Saturday, August 22, 2009

Summer 2009 tour finale - 530 km + 640 km

Thursday was a rest day, enjoying the beautiful La Crosse Wisconsin. Friday, rain rain and more rain - only the last hour was dry, still, 530 km, into Joliette Illinois. Saturday, zoomed home - dodged raindrops and raced rain clouds but stayed dry! 640 km all interstate, crossed the border by six. Home for dinner at Yeck's Smokehouse with middlest :)

Now to sort mail, do laundry, get stuff sorted out!

Favorites from this tour:
- best road - hwy 550, Montrose to Durango - don't need no stinkin' guardrails!
- best room - Lusk Pioneer Inn Best Western (Wyoming) - wee little town, nice room, awesome breakfast, BIKE WASH
- best job I never want - grading the road into Cripple Creek
- best tour - Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings - awesome, spooky, humbling
- best peak/pass - Pike's Peak - glad we didn't do this one the first of the trip, would have had definite issues with elevation sickness - spending time at elevation before going so high, a very good idea!
- best find at the side of the road, at one of the scenic pull-outs - a nice shiny bolt off a harley :)
- best song - Jason Mraz - "Lucky" - just how I feel - especially lucky in love - today is our 28th wedding anniversary, he's my best friend ...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Day 19 - 731 km

I-90 most of today ... straight through Minnesota to Wisconsin. Elevation isn't even mentioned any more on any of the signs. Back to below 2,000 ft.

Stopped off at Mitchell for a tour of the famous Corn Palace. Quite a show! Murals outside and inside created from corn (plus a little rye straw and a couple other crops). Murals are updated every year.

Seems like all the bridges in Minnesota are now numbered - likely after the collapse last year??

Managing to stay just behind the rain - getting to a few spots where the road is wet tho!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Day 18 - 591 km (12 hrs)

Mt Rushmore National Monument, Crazy Horse Monument, Custer National Park, Badlands National Park, Buffalo National Grasslands, back to Badlands National Park, downtown Wall, then 3 hrs on I-90.

Lots of wildlife sightings - bighorn sheep, mountain goats, mule deer, and more fields of prairie dogs.

New ritual when mounting bike ... check for bees!
Construction on roadway means you have to slow down - 65 does it!

Going through the Badlands scenic loop, a nasty storm is forming easterly, our destination for the night. But the loop takes us back west for a bit, and we manage to stay dry ... there was an awesome light show on the way to Chamberlain but stayed just sheet lightening. Lots of evidence of the storm that had passed a couple of hours previously.

Wall is a really interesting place - based on a family that settled here early in the century, set up a pharmacy, and in a bold marketing move to draw people to their location, advertised free ice water ... and it worked! Today there's an old-time broadwalk of shops all interconnected. Local fun stuff - 'jacalopes' and 'jacaphesants' ...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Summer 2009 tour - day 17 (506 km)

Lusk's (pop 1400) Best Western may just be one of the bests ones we've been to for a long time! It's been updated with lots of attention to detail - little granite blocks for the room number (complete with braille), excellent breakfast, BIKE WASH!, complimentary microfibre cloths for the bike wash.

Today we toured the Devil's Tower, Spearfish, Spearfish River Canyon (wow - awesome sweepers!), Deadwood, Sturgis, ending up in Rapid City.

What a treasure trove for anyone with even a teensy interest in geology or archeology - the landscape changes often and is absolutely glorious.

More highways where you have to slow down to 60 for the corners ... And magic roads where it looks like you're going downhill, but really you're going up - the elevation on the GPS shows you climbing!

Devil's Tower National Park has a haven for Prairie Dogs - cute little devils - popping up all over the place. One poor thing was barking and barking at the people.

While at the visitor station, discover that there are climbers on the tower - two of them that we can see making progress on their way up. Good thing there are people in the world who want to do this (not me!). Info at the site talks about farmers early in the century tackling this mountain, hammering in wooden pegs to climb up.

Found a cute little town of Aladdin (population 15) where we had to turn around to get back on route.

