Red Mountain, CO (August 18, 2007)

Photo Gallery

Click on the following link for the photo gallery. Once the intro page is displayed make sure that you click on a thumbnail picture on the right side of the page.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Home Sweet Home

I arrived home today safe and sound and I thank God. Our travel totaled 19 days, 5,359 miles, and 17 states (West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Virginia, and Maryland).

To date there were 730 visits to the blog and from 18 different countries. (Wow!)This has truly been a great adventure. I want to thank Rich for deciding to come along (and Maude, his wife, for allowing it!).

I didn’t create any entries from August 21st until now. I GOT TIRED, OK! Actually, there wasn’t much to see in scenery. I had planned to stop in St Louis to photograph the arch. I missed the exit because of construction and we wound up on the other side of the river instead. I decided to keep riding toward Kentucky.

We arrived in Louisville on Friday and spent two great days with friends and family (I thank you all!!). We needed the R&R.

The trip from Louisville to home in Maryland gave me time to reflect on our journey and what we had seen and done. Was it worth it? Yes. Would I do it again? Yes. But next time it will be in an RV.

I hope you enjoyed following our journey.

Joe

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

On to Louisville

I arrived at the Colorado Springs dealership before they opened to give the engine time to cool down. Kevin, the technician who performed the maintenance, got us underway before noon.

We have approximately 1,100 miles to travel before we get to Louisville, KY on Friday and our route will take us through Kansas City and St. Louis. I didn’t take any photos of our trek across Kansas today. (By the way, I think I’m going to leave the Red Mountain photo on the blog for the rest of my trip unless I find a better subject between here and home). We had strong cross winds and dodged thunderstorms all afternoon. The temperature was around 98 degrees.

Tomorrow we will continue on into Missouri. Unless something exciting or noteworthy happens between now and when arrive in Louisville, my next post will be after we arrive there.

A short day

Our ride from Alamosa to Colorado City was only 167 miles. For most of the ride we were well below the speed limit simply because there was no need to hurry. The scenery began to return to what I would call average compared to what we have seen for the past 12 days. I suspect that it will continue this way based upon our planned Interstate 70 route back. (No more state and county roads).

We arrived in Colorado Springs around one o’clock yesterday. On our way to the motel we could see Pike’s Peak nearby. Upon checking the map we discovered that it was only 9 miles away. We pondered whether we should continue on to add it to our checklist of been there and done that. For some reason we felt that Pike’s Peak just didn’t seem to measure up (visually and road-wise) to what we have experienced on this trip. We decided to spend the afternoon at the pool.

I am off to the local dealer this morning to get my bike serviced before we head back home. A bit of sadness is starting to sit in and at the same time I’m anxious now to get back home. For me, this has been a trip that will stay etched in my mind forever. I just wish that I could have spent more time in some of the places we have visited.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Million Dollar Highway

Here is the recap of our journey from Vernal, Utah to Alamosa, Colorado on Saturday and Sunday, August 19th and 20th.

Our Saturday ride began early after coffee and a light breakfast as usual. The temperature was in the 50s. We took US 40 east toward Dinosaur, Colorado. Although this is a major US highway there was very little traffic. Once in Dinosaur I noticed a small church off to the right, the Dinosaur Baptist Church. The name brought a smile to my face. We then took state route 24 east to pick up route 139 toward Grand Junction, Colorado. This section was as remote as the section in Utah we traveled earlier in the morning. However, there was a difference in the terrain. We had moved from vast open dry plateaus to the edges of the Colorado Rockies. Many portions of these areas are marked open range. This brings me to a story about Rich’s close encounter of the bull kind. I’m going to let him tell it in his own words first. His words follow:

  • “We had entered an area of small mountains and hilly terrain, and I noticed a sign that said “Open Range Watch For Cattle”. We had seen these signs before and kinda got used to paying them no mind. The ranches out here are huge with some portions unfenced. So you could possibly see horses or cattle roaming freely, although we hadn’t seen any yet. This day would be different. As we rounded a bend, I noticed a small herd of cattle to my left a short distance away. Joe was a little ways out front, so he passed them by. However, as I approached, there was this one big bull who decided that he wanted to cross the road in front of me. When he saw me approaching, he paused on the shoulder and began to stare at me. So I stopped in the middle of the road and waited, and waited, and waited. The bull and I just stared at each other for about three minutes. There were now three cars also stopped behind me. I certainly didn’t want to do anything to excite him or annoy him; because I was in a pretty vulnerable position should he decide to charge the bike. At last he decided to slowly cross the road, and took his own good time too. I then snapped a few pictures and called him a few choice names for making me wait, but somehow he couldn’t hear me as he began to climb a trail going up the side of the mountain. After he was about 50 feet above me and a good distance away. I drove on. So from then on we began to watch for animals always.”

