Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Long Awaited Colorado Trip - Day 2

Day 2: The mountain riding begins!
406 miles. Temps from 40-80F. Partly cloudy skies with some sprinkles.


Got up, had some coffee and waited for the sun to make it's appearance. No sense wasting time riding through the pretty stuff in the dark, right?

I've passed through Walsenberg previously and had followed some advice and taken 69 up into the mountains. At the time I was in a car with the family and my FZ1 on a trailer behind me. I sure was itching to take the bike off but it didn't happen. 69 is like a nice Colorado appetizer. It's easy curves running along with fog hanging out in these amazing little meadows along a creek that winds next to the road and mountains on either side. I definitely wanted to ride this road again and since it ran right out behind the hotel, it was the perfect starting point for four glorious days of riding in the mountains. I started my GoPro and headed out. I later found out that I should have noticed, my SD card lock switch had been switched on, so no video...which is sad because it was an amazing ride as the sun came up.

Right off the bat, the mountains started lighting up and the low morning light with the shadows really showed the definition in the mountains. I started looking for a pulloff to grab a shot. By the time I found a place to stop, the light had already quickly changed dramatically, however this rainbow popped up. I had to grab a shot. I had a chuckle that a religious or superstitious person might look at this and tell me that my ride was blessed. A scientist or weatherman would tell me I'm about to ride in the rain. Both would be right, but thankfully the rain was light and short.

I took 69 all the way to 50. Coming down into 50 I got stuck behind a flatbed truck hauling a good size load of lumber. Shortly I noticed the nasty smell of cooked brakes. I was doing a lot of engine braking so it wasn't me. Then I noticed the left rear wheel smoking a tiny bit from the truck. By the time we hit 50 I was having to keep my distance from the smell and the plume of smoke coming out.

At this point I met with one of the fun parts of routing and GPS's. The GPS said I needed to go straight down this tiny road, which I didn't remember but I went straight. It immediately turned to dirt and told me I'd hit my waypoint and needed to do a u-turn. Ok, so when dragging my route around to make the software route on the roads I wanted to take (69) instead of taking me the fastest or shortest route, it seems I missed 50 by about 1/8 of a mile when I dropped the route waypoint. No worries, there was enough room to turn the big FJR around and the dirt was hard packed enough to not give me any problems. This however would be a bit of a recurring theme though and at this point it did cause about a 2 minute delay. Not too bad, but it's one of those 2 minutes you immediately wish you could get back.

A few miles down 50 I saw construction signs and slowed down a bit. On coming around a bend there was a man standing in the road with a stop sign in his hands talking on a radio. I pulled up and he walked over and told me the road was closed for 30 minutes. Sigh...if I'd just gotten here 2 minutes sooner. On the plus side, when it opened, I was first in line to get out and had open roads ahead of me with no one to slow me down.

These guys made a whole lot of racket while we waited.

I turned north on 9 for a short bit then turned off on to 11. Here I see my first turning Aspen, with no place to stop. But I'm happy. Then I make a short blast through a series of 25mph turns before getting hung up behind a car, which is behind one of those trucks with a dumpster on the back. The blue car with temp tags it turns out can't even hang with the truck through the twisties. Sigh. After several twisties wasted, I find a passing lane and get by both of them. Fun is had all the way up 11, then 1 and 42 until I hit 24. I stopped for a splash and go at the gas station and kept moving.

Somewhere before Divide Colorado, the relationship between my GPS and I began to become strained. I noticed she had me coming up on a turn to "Off road" and while I'm not scared of riding the FJR on a dirt road, I'd rather not do it, and was pretty sure I didn't need to. As I approached the turn I realized, it's not even a dirt road, it's just two ruts leading out into a field. Needless to say I didn't follow her directions and she wasn't pleased but we moved on.

Then she signaled me to another off the road waypoint, again in the dirt with a u-turn. My fault. But then she decided the best way to our next destination was down another dirt road. I turn down the dirt road and very soon there's a gate across it. Yea, not going this way. I turn around and head out the way I came. It's a beautiful road with lots of turning Aspens but not the way I needed to be going. For miles and miles she's telling me to make a u-turn and I'm not having it. Finally I check avoidances in the GPS and sure enough, I've told her I don't want to go on unpaved roads, yet she insists. We are in the middle of a full blown argument at this point. Finally I go back into avoidences and set "No U-Turns." She sulks in silence for a bit, clearly not happy with me. Finally she says "Fine, make a left turn in 4.2 miles." I know I don't need to make any left turns so I investigate. Yea, she wants me to turn left, then right, then right and then right. Her solution to no u-turns it seems.

Sometime around Woodland Park she figures out that I'm not taking her suggestions and decides to tell me to keep going on 24 and make a left onto Fountain Ave. Now we're talking. That's the road that leads to Pikes Peak!!! Woohoo.

My first time doing Pikes Peak and I have to say it needs to be on any Colorado itinerary, unless you are scared of heights. What an amazing ride (slow) up and down that mountain. Windy scenic roads, a beautiful lake view, 10mph switchbacks, and roads with ZERO margin for error due to no shoulder or guardrails and steep long dropoffs.

