Tag Archives: Motorcycle Touring

The Long Way to Durango: Sleeping on the Side of the Road

Durango to HanksvilleAfter the rain the night before, when we left the hotel rooms at 7:00 am it was blue skies. We wanted to make a couple of stops along the way—one at Mesa Verde and Kathy wanted to tick Four Corners off her bucket list (it’s the only place in the country where the four corners of any state meet). In this case Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. So after a sweet roll at the hotel, we hit the road. The ride between Durango and Cortez is a beautiful ride.

We had been talking about stopping at Mesa Verde National Park for a couple of days, so decided we could afford the short detour despite  the 350 or so miles we’d be in the saddle (our original destination was Torrey—more on that later). After a few minutes in the visitor’s center, we entered the park. One thing I love about the National Parks is how they seem compelled to follow the contours of the landscape when they build their roads. Riding inside this particular park was very fun.

Looking down on the highway to CortezWinding turns had the bikes leaning into the curves as we climbed to the top of the mesa. We didn’t realize how far we’d climbed until we stopped at a lookout and looked down at the highway to Cortez below us. There wasn’t much traffic to get in the way and all of us commented that the ride in was one of the things we liked the best about Mesa Verde.

It’s pretty hard to believe that the structures we were looking at were around 800 years old. These people were masons—they knew what they were doing. I took several photos of the sites we stopped at and hiked around. The guide told us that there were about 10,000 people living in the Mesa Verde area of Colorado at the height of the community. And, the population of southwest Colorado was probably greater then than it is today.

Mesa Verde 3The mesa above this area would have been covered in cornfields rather than the pine and juniper that thrives there today. This was an agricultural community with a thriving population. I wonder if there will be remnants of our homes 800 years from now?

After descending to the valley, we had lunch in Cortez and prepared for the increase in temperatures as we headed south to Four Corners and then northwest on highway 95 to Torrey, UT.

I filled my hydration vest just outside of Blanding and was glad I did as the temperature climbed over 90 and hit 100 (according to the folks in Hanksville). 95 is a beautiful highway we practically had to ourselves. After crossing the bridge over the Colorado River, we stopped to stretch our legs. I took a photo of Phil’s and my bike, before we mounted up for the next couple hours of riding. Unfortunately, my battery had given up the ghost.

Highway 95We tried a portable charger we had with us, but it didn’t have enough juice to get us started. After an hour or so of trying everything we could think of, we decided to split up and try to find a tow. I would remain along the side of the road with my bike while Phil and Kathy rode into Hanksville to find someone who could tow me into town where we could try to locate a battery and continue on our way.

Stocked up with some water I settled in for what I thought would be a couple hours wait. When rescue hadn’t come at 10:30, I figured I would be stuck here until morning and fell asleep looking at the beautiful stars. Sometime between Midnight and 1:00 am, I was startled awake by the bank of spotlights on the tow truck Phil had sent to rescue me. If you’re ever in a bind and in the area, Jeff and Carolyn Kiteley of Kitely’s Place Towing are awesome.

“You don’t look very stressed out,” said Carolyn as she climbed out of the truck. “Most people out here in the middle of the night are pretty stressed by the time we get here.”

I figured there was nothing I could do about the situation and was pretty tired, so I just did what came naturally.

Let me just say, standing on the angled flatbed of a tow truck holding onto the front brake as the driver lifts you up in the air in the dark is a little unsettling—maybe even trippy. Fortunately Jeff knew what he was doing and my bike was strapped down and headed for Hanksville.

I found out what the delay had been on the ride back. Kathy had somehow fried her transmission and couldn’t get over 40 mph on the way into town. The arrow on the map above is about where we stopped. And, once they got to Hanksville the phones were down, so Phil had to go in search of Jeff’s home at 11:00 pm and rouse him from bed to go out into the desert night to find me.

Needless to say, we didn’t make our hotel reservation in Torrey and there wasn’t a room available in Hanksville. In the wee hours of the morning when I arrived, we were bivouacked on some picnic tables next to the gas station/convenience store and because of the state of Kathy’s trike, there was no way we would be able to continue on. Phil had called Kelly and he would meet us in the morning to tow our bikes home.

If there’s anything I’ve learned about motorcycle touring, it’s to expect the unexpected. (And, you should never ignore that little voice in the back of your head that suggests it’s time to gas up, check the oil, or put a new battery in your bike.)  Most of the time everything is fine. The equipment performs as it’s supposed to and things go off without a hiccup. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case and a good attitude and keeping calm is the only way to deal with things like rain, mechanical failure, sleeping on the side of the road, or maybe even on an old picnic table.

