Westward - to see the sea.
I love living here in Colorado but, let's face it, this is a desert environment. Sometimes I get restless to see big water again and when I bought myself a Kawasaki Concours recently it was time for a road trip.
This was the Craig's List ad that caught my eye.
Soon, it was mine, and soon after that, it looked like this.
Nothing really wrong with it but you know how it is when you buy a bike; you've got to fondle it.
After three weeks of work and chasing around after parts and sweating details I arrived at this.
Packed and ready to go - I thought. The bike is packed, I'm geared up, the engine is idling, and I turn on my week-old Garmin GPS. Which promptly freezes.
If you've done much traveling I'm sure you quickly came to realize the truth of the old adage: Man plans, God laughs. The more you plan, the more opportunity for things to go wrong.
For this trip, a GPS is a critical piece of equipment.
Turn off the bike, pull off the helmet and jacket, stomp into the house and look for the tech number for Garmin. A half hour later I'm assured by the tech guy that the problem is easy to remedy, just package the unit up and send it to them and in about three weeks it should be at my door.
Then I remembered that I had forgotten to install a gift from a friend.
Which might be the source of this problem; an electrical gremlin.
What to do about the frozen GPS? I purchased it at a nearby Best Buy so, in hopes of meeting with a merciful customer service rep, I sped over there in my Jeep. During the drive, I mentally prepared arguments in support of my request for an exchange and got ready to make my case.
The rep said "No problem", and handed me a replacement unit. :clap
When I planned this trip I promised myself:
1. No big cities, if at all possible and,
2. No freeways, if at all possible.
From my neighborhood I quickly find myself on county roads that seem to be headed in the right direction. I'm easing from the get-ready-for-a-trip mania to the fact that I'm on the road with no schedule or specific direction.
As you can see, the fall colors are stunning against this dramatic background. I see no traffic and I'm idling along at about 45 mph.
Isn't this what it's about? Now I'm traveling north on the County Rd #27 in Larimer County, which I highly recommend. The road seems made for motorcycles and it can be ridden fast or slowly.
I began my trip in mid-October and during the early part of the summer, there was considerable drama in this area due to the High Park Fire. It was an enormous forest fire. We choked on its smoke for weeks but that was little inconvenience compared to the many residents who lost everything. Over 250 homes were burned.
Ultimately, the fire burned over 87,250 acres and took the life of a 62 year old woman. In this photo you can see how close the fire came to some of the homesteads.
In late afternoon I reach the Poudre Canyon Hwy, #14, and turn left - to the West.
GPS stuff was funny. :lol3
Have a great ride!
Trying to stay focused on my riding with this all around me.
Riding up the Poudre Canyon is always a joy. So nice, in fact, that I didn't stop to take any photos. You'll just have to go there yourself. It's worth it.
From the canyon I want to head north into Wyoming and the Medicine Bow region. When I get close to the border between Colorado and Wyoming the rain clouds off the the west are suddenly a snow squall that envelopes me. Time for a change of direction.
Reversing direction, I head south and then west toward Steamboat Springs and come to this.
Followed closely by this. I don't think this photo very clearly illustrates the snow storm ahead of me. I pull over and add another layer of clothing and ride into it.
As I continue to gain elevation snow squalls come and go but the road remains snow and ice-free. Eventually, the squalls dissipate and the weather settles down to just being damn cold.
After considerable internal debate I bought a much warmer riding coat the day before I left on this trip. This decision proves to be so smart that it probably offsets about six of my last stupid decisions.
Cold or not, the mountains, even after six years living among them, continue to overwhelm me with their wild beauty.
I make it safely over the pass and begin the descent into Steamboat Springs. It's late in the day and I'm chilled and looking forward to food and shelter.
This view is so engrossing that I find a turnoff and stand there for a considerable amount of time taking it all it. The clouds shift and the light with them so rays of sunlight move across the landscape in random patterns. The surface of the water demonstrates the force of the wind out of the west, which was to be with me for the next few days.
After a night in Steamboat it's time to clear the frost from the Connie and get back on the road and I pick up Hwy. 40 headed west.
On the outskirts of town I pass this place.
