Sunday, September 27, 2015

Long Awaited Colorado Trip - Day 6

Day 6: Headed home.
505.5 miles. Temps 50's to low 90's.

I set the alarm for a 5am wakeup and early departure. I woke up at 4am on my own and decided that a short distance to the east it was already 5am so I'd go ahead and head out. I motored out onto a very quiet buisiness 40 and pointed east and hopped on 40 toward Amarillo. No stops today except splash and goes. Sunrise around Amarillo and I appreciated the black electrical tape I'd applied to my helmet visor the night before. Not much to say except a day of clicking off the miles.

As I came into town on 114 I noticed a bunch of cones and stuff as I approached the speedway. Looks like today is the day for the Red Bull Air Races. I attended this last year and it was a lot of fun, but right now I just want to get home. A little bit of traffic, thankfully it's not a full on Nascar event or this would have taken a really long time to get through. Sadly, no planes making practice runs to keep me entertained. The police had 114 closed off to through traffic at 35 to keep the inflow of spectators moving smoothly so I ended up heading south on 35. I thought about looping back to get back on 114 but looking over at the traffic exiting the highway I decided to just go around. Another crazy city ride and soon I was on the other side of the Metroplex and rolling into the driveway just in time to sit down and have a late lunch with my kiddo who was happy to see his dad finally home after almost a week.

By the numbers.
6 days, 2635.5 miles.
Lowest elevation 633ft
Highest elevation 14,115ft
Temperature range 36-92F
Bike damage - $105.00 not counting scratches on side case.
Lost items - $35.00 for RAM X-Mount and riser.
Bugs collected - 5674 - No I didn't really count, but it looks like that.

Items brought but never used.
Cold weather gloves - my new gloves and the grip warmers were plenty. I packed these because I didn't know what kind of weather I'd be seeing at some of the higher elevations early in the morning.
Tools and tire repair kit including pump. - I'm quite happy I didn't need these and obviously would bring them again. Extra SMH10 bluetooth device. Only exhausted the battery once on my primary and that was about 20 minutes from home so I didn't bother swapping.

I didn't use my Ipod and SM10 too much but they were helpful in getting across Texas both directions so I'd include this again.

Next time I think I'll just load me up my netbook instead of bringing my full blown laptop with me. The laptop is a heavy one and I only used it for brief checks online and to move photos and videos from SD cards to my portable hard drive. This could be accomplished with a smaller lighter device. I also didn't ever link up my SMH10 to my phone as most times I had little to no cell coverage and spent most of my time without data. 

Some last minute items I picked up that turned out to be useful. First was a $12 dry bag from Walmart. I'm failing to see how the much more expensive versions of this would be worth the money as this one seems of high quality and seals using the same system that surely won't leak. No problems with water in my stuff even after the heavy rainstorm on day 1. I also picked up some of the travel space saver bags. While they don't compress down quite like the ones you use with a vacuum, they do a pretty good job when you kneel on the bag to push the air out, which works when you are at a hotel and don't have a vacuum cleaner handy. I had two of these and packed my clothes in both of them. After day 1, clothes got moved around and one bag was for clean clothes and one for dirty clothes. On the last day, I divided up the remaining clothes and both were for dirty clothes. It worked well, but wasn't quite the space saver I'd hoped they'd be.

I love my new Gerbings heated gear. I never turned them up much beyond the first click to turn them on and stayed warm the entire trip. The process of putting the jacket liner into the jacket is a huge pain and I ended up just putting the liner on me first and then the jacket on instead of installing it in the jacket. I never used the heated socks (were included in the deal when I bought the suit) but feel they'd have been nice if I were riding colder temperatures for longer times. This suit will be nice to keep me riding through our cooler months when temps dip down to the 20's and 30's.

Not so pleased with my Rick Meyer seat. In full disclosure, this seat was not custom built for me and was purchased secondhand. That said, I'm not sure if my unhappiness would have been fixed on a custom build. The seam around the seat tried to saw my legs off it felt like. I had genuine saddle sores when I got home that took about a week to heal.

