Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Joe Frickin' Friday

My Torrey Odyssey

Should Joe Keep Writing?  

471 members have voted

You do not have permission to vote in this poll, or see the poll results. Please sign in or register to vote in this poll.

Recommended Posts

SC_SVRider
My sadness is finally tempered by thoughts of past Torreys and warm memories of Gleno’s presence; and I head off to bed with a smile.

 

Amen Brother....

 

+1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Bill_Walker
Just fyi, if a particular credit card fraud usage flag is causing you problems you can usually call your credit card issuer and they can make a note in your account to ignore it. This has worked for me in the past.
In this case it is a Chevron policy not a CC thing, it can be changed but I've lost the number of the lady in the Chevron HQ that can do it, sorry.

 

Shell does it, too. Annoys the #@#$#@ out of me.

 

Great tale, Mitch! Better than most of the touring stories in the magazines!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
SageRider
...the effect is a bit like having two people walk into a prayer service yelling and screaming at each other. ...

 

That would have been me on the Tuono and Sammy on the S3.

 

 

Russell & Sammy walking into a prayer service yelling and screaming at each other. Yep, no problem at all coming up with that mental picture. crazy.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
russell_bynum
Russell & Sammy walking into a prayer service yelling and screaming at each other. Yep, no problem at all coming up with that mental picture. crazy.gif

 

thumbsup.gif

 

Someone's got to play "bad cop" to all you goodie goodie's. thumbsup.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lone_RT_rider
Russell & Sammy walking into a prayer service yelling and screaming at each other. Yep, no problem at all coming up with that mental picture. crazy.gif

 

thumbsup.gif

 

Someone's got to play "bad cop" to all you goodie goodie's. thumbsup.gif

 

Says the IT guy! eek.gifdopeslap.giflmao.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
russell_bynum
Says the IT guy! eek.gifdopeslap.giflmao.gif

 

grin.gif

 

Lisa just pointed out: a beautiful, quiet, serene vista of a peaceful mountain lake being shattered by a pair of big-bore exotic sportbikes nose to tail cooking full-tilt boogie with the pipes screaming...it's exactly how Gleno would have wanted it. cool.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
russell_bynum

By the way, Mitch:

This is turning out to be an absolutely first-rate ride tale. Keep it coming!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
bakerzdosen
Just fyi, if a particular credit card fraud usage flag is causing you problems you can usually call your credit card issuer and they can make a note in your account to ignore it. This has worked for me in the past.
In this case it is a Chevron policy not a CC thing, it can be changed but I've lost the number of the lady in the Chevron HQ that can do it, sorry.

 

Shell does it, too. Annoys the #@#$#@ out of me.

I've just always had good success switching cards every gas stop. I had the problem once and haven't had it since. (Knock on wood). For some reason if you go 500mi between gas stops as opposed to 250mi, it doesn't set off anyone's flags - regardless of how much you spend on fuel. (Meaning, you'd think if I'm putting 5 gallons of fuel on my card every 3.5 hours that they could figure out that it's roughly the same as 15 gallons every 7 hours... but no.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ron_B

Mitch, that was one hell of a great ride tale. As I read it, I kept having flashbacks of the ride to Torrey in '03. Riding those mountain passes after we left your sister's place in Denver, meeting Limecreek for the first time in Arches, the sweepers on 95, Bryce...

 

Uh-oh, I'm getting a little misty here... blush.gif

 

You've got talent for telling a story.

 

Thanks my friend! thumbsup.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
norah
By the way, Mitch:

This is turning out to be an absolutely first-rate ride tale. Keep it coming!

 

thumbsup.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Joe Frickin' Friday
Mitch, that was one hell of a great ride tale.

 

Thanks Ron, but past tense don't cut it. I'm not done yet; there's still four days left. cool.gif I'm slowing down, but I really want to finish this. I remember the highlights of past trips, but the little details, moments, and thoughts/feelings that made up every day of those adventures have faded somewhat over time. In the same way that photographs help us to remember a few moments here and there, I want to put my experiences from this trip down in words before the sharpness and clarity of it all disappears.

 

I've been posting a trip day about every other day now, but the next trip day likely won't be up until early next week. Sorry...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Timmer

Hey Mitch - I'll second Ron's comment and look forward to the next 4 installments. thumbsup.gif

 

I know what you mean about writing it down - although I picked up an idea from David last year. Use a voice recorder and take a minute or two during the gas stops, or at the lookouts, to just "jot down" some thoughts. Between the recordings and the photos it really helps those of us (not you of course) whose memory banks aren't what they used to be. grin.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ron_B
Mitch, that was one hell of a great ride tale.

 

Thanks Ron, but past tense don't cut it. I'm not done yet; there's still four days left.

 

 

clap.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
DavidEBSmith

I've just always had good success switching cards every gas stop. I had the problem once and haven't had it since. (Knock on wood). For some reason if you go 500mi between gas stops as opposed to 250mi, it doesn't set off anyone's flags - regardless of how much you spend on fuel. (Meaning, you'd think if I'm putting 5 gallons of fuel on my card every 3.5 hours that they could figure out that it's roughly the same as 15 gallons every 7 hours... but no.)

 

My understanding is that it's a time + amount thing - multiple small pay-at-the-pump purchases within a short time. So if you ride at a more leisurely pace or have a large gas tank, it's less likely to trigger it. That's why rotating the cards works - each card sees a purchase less often.

 

To avoid this problem on the last Iron Butt Rally I used 4 credit cards in rotation. That meant that with the fuel cell, I was hitting each card no more than once a day. No problems.

 

Gas company cards also sometimes have a hard limit on the number of times you can use them at pay-at-the-pump during the same day. The limit can be 3 or 4 times, and people have reported that the customer service reps can't override it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Joe Frickin' Friday

Day 9 - Sunday, May 20

Route: Torrey to Montrose

Distance: 540 miles

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-115.jpg

 

 

For the second time so far, I'm blessed with a non-continental breakfast. The General Store doesn't have the same delectable marmalade bear-claws that I had yesterday morning, but the runners-up do not disappoint. These aren't the tiny, dried-out, powdered-sugar donuts gathered from a plastic bin with a pair of chocolate-crudded tongs in the breakfast area of a Super8; no, here at the Chuckwagon, I indulge my sweet tooth with a blueberry-and-cream-cheese danish and a cherry turnover. Yum. :) It's a fitting end to my stay here.

 

I walk outside and grab a seat at one of the tables in front of the General Store. Soon Shawn comes out with his own breakfast haul, and we talk about our plans for the remainder of the trip. Rainy of course will be driving back to Salt Lake City to catch a flight back to South Carolina later today, and Shawn, with very limited vacation time, needs to quickly ride back there too. The last two times we came out here, he made a beeline for I-70 and then shot home to Michigan – 1700 miles – in just two days. Now that he's living in South Carolina, he's got to go a little further – 2000 miles – and it makes more sense to split it up into two and a half days. Me, I can't ride like that; no way in hell could I do two days from Torrey back to Ann Arbor. My longest single day ever was 860 miles, but I just can't conceive of doing two of those back-to-back. Thankfully, I don't need to, since I have plenty of vacation time available; just like my previous two times out here, I plan to take a scenic two-day route back to my sister's place before spending two more days on the interstate to get back to Michigan. As it happens, this morning Shawn and I both plan to ride out through Hanksville – he'll go north from there to the interstate, and I'll go south – so we agree to travel that far together.

 

Shawn finishes his breakfast and offers goodbyes and parting hugs to some of the folks nearby. And suddenly I'm in a hard place. Goodbyes have always been somewhat awkward for me, but today it's going to be even more difficult. I've got mountains of physical and mental effort invested in this odyssey, and it carries great emotional significance too: I know saying goodbye too many times won't just leave me choked up, it'll leave me unable to speak or function at all. I finally finish my coffee and quietly slink back over to the bikes and the hotel room.

 

With the bikes finally packed up and the room empty, I button up my jacket. All that's left is earplugs, helmet, and gloves, and now it's finally time for these awful goodbyes hugs, first with Shawn and then with Rainy. The hugs mark the end of my stay here, the beginning of the long journey home. Before Rainy and I let go there's a massive lump in my throat, and my eyes are beginning to flood.

 

Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

 

But I can't smile right now, this is too immediate, too raw. A mix of thoughts swirls around in my brain:

 

I'm leaving my good friends.

I'm leaving this beautiful place.

Gleno's gone.

My trip's almost over.

When will I make it back here? Another three years?

 

Tears stream down my face as I work my earplugs into place and try to maintain my composure; I want to ride out of here in a few minutes, not an hour from now. Putting my helmet on changes things a bit: my entire head is gently hugged, sounds become even more muffled, and the cheek pads are just visible at the edge of my field of view. Like Pavlov's dog, those familiar stimuli blot out some of the sadness and focus my attention on riding. While Shawn gets ready, I spend a couple of minutes just sitting on the bike, breathing, further calming myself down with thoughts of the day's journey ahead of me.

 

Finally we start the bikes and carefully back them up across the gravel a few feet before turning around to go. And then it's like a parade, waving to everyone we see as we cross the lot and round the corner in front of the General Store onto Main Street. A half-mile later as we pass by the Days Inn, several riders are standing by their machines, making preparations for their own departures. With a long blast of the horns, Shawn and I catch the attention of Drew and Knappy and we all trade a final long goodbye wave.

 

As we climb up the first hill and descend the far side toward Capitol Reef, Torrey disappears in my mirrors and suddenly the sadness comes roaring back. My vision is getting blurred with tears and I'm taking deep forceful breaths to try to keep this emotional dam from bursting. How can someone cry when they're riding a motorcycle? My own emotions surprise me now and then; sometimes they seem downright melodramatic, but I can't deny their reality. “Parting is such sweet sorrow?” Sweet sorrow, my ass: leaving Torrey and all these people behind just hurts. :cry:

 

After a minute or so the sadness stops pushing so hard, and I calm down and get back to the business of piloting the bike down the road. I close my eyelids hard, crushing them together to wring out this blurry wall of water in my field of view. My helmet's cheekpads are wet; you'd think I just sweated my way down the Vegas strip. Like riding out of a rainstorm into sunny weather, my mood gradually improves as the miles go by.

 

Shawn and I make our way through Capitol Reef toward Hanksville. This time through, the sun is in our eyes, and there are no clouds, a far cry from four days ago. The rocks look different this way, some of them in deep shadow, others brightly aglow with direct sunlight. The sculpting of the rocks in this place by the weather will forever blow my mind; it's amazing to think that wind, water, and sun, applied ad infinitum, can eventually arrive at such beautiful and varied results.

 

Eventually we arrive at Hanksville, and after stopping for a moment to exchange one last gloved handshake, we cleave onto our separate paths: Shawn continues north on SR24, and I turn south on SR95.

 

While cruising on the long straight stretch several miles south of Hanksville, I encounter a woman walking along the shoulder, also going south. She's nicely dressed, like maybe she just came from church, but there's no church – or indeed any civilization of any kind – within miles of where we are, or where we're going. I can't sort out where she came from, or where she's headed. :S She never looks over her shoulder at me, or gives any indication of distress or desire for transport; she's just walking. A few miles later, I set my puzzlement aside so I can concentrate on the canyon sweepers ahead.

