Fall Foliage 2014 in the Rockies

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My daughter tells me I have fallen down in my responsibilities to update the blog. Truth is, I’d rather not post blah, blah, blah than bore you all. With that said, I think today’s post will make up for my lack of posting.

Fall is only a day or two away, but in the Rockies, fall has arrived. Based upon a Facebook post we saw earlier in the week from Breckenridge, my bride and I took a 350 mile or so adventure to see if the picture was true or not.

I wanted to get a good sampling of colors if possible, as well as see what elevation fall was or had set in. We rode south on Hwy 115 to Canon City where we picked up Hwy 50 west. I knew we wouldn’t see what we were after on this course, but if we wanted to start from a lower elevation, this is the way we needed to go.

The weather wasn’t in our favor, but we did get lucky. The weatherman said a cold front was entering the state, which would bring cooler temperatures and rain throughout the weekend and into the first part of the week. Mentally, we had prepared ourselves for whatever we might encounter.

Once we got past Canon City, we rode the winding road into and through a continuous gorge with a river running to our right. We were pretty surprised to see the water levels at such a high height, but we had received a lot of rain over the course of the summer. When we came out of the gorge and into more open area, we knew we were close to Salida where we would be turning to the north.

Just past Salida, we turned onto Hwy 285. Up to this point, we had not seen a change in colors within our immediate elevation, but we had seen colors up on the mountains to the west. This would change within the next 20 miles. Hwy 285 and Hwy 24 merge about 20 miles north of the turn we made. Where they merge, Hwy 285 goes off to the east (285 and 24 are on in the same in that direction) and Hwy 24 leads to the north. It was in this general area that we began to notice, ever so slightly, fall like colors, but we still had not found what we were looking for.

5 miles or so up the road from where the two Hwys merge is Buena Vista. I hadn’t ever considered it before, but I think Buena Vista might be a marker for “the” spot to start your fall color search because the elevation starts to climb there but you don’t notice it. Plus, the turn off to Cottonwood Pass is in the center of town. We continued north.

Thus far, I have failed to mention the darkening skies not only to south and west of us, but also to the north and east. Not looking good for the home team. Venturing north we were in the rolling hills and knew we were climbing in elevation. Leadville was the next town we would encounter, but before we did, colors began to show themselves. Ever see that painting show that use to come on TV? The guy’s name was Bob something. He had big puffy hair. Anyway, he had a way of making colors explode off the canvas. That’s the way the colors were for us.

For the sake of establishing an elevation, I think 8500 feet is the marker. I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express or anything, it’s just my guesstimation based upon where we were. When we passed the turnoff to Hwy 82, the way to Independence Pass, we were in the thick of clumps of color.
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We made it to Leadville, and so far we had been lucky with the weather, but we began to think wet and cold were unavoidable.
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Leaving Leadville, we knew the rest of the way would be high on the viewership scale. It’s an amazing ride during normal times, and since the colors were everywhere, we knew we wouldn’t be disappointed.
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A little up the road was a small town called Redcliff. If you look to the left of the bridge, there’s a road that leads down into the valley on the other side where you cannot see. The road you see at the bottom of the picture also goes to Redcliff.
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Not more than two miles up the road is Gilman, the abandoned mining town I wrote about earlier in the year, shut down by the EPA back in 1984. It may be polluted with toxic pollutants, but it provides a nice backdrop for color.
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We stayed the night in Vail, which is predominately on the south side of I-70. It was sparsely populated due to the off season between summer and ski season.
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By the way, we made it to Vail without encountering a drop of rain. And that mountain behind us with the golden hue, those are all aspen trees that have already turned.

Up the next morning, it was cloudy and cool. Initial thoughts, our luck had run out. We jumped on I-70 and headed east for Silverthorne and exited to catch Hwy 9. More amazing colors and scenes to be seen, but no pictures due to wanting to evade the weather (cold and mist). We rode Hwy 9 south to and through Breckenridge. Although slow, I don’t think Breckenridge ever looks completely dead.

