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

AUbraaap

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(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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