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Old 10-10-2011, 08:06 PM   #151
jdrocks OP
Gravel Runner
Joined: Jul 2007
Oddometer: 4,476
Originally Posted by joenuclear View Post
There are parts of America where the major funding is from meth dealers and gubmint checks. Looks like you found one.

Great RR!
i was to find more than one this trip, kinda figured i would.
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Old 10-11-2011, 12:52 PM   #152
jdrocks OP
Gravel Runner
Joined: Jul 2007
Oddometer: 4,476
Day 7, 9/5:Newkirk, OK to Liberal, KS-315 miles

I was all jazzed up this morning, as usual, didn’t need an alarm clock, determined to get some miles west again today. I had been struggling to get out of the 300 mile a day routine, maybe today would be different. I need some elevation, like a mile of it, straight up into cooler air.

Packing the bike right outside the motel door, and the smoke detector goes off, I told ya it was hot in Oklahoma. Ominous warning, that klaxon sound, “Now hear this, all hands, abandon ship”, and I felt the urge to get the heck out of Newkirk, post haste is the term I heard once at a wine tasting event.

Back to the quik mart, I need a bite to eat and some drinks to take with me. I have been carrying a CamelBack with water, but I think of that as my emergency supply, besides I have that spare tire on the back and it makes a convenient trunk for drink bottles. Convenient, that is if the bottles stay in the trunk and not bounce out and blow up like that big bottle of Diet Pepsi yesterday. An overheated carbonated beverage makes an impressive display when it hits the pavement and knocks the cap off, damn, I thought I was under RPG attack when that projectile shot past the front of the bike, a spray of foam like rocket exhaust.

Just the cashier at the quik mart this morning, I needed some calories and fast food wasn’t fast enough right now. The store had a cooler with those shrink wrapped sandwiches and other things, so I asked the cashier “Anything good in there?” and got “Naw, all that stuff makes me sick, goes through me like flippin’ goose grease”. Ok, I’m not quite as hungry anymore, how ‘bout a cookie? The packaged cookies I pick up are so stale and hard ya could make a passable bullet proof vest out of them, stop anything up to a 45 caliber. Now that road is calling me, time to leave.

The TAT starts right up at the edge of town, and I’m soon in the wilds, deer running around all over. I get hit in the chest by the sixth bird so far on the TAT route, the poor things fly up out of the hedgerows along the gravel roads, no time for evasive maneuvers. Don’t ride with the visor up, getting hit in the face would have some consequences.

It was interesting to see plowed and disced fields, standard agricultural practice country wide back in the day. Farmers took pride in how groomed their fields appeared. We’re in a no till area because of the local watershed, and I hadn’t seen fields like this for years. Before I left, corn was being combined, the tractor pulling a planter was right behind, putting in winter wheat. We don’t have the rich soils found in other areas, but a climate that allows two row crops per season is more than an equalizer.

The route takes you to a closed bridge, I knew it was out here somewhere from previous reports. This bridge has been closed a long time by the looks of things, another case where the TAT needs a reroute update.

More loose cattle along the roads, they would be with me all day. Deer and other game animals will run off, but I’m never sure what the damn cows will do.

The country has a gentle roll to it, although often described as flat. It’s not.

I know I’m getting closer to drilling activity, there are oil field service trucks all over, pounding the bottom out of the TAT roads. The reality is that some of these roads can’t take a pounding, there’s little or no aggregate, just dirt. Like Arkansas, I don’t know how you would get through these roads if it rained, or worse, got caught out on these roads when it started to rain. I’d advise watching the weather closely.

The TAT route takes you along a road following the section lines straight west, and in the distance I can see drill rigs lined up one after the other right to the horizon. The trucking activity on this road was looking like the I system, not a very rural road in Oklahoma. The trucks were pounding sand holes into the road surface, some you could ride around, some you had to ride through.

I stopped to get a photo of a working rig, but also to survey the road in front of me, a huge sandy rutted mess, the trucks had completely destroyed the road along the drill site.

I decide to try the east bound side, looked better, but then there’s a pickup coming at me and I have to move back to the west bound lane, man, big trouble waiting there. Plowing along at a good clip in the sand until I come up on a big ledge in the travel lane, what the hell is this doing here, I hadn’t seen it until I was on top of it, way too late. I sailed off the ledge and landed in 10” of silty sand, my sailing career was over. It seemed like the wheels were buried up to the axles, the bike bounced on the suspension, I wrestled it another fifty feet, and down I went in a cloud of dust and flying sand.

I was stunned, but moving, the right bar end had caught me on the left side of the chest when I fell off the bike, everything else was functioning.

I was covered with sand, and I mean sand everywhere. I was also really pissed, this ledge was the most dangerous thing I’d seen on a road lately, an east bound vehicle hitting it would have the front end sheared off, an east bound bike would be totaled. Took a photo, then jumped the bike back up on two wheels, easier to do in an angry state of mind. The bike looked ok, couldn’t see anything major. My ribs weren’t feelin’ too good, but at least I could breathe, time to move on, and I paddled footed my way out of the rest of the sand, anxious to get myself up on top of a decent road surface again.

