Archive for the ‘motorcycle touring’ Category

Examiner Resurrection: Alpine Loop Scenic Byway: Another Sweet Utah Motorcycle Road

Monday, August 14th, 2017

Alpine Loop Scenic Byway

I go out of my way for terrific motorcycle roads and coming home from Tooele, UT, last week was no exception. I wanted to revisit American Fork Canyon and the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway, which provide a great alternative route to Heber City and U.S. 40, which was my road back to Denver.

I’ve been this way before more than once. The OFMC discovered this road years ago thanks to a tip from a local and we ride it whenever we can. If you’re out in the Salt Lake City area you should make a point of riding it, too.

Fortunately, in the farflung reaches of the Salt Lake City metro area, the American Fork Canyon is easy to find, provided you know it exists. From I-15, exit east onto Utah 92 just south of Point of the Mountain and follow this road arrow straight to the cleft in the rock that is the mouth of the canyon. Then kiss the city good-bye, there’s none of that ahead.

You’ll quickly reach an entrance station for Timpanogos Cave National Monument but if you’re only passing through there is no fee. Should you pay the $6 fee and visit the monument? I have to admit we never have, but here’s what the official website says about the place.

Timpanogos Cave National Monument sits high in the Wasatch Mountains. The cave system consists of three spectacularly decorated caverns. Helictites and anthodites are just a few of the many dazzling formations to be found in the many chambers. As visitors climb to the cave entrance, on a hike gaining over 1,000 ft in elevation, they are offered incredible views of American Fork Canyon.

Make your way through the canyon, which is pretty spectacular in its own right, and then bear right to head on up the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway. This is a winding, twisting, amazingly narrow strip of asphalt that loops up to Alpine Summit and then on down past Sundance Ski Resort. It hits U.S. 189 running through Provo Canyon and a left will take you up to Heber City and U.S. 40, or a right takes you down into Provo.

Biker Quote for Today

God makes the lightning, bikers make the thunder.

Doing The Dragon — By Accident

Monday, July 17th, 2017
Viewpoint on the Tail of the Dragon.

I had my camera on the wrong setting, so this photo is not as good as it might have been, but this is a scenic overlook along the Tail of the Dragon. That blur is a bike racing by, in case you couldn’t tell.

Judy and I were in Clemson, South Carolina, last week visiting my mother and planned to drive to Knoxville, Tennessee, via the Cherohala Skyway to fly home. Plans changed so we didn’t have time for the skyway, so we looked at a map and found a route that was pretty direct but also identified as scenic, US 129. A no-brainer.

I was aware of a good many motorcycles going the other way as we headed along north on this road, but there was a point where I started having a very strong suspicion. This was when we pulled into a small community with a whole lot–I mean a lot–of motorcycle stuff as well as a large, metal dragon. Judy asked Google and sure enough, we had inadvertently found ourselves in Deal’s Gap, on the Tail of the Dragon.

So OK, we were in a car, not on a bike, but there we were nonetheless. Now we would get to see what this fabled road is like.

And it wasn’t very much like what I had imagined. Through everything I’ve seen and read I had the impression that the Tail of the Dragon largely ran down a river valley with the road following the twists and turns of the stream. Frankly, my mental image of it was not anything I was terribly interested in. I can find plenty of twisty roads out here in Colorado. That wasn’t it at all.

In fact, the Dragon has plenty of ups and downs as well as all the curves. It’s not unlike a lot of twisty Colorado mountain roads, although you don’t get the kind of views you do here. First off, it’s not so high and the hills are not so high. Secondly, the tall deciduous trees block your view a lot.

Not that we didn’t enjoy the road. Our rental car was a subcompact that had energy and was quite agile. And living here I am totally comfortable driving roads with a lot of curves. We whipped along and it was fun.

Now, part of the enjoyment may have been due to the fact that this was a week-day and there was not that much traffic, and most of what there was was going the other direction. From what I hear, the Dragon is super busy on week-ends and that would have been less than wonderful.

One clue that really tells you you’re on the Dragon is all the photographers staked out along the road shooting pictures of everyone who goes by, with big banners telling you the website to go to order your photos.

