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How I Experienced Gunnison (Kind Of)


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I've been long remiss in posting any thoughts about the Gunnison event, other than responding to other threads. It seems like others have said it so well that I've had little to add. I did take lots of "digital notes" as we motored west in a group of three, and then on my way back alone, but lately I've been wanting to talk less and ride more. I leave on a trip with my family (with the bike) Sunday, after which I'll peal off north through the pretty NW portion of NC and the SE portion of OH on my way to several engagements, ending up as far north as Detroit. You have no idea how much I'm looking forward to it.


This is nowhere near as "elegant" as FB's treatise or as "fun" as Emerson's, to leave out lots of other essays, but I just love reliving an event. So here's some stream of consciousness stuff.


I rode with Bill Hawkins (K2R) and David Bearden (GTR). I'd ridden with Bill quite a bit and knew I'd be in for some fun. He's a good rider and easy to travel with. I took it on faith that any friend of his would be a friend of mine, and so I wasn't anxious about riding with David. It turns out that all three of us are very compatible and we had a wonderful time.


The trip began when I met David at a nearby gas station at 9am Thursday morning. We switched our plans and decided to leave a day earlier to give us more time to just enjoy things. That was a GOOD decision given the heat. Anyway, in retrospect I wish we had left earlier that day.


He and I rode to another gas station and met Bill, where we tested our communication devices. Took us awhile to remember that only the lower frequencies in GMRS overlap with FRS. Duh. All set, then, we head out on I-40. The first few hundred miles were to be our only interstate. I had laid out a route that took us on back roads the whole way.


We came on construction very quickly and David decided that we ought to screw this little bit of interstate thing, and so we headed off on back roads. He knew the area and we just wound our way past all the mess.


All three of us were keeping one eye on the sky, because it didn't look good. Sure enough, it started to rain, and I think it rained steadily for a couple of hours. We never stopped to put gear on--it actually felt good and we just kept going. In Arkansas we stopped for fuel, and then headed back westward on this very cool road that looked very much like Route 66. Soon we begin smelling something and then see a down home BBQ place. We pass it, and I make some comment in the FRS about how good it smells. We all get the same idea at the same time, and turn around and head back. What's the hurry? Traveling boys can eat at anytime, and we do. It's still raining, but tapering off.


Inside there is an LEO and we chat briefly about routes. I almost address him as "occiffer" since I'm always joking with the boys about that. Oops.


We are still feeling pretty good, and I wonder if we might make it further than our first scheduled stop. Nope. too hot and humid, so we stop just north of Little Rock, ready to pick up SR 65 north out of there in the morning. That night they let suggest that we park under the awning because of the weather. We agree, and I begin to do some work on the bike that I had not had time for the night before, after we walk to dinner and get a good steak (it's a "dry" county for so libations). It was a nice first day, and very relaxing sitting by the bikes as they offering their invaluable (not!) assistance while I worked on the bike.


Here's me, Bill, and David, l to r.




We decide to leave lots earlier the next morning to kick the heat. We were pulling out at 5:30a, I believe, and I was ecstatic. I knew we were in for some nice Ozarks riding, and sure enough. We took turns leading, and I could feel a good rhythm developing. Our spacing was taking shape nicely, we were riding predictably, and I was very comfortable. Of course the jokes were getting deeper and deeper, too. David is a pilot and so we got started on that. Then, as I got to know David a bit better, it turns out we share a love of dirt riding, both having grown up doing that. Bill didn't, so we searched for any opportunity to make fun of him. If there was dirt in a corner, or if we were doing a bit of trail braking, we'd say: "Bill, be careful of that debris in the road. David and I will be fine because of our experience, but we are a little worried about you." Or "Bill, you might want to slow up on this decreasing radius turn, since you don't have any dirt experience and don't know how to kick the rear end out."


Bill was a good sport for about 30 minutes of this cruelty and then he just started flipping us off. Eventually we seldom answered each other on the FRS--just a single finger upward was sufficient!


