Well it only took Danny about eight years to finally decide that Loretta was an irreplaceable gem. I guess he's sometimes slow to make up his mind on such important matters. But at least he comes to the right conclusions. So, on August 31st, 2001 Danny and Loretta got married. And would you know it, we were invited. I was to be one of the best men and although Loretta really wanted Kris for a Bridesmaid, Kris decided to volunteer her amazing talents as a photographer. So, you guessed it, we went.
- Chapter 1. Wedding Stuff
- Chapter 2. Into Colorful Colorado
- Chapter 3. Another 10,000 Foot Pass... Yawn
We started out on our ride on a late Thursday afternoon and headed for Vernal, Utah. We decided on a new route. The newly completed and freshly paved SR-35 from Woodland to Duchesne From there we have only one choice to get to Vernal. hwy 40. A very boring and unimpressive road that we usually go to great lengths to avoid. But for Danny and Loretta we'd ride it any day.
We finally arrived around 10pm and checked into our Hotel. Vernal is such a small town that we had yet to walk out of the lobby towards our room when Loretta jumped out of her car to greet us. Danny was only a few minutes away. A very small town indeed.
The next morning Danny and Loretta got married with a very pleasant reception that night. A good time was definitely had by all involved and it was great to see Danny make such public proclamations of his undying affection for Loretta. Which Kris and I proudly proclaim; We knew it all along! The most important motorcycle related part of this portion of the story is the fact that my whole family pitched in to buy Danny and Loretta a brand new set of Tourmaster Cortech saddlebags. Loretta, I think, was more excited than Danny because it meant that she would now have enough room to pack her hair dryer.
Saturday Morning. Danny and his new bride were busy doing er... other things. Like their honeymoons. But Kris and I were excited to head out for Colorado. We had only spent a little time in the Rocky Mountain state on our honeymoon. So we left pretty late in the afternoon and headed straight to Craig Colorado. A very straight and mostly flat road with very little to look at. As you can imagine we were going along at a pretty good clip. Fast enough to earn an average speed of 80 miles per hour!!
In Craig we got gas and aimed towards Steamboat Springs on the same hwy 40. Steamboat used to host the vintage motorcycle races until the weenies in their Condo's complained about the noise and the racers were never invited back. But Steamboat was still a cute town. From Steamboat we stayed on hwy 40 over Rabbit Ears pass.Here is the very ravishing Kris standing next to her husbands very attractive TLS. Rabbit Ears was one of the first, high altitude passes. But it certainly would not be the highest.
We continued on towards Grandby where we turned onto hwy 34 on our way to Rocky Mountain National Park. A park that we had never visited. Just outside of Grandby, the clouds got really dark and what started as drizzle quickly turned into a heavy rain with raindrops the size of large jellybeans plunking onto our faceshields and sounding like golf balls bouncing off our helmets. We stopped and quickly scrambled into our rain gear And here is the strangest part. A cow, for reasons that will forever remain a mystery to us, started to bellow a painful repetitive howl. It sounded so unusual that we had a hard time identifying the sound as a cow. Once we did, I think we were even more started. This was all the extra encouragement we needed to evacuate the area.
Fortunately for us, the rain only continued for a few miles before slackening and eventually quitting. However it was very cold and damp so we opted to stay in our FirstGear clothing. Once inside the National Park, the sun started to break through the clouds. We have also decided that evenings are the best time to visit a national park. It is our assumption that all the tourists have had their daily fun and are returning to their Winnebagos and gas grills to round out their day of hiking and sightseeing. Consequently, their is very little traffic on the roads. It also seems that we see more wildlife in the evening and in the morning because of the cooler temperatures.
We stopped at one of the first pullouts to see the sights as we headed over the pass. Chipmunks and birds were scrambling in large numbers through the area. I had some yogurt covered raisins from a previous gas stop and held one in the palm of my hand. First a bird came and gently plucked it from my hand. Next a chipmunk came and quickly snatched another raisin and scrambled off to jam it into its cheek. Cool stuff.
None of the pictures of critters eating from our hands turned out. So here is a glam shot of Kris and the bikes in a majestic sunset pose. Enjoy. On our way over the pass, we came across a mother and baby moose. The baby was standing in the center of the road while moma stood on the embankment watching. The noise of the bikes did nothing to frighten the moose. It just stared at me in wide eyed bewilderment, until he decided he had enough people watching and ran up the hill.