My little faithful ipod suffered something mysterious today - was frozen and wouldn't do a blasted thing. Tried to 'jolt' it into life on the road (plugged it in to the laptop) but that didn't work. At the hotel, wiped it and restored factory settings :( Then of course my finger slipped and managed to select one of the languages with glyphs, so had to do it again! Well, at least I got practice at it, and now it seems to be working aok. Whew! The radio stations way out here don't have very reliable reception ...

The Spearfish Canyon River scenic byway has a few cottages, and their firefighter station is built into the hills!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Summer 2009 tour - day 15 & 16 (586 km)

Saturday was cold and rainy, opted for a rest day! Sunday still cool but the sun was shining, so we're back on the road. 15 C most of the day, warmed up late afternoon, getting all the way up to 21 C. Managed to avoid raindrops :)

These are wild horses and burrows - they round them up in Rock Springs to survey herd health, and some are adopted.
Travelling through Wyoming - descending slowly - down to 5,100 ft tonight. Miles and miles of high desert/prairie, mesas, buttes, hoodoos. Gigantic ranches - lots of cattle grazing, sharing the grasses with antelope.

This is a Overland Trail Stage Station at Point of Rocks, Wyoming. Apparently there were stations like this every 10 - 14 miles on the overland trail.
Road construction warning signs in Wyoming - "Pay Attention or Pay the Price".
Driving beside a train filled with coal, the engineer toots as we pass - there's not much other traffic, and he's not coming up to a crossing, pretty sure he's being friendly - we both wave :)

Tonight's abode is another Best Western ... in the room there's a photo of the same facility from the 60's! Upon arrival, we get microfiber towels for the bike wash and bottles of cold water. Definitely biker friendly! There's a line up for the bike wash ...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Summer 2009 tour - day 14 - 688 km (11 hrs in the saddle)

Estes Park - Rocky Mountain National Park in the rain (with a bit of fog - 5 C at the summit - moose pair spotted and everyone stops where they are and jumps out of their vehicles for photo ops!) - hwy 40 miles and miles and miles of high prairie desert to Dinasour 31 C - Vernal Utah - Flaming Gorge National Park - into the rain again! - North on 191 in Utah and Wyoming to Rock Springs Wy.

Flaming Gorge national park and reservoir and damn are very nice - Don took a wee jaunt down to the river below the dam.

Utah has excellent signage along their national park, pointing out which areas formed coal, which are producing potash, are fossilized sand dunes or are ancient seabeds. And the best switchbacks ever :) nicely banked and room enough I didn't feel crowded navigating them.

Breaking into Wyoming is an amazing transition to swooping open sweepers, climbing the canyons then riding along the top. Lots of open range.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Summer 2009 tour - day 13 - 271 km

Mount Evans today - the park entry is 14 miles from the highway, the peak another 14 miles up. Nice pavement all the way, at the very top a whole bunch of extreme hairpin turns. Arrived at the top without overheating the bike :)

All the metal stuff at the structure at the top, is grounded - even the handrails, grounded individually.

Most of the day over 8000 ft elevation. Hwy 119 then 72 (Peak to Peak Hwy) north to Estes Park, just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park - a glorious road of sweepers. Going through Nevadaville - get to go over speed bumps on the highway to make sure you're going slow enough!

More signs for 'climb to safety in flash floods' ... those mountain babbling brooks must get really mean!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Summer 2009 tour - day 12 - 222 km

Today is Pike's Peak day! 22 miles to the top, five of them gravel. 2nd gear all the way up, all the way down.

My bike gets really hot on the way up (can't be my white-knuckle driving, no way) ... have to stop part way up to let the fans cool the engines.

Fun sign on the way - 'Big Foot Crossing'. 24 C at the foot, 10 C at the top. 32 C when we get back to the bottom!

Then we ride an absolutely gorgeous hwy 24 north up and down a couple of mountains, mostly sweepers but a few twisties. Follow a babbling brook much of the way, with posted signs ... "In Flash Floods, climb to safety".

