Texas to Montana!
This is the first major trip I've done and the first ride report as well so bear with me! I'm traveling from Kerrville, Texas to Denver to visit a friend, followed by a run up to Missoula, Montana to be with a person who is very dear to me. The route will take me through Rocky Mountain National Park, central Wyoming to Jackson and the Grand Tetons Park, followed by Yellowstone, Cody, and Beartooth Pass. From there the plan is to go west into Montana and up the Bitterroot Valley to Missoula. Thanks to all who gave me route suggestions on the Rockies forum. :thumbup
Life has allowed me to rediscover my love for riding and exploring. In January I found a used 98 GS and started riding again, slowly upgrading the bike and getting a feel for both the ride and reliability. My intentions were to do a few small trips to areas like Big Bend - shakedown cruises to test the bike and settle on gear and packing. For various reasons my plans did not work out and I find the year slipping away. A window of opportunity opened for me to go to Montana and I decided to go for it.
The plan was to leave Monday June 25 and head north to Amarillo, so Friday I changed oil, prepped and washed the bike and took a short ride. Bike ran great as always. Saturday I spent the day repacking gear and getting the bike loaded. At 5 pm I decided to test ride the bike and take some pics of it. Slung a leg over, pressed the starter and cranked. No start! I continued for a bit, then pulled the plug caps to test for spark and nada, zip, zilch! Greatttttt! Just before I leave on the biggest trip of my life and the bike fails! Oh well, the blessing is that it died in my driveway and not in the middle of nowhere. There is definitely a God and he definitely smiled on me :)
Symptoms seemed to indicate the Hall Sensor, but now the trip was on hold. Rhine West in San Antonio was open on Monday so I was there at 8 am sharp with the bike on the trailer and a sad story. Hank had pity on me and had the bike running by 9:30. Awesome! It was a bad Hall Sensor and luckily they had one in stock. Hank had worked on my bike before and is absolutely a great guy. I highly recommend Rhine West if you're in the San Antonio area.
While Hank was fixing the beast, I decided to see if I could somehow get a set of Ohlins for the bike before I hit the serious mountain roads in Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. The bike is not unsafe, it's just that the stock shocks are at their max... I had intended to replace them with Ohlins this summer but hadn't had time so I decided to do the trip with the stockers. After feeling how maxed out the shocks were when loaded I decided to try to get a set last minute :rofl I spoke with a couple of dealers on the phone and turnaround time was several weeks. Dan at Kyle Racing gave me a great price, bent over backwards on getting shocks put together for me and is FedExing them ahead of me to Denver... all in three days! Awesome!! If all goes as planned I'll install them in Denver before heading north.
The beast in pre - launch mode:
All the gear for the trip:
Tools and Parts
Day 1: Kerrville to Amarillo
Having lost a day, the weather was turning crappy and the forecast was for storms the whole week from Texas to Colorado. Greatttt! I left in rain and heavy mist in a combination of fear and excitement - excitement for the ride, cautiousness about the handling and fears about the reliability of the bike (especially after the hall sensor failure!)
I-10 from Kerrville to Junction was wet and rainy, but slowly cleared to light mist and overcast skies. I got into the groove of the handling on the loaded bike and settled into a steady but somewhat busy ride. Gassing up in Junction, the bike attracted a guy who told me he used to ride dual sports and loved to ride Big Bend. We wished each other well and I headed on to Eden where the mist finally let up and the skies began to clear. The little town of Paint Rock was interesting and just north I saw a sign pointing to "Indian Heiroglyphics" but didn't want to lose road time - next time I'll stop :evil. Approaching Ballinger there was a gigantic steel cross appearing over the landscape. From the road it looked to be 20 stories high (pure guess) and I was traveling too fast to take the side road that headed off towards it. Nearing Sweetwater I passed through a huge field of massive wind generators that went from horizon to horizon. Quite an impressive sight to see. When I refueled in Sweetwater the clerk told me there were several hundred now and still building more.
