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Route 66 Ride Report


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2 Wheels

3 Friends

10 States

3,600 Miles

and Old Route 66

Written by Mark King


The three of us had been talking about a big trip for quite awhile. We had great memories of a trip to Key West two years ago. With a couple of other guys we were out nine days and covered about 2,300 miles. One of, if not THE, best bike trip I’ve ever been on. Recreating that kind of experience was a dream goal that we thought could never actually be accomplished, but were willing to try.


Where to go and when we could go were the two big questions. After knocking down a couple of dates and itineraries, it kind of hit us at the same time. We were all going to be in St. Louis for a convention and if we rode our bikes there, we would be in a perfect position to pick up historic old Route 66 and head west.


The call of the ‘Mother Road’ is strong. In fact, it had been calling Ron for a long time. Ron grew up in southern California and there were several childhood trips back and forth on the Mother Road to family and friends back east. Bruce grew up in Tulsa, OK - right on the Mother Road itself. My family made at least two driving trips to Los Angeles from my hometown, Dallas, TX.


We all had personal experiences with the attractions that the Mother Road presented. But, as kids, never got enough. Whether it was Dad not wanting to shell out a couple of dollars more to stay in the tepee shaped motel or Mom not wanting any part of stopping to see ‘the THING’: the only living example of the most terrible creature you could possibly imagine, ever on the face of the whole earth. The Mother Road was calling us back.


So, the plan was in place. The route was chosen and the dates set. We set out to go as far west as we possibly could and then back home to Nashville, TN in ten days. Starting in St. Louis, we figured that we could make it as far west as Santa Fe, NM then head north into the Colorado Rockies for a couple of days, and then back home through Dodge City, KS crossing our path in Tulsa, OK before heading back into Tennessee.


The pace we set was for 300 - 400 mile days. We weren’t setting out for an Iron Butt run! We wanted to pace ourselves for plenty of time to stop and see all that the Mother Road had to offer. We wanted plenty of pictures, too!


The route sort of looked like a fish on the map. Planning the trip was almost as much fun as the trip itself. That’s the case most of the time. Most of the trips you plan don’t measure up to the images that you conjure up in your mind. This one did.


We had different schedules getting to St. Louis. Ron rode up a couple of days earlier. Bruce and I rode to St. Louis on Friday, June 7, 2002. Bruce and I rode I-24 from Brentwood to just north of Paducah, KY. Actually to Vienna, IL where we cut over to Cape Girardeau, MO on Highway 146. We crossed the Mississippi there and rode on 72 to Fredericktown where we picked up US67 and rode to the outskirts of St. Louis where we picked up I-55 into downtown. The trusty GPS took us pretty straight to our hotels on South 4th street near the Arch.


The next week was a long one as we did our job at the Southern Baptist Convention. The anticipation was enormous. It didn’t help that a few of our fellow LifeWay employees had spotted us arriving and almost everyone (men that is) had to ask us why we rode bikes all the way there. After explaining to a few the plan to use St. Louis as the ‘jumping off’ point for the grand trip, word seemed to spread like wildfire about the impending adventure. All of this brings the reflection that most of us motorcyclists have from time to time about the call of the road and the inner drive to seek adventure. The most common reaction among our non-rider friends was “Wow, I’ve always dreamed of doing that. I wish I was going with you.” So many times we just net it out as a fact that there are only two types of guys: those who ride and those who want to. Most of the women just made a funny face – you know, the one your wife gives you when she is absolutely sure that you have lost your mind.


The morning of our departure from St. Louis finally came – the call of the Mother Road could not be denied any longer. We met at the Arch for a few pictures and headed out-of-town on old Route 66. A stop at the original Ted Drewes for a picture was the first of many such picture taking opportunities. It was too early for a ‘concrete’ but we had each hit the place a couple of times during the week we were in St. Louis. So we headed out of town on the Watson Road path of historic Route 66.


Later that morning we pulled into a truck stop for fuel, a cup of coffee, and a leg stretch. It was a pretty big place that caters to the truck driving clientele. You know the layout: a big restaurant in a bar type configuration with phones every couple of stools and restrooms with showers in the back. First off, the waitress refused to cooperate in any way with our photography needs. She made it clear that she did not want her picture taken nor was she about to take our picture. The truck driver a few stools down snapped the shot for us and we sat, sipped coffee, and chewed the fat with him for awhile. Between us and that truck driver we calculated that the gal must be in the witness protection program or something. He was a nice guy who at least at one time owned a Harley.


