|07-03-2015, 07:22 AM||#1|
Joined: Feb 2013
My "coming of age" trip - report
A few months ago, I decided to give retirement a try again, and this time, try to make it stick. To help in this, I decided to take a ride to see the west, which I had never before seen except for out the window of an airplane. My plan was to take a month and just wander to the most awesome places I could find without a schedule.
BOOM! I pulled the trigger on Social Security, learned that I would only get enough to make my Medicare insurance payment, added a thing or two to the FJR(decided to ride this one since I was going to be in the mountains....and it has a Russell Day Long saddle), and set sail on June 1 in the pouring rain.
First planned stop was the Black Hills and Mt. Rushmore. Along the way, I stopped at The Badlands and must say that I-90 is a fabulous road. Very light traffic on a table top smooth road at 90+ mph gets the job done. The new PR4's and Ride On tire balancer/sealer certainly works as advertised.
One of the kind gents at the SD welcome center advised me to go through the Black hills on the loop road counterclockwise so I could see the monument through the tunnels, which was great advice. Along the loop, I stopped to see the Crazy Horse project and was impressed in the effort.
After spending some time enjoying the area, it was time to move on. I decided to make my way to Billings, MT for the next stop, was REALLY tired of the slab, so I decided to take Rt. 212. Working my way up to 212, I passed through Sturgis, SD and stopped just so I could say I was there. Meh.....
So the trip to Billings provided one of the most unique experiences on the whole trip. The road is another beautifully surfaced 2 lane state roads with a 65mph limit where everyone runs at least 75. I was motoring along, keeping up with traffic when I blew by what appeared to me to be a farmer in a UTV towing a trailer with one of the large, rolled bales of hay on it. Since I only saw him for an instant, I thought I thought it rather strange that he has strobe lights on the rear along with a triangle sign indicating a slow moving vehicle.
A few miles down the road, there was an Indian rider pulled off the road with a saddle bag opened, so I stopped to be sure he was OK. He assured me that everything was cool, and he was only taking off a layer of outerwear. As we were chatting, the farmer's rig pulled up an stopped. As he pulled up, the Indian rider said “We have to visit with this one.” As we walked toward the rig, I was dumbfounded when I saw a John Deer UTV pulling a beautifully executed, homebuilt teardrop camper!
After a bit of conversation, this is what I learned:
- He is from Effingham, IL, trailered the rig to the SE corner of SD and was making his way to Glacier NP.
-He was planning to then go to the parks in Utah.
-There are only 5 states where a rig of this nature is legal on the roads, and he is planning to “vacation” in them.
-Don shared with us that his rig would run 44 mph, but he just runs it between 38 and 40mph.
The most impressive part of the whole encounter? He's 80 years old! I asked him when he planned to be home and he kind of shrugged and said “when I get there”.
This encounter made for a whole new perspective to my trip. I then decided that when I grow up, I want to be just like Don!
From Billings on to Red Lodge and across Beartooth Pass. What can I say? It is spectacular in every way. The show pack on the top of the mountain was about 8 feet deep and the temp was 42 degrees indicated on the FJR. The walls of snow/ice were completely vertical and only a few feet from the road surface, which made for a really interesting effect. Even though the road was great for really tearing through it, I took my time to enjoy the whole experience.
Yellowstone was the next stop, and I spent a couple of days in the area. I stayed in Cody, WY and enjoyed it very much. Cody is a fun little cowboy town where there is a rodeo every night and right next door is Old West Town, a museum of the old west created as an entire town comprised of 26 historic buildings. Rt 14/16 from the east entrance of the park to Cody as well as the Chief Joseph Highway(Rt 296) are beautifully scenic.
The most spectacular thing that I found in the park was the lake. I was shocked at the size of it, the mountains in the distance made for some great viewing.
I went out the south entrance and straight in to the Grand Tetons. Those mountains, with the river in the foreground, are fabulous! I used my left hand technique to take photos as I rode along(Thanks Ferret!)
I rode on through the Tetons and down through the Snake River Canyon, which is spectacular in itself, to Jackson, WY. This is another great little cowboy town with lots of character and a slant toward tourists. I had lunch at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar and dinner at a second story cafe that afforded me a great view of the town square. Yes, the arch is made of antlers.
There was a western region car show there for the weekend, so I decided to stay overnight to see the cars.
Off to the south of Utah. I had planned to take 2 days to get to Arches NP at Moab, and it was a good decision. I found Moab to be a place that I know I will visit again. I encountered multiple people who were happy to offer lots of information about things to do here. I planned 2 days here and am glad I did. While out looking around, I stumbled upon this:
My mind immediately said “I NEED to do this”. Next day, I was hooked up with a really cool Polaris RAZR to have some mountain fun. The rental place had 3 trucks and trailers full of fun things to play with. I will go back, and when I do, one of the Bultacos will be with me.
After I left Moab, I went to Canyonlands NP, found it to be more of a hikers paradise, so I moved on to Capitol Reef NP, which was a really nice place to hang around, but not all that different than what I had already seen.