Not for the first time do I wonder about what it took to tough it out in the harsh conditions of western Colorado in a little shack like this: the heat and cold and isolation, this was pioneer life on the prairie.
Nearing the border with Utah. What the photo doesn't show are the howling winds on my port beam. Tumbleweeds fly by in a blur and sand gets into my helmet. I discover that if I speed up instead of slowing down the Connie remains more manageable. It seems to punch a bigger hole in the air that way but the effort to steer the bike has my back muscles in knots.
The temptation is there to let the Connie run loose on stretches like this but part of the purpose of this trip is to get myself to slow down and pay more attention to my surroundings, so I keep it at the speed limit. It feels like I'm hardly moving in all this space.
I cross my first state line on this trip.
Arriving at the Utah line, it's time to sit down with the map and get some idea of where I wanted to go. I was trending to the west but my route changed often according to weather or whim or some other impulse.
In one of my numerous classes in archaeology someone mentioned a museum in Price, UT and that becomes today's direction. It looked like Hwy 191 might be an interesting route.
And it was: good road surface, nice sweepers, varied terrain. The road wound through canyons and valleys and up into forests before descending into desert. Hwy. 191 in eastern Utah - highly recommended.
The autumn weather has temps in the mid-50's but I'll bet this can be a blistering environment during the hot months.
After hours of some of very spirited riding I arrive in Price, UT and this museum.
It houses an extraordinary collection of artifacts associated with the Fremont people, Native Americans who roamed prehistoric Utah and produced some of the most creative and evocative rock art to be found anywhere.
Moccasins, adult and child-sized, thought to be almost a thousand years old.
The Fremont people were never far from extinction given the harsh conditions under which they lived. To preserve and protect some of their harvests they built small granaries in hard to reach areas to store grains and beans. This one was threatened by development and excavated intact. It's a very unique find.
This modest little lump of clay meant survival for families living on the edge in a prehistoric environment.
It was after closing time when museum employees finally pried me out of the place.
Forgot to add that the other half of the museum was devoted to Dinosaurs.
From Price, next stop was Salt Lake City and this museum.
To get there involved one of my freeway episodes. From Provo to SLC it seemed to make sense to slab it on I-15.
I love Utah and have given some serious thought to moving to Cedar City, but, to be honest, the stretch from Provo to Ogden looked like one long and ugly strip mall. I droned along until dark and got a room on the southern edge of the city.
I should mention here that the drivers in this metro region were by far the most considerate of a loaded down touring bike, unlike the Wild West of traffic that I live with in my part of Colorado.
The museum is brand new and was still receiving finishing touches when I arrived. It was also filled with hordes of riotous school children, but I don't mind that a bit and love seeing them exposed to what came before them. The place did seem very family oriented.
What look like beams extending between the walls are actually ramps leading from one level to another so transitions between floors seemed to flow.
Their Fremont collection was also impressive.
Of course, no visit to this area can fail to make a stop here.
It was a calm and warm autumn day when I stopped by. Marinas and beaches were deserted and I saw only one boat on the lake, which is HUGE, by the way. Judging by the sailboats up on stands, there must be a sizable sailing community. I wondered what boat maintenance accommodations needed to be made to the high salt content of the lake.
I continued to slab it into Idaho and as far as Twin Falls before leaving the freeway behind and resuming a more relaxed pace.
The notion was to ride further north into Idaho but I decided to check the weather forecast first.
A cold front was extending down into the States from western Canada. Unseasonably cold temps and rain and snow that came with the cold were due north of me.
I had a few weather apps on my iPhone, one of them being a NOAA live radar feed that allowed me to search quite a distance ahead of my routes. Using this I see a corridor of relatively settled weather to the N.W. so I pick up Idaho hwy. 78 and soon arrive at the Snake River.
By now it's late on a beautiful autumn day. The usual wind gusts are taking a break and the evening sunlight takes on multiple golden hues.
As luck would have it, a road winding along the river was paved that day and in this sparsely settled region, it's all mine.
Even the sound of my engine seems intrusive and I shut it down so I can listen to the birds call and the river flow.
By now it's almost dark and I have no idea where I'll be spending the night but it doesn't feel important. There is a half moon rising over the prairie and before me are gently winding roads through farm fields and canyons and desert. Perfect conditions for a night ride.
