Yet another arduous task to write about: The end of Ursula.
Why “Moab and the End of Ursula”?
I’ve named this article as such as it came as a surprise the abrupt ending to my trip. My journey did come to a sudden stop 4 days after arriving in Moab.
I previously mentioned I had to square a couple of Harley Davidson riders on the fact of how reliable my little Honda had been, so let it not be without a sense of humour that my bike was die. Read on to find out how!
Lazy Lizard, Moab
I had now been to Moab 3 times and each time I stayed at the trusty filth-bucket hostel that is Lazy Lizard. Sure it’s a little tattered, things don’t look so good or clean. However, I assure you I wouldn’t have gone back it if was so bad! Unfortunately for me, when I arrived I was given a noisy room with 7 other people.
At 4:30am two of the guys wanted to get an early start. Well, that was what they had set out to do by setting their alarms. One of them got up and went to the bathroom quietly for a shower, the other just left his alarm ringing. After a few grunts and groans from the other 6 of us in the room, he still refused to move or turn off his alarm. Eventually, after several minutes. I was now currently W-I-D-E awake; and not only was I very awake I was flaming furious. I barked a few un-nice words at him along with the moans from the others while we were all laying in our bunks. He did nothing.
What happened next I’m not proud of. The irritating iPhone alarm for Mr. Snoozipants had now got me into full hulk form. Before I knew it I was running at the guy and was about to throttle or yank him off the bed before his friend came running in his towel to stop me.
I didn’t sleep after that.
Later in the day, when everyone else was awake. I spoke to the other dorm mates, who shared their sentiments about how they thought to do the same. However, when your heart is racing and you’re blind with rage, it’s impossible to return to sleep, so day 2 I was up from 4:30am until bedtime. 🙁
Although not quite the same scenario, the replacement dorm room guests had plans for a late night. Late night watching a film on your tablet in a dark room. Illuminating the whole room, laughing occasionally, sometimes putting the screen down while they scratch their leg and leave the glare of the light straight in your face. You know, wild night out! I guess I was just sleep deprived, everything was irritating me! People! Did I mention I liked people? You’re right, I don’t!
After 2 poor nights of sleep, and predicted forecast of heavy rains, which means no climbing on the sandstone. I decided by midday I would do better and sleep better camping and exploring some of the lower part of Canyonlands.
…and off I went.
Heading south out of Moab, Wilson Arch greets you on the side of the road and having now driven past it 3 times I had never stopped. So I felt I should go and see what it was like.
Just another arch? Or one that someone flew a plane through. As you can see it was fairly overcast. I went up, saw some ignorant teens etching their initials into the sandstone, did the typical British thing and tutted and moved on and tried not to let that get to me. Sleep-deprived? Angry at people? Yes.
Needles Point Overlook
As I carried on south casually avoiding being rear-ended by self-important overly entitled idiots on the road, I decided to take the earliest exit into Canyonlands South entrance. I mistakenly thought that Needles Point overlook was within the National Park. It wasn’t.
20 miles later, cold, wet and miserable. There weren’t any cars on the road at all! I started to suspect I was going the wrong way.
I was certainly not feeling enthusiastic about a viewing point. Which would be overlooking a misty drizzle. I was also, too cold to care about seeing the barren landscape around me. I pulled over to double-check my location, I was neither where I wanted to be or even close to correcting the mistake.
I was in fact on the right road, going nowhere I wanted to be going. Worked out, if I continued and drove back out, I’d just have enough fuel to get to Monticello before turning back and finding the right road into the National Park. Rain clouds were all around me. Great!
I was frustrated, not by my fuel range but the fact the weather was so foul I couldn’t make any better of it.
The road to Natural Bridges National Monument was back-tracking some of the way I had made the day I first saw Gabby in the desert. The rides was rather boring. The weather as I was arriving was drizzle. I found a secluded place near the entrance to camp and settled for the night. I was hung from the tallest of the small trees that were available. My backside almost on the floor.
Thunder and lightning rocked the hammock left and right as the most almighty thunder claps and blinding lightning bolts struck around me, rain was least of my worries that night. I however woke up to a beautiful peaceful overcast day, I had slept finally!
It seemed like I had the park to myself, I hiked to about 3-4 of the bridges and then made my way out of the park as the weather seemed to hold very little promise. I headed further south, now almost on the Arizona state line to ride the Moki Dugway
Valley of the Gods
Stefano had highly recommended doing the Moki Dugway and to see the Valley of the Gods, I had been so close twice before and never really looked in. This time had to be it!
From the Valley of the Gods, I had thought that I should ride back up to Monticello to do the “Needles” in Canyonlands the next day.