Now for the real story – the photo gallery evidence indicates that I was not that far in front of Rich (He took the picture.) I think it had something to do with him riding a RED bike that caused his concern.

We stopped to eat lunch about 20 miles from Montrose, CO and ran into a group of bike riders who were on their way to the grand opening of a Harley Davidson dealership in Montrose. One of the guys, Gerald, invited us to join them there since it was in our direction of travel. I included a picture of Gerald and his friends. BTW – he had an outstanding black custom show bike. We stopped at the dealership for a short time. Rich ate again. I took a look at a Harley just for fun.

We picked up US 550 in Montrose. There is a portion of this highway that is referred to as “Million Dollar Highway” and we were anxious to see it firsthand. The terrain changed again. The road followed the top of a canyon down into what appeared to be a box canyon to the town of Ouray. It began to rain just as we entered this picturesque little town that is surrounded by tall red canyon walls. We stopped to wait out the rain there. Ouray is a place I wished that I had more time to explore. However, we had to continue on to our destination for the night, Silverton.

Out of Ouray we continued on US550 and discovered some of the most awesome scenery we had seen. Red Mountain was spectacular. The road traversed up mountains passes and at times required a lot of concentration. There were signs which displayed “Motorcycles Use Extreme Caution”. Portions of the road had been washed out and were covered with mud. There were no guard rails and the drop-offs were at least a thousand feet. We pressed on slowly but were still able to take in the scenery as we rode.

Finally we arrived in Silverton, elevation 9100+ feet. This is a very small town nestled within mountain walls all around. We booked a hostel there for the night since there were no motels. The main street is paved but the side streets were dirt (actually mud from all of the rain). We turned on the road where the Silverton Hostel was located. We proceeded carefully through the mud and parked outside. Upon entering we met Robin, the owner. Robin had a very warm and humorous personality. She made our stay very enjoyable and she posed for photos with us.
When we left Silverton the next morning the temperature was 44 degrees. However, by the time we reached Durango the temperature was in the 70s. The scenery from Silverton to Durango was outstanding. But I call the scenery between Ouray and Silverton simply stunning.

We’ve arrived at our destination for tonight. Tomorrow we head toward Colorado Springs. I must have my bike serviced at a dealership there before proceeding toward home. It is clear that our journey is now winding down. We have covered more than 3,500 miles so far and we have 2,000 more miles to travel before reaching home in Maryland. Our goal now is to take it easy and ride at a leisure pace. I have one more major stop planned. I have some friends and relatives in Louisville, KY. An annual cook-out is scheduled for this Saturday and I want to be there for it.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Taking a break

I'm too tired to post today and besides its Saturday night! Had a great ride today more photos and details tomorrow.

Friday, August 17, 2007

From Wyoming to Utah

Our departure from Jackson Hole was not ideal. It was raining and the temperature was in the 50 degree range. We were prepared for such conditions and again we would not be uncomfortable during the ride.

Our plan was to follow US 189 & US 191 from SW Wyoming into NE Utah. Based upon our review of the road atlas we believed those highways would provide great scenic views and we were not disappointed. The rain cleared after about an hour and the temperature began to rise. As we rode through this part of Wyoming I now understand why it is called a “high plains” area. There were vast gently rolling plains extending to the horizon on one side and a large mountain range far in the distance on the other side. We passed a sign which displayed the name of the town, the population (50), and elevation (8,000+ feet!!). At times our bikes were the only vehicles on the road for mile after mile. This area was marked as an open range – no fences. We came across a historical marker for the Oregon Trail. I can’t imagine the determination necessary by early settlers to travel in such a desolate area. We felt alone and we were there for only a few hours. I am sure it must have taken them weeks to travel the same distance.

We crossed the state line into Utah and the terrain began to change. Huge canyons started to appear on both sides of the highway. As we continued on we crossed over the Flaming Gorge Dam. This gorge must have gotten that name because of the bright red rock layers throughout the gorge area. After crossing the dam we noticed a menacing storm forming in our path. We could see lightning strikes and it started to become windy. I checked my GPS and it indicated that our route would take us around the storm in just a few miles ahead. We managed to avoid it.