(to be continued...)

jdrocks screwed with this post 10-11-2011 at 01:02 PM
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Old 10-11-2011, 06:00 PM   #153
jdrocks OP
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Joined: Jul 2007
Oddometer: 4,476
Rolling west on marginal gravel, dodging the sand and oil field traffic, I realize I’m kinda banged up, maybe I did some rib damage back there, and now I’m sliding around in the saddle trying for the most comfortable riding position. Heck, at least I’m riding, gotta keep some perspective.

The crops out here are beyond poor, nothing worth harvesting, I don’t think I’ve ever seen worse.

A little farther along, I would see 3 foot tall corn being cut and baled into those big rectangular bales, cattle fodder I guess. With commodity prices at record levels, it was not the year to have failed crops.

I find three local riders parked in the road taking a break, all on small DS thumpers, no luggage. They were out for a day ride and knew they were on a TAT road, intending to ride about 50 miles of it. Guy said “These small bikes are faster on these roads than you’ll ever be”. True, but there would be other roads too, and in the overall scheme of things, I had a good chance of getting there first on the rat. Anyway, I think I’m going to slow down a little more for the rest of the day.

I decided I didn’t want to press my luck on fuel, so I rode into one of those little dusty towns along the route, hoping there was a gas station. I had to look for it, but found a guy pumping fuel into a pickup in front of an old garage. When he finished, I added a couple gallons to top off the tank, now I’m good, and that’s when a minor problem occurred.

The pump was officially closed, but the guy in front of me had a key to the door. The idea was to pump an even dollar amount, then leave the cash in the register with a note. I didn’t know about this arrangement and lacked enough small bills to pay for the gas. The other guy said “Just leave what you have, he’ll get over it”, so that’s what I did, about two bucks short. Oh well, it wasn’t intentional.

The fella in the truck was an oil field worker, very busy, and we talked about the drilling activity, then the fact that I’d just wrecked in front of one of the drill rigs. He didn’t seem surprised, the county is supposed to maintain the roads, not the driller. He went on to say that I was about to ride into the canyon land section of Oklahoma, watch for Ted Turner’s buffalo wandering around out there, few fences. That sounded good, I was ready for some canyons.

I wasn’t many miles west when the country abruptly became broken, not the big canyons found farther west, but beautiful scenery none the less.

The guy at the gas pump said the hunting was great around the area, and I’d already seen a bunch of deer, nothing big, and then two coyotes.

Unfortunately, there were oil field tankers out here too, and they mostly will not slow down when passing…except when the driver sees you have a camera, then they all slow down.

The country was beautiful, don’t get me wrong here, but it was hard to get a good photo that didn’t include oil field equipment, new or old.

These small buttes were scattered around, and in front of the base of this one you can just make out the old ranch building way out there, a hard scrabble way of life even in that era.

What’s not in that photo is the hundred geologist stakes that cross the front of this ranch. New wells will be drilled at the rate of thousands per year into these North American oil and gas formations. See the country soon, that’s my advice.

Old windmills, or remnants of old windmills, are another familiar sight out here, a few still turning, most not.

The road climbs up to a sort of ridgeline, man, this is a cool place, and I come up to that much photographed sign at a cattle guard.

Hand lettered, everyone stops for a photo.

The end of fences for awhile, now open range, and the sign is no joke. Cows are everywhere, people are scarce.

Shade is where you find it, another blistering day.

It was so hot that these animals hardly moved when the bike went by, or maybe they were just used to the sound by now.

There was a small ranch house on top near the cattle, but it didn’t look like anyone had been there for quite awhile.

The road drops back down and takes you right through the middle of some ranch buildings straddling both sides of the road. The owners were standing along the road when I came up and I stopped to talk. Looked like two brothers and their young sons, not surprised to see me, every TAT bike has to come through here. The drought had been brutal out here, no grass, and by the tone of the conversation, it sounded like their operation was being stressed. When I commented on how gorgeous the surrounding country looked, they just laughed. Brown is not gorgeous to them, green would look better. They had a new 855D 4x4 Gator, and when I comment on it, the older of the two says “Yeah, it’s the only new thing on the whole ranch”. There are only five human beings in the whole township, probably why they don’t mind talking with TAT riders. Goodbye, and good luck, but maybe some of those oil wells belonged to them.

The road climbs back up from their ranch, and the famous cowboy cemetery is right there. If I had known it was so close, I would have asked them some questions about it.

The original headstone has survived, and the new headstone tells the full story.

A lonely place to die out here, then or now.

The road on this side of the ranch shows more use, and must be the road those ranchers use for a run to town. The day is getting long, I need to make my own run, and away I go, decent speed on this maintained surface, the heck with slowing down.

