Colorado & Utah with attitude

by George Pepper

WOW!!! Without doubt, the best of all possible sport-touring outings...

DAY 1... Arrived to work fully packed and in my black leathers... Lots of snide comments from the female staff, to which my response was to swing bu butt at them an say "Bet you wish you had a swing like this in YOUR back yard"... I enjoyed it... Not sure about them, I'll let you know later... Left at 4:00PM sharp...

Got pulled over by a MD State Trooper 13 miles into the ride for passing on the shoulder of The Beltway... Told him I was going to Utah, and he let me off with a warning ... While on US50 in West VA I passed Goose Creek Road - At the end of this road is what is left of the town of Petroleum, where my dad was born and raised... Cried a bit there... Made it to Parkersburg on the Ohio border, where I pulled into the Best Western for the night... There were about a dozen Harleys there - in town for an AMA Harley dirt track event... Had a few beers with some "good 'ol boys" before bed and had a wonderful time... A good thing after my previous encounter with some cliqueish Harley Cartoon Dudes and Dudettes ...

DAY 2... Continued on US50 through Ohio to Chillicothe (THAT'S fun to say), where I hit US35 to Dayton... passed through Xenia, the scene of one of the most deadly tornadoes in US history (Hey, I'm a FEMA dude - I think about stuff like that)... In Dayton hit I75 briefly before taking I70 to Indiana... Passed through Jasper county, where my mom grew up, and where I own 750 acres of the best farm land in the US that I inherited from my grandfather... Some of it borders on I65, and the corn looked incredibly healthy... Hooked over on I80 at Gary, where it was a short jog to Tinley Park, and my friend Jim Cummings' in-laws house... Arrived at about 4:00PM, and was treated to a dinner of Beer and Brautwurst... YUMMY!!!...

Jim's in-laws are Missouri Synod Lutherans, as am I, so we did the "Common Table Prayer" before dinner... Felt right at home...

DAY 3... I let Jim route us to Colorado, and he took us only a mercifully short distance on I80 before we hooked down on IL78 through Kewanee to IL17 and then US34 through Galesburg... I love farm country... Not sport-touring heaven, but a s#!t-load better than D,C.!!!... Crossed into Iowa at Fort Madison and IA2... Stayed on IA2 all through the state... I was wishing for the electronic cruise control of an LT!!!... I had done this road before many times while inspecting for FEMA last year, but in a rental car with?... Cruise control!!!... Crossed into Nebraska and hooked down on US75 to US136... We were pooped out, and stopped for the night in Beatrice... Showered, ate, and CRASHED!!!...

DAY 4... The Indian propriator of the Days Inn had told us that NB4 was a "Veddy Smoooth Road!!", so we took it instead of US136 - a mistake... The road was probably smooth compared with anything in New Deli, but it was punishing Jim on his non-telelever R100RT, so we took US281 up to US34, which deposited us in Greely Colorado for the night...

DAY 5... The fun starts!!! We had gone out the previous evening to a place in Greely called The Smiling Moose... Great brew selection, good food, and some of the cutest waitresses in Colorado (I'll try to bring one to any Rally we may have)... Jim and I got about one beer away from stupid; as a result, our day started with a four-cup-of-coffee hang over...

Jim needed a low-beam bulb, and the K had used up the extra quart of oil I had packed, so we checked our dealer guide and headed for BMW of Fort Collins... This turned out to be the most providentially fortuitous stop of the trip... You NEED to see this place as they have at least 25-30 Ducatis in stock... Jim was smitten by a yellow 748, and I actually was attracted to a red and black Paso... I shook it off, though... The guys there REALLY know the roads in Colorado, so we highlighted their suggestions and connected the dots... many thanks are not enough!!!... They suggested CO14, and after a detour around a rock slide we enjoyed mile after mile of 80-100 mph sweepers and very little traffic... YUMMY!!!...