From Breckenridge, we climbed, and by climbed, I mean a good 2,500 feet or more. The air was damp and misty, and the temperature in the 30s. Unfortunately, there isn’t a heater on the Hog…yet. Cresting the summit (11,539 feet), we passed Hoosier Pass. Today was not the day to stop for a photo, a belief shared by many since no one was there when we made our way by. Instead, we continued on to Fairplay where we got a cup of coffee.

From Fairplay, we were about 45 minutes from home, or at least Colorado Springs. We made a few more stops for photos, and it was a good thing. From Woodland Park on east, the colors have yet to turn, but they’re close, really close.

I’m happy to say that we did not encounter rain, which is incredibly amazing due to all of the clouds we encountered. A little mist was all we got, and for this I am thankful. We experienced temperatures from 90 degrees in Canon City to something in the 30s by Hoosier Pass. The fall colors were amazing, and I wish my photos did them some justice.

If you’re in Colorado and haven’t been out to see the colors, your time is running out. The high country is easily 85% turned. From those we spoke to in Vail, everything is 2-3 weeks ahead of schedule. The Farmers Almanac says we are in for a cold and snowy winter. Judging by the colors, it could be early.

Hopefully this isn’t the last ride of the year.

Winter is coming….

Until next time, cheers.

PS. You can click on the photos to enlarge.

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Visiting Friends and Peter Pan

After a long week of work, it was great to be back on the Hog. We had no course in particular to take on Saturday, we just rode. Actually, we have had a few people ask if we had taken CO 105 to Palmer Lake, so why not.

We began the ride by visiting our new favorite donut shop, Amy’s. I think Amy has the best donuts anywhere. And it makes the ride so much better starting out with the sugar rush. Crank up the music and hit the road.

Once on the road, we took a city street through the older part of town north. Pretty nice seeing old houses that have been kept up over time, despite one or two being used by fraternities. Weber was the street name, which is one block over from Nevada. Nevada, which was to our west, is the home of Colorado College. Colorado College is famous for two things that I am aware of, hockey and partying.

Once we reached the north end of town, we caught Hwy 83 north out of town. Great Hwy to take to Denver when you want to avoid the interstate. Per the sign, we were about 20 miles outside of Colorado Springs when we came to CO 105. My first thought was, here we go, since all the people that had told us about the ride spoke highly about it.

Winding through the woods, we passed a lot of beautiful homes. Shaded all the way through, it made the ride cool. CO 105 crosses over Interstate 25, so we complied. At this point, we were in Monument, which is a small town (north of Colorado Springs) by the looks of it, but is actually much larger and spread across rolling hills.

Continuing along CO 105, we came into the small city proper of Palmer Lake. Another small looking town with a couple of eateries and mom and pop shops, but we didn’t stop. We pressed on. CO 105 is a nice winding road that takes you through the hills east of the mountains. There were a few twists and turns, but nothing challenging. There were lots of farms and ranches. One ranch that we passed was home to exotic animals, or so the sign said. Not sure about animals, but we did see a camel. We decided to turn around and return the way we came. My thoughts, yes, it was a nice ride but not what everyone had told us. Maybe they should follow our lead and take some of our routes.

Back on Hwy 83, we paid a visit to the Black Forest Animal Sanctuary. The Black Forest Animal Sanctuary is a great place where I have volunteered and have friends that volunteer much of their current day lives. They rescue animals in need, take care of animals, and adopt animals out amongst other things. Here’s a few of our friends.

First, my favorite, Homer.
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No farm can be complete without a pig name Wilbur. Black Forest Animal Sanctuary has one pig, Wilbur.
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And then there’s Yeti.
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There are so many other names and faces. Here’s a few faces.
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It was time to head back to town, so we said farewell. I love going to Black Forest Animal Sanctuary.

