Pike's Peak Adventure Rally 2010
CLICK HERE to see all my photos from this trip
At the Rawhyde's Pacific Northwest Rally in June, I was lucky enough to win a free entry to the upcoming Pike's Peak Rally in August. How could I not attend? Although it's a long ride over there, standing at the top of Pike's Peak is on my bucket list. An added bonus was talk of riding Mosquito Pass, one of the trophy events of every adventure motorcycle rider.
Packing up was easy .............. all I had to do was wash and repack the clothes I'd taken up to Washington. All the rest of the gear was still sitting in a pile and had only to be attached to the motorcycle.
I plotted my route with Garmin GPS software and it showed that I had about 1300 miles to travel to the campground near Colorado Springs. I figured it would take three full days to get there. I always stay off the freeways as much as possible and that makes my trips a little longer than they have to be. If you'd like to see my route in Google Earth, created from the GPS tracks recorded on my trip, CLICK HERE.
Check in time was 5:00 PM on August 19 so I set my departure for early morning on August 16. My bike was packed and ready to go the previous day, so all I had to do the next morning was get up, hop on, and get on down the road.
Day 1 - August 17, 201
El Dorado Hills, CA to Beaver, UT
As is usual the night before a trip, I didn't sleep much and when the alarm went off at 7:00 AM I was quickly up and ready to travel. I don't like to eat immediately after arising and my plan was to stop after a couple of hours and get something to eat. I rolled out of El Dorado Hills before 8:00 AM.
The ride east on Hwy 50 is very familiar and very pleasant once east of Placerville. It was cool, the air was clear, and the skies were blue - a good day for riding.
Making my way through the Lake Tahoe area is one of my least favorite rides - too many people and too touristy. The scenery, however, is great if you can look past all that. I always take the Pioneer Trail around the metropolitan area to avoid most of the folks.
I always enjoy the ride over Spooner Summit between Lake Tahoe and Carson City, NV - lots of nice curves with a good pavement surface, not too much traffic, and some pretty good views. It was fairly cool at the higher elevations, it was nice to feel the temperatures rise as I descended into the Carson City area. The Hwy 50 route through Carson City has changed a little since they extended the freeway portion of Hwy 395 and my GPS didn't know where to go. I wasn't too sure myself and it's a good thing the signing is pretty good or I might have taken some wrong turns.
Heading east out of Carson City is a little pain in the butt because the 45 mph speed limit extends way beyond anything reasonable - nearly all the way to Dayton. Thankfully, nobody seems to pay much attention to it. I'm always a little concerned about getting a ticket in this area but I suspect the speed limit isn't enforced very strictly - I don't remember ever seeing anyone pulled over by a police officer.
I couldn't resist this photo as I entered Fallon, NV where I decided to combine a fuel stop with a food stop. I've been through Fallon many times and I always stop at Jerry's Restaurant - it's convenient, the food is good, and the prices are right. Also, I can look out the window and see my motorcycle - I'm always a little worried that somebody is going to walk off with my GPS, SPOT, coat or helmet. Bacon and eggs hit the spot.
Once heading east out of Fallon, one begins to get the feel of "The Loneliest Highway in America." It is 110 miles to Austin, the next town, and there is absolutely nothing out there to remind you that there is another human being in the world - only the occasional oncoming car spoils the illusion.
Nevada has a series of mountain ranges running north to south. When crossing the state in an east/west direction you cross a 15-20 mile wide valley, climb a mountain pass, descend into another valley and repeat. Although not the most exciting ride in the world, the mountain passes provide some diversion.
The most interesting of these mountain passes is east of Austin, NV. Austin is about halfway up the west side of this particular mountain range. Heading east out of Austin, the road immediately begins a series of switchbacks as it continues the climb to the summit. Today I was very glad to be on a motorcycle - as we left Austin, I found myself behind 5 cars who, in turn, were behind two huge trucks hauling some kind of large machinery. These trucks were literally going about 5 miles per hour. The sharp curves and steep grades prevented the cars from making a pass and they probably all followed these trucks all the way to the top. On my motorcycle, I was able to weave my way through the whole mess in the first couple of hundred yards of the climb. Of course, I was forced to cross the double-yellow lines, which in my opinion a motorcycle should only consider as advisory. The road down the other side isn't quite as steep, but is still fairly interesting.
I continued on to Eureka before stopping for gas and a short break. It was only about 4:00 PM when I pulled into Ely, NV, about 450 miles from home - I was making pretty good time. I had originally planned to end my first day's ride in here since it's about 1/3 the way to Colorado Springs. I decided, however, to push on and make up some time for sight seeing when I got to Utah and Colorado.
