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http://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=n...uw&oq=harris&mra=ls&via=2,3,7,9,10,13&t=m&z=5

With luck, this link shows our intended route out west. We are leaving September 2nd and returning on the 27th or 28th. Set destinations are: Rocky Mtn Nat'l Park, Colorado Nat'l Monument, Arches, Bryce, Zion, Grand Canyon, the Ozarks and the Natchez Trace Parkway.

I will attempt to post daily dispatches on our progress. I can't guarantee if there will be pictures each day, but you know sometime after we get back there will be a major recanting of our trip. For those of you wishing to make our adventure interactive, I suggest placing a map of the U.S. on a cork bulletin board. Two motorcycle pictures can be cut out and placed on the map. You can reattach the images as we move west, south, east and then north. If it's raining, squirt water on the bikes. If it's hot, focus the sun's rays on the picture with a magnifying glass. If there are forest fires in the vicinity, hold a Bic lighter under the bikes.

Some assembly is required. No batteries are required. Note! The use of the Bic lighter and/or magnifying glass should be done only with adult supervision.

As Lewis and Clark often entered in their journals, "We are encouraged to press on."
 

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Out West 2012 Day 2

I'll try to get day 1 out tomorrow. Sorry about the lack of pictures, but we really don't have much to show at this time.

Tom Waits had a song on his “Nighthawks at the Diner” album called, “Diamonds on my windshield.” Bob Dylan sang about a “Hard rain’s a’gonna fall.” Peter Gabriel sang about a “Red Rain.” Lee and I endured the first two, but fortunately, not the latter. It has been a day of enduring the final leftovers from Hurricane Isaac. Our wake up call was at six. After showering, dressing and repacking we were on the road before 8 AM. To some this seems a bit longish, but realize that in our final push to leave Harrisburg we just jammed what we needed into any available space. Then it becomes a matter of remembering where you put stuff and then trying to get organized. I figure by the time we get to Lexington we’ll have things worked out. But then we’ll only have one day left to our trip.

Meanwhile – about the rain. When I was a kid my father would take us on summer vacations. The entire family crammed into a four-day sedan heading for New England, Cape Cod or Ocean City, Maryland. I remember once falling asleep on the floor of the back seat with the transmission hump as a pillow. It was quite soothing listening to the continuous hum of the engine and drive shaft coupled with the rhythmic thumps of the tires going over the expansion gaps in the pavement.

For some reason I always looked forward to a drive in the dark when it was raining. The windshield wipers acted as dual metronomes lulling me into a hypnotic trance. Oncoming headlights made the raindrops on the windshield explode into liquid fireworks of white and yellow. It was a magic carpet ride if ever there was one.

Driving south on an interstate to Cincinnati, early in the morning on Labor Day Monday in a tropical downpour is not any of those childhood memories. It is a white knuckled, butt-clenching ride of terror and total concentration. Amusement parks could have a field day with this theme. My windscreen is pretty much obliterated even with the wind driving the water off the surface at 60 miles per hour. I’d go slower but traffic from behind poses a threat if they don’t see us. Going faster is tantamount to leaning into a full powered roundhouse punch by Mike Tyson. So you just hang on and try to convince yourself that it’s just rain.

I suppose I could equate this to a sign I saw on a church bulletin board, “Smooth seas never made a skilled mariner.” The same can be said for those of us venturing out on two-wheeled motorized transports. After a while it becomes a simple matter of trust. Trust in your skills, trust that the other drivers can see you and trust that your motorcycle has no more of a desire to kill itself than you do.

In the meantime we discover that the Garmin Corporation, manufacturers of fine GPS units have decided that they, and only they, know the best routes to take. I have uploaded a route that will take us south past Cincinnati to Route 50, which is, for the most part, a two-lane road to East St. Louis thereby taking us away from Labor Day drivers on the interstate. Although it’s raining, traffic is light, but the Garmin is not happy with our chosen route. For the next 200 miles it tries to reroute us north to I-70 and Indianapolis. We head south; it wants us to go north. We head west on Fifty; it wants us to go north. At every exit it tells us to get off and head north. We persevere and the Garmin begins to pout and sulk. It’s good I can’t hear the voice commands urging us, begging us, pleading with us to take I-70 west.

Crossing into Indiana we begin to enter and exit bands of rain and sun from the remnants of Isaac. This gets frustrating when I have to stop to put on rain gear or stop to take it off. I finally compromise. I’ll wear the rain jacket but not the rain pants. This works quite well until the next band of rain soaks me from the waist down.

We stop in the town of Versailles for breakfast at the only available eatery – a McDonald’s. The parking lot is almost full and there are at least six cars lined up for the drive-thru. Conclusion? This is the only eatery within a fifty-mile radius. Seriously, is the food that good that people will come from miles around?

We park the bikes and enter for the usual McBreakfast fare. At least the food is tolerable and coffee is actually quite decent. (That’s my nice comment for the day.)

At one point I get up and visit the men’s room. There’s a hot air hand dryer mounted on the wall. It does a great job drying my hands. It also does a good job drying the front of my riding pants. Sometimes a good idea needs some serious consideration. If it dries my riding pants it’ll dry what I’m wearing underneath until someone enters the men’s room to discover a 62 year old man standing in front of a hand dryer with his pants down. “Manager! Call the cops! We got us a genooine preevert!”

We leave Indiana and ride into the southern flatlands of Illinois. The southern route through Indiana was quite pleasant through tree-lined roads rolling up and down gentle hills and around gentle bends as the rain gently does its best to ruin your journey. Southern Illinois is flat. The roads are straight. At times they’re so straight that if it weren’t for the curvature of the earth and the mountains you could probably see the Pacific Ocean as you head west.

We see a few signs warning us of water on the roads. We don’t see any, but the drainage ditches, low-lying areas and creeks are full to the brim. But it’s too late for the corn. We roll past acres and acres of dead stalks with a few pathetic ears of corn. It’s too much rain and it’s way too late to do any good.