By now the weather had gotten hot and I was wishing for the mist I rode in earlier :wink: I saw only three other motorcycles on the ride, each one waving as they passed on the opposite side - one was a V-Strom packed with gear and looking "adventurous".
The wind generators still popped up in clusters across the flat plains between Sweetwater and Lubbock, especially visible on the red dirt mesas nearing Lubbock.
I had planned on refueling and eating in Lubbock, but I-27 from Hwy 87 north had no gas stations or restaurants and I finally found a Fina station in New Deal. The somewhat grubby looking station had a small restaurant in it with absolutely great food and motherly attention! It's a great little place to eat.
From New Deal to Amarillo was flat slab with only the winds, heat, blue sky and white clouds to accompany me. I was feeling good and decided to get gas in Amarillo, stretch and then push on to Clayton, New Mexico for the night. I decided to check the weather and found the Texas Visitors Bureau which had free WiFi. As I was asking the attendant about travel to Clayton, a weather alert came on warning of severe storms north of Amarillo to the Clayton area. I decided to find a room and avoid the massive storm. I was glad I did because it hit with high winds and horizontal rain.
Sorry for the long post and since there ain't much to see but flat, I didn't take many pics. But I will as the landscape gets more interesting :1drink Wish me luck, say a prayer for my safety and we'll see what tomorrow brings!
Total miles today: 497
Total bugs killed: 13,837 +/-
Boy, those are familiar looking sights. The ones you drove by near Sweetwater are near my home. The big windfarm you drove by near Post on that big mesa is a place where we have Texas State Enduro Circuit races. Funny you mention an impending storm in the Amarillo/Clayton area. The worst storm I've ever ridden through was between Amarillo and Clayton...with my wife on the back. Water was puddling on the highway so badly in the downpour that the bike was hydroplaning much of the time, not to mention lightning everywhere...and there's no real place to stop for extremely long sections...flat, open, exposed. Be glad you stopped for the night. That's one adventure I don't want to experience again.
Have a safe trip and keep the story coming.
That's cool to know you were in the area - that area around Post looked like a great place to ride offroad! The windfarms are really impressive and I had no idea there were so many out there now.
I am soooo glad to have missed that storm. Too bad you two got hit with one. Like you say there's really nothing out there for shelter. Glad you two survived :D
Day 2: Amarillo to Denver
NOTE TO SELF: Do not stay at grungy motels adjacent to 24 hr truck stops...
I hardly got any sleep from the noise of airbrakes all night and was cranky and groggy today. I also think adrenaline was a factor since I woke up wide awake at 4 am ready to go :mrgreen:
The night before, in the midst of the huge storm 2 guys on Harleys pulled in and bailed into the adjacent rooms. They'd been caught on the interstate when the storm hit and rode through it for a long way. Next morning we chatted while loading bikes and turns out they were heading to Montana as well. They were intrigued by The Pig and hadn't seen a GS before. Just as we loaded up the sun began breaking through the clouds. Perfect timing! Yowza!
Pig in a Poke
Honey, does this angle make me look fat?
Heading out of Amarillo to Dumas, the flat landscape turned to rolling plains and became pretty as I approached the Canadian River. The morning sun was great, the air was cool and the bike was running great. I watched a train crossing a large trestle bridge near the river and the excitement of the trip really hit me.
By the time I got to Dumas, the temperature had dropped and I was beginning to get a little chill in my mesh jacket. It felt great knowing the Texas heat was slipping away.
Riding through to Dalhart, the huge plains to either side were fascinating in their own way, and it was interesting seeing how the hay was stacked high and in long lines in the field. I wondered if they were also used as wind breaks for the cattle... who knows.