We stopped at the overlook in the photo above and spoke there with a couple Canadian brothers who had ridden the road one direction, turned back to ride it the other way, and were now going back again to continue on their journey. They thought it was a pretty fun ride.

And now having driven it, I will say I would enjoy riding it. I never had any interest before but now I do. It’s a nicer road than I had pictured. It would be fun on a bike.

Biker Quote for Today

You’re only one bike ride away from a good mood.

Riding For The Fun Of It

Monday, June 5th, 2017
Up on Skyline Drive

Some of the folks on this ride had never been up on Skyline Drive, at Canon City.

Just home yesterday from a four-day ride with a bunch of folks. It was Willie’s birthday (and our wedding anniversary) so what the heck, why not go for a fun little excursion.

I’ve mentioned Willie and Jungle numerous times before. They live in Eagle and Willie runs a motorcycle tour company called Ball O’ String Custom Adventure Tours. Willie did the planning and organizing for this excursion so we knew we were guaranteed to have a good time.

We met up the first night down in Pueblo, Judy and I having taken the scenic route through the mountains to get there, rather than the interstate. At that point we had one Yamaha, two beemers, and us on my Concours. Plus there were a few folks in cars. Hey, no need to exclude people just because they don’t ride.

We had a birthday/anniversary party at the home of friends in the area and got the trip off to a good start.

Next morning we headed west out of Pueblo on CO 96, otherwise known as the Frontier Pathways Scenic & Historic Byway, to Wetmore, and then south until we hit the Greenhorn Highway, CO 165. This took us by Bishop Castle, though we didn’t stop at this point, on to Lake San Isabel and our quarters for the night at the San Isabel Lodge.

After unloading and settling in we headed back to Bishop Castle where we were to meet more folks. Just as we arrived the skies opened up so it got a bit wet and muddy, but what the heck. Everyone who had never seen Bishop Castle was properly impressed and those of us who had been there were–as always–interested in the ever-changing progress Jim Bishop has made since our last visits.

While there we also spoke with a couple guys on beemer dual-sports, one of whom had ridden the day before from Billings, Montana, to Denver, and the two of them had come here and were headed on yet to Creede that day. Serious riders here.

Back at the San Isabel Lodge we now had another Concours and two Harleys added to the group. One of the cabins had a huge main room, dubbed the Grand Ballroom, where everyone could gather and more birthday partying ensued.

Come morning some of the group rode directly to Cripple Creek but the majority of us went to Canon City where we rode the Royal Gorge train up through the canyon and back, with lunch served. Then it was on to Cripple Creek, with a detour to do the Skyline Drive loop. Then west on US 50 to pick up the back route to Cripple Creek.

Still more people joined us in Cripple Creek, so when we headed out to a dinner buffet there were 19 of us altogether. And once again Willie was serenaded with “Happy Birthday.”

Sunday morning then it was time for folks to go their separate ways. Judy and I headed north to Divide to pick up US 24, to Woodland Park, and then north the way we had come down originally. Lots more people–and a heck of a lot of motorcycles–on a Sunday than on the Thursday morning we had come down. And then back to Denver and home on US 285. It was a good little 450-mile, four-day run. And now, as always, we’ve got a whole lot of stuff to catch up on here at home. Ah, travel!

Biker Quote for Today

To every biker girl her helmet is her crown.

Guanella Pass Now Has A Page Of Its Own

Thursday, June 1st, 2017
Guanella Pass page.

I just got a new page up for the recently paved Guanella Pass.

Well, it took me awhile. It always does. Guanella Pass has been completely paved for at least a year now, maybe longer, I don’t recall, but I only just now got it up on its own page on the website. Plus, a few days earlier, I set up the Motorcycle Camping on Guanella Pass page, with info about each of the four campgrounds along this road.

Previous to this–and previous to it being paved–I had this pass up on the Dirt Roads and Side Trips in Colorado page. Not any more.

The reason it takes me so long to get these things done is that there is so much involved. First I had to go ride the pass a few times, shooting photos and jotting down pertinent information. Then in the middle of it all I got this GoPro camera so I went and rode it again shooting video so I could include some video highlights of the ride.

Well, you can chalk that one up to learning how to use the GoPro. I won’t bother you with more detail of that, only just say there is no video on the page at this point. And the photos are basically OK for now; I had to patch together a bunch from several different trips up there over the course of several years. At some point I’d like to make it less of a hodge-podge.

