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Joe Frickin' Friday

OK, so here's Day 1 of the Ride Tale I promised. I didn't want to post just a photo album; some of the best ride tales tell a complete story, so I figured I'd take a shot at it. There's a poll at the end; if you like what you see, let me know and I'll continue with Day 2 and so on. FWIW, there will be many more pics (per day) for Day 2 and beyond.




Day 1: Saturday, May 12

Route: Ann Arbor, MI to Lincoln, NE

Distance: 780 miles





It's 7:25 in the morning. As I roll my bike to the bottom of the driveway and finish putting on my gear, the tension of the past few weeks is only just starting to fade away. Moto trips lately seem to be preceded by a lot more unease than in the past: I spend a lot of time playing “what if something awful happens far from home,” whether it's a crash, mechanical trouble, or illness. Friends have had major trips hobbled by all three, and I harbor no illusions about my invincibility. Lately, as the odometer on the RT has neared 120,000 miles, the mechanical reliability is becoming more and more of a concern; only seven days ago the bike lay in pieces as I replaced a gushing fork seal, and Shawn (with about 85K on the clock) nearly had his trip to Torrey scuttled a few days ago by a broken bolt in his cylinder head. And two nights ago I had a strange ABS fault that came out of nowhere. But Shawn got his bike together in time and has already reached Nashville; I got my bike together; washed and waxed for the first time in about a year; cleared the mystery ABS fault, and packed it up.


A strangely good omen: the RID clock ticks off 7:30 (my planned departure time) exactly as I hit the starter. A few seconds for the RPMs to stabilize, and I'm off. The unpleasant “what if” thoughts are replaced by a sense of relief and gentle enthusiasm at finally being under way. It's a chilly morning, low 50s, and I'm using most of gear, but no rain is forecast. The familiar sights of I-94 roll past as I make my way toward Chicago: mostly trees, a few farm fields, some small towns. I know in my mind I'm headed for Utah, but none of these sights factor into it yet: I've traveled to Chicago, Madison and Minneapolis so many times that this stretch of road is burned in my mind.


Still, the last stretch into Chicago inevitably builds up some tension. The highway changes to six lanes, traffic picks up, and forests and farmlands are replaced by a mish-mash of roads, buildings, and interchanges. I stop for gas halfway through the corner of Indiana, and put my brand new I-Pass in the tank bag window; I hope this thing works. Back on the highway, to do battle with Chicago highway traffic: lanes being added, deleted, traffic merging from every direction, left exits, all the oddities that make city driving so confusing and hazardous. This is a stressful place to drive, let alone ride, but there's really no good alternative here. Nevertheless, there's a smile creeping across my face. This is still familiar territory, but I know it's about to change. I zip through a single tollbooth on I-294, then take my exit to I-80 westbound toward Joliet. Suddenly I'm on a road I haven't ridden in three years; now every part of me knows I'm not going to Chicago, Madison, or Minneapolis.


I'm going to Torrey. :clap:


The dense traffic of Chicago immediately loosens up, but the buildings continue. In a few more years, Joliet will be swallowed up by the sprawling Chicago megalopolis. I have to ride several miles after crossing the Chicago River before the concrete jungle fades to suburbs, then farm fields with scattered housing subdivisions, and finally just farm fields. Dead flat farm fields, freshly planted; in a few months these stretches of bare dirt will be transformed into a vast ocean of edible greenery.


At Ottawa I stop for a quick lunch at Arby's, shed a few layers of clothing and continue west. The flat farmland slowly becomes rolling hills, and soon I round the corner at Moline and cross the Mississippi River into Iowa. Before leaving the outskirts of Davenport, I fuel up at a Flying J for the long ride across Iowa.


Did I say it was a long ride? It's not, really. In fact, Iowa is no wider than Colorado or Utah. It's just that it doesn't much change from one edge to the other, and the road is pretty much ram-rod straight. After a while you stop looking at the vastness of the scene, and start focusing on small details.


Navajo trucks, which I'd never seen before today. Their logo – a blue-eyed native-American woman – makes me laugh:






though I suspect that's not the effect they were after.


I remember the C.R. England trucking line from back when I was a kid going on cross-country camping vacations:





Always smartly painted, and clean as a whistle. I never used to see them around home (Madison WI and Minneapolis MN); long ago they became associated in my mind with the pleasures of summer family vacations.


The occasional farmhouse can be seen from the interstate. The overall effect is not as exalting as a mountain vista, but still, there's something satisfying about such pastoral scenes.