More cattle scattered along the road, a road that seems to go on forever. Finally in Buffalo for fuel and a drink, but I’m not stopping, the destination today is Liberal, Kansas. People come over to talk about the bike and ask about the trip while I sip on two liters of fluid. Old guy from Kansas comes out of the store and hands me some bags of peanuts “for a snack” along the way. He was a rider from the old days, and hasn’t once taken his eyes from the bike while we talk, I know what he’s thinking. He says goodbye when his wife takes him by the arm and guides him into the passenger seat, can’t drive anymore. Out of the lot and onto the highway, he turns for a last look, then waves. I make the sign of the cross, Oh Brother, the years are getting away from me too.

Buffalo to Liberal crosses the short grass prairie, roads in decent shape, but use caution at the intersections, most locals don’t stop even if there’s a sign. Like most of rural America, there are abandoned homes everywhere across this landscape, maybe more noticeable here because of the stark setting.

The process behind the chosen locations of some of these houses is a mystery, someone’s grand idea destined for failure. Sitting on the top of a hill, there’s nothing between the wind and this house for miles in any direction, a top 10 country western song in the full story of wrecked dreams.

When I intersect 83, it’s north to Liberal, just over the state line. Liberal has a lot of activity, must be an economic hub in this area, nothing else of any size close by, pavement shimmering in the heat. Not many people on the streets, most had the good sense to seek some AC. I find a reasonable place to stay, no Indian this time, the desk guy says I’m not the first TAT rider to stay there this season.

I’m near collapse from the heat by the time I get the bike and gear situated, only made 300 miles again. On the bright side, today should be the last day of extreme heat, I’ll be outta here tomorrow and end up someplace cooler, might snow.

If the most exciting thing you’ve done lately is to break 100 in a round of golf, you might not want to jump right into one of these rides, probably wouldn’t work out for ya. Now, where’d I pack that whisky…?

(to be continued…)
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Old 10-12-2011, 08:51 PM   #154
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Joined: Jul 2007
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Day 8, 9/6: Liberal, KS to Canon City, CO-426 miles

I had a routine down pat now, up early, then a checklist. Check the news, check the weather, check the email, check the maps, and a few other checks, pack, load the bike, and get my butt on the road. I was even in a bigger hurry this morning, planning to be a mile high by tonight, except I’m not sure of the exact location.

It’s 90 on the quik mart thermometer this morning, only balmy by comparison to yesterday when I walked across some asphalt and left boot tracks, the surface had gotten tacky, now that’s gettin’ hot all right. The temperature will probably hit 100 again in an hour, let’s get some fuel and roll.

There was a guy sitting on the concrete at the front of the store, back up against the building, black ink neck tattoo, feverish red eyes staring past me. To some he would be threatening, not me, I don’t think he could hardly stand up, much less make a threatening move. Dangerous dude, maybe, but later tonight and after another round of those party favors with the pointy ends. When a trooper car comes through the intersection, he hunches his shoulders and pulls his hat down a little lower, but then he’s lookin’ past me again.

Fuel in, cap locked, key back in the ignition, and I turn to see what the heck has his attention. Holy crap! There was a big Ford pickup at the outside pumps and a woman was scrubbing the bugs off the windshield with one of those squeegees. She wasn’t fat, nope, fat’s not the right word here, more like “Get that crane over here boys, we gotta get this thing back in the ocean ‘fore it dies”. She had on a short blue loose fitting housedress, man, I’ve got a truck tarp back at the shop that’s the same size and color, and when she went to scrub the windshield that dress got hiked right up past her butt. The doper dude was transfixed, but I had that queasy feelin’, might puke any second. Thanks a bunch for the early morning show Kansas, on the bike in a flash, and I was headed back to Oklahoma. Clear skies, and at 80mph, the air was already so hot it felt like riding into 747 exhaust.

Across the state line on 43 to intersect the TAT route again, transitioning back to gravel and getting a little rougher as I work south and then west. Past a few houses along fields of dried up crops, and I come up to an indicated TAT turn that will take me due west again down the section lines. Whoa, what kind of road is this? I had to check to make sure I was in the right place, yup, this is the road, and I had a bad feeling, a real bad feeling.

I started west and the road gradually filled with sand, now the alarm bells were clanging, and a little voice was yelling “Stop!”. Should have, but didn’t, and now the road was all sand.

Reminded me of riding a bike on the beach in loose windblown sand, but this is supposed to be a road, can’t go on like this forever, but I couldn’t see the end of it. I was moving along west, damn tough riding, and now I’m looking at some low hills, more like sand dunes, and my road goes right through them, great.

The sand in the left track was getting too deep to ride, let’s try the right track, looks better, and I turned the bike to get over there, ya know, through the sand that was even deeper. Never made it, at least not right side up, and the bike was down again, sand flying everywhere. Fittingly, the bar end catches my ribs in the same spot, now I’m in some serious pain, my reward for some bad judgment.

Back on my feet, do the inventory, ok besides the ribs. Take a photo, but I know I’ve got to jump that bike up right away if I’m ever going to get it, awkward as heck lift in all this sand. A brief struggle, lots of loud cussing for inspiration, and the bike is up. Tired and hurting, I hadn’t been able to get around to the left to get the sidestand down, and was just standing there balancing the bike when two guys rode up on quads.