Overcast skies are gone and the sky is a deep brilliant blue. The sun begins to dry things out and in the process raises the air temperature to ninety. We are hot and tired as we finally reach our destination, the KOA campground at Chain of Rocks. This is just half a mile from the old bridge spanning the Mississippi with its oblique angle smack dab in its middle. Google an image of the Chain of Rocks Bridge and you’ll see what I mean.

The desk clerk at the KOA says it’s part of the original Route 66 and you can still walk across it and in the middle stand with one foot in Missouri and the other in Illinois. It sounds like a plan for tomorrow morning’s start.
We learn that there are numerous restaurants a mile from here, but neither of us feels like getting back on the bikes. Plan “B” is for take out and in just under an hour Lee and I are sitting at the picnic table eating personal pizzas.

We’ve called our loved ones at home and will soon take showers and call it a night. Tomorrow is a 439-mile crossing of Missouri and halfway across Kansas on the interstate. For forecast is for heat – lots of it.

We hope all of you are well.
 

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Great trip, I'm following along here!!
 

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Out West 2012 - Lee and Chris Day 3

Believe me, there will be pictures in future posts. I promise.

“Previously on “Out West” Chris and Lee acting on non-sanctioned orders are involved in a covert, black-ops in the Midwest.” Okay, we’ll save that for a time when this journey becomes a hit series on A&E. Any actor trying to portray me will have to be a cross between Wilford Brimley and John Goodman. Lee says he would like Peter Fonda or Bill Murray to have his part. Our agents and lawyers are waiting for your calls.

Our day started with a short ride from the campground to the Chain of Rocks Bridge. For you action movie aficionados, the bridge is used in the film, “Escape from New York.” It’s closed to vehicular traffic but the gate is open. That is really tempting. However, there’s a surveillance camera in the parking lot and leads us “…not into temptation but delivers us from law enforcing type people.”

We park the bikes and step onto history, the Mother Road, the carotid artery of all American travels and folklore – Route 66. It takes little imagination to look at the two motorcycles and transform them into a 1959 Corvette. I know, it was a ’61 Corvette in the series and it was never red, but anyone who wants to split hairs with my imagination is looking for a fight. Since said fight will also be imaginary I proclaim myself victor. Anyone else with a differing opinion is welcome to write his or her own journals.

It is hot and humid as we begin travelling over the western side of Choteau Island. It is an old iron trussed bridge built in 1929. Downstream of the bridge is the “chain of rocks” which made river navigation a problem until a canal was built on the eastern side of the island. Today the waters from a low head dam cover the rocks. With the recent drought the rocks are now partially visible. Downstream we can see major mud flats that should be underwater. It will take a lot more rainfall than what Isaac delivered to refill this river to its banks.

Partway across we meet a young couple. The gentleman asks me if II am “Overeating.” His accent is slightly Germanic, but it sounded as though he asked if I was “overeating.” Well, I did devour an entire 12-inch pizza last night, but how did he know? Then it dawns on me, it’s hot and humid and I’m still wearing my riding gear; “Are you overheating?”

I ask if he is Dutch and he laughs and asks how I knew. I point at his ball cap. It’s orange and has Holland printed in big, bold letters. They’re on a tour around the U.S. and part of Route 66 is on their itinerary.

Lee and I cross the border from Illinois into Missouri while on the bridge. Closer to the Missouri shore the bridge takes an odd 22-degree bend to the right. The outer angle has been enlarged I guess to allow westbound trucks to swing wide so they can make the corner. This is not a curve; it’s a straight-line angle. I’m not sure why or how this happened. I will have to do some research or perhaps an alert reader might provide the answer. My guess is that they built the bridge beginning from both shores. At one point some bright engineer looked through his transit, did a quick calculation and said, “Shit! We aren’t going to meet.” A few pencil lines we added to the blueprints and the problem was solved. It was 1929. Forty years later we landed two men onto the surface of the moon. Think about it. Oh yeah, we also brought them home. Safe passage Neil Armstrong.

We return to the Illinois shore, mount the bikes and ride across the interstate into Missouri. It’s humid and we can see rain just west of St. Louis. In a few minutes we can actually feel the rain and we exit so I can put my raingear on – AGAIN!

An hour later we stop so I can take it off. The skies clear and as the humidity drops the temperatures rise into the 80s and 90s. Just past Kansas City it will be over 100. We have ridden through rain, the tropics and are near roaring along the interstate at 70+ mph into hot dry air. As the sweat evaporated from my clothing it was quite cool. When there was no sweat left to evaporate it just became a hot blast of air. Preheat a convection oven to 104 degrees and stick your head inside for a few hours and you’ll understand what I’m trying to describe.

Shortly after noon we exit for gas and lunch. There’s a gas station right next to a Subway. Everyone else has the same idea and goal. There’s a long line to place your sandwich orders, but the air conditioning compensates for any wait time we are experiencing.

My apologies to anyone currently living in these two states, but I won’t bore the readers with innocuous descriptions of the countryside as being a series of gently rolling hills carpeted with various crops, as the sky is a painter’s palette of pastels. (English teachers take note of the accurate use of alliteration.)

To many the trail across Kansas and Missouri is just one long tortuous travail of tedium. Or should that be a tedious travail of torture? Consider the history that is encountered while travelling. The Mississippi River and Mark Twain. The Missouri River and Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery. Missouri and Harry S. Truman. The Missouri Compromise and the Civil War.

We pass by Kansas City and see the stadiums for the Chiefs and Royals. (A tip to you sports fans.) In Topeka it’s Brown vs. Board of Education. Fort Riley, George Armstrong Custer’s home and the U.S. Cavalry Museum. John Brown and “Bleeding Kansas.” Geographically a traveller can glance at a GPS unit and say, “I know where I am.” But can they look at that place historically and relate to where they are in history and its effects as to where they are now? To future travellers I advise that having a good set of maps may be essential, but some homework into American history and literature can go a lot further that what you can accomplish on a single tank of gas.