I also decided I want to make Guanella the first of a second batch of web pages that are designed to be mobile friendly. Something you can view easily on your smartphone. And along with that I wanted to use an interactive Google map rather than the static Microsoft Streets and Trips maps I’ve always used till now.

Once again, there was a learning curve but I figured it out and that is what this new page has. There is an issue, though, in that at least on my desktop computer the map loads very slowly. Like, five to ten seconds, during which time there is just this empty rectangle. I may swap out the desktop version with a Streets and Trips map, while keeping the mobile-friendly page with the Google map.

And oh yeah, I haven’t got the mobile-friendly page ready yet. You can’t just do a copy and paste. What works on a big screen usually doesn’t work very well at all on a tiny screen.

I won’t bore you either with all the little tweaks necessary to integrate a couple entirely new pages into the overall website. Let’s just say there is a ripple effect that no one but me would even be aware of.

Now it appears they are finally paving the west side of Cottonwood Pass. I guess in about a year I’m going to need to do this all over again for Cottonwood.

Biker Quote for Today

Oh, you ride a motorcycle? That explains why you’re getting so many women.

You Find The Nicest Places On A Honda

Monday, May 29th, 2017
Carhenge

Carhenge the first time we saw it. It doesn’t look like this today.

Motorcycle touring is not like traveling in a car. A car is like a magic carpet: you just sit there and after a while you’re somewhere else. Riding a bike takes much more concentration and physical involvement. Consequently, for many of us, 200-300 miles is often a full day’s ride.

Motorcycle touring is more about discovering great places than it is about burning miles. Sure, there are the Iron Butt guys who go out and ride 1,000 miles in a day, but that’s not what I’d call touring. The beauty of the relaxed, easy-going riding approach is that you stop a lot, and sometimes those stops are the best part of the trip.

Case in point: My riding buddies and I were cruising down from the Black Hills, through western Nebraska near Alliance, and saw a place to pull off. (We’re really big on places to pull off – after an hour or so on the bike your legs are getting stiff, your butt is getting numb, and what could be better than to bask in the sun somewhere out in the middle of nowhere?) Looking around, we noticed there were trails heading into the trees, and somewhere off in there was something odd sticking up. We decided to go investigate, and then, our jaws dropped. “Oh my god, what is this?” we asked.

This was Carhenge. Imagine if you will, a farmer with a playful bent gathering a bunch of dead cars, planting them in the ground, stacking them up, and then painting them gray, to imitate Stonehenge, the Druid relic in England. And not just in haphazard fashion – the positioning of this oddball piece of art was carefully measured out to make Carhenge as true to the original as possible.

And we stumbled right into it. If we’d been in a car we would have just blasted on past.

Jerome, Arizona, was another of those serendipitous finds. Sure, today Jerome has been “discovered” and reborn with galleries, restaurants, and all the other things that come when a town becomes trendy. But we found it first.

A number of years ago, having spent the night in Sedona, Arizona, a trendy town that had already been discovered, we were heading to Las Vegas. Anyone whose intent was to get to Vegas would have taken the road to Flagstaff and flown west on I-40. That was not our intent; we were on motorcycles.

Instead, we headed west on 89A toward Clarkdale because the map showed some mountains and some twisty roads going over to Prescott. For a biker, twisty roads equals heaven. But we never dreamed we would find ourselves winding through switchbacks up the sheer face of a mountain, to find ourselves in a town built vertically on that face. This was Jerome, an old, nearly-abandoned, mining town.

Jerome has one main street that comes up the face of the hill, switches back and climbs higher, then switches back and climbs higher still. Some buildings have their front door on the same street as their back door, just at a different elevation. And of course the views are spectacular. We fell in love with this place. Apparently a lot of other people did too.

It’s not necessary, however, to stumble onto some unexpected gem to have a great stop on the bike trip. Just this summer my friends and I were heading toward Kamas, Utah, about to go over a pass, and there were black clouds up ahead. Prudence convinced us we’d better stop and put on rain gear. (Even though putting on rain gear is a pain and we try to avoid it unless it’s really necessary.)