Two local farmers who had seen me start down the road, pretty sure I would flop the bike in the sand, and had come out to help me pick it up…or take me to the hospital, as they had with a TAT rider last year who broke a leg “right where you’re standin”.

We talked about the TAT and the riders they had met, the crop situation “We’re trying to be farmers, but aren’t right now”, and the road ahead. I had to get up the sand hill ahead of me, down the other side, cross a sandy flat section, then do it all again on the next hill. From there, the road was supposed to be better for at least 10 miles. Thanks guys, but I hope we don’t meet again, in say, the next 15 seconds.

Starting in that deep sand, trying to get a little speed, but when I get to the grade on the hill the sand is churned even deeper, now I think I might get stuck, the wheels are buried. This is a tall bike but it’s so buried now that that I can easily paddle foot, and I ease my way up the hill and down the other side, one hill to go. Got the technique to deal with this crap now, and I get to the top of the second hill without much trouble, now I can see west and the road gets better. Down the grade, and I find the deepest sand yet. The bike starts going over, I have no footing in the sand to catch it, and the bike goes down again. Too pissed for photos this time, I picked the frickin bike right up, hit the starter, kicked it in gear, and continued west. Picking the bike up off the ground is not helping my ribs, guarantee you that much.

I remember my words a few days ago when I said “Man, these Oklahoma roads are much better than Arkansas”. Now I have only two words to say about these roads, and it goes like this, “New Mexico”, and I was flyin’ down the road again, heading that direction.

(to be continued…)
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Old 10-13-2011, 11:32 AM   #155
jdrocks OP
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Joined: Jul 2007
Oddometer: 4,476
I didn’t fly too far before I had to stop at one of those oil field tanks and straighten out the forks, two recent trips to the ground hadn’t done the alignment any good. Nope, didn’t get out the tools, just banged on it until everything was back straight. Bollards everywhere and perfect for doing that if you’re in a big damn hurry and have a long standing boonie riding rule that says “Never touch a wrench to a running bike if you’re solo, and riding way the heck out there”. I hadn’t seen any human beings lately, foot, horseback, or pickup. My bent brake lever would have to wait too.

I took stock for a minute. I was banged up but mostly ok, the bike was dinged but still blowing some of that testosterone tainted exhaust out the pipe, pure blue sky only found out here, a whiff of sage when I breathe…ahhh, magic in the air, and if I had a way to fix playing cards up against the spokes, I woulda done it.

The facilities you see from a distance look like a small futuristic village in the middle of this treeless terrain, there had to be hundreds of thousands of tilled acres surrounding it. It wouldn’t be here unless you could grow grain, just not this year.

Brunch at the feedlot, the trough was full, no need to ring a dinner bell.

Speaking of the dinner bell, the TAT route crossed 56 and I decided to ride down to Keyes to hopefully find fuel and something to eat. When I got down there, Keyes was withering just like the crops, storefronts closed, I’d seen it all before. I hadn’t seen a café, no quik mart, no fuel either, and I stopped to ask a woman just getting into her car where to find both. Food first, and she said “No place in town”, not even a snack?, “Not in Keyes”. Ok, how about fuel?, and all she said was “Over by the Coop”, and slammed the car door shut. Welcome to Keyes.

I found a card lock pump across the road from the Coop office, I had ridden by, didn’t see it. Fueled the bike, then rolled it into the shade, I needed to cool off for a minute. I was sipping on my drink, when an old guy drove up in a dusty Cadillac, wanted to know all about the bike, talk about the trip. When I said a woman told me there wasn’t a café in Keyes where I could get lunch, he said “Hell there ain’t, follow me”, and he drove back to Main street and parked in front of a hole-in-the-wall cafe maybe a hundred feet from where I was told there wasn’t any. If I hadn’t made a U turn in the street after talking with that woman, I might have found it myself. This is the first instance of deliberate misinformation I’d ever received on a trip like this, old age doesn’t take the bitch out of some women, maybe she had other problems too.

Into my café, patron saint of cheeseburgers following, I said hello and mentioned that my “Guide” brought me over here for lunch. One of the diners snorted, “Guide, my ass, he couldn’t guide himself out the front door, ya made a damn poor choice there son”, and my Cadillac friend turned on his heels and walked out, never said a word in response.

Got my order, all home cooked style food, and I talked with the owner about the TAT and the riders that stopped here. She said that a rider stopped for lunch, was in obvious pain, said he had run into a cow. I think I remember reading about that, the guy was hospitalized with four broken ribs and a punctured lung. When I told her about being misdirected by a woman only a few storefronts down the street, she just smiled, had nothing to add in reply. Man, there is a strange dynamic in this little town, I think I’ll ride over to New Mexico.

Looking west, there are some high clouds now, but at the very horizon it looks much darker. I haven’t seen a road all morning that I want to ride in the rain, better get moving. The route takes me down the section line roads, then twists and turns a bit before I end up in front of another sandy two track, oh boy.

