Moab, Utah 3-7th April 2016

For the last few days we have been staying in Moab, Utah. This is at the heart of red rock country and the base for visits to Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. The best thing about Utah at this time of the year is that, while the skies are blue and daytime temperatures warm (ish), you are surrounded by views of snowy mountains. We loved the ride here as the mountains got closer and closer.

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Despite what you hear, Utah has bars and they are open on Sundays. We tested this and met a very nice barmaid who has moved here for the outdoor sports (like most people here).

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Everyone here looks very fit and the place is full of rock climbing and mountain biking shops, as well as places that rent all terrain vehicles (like a cross between a quad bike and a jeep). The Americans love their outdoors like no other nation I have experienced. Yesterday, we went for an amazing visit to Canyonlands National Park.

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This is the least visited national park in Utah but has views better than the Grand Canyon. It was really, very beautiful. It was also pretty quiet.SAMSUNG CSC

We had some views to ourselves.

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Dave enjoyed scrambling up rocks.

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And sitting on the edge (he then went home and played with his train set).

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There are steep, dirt roads here that were trails used by native Americans and then used by drovers. It would be great to have a 4X4 to get to the valley bottom and look up at the canyons from below. You can drive from one side to the other.

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It is still pretty chilly on the bike, even though it is really sunny so thermal underwear and down jackets under the leathers are still necessary (Michelin Man style), which makes hiking quite tricky.

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We managed to walk a mile. It would be nice to camp closer and walk from the tent but the campgrounds in the park are booked until the end of June. On a clear day, you can see for 100 miles apparently.

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Nearby is Dead Horse Point. This is where the final scene of Thelma and Louise was filmed. There is a narrow road about one car wide, where they used to corral the horses into the “point” which is now a car park. They would then choose which horses they wanted and leave the rest to die (!). Hence the name. If you have already been to Canyonlands, then I would not recommend paying the extra to go to Dead Horse. It is just a different and less impressive view of the same canyon system. We were not tempted to drive off the edge.

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We will be here till Saturday. Tomorrow we will visit Arches National Park and do a short hike and we then head to Sedona in Arizona, where we hope to spend a few days before heading to New Mexico. We booked our flights to Hong Kong this week, for July 24th. I have also been working slowly on the thesis. I hope to be up to 40,000 words by the end of the week. We have 6 weeks left of the trip but time seems to have slowed down for us and each day is a gift.

Palm Springs to Monument Valley via Grand Canyon 26th-31st March 2016

We have had such a great few days, marred only by terrible internet that has made it impossible to post to the blog about all the amazing things we have seen. We came down off the mountain in Idyllwild just in time before the snow came in.

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There was very low cloud on the way down but the desert is never far away and it warmed up pretty quickly.

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I love that about this area you can go sand to snow in less than an hour.

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We had a great day in Palm Springs looking at modernist architecture, drinking beer and eating Vietnamese food. We saw the house where Elvis and Priscilla spent their honeymoon.

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It took us two days to ride to the Grand Canyon. It ranged from fairly chilly to very cold. Actual daytime temperatures ranged from about 4-14 celsius but there is a wind chill of minus 15 on a bike travelling at 60mph so we have really felt it as we do not have winter bike gear. We have also ridden across a lot of very exposed landscapes at a pretty steady 2000m altitude. On the first day we rode through Joshua Tree National Park.

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It was  amazing but the empty vistas outside the park were just as beautiful in my opinion.

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Our visit was short because of the cold but I would like to return here when it is warmer.

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We spent the rest of the day riding slog the old Route 66. I thought Wyoming was vast and empty but there really is nothing in this corner of the California high desert.

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We camped overnight at Needles, CA where locals drive a 30 mile round trip to the supermarket. The campsite had great facilities bit was right on the highway and even Dave complained about the noise and fumes.

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There was an amazing sunset (no photoshop).

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The next day was much colder. I was riding with thermal underwear top and bottom, fleece trousers and a down jacket under my leathers plus a hat under my helmet and tow pairs of gloves and I was still frozen to the bone. It started to snow as we waited in the queue at the Grand Canyon National Park. You know you are near hyperthermia when you start to tremble badly. Fortunately our room at the lodge had a bathtub and excellent heating and we managed to warm through. We spent the evening drinking craft beer (yuk) and eating pizza.

It was no problem for us to get up for sunrise as we are early risers and we were awake and raring to go by 4.30am. We walked along the rim for a couple of miles at dawn expecting to find crowds. There were none.

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Very few people seem to get up to watch the sunrise ever the canyon (at least at this time of the year when it is minus 4).

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It was wonderful.

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Later on we rode out of the park via  the Desert View entrance win the east and were treated to some amazing sights.

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We did not even have to get off the bike for some of them. We also saw elk and mule deer.

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The ride across Navajo land to Monument Valley was again vast and fascinating as the landscapes changed constantly. We stopped at an old trading post for lunch. I balked at paying $400 for a Navajo blanket.We arrived in Monument Valley on the border with Utah to thick cloud, again freezing cold. SAMSUNG CSC

 

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We stayed at Gouldings Lodge. This is a former trading post on Navajo land run by the Navajo and with amazing views across to the tribal park of Monument Valley. The trading post was set up by Mr. Goulding in the 1920s and in the 1950s he wrote to John Ford, the film Director with some photos of the area and invited him to make a film there. The area was used for making many, very famous films, including Stagecoach and She War a Yellow Ribbon, both with John Wayne. There is a great little museum that displays many fascinating photos from the time and you can see the cabin that was used on set by one of John Wayne’s characters.