 

Halfway through the canyon, I stop for a break at the Hog Springs rest area. There's a footbridge that crosses a small stream and a trail on the far side that leads into a side canyon, away from the road. I walk across the footbridge and up the canyon just a little bit. The air is calm, and it's dead silent here; the stream isn't even burbling. I'm completely alone in this magnificent place. It's the inverse of a mountain vista: I'm surrounded on all sides by redrock walls a hundred feet high, unable to see more than a quarter of a mile in any direction. I'm alone, but not lonely; this is not at all like being holed up in a motel room. I don't have moments like this very often, and it's been a long time since the last one. I used to have them on backpacking trips with my parents: I'd wander half a mile away from our camp – already miles from the nearest stranger – and just spend my time sitting still, watching, listening, trying to absorb as much of the place as I possibly could. Nearly two years ago on my honeymoon Masako and I did a short hike in Bryce Canyon, and in one of the shelters there, I found a quote from Thoreau that comes very near to expressing the feeling:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-116-L.jpg

 

 

After a few minutes a faint, distant howl echoes off of the canyon walls and into my ears. It's a bike, 4 cylinders, coming down SR95 through the canyon. The sound grows louder, clearer, and finally a K1200RS, blue and white, rounds the last corner and comes into view. The rider does a double-take when he sees my opal-blue RT parked in the lot, and stares for a couple of seconds as he passes the parking area at speed. I stand on the footbridge and watch him pass. Neither of us waves; he's busy navigating around a curve, and I'm kind of dumbfounded at having just been shaken out of my moment by the arrival of another human being. Certainly he was at Torrey, but I can't tell who it is. Part of me is happy to see someone I probably know, but another part of me is irritated at the intrusion into my moment of quiet isolation. That's what I get for not venturing farther from the road, I guess. :P

 

I finally walk to the bike and gear up. For the first time in this entire trip, I have an urge to listen to some music while I ride. The Bean (my MP3 player) is packed with an eclectic mixture – Alanis Morrisette, John Hiatt, Yes, Proclaimers and Lenny Kravitz, to name a few – but there's only one album I can think of that I want to listen to for the next 100 miles:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-117-L.jpg

 

 

The desert-inspired poetry of U2's “The Joshua Tree” has been playing in my mind since the start of the trip, and this finally feels like the right time for it. I cue it up and turn the ignition key on; the Autocom fades in and reveals the gentle, deep swirling organ chords that open “Where the Streets Have No Name.” The Edge starts his guitar arpeggios; I start the engine, idle for a bit, and back the bike up. The arpeggios dissolve into a high, driving tempo and drum beat as I launch out of the wayside and work my way up through the gears to slalom speed:

 

I want to run

I want to hide

I want to tear down the walls that hold me inside

I want to reach out, and touch the flame

Where the streets have no name

 

I rocket past the Hite Overlook, and down that famous stretch of road, carved through solid rock, that most of us know from BMWST t-shirts:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-118.jpg

 

 

As I cross the broad flat spaces between towering cliffs and mesas, The Bean dutifully cues up song after song:

 

“With or Without You.”

 

“Bullet the Blue Sky.”

 

"Running to Stand Still.”

 

“Red Hill Mining Town.”

 

Finally I hear “In God's Country,” and with its impassioned (if slightly cryptic) lyrics and layers of frenetic, distant guitar, it hits me like a sacred anthem for this place:

 

Desert sky

Dream beneath a desert sky

The rivers run but soon run dry

We need new dreams tonight

 

Desert rose

Dreamed I saw a desert rose

Dress torn in ribbons and in bows

Like a siren she calls to me

 

Sleep comes like a drug

In God's Country

Sad eyes, crooked crosses

In God's Country

 

All through the trip, birds have been playing a game of chicken with me, sometimes making me duck when I think they're going to hit my head. Finally, somewhere just west of Blanding, one of them misjudges distance and speed and strikes the RT's fairing with a loud thwack. In my mirror I see him tumbling dead into the oncoming lane. For the next few miles I check my hands and the dashboard for any signs that the oil cooler might have been punctured. Thankfully (for me at least) it seems he hit the painted fairing instead.

 

U2 fades quietly away with “Mothers of the Disappeared” as I continue rapidly among the sage and scrub and rocks. The Bean silently calls up the next album in its list; I'm jarred by the sudden mood change that comes with the apocalyptic 80's new wave of Peter Schilling (think “Major Tom”). :P

 

Finally I reach Blanding and stop in town for gas. It's finally starting to warm up a bit, so I take off my long-sleeved shirt before heading out again. Cruising 20 miles north on US191, I pass through Monticello, where US491 runs in from the east. It used to be called US666, but it was changed in 2003; not only did some people not like the satanic route number very much, but some people did like it so much that they were stealing the road signs on a regular basis. :/

 

I continue 15 miles north of Monticello before turning left to head for the “Needles” district of Canyonlands National Park. Three years ago when I left Torrey, I visited the “Island in the Sky” district (and Dead Horse Point State Park) near Moab and was duly impressed; that was why I wanted Shawn to see that area four days ago. This time, I have an opportunity to check out a different area of the park. After turning off onto SR211, the road moves me approximately southwest in three straight, flat sections for about 10 miles before suddenly squiggling down into a narrow canyon, only a tenth of a mile wide with walls 300 feet high. The canyon continues north for about four miles, passing by Newspaper Rock, before the canyon widens and the walls break up into isolated projections and mesas. The cliffs are now half a mile away on either side of me, but occasionally there is a massive boulder the size of a house right next to the road. Falling from those high cliffs, they must have tremendous energy to roll and bounce so far away like this.

 

It's open range country: no fences to keep livestock away from the road. In the middle of a long straight, a herd of maybe eight horses has congregated right in my lane. I slow to a crawl and move into the oncoming lane to pass around them. They watch me intently as I squeeze by, but otherwise they seem totally unfazed by my presence. Instead, I'm the one who's intimidated: if any one of these massive animals gets defensive, it wouldn't be hard for them to knock me off of my bike and ruin my day.

 

After a few more miles the cliff on the left has disappeared, folding back out of sight behind itself, and the road curves west into Canyonlands. After paying my entrance fee, I park at the visitor center to take a break and examine the park map. In the bathroom, I overhear a father and his teenage son talking. The son has been driving in one vehicle with his mom, while his father has been driving in a separate vehicle; the son is complaining that his mom gets agitated whenever he exceeds 50 MPH. :eek: Soon enough his father leaves; while I'm washing my hands, the son compliments my bike, and says it must be a lot of fun to ride around here.

 

“yeah, but I think your mom probably wouldn't enjoy being a passenger with me.” :rofl:

 

Outside I sit down in a picnic shelter to gnaw on a granola bar and inspect the park map. The paved road is pretty short, about six miles, so I decide to just head out to the end of it and then hit the stops along the way back as I see fit.

 

Back on the bike, I putter six miles along until the road dead ends at Big Spring Canyon Overlook. There's a trail here, but at 2.5 miles, that's farther than I want (or can afford) to walk today. But there's always time for some pictures. It's not as wide-open and infinite here as the “Island in the Sky” district, but the rock formations are still impressive:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-119-L.jpg

 

 

A different angle, with a shot of the deeper basin behind me:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-120-L.jpg

 

 

Some large rock pillars not far from where the bike is parked:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-121-L.jpg

 

 

After riding a couple of miles back in the direction of the park entrance, I stop at Pothole Point. There's a half-mile loop trail here; that's more like it. :Cool: After smearing on some sunblock on my face and neck, I head down the trail. These boots were made for ridin', but they're OK for walkin', too. :grin: I keep my Phoenix jacket on for the hike; the mesh is cool enough in this ultra-dry air, and it also saves me from having to slick my arms with sunblock.

 

As dry as this place seems to be, there's no shortage of plant life. Anywhere there's soil, something has taken root to eke out a tortured existence. Sage, grasses and other plants abound, and here and there I find a cluster of prickly pear cactus, most of which are in bloom:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-122-L.jpg

 

 

Soon after I begin, the hike lives up to its name: after maybe 50 yards of dirt trail, I'm walking across a wide expanse of solid red rock, its face thoroughly dished out with potholes. The half-mile loop is laid out around the perimeter of a pile of massive boulders, themselves perched on this huge platform of solid stone. Something new surprises my eyes around every corner. Here I find a couple of sandstone boulders that have been formed into impossible, eerie shapes by the wind and water:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-123-L.jpg

 

 

A wide shot of the bare redrock on which the entire path sits:

 

 

(click on image to open a full-size, scrollable panoramic in a new window)

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-124-L.jpg

 

 

A sign at the trailhead describes how the potholes suddenly spring to life when filled with water after a storm, as a menagerie of insects and animals races to complete one more life-cycle before their waterworld transforms back into a parched bowl of dust. Halfway across the rock, I'm stunned to discover a rather large pothole, maybe ten feet across and a few inches deep, filled with water and positively brimming with tadpoles:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-125-L.jpg

 

 

I amuse myself for a bit playing shadow games with them: the tadpoles mostly sit idle, but when a sudden change of lighting occurs – as when the shadow of my hand passes over them – they instinctively wriggle away to a new location in the puddle. Not bad for a critter with a head the size of a raisin. :grin:

 

Up above, someone else is playing shadow games with me. A massive storm cloud fills the southern quadrant of the sky, its feathery edge threatening to blot out the sun. I study its movement, and once I determine that it's drifting mainly to the east, I figure a little shade would be a welcome thing. Sun and cloud fight for control of the sky as I make my way back to the bike and down the road toward the park entrance. There's one more stop to be made though, at Wooden Shoe Arch:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-126-L.jpg

 

 

The free-standing arch is visible, about 1/3 of the way from left; the hole is tiny compared to the thickness of the arch itself, and the impression is very much like...well...a wooden shoe. :grin:

 

The storm is now southeast of me, and it finally occurs to me that that's where I need to ride to get out of here. :eek: I hustle back across the flats toward the canyon, hoping to get back to Monticello before things get ugly. The horses that were in my lane on the way in have moved on, but not before leaving a great big pile of manure on the road; there's so much of it that it seems like it had to have been a team effort. Riding through the narrow canyon, the roads are wet, and it's raining just a little bit, but not bad yet. After carefully wiggling my way down the canyon, I'm back up on the straight flat stretches, moving toward US191. Way off to the east, lightning stabs the earth a few times. This is a frustrating place to be: it's now dangerous to be out here, but the nearest shelter is in Monticello, and in order to get there I first have to go toward that dark, electrical maelstrom.

 

Back on US191, I try to hurry through the final 15 miles to Monticello. Now I'm seeing lightning flashes more to the south than to the east, and heavy rains are apparent on the eastern flank of Abajo Peak, just west of where Monticello sits. It seems like I'm heading straight into the middle of the storm. The lightning scares me because I know there won't be any warning if it hits, and cruising at speed on a motorcycle, it's likely to be fatal: if the lightning doesn't kill me, the consequent crash probably will. I feel okay on the low portions and when I'm bracketed by narrow hills, but crossing wide valleys and cresting passes I feel extreme unease.