We took off from there, or at least I did. At the second turn I noticed that there wasn’t anyone behind me. I got on the shoulder for a couple minutes, but neither Ron nor Bruce showed. Not a good sign, so I doubled back to the truck stop and found them both still there with Ron’s Harley smoking like it had blown a cylinder. All three of us scratched our heads for a few minutes trying to figure this out. That Harley has always run well and there was no logical reason for it to blow up. As I took my helmet off, I got a whiff of the blue smoke. It smelled like diesel to me so I asked the painfully obvious question, “Ron, you didn’t accidentally fill it up with diesel fuel – did you?” Ron didn’t answer the question verbally, but the look on his face said it all. He marched back to the pumps to confirm the suspicion and returned with that same awful expression on his face. I was just glad the engine hadn’t blown. We could deal with the diesel fuel. Our truck driver buddy stopped to check on us as he left. He let us know that the EPA guys took a frown on draining diesel fuel onto the ground. So we found a long hose and siphoned it back to the pump – yea that’s it. That’s what we did. We siphoned it back to the pump.


Anyway, after a few minutes we were pushing the Harley back to the pump and filling it with gasoline. It wouldn’t start up with so much diesel fuel on the plugs so we decided to tow it a mile or two to see if we could get it to fire. I produced a ‘Buddy Tow’ a nifty little addition to any tool box that I got from Aerostitch. But of course being a BMW rider and with this encouragement, I have officially renamed the product a ‘Harley Tow.’ We tied the Harley to Bruce’s VTX. With 1800 ccs, we figured he had the best towing power. It was a pleasant sight when from behind the towing process, with my flashers on, I could see the Harley fire up. It took a couple of miles, but sure enough, the beast came back to life. We were all relieved.


It was at this point we nick-named Ron ‘Stinky’ for the rest of the trip. Ron says the worst part about the whole thing is knowing that we are never going to let him live this down. This blooper has already become a legend in our circles and he will never be able to make fun of anyone else when they screw up! He says people he doesn’t even know are passing him in the halls where we work and saying, “Hi Stinky!” The Harley puffed an aromatic blue smoke for at least a couple of tanks of gasoline after that morning.



Lunch was at a neat little BBQ spot in central Missouri near the old Wagon Wheel Motel written up in many of the Route 66 books. This is a good place to mention that old Route 66 is hard to follow in some places and you really need to do some research before you hit the road. Ron was our resident expert on Route 66 history and he read all the books, research the internet, and got the maps we used.


From there we were headed to Carthage, MO near Joplin for our first night on the Mother Road. On this leg, we experienced two other encumbrances that often plague bike trips. First, even with the use of a GPS I managed to get us into a circling pattern around Springfield. I still don’t quite understand how it happened. We must have ridden 30 or 40 extra miles. Bruce kinda netted it out with, “Mark, I think you just forgot we were going west.” Anyway, the rest of the trip the GPS served us pretty well. The other negative we hit that day was rain. It was heavy enough for a moment anyway that we pulled over and put on the rain gear. Then, I’d say it probably rained on us about fifteen minutes and then quit. We never saw another drop of rain the rest of the ten days and 3,000 more miles. Is that a miracle or what?


On into Carthage and the Boots Motel, a landmark on the Mother Road. When we checked in, Ron mentioned that we had a reservation. The older guy at the desk who was probably also the manager, janitor, fix-it man, and maid reacted with, “Oh, you’re the ones with a reservation!” We guessed maybe they don’t get those very often. The next hurdle was the request for a roll-away bed. The answer was, “Ya, we got one, but it ain’t no good.” This lead to the story of how the mattress had disappeared, he thought stolen, for a couple of years and then was mysteriously returned. We decided to take it anyway. I lost the coin toss and had to sleep on it. It really wasn’t too bad, but I had to be very purposeful in putting the sight of the stains on it out of my mind. Being really tired from the day’s ride helped put me right to sleep in spite of the mattress.


The room itself was OK even though a bit run down. It had hardwood floors so I was glad for even the ragged roll-away bed because the only other option was to sleep on the floor. Your wife wouldn’t stay there, but the Boots Motel is a piece of history on the Mother Road. Clark Gable is reported as having stayed here! If it was good enough for him, it’s good enough for you. You NEED to stay there!


Dinner that night was at the little restaurant next door. After a good meal, sitting out in front of the motel in old metal lawn chairs like most folks had in the 50s, talking about the experiences of the day, was a perfect way to draw our first day on the road to a fitting conclusion.


The next morning we left the Boots Motel and headed for the few miles of the Mother Road that cut across the southeast corner of Kansas. Baxter Springs, KS provided the perfect stop for breakfast. Going into Baxter Springs, you pass over one of the last concrete suspension bridges left in America.

It is a work of art. A great little town, one of so many that we went through, that emanate a small town aura that lets you know that some places just don’t operate on the same level of haste and hurry that we experience in the big cities. We pulled into downtown Baxter Springs and stopped at Murphey’s Restaurant. The restaurant building used to be a bank. The only way you can really tell that now is that they turned the vault into the restroom. We all made deposits.