I probably should have paid a little more attention to my fuel situation and the extreme isolation of the area. Since Ely is only about 75 miles from Eureka, I figured I still had plenty of fuel. As I approached the Hwy 21 turn off, however, I was kicking my butt. I had only 50-75 miles of fuel left and my GPS wasn't showing any fuel stops within that range. Luckily, there was a sign that said there was an RV park with fuel six miles ahead on Hwy 50. Even though it didn't show up on my GPS, and I'd have to back track the 6 miles, I decided to head for the RV Park. The thought crossed my mind that the place may have gone out of business and wasn't there any more. Thankfully, that wasn't the case and I fueled up and continued toward my new destination for the day: Beaver, UT. Hwy 21 is just as lonely a highway as Hwy 50 - after I made the turn, I didn't see another vehicle for 75 miles.
I cruised into Beaver, UT about 8:30 PM, local time, just as it started to get dark. When I checked my mileage, I had traveled 604 miles - the second longest day I've ever ridden a motorcycle. About 30 years ago, my son Kevin and I rode 760 miles one day from Hamilton, MT to Lovelock, NV.
It was a long day - I checked into the local Best Western, called Linda to let her know I was landing for the day, grabbed some ho-hum chow at a so-so restaurant, and hit the rack for a good night's sleep.
Day 2 - August 18, 201
Beaver, UT to Delta, CO
I got up early this morning and immediately hit the road - breakfast would have to wait. I was really looking forward to the day's ride. I was headed for Hanksville, UT via Torrey and I knew the ride would be great. I rode through here in 2006 on my way to Denver, but didn't spend near enough time checking things out.
There is a high mountain range just to the east of Beaver, UT. To cross it, I picked up Hwy 20 about 15 miles south of Beaver, rode east to Hwy 89, then north on Hwy 62 to Hwy 24 which leads to Hanksville. Hwy 153, crosses the mountains almost straight east of Beaver, but it is paved only up to a ski area near the summit and the remaining 20 miles down the east side is dirt road. I thought I'd save this route for the way home when I had more time - you never know what you might run into on a road like that.
Heading east of Interstate 15, Hwy 20 climbs over a small summit on its way to Hwy 89. There is absolutely no signs of civilization and the riding is great. Heading north on Hwy 89 is even better as the elevation climbs to nearly 8,000 feet before dropping back down to intersect with Hwy 62 near Junction. Junction, by the way is at the eastern end of Hwy 153, the altervative way across the mounains. Hwy 62 continues to lose elevation for a while then begins a climb to Hwy 24. Hwy 24 climbs to almost 8500 feet before decending into a really nice high valley area. The scenery is great and there are two little towns that are really appealing - Loa and Lyman. As I rode through, I had thoughts of how nice it would be to be living in this area - IN THE SUMMERTIME. Since all of these towns are above 7,000 ft in elevation, I'm guessing that wintertime isn't too pleasant. The photo right, was taken from Hwy 24 and looks down on the valley just to the north of Koosharem.
Approaching Torrey, the high, mountain valley scenery starts to give way to a 100 mile long wrinkle in the earth's surface known as the Waterpocket Fold which defines Capitol Reef National Park.
I drove into the park and took a short detour up Grand Wash, a dirt road that leads up a very rugged, narrow, scenic canyon with magnificent sandstone rock cliffs on both sides of the road. There are signs all over the place warning people to stay away if it looks stormy - evidence of old flash floods is clear. Although there were some storm clouds off to the west, they were a long way off and I decided there was little risk.
This little drive was one of the day's highlights and I took a lot of photographs. A friend of mine travels to the Torrey area every year to explore the backroads. Next year I hope to come with him and his buddies to see a lot more of this fascinating country.
By the time I finished checking out Grand Wash, I was getting damn hungry - it was after noon and I hadn't eaten breakfast. As I headed east out of the Park, the scenery started getting a lot less interesting and by the time I stopped in Hanksville, I was ready for a break.
There were four motorcycles parked outside the restaurant - three Harleys and a BMW R1200RT. When I walked in, I expected to see a group of Harley riders. What I saw instead was a man and woman sitting at one table that looked like they could be Harley riders and two guys sitting at another, far away table, that didn't look like Harley riders at all. As I started to sit down, one of the non-Harley guys said: "I'll bet you're a BMW rider." I said: "I am - how could you tell?." He said: "Because I'm one too - my friend here is on a Harley." I wound up standing by their table, swapping stories for about 10 minutes before the waitress asked me if I wanted a separate table. Since these two guys were finished up and getting ready to leave when I walked in, we wound up our discussion, I took a seat, and they hit the road. These were two interesting guys that had done a lot of riding together.
By this time it was after 1:00 PM and I wanted to order breakfast. Dream on ........... they quit serving breakfast at 11:00 AM. I felt like Jack Nicholson in this scene, but I swallowed my comments and ordered a club sandwich. When it arrived, it wasn't that great, but I choked it down without comment. I left only a token tip.
I've never been able to figure out exactly why restaurants do this - I understand about waffles, pancakes ........... but bacon and eggs, toast and potatoes? I can't see why these foods are incompatible with hamburgers and fries.
Enough complaining ................