I reach Des Moines, round the northwest corner, and continue west. No lane changes, minimal traffic, and smooth pavement, all in stark contrast to Chicago. I squirt out of the city on the west side, feeling far less stressed than I did back at the south end of Lake Michigan.


I stop for gas in Casey. I'm only a half a mile from the interstate, but this is definitely rural Iowa: it's a one-pump town, and a massive grain elevator looms on the far side of the narrow main street.


As I continue west, there's a bit of wind: near Adair a massive wind turbine with a rotor maybe 150 feet in diameter is spinning along at a good clip, maybe 30 RPM. Coincidentally, in the eastbound lanes there's a truck approaching with a ridiculously long turbine blade in tow, perhaps 100 feet long. It's not even on a trailer, it simply is the trailer: the root of the blade is secured to a swiveling platform on the truck cab's fifth-wheel, and 100 feet to the rear, a wheeled undercarriage has been strapped to the blade's tip. A few minutes later there's a second, then a third truck, each bringing another blade.


An hour later, I've made it to the edge of Nebraska. From a highway traveler's perspective, Omaha/Council Bluffs is a lot more like Chicago than Des Moines. Heavy traffic and a confluence of maybe half a dozen multi-lane highways keeps me on my toes as I work to navigate safely through to the far side.


I've rolled over 700 miles by this point, and my body is getting a little tired and restless. But anticipation kicks in as the GPS counts off the last few miles to my exit on the west side of Lincoln. I pull off the highway into a truck stop to gas up before heading to the hotel. I feel a strange rumble as the RT rolls up to the pump. With a vague sense of dread, I put it up on the centerstand and spin the wheels, but I can't find anything wrong. Maybe I just imagined it? The RT's advanced age makes me paranoid. I tell myself there's no problem, that my body is just twitchy and itchy from a very long day in the saddle. Nonetheless, this paranoia will plague me for the rest of the trip.


I pick up a six-pack of Corona and putter off the last mile to the Super 8 motel. At check-in the clerk tells me the high today was 89 degrees; I thought it seemed warm. After bringing a few items up to the room I head back down to the bike to drink a beer and make a few phone calls. Twenty minutes later, Shawn rolls up; amazing timing, considering how long each of us has been on the road.


We head out for dinner, but keep it short: there's still a lot of work to do. Only two days ago, Shawn reinstalled the cylinder head on his engine after a disastrously timed problem with a broken bolt. Now, after 1000 miles on the road, it's time to retorque his RT's head nuts.


Back at the hotel after dinner, we strip the Tupperware off of Shawn's bike, but we have to wait for the engine to cool off. So we sit:





We pass the time, drinking beer and coke, reviewing the service manual on the laptop, and just sitting there. With the sun going down, it's actually quite nice to be outside.





After close to an hour, the engine still feels warm, but we're tired of waiting. Off comes the valve cover, and the four head nuts promptly get serviced. Shawn's brought a whole lot of extra tools to make this happen, but only based on my recollection of what's required for the job. As it turns out, my recollection is incomplete, and so we're missing the 3/8” ratchet extension needed to reach a very recessed M10 bolt. Suddenly I remember the truck stop a mile down the road, so I hop on my still-assembled RT and head out.


This is one of those rare occasions when I ride without gear (except for helmet); it's only a mile, so I'm wearing shorts, T-shirt, and sandals, and it feels nice physically, although mentally it's a little disconcerting. And I finally realize why my feet always get so hot in hot weather: it's not the sun hitting my black riding boots, it's raw heat coming off of the exhaust system! It's only about 70 degrees out, but my sandaled feet are uncomfortably warm!


At the truckstop, rather than buy a whole off-the-shelf toolkit, one of the on-duty truck mechanics agrees to lend me one of their ratchet extensions. But he can't get into his buddy's toolbox, where all the 3/8” ratchet accessories are. So we walk clear across the parking lot to his car, where he lends me a tool from his personal collection. Grateful for his having gone the extra mile, I hustle back to the hotel, where Shawn retorques the last troublesome bolt in about twenty seconds, and then I ferry the tool back to the truckstop. Back to the hotel again, and after a quick TB synch check, we put the RT's skirts back on and call it a night.



OK, so that's Day 1. How'd I do?


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Great story Mitch, I will say, I've never seen a

picture detract from a great story. Maybe one or two

more pictures wouldn't hurt. thumbsup.gif

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Keep it coming . . . GREAT writing, wonderful insights, and terrific vignettes of life on the road. Thanks!

