Motorcycle Trip from Wisconsin to Colorado and Points Beyond
Trip total: 4571 miles in sixteen days
Day 1 Saturday June 7, 2008
Eau Claire WI to Winston MO
In the morning I got up early and roped all of our camping stuff to the bike, and by about 9:00 we headed out to the local McDonalds for a quick breakfast. The odometer showed 8485 miles. It has been around once already, and I got a fresh engine over the winter up north at Rice Lake Harley Davidson. There was about 3000 miles on the motor. The iguana was fed and we were ready to go. I swung the bike into a gas station and just about dumped it at the pump! Man, was it ever top heavy. Fortunately Julie and I had been riding double for a while so that part of our balance was OK.
We had our clothes, jackets, chaps, hats and gloves, towels, two self-inflating sleep mats, Julie's sleeping bag (the "chili relano"), a heavy home-made blanket for me, two sets of rain gear, a load of tools, two digital cameras, two cell phones, an OLPC computer, chargers, spare glasses, maps and reservations, our tent, and some snacks. Julie is very organized.
We ate some breakfast and were heading out
of the parking lot when Julie noticed that her fanny pack was missing! Oh crap!
It had a lot of important stuff in it. We checked around then ran back home
where it was still sitting. Whew! So we were off again.
We were going to blast westward on I-90 to the twin cities area (Mpls-St Paul). The formerly clear skies had suddenly turned dark. Pretty soon it was raining so hard I could not see thru the backwash from trucks on the highway. Of course we did NOT have our raingear on. We stopped under a bridge and chilled for about five minutes as the entire squall passed over us. Then we were off again.
The day turned beautiful and traffic was light and I was feeling really happy and fortunate to be going down the road to see America, with Julie and a tent on a Harley. I had dreamed of doing this stuff long ago when I was a kid and I would watch the bikes go down the road thru Wauconda. Those were probably old ironheads, pans and shovels, with maybe a few Triumphs and Nortons thrown in for good measure.
We rolled south on I-35. We saw deer running in the ditch and a big snapping turtle trying to cross the interstate. Good luck, buddy.
Got gas in Fairibault MN, then headed on down to Highway 3 in Iowa. Crops were starting nicely. Corn that was 2" in MN was 4" then 6" as we headed south. Northern Iowa was flat and southern Iowa had rolling pastures. The rivers were high. Weather was nice, but windy, and it looked threatening in the distance. The gal in Latimar, IA said there were tornado warnings. We hurried up to try to avoid the incoming weather.
We stopped in Bevington IA on Highway 92. It was nice rolling farmland and we cycled on down to Missouri where we stopped in Winston MO, and by about 7:30 we had checked in to a Comfort Inn.
Day 2 Sunday June 8, 2008
Winston MO to Garden City KS
We at a good breakfast at the Comfort Inn then headed out around 9:00. We would look for Highway 56, then 50. Our first gas stop of the day was in Baldwin City KS. Gas stops punctuate all of our bike trips, and I always kind of enjoy them. Now for the first time I was seeing them as kind of archaic, too. I thought of telling kids in the future, "Yep, we used to take a hose and pump liquid hydrocarbons into a big can on our vehicle, and the motor would burn it." They will probably laugh as they zip away in their electric cars.
We saw derricks pumping crude out of the ground. The latest round of high fuel prices seems to have spurred some activity here. You can see new derricks and also see old rusty derricks from a previous boom time.
We stopped again in Council Grove KS. This was my first time in Kansas, and it was not like the stereotype I had of flat uniform fields with the occasional grain elevator. There were nice hills and dales and curves in the road. We stopped for lunch at the DQ in Council Grove and there was a guy I wanted to punch. Julie noticed, too. But I didn't make a ruckus. Apparently there are assholes everywhere in the world, but few and far between, thankfully.
Near Lyons KS, we saw a piglet dead on the roadside. I would see a second one later on. We stopped in Dodge KS, which is not easy now that the highway bypasses the town. We went right past it the first time, but we had to go back and check it out. We had a pretty comical ice cream incident that entertained another patron at the gas station. It seems like we have some good laughs on every trip. Then we had to get out of Dodge, as they say in the old westerns.
