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About this blog

This blog will follow me, 24 years old and a year removed from college, on my week long journey from South Florida to the wilds of Colorado and back again with 7 of the best young men I could hope to ride with and 10 bikes to get us through. The entries may come slowly but I assure you I will get through the adventure for those of you that are interested. Please tell me what you think and let me know things I can do better to make it a better reading experience for the audience. 

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Day 8: Rand Colorado/Parkview Mountain

August 9th was another early morning for us, mostly because we stayed up late having drinks and hanging out at the pool the night before. Luckily the days are long in Colorado during summer. It was the 5th day of riding so everyone is starting to get tired and really feel the miles we have covered. No worries though, I still felt like a kid on Christmas morning at this point.Ready to go take on the next location. The previous day had given us enough free time to load everything up and prepare for the next day without needing to do anything in the morning but climb into a truck and go. So we made a quick breakfast and stopped by the grocery for lunch food, then hit the gas station for fuel and off we went back in the same direction as Walden.  We passed by Rabbit Ears once again and cut the highway short of Walden to drive about 10 miles of dirt road over to the next highway, and our driver thought it would be hilarious to drift his truck and see if he could get some air off a little ridge. all the while my 300 is on the hitch rack in the rear. Real comforting stuff. This put us in Rand, Colorado which has a post office and not much else. From there we cruised south for about 10 miles to the parking area that is nearly 3.5 miles north of Parkview mountain. The guys begin to get unloaded nad prepped for the ride ahead and our host, Austin, is messing around flying down the dirt road and comes skidding into the lot and high sides into another bike for the most hilarious get off I have seen in my life. What a way to start the day! After everyone is finished rolling laughing we hop on the bikes and get going down the road. Our first trail is about 4 miles of single track that starts out in what looks like a cut over but I cant really tell because it was so grown over, if not then there were a ton of deadfalls. The trail would snake its way into a stand of pines and then back out into the open, but it was such rough terrain you had to really maintain the trail or risk getting booted from your mount by a hole or a log. It started off as a very fast trail but also pretty dusty so we had to space out a bit. There were a few trees over the track so that introduced another element of fun or danger depending on how you feel about crossing logs. The trail continues like this in and out of heavy woods back into the open. The thing about Colorado trails is that they only cut enough tree off to get a bike through when they have a tree fall in the way. This makes it really important to stay centered. I managed to whack the tip of a log laying beside the trail and it kicked me off in the rough and I just held it wide open and managed to stay upright somehow. There is no telling what all I ran over, 15 minutes into the day, so I went ahead and got my heart rate up and all the fear out right then. The end of the trail brought us back out to the main dirt road that skirts the area.  We all met up in a lot just across the road to get our breath back and regroup. My buddy Josh on the CR250 had a rough time with that trail but decided to soldier on. From the lot we had to use a short piece of road to hit the next trailhead. I thought it would be a fun thing to pull a fast wheelie down the open road except it had a sharp curve and I ran off the road and into a tree in the ditch like a total goon. Came out okay and received quite a few laughs.  This time the trail starts out in a very open field but soon dips into the woods. This mountain is a totally different terrain than Hahn's. It is really open in the trees and much more even terrain, no huge drop offs or boulders to contend with. This trail was shorter at bout 2 miles and dumped us out onto the main road again, but this time the view is spectacular. We were in a valley with a stream running through totally surrounded by peaks on every side. As we looked up to the south there was a bare spot on the mountain that Austin said we would reach later.  This is where we were: https://goo.gl/maps/3tgam62Mtr62 As we left that point the trail headed out across this bare valley and was 5th and 6th gear speed and up beside the trees until we got to the single track that slowed us down and started to switch back and forth. I always loved getting to open the bike up after being on tighter trails for a while. This was definitely the most fun set of trail we rode. The elevation change was constant. The trails were tight and challenging but then they would get straight for a little seed run. The whole time branches are in your face or you're having to duck if standing. There weren't too many rocks to contend with. It was just a very flowy single track set. Periodically the faster guys would stop to wait on everyone to catch up as this piece of trail snaked up and down the ridges several times and ended up being about 10 miles long. We did eventually reach that bare spot on the ridge and it was covered with rocks. I'm not sure if it is natural or man made, but someone had brought in granite to shore up the trail at this point so it wouldn't wash away. Again, the view was great. You could see the whole valley that we had just come out of and I will have pictures of this below. The climb up to this spot was a little gnarly but it was so fun. As long as you held on the throttle you were fin but it was rocky enough to throw off your balance if the wrong line was chosen. Everyone got up it without incident though and it gave the less experienced guys some much needed confidence. We used this spot to take a long break and get pictures, have a snack and drink a morning beer just because we could. I remember the awe of the moment, my bikes, my friends, me all together in this amazing place and the freedom to do so. That is something that will never leave me.  We decide it was time to move on and took the remaining part of the trail back down to the valley and the main road to figure out where to go for the remainder of the day. Josh was having trouble with the forks on the CR at this point and decided to the the main road back to the truck which at this point was 8 miles back around the north side of the mountain. Its great how long the trails are there to not be that far from the truck. We decided to head back in the direction of the truck to get to some slower more technical riding on the mountain since we had plenty of daylight left as opposed to just taking faster trails all the way around the mountain but being basically unreachable if something were to happen. We started off on single track but soon came out onto fire roads that snaked through the ridges. These were a blast. They were fast and had water breaks in them that made great jumps for a bike. They were covered with loose rocks making for an interesting feel at speed. It was similar to sand but shakey. These took us around to the very north side of Parkview just down below the tree line.  