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Road to Fruition: Elemental


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If you’ve never read one of my Ride Tales, I’m warning you now to come back later unless you’ve got time to kill.


First, some trivia. It is the 10th most abundant element in the universe. It is second only to aluminum among metals on Earth, but first if you measure by mass. It constitutes ~35% of the mass of Earth as a whole. It is used by almost all organisms. Its atomic number is 26, and its symbol is “Fe.” And, in a few weeks I should have official proof that my butt contains more of it than the average motorcyclist’s (but certainly a lot less than many others around here). This lame image from my old Treo shows why:




(For those of you who don’t appreciate Impressionism, it says I rode about 1,000 miles in about 18 hours of riding time, and fewer than 24 hours total)


If Joe Bob Briggs were reviewing my experience at the inaugural Colorado Classic 1000, he might sum it up this way: 70+ registrants; 63 starters (mostly BMW, but several other brands represented); 56 finishers; 1 final drive failure (not mine, thankfully); deer fu (1 rider down, reportedly OK, bike & deer were totaled); PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress over Deer); 7 fuel stops; 27 gallons of gas burned; 47 mpg; 12 mountain passes with more than 120,000 total feet of elevation; twisties; canyons; high desert; numerous small towns with 25 mph speed limits; 210 oz. of water sipped from a Camelbak; 9” of Subway sandwiches eaten; 2 Mocha Frappucinos; rain; lightning; miscellaneous critters drinking water from rumble strips on the shoulder; 1 hypothesis comparing the chances of finding a hooker and whiskey in eastern Utah before finding a rest area; 1 near miss with a skunk; 1 hour of horribly shaky video; 1,024 official miles for the event; approximately 1,034 miles for me (I went off course a bit after fueling in Price, Utah); 1,261 miles for me for the weekend; $145 spent for the … ahem … privilege of sleeping on a sofa bed after finishing (at a hotel I won’t name, but whose initials are “Steamboat Grand,” thank you very little); and no dead bodies (excluding deer & other critters).


Alas, I lack Joe Bob’s talent, so you’ll have to slog through this instead.


I’m not sure when or why I decided on entering this event. I must have been brimming with optimism about my opportunity to prepare for an endurance event the way a prudent person would. Or, maybe I coveted one of those IBA license plate backs, but just couldn’t work up the nerve to get it an easier way, such as stealing one the next time I was at a BMWST.com event. Anyway, all my busy work schedule allowed me to do in preparation since I entered was test my limits of mental fatigue on a daily basis, and function (somewhat, at least) on less sleep than normal. Oh, and I took one ride of about 600 miles in early August. Yup, I was ready alright.


Consistent with my training for the event, I made sure to get no more than 5.5 hours of sleep on Friday night. I arrived at the start hotel in Lakewood at about 9:30 pm, too late to pick up my registration packet, so I’d have to do that in the morning, starting at 4 am, and attend a mandatory riders’ briefing at 4:45 am. On the other hand, this was the first day of my much-needed vacation, so riding until I could hardly ride any more had a certain appeal.


In my packet on Saturday morning I found a route map that resembled this:




Except for the roads in Utah, I’d ridden most of these before, and I was looking forward to riding them again. Then it occurred to me that: (a) I’d have little chance to take in the scenery along the way, as I churned away the miles, doing my best to make sure I finished, and (b) as nice as the route might otherwise be, if we’re doing this for a reason other than sight seeing, couldn’t we ride something a little straighter, with higher speed limits? Ah, well, the outsides of my tires wouldn’t be neglected.


In the riders’ briefing, the organizer warned that we’d be traveling at times and through territory where wildlife would be active and pose a real hazard. I was already leery of deer, and this warning turned that up a notch.


With the route book tucked in the map case on my tank bag, I turned in my start card at 5:05 a.m. (photo courtesy of Colorado Beemers’ Smugmug site).




The route headed immediately into the foothills west of Denver, and soon a game of Tortoise and Hare began. I was among the first few starters, but after about 30 minutes I was passed by quite a few bikes. Later, I’d pass many of them while they stopped for gas or a smoke, and then they’d pass me again after they got back under way.


The sun began rising as I rolled though South Park along US 285. Like my last 3 trips through this area, it was raining, although only lightly this time. Not long after the sun first peeked over the horizon, I rolled up on a scene between Buena Vista and Poncha Springs that won’t leave my memory any time soon. It literally haunted me for most of the rest of the ride.


Up ahead there was a line of bikes stopped on the right shoulder, with their riders huddled nearby. As I slowed and approached, I saw plastic bits strewn all over the road, and then an obvious point of impact near the center line. There was a pool and spray of blood, with what looked like a few flakes from a hay bale scattered all around it. Quite a ways away from that point, where the riders were huddled just off the right shoulder, there was one rider lying on his back, motionless. Farther down the road, on the left shoulder, was the deer’s carcass, obviously DOA from blunt force trauma. And even farther away I could see the front wheel, fender and headlight of what looked like a blue 1150 RT poking out of a ditch past the left shoulder. A heavy, sick and sad feeling washed over me. My greatest fear about riding had been realized, but by someone else. Given the number of people already on the scene, and having only basic first aid training, I slowly rolled on. Within minutes, the lights of an ambulance speeding toward the scene approached from the south. We learned the next morning at the celebratory brunch for the finishers that the rider was OK. With some bruises, sprains and minor lacerations to one hand he was discharged from the ER and was resting at home. Thank goodness for that outcome. But that scene filled me with dread.