Somewhere along the way we saw these figures on a hillside. I think they were cut out of flat iron stock.
By about 6:30 we reached the Best Western in Garden City KS. A lot of these towns have some cobblestone streets in their old downtown sections. We got some groceries at a food store and took them back to the motel. There wasn't much on TV.
Day 3 Monday June 9, 2008
Garden City KS to Mancos CO
We got a nice early start at about 8:15. The wind had died down since yesterday. We stopped in Syracuse KS for gas. I liked Kansas, but we were making good time and staying ahead of the bad weather, so we kept stops to a minimum. We went past a refinery near a sign for the Kansas Motorcycle Museum. I wish we had stopped, but that will have to wait for another trip.
By 11:15 we were in Colorado.
Eastern Colorado is fairly flat. We had the road to ourselves. A freight
train rolled by, and we waved to the engineer who had his arm sticking out of
the cab window. He waved back and blew the horn for us.
A few miles later, we noticed an acrobatic yellow airplane flying very low and slow, circling around us. They were so close we could see the pilot and a passenger inside. We waved at each other then the plane circled and outran us.
That was unusual. The weather was nice and
cool. It was a perfect day and I felt like we
were off to a good start. We stopped for gas in LaJunta CO, and again in Fort Garland CO.
Pretty soon we could see mountains! But it was hard to tell how far away they were. By later that afternoon we were gassing up at Pagosa Spring CO.
We headed into the mountain thru the Wolf pass, heading westward. It was a hairy ride with our heavy loaded bike, and the tight mountain corners. There was no margin for error. As we headed past a trucker in a turnout, he gave a "slow down - danger" hand signal that Julie saw but I missed. She told me so I was extra cautious and as I rounded a corner I could see a smashed semi that must have hit the mountain wall at very high speed. It was completely destroyed, I don't think the driver could have survived. To make things worse, there was some yuppie asshole in a dark blue mini-van with a carrier on top, and he was right on our ass. I was going about ten miles per hour over the speed limit, and there were large cracks in the pavement. I wished that I had some kind of a rear-firing weapon mounted to the bike instead of all of our camping gear.
We made it thru the pass and reached the town of Mancos in the early evening. We bought some grocery store food, and asked how to get to the campground in the Mancos state park at the Jackson Gulch Reservoir. To get up there, the last five miles from the town of Mancos were gravel. We just drove in and took a campsite at the end of the road. It was a beautiful campsite, one of the nicest I have ever camped in. Like all of our nights in the Southwest, there were very few bugs and no mosquitos.
Here is the view from inside our tent. This REI tent has been just great for years now. It is waterproof, lightweight, sets up easily, and breathes well.
Day 4 Tuesday June 10, 2008
The National Campground road is long and winding. The Indian's old dwellings were spread out around the park. A ranger told us that the Indians had domesticated dogs and turkeys.
Day 5 Wednesday June 11, 2008
Silverton-Ouray CO circle route
I was awakened again by the little animal alarm clocks. I liked to get up early
and watch the sun rise. Leaving town,
we came around a corner to see a car stopped on the wrong side of the road where
they had just hit and killed a large mule deer that was now lying on our side of
the road. We went around the loop counterclockwise, which I would strongly
recommend. You don't find yourself on the outside edge of mountain curves
as often that way. We stopped for lunch in
Silverton. By early afternoon we were in Ouray. It was cold at the higher
points, so we wore our jackets the whole time. At one point in the trip, there
was some road construction and a young guy was driving a caterpillar with half
of one track hanging out in space. The bike felt pretty safe by comparison. The
southbound half of the loop was an easier drive than the northbound, and just as
pretty, which proves that you can't always trust maps.
Back at camp, there were small rainbow trout jumping everywhere. It was our third and last night at the campsite, so we took a hike around the reservoir and enjoyed the sunset. There were some great purple and pink colors projected on the mountains.
Day 6 Thursday June 12, 2008
Mancos CO to Grand Canyon National Park South Rim AZ
On the way to the Grand Canyon we drove to the Four Corners. They have a row of stands with a variety of cool Indian stuff. I bought an enameled pin and Julie picked up some jewelry. It was very windy in Monument Valley. By late afternoon we were in Tuba City AZ. We setup camp in Grand Canyon Mather Campground.