I hadn't taken a serious road trip for about a month before this, and I really noticed how even over that period of time you lose your "road legs." Not riding skill, but packing skill. You forget all the little things in your system that make it easier. Like the order of unpacking, or tucking this in that, etc. It all began to come back the second day. Once again, we were thinking we might make it past Wichita, our scheduled stop, but it got hot fast and we were not enjoying the heat. Plus, David's bike was running very poorly. We stopped and made an appointment at the dealer in Wichita, and decided that we'd drop him off there and go find a hotel. Bill and I did just that and had a nice swim. There is nothing more refreshing than a swimming pool after a long, hot day. And once we got out of the Ozarks and headed across the southern tip of Missiouri and than the Kansas plains, things were pretty hot.


It turns out that stopping at the dealer was smart. A plug on the TPS was loose and one of the cylinders was dropping off line sporadically. Fixed and all set to go.


The next morning we decided to leave even earlier, and so we pulled out around 4:30a, I think. I had the best lights so I led. Pitch dark (very little ambient light in the deserted plains), and I had nearly 400 watts of light burning a hole in front of us. We locked it at 95 to 100 GPS for a couple of hours until daylight, and then stopped at some dumpy local restaurant, my favorite kind. We all got the morning special: eggs, bacon, pancakes, and coffee for $3.20. Lots of locals trickled in and of course they wanted to chat with us.


These little towns are few and far between. When we hit them we were very conscious about dialing the speed back, often to 20 mph. Most have speed traps and we saw lots of them. Didn't see a single cop between them, and we kept it at 95 to 100 mph GPS the entire way.


At some gas station I saw an RT pull in, and knew it would be Chris K or Marty Hill. It was Marty, and we hooked up a bit. Marty decided he wanted a bit more relaxed pace, so he drifted back at some point and we waived to him from in front.


David wanted to ride behind my Secdem, and I wanted more seat time in an 1150, so we switched. The differences were very obvious. The 1150 has a smoother trans, I like the extra gear and extra power, and it clearly turns in easier, due to the shorter wheelbase, smaller rear tire, and less aggressive rake. I don't like the brakes, as I've said in many places, and the shocks are clearly inferior compared to Ohlins. Dave's bike had 3,000 miles on brand new OEM Showas. Amazing difference.


We were planning on spending the night in Pueblo, and perhaps catching up with Spike/Patti and Marty, but when we stopped for lunch we decided we felt pretty good and we could get some more miles under our belt and head to the higher elevations where it would be cool (it had been 100 degrees and 84% humidity all day). So we pulled out, and as we crossed through an intersection we saw a two-up RT and I knew it was Spike and Patti. We pulled into a KFC and then followed us, where we chatted a bit before heading back out. We decided we'd head to Canon City, but got there and decided to keep going. So on to Salida.


On 50 into Salida we came across this guy, making his way slowly to Sturgis:




Dang, that was a nice road, too. Let me pause a bit and talk about lean angles. Granted, the RT has very poor cornering clearance. But if you are scraping, there are only a few reasons why that might be happening:


  • shocks that are bad or not set up properly
  • dips in the road, encountered while leaning over
  • poor technique
  • really, really good and need the lean angle to maintain cornering speed


My shocks were great and I'd dialed them in perfectly. I was fully loaded, of course. But I was determined to work on one thing in particular on this trip: minimizing lean angle by sliding some more weight inside to keep the COG where it needs to be. I scraped the crap out of my side stand, but that was a dip in the road. I thought you'd like to see Bill's bike. This tupperware scrape occurred earlier because of a dip in the road:




If you are scraping regularly, make sure your shocks are good and set up properly. Otherwise you are probably using poor technique--leaning out of the curve with your body and thus leaning the bike more than it needs to be. By the way, Colorado roads (in the eastern part) suck.


In Salida we saw another RT while we looked for a room, which wasn't easy. We asked the front desk who was on it, and she looked it up and told us Greg Crawford. We left him a note and told him to meet us for supper at 6:30. We'd call about where once we found a hotel. At the hotel we did land it, John (Del Corso) and Ruth were already checked in, so the six of us had pizza together at the hotel.


Early the next morning (Sunday) the three of us decided to head south through South Fork, and then back up through Creed and Lake City. What a great ride. We were kicking butt, too, riding at a good clip and loving the cornering. Hit 116 GPS on some of the high altitude straightaways. We pulled into Gunnison around noon.


Now more about the trip before talking about Gunnison.