In this case, as most of the guys were pulling on their rain pants, one guy suggested that if we just took a break there for a while the rain would pass and we could ride on without the gear. There was no shade where we were, and the sun was beating down, but just about then a cloud came over and the idea of waiting became very appealing.

Off came the rain gear, out came the cold beers, and for 45 minutes we sat and relaxed and reveled in the soul-fulfilling sweetness of just hanging out in some beautiful middle of nowhere. And then we rode on under clear skies. Beautiful indeed.

Biker Quote for Today

You don’t have to be a cowboy to ride off into the sunset.

The Barber Trip That Wasn’t

Monday, May 15th, 2017
Motorcycle in snow

This is what we woke up to our first morning on the road.

Judy and I headed out on this Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Riders Club (RMMRC) “Pilgrimage to Barber” but we never got there. Mother Nature intervened.

The group was planning to leave on Saturday but Judy and I didn’t want to do the 450-mile day entailed in going all the way to McPherson, Kansas. We decided to leave on Friday and make that stretch a two-day trip. I found what appeared to be a delightful BnB in Coolidge, Kansas, and made a reservation.

Meanwhile, weather reports were saying a big winter storm was blowing in. The rest of the group decided to leave on Friday, too, and book a second night at Eureka Springs, Arkansas, so as to get the rest of the trip (and motel reservations!) back on track. We figured fine, we’d meet up with them in Eureka Springs instead of McPherson. We figured we’d be fine, because we would stay ahead of the storm.

Wrong.

We rode to Coolidge that first day and the BnB was everything I hoped it would be. If you’re ever out there and need to stop for the night I strongly recommend the Trail City Bed & Breakfast. It’s clean and very attractive, exceedingly well maintained, comfortable, and Lori is a great cook. Plus, it’s dirt cheap.

In the morning we got up to what you see in that photo above. OK, let’s think about this.

First off, you’ll notice that the pavement is only wet. It was windy for sure but the roads appeared clear, and after vacillating all morning I finally said let’s go for it. The weather radar was telling us if we could get east of Garden City we would be out of the snow. Into rain probably, but not snow. And Garden City was only 69 miles away.

We didn’t get that far. We were happy to make it 42 miles to Lakin where we pulled in to the first motel we saw. The wind was blowing like a banshee and the roads were not as clear as they had been in Coolidge. I’ll tell you about that 42 miles in my next post.

We stayed in Lakin three days. We had no choice. We were snowed in and the following day the highway was officially closed.

In the morning we were clearly snowbound. There were eight inches on the ground, it was still coming down hard, and the wind was still blowing like a banshee. Also, the power was out, so there was no heat in the motel. The road was closed because the powerlines had fallen down all along the highway.

Long story short, it was two more days before we could leave. We got east of Garden City and we both immediately noticed that the temperature went up 10 degrees. And there was no snow anywhere to be seen. So if we only could have gotten past there . . .

Initially we figured we would catch up with the group even later, and eventually later stretched to after they had visited the Barber Motorsports Museum–the object of this pilgrimage–and were headed back. But after three days in Lakin we decided to just go on to Wichita and visit a cousin of mine who I hadn’t seen in 60 years. And after that we went down to Oklahoma City and visited a nephew of mine and met his wife for the first time.

Then we spent three days getting back to Denver, playing tourist, stopping at several national park units, and seeing new country. It was a good three days.

Nearing home, we ran into a downpour between Elizabeth and Franktown, suited up, immediately rode out of the rain, started to cook in the rain gear, but then got closer to town and saw dark clouds. Sure enough, the last five miles home was in another downpour. And that was our 10-day trip.

Biker Quote for Today

What if I told you you need to actually ride a motorcycle to be a biker?

Riding To Alabama

Monday, April 24th, 2017
trip listing

The trip listing from the club website.

I did finally make up my mind to go on this “Pilgrimage to Barber” with others in the Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Riders Club (RMMRC). Barber, just to be clear, is the Barber Motorsports Museum and racetrack outside of Birmingham, Alabama.

It’s going to be an interesting trip in a lot of ways. In fact, so interesting–at least in my conception–that I pitched it as a story idea to Mark Tuttle, editor-in-chief of Rider magazine. Mark sent me a quick acknowledgement email saying he’d get back to me ASAP on my idea.