The trails here are like nothing I have ever seen. There was not much undergrowth because the trees made it so dark. The soil was moist even though it had not rained in a week and the ground was covered with leaves and needles from the trees. The rocks were slick as well as the roots. It was tight and slow going as the trail wound up and down, back and forth. There were rock sections with jagged edges all sticking up and there were ledges that had to be hopped up. nothing here was washed out or too muddy. The trail would get steep and then turn off camber and dive back down into another corner. This bit of trail got everyone pretty tired. I managed to smash my right foot between a stump and my footpeg for the most painful event of my trip and later it turned some ugly colors. Turns out riding bots are not indestructible! I couldn't estimate how long the trail was. It seemed like it took forever tho get through but it was a blast! We all popped out on top of a low ridge overlooked by Parkview. The ridge had been used as a camp and a logging location in the past. Looking up at the mountain it looked fairly easy to get up on one side and I so wanted to ride up it to the top like we did Hahn's. While we were resting I pulled out my hone to look for the best way up and it turns out the continental divide trail runs the top ridge and it was just a couple miles of fire road over to it. I just couldn't convince the other guys that was the way to go. They wanted a more direct route through the trees. So we tried to use an old logging road but there were just too many down trees for everyone to pass. We spent nearly an hour trying to go this way before someone decided that we didn't need to get too far and get caught in the dark for a second time in one week. We turned around and went back to the logging spot. At this point it really was late enough in the day to be getting back to the truck.  I was desperately disappointed in our attempt to get to the top, we didn't even get close and I know if we had just followed a good trail we could've reached the summit in time. I was mad that the guys would listen to me, I mean we had a satellite map right there to look at for reference. I'm still grumbling about it typing this 5 months later (LOL)! I guess this just means I have something new to look forward to when we go back this year. We hopped on more single track going back to the truck and it was mostly down hill and easy enough to manage. Everyone was fairly tired though and I didn't have the energy to put towards riding it fast anymore so I was just cruising enjoying the scenery. The trail began to widen a little and open us up to some nasty cliffs and dangerous sections that required care to stay on top of. We crossed over the main road a few different times and finally came to a stop to rest. Austin gave us the option to continue or just take the road out and we were split about half and half. So Austin and 2 other guys kept riding trail as the rest of us took the road out. I swapped bikes with one of the guys so he could have my 300 for the trails and I took my 450 SX bike back for the open roads. Honestly, I was having a blast ripping the big thumper on the mountain roads. Maybe more fun than I would have on the trails at that point. We all got to race a little bit coming out of there and were just having a good time riding. The dirt spit us out onto the paved county road and at that point there was no other option. So we all got in a line and headed north up the paved road. I had never ridden my bike on a paved road before, I was not aware how much fun it really is. I wouldn't do it again for the obvious legality of the situation unless faced with a similar circumstance. I knew I could hold a wheelie well on dirt but man is it easy on pavement, especially with the big 450. My buddy used his trailtech to measure the distance of my longest at 0.78 miles. That was fun. No doubt, I don't need a street bike. The big sweeping turns were fun too and luckily we never passed any vehicles before we made it to the parking lot.  We found Josh safe with the trucks and trailers. Once again we had a successful day out of the trail and were ready for food and bed. On the drive home I was again struck by how good it felt to be there and doing what I love. It is all hard to put into words. I cannot think of a happier time in my life.   

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Day 6 & 7: Sand Dunes of Walden, Colorado then REST

(There may not be as much to this one because it was riding sand dunes, not as much substance there.) Tuesday, August 7th, I woke up to the smell of breakfast cooking. Patrick had gone out to the grocery and gotten fixings to make some kind of breakfast scramble. Eggs, sausage, bacon, veggies, you can imagine how great that was for 8 young men from the south all out here in Colorado without a Mom or girlfriends to cook all week. It's pitiful to admit how much you neglect eating well when you're off on a guys trip. I cook every morning and evening at home but between twisting a throttle, turning a wrench and holding a beer you don't always find time to eat anything decent. Old man Pat(28 y/o) came to our rescue though! This day's travels would take us back south the way we came into town in total darkness and then of the the northeast so we got to see new sights. The first was Rabbit Ear's Pass. As you might imagine, the name comes from a rock formation that greatly resembles a pair of rabbit ears atop a peak. This drive was much different than the past 2 days. We were heading out of the mountains and down into a huge basin between ranges. Once past Rabbit Ear's we took a left onto Jackson County Road 14 heading towards Walden. Walden is smack in the middle of this basin that is around 27 square miles. It is beautiful there. In every direction you look there are mountains rising up all around you. To the south and west the continental divide trail runs the peaks of the Rabbit Ears Range and the Park Range. To the north and east the Medicine Bow Mountains close up the bowl. The highway takes you through the Arapaho Ranch Co which is beautiful and green during summer with its fields watered by winter snow melt. Its all rolling hills covered in tall grass, the hills bounding slowly down to the creeks that run the bottom of the basin. It took an hour to get to Walden and from there it is another half hour to the riding area. Walden is a tiny place not even half a mile to get through town. It gave me a weird feeling. Almost a depressing sort of feeling. The place looked its age and mostly forgotten. I could not get over the amount of junk cars that lay around the town and the outskirts. I don't think I have ever seen anything like it before.  The sand dunes are a few miles north of town and have to be the most striking feature that I have seen in the mountains. They sit right at the base of the mountain range and are wind swept up to the slopes. It is so strange to be driving along and all of a sudden there are sand dunes in the mountains. I have tried to research how they came to be but really can't find any theories that may explain their existence. It's 1400 acres of sand dunes, it's just odd. The dunes are about 6 miles off the highway and you follow a dirt road out to meet them and of course you can't drive too far out or your tow rig will end up becoming part of the dunes too. Before I even got gear on I had to take a rip on the 450. It always feels so good to just open it up and run up to 70 mph. It was a hot day and the open sand was soaking up the heat. We all got our gear on and headed out onto the dunes.  