Sunday, June 14, 2009

San Rafael Swell big bike ride in June 2009

My buddy Al has a family camping trip that occurs each year in June. A few months before the trip, he invited me to tag along. We would be going down with other family members on Friday, in their sleeping quarters, and ride on Saturday in the Swell. After a few discussions, he opened up this trip to more people. I invited 6 or more folks to come with. In the end, after plan changes in Al's family, as well as other friends schedules changing, it ended up being Al, myself and Marcus going down in Al's motorhome.

The trip started with Al showing up with the coach on Friday morning, and leaving it at our house. I gave him a ride to work that morning, and after work, returned to home, and loaded up my gear. Marcus showed up with his trailer, which we put on the back of the coach, and loaded the bikes. He an I met Al in Provo, and we were off, like a 'herd of turtles', as my dad would say.

We had a fairly uneventful trip down to the swell, stopping in Price for food, motorhome/trailer lighting parts, and some gas. The only exciting thing to happen on the way down was the constantly back seat driving that occurred, mainly by yours truly. It turns out that Al cant drive the motorhome in a straight line, but insteads takes an approach of constantly jiggling the wheel as he drive. Either that, or it was so windy he could barely keep the coach on the road. I choose to believe the former.

Once in the Swell, we followed our maps in the dark to the camp spot that Al picked out on google earth. We are, of course, computer geeks. Having selected a suitable habitat for the next foreseeable future, we approached it in the dark, and dirt, with trailer in tow, and motorhome trying its best to climb and dip in the barely there road we had chosen. With flashlights being used from the inside of the coach to augment the coach's lighting, we ended up finding our spot, even without the gps indicators our cell phones no longer had, since we had long lost signals once we climbed out of the valley from Green River to the Swell.

The spot that he had found was great. A secluded little valley with small hills of rock surrounding us, we were cozy and protected from the monsters that lurk in the dark. One of these monsters in the night was similar in noise to a bird, but probably a lot larger in stature, though we never really saw it. Its incessant chirping went on into the night, the only sound that broke up the silence that camping outdoors typically offers. With no TVs, no cell phones, no kids, we were left to our own to sleep and rest up for the next day's adventures.

We woke up Saturday morning, and cooked up some Dutch Oven bfast.

After getting geared up and cleaning up the minimal mess we made outside the coach, we got our bikes ready and took off. We were camped off of exit 131, and near dirt roads, headed to Swazeys cabin. We headed over to the freeway and went under the freeway. We stopped at some indian drawings on the side of a cliff.

The morning ride was all done up north, and the goal was to hit Devils Racetrack.
We went road down a trail we call Kent's Landing, on the way to Fix It Pass, down the wash, and up Devils Racetrack, then back to camp.

At the coach, we revitalized our gas and bodies. We had some lunch, sat on the couches in the coach and relaxed a bit. It was a nice break. Once ready to go again, we went down cut roads and washes, using our intuition and maps to find our way to the start of Red trail. PArt way through Red trail, we hit the cut-off to 5 Miles of Hell. Here we took a few pictures to prove we were there, and then we walked in a bit of 5MOH.

We decided to ride in a bit. We did maybe 1/2 mile in, and then went back out, having left 1 of our 3 outside the entrance. Once all back together, we continued on Red trail. Got our butts kicked, but got out alive and only missing a kill switch and a bent clutch lever. We took Blue back to the cut roads, and headed back to camp. It was a long day, and we were tired, and satisfied.

After riding in the Swell, we returned to our camp. We were beat. We took off our gear, and loaded up the bikes onto the trailer. After securing all our gear into the camper, we headed out. It was late in the afternoon, and we were close to dinner time. Price was too far away for dinner for one in our party, and we decided to go into Green River to satisfy the need. We headed to Ray's. Once in Ray's, we didnt see a place to sit down, for our party of 3, except for scattered seats at the bar. Feeling that the wait would be too long, we decided to try Ben's next door. No one was there, which should have clued us in to something... Suffice it to say we didnt have a great eating experience, but we did get filled.