First, traveling with radio communication is really a great thing. Passes the time and it's lots safer (if you know when to talk and when not to). Not only can the first guy who passes call the traffic back to us, but he can be poised in the left of the lane waiting to pass on a right hander while number two calls out the traffic to him. It's a neato trick you've got to try. Of course all this looks dangerous to cagers because they don't know we are talking. On, one other thing. When passing at 100+ the closure rate will sneak up on you. Watch out, especially at altitude.


Second, stand up all the way through smaller towns. It stretches everything out, rearranges your butt, and gets some air in hot places. Plus the funny looks are priceless.


Third, cagers in CO are very courteous. They pull to the side to let you pass, wave you around, etc. Very impressed with that.


Fourth, if you are bored, pick out some landmark in the distance, on your route, and estimate how far away it is. Check yourself on the odometer until you guess within 10%.


Fifth, my gear worked great. Airflow II jacket, pants, boots, and gloves all the way out. Love 'em. I kept ribbing David and Bill about their "Joe Racquet" stuff, purchased with coins out of a dispenser. Of course I got flipped off a lot!


Sixth, we road 1,253 miles before we saw a mountain, and 1,372 miles before we saw a mountain high enough to have snow on it. That's a long ways!


I don't know what to say about Gunnison. I just flat had a good time. Besides meeting all of you, highlights included these things.


First, eating dinner with Cary, FB, Big Mak, Denny, and several others when Jamie came up to us and told us how he spent hours and hours in front of the BBS laughing and enjoying our posts while he fought cancer. He said this with tears streaming down his face.


Second, getting the chance to ride with Cary and hanging with him all day. As FB mentioned, he subscribes to the Pridmore school. Smooth, very little braking, nice lines, strong, killer cornering. At every stop he said: do you want to lead? I don't want to hold you up. And every time I said: "Nope, I'd just having fun tooling around back here." We'd occasionaly comment on how one or the other of us blew a corner, but it was just a riding experience I won't soon forget. He was a little rusty the first 10 miles as he got used to someone else's bike, but then the Cary I'd heard about kicked in and we were off. Near the end of the day, just outside Gunnison on 114 (or is it 116?), through those narrow canyons, we came across a GS Adventure, two-up. He wasn't moving very fast, but when we went to pass, he clearly wasn't going to allow that to happen. So a chase ensued. He wasn't really as skilled as the speed was calling for, and was scrapping the sh*t out of his center stand (and the GSA has lots of clearance). At a few points it looked like he might buy the farm, so we eased up so as not to cause any injury. When we deadended into 50, I pulled up next to him and he had a very nervous grin on his face. Maybe because he hadn't ridden that GSA to that extent yet, or maybe because he was dreading what his SO was going to do to him later! I had a great time with Howard, FB, and several others that day on the ride.


Third, watching the big boys riding their bikes through the campground. Darryl, Big Mak, Denny, and BIg Foot looked like Shriners on those RTs. A great site. Wish I had a picture.


Like I said, Gunnison was so much fun I don't know what to say, and others have done a great job. My trip home was very fun at first. I passed Ron B heading over Monarch Pass, but then I got hungry. I parked close to the road hoping he'd see my bike and stop. He did, along with Dakota Dave. And then Tom Roe, Jake, and Bud. We all decided to head off again. I led and soon Tom and I were kicking SR 50 in the a**, and Jake wasn't far behind. It was safe, but very aggressive. I remember one curve posted at 35 that we entered at 90. It required a very small adjustment, but no problema. Dang. I hadn't ridden with Tom, and that was a pleasure. The adrenaline was rushing and we were in the groove. I felt like a combined GP/trials rider on the RT. (You know what happened later when we happened upon our three friends Dick, Wes, and Ken. Sorry again, guys.)


I sadly sad goodbye to my new riding buddies (Tom and Jake), and the rest of the trip home wasn't as fun. I wasn't riding well. In my case an unsteady speed is a sure sign that I'm not concentrating (be sure you can identify one single symptom to catch when you aren't riding well).


Plus I was pissed because my neutral switch sending unit in the trans failed, right after it went out of warranty. Ugh.


I used a cheap sweatshirt purchased at Wal-Mart, soaked in water, to keep cool.