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Good job, are you a professional writer?


Navajo is an old company name, going back into the 50's at least. Used to see a lot of them here in Indiana.

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The poll should have one more option:


Damn, who'd a thunk it? That boy can write too!!!


Great tale, well done! Like reading a pro's book!!!

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Joe Frickin' Friday
Navajo is an old company name, going back into the 50's at least.


Yeah, that's what I found out from their website after I got home; strange I don't remember ever seeing them before this trip. confused.gif


Thanks to all for the positive feedback. And thanks to the three folks honest enough to tell me I suck. tongue.gif unfortunately for you three, the rest want more, so I'll keep at it. Day 2 should be ready tomorrow. thumbsup.gif

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sTILL gOT tHAT Corona beer, brother ---?


I'm waitin'...(*toe tapping and looking from the floor to the ceiling - waiting --- waiting...) lurker.giflurker.gifdopeslap.gifdopeslap.giflurker.giflurker.gif

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Great stuff. Drinking my own beer and relaxing after an exhausting day of my own, mostly mentally, I have really enjoyed your post! More more more.

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Good stuff Mitch. smile.gif Writing is hard work; I have no visions of myself as a writer or photographer, but I write because I want to. Write lots or write little, but do it for yourself, and if others like it, great... thumbsup.gif


I guess I'm saying I wouldn't let anyone elses opinion shape whether or not I share my writing on this Board... thumbsup.gif



Steve in So Cal

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Joe Frickin' Friday

Day 2: Sunday, May 13

Route: Lincoln, NE to Louisville, CO

Distance: 502 miles





After enjoying a free continental breakfast (the first of many), Shawn and I gear up and head out. It's already warm, and it's going to get warmer, so I start off in my Phoenix jacket; it's a tad chilly once we hit the interstate, but I tough it out, and within twenty minutes I'm fine. Shawn is taking the opposite approach: he's perfectly comfortable right now in his Roadcrafter, but I know that by lunchtime he's going to be smoldering hot.


The first hour of riding is liquid-flat and laser-straight, passing by endless fields of fertile soil that stretch left and right to the horizon. As we cruise by, a funny thought occurs to me:


this is where we grow bread and corn syrup. :/


The interstate drones on until we come to the Platte River, and then meanders along the shallow river valley, occasionally crossing a tributary, or wandering back across the Platte River itself. The terrain is so smooth that the only way to tell where the river is is to look for the trees: there's not enough rain to support a real forest out on the prairie, but the waterlogged earth within 40 yards of the river is crowded with trees.


After 48 miles of this, we exit at Kearney. During a phone conversation the previous evening, my dad had recommended we stop by the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument:





The Wikipedia article about the Archway Monument describes it as “a museum of and monument to Nebraska's and the Platte River valley's role in westward expansion.” The article at Roadside America has a slightly more sarcastic take on things, making repeated reference to the history of people traveling through Nebraska, rather than to it. :grin:


The entire museum is contained in an elevated span over the highway, seen in the above photo. After paying admission, Shawn and I are handed a set of radio headphones; through some miracle of technology, each exhibit beams a new audio program to our headsets, completely squelching the signal from the previous exhibit. The audio programs are mostly narrations from period characters associated with whatever exhibit we're viewing.


We head up the long escalator to the lower level of the arch and encounter the first diorama, a covered wagon crossing the prairie toward a distant mesa:





Shawn offers words of encouragement to a pioneer woman struggling to keep her covered wagon moving:






The dioramas are so thorough and detailed that they even have cowshit under the wagons:





As much as we claim to tolerate hot, uncomfortable, or risky conditions on our motorcycle trips, we can't hold a candle to the people featured in the first exhibits. These are stories of real endurance, terrible hardship, outrageous success, utter failure. Families desperate for a better life take Horace Greeley's advice to heart and go west, choosing their route and preparations based on little more than apocryphal reports from those who have gone before them. Although many make it, a staggering number are felled by an awful array of calamity: disease, starvation, winter, hostile natives, accident (“my daughter was walking beside the wagon when her dress became caught under the wheel; before I could halt the contraption, her leg was run over and shattered to pieces...” ). Having no means to preserve the dead, standard practice was to bury departed loved ones on the spot and continue the voyage west, never to visit the gravesite again. Think about that for a moment.