We made it home safe and sound; and Kathy’s bike is in the shop as we speak. My bike is in the garage waiting for her new battery. Kelly came through for us like the great friend he is. And, since I was the only one who was able to get a few “Zs” on the picnic tables, I got to ride Phil’s Ultra Classic home.


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The Long Way to Durango: Avon to Durango

Avon to DurangoIt was 40 degrees when I hit the road at 8:00 am headed for points west. Phil and Kathy had a hard time finding a room in either Price or Green River and wound up riding all the way to Grand Junction in the middle of the night. I happened to be awake at 2:30 when they pinged me to let me know where they were. We were going to meet up at some point during the day, we just needed to figure out where. Because I had further to go, we decided I would get an early start and they would sleep in an hour or so longer.

I’m not usually a big fan of pounding out miles on the Interstate, but I-70 through Colorado is one of the most scenic stretches of Interstate I’ve ever been on. Glenwood Canyon in particular was incredible looking at the Colorado River boil and churn over rapids that were unbelievable. When I stopped in Rifle at the Visitor’s Center, I mentioned how they picked a great place to put the Interstate and the hostess said, “That was the only place they could.” Driving down I-15 through Utah is like watching beige paint dry compared to I-70.

Looking at the map, it looked like the junction with Highway 65 through the Grand Mesa area was a great road (at least according to the map) and a better place to meet than Montrose. It was only about 30 or so minutes from Grand Junction, so we decided to see if my Butler Map was right. It was.

Without a doubt, it was one of the funnest sections of highway I’ve ever been on. It felt like a road custom-made for a motorcycle as we climbed. And to think it was a last-minute addition to the ride blows my mind. This section of highway is definitely worth doing again. My Butler map listed several sections of this ride as the best Colorado has to offer and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. It’s called the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway and I highly recommend the stretch from the junction with I-70 to Cederedge.

The road to SilvertonI was running low on gas so we stopped in Delta to gas up and went a little further to Montrose to stop for lunch. We decided to continue south on 550 instead of taking 62 and 145 toward Cortez like we did a couple of Memorial Day Weekends ago. The road over Red Mountain Pass is called the “Million Dollar Highway.” Expect a lot of slow-speed hairpin turns and some very exposed shoulders. It. Was. A. Blast.

I was very glad for the low-end torque on my Road King climbing through the hairpins. While there was a fair amount of traffic on the road, it wasn’t as bad as I had expected. We stopped a time or two to take in the views. We dropped into Silverton far too early The Brown Bear in Silvertonfor me. After the obligatory stop at the “Highest Harley Store in the World” we went next door and had a very tasty chocolate milkshake at the Brown Bear Restaurant.

I couldn’t help but think of Park City as we walked down Main Street in Silverton. However, unlike Park City, it looked like this town had almost been forgotten. The hostess in Rifle told me there was a day when the only way to get to Silverton was either by walking, riding a horse, or by train. I’m glad there’s a road.

Ouray, COI love mountain passes and this one certainly didn’t dissapoint. The little towns that dotted the highway definitely had their roots in mining and are now catering to folks like us who are passing though. Although we didn’t stop, Ouray looked like a very charming town. I took a photo looking back down the canyon at it when we stopped for Phil and Kathy to layer up—as we climbed the temperature started to drop.

Heading down into Durango the road was closed for an hour or so because of an accident on the highway, so we didn’t beat the rain that had been predicted for late afternoon. About 25 miles out of Durango it started to rain and followed us all the way into town. It’s been a couple hours since we settled in and it’s still coming down.

It’s hard not to appreciate what a beautiful part of the world we live in. Today’s ride was one of the most enjoyable days in the saddle I’ve ever spent. This is one of those trips worth doing again.

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The Long Way to Durango: Sandy to Avon via Steamboat

Sandy, UT to Avon, COWhat a great day to be in the saddle. Blue skies and fluffy white clouds followed me all the way to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I pretty much had the road to myself if it weren’t for the biplanes from World War I that followed me through Heber. There must have been an air show at the Heber Airport because a World War II bomber was flying low over the Jordanelle Reservoir too.

I made great time to my lunch spot in Vernal as I pulled in about noon. I remember making this drive on a regular basis to my grandparent’s farm in Ft. Duchesne. I enjoyed the farm as a kid, but didn’t really appreciate how beautiful the ride is climbing Daniels Canyon, past Strawberry Reservoir, and through the small towns that dot Highway 40. I gassed up in Roosevelt, named for our rough ride’n 26th President Theodore. He must have been pretty popular in 1906 when the town was established. Which should be no surprise, he was pretty popular all over the country in those days.