It's steep and long and high and there's crazy bicyclists climbing this mountain. It isn't long and I'm turning on the gerbings for the 40F temps with wind and fog. I reach the summit at 14,115 feet. I get off the bike and my hands are shaking, and its not because I'm cold. I can feel that lack of O2 up here, especially with my low flatlander Texas lungs.

GPS at the top of Pikes Peak. After 10K feet it starts being not so specific on elevation.

I offer to trade photo taking duties with a lady up there so we can have our pictures taken, she agrees.

The views up there are amazing.

I resort to taking a selfie..sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do.


The altitude makes everything harder. Walking around is a chore. I was hungry and dehydrated so I grabbed a burger and a Gatorade. I found I couldn't even get enough oxygen in me to last me through chewing and swallowing a bite of my burger, so that was more work than usual. Still, it was all worth it and an amazing experience, but I needed to get to lower altitudes and get going as I'd spent a good deal of time at the top.

 I walked back to my bike and find this.

Low and behold, there's an FJR and an ST1300 parked next to me.

While I was suiting up the owners of the bikes came out and chatted with me. The bikes are his and hers, his being the ST and hers being on the much superior FJR. A good chat but soon I was on my way back down.

 Down is different from up but no less amazing.

I stopped off at the lake for some photos. What an amazing place to fish, if you are so inclined. Also, by the time I'd gotten back down here it was about 72F and too hot for my liners. Knowing I wouldn't need them for the rest of my day I pulled them out of my suit and packed them away. Again, having luggage is an awesome thing on a motorcycle.

The rest of the ride down was uneventful but beautiful. I recorded some video of the trip up. I managed to cut it down and have uploaded it here. Note...I'm not running at Pikes Peak race pace. Speed limit is 25, sometimes 35 and I'm probably exceeding that in places. Up on top, it sure feels like you are going faster than you are with that edge right next to you.

Click here for Pikes Peak video on Youtube

After that, it was time to head north with the eventual destination of Fort Collins, but by avoiding interstates and Denver traffic. This meant heading back to Woodland Park and then north on 67. I eventually hit Aspen Park and was stuck in some pretty bad traffic passing through this small town. It was much better traffic going north than the poor folks stuck going south. I did end up riding along with a guy on a BMW F800GS and we chatted for a bit while stopped constantly in traffic. He was headed to Estes Park with no real route planned and since I was headed the same way with a planned route he asked if he could ride along with me.

After heading out of Aspen Park we hit 70 and pulled off and chatted for a bit while I prepared my bike for the rain I was seeing to the north of us. This consists of putting my tankbag with electronics (phone, ipod, charger, etc) in my tailbag. We pulled out and headed north on 119 through some neat tunnels and were soon on the Peak to Peak scenic byway. Along the way we picked up another two FJR's who were content to follow us. Great, now I've gone from lone wolf to ride leader. Eventually the FJR's split off and the BMW rider stayed with me till 7. At 7 we parted ways with a fist bump and a wave. I contemplated how strange we motorcyclists can be. We meet up, become friends, spend some time riding together, and then wave and head off in separate directions never to see or talk to each other again.

I headed into Longmont and pulled off to phone a friend. My destination tonight of Fort Collins had two purposes. First, to see some friends I haven't seen in several years since before the husband was stationed in the UK. He's in the Air Force so he's living in Fort Collins...for now. Such is the military life.

This trip into Fort Collins however was the real strain on the relationship with my GPS. She remembered our argument this morning and how I wouldn't listen to her. She tried to make me exit early and ride 9.8 miles on the service road to 25. She was being spiteful and tried several other tactics but I did find my way to my hotel eventually. I was spoiled by the Best Western as the La Quinta in Fort Collins is huge, has one elevator in the front and my room was way in the back. This meant carrying my luggage up the stairs at the moderate altitude of FC.

I arrived at the hotel and needed to change clothes before meeting my friends. I found myself with a bit of a wardrobe malfunction. The pull for my zipper on my Sidi boots had broken off when putting it on that morning. This meant that both zip pulls are now broken off. My other one I put a bit of safety wire on and has been working fine for over a year now. What I didn't realize is that without something going through the hole to pull with, there's a safety mechanism to keep the zipper from being pulled apart in a crash and the zipper won't open and remains locked in place. I saunter down to the hotel lobby wearing shorts, t-shirt and motorcycle boots to ask for a paperclip. The paperclip works perfectly and is still on the boot after the trip.

Also, while doing my nightly routine it seems I've lost my first items of the trip. my RAM X-Grip that I use for my cell phone a lot back at home, but had stored in my side bag, is missing. Probably during one of the many times I was digging through my stuff looking for something I must have dropped it and left it. Bummer. Dinner at BJ's was good and the catching up was even better. The homemade cookies given to me were pretty darn good as well. My second purpose was it was an ideal launching point for my attack on Rocky Mountain National Park in the morning.

Click here to go back to Day 1
Click here to advance to Day 3

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