We had lunch and a bit of "the hair of the dog" at a wonderful little dive aptly named "The Howling Coyote Inn" in Gould, where i picked up one of the most tastelessly funny T-shirts I've ever seen... It has two coyotes copulating on the back with the caption "How far is the Howling Coyote Inn?"... Get it?... Got lots of hysterical mixed reactions to it the rest of the trip whenever I wore it...

We then headed off to Walden, where we hooked down on CO125... An AWESOME road where I got several miles ahead of Jim while in full apex strafing mode... We were giddy at our butt break at the intersection with US40!!!... High fives etc... We decided to camp that evening at Idlewild campground, and I got us fresh asparagus, fresh broccoli, smoked salmon, and sage sausage... AHHHHHHHH!!!!... Jim had the real brain-storm though, with a bottle of good Scotch... It was one of those magical staring-into-the-fire while male bonding evenings... I slept like a rock...

DAY 6... The next morning, we went back up US40 to US34 and went through the Rocky Mountain National Park... If you go through the park at a peak tourist time, as we did, DEFINITELY go from west to east... There is a lot less traffic that direction, and the scenery is brilliant...

I had the late John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High" playing in my head the whole way... Corny?... Yes, but in a good way... When we exited the park, there were two huge Bighorn Rams crossing the road... They were magnificent, even with their moulting winter coats...

At Estes park, we headed down CO7: By far the best road yet... I was groovin' so hard I missed our planned turnoff on CO72 and went all the way down CO7 to US34... If you do this route, I definitely recommend doing all of CO7 and turning around: it's worth it!!!... Lots of great sweepers and relatively light traffic... Scared the snot out of ma and pa motorhome, passing them at an indicated 125... WOAH!!!... CO72 to Idaho Springs was a nice road too, but traffic got tedious as we neared I70... I almoast became a K12 hood ornament on the grill of one oncoming truck, but the adrenalin rush made it worth while... Scared one cage driver so badly he ran off the road... I felt bad about that... for about 5 seconds... Tee, Hee!!!... We then shot down I70 to CO91 and spent the night in Leadville... A word of warning to those of you not used to high altitudes... We had a great Mexican food dinner, and I had a couple of Avalanche ales... I fealt like I had drank a twelve pack the next morning!!!... Ouch!!!...

DAY 7... The situation was not helped by the Longhorn Inn not having any coffee in the AM (Otherwise a VERY FINE establishment)... Packing and loading was therfore an ordeal... Fortunately, on the Leadville main drag there is an unbelieveably cool coffee shop, the name of which escapes me, but coffee is in the name and you can't miss it... They give you a nice porcelin mug, and the coffee is self-serve and strong... They lost money on Jim and I that morning, for sure!!!...

We left Leadville in "mouth foamer" mode and headed south on US24: Not a terribly exciting road, but the scenery was nice and the pace serene by our standards (Jim kept up with me remarkably well on this trip on his R100RT, scraping the centerstand down regularly)...

We took US24 all the way down to Saguache, and then got on CO114... This was, for me, THE ROAD of the trip, and the one where I scraped my right-side footpeg-feeler down: Something I've never done before... This road is just fantastic... My attack mode mindset was constantly intruded upon by the lovely scenery... A word to the wise: If the cliff face is on your right, there is likely to be a sand/gravel strip in the center of the lane on right hand turns... Vice versa for left side cliff face/left hand turns... That is how I ended up touching the right side feeler down... I was aming for the apex of a blind right hander with a sheer cliff face on the same side when I noticed a HUGE sand patch in the middle of my lane... I was forced to run wide to avoid it, and ended up about 8 inches across the line... Well, ma and pa motorhome almost got their revenge as I was confronted with them about 60 yards in front of me while traveling about 70 through a turn marked 35... A bit of pressure on the right side bar (And a seriously overstressed sphincter) and SCCCCRRRAAAPPPE!!!... I was never in any REAL danger, and I was proud of myself for not panicing... I was more careful after that, however!!!...

US50 was a tribulation after CO114, with all the traffic and stuff, but we needed fuel, so we stopped in Gunnison to fill up... At the service station we ran into some Harley types that turned out to be firefighters, and they were nice folks, but I cringed when an extraordinarily cute blond chick mounted the pillion with no helmet... She was a vision of loveliness, but no woman I ever care about, or don't care about for that matter, will EVER ride with me without a helmet and jacket, at the minimum!!!...