I was flying solo today. Kelly had some bike problems he couldn’t get fixed last night and a couple of other guys bailed earlier in the week. When Kelly called me early this morning I decided to push forward anyway. I’m going to meet up with Phil and Kathy in Montrose tomorrow morning. It’s about 190 miles or so from here, so I should be able to connect with them by sometime mid-morning. We’ll end the day in Durango.

I took 131 just out of Steamboat heading south. Without a doubt it was the highlight of today’s ride. A beautiful mountain pass that is well worth doing again. Amazingly, the predicted afternoon thundershowers were ahead of me and other than a few raindrops a time or two I was dry all the way to Avon. I could tell by the wet roads I had just missed it by a few minutes.

I was talking with another friend of mine who rides and both of us mentioned how the smell of wet asphalt, sage, and pine after a summer shower is one of the great pleasures of the road. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a big fan of riding in the rain—but if you spend any time on the road you’re gonna get wet once in a while. That said, I do like how everything smells after a rain.

Route JacketI mentioned before that I’ve been looking for a new mid-weight/light-weight textile jacket for riding this time of year. I think I’ve found the one I like. It’s one of the less expensive jackets Harley makes and it performed well on the ride today. It was warm enough in the morning when the temperature was cooler; and with the vents open was great as the mercury started to rise through mid-day.

The jacket looks sharp and fits well, but sometimes it’s the little things that really make a difference. In this case, it’s the zippers. I have three or four jackets, but this is the only one I don’t have to coax the zippers while on the bike. Any time I needed to get into a pocket or unzip (or zip) the vents to regulate my temperature, the zippers flawlessly either zipped or unzipped. Usually, I have to sit up, pull the bottom of my pocket as I zip it back up, but these zippers just zipped. One of the simple pleasures of something doing what it was designed to do. So, in addition to looking sharp, the zippers work.

It doesn’t come with any armor, but there are armor pockets on the elbows and shoulders which I filled with the appropriate protection. Since Kelly’s accident, I somehow feel more comfortable knowing I have some extra protection. I don’t think I’ve seen this particular jacket on the road, which is appealing and I personally like the orange accent.

It feels good to be on the road again. I really enjoy these tours and the ride from here to Durango should be beautiful tomorrow.

I’ve got some great video of the section of 131 that I’ll publish later (once I’ve had time to edit it).

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Jackson, Wyoming to Home

Screen Shot 2013-09-01 at 2.14.01 PMAll good things must come to an end, and our adventure in Wyoming and Montana did too. We saw some incredible country—some of the best riding I’ve ever done, but I pointed my bike south as Steve pointed north for the journey home.

I stopped in Afton for lunch at the Salt Creek Grill for lunch and had a tasty cheeseburger before heading heading to Montpelier and and the rest of the way home. Star Valley has to be one of the most beautiful places in Wyoming. At Ovid, instead of heading down the west side of Bear Lake and down Logan Canyon, I opted for Strawberry Pass into Preston and south to Logan.

I’ve ridden this part of the ride two or three times this year and still enjoy the pass, the ride through Logan, and over Sardine Canyon.

I don’t think I’d been home an hour or two before I started thinking about the next ride.


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Jackson, Wyo to Cooke City, Montana

Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 10.41.04 PMIt couldn’t have been a more beautiful day for a ride. It’s been a while since I was out here last, but Grand Teton National park was beautiful. We’ll be going through again tomorrow on our way back to Jackson—which is good. There were a couple of things we wanted to see but missed.

Looking at the glacier on Grand Teton, you’d be hard pressed to tell me that global warming doesn’t exist. At the rate it’s going, I’d be surprised if there was any glacier left ten years from now.

There wasn’t much traffic though the park and through Yellowstone. I’ve never been through the north-east corner of the park and it was beautiful. After stopping for lunch at Old Faithful, we pointed the bikes north and headed for Montana. We went through 20-30 minutes of rain (and even saw a little bit of hail), but we made it to Old Faithful warm and dry.

IMG_2964_1We made friends with the busboy, a retired 78-year old school principle from Georgia. Bill figured he’d never been west of the Appalachian Mountains so decided to work at Yellowstone and see the west. It sounded like he was having a good time seeing things he’d never seen before. Definitely pretty spry for someone pushing 80.

IMG_2962_1Heading out of the park, we shared the road for a few minutes with the biggest bull bison I’d ever seen. He was just walking down the road like he didn’t have a care in the world. In fact, we saw a lot of bison—they are thriving in the park.