Lots of the area is well treed with aspens and pine, but also large areas of burnt trees ... with spooky strips that survived the fire. And we're also wondering whether the houses/cottages along here were built after the fire or survived the fire? A few trees around them look fine, suggesting that many escaped the burning.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Summer 2009 tour - day 11 - 225 km

This area gives a whole new perspective on 'high plains drifter' ... going from Buena Vista this morning to Manitou Springs, we crossed many miles of high plains desert (over 8,000 ft) - dry, dry, dry. Very little habitation, a few ranches. One herd of bison, some cattle herds (they still had their horns). Mostly dried grasses and sagebrush, with some timber on the higher hills.

23 C most of the ride, big blue sky with fluffy clouds. My oh my, what a nice place to play :)

Little jaunt into Cripple Creek (over 10,000 ft again on the way in) - there are lots of casinos so the road is in pretty good shape - lots of buses transporting people in, trucks carrying supplies (Brinks, UPS, Coors). Lunch at "Parrot Dice Grill" - choice of burgers (regular beef, bison or vegetarian) or pizza; all the shops in that stretch open into a casino.

Have had a couple of burgers on this trip with pineapple rings - yumm!

More chip/seal for a stretch - grrr - now I have a broken lens on one of my fog lights.

Dinner at "Mo's Diner" - they only serve burgers and beer after 2 pm. Sixties style diner; the chef had a Harley bandana, long scruffy hair in a ponytail; poker party going on in the back. Good grub!

Hotel for the night has a bowl of fresh lemonade in the lobby, made with the local spring water. Apparently Manitou Springs is famous for its spring water - filtering through the mountains, bubbling through limestone, claims to have healing powers. Makes tasty lemonade!

Summer 2009 tour - day 10 - 594 km

Montrose - Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction - Grand Mesa Byway - Top of the Rockies Byway - Aspen - Buena Vista

11 hours in the saddle, temps from 32 C in the National Monument park to 8 C coming through Independence Pass. Arrived at our destination (Buena Vista) late enough that all the restaurants were closed for the night - supper from the vending machine! Just like home, sidewalks rolled up at 9 :)

Two accidents to wait to get cleared - one SUV that looks like it was started by the (well signed) mowing operation, ended up on its side against a tree in the ditch; another on the way up to Independence Pass - another SUV that fell off the cliff was getting towed back to the road on its way to the wrecking yard.

Three passes today - Independence Pass the highest - 12,094 ft high. On the way up, road goes to one lane around some of the bends, road work where they're putting down tar/chip and the gravel was loose.

This is in the National Monument (a park - 23 miles of canyon-rim roads with nice sweepers and a few twisties). There were actually people on the top of this structure.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Summer 2009 tour - day 9 - 362 km

Today's jaunt was Hwy 550 - Montrose to Durango, and back. This fabulous route goes through three mountain passes (Red Mountain, Mola, Coal Bank), all over 10,000 ft. Lots of hairpin turns, 10 mph turns, 25 mph limits. Great roads.

Scared the living daylights out of me sometimes though - lots of turns with no guardrails and the cliff drops off right at the road - not even a shoulder! But, also lots of areas with great shored up shoulders and wide turning areas so the trucks can get around the hairpins.

Ouray is beautiful!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Summer 2009 tour - day 8 - 290 km

What a short day you say? Not at all, when you spend most of it on hairpin turns and hopping off to snap another shot of the gorgeous scenery.

Today's trip was along Colorado Hwy 92 (Montrose, Delta, Hotchkiss, Crawford) along the North Rim Black Canyon. Oh, and in Crawford at the last gas stop for 80 miles, you can get a nice serving of battered gizzards. Umm, we passed on that treat.

After the top-side tour of the North Rim, we went into the Black Canyon National Park. The first loop is up top, looking down into the canyon, with viewpoints all along the way. In this lookout, you can see the people at the tip of the lookout, contrasted with the cliffs at the other side of the canyon. You can see the river carving out the bottom.

Then you can take a side trip (if you're brave!) down to the river - descend more than 2,000 ft at 16 percent grade, with 10 mph hairpin turns (complete with mirrors).

