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Passed out

Sunday, March 11, 2018   (14 Comments)
Posted by: Tom Stresing #96217

September 4, 6 p.m. Got the bike all packed up and ready for the next two weeks of adventure. Wandered into the house and my wife said I should check the email from my son. "Dad, I'll be working the two days that you had planned to visit me. Can you reschedule?" Wow.

My riding partner, Jim Wiskerchen, has scheduled this two-week vacation from his job. I've scheduled this two-week vacation from my jobs. I've made reservations at the Tetons and Yellowstone - if you've ever tried that, you know how difficult that is. You, son, have known about these dates for the better part of a year. You, son, have had 30 days leave from the USAF for the last few years without using any of them to see your dad; I ask for just two days now and you can't swing that. Please forgive me for not bringing you up right. No, we're not going to reschedule. I didn't sleep much that night.

September 5. Jim (who spent two weeks riding with me last year and voluntarily returned for more punishment) and I met for breakfast in Lake Mills and I broke the news that we wouldn't be going to Mountain Home, Idaho. We decided to mull over our options and make a final decision on our route once we got to Estes Park. The only highlight/lowlight of the day was we missed the US 151 bypass around Cedar Rapids and ended up going through the city. Next time I'll just take Iowa 1 south to Interstate 80. Tom Bodette left the lights on for us in Lincoln, Nebraska.

September 6. Everything stopped just west of Ogallala. It looked like a few miles of parking lot in front of us on I-80, but fortunately we were right at an exit. We went west on US 30 for 20 miles or so, then rejoined I-80 to Cheyenne and made our way to Estes Park, finally using the sides of our tires! Stopped at the Roadhouse Inn and found a great restaurant across the street. Over dinner we decided to maintain the route we planned (except for the Mountain Home part) and just take more time to look around.

September 7. I was packing up the bike when an attractive lady sashayed up and whispered "Turn around." I didn't know what she had in mind, but I was certainly intrigued. It turned out to be a large bull elk about 30 feet away. While I'm not sure what I expected, it certainly wasn't that. Pretty exciting nonetheless.

You know, now that I think about it, that bull was only 20 feet away. Might have been 10 feet. Or even five. Yeah - definitely five. I'm sticking with five.

After breakfast we headed for Rocky Mountain National Park. The aspens were starting to turn golden, and it was cold, windy and absolutely gorgeous above the tree line.

We picked a great time to be there; with the kiddies back in school the park wasn't crowded and we could stop for pictures wherever we wanted. Although there were signs all over telling us about all the animals there, we just had to take their word for it. There still was a little snow left over from last winter and we actually rode above some.

Bicycle riders going up that road were recurring theme almost everywhere we went. We fought for oxygen just walking slightly uphill at those elevations, and folks were riding BICYCLES! I don't understand how they even got out of their straitjackets. We left the park reluctantly, stopped for a brief look at Grand Lake, then headed south for Loveland Pass.

We got onto I-70 for a little while and rode past six or seven bighorn sheep stuck between the road and a cliff, grateful they hadn't panicked yet and tried to cross. Hopefully they went back up the mountain. US 6 leaves the freeway, goes over Loveland Pass, then rejoins the freeway for a beautiful ride past some ski areas. There were a lot of hikers - we watched one guy put packs on a couple of llamas and head off on a trail. I was confused by the fairly large number of big trucks on the road, since this was essentially a very steep detour off of I-70 and there was nothing wrong with I-70. We got a quick snack in Dillon, then found 91 to 24 to 285 south to 50 west, stopping at the Holiday Inn Express in Gunnison.

Up to that point, we'd gone over Milner Pass, Beathard Pass, Loveland Pass, Fremont Pass, and Monarch Pass. Cool! At 11:45 p.m. we got a call to move our bikes because they were blocking the entrance. Turned out the motorcycle blocking the entrance belonged to neither of ours, so we thanked the desk clerk for waking us up for nothing and tried to get back to sleep.