As I was riding east on Hwy 24 out of Capital Reef National Park, those storm clouds I'd seen to the west seemed to be following me to Hanksville. I was glad I wasn't riding in the other direction. When I left the restaurant, the storms were only minutes away. The man and woman who looked like Harley riders had also finished up their lunch and followed me out into the parking area. As we were getting ready to mount our motorcycles we talked a little about where we were from and where we were going. Unfortunately for them, they were headed west on Hwy 24, directly into the storms. In fact, I wasn't too sure we weren't going to get wet before we got underway.
The ride to Delta, CO was routine except for the weather which threatened the rest of the afternoon. The storm shown in the photo left was typical of the many in the region. As I headed north from Hanksville on Hwy 24 the storms seemed to be following close behind me. As I rode east on Interstate 70, the storms stayed in the mountains immediately to the south until I got within about 20 miles of the Hwy 50 exit near Grand Junction, CO. During this time, the temperature dropped and the winds became much stonger so I knew it was a only matter of time before I got wet. When the rain drops started to fall, I pulled over and put on my rain gear in the nick of time. It rained for about 10 minutes and turned out to be of little consequence.
I pulled into Delta, CO fairly early, about 4:30 PM local time. Although it was still early, I was now within 275 miles of Colorado Springs and decided to call it a day. I spotted another Best Western and went in to register. When the lady at the desk gave me a quote of $115, I was shocked. This wasn't the swankiest motel I'd ever seen and I was used to paying $60 - $75 for a room. When I expressed my surprise, the lady said that I was lucky to get a room at any price - there were only three vacant rooms in town. She did give me the senior rate which saved me $10 - it never hurts to whine a little.
It turned out that my immediate neighbors were motorcyclists and they were both putzing around with their motorcycles which were parked outside their doors. One fellow was riding a BMW R1200RT - he and his wife were from Denver and were just out on a loop ride for a few days. The other fellow and his wife were from Australia and were exploring Colorado on a rented Harley. We stood around talking for about 30 minutes before I finally retired to my room. Nice folks, all.
I had plenty of time to set up my computer and get caught up on my email and Facebook duties before heading to the motel's restaurant for a great dinner - the bacon and eggs that I was unable to get in Hanksville. This restaurant knows that it's easy to make breakfast any time. And this cook knows how to fry an egg - I always have trouble getting eggs the way I want them. I want the whites cooked - no snot- and I like the yolks runny. I have no trouble making them myself, but apparently the concept is foreign to many short order cooks. If I order my eggs "over medium" they come with some disgusting portions. If I order them "over medium well", the yolks are also solid and I could my breakfast as a frisbee. If I explain exactly what I want to the waitress it usually makes no difference - they might be either runny or solid. For this reason, I usually order my eggs "scrambled and dry". Today, the waitress and I hit it off and I explained to her how I like my eggs and how hard it is to get them right. When they arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to see them prepared exactly as I would have prepared them myself. I left a BIG tip.
Day 3 - August 19, 2010
Delta, CO to Colorado Springs, CO
I took Hwy 92 out of Delta, around the east side of the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park. This is a very scenic drive and the closer you get to Hwy 50 the more spectacular are the views as the highway skirts the canyon rim. Not only are the views outstanding, but the highway is very interesting with plenty of curves and a good surface. Elevations are quite high wity the rim of the canyon having an elevation of 9,000 feet in some places.
Once back on Hwy 50, the scenery continued to be spectacular as the road winds around the Blue Mesa Reservoir crossing fingers of water a couple of times. Elevations are still quite high and the surface of the reservoir is 7,500 feet above sea level. FYI the Blue Mesa Reservoir is Colorado's largest body of water.Heading east from the reservoir, the road climbs even higher and the temperatures started to get quite chilly - I stopped somewhere along the way and put on my winter gear. Soon, I found myself crossing Monarch Pass at an elevation of 11,312 feet. Strangely, I didn't recognize it until I hit the summit, but I crossed this pass last summer on the greatest ride of my life - The Great Divide Ride.
It felt good as the temperature warmed up coming down the east side of monitor pass. It wasn't long before I got to Salido, CO where it was time to fuel up, eat some lunch, and leave Hwy 50 to head north on Hwy 285. I sometimes think one of the best parts of riding is the stopping.
After about 20 miles of riding north on Hwy 285, I turned east on Hwy 24 and followed it all the way into Colorado Springs. Elevations remained very high. I don't believe the highway ever fell below 7,000 feet and much of the way the high valleys/prairie was over 9,000 feet. I passed through several small towns and wondered what life must be like in the high country in the winter time.
Eventually, the environment became more urban, Hwy 24 turned into a four-lane, divided highway and began a descent into Colorado Springs. The final seven miles were especially enjoyable as Hwy 24 cuts through a narrow canyon. The designers followed the natural flow of the canyon making for some nice riding. There were a lot of cars on this stretch of road, but not too many to clog things up.