After leaving Gunnison, we headed down CO149, another superb road, and were treated to mile after mile of excellent macadam and wonderfull scenery... Hit 120 or so on some of the sweepers, and the bike was in top form... Meeeeee Toooooo!!!!... We spent that night at South Fork, and had a dinner of Trout at the coolest place in town: Log walls circa 1940... great athmosphere!!! It's on the corner of CO149 and US160... No, I can't remember the name of the place...

DAY 8... The Encounter With Al Schibi!!!... This was truly a one-in-a-million deal... When I think back on everything that lead up to it, it becomes absolutely stupifying!!!... Our motel had a laundry, so we did our clothes that morning... If not?... No Al... My rear MeZ4 was fried, so we stopped at a Honda dealership on the outskirts of Durango, where they had ONE 180/55x17 D205... If not?... No Al... We then headed up US550, and at Ridgway got gas at the intersection of US550 and CO62... If not?... No Al... There was a construction project there with a flag man who periodically stopped traffic... If not?... No Al... I had already filled the bike up, and went to empty the bladder... If not?... No Al... When I came out of the store, I noticed a red K12 stopped in the traffic about 1/8 of a mile up... If not?... No Al... I decided to jog up and introduce myself with a VERY WEIRD feeling in my gut... Al had e-mailed me the night before I left telling me that our paths would cross, and I responded "If you see a red K in the company of a maroon R, that's us!"... But, I thought: "Yeah, RIGHT!!!"... Well I trotted up and said "Nice red K, I have one just like it parked back there... I'm George Pepper"... Al's face lit up like a christmas tree and he said "You GOTTA be shitting me!!! Al Schibi"... It was one of the most magical moments of my life, and we got the pix to prove it!!! AMAZING!!!!!!!...

After miraculously running in to Al Schibi, Jim and I continued on our route across CO62 across the Dallas divide... It was a fine road, but I was just shaking my head and laughing the whole way with memories of Al an my various stupified reactions to the ridiculousness of our meeting... At Placerville we headed south toward Telluride on CO145... Yet another great road, and I was in full haul-ass mode when a member of the constabulary arose over a hill in a Jeep... He touched his brakes briefly, but decided not to turn around... A good thing, as I was at about a ton when I saw him - dodged a bullet there, for sure!!!...

Jim and I stopped in Stoner for an Ale or two, and decided to get to Cortez for the night... We ate at the Golden Corral in Cortez, and I was swankly replete in my Howling Coyote Inn t-shirt... Since the coupulating double-dogs were on the back, Jim was periodically and bemusedly filling me in on the various reactions it was getting... A roaring round of laughs from a local family of Ute indians (My kind of folks), and mutters and shaking heads from a oversquare family that probably ran the local Baptist Church (Wonder how confused they'd be if they saw me ride off on my bike with the Christian Fish on the back)... tee, Hee!!!...

I bought the Scotch that night, and Jim and I reminisced out on the porch by our bikes... Another fantastic day to matriculate upon...

DAY 9... THE BEST BAD DAY OF RIDING... We started the day on a short stretch of US666 - The Devil's Highway - before we veered off on US160 toward the Four Corners... A Portent of Disaster?... At the Four Corners Jim got an hysterical photo of me lying down, spread-eagled, in four States... It's a keeper!!!...

We were then in Arizona for a while to Kayenta, where we hooked up on US163 to Monument Valley... Got some great photos there, but the Monument Valley tourist trap was a bit of a drag... We then continued into Mormon territory to Mexican Hat... The Mexican Hat Rock is a confusing thing to process in the ol' noggin... It has such a small pedistal that it looks like any decent wind ought to topple it... And yes, it looks exactly like a sombrero!!!... Just past Mexican hat we took UT261 north... This road is interrupted by a gravel road thad is, withoubt doubt, one of the most dangerous roads in America... There is a sign, which I had to get a picture of, that warns of "10% GRADES, 5 MPH SWITCHBACKS, GRAVEL ROAD"... Yikes!!!... I was in full butt-clench mode the entire way, and the surface is EXACTLY like an old fashioned wash-board... This was the first - but not the last - surface I ever had the K12 on that it vocifferously complained about... I could hardly maintain 5 to 10 mph... We were both VERY relieved to reach the top, where we were rewarded with a fantastic view of the Valley of the Gods... YUMMY!!!...

