Greg & Joe gassing up in Samoeng
With the off-road riding season coming to a close and my riding buddy Greg leaving Chiang Mai soon, we decided to make an overnight dirt trip. There were three riders (not drivers), BarryBBQ, Dr. G, and Alaska Joe. I rode my DRZ400, Greg drove my XR250 and Joe rented an XR250. We left Chiang Mai and headed to Wat Chan, stopped for lunch and headed to Pai. We noticed that the bridge labeled “This river crossing wet season impassable” in section E4 of the latest MHS map was finished and a river crossing was no longer required. Chiang Mai – Samoeng – Wat Chan – Pai was kind of boring, not my idea of a great dirt ride.
Pai didn’t seem as bad as the last time I was there in November, only a few hippies, lots of empty rooms. We ate a nice farang meal and made plans to explore some single track the next day. Our plan was to leave Pai and ride east to Wiang Haeng where we would stop for lunch and continue south to Huai Ya Sai and then follow the trail labeled “This Track Motorcycle Only” on the latest MHS map. The trail from Pai to Wiang Haeng had recently been bladed and made for good riding with very little traffic. I enjoyed riding ahead of the group on my DR, occasionally twisting the throttle hard and roosting some dirt behind me.
In Wiang Haeng we stopped for noodles and headed south – in search of single track. We made numerous water crossings and did our best to follow the nice single track trail towards Muang Khong but our efforts were thwarted by a trail that disappeared. We came to a section of trail where the Mae Taeng river cut through two very steep banks and stopped to evaluate the situation. Greg walked across the river and identified a trail that continued south so one by one, we crossed the knee high river and continued on our way. We only got about 500 meters before we lost the trail and hit a steep bank on the west side of the river with no discernable trail visible on the other side. By this time, it was 14:00 and we decided it was best to lose face and return to Wiang Haeng to follow the 1322 back home. I took the lead and made the mistake of letting my fingers slip off the clutch lever and did a face plant on the trail.
2 km later, Greg made a slight error in judgment and dropped his XR in a very small water crossing. Of course, he wouldn’t smile for a photo – nor even suffer the shame of having one’s picture taken with a downed bike. Damage to the bike? Broken LH mirror – it cost 30 baht at the Chinaman’s shop on Chiang Moi road to replace it.
Joe must have been feeling pretty smug as he was the only rider who hadn’t tasted the dirt yet. We let him ride ahead and watched with glee as his over confidence caused him to blast across the last major water crossing a little too hard and a little too fast. It was as if I could see it coming. As I watched him start to cross the river I shut off my bike and got my camera ready. Sure enough, the rental XR was drowned. I snapped a few pix and shouted to Joe that if he would only turn around and pose for a photo I would walk out in the water and help him pick up his bike. I’m sure he heard me, but pride is a powerful motivator and Joe picked his bike up and pushed it to the bank by himself.
We had never drowned an XR250 before but we knew that we had to pull the plug and pump the water out of the cylinder. And we did. Time after time again we pulled the plug and pumped water from the cylinder. Afraid that the battery would die, I made several attempts to bump start the bike with no success. What we didn’t realize was that the carb bowl had filled with water and every time we pumped the cylinder dry the carb filled it back up with water again. Once we drained the bowl until gasoline ran clear the bike fired under its own power and off we rode back to Chiang Mai. Thank goodness Joe wasn’t riding a kick start only XR400. We were also lucky that the tools I brought for the DR, particularly the spark plug socket and extensions worked well on the XR.
The 1322 is a very nice, twisty road that you would probably never ride if you weren’t arriving by dirt. Joe took off quickly and left us in his dust. He had much more confidence in his knobbies than I had in mine. Riding at a slower pace allowed Greg and I to intermingle with the locals. I watched with trepidation as I came around a corner and saw three dogs deep into a three-way butt sniff in front of me. I knew from past experience that once you get into a 3-way butt sniff, all common sense goes out the window (Pattaya). I wanked on my horn and hit the brakes and just as I did, the lead butt sniffer headed for my front wheel. I’ve hit dogs before and I always remember the rule that you should always maintain a straight line. Keep straight I did and luckily the dog bounced off the engine and didn’t get under the front wheel. I heard a yelp, saw a dog run away toward the side of the road in my mirror and I kept going at 100 kmh and Greg lagged behind, maybe hoping for a photo op? 2 km later we came around a corner and right in front of me was one huge mofo of a snake that slithered quickly out of my lane. I motioned with my hand to Greg and we both agreed that the snake was at least 2 meters long as it ran across the road. Greg insists that the snake touched the center line as well as the RH lane marker at the same time. I’m not 100% sure about that, but I’ve never had nightmares about snakes before. The remainder of the ride back to Chiang Mai was uneventful. No tigers, no monkeys trying to steal parts off our bikes.
I kept a nice 10 meter gps track of the ride and look forward to trying that trail from the south and seeing just how close I can get to where we stopped and turned around.
Greg? He’s gone back to the US for at least 6 months. Joe? He’s off to Pattaya and ???. Me? I’m off to the US for April and looking forward to returning home to Chiang Mai after Songkran.
I love those orange dotted trails on the 3rd ed. MHS map. Thanks to Davidfl for making this map plastic coated. If it would have been uncoated like his Samoeng map it would have been demolished by the end of this trip. What a waste of baht that would have been.