The dioramas, artifacts and audio feed tell a compelling tale, but to me the photographs are even more moving. Unlike the dioramas and voice actors, these are photographs of real people who lived as much as 140 years ago, each with a real, years-long life story to tell. One photo is a close-in portrait of a girl, maybe 11 years old, with a faint smile. That smile seems to be a rare thing in photos from so long ago, and it catches my eye. She couldn't have known that over a century later, she would be called upon to help tell the story of this place. I later regret not having taken a picture of her portrait.


Continuing through the archway, the dioramas and exhibits progress through time, showing the establishment of small communities, trading posts, and towns along the main route. Various groups of travelers find their own motives for heading west: some are attracted by gold rushes, some flee religious persecution, and some folks are just looking for better farmland. At the south end of the arch, we climb up a set of stairs and begin traversing the upper level back to the north side. The exhibits describe the completion of the transcontinental railroad that now roughly parallels the interstate, and some decades later, the completion of the Lincoln Highway, the first coast-to-coast road. Soon after that, the culture of personal travel that arose with the advent of the automobile is chronicled. I'm struck by a philosophical observation from that time, and it seems to capture the mood on the road even today:





The museum continues with an account of the development of the Eisenhower Interstate System in the 1950s and ‘60s. All of the culture and business that develops to support and service travelers is featured in some detail, including the classic roadside diner:





Shawn's picture is timed perfectly, showing my reflection in the polished panel of the cash register. :thumbsup:


Inside the diner exhibit, a couple of windows finally give us a glimpse of I-80 below. Two radar guns target eastbound and westbound traffic. Quoting www.roadsideamerica.com: “We clock a procession of trucks, SUVs and cars and can see that thanks to the interstate, folks are traversing Nebraska faster than ever -- at 79, 78, 74, 82 mph.” :rofl:





After leaving the museum, we follow the precedent set by the people featured in those exhibits, continuing our westward progress at a rapid pace. The road seems flat and level, but ever since Lincoln, every few seconds, the GPS ticks off another foot of elevation gain; by the time we stop in Ogallala for lunch, we've climbed some 2000 feet. The climate and landscape has been changing too: it's hotter and drier, and crop fields have gradually been replaced by grazing lands, heavily irrigated hayfields, and cattle stations.


After lunch, a massive storm cell looms directly west of us. We are saved from a certain soaking when we exit onto I-76 and begin traveling southwest toward Denver. We climb out of the Platte river valley and cross into Colorado, and the terrain changes yet again. So does the speed limit: now we're cruising at 80+ MPH through a slow-motion rollercoaster of miles-long undulating hills covered with low sage and scrub. The slow climb continues; it's harder to detect now that the terrain isn't dead flat, but each hill brings us a little more up and a little less down. In 200 miles, we'll have gained another 2000 feet of elevation.


We stop at Brush for gas. The highway sign indicates fuel is available, but in a dirty trick of commerce, the first available station appears only after puttering for three hot, increasingly pissed-off miles on a business route that parallels the interstate. It's late in the day, we're hot and tired, and we're anxious to be done; a 25-minute fuel stop isn't what we had in mind. Worse yet, the station is in a grocery store parking lot, and the bathroom is 50 yards away, hidden somewhere inside that massive supermarket. I've gotta pee, but this town has gotten on my nerves, and we've already burned enough time. After we agree to saddle up and knock out the remaining miles, Shawn and I thread our way back up to the interstate.


Around milepost 68, my mood brightens considerably; we are treated to the first glimpse of what we came for as we crest a hill and the vast Front Range of the Rocky Mountains comes into view. Still 70 miles away, the peaks tower above the plains. The distance renders them hazy, but their dark base and sharp snow crest are unmistakable.


The next half-hour rolls off with a much better feeling, and after about 40 miles we hit a turning point. Instead of going all the way to Denver and then north to my sister's house in Louisville (just south of Boulder), we get off the interstate at exit 25 and head west on SR7. It's a shorter distance this way, but with slower speeds. The time ends up being the same as via Denver, but the regular traffic lights occasionally allow us to briefly unload our saddles and stretch our legs. We're still 30 miles west of the mountains, but already we're surrounded by dense suburban development, housing subdivisions, strip malls and traffic, the edge of the Denver sprawl.


After slogging our way through the remaining 25 miles, we arrive at my sister's house in Louisville, where we're promptly recruited to help assemble and position a brand new kitchen table, described in the shipping paperwork as “less than 200 kilograms.” Judging by the way the store's two delivery guys are grunting and straining as they bring the box into the house, it's not much less than that. But with four adults (me, Shawn, my sister and her husband) instead of two, it's a piece of cake. After a half-hour's work, it's over – a small price to pay for free lodging and time spent with my sister and her family.