Entering Dalhart, I had my first close call on the bike. On the main street, a small white minivan pulled out ahead of me and was cruising along at my speed for a bit. For some reason the driver suddenly stopped dead in the middle of the road - of course it was at the exact instant I glanced to one side. I've now bonded with the Beemer's ABS brakes :D I got the bike stopped just in time but man was I PO'd. Oh well. I stopped in Dalhart, threw on the jacket liner and got gas. Boy Scout troops, van trains and cars with gear on top were strewn through the little town as they trekked to the mountains. I started feeling the rush of excitement and blew on to Texline then hit the New Mexico border. Yeah baby yeah! - that first glimpse of mountains protruding up from the plains is a rush.
*Note To Self - actually change your watch after reading the sign...
Clayton, NM came up soon and I circled through the little town. It has charm and looks like a neat place to hang out, though I suspect few do since the mountains are calling. I pulled up to the light next to an old rancher in a beat up pickup truck with his window down. As we waited I said hi and he nodded and tipped his cowboy hat and then said slowly "Where you goin?" When I said Montana, he grinned and said "Good Luck".
Maybe he was wishing me well because he knew I had to pass the giant cattle feeding station just outside town. When I saw it and the thousand of cattle, I decided to stop and get a pic - that is until I hit the valley where the stink was. I was wishing for oxygen by the time I got halfway past.
As I headed on towards Raton, the air was cool and the scenery was beautiful. That part of New Mexico has a great quality - huge plains of green grass with the mountains jutting up. The vistas are inspiring and give you a sense of time and history. Can't help but wonder where the little ranch roads go and how long the families have been there. Pronghorn antelope were spotted here and there with the occasional windmill at some far distance to give a scale of how massive the area is.
There is a lot of road construction on the road to Raton, so much of it was posted at 45 mph. In addition there is the "Safety Zone" for many miles with warnings of double traffic fines, so the trip was slow. That was good because it forced me to really enjoy the beautiful landscape, the smells of green grass, etc. I passed the Capulin volcano and wish I had taken a side trip to the park. Maybe on the way back.
The bullet holes in the sign made me feel just like I was in Texas :D
Got to Raton, NM about noon and rode down through the town. Great little town I'd missed in the past since I was always focused on getting into the pass.
I needed coffee and stopped in the Crystal Cafe. Great place!
It didn't take much for the waitress to sucker me in to getting the olive oil and garlic pasta lunch special :clap Man was it good!
The waitress looked out and saw the bike and said "Well that's just a gigantic dirt bike!" Well it sure isn't a dirt bike but it sure is great for trips like this. On the highway with all the gear on and my 6'4 frame, I think a few truckers have been drafting behind me :wink:
Today the weather has been absolutely perfect - sunshine, blue sky and puffy white clouds. Raton Pass was just beautiful as I went through. I'm still amazed at how different everything looks when riding as opposed to driving in a car. I began to see a more steady supply of bikes heading south.
The drive up 25 past the mountains is quite a sight and makes the interstate ride a lot more interesting.
Somehow I was expecting the Rockies to be more impressive... :D
I wanted to make time and rode on to Colorado Springs and grabbed a Starbucks to relax and wait for rush hour traffic to thin. This where I should have payed attention to the Mountain Time sign :D A huge thunderhead formed over the mountains and was coming in fast so I got back on the bike to hit Denver. Got stuck in rush hour traffic and looped back off to get gas. Lightning hit about a hundred yards from me as I was gassing up and strikes were frequent.
Looking back at Colorado Springs as I was leaving
I eventually got out of the rain and made it to Denver and my friends house.
My new Ohlins are due to arrive and I'm anxious to get them on the bike :clap:
Total miles today: 456
Total bugs killed: 27 (but they were really big ones)
Total pasta plates killed: 1
I just came thru your path this last Tuesday, the other way and arrived home Wednesday afternoon after dodging thunderstorms thru out most of Texas that day. I spend Tuesday nite in Brownsfield, Tx and woke up to rain.
I may have been the Vstorm you saw loaded out. I know I saw several Beemer GS's ( which was the top bike I saw on the road other than Harley's and other crusier types ).