I really couldn't tell how big they were until we got out there and you would lose guys easily. No trees, no obstacles and you still can't see each other. These aren't like the dunes you see in the FMX videos either, they are much much flatter. It was a nutty experience to begin with. Just open riding, you can't hit anything and if you eat it it doesn't really hurt. We all rode around a while just blasting wide open throttle runs until our hearts were content. We found gaps to jump and berms to rail. There were trails where the dunes blew into the trees but they were just so sandy it was hard to maintain much momentum. Not to mention, coming from Florida I had no desire to ride sand trails 2000 miles away when that is all I have at home to do. The hardest thing we did was hill climbs in that stuff. It just east your momentum and traction and torque. It's tough to do without a sand tire. After plenty of that the next obvious thing to do is go pull the 500 out of the trailer and let everyone tear around on it. Unfortunately, that didn't last too long because the second time it got opened up the water pump gasket went out and she was puking steam and coolant so the 500 was packed up early.  Now we get to the actual fun ideas. Lets all drag race half a mile out across the flat section of sand. Just picture this bike line up: 1994 Honda CR250R (roached, clapped, etc.), 2008 KTM 250 XC, 2009 KTM 250 XCFW, 2012 KTM 300 XC, 2012 KTM 300 XCW, 2014 KTM 250 XC, 2017 KTM 250 XC, and 2017 KTM 450 SXF. There is nothing fair about any of this, but that is what makes it so fun. We set up a camera at the finish line ot record the whole thing coming at it. We used a timer to give us the signal to go. The first race I won pretty handily on the 450. Tjhe second race I won again but it was closer. The third race the 2017 250 XC got me. It actually was an interesting little experiment. The 450 definitely has the most power and top end, no arguing that point. It was geared higher than the other bikes though and suffered off the line. Those 250 to strokes are blazing fast bikes though. Both of them hung with me the whole time. I was very impressed with them. The pair of 300s did fine off the line but quickly fell back due to their lack of over rev I imagine. and all the older bikes suffered from a combination of inexperienced riders and just being older, worn, tech. Those were fun drags and it's always fun to beat your buddies at anything. One other thing I discovered that I'm really good at is riding whoops. I assume that is a product of all the sandy stuff I ride in Florida. We found a few sections of whoop out there and I could run away from all the other guys pretty easily.  After we got through drag racing I decided to go run some of the dirt roads around the dunes. I just wasn't impressed that much with the sand. Not to say I didn't have fun but I was in a place where I could easily go explore and not get lost so I did just that. All the vegetation around was pretty low so you could see quite a distance and the roads were straight and smooth so it was blast just to go ride fast and enjoy the landscape. The roads would run up the mountain a little and then you could come back down or continue along off camber. We came back to the truck for drinks and snacks and to regroup around mid day. A group of us decided to go on up the mountain and see what we could find and the other half stayed down on the dunes to play around more there. The trail up the mountain was all double track. I guess you could take a truck up if you really wanted to. Then soil was a rusty color and the first half was very rocky. This made it slow going for some of the slower guys, but it's such good training. About a quarter of the way up I swapped bikes with a guy so that he could get a feel for the 300 power. Taking off back up I definitely could tell I was on an older 250, they just lack that bottom end grunt but are so much fun to rev out. After about a mile and a half I noticed an odd feeling in the rear and saw that the rear had gone flat so I stopped to wait for Patrick to catch up to me. I would have turned back but he is one of those riders that you really don't want to spook around a corner because there is no telling what he might do. When he caught me I showed him the issue with his bike and he decided that he had had enough fun for one day anyhow and limped it back down the trail to the truck. I offered to let him stay on my bike and I would go back but he insisted. It worked out though; I changed both of his tires the next day. Before I took off I waited for Josh to catch up on his trusty CR250. I told him since its basically a road we are on that I'm going to go on ahead and not wait up, told him to just stay on this road and we'll find him in a bit if he doesn't catch us first. We started back up the top out all the while chasing our fastest rider, Noah. (I could write a book on how fast a mountain bike background makes these guys on a dirt bike.)  The second half of the climb up was smooth and free of all the loose rocks. It was so fast and when going up hill you can hold the throttle open more for maximum fun factor! I eventually caught Noah where he had slowed down to look around for single track stuff. We found on that was very short and dumped up out on a power line cut over. The view was epic. You could see all the way back west across the valley that we had just driven through that morning to get there. The sky was a beautiful, rich, blue with fluffy white clouds dotting it and the sun beaming through the openings. Down below us you could easily make out the 2 sets of dunes and we could actually see and hear the other guys riding down there. It's strange to hear 2 strokes from so far away because their exhaust note just doesn't travel very far. There will definitely be a picture below. We turned back after snapping some pictures and continued down the road. After another couple miles we stopped and Noah brought up that we had no idea where this road led. I pulled up google maps on my phone and realized that this road was a county road and I looked later and saw that this system of dirt roads and trails run 100 miles clear into central Wyoming. That may have been a bit of a trek on dirt bikes! We headed back to the truck and to find Josh. We got about halfway down and still hadn't seen Josh so I turned to go back up again and met him almost where another road connects up with this one. Josh had taken the other road after I explicitly told him to stay on the one we were riding.   He says he just thought we would've gone that way. I got a little more upset than I should've probably, but we're grown men and for your well being sometimes its a good idea to follow directions. That, though, is where his inexperience comes in. It doesn't take much to look for sign, just like tracking an animal, you can track a dirt bike pretty well. Another option is to shut your bike off and listen. Josh didn't think to do either of those. Most of all I would suggest that you use your head and think. It's the "what-ifs" that scare me and are the reason I got upset. Always think "what if" when riding, especially if you are alone or bringing up the rear.  