We arrive at the KOA in Salina (the “I” is a long “I”) Kansas. Just before six PM. We are hot, thirsty and tired. They have a pool. I haven’t taken a dip in a pool in over 20 years. I have my trunks and so does Lee. We park the bikes, get into our trunks and hit the pool. There’s only one other swimmer in the pool. He says it’s cool but quite comfortable. Since he’s from Wisconsin I’m surprised he didn’t say it was bathwater hot. Lee and I find it a perfect soother for hot tired bodies. The first swimmer’s wife joins us and the four of us spend the next half hour lounging in cool clear waters up to our necks while exchanging tales of our families and our past travels. No texting, facebooking or tweets, just good old-fashioned face-to-face conversations. If I were to tweet what has just been written it would probably come out as, “OMG MO & KS way 2 hot. GTG BBFN.”

As I purchase a couple of cold drinks at the office I look outside and I can barely see our cabin, which is no more than a 100 feet away. The wind is howling, my vision isn’t obscured by rain; it’s dust from the gravel drive in the campground. The sky is dark and threatening. I ask the manager about tornado shelters. He says we should go to the bathrooms. I’ve already been there. They aren’t big enough for all of the campers here. Where’s Toto? Ironic that the OZ Winery is less than fifty miles east of here.

I dash across the drive and help Lee put our gear inside the cabin. The wind intensifies and we have flashes of lightning and huge rumbles of thunder but barely anything in the way of rain. I want to say “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.” But we are.

Dinner is another take out delivery from Domino’s. I have a cheese steak sandwich with a garden salad on the side. Lee enjoys a penne pasta bowl. We sit under the porch roof of the cabin and listen to the wind and thunder. Tomorrow morning a member of the BMW bulletin board that I belong to is coming down to escort us partway across Kansas toward Colorado. Tomorrow evening we’ll be outside Denver looking at the Rockies. We will not be in Kansas anymore.

You all take care, now. Y’hear?

Chris
 

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Out West 2012 - Lee and Chris Day 4

Here are a few pictures from our previous days on the road.

The weather



Does Lee have enough USB connectors and charging cables?



Chain of Rocks Bridge



Illinois or Missouri?





Today’s huge debt of gratitude belongs to Wade Moss who was kind enough to ride forty minutes from his home and meet us at the Salina KOA in the morning. After the obligatory “meet and greet” followed by a round of tire kicking wee settled into some casual conversation that turned into a tag team on Wade. Lee would talk and I would finish loading my bike. Then Lee would finish packing and I would talk with Wade.

Finally we finished loading and rode a full half-mile to a gas station located next to an Iron Skillet Diner. While indulging in the “all you can eat” breakfast buffet we regaled each other with stories and tales. There was a brief struggle to see who would pay for breakfast and Wade graciously accepted the fact that we were going to treat him and not vice versa. The fact that I was reaching for my pocketknife may have also led him to rescind his offer to pay. (Just kidding.) Let’s face it; he was outnumbered two to one.

Wade then took us on a leisurely (70 mph) ride up the back roads north of Salina, through Glasco and Beloit and eventually into the town of Cawker, home of the world’s Largest Ball of Sisal twine. After 59 years of contributions at the annual “Ball of Twine Fest” it has gotten quite large. The picture says it all. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much of a demand to make this a top ten item on anyone’s Bucket List. With the exception of a couple from England who stopped for a photo op; the three of us were the only ones standing on the sidewalk in downtown Cawker.



Which brings this thought to mind – is the U.S. the only country to pride itself on the oddest collection of esoteric memorabilia? Do the Brits have huge statues of Large Mouth Bass or Muskellunge? Balls of twine in France? England has a royal wedding, the Queen’s Jubilee and the Olympics. This couple will return to their home in York and announce to one and all that they drove sixty miles out of their way to see this huge ball of twine. They will then produce a digital image of the two of them standing on either side of this aforementioned ball. At this point their children will disown them, change their last names and the neighbors will whisper about the daft couple that spent their vacation’s allotment of money seeking bizarre monuments to the demented behavior of those “colonists.” They may even get a petition to have them committed. These concerned citizens will then sit down to an evening meal of jellied eels and blood pudding. We will keep our monuments and they can keep their national cuisine. Cheers!

Across the street a large sign announce a Gift Shop that sells “Genuine Ball of Twine Souvenirs.” The lawn is overgrown with weeds, the windows are frosted with dust and the entrance looks to have been closed shut for a year or more. It’s a small town in stage four of rural cancer. A pity when you take a moment to look at a faded photograph taken during the town’s better days.









In comparison, Wade’s casual, soft-spoken demeanor is a lot like the Kansan landscape, laid back, warm and welcoming. If he reads this and blushes, I have accomplished my goal.

Last night’s winds were the leading edge of a cold front. The heat is gone but a stiff wind comes down from the north causing us to lean our bikes to the right as we head west. Windbreaks of steep bluffs and tree lines allow us to ride upright until we exit the lee and get thrown to the left. This can become really exiting when there’s oncoming traffic. Fortunately this there is very little traffic along route 36. Every 30 miles we pass through a town where there are gas stations, farm supplies and the brokers for large farm equipment. John Deere and New Holland depend on western Kansas and its agriculture.

Entering Colorado things change. Well, the terrain remains the same, but the towns are further apart and not all of them have gas stations. Anyone heading west had better leave Kansas with a full tank.

We arrive at the Strasburg (East Denver) KOA around five PM. I thought we’d be arriving around six, but Lee brought it to my attention that we were entering another time zone. We’ve gained an hour. Although I should point out that there’s no deduction from the amount of time we’ve spent sitting in the saddles.

We are now over a mile high in elevation. It’s odd to spend six hours riding over flat and rolling terrain and never realize you have gained almost three thousand feet in elevation. Tomorrow we will climb even higher as we traverse Rocky Mountain National Park and then head south-southwest to Aspen.
 

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Let us know when you make it to Vegas. Meet our group at the BMW dealership if you make it there on Saturday. We also do breakfast on Sunday morning.

Jeff
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I sit corrected. England does have its oddities.

