdom, where I got some advice at a local gas station of a neat place nearby I could stay at for the night, so I high-tailed it directly to Elkhorn Hot Springs.
If the one homestead house I found sitting by itself earlier that day wasn't enough, I was fortunate enough to come across an entire mining ghost town just up the road from the campground I hung my hammock up at for the night. This little run-down town, in my mind, seemed like the perfect place for a beer break.
I was technically downtown, so why not?
The town was once basecamp to a pretty massive silver mining facility. This megastructure blew my mind when I rolled up on it, I didn't expect more than just a mine shaft sticking out of a hillside.
Looking for an alternate way out of the mine, instead of backtracking, I found myself a little bit "off path". I parked the bike on what was almost an island, because of how wide the stream meandered around it. Caught the alpineglow just in time. Watching the 500 slowly sink in the mud as I was taking photos let me know it was time to ride back to camp.
I ended up freezing my ass off that night in my hammock. The temp dropped to 34 degrees (read on my Trail Tech Voyager). After scrambling around camp, I finally found a lighter and got the fire going again, which I slept to the rest of the night in my chair.
The following day, I decided to take a long dirt section behind the Blacktail Mountains en route to Yellowstone National Park. Plenty of 70mph gravel for speed. A few sandy sections to keep you on your toes. Even the skeletal remains of an elk to remind you that you are in the high desert. I ended up crossign the Continental Divide again.
Arriving in Yellowstone wasn't as busy as I expected, but I did show up in the evening.
It's hard being on a bike this narrow and not cutting in line.
Best way to avoid traffic in Yellowstone? Go on the long routes late in the day. Most everyone is headed back to their campsite or hotel, and they aren't sure if they'll complete the section before dark.
My timing arriving in Yellowstone could not have been worse. It was peak summer time, and a few days before the big solar eclipse everyone was flocking towards. Every camp site was booked a long time ago. My back-up plan was to shoot out of the park in the evening, and find some national forest to run into and camp. I was fortunate enough, though, to run into someone named Bill Rider (that's really his last name) on a KTM 1290. We chatted bikes, travel, flat track racing (which he did for 15 years), and eventually he invited me to share the campground his wife and him had already reserved for the night.
Bikes have a great way of bringing people together.
I made my way around the entire Grand Loop in a day, but didn't take many photos. I did make an effort to stop and grab this:
After running around the park solo all day, I found Bill and Estelle's camp spot well after dark, and settled in for the night. Beers and story swapping lasted late into the night.
Putting the rubber back down the next morning, I high-tailed it to the Grand Tetons. A place I've been wanting to return to for many years. I took the longer route there, and ended up getting pulled over. The officer told me I passed him in a no-passing zone (I definitely did), but I told him he was parked in the middle of a road in a blind corner, so I had no choice. Surprisingly, he just let me leave. Boring story.
The Tetons are the most spectacular looking range I've seen in my life. A highway runs north through the valley just east of these peaks. You can stare at them while riding alongside, and watch them change shape as your viewpoint shifts.
Moments after stepping off my bike, I was greeted by someone walking out of a pizzeria. His first words were "I follow you on Instagram!". Scott and I chatted for a bit, and he said he had the perfect spot for watching the eclipse with a Teton view.
He was not kidding, awesome spot:
While out on that star photo mission, I did not secure my Mosko Moto Fatty Tool Roll properly. All of my spare parts, tools, and necessities for keeping my bike rolling down the highway were lost. If you've ever even just gone on a day ride with your dual sport, you can understand the discomfort and un-easiness I experienced the next leg of the journey...it was like riding around with my helmet unstrapped.
The following morning brought a great sunrise that shown onto the peaks, making them glow. The following photo is not that moment.
It was finally eclipse day. We waited in anticipation all morning. We watched as the moon slowly covered the sun (with eclipse glasses on, of course). Eventually, day became night after a very unusual lighting change. The birds got quiet, bugs showed up thinking it was night, and the stars came out. We saw a beautiful sunset effect in a 360 around us. Being in the direct path of totality, the returning light from the sun passed directly over the Tetons before returning to us. It was like watching the sunrise at noon.
Spectacular sight unlike anything I've ever seen:
What if I told you...the bison was moving faster than post-eclipse traffic.
With limited storage being available on any bike, I only had a few sets of undergarments and street clothes with me. With the heat and dust, everything gets nasty pretty quick. Laundry machines are a rare amenity, so I schemed up a plan to get some fresh clothes. Since the Mosko Moto Reckless 40 leg bags are fully waterproof, I figured one of them would make a great laundry machine.
I rode down to the nearby lake with a leg bag full of dirty clothes, added some water and Wilderness Wash, closed it up and shook it all about. After letting it soak for a bit, I pullled each piece out one at a time and rinsed it in the lake. After a good wringing, I dried it all by the campfire.
SInce they were designed to be a race bike, oil changes are required more often on the 500.