September 8. What a perfect day! Excellent weather and a beautiful ride on Highway 50 toward the Black Canyon. We rode further up to gaze upon the canyon, then backtracked south over Slumgullion Pass and Spring Creek Pass to Creede for lunch. Passing on the opportunity to visit Bob Ford's grave, we rode through Wagon Wheel Gap (which very well may be a pass) and west over Wolf Creek Pass to Durango. We passed a semi coming down from the pass with the back brakes on the trailer smoking pretty badly and kept our speed up in case it became a runaway. Actually, we kept our speed up because it was fun, but it was good to have an excuse just in case.

Durango has grown a lot since I was last there, and we were fortunate to find a great motel close to the railroad station downtown. Durango is busy even in the off-season. We strolled over to the train station and got almost the last tickets for Thursday, then explored the town a little and found a place with food and 38 kinds of beer, so it had to be wonderful.

September 9. Up early and moseyed over to the Mahogany Grill for breakfast. Walter the Waiter's favorite word appeared to be "fantastic." It was fantastic that I wanted coffee, what we chose to eat was fantastic (to be fair, it was), everything we said and did was fantastic. It stuck. For the rest of the day, Jim and I used that word as often as we could, and had a fantastic time doing it. We boarded the 8 a.m. train and settled in for a day off the motorcycles. If you have not been on the Durango/Silverton railroad, please put it on your list of things to do.

If you have good weather (we did), it is an incredibly beautiful (or as Jim liked to say, fantastic) ride. I took more pictures from the train than I did anywhere else on the trip. The train moves slowly - we were passed by some insects - and the cars rock on the tracks, but I think that just enhances the experience. As we neared Silverton, we saw the results of the Gold King Mine wastewater spill; the rocks along the Animas River were orange. It looked like the river was planning to go deer hunting. Silverton is a trip in itself, with really nice houses next to what may be abandoned shacks, colorful Main Street, lots of shops in which tourists can spend lots of money, small hotels and restaurants, many opportunities to rent Jeeps and ATVs, and is mostly entertaining.

We got back to Durango a little after 5 p.m. and stopped in a store called The Shared Blanket. The owner didn't remember me despite the fact that when I stopped there 13 years earlier I spent nearly $25. I remembered her, though, and the stories I'd heard when I was there, so I asked her to tell a few of them to Jim. A little more exploring turned up a great place for pizza and beer.

September 10. Back on the bikes and headed for Four Corners. It was not what I expected, except for the corners part. They're on a reservation, so my Old Fogey National Parks Pass didn't work and I had to shell out real money. The corners themselves were nicely displayed, along with explanations of what it was that we were viewing. On all four sides booths were set up so the natives could sell their artwork, and some of it was stunning. Despite the fact that we have too much stuff cluttering - I mean beautifying - the house now, I had to make a purchase. After the obligatory pictures of us standing in four states at once, we mounted up and headed for Mesa Verde.

Jim had never been in this area before, so it was nice not only to show him but to relive some memories. One of my memories was of being young enough to climb down to some of the dwellings. We contented ourselves with spectacular views from above. After a few hours in the park, we went back to Durango for dinner and to do laundry.

Jim and I had been switching off riding lead, today was Jim's turn, and I suddenly realized what a luxury it was to have someone in front in whom I have absolute faith. I could trust him to notice and communicate any problems in front of us, so I could look around a little more than I normally would. I hope he could say the same of me.

September 11. The 15th anniversary of the attacks. Lots of remembrances on the news as we packed up. I recalled everything about it. America came together that day, people helped each other without checking for skin color first, legislators dropped the petulant teenager act and became statesmen. We rode off down the Million Dollar Highway, which could have been a lot of fun if it wasn't for the RVs and big trucks in our way. Car drivers were pretty good about using the pullouts, but some of those behemoths didn't have room and probably couldn't afford to lose momentum. Still, the scenery was - I'll say it - fantastic. We went over Coal Bank Pass and Molas Pass, had breakfast in Silverton, then headed over Red Mountain Pass to Ouray.