Out of Baxter Springs you are literally only a mile or two from the Oklahoma border. Bruce was feeling his oats as his boyhood home was fast approaching. I was still leading the troop, but Bruce was definitely pushing the VTX a little harder now. But first we were going through another boyhood home: Mickey Mantle’s that is. Commerce,OK is right on the Mother Road and it takes you right by the high school baseball field now named after its favorite son. It was still pretty early and we were prepared to stop at any type of museum for Mickey, but we never saw anything or any signs on the road. We might have missed a sign though. At any rate we wound up just riding through town.


The next stop was the famous Giant Blue Whale in Catoosa, OK. As you walk around, you can imagine the scores of kids that used to stop in 1955 station wagons for a cool, refreshing swim. The sounds of their laughter and splashing still somehow echo around the little park. Before theme parks and water parks, this little spot must have been a big improvement over the country swimming holes. We even wondered if kids nowadays might have more fun at a place like this than at the water parks of this day and age. Today you can’t swim at the giant blue whale, only fishing is allowed.


As we approached Tulsa, there was time for a coffee stop near Claremore, OK. This is where Bruce’s brother-in-law and sister-in-law live. Robert came out to meet us at the coffee shop. He is a judge in that small town. We had a close encounter with a local police officer and feared that we had been caught speeding. We all thought we might need Robert to give us a ‘get out of jail free’ card. Turned out that the officer just sped by us. We were coming back through Claremore on the return leg and Robert and his wife Dynda were going to let us spend the night at their home. We had noticed a black Honda outside the coffee shop and talked for a few moments with the owner and his wife who were out on a short trip. We noticed that anytime we ran into other bikers we had an instant rapport with them as we shared the brief description of this big adventure with them. We bid farewell, for this visit, to Robert and headed for a lunch date in Tulsa with Bruce’s mother and father in-law, Bob and Helen Post. As we hit Tulsa, we rode by Bruce’s boyhood home which he described as being on the wrong side of the bad side of town. It was a neat but small home not unlike the ones that many of us grew up in. We met Bruce’s mother-in-law at Goldies, a locally renowned place for burgers. The burgers were great and Bruce’s mother-in-law was a treat. Bob also was able to swing by and say hello, even though he was not able to lunch with us.


On to Oklahoma City and the state capitol from here. We took the turnpike to save some time. It was a pretty warm afternoon in the hot OK sun. The capitol is undergoing a remodeling project with a new rotunda complete with a spear toting Indian on top. From nearby Tinker AFB, we could see a flight exhibition team either putting on a show or practicing in the air in the distance. The white contrails showed in contrast to the bright blue sky. This was a short stop as we were anxious to get to our destination for the day and then cool off in the swimming pool.


The destination for that day was Clinton, OK in the western part of the state about 50 miles from the border into the Texas panhandle. Clinton and the Trade Winds Motel is famous for being one of Elvis’ stopping places along the Mother Road as he traveled back and forth from Tennessee to Los Angeles. As we hit town and immediately across from the motel is one of several Route 66 museums that you encounter along the way. This is one of the better ones. We took the time to go through it right then even though we were pretty tired because it closed at 7:00 and it was around 5:30 when we got there. Anyway, it was worth the $7.00 admission fee and we all bought some souvenirs in the gift shop. It was time to check into the motel when, again, we offended someone with our cameras. The desk clerk let Ron know in no uncertain terms that she did not want her picture made. His promise to cut her out of the picture he just shot gave her no comfort at all. Our guess is that all these people are in the witness protection program and are frightened that the mob will find them. We had the ‘Elvis’ room reserved but discovered that there was only a king size bed in it (we should have known). After imagining what the three of us would look like rowed up in that king size bed together, we opted for another room with more beds. Dinner was at a Mexican Restaurant that advertised American food also (Bruce doesn’t do Mexican), but the American food was slim pickings on the menu. It was a good place though, evidenced by all the locals lining up to get in. After dinner, the pool was as refreshing as we thought it would be and then we sat on the elevated deck in front of the motel and watched the traffic, though it was very light, go by on the Mother Road. None of us could think of anything more fitting to cap off our day than this.


Breakfast was convenient at the restaurant next to the motel where we got to eavesdrop on some farmers talking about combines and such. Competitive blood flows in almost all veins. These guys were actually talking about racing their combines to see who’s was the fastest. They had a few comments about the bikes. A couple admitted to having ridden a bike at some point, but it was clear that they would not have understood our quest. So, we didn’t try to explain.


About 15 miles across the Texas state line in Shamrock you go through the famous intersection of Old Route 66 and US83. There is a reference to US83 in the movie, Castaway. At the end of the movie Tom Hanks is in the middle of nowhere and asks a girl in a pick-up about where the heck he is. She points north and says, “That way is Canada” then points south and says “that way is Mexico.” The road they are on is supposed to be US83. In Shamrock there is an abandoned gas station/café/motel at the intersection. It is a classic 50’s style and must have been a grand place during the prime days of the Mother Road. The sign is still up and the name of the place is the ‘U Drop Inn Café’. I could almost imagine my Dad pulling in here in our old 1953 Chevy. Today the station makes a great backdrop for motorcycle pictures.