As I passed through Blanding for the fourth time, I figured I would camp in the same place between Blanding and Monticello.
The evening was turning into a beauty! Blue skies, and little breeze. I pitched my hammock about 5pm and considered not having the tarp for shelter for the night.
“Sync the Planet” was that night at around 2am. I thought I would get an early night in so I could ride and film something in the middle of the wilderness. However, things weren’t to be the case.
As the evening drew in I started having a headache, that slowly got stronger and stronger. I eventually couldn’t open my right eye. I was feeling nauseous. At the same time, the sky had turned darker threatening clouds like the night before. Thankfully, I had put the rain tarp up and crawled into to the hammock writhing in pain.
The rain started as it planned to continue: hard and unforgiving.
It wasn’t long before I had to get out of the hammock and adjust the guy-lines of the tarp to a steeper pitch as the wind was blowing the rain in. Every move to be bend down made me want to vomit. I couldn’t even balance myself and the rain was coming down like I was being aimed at with a fireman hose. Great!
Mother nature has been a magnificent host to me on my adventures on Ursula, we’ve seen never-ending sun in Alaska, thick snow in Colorado, floods in Mexico, relentless heat in Arizona and everything in between, however this crescendo was to be the finale. Lightning and thunder were striking simultaneously. I was timing it. I stopped bothering as it was so close together and frequent it was not worth thinking about.
Branches and trees were being struck and falling all around me. The river that had developed to flow under my hammock was now carrying away all the dry bags I had there.
Much like the time when I was stuck up Rollins Pass trapped with Ursula unable to get down, I was seriously considering who do I call for help to get me out of this tight spot? I was way out of my depth in this situation! My headache which was crushing my eyes. I was not sure whether to be affraid for my health or of the weather. I turned off all my electrical devices and rode out the storm wincing in pain waiting for the end, I fell asleep in a very dark mental place.
The Morning After
Let me just say: I don’t drink alcohol. Suffice to say that my sensation is of what I can only imagine being a hangover.
I felt flipping awful!
I woke up at 6am, head groggy, having to stagger around my camp area looking for where everything had been washed away to.
The headache was now gone but left me with what I can only describe as a total lack of life in me. It was like pins and needles in my eye sockets and my head in general. I’m usually a morning person, but this day was not starting very well.
The storm the night before had buried a lot of my smaller items under a layer of sand. Wet muddy sand was the theme of the morning as I dusted all the sand that had stuck to everything and packed up. I was walking around on squishy sand and feeling very dopey. I got myself packed up and hoped to ride into Monticello for breakfast… maybe 800 cups of coffee and I might feel good enough to hike around the Needles I had thought.
The Route So Far
The End of Ursula
It’s funny, when you’re so accustomed to something just working. Something where you’ve never needed to doubt it for a second. Ursula didn’t seem to want to turn over that morning. Was this the end of Ursula?
I assumed rapidly that the rain from the storm had contaminated the fuel tank. After pushing and roll starting and walking her to the road. I noticed a warning light on the dash I hadn’t seen before.
I decided to hitch a ride into Monticello and buy new fuel. Hitching into town wasn’t so bad. A kind Mormon farmer and his father picked me up, and before we knew it, we were in Monticello. I thanked them and went about buying some fuel.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had to do this before. But walking into a petrol station, buying a fuel container, then going out to the pumps and then buying petrol is such a strange sensation. Do I go in pay for the container then fill it with fuel? Do I do both tasks at once? Can I take the full container of flammable fluid into the store to pay for it? Were these ethical questions?
A million and one other questions were going on in my mind. How will I dismantle the bike in the sticky clay mud, remove the fuel tank and what do I do with the old fuel? If this doesn’t work, what then? Who do I call?
Thankfully, hitching a ride out of Monticello was almost as easy as picking a ride in, obviously sticking your arm out in the middle of town doesn’t evoke people to stop so I walked out until it was obvious I was hitching and then tried again. Another kind older Mormon farmer picked me up. He told me it had rained 3 inches in the night and asked me where I had camped, he didn’t believe me. Unfortunately, he was on his way to a funeral and couldn’t take me all the way to my bike. I thanked him courteously and carried on walking in the right direction.
It wasn’t long after being dropped off that another car stopped to pick me up. Trent and Cassidy a young Mormon couple picked me up, it was now almost 9am and they were on their way to go fishing.
Little do you know who you’re going to cross paths with in Utah. So far my Utah experience has been nothing but good from the locals. Trent insisted that we changed the fuel while he was there in case I had any further complications. Obviously, being quite English about things I didn’t wish to put him out of his way, so I tried to hurry the process along. After throwing the bike upside down to empty the old fuel onto the ground, I wrenched at the bike upright. My mistake, I jarred my back again much like my very first day on the road. My back went into spasm.