I pack two 1.5L fuel bottles with filters in the lower pouches of the Mosko Moto Reckless 40. The capacity of these bottles is the exact amount needed for my engine, so no measuring required. A quick stop at an auto parts store, and I was able to buy a set of cheap tools to replace all the ones I lost. I threw them all in a generic tool pouch I could hang off the beavertail straps of the R40. Stopping there to do the oil change gave me the advantage of borrowing the loaner drain pain, and they even discarded the used oil for me.
A nice peace of mind while piling miles up.
Just as I finished putting the bike back together and putting my gear on, my bike suddenly collapsed. Luckily, I was standing right next to it.
Turns out, the kickstand gave out. Most likely, the bolt had loosened, and I didn't catch it in time. Between the weight of my luggage, and standing on my pegs with the stand down over and over, it finally had enough of my bullshit. Even with the failure, I am still impressed with the Trail Tech kickstand. When the stock kickstand fails this way, you can't just get a new bolt for it, since there is a bushing pressed in that will break as well.
I saved the bolt head for future reference during replacement later, and put the kickstand in one of the accessory straps on the R40. Topped off with gas, I followed the highway south through some very straight, boring, and empty landscape on the way to Utah.
The moment I crossed the Wyoming-Utah border, the entire terrain dramatically changed. It was like rolling into another planet. Canyons, uplifted faces of rock shooting straight out of the earth, and winding roads that made for excellent riding.
I should note, the majority of this trip was spent in 90-100 degree weather.
Utah was probably the hottest part.
I can fit nearly a gallon of water in the Hydrapack of my KLiM Arsenal Vest, and a reserve of 1.8L in the Mosko Moto Nomad Tank Bag. Riding down the road, I found myself sipping water about every 15 minutes. One of the most important things to do on a ride (or life, in general) is to stay hydrated. You'll have a much better experience doing that. I have failed at this on the bike many times, and had a miserable experience which each time could have been much worse if I was as far from home as I was during this trip.
Having the Platypus in the bottom of the Nomad, and using gravity to let the water flow out of the mouthpiece, was great for quickly filling up a cup or rinsing my toothbrush off.
Riding through the canyon roads in Utah was incredible. The pavement felt like a racetrack, meandering next to rock faces, and opening up to enormous views revealing red-rock geological features for miles. I had my music cranked up, was up standing on the pegs, and having a blast.
That all came to a halt, really quick.
Recognize that? This is what you find when your rear end suddenly starts wobbling uncontrollably at 70mph. The wheel bearing completely blew out, leaving me on the side of the road.
I guess all of the higher-speed miles in such hot weather did it's toll. Remember, these are short-course race bikes, not adventure bikes.
This all happened at 5:45PM, just outside Vernal, UT. There was only one motorcycle shop still open, so I gave them a call. A guy named Drew answered, and said they don't carry anything for KTM. But....he offered to come pick me up when he got off work with the shop trailer.
The universe is a good place.
One of the best things you can do for yourself when things don't go right is to keep a good attitude. Find something positive in the negative, or just remind yourself "this too shall pass". My upside to this down situation was finally staying in a hotel room, and taking a real shower finally. Vernal was once a booming oil town, so many nice hotels went up to house the oil workers. Turns out, it went flat. The hotels now are much cheaper, as they are struggling to fill rooms, so I ended up staying in one of the nicest rooms I've ever booked. It even had a dishwasher, where I washed one lonely dish: my titanium spork.
Drew hauled my bike to the dealership, let me lock it up in the yard, and even helped me carry my luggage into my hotel room. Then began "the search". I needed to find a solution to get me back on the road. Just grab new bearings, right? Not quite.
The plan was to wait until morning, walk to the local KTM dealer, pick up some new bearings, and let Drew throw them in for me. However, after calling them the minute they opened, they let me know they had zero in stock.
Vernal is pretty far from any other major city. I started worrying about how long I would be stuck in that town. I started consulting friends and the online community. Most told me to have some shipped overnight, but I felt like that would be risky (if they got there late or lost) and expensive (more hotel costs). Someone online let me know the standard bearing part number, so I got hopeful and started calling every auto shop, hardware store, and similar business to try and track at least one down. Nothing.
I was about to give in and order a pair when someone on Facebook contacted me, saying he did some research and found 2 in stock at the local Fastenal in town. Way above and beyond! I darted there as fast as I could, and sure enough, they were the right bearings! While I was at it, I grabbed a socket head bolt and a few washers to re-attach my kickstand. Double win.
With supplies in hand, I ran back to the shop. Drew went to work right away.
I've swapped wheel bearings on the 500 myself before, but since I was on a time crunch, I let the shop handle this one. Turns out, this was an excellent idea. The inner chase of the bearing welded itself into the spacer and had to be removed by a grinder. Something I would not have been able to do myself with simple tools on the side of the road.
Rolling the bike out of the shop, and having it back in my possession again, was an enormously relieving feeling. IF you've ever had to park your bike for a while and not ride it, you know where I'm coming from.
Just as I was ready to roll back to the hotel, my friend Jason showed up. He had been on a similar trip to mine for over a week, but on an FJR 1300. He was headed north through Vernal as I was headed south. It was awesome to be able to catch up with him for a bit, swap road stories, and drink a few beers.