When we crossed above the timberline for the first time excitement overtook me and I had to stop to take a picture. It has been quite a few years since I had been above the timberline and I had forgotten how stark the change was. So, here is an image for you to enjoy. If you look closely you can see the road wind off to the left of the frame as it made is ascent over the mountain.
As we neared the summit we had to stop at the gift shop. Because that is what all responsible motorcyclists do. Shop. But I was most excited about the elevation sign on the side of the building.
We bribed a friendly tourist from Boston to snap the photo. If you notice the elevation sign, it says something like 11,796. that's pretty high up. Kris' carburated VTR was starting to stumble and cough at the lack of oxygen while the fuel injected TL was simply at a loss for power.
Inside the shop, carrying our helmets and garbed in our dapper matching ballistic nylon riding gear, an exacerbated tourist from New Jersey jumped when she saw us and immediately asked "Wow! Where have you guys been??" She caught me off guard and I was at a loss for words. Her husband piped in flatly from behind a rack of fleece vests. "They're on motorcycles." "ohhh," said the wife "they look like the have been on a mountain expedition." It was a cute moment and the New Jersey wife's face displayed her perplexion, her confusion and her amazement at our appearance. Of course they were wearing shorts and goose bumps while we were warm an cozy from the cold air.
After purchasing our obligatory T-shirts, jewelry and postcards we departed and continued on our way. Imagine my excitement when I saw the summit elevation sign.
I am holding my hand up in a 1 and a 2 to signify riding over 12,090 ft. The view was also quite spectacular from that high up and you could almost see the weather formations as they formed.
We traipsed down the mountain into Estes Park. I had been into this cute town, and location for filming of the movie "The Shining", earlier that year. So, I thought I knew my way around pretty good. The cute sleepy winter town that I had visited nine months previous, was now teaming with tourists and shoppers wandering up and down the small streets. We started immediately for a campground or hotel, whichever we found first. We were turned away from three different campground and saw no "Vacancy" lights in front of any Hotel. We pulled into a KOA and flashed our KOA Kamper Kard and the attendant found a very pleasant rock garden for us to set our tent. No matter for us. We had our Coleman air mattress and showers for the morning. All was good as we headed off to bed hoping that we would not exhibit symptoms of elevation sickness. (Click here for information about applying for a KOA Kamper Kard - apparently they will always find room for people carrying their card. It proved to be true this time.)
We took our time waking up the next morning and had a very pleasant KOA breakfast. This KOA Kampground offered a pancake breakfast for 3 dollars. And it was an all you can eat breakfast. Can't complain about that. After breakfast we headed back through the National Park and then South. The park was very crowded and packed with very slow moving recreation vehicles. It took us almost 2 hours to travel the 40 miles from one end of the park to the other. We stopped on the other end in Grand Lake. A cute little town, but one that was also very crowded. We didn't stay long before getting back on the road.
We continued south on hwy 40. We stopped in Winter Park for a quick snack and some chocolate milk for lunch. Just before we got to the interstate, the road crossed Berthoud pass at about 11,315 ft in elevation. The best part about the pass was that it was two lanes all the way up and it had a lot of 25mph switchbacks. The traffic was mostly light allowing us to whiz up the hill, carrying a lot of speed through the switchbacks.
It was on this road that I did something kind of bad. As I approached one of the switchbacks, two cars were riding side by side preventing me from getting around or past them. I flashed my lights at the car in the fast lane, who had enough room to pull in behind the vehicle in the slow lane, but they just continued. When the three of us got to the switchback, the vehicle in the slow lane drifted to the inside of the corner leaving almost his entire lane vacant. The automobile in the fast lane took the corner wide leaving a car and a half wide space between them. The temptation was too great and I blasted between them as we apexed the tight right turn. Even thought I knew I should not have done it and I could just imagine the drivers of both cars saying "Damn motorcycles - they're gonna' kill somebody doing that crap!" I found the entire experience very exhilarating.
We came back down the other side of Berthoud pass and jumped onto I-70 for about 17 miles before hopping off again. We took Loveland pass past Keystone Ski Area. The road was amazing. All uphill, banked wide corners that were wide enough to be fast, but tight enough to be challenging.
Here is a shot of me approaching a corner up Loveland Pass..