While in Moab, I discovered a really welcoming and educational place called The Brewery. While there, talking with a Colorado River guide, I learned a couple of very excellent things. They were to ride out the Colorado River Canyon, if for no other reason, for the scenery, but to have lunch at the winery, and to ride to Bryce via the Grand Staircase-Escelante(Rt 12). Both very excellent suggestions. I took some photos of the winery where I had lunch, but there was no way I could do anything but concentrate and be astounded on Rt 12. There were multiple mountain passes where riding on the ridge was the order of the moment. 2 lane road, 2 foot berm, no guardrails, and a 500 foot drop on either side. How very scenic! I enjoyed the moment immensely with the images burned in my memory. Yes, I will go back.
On one of the back road trips around Moab, I ran across some really cool petroglyphs.
Coming in to Bryce Canyon, I got held up by road repairs, and got hammered by hail. No time to get the rain gear out. My knuckles took a beating, but I dried out quickly.
I stayed at Ruby's, a really cool place, albiet a bit pricey, and enjoyed my stay. I took the bus tour through the park, and Spike, our bus driver/guide had been a Pepsi driver for 20+ years, and knew the park area very well, with lots of great information. The free bus tour is well worth it.
Do you see Snoopy on his doghouse? This is a “whodoo”
On to Zion NP. What spectacular sights! The rock formations are quite different for what I had already seen and just huge! This park is a “must see” for anyone contemplating a trip near the area.
Next installment: Arizona and New Mexico
|07-03-2015, 07:25 AM||#2|
Joined: Feb 2013
Here we go......part deux. And thanks to Ferret for the help in managing the photos.
After being mesmerized by all the beauty of southern Utah, it was time to move on. My next stop was the Grand Canyon, and the closest point was the North Rim. I spent the night in Kanab, UT which is known to be a "movie town", where any number of western movies and TV series were filmed. They have the main street lined with information on all the actors and their work, and every year have a big festival where many of them return. The waitress at dinner told me that she was to be married by Grizzly Adams, who is an ordained minister, but he got a gig at the last minute and couldn't appear.
Off to the North Rim. The trees and flora were absolutely stupendous, especially from one particular bush that I came to learn is Cliff Rose. I went to the lodge and looked around, bought a cup of coffee and sat on the large veranda, drank my coffee and looked out over the canyon. After sitting there for about an hour I thought just for grins, I would go to the desk and find out what it would cost and how long the wait was for a room at the lodge. The wait is near forever but the lady said "we just had someone cancel a cabin for tonight and you could rent it". Out came the American Express like a middle aged woman at a Macy's sale.
The cabins sit on the rim of the canyon, have a porch on them, and a couple of rocking chairs. Morning coffee was heavenly.
The next day, I rode around to the South Rim and got caught in a monster of a hail storm. I must have been on the tail end of it because it looked like it had snowed except there was an inch or two of ice on the road and everywhere I could see. When I got to the junction to go around, there were a bunch of riders checking in to the motel there, fearful of going on.
As I was going around after the storm, I rode through a wonderfully fragrant pine forest and all of a sudden emerged on a mesa with a most spectacular view of about 20 miles. The next hour, I spent riding among some of the most beautiful sandstone cliffs I have ever seen.
I arrived at the South Rim to more busloads of tourists that I care to deal with that were pushing and shoving to get a photo with their "selfie sticks" so I didn't stay long. I liked the North Rim far better.
The best part of visiting the South Rim was the Conoco gas station at Rt 89 and the road to the park. The pumps had a sign on them that said "This pump has ONLY 100% gasoline". Mike bike loved me for stopping there, and I was off to Flagstaff for the night.
I left Flagstaff and stopped at Meteor Crater, The Petrified Forest, and The painted Desert. I will not be going back to either of them to visit, they were somewhat anticlimactic after what I had already seen. Also, I did stop for the one and only selfie "standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona".
On to Albuquerque. After a good night sleep, I visited the Petroglyph National Monument then rode the tram p to Sandia Peak. Both are "must do" things if you are in the area. The petroglyphs are carvings that the Indians did hundreds of years ago and often tell of some event or person.
The next day, I set out to ride the "Enchanted Circle"
There were all kinds of things to see along the way, and I stopped at Bandelier National Monument to see the Pueblo Indian dwellings in the cliffs.
The next stop for me around the circle was near Taos, which is a really artsy little town. The Rio Grande River Gorge. This thing is massive, and when you stand on the bridge and look over, the gorge seems to suck you right in.
I spent the night in a ski lodge in Red River. The next morning it was off to Comarron Canyon, which was a great road through 2 10k foot mountain passes and lots of beautiful scenery. Cimarron is also the home of the Philmont National Scout Ranch. My next stop was in Angelfire at the VietNam Memorial. It has quite a unique history of how it came to be and what has transpired there since. Like others, I lost friends and family during that time, and it was rather somber for me but worth the time to stop and reflect.
I then rode back through Santa Fe, where I stopped for the night and enjoyed the famed Santa Fe Opera.
The next morning, I got up and started home, picking as many of the lesser travelled roads as possible with the time I had left.
All said, it was 7800 miles, the FJR never missed a beat, the PR4's are great tires, and the Russell Day Long is the real deal.
Things I learned:
- The Oxford heated grips a great
- I wore full base layers under my gear. It really helps
- Pure gas makes for 3 to 5 mpg better
- Physical condition before a trip of this nature really helps
- I really dislike foreign tourists
- Everyone in the west rides an adventure bike....
- Except for the Europeans who fly over and rent Harleys
- I want a Polaris RAZR(for my next trip)
- Sometimes just going wherever it feels right, is the best way
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