Sunday, August 31, 2014

Return Migration: Gear Review, Canyonlands National Park

Aside from my top boxes, I’ve never had waterproof luggage.  And since I’ve been generally happy with the seemingly indestructible RoadGear  “Euro-Sport Jumbo Hauler” that came with my Kawasaki when I bought it some nine years ago, I haven’t been able to come up with a good enough excuse to buy actual dry bag luggage. But there must be something empowering about knowing your tail bag is 100% impermeable to water, no matter how hard or long the rain might fall.  Pilot Guy has a Wolfman Expedition Dry Duffel, and I admit to being rather jealous of it.  In addition to the obvious perk of having your tent remain unmoistened by the fiercest deluge, you also have a confirmed drip free, dew free zone to store your riding gear overnight.  If you’re touring “a due,” as I occasionally do,  you’ll find that two sets of armored take up almost as much room as two people.  And four is definitely a crowd in my two-man tent.  So when Kiara Wilson, Marketing Manager for Motorcycle House and Viking Bags, offered to send me a piece of equipment to review*, the choice was obvious.  “Adventure Dry Bag, please!”  “Size Large!,” said my greedy little self.

And large it is!  It doesn’t just swallow my tent whole, but could be my tent.

Adventure Dry Bag Trial 010
My tent is not particularly small, and nearly fills my old Roadgear tailbag.  Plenty of room to spare in this spacious specimen!

As I’m loading the Ducati for my annual August return migration to Tucson, it occurs to me that I might just meet my still unrealized motorcycle packing dream: fitting tent, ground pad and essentially enormous zero degree Marmot Ouray sleeping bag, all in one streamlined and gloriously waterproof capsule.  About three seconds after going weak with the thought of it, I realize I have to get all 71.59 liters of this bag on my tiny little motorcycle.  Hm.

The modestly priced Nelson Rigg Adventure Dry Bag is designed to be mounted either along or across the seat, although the orientation of the straps undeniably favors the former arrangement.

Adventure Dry Bag Trial 002
Clearly this won’t work on a Ducati 696.  Not one with a topbox, anyway.

What about the other way?

Adventure Dry Bag Trial 006
I really didn’t think this through, did I? (Although the bag can be mounted in this manner, the provided mounting straps do not attach to the short sides of the bag, making it a bit of a trick on my bike, anyway.)

I’m not seeing a simple way to safely mount a bag this large on a motorcycle this small.  And it’ll certainly never fit on Li’l Burro.  I am going to have to make a decision. Spend a lot of time working on a solution that could quite possibly wreck this cool new piece of gear, or keep it in new condition, and exchange it for the smaller size when I get home.   Either way, I get to feel really dumb for not checking the measurements before ordering.  I hang my head, pull off the Adventure Dry Bag, and load up with the Jumbo Hauler.  I have no idea the amount of irony I’ll be feeling in just a few days.

But for now, I’m excited to be headed home, and looking forward to meeting a few new roads and places along the way.  First stop, the Uinta Mountains, by way of Flaming Gorge National Monument.  There’s a bit of a drizzle as I traverse the sweeping turns of the Flaming Gorge-Uintas National Scenic Byway and I have to chuckle.  Now would be a nice time for that waterproof luggage, eh?  But aside from ruining my chances for some nice photos (see here instead), the rain doesn’t keep me from enjoying the descriptive road signs highlighting remnants from former geologic ages.   “Stegasaurus Walked Here!,” one declares.  I can’t really argue with that.

Did you know you can actually wander around the mountains of Utah and Arizona at certain times of the year and find wild porcini mushrooms? I didn’t, either.  At least not until just recently.**  After setting up camp, I poke around to see what I can see.

East Park Campground Uintas 003
Why, hello to you, too!  Genus Russula is all I know at this point.

East Park Campground Uintas 012
This one (a Grisette of some sort?), had a beautiful silvery sheen to it. And no, that's not bird poop on it, but a piece of the "veil" that covers many mushrooms at birth.

Never having done this before, I’ve no intention of eating any of my finds, of course.