On the way down the mountain I thought it would be fun to run it dead engine. I was right! It was interesting to take a 230 pound dirt bike and basically use it like a mountain bike. My entire focus was on speed, I always wanted to go faster. I also noticed how I had to be a little more careful with line choice because I had no throttle to save me from a bobble. I would recommend trying it if you get the chance. You can hear and feel much better what the bike is doing and how its gripping the terrain. You are much more aware of your braking habits when you don't have any way to speed it back up if you grab too much. This was pretty much the end of the riding day. We all met back up at the truck for beers and of course to tell each other bout the most bad ass thing we did during the day since we didn't all really stay together.  Day 7: Rest This day we all slept late and made breakfast on our own. Nothing special. We went up to the continental divide trial right out side of town for a bit and rode less than 20 miles. It was a day to just play around and find neat features to hit. We rode a few new trails but all were short and very rocky. I found this neat little step up right at the trail head and we all wore it out jumping it 20 or so times a piece. The less experienced guy practiced getting over logs and rocks. It was also a good day for them to go ride the same trail we had ridden the first day and feel how much faster they were and how much more comfortable. That progression is one of the best parts of riding no matter if you've been riding 20 weeks or 20 years. All in all it was a rest day, we didn't do anything strenuous or any long hauls. I'm one of those riders that loves to emulate the tricks that guys like Jarvis can do, except I have nowhere near the skill level. I hopped every log and rock we passed, jumped off ledges, went up ledges, jumped singles and makeshift little doubles, found the step up, pulled countless wheelies, got better at standing on the bike with just one foot(no hands, standing on one foot peg) and coasting. I recommend the last one as a neat trick to impress your friends. After we decided that we had enough we loaded up and went back to the apartment to play mechanic shop. On the way in we got a countless number of beers and I grabbed a bottle of Jonnie Walker because who doesn't want a little buzz before wrenching on a whole fleet of bikes. We had gotten tires and tubes shipped in from RM. Then there were other little nagging things on various bikes that needed a fix, luckily mine didn't need anything but an oil and air filter change. For starters we got to work on tires. Now this is a skill that all of you experienced guys need to teach your buddies that are new to riding. I changed both of Patrick's tires in the time it took another rider to do his rear. I am no expert at all but I know what works. Obviously we all helped each other though so it went quicker. The next skill set that guys need to work on is learning how to jet your carburetor. It is important to have some sense of what is in it and what changes you need to make base on how the bike is running. It also helps to know how to get to your jets and needle and if you need to take the carb off the bike. Most of all, do your best to make sure your bike is ready to ride for a whole week before hauling it across the country. I put in a lot of time, effort and fresh parts to ensure that I would not have any preventable issues while out on the trail and it showed.  After we finished up and had put everything back in the trailer we got a complaint from the property manager! (LOL) Once again someone complained about us wrenching on bikes in the parking lot. Not bothering a thing, not at an unreasonable hour, not loud, not obnoxious, but some people just need something to complain about. 

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Day 5: Hahn's Peak & Nipple Peak (Pictures!)

Ah, Monday August 6th, the first real day of riding. The last 3 riders had made it in so we had the whole group ready to go tear up the back country of Colorado. We got a little bit of a late start but figured we would be fine since Austin knew the trails and said we had plenty of time to go out and get back to the truck before dark. This would not be the case but more on that later. We were heading up to Hahn's Peak about an hour north of town. Once you are within half an hour the mountain takes over your view. Its striking with its rock covered peak. I ask if that is Hahn's Peak and Austin says "Yeah, we are going to ride to the top." Now, from our point of view one the south side of the mountain I see no possible way to get a dirt bike up it because of the steepness so I sit back in silence and disagree with him. At the top there is a speck, its a fire watch tower from the early 1900s and I realize if a person was standing up there you couldn't make them out. So this peak is up there. I posted pictures ta the end to give you a sense of how climbing this thing would be.  If you have never ridden a 500cc two stroke dirt bike then I suggest you do that as soon as possible. Beg someone to let you ride theirs if you have to. I thought my 2017 Kato 450 was a monster... nah! The 1991 KTM 500MX that Austin had bought and got running was a real monster. We had just made gaskets for the top end and got the cooling system sealed up the night before to this would be our first day on the bike. It screams, the front end has no desire to stay on the ground. The geometry sucks, the suspension is not up to par, but the fun is real. Your legs don't naturally go to the thinnest part of the bike when standing, and the handlebars are too close to your body so its a real art to ride it fast. Once those of us brave enough to ride it got a turn we loaded it back in the trailer and got back to getting ready to actually go out for the day.  We had driven around to the north side of the mountain which doesn't look nearly as crazy to get up so I started to have a glimmer of hope abut reaching the summit. We mostly took double track forest roads to the trail up to the summit. Started in Clark County Road 413 to 414 to 418 which are all just hard pack and dusty with some rocks and wash breaks thrown in. Good fast riding to get the blood flowing and enough dust to choke down an elephant. It didn't take long to ride the 2 and a half miles to the trail that we would take up the mountain. I would like to note that when riding in a group a 8 riders ranging from A level racers to absolute beginners it is important to stop and make sure everyone takes the correct forks in the road. The new guys don't always know to look for tracks and signs of tire tracks. The dust also made us run pretty wide distances between riders. So we had to turn around at one point and go get the last 3 riders in the group. We got back to the trail head, wish I could remember the name of it. The first 50 to 75 yards of the trail was like someone just dumped a load of rocks on it and was pretty tough to maintain any speed but after that it was smooth sailing up to about 10k feet. The trail just zig zagged up the mountain and was pretty straightforward, same dusty hard pack with switchbacks just single track instead of double. We encountered more hikers and they were totally rude and wanted nothing to do with pleasantries even though we slowed to a respectful pace to pass them. One by one we reached a plateau on the north side. The last 2 guys never showed up but we decided to try for the summit anyhow. We would later find them at the trail head because they never made it through the first rocky section. Remember though, one is green and the other doesn't ride very often and was on a new to him 250 two stroke that's down on power.  