Have a great trip, and, get into the Rockies, they're beautiful. You're just skimming them on I 25. ;-)..
a very nice thread
i appreciate the pictures and thoughtful explanations
looks like a great trip
love the comment about the truckers DRAFTING off of YOU :D
Beautiful anniversary edition GS! You sure pack well :thumb
Thanks for the pics and great comments, keep it up :lurk
Look what showed up... :rayof
I needed a new back tire before heading further north and called BMW of Denver to see if they could fix me up in a rush. They said "Come On Down" (and Bring Your Wallet). Since they had to pull the rear wheel for the tire install I asked if they could also slap the rear Ohlins on at the same time. Martin in service squeezed it into the schedule and they turned it around quickly. Beautiful, slick dealership and staff were friendly and professional.
When I walked in to the parts area I did a serious double-take. Lo and behold Jessica who used to work at Lone Star Cycle in Austin was behind the counter smiling at me. My brain went weird for a sec! It was cool to see her and quite a surprise.
Rode back to my friends house with the new Ohlins on the rear - the ride and handling was SIGNIFICANTLY better even with the flabby original front still on the bike. Swapped in the new front and did a test ride. Holy cow what a difference! The front no longer dives and the bike feels completely different. I was used to the bike settling when I climbed on but now it sits much taller... I'll have to be a bit more cautious when stopping. :D
The suspension feels stiff in comparison but Dan set them up for my weight and gear. The attitude of the bike is more aggressive and it carves a tight line. Slow turning is much better and I can't wait to see how it handles in dual sport stuff. Absolutely a different bike to ride now. Woohoo!
The downside to all this is that I had finally developed a pathetic pirouette / slo-mo mount / dismount routine to get on and off the bike... Now with the extra suspension height it's like raising the bar for a pole vaulter. Maybe I can do it and maybe not.... I'll find out this morning when I hit the road for the mountains. :clap:clap
Thanks for the comments!
achesley - that might have been you - I saw the Strom Tues west of Sweetwater area. Glad you had a good trip !
:thumb Thanks for the trip report and photos. I'll be in CO in 1-1/2 weeks and your pictures are making me anxious to be there.
I wish you the best on your trip,
Great pics and report. I can't wait to see the rest. :clap
I'm loving this report. That Amarillo, Dumas, Clayton, Denver loop is, ahem, familiar to me. Super memories.
Great report so far. You have passed through my neck of the woods and I appreciate the nice comments.
Next time through though you should not go through Dumas from Amarillo. There is a nice "backroad" heading northwest from Amarillo to Boys Ranch to Channing and then into Hartley where the road meets up with HWY 87 again. It goes for about 40 miles through the Canadian River breaks and is a little more fun than HWY 287 north from Amarillo.
By the way, every hill you saw from Clayton to Raton are all old volcanoes from the Clayton and Raton volcanic field. You are right though, the scenery out there is spectacular. My dad and I rode through there on our way to Taos, Red River, Santa Fe a few weeks ago.
Have fun and ride safe man.:clap
Good to have met you. It was a real pleasure. For all others following this ride, Lonestar (aka Joseph) stopped at our shop in Nederland earlier today. He came into the office, introduced himself, and before I knew it we were trading biking trip stories. After some discussion of the route before him he took some pictures of the crew and we wished him well on the rest of his trip. The concensus among us is, "a real gentleman".
I'll be following this thread avidly, wishing I were on those same roads Lonestar is following as I write this. I'm looking out the window watching some thunderheads come in. Hope you're over the Divide right now, the lightning up on Trail Ridge Road can get vicious.
Looking forward to your next posting.
Day 4: The Perfect Day
June 29, 2007
This morning my fuel pump began to whine - a new sound, grrrrr. But my new Ohlins were on :evil
Grabbed a quick breakfast at Johnny's Diner and swung by the BMW dealer before heading out of Denver.