Click here to go back to Day 5

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Long Awaited Colorado Trip - Day 5

Day 5: Leaving the Rockies
479.9 miles. Temp's 36-90F

So, cutting back my aggressive ride schedules was a good idea. I'm feeling good this morning and I know I need to make some route modifications today. I need to cut about two hours of saddle time off of my 9H 35M route (not counting stops) today. Add onto that, I'll have to plan ahead because I will be staying right near the time zone line so I lose an hour almost as soon as I get on the road in the morning. This will mean an early departure from the mountains but will be worth it in the long run. 

It's Saturday morning and I've heard tales about the traffic through Taos, which will be made worse by amazing weather on a beautiful Saturday. I'd rather not sit around in traffic. Going through a major city such as Albuquerque would usually be avoided but traffic shouldn't be so bad on a Saturday afternoon. This will allow me to do a little sight seeing I have had on the back burner.

As I'm getting my stuff ready to go, I hear some noise coming from the kitchen. That woman has gotten up early after all! I stroll out and coffee is brewing and she's fussing in the kitchen. When she sees me coming she asks "Are you sure I can't fix you an English muffin or a bagel or something?" I relent and agree to an English muffin to which she replies "I knew I could get you to be reasonable." To which I reply in banter "Well, one of us has to be reasonable, right?" She laughs and soon I'm eating my breakfast and taking down some much needed coffee. While I was eating a couple other guests came out and started consuming coffee and chatting.

Bike loaded, electric gear hooked up, I headed out. 550 south out of Ouray is the "Million Dollar Highway" and what a stunning finish to my time in the mountains it was. The sun was peeking over the mountain tops and lighting everything up including the Aspen trees to give me a big finale. I had to keep the temperatures in mind during this ride, because even though I was snug and warm in my Gerbings heated gear, the ambient temperature was in the thirties. I kept reminding myself that as amazing as the smooth pavement was through these fantastic curves, cold tires and cold roads don't provide the most ideal traction scenario, and up on these roads the penalty for failure is very high. I managed to keep the pace in check and still have a good time.

Only a little bit of construction on this road today, which was fortunate. During the week they have full closures for several hours in the morning and in the afternoon, but today it's wide open. Well, not so wide really. There were a few spots closed down to one lane being worked by mobile traffic lights in place of a flag man. One of these spots, the open lane was the one closest to the edge and due to the closure the lane was pretty narrow, with no shoulder or guardrail to speak of. It felt very narrow to me on my motorcycle but I'm sure it felt much more narrow to the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited ahead of me. I noticed this Jeep while sitting at the traffic light. White with Texas plates, a cargo shelf on the back loaded with three coolers. He was keeping a pretty good pace in the mountains after the construction, but not good enough and he was dispatched at the next passing zone. Funny thing, I'd later pass him again on 40 headed east toward Texas.

The valley that Silverton sits in was beautiful in the morning sun. I came to see the Aspens turning
and have certainly had my fill. While I've become used to them by now, I'm by no means tired of them and I know soon I won't see them anymore. I stop to take in the view and snap my last photos of the golden trees before continuing south.

I stop in Durango for gas, a snack, and some hydration. I haven't been doing a particularly good job of staying hydrated and I know going into the desert I need to be more careful. I load up on a couple of bottles of Gatorade and consume a fair amount during my break. I look over my roue and agree to cancel the ride through Taos and tell my GPS to go to Tucumcari by the fastest available route. This means 550 south through Albuquerque, so I mount up and head out.

Very soon I see the "Welcome to New Mexico" sign and I whip around looking back and spot my opportunity to snag the Colorado sign I'd not been able to get several days earlier. Woohoo, another added to the collection.

Altogether too soon the mountains are far behind me and I'm cruising through desert that is flat as a pancake with nothing but scrub as far as the eye can see. It's depressing with no mountains and Aspens in my view anymore and while many love the beauty of the desert, I long for the mountains. 

As I make my way south the desert does get more interesting with mesa's and canyon features, but I've got plans for lunch in Albuquerque. After several days in the mountains I have to shift gears mentally to deal with the craziness of fast moving city traffic, like I deal with daily back in Dallas. I get it and make my way to my lunch destination and my first of two sightseeing stops.