We arrived at our motel stop for the night. Rich and I began to review our route and it is clear that we do not have enough time left to see all that I had planned. I had to make a decision to omit Bryce Canyon, Monument Valley, and New Mexico from my list. My plan was ambitious and I realize now that it was indeed too much in too little time. My priority shifted to US 550 (Million Dollar Highway) from Silverton to Durango in Colorado.

Colorado, here we come!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks – Day 2

Our trip from West Yellowstone began with a bright sunny day and a temperature of forty four degrees. Although it felt cool it was not uncomfortable. My heated seat and handgrips provided just the right amount of extra comfort. Once in the park I tuned my XM radio to channel 71, Watercolors. The sounds of smooth jazz playing softly in my helmet, the smell of the cold, crisp, lightly smoke filled air, the visual stimulation provided by park surroundings, and the smooth hum of my K1200GT’s engine - - - it couldn’t any get better than this. Rich called on the CB and asked, “What’s up?” I guess I hadn’t said anything for a while. We will do that frequently if we are out of visual contact just to make sure that we are both OK.

We arrived at Old Faithful around 10:15. A park ranger told us that an eruption was expected around 11:07. We stayed for the display and grabbed lunch at the visitor’s center. Next we were off to see the Grand Tetons.

I must say that these are the most majestic mountains that I’ve seen. In some areas they are over 10,000 feet tall. Their sharp jagged edges seem like inverted spikes. The smoke filled air again prevents us from getting good photos. We saw storm clouds and lightning in the direction toward our destination, Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We put on our rain gear and headed out. By the time we got to the Jackson Hole Airport the rain stopped. We arrived at our hotel and began our quest for a great local restaurant. Tomorrow we will ride further south.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Yellowstone Park - Day 1

Today our plan was for a for a 154 mile day which would take us from Red Lodge, Montana back across Bear Tooth Pass into Yellowstone National Park. We were heading toward the northeast entrance to the park. The eastern entrance was closed because of the burning forest on the east side. Our goal was to reach West Yellowstone in the mid afternoon so that we could finally have a real easy ride.

The ride began at our usual 8:30 or so. The temperature was 69 degrees and the day was sunny. We headed west on US 212. Interestingly enough, the pass looked a bit different traveling the route from the opposite direction. Once we reached the top the temperature dropped to 58 degrees. We have experienced a temperature range from 109 to 58 in just a few days! We continue across the pass and enter Yellowstone National Park. One thing that catches our eyes and noses is the smoke. There was a continuous haze throughout the ride. You knew there were large fires in the vicinity. We took photos and you can see the effect of the smoke.

Speaking of photos there is one in the gallery that needs an explanation. While taking photos at one of the pull-offs I noticed a lady standing beside me pointing and telling me to look behind. As I turned I saw this little girl about four or five years old standing next to me saying something. I had my helmet on and could not hear her well. I took off my helmet and she said “Mister would you like to see my pa?” I paused for a moment and thought, is this a trick question? Am I the subject of a candid camera moment? Then I saw what appeared to be her mother and father standing nearby so I felt it was OK to answer. I said yes. She turned around and went to the minivan parked next to my bike and said “Mom please give me my pa.” When she returned it was a plaster cast of a wolf’s paw. She told me the story of how she and her dad had made the cast. I asked her dad if it was OK for me to take a picture and he said sure. She was one proud little girl.

We continued on through the park and arrived in the town of West Yellowstone around 3PM. Tomorrow we will see Old Faithful and head toward Jackson, Wyoming. FYI - my odometer shows 2,584 miles traveled so far.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Chief Joseph Highway & Bear Tooth Pass

Our journey today was planned to take us from Sheridan, Wyoming to Red Lodge, Montana via the Chief Joseph Highway and Bear Tooth Pass. Both of these are scenic highways that go through some fantastic National Forrest. The temperature was in the upper 60s when we started out at 8:30AM. We had 264 miles to travel today over mountains that were over 10,000 feet in some locations.

First we entered the Bighorn Mountains on Route 14. The ride today proceeded at a moderate pace so that we could observe the scenery and ride safe. As we rounded each curve we were presented with mountain rock formations that seemed different at each turn. It required concentration while riding since there were no guard rails in some locations. I saw a sign which said private ranch property next eight miles! (I don’t remember the name of the ranch but that’s some ranch spread.)