I stopped in Poncha Springs for gas, stretching and a bio break. Since it was daylight and I’d be approaching Monarch Pass, I decided to try out a new farkle: vibration-damped camera mount from SW-Motech that installs on the rim of the gas tank, using a mounting ring that I also use to mount my tank bag. I mounted my camcorder to it, and hoped to get some good video. The camera mount is a clever design that uses some RAM mounting bits, but I discovered that the vibration damping isn’t particularly well-executed. The rubber dampers are too soft, and they allow the camera to shake quite a bit more than its image stabilization can compensate for. I’m going to re-work it to take the dampers out and make it more rigid. The bottom line is that I shot an hour of video over some of Colorado’s best roads, hoping capture some stills from it to illustrate this tale, but the video is practically unwatchable because of the shaking, and I haven’t been able to capture any decent stills from it. So, this tale is much less illustrated than I prefer.


Through the middle of the day, the ride was wonderful. A glorious late summer day over great roads in Colorado’s high country. I hit the mandatory gas stop in Lake City, and rolled on to Pagosa Springs where I stopped for lunch and called home to check in. Along the way, I was listening to Episode #340 of This American Life, which included an interesting story about an Iraq war veteran who confronted his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by joining the Muslim Student’s Association at the community college where he enrolled after being discharged from the Army. I was generally aware of PTSD, but I learned a lot from this soldier’s story. As it turns out, my subconscious began processing on that, quite earnestly.


After rolling west into Durango, the route turned north on US 550, the Million Dollar Highway. The traffic was lighter than I expected for a Saturday, and I wasn’t held up too much until the last 5 miles into Ouray. The scenery was gorgeous, but I couldn’t afford the time to take much of it in. There was a mandatory gas stop ahead in Ridgway, where the route turned west again toward Moab. I stopped in Moab for dinner, stretching and a bio break, having covered about two-thirds of the route in about 13 hours. I was feeling pretty good, although my butt was pretty uncomfortable for the last 50 miles into Moab. Along with a sandwich from Subway, I washed down some ibuprofen with a Mocha Frappucino. I know caffeine use is frowned upon for long-distance riding, but I’m not really a long-distance rider, and I’m not sure I want to give up coffee.


The roads from Moab to the final mandatory gas stop in Price, UT were much straighter and flatter, which was a relief at that point. But after Price, US 191 gets hilly and twisty for about 45 miles into Duchesne, UT. It was dark again by then, so I kept my speed down, and I discovered what my subconscious had been working on since the morning. After sunset, it seemed that I could hardly go 5 miles without seeing a sign warning about deer and wildlife in the road. My mind flashed back to the deer strike scene from earlier in the day, and soon I was stressing and obsessing over Bambi and her ilk. I realized I was feeling a similar kind of reaction to deer that the Iraq war veteran had developed toward the Iraqis he encountered in his tour of duty. Uncertain if they were friendly or foes disguised as friends, poised for an ambush, he assumed they were all foe and developed an apprehension and hatred for all of them. I was feeling the same way about deer. My 200 watts of aux. lighting are a defensive measure, but not a perfect one.


After Duchesne, where I stopped again to stretch and have another Mocha Frapp, it began raining and there was an intense thunderstorm to the north. Lightning lit up the horizon, for up to a second or more at a time, at least once a minute for quite a while. It helped keep me alert, but I could have done without the rain and the visibility challenges it created. On a wet road in the dark, I still had to keep my speed down. I was able to follow some tail lights for part of the way, but after about 10 pm, I was alone on the road. Well, it was me and the critters. After it had been raining a while, I saw rabbits, several different times, slurping water from the rumble strips cut into the shoulder of the road. I’d never considered rumble strips to be a possible road hazard before, but if they attract wildlife after rainstorms …


The constant scanning for deer and other critters while wiping the rain off my face shield and traveling at a much slower speed than I preferred was taking a toll in terms of fatigue. I started noticing the effects. Thanks to the caffeine, I wasn’t sleepy, but I could tell I was getting tired. I would glance at the mile markers, and then at the GPS, and compute the remaining miles in my head. For what seemed like 45 minutes, the result never changed – I was still 150 miles away from the finish. That wasn’t actually true, but I could tell my mind was starting to get as weary as my body had become. I began looking for a rest area.


Maybe it was just my weariness, but I began to wonder if rest areas were among the many things that are forbidden in Utah. There were none in sight, and none indicated on the GPS, between Duchesne and the Colorado state line. I started to think I’d have a better chance of finding whiskey and a hooker along the roadside in that stretch. My mind was still working, just not as productively. smirk.gif I stopped in Vernal for gas, but I’d have liked to have had a chance to stop elsewhere, if I’d really needed it.