This just in from Northumberlandia.com

England unveils world's largest nude landscape. Warning this image may not be suitable for family viewing. :histerica

 

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tvguy said:
Let us know when you make it to Vegas. Meet our group at the BMW dealership if you make it there on Saturday. We also do breakfast on Sunday morning.

Jeff
We appreciate the invite, but our travel route for that day (September 16) is taking us from Bryce, Utah into Nevada along the west shore of Lake Meade (East of Vegas) and then into Williams, AZ. If you or any of your group would want to meet and ride along the way, let me know and we'll see if we can set up a rendezvous.

Chris
 

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Out West 2012 - Lee and Chris Day 5

We're a bit wore out so this is a short note. More to follow. Rode from Strasburg, CO up through Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and then down to I-70, west to Glenwood Springs and then southeast to Aspen. Not a lot of miles, but a lot of time in the saddle. Staying at my cousin's condo in Aspen so I should find time to give you the "Director's Cut" of today's journey tomorrow.
 

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Out West - Day 5, The Director's Cut

After four rolls of riding from Pennsylvania through the Midwest, it’s time for some hills. Today we got all we had wished for and then some. Our total distance to Aspen is just over 300 miles, but driving through RMNP with a posted speed limit of 35 MPH plus stopping for photographs means it will be a long day.

I’ve set the alarm for 6 AM. I awake before the alarm goes off and roll over to look at my watch, 5:45 AM. Looking across the room I can see that Lee’s bed is empty. He’s already up and getting ready. Outside on the cabin’s patio I can see that he’s already got his Jetboil stove boiling water for coffee. If the bikes run on gas, Lee and I run on coffee. Lee’s has caffeine and mine is without. I suppose my demand for coffee is just the psychological addiction to its taste since I was in college 44 years ago. There’s probably a 12 step program for this, but I can live without that. The program, that is, not the coffee.

Arriving the night before the temperatures were quite warm, during the night the temperature has fallen into the chilly 60s. It may not sound chilly, but having ridden for four days in temperatures in the 80s and 90s, the 60s are chilly.

After our showers we begin the ritual of packing the bikes. Between gulps of coffee we begin to assemble our gear, load it into various cargo bags and start taking it from the cabin to the bikes. Inevitably one or the other of us will find something in the cabin that should have been placed in a particle bag. My spoon should be with my cookset. I find it on the table. My cookset has already been packed. I stuff the spoon into the sidepocket with the first aid kit. I know that tomorrow morning I will end up doing a complete autopsy of the bike until I find the spoon and wonder why it’s with the first aid kit and not with the cookset.

Finally, the bikes are loaded. Lee being smarter than the average biker has backed his bike into the parking area so all he has to do is get on, engage first gear and ride out. I, the lazier of the two, just rode right in. I now have to back the back out. This can be done by sitting on the bike, placing it in neutral and “duckwalking” the bike backwards. But the surface is sand and loose stones which means my foot will slip, I’ll lose control and drop the bike on one side or the other displaying to nearby campers that although I may look like a well-traveled biker, I’m not.

Since discretion is the better part of valor, I decide to just walk the bike into a three point turn until it’s facing in the right direction. Normally the bike weighs about 570 pounds. Fully loaded it weighs a lot more. Why didn’t I turn the bike around before I loaded it? Duh!! Anyway, I manage to get the bike turned around and begin to tip it onto the sidestand. But the sidestand has decided it wanted to retract and is no longer deployed. Leaning the bike over I reach the point of no return. This is the point at which one notices the sidestand isn’t out and the bike has gone beyond the point of no return. Unless you’re an Olympic weightlifter, that sucker is going down. I am not an Olympic weightlifter; the bike goes down with a crunch. The crunch is from the sand and gravel, not my foot getting crushed. With Lee’s assistance we get the bike back up onto its sidestand. With the expenditure of such physical effort there is nothing else to do but sit at the table and take our time finishing the remnants of our morning coffee. So much for an early start to our day.



The KOA desk clerk confirms that our best route to the park is to take route 36 west to Estes Park and the entrance to RMNP. This means riding multi-lane expressways that extend from Denver to Boulder dodging the remnants of the morning rush hour.

I was in Boulder attending a conference in 1978. At that time Boulder was pretty much a separate community from Denver existing, for the most park, on the University’s economy. Now it has been incorporated into megalopolis as the Denver population has grown and expanded. Fortunately, the further north we travel, the less traffic we have on the highway. Bicyclists in multi-colored jerseys out on training rides are using the bike lane that occupies both shoulders. There’s an Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. I wonder how many of these cyclists have their sights set on Rio in 2016, or perhaps the next Tour de France.

Riding into Estes Park we stop at a scenic view, which has a large stone slab proclaiming that we are entering and viewing Estes Park. The Rotarians donated it and their well-placed icon proves this fact. We take the obligatory posed photos and end up taking pictures for other sightseers as they begin to arrive “en masse” and fill the parking lot. I spot a golden-mantled ground squirrel and a few Mountain Chickadees lurking along the parking lot hoping for an occasional piece of fall out from someone’s bag of snacks.



We stop for gas and brunch in Estes Park and then ride to the park entrance. We take the southern entrance and pull into the visitor’s center to purchase our Park passes. We’re told that passes are purchased at the entrance gate. I suggest that the Department for National Parks change this policy. People who stop at this center should be able to buy their passes here instead of tying up traffic at the entrance gate where people would rather just show their pass and drive through instead of stopping, paying and holding up people behind. Oh well, so it goes. Not to mention that at the gate when they buy their pass they will keep their engines running wasting gas and ruining the lungs of the entrance rangers.

We stimulate the economy of the gift shop and ride out to the entrance gate. Lee and I pull up side by side as a young ranger leans out of his sentry shack.

“Are you paying for a park pass together?” he asks.

“No, we want to buy season passes for all of the National Parks.”

“You don’t look old enough for the senior pass. Are either of you over 62?”

I raise my hand. “I am.”