We stopped for lunch in Cody, Wyoming at Granny’s Restaurant. Again, our random selection process produced excellent results. After lunch we than began our trek toward Chief Joseph Highway and Bear Tooth Pass. Taking 120 and 296 out of Cody was an accent into a 9,000 foot mountain range. We could see and smell the smoke from the forest fires burning in western Wyoming. The smoke shielded some of the beauty of these majestic mountains and the photo gallery doesn’t show how awesome the sights were.

We continued on to Bear Tooth Pass. Once we rode above the tree line on the mountains we could see snow and ice below. Remember, its just August. We were still at the top of the mountain when we crossed over into Montana. I could not believe it when I saw there was a sign which had a posted speed limit of 70 at 8,000 feet! It must have been a joke. We did see 20 MPH postings for curves which was more to my liking.

We arrived in Red Lodge, MN at 5:30PM. Now we are getting ready for Yellowstone tomorrow.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Devil's Tower, WY

Today’s journey took us from Rapid City, SD to Sheridan, WY via Devil’s Tower (277 miles). Our trip started out after breakfast around 8:30AM. Again, I got a good night’s rest but woke up at 6AM EST (still haven’t adjusted to the two hour time shift).

It didn’t take us long to cross into Wyoming. It is hard to describe the vast amount of open space (big sky country). Although we were riding our iron horses, it was easy to imagine what it must have been like for those in the old west who saw it for the first time as it was for us. There were times that we didn’t see anyone else on the road. The roads seemed to extend to the horizon as we traveled along the golden like prairies.

While traveling Highway 24, all of a sudden when we reached the top of a hill you could see in the far distance what appeared to be a huge (and I do mean huge) rock standing alone in the middle of prairie lands. Of course this was Devil’s tower. We stopped to take a few pictures then we had lunch at a quaint little western country store. The temperature was about 95 at that time but it wasn’t bad as long as we kept moving. The trip from Devil’s Tower to Sheridan presented more stunning vistas which made the ride time seem shorter than expected.

We arrived at Sheridan around 4:30 and began to plan our trip tomorrow to Yellowstone. Hunger sat in again. The hotel staff recommended a restaurant named Little Italy Kabob House. I did have a second thought about jumping on the bikes again but a man’s gotta eat!

Tomorrow we will be on our way on Chief Joseph Highway and Bear Tooth Pass toward Yellowstone National Park.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Crazy Horse Mnt and Mt Rushmore

Well, I need to catch up with posting for yesterday and today. Yesterday was a leisure day. We only traveled a total of 60 miles, the distance from Rapid City to Sturgis and back – what a pleasant change. Apparently attendance at the rally was down this year. For us that was a good thing. We actually found a shady spot to watch and photograph the crowd. Every biker needs to experience this rally at least once. When we returned to Rapid City we went out for dinner at a place called Fireside. It was located up in the Black Hills on an isolated road. It was a little spooky riding at night and we were warned about deer. There were other bikers on the road so we had company. It was recommended by the hotel staff and others. Great steak!! We then mapped out our travel through the Black Hills to Crazy Horse Mountain, Custer State Park, and Mount Rushmore using back roads. That was it for Saturday.

Today began cold and misty. We prepared our bikes for the route we had planned the night before. There was a 30% chance for afternoon showers forecasted. We saddled up and started out about 9:30AM. It would have been earlier but during breakfast we had a conversation with a paleontologist (dinosaur bone hunter as he called himself). There are a lot of fossils in this part of the country. Once we were on the road the weather began to clear. The day turned out to be sunny and in the low to mid 70s – perfect!

When we got to Custer State Park it was really funny to see the donkeys standing in the road. They were tame and allowed people to pet them. We saw bison and other wild life. Once leaving the park we went through an area where the rock formations were like needles. There were rock climbers there scaling them without gear. From there we went on to both Crazy Horse Mtn and Mt Rushmore. See gallery for the pictures of those great areas.

Well we are off to see Devil’s Tower tomorrow and head west toward Wyoming.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Day 2 - Arrived in Rapid City, SD

We arrive in Rapid City last night around 7:30PM Mountain Time Friday!!! I didn’t post last night because I was just too tired.