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Good job Mitch, you describe Nebraska perfectly. We've passed through there numerous times in the past couple of years on our way west. and it's all up hill. I had been tempted to try coasting on the way back. Thanks for stopping at the arch. We never took the time on our quest to get through Nebraska. I'll make it a point to stop when we go that way again later this summer, it looks interesting.

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Joe Frickin' Friday

Day 3: Monday, May 14

Route: Louisville To/From Pikes Peak

Distance: 262 miles





Within a few minutes of each other, Shawn and I both wander into the kitchen around 6:30, wide awake. Our bodies are still in the eastern time zone, so as far as we're concerned, we feel pretty much like we slept in until 8:30. After a light breakfast and a long, lazy cup of coffee, we gear up and head south on McCaslin Boulevard. Passing through the town of Superior, a banner has been hung across the street: “SUPERIOR DAYS – MAY 19.” If you don't know the name of the town, it just sounds like a street party for smugly arrogant people. Within a couple of miles the housing developments thin out to nothing, and we turn west on SR128. I can't help but smile: laid out before us are nothing but gentle curves carrying us across rolling hills and hollows, all with the rugged Front Range just a few miles to our west. The Front Range had record snowfalls last winter and heavy rains this spring, so the ground everywhere is covered with lush green grass and speckled with wildflowers. The air is cool and calm, a bright sun shines on our backs from a cloudless, deep blue sky: this is our prize after 1300 miles of flat, hot, windy, straight interstate riding. It's not rock-and-roll twisties through towering mountains, but the Mary-Poppins scenery, low temperature, and gentle sweepers feels soooo good, like a cool shower after a long hot day of yardwork. Traffic picks up when we turn south on the Foothills Parkway (SR93), but the scenery continues even as we pass through Golden. After a short stint on SR470, we reach our exit for US285; we slither through traffic as a steep, four-lane slalom directs us west into the mountains.


20 miles later, we leave the four-lane stuff behind and cut south on SR126. The road snakes along and down a tree-lined hillside, then meanders through a broad valley. Fresh pavement takes us through third-gear turns up a narrow ravine again; after winding along at high elevation for a few more miles, the road widens and descends rapidly for several miles. Two oncoming lanes and broad sweepers permit a view far into the distance as we arc down the mountain at around 80 mph.


At Woodland Park, Pikes Peak finally comes into view:





With partly cloudy skies, we're looking forward to the climb, but we need lunch first. We stop for some Mexican food; I learned a while ago from Shawn that it's hard to go wrong with Mexican. :thumbsup:


After lunch, the switchbacked approach to the summit (“The W's”) is still visible, but clouds are starting to gather and thicken around the peak:





We put on warmer gear and head out. The climb up Pikes Peak is a toll road; when we stop at the tollbooth near Cascade, the attendant is concerned about us proceeding on bikes, citing muddy conditions. She radios the staff at the summit for their opinion, and they give the go-ahead. We're off.


The first several miles of the road are paved and twisty, and we enjoy a sporting ascent, although the altitude is finally having a major impact. We've been well above 5,000 feet ever since we left Lousville, but now we're above 8,000 feet and climbing rapidly. The engine has only 75 percent of its normal sea-level power available, and by the time we reach the summit, it will be less than 60 percent. Not only that, but engine braking is reduced to a similar degree. This screws up my approach to turns, and even plays havoc with my upshifts: I have to wait a split second longer before letting the clutch out after the shift in order to match revs. During a couple of stops, the engine idles extremely low and rough, gasping for enough air to stay alive; launches from a standing start invariably bog the engine.


At around 10K feet, the paved road turns to dirt; simultaneously graupel begins falling from a rapidly darkening sky. We stop to put on warmer gear, knowing it will be much colder at the summit. One or two lightning flashes appear in the general direction of the summit, much to our distress, but it's still pretty distant. We agree that if the lightning continues or it starts to rain, we'll bail, but for now we decide to continue the ascent.


The unpaved road surface isn't too bad, just a few small potholes and washboards. But there are numerous switchbacks, and they're extremely tight. These would be snappy first gear U-turns if we were on pavement, but with muddy gravel that terminates at a sharp cliff, these call for first gear at a snail's pace. This is challenging enough in a powered vehicle on a graded road, but just like the pioneers crossing Nebraska, I wonder about the fortitude and physical toughness of the men climbing this peak 200 years ago, on foot, without benefit of roads or engines.


