We can’t be lost, we haven’t gone far enough – Mountain Madness 2017


I slept pretty well, considering, and the bike started right up. I’d made sure I had a full tank of gas, not wanting to be “that guy,” and headed back to the casino. It was foggy, and there was a chance of rain in the forecast. Rain and dirt roads. yay.

These two were there for the HUMM

These guys weren't

At the casino, there were already some bikes. A fair number of people were staying in the attached hotel, which made sense. You didn’t have to ride again after the event, and could just relax. Being able to shower and change before the evening stuff would be nice too, but the camping was soon much more affordable. All well.

In the morning we were given a few last minute instructions – mostly review – and then were given our maps and binders with the locations. All the teams got them at the same time, so being there early didn’t help anyone. Next was planning out a route for the day, though at least one team just hit the road, planning to work it out on the way.

The other members of my team were Jeff and Mike. Jeff had taken the off-road training course offered right before the HUMM, so he knew the area. He was already pretty good with map reading.

Most of the other teams also took some time to work out a plan before taking off. Usually, I think I would be on the “just worry about it later” camp, but I don’t usually ride in groups and (to be honest) am not a fan of doing so. Taking some time in the morning let me get a sense of what Mike and Jeff were wanting to do with the weekend.

For those of you who have read my recent posts and know about my film photography, this event I was shooting digital. I was posting a lot of pictures online, and wanted to have them be as close to live as I could.

We decided to limit ourselves to the easier roads. Jeff was on a F700 and Mike on a old KLR. While I was on Rabbit, I am not a fan of struggling on hard roads, and we all needed our bikes to get home. With the plan in place, we headed out of the parking lot, and Jeff (leading) immediately took us down some crazy goat trail “short cut.” We all survived, and back on navigable roads we headed for the first tag.

At the tags we quickly developed a system. We had set the binder up with the tags we wanted to get, in the order we’d planned to ride them. We would all look at the picture, and then look for the location while riding. Some of the location pictures were taken from the other direction, so we had to look in out mirrors. Other times (often, actually), we caught other teams at a location, and everyone tried to help each other find the actual tag.

It was nice to see other riders from time to time, since it let us know we hadn’t wandered completely off track. The GPS teams probably had that a little easier, I guess, though they were also more competitive. For my part, I was just enjoying the ride and trying not to slow the rest of the team down.

All the teams had to be back to the casino, checked in, and scored by 5pm. The late penalties were pretty harsh, so we made sure to be back early. Even though rain had been in the forecast, and it had been occasionally cloudy, we hadn’t had a drop until heading back. We noticed the roads were wet and we caught a short, hard rain. Once parked, and inside, we learned it had been pouring at the casino all day. Other riders, who’d taken a different direction, were also coming back soaked and covered in mud. I don’t like riding in mud very much, so I was glad to have missed it.

mmmmm - bling

None of the teams were allowed to take the maps or binders from the room, so everyone took extra time after being scored to work out a riding plan for the next day.

This meant that, tomorrow, we would get a full day of riding, rather than having to take time in the morning to plan before getting on the road. While we were looking over tags and the maps, scores for the first day were posted and somehow we’d gotten into first place in our division –

What the...

It was the bonus items that had carried us – social media posts and collecting trash. We’d maxed out both of those. Just to give you an idea of how the more competitive groups were going, look at the difference in the scores –

So, it’s not like we were lighting up the score board.

For dinner, I got a pizza at the casino ($6! I guess casino food is cheap) and headed back to camp.

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Off to the Mud – Mountain Madness 2017


When I got home I worked on a seperate project – taking pictures of a triathlon team while they were training, and then completing their tri – so I didn’t do an special, particular motorcycle travel. I did ride around a lot, since I like riding motorcycles and my camera gear fits into the luggage (which might have been a requirement).

Horizons Unlimited was having it’s first east coast USA Mountain Madness event in Maryland during August, and I was going to “compete” in it. I put the qoutes on because I am not very competive, and even less so when I am riding challenging roads. If you didn’t know, the Mountain Madness event is an off-road scavenger hunt, similer to an Iron Butt rally (though with much lower daily miles). Before the event, someone went and rode around, placing small (1 inch by 1/2 inch) tabs at locations around the event HQ. Pictures were taken and approximate GPS coordinates were noted. This information was put into a very nice binder to help people find them.

The HQ Location was nice. They gave me money for the casino.

The roads were rated from one to five. Ones were the easiest, poor pavement rather than gravel. Twos weren’t much worse. Fives were where the roads that caused the guy placing the tags (who is a motorcycle instructor and apparently extremely good off-road) to fall over. There weren’t many fives.