We took hot showers at the campsite ($2 in
quarters for eight minutes of hot water - ahhhh!) and slept well in the cool
temperatures. It was still warmer at night than Mancos, which had been near
freezing. Because the air was so dry, there was never any frost like there is
in Wisconsin. I slept with most of my clothes on, under a blanket. Julie had
nightwear and her super hot mummy bag that a friend of ours calls the "chili relanos".
Day 7 Friday June 13, 2008
Hike Grand Canyon South Rim Trail
After all that riding we looked forward to doing some walking. We took all day to walk the South Rim Trail. Every view is spectacular. You cannot take a bad photograph. We started the morning by riding the natural-gas powered shuttle bus to the eastern-most point of the south rim trail.
The first animals we saw were mule deer. There were these huge bees that would hover around like they were looking at us. Somebody said they were wood bees or carpenter bees. One of them hovered so long in front of me that I took her picture.
We walked westward on the beautiful and easy rim trail, then in the evening we walked back the short route to the canyon from our campsite and watched the sunset. There were some elk in the woods very close to the people trail.
We didn't really meet anyone at this campground so we just sat around and had a few drinks and ate pistachio nuts. The stores in the Canyon sold beer in big cans at fair prices. It was our second night camping at Mather Campground. We slept well again after all that exercise. We had probably walked eight or nine eye-popping miles.
Like an Australian guy said to us, "Your
eyeballs aren't really big enough to take it all in."
Day 8 Saturday June 14, 2008
Grand Canyon CO thru Arizona to Cedar City UT
The next morning packed up and had a good breakfast at the diner near the campground. I had seen this guy on his bike a couple of times on our trip, so when I saw him in the parking lot, we talked about travelling for a while. He is from Switzerland. He has a website called GlobalBiking.com that has some interesting motorcycle trip photos and stories.
Day 9 Sunday June 15, 2008
Cedar City UT to Torrey UT
Cedar City UT thru Bryce Canyon, over Hell's Backbone, thru cattle drives, deer, turkeys, drop offs on both sides, windy all the way to a Best Western in Torrey UT. We had spent a lot of time sight seeing in Bryce Canyon. There were a lot of weird rock formations that looked like alien cities made of twisted rock spires. A sign said that this was "a hell of a place to lose a cow."
This was a hard ride with setting sun, hairpin turns, steep inclines, and lots of animals.
Day 10 Monday June 16, 2008
Torrey UT to Blanding UT
It was a nice day but starting to get hot when we took off across Utah towards the Natural Arches National Monument. We made a stop along the way to look at some cliff paintings.
We hiked around and looked at some rock formations. It was getting hot.
As we were cruising through the desert, all of a sudden the bike's gauges started swinging wildly. Only the speedometer stayed steady. The tach, voltage, oil temp and oil pressure gauges were all swinging back and forth. The motor was still running OK, so I kept on going, looking for some place to stop. Finally, after about forty miles, we reached the Natural Arches. When we pulled into the parking lot, the bike would not idle. I shut it off and let it cool down for a half hour. Then I turned the key. Nothing. Crap. I looked it over and couldn't see anything obviously wrong. Finally I called the 1-800 HOG phone number on the National Monument's pay phone. There was no cell phone service. The gal on the other end was very courteous and helpful, although it turns out that they only pay the first $100 of a tow, and the nearest Harley dealer was over 120 miles away, in Durango. We finally set up a tow to Blanding. :-(
We were sitting pavement by the bike, feeling pretty sad as the National Monument office was closing. A few minutes after the last person had left, the ranger returned in his pickup truck. He looked at us and said, "I know you are from Wisconsin, so I know what you would probably want right now." Then he handed us each a bottle of ice cold beer! I don't think I have ever tasted anything better. It was some kind of Belgian Abbey label from Colorado. Like our other experiences throughout this trip, many of the National Park employees were really exceptional.
We talked to a young man who was employed as a teacher on the local reservation. He was riding a bicycle all over the place. He said he averages about seven miles per hour, and it is about 45 miles between towns out here.
Finally the tow truck arrived from Montella's Towing. Mr. Montella was the driver. We loaded up the bike, then he took us to Blanding where we got a motel room. We left the bike on the tow truck. The plan was to get up early in the morning and head for the Harley shop in Durango.