I’m not totally sure why I’ve had such uncertainty about going on this trip. Presumably it has to do with a) taking a long trip with folks I either do not know or hardly know, b) at least one 400+ mile day, and c) doing so many miles in such a short time. But I routinely go on trips of this length with the OFMC in fewer days and I have taken at least one other long trip with strangers and had a great time. So what’s the big deal? Why was I hesitant?

Frankly, I still can’t answer that question. I just was. I finally concluded that the best approach would be to just do it and see how it goes. If we really don’t like it we won’t do it again in the future.

What I pitched to Mark correlates to those issues.

The core concept is that the RMMRC is a particularly active riding club and such groups offer an excellent opportunity to connect with others who share your passion, not to mention actually go riding. That core is then fleshed out in addressing the issues I mentioned. At least part of the idea is helping other people facing similar uncertainties to resolve their concerns.

A sidebar point I hope to address–perhaps in an actual sidebar, written by her–is that Judy has never been on an extended ride with a bunch of other people. This is something I’ve been doing with the OFMC every year for more than 25 years but she has never done it. I’m hoping her take on it all will be fresh and interesting.

Then there’s the basic idea of a “pilgrimage” to Barber. Visiting the holy shrine. If you’re into motorcycles, Barber is one of the premier places to see a vast array of different bikes through the decades. Plus, one RMMRC member on this trip is a member of the Barber Board of Directors and thus will be able to get us possibly onto the track for a lap or two and definitely into the catacombs where bikes are stored before being rebuilt and put on display. In other words, a true fanatic’s dream.

So we’ll see what Mark thinks of the story idea. Either way, we’re going and I’ll be writing about it here.

Biker Quote for Today

A hundred years from now my great grandkids will not recall my bank balance, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove, but they will remember I rode a motorcycle.

More Sweet New Mexico Motorcycle Roads

Monday, April 10th, 2017
Road to Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.

One part of this nice road.

We didn’t plan it this way but Judy and I spent two nights at Silver City, New Mexico. We heard great things not just about Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument but also about the road to get there (40 miles, two hours, through great scenery) that we decided to stay an extra day and go there.

First off, Silver City was a real surprise. I’ve been there before, but a long time ago. At this point Silver City is doing its best to become the next Taos but it’s a long way from getting there. What that means is that the very nice old downtown is intact and partially renovated, with several very good restaurants, a brew pub, galleries, and a lot of other upscale stores. But these stand side by side with empty storefronts. So it’s a nice place but it won’t break your budget.

The first half of the run up to the monument is on an extremely narrow, winding road that follows the contours of the land. This is NM 15. Very nice. After awhile NM 15 connects to NM 35 and from there the road is more cut and fill so it’s not as twisty but still very nice, and wider with actual lane markings. This dead-ends at the monument.

The monument is pretty interesting. The Mogollon Indians lived very briefly in a series of caves in the side of a hill, above a beautiful river valley. Not your typical cliff dwellings; these are really more like caves that go deeper back into the rock without the extended sloping ceiling/overhang you associate with cliff dwellings.

Once you’ve been to the monument, you backtrack at least as far as NM 35. From there you can take NM 35 as a different route down to San Lorenzo and there pick up NM 152 to US 180 and back to Silver City. We did, and it’s a nice route, too, though nowhere near as twisty as NM 15. Whatever routes you take, this is a beautiful part of New Mexico.

Biker Quote for Today

Riding a bike doesn’t make me a bad person, just like going to church doesn’t make you a good person.

First Time, Repeat Visit To Great New Mexico Motorcycle Roads

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

Judy and I were recently in New Mexico and though we were in the car, not on a bike, we made it a point to hit some great motorcycle roads. The simple fact is, a road that’s great for a bike is generally pretty darn good for a car, too.

motorcyclist on Emory Pass

A rider heading down on the east side of Emory Pass.

We spent a couple days in Ruidoso and boy if there is one thing you learn right away it is that Texans love Ruidoso. In Colorado it is common knowledge that Texans by the horde come to Lake City. Well, for Ruidoso, think Lake City on steroids. A waitress we spoke with said it’s commonly accepted that at any time of year, not just particular seasons, there are more Texans in Ruidoso than New Mexicans.