At the bottom, you can meander along the river and almost get to the dam. There's a huge rock that has fallen off the cliff - went partially into the river, and you can still see where it gouged a huge chunk out of the road.

Summer 2009 tour - day 7 - 420 km

Cortez to Four Corners monument, then up to Montrose.

Four Corners was hot and windy (well what did we expect?!) in the middle of high desert. Lots more cliffs that I'm asking myself whether there are cliff dwellings there too???

Lots of high desert, and only a few miles away, irrigation makes farming happen again - hay, wheat, barley, potatoes.

Scenic byway and San Juan Skyway (also known as Million Dollar Highway) to Montrose. Mostly between 7,500 - 9,000 ft but 10,240 ft at Lizard's Head Pass. Amazing how different the peaks are even in one area.

Today's songs accompanying viewing magnificent sights: "I Can See For Miles" (The Who) and "Make A Memory" (Bon Jovi).

Bonus feature for today ... the Best Western in Montrose has a ... BIKE WASH station! Hose, buckets, Zip Wash, microfibre towels. Heaven!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Summer 2009 tour - day 6 - 120 km - Mesa Verde National Park

Today was mostly exploring Mesa Verde National Park, toured both Cliff Palace and Long House dwellings. This is an absolutely fantastic site. Worthy of everyone's 'bucket list'!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Summer 2009 tour - day 5 - 360 km (Linda) 430 (Don)

Started out as such a lovely day, with a good plan! We were heading to Great Sand Dunes National Park, then on to Cortez. Got to within about 6 miles of the park, and my bike was feeling very squishy and not steering well at all. Stopped for inspection, flat tire!

Of course, we have nothing to repair/replace with us. So hopped on with Don and we headed back to the bike dealer near where we stayed the night before. They did have a replacement tire, but couldn't figure out how to get the bike or tire together with the tools to do the fixing.

Pulled out the GWRRA (Gold Wing Road Rider Association) Gold Book - a listing of Honda dealers and GWRRA members ... each member can opt to publish what 'services' they are willing to offer - tour guide, host campers, trailer/tow, tools, etc. There are three listed for this town. Calls to these fine fellas not fruitful tho. Nearest dealer listed is three hours away.

Next up, pulled out the Rescue Plus service, spent a long time on the phone with them arranging to have the bike trailered to the dealer. Just as we're finishing up the call, the dealership fellas figure out that the owner has a trailer that he can use to pick up the bike. Yay! So off they go to gather up the stranded Wing. Turns out this fella also farms (we're everywhere, eh?) so they had a nice visit.

Meanwhile, this is an excellent opportunity for me to visit the nice Gray Goose Fabric/Quilt store spotted in town! :)

When the tire comes off, it is of course inspected for what went wrong. Discover nothing puncturing the tire, but there is a line almost completely around the inside of the tire that is disintegrated. Everyone agrees they've never seen a tire do that before. Shop is going to have their tire rep inspect it, may have to send it back to the manufacturer.

All fixed, off and touring again! It's almost 4 local time, and we're 4 driving hours away from our room for the night. Off we go - Hwy 160 from Alamosa to Cortez. Oh, this is a nice drive! Goes through Wolf Creek Pass, the GPS on the bikes showed us at 10,880 ft altitude; it's also the Continental Divide.

Local radio that I'm listening to happens to be playing "I Will Remember You" (Sarah McLachlin) and "I can only imagine" (Mercy Me) - absolutely perfect for the breathtaking beauty surrounding us.

Almost every corner holds another breathtaking surprise to inspire ...

Did have to don rain gear for a while again - nice lightening show but didn't get too terribly drenched. Most of the activity was just off to one side or the other to where we happened to be. Temps ranged from baking our brains while waiting to get the tire fixed, to 18 in the rainy mountaintops, back up to 28 coming into Cortez at sundown.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Summer 2009 tour - day 4 - 450 km

What a glorious day :)

Wonderful weather - great company - great roads - breathtaking scenery.
We toured the Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge - and found some nice twisty and scenic roads. Up to 9,435 ft elevation, most of the day over 8,000 ft.
Had lunch in a little town on the way - "The Whistle Stop". Apparently so named as the proprietor whistles all the time :) There was a large old map on the wall showing North America, with the states and when they were acquired. The guy asked if we knew anything about maps - it says its from the late 1800's but he doesn't know how to authenticate it. Then he goes on to tell us how it's actually owned by the lady he bought the restaurant from, who happens to still owe him $12,000. Why do people tell complete strangers stuff like this??

