Category: 2012 Bald Tire Tour

Bald Tire Tour – Day 1

It didn’t start off as the “Bald Tire Tour”.  Originally it was just a loose plan around a music show at Virginia City, MT and some dual sport riding around the Gravelly Range, also in Montana.  My plan was to leave in the morning on a Thursday, and be back home to work on Tuesday.  My proposed route was a total of 1600 miles round trip, taking me through backcountry byways, county and forest service roads.

I set off shortly after 9:00am and made my way out of the city and the Front Range.  Snaked out of Woodland Park with traffic, and made my way towards Independence Pass.  Unfortunately, the USA Pro Cycling event was taking place over the pass, and the entire road was shut down to traffic.  Instead, I had to go up and around via the Highway.

Once I got to Newcastle, CO, I happily jumped off the highway, fueled up, and headed off for unknown forest service roads to ride the 60-70 some miles into Craig, CO via the dirt.  Things started out great, and deteriorated as I ran into afternoon showers which made the road a mucky, slippery mess.  The Michelin Anakee 2 tires I was running work very well on and off road, as long as there is no moisture.  Rather than waiting for the road to dry, I pushed on, hoping I’d break out of the storm and find dry roads.  45 minutes later I did, and found a fast, smooth dirt road all to myself without seeing another vehicle for hours.

My off-road bypass put me just south of Craig, CO.  I fueled up and stocked up on some provisions at a (very) busy gas station, and asked around about camping opportunities.  Not surprisingly, there didn’t seem to be many options in town.  Plenty of places to park and RV and hook up for that “authentic” experience, but no place to set up a tent.

I rode east out of town for about 15 miles before I saw a sign marking a swarth of BLM land for the Yampa River Valley.  I grabbed a handful of front binders on the GS, stabbed the turn indicator, and set off to find a camp site.

Some folks enjoy company when they camp.  Neighbors and new people to meet and share stories with.  I have always preferred solitude with nature.  This beautiful spot just off the BLM access road gave me just that.  With most BLM and other public lands, “dispersed camping” is the name of the game.  The rules are simple;  Leave it as you found it.  Its important to be sure that you are not on private land;  nobody wants to be rousted out of their tent with a shotgun, by an irate rancher at 2:00 am.

With a quick meal of freeze-dried chili, some hot Tang, I slowly watched the sun set over the river valley while the birds and the bugs chirped and ratcheted each other into a low din.  No yelling and screaming from children running around the campground.  No “thump-thump-thump” of subwoofers in RV’s going off while folks watch movies.  It wasn’t hard to fall asleep.

Bald Tire Tour – Day 2

Friday morning started at 5:30am.  The sun was only a dull glow in the eastern sky, and the night peepers started to settle.  While coffee brewed, I packed up my camp site and the bike.  When you finally find the right kit for travel, packing and unpacking become automatic.  I enjoyed my coffee while the birds and other morning creatures transitioned the soundtrack to morning from night.  By 6:00am, I was rocking the GS off the centerstand and rolling down the trail.

Its a beautiful thing, riding through this country at sunrise.  Deep blue and purple tones slowly warm to brilliant orange.  While turning onto a country road, I passed a sign indicating “No services for 120 miles” and had to smile.  I had the land and the views all to myself this morning.

I made my way north into Wyoming on CR-10N, passing through the Irish Canyon. Riding through it, its readily apparent how the canyon got its name.  Orange, white and green striations of rock and vegetation layered the canyon.  The road was a smooth and fast, sprayed with calcium chlorate.  Even though it was bumpy and made of dirt, one could ride it like a paved road.

Shortly after passing through Irish Canyon, I crossed the state line into Wyoming making my way towards Rock Springs.  Newly redone chip-seal on Highway 430 made things a little greasy around some of the tighter corners, but otherwise kept speeds up.

Out of Rock Springs on 191, the fun desolate roads ended, and I was zooming through towns, plains and prairies at 75-80mph, gobbling up miles.  Before I knew it, I was filling up the GS in Jackson, ready to head over the Teton Pass into Idaho.  Just as I started up the pass, traffic came to a halt.  Big accident, and the police officer estimated it would be 2-3 hours until traffic would resume.  In hindsight, I should have pulled off the road, and taken a nap until the road reopened.

The detour sent me through Grand Teton, and Yellowstone National Parks.  Plenty of beautiful sights, but with a new tire waiting in Bozeman, and the day rapidly withering, I was blind to the beauty.  Mind-numbing 40 and 45mph zones through the parks killed any time I had gained in the early morning.  It was nearly five hours before I arrived in West Yellowstone, which would have taken a mere 2 hours on my original route.  The shop in Bozeman with a spare set of tires had long since closed.

I set out to meet my buddies Mac, Bean, and Jefe in Ennis for some grub, before continuing on to Virginia City to set up camp.  The boys were camping in great style, and Jefe produced a number of cold beers from one of his panniers after we set up camp.  Several refreshing beverages in us, we packed our pockets for the town, and moseyed down main street to watch the show.

Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormons rocked it.  Great riffs and melodic guitar solos echoed off the vigilante city while we downed tall boy beers and shouted commentary at each other.  The show ended right around 2:00am, and we stumbled across the railroad tracks to our camp area.  I fell asleep almost at the moment I laid down in my tent.