Our campground was very easy to find and I rolled in around 3:00 PM in plenty of time to find a good place to pitch my tent. I had barely dismounted my motorcycle when Jim Hyde rolled up in a pickup and hollered out a greeting. It was good to see him in such good spirits. I heard some rumors that he had been seriously injured a few weeks earlier when he suffered a crash while leading the southbound GDR 2010. It turned out that he had broken his lower leg in three places, but surgery went well and he was on the mend with a couple of pins holding things together. He had also nearly torn his nose from his face in the accident, but I could see no evidence of that. He must have great recuperative powers. After a little chit chat, Jim drove off to attend to some business and I started setting up camp.
There were many other people in the same process and we all got to know each other a little as we worked on our temporary homes. By the time I had everything ready to move in, Jim and his crew were ready to begin signing people in and a small crowd began gathering around the Rawhyde area's headquarters. I saw a couple of familiar faces and was introduced to some new faces.
This gathering was a little smaller than the Northwest Rally in Washington - I think the count here was around 30 riders. We came from all over the west - there were three guys from Seattle, two guys (not together) from New Mexico, a fellow from Montana, a woman from Texas, a guy from South Dakota, another from Oklahoma, a transplanted Italian fellow from St. Louis, and a couple of us from California. Coincidentally, the other fellow from California lives in Foresthill, about 40 miles from my home in El Dorado Hills. We exchanged information and we'll be doing some riding together in the near future. Many walks of life were represented by the riders - physician, lawyer, farmer, medical equipment salesman, police officer, small business owner, retired firefighter, retired engineer are a few of the professions I heard mentioned. An interesting group of folks.
We spent the next hour or so getting acquainted and then it was time for some famous Rawhyde cuisine. After dinner, Jim discussed what was going to happen during the next few days. I was a little distressed that he seemed to be discouraging us from riding Mosquito Pass. He didn't say nobody was going to ride it, but he stressed that it WOULD NOT be an "official" ride. There would be nobody to retrieve bikes off the mountain, and if something happened we would be on our own. He also discussed some of the difficulties people had last year. Oh well, it was a couple of days off and I was sure some of the folks would be game for the ride. After Jim's talk, we stood around a campfire and told war stories for quite some time. Eventually, people started to drift off to their tents and soon everyone was down for the count.
Our campground had all the amenities - a lighted, heated bathroom/shower/laundry room with plenty of room for all was located within 50 feet of my tent. This contrasted nicely with our primitive campground at the Northwest Rally in Washington in June where we had no running water, no electricity and only a few port-a-potties scattered around several acres. It was good to have a nice, hot shower before climbing into my sleeping bag. Also my nightly trips to the boys' room were much easier this time ....... I didn't have to stumble around in the darkness looking for a tree to water.
Day 4- August 20, 2010
Pike's Peak, Gold Camp Rd, Cripple Creek
Mornings were a leisurely affair .............. coffee was ready at 6:30 AM, breakfast at 7:30, riders' meeting at 9:00, hit the road at 9:30. There was plenty of time to enjoy the ambiance and everyone's company.
Jim was leaving the group after breakfast, headed back home after a long time on the road. I made sure to catch him alone to wish him a speedy recovery from his injuries and to say farewell. He is one of the good guys and I consider it an honor to know him.
At the stroke of 9:30 AM, our group pulled out of the campground and headed west on Hwy 24 ........... our first destination was Pike's Peak. I was a little disappointed at the riders' meeting to learn that all but about three miles of the road to the top is now paved - I had been anticipating a little more exciting ride. Still .... to stand on top of this mountain was something to look forward to. Actually, the ride was quite interesting if not actually exciting. As we climbed, the views became more spectacular and one had to pay attention or risk running off some tremendous drops. We stopped a couple of times to let people get acclimated to the extreme altitudes. Last year some of the folks had a little trouble at the top. The views were stunning.
By the time we reached the top, I was kind of numb from all the scenery. Actually, I was also numb from the cold. Although I had a sweatshirt on underneath, I was wearing my summer jacket. It was about 75° in camp and I was sure a sweatshirt would provide enough warmth - I've worn this outfit with temperatures in the 50s without discomfort.
One of the guys told me that the temperature was 42° at the top - no wonder I was cold. Once we stopped riding, however, things got better. The sun's radiant heat felt quite pleasant as it hit my body. When the sun would go behind a cloud, however, the sensation of heat disappeared and it felt really cold again. I don't think I've ever felt the sun's radiant heat in such a dramatic way. Outstanding!
We assembled for some group photos immediately after arriving at the top. A couple of the riders were expecting some difficulty with the extreme altitude and they wanted to be sure to be included. Sure enough, after about 30 minutes, a couple of folks had to be escorted to a lower altitude because of dizziness and problems breathing.
The rest of us stayed up there for an hour or more. Rawhyde had prepared some lunches and we all hung around taking in the views and shooting photos as we ate.
There is a visitor center at the top and there were plenty of people running about. In addition to the nice, paved road, there is a tram to the top and lots of people took advantage of the easy access to one of the most scenic places in the world.