It might not look like much, but I'm a huge fan of the TV series "Breaking Bad" and this was the restaurant where a lot of episodes were filmed and played heavily into the plot for two seasons. The paint and name were different but it's definitely the same place. I'd gotten the idea from a ride report I'd seen several years ago, before I saw the series, and it didn't make sense then but it was amazing to be sitting there and seeing the place this time.

After enjoying my soup the previous night I opted for the "New Mexico Chicken Sandwich" which is really just an ordinary chicken sandwich with green chilies on it. I was surprised in that the chicken breast was large, tender and juicy and all the toppings were very fresh, including a very good looking crisp tomato that I put to the side since I don't like tomatoes, but can judge and appreciate the freshness of them. The sandwich was delicious with the chilies on it and would be something I'd order again. The fries were kind of crispy and I liked that while they were hot but once they cooled down they weren't all that great.

I took a few more tourist photos and was on my way.

Last photo stop before leaving Albuquerque.

This car wash also played a major role in the show and was featured from the very first episode through the last season. I snapped my photo and was on my way. I had a little fun on Facebook posting the photos and letting folks figure them out, as their appearance is somewhat different from how they appeared on TV. Both my sister and wife freaked out when they saw them as they are also huge fans.

Albuquerque to Tucumcari via I40. Not much to say and not much to see. It passed quickly and I exited on 54 to head to my final motel stay of the trip. 54 and buisness 40 is a very sad road to drive as it's a part of the old Route 66, and there's shell after shell of old Route 66 businesses that have closed up, are rotting, falling in on themselves, or been burned out. It's sad to see the old thriving town that you can tell was a happening place in it's heyday dying like this, but such is progress and change. Thankfully there's some places that have been snagged up by owners willing to invest money into renovations and then into running a successful friendly nice business here. My destination for the night at the Blue Swallow Motel was one of these.

Looking at google maps street view you can see what this place used to look like, even with boarded up windows to the office, and the difference is night and day. The motel is quaint, nicely decorated, beautiful neon, and a blast from the past including rotary dial phones in the rooms. The husband and wife proprietors were as friendly and helpful as could be and this place will definitely be on the list for any future trips through the area, thanks to my friend Andrew for recommending it. I ended up next door to a BMW rider who was headed to home in the west after spending a couple of weeks riding around the mountains in the east.

Dinner was recommended down the street at Del's Restaurant with a suggestion toward the salad bar and the two homemade soups of the day. I walked down not too hungry with the idea of soup and salad as my dinner, however my mind was changed upon arrival. Nice little restaurant, and the salad bar was decent, but the soups were "Cream of Cauliflower" and "Pinto Beans." Um, no thanks. I opted for the pot roast with mashed potatoes and a salad from the salad bar. Good meal and full tummy I headed back to the motel.

While I was prepping my stuff for my final ride home, I was in for quite a treat. The motel had a lot of rooms with garages that had all been rented by folks attending a local car show. I heard the cars coming back and stepped outside and into classic Route 66. The motel, the neon and now all the classic cars from the Route 66 era was amazing. The folks next to me were pulling their huge trophy out of the beautiful car and we talked for a short bit. I didn't get pictures as I already had all of that packed up, and I was offered to grab a beer and sit and talk, but had to decline as I was headed off to bed. I have a very early morning ahead of me.

Click here to go back to Day 4
Click here to advance to Day 6

Friday, September 25, 2015

Long Awaited Colorado Trip - Day 4

Day 4: Riding with a Harley to Ouray
182.7 miles. Temps 30's - 88F and Sunny skies.

I woke up and began quietly fiddling around getting my things ready to go trying not to disturb the other occupants of the house, but soon I heard the noises of a mom hustling a child around the house getting them ready for school, so I came out to see what all was going on. As Cathy ushered her daughter out the door to walk her to school, with their dog following along I noticed her kid was wearing shorts headed out the door. I too wearing shorts stepped out onto the patio and immediately remembered that it's in the thirties outside and had to run back inside. Mountain kids, I swear...can wear shorts outside whenever they want.

I warmed myself back up with a cup of coffee and Cathy came back and made me and Joel a batch of homemade waffles. Sitting there sipping coffee and eating breakfast watching the sun come up and light up the mountains, this is gonna be a good day.