And here I am exiting the corner. It was a great road, and the scenery wasn't too bad either. Unfortunately Loveland Pass (hwy 6) is only about 20 miles long before we were forced to get back onto the I-70. We only stayed on the interstate for another 15 miles, however, until we exited again and headed south on Hwy 91 to Leadville. The road was fair. Clear of traffic, but more straight that twisty. The 25 miles to Leadville passed very quickly.
Our original plan was to go much farther south than we were, but time was running low and we were constantly getting held up behind slow moving traffic. So we decided to cut across through Aspen on hwy 82. When ever we see other sport bikes, we usually expect that we have chosen roads wisely. When we saw a group of about 5 sportbikes on 82, our theory was reinforced. 82 was a great road. Very tight and technical. However, the first sport bike we saw, an RC-51 gave us a perfect example of why not to chop the throttle in a corner. The RC-51 came through a corner, saw us and immediately chopped the throttle. From the angle I was at, the weight transfer and squirm in the chassis was very apparent. You could totally see how a highside would happen in the right conditions.
Anyway, the road was great fun, until we came around a corner and saw a lot of tow-trucks and slow moving traffic on the ledge above us where the road wandered up over Independence pass. As we got closer we could see what was going on. A red vehicle (what kind of vehicle we don't know because of the level of damage) had gone off the road and tumbled down the ledge.
After the accident, we hit the summit of Independence pass. This would be the highest elevation of the trip. And we were smart enough to get a picture of it for proof. Up on top, there was a couple from England that would not let us park at the sign until they got their picture. This is normally fine, but in this case, the couple took a good 10 minutes to take their picture while we waited just out of view. Once they moved away and we came up to the sign they came back! Very unusual. Normally people are very nice during these types of situations.
Kris's VTR was really struggling at these elevations. As we headed into Aspen, the road got more and more crowded. Pretty soon it felt like Rocky Mountain National Park again. Only this road was a steep downhill grade with lots of switchbacks. By the time we got into Aspen our wrists were really hurting from all the hard braking and steep downhill. But at least the scenery was great. And Aspen was a beautiful town. Its too bad that it is so expensive. We knew we wouldn't be able to afford anything in Aspen and every hotel was showing their "No Vacancy" sign. We really wanted a hotel and, more importantly, a hot tub after all the slow riding we had done. So we rode into Glenwood Springs where we found a dingy motel that had vacancy and a hot tub. After checking in we rode around looking for a restaurant, but everyplace had 1 to 2 hours waiting list. So we gave in and went to Wendy's and got some wine coolers before retiring for the evening.
We have found that hours in the saddle, not necessarily miles, seem to be the determining factor for fatigue. By six hours, we are tired and ready for a stop. It seems that five hours is the most comfortable, but anything over seven is more rewarding.
The next day all we had was to get back home. We left early and rode to Rifle on I-70 before stopping for breakfast. It was a cute little restaurant but the food and the service was pretty bad. In fact, the whole town seemed depressed. After eating we got gas and left Rifle thinking that Rifle is a town that wants to be shot. But we headed up hwy 13 until Rio Blanco where we turned west on a small county road. The little county road was bumpy but relatively twisty and enjoyable. At the end of the county road we turned onto hwy 64 towards Rangely and then into Dinosaur Colorado. We got gas at the same gas station that we did on our way out and chatted with a guy who was driving to Colorado Springs. He warned us of the high number of Utah Police officers on the road. We took the warning very seriously and headed back into Utah.
Not 10 miles into Utah people in cars started flashing their lights at us warning us of police. We slowed and were not surprised when we saw a Highway Patrol officer who had just pulled over a car that was just in front of us until we slowed to the 65 mph speed limit. Thanks guys for warning us.
We went back through Vernal on hwy 40 and back to Duchesne where we turned back onto the newly paved hwy 35. The road was mostly empty and we were able to carry a lot of speed and really enjoy the road. From 35 we headed to Park City then down I-80 into Salt Lake City to end our Labor Day vacation.
Totals for the Trip:
- 1148.40 Miles
- 57.16 mph Average Speed
- 120 mph Top Speed
- 20 hours, 6 minutes and 48 seconds of riding
A pretty good Labor day to say the least. Lots of great country and lots of elevation. But next time we would like to see more of southwestern Colorado.
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Page Updated November 5, 2012 15:01