I was a little surprised at how soon I became acclimated to the high altitude. When I first dismounted my motorcycle and walked around a little, I felt a little dizziness and became a little concerned - although I sure as hell didn't admit it to anyone. Not to worry! Eventually, I was walking around with no difficulty. The fellow from St. Louis and I even walked down the road for a half mile or so trying to get some photos of the switchbacks. We didn't have any luck since the more vertical sections are at a lower altitude. When it came time to walk back up to the top, neither of us had any real difficulty even though there isn't much oxygen at over 14,000 feet - we didn't talk much.
Eventually we finished up our lunch and descended the mountain. We then rode back towards Colorado Springs for our next adventure - on to Cripple Creek via Gold Camp Road. My understanding is that the road was built on what was once a railroad alignment. Although the road is gravel, it is well maintained and not difficult - in fact, due to the fact that it was once a railroad, the grades are flat and the curves gentle. It passes through some very scenic country and some of the higher fill sections and cuts through the rock are very narrow - not much more than 12 to 15 feet. There was also a tunnel. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to take any photos along this stretch. Our group was moving right along and I didn't want to fall behind by stopping .......... in retrospect, I wish I had stopped and next time I will.
There was something going on in Cripple Creek and some of the streets were blocked off with many people wandering around - we didn't stop. We made our way north out of Cripple Creek on Hwy 67 then took Hwy 24, again, back to camp. Although we were riding on paved roads, the scenery was magnificent the entire way and I don't think anyone minded. By the time we got back to camp, I'd ridden that same stretch of Hwy 24 four times ........ and it wouldn't be the last time, either. It was after 5:00 PM when we rolled in and I was ready for a cold drink, a shower, and some food ------- in that order.
On the way to Pike's Peak, I was following a motorcycle with a Montana license plate. I tracked him down and found out that he had ridden down from Missoula, MT, less than 50 miles from Hamilton, MT where I was born and raised. It is indeed a small world.
Also during the ride, I found that Bill, the fellow from Foresthill, and I liked to ride about the same pace and we wound up talking at every break in the action. We seemed to have a lot in common and spent a lot of time together over the weekend. Another fellow, named Paul, and I seemed to be having a lot of discussions and I enjoyed his company a lot. We all spent a very pleasant evening in camp sharing stories, eating, and having a few beers (no beers for me).
Day 5- August 21, 2010
Weston Pass and Mosquito Pass ... NOT!
A lot of the discussion among the guys I was hanging out with before and during breakfast, centered on which ride everyone was taking. There was an "easy", half day ride on Rampart Range Road in the mountains overlooking Colorado Springs. There was a "more difficult" ride over Weston Pass that was being billed as kind of a precursor to Mosquito Pass which was in the same area. Each rider had to pick one or the other. About half the folks picked the 'easy' route and the rest of us chose the "more difficult" ride over Weston Pass. There was a handfull of us talking about continuing on to Mosquito Pass after we finished the Weston warm up.
At the riders meeting, the Rawhyde crew seemed to by trying to talk people out of the Mosquito Pass ride - they talked about how it wasn't an "official ride", that it was hard, that you could get hurt, blah, blah, blah. But they also said there would be a couple of the crew that would go with anyone who decided to try it. They talked about a difficult, category 4 section on the descent from Weston Pass that we could use to judge whether we really wanted to attempt Mosquito Pass. If we could handle the tough section, and we weren't too tired after we completed Weston, we could decide if we still wanted to try Mosquito Pass.
I guess I wasn't paying attention because I didn't realize how far we'd be riding on pavement before we hit the bottom of Weston Pass. We headed west on Hwy 24, again. The traffic was fairly heavy and the small towns had lots of people milling around. One of the towns looked like they were getting ready to hold a parade and traffic was bumper to bumper, stop and go (mostly stop) all the way through town. It took us over 20 minutes to get through town. We turned north on Hwy 9 and continued to the the town of Fairplay where we turned south on Hwy 285 and, a couple of miles later, we finally hit dirt - about 80 miles and two hours after we left camp.
The ride up Weston Pass was interesting but fairly simple and nobody had any problems. There was a campground fairly high up that had some pretty good sized trailers that had been pulled up by pickups and SUVs - an indication that it wasn't too tough a ride for adventure motorcycles.
At the top, we broke out the lunches we had packed in the morning and enjoyed the food and some discussion of the ride so far.
As advertised, the descent was more difficult, although still not really a problem. Our ride leader told us that he would stop at the beginning of the class 4 portion and we could discuss lines and strategies. It wasn't too long before I and the rider in front of me approached a small group - our leader and a couple of other riders - standing, looking down a fairly steep descent. We parked our motorcycles and walked up to the group. They had just finished discussing the next couple of riders' plans of attack. I and the fellow immediately in front of me exchanged glances - I couldn't see anything remotely difficult and neither could he. Just a lot of rocks and a fairly steep grade. A quick glance seemed to reveal any number of ways to easily make the descent. The first two guys started down - I hate to say it, but they looked like my grandmother might look. They remained seated and tried to stay upright by planting a foot here and there. They went so slow that every rock made them bobble and take action to keep from falling. It was very painful to watch. I and the other fellow exchanged glances, shook our heads and patiently waited for them to eventually reach the bottom. Then the guy ahead of me stood up on his pegs and easily and quickly and confidently descended. I let him get down the hill about 100 yards and followed him .......... there was nothing to it. When we hit the bottom, we just kept going until we caught up with the quicker riders who were waiting at the paved highway less than 10 miles down the road. We then waited more than 30 minutes before the last of the riders showed up.