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We were assigned an odd little room next to the car wash.

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In the morning, we were treated to some wonderful views as we rode out of the area.

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Although it was cold, the stunning blue skies and amazing scenery kept us cheerful. Including snowy peaks in the distance.

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We are now in Moab, Utah for a few days of exploration in the red rock landscape and on empty roads.

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Batman v Superman

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We’ve had such a good run of going to see good movies, lately: The Martian, The Revenant, Deadpool, The Force Awakens… then, unfortunately, this rubbish. At least we got to use a tiny, small town cinema. It was a bit embarrassing when the owner (pictured, changing the sign) asked us how we liked the movie, though.

California-Los Angeles and Back to Camping-21st-26th March 2016

Our main goal on leaving Arizona and arriving back in California was to retrieve the tent and other equipment and get back to camping as soon as possible. We spent our first night in California in Indio, near Palm Springs in the California desert. It was a pretty uneventful stay in an Airbnb, marked by more gorgeous weather and a visit to Trader Joe’s grocery store to shop for some long awaited home cooked food. On leaving the next morning for a short drive up Interstate Highway 10 we were shocked to be caught in the middle of a dust storm.

SAMSUNG CSCThis is not the worst dust storm we have encountered. Back in 1997, in Iran, we could not see more than 10 metres ahead but we were the only vehicle on the road and it was much more scary this time, being blown across the path of trucks in a three lane highway. Later on we were reintroduced to the terrible traffic in LA. Fortunately, we were going the other way. It was interesting to note that the electric train/tram goes down the central reservation, allowing train passengers to feel extra smug as they look out at the car drivers stuck in a traffic jam.

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We left our camping gear with the parents of a colleague and friend from Berlin, Heather, who live in Pasadena (which is part of the LA conurbation, East of the city, near the mountains). We booked into a Airbnb nearby in Eagle Rock and enjoyed a lovely couple of days there. We have not experienced many walkable neighbourhoods in the US so far. “Shops nearby” usually means 10-15 minutes drive but Eagle Rock really was walkable and within 7 minutes our room we had a supermarket, cafes and restaurants and…a motorcycle shop that sold tyres to fit the Triumph. We invested in two more new tyres for the bike,  a decent hair cut for me-the first for more than 5 months- and a pair of new bike gloves for Dave, as his old ones wore out.

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New Gloves

Our Airbnb was in one of those typical Spanish-style LA homes, like you see in the films.

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We had a lovely visit with Sandy, Heather’s mom, to collect our things. It was great to chat for a couple of hours and see where Heather grew up. This is a stunning neighbourhood and somewhere I would love to live.

SAMSUNG CSCThe tent zips had failed on us before we left for Mexico, back in October and we knew we needed to repair them. We were quite chuffed that having unpicked the zips, removed the zip sliders and replaced them with new ones, the zips were like new. This meant we were able to head out straight for our favourite USA campsite in Idyllwild, the last campsite we stayed at in October before we left.

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The campsite is a 6,200 feet and so we had to be sure we could stay warm. We invested in a pair of fleece trouser each (sexy, not) and hoped that with the thermal underwear, down jackets and sleeping bags this would be enough to stop us from freezing and keep us camping. You can see us modelling our new trousers below.

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The ride up to Idyllwild was the best riding we have done for months and months. Winding, smooth roads, beautiful temperature and great scenery. It felt so good to be back.

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After I had finished stitching up the tent.

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camping beerI love this campsite because you have great facilities like a lodge with Wifi and a laundry but it still feels like a wilderness, right on top of the mountain.

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I have never see pine cones this big anywhere in Europe. The squirrels are even bigger but there are no bears here, only rattlesnakes and tarantulas (apparently).

SAMSUNG CSCSo we have spent a couple of days, trying to stay warm (mostly successfully), pottering on the campsite and in the village, doing some work on the thesis and on the bike. The bike has some new brake pads but we are still grappling with how to get all of the camping gear on (how did we manage it before?)

SAMSUNG CSCWe are both extremely relaxed and happy with a lot to look forward to. We have decided not to go to Vegas as it is too expensive. We are heading to Palm Springs to see Elvis’s honeymoon house and other modernist architecture. We then have a lodge booked in the Grand Canyon National Park for 30th March. After this we head to Utah for Monument Valley, Canyonlands and Arches National Park.

Front Brake Master Cylinder #3

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I got another front brake master cylinder off eBay.  The size this time?  Back to the original 1/2″.  Increasing the size of the master cylinder is a big mistake, don’t do it.  Instead, replace the caliper seals and then, if you still have problems, consider Dot 5 brake fluid (but satisfy yourself that this is a good idea).  There is a stamp on the reservoir saying Dot 3 or 4 only and the replacement caliper seals probably say something similar.  I’m keeping an eye on things but my seals do not appear to be dissolving so far.

Changed the front brake pads in both calipers, too, and finally have pads for the rear.  What with the two new tyres, Silver is going to be like a new bike.

Rear Brake Pads At Last!

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I like to get the most out of my brake pads

A look back at this blog (it had to be useful for something) tells me I first started mentioning that I needed rear brake pads at 6,000 miles.  Finally got them at 22,000 miles so it’s amazing how you can stretch things out when you need to.

I have no recollection of this, but it says here http://sawthingsclearer.com/2015/09/12/tiger-at-7000-miles/ that I changed one of the pads after Triumph sold me the wrong pair (one pad still fitted).  This would be the pad on the right in the image above.  Looks like it was a good call.