East Park Campground Uintas 014
When your campsite water source is down, keeping you from making your Eating on Two Wheels proprietary instant soup, St. Dalfour French Bistro “Gourmet on the Go” canned dinners are actually a decent option.  If you pay attention and buy only those varieties without added sweeteners**. Unless you happen to like dumping honey or pineapple juice on your savory pasta.

The next day I make my way to Canyonlands National Park. I can’t help but notice, as I energetically brake upon seeing a big buck on the mountain pass I’m negotiating, that it’s raining a teensy bit more than yesterday.  That dry bag sure did look nice.  Hmph.

Canyonlands Sunrise 005
Ducati with Rainbow, Squaw Flat Campground, Canyonlands National Park Needles District

The showers don’t stop me from finding some interesting textures in Big Spring Canyon.

Canyonlands 028
Cryptobiotic Crust: It’s alive! And extremely fragile. Do not step here!

Canyonlands 030

Canyonlands Sunrise 011
Canyonlands Sunrise

My Day Three plan is a fabulous one.  I’ll ride UT 95 through that bit of Glen Canyon I liked so much last year, pay Highway 12 another visit  (It’s been too long!), dine at Hell’s Backbone Grill (still haven’t been!), and poke around Kodachrome Basin State Park.  I even reserved my campsite for the night ahead of time, so I wouldn’t have any “find a spot before dark” worries spoiling my fun.

But… there’s a pounding watery barrage from the sky, eliciting a sensation not unlike the feeling of having a waterfall on your head.  Surely it’s just a brief mountain cloudburst, right?  It's already clearing up, see?

The rain stops. But only for a minute. Dry bag, dry bag, why didst I forsake thou?

Not so, not so. This particular weather is the talk of the town.  “It’s like this over the entire state!” marvels one person at a gas stop. “It’s going to last for days!” celebrates another.  I consult the weather forecasts and radar images to find that these excited people are absolutely correct. Flash flooding and severe storms block my path in any and every direction, and my prior excitement about Day Three turns soggy. Try as I might,  I can’t seems to make a good case to seek out this kind of weather on technical mountain roads or river flood zones.  I try really hard, because I’d so been looking forward to this leg of my journey, but I simply can’t. I wrestle with the feeling of being wimpy, but I eventually point the Ducati towards less challenging terrain.   It looks like I’ll be home a day early.

Which is not to say I didn’t get wet!  I did. With a few brief exceptions, the rain did not stop for 325 miles.  Oh Adventure Dry  Bag!  How I long for you, a brilliant orange high-visibility beacon on the back of my motorcycle, proclaiming my presence to all around me!  Oh, for your electronically heat-welded seams!  Your air-tight roll closure!

Go Pro Monument Valley (5)
Ghosts in Monument Valley, during a momentary rain stoppage. Can you see them on the horizon?

Bless you Pilot Guy, for so thoughtfully using your free night to arrange a room in Flagstaff for me.  I’ll have a glass of wine right after I’m done wringing out my stuff. I’ve earned it!

Tomorrow, the cloud cover and occasional shower will be a blessing, bringing the normally three digit Tucson approach temperatures down to below the readout on my speedometer.  Home!

Go Pro Tucson Final Approach 009

*Disclaimers and Explanations: I received this bag at no charge.  I won’t review an item I wouldn’t generally be interested in using.  My reviews reflect my actual experiences. Just so you know.
**As luck would have it, my host this summer was a knowledgeable mushroom hunter.  I can not believe what I’ve been missing.
*** I’ll try not to rant, but… please, I don’t care if it’s organic cane syrup, I don’t want sugar on my dinner!!  It’s positively welcome in my dessert, of course.