Approaching Craig, CO, I participated in the last play of the game of Tortoise and Hare. Two riders I’d seen several times that day were rolling along ahead of me, but well under the speed limit. I considered staying with them for the remaining 40 miles to the finish line in Steamboat Springs, but I couldn’t tolerate that pace. I needed to be done.


At 2:32 a.m., I rolled up to the entrance at the Steamboat Grand and crossed the finish line, about 22.5 hours and 1,034 miles after starting. The welcoming committee was quite chipper, considering the time of day, and was handing out mementos like this to each finisher.




I had hoped to finish much sooner, but that was probably unrealistic based on my lack of preparation. At that point I was just glad to be done, and looking forward to some real rest. The real rest part would have to wait until later on Sunday, as I discovered that the room I’d booked, for the meager sum of $145, didn’t have a real bed in it, just a pair of platform day beds and a sofa sleeper. eek.gif I got a few hours of sleep on the lumpy sofa bed, got up and showered, and joined the other finishers for a celebratory brunch. The times of the finishers were posted, and I was about in the middle of the pack. Four riders finished at a time that was recorded as 4:59 a.m. – one minute before the finish line closed.


In Steamboat, I was still 160 miles from home. Heidi met me in Walden for lunch at one of our favorite comfort food restaurants, the River Rock Café. She snapped this shot of a tired Bumble Bee.




The rest of the ride home was a jaunt down CO 14 and the Poudre Canyon, remarkably free of slow traffic on a Sunday afternoon. Then it was time for a beer, a real bed, and getting on with the rest of vacation, which has included a few scenes like this one




Fewer miles, and no time pressure. thumbsup.gif


If you read this far, thanks for indulging me.

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Congratulations Joel...In retrospect, maybe I should have joined you, but reading (and hearing from BMWMCC members) about the deer, confirmed I probably made the right decision.


As for

Along with a sandwich from Subway, I washed down some ibuprofen with a Mocha Frappucino. I know caffeine use is frowned upon for long-distance riding, but I’m not really a long-distance rider, and I’m not sure I want to give up coffee.
Ditto... That's been a staple of mine on the road as well.


Good for you!


Mike O

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Nice job Joel. Congrats and all that. It was a good read.


I'm also looking forward to hearing about how the camera mount works (assuming you get it to that point some day.)

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Nice write up Joel! Congratulations! That's beautiful country to ride in but I'm afraid that I'd be deer obsessed after the sun went down. Welcome to the iron butt tribe. smile.gif

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Joel...you rawk! I thought you already had a camera mount off of the front fender? Or maybe that was Ken & Donna's bike, hmm....


Regardless, that's a great achievement! Do you think it helped that this was an organized event?

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Thanks, all!


I'll post something in Bike Related Things when I get the camera mount sorted out. Steve's right, I had a mount already, that I rigged by reaming out an unused bolt hole in my light bar, then inserting a bolt that matches the threads on a typical tripod. It provides a good POV, but I can't reach it from the saddle. My camcorder's remote is IR instead of RF, so with the mount in that position I need to stop the bike (or perform a stunt) in order to start, stop or adjust the camera.


To Steve's question about the benefit of an organized event: it was absolutely an advantage, and one I greatly appreciate. Colorado Beemers kicks butt in this regard, and I should have given the club and the organizer, Eric Levy, more props. Not only was the route planned carefully and clearly marked in a handy booklet, but the club arranged for hotel discounts on both ends, some good swag (commemorative polo shirt and awards for all finishers, + more), a nice brunch afterward with a ton of door prizes from 20+ sponsors, and streamlined paperwork with the IBA (I mailed in 1 simple page and a check for $25). The event was VERY well organized and run. It was also good to know that there were other riders out there on the same route, for help or motivation. I bet the guy involved in the deer strike was really grateful for that.

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Thanks for the vivid discription of your outstanding ride.


Coming up on accidents always puts a lump in your throat.I was glad to hear the rider was okay.


I sent you an Email about two weeks ago, it failed. Denise and I came out to Fort Collins, and checked out some property out in Rist Canyon and on Stove Prarie Rd. I think will be moving out your way within the next year. I'm the guy from North Carolina at the Gunnison UnRally that you and Hiedi put onto Beemer and More.Thanks for that. Steve one of the owners used to work at BMW of Charlotte. Kinda neat.


Anyway congradulations on your ride, great job. clap.gif

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Hi Dee:


We remember you. Steve, Roxanne and Beemers & More are tops.


If you get a place in Rist Canyon or Stove Prairie, you'll be spoiled with beautiful scenery and great twisty asphalt, and we'll be jealous. Just rode both roads on Sunday. We'd love to find a way to live up there. If you head this way again, ping me. My email is up to date in my profile.

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Will do, and watch those cattle guards!

When we where out we met some guy with the Twisted Shaft Motorcycle club, what a name. That very Sunday they were airlifting some poor bicyclist out that hit a guard rail on Rist Canyon, I believe he was forced off the road by a Semi.

Enjoy your vacation. Great write!

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