Archive for July, 2009

On the Road With Nine Guys

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

The OFMC is off on its annual summer trip and there are nine of us again. For my money, that’s really too many but I’m happy to say it’s really been OK this year. It has actually been a really good time.

We’re doing something of a grand tour this year, which is to say that we’ve gone into Grand Teton National Park instead of just passing by it. We’ve gone into Yellowstone and actually stopped at places such as Old Faithful, rather than passing by or not even going to that part of the park. And of course we came over the Beartooth today, which is always a good ride.

A row of motorcycles in Grand TetonIt’s a good year to be making a grand tour. Yellowstone is famous for the incredible congestion that is caused by tens of thousands of tourists, stopping en masse every time a wild critter shows its face. You can’t avoid that entirely but apparently the recession has cut tourism quite a bit, so the traffic was definitely bearable.

On the other hand, your economic stimulation dollars are hard at work in the national parks, and we got stuck in construction delays again and again. So, six of one, half dozen of the other. But a great place to ride.

Coming over the Beartooth was terrific, despite the gravel spots and the delays. Being from Colorado, we are jaded with elk and buffalo and those sorts of animals but even we stopped to see bears at a couple spots. Coming down from the Beartooth there was one just off the road, up the hill, and he was flipping over rocks to find food underneath. One rock he kicked aside tumbled down the hill right into the road in front of me. Not a danger, as I was stopped at the time, but very interesting nevertheless.

And then there was the very interesting scene we encountered in Yellowstone. Somebody pulling a trailer with a big Harley on it ran off the road and crunched everything. The Harley was lying upside down in the shrubbery and the car was bent upward at both ends. Air bags probably kept the occupants from being too badly hurt but the car, bike, and trailer were all totaled. And they were really weird to see in that condition.

So anyway, a couple more days and we’ll be back home. It’s a great summer to be out on the road on a motorcycle.

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Taylor Canyon and Cottonwood Pass Are Keepers

Monday, July 27th, 2009

After cruising Kebler Pass last weekend we went on up Taylor Canyon and over Cottonwood Pass. This was another of those Colorado roads that I haven’t been on because it wasn’t paved and I wasn’t sure how good it would be on a motorcycle. I had been hearing that it was decent gravel, however, and needed to check it out.

sport bikes
  Cottonwood Pass looking west

Well here’s the verdict. It is not as good a gravel road as Kebler Pass. It is passable, however. I know this for a fact because there were Harleys and all sorts of bikes doing the ride.

I knew that Cottonwood Pass was paved on the eastern side, from Buena Vista, and I have been up there on my bike previously. What I didn’t know was that on the western side, coming east out of Almont, you pass through Taylor Canyon, which is absolutely gorgeous, and the road is paved all the way to Taylor Reservoir. It’s only about 12 miles then from the reservoir to the top of Cottonwood Pass.

Considering all that, I would definitely add this road to my list of good rides in Colorado. Personally, I would prefer going east to west so all of the gravel would be downhill. I just feel more comfortable on a street bike going downhill on rough gravel. And some of it is rough, make no mistake. But if those Harleys can do it anyone can.

I’ll be adding Cottonwood Pass and Taylor Canyon to the website as soon as time permits. I have a lot of good photos but you’ll have to wait until I get the new page up to see the rest of them.

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Destinations are merely excuses to ride.

I Finally Make it to Kebler Pass

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

I have to admit I was feeling a bit peeved with myself with my failure to have ever made it to Kebler Pass, especially with all these out-of-state riders coming through and doing that route. That shortcoming got rectified this past weekend, and I have to say, it was long overdue.

Kebler Pass
  Kebler Pass is gorgeous

Kebler Pass is the extremely well-maintained, hard-packed gravel road that run from Crested Butte down to CO 133 over McClure Pass between Hotchkiss and Carbondale. This road may not be paved but even the biggest bagger can take this route with no problem whatsoever. That’s especially great because otherwise, when you go to Crested Butte, you have no choice but to go back the way you came in.

An additional benefit to doing Kebler Pass is that you can take a short side-trip and hit Ohio Pass as well. Just a short distance downhill from the sign marking the Kebler summit, Gunnison County Road 730 heads off southwest to Gunnison. Ohio Pass is just a short distance away and then it’s a rough road heading on down, good primarily for a dual-sport bike. Don’t take your Road King on this one. Extremely scenic, however.

