by Julie Angell
Preparation is the key when you are getting ready for a dual-sport ride. I’ve learned from several years of dual-sporting that you carry what you may need for yourself, and you carry what you may need to help an unprepared person. You never know when you may have to fix a flat, solve a problem with duct-tape, use bailing wire or zip-ties as a temporary fix, or handle a little first-aid care. You learn to carry all sorts of odds and ends up to, but not including, the kitchen sink. I’ve found that “all that stuff” can get you out of the middle of nowhere when you’ve got a problem. It can also help someone else out if they have a problem.
This is what happened on a dual sport ride held in Sedona, AZ, in the month of October. Greg Baumann of Motolink put on this ride, and I had enjoyed it so much the previous year I had to return the next year when it was put on again.
I had made plans to ride with Kellie, who I had met briefly at the conclusion of the Big Bear Run dual sport ride in June. Kellie’s husband rides fast and does the difficult routes with his buddies, and Kellie likes to take the easy routes at a slower, more relaxed rate. We had promised each other we would ride together in Sedona.
Kellie rides a Kawasaki Super Sherpa. She’s about five feet four inches tall, and this bike is perfect for her. She can just touch her feet to the ground. She said the four-stroke 250 had lots of power, and she could even go 120 miles on a tank of gas, which was surprising to me since her tank is only about 2.2 gallons. My two-stroke Yamaha RT180 enables me to touch the ground too, so we were well matched to our bikes.
We met up Saturday morning for the rider’s meeting in Oak Creek Village, ten miles south of Sedona. I had never ridden a dual sport ride with just another girl, and I was wondering if it was a smart thing to not have a guy along with us in case we got in trouble. Little did we know the trouble we would run into wouldn’t be our’s.
After the meeting, everyone headed south on Hwy 179. We were going to have to keep moving all day since there were three different time constraints placed on us that day. However, just a few miles after we had turned off the highway onto the first dirt road, we came upon a rider sitting with his back to us in a wash next to the road. I asked him if he needed help. He didn’t answer, so I kept going. However, a few minutes later, I noticed that Kellie wasn’t behind me. After waiting a while with no sign of her, I turned around to find her.
There she was helping the guy on the big bike, which was a huge Beemer. Greg Baumann had invited riders that own larger bikes like the LC-4s, KLRs, and Adventure bikes on this ride. He had optional routes for these riders that would traverse easier routes and skip the deep, sand washes and rocky areas. When these riders go down on these bikes, they often have to wait for someone to come along to help them pick up their bikes, since they weigh so much more than our regular dirt bikes. Apparently, this rider had missed the curve of the road, and when he hit the deep sand in the wash, had fallen over. He had just managed to pick up his bike by himself and was sitting on it trying to recover from over-exertion. Kellie had gotten off her bike and offered to help him push his bike backwards out of the wash. Little 5’4” Kellie pushed with all her might and helped him get the bike out of the sand and back onto the road. She got back on her bike, pushed that magic e-button, and we continued on.
After a while, I was concerned that we wouldn’t make the first time constraint of the day. The 49th Annual Fort Verde Days Parade was being held around 10 a.m. in Camp Verde. If you didn’t make it through the town before 10 a.m., then the main street through town would be closed and you’d have to take a long bypass around the town. Greg Baumann had entered all of us in the parade as a large group, and while we wouldn’t have minded participating in the parade, we knew we wouldn’t make the other time constraints in the day if we participated in the parade.
We arrived in Camp Verde right around 10:15 a.m., when the street was closed and the parade staging was starting. Making a U-turn, we followed the directions on our roll-chart and rode a few extra miles around the town. This really worked to our advantage. The next part of the route, which Kellie recognized from last year, was a challenging single-track trail. This trail actually isn’t that hard. It’s just long and makes you tired with all the turns and little up- and down-hills it has through the scrub brush.
When we arrived at this section, no one else was there. We had the whole single-track section to ourselves and didn’t have to worry about guys needing to pass us or having to wait for riders who had fallen over to get out of our way. I didn’t let us stop for a breather until we were through all the tight sections and had come to a turn-off onto the main road. All of a sudden, it was like a dam burst. Riders starting coming up behind us while we were sitting there resting. Many stopped to catch their breath or wait for their buddies. One guy told us after the parade finished it was a solid group of about a hundred riders who were riding along and they all came to the single-track trail at the same time. It became a bottleneck for quite a while until everyone funneled through. Another guy told me there were so many riders falling over or going so slow that he tried to pass one by riding through some bushes next to the trail. He stopped fast when he hit a barbed wire fence and almost went over his handlebars. Kellie and I were very lucky to have gone through this section before it was all torn up. Soon we were ready to move on.