 

I finally roll off the last mile into Monticello just as the heavy rains start coming down, and I pull into the Texaco/Subway complex at the north end of town. In one of the carwash bays I catch a glimpse of a couple of bikes as I roll up to the pumps and park. I look back toward the bikes, but I can't see enough to tell what kind they are. Frustratingly, the pumps here behave like those of Chevron, and I have to go inside to hand my card to the clerk. I walk in and head for the gas station counter, and over at the Subway counter, holy crap, there's Hannabone and Sir Rodney! :):clap: What are the odds???? They're busy drooling over the sandwich bar as they place their orders, so they haven't even seen me yet. I walk up behind John, put a hand on his shoulder, and in a firm voice tell him ”Sir, we don't serve bikers here.” He turns around with that “what the hell” look, and then a moment later we're all smiles. :Cool:

 

After fueling up, I move my bike into the carwash bay with theirs (an 1150GS and a Triumph Sprint, by the way) and come inside for a sandwich. Over lunch, we talk about where we've been and where we're going. Me? Been through Canyonlands, and after entering Colorado via US491, I plan to ride the Million Dollar Highway and then overnight somewhere in Colorado, like Montrose or Gunnison. They? Been through Natural Bridges National Monument, and after entering Colorado on US491, they plan to ride SR141 all the way up through Naturita and Gateway before heading south again to overnight in Montrose. I hadn't ridden the Million Dollar highway since the first Un back in 2002, and I've been very much looking forward to doing it again today. Likewise, John and Rod seem pretty definite about where they were heading. I have no specific plan for when/where to stop for the night but Montrose seems about far enough, so we agree to go our separate ways, then meet up again in Montrose at the Black Canyon motel and enjoy dinner together. Tomorrow we'll all be continuing eastward, so we plan to ride together as far as Buena Vista before we split up. :thumbsup:

 

With lunch finished, we head out to the car wash bay where the bikes are waiting. The weather is ambiguous: it's still raining lightly, but the bulk of the storm system has moved off to the northeast, and things look good straight to the east where we're headed. After some discussion, we decide to chance it and put away the rain gear. We begin to regret that decision after only a couple of blocks when the rain picks up, but as we leave the city the rain subsides completely, and we continue eastward with the sun at our backs.

 

Making tracks toward Colorado, the desert scrub and rocky escarpments rapidly disappear, and soon we're riding past irrigated cropland and pastures. As we approach the Colorado border, there appears to be something like big yellow houses on either shoulder of the road. Only when we get very close do we realize what they are: massive dumptruck beds, on “wide load” trailers, parked by the side of the road. Four of them, sans tractors. Hannabone remarks that they must be missing the permits to allow them entry into Colorado. Oops. :dopeslap:

 

Six miles later, Rod and John slow down and turn north on 141, and I continue on toward Cortez and Durango. A few miles east of Cortez the farm and ranch lands end, and the road starts climbing and descending through the foothills of the La Plata Mountains. As I close in on Durango, it becomes clear there's a lot more water here: the sage is gone, and in its place there are vast pine forests.

 

In Durango, I stop for gas and a much-needed rest break. I've covered about 425 miles at this point; some of it was hot (before the storm), some of it was stressful (during the storm), and on top of all of that, the half-mile pothole hike took something out of me, too. It's been a long day, but I still have about 115 miles to go. I suit up for rain, figuring even if it stays dry, it's going to be cold going over the next few passes.

 

Finally, I'm headed north on US550. In contrast to southern Utah, this place is absolutely brimming with water: the hills are lined with trees, and the valley is filled with grasses and shrubs that border a tightly meandering river. There's no shortage of people, either: the valley is dotted with cottages, mansions, stores, ski resorts, and innumerable driveways and side spurs. The development eventually fades away to nothing as I begin climbing up toward Coal Bank Pass.

 

It's close to the end of May, but up around the pass, heavy snow cover persists. The descent on the north side delivers stunning views of the valley to the right, and the next line of mountains on the far side. The road doesn't descend very far before it beings climbing again toward Molas Pass, only seven miles away. The range of territory I've seen today is staggering: only three hours ago I was in a smoldering-hot, bone-dry redrock desert, staring at prickly pear blooms, and now I'm surrounded by miles of frigid alpine tundra and snow barrens. Crossing over Molas pass and down the other side, there's a creek next to road, fat with meltwater. The water bounces over the rocks and ledges in thick layers, and seems almost as excited about descending the grade as I am.

 

Finally I arrive at Silverton and take the bypass, continuing north toward Ouray. At the first BMWST Unrally in ‘02, I rode this way with Tom Roe and some of the folks from the Chi-Town Crew. Kathy (Paperbutt) had led us from Gunnison to Ouray at a “scenic” pace; after lunch we changed the batting order, and then I chased Tommy all the way to Silverton. It was a wild roller coaster ride back then, but I remembered the scenery too and ever since then I had been looking forward to today.

 

But things are a little different now. It's amazing how fast Mother Nature can tear apart a well-made road. Just five years ago the pavement here was nearly brand new, flawless. But now it's badly cracked and potholed, requiring a conservative pace around some of the corners and bends. Still, the scenery is magnificent. Steep, tall mountains and narrow gorges and canyons, much of it still covered with a thick layer of snow. Long vistas that afford a view of the next ten miles of roadway, where it descends, crosses a valley, and then wriggles up the far side.

 

Finally I cross over Red Mountain Pass. Seven insanely twisty miles later, the road drops into Uncompahgre Gorge, an extremely narrow and deep canyon with steep walls. The entire stretch of US550 from Durango to Ouray reportedly contains 101 known avalanche paths, but nowhere are they more obvious than here in the gorge: wherever you look upward, it seems you find a place that's been stripped of trees and vegetation by regular snow slides. Winter is pretty much over, but even now, not-so-small rocks, loosened by rain and the daily freeze-thaw action, appear from time to time on the road in front of me.

 

Halfway through the canyon, at Bear Creek Falls, there's finally a good scenic overlook to stop at. It's the polar opposite of this morning's redrock country: tall and narrow, and there's water everywhere, all of it cascading down the steep slopes and crashing over the rocks in search of a place to settle. With so much water available, the vegetation has taken hold in seemingly impossible places, and even the rocks are wearing a heavy coat of moss.

 

The location is so narrow and tall that it's hard to frame a photograph that can communicate the essence of it. But I have to take some pics, even if they turn out crummy. A close shot of the RT and the west wall of the gorge:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-127-L.jpg

 

 

I pull back a bit, trying to catch the scale of that waterfall and the steep mountainside:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-128-L.jpg

 

 

Finally, I back up even further, crossing the road and scrambling up the rocks a bit trying hard to capture the place:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-129-L.jpg

 

 

The pictures will be good reminders years from now, but alas, they just don't capture the feeling of standing in that place. With cars regularly passing by (and a couple of them actually stopping), it's not the same sort of solitude that I had back in Hog Canyon this morning. Nonetheless, ‘”to behold and commune with something grander than man” like this is an extremely gratifying expansion of my personal mental universe. You can watch documentaries on TV all day, but only by actually traveling to and through places like this can you truly begin to appreciate the scale of the earth.

 

Finally I wind through the last couple of tight switchbacks into Ouray. The gorge is wider here, but not much wider: the town barely fits, and in fact has started sprawling up the hillsides a little bit. I spot the restaurant where I had lunch with Tommy and the Chi-Town Crew five years ago; memories of a very good day roll through my mind like a slide show.

 

And then it's a lazy 40 mile cruise to Montrose, today's terminus. I finally arrive at the Black Canyon Motel and take a quick victory lap through the parking lot, but I can't see John or Rod anywhere; they must not be here yet. I park in front of the office, and after leaving a voicemail for both of them, I walk inside to check in. A few minutes later, I walk back outside, and there they are. It's incredible timing: we've taken two different 200-mile routes, through totally different terrain and weather, and arrived here within five minutes of each other! :Cool:

 

After a little bit of time for each of us to rest and clean up, I head over to John and Rod's room. On the back of John's Sprint, I spy a tiny bumper sticker:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-130-L.jpg

 

 

:rofl:

 

Finally the three of us walk across the street and up the road a bit to Vallarta's restaurant:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-131-L.jpg

 

 

Since we'll be walking back to the hotel afterwards, we decide to celebrate our excellent adventures by punishing our livers with a couple of hefty margaritas while we wait for dinner to arrive:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-132-L.jpg

 

 

Over chips, salsa, and finally an excellent Mexican dinner, we talk about our day's ride, the trip as a whole, and life back home. I hadn't really talked to Rod in quite a while, and was surprised to learn that he had moved from Iowa to Arkansas some time ago. He told us about his wife's encounter with a bat in their house, and I shared my bat encounter story from a few years ago, including a most ingenious solution employed by the pest control guy to get rid of bats in the attic: plug up all of the little holes in the roof except their primary entrance/exit, and then place a screen-mesh “bat checkvalve” over that hole. Over the next week, the bats leave in search of food and water, but can't get back in, and then you remove the checkvalve and plug that last hole. Presto: no dead bats left in your attic. :Cool:

 

With two big margaritas and a big plate of food in our bellies, we wander back to the hotel, settling into John and Rod's room for a half-hour of chatter. And that's when I notice – I'm feeling a little strange, kind of an unpleasant nervous sensation. I can't quite describe it, but then finally I do, quite literally, put my finger on it. Checking my pulse, I estimate it's about 120 BPM, just sitting still in a chair, and the nervous sensation happens about every 8-10 beats, when my heart seems to skip a beat entirely. I'm a little concerned, wondering if it's something I ate, something in the Margaritas, or if some new medical condition is making its debut in my 37-year-old body. I finally retire to my own room, ostensibly to go to bed, but I'm getting more concerned; this thing isn't going away. After enduring it for another ten minutes, I finally grab my GPS and the phone book and track down Montrose Memorial Hospital, just a few blocks away. I call the listed number, and not knowing quite what to say, I ask them in a very calm, casual tone:

 

“Uh, hi. Do you guys have, like, an emergency room or something?” :rofl:

 

They ask what the problem is, and after I explain my situation they tell me to come on in. I don't feel woozy, and it's not getting worse, so I decide to suit up and take the bike there.

 

Of course by the time I arrive the condition has mostly subsided. But I still want some assurance that I'm safe to ride the rest of the way back to Michigan, so I follow through. The nurse administers an ECG, placing electrodes all over my body, even down on my shins. The results are quickly interpreted by the doctor: normal. They draw blood for a lab analysis, but those results will take about an hour; all I can do is wait. Surprisingly, the nurse tells me that many of the staff there (including himself) ride motorcycles, and he's happy to share riding stories to pass the time while waiting for test results. Finally the blood test results come back, and like the ECG, they prove normal. At about 1 AM, I return to the hotel and go to bed with mixed feelings – glad there's nothing truly wrong, but wishing I could understand what the hell just happened to me.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Kitsap
I’d wander half a mile away from our camp – already miles from the nearest stranger – and just spend my time sitting still, watching, listening, trying to absorb as much of the place as I possibly could.

