Monday, August 3, 2009

August 3rd, 2009 (Dave W): Green River Train Tracks & Black Dragon Canyon...

With Dave back in Moab, and in BMW Service limbo, I decided I may as well continue on westward with a new location along the TAT to regroup. We decided that either Salina, UT or more likely Eureka, NV would be the next possible spots to meet up. I packed up and headed out with plenty of water and trail-mix squirreled away.

In addition to having had Ann around to take a lot of pictures, because I was generally following them for both mechanical and safety reasons, most of the navigation issues weren't my concern. I would just follow along, or hear over the scala that I had missed a turn somewhere. Now that I was on my own, and wasn't in the habit of checking my tracks, it was easy for me to drift off course. Heading out of Green River, I somehow ended up on the north side of the train tracks...

It wasn't as though I was the first motorcycle to ride this way. Perhaps other TAT riders did too, and there were certainly enough tracks in the dirt/sand/clay to make it seem like I was on course. I figured that at some point there'd be a spot to cross underneath the tracks, or maybe a railroad crossing in a trail, but as the trail veered south in my GPS, there was no logical place to get across the tracks.

Being relatively new to dirtbikes, and having not been around many train tracks before, I thought that it was probably just a simple matter of riding over the tracks, and heading south towards the frontage road along Highway 70. It didn't really dawn on me that I might be acting like a complete idiot, nor had I ever thought of myself as a Darwin Award nominee before. Basically, after looking in each direction along the curved track for a train, and not seeing any, I gunned the throttle and tried to muscle my way across the first rail. Not a problem. I went up the embankment with ease. My front tire was over the rail like a mere speedbump, but I soon realized the loose, light gravel that the raised tracks rested on were not holding my rear tire, I let off the throttle. At this point, my bike was half way across the first rail -- but I was still confident I was doing the right thing.

After taking another look left and right for oncoming trains, I calmly gave the bike some gas and only dug my rear wheel deeper into the rocks, which were really light -- almost volcanic. It only took a moment to realize that I wasn't really going anywhere because my skidplate was firmly resting on the rail.

OH CRAP! My calm, not a problem, this is a piece of cake, easy going attitude was quickly turned into thoughts of being swept away by a freight train. A quick glance left and right showed no trains, but trying to rock my bike backwards off the tracks did absolutely nothing. It barely budged. I was in trouble, and although it was probably going to be hours before the next train, I had convinced myself there was one speeding towards me just around the bend. I got off my bike, which wouldn't fall over as it was fully resting on the skidplate, and started to frantically dig around the rear tire to clear out the volcanic rocks/gravel. It was nearly all the way up to my chain at this point. I was kicking up a rooster tail of gravel, but with my hands. After some of the rocks were cleared, I was able to rock the bike a little bit now, but it was just barely budging. I dug more rocks out of the way, until I could get the wheel to spin freely. Using all of my stength, I was finally able to roll the bike up and off the rail and after several more tries was able to get the front wheel back over the rail. The whole process probably only took about 5 minutes, but if felt like 5 hours.

I'm still pissed at myself for not getting a picture of my bike resting there. It did cross my mind that I would step back and calmly take video if a train were to come, but apparently there wasn't time for a photo with the imaginary train barreling down the tracks.

I ended up retracing my tracks back east towards Green River, until there was a legitimate undercrossing. I'm glad I scouted and opted not to cut through a drainage path, as that would have really gotten me into a predicament. After about a 45 minute or so detour, I was back on track...

I was coming up on Black Dragon Canyon/Wash, which is always mentioned in just about every TAT report I've seen. It was pretty cool to be approaching it live, in person...

The canyon itself was full of loose rocks and sand as you might expect from a wash, and the trail was sometimes in the dry creekbed and sometimes not. I found myself looking up at the ridge a lot for some sort of ambush from above.

Apparently somebody had some issues right about here...

Coming out of the canyon, I definitely had a moment that I was on my way back home, rather than in the midst of a 3 week vacation...

 

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