We then continued on UT261 to the Natural Bridges National Monument with Jim in the lead... My synapses were FRIED!!!... We hooked west on UT95... I wanted to see the Natural Bridges - Jim did not - I watched him ride off into the sunset as I turned into the park entrance... It would be the last I saw of Jim on this trip... I went through the park in record time, stopping only to read the signs and snap photos of the bridges... it really was worth the detour... After leaving the park, I was VERY concerned about my fuel situation... Fortunately - or so I thought - there was a little place called Fry Canyon that had premium... They were in the process of spreading fresh gravel in the parking lot, so I made a mental note "Take a strait line to the pump, get your gas, and get out of here and catch up with Jim"...

Alas, it was not to be... I was filling up at the pump when a jovial guy - also named George (A Dragonslayer, for sure) came up and said - to my utter astonishment - "You lookin' for beefcake?"... "Huh?" was all I could muster... "You know, a really big guy on a beemer?" (Jim has lifted weights all his life, and is enormous)... "Oh, Yeah!!!"... "Well, he hung out here for a while - figured you were in the park - he is about 5 minutes ahead of you"... "Great, I'll catch him - no sweat!!!"... I got my gas, gulped down a Gatorade and headed out...

About 50 feet from the exit to the highway the bike hit a huge pot-hole that was filled with the freshly spread and unpacked gravel - about 6 inches worth... I input a couple of confused steering efforts, touched the front brake and CRASH!!!... I was down in a flash!!!... I hit the kill-switch, turned off the ignition, and picked myself up... SHIT!!!... By this time, George was using a weed-whacker, and so he was oblivious to the whole scene - mercifully there was no audience for the debacle... I limped over to him - I had sprained my ankle badly - and asked sheepishly if he'd help me pick up my bike...

"Oh, FUCK!!!... You, OK?"... "Yeah, it's not bad, but were looking at about 700lbs here"... We got the bike up in a jiffy, and I just popped the turn signal pod back on and got on and split... The bike was scratched up, but nothing serious at all... If you ever feel the need to ditch your K12, I highly recommend soft gravel - it works quite nicely... I started back up and split... I couldn't get that place behind me fast enough!!!...

What I didn't know was that the fall had popped my right saddle bag loose... After about 40 or so miles at the ton, I stopped in Glen Canyon for a photo op... No right side bag... I had visions of my clothes - and the Howling Coyote shirt - scattered throughout on of the many canyons I had just sped through... "Holy Mother of GOD!!!"... I had to re-trace my route all the way back to Fry Canyon... Fortunately, the bad fell off only a few feet from where I crashed, and it was not broken, so I put it back on and tried again... I dog-paddled through the entire parking lot this time!!!... I figured Jim was MILES ahead of me now, so I REALLY hauled ass - 120 plus to Hite Landing, where George said Jim would be waiting... This was not on our plan, and it made NO sense to me, as Hite is at the end of a 20 mile dead-end, but at this point, WHATEVER!!!... What I found out much later is that Jim went back to Fry Canyon while I was at Hite Landing, where his bike broke down IN THE SAME PLACE I CRASHED!!!...

Sooooo, while I was at Hite beside beautiful Lake Powell, Jim had gone to Hanksville, and was waiting for me there... While I was leaving a message for him at Hite, telling him that I was now going to Hanksville, he had gotten concerned and returned to Fry Canyon... He passed the exit to Hite as I was at the end of it... I turned back onto UT95, thinking Jim was still in front of me, but he was now behind and headed for a breakdown... UT 95 to Hanksville is awesome, and on it I gradually re-gained my confidence after the crash, and spent a nice hour or so flying through canyons, and around SUV's with boats and jet-skis in tow returning from Lake Powell...