Getting ready for the day

This last one is the "Bishop Castle" - this guy, Jim Bishop, making a whole bunch of political statements, including he'll do whatever he darn well pleases with his land, no one needs drivers licenses, etc. It's a very interesting structure. He was there, working on the moat when someone asked him a political question (we didn't hear that part) and he went on a huge rant about Obama. After the rant, he laughed and commented he'd have said the same about McCain.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Summer 2009 tour - day 3 - 650 km

Kearney NE to Castle Rock Colorado. Crossed from Nebraska to Colorado noon-ish. One long climb all day from 2,200 ft altitude in Kearney to 6,200 in Castle Rock.

Lots more flat landscape in Nebraska with more huge cornfields. Nice to see some Pioneer signs, even the same varieties we grow, but under irrigation. A few fields were hard to tell whether the crop was corn that had been hailed out, or not irrigated or some offshoot corn variety? Sad looking crop. A few huge feedlots.

Have been trying out a beaded seat cover - thumbs up for me! Allows a bit of breeze to keep the touchie cooler, and keeps the sun from getting the seat blistering hot while you're at lunch. Now to figure out how to size it into two, or at least cut it down so it doesn't need to be tied down on the passenger seat.

Met up with a fellow GoldWinger ('04 titanium?) who was on his way east after travelling some of the twisties in Colorado and Utah.

Hot hot hot - hit 37 degrees. Storms building up around us, got the start of a windy sandstorm getting fuel at Wiggins, Co; lots of gusts and a few raindrops but managed to stay dry (well, except for sweating buckets). Getting closer to Denver, huge ginormous black clouds with long tendrils hanging down obscured the mountains. Radio reported severe thunderstorm/hail warning for the area.

Tuckered out, headed for hotel at Castle Rock, just south of Denver. Was still very threatening weather, very very gusty. Really nice toll bypass getting around Denver - cashless, we'll see if they bill out of country plates :)

Hotel is right next to "Bubbles" - a huge liquor warehouse. Canadian whiskey for really great prices, of course. Dinner a a nice local grillhouse with margarita specials - how can a person go wrong?!

Going over the travel info - heading for Cortez, Mesa Verde National Park.

Acclimatizing to higher altitudes tonight. Drinking lots of fluids, as recommended to prevent altitude sickness ;)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Summer 2009 tour - day 2 - 826 km

With great intentions, we were up and breakfasted early. Just finishing our coffee, and a fella also at breakfast notices the Pioneer logo on Don's t-shirt. The next hour or so was learning about South Dakota farming - sounds like a pretty big family farm they're running.

Also spotted at breakfast - t-shirt with John Deere logo, reading 'friends don't let friends drive red tractors'.

My baby turned 20 today ... how could that have happened so fast?

Spent the day on I80. I have learned that the speed limit is actually the road number. So I don't think I want to take I94 on the way home. I75, maybe.

And we found where the crew went to (or originated?) that did the work on Hwy 401 on the east end of Chatham-Kent - they also did work on I80 just east of Kearney NE!

Iowa has lots of the glorious rolling landscape, patchy farming in all directions to follow the slopes. Saw the Kinzie location with their tractor and implement planted vertically - quite a sight! Nice stack of grain buggies from huge to teeny tiny.

Getting closer to Nebraska, the landscape changes to terraced fields. Enquiring minds want to know how they shore up the edges of the terraces? It's such a pretty sight. A little more west, and it gets very flat again, and there's now irrigation - mostly corn but also soys. And irrigated seed corn.

The seed corn fields are so big, I could see a crew of detasslers getting set loose in the morning, not getting done for a week!