 

Connection! Did and still do the same thing. The simple moments when your heart beat is the loudest thing around are great.

 

Fantastic narrative Mitch thumbsup.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Whip

"I’m feeling a little strange, kind of an unpleasant nervous sensation. I can’t quite describe it, but then finally I do, quite literally, put my finger on it. Checking my pulse, I estimate it’s about 120 BPM, just sitting still in a chair, and the nervous sensation happens about every 8-10 beats, when my heart seems to skip a beat entirely."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happens every time I'm with hANNAbONE....before long I can't stand up.

 

 

 

dopeslap.gifdopeslap.gif

 

 

 

 

Great story!!!!

 

I know how much time it takes.

 

Thanks

 

Whip

Edited by Whip

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gottago

Ok I'm not done yet and I have to break and clean my house BUT this has got to be one of the best ride tales written. You could sell it in the back of Aerostich catalog no problem. Anyone wanting to ride the west, it would be a must read. Can't wait to get done with chores and read the rest. clap.gifclap.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
questrider

Great ride tale, Mitch!

 

lurker.gif

 

It's amazing, but my wife and I did almost the exact same routes you did a couple of weeks later. I-80 across Iowa and Nebraska, then we detoured off to Estes Park, CO, then back down to I-70 out to Torrey, down UT-12 to Bryce Canyon, the next day out to Fish Lake on UT-24, up UT-72 to Mt. Gleno, then we did Burr Trail Rd, got into more than we could handle on Notom Rd, left Torrey the next day down UT-95 to Cortez, through Durango and Silverton, taking a deserved two days off from riding in Ouray, and then came home through Gunnison up to Denver, and across that great mass of nothing called Nebraska and Iowa again.

 

It's been great being there on your ride while reliving our ride through your excellent prose and well-chosen pictures. I actually enjoy tales with more words than pictures, so keep going! Then perhaps after the high of reading your tale has worn off on all the locals here, maybe I'll tear a similar mirrored-tale out of the recesses of my own mind.

 

However, it will be difficult to live up to your tale by comparison seeing as though we didn't have to tear apart an RT twice or have the privilege of earning any performance awards. tongue.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Endobobdds

Mitch,

 

I have had a wonderful time reading and re-reading your ride tale! Your writing, thoughts, and details of the trip have brought back wonderful memories for me. Thank you, Thank you!

 

Thank you, also, for putting me onto "Google Earth". Being able to review the roads one rides or hopes to ride in the future is simply fantastic! Utah's SR12 is hard to describe to someone that has never been on it but Google Earth certainly helps.

 

Your honest and full discussion of your performance award made me realize just how fortunate I was during my 14 days on the road to and from Torrey. Mrzoom and I spotted that same silver Dodge Durango that day on SR12 but fortunately we were taking it very easy at the time.

 

I look forward to your post of the last 4 days of your trip and hope that you will continue to document your adventures. Hope to see you at the UNRally in September. thumbsup.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Joe Frickin' Friday
Happens every time I'm with hANNAbONE....before long I can't stand up.

 

lmao.giflmao.giflmao.gif

 

Great story!!!!

 

I know how much time it takes.

 

Thanks, Larry - and Brian, and Bob, and everyone else for your generous comments. Indeed, it's been a lot of work, but it's gratifying to know that other folks besides myself are getting something out of it.

 

Things are getting busier here, and it's getting more difficult to find the time to work on this, so the final three days are going to come more slowly. But I'll keep at it... thumbsup.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
BFish

what a tale that is now documented for eternity....or at least a long time. it's an amzing journey and your prose is most excellent. can't wait for the next installment. wave.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
hANNAbONE
Happens every time I'm with hANNAbONE....before long I can't stand up.

 

lmao.giflmao.giflmao.gif

 

...hEY...i rESEMBLE that remark...!! grin.gifgrin.gifgrin.gifeek.gifeek.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
MikeRC

Joe:

 

Thanks for all the effort you are putting into this story. I'm enjoying every bit of it, and look forward to the final entries.

 

Mike Cassidy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Joe Frickin' Friday

Day 10: Monday, May 21

Route: Montrose to Louisville

Distance: 323 miles

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-133.jpg

 

 

Over (yet another) continental breakfast, Rod, John and I discuss the plan for the day. They're headed for somewhere in Kansas tonight, and I'm shooting for Louisville, but our routes will keep us together until we get just east of Buena Vista. Based on distance and time, it looks like Buena Vista will make a fine lunch stop for all of us.

 

With plan in hand, we finish our breakfast, suit up and head out, stopping at the edge of town briefly to fuel up before continuing east. I've ridden US50 between Montrose and Poncha Springs several times, and it's very scenic along its entire length. The “sport” factor varies depending on where exactly you are: there are some miles-long stretches that are relatively flat and straight, but there are at least a couple of major passes to cross, and for several miles just west of Gunnison, along the Blue Mesa Reservoir, there is a series of long sweepers with great sight lines. But no matter where you are on the road, there's always a spectacular backdrop of mountains and distant rock formations within view, providing a sense of grand scale; to be able to see for several miles makes a place feel “bigger” somehow in a way that you don't get when you're in the middle of a dense forest.

 

And even on the straight stretches, interesting things can happen. Just a few miles out of Montrose, a police cruiser is parked by the side of the road with his lights blinking and swirling. He's there to get everyone to slow down and be careful, because just 100 yards past him, a gigantic bag of loose insulation has fallen off of a truck and ruptured, creating an extremely dense and localized cloud of dandruff on the roadway. I ride through the cloud holding my breath and with one eye closed; I don't want to launch into a coughing fit, and I don't want to get junk in both eyes. On the far side, I open my helmet visor briefly to blast out any interlopers before finally breathing again and opening my protected eye.

 

35 miles out, we pass by the Blue Mesa Dam, which backs up the Gunnison River to form the Blue Mesa Reservoir. Off to our left, SR92 squiggles wildly along the far side of the river valley, taking huge, twisty detours to maintain elevation while getting around the long ravines and canyons that cut deeply into the side of the valley (see Google Earth!). I've ridden that road twice now – westbound on a loop ride at the first Unrally in ‘02, and eastbound on the way back from Torrey in ‘04 – but I won't get to ride it this time. :( We continue east on US50, passing by the SR92 turnoff.

 

It's finally getting warmer out, and a few miles later, we stop at a scenic overlook to remove some gear. Far away on the north side of the reservoir, the Dillon Pinnacles stand tall:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-134-L.jpg

 

 

That's Sir Rodney's GS in the middle, with more lights out front than a 747 on final approach. Hannabone's pretty red Sprint points the way home, and looks ready to launch all on its own. :grin: A great big ”HEY” gets Rod and John (at far left) to turn and look just before I snap the shot. :thumbsup:

 

Back on the bikes, we wind our way through the sweepers next to the reservoir and finally reach Gunnison. Passing gently through town, I spy a couple of familiar, happy landmarks. There's the turnoff for the KOA, site of the first Unrally in ‘02; I remember waking up in my tent the first morning there and smiling as a boxer motor went by on the road every minute or so. :Cool:

 

And there's the A&W where I went right after I first arrived at that campground back then. A bunch of BMWST folks were already there at that point. Despite conversing for years online, many of us had not yet met face to face. In a striking demonstration of how well we all knew each others' online personas, I introduced myself to Kathy (Paperbutt) as “Mitch Patrie” and received a polite handshake and a slightly confused look; halfway through the handshake I said “Joe Frickin' Friday,” and the handshake was suddenly withdrawn and replaced by a scream of happy recognition, a big wide-eyed smile and a bear hug. :grin:

 

At the east edge of town, John, Rod and I throttle back up to cruise speed for the 30-mile ride up the valley toward the Sawatch Range and Monarch Pass. The valley here is broad and flat, carpeted with ranchlands and farm fields. With the spring thaw, the river seems to have jumped its banks and flooded the lowest parts of the valley: in most places the thick grass can't quite hide the sheen given off by large patches of standing water.

 

Finally the road arcs off to the right and begins climbing steeply away from the valley floor toward Monarch Pass. A half-mile later, the ascending lane widens to form two ascending lanes. :Cool: A number of passes in Colorado are arranged like this, and it goes a long way toward facilitating a sporting approach: there's no problem with getting past slower traffic, and two lanes means you have a wide margin if you screw up your line somehow.

 

Unfortunately, CDOT chose today (or possibly yesterday) to repaint the double-yellow centerline and the dashed white line that separates the two ascending lanes. There's a three-step process for laying down retroreflective paint – spray the paint, then spray a thin layer of binder, and immediately spray down loose glass microspheres onto it – and it leaves an excess of glass beads on the road surface that aren't bonded to anything. In short, they might as well have dumped sand on the road for us. :P The loose stuff is concentrated near the new paint, leaving the middle of each lane relatively safe, but there's not much room for choosing a line through corners, so I have to ease up and climb the grade at a more conservative pace.

 

Finally we all arrive at the top and pull off to the gift shop to take a break:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-135-L.jpg

 

 

After a trip to the rest room, we browse the trinkets and souvenirs for a bit before settling down at a table for some coffee and fudge. With Rod's story about bats in mind from last night, John now spots a book on bats and points it out to Rod. I grab it off the shelf and start paging through it, at one point finding a peculiar illustration of a bat gnawing on something that looks an awful lot like an ear of corn. And suddenly we're laughing hysterically, almost breathlessly, about the idea of a fictional “corn bat.” :rofl: :rofl: The altitude here (11,312 feet) doesn't make my head hurt, but it sure does give us a warped sense of humor. :/

 

Sufficiently rested (and settled down from the attack of the Corn Bat :grin:), we saddle up and begin the steep descent down the eastern slope toward Poncha Springs. Soon there's a thin cloud of very fine dust hanging in the air, and after about a mile we come across the source: a street sweeper is collecting tons of winter sand from the side of the road. Our view of the road is clear until about two seconds before we pass him, when a sudden gust of wind dumps a completely opaque cloud of dust in our path. It's impossible to see through, and it's so dense that when we hit it I have trouble just seeing the dashboard of my RT for a second, but we're quickly through it and out the other side. A moment later, Rod comes through on the FRS with my exact thought: it's just like the scene from “Days of Thunder” when Tom Cruise had to just floor it through the smoke and trust that the path on the other side was clear. :Cool:

 

15 miles later, we reach Poncha Springs and turn north on US285 to Buena Vista. We make our way north up the Arkansas River valley, with a row of fourteeners standing watch from the west. Once in Buena Vista, we ride completely through town to the north side, surveying the restaurants along the way; we end up stopping at the Evergreen Cafe just a few blocks back.