When our leaders showed up with the rest of the group, the discussion turned to Mosquito Pass. None of us had seen anything to change our minds. We weren't tired and the same five or six guys were ready to go. Our leader then pointed out a couple of new facts. By now it was 2:00 PM. It would take us nearly four hours to get to and cross Mosquito Pass IF EVERYTHING WENT RIGHT. It would then take more than two hours to make our way back to camp. Nobody wanted to limp into camp after dark and we all reluctantly agreed NOT to attempt the ride. The five or six of us were extremely disappointed.
Shortly after the stream crossing we ran into the sand. It was an old wash and, in addition to having a sand bottom, it was very narrow and lined with sofa sized boulders. The first three guys apparently breezed right through it. The sand was VERY, VERY DEEP - I would guess it was over six inches deep for most of the way and up to a foot deep in some places. The guy in front of me started to get off course and eventually ran off the road. He remained upright and all he needed to do was get started again so I continued past him. Things were going well and I was about 50 yards from the end when I started heading straight at one of the large rocks. I'm not sure exactly what happened, but I found myself laying in the sand and my motorcycle taking a nap. The next rider parked and came to my aid, but by the time he arrived I had already righted my motorcycle. The elevation here was around 9,000 feet and I needed a few minutes to get my lungs back. In the meantime our sweep rider had also tipped over and the rider who came to my aid also helped him pick up his motorcycle. We then all cruised out to the end of the sand and around a corner where the first three riders were waiting for us.
The rest of the ride was anti-climactic although it was very interesting. The road was very narrow most of the way, maybe 10 feet or so, and it followed the terrain with little or no cutting or filling. This shortcut was about 20 miles long and took us about an hour to negotiate. When we hit Hwy 24, Shawn said he wanted to stop at a little place in Hartsel to pick up some burritos - apparently this place is famous for them. It seemed like a good place to get something cold to drink and take a little break. As I dismounted and started to walk into the store, my right ankle complained and the more I walked, the more it complained. I had apparently injured it in the sand. After our little break, Shawn mentioned another section of dirt we could take on the way back to camp. I didn't think my ankle could survive much off road riding so I stayed behind and aired up my tires for the highway ride back to Colorado Springs.
When I got back to camp and took off my boot, my ankle was swollen and starting to turn black in places - not good. I spent an hour or so with an ice bag and it felt a little better. I limped around the camp the rest of the night as we ate dinner and talked about the day's riding. The Mosquito Pass wannabees did a little grousing about missing the opportunity, but everyone had had a great day of riding. We stayed up a little later than usual on this last night of the rally. The hot shower really felt good before I slipped into my sleeping bag.
Day 6 - August 22, 2010
Colorado Springs, CO to Moab, UT
I was up early and began packing up immediately. My ankle was bothering me until I put my motorcycle boots back on - I guess the boot worked like a brace/splint. Originally I was going to eat breakfast with the group at 8:30 AM before hitting the road. But ........... I was all packed up and ready to go before 8:00 AM so I said my good-byes and took off - I could eat breakfast 100 miles down the road.
Since I had ridden Hwy 24 so many times, I decided to take a different route home. I headed south on Hwy 15 to pick up Hwy 50. It was early Sunday morning, traffic was light, the weather was great and I was headed home after a great weekend of riding - life was good.
I hadn't been on the road for an hour when I saw a sign indicating that Royal Gorge was nearby. I couldn't remember exactly what it was, but I'd heard of it and decided to check it out. It was worth the short detour. Even though the place was mostly closed up - I think it was just because it was too early in the morning - I got to walk across America's highest suspension bridge and see the spectacular canyon cut by the Arkansas river over 1000 feet below.
Once again heading west on Hwy 50, I crossed again over the 11,312 foot summit of Monarch Pass - this time I didn't stop for a photo. I continued east on Hwy 50 to Salida, CO where I stopped for a great breakfast of bacon and eggs. Again, the cook managed to prepare my eggs exactly as I like them. When I left and continued my journey west, I was back on the same route I'd taken on my way over ........ in the opposite direction of course.