And a few fields with $12 corn. Now, some ambitious souls did burn them down with chemicals, to let the soys grow through, but there are also quite a lot of fields with quite a bit of volunteer corn.

Elevation went from 900 in Iowa to just over 2100 in Kearney NE where we landed. Gaining elevation did nothing to cool things down. Temps reading 35 and 36 (up to 98 on Don's bike, which is not set to metric!). Still at 9:00 at night, it's 32.

Sign spotted on a little overpass - "Watch for wind on bridge". Hmmm - now that could be a difficult task. Lucky for us, they have installed a wind sock so you can actually see the state of the wind.

Spooky lyrics of the day - listening to Styx "Pieces of Eight" when I spy a road sign advising you not to pick up hitchhikers. Usually that's posted near prisons!

Best serendipitious moment in song - listening to the "Canadian Tenors" when we come upon fields of wind farms. Glorious gigantic voices matching the beauty and grace of quiet giant towers.

Find of the day - how to scout for good locations for wind turbines - find trees that are all bent in one direction. Great examples in western Iowa, a really nice collection of wind farms. Hmmm - they don't seem to have the same issues with the turbines being close to human habitation as some Chatham-Kent residents do.

And right where we turned to our motel for the night - "Firstier Bank" - much better than "First Bank", for sure!

Total km today - 826. Resting spot for the night - Kearney NE.
Tomorrow, Colorado!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Summer 2009 tour - day 1

And we're off! Our summer '09 tour is westward.

Day 1, packed to the chief's satisfaction and off by 9:30 - we're never on the road early ... Our goal for today is to zip across as far as we can manage without dropping. Glorious sunshine to start the day.

Border crossing was a snap - very little traffic and lots of lanes open at the border. Border guy didn't even talk let alone ask questions. Just circled the bikes and wrote down the license plates.

Great improvement - we can now go directly onto the interstate! Nice!

I94 straight through to Chicago then I80. Bits of construction here and there. Clouds started building mid-afternoon, showers started. Donned raingear (love the Frogg Toggs!) under a bridge, on the road again.

Cleared up mostly by late afternoon, broke through the clouds to clear skies again after seven.

Crop report - pretty uneven east of Chicago, lots of corn not yet in tassle - definitely behind normal. Gets better west of Chicago. Soys look pretty good. Hardly any wheat.

- Pioneer processing plant at Princeton Illinois
- wind farm also near Princeton (also happens to be the birthplace of Ronnie Regan)
- one turbine blade at the weigh station - likely has to wait for weekday to continue it's trip
- lots and lots of bikes - plenty headed for Sturgis, and LOTS getting trailered. Why don't they just ride them? A few reasons come to mind - they're travelling with more people than can ride the bikes? not enough time off to ride all the way? not comfortable or reliable enough to go the distance ?
- love the rolling landscape - crops have wonderful patterns, grassy waterways, lots of dimension - am sure they're not easy to farm but sure are pretty, remind me a lot of quilting patterns!
- the big red bikes always attract comments and people just stop by to chat - one little guy was just amazed that we had twin big red motorcycles, but he wouldn't ride one because he didn't like riding in the rain; met a couple at a gas station who were both on harleys, headed east - recommended a few nice side trips in Iowa on our way west.

Figure I have to do something so I don't seize up ... get off the bike every hour or so (coffee, water, water, lemonade, pix, sights) along with lots of shoulder rolls, kegels, clenching, rocking & rolling in micromovement to great tunes ...

Favorite song timing - Phil Collins "Dancing thru the night" going through Chicago. Fav song today - Jason Mraz, "Lucky" :)

Total KM today - 870. Resting place for the night - Moline Illinois, almost to Iowa. Have to check out the John Deere stuff in town in the morning. Apparently this is 'Quad City' - Davenport Iowa, Bettendort Iowa, Rock Island Illinois, Moline Illinois.

Discovered the new gloves have already worn thru ...

Secret Garden BOM 2016

Secret Garden Flimsy I participated in quite a few of Pat Sloan's challenges and quilt-alongs in 2016! This one, " Secret Garde...