“Well, you’re in luck. It’s ten dollars and it’s good for a lifetime. When’s your birthday?”

“August 24, 1950.” I answer.

He brightens, smiles and says, “You just made it. Congratulations!”

I hand him ten dollars and he hands me a plastic pass the size of a credit card. It’s attached to a clipboard and there’s a pen for me to sign the back of the card. I ask if I can slip the card under the map case on my tank bag so I don’t to pull it out of my wallet every time we enter a new park. He tells me that that will be just fine.

He asks how long will be riding and I tell him four weeks since I just retired from teaching. Lee mentions that he’s on disability. The ranger says that Lee gets a lifetime pass for free. When he asks if Lee’s a veteran, Lee says yes and the ranger says, “God bless you for your service.” He hands Lee his pass and wishes us a safe and good trip. Lee isn’t too sure about the “lifetime pass” until I show him the back of the card where it says, “Lifetime.” T’s time to roll on and follow the Trail Ridge Road, Route 34, the highest paved route in the U.S. Our highest point during our traverse of the park will be 12, 183 feet.

We haven’t ridden more than two miles when we reach our first scenic overlook. Of course we stop and pull in for photographs. I have switched over from a small Pentax point and shoot digital to a full blow Canon digital SLR with an 18-200mm lens. The Pentax fits nicely in the tank bag. Being larger, the Canon rides in the top case and takes a bit longer to extract, remove from the case and start using. But the final results are worth the time. Eventually I have the top case organized so that I can remove the camera without dislodging other contents only to have them fall onto the parking lot to be crushed by other vehicles or blow into Neverland by a wind that is slowly building in intensity as we climb in elevation.







Communicating with our helmet systems we frequently discuss which pullout looks best and whether or not we pull. We climb above tree line and as Arlo Guthrie mentions in his “Motorcycle” song, “On one side of the mountain road there was a mountain. On the other side, there was nothing.” A low stonewall serves as a suggestion of a barrier to prevent anyone from driving off the road and into the nether regions below. In some stretches there is no stonewall or shoulder, just the edge of the pavement, a marginal fringe of grass and then nothing but steep drop off.

We reach the highest point and walk around taking pictures. Lee encounters a Park Ranger who has been posing for pictures and asks a few questions about the park and the road. We learn that the road usually has its first major snowfall by the end of September, but they have already had storms that dropped large hail and sleet up to two inches. “But,” he said. “It didn’t last too long.”





We now begin our descent into the western region of the park. The tall, granite crags and spires of slate grey slowly transform into softer slopes of green and brown with patches of brilliant orange and yellows from the aspen trees that are already beginning to turn into their fall colors.

At the exit to the park we stop once more at a visitor’s center where Lee purchases a T-shirt and I buy a book that details the many and varied ways tourists and visitors have died or been injured in the park. I already have several books on this topic about other National Parks: Yellowstone, The Tetons, Grand Canyon and Yosemite. I could easily be on the Board of Directors for the Darwin Awards.

In the parking lot I look over the map pondering the best (quickest/shortest) route to Aspen. Another visitor points out that although my route is shortest in distance, the time is much longer. His friend confirms this fact that pointing out Route 82 over Independence Pass is steep, narrow and limited to 35 mph. (Later I will confirm this through MapQuest. It’s 19 miles from Aspen to the Pass, but will take almost an hour!) Our only decent route is south to the interstate, west to Glenwood Springs and then back southeast to Aspen.

The speed limit to Glenwood varies from 55 to 75 depending on exits, congestion and curves. Nobody seems capable of maintaining a constant speed. I’d love to use the cruse control but it isn’t possible. After a long descent through Vail pass, we stop in Avon for gas and a short break. We still have almost 100 miles to go. The condo office closes at 7 and our GPS shows an arrival time of 7:40. I call the office about our arrival and they tell me there’s a phone next to the office door. Pick it up, talk to a receptionist and security will be told to come and let us in so we can get the keys.

It’s dark when we arrive in Aspen and the streetlights aren’t exactly the brightest pieces of illumination. After walking around the block in the dark I finally locate the office door and the red phone for the property managers. A security officer arrives, gets us our keys and is even kind enough to lead us to the condo.

We park the bikes out front and begin the process of unloading everything we loaded this morning. The condo is a perfect place to stay and a huge tip of the hat and gracious thanks to my cousin. After settling in we just sit and relax. Lee sits with his bourbon and I sit with my scotch. We are too tired to even think of going to a restaurant. A good night’s rest is called for and we plan to deliver. In the morning it will be pleasant to wake up without having to load the gear and move on. We’ll be here for four days. Our agenda is now one of spontaneity.
 

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Re: Out West 2012 - Day 6 Independence Pass

Today’s agenda: laundry, groceries, eat somewhere and go for a ride. Our first real priority is to remedy any issues about where to park the motorcycles. Last night there seemed to be a misunderstanding about our parking permit. We were given one, but my understanding was that motorcycles couldn’t park in the condo’s garage. We weren’t sure where we could park downtown. At 8:30 this morning, I walked next door to the parking authority office, which is conveniently located next to the condo. A very nice lady explained that we could park at the beginning or end of a street between the stop sign and the no parking sign as long as the bike was angled in toward the curb. Around the corner from the condo is a section of street that is designated for motorcycles which may park there 24/7. So far, so good. She even gave me a handwritten list of places to eat and what their specialties were. Bonus!

Back at the condo I called the property office and asked about our permit. A young lady on the phone told me it wouldn’t be a problem, but she would check with her boss. She called and said there wouldn’t be an issue because it’s the slow season and there are few tenants. As long as we put both bikes in one space, we will be fine. Trifecta! Before 10 AM we go outside to relocate the bikes under the garage.

As for the other items there is no set agenda. I spend several hours working on the journal until it’s ready to be sent out. Then I don the gear and head down to the garage to meet Lee who has been patiently waiting. The morning’s showers and overcast skies have turned into the blue that we long for and love. We decide to ride, eat and shop in that order. Our first destination is Independence Pass at 12,095 feet. Although it’s only 19.7 miles it will take us over an hour. For two reasons: number one – the tourist take the speed limit and cut it in half, number two, we will stop to take a lot of pictures.