 

Inside, while browsing the menu for lunch, suddenly the “corn bat” returns, this time flanked by a “bratwurst bat” and a “fajita bat” (that's pronounced FADGE-it-uh, by the way). :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

 

Just as we're finishing our lunch, a spandex-clad bicyclist approaches our table and engages us in a long conversation. He also rides motorcycles, and is keenly aware of the lack of protective gear when riding his bicycle. Between discussions of local routes and scenery, he shares some stories of horrific crashes he and his friends have experienced while bicycling steep mountain grades at speeds you would only expect to reach on a motorcycle. :eek:

 

Our appetites properly sated, we gear up and backtrack a couple of miles south of town, then head east on US285/24. 13 miles later, after crossing Trout Creek Pass and descending into the South Park Basin, 285 and 24 separate, and so do my companions and I: Rod and John take US24 due east toward Kansas, and I head north on US285. As we reach the split point we all trade goodbyes over the FRS. Instead of a sharp turn, the two roads gradually curve away from each other, so none of us slows down at all. And then, off of my right shoulder, I'm treated to a sight you'd expect to see in a magazine or a documentary video: two bikes, loaded for cross-country touring, gradually pulling away from me, hauling ass across the high plains of Colorado. It brings to mind everything that's good about motorcycle touring. :):Cool:

 

20 miles across the basin, I stop for gas in Fairplay. I step inside briefly to go to the bathroom, and when I come back out to the bike, the big snow-capped mountains to the west are gone, completely obscured by an approaching storm; all that's left is the high rim of the basin several miles away. I've seen storm clouds blot out the sky before, but this is the first time I've ever seen them make the earth disappear. :eek: With new-found motivation, I quickly get my earplugs, helmet and gloves on and head north on SR9 toward Hoosier Pass.

 

I cruise up over the pass and through Blue River and Breckenridge, aiming for CR1 (Swan Mountain Road) around the south side of Lake Dillon. CR1 was a fun shortcut the first time I rode it back in ‘02, but the last few times it always seems like I run into traffic on it, and this time is no different. There's really no place to pass, so I end up riding it out behind a string of vehicles until we reach US6. Now I've pretty much come full circle: Shawn and I were right here just last Wednesday.

 

I make my way back up and over Loveland Pass one more time. The snow is still thick around here, covering the hillsides for several thousand vertical feet. At the pass, a great big orange sign warns hikers about the use of artillery shells for deliberately triggering/controlling avalanches:

 

(picture from ‘04 Torrey trip with Shawn, Rainy, and Eebie)

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-136-L.jpg

 

 

I'm not sure what exactly hikers are supposed to do with this information, but I suppose it might be mildly comforting to know, when the moment comes, exactly why you're suddenly scattered over a wide area. :rofl:

 

Coming down on the eastern side of the pass toward I-70, I encounter a group of snowboarders trying to take advantage of all that white stuff, but it sure seems like a lot of hard work without a chairlift. :/

 

Back on I-70, on a long downhill grade I pass a truck with badly-smoking brakes on the cab's rear wheels. A few miles later I stop at the Georgetown Visitor Center for a bathroom break; when I get back on the highway, a half a mile later, the truck is pulled over onto the shoulder and the driver is frantically emptying a fire extinguisher onto his wheels. I've spent years driving and riding through mountainous terrain, and seen countless truck-specific warning signs (“STEEP GRADE AHEAD – USE LOW GEAR”) and runaway truck ramps, but this is only the second time I can ever recall seeing a truck in obvious distress as a result of the road grade.

 

I little further east, I peel off of the interstate at US6, and a few miles later turn north onto SR119. The roads here are wet; a storm must have just gone through not long ago. Thankfully the road soon dries out, and I continue northward. At Nederland, I turn east toward Boulder. This will be the final twisty stretch: once I reach Boulder, it's basically 1250 miles of straight and flat road until I get back to Ann Arbor.

 

For some reason there's heavy traffic here today, and as I get to within a few miles of Boulder, there aren't any viable passing opportunities. Eventually I roll into Boulder proper at slightly less than the speed limit – an anti-climactic ending to the sport/mountain portion of my odyssey.

 

Southbound on US36 out of Boulder, the road is very wet, and the sky to the east is dark: I've missed a heavy afternoon thunderstorm by just a few minutes, probably the same storm that hosed SR119 where I was just 45 minutes ago. In Louisville, I stop for gas, but the pumps don't work; it's only when I try to go inside and talk to the clerk that I realize the station is closed due to a power outage. Annoying, but not awful; I'll just gas up tomorrow on the way out of town.

 

I cover the last half-mile to my sister's house with some urgency: I've been drinking a lot of water from my Camelbak, and now I really have to go to the bathroom. When I pull up in the driveway, nobody's home, so I punch the code into the garage door opener keypad; when nothing happens, I realize the entire town must be experiencing a power outage. This is bad news for me: I don't have a key, don't know any of the neighbors around here, and I still have to pee. :eek: I grab my cell phone and call my sister; she tells me about the spare key kept in a super-top-secret location. I retrieve the key and let myself in; very shortly, all is right with the world again. :/

 

Later my sister and her husband take their older daughter to a post-season soccer banquet, and I take my younger niece out to dinner. She had just returned from a backpacking trip to the Needles district of Canyonlands – coincidentally, where I was touring just yesterday – and she tells me all about it. Afterwards, we drive aimlessly around downtown Louisville, checking out cool houses and just hanging out together. :Cool: It's a nice, relaxed evening, just what I need; tomorrow's going to be a long, hard cross-country day.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
BFish

once again most enjoyable thumbsup.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Tasker
thumbsup.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Couchrocket
lurker.gif Most excellent... feel like I'm riding along!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Bill_Walker

Great job, Mitch. Man, I wish I could remember that much about any single day of touring, let alone write about it so well!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
roadscholar

I'm reserving judgement for the final episode, but it's not bad so far. grin.gif Hardly. As an English major, it's somewhat disheartening that a "frickin" engineer can write this well.

 

My odyssey to Torrey and back was amazing in itself but the account of it would pale in comparison to this, your descriptions are at the same time realistic and poetic, good, really good. And I'm seeing stuff that wasn't visible for me. When I crossed Monarch Pass the following day (Tuesday) it was snowing sideways and both sides of my visor were icing up every 5-10 seconds, scary and fun simultaneously. grin.gif

 

Thanks Joe, excellent.

Edited by roadscholar

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
hANNAbONE

lmao.giflmao.gifgrin.gifgrin.gifbEWARE...tHE bRATWURST bAT... grin.gifgrin.giflmao.giflmao.gif

 

 

That stuff was sooooooo funny....dewd, I thought you were gonna hemmorage when that whole thing started.!! I'm gigglin' while I write this just remembering your laughter.! What a hoot.

 

That "bat book" was a priceless-perfect item to be right in front of my/our eyes...what a screamin' funny ordeal.! Hec, and we didn't even need margarita's to start the laughter all over

again..

 

You forgot to tell the folks about SirRodney ordering the "Bratwurst soup of the day" at the Evergreen Cafe'...I thought I'd never regain composure or catch my breath from all the laughter. What a scream..

 

Problem was I had to live with him that evening in Colby KS...huh..."silent, but deadly" comes to mind.. eek.gifeek.gifdopeslap.giftongue.giftongue.gifblush.gif

 

Awesome write Mitch - really a treat to all the things that happened...all for a reason.

 

It was great to hook up with you again...

 

WE MUST DO IT AGAIN SOON..!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Endobobdds
Great job, Mitch. Man, I wish I could remember that much about any single day of touring, let alone write about it so well!

 

Ditto the continuing great write up! Wish I could remember what went on yesterday! smile.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Joe Frickin' Friday

Day 11: Tuesday, May 22

Route: Louisville, CO to Newton, IA

Distance: 730 miles

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-137.jpg

 

 

So after ten days of touring, it's come down to this, a two-day endurance test. I did this exact ride at the start of the trip – 750 miles, followed by 500 miles – but of course then I was fresh, motivated, and looking forward to the excitement of a trip through the mountains after advancing through two time zones. When the next two days are over, I'll be home, having retreated through the same two time zones, trying to sell a house and a condo in a terrible market, and mowing two large yards with a walk-behind mower during the fastest part of the growing season.

 

I also will be playing catch-up with a never-ending waiting list of people anxious to buy Mojolevers; I am a victim of my own success. :grin:

 

By 8:00, I'm on the road, heading east on SR7, the same way Shawn and I came in. After casually passing through 20 miles of randomly interspersed farm fields, strip malls, and residential developments, I arrive at Brighton. Like Nederland, Brighton has a roundabout. Two of them, in fact, right next to each other. I don't know why folks in England rave about these things; maybe the problem is that drivers in this country just have no clue how they're supposed to work. :P

 

A half-mile after the perilous twin roundabouts, I stop for gas. It's a very new station, and in addition to the usual blends, they also sell E85. A crew from the local TV station is on hand, and there are some chairs and a podium set up in one corner of the parking lot. After filling up the bike with ordinary high-octane gasoline, I walk into the station and wait for the bathroom to open up. One of the cameramen from the news crew gets in line behind me. When I ask what all the fuss is about, he says they're here to cover a promotional one-hour event during which the station will sell E85 for 85 cents a gallon. While we continue waiting, the cameraman begins complaining bitterly about oil companies and their big conspiracy to gouge us all, claiming the high prices have nothing at all to do with consumer demand. As a rule, I try not to engage complete strangers in a face-to-face discussion of controversial topics like this. I bite my tongue, but I desperately want to ask him what steps he's taken to curb his own demand in the face of rising fuel prices. :P

 

Back on the bike, four miles later I reach I-76 and begin the long, slow descent from the Front Range.

 

After forty miles on the interstate, I look over my shoulder for one last glimpse of the mountains before they disappear over the horizon. It's not as sad as the retreat from Torrey a couple of days ago, but the symbolic “undoing” of what Shawn and I did nine days ago leaves me feeling a little deflated.

 

On the far side of the hill, I stop at the rest area just east of Wiggins; it's only been a half hour since my fuel stop, but apparently I had more coffee with breakfast than I thought. :dopeslap: It's a quick stop: march in, drain bladder, march out, saddle up. Before departing, I fire up The Bean in shuffle mode, providing my brain with some music to chew on while I drone across the Great Plains.

 

The stop in Wiggins gets my water balance right, and now the miles roll off nicely. It's sunny, but cold; it never quite warmed up the way I expected it to. After 110 miles I stop again at the Julesburg rest area just before the Nebraska border; looking for more warmth, I put my rain pants on over my Draggin' Jeans.

 

Before heading out again, I also take my camera out of its case and set it loose inside the tank bag. Traffic on the highway is sparse, so I figure I'll amuse myself by taking a picture on the fly. The challenge is that my camera, like most, seems to be set up for ease of use by the right hand, which is the one hand that's hardest to make alternate use of when riding a motorcycle.