This and many other spots along the Mother Road spark the childhood memories of family vacations to California. The three of us all have stories, and we know that you do too, of making this trip with our families and the special tactics our parents employed. I remember making the trip to California in a car without air conditioning. My Dad solved this problem before the next trip. He got hold of an evaporative cooler that you filled with water and mounted in one of the side windows. It looked like a mini turbine and forced passing air into the car through the water inside its body. The air was cool and wet, but it sure beat hot air blowing in your face! Other memories are of driving across the desert at night because of the high temps during the day and the water bag slung over the front bumper.


The day was eventually to take us to Tucumcari, NM. But first we had to conquer the Texas panhandle. The next stop along the way was in McLean, TX. We were looking for a coffee shop in the small panhandle town and when we entered the center of town we found that they were gearing up for their annual rodeo parade. So we invited ourselves to the fun. We made sure to get on the far side of the parade so we wouldn’t get trapped longer than we want to stay. We walked around the blocked off streets and joined in the festivities as local clubs, churches, and vendors had set up booths along the way. The WMU ladies from the local Baptist church were selling coffee and donuts so we visited with them awhile. They we only marginally impressed with our connection to LifeWay, our recent attendance at the convention in St. Louis or the fact that we were going to Glorieta for a night along our trip. They did perk up at some mention of Beth Moore, though! The parade started with Miss McLean in a shiny new gold Firebird convertible followed by an impressive line up of antique cars that were of the vintage that coincides with the boom time of the Mother Road. Then came the horses and cowboys and then it looked like an endless stream of boy and girl scout troops so we slipped out of town and on to our lunch destination, the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo.


In Amarillo the through route of old 66 goes into some pretty neat parts of town. One is reminiscent of some districts like 6th Street in Austin or the Loop area west of downtown St. Louis. There would have been several spots along this stretch for a lunch break but we had our hearts set on a stop at the Big Texan Steak Ranch, home of the famous free 72 oz. steak. The Big Texan is actually off old Route 66 on I-40 so we had to double back to get to it. The stop was worthwhile for the experience and just being able to say we’d been there. None of us was brave enough or hungry enough to take on the 72 oz. challenge.


We had past a Harley shop while back tracking on I-40 and made a stop there after we left the Big Texan. Ron needed a new spring for his kick stand and it seemed like a good place to pick one up. Ron decided to let them put it on so they pulled the Harley into the shop and Ron disappeared for a few minutes while waiting on the bike. After the diesel incident, I couldn’t help myself and snuck back to the shop and told the mechanics about it. They didn’t have to be coaxed into setting Ron up for a practical joke. The spring was put in place quickly and then the shop manager called Ron over and told him that the good news was the spring was in at minimal expense, but there seemed to be another problem with the bike. He went on with something about engine damage due to oil being in the fuel and point blank asked Ron if the bike had ever been run with diesel fuel in it. Ron said he thought about lying and saying no way, but figured if there was something wrong he might as well fess up and started to sheepishly admit to the guy what he had done. About then the shop manager and a couple mechanics began to bust out laughing and Bruce and I came from around the corner chiming in too. At this point he knew he had been had. We all had a good laugh and Ron said he was just relieved that there wasn’t anything really wrong with the Harley.


Ron told us later that the bill was about $50 and he didn’t realize until later that the spring only cost 5 bucks while the HD tee shirt he bought cost a whopping $40. Those Harley shops really know how to merchandise! I can’t point any fingers, though, because the BMW branded items are just as pricey.


Just west of town was the stop for the famous Cadillac Ranch. The weather was clear and hot and the cross winds were getting extremely rough. The colorful Cadillacs all pointing toward the sky is an interesting site. We stopped long enough to snap a few pictures, but didn’t dally too long there. We saw a couple of highway warning signs about the high winds and by the time we ended the ride for the day had a real appreciation for the power of those crosswinds. We all lamented not stopping to get a picture of one of those wind warning signs posted along the road. And if the crosswinds weren’t enough, add the sand-filled whirlwind that blew across the road sandblasting us. My windshield was pitted in a couple of places, but I was just happy to have not been blown off the bike.


After fighting those crosswinds for an hour, we were all hot and tired and desperately needed a rest stop. Civilization is sparse in these areas though and there aren’t many choices for stops. We came across a drive-in market and gas station in Adrian, Texas. Since it seemed to be the only place to stop, we pulled in. While sitting back enjoying a cold drink, the mother-in-law of the young, expectant mother who was clerking at the store came in with a friend and proceeded with presenting the expectant mom with gifts she had picked up at a yard sale earlier in the day. The talk, accents, and mannerisms were classic. In more civilized places these kinds of events are called baby showers. You really had to be there to appreciate it.