Cathy and Joel head into town to drop the dog off at the dog sitters and they are loaning their truck to a friend for the day. Before too long they come riding back to the house on Joel's bike.

After getting the bikes loaded up, and everyone suited up we head out to Gunnison to do some errands and fill up with some ethanol free fuel. We shove off from Gunny at about 11AM.

Soon enough we are cruising along next to the Blue Mesa Reservoir and it's a beautiful day with temperatures now up in the comfy sixties and the sun shining on us. The last time I was here I always got stuck behind a slow moving vehicle for the 45mph curves going through the reservoir area, but this time I looked ahead and the only slow moving vehicle in front of me was the Harley. I zoomed ahead and ate up those curves eventually pulling off to wait for Joel.

We continued on and made the turn onto 92 into the Black canyon. I pulled back into the lead so I could zip through the twisties and putter along on the straights waiting on Joel and Cathy to catch up. I'd been giving Joel a bunch of crap about getting rid of his beautiful Anniversary Edition Honda VFR Interceptor and buying this Harley, and after the canyon Joel admitted "Yea, back there in the canyon, I was actually missing my old bike." Ha! Got him to admit it.

Joel's old VFR.

We stopped off in Delta for a little break to get some hydration as it was really warming up now. I needed a little snack and a snickers ice cream bar seemed like a good treat. Soon though the twisties were behind us and we were slabbing down 50 toward Montrose. A stop off at the "Colorado Boy Pizzaria" was in the plans for a late afternoon snack since none of us had any lunch. We split a small delicious pizza that was very reasonably priced and were back on the road.

Cathy and Joel, my hosts and current tour guides.

Joel and I...posing because Cathy forced us to.

Once out of Montrose I was happy to be moving because it was pretty hot when sitting at the stop lights as the temperature was now up to 88F. Crazy temperature as that's hotter than I saw coming across Texas.

I must have blinked and missed Dallas Colorado, but soon we were in the beautiful ride from Ridgway to Ouray, a little less slabby and more of the mountains while gaining elevation again.

I had a reservation at the "Secret Garden Bed and Breakfast" but Joel and Cathy were at a hotel down the street. They got the last room, a family suite, for the price of a regular room. We went our separate ways with plans to meet somewhere on main street for drinks and then food. Myself and the elderly proprietor got into a small "Argument/Negotiation." She informed me that breakfast would be at 8:30 but I let her know I'd be shoving off at sunrise, about 6:30-7AM. She asked if she could come up and make me an English muffin or some breakfast but I assured her that I didn't want any special treatment and would be just fine. Negotiations finally settled on her agreeing to set up the coffee pot so all I had to do was push the button. I got myself settled in to my room, and then went for a much needed shower. This was somewhat by design as other folks were starting to show up at the B&B and the bathroom is shared, so I wanted to get this in and done quick and early. I laid down and chatted with my wife and son before heading off to meet Joel and Cathy.

We met up at O'Brien's Pub and Grill where they were finishing up their drinks and what apparently were three tasty but too small chicken strips for an appetizer. We moved out onto the patio to people watch and drink. Now, I've been to New Mexico and Colorado many times before but have yet to partake in the famous "New Mexico Green Chili" thing, but have been wanting to try it. O'Brien's had a soup of the day of "New Mexico green chili and chicken" so I ordered up a cup of that to give it a try. I was soon wishing I'd ordered a full bowl because it was delicious.

Once done there we headed down to the Outlaw Steak House and put our names on the list. The wait was an hour and a half so we walked down to Joel and Cathy's motel and spent some time relaxing in the motel hot tub. This was just what the painful muscle in my neck and shoulder needed. We were dressed and headed out the door when the Outlaw called Joel to let him know our table was ready. 

Taking a picture of the moon over Ouray and the mountains two days before the big red moon event thing.

Dinner was great in a fantastic little restaurant there. I started off with a Spinach cheese and garlic soup. The soup was delicious but could have been a little hotter. Steak and baked potato were the main entree with a glass of wine and I was stuffed when it was all done. Outside we said our farewells and I headed off to bed for an early ride in the morning. I slept well with the windows open to let in the chilly air and the sounds of the Uncompahgre River bubbling by.