I had ridden my 450 up the trail and knew I'd never get to the top on it with MX gearing, stiff suspension and OEM clutch. Chase finally caught up on my 300 and didn't feel comfortable taking it up to the peak so the challenge was about to get going. My 300 has a rekluse and obviously is set up for off-road so I had no fears with it. The top 500-750 feet of elevation on Hahn's Peak is covered in loose igneous rock usually about a feet deep. They are big chunks, around the size of a slice of pie and just slide down when you walk or ride on them. It was hard to get traction walking up this thing much less riding. Its steep enough that if you ever do get traction the bike just wants to come over backwards on you. There is a defined path up top that hikers use but with the conditions it switches back and forth too much to make for a useful bike trail. You start at the plateau and just hit it wide open and go ahead and use your momentum to launch you up as far as you can go and then the real work starts. If you ever stop it gets bad. Everyone stops. We tried over and over to go straight up hitting it full speed and it just wasn't working so we all dug in for the fight to come. Austin made it up first because he is an insane Graham Jarvis type rider. He's done it so many times that his technique is great. I probably made it halfway up before my momentum stalled. I stopped and got going again very slowly just creeping up trying not to fall. I made it to another semi flat spot and took a rest. The thin air was getting that much worse and I was breathing as hard as I could to get oxygen in. I start up again and get stuck on the slope up to this little straight piece of trail I want to use to run up the next steep spot. The method that works best is to dig the rear tire through the rocks to real soil and rock the bike back then launch forward up out of the hole, thus moving you up about 15 feet and if you're lucky you keep a little momentum on up. After another stop I made it onto this straight piece of trail and was able to use speed to blast my way up further and then managed to stall momentum again. The next however long, minutes or hours, I'm not sure how long it took to get up, were the most excruciating moments of my life and I brought it all upon myself. It was a cycle of digging the rear tire down and rocking the bike up out of the hole and stopping 20 feet later. The elevation was taking its toll on me and the bike. I was so determined though, stopping crossed my mind but I knew I would hate myself later if I didn't get up this thing. There is just no traction up there and I dropped the bike over so picking it up about suffocated me. Finally I made it to another stopping point and there were 3 obvious routes up and 2 looked straight but steep the 3rd looked like if you screw up you're down the mountain but not quite as steep. I took the 3rd way and by some miracle didn't stall and hopped right up on the ridge line of the peak.  I have never been so excited about accomplishing something in my life. I was ecstatic, jubilant, going out of my mind at what I just did. Once on the ridge line its flat enough that the traction doesn't matter and you just cruise to the fire watch tower. I yelled all the way too the tower, revved the shit out of my bike a few times and was taking in the view. You never notice the view going up so it is beyond rewarding when you get up there and stop to stare. I just can't put into words how happy I was in that moment and I'm still proud of that and forever will be, my first mountain on a dirt bike. Chase and James had already hiked to the top and had cheered me on and given me encouragement on the way up. They were just as excited to see me get up there. Austin had gone back down to help Noah and his brother Chris finish the climb. It was also remarkable that I beat both of those guys up because they are much better riders than I am.  As I reflect on it he experience now, its all amazing that it came to be. 2 years prior to this trip I had never owned a dirt bike and only ridden a friends 1986 Honda XR200 briefly at his grandfather's ranch in Montana. 2 years prior I knew only one of these young men because we went to high school together and I never thought we'd be riding dirt bikes together in Colorado. Even after I got a bike I never thought I would get to ride one out west. Even after I met these guys I thought they'd never like me enough and I'd never be skilled enough as a rider to make the trip out and ride with them. Just 1 year ago when they went out to ride I still thought it would be impossible for me to ever do that. but in this last year of riding I have come so far. I've really gained a treasure trove of experience from just going and riding when I get the chance. In the 2 years I've been riding I have logged a conservative 350 hours of ride time on my bikes. All this to say that anyone can do this stuff, I'm just a regular guy from Alabama with a new found passion for the sport. If I can do this, you can too. It just took meeting  few people in the riding community and off I went on this journey that I hope never ends. Anyhow, I should get back to the day. Eventually the other 3 of us that gave it a shot made it to the top and had a beer for good measure standing up on the fire watch tower. We got the token summit pictures sitting on the bikes. And then I realized the only real fear I had felt on the trip. Going back down this thing. Man was it steep and those ricks just slide when you sue the brakes so I fell a couple times but mostly made it down uneventfully to the trail that we had used to get up to the first plateau. We all hopped on our bikes and headed back down. It was slow going for me because I was now worn out from that climb and Professional Down Hill Cyclist Chase blew by me. That kid got fast on a dirt bike real quick. We came back to the double track road to find our 2 stragglers. One with a a welded clutch in his CR from trying to get through the rocks but after it cooled it was fine. We took off further down the double track until we cam to a trail head diving off in some dense woods. That was the most flowing trail I have ever ridden, the bike just floated along and weaved back and forth so easily. I could ride it for hours on  a loop if I had the time. The soil was perfectly moist and dark. The trees were so green in here and there was green undergrowth. It was such a beautiful trail. The 450 rode it great. not much elevation change with lots of bermed up turns. That trail spit us out on the paved highway where we crossed over to County Road 486. Here I switched bikes with Chase to get on my 300 because we were about to dive into some long trails and I wanted to be smooth because I was feeling that climb from earlier.  