We back tracked a couple miles when we left the baby shower to get a picture of a famous landmark on the Mother Road. The Bent Door is a gas station made out of an old air control tower. It is abandoned now and is for sale. That is, unless Ron has gone back and bought it. He said he could take this exit off the beaten path called the rat race of life. I’m not sure that was him talking or the root beer he just guzzled. But now that I think about it, maybe we could be business partners and take the leap together!


From there the next stop was Glenrio right on the TX-NM border. What is left of the old town is deserted and the Mother Road bills it as a ghost town. It was a great place to take pictures of the bikes in front of a deserted gas station. On what is left of one abandoned motel is a sign that on one side says ‘First Motel in Texas’ and on the other side says ‘Last Motel in Texas’.


From there Tucumcari is only another 40 miles so we cruised on in and checked into another classic Mother Road motel; the Blue Swallow. It was like turning back the clock. The phones in the rooms are actually the old style dial phones. We had reserved the ‘suite’ and had a big bedroom that had one double bed and a twin bed in it, another bedroom with a double bed, a kitchenette, and a single car garage. All that for about $75 per night. After we had checked in and were sitting around in the lawn chairs that we in front of the rooms, a ‘honeymoon’ couple pulled in and checked into the room next to us. They were on a Harley complete with a cardboard ‘just married’ sign and a string of beer cans tied to the back. We had a nice conversation with the couple who were middle aged and probably not in their first serious relationship. They had a buddy in their wedding party that had crashed his bike and wound up in the hospital. We were sorry to hear of the crash and expressed our concern to the honeymoon couple who seemed to be determined to go on in spite of it. A little while later they came out of the room and mounted the bike for what we guessed would be a run down to a local bar for some libations. He was dressed in some classic black Harley garb, but she was in a very short black dress. When she climbed on the bike she really put on a show for us making sure we could see the garter on her right thigh. We saw it all right, but it wasn’t as much fun for us as it seemed to be for her. Ron wished that he had been bold enough to have taken that picture.


Dinner that night was at Del’s Restaurant. We sat at a table next to the entertainment: a lady playing mostly pop tunes on an upright piano. It was the most popular restaurant in town and all the locals were lined up to get in on that Saturday night. We got a kick out of a cowboy family that came because the 7 or 8 year old son was in cowboy garb just like his dad right down to the hat and spurs. The food was great and if you ever get to Tucumcari, we recommend the place.


Morning brought the next leg of the trip to Santa Rosa and then up to Santa Fe. Old Route 66 out of Tucumcari follows the frontage road flipping back and forth between the north and south sides. It was a relief to be riding without the fierce crosswinds of the day before. At Santa Rosa we picked up US84 which turned out to be a pre-1937 route of old Route 66 itself. So we were actually on Route 66 all then way to Santa Fe, NM.


We were noting that the terrain was changing from the flat plains and desert of the Texas panhandle to the northern mountains of New Mexico. US84 gives some wonderful views and the mountains begin to grow out of the flat lands below. A good picture opportunity was crossing the Pecos River in Dilia. From Dilia we headed north continuing on US84 to Romeroville where we picked up I-25 west to Glorieta and then on to Santa Fe.

This route follows that pre-1937 leg of old Route 66.


We were to spend Sunday night at the LifeWay Conference Center in Glorieta, NM. But since the day was a short day (only about 150 miles) we planned to sight see in Santa Fe. This meant we actually passed up the conference center in Glorieta and went the 25 more miles into Santa Fe. We had lunch there and walked around the square for awhile. I was looking for some turquoise jewelry and checked out the Indians that spread their blankets out on the square. Besides this there was a craft/art show going on with many booths set up around the square. We decided to go on back to Glorieta and check in to our rooms. The staff did a great job of getting us into Chaparral and we appreciated very much the free room. We split up the rest of the afternoon. Ron had many trips with his family and church to Glorieta and set off on a memory tour snapping pictures of all the spots he remembered. Bruce took a nap and I went down to the laundry and washed clothes. I must note here that I was the only one who washed clothes and I think smelled much better than my partners for the rest of the trip. That evening we went back to Santa Fe for dinner and another 50 mile round trip into Santa Fe and back. We all agreed that our 150 mile short day got extended a little by those round trips into town.


That evening we ran into a couple of other LifeWay friends who had come in to lead conferences the next week. The evening was topped off with a trip down to the Chuck Wagon for a smoothie. Ah, this is the life!


A good nights sleep in Glorieta, a couple of parting pictures, and we were headed for Colorado. Another run through Santa Fe and a stop for breakfast there as we picked up US285 then highway 68 into Taos. We stopped for coffee there on the square and went into a couple of the shops to stretch our legs a little. Ron said the coffee cost 4 bucks and was the worst he ever drank!