With everything finally sorted out, I rolled all of my gear and luggage outside on a hotel cart. It was heavy and barely fit, with things trying to fall off the sides. I loaded it all up, put it on, and went onward towards Colorado.
Shortly after crossing this vibrant sign, I saw the greenest and cloudiest terrain I had yet encountered on this trip. During a very hot and dry summer, Colorado still had some very live areas. It immediately got colder, which was an amazing break from constant sweat.
The weather eventually showed it's "cold" side by greeting me with thunder and storm clouds on the horizon.
Since I was in the Dakar setup, which is mostly built for dirt biking, I didn't have any weather resistance. I pulled out my Forecast gear from behind my headlight to suit up for the rain, which fit right over my riding gear, and underneath my Arsenal Vest.
It was quick and easy to suit up in, and within minutes, I was being pummeled by heavy rain only lasting 30 minutes or so. I didn't want to stop and take it all off again, in case another storm passed over, so I opened the side vents on the jacket to keep the airflow going.
My time in Colorado was very short. I made a direct line for Grand Junction, where I picked up some supplies. Following that, I immediately headed back into Utah to work my way towards Moab. Not really sure if CO really even counts as part of the trip.
Entering Utah once again, I could see the distinct features you see in pictures of Moab. Something Jason would call "roadrunner country".
It was a long, hot, and very straight stretch of freeway on the way to Moab. Thankfully, the views of red towering rock and other strange features kept it interesting. I found myself riding with my legs up on the tank, and laying my back on my luggage for most of it.
Downtown Moab is a very rad little area. Of course, I went to the local brewery, then headed into the hills to camp. There was almost no one around. That night, I sat in my chair and drank two very hot beers that were in my luggage all day. The milky way came out very strong. I could hear bats hunting above me, as well as two owls 20 feet away from me having a conversation, each in their own voice. The last noise I remember also hearing was the very distant roar of 4x4s navigating through the night.
Just as the rest of the trip, that morning I needed to pick a new destination. With numerous friends recommended I go ride the White Rim Road, I couldn't justify skipping it. I had never heard of it before, but trusted in my buddies' intuitions, and made a direct route. It's located in Canyonlands National Park.
Arriving at the Island in the Sky visitor center, I was told I would need a permit to travel on the White Rim Road. This ended up being very easy, just fill out the slip, and you are good to go.
I hit the trail, and dropped in elevation quickly while scaling down the side of a canyon wall on a crazy switchback road. The further down I got, the hotter it grew. I was eventually back in the 100 degree weather once I was in the "bottom" where it opened up into a valley, with no clouds in sight. This is the kind of place that makes you feel very isolated.
Now, for the weirdest thing to ever happen to me on a bike:
While shooting across the canyon floor, I was suddenly startled by a very loud and instant BOOM. I about jumped off my bike in reaction. The thoughts running through my mind in just a second or two were: gunshot, bomb, landmine...you name it. It was extremely loud. I looked back, and saw a cloud of something just behind my bike, leftover from the explosion. Soon after, I had discovered that my full can of chain lube I had, went off like a bomb.
Unfortunately, the shitty tool pouch I was using had slid down onto my exhaust, catching the pouch on fire. This eventually ignited the chain lube and blew it up. All of the tools were gone, save a few I found near the bike. I searched and searched, and could not find the rest. I did, however, find the remnants of the lube bottle. The cyclinder of it was 500 feet to the right of my bike, off in the desert. The bottom of the can, about 500 ft to the left. Must have been a sight to see, given there was someone to see it.
Feeling defeated and overheated, I headed out of the canyon. Being as far as I was from civilization, and feeling guilty about leaving my dog for so long, I decided slabbing it on the fastest route home was the smart choice.
Backtracking, I started finding my tools. One. At. A. Time. For 3 miles, they were on the road. The bag must have been on fire for quite a long time, slowly melting and dropping everything I had just bought. Now, riding in this 100 degree heat is tough enough. Try stopping every 100 feet, climbing off the bike, hiking around picking up tools, and getting back on the bike...for 3 miles! It was miserable.
It was definitely dissapointing not finishing this trail, but returning to do the White Rim is a high priority for me right now.
The rest of the trip was spent doing very long sections of boring highway, sleeping in strange places when I couldn't push myself any further, and almost running out of gas a couple times.
11 days, over 2000 miles, and 1,000,000 memories later, I was back in Salmon.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my misadventure, whether in awe or laughter.
My goal was to humiliate myself a bit, so that I may motivate others to go headfirst and try something over their ability or knowledge, without the worry of what may happen or what others may think of them. Sometimes you just need to go out and do it, even when you are underprepared. The riding community (and the rest of the universe) will be there to help you through it, and you may even surprise yourself with what you are able to figure out on your own.
You'll learn more about travel, different regions, surviving an ADV trip, and your bike's needs.
But, mostly, you'll learn so much about yourself. Get out there and just do it.