So I want to thank Steve Smith, a rider from North Carolina who used this site to help plan his trip and then sent me his report. I didn’t even know where Ohio Pass was until he described his ride. And now I don’t feel so bad that he has been to Kebler Pass and I haven’t, because now I have.

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Enjoying life one ride at a time.

Riding a Kawasaki Versys: A Change of Pace

Monday, July 20th, 2009

I’ve never been a dual-sport kind of guy, mostly because I haven’t had the opportunity. Well, I had the opportunity over the weekend.

On top of Hoosier Pass with the KLR and VersysI hooked up on Friday with Sue Slate, the National Program Chair for the Women’s Motorcyclist Foundation. Sue is in Keystone from now through the end of the International Women & Motorcycling Conference and I dropped by to talk with her about the Adventure for the Cures ride she has organized.

This ride will take a dozen experienced riders with very little, if any, experience on dirt on a tour of the Colorado mountains. The mix is expected to be about 80 percent dirt/gravel and 20 percent pavement. Each rider had to commit to raise at least $2,000 for breast and ovarian cancer research, as well as pay a sign-up fee of $400. The “Dirty Dozen” begin their ride on Aug. 10 and will end up back in Keystone for the start of the conference.

So I met up with Sue, and we talked about the ride and about her motivation for doing the fund-raising that she does, and mostly about her total passion for motorcycles. Sue got her first bike at age 19, used to ride observed trials, and lives and breathes motorcycles. As a public school teacher she used to ride to work every day, would bring motorcycle engines into class as a way of showing unmotivated students that even a motorcycle mechanic needs to be able to read, write, and do math.

Now retired from teaching, Sue works ceaselessly for the WMF and also finds time to be an on-call employee for Kawasaki, working at various motorcycle events around the country.

We covered it all and then she asked me what I was doing that afternoon. I had nothing planned, and was wondering that question myself, because I was in Keystone with my wife, who was there for a conference. “Do you want to go for a ride?” Sue asked.

Of course I did, but I hadn’t planned on doing so and I didn’t have any gear with me. No problem, Sue had extra gloves and a helmet that would fit me as well as a green-white-black Kawasaki jacket. And she had bikes. Lots of bikes. Sue had rolled in from New York the day before in an RV pulling her “toy hauler” with five dirt/dual-sport bikes of various sizes. She would ride her KLR 650. I rode her Versys.

We geared up and off we went. Sue had suggested riding Boreas Pass, which struck me as terrific because I had never gone far on that road, and only on cross-country skis. And I’ve almost never had the chance to ride dirt.

I was sure the road to Boreas Pass ran off CO 9 from a little north of Breckenridge toward the pass but I followed Sue on up to the top of Hoosier Pass, where we pulled off. “Oh yeah, Hoosier Pass, that’s the name,” she said as we dismounted. So no, I didn’t get to do Boreas Pass. Turns out the Versys I was on didn’t have the right tires for dirt anyway.

So we admired the view, chatted with another biker who pulled off there, and then headed back down the pass, up I-70 to Copper Mountain, and then rode to the top of Fremont Pass. Then we headed back to Keystone.

I didn’t get to ride dirt but I did get a chance to ride the Versys, which was a new one for me. It feels a lot different from the inline fours I’m accustomed to but I definitely liked the upright seating position. I was interested to find that the little half windshield did a very good job of blocking the wind blast at speed. I’ve never enjoyed riding without a fairing or windshield for that reason.

The seat was much too hard for me to even imagine taking off for a weeklong ride as we do each summer. Other than that, it was a nice bike. I’d really like to do more off-pavement riding because there is so much of it here in Colorado and I really feel like I’m missing a lot. I don’t have room for a third bike, though, so maybe it’s something to consider whenever one of my current two dies. But that’s not likely to happen soon. There must be another way to work this out.

Anyway, it was fun getting to ride the bike and Sue is a fun person to hang out with. And I’ll have a chance to get some dual-sport riding instruction before the Adventure for the Cures ride sets off. Of course I’ll be reporting back to you on that.

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Biker Quote for Today

You never see a motorcycle parked in front of a psychiatrist’s office.

Stuff in the Road — Watch Out!