Out of Taos, we took 64 to Tres Piedras and then got back on US285 headed north another 30 miles into Colorado. Just outside of Taos, you cross the Rio Grande River Gorge over a pretty spectacular bridge. Crossing into Colorado the first town we came to was Antonito. At this point you could see the Rockies towering in the distance and it seemed to take forever that day to actually get to them. We had lunch in Alamosa and then took 17 north out of town headed toward Salida. We hooked back up with US285 a little south of Salida and continued toward our destination of Fairplay, Colorado.


At Moffat we were in desperate need of a leg stretch so we stopped in what looked like the only sign of civilization for miles – the Post Office. We talked to the ladies who ran the place for awhile and then got back on the road. The mountains were calling.


Next stop was a photo opportunity at Poncha Pass, elevation 9,010 feet. It still seemed flat where we were with the Rockies in the distance. None of use had realized that we had climbed to this elevation. This is a good spot to note that all the bikes performed well at these altitudes – even the diesel powered Harley.


Somewhere around Nathrop we hit some road construction. Another pair of couples on bikes caught up with us in the traffic and it afforded the opportunity again to trade some road stories and share some directional information. We all passed a guy and his passenger on an old Yamaha whose battery gave out in the jam. We were going to push him off, but he obviously never bumped a bike off and kept trying to let the clutch out in first or second which only brought him to an abrupt stop. At one point while we were pushing him, he steered so erratically that he almost hit our bikes that we had left parked on the side of the road while we helped him. We thought it to be Divine Providence when a person in a car offered to give him and his passenger a ride into the next town where he could get some help. At this point the Rockies were getting closer and with every mile we were climbing in altitude. We were watching for smoke due to the fires burning in Colorado at the time, but we were happy that we never really saw any smoke nor were we hampered in any other way by them. Another 40 miles and we made Fairplay. There, we were at 10,200 feet above sea level. The Hand Hotel is on Highway 9 only a short way off of US285.

We were to be at the Hand Hotel two nights and as we searched it out I know we were all hoping it would be a good place to stay. As we turned around the corner and up the street to the front of the hotel, we knew we had made a good choice. The hotel is a rustic western style hotel that has a lobby and dining area downstairs and about a dozen rooms upstairs. The lobby has a wonderful seating area with a stone fireplace and bearskin rug on the wall. A deer or elk head kept guard over the front desk.


All the rooms upstairs have names instead of number and ours was the “Outlaw” room. We loved it. There was a double bed and bunked twins so it was perfect for the three of us. Upstairs, the hotel had balcony decks on both the front and back. We got to know the desk clerk, Richard, pretty well and he was a wealth of information on the town itself and kept us entertained with stories of local color and state history. Richard was educated as some sort of microbiologist and also had spent time in Denver working for or as a lobbyist. There are no TVs at the Hand Hotel, but we didn’t miss them at all.

Right next to the Hand Hotel is a monument to ‘Prunes’ the burro. Prunes is perhaps one of the most famous burros from Colorado's past. History buffs and local residents in the districts of the area so fondly respect the role burros played in early Colorado development, that annual pack-burro races are held to commemorate them. The races pay tribute to all those loyal, flop-eared friends who helped form Colorado's future, but especially Prunes. The monument at one time was reported to be second only to the Buffalo Bill Monument in "point of interest" ranking in Colorado, and was once featured in Ripley's "Believe It Or Not."

Prunes died at the age of 63 in 1930, after having faithfully served virtually every well known mine in the Fairplay/Alma mining district. Prunes was last owned by the colorful propsector "Rupe" Sherwood, who loved this burro so much, he built this monument to his faithful friend with his bare hands.

We had dinner at the other hotel in this little old west town of about 500 people. Both that hotel and the Hand Hotel were thought by locals to be haunted. We asked Richard, our resident expert, he explained the every once in awhile the locals would have what they call a sighting. The sighting starts in the early afternoon with wine and cheese and discussion about the ghost stories. That leads up to a dinner where more wine is consumed and then after dinner drinks before all settled in for the evening’s sighting. Richard said after that much wine and all the stories, it wasn’t hard to imagine why most wound up seeing ‘spirits.’


There is a local bar a couple of doors down from the Hand Hotel called the Park Bar. It was a happening place with many locals come and going and seeming to raise a pretty good ruckus down there. Richard assured us that it was mostly just good natured fun.


When you check into the Hand Hotel you get two keys. The big one is for your room and the little one is for the front door of the hotel. At 10 pm each night, Richard who is the only one there in the evenings, goes home and locks the front door. The guests have the run of the place and if you go out, you have to have a key to let yourself back in. Actually, it wasn’t unusual for Richard to walk down the street to talk to other locals without reservation about leaving the hotel and its two gift shops totally unguarded. But then when you think about it, that really wasn’t a very big risk.


The next day was another light day for us to do some sightseeing in the Colorado Rockies and rest up for the trip back home which had a long leg from Fairplay to Dodge City, KS the day after.