I’m double checking my location when I see a pickup inching along the road towards me, cowboy hatted rancher at the wheel. Friendly guy, another person used to seeing TAT bikes come along. When I ask him if he thinks I can get through ok, he looks the bike over, hesitates for a second, and says “I think you can make it”. I didn’t like that hesitation one bit, not after this morning. He went on to say “Man working the field up ahead went a little wide with the plow, watch it through there”. Wide with the plow, hold that thought, and I pointed the rat west, I was going to get over the state line if I had to drag the damn bike there.

That’s the problem with these sections, they start out bad, but you optimistically think they’ll get better. Sorry, about 100% of the time they get worse. I wasn’t moving very fast, but making progress until I find that “a little wide” means that half the road has been plowed up, forcing me into a track with deeper sand, damn, ditch right next to it too.

It was a wobbly, gritty ride, but I finally got through, came around the corner and found myself in New Mexico next to the sign with requisite bullet holes. Good, seemed like getting across Oklahoma in the heat took about a year and a half, 10 dog years or so.

Now was decision time, I had only partial TAT tracks for New Mexico and Colorado, I was a full day behind schedule, and the sky was getting darker by the minute in the direction I needed to go. I had good route information for the CDR north from my intended start at Salida, no brainer, I’ll spend the rest of the day getting as close to Salida as possible, rain or no rain.

My idea was to ride New Mexico gravel as much as possible towards Trinidad following roads parallel to the TAT route while still making reasonable time, so that’s where I pointed the bike.

The state line here is much more that geographic, it’s also geologic and topographic, in that when you cross that line everything changes, almost instantly. Now you’re thinking, ok, I’m finally West.

I was to find out later that this mesa is called “Wedding Cake”, a local landmark, my poor photography can’t capture it’s postcard beauty.

Spectacular riding country, it wouldn’t take anything to convince me to return. Dark sky, now it spitting a little rain.

Some ranches fenced, others not, and for riding purposes you should consider it open range. Ya never know what you’ll find in the road, cattle, horses, could be buffalo…

I was making progress towards the Colorado border, little traffic, occasional light rain, stopping for photos when I could.

I don’t like getting rained on any more than the next guy, but a stormy sky over a rugged landscape makes for much more interesting photos.

I’d been on so many gravel roads that stretch out in front of the bike, a contrasting ribbon disappearing in the distance. Ask me some time if I’ve gotten tired of looking at them.

Into Colorado, that’s the third state in a matter of hours, I had the afterburners lit.

I’m going to try to beat the rain into Trinidad, but stop at Walt’s instead, looked too interesting to pass up, and there was a new Triumph triple parked in front.

I meet the Walt’s owner and the Triumph rider, an amiable conversation, and we find out that we have something in common, all having spent time in Duluth, Minnesota, an unlikely coincidence. Turns out that this bike is the second new Triumph he has owned, the first being totaled in the first two weeks of ownership. I’m headed to Trinidad, he’s headed to Santa Fe, and rides off, also dodging the rain. I buy a gallon of gas for $5, just to make sure, and the owner talks about his small ranches nearby, herding longhorns up from New Mexico by himself. Cool guy, stop to see him, and I’m back on the bike, riding to Trinidad.

I make the quick run to Trinidad, fuel up, look at the map trying to decide which way to go. After talking with a local utility guy, future DS rider, I decide to ride up 25 to Pueblo, then west on 50. Not scenic, but fast on good roads in the rain ‘cause you guessed it, it’s starting to rain pretty hard.

Typically fast western I system speeds, 80 cruise to Pueblo, most vehicles passing me even at that speed. I catch Pueblo at the tail end of rush hour, roads jammed, but I find 50 west in rain and failing light. Significant urban sprawl around Pueblo, and it’s not until after a fuel stop at Pueblo West, that traffic lessens. No chance for Salida, I’m aiming for CanonCity now, full dark and pouring rain.

All the lights were lit up on the rat, the LEDs pointing out in front, the beam so harsh and bright ya could hang clothes on it. I slow when I see solid brake lights ahead, a small car pulls off on the shoulder. When I go by, I see they have run into one of those PVC stock tanks, must have fallen off a truck. Glad it wasn’t me on two wheels.

The rain eases as I get to CanonCity, waste no time finding a place to stay. No chance at a good first impression when I walk up to the desk at these places, wet road grime covered gear. I swear the girl at the desk is mulling over whether she should have a room for me…or not. Got a room, used a cart to get the junk up the elevator, and called it quits. Quite a day when I think about it, CDR tomorrow.

(to be continued…)
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Old 10-13-2011, 05:03 PM   #156
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Joined: Dec 2005
Location: Evansville, Wisconsin
Oddometer: 1,644
I never get tired reading your ride reports JD. Thank you. I do have one question.