Thankfully there's no more lightning and no rain. We finally reach the summit:









The road is plowed, but there are thick snow berms everywhere, and it's cold, probably in the upper 30s. Shawn and I wander around taking pictures, breathing deliberate deep breaths to stave off “the tinglies.” I don't know how the people staffing the gift shop up here can stand it for hours on end. Shortly after our arrival, an elderly woman in obvious distress is hauled out of the gift shop in a wheel chair, breathing supplemental oxygen, and is helped into a service vehicle for a quick ride down to a more hospitable elevation.


On the east side of the gift shop, the view extends past the Front Range, past Colorado Springs, all the way down to the hot, dry plain that runs clear to Kansas. Heavy storm clouds that have only recently blown off of the mountain obscure the sky.


A monument to Zebulon Pike, for whom this mountain was named:





The end of the line for the cog rail:





The toothed rack centered between the rails is engaged by a powered cogwheel on the locomotive, enabling the train to climb unsettlingly steep grades that would be impossible for normal trains that rely on the steel-on-steel friction of their smooth wheels. God have mercy on the passengers if the cogwheel lets go... :eek:


Struggling to compose a shot while drawing enough breath to stay conscious:





By this time we've spent maybe half an hour on the summit, and the novelty of the cold, thin air is wearing off. I'm getting chilly, and I've got a headache; Shawn isn't feeling so hot either. It's time to go. We stumble back to the parking lot, where our venerable iron horses await the descent:




Minutes after leaving, we encounter a road grader approaching in our lane, erasing potholes and washboards. We stop, waiting for him to stop or pull to his right. He does neither, and it's not clear to me that he sees us. With some urgency we pull into the left lane. An oncoming car is creeping past the grader, but when he sees us he stops. The gap opens up and we squeeze between car and grader, continuing downwards.


On the straightaways it's fun to spin the rear wheel loose in second gear and even build up some speed, provided you get on the brakes long before you reach any turns. People at scenic overlooks, already baffled at the sight of heavy touring motorcycles winding down the mountain side, widen their eyes further as the RT fishtails up to speed on the straights, the engine revving irregularly as the wheel breaks loose and spins out of synch with the road. Eventually we're back on pavement, and at Crystal Lake we stop for a bit and strip off some layers. After leaving the tollroad, we work our way back up SR126. The long, three-lane ascent amuses me: back home you could climb a hill like this at whatever speed you wanted, but here, WOT in fifth gear barely holds 75 MPH. Later on, in the tightly winding 2-lane stretch, we run up on a couple of dirt-hauler semis. Clearly they're empty, moving at a spritely pace and accelerating rapidly out of corners. They're also not interested in being passed: when a brief opportunity presents itself, I make a dash for it, and get past the first one. Although there's plenty of room to spare, several seconds after I complete my pass, the offended truck driver lays on his horn for a good ten seconds. A minute later, Shawn makes the pass and joins me; the trucker is more immediate with his horn this time. Sandwiched between two semis – one of whom seems to be irrationally angry at us – we take the earliest opportunity to pass the lead truck, who lets us by with no protest.


A mile later we're behind a pickup towing a large flatbed trailer. This guy has the opposite problem: with oncoming traffic plainly in view, he tries to wave us past. We hold back for better opportunity, finally passing him with a few miles left before our turn back onto US285.


After refueling in Shaffers Crossing, we retrace the rest of our route back to Lousville. Back at my sister's house, after relaxing for an hour or two, Shawn and I are looking forward to our dinner engagement with his cousin Dot and her boyfriend Mark, but there's an ominous storm system approaching. My sister lends us her car, and we depart for Boulder under torrential rains, hail, and lightning, thankful to be on four wheels instead of two. The weather calms before we reach Pearl Street, and we walk up the pedestrian mall to a pizzeria/brewpub, where Dot and Mark are waiting for us. Over good food and beer, Shawn and his cousin catch up on their past. There's much talk of their famed great-Aunt Dot Robinson, and we all regale each other with stories of motorcycle travel.


Shawn and his cousin, among the flowers and rocks of Pearl Street Mall:




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SUPERIOR DAYS – MAY 19.” If you don’t know the name of the town, it just sounds like a street party for smugly arrogant people




beautiful pics

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“SUPERIOR DAYS – MAY 19.” If you don’t know the name of the town, it just sounds like a street party for smugly arrogant people.