Ran into lots of speed traps, but still I haven't gotten a ticket or even stopped on a motorcycle, knock on tupperware. I was monitoring my CB the whole way, until I saw something fall off the tank bag out of the corner of my eye on a right hander and barely grabbed the handheld as it spun away. Pure luck. The mount broke.


Speaking of speed traps, I found one in SW Illinois that was a first. A cop was kneeling behind a barrier in bushes with a remote laser setup. He was tagging cars, and then radioing to two patrol cars parked around the corner, who would pick them up. They were making lots of money that day.


A mother and her daughter frantically tried to get my attention at one point. I pulled over, and they told me that I'd lost some clothes off the back earlier. They had been drying out and apparently I didn't attach them well enough. Too bad. I was too tired to go back for them.


I sure enjoyed meeting, chatting with, and riding with you all. Sean, as I mentioned earlier, I'm sorry we didn't get a chance to ride together. And there were a number of you I wish I had met. I can't believe I didn't meet you, Mr. Doug Q. How'd that happen?


Finally, my thanks again for the great behind the scenes work everyone did. You all take care. And sorry this is so long.



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Thanks for the great report, David. It's good to get a perspective from those who came across the hot and humid center of the U.S. Your perspective is so much different than those of us out west.


I've always believed that heat will slow you down, but cold will stop you. Frankly, that's wrong. And it's wrong because until we hit our rainstorms coming out of St. George Utah (with temps at or above 100), I'd never really experienced stifling humidity on a bike. We made it just long enough to get to the next town where we called it a night. I'd spent about 15 minutes in a sauna at the previous night's motel and that's what this felt like. Sweat pouring off of me. My old faded jeans looked like they were dark blue and brand new when I took off my riding pants!!!


I admire those who can make progress in that kind of weather. I'm afraid I'd probably wuss out. It's an acclimation thing, I know. But sheesh!!!

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Great post David: We don't get your ride tales much, thanks for sharing and once again I would count it an honor to continue my Hoon In Training following you around from quite a distance back. Have fun with the family and next time you're comming through Arkansas give a holler.

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Great read David, thanks! Always enjoy your Ride Tales.


I will be coming accross on slab to NY next Friday night/Saturday. Wish I could catch up with you...but we are about 10 hours off from one anothers schedule. Have a great vacation with the family! smile.gif

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Long? I was sad to finish reading it! Great post. You and the notable Tom Roe musta been a real treat to watch albeit, very briefly as you two quickly sped away!


The more I read about Gunnison, the more I feel I was a part of it though I had to cancel at the last minute. A real heartbreaker but these ride tales are really helping.


Thanks for the excellent post David. Tremendous read it has been!

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Thanks for a great write up, David. When I use to live in the midwest, we'd have to ride across the Praire and Plains also to get to the Rocky's, and I remember how brutal the heat and humidity were. As Fernando said, the humidity can stop you dead, too. Friends from Chicago this year left at 6 pm so they could ride all night and avoid the heat of day. Try that next time if you can.

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Nice post David.


BTW if you see this reply in time you are welcome to a place to stay (on your way to Detroit) in S.E. Ohio if you are interested. Just let me know.

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Dakota Dave

Hi David,

Great post as usual. I just remembered something. In our rush to leave Salida I am not sure I gave you a proper thank you for breakfast. In case I didn't THANKS! It was great riding with you guys until the Springs.


By the way I also remeber the 35Mph curve since I was behind after I missed a pass. I think I was at 90 plus myself. When you are ridning in forth position you have to ride harder to catch up. The run from Canon City to Colorado Springs was the fastest I have ever made that run. Since I grew up in the Springs I had been on that road many times. It was a BLAST.


My ride got a lot more boring after we seperated at the HWY 24 turn off. Got better the next day though.


Like I have said before. Can not wait until next year.

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So David Bearden has his hand down Bill's pants and no one even gave you guys any s*** for it? This group must be getting soft!


Sorry David. I got back late from Gunnison and am still catching up on the reading, bit by bit. Very nice job and the pictures are great too. That last scenery shot - was that Red Mountain? Nicely framed. IT was a grand time for sure and you did a nice job of reminding us about things we liked and enjoyed.

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