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OFFROAD ADVENTURE

I'd like to share one more trip wtih you which took for only one day; but had the impact for all our lives as an unforgettable memory. Let's Listen the story from Merrill Glos. You should know him in detail from our report of "Northwest USA". If you didn't read it, it is strongly recommended...

Ride Report...... by merrill glos ... pictures by John Fischer and Ahmet

 

It was a dark and stormy night...... no wait, that’s comes later. It started at Max & Erma’s in German Village Columbus after visiting the AMA Museum in Pickerington. Ron Monnig offered Ahmet and me the opportunity to trail ride near his home in Owenton KY. To make it possible, he offered Ahmet one of his dirt bikes to ride. Note: Ahmet had never ridden off-road before and the chance to crash, err ride someone else’s bike was too good to pass up. Ron extended the offer to John Fischer and Thursday, March 15th, 2012 was the time. 

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John trailered his KTM 525 to the Elk Creek Winery, Ahmet and I drove down in my Tacoma with my WR250R in the back. We followed Ron on his XR650 to his house to pick up Ahmet’s bike which was supposed to be Ron’s trusty XR250. The small XR was kick start only and it gave Ahmet fits, so Ron rode the 250 and Ahmet rode Ron’s 650 with electric start. It had rained early that morning and was drizzling as we departed. The trails were slick, the gravel not dusty but it warmed to a beautiful sunny afternoon.

Ron knows all the roads and trails in the surrounding counties and led us south toward Henry Co. where we left the pavement for some nice dirt and gravel two track with numerous creek fordings. On the first deep crossing, Ahmet dumped the 650 mid stream and stalled the motor. It wouldn’t restart.

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We pushed it to high ground and hit the starter until the battery said ‘enough’. From an experience in Colorado, John diagnosed the problem as water in the exhaust, trapped in a ‘ptrap’ formed by the header pipes. I put my money on electrical. Ron checked the air filter and it was dry. When I put my hand over the exhaust tip, and they cranked the motor over, I could feel the pulse of the escaping gas. When John put his hand over the tip he noticed that the air was blowing out then sucking in. (being pulled back as the water ran back into the trap?) I pulled the plug while Ron and John disassembled the muffler and loosened the two header pipes. The plug looked dry (no flooding) but Ron had a new spare plug which I installed. A quart of water ran out of the removed muffler. We headed the bike up a steep grade and hit the starter again. More water sputtered out of the headers, and finally the motor started to catch, then it hit on all cylinders (one) and we were good to go. 

 

Note: from experience, Ron carries a complete and professional tool kit with everything but epoxy.....

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I dropped my WR in the next stream and luckily it restarted after a nervous hesitation. The trails were awesome with the fruit trees and red buds in full bloom, the smells matching the sights. On our third or fourth crossing, we ran into Ron Holand on his ATV with his two dogs, a local 80 acre landowner.

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We chatted for twenty minutes and he explained the ‘right of way’ on the lonely two track ‘roads’. When a ‘road’ continues across a creek, the public right of way follows a line connecting the points where the road enters (leaves) the creek. Riding down the creek is riding on private property. It’s ok to float on the surface of the water, but wading is trespassing. We were all (including the dogs) enjoying a beautiful spring day.

After a break at Lockport (an old dam and locks site on the Kentucky River) Ron asked if we wanted to return to the Winery on pavement or mud? I voted for mud and no one contested. We left pavement and hit some deep and muddy ruts. Ahmet was a trooper and did an admiral job keeping up, considering that this was his first venture off-road. About ten minutes from reaching pavement, Ahmet dropped the 650 on a slick section and that’s when the day’s luck ran out. The bike fell on a rock which punched a nickel sized hole through the left crankcase cover. It’s about 5pm and we were all tired. We regrouped and Ron decided the best fix was for him to ride back to his place and get some epoxy, ride back, do an epoxy patch, add a quart of oil and ride out.

After Ron rode out, John rode ahead to scout the trail and to check the next creek crossing to get a fix on our location and situation. It was starting to rain. By the time John returned, it was raining like hell. He had spotted an abandoned house about mile further out and we decided to take turns helping Ahmet push the 650 to the house where we would take refuge from the rain. By the time we reached the house we were totally soaked to the skin if not by the rain, then by sweat. (no rain gear) 

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It soon became apparent that this was no ordinary spring shower and that we might get trapped by the rising creek. That turned out to be an underestimate. We decided to ride and push the 650 to the creek crossing with hopes we’d meet Ron on his return and be that much further ahead. Not to be. Torrents were running down the steep hillside across the trail and a dry gulley that John didn’t even notice on his scouting ride was now a raging tributary running into the fast rising creek that was now a good size raging river. The tributary was about butt deep and was too dangerous to cross even with a walking stick. Getting 

a bike across was out of the question. We waited at the crossing until the rain slowed and John put a rock at water’s edge to see how fast and how much it receded. After about an hour, the water level was down to the point where we could get the bikes across, so with the motor running and all three of us steadying the bike, we walked John’s KTM and then my WR across. Had we dropped the bike, it would have been washed down to the river. It was still too deep to push the 650 across because muddy water would have run into the crankcase hole. When we were on the other side, John and I rode to the river crossing, Ahmet walking. Our hopes were dashed at the sight of the raging river..... four, maybe five feet deep and raging. By the time John and I assessed the situation at the river, Ahmet walked up only to be told that we were heading back to the house, now a mile behind us. Close lightening strikes added a little tension.  