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

All righty, time again for the weirdest stuff bikers have hit or almost hit. As always, these adventures come from a thread on the Adventure Riders forum. We’ll dive right in.
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burro in the roadBack in the ’80s I was riding with a friend in Southern California. We were blitzing down a highway and he ran over a half-eaten burrito still in the bag some prick tossed out. He kicked it up with his rear tire and it slapped me in the face. I had my visor open and when I got the wet, stinky slap..it managed to come unwrapped to some degree and spray fermented bean and other assorted fillings upside my face and helmet.
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It was night, doin’ about 50 down Rt 20 with helmet and shield when I see something diving for my light, tried to duck, hit me square in the visor, liked to knocked me off the bike, blood, guts mess, I wipe away, something sharp in visor. I get back to the garage and I found the beak of what I think was a hummingbird snapped off, inbedded in the visor, and penetrated it by about 1/4 inch.
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Here in Phoenix on the I-10 I was able to barely avoid a new computer in a box that fell from the back of a truck I was following. Thankfully I tend to keep plenty of room and I was just changing lanes. The combination of the two saved my bacon. It was close, as I felt it graze my left boot.
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Four of us were riding in northern Wisconsin. We were on dual-sports in the woods on partially overgrown two-track. A black bear sprung from the brush. Stories vary if you listen to rider #3 who hit it and rider #4 who saw it about whether it came from the right or left. Regardless, the bear ran along side the cycle for a few steps then cut in front of the front tire. The bear was t-boned and somersaulted. The bike when down and the rider went over the handlebars. Rider #4 said his first thought was what he should do when the bear stood up and faced them. But the bear did immediately run off. The whole event was only 4-5 seconds.
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While competing in an observed trial recently a bee flew into my face as I was riding the loop trail. It hit perfectly between my cheek and the liner of my open face helmet and wedged itself in just below my right ear. Not only was it stinging me repeatedly but the sound of an angry bee inside my helmet right by my ear was nearly deafening. As I was approaching the next section I stepped off my still moving bike and pulled my helmet off, threw it down wile swatting alongside my head and swearing loudly. The observer probably thought I was having a flashback to a bad acid trip.
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I was behind a moving caravan (weekend drunken buddies in multiple trucks) when the tail gate came down dumping the items from the bed into my path. I was far enough behind to have plenty of time and watch the entertainment as the lawnmower came rolling out…followed by the dryer…..followed by the chest of drawers…….
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Turkey in flight. I followed it down a dirt road at 20 miles an hour, for nearly 50 yards, right on its tail feathers. They should stick to walking, they can’t fly for shit.
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This morning I missed going thru a gaggle of geese. There must have been 50 crossing geese crossing the road 3 to 4 deep. I came around the curve at 70 mph and there they were. I went thru them, but missed hitting any of them. They scattered around and went on off the road before anything else happened.
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I was hauling ass down a fire road in my younger days, just about to run over a yucca stalk when it started wiggling. It was a friggin 6′ rattlesnake sunning itself on the road.
I don’t think I helped it any hitting it square in the middle but I didn’t stop to ask if he was OK.
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Scored a double point bonus last week in Waco. I was coming down the road next to the Dr. Pepper Museum when a squirrel and a pursuing angry sparrow came right in my path. I hit both at the same time. Sparrow bounced off, and continued to fly, squirrel not so lucky.
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One moonless night I wast east bound on Texas 290 just outside Houston. There it is a two lane with median barrier and brand new. A truck was stopped on the right shoulder with its back up lights on. I was in the right lane clipping along at my usuall 80 MPH and moved into the left lane to give a wide berth. Suddenly I realized they were stopped because they had just dropped a dark blue love seat in the middle of the left lane. I dropped anchor and was able to serve around the thing but it was close.

If you will notice, there is always a bunch of trash on the road around the end of the month. This is because this is when people move themselves from one residence to another.
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Riding down through Pennsylvania to visit a friend in Bethlehem, a loud ‘thwack’ announced the impact of a firefly on my face shield, then two more. I shut the lights off for a moment to confirm that the green glowing effect all over my field of vision was not a hallucination.
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Here are the other flying object posts:
Motorcycles and Flying Objects
More Flying Object Tales
Latest Tales of Flying Object Encounters
Even More Tales of Flying Objects
Look! Up in the Sky! More Flying Object Tales
Did You See What I Almost Hit?

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Biker Quote for Today

In the end, it’s all about the stories.

17 Passes in 32 Hours

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Steve Smith had asked my assistance in planning his Colorado ride and he sent me this follow-up now that he’s back home. He rode some passes I’ve never been on. Makes it especially interesting. Here’s Steve’s report.