We threw the new fuel into the bike and it carried on doing the same thing: starter motor rolling but no ignition/spark.
Trent then insisted we took Ursula to his Uncle Robert’s house to use his tools. After hauling the bike up the embankment and loading it onto the back of his pickup we were soon driving the 15 miles south to Blanding to Robert’s house.
Robert a retired headmaster at the local school welcomed me with open arms and we were soon setting about taking the spark plug out of Ursula to see if it was wet or contaminated. It was hard to tell. We went to the local parts store to see if we could get a replacement spark plug, but they didn’t have it. Something about Honda CRF250Ls they have a unique spark plug nobody seems to have. Trent was on the phone to his father and was asking him to go and purchase a new spark plug at the local Honda dealership to him.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me the girls (Aunt Relva and Cassidy) had started preparing breakfast. My word! In my life I don’t think I’ve eaten as many waffles, least of all in one sitting. Homemade strawberry compote and endless waffles kept cropping up. I couldn’t seem to turn them down.
I couldn’t get over their hospitality! I don’t know about you, but I’m barely awake at 9am on most days, let alone am I welcoming strangers into my house to use my tools and feed them my food. 🙂 I was so touched!
My back was certainly not feeling so great from all the bending down and now sat still at the breakfast table for a while having great conversation with Robert my back was getting stiff.
I had been a little distracted by my conversation with Robert and his wife Relva that I hadn’t noticed that Trent had been gone for a while, however, he soon turned up having reassembled my bike and single-handedly loaded it back onto his pickup. He came in with a smile on his face to tell me he was read to take me to his Dad’s house.
I can’t tell you how many “thank yous” I must have said that day. It was embarrassing to say it that much, and this was just the beginning!
We drove the 30 miles back to Blanding to Trent’s dad’s house. He was a farmer and was busy working on one of his mowers when we arrived. He had been out and purchased me the spark plug. Before long it was 3 of us taking parts off and poking and cleaning odd electrical parts of the bike. We just couldn’t find it. The engine was turning but the spark plug wasn’t sparking.
Trent then was on the phone to various people trying to find someone to fix it for me while his dad was busy with his wife’s hairdryer trying to dry all electrical connections the bike had. I honestly felt so helpless in this situation, grateful and indebted!
Keep in mind, I was just a hitchhiker when Trent and Cassidy picked me up as they were on their way to go fishing. Now some hours later they’re still with me trying to help me fix my bike. A few hours later and Trent’s mother called out that lunch was ready and in I went for another feeding. I was still rolling around from the waffles I had had from breakfast!!
These guys were trying to kill me with kindness.
We sat and spoke about what the options were. Now that we’d exhausted everything that was within our skill set to do.
Around lunch I was asked a million questions about my trip: Where and Why and How long? What England was like? Would I want to live in the USA? How it is that I’m not married at my prime age. I showed them a few photos on my camera of Gabby and I, they were happy for me wishing me to settle down with her soon. 🙂 It was great bonding!
We finally concluded that the 2 options available to us were that I could wait for their friend the mechanic to come the following day, or let them take me back to Moab and I could find a mechanic in town. This was an emotionally difficult decision, both required accepting further favours. Do I accept their hospitality for an unknown amount of days until the problem is diagnosed, parts arrive, installed and bike gets tested, etc. OR do I let them drive me 60 miles out of their way to Moab for them to drive another 60 miles back. Both ways I felt guilty and overly grateful that they were possibilities for me!
I know in England it would be a tall order to ask a friend to drive 3 miles out of their way for a “friend“.
I opted for the second favour. I was hoping I could pay for the fuel and give them something in exchange for all their kindness. We drove up to Moab talking about what we do and did and so on and the conversation passed the time really well. We soon arrived in Moab and they kindly helped me again unload the bike at Mad Bro Motorsports. It was evening and the place was closed. So I left Ursula tucked around the back of the store propped up against the wall. I felt like I was leaving trash.
We then drove to Lazy Lizard Hostel to drop off my gear, I was now getting anxious how to repay these guys. I wasn’t carrying much cash on me and we hadn’t gone to any fuel stations on the way. I started to ask if they needed fuel, they said they were fine. I started to be less subtle about it suggesting they let me go and pay for their fuel. They told me I was fine. I tried various ways to offer repayment on this huge favour they did for me. They wouldn’t accept anything.
I felt awful, humbled and emotionally drained from receiving so much help from total strangers and my back was in a full spasm now I was rigid.