We turned west over the Dallas Divide and south to Telluride. The ride there was great fun, including the sight of a herd of elk near the road. The ride in there was not great fun. Telluride has some kind of festival every weekend, so the place was mobbed and we were quickly down to walking speeds. A U-turn got us out and on our way to Grand Junction. For most of the way we were either in a canyon surrounded by red rock or on top of a canyon looking down on red rock.

We stopped for lunch in Naturita, gassed up and got back on the road. It was 100 degrees when we got to our Holiday Inn Express in Grand Junction (with an excellent Italian restaurant just across the parking lot). I won't tell you what I had in case my doctor reads this, but it was wonderful, or, as Walter the Waiter (and Jim) would say, fantastic.

September 12. Headed for Colorado National Monument, a steep, twisting climb to the top of the mesa. We saw three bighorns running across the road. They looked a lot like chipmunks to me, but the sign said it was a bighorn crossing area, so they were bighorns. The road was close to the edge and there was nothing to keep us from going over; not a good place to make a mistake. Glancing in my mirrors, I saw that Jim was trying as hard as I was to stay near/on the centerline. We were grateful for all the scenic lookouts so we could actually take our eyes off the road for a while.

Then a fun twisty ride down from the mesa and headed north on CO 139 over Douglas Pass to Rangely. Lunch at the Main Street Cafe, where they have a whole new outlook on fast food. It took almost 45 minutes for our burgers to arrive. Good thing they weren't crowded. Still, very nice people, so it wasn't an unpleasant wait. Out of Colorado and into Utah, heading for Dinosaur National Monument. We were finally out of Colorado - what a nothing state! Nothing but great roads, awesome vistas, constantly changing topography, and friendly folks.

I don't know if they do this all over Utah, but where we were there were signs saying what kinds of fossils were found in that particular area. Dinosaur National Monument was a treat. They've partially excavated a hill, exposing lots of dinosaur bones, then they built a structure around it to preserve the site so we amateurs can see what they found and how they found it. It must have been exciting to have been part of the discovery team. The ranger pointed out something I didn't know: The Rockies in Utah line up east to west, while everywhere else they're north to south. I have to stop talking to rangers, they make me feel dumb.

We didn't stay too long, as some of the tourists were staring at me like I was part of the display ("Look! This one's still moving."). North on US 191 to Flaming Gorge and around the west side. It was overcast by then, so our pictures didn't do it justice. In fact, none of the pictures that we took anywhere on the trip were able to capture perfectly what we saw. We can only use them to trigger our own memories. We looked unsuccessfully for a motel in Green River, Wyoming, so had to turn west to Little America. Riding directly toward the sun for 20 miles or so at 80 MPH was pretty scary.

September 13. West on US 30 into Idaho, then north along the Snake River to Jackson, Wyoming. It seemed as if all the deciduous trees along the Snake had already donned their fall colors, enhancing the scenery. How sweet of them to do that for us. Jackson was its usual bustling self. We parked at the town square and walked through some of the incredibly expensive shops, got an ice cream cone, mounted up and headed for our cabin at Grand Teton National Park. Twenty miles from Colter Bay, we could smell the smoke from the forest fire between the Tetons and Yellowstone.

The road between the parks was closed just past Colter Bay, but we were OK where we were. We moved into our cabin, got some laundry started and walked over to the restaurant for a great meal. That night it rained for the first time in that area since June 1. Heavy rain on the cabin's metal roof was loud and woke us often, but we hoped the rain would help with the fire so we could get to Yellowstone.

September 14. We rode over to Jackson Lake Lodge for breakfast and walked around the area taking pictures. The rain had mostly stopped but it was still very overcast. There was a herd of elk between the lodge and the lake, and some were bugling; that's the first time I'd ever heard that. We found out that Idaho owns the first 39 feet of the lake and took it all for irrigation, so Colter Bay was more like Colter Inlet and Jackson Lake was more like Jackson Pond.