Immediately outside of Aspen the road is well maintained as it curves and twists along the base of the mountains to our left. After a few miles the road begins to get narrower and narrower. In some places the surface is excellent. In others, it’s not so good. A warning sign informs us that heavy trucks and any vehicle greater than 34 feet in overall length is forbidden on the road to the Pass. We are also told that the road is quite steep in places. By Western standards this may be true, but they have miles and miles to get over a mountain. In the East the mountains aren’t as high and there is less distance to reach the summit so the grades are steeper. We are used to Eastern Steepness.

We stop at a wide pullout for some pictures and take our time watching two rock climbers work their way up a rock face. The air is so still that even at a distance I can easily hear the commands between the climber and his friend who has him on belay.





The rest of the ride to the Pass is scenic beyond words. North Carolina and Tennessee may have “The Dragon” which contains 318 curves within 11 miles but it is through a forest; not unlike riding through a green tunnel. The curves here may not be as rapid or as tight as the Dragon, but the vistas and steep drop offs just made The Dragon take a back seat.











At the Pass we pull into a large parking area where we spend some time taking pictures, posing for pictures and taking pictures for people who are also posing. We hope you folks back home are also posing as you read this.







We also spend a considerable amount of time talking with other bikers which usually contains the following: “Where ya’ from? Where ya’ been? How far ya’ goin’? Have ya’ been here, seen this or done that?” For those paying attention this information is the Motherlode for travel data and beats the heck out of Google, MapQuest or any other website. Consider yesterday’s encounter at the RMNP visitor’s center. If it weren’t for those two men, we would have climbed and descended this road in the dark. As a consequence of our encounters, a idle aged couple from Nebraska says we really should go down the eastern side of the Pass for at least five miles because the scenery is great. We also have something in common with these Cornhuskers – we’ve been to Cawker, Kansas to see the World’s Largest Ball of Twine.

We are not disappointed with the views or the riding on the eastern side. Near the bottom we turn around and ride back up and over the Pass on our way back to Aspen and food. We welcome the warmth of the sun as we drop in elevation – it was 47 degrees and quite windy at the Pass. We also can't pass by the "hero" photo ops. I should also note what a thrill it is to ride without all the luggage.

Lee



Chris



Lunch/dinner is at a local sandwich shop called Johnny Maguires. It’s a narrow, set back shop with high tables and stools out front. The stools are nothing more than wooden posts with circular platforms made from plywood attached on top. I would call them seats but that would be a lie. We have been told that the sandwiches are very filling. Our informant is correct and to be commended should we see him again.

The food is prepared behind the main counter inside the shop. Hand painted menus adorn the walls and rafters explain the various types of sandwiches and then a list of each sandwich under type. Under “Burgers” I go for the “hooved and feathered” burger that is adorned with cheese, lettuce, tomato, bacon and a fried egg. Since I usually find said burgers to be rather small I order the “double patty.” When I get my sandwich I have a mental flashback to an episode of “Man versus Food.” Lee has a corned beef sandwich. The fries are hand cut, fresh cooked and delivered in a small paper bag. I should have brought the camera. We notice that Johnny also does breakfast. Other eateries in Aspen may have to wait for a later visit.

Across the street is a City Market/grocery store. Lee and I stock up on some provisions and head back to the condo. It’s past 6 when we enter the parking garage. I park and get off my bike as Lee pulls in behind me. He gets off his bike and it begins to tip over. Either he caught the side stand or it wasn’t deployed. I get there before the bike touches the ground and together we get the bike upright. We’re even.

Upstairs in the condo we unpack and unwind. I start a load of dark laundry while Lee downloads pictures from his camera. We are beginning to feel “at home.”

We have heard numerous people tell us about the Maroon Bells. I believe it’s a state law that every calendar in Colorado must have at least one month with a picture of the Maroon Bells on it. This might be on tomorrow’s agenda. Either that or a run to Silverton and the “million Dollar Highway.”

We hope all of you are well.

Chris
 

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Nice. There is some beautiful things to see in CO.
 

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Just wanted to say hello to all you guys and tell you this ride is a real blessing for me. As some of you are aware the 07 LT and I got totaled in 2010 on my last trip west.

I can not say enough this is so awesome to see and I hope you see through Chris's Journal we are having a time of it.

I am so thankful for Chris and his wife Ann for what they did in 2010 for me, and Chris for never giving up riding with me even though I am a challenge at times.

So hello to you all and hope you enjoy the ride with Chris and I. And no matter what, I am living proof that gear saves lives, and good friends make life great.

Enjoy,
Lee
 

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Good to hear from you again, Lee. Don't be such a stranger... :)
 

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I'm lovin the pics, I really want to make a trip out west!!! :cboy: I hope I can make it to CCR next year. I'm already planning routes!!! :compute:
 

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Re: Out West 2012 Day 7, Aspen Market Day

Not much happening today. As some of you know, I suffer from severe, nocturnal leg cramps. These are cramps that involve the inner thigh muscles from just above the knee to the groin. They can occur at anytime, but most often at night when I’m asleep. The application of heat helps cure them and sometimes I am able to stretch them out, but the duration can last anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes.

If I were to rate them on a pain scale of 1 – 10, they can go from 5 – 15! My best friends can tell how severe they are by my behavior. One of them observed that, “You can tell the pain is going away when he starts swearing.” My brother, who also has them, calls them the “snarling dogs”, which is pretty much all you can do when one strikes.

I’ve suffered them on and off for more than 30 years. There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to their cause. I’ve tried everything from stretching, to potassium in bananas, to a prescription for quinine sulfate. It’s just one of those things I live with.

Last night I had several bouts of these cramps and was having second thoughts about going for a ride. Back east when I have one on the road, there’s usually a pullout or wide shoulder so I can dismount and walk it off. Out here, driving onto a nonexistent shoulder could result in a major free-fall, which is much worse than the discomfort of a leg cramp. So sometimes it’s best to take a day off and enjoy the local color.