Click here to go back to Day 3
Click here to advance to Day 5

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Long Awaited Colorado Trip - Day 3

Day 3: RMNP is indescribable and I'm an idiot.
396 miles. Temps 45-82F and sunny.

Today started off with some rerouting due to unfortunate information. The destination ride for this trip is Kebler Pass, despite it being mostly unpaved. Kebler Pass is the road I was on before wondering what it looked like with all the Aspens turning, and happens to be the most densely packed Aspen forest you can find. I'd been told to go up and come down 133 to catch 12 toward Crested Butte for some amazing sights and to get me through Kebler Pass. However, CoDot shows that blasting on 133 has it closed for a good portion of the day. Looks like I'll have to save Kebler Pass for tomorrow on the way out, which won't be so bad.

My second issue is road closures for construction coming south after hitting RMNP. 9 sounds like worse closures than 40 so I decide I'll take 40 instead and have to spend sometime on I70.  Much as I'd like to avoid the interstates, there's a lot worse interstates to be stuck on than 70.

So, with my revised plan, I set out at sunup. I head south and then west through Loveland. Shortly outside of Loveland the temps start plummeting so I stop and don my heated gear and crank it up so I'm warm and toasty and enjoying life.

I don't know what to say about Rocky Mountain National Park. I don't think I can accurately describe it, nor are there words with enough weight to do the job. Around every bend I was saying aloud in my helmet "Wow!" I have no idea why in the number of times I've been to Colorado I haven't been here, but it'll be on the itinerary from now on.

I came out of RMNP and continued on my route down to Granby and then headed south on 40 and pulled off in Winter Park for some lunch. I had a meatball sub at Rudi's Deli, self proclaimed "Best Sandwiches in town." The sandwich was fantastic with a little bit of spicy heat in the meatballs, but the sandwich was a little too small for my liking. Still, enough to keep the tummy going.

While there, I got a report from a friend in Denver who saw on the news that there'd been a small snowstorm at the Eisenhower Tunnel. I checked traffic reports and also due to construction there was a bit of a backup there as well. I'm pretty stuck at this point because it's either plow (literally) ahead or backtrack and take my chances with the closures on 9. If I'd still planned on hitting 133 at this point there were other options but right now they were limited. I figured, you don't have an adventure by routing around adversity, so I continued on. I got kind of lucky in that the construction on 40 was very minimal. I was stuck in traffic on 70 for about 30 minutes due to a lane closure right before the tunnel, but the snow was completely gone by the time I arrived.

I exited 70 at Copper Mountain and started south on 91. I'm doing routing and timetables in my head and realize if I take my original route up through Aspen, I'll get to ride Independence pass and will hit 133 after the road closures end so I can still ride Kebler Pass. Off I go.

Independence Pass, wow. I saw enough turning aspen trees here to satisfy me for sure. What a fun road and amazing scenery along the way. A little bit of traffic and some places with only one lane for both directions to share, but well worth the trip.

As I roll into Aspen I'm doing the math in my head. I haven't used much gas, but I don't think I have enough to make it to Crested Butte, and if I do I'll be rolling in on fumes. Kebler pass is no place to run out of gas so I decide I'll top off here. I pull into the Shell station on Main street and here's where my day takes a turn for the worse.

***Explanation for the non motorcyclists reading this on my blog. A motorcycle can have two stands. A side stand much like the kick stand on a bike, and a center stand that lifts the rear tire off the ground and keeps the bike upright. Filling up with gas on the centerstand means no air bubble in the tank from being leaned over meaning you can get a little more gas in the tank, so I usually fill up on the centerstand, especially on trips.

So I pull up and stop in front of the pump, and as I've been doing on the trip I put down my kickstand. I'm not tall so swinging my leg up and over the seat plus the bag on the passenger seat is a bit of a trick, and I'm afraid of catching my boot on it and dragging the bike over on top of me, so I start off with the kick stand. Once off the bike I put the bike up on the centerstand and continue on with my fueling.

So, as I step off the bike with my bike on the sidestand I glance at the gas prices. I'd previously been put off by the $2.39 I'd paid but now in Aspen I'm about to be robbed at $3.99 per gallon! I swear I heard a "Snap...fizzle" inside my head when I saw that. I turned around and put the bike on the centerstand and paid the money and pumped the gas.