This set of trails would take us all the way around nipple peak and back to the trucks. Its six miles from peak to peak between Hahn's and Nipple so this resulted in about a 20 mile loop for us. This trail started in woods and was rocky and dusty again but then it opened up into beautiful meadows and a bit thinner trees. Through the meadows the trail is literally about 2 tire widths and it is surprisingly hard to stay in that little groove. Once I got the hang of it though I was flying. Then it would hit me again where I am and what it took to get here and I would slow down and take it all in. I loved riding through these fields, you could see so much and the sun had begun to get low so there was a beautiful glow on everything. I had just ridden through a field and the trail made a wide 180 so you could see back a ways and I saw James coming up the trail and absolutely eat it by a tree, like a bad wash out. He just laid there so I started yelling and I'm sure he couldn't here me but Chase rode up on him and I saw him begin to get up. The last thing we need is an injury on the first big day. We all met up at a rode crossing and made sure everyone was making it fine and continued onward. We ran out of fields and the trees got pretty thick. The trail got rougher and started to go up and down and we had some crazy off camber spots where if you dump it down hill you're going a long way down.  We came to another trail head about 2 miles south of Nipple Peak and 2 of our riders decided they were too worn out to make the rest of the journey so they took the county road back to the truck as we moved on. Chris hadn't really slept and the climb up Hahn's drained him, and Josh is just so new to riding that it saps all of his energy pretty quickly. We were in dense woods for a very long time. Lots of twisting through the trees and avoiding dead falls. We had to make our own path a few times around fallen trees. This ride was probably the most challenging because we were all just tired form lack of sleep and hitting the big mountain right out of the gate. By the tie we got around to the west side of Nipple Peak we all stopped on a little ridge with a  valley falling down below. Patrick was complaining about the lack of power on his bike and of spooge running from the top of the cylinder. After a bit of investigation it was determined that his spark plug had worked loose and was causing his problems. We got the seat and the tank off the bike and tightened the plug back down by hitting each side of it at the same time with wrenches and rock chunks because we didn't have a wrench big enough to fit it. It was a pretty decent trail fix and the bike really came to life. At this point the sun is getting pretty darn low so we don't waste time getting going again.  The ride back to the truck from the back side of the mountain felt like it took forever. It was the roughest trail we rode. Rocks, boulders, roots, washed out sections. There was one very fast section that offered some relief. Got a little air conditioning going and let you relax and just cruise for about a mile. Then the trail ducked back into tight trees and I rode up on the faster riders at the front stopped and staring off the trail. They had just ridden up on a bull moose that did not have any fear of dirt bikes, apparently. He was about 20 yards off the trail and turning back towards us. I quickly suggested we get going before he decided he wanted to take a joy ride. Moose are cool from a distance but they are massive creatures, bigger than most horses and much much wilder. Not to mention that giant set of antlers they are wielding. Needless to say, I was scared to be that close to him. About the time we took off the slower 2 riders caught up and put a hop in their step too, so to speak. Not much farther past the moose encounter we popped out on another county road and all stopped to game plan. The sun had gotten very low, behind all the trees and it was getting dim; this is another reason I was a bit more afraid of the moose than normal maybe. We talked about just following the big road out to the truck but Austin assured us that the end of the trail was only 2 miles away and we had just enough light to make it. So we all skeptically started down the trail again.  By this point I am beyond tired of being on the bike. That mountain climb to start the day just took it all out of me. I had no riding form, was pretty much done standing to ride and was all over the place. I had no desire to be out there anymore and just wanted a beer. So it is worth nothing that I am the only rider with a working headlight on my bike out of the 6 of us that are still on the trail. I am also the only guy with a trailtech and a watch and a GPS. I knew I could get out of there in the dark but could I even find all the other guys once we got spread out again. It was only 2 miles though right? WRONG, Austin is such a fast rider that he has a bad sense of distance. I look down when I think it should've been 2 miles and its been nearly 3 and we are still int he thick of it. It is dark. A little worry hits me but I just pull off and shut the bike down. Can't hear anyone so I pull out my phone and find myself on the map, still a few miles out but not too far from the truck, but we are well past any big roads. There are 2 guys in front of me and 3 behind. No one ever caught me while I was stopped, but I started moving again. The headlight is ony doing so much and I can't really see what my front tire is hitting just where the trail goes. So I had slowed a lot. The next time I look down I see 5 miles on the tach. I eventually rode up on one of the guys in front of me and he had gotten worried about leaving us all. We waited for a minute and never heard anyone and decided it would be best t go back to the truck and regroup with the guys that stopped earlier in the afternoon and the other rider that was leading the group out. No sense in use turning back and getting lost looking for the last 3 guys. Besides Austin had hung back with them. So we kept going. I started leading him with my light and now I'm seeing things because I hate being in the forest in an unknown place in the dark. Finally, after 8 miles from where Austin said we had 2 to go we came out of the county road right beside the lot where our trucks were parked. Thank the Lord we had made it out of there.  Once back at the truck we decided to wait 20 minutes before heading out to look for the last 3 riders, and luckily they showed up before we had to go back out there. That was such a relief and capped a really great day right up until the ending there. Sp let this be a lesson to you. No, nothing bad happened, but it easily could have. There were sections where running off the trail meant tumbling down a 20 foot slope and everyone would've ridden right by. You'd never get the bike out alone in the dark. What if you got hurt? It just gave me a greater sense of mortality that we riders forget sometimes. I asked Austin where would be headed the next few days and that night I studied satellite imagery of the areas, trail maps, and topo maps so that I would be clued in to where we were and how to get out just in case. I saved several maps to my phone and relied on my good memory of routes and landscapes. Always have a game plan where riding off in the unknown like that. At least 2 people in the group should be familiar with the area and have means of leading everyone out. You always hear the horror stories and think it cant happen to you, and most likely it wont but I'll be prepared for anything from now on.  None-the-less, it was an awesome day of riding. We ended up doing 29 miles that day. It was some of the roughest terrain of the trip and I can't wait to go back and do it again. I would highly recommend the Hahn's Peak and Nipple Peak areas. They are close to Steamboat so its an easy treck to the trails. You get to see some amazing scenery and ride some of the best mountain trails around. 

