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Motorcycling Travel

2021-06-11 thru 13 Adventure Ride thru Unitas and Dinosaur National Monument

Andreas reached out to me last week and wanted to know if I wanted to join him on a three day adventure ride starting from SLC heading up into the north side of the Uintas then meandering towards Vernal, UT then striking out towards and through Dinosaur National Monument then hooking back to SLC on Sunday. I haven’t been out on a long ride in quite a while, nor have I been in the dirt much, but I was excited at the prospect of those.

Rather than a detailed chronology of the trip I’ll just touch on some of the interesting points. The gallery has annotations on most images providing a lot of detail, hover over them to see.

Day 1 – Friday

Got to see a new section of the Uintas, both some of the lowlands as well as the high Uintas. Thursday and Friday last week were unseasonably cool. We definitely felt this on Friday night as we both packed on the light side for clothes due to the warmer weather we expected Saturday and Sunday. Overnight the water we left out froze.

Andreas was good enough to have researched the whole route and sites along the way. We visited some former town sites and homesteads. One such location was Piedmont, UT where three large charcoal kilns stood. These kilns received wood from the forests in the Uintas by the Transcontinental Railway and converted them to charcoal for the mining industry. Even after over 100 years of disuse you could still smell the charcoal inside them.

Day 2 – Saturday

Heading farther east along the Uintas we rode on forest roads and high meadows with reservoirs. We even got to see some cool limestone cliffs that are way off the map but still have some climbing. We had a bit of a concern with our bikes as we noticed that Andreas’ bike was leaking some fuel. After removing the seat to check out the fuel pump we saw a hairline crack in the cap which was causing the leak. After checking it out on my bike—which is almost the same—we saw the same crack, but less leakage. We opted to press on and the minor leak seemed to go away. Still some work left to do resolving that problem though.

Most of the roads were pretty good mix of dirt or light gravel. Occasionally we road on some thicker gravel roads, which I have to say isn’t my favorite. My bike was all squirmy and I had difficulty trusting I could keep the front from washing out—even on a straight—if I had the speed up. But in the end we had no mishaps and no bikes to pick up.

From the Uintas we dropped into the desert of Vernal, UT by way of Flaming Gorge. I haven’t been to that area of Utah and it was pretty nice. The Green River looks quite nice in that area. After gassing up the bikes and ourselves we headed deep into Dinosaur National Monument. I’ve never been to there and didn’t realize it had a lot of scenery in addition to the fossils. I think a return to see some of the tourist areas would be nice. We dropped down from a plateau to eventually spend the night at a campground on the Yampa River. This road down was lots of fun, good dirt and flowy through trees.

Day 3 – Sunday

Sunday we headed east again along the rim above the Yampa. Gaining the rim from the campground we passed a few sites. One was a massive exfoliating flake in the sandstone which you can walk inside like a cave. It was like natural air conditioning. There were some petroglyphs carved about 1000 years ago and still remarkably easy to see. The last site was a homestead that a family had built to herd sheep in the area. It is hard to imagine 100 years ago working the land with the resources they had at the time. After these we were back in full time desert terrain and heat up on the rim. Provided we kept moving it wasn’t bad, but any time we needed to stop for an extended period we needed to find shade.

We had planned to loop back again on some fast dirt roads to bring us back to Vernal. Unfortunately this road turned out to be horrible gravel and we peeled off to Rt. 40 in order to make better time. While the pavement isn’t as fun we did get back to SLC in the late afternoon, which was nice to unpack and clean up.

Definitely need some new tires for the bike after this trip as well as some more ventilated pants 🥵.