Not much business for the marinas, and the lake tours were done. We rode the park roads, even ventured down a dirt one for a while hoping in vain to get close to some critters. The parking areas all over the park are enormous, giving us some idea of how crowded the place is during the summer. I'm glad we missed that. That night it rained for the second time since June 1.

September 15. We woke to a cold and rainy day. The good news was that the rain had demoralized the forest fire, and Highway 89 was open to Yellowstone. We rode past miles of smoldering trees on both sides of the road. Spooky. When we got to the Yellowstone entrance, the lady at the gate was skeptical that Jim was old enough for the Old Fogey pass. She caught me laughing about that and decided to give me some grief, too. All in fun. The bad news was that the rain we had in the Tetons was snow in Yellowstone. The roads were OK, but there was snow everywhere, and it was cold and blustery. We rode to Fishing Bridge (ironically, fishing is not allowed), got some breakfast and walked across the street to the information center.

The information was not good; the bad weather we were experiencing was about to get much worse. We backtracked to the Lake Hotel to cancel our reservation at Canyon so we could escape while the escaping was possible. The nice people took great care of us, even though we were giving them only a few hours' notice, and we headed down the road to the East Entrance. We got close to some deer, a cow elk, and a bison, but it was just too miserable to stop for pictures. I took only one, at the East Entrance, looking back at what we were running from. OK, I admit it, we're cowards. Maybe we should have visited Bob Ford's grave.

We headed down the road through Buffalo Bill State Park, past the Buffalo Bill Reservoir, to Cody, where we got a room at the Irma, the hotel that Buffalo Bill built and named for his daughter. We got Room 20, the Colonel Cody Room… the haunted one. Dinner that night was at a Chinese restaurant, perhaps the only place in town that didn't have Buffalo, Bill, or Cody in its name.

September 16. We spent almost the entire day in the Buffalo Bill Museum of the West. The visit really does require an entire day (Jim said it was fantastic), and the timing was good for us, too; with intermittent rain all day it was comforting to be indoors. We found a brewery for dinner, had a great pizza and wonderful beer.

September 17. Two nights in a haunted room with no ghostly visits. I don't know if we were disappointed by that or not. Instead of ghosts, we had a loose toilet seat, the toilet paper dispenser threatened to fall off the wall, the hot water disappeared while I was taking a shower, and there was no way to turn off the ceiling fan, so it was almost the same. We rode up Alternate 14, hoping to see Medicine Wheel. Breakfast in Powell, and in one of those little towns a police officer waiting for speeders flashed his lights as we approached, just to let us know he was there. How kind! Twisty roads going up the mountain were in pretty bad shape, so we couldn't play as much as we would have liked.

There were a couple of parking areas overlooking the Bighorn Basin. We turned to go up to Medicine Wheel, but the wet dirt and loose rock on the steep road was a little too daunting on street tires. We found a wide area to turn around and left the Wheel for another time. 14A ran into 14, and we took that to the freeway. There was a large group of pronghorns just outside of Buffalo, but no buffalo. We got to Wall, South Dakota, a little before 5 p.m. and left the freeway to visit the Badlands. A large prairie dog village caught my eye just as we entered, but most of the dogs hid as soon as I brought out the camera. The lighting was nearly perfect for pictures elsewhere in the park, and we saw lots of pronghorns and bighorns.

Stopping in Kadoka for a motel was a nice way to end the vacation. The restaurant the desk clerk recommended was closed, so we settled for Subway, but it could have been worse; we could have let them do our laundry. They only wanted $25 to do one load in cold water.

September 18. All day slogging east on the freeway, but it was cool to be crossing the plains without having to deal with summer heat. I just hope the South Dakota Department of Bugs isn't too mad at us, because we killed a lot of their pets. In our defense, some of those bugs looked kind of despondent and I think they presented themselves to our windshields on purpose.