The day began with the continental breakfast served at the hotel. It was better than most I’ve seen at Hampton Inns and it was a great start for our day of sightseeing. Highway 9 takes you through Alma to the ski resort town of Breckenridge a total of only 38 miles. And this is one of the most scenic 38 miles you’ll ever ride. About halfway between Alma and Breckenridge you go over Hoosier Pass, elevation 11,542 feet. Continuing the northerly route on 9 takes you to Frisco another little ski town. From there we got on I-70 and headed west only a couple miles to 91 which we took south to Leadville, an historic mining town. Keep in mind at this point Denver is due east about 80 miles on I-70. When you exit I-70 onto 91, the first town you go through is another small ski resort town called Copper Mountain. You go over Freemont Pass, elevation 11,318 feet about half-way into Leadville. In Leadville there is a mining museum, a scenic railroad, and plenty of other things to do. If you’re hungry, eat at the Golden Burro Café.

From Leadville we went back north again on US24 all the way to Vail back up on I-70. This route takes you by Camp Hale, the training area where the 10th Mountain Division troops were trained during WWII. This historic area is marked well and worth a stop to read the historic markers. The division entered combat on January 28, 1945 in the North Apennine Mountains of Italy. Their assault was on Riva Ridge. The Germans considered the ridge to be impossible to scale and manned it with only one battalion of mountain troops. The attack by units of the10th Mountain Division was a complete success and an unwelcome surprise to the Germans. On April 14, 1945, the final phase of the war in Italy began. The 10th Mountain Division attacked toward the Po Valley spearheading the Fifth Army drive. In total the 10th completely destroyed five elite German divisions. In 114 days of combat they suffered casualties of 992 killed in action and 4,154 wounded. Since the 10th Mountain Division was one of the last to enter combat, it was to be used in the projected invasion of Japan. These plans ended with the surrender of Japan in August 1945. After a brief tour of duty in the Army of Occupation in Italy, the 10th was sent to Camp Carson, Colorado. There on November 30, 1945 the 10th Mountain Division was disbanded.


After walking around Vail for awhile (and paying the highest price on the whole trip for a gallon of gas) we headed back east on I-70 back to highway 9 and retraced 9 back to Fairplay. We had plenty of time to stop again in Breckenridge to sightsee and had an early dinner there before heading back to Fairplay.


That evening was an emotional mix of joy and exuberation for the absolutely great time we had so far with the melancholy knowledge that the trip was more than half over and the next day we were headed back home. Even though it would take almost four days to get back.


The next morning it was 47 degrees when we left Fairplay. It was delightfully crisp for our ride. Leaving on Highway 9 we rode southeast all the way to Royal Gorge.


The ride on 9 in that crisp morning air was great. The road twisted enough for us to get that lean that only a ride on two wheels gives you. We had the mountain scenery as the road twisted through hills and cattle ranches. We spotted one herd of buffalo in a pasture.

In another spot we noted an elk grazing along with the cattle. Ron was riding in front and I was following and was fiddling with my GPS and looked up to see Ron braking hard for a buck on the road with a rack that would make Dolly Parton jealous. The Beemer’s ABS brakes were given a good test in getting me stopped without hitting the buck or the Harley.


Royal Gorge is about 70 miles southeast of Fairplay. The Royal Gorge bridge is actually on a scenic loop off US50 and is now privately owned by Canon City, CO. We took the loop to go out to the bridge and encountered a curious longhorn on the road that we tried to get a picture of but only got him in the distance as he took off running. After the buck and now the steer on the road, all of us began to keep a sharper eye on the road and the shoulders for animals. When we got to the bridge we discovered that they charge $17 to enter their little amusement park and then go across the bridge. We thought that was a little pricey, so we took some pictures at the observation point and then got back on US50 going east through Canon City and Pueblo.


US50 goes all the way to Dodge City. This was a long haul and the longer the day went and the lower our altitude dropped the hotter it got. As we hit Kansas the thermometer on one bank we passed said 102 degrees - a 55 degree shift from our morning low in Fairplay. Then the hot crosswinds kicked up and made the trip into Dodge City a long unpleasant ride. We finally made Dodge City and went straight to Boot Hill. There isn’t much of the old cemetery left, but if you’re in Dodge City how can you help but go? It will cost you about $7 to get in. They have a pretty good collection of old west guns there, too.


Our dinner that night was at the motel steak restaurant which was decent and we didn’t have to get the bikes out again to get there. Ron asked the waitress if the wind always blew like it had and she gave him an incredulous kind of look and replied, “This is Kansas, you know?”


The next morning as we left Dodge City it was a little cloudy but wasn’t raining. Cattle trucks are everywhere all the time and saw a cow pee straight out the side of one of those trailers. Ron was following the trailer a little too close but was oblivious to what had just happened. At the next light I asked him if he had seen the cow pee and it was only then that he realized that those wet drops that had hit him weren’t raindrops!