We had left the 650 at the first creek crossing and had by this time already pushed the 650 about two miles and now decided to push it back to the abandoned house and wait this thing out. Ahmet did 80% of the pushing with John and I leapfrogging to help. The exercise helped Ahmet fit into his military uniform which he would be wearing for his graduation exactly one week later. He was on a diet and hadn’t eaten any food all day. Did I mention that it was now dark and we had no flashlight?

The muddy ride into this situation was bad enough before the rain started and it was me that didn’t want to retrace our steps back out the way we came in. Ahmet suggested that we had nothing better to do, and that going back would at least warm us with the exercise. He was right, so we hid the 650 behind the house and John and I started riding out, with Ahmet walking and using our headlights to guide him.

The trail was parallel to the river with deep muddy ruts filled with water that reached over my motor. John searched for high ground; I stayed on the trail and waded through the mud holes. John’s a better rider and can handle the slick totally off track having to navigate over logs and downed trees. I like to keep my wheels at their lowest potential so they don’t squirt out from under me. The mud holes were nearly tank deep in spots and our spirits rose as we approached what surely was some higher ground and the gravel road out.

Then it happened. The river had risen to the point where it crossed our trail. I was sitting on the WR on the trail in about two feet of moving water; John was up on an island between the hill and river. Ahmet was with John. John propped his KTM against a tree and waded with a walking stick in front of me on the trail in my headlight path. It was too deep and unsafe to even be where we were.

Somehow we got the bikes turned around and headed back to higher ground. On a small rise, we rode the bikes up a steep embankment and leaned them against a tree. No more bike riding for the day. The three of us headed back to the house about a mile away, slipping, falling and getting snagged with stickers. It was pitch black.

Oh, no cell service. We got back to the house at maybe ten o’clock and walked to the river (30 feet) to note its depth relative to some larger trees. The two room house had no door or windows and a large hole in the tin roof. The room with the door had no floor with exposed joists with nails but the side room still had a floor. We should have been more observant when it was still light. Before lying down, we shuffled our feet to locate any protruding nails and layed on our backs, elevating our boots to let the water run out. We all resigned that it was going to be a long, long night. It was a long dark and muddy mile back to the bikes and we didn’t want to waste our energy making the trek only to find the river still too high to escape so we laid on the floor and rested, recounting the most uncomfortable (previous) nights of our lives.

John ranked the night I put him, Todd and myself up in a flea bag 50’s motel in MacArthur Ohio last spring prior to an adventure ride that weekend near the top of his list. (always look at the room before paying) A wilderness survival week in the mountains in Turkey with no rations was Ahmet’s and mine (discounting a 380 day all expenses paid holiday in South East Asia in ‘67) was a night at 14,000 feet in the Bolivian desert without bedding and temps in the 20’s. The good news was this year’s exceptionally warm spring. Had the ground been near frozen, the water we had been fording all night would have been ice cold and hypothermia would have been a real concern..... the thought of hugging John and Ahmet all night was chilly enough. Thanks.

A fast rising river will be a fast falling river. With a final fix on the receding river level at about 1am, we decided to wait another hour before walking back to the bikes and attempt another ride out. (Ahmet walking) We laid there now in silence, John and Ahmet cold and shivering, me not so much thanks to natural insulation.

At 1:30am, a bright white light shown through the pane less window and someone yelled something, me being too sleepy to remember. John jumped to his feet and yelled back.... What the hell???? Then we heard the noise of a motorized vehicle and knew the river had receded enough to get out. Two guys from the Monterey EMS were in a Polaris side by side. Ron had called 911. They asked us if we had any medical emergencies, (no, just mental ones). Ahmet and the ATV passenger walked in the headlights of the ATV, John and I rode in the ATV and got a ride back to our bikes. Ahmet rode out with the ATV, John and I started our bikes and rode out. There were about 20 EMS folks waiting for us in a flood of whirling lights on a fire truck, ambulance and big 4x4’s when we reached pavement. Ron had brought my truck but had to make a detour getting there because of a flooded creek. John and I were embarrassed and apologetic about our ‘rescue’..... being as we had ridden out under our own power and had planned to do it alone less than an hour later..... But it was a relief to know that a warm shower and soft bed were mere hours away and a possibility before sunrise.

After the Monterrey and Owenton EMS got enough stories for their VFW Hall get togethers, they let us go. John and I had a cold thirty minute ride back to the winery. We loaded the bikes. John and I got home about 4am, Ahmet at 5am.

Todd Leaver, John and I met Ron on Saturday and walked in for the epoxy repair and ride out. There were TWO river crossings getting back in the reverse way (we had thought just the one, actually the same river with two crossings) .... So it’s a good thing we didn’t get across the first river crossing, or we would have been stranded between the rivers and then even the EMS guys would not have been able to reach us. EMS advice: “stay put”, which we did more or less because we didn’t have a choice. (not knowing there was going to be a rescue effort.)

Being a semi-rookie dirt rider, I was please with my performance riding in conditions that I thought were totally over my head. I had dropped the WR twice in the early afternoon, but managed to keep the not so shiny side up that evening. I had installed a “YAMAHALINK” lowering kit which lowered the bike two inches so it was now possible to touch the ground with both feet simultaneously. Before the kit, with a 37 inch saddle height and a thirty inch inseam, by the time my foot reached the ground, it was too late to arrest a fall.

Throughout it all, there was no whining and the experience made us grateful for the comfortable lives we are blessed with. Thanks. It was a dark and stormy night...... 

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John, Ron, Ahmet, Todd and Merrill Glos 

 

Note; Thank you very much to Merrill... 

 the end