At the west end of Blue Mesa Reservoir, I continued on Hwy 50 instead of heading north along the rim of the canyon on Hwy 92 towards Junction City and Interstate 70. When I got to Montrose, I turned south on Hwy 550 and continued west on Hwy 62, Hwy 145, Hwy 90, and Hwy 46 before turning north on Hwy 191 and entering Moab, UT from the south. I saw lots of nice scenery along the way and enjoyed the riding a lot. These minor highways were all in great shape and had very little traffic. I saw very few oncoming cars and absolutely nothing came up behind me - even when I would stop for a break seldom did a car overtake me. The emptiness of the west is hard to comprehend and I have to say that I really enjoy being out in it.
Since I wanted to spend some time at Arches National Park I decided to call it a day in Moab. I'd had a pretty good day, covering a little more than 400 miles and could easily make up some time on my way across Nevada. I stopped at the local Super 8 and got a great room for $71 - it was good to be out of Colorado and $115 motel rooms. This $71 room, by the way, was much superior to the $115 room. I had two queen size beds, an easy chair, a couch, a flat screen TV, a refrigerator and a microwave - none of which were in the high priced, Colorado room.
So far my ankle seemed to be holding up, but when I removed my boot, it was obvious it was far from OK. By now it was really swollen up and there was a lot of blackness on both sides of my foot under the ankle bones. After my shower, I got some ice and spent an hour or so applying it for 15 minutes at a time. That seemed to take the swelling down quite a bit. I took 800 MG of ibuprofen, hit the rack, and slept like a dead man.
Day 7 - August 23, 2010
Moab, UT to Ely, NV
Arches National Park was surreal early in the morning. The sun was still very low on the horizon and all the bizarre sandstone rock formations were casting long shadows. Not very many people were out and about contributing to the weird mood of the place. Although I saw lots of cliffs, balancing rocks, and interesting rock formations, I didn't see any arches for quite some time. I made the mistake of not getting a map when I flashed my Golden Age Passport to get into the park and I had no idea where all the attractions were. Not too far into the park, I saw a road leading off to Delicate Arch, so I thought I'd check it out. I eventually came to a parking lot with a couple of park rangers getting ready to hike somewhere. I asked them how far off the arch was and they told me that it was about a mile away - by foot up a narrow little trail. With my bad ankle, I decided to confine myself to what I could see from the road.
I continued on and finally saw an arch in the distance. But I was looking for something a little closer to the road, so I snapped a quick photo and kept going. Eventually, the road ended in a large parking lot, so I parked my motorcycle and walked over to a sign describing the attraction. It said there were two arches about 0.8 miles up the trail. My ankle was feeling pretty good, and I'd already spent nearly an hour exploring the park and figured this was my last chance to get up close and personal to an arch ............. so up the trail I hiked.
I may have been able to get a little closer, but my ankle was protesting and as soon as the arch came into view, I snapped this photo and headed back for my motorcycle. What was I thinking - hiking over 1-1/2 miles on an ankle that hurt when I walked to the bathroom this morning. I got back to my motorcycle, headed back to the highway and continued on my way home.
All the hiking and sight seeing made me very hungry since I had again skipped breakfast before departing Moab. Interstate 70 was only about 25 miles away and another 18 miles to the west was Green River, a town I know would have a restaurant. I pulled into a restaurant right on the Green River and was seated at a window with a great view of - you guessed it - a green river. Funny, but it never occurred to me that the town might be named Green River because there was a green river flowing through it ......... duh! Pressing my luck, I again ordered bacon and eggs with my eggs over medium well - of course I explained to the waitress exactly how I wanted them. Success again! Maybe I should move to Utah or Colorado - they know how to fry eggs in that region of the country.
From here I would be backtracking the route I had taken on my way over. Back to Hanksville, west to Beaver, UT and Ely, NV then following Hwy 50 all the way home. The only new road would be crossing over the mountains east of Beaver, UT. On the way over, I had stayed on the main highways and crossed the mountains south of Beaver. On the way home I decided to cross the mountains by way of an unpaved Hwy 153 that leads from Junction, UT up the east side of the mountains to a ski area at the top.
This road was a great little diversion. Although it was well maintained, it had plenty of steep drop offs and sharp curves to keep me awake. I was surprised when it climbed to 10,300 feet before heading back down the west side of the mountain. Before starting up I was a little concerned that my ankle wouldn't be able to handle standing up on the foot pegs - I always stand when on unpaved surfaces. When the time came, however, I was able to stand with very little pain - my motorcycle boots work very well.
When the road begins to descend the west side of the mountain, it becomes paved. There is a ski area near the top - I think it is called the Elk Meadow Ski Area - and the paved road provides easy access from the Beaver, UT area. The ride down was fairly typical of a mountain pass descent. Lots of curvy roads and great views - I really enjoyed this little detour.
Once I hit the bottom, my trip was basically over. I've tried to explain how this works many times - some people get it, but most do not. Every time I go out on some kind of adventure, there comes a point when I'm ready to be home - usually it's somewhere on my return trip when the feeling hits. Once this feeling comes over me, all I want to do is to be home - if I could teleport myself home, I would. Unfortunately, I don't know how to teleport myself and I have to continue riding until I get there. This time, I found myself 600 miles from home when the feeling hit so I hunkered down and started putting miles behind me - scenery and interesting things to see would just have to wait until next time.