We started looking for a motel when we neared Rochester, but found nothing until we reached Wynona. We ended up with probably the last room in town; it was very expensive, but we were definitely done riding for the day. Got some laundry going and walked across the parking lot to a restaurant. It took a long time to get our food; I think they hadn't staffed up for the crowds that showed up that weekend.

September 19. An unexpectedly lovely ride south along the Mississippi to the freeway, then across and back into Wisconsin. Considering all the things we experienced, it seemed like a lot more than two weeks since we left. Doing one of the most Wisconsin things we could, we stopped at Culvers just north of Madison for lunch. They messed up my order, something that Walter the Waiter would not have done (he was fantastic). Jim and I sang two choruses of Kumbaya, then parted with a handshake and a promise to get together soon to tell lies about the trip.

I pulled into the yard a little after one; the dogs ran out to greet me and we all peed on the driveway in our excitement to see each other. My wife was glad to see me, too, but less demonstrative about it. Fourteen passes, a little over 4,000 miles, and 150 pictures; the trip was - say it with me - fantastic! It was great to be gone, but better to be home.


Ann Chapman says...
Posted Monday, April 2, 2018
Fantastic commentary. We rode a very similar trek 8 years (can it be?) ago. In many areas I wasn't prepared for the incredible beauty. Thanks for the entertaining travelogue.
Brian Heyman says...
Posted Monday, March 12, 2018
A map of the route would be nice.
Sandra Valois says...
Posted Monday, March 12, 2018
Wonderful! Very fun narrative of what sounded like a great 2 weeks on the road out west.
Bill Lundy says...
Posted Monday, March 12, 2018
I knew there was a reason I paid for membership; tales (and of course photos) like this and Anonymous are worth the ticket to ride.
Scott Owen says...
Posted Monday, March 12, 2018
Good friend, good bikes and a road trip in the American West, what could be better. Your writing made it better! Thank you.
John W. Browning says...
Posted Monday, March 12, 2018
That was a wonderful ride story. I have to live through others while I am taking care of sick family members, so I almost felt like I was reliving the memories with you. I can empathize with you about our adult children not taking time to spend with us. But I feel it was a bit too much to take your son to task in a public forum like this. Either way, I really enjoyed the story. It let me escape for a while, even if it was within my mind.
Robin C. Brown says...
Posted Monday, March 12, 2018
Great trip, and gives me mentions of rtes to make sure I travel this August when taking my own trip through those areas. Thanks for the ride along, great write up and adventure you two had.
Gerard Gatineau says...
Posted Monday, March 12, 2018
Nice summary of your trip. I have visited most of the places you described and you are correct; pictures just don't capture the awesomeness!
Dean H. LaForest says...
Posted Monday, March 12, 2018
Sounds like a wonderful time. I haven't forgotten some of those mountain passes. Scary! yet, soooo exhilarating! If your at this years rally maybe we will meet in the beer tent. Thanks for the memories. Dino
Michael Pearson says...
Posted Monday, March 12, 2018
Thanks for sharing your adventure. Hope to see some of those sights in my future.
Steve Kenemuth says...
Posted Monday, March 12, 2018
Thank you. You’re reminding me of some places I’ve got to get back to that I haven’t seen in years. Loveland Pass is heavy with trucks because they don’t allow us to go through Eisenhower Tunnel with any hazardous materials. Fun in the winter. If you know where to look you can see truck parts over the side in places.
Brad Schulz says...
Posted Monday, March 12, 2018
Great trip you guys had!! Thank you for sharing.
Andre Morissette says...
Posted Monday, March 12, 2018
Great Ride - do you have the GPX file for this? If so, are you willing to share it?
Scott A. Moseman says...
Posted Sunday, March 11, 2018
What a "fantastic" ride. Thanks for sharing.

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