So we’re not into crowds and we headed south to Cloudcroft and the road from there to Timberon. This was a route I learned about on MotorcycleRoads.com. It was a good trip, and would be a really sweet ride. You’re up high, in fact, so high that along the way you encounter several observatories. Not the look-at-the-stars kind, however, but solar observatories. For looking at the sun.

Then from the main observatory it’s down and down and down through one of the longest series of S-curves I’ve ever seen, to Timberon. There is food here but no gas. Have lunch and turn around.

From Ruidoso we headed over toward Truth or Consequences, turning off the highway for Hillsboro to take NM 152 over Emory Pass to Silver City. This is a terrific road I wrote about some years ago on Examiner.com. At that time I called it New Mexico’s tail of the dragon. Yes, there are curves.

Things change, though, including your memory. I’ll need to dig that old article out to see what I wrote then but I would have sworn that on the western side of the pass the road went for 20 miles or more twisting, twisting, twisting along the creek. In fact, it does a phenomenal amount of twisting on the east side of the pass, and going up the pass, but on the west there are probably fewer than 5 miles along the creek.

Doesn’t matter. It’s still one of the twistiest roads you’ll ever see. Then there is one thing that has changed since I was last there: forest fire. Back in 2013 the area got hit hard by a fire, so it’s just not as green as when I saw it last. But it’s still a good ride. As that guy in my photo above would attest, I’m sure.

Biker Quote for Today

Some paths can’t be discovered without getting lost.

Examiner Resurrection: Motorcycle Rides Retracing Vanished Highways

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

Riding your motorcycle on old Route 66 from coast to coast. Retracing the route of the old Victory Highway. Nostalgia has never been more in vogue than it is right now for bikers exploring this country’s vanishing old highways.

Indian motorcycle

An Indian motorcycle at the Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Museum.

The problem with many of these higher profile rides, such as Route 66, is that to do them end to end you need a lot more time than most people have. But hey, everyone’s doing Route 66 these days, in whole or in part. Why follow the crowds?

The fact of the matter is, before everything got all depersonalized with route numbers, highways had names. And there were a lot of highways, some that you may be familiar with and many that you’ve probably never heard of.

For instance, growing up in Lincoln, NE, I was well acquainted with Cornhusker Highway. Not because it was a clearly defined highway that started somewhere and ended somewhere else, but just because it was the name of a particular road.

Likewise, living in and around St. Louis I was familiar with Kingshighway. Was there a story behind that name? You bet. Did I know a thing about it? No way.

But now we have the Internet. And one of the greatest things about the Internet is that many, many people put a lot of time and effort into putting up a wealth of information about whatever is of interest to them.

It’s not surprising, then, that someone has put up a site with details about old highways all over the country. Dave Schul has built a North American Auto Trails site where you can learn about more highways than you probably knew existed. Interested in the Black and Yellow Trail? This road runs between Chicago and Yellowstone National Park. The site doesn’t have a lot of information about it but it shows the towns that it passed through and gives links to sites where you can learn more. It’s a starting point for your own exploration.

How about the Detroit Lincoln Denver Highway? Just as the name suggests, this old road ran from Detroit to Denver, passing through Lincoln.

And then there’s my old acquaintance, the Cornhusker Highway. Turns out this road ran from Sioux City to Oklahoma City. I never knew that. It was always just that road up on the north side of town.

Then there were the smaller highways, confined to just one or two states. For example, the Mayo Trail was a route that just ran between Ashland and Jenkins, KY. Is it still there? What does it look like today? Are there any surviving road signs or monuments along the route? This stuff can be very cool to investigate and explore, and it can add an interesting element to your rides.

There are a lot of other, related sites out there. I ran across one focusing solely on the old highways in Colorado, which I definitely plan to explore. In fact, I spent three days last week out doing exactly that. Now I’ve ridden parts of old US 6 that probably don’t see 10 vehicles a week.

Try it. You just might get addicted.

(Note: Dave Schul’s site does not appear to be there anymore. Fortunately, all these pages are preserved–for now–by “The Wayback Machine,” which is an internet archive.)

Biker Quote for Today

I ride so I don’t choke people.