So, now, its late, after 8pm, maybe closer to 9pm. We head out into the night, headed back to our homes. We were cruising along, when I heard a new noise in the engine. I am not a mechanic, but i do have a keen sense of hearing and smelling. Often to my dismay, I sense things as they change in these two senses. I speak up that i hear something in the engine that sounds a bit off. We stop talking and listen. Sure enough, belts sound like they are making different noises than they normally do. As we listen to the symphony of cacophonies being issued from the old motorhome engine, it gets louder and louder, more shrill even. One of our party mentions that his car did the same thing, and when he sped up, it would seat the belt better, and cease the noise. As we kept driving, speeding up a bit, the noise soon ceased. Almost immediately after that, we heard a couple loud thumps within the engine compartment, hitting the lid between us and it. It was as if some creature was trying to get out. As soon as we heard the thump, the temperature gauge decided to get active, and see how far to the right it could swing, and how fast it could reach a new position of reporting. This was when the driver realized that we needed to stop, and stop now! This is not an easy feat for any motorhome, and our old coach was no different. We slowed down, tried to pull off the road the best we could, and came to a disappointed halt to our trip home. Stranded along the side of the road, we were 20+ miles outside Price.

The three of us work with computers for a living, and riding is our hobby. Fixing mechanical engines is not something we are adept at. We, nonetheless, set about digging in to see what happened, how to fix it, and weigh our alternatives. It was about 10:30 on a Saturday night, in the middle of nowhere, with only 1 cell phone that was active. 3 computer geeks trying to fix an engine with no spare parts. Luckily we had some help from other people that we could call and gain more knowledge from. 1 vehicle stopped to assist us, and was able to tell us that for the next mile and a half, there was no better place to pull over. We felt that we would not make the trip of a mile and a half, even limping along with the missing belts. We called a tow truck. Almost 2 hours later, we were finally on our way to Price. We were deposited in the Walmart parking lot, knowing that from there, we could get to parts stores in the morning to get the pieces we needed.

It was at this point that we learned from the tow truck driver that Price was going to be excperiencing a city wide power outage most of the morning. This was going to affect most businesses, as they had decided to not even open at all on that day. The next morning, the driver of the motorhome took off to look at the stores, and 2 advertised that they would not be open. 1 didnt advertise either way. He decided to call in a favor from a friend from Spanish Fork. After a couple calls to parts stores, he got a list of products we would be needing, and had his friend go get them. The friend then drove out to us to install them. Once in Price, we realized that a few of the items would not work, and we needed different items. So, some of us set out with the newly arrived mode of transportation to hunt down a parts store. Luckily, one had just opened, and had power. So, its now after noon on Sunday. And a parts store is open, and within walking distance. We swapped some product with others we thought would work and tried them out. After doing this a couple times, we finally got all the parts we needed, got them installed, and fired up the motorhome. Viola! Success! After 15+ hours of worry and planning and discussions, we actually had a movable vehicle with us and our gear on our way. We returned to the road and headed home. Its around 2 or 3 in the afternoon now, and we have missed most of any of our morning Sunday activities. We were happy to be on the road again.

As we traveled home, we talked about all the other things that could have gone wrong. We were happy to have been blessed with just the 3 guys with this failure. What if the driver had been going with his wife and kids? What if, what if, what if...

We were grateful to have cell phones, and people to research information the internet. We were grateful that 1 family stopped to see if we needed help, and was able to assist us in making a vital decision. We were grateful that we could park in Walmart lot until we could get it working again. We were grateful for good friends that could swing by stores and get parts and deliver them to us, 2 hours from their home, and that they would do that in the middle of their weekend. We were grateful we brought tools and had the brains to use them, somewhat, to solve the problem. We were grateful for a store to be finally opened and provide us the needed parts to fix the engine.

We are grateful for a great weekend of riding, and a safe resolution to a catastrophic engine failure. We are grateful to be home, safe and sound with a great story to tell, and an awesome adventure that ended in all smiling.

1 comment:

Cleta said...

Hmm, old motorhomes do have a tendency to break down. Luckily you weren't with 9 little kids singing primary songs while your dad and Jackie slogged through the deluge, carrying girli umbrellas, looking for a part for our old beast. But adventures do make for good stories. Love, your mommy