Late in the day, we came across a small black bear moseying along the side of the road. I could have reached out and touched the little guy.

IMG_2959_1I was amazed at how the park is recovering since the fire. Last time I was here, grass had sprung up to replace the burnt trees, today it’s millions of pine trees that are diminutive when compared to the remnants of the forest that was, but are probably 10-12 foot tall. It was beautiful to see the forest reclaim what was lost.

The sun was setting as we cruised out of the park approaching the park entrance through the meadows and mountain valleys of this end of the park. It’s very different from the west side, but there were a lot more animals and very beautiful. The last hour or so we were in the dark as we rolled into Cooke City and decided to spend the night. We found a quite hotel to get some sleep and prepare for tomorrow’s ride over Bear Tooth Pass. I’m in undiscovered country for me now, which is always fun.

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Sandy, UT to Jackson, Wyo

Screen Shot 2013-08-28 at 11.10.03 PMI really love road trips.

I was worried that I might be spending the day in the rain, but the weatherman was wrong—it was a gorgeous day in the saddle. The ride over Monte Cristo out of Huntsville is always a fun ride, but it felt like I had the road all to myself today, making it that much better. I think the really hot days are behind us and could feel a little bit of fall in the air as I crested the pass and started my descent into Woodruff, UT.

The last time I was through here the farmers were cutting hay, this time the bales were stacked in the barn ready ready for winter. I couldn’t help but remember the time I spent on my grandparents farm as a child climbing on the stacked hay bales—until Grandma found out (I didn’t realize how dangerous that probably was).

I must have just missed the thundershower at Sage Creek Junction, but the road was wet and I could really smell the sage as I headed for Bear Lake. I’d rather not ride in the rain, but I do enjoy the heightened sense of color and smell immediately after.

Riding around the lake, traffic was light and there weren’t many people playing on the water. Of course it was the middle of the week and the temperature was cool. I stopped in Garden City for lunch and enjoyed the breeze. I like riding this time of year and particularly enjoy this little stretch along the old Oregon Trail.

I always forget how beautiful Star Valley Wyoming really is as I approach Afton. It’s been so long since I’ve been through this part of Wyoming, I was surprised to see how much the area has grown. Nevertheless, it was still a delightful ride through one of the most beautiful places in Wyoming. I must admit, I was half tempted a couple of times to pull over and find a place to build a cabin.

Leaving Alpine and heading up the canyon toward Jackson along the Snake River was a great way to end the day. There were still a few kayakers at the Lunch Counter as I passed the rapids and thought about the last time I’d been there in a whitewater raft.

Pulling into the Jackson Hole Lodge, I was surprised at what a nice place Steve found for us to stay. He hadn’t made it to Jackson yet, so I had to do some smooth talking to get in our room (Steve had made the reservation).

Looking forward to our ride tomorrow. We’ll be going through the park and over Bear Tooth Pass into Montana. It’s been called the most beautiful road in American—we’ll find out for ourselves tomorrow. My plan is to take some video of the ride.

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The Bear Lake Loop

Screen Shot 2013-08-11 at 1.38.00 PMCresting the pass over Monte Cristo from Huntsville to Woodruff, I think I smelt the rain showers to the south east before I could see them in the distance.  Other than a slight sprinkle, I didn’t see any rain, but I could tell the rain had beat me to Woodruff. It feels like the seasons are getting ready to change.

The smell of freshly cut hay on the road between Woodruff and Randolf reminded me of time I spent during the summers as a kid on my Grandparents farm in the Unita Basin. I would sit on the fender of his old tractor as he cut the hay. It’s amazing how something like a smell can queue up so many memories.

Dropping into Bear Lake Valley the temperature warmed and the bustle of people on the lake having fun looked inviting, but I pushed on up across the Idaho border, past the lake, and to the crossroads—right to Jackson Hole or left to home. A beautiful ride through rural Idaho countryside turns into a very fun canyon ride as you drop in elevation.

Riding into Preston the same fields that were green and lush earlier this year are now golden as the sun beats down on my face. I’m definitely not in the mountains anymore. The ride over Soldier Summit was beautiful looking at the hills of fields bracing for the end of summer and what will shortly come. I always forget what a pretty section of highway the climb out of Logan can be.

It looks like most of the road construction through Ogden and Clearfield is finished, making for an uneventful ride home. I’m looking forward to my upcoming ride with my friend Steve around Yellowstone and the Bear Tooth Pass later this month. If this ride is any indication, it will be a pretty couple of days.

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