Dining notes:
  • Flaming Gorge Café, Manila, UT: It’s so conveniently located that you can gas up, eat, and retrieve US Forest Service maps all with just one parking job. But don’t do it. It’s pretty hard to mess up a ham and cheese sandwich with fries, but they did so brilliantly.
  • Peace Tree Cafe, Moab, UT: What, burgers but no fries?  My camping caloric intake strategy requires I ingest nearly all my recommended daily allowance at lunch.  I don't skimp on my side dishes. A bleu burger without fries didn't feel quite right, so I momentarily pushed my pasta snobbery (demonstrated here and here) aside and ordered an alfredo dish instead. I don't expect pasta alfredo to be particularly good at a burger/sandwich/breakfast place, and I wasn't surprised by the specimen served me, but it wasn't terrible, either. The outdoor seating is pleasant, and even offered the Ducati table side parking.  As long as I wasn't craving fries, I'd stop in again. On the other hand, there are plenty of other establishments in Moab to try.
  • Cameron Trading Post Restaurant, Cameron, AZ:  I really probably would have done fine if I had ordered a burger or BLT.  But a warm bowl of Yah-Ahtay Chile sounded enticing after a day of riding in the rain. I should have listened to myself. The chile was simultaneously harsh and uninteresting.  The accompanying Indian Fry Bread was admittedly delicious and decadent,  although I don’t know how you could ruin fried dough.  I’ll give the place another try one day, I’m sure, but order differently.
Additional Rain Gear Notes:
  • This might be a good time to extol the virtues of my TourMaster Sentinel Rain Jacket and Pants.    It's been worth every penny, and every cc of cargo space it claims (which is significant).  While my stuff was sodden, *I* have been riding dry in any and every rainfall since the day I bought it back in 2007.   Not so for folks who buy those silly paper “breathable” numbers.   The key: you actually do have to stop and put it on for it to work.  The thin stretchy under the helmet hood that keeps rain from dribbling down the back of your neck is a nice touch, too.  If it had a second, detachable waterproof regular hood to wear when off the bike, the suit would be 100% perfection.  I find it useful as an extra layer when riding in the cold, too.
  • I feel differently about my Aerostich Triple Digit Glove Covers.  They are a fabulous idea, but even the smallest size is so ridiculously huge, I can’t possibly operate a motorcycle while wearing them.  Who wants two inches of extra fabric getting tangled up in the hand controls when it’s pouring out?  It just makes me angry. I haven’t taken them out of my rain jacket pockets for years now.  Pbbbbt on you, Aerostich, and your giant sizing.
  • The Roadgear Euro-Sport Jumbo Hauler Rain Cover does not turn a canvas tail bag into a waterproof fortress, but could be useful if you could thread the straps located on top of the bag through the rain cover. As it stands, I can either use the rain cover, or strap my sleeping bag (in its own protective dry bag) on top of the Hauler. Guess which one I choose.
  • All that rain, and wouldn't you know it? I lost* my old visor squeegee earlier this summer.  If you've ever used one, you'll know they are indispensable for restoring your field of view by sweeping off all the pesky rain drops that land on your visor.  I've just ordered a Finger Visor Wiper three-pack. One for each motorcycle! Update: Turns out they shipped them to the wrong address, and didn't offer to resend them to the correct address. Not cool.
  • I don't own too many Wolfman products, because they are generally priced out of my reach. I do have the Express Tank Bag, though, and find its construction definitely above average.  It does slightly rankle me, however, that the Rain Covers must be purchased separately.  The extra $8.00 shipping for this featherweight item, if you order it after the fact, or if you lose yours (Arghh!*), stings a bit, too.  I'm pretty darn sure their tank bag rain covers used to have a velcro strip allowing you to attach the map to the outside of the cover, but that feature seems to have gone away.  Harrumph.  This cover doesn't offer full waterproof protection in a hard rain, but it helps a bit for a while. I don't recommend you trust it to keep your camera safe in a downpour by any means. That's what your locking, waterproof top box is for, silly. 
*During the Season of Wind, things go flying out of your tank bag, never to be recovered, at an alarming rate.  I also lost a neat solar iPhone charger.  Seriously, don't even unzip your tank bag in May and June.  At all.

1 comment:

Missy Blair said...

Ohhh..dry bag!! wouldn't fit? Sad face. Hope you get that worked out with a smaller size, etc.

And, I, too, love my Sentinel rain suit. When I get a chance to put it to use, anyway. :)