My bike hit 27K miles on this stretch... 27 is my lucky number... In the immortal words of Dirty Harry "Did I feel Lucky, Punk?"... Yes: the bike was essentially OK, and I was DETERMINED not to let a little crash - and a lost partner - ruin my vacation... Success in life is more a matter of atitude than aptitude (Thank God), and I was proud of myself for laughing this day off...

I reached Capitol Reef N.P. very late in the afternoon, and was looking for Jim in the already full campground (That was our plan) when a lady named Barb waved me down... She was in a group of riders on Beemers and a honda or two, and I initially thought she had seen Jim - she had not - but she said their campsite had two spaces left, and invited me to camp with them that night... GREAT!!!... I went to some gas stations in Torrey, left messages for Jim, and bought a twelve-pack of Coors - I felt an overwhelming need to get snot-slinging drunk after this particular day!!!... Needless to say, Jim never showed, but Barb, Greg and the rest of us had a WONDERFUL night of eating, drinking, solving the world's problems, and talking about the spiritual adventure of life...

I told Greg of my crash that day "The worst day of riding beats the best day in the office': it was a masterstroke, and EXACTLY how I felt...

DAY 10... I awoke with a lot less of a hangover than I deserved, and left early, after Barb's husband caffinated me with some really great coffee, and headed out in a futile attempt to find Jim... Jim had spent the night at Fry Canyon, and was at that moment repairing a bad carb on his R100RT... At Torrey I headed down UT12 and into the Dixie National Forest... What a great way to start a morning!!!... My right ankle was badly sprained, so I was never really comfortable till way after noon, after the ol' 40-year-old bod had well warmed up... Got some great pix at Escalante Canyons and Kodachrome Basin before reaching the entrance to Bryce... I LOVE Bryce!!!... Nicely laid out park with some serenely grand views...

Met a couple on a K1200LT, and quizzed them about the bike: They loved it, and said the handling was unbelieveable for such a big bike; rear tire was profoundly squared-off after only 5K miles, though... Got into a race with a idiot old man on a Honda 1100ST in the park - he had no helmet, and I really didn't want to - but the jerk pissed me off, so I laid waste to his miserable ass!!!...

After leaving Bryce, I continued on UT12 to US89 and headed to Zion... I had never been to Zion, and had no idea what to expect... I took off my helmet, as per Greg's suggestion the previous night, and prepared to casually cruise through... I had my eyeballs knocked out by that place!!!... Photos don't do it justice: Unlike other canyons, you are down in it, and it is SUBLIME!!!... Got to Washington on I15 to find an inexpensive motel, and limped around wondering what had become of Jim...

DAY 11... I awoke early... My ankle was again very sore, but not quite as bad as the previous morning... I assumed I'd live... I headed back up I15 to UT9 and Hurricane where I took UT59 toward the Arizona border... I still held out a remote hope of running into Jim, but he had headed for civilization the previous day after repairing his bike: Last place he wanted to be with a flaky carb was on the most remote roads in the lower 48...

UT59 becomes AZ389 at the border, and it was a warm morning as I began to think about the Grand Canyon... Jim and I were to split up after capping off our "Canyon Tour" with the biggest and baddest... Took ALT US89 at Fredonia, and AZ67 at Jacob Lake toward the North Rim... This road through the Kaibab National Forest is awesome, and mercifully there was hardly any traffic... I went all the way to Cape Royal and took some excellent pix... I had never been to the North Rim before, but I have been to the South Rim three times; there is no comparison... The South Rim is a tourist trap, while the North side is far more remote and unspoiled... I liked it a LOT!!!...