 

Having a bike with a throttle lock helps though. :grin: Back out on the highway, with no cars or trucks within a half mile of me, I set the throttle lock and reach into the tankbag. I try to set it at about 70 MPH, but in accordance with Murphy's Law, I accidentally lock in a very slight acceleration, lending a sense of urgency to the whole photo-taking process. By the time I get the camera into position and press the button, I'm traveling upwards of 80 MPH. I quickly snap a couple of shots, the first of which – quite by accident – is right at the Nebraska border:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-138-L.jpg

 

 

As you can surely understand, by this point in the trip I'm glad for a bike on which I can see over the windscreen, because it's becoming difficult to see through it. :grin:

 

As I cruise eastward through western Nebraska, light clouds close in to form a thick blanket overhead, gradually becoming darker and darker. A few drops of rain fall, but thankfully there's no lightning to be seen anywhere. Somewhere just past Ogallala my reserve light comes on, and when I check the GPS I find that North Platte is uncomfortably far away. I know how much fuel/distance I have left when that light comes on, but ever since my main fuel gauge started misbehaving about a year ago, showing dead-empty long before I'm truly out of fuel, I've had great difficulty convincing myself that the reserve light really is working properly, and I typically end up stopping to fuel up well before I really need to. This time, I tank up in Hershey, the first town since Ogallala with anything to offer. The clerk there is astonished that I'm able to cram 6.1 gallons of fuel into anything with two wheels; meanwhile, I'm lamenting the fact that I could have gone another fifty miles down the road before stopping.

 

Over the next hundred miles, the low, heavy clouds lighten up a bit, and I stop for a late lunch at a McDonald's in Kearney. I have a weakness for their Filet-O-Fish and Big Mac sandwiches; when traveling by bike like this, I usually just get one of each and forego the french fries altogether.

 

After lunch, I gear up and climb up onto the RT, still parked on its centerstand. Rather than use brute force to get the bike off the stand, I've gotten used to the elegance of starting the engine and simply powering it forward off of the stand. As often as not, I'll just continue riding from this point, never having put my feet on the ground. If all goes well, it's one continuous action: the bike rolls forward, drops a couple of inches, and you just accelerate down the road. :Cool:

 

But of course, when someone's watching, things never go well. As soon as I get the bike off of the stand it starts to fall to the left. :eek: With my brain overcommitted to the idea of riding off, I delay putting my foot down until the RT is too far gone for one leg to withstand. I have to use the throttle – a lot of it – to pick the bike up out of this death spiral. And of course, there are a couple of guys in a pickup truck behind me, watching this retarded baboon wobble around the lot on a fat blue touring bike. So much for cool. :dopeslap:

 

Very soon after I get back on the highway, the wind picks up. And then picks up some more. Before long the trees around me are being sorely tested by winds blowing straight out of the south at a steady 25 MPH. Although I do get hit with the occasional gust, I'm well sheltered from most of the onslaught by the Platte River and its bulwark of sturdy trees to my right.

 

40 miles later, the river and its arboreal shield-wall continue to the northeast, but I-80 breaks away straight to the east, and quite suddenly there is absolutely no protection from the demonic onslaught of air. This year's crop of corn has barely begun to break the surface of the soil and so the wind approaches, unmitigated by any earthly obstacle, across miles of flat prairie.

 

Rather than pushing the RT to the left, the net effect is as if there's an unseen hand pushing left only on the leading edge of the front wheel: the bike wants desperately to fall on its right side, and I have to push hard on the left bar (and pull hard on the right) to keep the whole machine from turning upwind. Leaning forward and right doesn't change that very much, but it helps reduce my total profile, which means I don't have to lean the entire machine to the right so much.

 

Passing trucks safely becomes an exercise in anticipation. Each time, there's a brief reprieve where I'm sheltered from the wind, but by the time I'm even with the front of the trailer, I have to squash my body flat against the bike with my chin over my right hand. Despite my best efforts, it still requires serious alertness and a heavy strain against the grips to stay on course when I pass through the truck's bow wave.

 

After only 35 miles of this, I'm exhausted. Blown away, so to speak. My shoulders ache from the constant push, and my entire body is buzzing and tingling from the unceasing assault of the wind. The York rest area appears on the horizon just when I need it, and I pull off for a much-needed break. After visiting the bathroom I stumble over to a picnic table to sit down for twenty minutes. Instead of the violent gale up on the interstate, the wind here is only blowing vigorously. 60 feet to the south, a fence marks the boundary between the rest area and a newly planted field of corn. The sky is cloudy, but bright, and it's in the low 70's. As I gaze out on this scene, with interstate traffic rumbling and howling past behind me, a simple thought occurs. It's a confluence of numerous perceptions and memories: the contrast of the windy highway struggle with the restful peace of just sitting at a picnic table; the verdure of the thick grass and healthy, tall trees in the rest area, waving grandly and noisily in the wind; the simple purity and fertility of a miles-long field of freshly tilled soil with corn sprouts just starting to break the surface; and decades-old memories of countless rest area lunch picnics (probably even in this very spot) on cross-country camping trips with my family:

 

It's really nice here.

 

Sufficiently rested, I saddle up again to do battle with Aeolus one more time.

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-139.jpg

 

 

Soon after I get back on the road, the clouds thin and eventually break up, and the sun finally appears behind me. Although the wind will continue for the rest of the day, within fifty miles I find some shelter amid the hills and buildings of Lincoln. On the east side of town, halfway to Omaha, I stop again at the Platt River rest area for another break. After a trip to the bathroom, I come back out to the bike and find there's a car parked next to it. The driver, a nice old lady from Kansas, engages me in a conversation about a great many things: my bike, the wind, visiting her son in Omaha, and her other son in Tucson, Arizona, who builds custom bikes for a living. I enjoy talking with her for a bit, but as happens occasionally, she seems oblivious to my departure preparations and continues talking even while I put my earplugs and helmet on. After I start the bike she comments on how quiet it is; between the helmet and the earplugs I can barely hear her, but I acknowledge her with a smile, a wave, and a pleasant goodbye before I glide away.

 

30 miles later I reach the Iowa border, where I'm greeted by a large sign:

 

”The People of Iowa Welcome You

Iowa, Fields of Opportunities”

 

The sign features the state slogan adopted in 1999; it is at once an expression of pride in their history of agricultural productivity, and an invitation extended to industrious entrepreneurs to take advantage of the state's business climate. Indeed, beyond the slogan itself, Iowa markets itself aggressively, trying hard to attract businesses and people to the state so as to maintain a healthy, growing economy. Unfortunately, there seems to be some degree of attention deficit disorder at the state level; the slogan gets changed every few years, and although I like “Fields of Opportunities” – it's down-to-earth, and has meaningful specificity – it appears it will soon be replaced by the much more vague ”Iowa: Life Changing.” In comparison to its predecessor, the newest slogan sounds pompous and self-important. :eek:

 

As I count off mile after mile east of the Missouri River, the rolling, grass-covered hills and the lateness of the day work to temper the crosswind until it's only a minor annoyance. At around 6:00 I pull off into the Adair County rest area. When I remove my helmet and earplugs, something is wrong: my right ear is hearing only muffled sounds. Much to my dismay I quickly realize that I must not have positioned that ear plug correctly at the last stop, and combined with the heavy crosswind, I'm now suffering from a pronounced temporary threshold shift in that ear.

 

My ailing ear adds to my already-sorry physical and mental state:

  • I've covered 630 miles at this point, a long day in itself, and I'm not done yet.
  • Due to the wind, the last 300 miles have been exhausting in the extreme.
  • I've lost an hour going from Mountain to Central time zone; whenever I look at the clock my immediate gut reaction is that I ought to be 80 miles further down the road than I am, leaving me slightly demoralized.
  • The Iron Butt Association folks are absolutely right: after ten days in a row spent riding hundreds of miles per day it's intrinsically difficult to find the motivation to pull off a very long ride like this.

After a visit to the bathroom, I shuffle back outside and sit heavily on a bench to chew on a Granola bar. As I look around, I notice that this rest area is not like others I've seen. Far from it, this one is of recent vintage, and is very well maintained and decorated. I later learn that it's part of a state-wide rest area modernization program, one of ten new rest areas intended to convey some particular aspect of Iowa's history and culture through a coordinated collection of art, architecture, and text. In front of me, a series of tall pillars made of granite, steel and glass punctuate the main pedestrian approach to the building:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-140-L.jpg

 

 

The pillars are engraved with text and dioramas that describe the history of farming and soil conservation in Iowa for the past 150+ years, and prominently feature Henry Wallace, an Adair County resident whom I later learn had served as US Vice-President during World War II, and – more significantly for this state – the US Secretary of Agriculture in the 1930s.

 

And then my tired gaze shifts from the pillars to the RT:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-141-L.jpg

 

 

I sit watching the bike, thinking about all I've just gone through with it: the pleasures and pains of cross-country touring, the thrills and perils of sportriding, the communion with good friends, the battle with the elements. Eleven days ago, it was spotless, freshly serviced, washed, waxed, and Armor-Alled, with brand-new tires installed. Now, through narrow chicken strips and a rich patina of dirt, water marks, and smeared insects gathered over the last 4500 miles, the RT tells its own tale of the odyssey.

 

More permanent than that, the scars and scratches form an enduring record of all that has transpired while traveling far enough to encircle the planet nearly five times:

 

  • Mile 12: the left knee pad, slightly separating from the Tupperware before I even signed the paperwork to make the bike mine in April ‘99. It's never gotten any worse (or better :/ ) since then.
  • Mile 180: the hack marks in the left engine guard from attempting a third-gear U-turn from a standing start. Trying to get the bike home from Virginia (where I had just bought it), I was still a very new rider at this point, with maybe a couple thousand miles racked up on Dad's old Honda 450 (and that was all before 1990). I stalled the engine and gently dropped this brand-new bike, right there in the middle of the road. :dopeslap:
  • Mile 650: the gouge in the swingarm from the rear shock preload adjuster mount bolt, caused when the suspension bottomed out on a killer Detroit pothole, also in April ‘99. Replaced two bruised tires and two bent rims, but the gouged swingarm is still original equipment.
  • Mile 8000: the scratches on top of the front fender from my first auxiliary light mount job, September ‘99. I scrapped the mount the following spring and made a new one that DIDN'T hit the fender at full suspension travel, but the fender scratches are still there.
  • Mile 39,000: the first touchdown of the peg feelers during a track day at Grattan, October ‘01. Better riding form and already-ground-down feelers means they don't contact the pavement much anymore.
  • Mile 65,000: a paint chip on the right turn signal bezel and a scuff on the right sidecase, visible reminders of a $3,500 tipover while parked at Torrey in May ‘03. I bought a new fairing and windscreen after that, but I couldn't justify replacing the bezel and case for just a couple of little scratches – and so they remain.
  • Mile 73,000: the shredding of the lower part of my Tupperware and the outer edges of my boots while running Deal's Gap in October ‘03. Not from a crash, just from grinding against the pavement during hard turns, partly due to bad riding form, partly due to a collapsed rear shock preload adjuster.
  • Mile 81,000: the sandblasting of my fairing at Torrey in May ‘04. I brought up the tail end of a group of very fast riders going through Sweeper Madness. Twelve sticky tires running in front of me at rather elevated speeds flung an awful lot of crap up into the air, and my RT's front fairing – brand-spanking new after the previous spring's tipover – got severely pockmarked by it all.
  • Through it all: hundreds of hack marks and fine scratches on the rims from four years of changing tires the old-fashioned way – with blood, sweat, tears, and tire irons – with my friend Shawn.