Here’s yesterday recap:

We left Moline, IL at 3:39AM. Got a good night’s sleep and I actually felt refreshed. The one hour time shift helped a lot. The weather was great and the temperature was in the upper 60’s low 70’s. Not long after leaving Moline we crossed the Mississippi River into Iowa. This was my first time in this state. It’s true – hundreds of continuous miles of corn fields. We continue through this area with absolutely great weather conditions for riding.

We continued through Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, and Waterloo to pick up US 218 heading into Minnesota. Once we were in Minnesota we get onto I90 westbound knowing that we had more than 500 miles to travel on this almost straight interstate highway to Rapid City, South Dakota. Then the weather conditions began to slowly change for the worse.

Once we were on the other side of Sioux Falls, we notice a storm system forming to the South. In this part of the country you can see for miles all around you. We began to see hundreds of bikers heading eastbound on I90. Were they all leaving Sturgis early? This continued for hundreds of miles (easily several thousand bikers by then). Back to the storm – it began to rain so we stopped under an overpass to put on our gear. And you guessed it – a few miles down the road we cleared it and it stopped. Then it began to got HOT and I do mean HOT. I looked down at my air temperature gauge and it displayed 109 degrees. We were approaching Phillip, SD so I used my XM weather feature to check the temperature there. It showed the current temperature at the Phillip airport was 114 degrees!!

This is only part of the story - can you imagine traveling for hours in this condition combined with high cross winds! Rich said that at times it appeared that I was leaning at a 45 degree angle to the left. Of course he didn’t have that challenge on his trike. I really wished I was on mine during this stretch. We persevered and arrived safe and sound.

Now we are off to Sturgis today. From this point on our travels will be at a leisurely pace. Photos to be posted later today.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Day 1

Rich met me at my house and we rode off at 3:58AM! Yes, I did keep waking up all night with great anticipation of the adventure that we were about to begin. Our first challenge was the weather. I heard about the weather front that was going to generate storms between here and Chicago. Of course, that was the direction we had planned to travel. We decided to take a more southern route across WV, OH, IN, and IL. We avoided the rain but it was hot, hot, hot. We are on a mission to get to Rapid City, SD by Friday night. Well, seventeen hours later we are in Moline, IL and 887 miles from home. We’ve checked in a motel for the night. No time for pictures today (not much to see anyway). It’s time to get some sleep so that we can start it all over again tomorrow – another 800+ miles to go. Z z z z z z z z. . .

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

DAY 1 Starts Tomorrow

Saddle bags packed (check), full tank of fuel (check), tire air pressure (check), oil level (check), . . . . . . . still have a feeling that I’m leaving something. We’re leaving at 4AM for our first leg toward Rapid City, SD with a stopover somewhere in between. Time to turn in (hope I can get some sleep).

WESTWARD WE GO!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Gadgets Working

All electronic gadgets (farkles) installed and tested! What a busy past week.

Gadget list:

  • Garmin Zumo 550 GPS – provides voice route navigation. It also has a built-in MP3 player, and e-Book player. I added the optional XM receiver which provides real-time traffic and weather map updates on the GPS display. The Zumo is Bluetooth-enabled which allows me to take phone calls while my mobile phone is in my tank bag or pocket. (more about this later).
  • Starcom1 Advance intercom system. This little cigarette pack sized unit provides for the integration of my Zumo, helmet headset, and CB radio.
  • Midland 75-822 Portable CB radio


The installation process began with me having to remove the bike side faring, tank top, and seats. I drew a picture of each part on a piece of cardboard and taped each screw that I removed from the bike to the same location on the cardboard. I don’t have a service manual and from experience I didn’t want to have any screws left over :-) I mounted the Starcom1 under the passenger seat and routed all of the wiring up to the steering column. For power I attached a BMW connector (click here for details) which provides switched power. I added a push to talk switch to my handle bar so that I can control the CB. I also added a volume control for the intercom. Both were Starcom parts.
Once I got everything tested and back together three nights later (don’t ask) it was time for a real test. I went for a ride with my riding friends (Art, Don, and Rich) on Saturday. They all have Goldwings with CB radios. Finally, I could hear and speak with them while on the move. During the ride I also made a couple of calls to test the Bluetooth mobile phone interface. Those on the other end of my phone conversaion couldn’t tell that I was riding a motorcycle at the time!

My bike is all set now. I will post a couple of pictures of my setup.

I’ve started packing. We leave on Thursday!!