Now, let me set the scene. Main street is at a standstill full of cars immediately to my right. The parking lot for the Shell station is full and every pump is in use with people standing or milling about. Basically, a very public place here.

So I hop on the bike and ease it off the centerstand, not realizing the side stand is still down. The suspension compresses and the side stand hits the ground, launching the bike off to the right. The suspension rebounds and continues the rightward motion. My foot is down and I know I'm way past the point of no return, I've got to set it down as easily as possible but it's going to be far from gentle considering all the top weight I have with my stuff and the rate of decent.

And bam. There in front of everyone, my bike is on it's side and I'm sprawled across the pavement. Not hurt, but humiliated and worried about what may be broken on my bike so far from home. At this point I don't know why it went over but I manage to roll over and hit the kill switch to shut off the bike. As I stand up I see the kickstand pointing to the sky. I slap it to it's home position cursing my stupidity.

About this point, some poor caring stupid soul comes up and asks if I'm ok. He doesn't seem to have a clue what he's talked himself into by coming to my aid but it comes to realization with the words that come out of my mouth. "I'm ok, but can you help me lift it up, it's extremely heavy." I've picked up the FJR on my own, and it's no picnic. However, with a full load of traveling gear it's not going to be a one man job. We proceed to start picking the bike up and it's at this point that the 8000 feet of elevation decides is a good time to try to kill me with lack of oxygen. We manage to get it upright and I realize I'm on the wrong side of the bike to put the kickstand down...yes, the very one I just put up. Helper runs around and puts it down and we get the bike settled back to a normal upright position.
My side bag took the brunt of the fall and is scratched all to heck. No cracked cases and the frame slider did it's job. I look at the mirror and it's folded back on it's pivot so all I need to do is fold it back to normal position and get out of here. When I touch the mirror I find it's not folded, but bent..bent and broken. The mirror snaps off at the stalk and falls off in my hands. It's pretty useless but instead of putting it in the trash bin, I stow it in my luggage, for what reason I don't know. Anyway, finally I'm off and on my way out of Aspen trying to learn to ride and navigate traffic missing my right mirror.

Yea, that's a $100 momentary lapse in concentration.

I finally make my way onto 133 and it is a very beautiful road. More than that, the run up and over the mountains was a blast with me playing with some Lexus sports car. He led, I followed and had a ball. The area that had been closed for blasting was closed with a flag man, but we got the slow sign instead of the stop sign and cruised on through. There was quite the backup on the other side though trying to go north.

I turned off and finally, after all this time, hit Kebler Pass. Sadly the Aspens here were very confused. Some were in peak, but very few. Most were still about half green, some were fully green, and some still had already dropped their leaves. Still, it's a beutiful ride and I'm glad I got to do it. Riding dirt on the FJR isn't a piece of cake but it's doable and I was cooking along at 40mph in some places. It's one of the few roads though where I was waving cars past instead of looking for places to pass.

 Note the stubby mirror mount...

It's amazing to be back in the Aspen forests with the white trunks so close together for as far as you can see.

Finally I arrive at my wife's uncle's house in Crested Butte South. He and his girlfriend Cathy and her daughter put me up for the night. Joel grilled organic chicken breasts from a local farm while Cathy fixed couscous, rice with brown gravy and some locally grown sweet corn. I chowed down big time and enjoyed the hospitality and catching up. 

I also spent some time discussing with them and re-evaluating my plans. I'd had several days of sunup to sundown riding I'd put in and in the mountains as well while dealing with altitude. It's quite possible I'm pushing myself a little too hard and that could have contributed to my lapse of concentration in Aspen. A lapse in concentration in the mountains of Colorado can bite you fast and hard. Add onto that the muscle on the left side of my neck and shoulder was giving me some intense pain, I could use an easy day. This is why when Joel asked if they could ride with me on his new Harley the next day on a shorter route to Ouray, I readily accepted. I would scratch off the amazing road I've heard about, 141, from this trip and save it for next time...because there WILL be a next time.

Click here to go back to Day 2
Click here to advance to Day 4

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.

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