After sitting on the bench for about twenty minutes, I'm feeling better, and my ear has largely recovered. But it's become clear that I'm not going to reach my original goal for the day of Walcott, still 200 miles east of here. I've done it on the past three trips out west, and while it was difficult, it set me up for a comparatively easy 400 miles the following day to get back to Ann Arbor. Instead, I start browsing the GPS, looking for something about half way between here and Walcott. Newton, 80 miles away, looks about right. It's home to both Maytag (though not for much longer :() and the Iowa Speedway, and so there will be an abundance of good hotels to choose from.

 

With a definite, reachable destination in mind, I gear up for the final push, this time taking extra care to make sure my earplugs are properly placed. Back out on I-80, the remaining miles click off at an agonizingly slow rate. Des Moines provides some relative excitement as driving lanes come and go, and I navigate across a long, arcing bridge to get onto the beltline highway around the west and north sides of the city. Rounding the northwest corner, a semi runs over a loosened chunk of concrete, shattering it into fist-sized pieces that bound and roll down the lane; very light traffic permits a quick swerve maneuver to get safely around it.

 

Finally I arrive in Newton, and my entire body relaxes in relief as I decelerate up the exit ramp. It's a vaguely familiar place: I came here ten years ago to interview with Maytag, but I still don't know why; I was in grad school at the time, studying internal combustion engines, when they invited me here to talk to me about washing machines :S.

 

After checking in at the Quality Inn, I scoot back up the hill a couple hundred yards to the Okoboji Grill, a chain restaurant with several sites in Iowa. The menu has a sense of humor: I order up a reuben, not with french fries, but with a “rabbit side,” which turns out to be a heap of fresh veggies and dip. :grin:

 

Back in my room after dinner, I change into my swimsuit and head for the far end of the motel, where the pool room awaits. It's a really odd pool room, though: the ceiling is only eight feet high, and the room is lit by an array of mercury-vapor lamps, putting out the same intense, bluish-white light you see in school gymnasiums. The absence of any other people makes it even more surreal, although I'm happy for the peace and quiet. I turn on the air jet timer and settle in to the hot tub for a nice long soak.

 

Some time later the air jets stop, and as the bubbles dissipate, I look down to discover that my swimsuit – formerly pitch black and dark green – has become bright orange. :eek: I never smelled any chlorine at all, so I wasn't concerned. It hadn't occurred to me that they might have been using bromine or ozone instead. As I dry myself off, I discover my body has been affected, too: the hair on my arms and legs has a squeaky, crunchy texture to it. Most of the time I get in a hot tub, I submerge my head as well, but for some reason I skipped doing that this time, which saved the hair on my head from similar damage.

 

After a quick shower to rinse off whatever residue is left on my skin from that caustic hot tub water, I head to bed for a good night's sleep. Tomorrow will be shorter and less windy, but as it's the last day of the trip, I know it will be no less trying.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
BFish

another great tale. thumbsup.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
CT_Rider

Mitch,

 

This is a fantastic story. Every time I log on to this forum I first check "Ride Tales" to see if you posted an update. I know it's a lot of work but you need to know it is appreciated. Most Ride Tales I skim the words and look at the pictures. It's the other way around with this tale. I'm sorry it'll be coming to an end. Thanks, and in advance, for the great read.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
questrider

Mitch, you have an abundance of talent for writing! Do you know how I know? You made I-80 across Nebraska and Iowa sound interesting! blush.gifgrin.gif

 

I eagerly await the last installment, and final day, of your Torrey Odyssey.

 

lurker.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Johnny

Outstanding Mitch! clap.gif I am very much enjoying reading your odyssey.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
robg4199a

Mitch

As one who has not had the pleasure of this kind of a trip yet, I am enjoying reading yours.

 

Gil

R1200GS

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Joe Frickin' Friday

Day 12: Wednesday, May 23

Route: Newton, IA to Ann Arbor, MI

Distance: 550 miles

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-142.jpg

 

 

Between yesterday's exhaustion and the loss of one time zone, I end up sleeping relatively late, rolling out of bed around 7:45 local time. Not a big deal, as there will be plenty of daylight in which to cover 550 miles, but I know it's going to be a tedious slab cruise all day, so I want to get it over with sooner rather than later. The long journey west 12 days ago, undertaken while fresh and well-rested, was an exercise in anticipation and eventual reward; the same journey east is now far less exciting. Mentally and physically, these are the hardest two days of the trip, and occasionally I harbor daydreams of a pickup truck and trailer – or a storage garage and a First Class airline ticket.

 

After splashing some water in my face I head down to the breakfast area. Guess what's waiting for me?

 

Another damn continental breakfast. :rofl:

 

Actually, this one's pretty good. I'm all alone when I walk in, and immediately I spot a bowl of blueberry preserves next to the waffle iron, something I hadn't seen in other hotels. Oh, they all have waffle irons, sure, but none of them puts out anything so decadent as blueberry preserves; usually it's just a bottle of store-brand maple syrup. :/ I fetch a bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee, and then fire up a waffle before I sit down. I tuck into my cereal, and a couple of minutes later the waffle's done; I load it up with blueberry preserves and dig in. Not as good as those fine pastries at the Chuckwagon, but better than the rest of the breakfasts on this trip. :thumbsup:

 

Over the course of my breakfast, more and more people walk in for their own meal. By the time I'm finished, there are only a couple of seats open. None of the other diners appears to be a rider, and it leaves me – the only person here in armored jeans and big black boots – feeling slightly self-conscious.

 

By 9:00 I'm packed up and ready to roll, but the tires are a little low. They've been bleeding air at the usual rate ever since I left home, but of course within a couple of days we were in the Rockies, well above 5,000 feet, where the ambient pressure is a couple of PSI lower than it is down here on the plains. Ten days later, the tires have continued bleeding air, but it's only here in Iowa, at 1000 feet elevation, that the ambient pressure has gone back up a couple of PSI; my tire gauge is now showing 38 psi instead of the 40 I saw yesterday morning. After a short detour to squirt some more air in my tires, I hit the road.

 

The first hundred miles aren't bad. The temperature goes from “comfortably cool” to “comfortably warm”, and it's windy, though not nearly as bad yesterday. It's still early in the day, so the it hasn't picked up to full strength, and the hills and valleys nicely limit its ground-level strength. My body still feels the weariness of yesterday, but a good night's sleep certainly helped.

 

Before long I arrive at the Cedar County Rest Area. Just like the Adair County rest area yesterday, this one is very new and ornately decorated. In the vestibule, intricate tilework graces the floor:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-143-L.jpg

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-144-L.jpg

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-145-L.jpg

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-146-L.jpg

 

 

 

In the main room, a strange, symbolic map of Cedar County is laid out:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-147-L.jpg

 

 

Slightly puzzled by it all, I eventually find a plaque outside indicating the theme here is that of the Underground Railroad, in which Iowa played a part:

 

(click on image to open a full-size, readable photo in another window)

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-148-XL.jpg

 

Backside of same plaque:

 

(click on image to open a full-size, readable photo in another window)

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-149-XL.jpg

 

 

There's no information on site about the lobby floor map of Cedar County, but I later learn that the names seen there belong to individuals who played an important role during the formative years of the county in the mid-1800s.

 

Having experienced a proud welcome and thoughtfully-appointed rest areas in Iowa, I'm curious to see what Illinois will have to offer. After crossing the Mississippi River between Davenport and Moline, I spy a modest sign off among the trees:

 

 

”Illinois welcomes you”

 

Well, at least they said howdy, but the whole thing seems a bit understated. No “Land of Lincoln,” no “The Prairie State?” Huh. :lurk:

 

Carrying on to the east, it gets hotter and windier as the terrain flattens out again. The wind still isn't as bad as yesterday, but nonetheless it requires extra attentiveness to keep the RT pointed where it's supposed to go. As warm as it already is, this is not the hottest part of the day: it's gonna be a scorcher.

 

Fifty miles after being tersely welcomed into the great state of Illinois, I pull off the highway into the Great Sauk Trail rest area. The architecture and decor here isn't nearly as communicative as what I saw in Iowa, but they still seem to be quite proud of it:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-150-L.jpg

 

 

After a quick trip to the bathroom, I browse around the lobby a bit. On one wall, a plaque relates the history of the Great Sauk Trail, an Indian/trading route that passed through this area some two hundred years ago:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-151-L.jpg

 

 

Elsewhere inside the main building, a bulletin board with information for travelers includes a troubling warning about human trafficking:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-152-L.jpg

 

 

As the poster suggests, farm laborers kept in indentured servitude - or outright slavery – seem to be a problem in this area. I never really examined the bulletin boards in the Iowa rest stops, so I don't recall seeing any notice like this there, and the contrast leaves me with a slightly unpleasant feeling about the area. To its credit, at least the state is baring its troubles and asking people to help tackle the problem, rather than just keeping quiet and pretending everything's rosy.

 

Back outside, the RT seems absurdly tiny compared to the cages parked on either side of it:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-153-L.jpg

 

 

Despite the RT's apparently diminutive stature, the low altitude here – about 650 feet above sea level, the lowest of the entire trip – has restored the power that was missing in the mountains. Back on Pikes Peak, it was impossible to launch without bogging the engine, but here, it's just the opposite: pretty much any combination of throttle and clutch makes the bike leap forward, and wide-open throttle in first gear requires a good grip on the bars. I roar back out onto the highway, reaching cruise speed long before the end of the acceleration lane.

 

35 miles later, just west of Joliet, I stop for a late lunch at a Burger King. Just like those Fritos back in Utah, Whoppers are so bad for you, but they're so good! :) Just the Whopper and a glass of water, for here, please. Foregoing the french fries reduces the total damage, cuts cost, cuts time, and avoids inducing severe postprandial sedation, which would be a bad thing when running the gauntlet of Chicago's highways.

 

After relaxing in the cool, dry air of the restaurant for twenty minutes, the hot wind of mid-afternoon hits me like a hair dryer when I walk back out to the bike. It's about 90 degrees out; I've seen worse (that would be 115F in the shade during stop-and-go traffic on the Vegas strip :eek:), but although it's not insanely hot, if I were at home right now, I definitely wouldn't opt for an afternoon ride.

 

Traffic gets more and more dense as I approach Chicago; after the I-294 interchange, it's really thick, with a distressing proportion of trucks. At one point I find myself riding with a semi on either side of me, blotting out the sky. They aren't trying to take my lane, but that doesn't mean I'm comfortable here. :eek: The car in front of me blocks a forward escape, but by rolling off the throttle, I soon lower my speed enough to let the trucks scoot on by.

 

As exhausting as yesterday's ride across Nebraska and Iowa was, at least there the scenery was soothing and the traffic was thin. Here, the overpopulated highway brings me past a never-ending array of side roads, exits, on-ramps, and dilapidated buildings. The only remotely interesting scenery, the Thornton Quarry, is mostly obscured by high Jersey barriers on either side of the interstate.

