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The Road to Fruition: UN V & Beyond (long w/ pix)


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Here goes another rambling installment. If you’d rather just see pictures (some of which are not included in this tale), go here. I’ve also got a video slideshow pending, awaiting the go-ahead from its host. I’ll post a link to that later.


I’m still learning the skill of keeping life in balance. Lately, it seemed I’d forgotten that even if I was moving up in the rat race, I’d still be a rat. I’ve written before that thumbing the starter of a motorcycle can be like hitting the “reset” button on life. I needed a reset.


When I thumbed Big Muddy’s starter on Saturday afternoon, I got an unexpected result: nothing but clicks. The battery was fully charged, and I’d just given Heidi a ride to the storage lot where the Team Schnauzer Tour Bus hibernates. I usually hold my breath a little hoping the Bus starts up after a layoff. Now, here I was in front of the Bus, confounded by my 9-month old bike’s failure to start while the Bus was idling away. Fortunately, there was time enough in the day to fetch the trailer and haul Big Muddy in to Northern Colorado BMW Ducati. They promptly diagnosed the starter motor’s failure. With some manual rotation it could be made to work again, but it could also fail again. My choices were to have it replaced, which meant waiting until Tuesday a.m. (the part wasn’t in stock, and the dealership is closed on Mondays), or risk a breakdown during our 2-week trip. I made the safe choice. We went home to get the Bus loaded so that Heidi and the K9 crew could still leave on Monday. I’d catch up on Tuesday.


I didn’t relish the chance to be a rat for another day, but a few work chores weren’t done. Heidi and the K9s pulled away from HQ around midday on Monday and I got back to work. The Team, minus one co-captain, had a warm but uneventful trip to Gunnison and set up camp at the KOA.


When the phone rang Tuesday morning, I got another unexpected result: someone in the VOR system managed to pull all the parts that were due to be shipped to the dealer – which included more than just my starter – but didn’t follow through on the shipment. So, while dealer service advisor polled other dealers in the area, I called our local independent shop. There was no starter to be found. frown.gif I’d be a rat for another day. Meanwhile, the KOA was filling with UnRally participants. Heidi and Cassidy, the K9 ambassador, got to meet some new folks. Thanks to those who checked in on them.


When the phone rang Wednesday morning, I was relieved not to repeat a scene from the movie Groundhog Day. But, by the time I bummed a ride to the dealer, rode home to load my packed cases, and fueled the bike and myself for the ~6-hour ride to Gunnison, it was 3pm. Finally, I was on the road. I needed to skirt rush hour traffic around Boulder and Denver, and beware that the setting sun would draw out wildlife along the mountain roads. Although I’d signed up for Colorado Beemers’ Pass Bagger (an award for summiting 50 passes in Colorado), I was hell bent for the KOA so I blew off chances to document summiting Kenosha, Red Hill, Trout Creek and Monarch Passes. Poncha and Weston Passes were also ripe for the picking, if I’d only had time. As I descended Monarch Pass, I had to stop to take in this symbol that the rat race was now behind me:




My late arrival meant missing the group dinner on Wednesday. A bit worn out, Heidi and I hung out at the KOA Wednesday night and enjoyed meeting some new folks and chatting with some we’d already met. The legendary Tom Roe stopped by to hold court and spread the love and some laughs. Yes, vacation had officially begun.


Thursday we rode CO 92 along the northeast side of Black Canyon of the Gunnison N.P. Such a gorgeous road could use a few more turnouts for the scenic overlooks. A few snaps from where everyone seems to stop:






We rumbled over the dirt road to the North Rim, but decided we couldn’t afford the time to explore much. It was too hot and dry after Crawford (97 in Hotchkiss as we passed through) to stop for pictures, so we continued on to Delta, then south down US 50 to Montrose and stopped for iced lattes at a nice local spot before rolling back to the KOA to liberate the K9s and clean up for dinner.


If I tried naming all the folks we met or renewed acquaintances with at dinner I’d surely leave out several, so let me just say wave.gif to one and all. Being carnivore-leaning omnivores, we enjoyed the MeatCapade almost as much as we enjoyed the company. Jamie snapped this pic between our chewing and chatting:




With most people dispersing on Friday morning, we stayed until the very end. Still, there were several folks we missed meeting or catching up with.


The UnRally was really only the start of our trip plans. We’d booked a campsite in Ridgway State Park to serve as a base for a few days of exploring and bagging passes.