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Day 4: Test and Tune (CO jetting tips)

You wouldn't believe the excitement I woke up with on the first day we woke up in CO. I laid there for a moment to check my phone and call my Dad to tell him we had made it without trial. I got up and threw some clothes on and quickly went up the stairs. At the top of the stairs I experienced something that I've never felt in my short 25 years, shortness of breath from a flight of stairs. Steamboat Springs, CO sits at about 6,700 feet of elevation. I just drove here in a couple days from sea level and there was no time for my body to adjust. The rest of the day and some of the week I would be plagued with this problem over and over. Anyhow, I made my coffee and had a bite to eat while everyone else rolled out of bed and got ready to start the day.  This day was all about prep for the week. We had to move trailers around and stuff 8 bikes into one trailer and a hitch rack. The apartment complex was not keen on us wrenching right there in the parking lot and we got a complaint the very first day. Some people just don't want you to have any fun. We had already made the decision not to start a bike there and we never did, but what can you do? I digress. We managed to get everything loaded up into the trailer and another truck and headed up a mountain range to go jet and get warmed up for the week to come.  The destination was just outside of town, I know, crazy, a mountain just outside of town. We went halfway up Buffalo Pass to a parking area where we had plenty of room and freedom to test and tune the bikes. At this point we are up to about 8,000 feet and the thin air is killing me. I stood up from squatting to put on a skid plate and nearly passed out. The first bike I get on is my 450 SX-F. I was thinking the fuel injection would just pick right up and be great. WRONG! It would not lug around at all and wouldn't rev out for about 20 minutes until it adjusted to the atmosphere. Once it got running correctly I was well on my way to annoying all the mountain bikers with my loud FMF exhaust and power wheelies through the parking lot. after a little play time the real work began. We had 5 carbureted bikes to jet. Luckily Austin already had a baseline with his 2012 300 that he had been riding out there for several months. I started with my 300, a 2012 model as well. I went form a 38 pilot from Florida to a 42 pilot to get the 1/4 throttle spot good. That has to be the most counter-intuitive jetting situation I've ever encountered. Less oxygen + more fuel + less air pressure/vacuum = a very crisp throttle crack at 8000 feet of elevation. Then on the main i went from the 162 I run in Florida summer to a 158 because at that point the air pressure doesn't matter and the engine is just sucking well enough on its own. After a little air screw adjustment the bike ran better than it does at sea level; I attribute this to the lack of humidity and heat.  The jetting trend continued for the other 2 stroke bikes, all but one was a KTM. The 1994 Honda CR250R didn't need the same amount of adjustment. The pilot in it was fine but it needed a little less fuel at WOT. I couldn't tell you what we did to the 250 four stroke that we had. I just know that no matter what jets were in it, it was a dog. Don't take a 2008 KTM 250f to Colorado. You won't be impressed. We also had a 2009 KTM 250 smoker that we couldn't quite figure out, that bike gave us fits for a couple of days actually. The five of us that were there geared up and hopped on the bikes to head the rest of the way up the mountain. We got out on the county road, dirt and baby heads, that continued Buffalo Pass up to the continental divide trail. I started on my 450 and Chase was on my 300 because Chase doesn't currently own a dirt bike but wanted to come along and the 300 isn't quite as overwhelming to start on as a 450 can be. I would never recommend letting an inexperienced rider borrow your bike for a week, or anyone really, but in this case Chase is a professional down hill mountain biker and knows his way around 2 wheels. That 450 was a blast heading up the pass. You could just let it eat as long as you avoid the big rocks and holes in the road. It was about 5 miles of winding road to the top and let me tell you I have never seen such a great view before. I immediately got nostalgic. This isn't something just anyone gets to do, or has the opportunity to do. I recognize the moment for what it means to me. At the top we start on the continental divide trail and head south. The section of trail we were on started very flowy. It would dip into woods and then pop you out in a field and dip back in. Then you'd slow up for a rocky section and nail the throttle again. It had just rained an hour before and the soil was perfect up there. Everything just stuck. I couldn't believe how well the trail section flowed and how much fun it was, but I've also been riding in Florida for a year at this point with nothing but sand trails and whoops. That first day I just kept getting caught up in the beauty of my surroundings and a surreal feeling that I was actually there riding some of the best terrain in the country.  We came to a pond ad stopped for a break and to talk about how the bikes were doing and how much arm pump we all had. At this point we are about 10 miles in and the CR250 has already lost the rear brake lever from impact with a rock and would remain broken all week. Josh was not ready for Colorado. His bike wasn't ready and the week just got tougher. I let some air out of the forks on my bike to soften it up a little but was surprised at how well the front was taking the rocks. The rear wasn't but I couldn't do much about that. Patrick's 2009 250xc was down on power a lot and my 300 was running excellent. I have no doubt the slavens head mod helped it a ton out there.  We turned back to get back to the truck before it got too late so we could get home and meet the other 3 guys that would be arriving that evening. The trail ride back was slower because we stopped to check out the scenery and different features and to wait on the 2 slower riders. Austin found a massive tree that had fallen and had to ride over it. The top of the trunk was about 3.5 to 4 feet off the ground at its base, he managed to get over it 3 times. I didn't have the balls to try it the first day and risk breaking my arm. Then he proceeded to ride up the trunk and launch off the root ball. I did try this but I don't have the balance yet to ride up a tree trunk like that. I'll add video below if I can find it.  If you've never ridden on trails that also have hikers I would suggest being as respectful as possible. Always slow down and crawl past them. Every hiker we encountered did get off the trail for us and we slowed down to idle past but most were VERY upset to see us. One or two were friendly and cheered us on but that was not usually the case. We got yelled at with several profanities and middle fingers. You can only do so much to make people happy but those measures should be taken even if their reaction is negative.  We made it back to the truck and loaded up to go back to the apartment uneventfully. The last 3 riders showed up late that evening. Beers were had, pleasantries exchanged and off to bed to rest up for the day ahead. I would definitely like to ride more of the divide trail in the future. I had an absolute blast on it. It is mostly double track in the area around Steamboat but has many single track off shoots to explore. 