Our apologies to all you Kansas natives, but our experience going through there wasn’t great. In fact, we have all determined since that the biggest problem with going to Colorado is having to go through Kansas to get there.


From Dodge City we headed south on US283 and then east on US412 through Enid then north around Tulsa and back into Claremore, OK. This time in Claremore we stopped at Bruce’s brother-in-law’s house for the night. Robert and his wife Dynda treated us like royalty. They along with their daughter SueSue all slept in their den so that we could each have a bedroom. Robert cooked salmon for us and I don’t think I’ve ever had any that tasted better. The warmth of the family and the delightful conversation perked us up for the rest of the journey home. We knew Robert was planning to cook the salmon dinner when we got back there so we thought the least we could do would be bring him a little present from out west. When we were in Leadville we bought him a fly box and some flies as he is an avid fly fisherman. The next morning he gave Ron and me a fly fishing lesson in his driveway before we left!


Leaving Claremore we again picked up 412 and rode it all the way across northern Arkansas. The route takes you through Springdale, Harrison, Mountain Home, and Paragould. This is a nice scenic route through the Ozarks with a fair share of twists and turns and mountain views. Nothing nearly as spectacular as the Colorado Rockies, but a nice ride all the same. We stretched the ride out all the way into the Missouri boot heel where we spent the night in Kennett, MO.


From Kennett the next day, Saturday, the LAST day of the trip was only about a half day ride to Nashville. We crossed the river around Dyersburg, TN and rode on into Nashville on 70. We had breakfast in a little spot in downtown Dyersburg. Our waitress seemed a little air-headed and she wasn’t even a blonde. After serving two of us plates of food, she returned to the table with the third plate and promptly asked which one of us it was for. Oh well, not everyone can be an Einstein.


We took a leisurely ride back home. We decided to stop in Dickson, TN and celebrate the official end of the trip over lunch. The waitress there was a bit more mentally agile so we asked her to take a group picture which she was more than happy to do. With the official picture shot, the trip was officially over.

This was a fantastic trip. The places were great. The weather was great. The bikes were great. And the company of friends was great. It’s hard to imagine a better trip, but of course, we are imagining just that – the next big trip. Maybe Maine!!!!!!!


The Bikes:

Mark – 2002 BMW R1150RT in Red


Bruce – 2002 Honda VTX 1800 Classic in Black












Ron – 1996 Harley Electra Glide (Diesel) in Black




Date Origin Destination Miles

Nashville St. Louis 375

Thursday, June 13, 2002 St. Louis Carthage, MO 370

Friday, June 14, 2002 Carthage, MO Clinton, OK 380

Saturday, June 15, 2002 Clinton, OK Tucumcari, NM 338

Sunday, June 16, 2002 Tucumcari, NM Santa Fe, NM 295

Monday, June 17, 2002 Santa Fe, NM Fairplay, CO 320

Tuesday, June 18, 2002 Fairplay, CO Fairplay, CO 170

Wednesday, June 19, 2002 Fairplay, CO Dodge City, KS 397

Thursday, June 20, 2002 Dodge City, KS Claremore, OK 352

Friday, June 21, 2002 Claremore, OK Kennett, MO 383

Saturday, June 22, 2002 Kennett, MO Nashville, TN 210


Total Miles 3,590



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Great story, Mark. I never did travel any of 66, but it seems like most of us have that road somewhere in our hearts and minds. Thanks for the ride!


Your poor friend with the diesel Harley ... laugh.gif



Chris (aka Tender Vittles),

Little KZ400 in the Big Apple

Black Boxer RT for Everywhere Else, such as...color=green>



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Great story - thanks - I guess Stinky will be doing your bidding for some time - give him our best. We all can't wait to meet him someplace.

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Yeeha! Stephen

"But, as kids, never got enough. Whether it was Dad not wanting to shell out a couple of dollars more to stay in the tepee shaped motel or Mom not wanting any part of stopping to see ‘the THING’: the only living example of the most terrible creature you could possibly imagine, ever on the face of the whole earth."



Boy oh Boy! Did you ever "Hit that Nail on the Head"!


Traveled that way for years. The only time we got to have it our way was if there was a Tourist Trap attached to the gas station where we were filling up, or to the Cafe where we stopped to eat. Dad was the King of "Get There-itis".


Must be why I'm a sucker for road-side attractions nowdays. The Rattlesnake Farm, Muffler Man, The Worlds Largest Stump...


I try to tell people why I ride a bike. I guess it kinda makes me a throw-back to other times.


Thanks Mark.





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  • 2 weeks later...

Great ride and great write up, Mark. I didn't have time to read it when you first posted, but I printed it out and got around to it in the plane today. I laughed and laughed about the accidental diesel filling. I've almost done that twice myself.


You know that you were doing some riding on the same roads where we held the Gunnison UnRally? I hope you can make it next time.


Bill Hawkins and David Bearden and I rode out to Colorado together. More on that shortly.

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