The temperature was approaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit as we made our way towards the town of Moab, Utah on our KTM 790R machines by way of the treacherous Hurrah Pass route. Mentally and physically cooked, I was ready to arrive in eastern Utah’s destination town.
Just a few days earlier, we had headed out early in the morning from our starting point in Hurricane, Utah, which is located in the very southwest corner of the state. Our group was just four riders, two of whom I had not ridden with previously. My good friend Randy Commans (@my1090R on Instagram) had invited me on this ride through central Utah. Randy’s friends Pete Postel and Rob Scapa were the organizers of our adventure, and from the very start I was just along for the ride as Pete had fully mapped out our route.
We hit the dirt almost immediately as we departed Hurricane, and with a fully loaded 790R, I was a little sketchy on the fast gravel roads at first. As the altitude increased, we found ourselves riding through green corridors of Aspen trees into the north end of Zion National Park. Entering the Dixie National Forest, the temperatures had dropped to the mid-50’s, so I layered up on my Klim jerseys to keep warm.
We were riding some fast double-track, and I struggled to keep up with the group early on the first day. As I found out later that evening around the campfire, Rob and Pete were both ex-racers, and they had no problem running at a sustained fast pace for hours on end. For an average rider like myself, it was more than a little challenging, and I ended up taking far too many risks trying to stay in touch with these guys. Interspersed with these fast sections were some rocky uphill trails that would have gotten your attention even if you were on a much smaller KTM 500EXC. I was quickly becoming fatigued.
The day wore on, and eventually, we made it by late afternoon to the Bryce Canyon area for an early dinner and to top off the big bikes with fuel. A few hours later, we found a remote camping area next to a small creek. We set up our tents and started a campfire to keep warm. Pete and Rob told me that they had been riding larger bikes on trips like this for 15 years, starting initially on KTM 950 Adventure bikes. I had camped off my bike only a handful of times, so it was good to see these veteran camping experts in action. After 11 hours on the bike, I was ready for a good night’s sleep. However, that was not to be, as I woke up every few hours for a nature break, and then before sunrise to a chilly 32 degree morning.
I added some more preload to the rear of my KTM to balance out the bike as it had probably a bit too much packed into my Mosko Moto luggage on the rear end. As we started on our second day, my bike felt much better and I was able to ride at speed with more confidence than the previous day. We went up and up on our route, only to find the trail blocked about 20 miles in by an impassable snowdrift on the 10,300ft summit. We retraced our route back down to our starting point for the day, and Pete broke out his map to find a way around to reconnect with our original journey. We had lost a few hours already, so I knew this was going to be another marathon day in the saddle.
After many miles up at higher altitudes in cold temperatures, we inevitably began descending into the 80-degree heat for a lunch stop in Boulder, Utah. With our bellies a little too full, we pushed on to get more miles in the bag. I was happy to be on the asphalt for a few minutes of riding before hitting the dirt again and heading over to Capitol Reef National Park.
As we headed through the lightly colored moonscape, I saw a sign for the Burr Trail Switchbacks. This place looked familiar, and I quickly realized that my wife and I had driven this trail in our little 4x4 truck back in 1990. With some quick math, I realized this was 30 years ago. I would never have thought back then that I would be here again riding a loaded 800cc adventure motorcycle down the treacherous descent.
We did another big climb over a 10,600ft pass at Bull Mountain with a very loose and rocky downhill on the other side. It was late afternoon, and I was mentally and physically spent by the time we reached a road section at the foot of the descent. The temps were now up in the mid-’90s, and Pete decided to continue on pavement to the town of Blanding to get a hotel instead of traversing several more hours of dirt to find a campsite that was a little cooler. An hour later, we pulled into town for a bite to eat and a nice cold shower at the hotel. After another 11 hour ride, I had never before been so happy to see a Super 8 hotel!
I started Day 3 feeling a little under the weather after waking up at 4 am staring at the ceiling, wondering what this day would hold. Pete had said it was an “easy day,” with less than 100 miles to Moab. We loaded up early to beat the heat and were on the road by 7:30 am, heading on the asphalt toward Monticello. Pete had mapped out today’s trail using some of the Utah BDR trails.
We came to a junction that was for the regular BDR trail. It looked like a pretty well-groomed route through the desert. Pete decided we were going to go another way to the “Experts Only” BDR option into Moab. We eventually came to the start of the expert section, and I initially thought, this isn’t too bad. Little did I know just how challenging this was going to be as the miles clicked by. The red terrain became so difficult to the point where I would have been much more comfortable on a smaller enduro bike. But I didn’t have that option, so it was time to suck it up and just do it.
We split into two pairs, so with much help from my very expert riding buddy Randy, I was able to make it through some tight sections that maxed out my physical and mental capabilities. It didn’t help that it was now pushing 100 degrees, but I was thankful that I had chosen Klim’s Mojave vented enduro gear with an Arsenal vest, rather than a set of more heavyweight full adventure gear.
The incredible landscape went on forever, and it seemed as though our pace was slowing as we encountered harder and harder obstacles. We eventually started seeing a few ATVs that had come from the Moab end of the trail, so we knew we were getting close to our destination for the day.
After the previous two days had done a mental number on me, this supposed easy day had proven to be the most challenging for me, but pushing through this rugged and remote trail with Randy gave me a sense of accomplishment. As we rolled into the bustling little town, we met Pete and Rob sitting in the shade by a gas station drinking some big cold beverages. Pete had a smile on his face when he saw us, having fully expected to come rescue us in a side-by-side. Not today Pete. Not today.
Bikes: KTM 790 Adventure R. Gear: Klim Mojave pant, Dakar Jersey, Arsenal Vest, F5 Helmet. Scott Prospect goggles. Mosko Moto Reckless 80L luggage. Alpinestars Tech 7 Drystar boots.