I abandoned all hope of running into Jim as I exited the park back onto ALT US89... AM at Grand Canyon had been cool and pleasant, but as I decended past the Vermillion Cliffs to Marble Canyon and the Colorado River Valley it got hot: REAL hot... It was a brutal arid heat, like the blast you get when you open an oven door... It got up to 111 degrees... I drand three 32 oz. Gatorades during the afternoon and peed once: I was afraid my kidneys had given up the ghost!!!... I merged with the main part of US89 and headed for Flagstaff, where I decided to retire early... I had salt deposits all over my body from the arid heat evaporating my perspiration... I took the most needed and most sublime shower of my trip and was exhausted... I was asleep by 5PM...

DAY 12... Went down I40 to Exit 311 and the Petrified Forest N.P... I hadn't been there since I was ten, and the place is a real mind-blower... The eons that God took creating this Earth for us are beyond comprehension!!!... I headed down US180 to St. Johns, where I took US191 through the Apache National Forest... This will be one of the greatest sport-touring roads in America in a couple of years, but this particular day it was over 100 miles of freshly sprayed oil... My bike looked like it had been through WW III by the time I reached Guthrie!... I used an entire bottle of Eagle One A-to-Z on the bike, and it STILL had a bunch of tar balls on it!!!... Hit I10 and got to Deming that evening...

DAY 13... This would be my last full day of continuous riding adventure, because I planned to arrive at my mom and step-dad's home in San Antonio the following afternoon... Left Deming on I10, and the truck traffic sucked... Was glad to reach Van Horn and US90... This is my favorite place on the planet... Desolate, uninhabited, the home of mule deer, pronghorns, whitetails, cougars, and all manner of scavenging bird... Land is only $45 to $65 per acre too!!!... I'll have a ranch here someday...

Took US67 south to Presidio at Marfa... I waived frantically at a passing red K12 like mine, much to the amusement of the locals, but no luck getting the rider's attention... At Presidio I returned to my favorite road in America: Farm to Market 170... It's nasty, it's dirty, it has some wicked altitude changes that will launch you at the WORST moments, and you have to have cojones muy grande to ride it agressively... Colorado had prepared me well... I bested my best time on the R1100RS by over two minutes, and I stopped for pictures twice!!!... ...

Went through Big Bend N.P. very late in the afternoon, and it was deserted... Wonderfull!!!... On the trip up US385 to Marathon I passed NO vehicles going my direction, and only a pickup or two coming at me... Did 120 to 130 the entire way... Suprised the tar out of a road grader operator who was done for the day and waiting by the road for his ride... Blew by him at 130+ and laughed at his slack-jawed amazement...

Got gas in Marathon and headed down US90 to spend the night in Del Rio... Low beam was out... EVERY vehicle flashed me, when none had ever flashed me with my highs on before... Hmmmmm...

DAY 14... The Del Rio to San Antonio trip was a ride down memory lane, as this is the region of Texas I spent the most time hunting, fishing, drinking, and just generally LIVING in... I was in a very contemplative mood... Reached mom's at about 1:00 PM and was taken out to the Old San Fransisco Steak House for dinner... My stomach had shrunk!!!... I could hardly eat a thing... Left messages for Cap and Joe Webb, and got together with Joe at La Jarra for a fine dinner of Tex-Mex and Tecates...

Took the bike in that day, and guess what?... NO FRONT AXLE RETAINING BOLT!!!... The spacer was fried too, and as this trip's luck would have it, D.C. Webbs totalled Blue K12RS was out back, and became an organ doner for mine... D.C., I now have your front axle, retaining bolt, and spacer: THANKS!!!...

Joe took me out for a wonderful Hill Country breakfast ride on the 4th... The roads were damp, but I was just soaking in my favorite State's aura... We then headed to Greune to meet Cap and Barb for lunch... This site is so cool, 'cause you get to know people you'd never otherwise meet, and then meet them in person and get them to buy you lunch and dinner!!!... I owe Joe and Cap some comestables... After a fine lunch at the Grist Mill, I had to be heading home... Joe guided me superbly into the worst deluge since Noah's day!!!... I was soaked to the bone, but dried out by Denton... Two days on the slab, and I was home... By far, the best sport-touring vacation I can imagine!!!... Next year?... Alaska on my hybrid R1100RS/GS (A story for later)... ;^) Pep