Riding through the dark with no other traffic and just the occasional farm house or small town providing illumination; I can feel huge spaces around me but not see them. Repeatedly, I feel the need to pull over and look at the moon and stars. The feeling is magical but by now I'm thoroughly chilled and reluctantly start looking for shelter.
I find a room in Nampa, ID and look forward to crossing into Oregon in the morning.
Rain mixed with snow in the morning as I cross into Oregon and aim due west on hwy. 20. Inmates recommended #26 to the north as a more scenic route but that's the southern edge of the cold front where it's pouring rain.
I can't complain though and really enjoy my ride.
It's election time and campaign signs are thick on the ground. This one was my favorite.
I stopped often to warm up and see the sights and a mile after passing this sign I turned around and headed up their drive.
These beautiful critters are still completely wild and not happy to be in the pens. I parked the bike and slowly approached the fence but they weren't having any of that and ran off cantering and whinnying when I got too close.
I stood as still as possible for about 15 minutes knowing that a horse has a powerful sense of curiosity.
One by one they began to wander a little closer but the slightest twitch had them off and running. Seeing a wild horse flat-out running was an exciting experience for me but I knew I was spooking them and it was time to leave. I didn't want to spend much time pondering the future for these magnificent creatures and I was sorry to see them penned.
I spend the night in Bend, OR, tired and chilled after hours of riding in rain and snow squalls. I didn't see much of the town but it looked like it could be a nice place to live.
Perusing my map that night I decide to pay a visit to Crater Lake the next day. In the photos I've seen, it looks stunningly beautiful.
And it may be that it is, but my visit didn't go as planned.
As I gained elevation the weather continued to deteriorate and first rain and then snow and then low-lying clouds enveloped me. The winds began to howl from the west. I didn't understand why the wind didn't dissipate the clouds but visibility continued to decrease.
Determined to see the lake, I pushed on and finally arrived at a parking lot with a sign indicating an overlook.
There were only one or two cars up there with me. Japanese tourists emerged from one of them and began taking photos of me. I guess i was a tourist attraction, too.
At last, I'm standing above the lake and take in the world famous view.
I guess. At least I was told that there's a lake down there.
The wind picked up and the snowfall with it, might be a good time to turn around and head for a lower elevation.
I'm enjoying your laid back ride and the things you are showing us along the way. Waiting for more. :lurk
The picture of the Great Salt Lake brings back lots of memories, I lived in SLC and the area for the better part of the 80's andf 90's. man that sound so long ago! Really miss it but interesting to know that the lake is only something like 30 feet deep at its deepest and I have been told that it averages about 15 feet. I remember many times during the summer thunderstorm season, hearing stories of sailboat being lost on the lake due to the sudden wind and accompanying waves. I never really saw many folks sailing or doing any boating activity on the lake! But if you read the history of the area, apparently during the early part of the 1900's there was quite the resort and what not at the lake...
Thanks, enjoying the read!!
I made it back down the mountain from Crater Lake without killing myself so there was an upside to that experience. When you travel by motorcycle it's best to understand that the weather is going to play a huge role in your experiences.
From Crater I picked up hwy 62 headed SW. The snow turned to rain at this lower elevation and the temp remains just above freezing. The road winds through thick forest and with almost no traffic to be seen I slow down and take in the changing terrain.
I'm beginning to see rain forest now, with huge Douglas Firs and thick fern undergrowth and an intoxicating smell of damp earth in the air. Rivers and streams are everywhere. Moss hangs from tree branches and wildflowers are bright spots of color in amid the dark, green of the ferns.
At Grants Pass, OR I pick up #199 and continue SW. The road starts to twist and turn through forests and canyons and along rivers and I don't know what-all. The sun even comes out.
Abandoning my leisurely pace, I get busy with throttle and clutch to see what the Connie can do and the 600+ pound bike nearly jumps out from under me. It appears that it has another personality.
I'm flying through the curves amid the heavy forest and I'm almost laughing out loud when I come to this sign.
Soon, the screen on my GPS is indicating the end of #199 and the outskirts of Crescent City, CA so the sea must be very near.
And it is.
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