Another factor making me feel like I wanted to be home was the fact that Linda was undergoing carpal tunnel surgery about the time I descended the mountain. When I was contemplating this trip I knew that I wouldn't be able to make it home in time to be there. Linda assured me that her friend, Kathy, would be happy to drive her to the hospital and take her home when the outpatient surgery was completed. At the time, it made perfect sense, and I decided to go on the trip and let Kathy do my job. As I was riding along, wondering what was happening, it seemed like the worst idea in the world. Never again will I let her go through something like this without my being there to support her. I'M SORRY, LINDA.
As I was blasting along, northbound on Hwy 21, I crossed a cattle guard that made my heart jump into my throat. Six inches to the right of my wheel was a huge, jagged hole in the metal bars comprising the cattle guard. Not only that, but another couple of feet to the left was another hole. I was damn lucky to have missed them both. Linda could have been a very rich woman. I'm just guessing that one or both of my tires wouldn't have survived either of these holes after an 80 mph encounter.
A couple of hours later, I rolled into Ely, NV where I decided to call it a day. I had ridden over 500 miles and had been on the road for about 12 hours, including my exploration of Arches National Park.
I pulled into a gas station east of town and as I was fueling up, a couple of kids, maybe 18 to 20 years old, pulled up on a small motor scooter. They were loaded for bear - each was wearing a bulky backpack and there was what appeared to be a tent and sleeping bags strapped on the back. Both of them were tattooed and had multiple piercings on their faces. They were very a friendly pair and we struck up a conversation. Unfortunately, my aging brain and oncoming dementia have made me forget where they were from or where they were headed but they were on a REALLY LONG journey - especially on a small motor scooter. I asked them how the scooter was working out and the guy told me that the gas mileage was great, but the wind caused them a lot of problems. He asked a lot of questions about how a big motorcycle handles under a variety of conditions. After we finished our conversation, we each headed our separate directions - I was again reminded that my little adventures are actually pretty easy compared to some.
I checked into a Motel 6 for the printzly sum of $45 and it was fine - not much less accommodating than the $115 room in Delta, CO. Sorry to keep mentioning it but $115? Come on! The first thing I did was phone Linda. I had been out of cell phone range for most of the day. There really is no cell phone service is this part of the world once you leave the immediate area of the towns - and not all towns have cell phone service. I was relieved to hear her voice, strong and cheerful. I apologized for not being there and she assured me that she was OK. It's nice to have such a supportive wife - Linda, I'll never take you for granted!
By now it was dark and the only nearby place to eat was McDonald's, a couple of blocks away. I hadn't showered yet and still had my motorcycle boots on, so my ankle was still feeling OK. I walked the short distance to McDonald's and had a wonderfully greasy quarter pounder with cheese meal. When I got back to the motel, I showered and crawled into bed. My ankle was a little swollen and still pretty black but there was no pain after I gave 800 MG of ibuprofen some time to work.
Day 8 - August 24, 2010
Ely, NV to El Dorado Hills
When I stopped for breakfast in Austin, NV, a fellow GS rider and his wife came in and struck up a conversation. His GS was being carried on the back of their RV for this trip and I'd passed him about an hour back - I remembered them and they remembered me. It turns out they are from Santa Clara, not too far away from El Dorado Hills, and he belongs to a BMW club he thought might be of interest to me. They are a motorcycle camping club and they have a monthly ride where they ride somewhere, camp overnight, and return home the next day. I'll have to check 'em out - http://www.bmwnorcal.org.
Without any further incidents worth mentioning, I arrived home about 3:30 PM. It was good to see Linda.
A topic which came up frequently in Colorado was the tires on my motorcycle. After a couple of years of fooling with highway-oriented dual-sport tires, I decided to permanently mount more dirt oriented Continental TKC80s. They are a little noisy, but when you hit sand, deep gravel, mud, or snow, they are worth their weight in gold.
A few years ago, I went on a ride with some friends in the Topaz, NV area. At the higher elevations, we found ourselves slipping and sliding on snow that had fallen overnight. At one point, my friend Larry, who was running street-oriented tires, walked up to me and said: "Doug - I'm going to give you $1000 for those tires." I'm not sure he was kidding. It didn't matter - I wouldn't have sold them at any price up there.
One of the so-called disadvantages of these tires is the low mileage that some folks get out of them. Almost everyone complains that they don't get more than 3,000 miles out of a rear tire. A couple of guys tell me that their rear tire is completely shot after 800 to 1000 miles. It's very hard for me to believe. The photo on the left shows my rear tire after I arrived home - 4895 miles. The photo on the right is my front tire after 6439 miles. I typically get over 6,000 miles out of a rear (TKC80) tire and 9,000 miles out of a front (TKC80) tire. When I compare that to the 8,000 miles rear and 12,000 miles front that I get from Tourances, the choice is obvious to me. Oh .......... and TKC80s are cheaper.