 

Eventually I cross over into Indiana, and the lakeshore town of Gary, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-154.jpg

 

The bright, cheery colors of their centennial logo belie the stink and visual blight of the steel mills on the lakeshore. While most of it isn't visible from I-94 (on I-90, it's everywhere you look), the sulfurous smell is inescapable. It's small consolation to realize that although heavy industry isn't as pleasing to the senses as the agricultural domains I rode through yesterday, it's every bit as necessary for the way we live.

 

The Chicago traffic has taken its toll on my brain, and the heat and miles have taken their toll on my body. I'm getting restless, squirming around and trying to find a comfortable position on the bike, anxious for a break. I watch the mile markers and the GPS intently, waiting for the arrival of the Michigan border. Just like late yesterday, the miles are beginning to roll off very slowly. Finally I cross into Michigan, and a mile in, I stop at the New Buffalo Welcome Center. I've been here before, but never really looked around that much. Now, after having closely observed how Iowa and Illinois present themselves to travelers, I'm interested to see what my home state of Michigan tells of itself.

 

Inside the lobby of the welcome center, I browse the bulletin boards. Among the usual materials – maps, tourist info, warnings about road construction and drunk driving – I find a more disturbing item:

 

(click on image to open a full-size, readable photo in another window)

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-155-XL.jpg

 

 

Whereas Illinois' poster about human trafficking was soliciting help from travelers to solve the problem, Michigan's warning to hunters and fishermen about the dangers of hyper-paranoid meth cookers and their toxic equipment is more of an open admission that the problem is out of control and you just better watch your ass when you're out in the boonies. :eek: Now I really wonder what I would have seen if I'd paid more attention in the rest areas of Nebraska and Colorado. :S

 

Outside, there's a more uplifting message, on a plaque conveying the history of the Iron Brigade and its connection to Michigan:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-156-L.jpg

 

the plaque's flip side:

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-157-L.jpg

 

 

A few feet away, I sit down at a well-shaded picnic table to rest for a bit and to make a phone call. It's been almost a week since I got that ticket in Utah, and I need to deal with it. Acting on advice I received from Howard (Phillyflash) back in Torrey, I contact the Garfield County Attorney's Office to ask about a “plea in abeyance.” They tell me I have to pay the fine no matter what, but happily, they also say that if I don't get any new tickets in the next three months, they'll leave this citation off of my driving record. All I have to do is submit a current copy of my driving record and a $25 fee on top of the fine, and a new copy of my driving record three months from now (showing no new tickets). I can do that. :thumbsup:

 

As I suit up and get back in the saddle, it's still uncomfortably hot, about 90 degrees. Within a few miles down the road I'm getting restless again. I've been in this saddle for about seventeen hours over the past two days without much movement, and the load-bearing portions of my anatomy are complaining loudly. I oblige by adopting a wide variety of positions:

 

  • Legs Forward. I bought Elf Pegs a few years ago. It's nice to have another option for foot position, and having a backrest to push against when my feet are that far forward really makes this position work well. I wouldn't run Deals Gap like this, but on the interstate, when traffic is light, it's nice.
  • Legs Backward. I plant my feet on the passenger pegs, or hook my toes behind them. It looks odd, more like the position one would adopt on a top-fuel drag bike, but the shifting of my weight to less-tired parts of my body is a welcome change.
  • Legs Down. My legs dangle freely downward, just outboard of the pegs. Nearly touching the pavement as it zooms by, this affords my knees a rare period of time in which to be straight instead of bent.
  • Legs Out. Toes up, legs splayed out to the sides, the wind load pushes my legs to the rear and stretches my thigh muscles nicely. The push is much greater at highway speed, or when wearing rain pants.

In addition to refreshing my tired, achy, itchy body, the variety of positions also provides mental stimulation, which is becoming more and more important. I'm not sleepy, but this is not fun riding, either. I'm ready to be home.

 

96 miles later it's cooled off a bit to 85 degrees; it's no longer “uncomfortably warm,” it's just “warm.” :grin: I park at the Battle Creek rest area for what I expect will be the last stop of the trip before getting home. Outside the main building, there's another memorial plaque, this time dedicated to members of the US Army's 94th Infantry, which saw service in World War II after being initially activated in Michigan:

 

(click on image to open a full-size, readable photo in another window)

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-158-XL.jpg

 

So that's two rest areas in a row with monuments commemorating a couple of rather accomplished army units. Michigan, it seems, is quite proud of her military record.

 

 

It's only 81 miles home from here, but these are the slowest miles of the entire trip. I'm tired, sore, anxious to finally end the day and end the odyssey. The restlessness returns, and I combat it with more strange riding positions:

 

  • Rack Grab. I reach back with one hand and grab the cargo rack, twisting and stretching my spine and upper body. With the throttle lock, doing this with my right arm is also possible.
  • Stand up. Having smooth air whisper past my helmet is a refreshing change, and when the entire bike disappears from my field of view, I feel like Superman flying unassisted down the road. :Cool:
  • Chin down. It's amazing that we can hold our head up all day with four pounds of helmet on it. Once in a while I lay forward and put the chin bar of my helmet on the tankbag; tucked in behind the windscreen, the wind noise disappears completely, and for a brief time all I can hear is the engine.
  • RidingSmart. It must look odd to passers-by, but by leaning out to one side or the other, even when the road is straight, I can stretch and reinvigorate most of my upper body.
  • Hula. Moving my hips in a circular motion loosens up my spine and wakes up the muscles in my lower back.

With only 30 miles or so left, the ennui of over a thousand highway miles is suddenly paired up with the anxiety of a nearly empty fuel tank. The low-fuel light came on a little while ago, and the last bar has disappeared from the gage display. Based on previous estimates of how much fuel is left when the light comes on, I think I can make it home, though I've never cut it this close before. But I don't want to take any more time, don't want to make any more stops: I just want to get home. The anxiety drops as I get closer and closer to town, knowing that at this point Masako can come and get me if I do run out of gas.

 

20 miles from home, familiar exits come into view. M-52. Baker Road. Zeeb Road. M-14. For the last ten minutes I've been on edge, half expecting the engine to die after it sucks down the last drop of fuel; it's been 285 miles since the last fuel stop. The anxiety fades as my exit finally comes up, and I leave the interstate behind; the toughest part of the whole trip is now done. I putter through a leisurely 3 miles of urban and residential streets to get to my house, pull up into my driveway and put the sidestand down, killing the engine.

 

 

The odyssey is complete.

 

 

EPILOGUE, 10 JULY 2007

It was a bit of a rough homecoming. Great to see my wife and home after so long, but so much work to do! Because of “bike lag,” my body was still two time zones way, so I didn't sleep well for several nights. I had to trim bushes and cut grass at two houses; by the time I finished cutting the second one I was so exhausted I was just about in tears. Three days after getting back, we had to fly out of town for a wedding. And then I had to hammer-down on the Mojolevers (I'm still not caught up!).

 

Things are fine now. I got through my “bike lag,” and worked through my big short-term to-do list. I finally found time to go for a ride a week and a half after I got home. My first stop was a gas station, where I put 6.7 gallons of fuel into the RT; if reports of the 7.2-gallon useable capacity are correct, then I only had about twenty miles of range left when I got home from the trip! :eek:

 

And last week, we sold that second house! :clap:

 

A month and a half later after coming home, I still haven't washed the RT. I need to do that – it's a beautiful machine when it's clean, and I know all that gunk (especially the bugs!) is bad for the paint – but there's a part of me that doesn't want to let go of my souvenir dirt. :grin: Pics will have to do:

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-159-XL.jpg

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-160-XL.jpg

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-161-L.jpg

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-162-L.jpg

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-163-L.jpg

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-164-L.jpg

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-165-L.jpg

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-166-L.jpg

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-167-L.jpg

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-168-L.jpg

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-169-L.jpg

 

2007-05-my-torrey-odyssey-170-L.jpg

 

 

 

 

As I alluded to earlier in this thread, the “sharpness” of my memories is already starting to fade, and I sometimes find myself reviewing my own ride tale, reading and browsing images to recover some of the details. The feeling one derives from aged memories of a day's ride is far different from the feeling one has immediately at the end of that ride; and that feeling in turn is a slender echo the experience itself. The journey to Torrey is resource-intensive, but those fading memories need to be refreshed from time to time by that wellspring of experience; I hope I can marshal the resources to visit again in a couple of years.

 

Thanks for reading. :wave:

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
BFish

welcome home (belated). thumbsup.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lone_RT_rider
Thanks for reading.

 

No.... Thank you for putting one heck of a road trip into print. I know I have been unusually quiet through your entire thread, but I really believed that anything I might have to add would really be nothing more than "noise" compared to how eloquently you have put things. I was with you through a good portion of this trip and even while experiencing all these things with you, I never saw or remembered even a fourth of what you did. My friend, my riding partner...my brother... many, many thanks. smirk.gifthumbsup.gif

 

Shawn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
EffBee

Mitch, you've just completed one great ride and one great tale for posterity. Later, when you and Masako have your little ones, and you can't fathom leaving the family for two weeks, you'll be able to relive the journey, rekindle old memories, revive and review old thoughts, because you've taken the time to put it to paper.

 

Thank you for taking us along on your journey, both the one outside and the one inside. You're a wonderful storyteller and, as Shawn already knows, a great traveling companion.

 

See you again in a couple of years. And yes, a trailer for the long straight parts is perfectly fine. I believe you have new friends in Colorado now where you can possibly leave it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Couchrocket

Mitch,

 

This is one ride tale for the ages! Thanks so much for your time and effort in putting this all down for us to share. thumbsup.gifthumbsup.gifthumbsup.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Les is more

Epic, Mitch--a real travelogue!

 

This is not just a ride tale, it's a real learning experience. Thanks for this gift.

 

 

 

By the way--

 

Hula. Moving my hips in a circular motion loosens up my spine and wakes up the muscles in my lower back.

 

This sounds like it could also be a way to earn a little extra cash along the way. lmao.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
russell_bynum

Bravo!!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
EffBee
Epic, Mitch--a real travelogue!

 

This is not just a ride tale, it's a real learning experience. Thanks for this gift.

 

 

 

By the way--

 

Hula. Moving my hips in a circular motion loosens up my spine and wakes up the muscles in my lower back.

 

This sounds like it could also be a way to earn a little extra cash along the way. lmao.gif

 

I was actually worried about his safety should he try that in front of a Kenworth driver. eek.gif

 

I like your idea better, Les. Although I'll take your word for it that there's money involved. tongue.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
jeddy

Thanks, Mitch. Well done in all respects. I hope we can ride together again....without the ticket of course! thumbsup.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
daveinatlanta

Mitch - thanks for taking setting aside a significant amount of your free time to write this story. You have an excellent writing style and an unusual recollection of details that are a month or more in the past.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
90%angel

This is not just a ride tale, it's a real learning experience. Thanks for this gift.

 

Agreed. I was clicking through a lot of the links you provided, learning little tidbits along the way that I didn't know before. Before I knew it, I'm spending 20 minutes or so looking through Iowa State's website! eek.gif

 

Good job! thumbsup.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
tallman

Mitch,

Thanks for the tale.

You have a gift for riding and writing.

Probably not so bad in other areas too. grin.gif

Clean the RT, the bike earned it. wave.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...