Day 11 Tuesday June 17, 2008
Blanding UT to Royal Gorge CO via Durango
We got up early and rode in the tow truck towards Durango. Mr. Montella knew a lot of intersting stuff about the area, having lived there his entire life. We stopped at a few places along the way and he would point out interesting scenery. The ride seemed to go quickly. We unloaded the bike at the Harley shop in Durango and said goodbye to the tow trucker. I'm glad that there still are decent businesses like Montella's that are around when you need them.
However, when I got to the shop manager at the Harley shop, he said they couldn't service any bikes older than 1993! I was stunned. I had run into that situation in New Orleans, too, but I had very low regard for that place. The shop manager said that I could work on the bike in the parking lot, and they would even lend me some tools if I needed them. So, I went outside and started to take the bike apart.
After I had removed the seat and all the fiberglass removable stuff, the shop manager came back out and said that they would make an exception in my case, and he wheeled the bike into the shop! I was impressed. After about an hour, he came back out and said the only problem was the battery. Whew! Since my back tire was really bald, I had them replace that, too. By about 3:00, everything was done. As I was leaving, I noticed that there was no charge for the tire on my receipt. I went back and straightened it out. They were very happy, because they had accidentally charged another guy for my tire! I felt it would be bad karma for me to take advantage of that innocent mistake after they had bent the rules in my favor.
We left Durango at about 3:30 and drove to KOA campground in in
Royal Gorge near Canyon City. It was an absolutely beautiful drive down the eerie
Cosmic Highway with a lightening storm in the distance, then a nice winding road along a river from Salida to Royal
Gorge. By the time we got near Royal Gorge, it was late at night and the
full moon was shining. As it turns out, there are two KOA campgrounds on
that road, and we stopped at the wrong one first.
Day 12 Wednesday June 18, 2008
About 40 miles
Canyon City - Royal Gorge train ride. What a blast! We got to ride in the cab with the engineer, who was also named Bob. The huge diesel was a thing of beauty. I guess we were lucky that we didn't ride yesterday, because the train had started a fire and burned down a communications pole. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong yesterday, but everything went smoothly today.
There is a lot more to running a train than I had thought. Riding in the cab was quite an experience. Bob the engineer told us a lot of interesting railroad history, having been in the business most of his life.
We camped a second night at KOA. Of course I also had to stop at a rock shop.
Here I am typing our trip notes on the OLPC, which somehow survived the trip.
Royal Gorge to Salina KS
Packing up camp is kind of sad because this is the turn around point where we start heading home. But then I am cheered up by the Giant Bug Museum! It is called the May Tropical Bug Museum, located just south of Colorado Springs. It is without a doubt the most awe-inspiring bug collection that I have ever seen, and I have seen some good ones. The woman selling tickets (only $6 each!) said her father and grandfather collected these insects over a long period of time. Many of the samples were dated from the 1920's, from every exotic corner of the world. They were perfectly preserved and presented.
Look at the size of those bugs! I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen them myself.
They also had some flying fox bats which are about the creepiest animal I have seen. The info sheet said that they eat fruit from trees but they cannot take off flying from the ground. They must climb up a tree to take flight, and they are often found dead on the ground.
Day 14 Friday June 20, 2008
Salina KS to Burlington IA
Salina KS thru Meriden KS, highway 36 thru
MO stop at DQ in Chilicothe MO. Gas in Hannibal MO. Highway 61 in Iowa is
flooded out in spots, many detours. We saw an albino deer running with a
couple normal deer in a flooded cornfield. After several tries, end up at
an AmericInn in Burlington IA.
It wasn't easy to find a motel because they were all full of insurance claims
agents and people displaced by flood waters.
Day 15 Saturday June 21, 2008
Burlington IA to Eau Claire WI
Lots of detours, lots of flooding along the way. I was glad to see that our little corner of Wisconsin had missed the brunt of the weather. The kid that we had paid to mow our lawn had done a better job than I do! My neighbors probably wished I had stayed on vacation. The iguana and fish and plants were still alive.
Home sweet home. Once again, the time went way too fast.
Thanks for riding along with us, and I hope you had a good time, too.
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