You sure you didn't forego a BMW rally?


(ok, where's that self-effacing emoticon?)




Great writing, Mitch. Too bad you've already got a career. You could do well as a travel writer.

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Awesome pictures and story. The adventurous spirit is what makes it interesting to read. Most would have bypassed the summit with the approaching weather and would never have seen the cog rail system or the monument to Mr. Pike. I will try and climb Mt. Washington on the Airhead this summer and will take pictures of that insane rail system.


I loved the link describing Aunt Dot. What a lady!


Messing around with altitudes above 10,000 for any length of time is no joke unless you have planned and trained your body for it. You really felt the onset very quickly above the 14,000 mark. In flight school they put us in a low pressure chamber and brought us to a physiological altitude of 25,000. We had toys and notebook paper with us and were instructed to do the easiest of tasks like writing our names and putting the shapes in the correct holes. It didn't go well. Within minutes some were just plained out of it. Others lasted a couple more but that was it.


Glad that you reailzed it and came down before it got any worse.

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Paul Mihalka

Great story telling and you are not even in Torrey yet! thumbsup.gif

High altitude is a serious thing. In 196x we: myself, my wife (previous), my brother and sister in law, drove up the Nevado del Ruiz in Colombia in a Mercedes 220, end of road at around 14.800 feet. We all did crazy things. I repeatedly started the car up hill but forgot to put it in first gear. My wife got crying attacks. My brother, a very steady guy, was raising hell with everybody. My sister in law, a very experienced photographer, put a already exposed film back into her Rolleiflex.

The last few years I was a couple of times up Mt. Evans (14.xxx feet) and, except for being careful and moving very slowly, was fine. Or, as I was alone, may be I just had nobody around telling me that I am doing stupid things grin.gif

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Glad that you reailzed it and came down before it got any worse.


I had a bit of an issue when while purchasing a t-shirt at the store at the summit, I realized I didn't have my wallet with me but had instead left if on the bike. I "hurried" at a quick pace out to get the wallet and regretted that pace in very short order! I swear I almost passed out. crazy.gif The Irony of this small mistake? The shirt had in big letters on the front "Got Oxygen?"



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Keep dragging it out, Mitch, that way I won't be the last person to post my Torrey thread smile.gif

I still have not gone through all of the 1500 pictures Christine took eek.gif


Great read so far!

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Keep dragging it out, Mitch, that way I won't be the last person to post my Torrey thread smile.gif

I still have not gone through all of the 1500 pictures Christine took eek.gif


Great read so far!


And I thought I took a lot of pictures lmao.gif ... I only had about 500. bncry.gif

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Joe Frickin' Friday

Day 4: Tuesday, May 15

Route: Louisville To/From Golden, Coors brewery

Distance: 121 miles





As before, Shawn and I are up early. But it's a short riding day today, so we laze around, drinking coffee and surfing the internet, checking email and burning time here on BMWST. Around mid-morning we finally suit up and head north on US36 to Boulder. Golden is the opposite direction, but if we went straight there and back, it would be a 40-mile day on mellow roads we had ridden only yesterday. So we opt for a more circuitous route that will take us through new territory.


Only a mile up US36, we come over the top of Davidson Mesa and see a fantastic sight that was obscured by foul weather during last night's dinner trip: the city of Boulder, spread out on the plain below, dwarfed by the height of the Rockies just to the west. To our left, the Flatirons pierce the earth from below like giant shark's teeth and recline against the Front Range. The razor-sharp dividing line in this area between “plains” and “mountains” is always amazing to me, every time I see it. Sure, the Great Plains gradually rise up as you go west toward Denver and Boulder, but the truly jagged terrain – with road grades that slow heavily-laden semis to a crawl – don't begin at all until you reach the western edge of those cities.


After descending into Boulder proper, we turn left on SR119, AKA “Canyon Boulevard.” It's just another city road at this point, but after quietly navigating through two miles of traffic, the road lives up to its name, and we are delivered into Boulder Canyon for a 15-mile uphill toboggan run to Nederland, with Boulder creek on our left for the entire way. The canyon walls are steep and rocky, but huge trees manage to find purchase in seemingly impossible places, filling the air with an exalting, cool pine scent. Occasionally the hillside has been knocked away to make room for the road, leaving a cliff or even a slight overhang just to the right of the white fog line; left turns generally afford good sight lines and we eagerly power through, but those cliffs consistently render right turns blind, leading to the familiar frustration of not being able to nail the throttle until we're nearly onto the straight after the turn is over. Still, it's undeniably fun, and having only had one day in the mountains so far, the scenery is still thrilling.