It’s Saturday morning and while walking around the block, Lee and I see tents and tables being set up on the next block. We cross the street and see that it’s a local market fair. We decide to have breakfast and then stroll along the street checking out the local wares and produce.

If it were a contest, I would award the crafts and trades people the winners. Producers would come in a very close second. There are artisans working their trade in bronze, pewter, glass, silver, turquoise, wood, silk, and wool. The producers offer, fruits, vegetables, cheese, wine, baked goods and honey.











The aroma sets off our salivary glands, but our stomachs appeal on the grounds that we have already eaten breakfast at the condo. That does not stop us from sampling some of the goodies. Lee and I are taking with a dark, natural honey. Its flavor is rich and thick. We’d love to buy some, but most of the containers are glass and therefore fragile. When the vendor points out that it can be purchased is reusable plastic tubes we are again tempted, but reconsider a purchase with the simple question, “What would we use it on while travelling?”

If I were cooking a pot of chili tonight I would most certainly buy some fresh, roasted peppers. I hear the vendor telling a potential customer that the peppers he is considering are “…very serious and should be used sparingly.” I subconsciously reach for a package of Maalox.





We walk back to the Condo and look up at a balcony with petunias hanging from flower baskets. Near the entrance to the condo I see a small object with fast, fluttering wings working some of the petunias. It’s either a hummingbird or a sphinx moth. Closer inspection proves it to be the latter and get to try out the new camera on a small, fast-moving object. A faster shutter speed would have helped, but I can’t complain. The learning curve for a complex, digital SLR can sometimes look like a straight line.



Back in the condo I check some routes to Leadville and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Sitting and reading I get another leg cramp. It takes 20 minutes to walk it off. I decide to take a nap. Lee ponders a solo ride and then reconsiders. Sometimes a day off the bike can be a pretty good thing.

A few hours later I get a “double header”, both legs. A hot shower helps and I’m damn glad it didn’t happen while riding.

Well, I see by the clock on the clubhouse wall that it’s dinnertime. You folks take care and be safe. I hope you’re enjoying the dispatches.
 

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Hey Chris...great writing as usual. Hope you get to feeling better. Say 'hey' to Lee for me, it was a pure joy to meet the both of you. Ride safe my friend.

Oh, by the way...the black canyon was a highlight for my wife and I a couple of years ago. Resist the temptation to watch the Eagles as they soar above the roadway...it's normally close to a curve.
 

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Out West 2012 - Lee and Chris Day 8 Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Dinner last night was at Johnny McGuire's, again. I go for a hot turkey sandwich with bacon and barbecue sauce. It's called a "Skinny Trucker." Is that an oxymoron?





Lee opts for the Hooved and Feathered Burger.



Behind the counter is a stack of stickers with the eatery's slogan, "Health Food Still Sucks." They now adorns the inside of our top case lids.

After a breakfast we mount up and head west on 82 out of Aspen. It's just after 9 AM. Our plan is to ride to Montrose and then head east to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. MapQuest says it's about 136 miles one-way, but with lots of photo ops it's going to be a long day.

Heading south from Carbondale we climb over McClure's Pass (8755). Halfway up we stop for the obligatory pictures. Looking around I keep repeating a phrase from my best friend Ray, "Here we are. There we were. And there we're going to be. Standing near the bikes we watch a bicyclist descend. He's in a full tuck position: chin on the handle bars, elbows tucked in and pedals parallel to the road. As he passes he lets out a "Yeehaw!" Lee and I cheer him on. My estimate is at least 50 mph on tires less than an inch wide, a bike weighing just over 20 pounds and brakes pads that wouldn't have enough rubber in them to make a dozen pencil erasers. Buena suerte, amigo!

Unfortunately I've parked the bike in such a manner that it leans so far to the left that I can't get the bike upright. I have the leg muscles, but not the reach. Succh is life when you're "tall in the saddle" but walking on short legs. Lee comes to the rescue. I'm upright, he remounts and we're off.





In Montrose we pick up U.S. 50 east. This is the same highway we used crossing Missouri. There's little traffic on the highway and soon we are climbing up the park road to the western rim of the canyon. If you were to take a wide angle picture of the grand canyon and then compress it to a very narrow file, you now have an idea of the Black Canyon. Whether it's named for the dark stone of the canyon or the fact that very little sunlight reaches the bottom is a toss-up. There are numerous pullouts and we stop at almost every one to stand and admire this geologic wonder. There are few tourists and when the wind dies down, we can here the roar of the river as it rushes downstream working its way deeper and deeper into the earth's crust. It has taken the river millions and millions of years to accomplish this. As the folks at Despair.com say, "We humans have about 70 years to make our marks."

At the visitor's center we stimulate the Park's economy by buying the usual souvenirs. Lee and I collect the pins. He wears his on a hat and I place mine on the riding jackets. By the end of this trip neither of us is going to make through any TSA airport security checkpoint without the alarms going off like a high voltage pinball machine.

A young, and I might add, very attractive ranger is behind the counter. I can't help but notice her name tag, "Jane Mansfield." I ask her if she gets a lot of comments about her name. She says yes, but adds that she has no desire to end up like the real Jayne Mansfield.

When I ask her about other parks where she's worked she mentions that this is her first real appointment. She has applied to 57 other parks, but only received two interviews. I'm sure there's a lot of competition out there to get a posting at Glacier, Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon.











This is a narrow road with lots of curves and no guardrails or barriers. To paraphrase advice to hikers going into the Grand Canyon. "If you're moving on your bike, don't look at the scenery. If you're looking at the scenery, don't be moving on your bike." This does not apply to those riding pillion. I do miss not having my wife behind me taking hundreds of pictures as we ride through some fantastic scenery.

The first time she did this was four years ago when we were in Utah. At the end of the ride she apologized for not taking many pictures. I downloaded over 300 images that evening. Granted I have the camera set to bracket and take three shots at a time, that was still more than 100 images to exam and cull. Most of them were pretty damn good!