How and when do you find the time to do them? I ALWAYS find time to do my long rides I just never find the time to write them up?
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Old 10-13-2011, 07:24 PM   #157
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Gravel Runner
Joined: Jul 2007
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Originally Posted by siyeh View Post
I never get tired reading your ride reports JD. Thank you. I do have one question.

How and when do you find the time to do them? I ALWAYS find time to do my long rides I just never find the time to write them up?

you've written up your rides before, so you know what it's about.

i did find that i can't write from the road, at least not until i start shortening the days. i tried, but i'm moving faster than i can write.

i have trip notes that help, and basically just start writing it up. if you put it off, it never gets written. i print the report complete with photos on decent paper so i have something to read in the future.

people say you can't go anywhere on a Versys, i guess we both know better.

stay tuned, i turn the rat north on the CDR.

jdrocks screwed with this post 10-13-2011 at 08:15 PM
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Old 10-13-2011, 07:45 PM   #158
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Joined: Feb 2006
Location: Maryland
Oddometer: 498
Long rides tend to distill life to the basics. Every day, you need to find a route, find gas, find food, find a flop, make sure the bike and gear are up to snuff. And do it again the next day. Finding time to write about it, post pictures, find a connection and so forth ...

Glad you keep notes and write about it afterwards. I'm enjoying it.

I stopped in Wytheville to meet a buddy on the way to Barber. Had a little time to kill, so I visited Mark IV Honda and spied a Super Tenere all farkled out on the floor. Can't imagine trying to pick that beast out of the sand.
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Old 10-13-2011, 08:34 PM   #159
jdrocks OP
Gravel Runner
Joined: Jul 2007
Oddometer: 4,476
Originally Posted by Bicyclist View Post
Long rides tend to distill life to the basics. Every day, you need to find a route, find gas, find food, find a flop, make sure the bike and gear are up to snuff. And do it again the next day. Finding time to write about it, post pictures, find a connection and so forth ...

Glad you keep notes and write about it afterwards. I'm enjoying it.
thanks, you've obviously been out there yourself. i was diligent about keeping notes, reading the pages later i can see where i was nodding off during the effort, longhand writing all crazy.

i also looked at the Tenere two weeks ago. tempting for touring, but i can't see it on a trip like this. at this point on the trip i've been down three times, but realistically, given some of the roads, i could have been down twice as many times. with prep and gear for this trip, the Tenere would be almost 700#. two guys would have a time with that kind of weight, no chance alone.
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Old 10-13-2011, 09:10 PM   #160
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Awesome RR as always, filled with great little details to really give a feel for the areas you ride through and the people encountered.

The Kudzu picture was like something out of a Post Apocalyptic science fiction movie!
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Old 10-14-2011, 10:22 AM   #161
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Originally Posted by L.B.S. View Post
Awesome RR as always, filled with great little details to really give a feel for the areas you ride through and the people encountered.

The Kudzu picture was like something out of a Post Apocalyptic science fiction movie!

thanks. there were other more bizarre kudzu encounters but i couldn't get a photo.

shortly after that photo was taken, i saw a big sign that said "Kudzu Control Demonstration Project", good luck. you could brew up a concoction of agent orange and nuclear waste, spray it on kudzu, a week later it would be back.
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Old 10-15-2011, 09:05 AM   #162
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Day 9, 9/7: Canon City, CO to Silverthorne, CO-203 miles

I arrived in Canon City after dark, pitch black dark in a monsoon rain as a matter of fact, and hadn’t the slightest notion of what I’d see in the surrounding country, time to find out. I don’t know what the temperature was coming up here last night in the rain, but I about froze, just a short sleeve shirt and no liner in the jacket as I climbed up to my mile high goal, half a mile higher than where I started.

Load the bike, then back in for the free breakfast, free lunch too if you count all the food I can fit in my riding jacket pockets. Turn in my key card to the cute gal at the desk with a cheery “Thank you darlin’”…except before she can say anything the mousse haired Mr. Highpockets dude next to her gives me a fey little wave and says “Oh, you’re so very welcome”. She turned and gave him a look that said “Shut up ya freakin’ dummy, or I’ll strike a match and light your greasy hair on fire”, before calmly turning back to me, serene bright smile, “Hope you enjoyed your stay.” Good looking woman, I’m betting forty years from now she’ll still be a beauty.

It takes a long time to clear CanonCity, and then more time to get past all the touristy attractions along the river. A few people fly fishing, and a surprise to me, some guys panning for gold. You don’t have to find much gold these days to make a decent day out of it. I’m out of the traffic, and with Salida coming up quickly, I’m about to make another of those significant turns on this trip. After a steady trek west for a week, the turn at Salida redirects me almost 2500 miles north, ain’t like ridin’ over to Starbucks for a latte.

Salida is a bustling town, bigger and with more activity than I somehow thought there would be. I got fuel, beyond that I didn’t intend to stop, needed to see what the CDR was all about. I knew I had to get across the river that ran through town, but damned if I could find a convenient crossing to get over to 175 on the other side.