There aren't many roundabouts in the United States, but “The Ned” has one; SR119 loops us around it and turns south, switchbacking up and down across the peaks of the Front Range. Shawn and I traveled this road together in 2003 and 2004, first with Ron and then with Rainy and Eebie. Since that time the mountain weather has taken its toll: in most places now the road is grotesquely distorted and frost-heaved, its pavement cracked and crumbling, badly in need of replacement. Sand is still present from winter, though in most places the traffic has moved it to the shoulder or the centerline.


In only 13 miles we turn west on SR46. This is our first time ever on 46; someone here posted a video of their ride on this road a couple of years ago, and it's piqued my interest ever since. I was not let down: this is a fantastic twisty road that seems to spend most of its time clinging tightly to one steep grassy hillside or another, eventually winding down to the foothills parkway just north of Golden, with the last hard turn only a half mile from the stoplight. Despite the tight, twisty nature of the road, the vistas somehow afford a pretty good view. Part of this may be the lack of trees, a big change from the pine-laden run up Boulder Canyon.


Upon reaching Golden, Shawn and I remark to each other through the FRS about what a great road it was. A second later I add “...and then, we get to tour a beer factory!” :grin: True enough: the Coors brewery is only 1.5 miles away.


We park in their remote lot and take their shuttle bus to the factory. As the tour guide checks us in, he sees we're riders and mentions his plans to moto-tour Michigan's UP with friends in the near future.


Before the tour proper begins, we're primed with the history of the company. Antique bottles and cans are on display along with pictures of horse-drawn beer delivery wagons, dating back to the late 1800s when the company was started. The Coors Company is a true American success story, the "American Dream" writ as large as possible; this is the reason people all over the world still want to come to America. Adolph Kuhrs came to this country from Prussia as a 21-year-old orphan; by the time he was 27, he had established the brewery at Golden and was selling beer under his name. The company is still mostly family-owned, and I wonder what Adolph would think to see that 135 years after he started it, his descendants had nurtured his little brewing operation into the largest single-site brewery in the world.


Having grown used to tours and video footage of things like car factories, there's surprisingly little to a brewery; making beer just isn't that complicated. What is impressive is the staggering, monumental scale of the operation: shortly after the tour begins we visit a vast array of 20-foot-diameter copper kettles with towering chimneys housed in a cavernous room, and it reminds me of the great Dwarf hall of Moria in the first Lord of The Rings movie:





There are only a couple of other steps involved, including fermenting and filtering. But again, at each of these steps, the sheer magnitudes involved blow my mind.


In the last step of the tour, we are shown the packaging process. From the tour gallery, the room is so big that one camera shot can't cover it all:










With the tour over, we relax in their hospitality suite, where we are offered free beer. Shawn samples a wheat brew, but I turn down my allotment; the tour was great, but unfortunately Coors is unkind to my palate.


We walk back out to the parking lot shuttle, past one of the original copper brew kettles from the earliest days of operation:





After riding the tour bus back to the parking lot, we walk into town to find some lunch. The first bar we come across has a decent menu in the window. Comically, it's surrounded by nothing but Coors signs; I guess we shouldn't have expected anything else only a couple of blocks from the brewery.


Back the same way we came: up 46 and 119 to Nederland, and then back down to Boulder. But before going back to Lousville, I take Shawn up Flagstaff Road. Back in 2000 my ex-girlfriend and I were on a X-country trip on the RT, and we accidentally went up this road instead of Boulder Canyon. The road eventually turned to dirt and after being hopelessly lost for a while, she and I finally stumbled out onto the north/south portion of 119. But I remembered the views from the top of paved portion of this road, and that was why Shawn and I came up it this time: clear vistas of Boulder and the rest of the flatlands laid out far below us. After taking in the sights, we wind our way back down and return to Louisville.


Later Shawn heads back to Golden to have dinner with a friend from high school. My sister, her husband and I head to Boulder for a quiet dinner together, while their kids are off doing their own thing.


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Right in my backyard when I grew up.


Surprised that they let you take pictures in the brewery. On a recent tour in St. Louis, AB prohibited taking ANY pictures inside!


Great ride tale. Please continue. thumbsup.gif

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