Mountain Madness is a team event, so no one rides around in the woods on their own. This is a good thing. I was going to have a team, but everything fell apart not long before the event. This wasn’t a problem, since there are other solo riders. In my case I was added to a team with other solo riders. There are also two sub-classes. You can use a GPS or only maps, and the motorcycle were split between single or multi-clyinder machines. You had to pick one of each, so there were four groups. GPS/Single. GPS/multi, Maps/Single, and Maps/multi (which didn’t have any entrants for my event).

Before riding the event, I had to get there. I’d just done a long trip on my SR250, but for the Mountain Madness event I was going to bring my CSC RX3 –

I took a slightly different route, swinging through Pennsylvania on the way

Once I was there, I set up camp and headed back for tech inspection. Yes, tech inspection. Mostly they were concerned about spark arrestors, since we would be in state and national forests and no one wanted any accidental fires. My Roxxie (named White Rabbit, or just Rabbit) has stock exhaust, so it’s a non-issue, but since the bike is still a little uncommon it gets some extra attention.

Okay, technically I was the only bike in the tech area at the time, so there wasn’t anything for the people to do other than stare.

Eventually more bike started to roll in –

I totally wanted some of these guys to go

Okay, I’m kidding. It’s a nice riding area and attracted motorcyclists of all types.

where are you going to put that stick Mark? WHERE ARE YOU GOING WITH THAT STICK!!???

It's supposed to be like that.

There were a few people who did last minute bodges, but it wouldn’t be an HU event with a few interesting modifications.

Since I was through tech inspection early, and watching people have their exhaust pipes probed is only fun for a while, I relaxed until the evening program.

Definitely a nice location.

The evening (Friday) was going to cover how to use the binders and maps to find the tags, how to record the tags to get points, and other ways to get points while at the event (social media posts, picking up garbage, etc). No one was going to be able to get all the tags, so you had to pick and choose based on what roads you wanted to ride and the time available. Tags on harder roads were worth more, but they took more time to get so you couldn’t get as many of them.

We're going to talk, but it gets better.

Doomed, you're all doomed.

After all the rules stuff, we were sent off to our beds. A lot of the competitors were staying at the hotel/casino, but I’m cheap and had a tent site in a (very) nearby campground. I went to get a decent night’s sleep so I wasn’t too awful in the morning.

 

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Overland Expo – Spring Road Trip 2017


If you haven’t been to an overland expo, and you are interested in overland or international or adventure travel (and I am not being particular about any other details here, just interest in one or more of those things), you should go. I’ve been going off and on since 2011.

Okay, to be honest, I went in Spring of 2011 because Carla King thought I should I was leaving in a few months to spend a long time on the road and going to something like Overland didn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Looking back, I’m glad I went. It was a really good time.

So, I’ve been going and presenting regularly since 2013 (having gotten back from South American in 2012). I started just talking about my trip and packing, but have added in other things people seem to want to know about – budgeting, finding time to travel, photography – and sometimes have a table with the authors where you can buy books or stickers. Most of the time I’m meeting travelers or talking to people who want to be travelers or looking at all the cool traveler kit that wasn’t available last year.

As a reminder, I documented this trip on a Minolta x370 Film camera, so these are scans of the negatives.

I had spent a few days in Albuquerque, and left in the morning to ride to Flagstaff where Overland Expo West is located. It was a new venue in 2017, and it looked much easier to get to, and closer to Flagstaff. But the ride from Albuquerque to Flagstaff was long I-40. And I-40 isn’t the most friendly of interstates.

Now I know so of you will point out that I could have gone around, and or avoided parts of the interstate, and you would be right. But there just aren’t a lot of good options, in fact there are so few options that stretch is one of the few in the USA where they allow bicycles.

I was well rested, and it is more than 300 miles, but I was still pretty drained by the time I got to the city. Rather than shopping, I went right to the venue to get a camping spot, figuring I would head back into town for supplies later. All that worked to plan, though the camping area was huge and it was hard to find people who were already there, unless you just lucked into it.

Friday morning things started with a set of opening remarks –

Which a friend of mine (Gina) translated for the hearing impaired.

With that out of the way, it was time for classes and tech sessions. I was teaching a lot at this event, and didn’t have an author table. I did try to check out some of the other things going on.

There was a Land Rover course, where you got to drive a land rover and the best times were in a drawing for a trip to Peru –

I would be going to fast for a good time, but would have a great time.

In the truck area they were also doing this –

Which I think was supposed to explain how far over you could lean without tipping. They were also talking about proper techniques to right a truck which had rolled over, but mostly I think they were just playing with their kit.