The next time constraint was lunch. It was being provided by Cottonwood Motorsports in Cottonwood. It would only be offered from 11 a.m. until lunch ran out. By this time, we were being passed right and left by other riders, and I didn’t know if there would be anything left for us to eat. When we arrived in Cottonwood at the store, dozens of bikes were parked there. We climbed off our bikes and found some hamburgers and hotdogs were still being cooked. Yeah! We got to eat.
About an hour later, we started for Jerome. This is an old, quaint mining town perched on the side of a hill and has a few narrow streets that wind through town around the old buildings. The 18th Annual Prescott Rally was being held this day, and we had been warned that the last cars would start (from Prescott, I assume) at 12:15 p.m. Since the course ran near Jerome, we had to clear out of Jerome by 2:30 p.m. and be off the roads on the other side of Jerome by 3:30 p.m. or we would risk meeting on-coming traffic with rally cars. Not a very good place to be.
Kellie and I kept up a good pace and I kept glancing at my watch. It was 1:30 p.m., then 2 p.m., and we weren’t there yet. We were winding alongside the mountain on a narrow dirt road when we came to a guy on a KTM with his bike turned sideways blocking our way. I asked him if he was taking tolls before he’d let us pass. He said he had just fallen over and was taking a breather. He had badly hurt his wrist, and didn’t know if he’d be able to continue riding. I glanced at my watch with a sinking feeling. It didn’t look like we were going to make it to Jerome by 2:30 p.m.
I asked the guy if he would like to use the tire irons I had as a brace on both sides of his wrist. I had a long scarf in my backpack that he could use to wrap around them so his wrist wouldn’t move. He declined that, but said it was a good idea. (I had seen a guy on the Bass Lake ride a year earlier using a tire iron for a brace, and had filed that away in my mind for future use.) The guy asked if we had any Vicodin. I told him I had Advil. He gulped down what I had left and said he would keep moving so his wrist wouldn’t get stiff. Boy, did I feel sorry for him, especially when we came to a rocky section that I knew had to be causing him a lot of pain. We continued up the hill and followed the guy and his buddy into Jerome. I was watching the clock on my speedometer every moment. We reached the town right at 2:40 p.m., and when the guys in front of us pulled over to the side, we went around them and kept moving fast. We didn’t know how much distance we had to cover in 50 minutes, but I didn’t want to be out on that course with those cars racing toward us.
We turned off the narrow, paved road unto a dirt road that wrapped around the side of the mountains with blind curves. Jeeez. Were we going to die going over a cliff when a car came around the curve and crashed head-on into us? We kept up the fast pace and started meeting a couple quads and a few trucks coming towards us. Surely if we were in danger they’d be stopping us and telling us to turn around and head back into town. My heart was beating fast. I was glad the dirt roads were pretty smooth so we could keep up a fast clip. Finally, we came to an intersection where some vehicles were sitting and flags were marking the turn in the course. It was 3:30 p.m. and we had made it! No rally cars had come through, yet. We were safe!
By that time, we still had at least 50 or 60 miles to go before we made it to Williams, our destination for the night. We could see the dark clouds in the direction we were heading, and I wondered if we’d reach Williams by dark and be able to keep dry. Soon, we came upon a lone rider by the side of the road. His legs and lower bike were covered with…could that be oil? We asked him if he needed help and he said he didn’t know what was wrong. His bike had just turned itself off. The three of us got down on our hands and knees. We couldn’t seem to figure out where the oil was coming from since it had blown all over the place. Finally, the guy noticed his drain plug was missing. His oil had all run out! He urged us a couple of times to ride on because his buddies were behind him and would get there any moment and could help him. We said we’d stay with him until they arrived, since we were out in the middle of nowhere.
Soon his buddies pulled up, and we were surprised to see it was the same guys we had been following before we had reached Jerome. They said if he only had a little oil he could put in the engine, at least they could ride to the closest town or campground and see if someone had any motor oil they could use. I mentioned I had some two-stroke oil on me. I checked to make sure I had enough in my auto-lube reservoir to get me to Williams so my bike wouldn’t seize. I did, so I gave him my little container of oil. Now he had to find something with which to plug that hole.
I mentioned something I had in my backpack that would work, but one of the guys got offended. Perhaps it was the picture in his mind of a string hanging down under the bike. Another guy went through his backpack and found a packet of bolts he had. He soon found one that was just the correct size for the drain hole. What a coincidence! It seemed like the problem was solved. Nope, not yet. The guy had installed a special blue cap that he thought looked really cool over the hole where the oil was poured in. However, he needed an Allen wrench to remove it, and he and his buddies didn’t have one. Kellie took off her tool pack and handed him the correct size Allen wrench. In a few minutes we left them, confident that they would soon be on their way.
Kellie and I arrived in Williams at 6 p.m., right when it started getting dark. We related the events of the day to Kellie’s husband and Greg Baumann, who were both waiting for us. They laughed. We grabbed our overnight bags that Greg had transferred to Williams for everyone, and then parted for our motels.