I ended up on a little bridge at the river, but it was fenced in on the other side, more like a park of some sort. There were two guys in cowboy attire leaning against the bridge railing, and it was only when I got close enough to ask directions that I noticed they were holding hands, cowboy love, or something. Asked anyway, and got directed through an opening in the fence, don’t think it was for motorized traffic, but I squeezed through, jumped the railroad tracks, and found 175. The CDR, excited as heck, might rain hard as heck too, and I’m riding north now. Never looked back, distant borders ahead, and with surefire adventure in between.

The paved road climbs from the start, scattered businesses and homes, some of the McMansion variety perched higher up. Must be a splendid big dollar view of the railroad yards and other sprawl below. An abrupt change to gravel, development behind me now, woohoo, this is what I came to ride, no small struggle to get out here. After all the traffic between Trinidad and Salida, I was eerily by myself again, not a single vehicle on this road today.

This road is the back way up to Hartsel, but it must not get used much for regular travel above Salida as the road gets narrower through wooded mountains before breaking out on a plateau, unexpected beauty is always the best surprise.

The road is now more like a ranch road, not much maintained, muddy in spots from the recent rain, and the sky was…well, it wasn’t lookin’ promising.

This was an area where you could burn up the camera taking photos, but also a road that wouldn’t take much rain to turn into a tough ride out, I had to balance the stop-n-go with the need to move forward.

I had two cameras with me, one waterproof, the better one not, and with an occasional drizzle now, I hesitated to get the better camera out. Have to make do with the one in my pocket.

Open range spectators out here too, disinterested as I rode by, but their presence completing this high pasture scenery.

I could see rain across the even higher elevations, but I was moving about as fast as I dared.

I’m looking intently at the water crossing ahead when I run into a big patch of muddy road, the rear of the bike slews around left, and I ride off the road into the ditch. Damn, it happened so fast I barely had time to get on the gas and power back up on the road, using the back of the ditch as banking, the only thing that saved me. Lack of concentration out here can put you in the hospital, a fact.

Water too deep and the bottom filled with boulders, couldn’t take a chance of riding through on this bike, maybe on something smaller. I wasn’t thrilled about walking the bike across either, I knew I would have to do it with the engine running. Took the bag and the spare off the bike, stuck the nose in and started across, bad footing on the boulder bottom, bike in gear and using the clutch to work the bike on through. If I drop it in the water, I’m done.

It was only minutes to the other side, seemed like an hour, then I went back to retrieve the gear.

I had mixed feelings about a request for a culvert right there, might make the road less fun.

Old log buildings along the way, every single one had a “No Trespassing” sign nailed to it, don’t know the reason, maybe souvenir hunters. This was most likely a line shack belonging to one of the big ranches located here.

The road is in better shape now, suggesting the traffic is from the Hartsel side, in contrast, the mountain weather looking worse ahead. Much worse.

(to be continued...)
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Old 10-16-2011, 12:39 PM   #163
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If you happen to use GPS mapping software to record a track between Salida and Hartsel, you’ll see all the side roads branching off the main route like an urban city, although these roads are not so evident once you’re out here. One or two of these huge ranches was subdivided about fifty years ago into lots, so the scattered cabins and trailers you see along the road here are sitting on those parcels. Another case of “see it before it gets paved”, still on the wild side for now.

I still haven’t passed another vehicle, maybe the locals don’t want to come up here with the rain on the way.

Not that the sky is all black, it’s just black in the direction I’m riding.

Some of the camps are older, maybe the first generation of new buildings after the subdivision, this one unused and falling down already.

There’s plenty to look at around here, but it’s hard not to notice what’s ahead. Spitting a little, but nothing major, I’d like to at least get to Hartsel before I get a fire hose turned on me.

The gravel turns to pavement just south of Hartsel, and I ride in, relatively dry. Had a terrific ride this morning, no heavy rain, now one of those big passes to cross, and I’m positive it’s raining up there.

With the weather threatening, I didn’t plan on spending any time in Hartsel either, but took a riding break, had a drink, and met the gal who owned the little store there. out from Raleigh, North Carolina years ago, she remarked “There’s no one here who’s forced to be here, people are in Hartsel because they want to be”. That’s one take on it, but from my strictly tourist point of view, it looks like people came here directly from Woodstock in a VW van intent on building a dome home or living in a teepee. So many of these places looked groovy back then, and being close to the border, there was always a reliable supply of peyote.

The owner knew about the East Coast hurricane and Virginia centered earthquake, still had relatives in the area. A couple from Aspen pulled up on their Harleys, full pirate regalia, coincidentally on their way to North Carolina to see a new granddaughter. They stopped here to wait out the weather and get a bite to eat, might stay dry riding southeast.

Not me, I’m riding due north, and against the advice of my store owner friend who said there was heavy rain and hail in my path, off I go. East for only a mile on my way to 15, the rain lets loose, damn, 15 is gravel and probably a muddy mess now. Find 15, now riding north towards Como, soupy washboard road, but it could be much worse. Some traffic, but most is southbound, either way there’s a spray of mud when they pass. I’m running along pretty fast given the conditions, and refuse to go faster, let ‘em pass.