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Days 1-3: The Journey Begins

I didn't sleep the night of August 1st, too much anticipation, too much energy, all pent up like a kid waiting for St. Nick to slide down the chimney and drop off gifts to be played with in the morning. I got out of bed early, there was no sense in delaying it any longer. I went through my routine of brewing coffee, frying a couple eggs and having breakfast as hurriedly as ever. After breakfast I checked my bags for, probably, the 100th time to make sure I had all the gear I could stuff in them and that I hadn't left anything out because I would need it all for the next week. I checked every drawer and under the bed and in the washer and dryer to make sure nothing remained. When I was sure the bags were good to go I made my way down to the garage to begin to load my truck before I had to leave for work. First, I got both bikes in the bed of the truck. I took my 2012 KTM 300XC and 2017 450 SX-F(never take a SX bike to ride CO single track, more on that later). Then came all manner of spare parts, fluids, lubricants, cleaners, tools, anything you can think of that you might need to keep a bike running properly. Off I go to work. I don't have a clue what happened at work that day. All I know is at 5 o'clock I'm leaving and heading to the Airbnb I booked in south GA. It was a hot day and I had been hot all day at work hopped in the truck to leave and about an hour down the road had to pull off at a rest stop and puke, not the best start to my trip, but between the heat and my excitement to get going I got queezy. I got back on the road and had an uneventful rest of the trip to Lake Park. Got in at about 10 and went to bed pretty quickly as I needed to be up early the next day.  5 a.m. came soon enough but I was still rearing to go. I got dressed, had my coffee and headed out before daylight on my way to Columbus, GA. Halfway there I stopped in Tifton, GA to get on Highway 82 and grab some Chick-Fil-A breakfast at exit 62 off I75. Nothing else would suffice. By the time 11 rolled around I made it to a U-haul location and picked up the 6x12 enclosed trailer that we had reserved for the trip because I don't own an enclosed trailer, no one else driving out did and I couldn't find anyone to lend me one. At $30 a day, though, I wasn't really worried about it. *Props to U-Haul btw, that trailer pulled great and had all kinds of tie down points. I would not hesitate to get one again.* After picking up the trailer my next stop for most of the day was Tallassee, AL where I picked up my first comrade and took a driving break to work on bikes.  My 450 is a track bike and it typically stays in tip top shape because the track is not the place to have a failure of any sort because it always happens up the face of a jump or in the air. So it didn't need anything at all. My 300 was having clutch issues. To try to remedy this I bought a master cylinder rebuild kit and installed it to no avail, it actually got worse so I put the stock components back in. After I put the rebuild kit in it I COULD NOT get the clutch to take fluid when the lever was actuated so I ended up back bleeding it completely full and it somehow worked. Right then I went online to Rocky Mountain and ordered a new complete clutch master and had it sent to our accommodations in CO. This would prove to be a damn good decision.  My friend, Josh, was taking his ragged 1994 Honda CR250R... I had zero faith in that bike. Before we could leave it needed new tubes and tires, and a new clutch pack. I also decided that we should put grease in every place that would take grease to be safe. This guy had been riding about 6 months, never on a motorcycle of any kind before, at the time so I gave him a crash course in how to change tires and tubes. I wasn't sure any of this work would be worth it. If you can imagine the most clapped out 1994 CR250 that actually still runs and moves under its own power; this is that bike, 100 percent. Suspension just feels like its only working on the springs, clutch is on/off, brakes are very much absent, no power band just on or off(later discovered the power valve assembly was stuck open), so so so loud with smoke pouring out of the head pipe connection to the cylinder, EVERYTHING rattles, the kicker only catches 1/3 of the time, but alas the bike works well enough for this particular rider.  Anyhow, we clean up and get everything back together and load up in the trailer. Next was to swap trucks with my father for the remainder of the trip. I love my '96 Z71 but I don't love it enough to drive it to Colorado from Alabama, South FL to AL was quite enough. I can't thank him enough for letting us take his truck. That kept us from needing another rental. Hard to believe that out of the 6 riders travelling from Alabama to Colorado none of us have a full size truck or SUV that is cross country worthy. By now, with just the 2 of us, the truck and trailer are loaded down with enough supplies for an army of riders and mechanics. At 7 P.M. we roll out of Tallassee and head to Guntersville, AL for the last leg of the day to meet up with the rest of the guys going with us. We stopped in Birmingham to pick up the 4th bike going in the trailer and roll up to Guntersville around 11 P.M. to meet the last 3 riders. Once there we elect not to put another bike in the trailer and the last 2 will ride in the bed of the 2nd truck going to CO. I can't tell you how great it felt to be back with all the boys, everyone together again. We all met in college at Auburn and have since moved off to Florida, South Carolina, and Tennessee. After catching up over a few beers it was time to head to bed for the night and get a few hours sleep before rolling out early Saturday morning.  The next 20 hours of my life are some of the least exciting times I have ever lived through. The three of us riding in my truck, being young and bold, decided that driving straight through the entire day and night to get there before the next morning was the best course of action so off we went leaving the other three riders asleep in the house. Nashville to Paducah and on up to St. Louis and past the great arch. We encountered a classic Lamborghini Countach on the west side of St. Louis; trying to catch up to it loaded down with bikes and gear in a half ton truck was pretty comical. It didn't work. We traveled onward to Columbia then hit KC before sundown. We stopped only for gas, and you basically don't drink because making special stops to take a leak wastes too much time on a trip that long. Once on the west side of KC you have reached the absolute worst part of the trip: Kansas. Nothing about Kansas is cool, at least on I70. I had been awake long enough so it was time for me to pass out so that I would be prepared to co-pilot in case the drive dosed off or I needed to drive the last leg of the trip. I was in and out of sleep through Kansas and I remember sleepily waving to the "Welcome to Colorado" Sign. I came to just before Denver as we were stopping for gas and the current driver was done for the night. Driver number three takes over heading into Denver. We make it through the Mile High City unscathed and up we go over the mountains. I now find out the driver 3 has never driven in the mountains. It's after midnight, and he is pulling a trailer. I can't describe how painfully slow he was driving at this point. Somewhere just after the Eisenhower tunnel we got our first head nod from him so I am wide-ass awake now. After another few miles it happened again and I reached over and took the wheel from the passenger seat and shook him really hard. We pulled over very quickly and I took over. That was one of the scarier points in life.  I was wide awake with fear, mostly, at this point. I got us on to Silverthorne fairly quickly and off I70 onto CO Highway 9. We reached Kremmling almost instantly or so it felt. Then I hopped on US 40 to take us into Steamboat Springs. Both of my friends were passed out so I had no choice but to be on point driving and not feel an ounce of tiredness. I was scared to even yawn or sneeze. It's a real shame that we were driving through CO at night, Josh had never seen it, Patrick hadn't been in over a year, and I hadn't seen it since January but that made the morning that much more special. We uneventfully pulled up to Promontory Condominiums about 3 A.M on Sunday August 5th, where two of the riders who live in CO were waiting on us. We unceremoniously went straight to bed. It took me 58 hours to go 2,300 miles from Fort Myers, FL to Steamboat. Not bad!  

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