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My trip started in the western North Carolina mountains on Friday, July 3. My dog and I made Oklahoma City that night thru some nice hot weather. Saturday, the 4th, we kept on to New Mexico and up thru Taos to Antonito, Colorado area. I was not sure just exactly where some of the campgrounds were located on your website, so I took the safe route and checked AAA where I found the camp ground at Mogote. The people were nice and had a free cook out that evening. The facilities were nice with a shower and nice shaded camping area for $18.

sport bikes
  Stunner Pass

The next morning I rode past the camp grounds that you mentioned and they looked very nice. My goal was to ride to the pass and find a sign and get a picture, so my first pass that morning was La Manga. It was a nice ride over to Cumbres for my second pass in just 30 minutes or so. I retraced my tracks back across La Manga to the forest road 250 and up to Stunner Pass. This road was very navigable but not recommended for a shiny Harley or Goldwing, due to the rocks and potholes. I was riding a loaded 1150 GS and it was slow going in a few places. As with all the roads in Colorado, they are all very scenic with great vistas. I kept going north up to the highway and made a left turn to Wolf Creek Pass for my 4th pass that day.

The next two passes were easy to achieve on a great road up thru Creede and on to Spring Creek Pass and then Slumgullion Pass for the 5th and 6th passes. Just past Slumgullion towards Lake City I made a right turn towards Los Pinos Pass. This road was even rougher than the road to Stunner but still was very scenic. At this pass the sign had disappeared so I have no picture of that one.

Once thru the pass it was about 29 miles out to Hwy 114 and to North Pass for my 8th pass. A u-turn took me back to Gunnison where I went up thru Crested Butte and on towards Kebler Pass. Before I got to that one there was a road off to the left to Ohio Pass. I found no sign but a nice rocky, pot-holed road for a couple of miles. Kebler was my 10th pass that day and the road on out to Paonia was a very nice gravel road. The aspen surrounding the Lupines and was a sight to behold. That evening I camped at the Redstone campground for $32. Yes I went over McClure Pass but since it was under 10,000 ft, I didn’t count it for that day.

By the end of the day I had ridden over 10 passes above 10,000 feet and was done with the pass counting in 10 hours.

sport bikes
  Los Pinos Road

The next morning, I left Redstone and ventured up thru the slow traffic at Aspen to Independence Pass. Wow, the views were great. My next pass was Tennessee Pass north of Leadville. I retraced my track back to Leadville for lunch and then up to Fremont Pass. I continued north to I-70 over Vail Pass and then on to Shrine Pass, just a short 3 miles from the rest area on a good hard packed road that any bike could handle.

Next in my sights was Loveland Pass and then to Guanella Pass south of Georgetown, but the road was closed for construction so I went to Berthoud Pass instead. That was my last pass, as I told my sister I would be at her house north of Woodland Park at 4 PM. The road down thru Deckers was very nice and I was able to beat or avoid some rain and hail.

My total account was 17 passes over 10,000 ft. I started around 8 AM on July 5th and was drinking a cool one by 4 PM the next afternoon or 32 hours total. In hindsight I could have done more if I wasn’t so packed down and left my dog at home, but we had an excellent ride thru some very beautiful country.

I would not recommend Stunner and Los Pinos Passes for an inexperienced rider. That may be done better in a car or truck. On the other hand, any bike could make it, but it may be missing some parts that get rattled off during the ride.

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OK, so thank you Steve for that ride description. Now I’m going to have to find out where Stunner and Los Pinos Passes are.

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Three Days on the Bike, an Exploration

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

Just got in last night from a three-day ride through western Colorado. Never had one heart-pounding moment but I sure had to deal with heat and dehydration. And I paid for trying to walk somewhere in my motorcycle boots.

Keep your bike in good repair: Motorcycle boots are NOT comfortable for walking.

There are so many times I have gone west on I-70 out of Denver and looked longingly at the remnants of the old highway, U.S. 6, that you see in places, wishing I was out of the traffic and over on that nice, twisty piece of two-lane. So I decided to do it. I wanted to see just how much of Colorado’s mountains you could cross on the old highway.