The road is passing through some interesting country, but in this torrent of rain my concentration is solely on the road, bike splashing along through muddy collections of water everywhere in the road now, no photos possible. Near the top of 15 and the intersection with 285, I pass a pair of southbound through bikers, guy and gal, muddy and wet, steady rhythm on the pedals, but looking mighty grim. When I waved, they never even glanced my direction. If I was feeling sorry for myself, not anymore.

I jog across 285 and pick up 33 through the historic little town of Como, sorry can’t stop, although a double shot of bourbon at the old inn might taste good about now. Back on gravel, I’m going to climb 2500 feet and cross the Divide at Boreas Pass, 11,500 feet, could be snowing up there for all I know, can’t see the top through the clouds.

Lordy, this road is a mess too, rough and wet, except now I’m climbing. A lone SUV passes me on the way up and that’s it, no other vehicles on the south side of the pass. No hail, sleet, or snow, and the rain eases for a minute so I can get a few photos.

The second the camera is back in my jacket, the rain is coming down in buckets again. I remembered to get some antifog on the inside of the visor after last night’s ride in the rain, could sorta see where I was going. Across the top, now downhill all the way to Breckenridge, pass Bakers Tank and some decent views, but I’m not stopping.

Thankfully I’m not moving too fast when I come around a curve and find a rock slide covering most of the road, the reason I hadn’t seen any traffic. The SUV that was ahead had squeezed around the left side of the slide, must have been a little harrowing for them, the driver side tire tracks were halfway over the bank. Plenty of room for me and a few miles later I was on pavement, riding downhill through metropolitan Breckenridge. Future snow bunny pedaling her mountain bike downhill too, damn nice wheels ya got there.

I skied around all these places back in the day, Aspen and all the rest. Wood skies and cable bindings, except the last year I came west when I had metal skies with the newfangled quick release gizmos. Can’t remember exactly why I quit, most likely had something to do with my ’56 Chevy and horsepower.

I don’t think there’s budget anything in Breckenridge, a prosperous look to it, no recession here, no reason to stay. I needed fuel, scalding hot coffee, and a power wash place. I find fuel towards the north side of town, I don’t think they want a gas station in downtown Boutiqueville.

Fuel up, get directions to a car wash from a friendly local guy, and was going to ride the bike off to the side so I could get my coffee…except the bike is stone cold dead when I turn the key, nada. WTF? Now I have to walk the bike way off to the side and out of the way, this place was busy. Looked at all the topside stuff, nothing unusual, then unloaded the bike so I could get under the seat. Took about 5 seconds to find the loose ground at the negative battery terminal, somehow I hadn’t tightened it all the way during my bike prep, inexcusable.

The bike had run flawlessly all the way to the gas pumps in Breckenridge, then quit. Lucky, I could be standing around in the rain at the top of BoreasPass with a dead battery, waiting for someone to come along. Got the coffee, best cuppa I’ve had lately. Some kind of sustainable, peasant farmer friendly, Honduran eco-greeny, extra dark blend exclusive to Breckenridge, didn’t float a horse shoe, but close. Biggest cup they had, I had that jittery caffeine fix, took three tries to stab the key in the ignition.

The power wash place is farther north, but still the right direction, and I found it in the middle of all the road construction, they must be in a panic to get the work done before it snows. Washed off the bike, particular attention to getting all the crap out of the radiator, then turned the wand on my pants and boots, plenty of mud there too. Since I was under roof in the wash bay, I got the map out to look at a destination, wherever it was it would be dark when I got there. Silverthorne looked good, and it was on the CDR route. Best of all, pavement all the way, the rain had gotten worse.

A wet ride in heavy traffic, spray off the cars and trucks unbelievable. On into Silverthorne in a mishmash of highway signs, stopping at a budget looking place after cutting across four lanes of traffic in one swoop of acceleration, told ya before I love that cop motor. Pretended I didn’t hear all the road ragers pounding on the horns, had the ear plugs in.

The wall behind the reception desk had some framed western art, and I have a genuine appreciation for some of the work, but the little beer logo in the corner must mean that these are not museum grade original oils. The place wouldn’t be in my budget if they were.

Got my room and ordered a pizza, sipped some whiskey. Only 200 miles to show for a full day of riding, I couldn’t ride any faster on that gravel with the rain pouring down. Riding these stormy mountains, I had the sense that I was a long way from hearth and home.

(to be continued…)
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Old 10-16-2011, 03:04 PM   #164
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Still enjoying the report JD. Keep it up.

'13 VFR1200D, '13 XVS950, '09 F800GS, 07 CRF250X
Riding roads in Montana - Big Sky Country
Mountains, Moose, and Miles: a Montanan's Alcan Highway Story
Continental Divide and More: the "No Dust" Tour of WY and MT
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Old 10-16-2011, 05:11 PM   #165
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Thanks again JD. Lovin it!
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