But it isn't just the scenic views that make the journey worthwhile, it's also the people you meet. A couple from Winnipeg, Manitoba are down for a tour of Colorado. They ask if I've been there. Back in 1981, my wife and I took our honeymoon by rail from Toronto to Vancouver. There was a five hour stop in Winnipeg and we walked through town visiting the Hudson Bay store and having lunch at the Fort Garry Hotel. Ironic, because the gentleman works for Canadian Rail.

We reach the end of the road and turn around. As always there's just one more scenic overlook where we have to stop and walk out to the overlook. Lee and I wonder how many people realize what motorcycle photography is all about. It isn't a matter of hopping out of your car with camera in hand, taking the usual postcard photos and jumping back in the car while the driver keeps the engine running. Instead we have to find a somewhat level parking space, side stands deployed, helmets offf, gloves off, remove camera from top case and then walk over to take pictures. To move on, just reverse the procedure.

At this stop we encounter a middle-aged couple with their daughter who has just started teaching at a Christian middle school. While Lee chats with the parents I spend a considerable amount of time talking with the young lady about education. She's just starting her career and I've just retired from mine. It's interesting to compare notes. There I was, here she is and there's she's going to be. She's king enough to take our picture and even does a retake when I point out that her first picture had cut us off at the knees.



Checking the map we decide to continue west and then turn north up route 92, which follows the eastern rim of the Canyon until it reconnects with 133 in Hotchkiss. Just past the junction of U.S. 50 and 92 we stop at the Blue Mesa Dam. This is where the canyon begins. Of course we stop for pictures. If you'll observe the picture of me and my shadow, you' deduce that by the length of the shadow, it's getting late. It is and we still have at least three more hours of riding to get back to Aspen.







When we arrived there was a large number of Harley riders from Texas out on a four day jaunt. In a great roar they've already left. Since they're heading in the same direction as us, we decide to give them some lead time. We have nothing against Harley's or their riders, but the noise is another matter.

As we wait another rider enters the parking lot. A middle aged man on a BMW 650 GS. He pulls up next to us and asks where the road goes. I tell him it goes to Hotchkiss. If he wants to ride the east rim road, which isn't paved, he has the perfect bike for it. He asks where do you get to the Park entrance. I tell him to turn around and then turn right onto 50. That will take him to the Park. A little further and he'll get to Montrose where he's sure to find a motel. He looks puzzled and then points back up 92. He wants to know where it goes. Again I tell him it'll go to Hotchkiss.He then asks how to get to the park. I tell him again. Once more he points up to 92 and asks where it goes. I ask if he has a map. He does and pulls a Butler Road Map out of his tank bag. I show him where he is and where 92 and 50 will take him. I'm not too sure he fully understands, but he folds the map, puts it back in the tank bag, thanks me and rides off toward the junction with route 50. Wherever he wanted to go, I hope he got there.

The ride north is scenic with climbs, bends, turns and the occasional wildlife on the shoulder just to keep us on our toes. It's getting dark, the temperature is slowly falling and we need fuel for us and our bikes. We get to Hotchkiss and gamble that there's a gast station to the right. There isn't. We turn around and go back into town and find an open station. Lee isn't too happy when the pump he pulls up to only has diesel. We top off the tanks make a few calls to loved ones and ride on.

Our daily routine is to call home at the end of each day so no one gets concerned. Realizing that there's a two hour time difference it's important to call earlier. If we wait until we're back in Aspen it'll be 10 PM, but midnight eastern and we both know some people who will have lit up the sweat pumps wondering why it's so late and we haven't called.

The climb back up McClure Pass is in the dark. We ride through a narrow valley with several large coal mines. The towers and conveyor belts are light like strings of Christmas lights. Earlier when we passed through we saw two long coal trains making their way up the mountain to be loaded. At night, things are pretty quiet.

On the final approach to the summit we end up behind a large, white pick-up truck with extension ladders. Although I've been riding at the posted limit, he's going even slower. Finally he reaches a pullout and moves over to let us pass. I beep the horn as we pass. This isn't the usual friendly "beep-beep" one expects from a motorcycle. I've replaced the horn which sounds more like an over-sized Cadillac being pissed off at the world. I hope I haven't given the wrong impression.

We're nearing the home stretch and stop in Carbondale at a 7-11 for something to eat. At this point I believe the south end of a northbound skunk would have looked pretty appealing. We're in luck, they're out of skunk, but the hot dogs are pretty tasty. As we eat outside the white pick up pulls into the lot. I walk over to thank the driver as his wife goes into the store. He remembers us passing him and mentions that my horn didn't bother him at all. He then tells Lee and me to grab a couple of peaches from a basket in the bed of the truck. He'd offer to get them himself, but he has a small dog in his lap. Lee and I look into the bed of the truck. There are quite a few boxes and crates filled with peaches and other produce. We select two large peaches and thank the driver as his wife return and gets into the truck. When I ask how much further he has to go he says, "30 seconds or so." I tell him we have at least that many miles.

We arrive at the condo at 10 PM. We've ridden close to 350 miles in 12.5 hours. It's been a long day, not in miles, but in time. In time I will look back at these images and recall the sights, sounds and smells of past journeys. Most of all I will remember the people we've met and what I've leaned from them. They've written their lives in my memories. What have we written in theirs?

Tomorrow we saddle up and ride to Moab, Utah. I realize these postings are now a day behind, but I'll try to catch up.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
wrmoss said:
Hey Chris...great writing as usual. Hope you get to feeling better. Say 'hey' to Lee for me, it was a pure joy to meet the both of you. Ride safe my friend.

Oh, by the way...the black canyon was a highlight for my wife and I a couple of years ago. Resist the temptation to watch the Eagles as they soar above the roadway...it's normally close to a curve.
Glad you're enjoying the dispatches. Wish you were along for the ride. Didn't see any eagles, maybe we were too busy watching the road.

You be safe, too.

Chris
 
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