And the answer is, quite a bit. I’ll save the details for another time but it was really nice to cruise along at an easy pace and not have to deal with the interstate traffic. The times when I did have to get on the superslab it was truly unpleasant feeling the need to ride faster and deal with all this even faster traffic whizzing by me. Returning to the two-lane was always a joy.

sport bikes
  A portion of the artwork

Reaching Glenwood Canyon, I knew there were some remnants of the old road accessible from the exits. This canyon is so narrow, however, that they could barely get the interstate in there, much less preserve the old route. There is, however, a good-sized chunk of the old road that you get to off the No Name exit, near the west end of the canyon. There the road curves down alongside the river, but there is a barricade that now blocks motorized vehicles. You can walk or ride your bicycle down there, but no motorcycle.

The road went on around a bend and out of sight, and I wanted to walk down there, but I didn’t want to do that in my heavy boots. So I figured I’d walk just far enough to get a better camera angle. Along the way I met some folks coming back and they told me of an area with picnic tables, a sandy beach, and some clever natural-materials artwork that “some hippie probably smoked a joint and spent the whole day constructing.” Now I was interested.

The fellow told me it was about half a mile down (too far in boots!) but then he also mentioned it in terms of “about 10 minutes.” Ooh, I thought, I can walk 10 minutes in these boots, and 10 back. So off I went.

To make a long story short, I found the art, and it was indeed worth checking out. It’s the sort of thing that a photograph generally does not do justice to, but I’m including two detail shots that give a bit of the idea. Nothing at all like the real thing, unfortunately.

sport bikes
  Another detail

Then it was time to head back. And I hadn’t gone far and I could feel a blister forming on my left heel. Pretty soon I knew it was going to be a very unpleasant walk unless I could do something about the blister. I had a notebook with me so I tore out a sheet, folded it, and stuck it inside my sock where the blister was. It was amazing. I could now walk without any discomfort at all.

About the time I was 40 feet from the bike, however, the sweat-soaked paper was no longer offering protection and another blister was forming on my right heel. I gritted it out and was really happy to get back on the bike. Then I stopped at the first place I could find in Glenwood Springs and bought Band-Aids and switched to my sneakers. The moral, don’t ever try to walk far in motorcycle boots.

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The road is only open when you ride alone.

Texas Rode the Rockies

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Ray from Texas did the ride I helped him map out and is back home again. He sent me a note to when he got home:

Thanks to some great advice on the routes and sights to stop, I had a
wonderful ride! FANTASTIC! Would go again in a heart-beat!

He also sent along a slide show of the ride, so we can all enjoy some of the great riding he did. A picture is worth a thousand words and there are more than 100 pictures here. Be aware that this is a fairly large file and may take a minute or so to open.

Colorado Trip on a R1200GS Adventure

Thanks Ray.

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Two-lane blacktop isn’t a highway – it’s an attitude.

Vintage Motorcycle Swap Looks Like Fun

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

I picked up a flyer yesterday as I was dropping my Kawi Concours off at Mountain Thunder Motorsports for new tires. It tells me there will be a vintage motorcycle swap meet on Sunday, July 26, 2009.

Indian motorcycles
Vintage Indian motorcycles

That’s cool. It’s free to buyers (or lookers) and I’m guessing there will be some interesting bikes to check out. Who knows, someone may even be selling that elusive left side panel I lost from my 1980 CB750 Custom all those years ago.

The thing starts at 8 a.m. and the flyer doesn’t give an actual address, just directions on how to get there: Take I-70 to the Ward Road exit, go north to 48th Ave. (the north service road), and go east on that to Van Gordon. Presumably you’ll recognize it when you get there.

The event is being put on by Legends Motorcycles, which is a bit of a story in itself. I used to live just off Federal Boulevard, up north, and Legends was a couple blocks south of me. It was a convenient place for me to take my CB in for work, and they were very accommodating. I haven’t lived up that way for 13 years now, however.

Recently I was collecting information for an article I was writing and figured I’d call them with some questions. Turns out, they don’t work on bikes at all anymore, they are strictly an online parts company for older models. And apparently they’ve moved now. I guess you have to adapt or die. Glad they were able to adapt.

So, sounds like fun, but it just occurred to me I won’t be able to go. The OFMC is leaving two days before that on our summer week on the road. Dang. Bad timing. Oh well, that shouldn’t stop you.

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Biker Quote for Today

This one’s interesting because the crankshaft is the front axle, and the motor rotates around it. It’s interesting because if you stop, it stalls. So it says in the manual, when you come to a red light, you should “orbit,” and it shows someone riding around in circles.–Jay Leno on his 1920s Mergola