The next morning, Greg had a rider’s meeting before everyone left. Kellie and I drove across the street to get gas. We must have chosen the slowest gas station in town, because I think it took at least 45 minutes to gas up and wait in line to pay. Now it looked like we were going to be the last ones to arrive back in Sedona.
Eventually we caught up to some riders. There were about three guys parked on the side of the road, and the rear wheel was off one of the bikes. The guys were from Colorado and said they had a flat. They said they never got flats. I asked if the guy had a heavy duty tube in his tire. No, he was using the stock tube. I asked if he had a spare. Nope, no spare. I offered him my 80-100-21 spare tube. He said he had a size 18 tire. I explained to him it would work fine, even though it would be a little larger. The guys insisted they would just wait for the sweep truck to show up. I told them it might not come for hours, and why miss time doing the ride when they had come all the way from Colorado to do it? I gave him my tube, tire irons, and pump, since he didn’t have those things on him, either. When he offered to pay me, I told him it wasn’t necessary, and to just get a spare tube so he’d have it in the future if anyone else needed one. I told him Kellie and I would probably be the last ones into Sedona, so he could just leave my tire irons and pump with my luggage in Sedona and I’d pick them up there. He was concerned I might need the tube myself, but I told him hopefully someone would have one if I needed it.
Soon Kellie and I reached some rocky trails in the forest. Unfortunately, a rider with a large bike had fallen over on a rocky hill climb. He was standing next to his bike waiting for someone to come along and help him pick it up. Since it was a somewhat steep hill, I had to ride past him to keep my momentum going so I’d reach the top. I hollered at him that I would be right back to help him. I got off my bike right as Kellie was coming up the hill. I waved her up to the top. She was going to stop to help him halfway up, which would have blocked the trail completely.
Fortunately, a few guys came up the trail just a moment behind her. I told her to let them help him. I realized that trying to help someone lift up a bike that size on the side of the hill would be a job better left to men. We rode a hundred feet further and parked to take a brief, but steep, hike up a hill to see the view from the Turkey Butte Overlook. The guy with the flat tire earlier that day was there, and he gave me back the tire irons and pump. Come to find out, one of his buddies had also gotten a flat after him, so it wasn’t their lucky day. I suggested that they all purchase front fender packs for their bikes so they could carry spare tire stuff and be better prepared for the next ride.
When we returned to our bikes, we heard a helicopter above us. I hoped it wasn’t for one of the riders. It landed in aclearing right next to us. A moment later, we saw Kellie’s husband ride up that steep, rocky hill we had ridden up earlier with an ambulance following on his heels, I mean wheels. Kellie went over to talk to her husband. He and his buddies had led a hurt rider to the clearing. He had broken his collarbone and they were helping him ride to an area where the helicopter would be able to land. The ambulance had needed assistance from Kellie’s husband with finding the rider. In about 10 minutes he was loaded in the helicopter and the ambulance rushed off on another call. We later found out that a girl had ridden her bike into a tree and was knocked out, so they had to go find her and take care of her.
We helped out one more guy who was sure he was going to run out of gas. We told him that he should have enough gas to get to the planned gas stop, since that section of the route was only 77 miles total, and he was on a large bike with a large tank. He wanted to get to a town, anyway. We pointed him in the right direction, but then kept meeting up with him several times after that. He kept asking where we were and which way to go. After finding out that he was a Harley rider and this was his first dual sport ride, I asked him where his roll chart was. He said it was in his pocket. Here Kellie had been stopping and rolling her roll chart ahead every time to answer his questions! For some reason he hadn’t bought a roll chart holder, which is a requirement on these dual sport rides. Frustrated, I told him to get out his roll chart and use it! After all, he was taking up our time and we needed to get back to Sedona. Then he said he lived in Sedona and knew the area anyway. Sheesh!
Soon, the sweep crew caught up to us. I knew that they wanted to make it home sometime before midnight. We had a fast lunch at a Subway, gassed up, and continued on, riding as fast as we could.
We arrived in Sedona around 6 p.m., just before it got dark. Kellie’s husband was happy to see us, since they still had a five hour drive home to Tucson. They loaded up and I gave her a hug and said I’d be happy to ride with her anytime. She and I were well matched in our speed and riding ability. I waved goodbye to them and turned to talk to the two guys who remained in the parking lot. It was Mike and his buddy, Matt, who was the guy with the oil leak from the day before.
We made plans to have dinner a little later after we all cleaned up. Matt bought my dinner, since he said it was the least he could do after I helped save his bike. After telling him about all the guys that Kellie and I had helped both days, he said next year he would ride a quad and pull a little trailer and sell oil and spare tubes for $50 each. I reminded him that I hadn’t charged him anything for my oil. He said I should have. He would have paid anything at that time!
So, that was the end of our “Saving Guys in Sedona” ride. My hope is that the people we helped out during this ride have learned they need to carry the things they and other people may need, so they can return the favor we did for them. You never know if the bike or life they save may be your own!