After setting up camp, we rode to Telluride to see sights and have dessert. The sights were found quite easily:








Dessert was more of a challenge. Some entrepreneur might do well to open a casual coffee shop on the main drag and sell baked goods into the evening for those of us who’d rather not visit a sit-down restaurant just for dessert. After a nosh and decaf lattes, we headed back to Ridgway in the dark, relying on Big Muddy’s big lights (200 watts + the headlight) to illuminate the our path and help watch for wildlife. That’s precisely why I got those monstrosities.


Saturday was a pass bagging superfecta, with three passes (Red Mountain, Molas and Coal Bank) within short distances of each other along the Million Dollar Highway, and another (Lizard Head) a short ride away. The scenery wasn’t bad either: smirk:








On the way back from Lizard Head Pass, a suicidal fox, then a lynx, and then a deer each tried to become roadkill by darting into our path. No such luck for them. Plenty of luck for us. No mammals were harmed in the making of this tale, but a few trillion insects were.


On Sunday we went back for parts of Black Canyon of the Gunnison that we missed due to my delayed start:










The East Portal Road was a hoot to ride, as was the main road through the park. I tried to be somewhat respectful of the speed limits, but those roads beg for more. We must go back.


The next day’s destination was Stagecoach State Park, southwest of Steamboat Springs. We headed north to Delta, and then northeast on CO 92 and CO 133, through Hotchkiss and Paonia and over McClure Pass into Redstone, with Heidi following me in the Bus. I missed this tandem of signs on our first pass through Hotchkiss, but couldn’t resist snapping it the next time:




CO 131 north from I-70 is an awesome ride. I enjoyed it so much after slabbing east on I-70 from Glenwood Springs that I didn’t stop to take pictures.


Unlike Ridgway, Stagecoach was lush and green after plenty of snowfall last winter. Rodney enjoyed it:




This was a good base for another pass-bagging superfecta. Lynx Pass is about 20 miles south, along a mostly well-maintained dirt road






It leads to CO 134, west of Gore Pass, which loops nicely with Muddy and Rabbit Ears Passes after 134 meets US 40. Four more passes bagged.


After encountering a construction mess on CO 131 between Steamboat and Stagecoach, we decided to give Routt County Road 18 a try as an alternate route. It wasn’t efficient, but it sure was fun. It is a dirt road that runs along the Yampa River to Lake Catamount.




For a few miles it is one lane, and not very well maintained. Dodging the deep ruts and potholes 2-up was a challenge. At first I wondered if Heidi was OK with it, but when heard her whooping and laughing as we bumped along I knew all was well.




After spending a day lounging and paddling our inflatable kayak around the reservoir, it was time to head home.


I told most of the end of the tale here. After spotting Bullwinkle atop Cameron Pass, we gathered the Team for a portrait:




A nice end to a great trip!

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Joel and Heidi,

I'm so glad to read that after a rocky start your trip turned out well. Pictures are awesome and sure looks like you guys had fun. (puppies too.)

Nancy and Gary

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Nice job on the tale!

We always have so much fun when we are vacating. When can we go again? Huh? Huh? I wanna go!

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Thanks everyone for all the nice comments.


The video/slideshow version can be seen here.


This is my first attempt at a multimedia verion. I like how it turned out, except for how much smaller it must be for clearer images on Google. Guess I need to get some server space of my own.

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Nice story and pix, Joel.


We enjoyed visiting with you and Heidi, but I guess I missed something (wouldn't be the first time!). I know Jane and Heidi were talking about how the dogs are traveling in the bus, but I didn't realize they were right there with you! I would love to have met them!! dopeslap.gif


At least, how about some names to go with the "family portait"?

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At least, how about some names to go with the "family portait"?


L to R we call 'em Jack, Rodney and Cassidy. They have falutin' registered names and titles in the Team Schnauzer Media Guide.


We should have arranged an introduction dopeslap.gif, at least to Cassidy. She's our ambassador and loves everybody. We're aiming for Fall Torrey, and we still plan to tour northern California before too much longer. Maybe we'll get another chance.

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You are an awesome photographer and writer. I should be half as talented as you. Great pix-good composition and crystal clarity all around. Written word made me eager for more.


Great stuff! Pet the dogs for me, will ya?


Steve in So Cal

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That's high praise coming from the person I consider to be the Godfather of Ride Tales. I'm flattered.


I'm also remiss in crediting my collaborator, sweetheart and the best pillion I could imagine. Heidi took several of the pictures, and some of them were taken at speed.


And, it certainly doesn't hurt to have good subject matter for the landscape shots.


Consider the K9s petted. They send their regards to Willie. wave.gif

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