With the larger venue (it was very large, still full though) and being closer to Flagstaff, there were a lot more food options. Mostly food trucks, which came in and set up for the weekend around the site. Mostly near the camping areas, and some near the vendors. At the old site there was pizza, sometimes, and a restaurant that was good but expensive. And whatever we could cook, of course. Busy days cut into cooking times though.

Here, there was wood fired pizza, salads, burgers, BBQ (well, it wasn’t the Southeast, but they were trying), and all kinds of other stuff. So much yum. Of course, I’m cheap when I travel so I didn’t get to try all of it.

so good

My favorite time though is Sunday morning. There are no sessions, so I have time to walk around and look at stuff. The vendors, though, offer up breakfast items. Not all of them, but a lot of them. You just need to bring eating utensils – plates, cups, whatever.

It’s also a chance to actually talk to some people who previously I just had time to wave at as we went in different directions.

7P does bacon sandwiches. Bacon. Sandwiches.

I don't actually know this guy, but it's a look for sure.

This may also have happened –

That is not fruit juice

but I am not going to go into the details.

Sunday night, after the sessions, is the closing BBQ (Really good food, it’s included with the Overland Experience package and I recommend it), which lets everyone relax for a minute, talk, and make sure all contact information has been shared before everyone scatters in the morning. I know a lot of people skip this, wanting to get back on the road earlier than Monday morning. I wait until Monday morning, it’s not list I travel all that fast anyway.

Goodbyes suck

I don’t usually take a lot of pictures then. I didn’t take any pictures in the morning, or the ride home. In face, I actually went home very quickly, since I was missing my wife at this point. Some time, hopefully very soon, she’ll get to come with me on this stuff.

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It’s Not A Wrong Turn – Spring Road Trip 2017


Since I don’t always remember, I’ll mention this right from the top. All the pictures in this post – and most of this ride report – were taken with a film camera. The camera in question is a Minolta X370, and the film Fuji Superia of various ISO (200 or 400).

Okay. When I got married in 2016 (Hi Sue!) she came with a family. That seems obvious to a lot of you, so you will have to just trust when when I say it doesn’t always work out that way. Anyway, some of that family (in 2017) were living in Albuquerque. Yes, that Albuquerque. I have to admit, I’ve never stayed in Albuquerque, only passed through it or stopped to look at something (like the petroglyphs). Since they were living there and had a guest room, and Curiosity was due for service…well you get the idea.

I didn’t have a full on plan of what to do while I was there, other than hang out and see them and service the bike and see some stuff. So, no plan at all. Their place was nice. Living in the Midwest for most of my life (of living anywhere), the difference of the architecture in the Southwest is always interesting.

No Air-conditioning.

One thing that surprised me is the lack of A/C. It seems like a no-brainer. Central air for everyone! But, a lot of the residences have this cool air thing on the roof. It’s probably more environmentally friendly, and I guess it’s quieter. The roar of 200,000 central air units would probably be a bit much.

I arrived a little early, and they were still at work. “They,” by the way, were Andrew and Paige. They are the nephew and niece-in-law of my wife, so I guess they were my nephew-in-law and niece-in-law-in-law, or something. Well, I had extra time and spent it walking around Nob Hill, which is an artsy area near the University.

Bikes

Mural

I have no idea

Anyway, they set me up in a nice guest room and a shower (I love showers. Hot running water is the best thing ever), and I got into normal person clothes. We hung out and chatted and went to dinner, though everyone agreed we wouldn’t be doing that every night (cuz you know, money). It was nice to catch up, Andrew and Paige are good people.

They also had suggestions on things I should be doing, while I was in town. Old Town was high on their list of places to see, even though they hadn’t been there yet. The next day, while they had to work (I felt a little bad) I saw Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and went for a walk around town. The train station was cool.

I want to take a train trip, someday

Even though I’d just had the Old Town tip, I wanted to spend a full day there. So, I walked around the University area some more. This also meant I had time to work on the bike, before I had to get back on the road.

Alien plants? Are they recruiting the bees for takeover plans?

Thats a house

But, I did get to Old Town, don’t worry.

My last night there, we went to a soccer game. Andrew and Paige were in a league, and I thought it would be fun to watch. I like soccer, but that night. Well, it was cold (Cold for me, for the desert SW it was probably freezing), and drizzling. We got a nice rainbow out of it, but it wasn’t a physically comfortable time to sit and watch.

Nice view

It was a nice location, but in the morning I was on the road for that last ride down I-40 to Flagstaff.

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