The weather was absolutely beautiful. I took Hwy 6 out through Golden Gate Canyon (?) heading towards Estes Park. It felt great to get into the mountains and the canyons were beautiful and fun - The Pig was handling so much better with the new Ohlins. There was a fair amount of traffic and I stopped occasionally to let the buses get out of my view.
At a highway intersection, I pulled off to check my map to make sure I was still on the Peak to Peak route and there was a rider on a Suzuki Bandit with Vermont plates checking his map as well. He told me a rider had just left the direction I was going and I eventually caught up to him in Gilpin - a little town loaded with casinos - and tracked behind his V-Strom for a while.
Had to stop at the first glimpse of the snow capped peaks and get a shot.
The road was good with a fair amount of traffic. In Nederland I stopped to top off the tank and chatted with a rider who was going around the U.S. Took a butt break and watched the bikes pull in.
When I finished gassing up, a local resident came over to admire the bike. We chatted a bit and he said "There's a guy just like you who has one of these funky bikes and rides by himself up to Montana and other places. His name is Udo and he has a car repair shop up the road. He always has old bikes he's redoing. You should go meet him and look at his bikes." Sounded good to me so I found the shop "Peak to Peak Imports" and pulled up. In front was a 1200 GS and a few dirt bikes here and there. I liked it already :evil . I met Udo and got the tour - his name seemed familiar and sure enough he's on ADVRider. I met the crew and we talked bikes of course. Really enjoyed the visit!
Udo, you're a great guy and welcome at my house any time bud!
The Motley Crew :D
I continued on to Estes Park, and cruised through the heaving masses of sweaty tourists wandering about before heading toward the Rocky Mountain National Park entrance. I needed coffee and a stretch so I grabbed a BBQ sandwich at TapHouse. It was excellent and a good place to eat away from the tourist herds. I've been lucky and found great food on this trip.
Across the street there was an old XR for sale: Somebody NEEDS this!!! :lol3
Park entry was $10 for the bike and I asked about Falling River road but was told it wasn't open until July 1 - GRRRRRR - missed it by 2 days. Mike at Udo's suggested it as a good dirt road alternative to the top of RMNP.
Riding the park was stunning of course. Breathtaking views around each turn and of course the best pics were in areas with no way to pull over. Traffic was ok but the usual caravan of minivans and SUV's. Near the top I saw some elk, and once over the west side the elk were prevalent.
A few pics:
From the park I hit Granby and from there I caught 125 north to Walden. The westerly winds were strong and steady. The landscape outside RMNP was more arid and the mountains different of course.
Hwy 125 is a great ride - it is a nice 2 lane blacktop that goes through the Arapaho Forest and there was almost NO traffic. I rode almost to Walden and only saw 5 or 6 cars. It was a great road and the perfect contrast to RMNP. No cars after being in caravans of vehicles. Beautiful stretches and scenery that was different. After crossing the divide, you drop down into desert valleys with huge vistas and not a soul around. To me this was almost the best part of the day. It was like having the world to yourself after Touristastan.
Gassed up in Walden - "Moose Viewing Capitol" - and looks like a cool place to spend the night but I continued on. Not a moose was in sight. The sun was getting low, the light was beautiful and the empty landscape was addicting.
Busted the Wyoming line to Riverside and Encampment, which were interesting little towns and I looped through before going on to Saratoga. I hit Saratoga at sundown and got the last room in a motel.
I have to say that today ranks as one of the best of my life. The weather was fantastic, I met great folks, and the scenery was astounding. The contrasts of landscape and solitude were perfect. The bike ran like a top (granted, a big, heavy top). What a great day.
It was getting too late to do any side roads and the Centennial / 130 route but I will do that tomorrow morning, then head north. Maybe to Alaska :lol3
My route was Hwy 6 to 119 to Estes, RMNP to Granby, 125 to Walden then into Wyoming on 230 to Saratoga.
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