Once we got back into town, it was time for a snack.
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Not one of our more memorable rides, but we rode, which is important…to us. 103 miles together with my bride, doing what we love the most, spending time together. Tomorrow we’re heading to Never, Never Land.

Up and at’em early Sunday morning, we headed to Johnstown, which is a stone’s throw south of Loveland. On the way there, the allergy monster attacked, making my ride sneezy and snotty. Not to worry, it was just an inconvenience, nothing to make for a bad ride.

We arrived in Johnstown with plenty of time to spare, so we went to Johnson’s Corner, a truck stop known for its cinnamon rolls. The cinnamon rolls are the size of plates, big plates. The line was long for people waiting to get them. Just outside, we saw a truck that seemed out of place for the area.
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And then it was time, time for the Candlelight Dinner Theater. We were there to see Peter Pan. It was the last performance on the final day. I don’t think they planned for the attendance that they had. It was a full house. They were short on staff, which put them behind. The show should have started at 1:30, instead starting at around 2:45. Intermission was at 4:00, so we left, not because we weren’t enjoying the show, but because of the three hour ride home. Attending a matinee was an experiment, so now we know we prefer the evening show. By the way, we know how it ends, so leaving early didn’t ruin it for us.

We made it home with sunlight to spare, but we didn’t escape a small rain shower. Smooth riding all the way home until we were actually back in Colorado Springs. One big cloud and we drove under it.

Next weekend is a three day weekend, and we are heading for New Mexico. Please stand by.

Until next time, cheers.

Back in the Saddle

You have to hate it when real life gets in the way of pleasurable things like riding the Hog. Such is life. Good news though, my bride and I ventured out over weekend. But first, here’s a quick picture of the not so wonder dog Bart and my daughter.
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Two miles into our ride, we eclipsed 5,000 miles. Not bad for less than 5 month’s ownership. I knew we’d make it to 5,000, but I figures it would be at the end of August to round out 5 whole months of riding. Pretty respectable I’d say.

The main portion of our adventure this weekend was Cripple Creek, CO, a place we have traveled before. This weekend was the 22nd annual Salute to American Veterans Rally. This year, the rally welcomed the 75th Infantry Rangers Reunion. P Company – AKA “Papa Company” 75th Rangers were the northern most Rangers during the Vietnam War. They were the long range patrols, the eyes and ears, for the 5th Mechanized Infantry Division.

As one can imagine, a Remembrance Ceremony was held to honor those that have given all. The centerpiece of the tribute was to the United States Military Veterans. The members of “Operation Red Wings” were memorialized with the dedication of a bronze plaque in memory of the 19 Navy Seals, Army Night Stalkers and Airborne Rangers who were killed in action on June 28, 2005. Marcus Latrell, who was the surviving member of the SEAL Team that was compromised when the team was spotted by local nationals, wrote the book Lone Survivor. In the book, Latrell tells the true story of what true heroism, dedication and brotherhood really mean.

As one can guess the trek to and from Cripple Creek was beautiful, as expected. The town of Cripple Creek did a great job hosting the rally. If you arrived in/on anything other than a motorcycle, you were rerouted somewhere other than main street. Main Street belonged to the bikers. I could have posted pictures featuring all of the awesome bikes, but considering the weekend, only two are necessary.
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It was s short adventure this weekend, but a meaningful one to all in his/her own way. I’m sure a lot of new memories were made as old memories were shared.

Until next time, cheers.

Yard Work

Fellow bikers and readers, *sigh* there was no adventure this week I am sorry to say. I did manage to ride the Hog to work a few times, and I did get the Hog serviced, but due to much needed yard work, the was no fun permitted.

As I write, the rain is falling hard. I mention this because I have a five foot stretch of dirt that mat or mat not be washing into the street at this very moment. You see, I have spent the past two days excavating a section of the front yard to lay 12 inch and 18 inch stepping stones. When you look at the area you’d think it wouldn’t take too long, but here in lies part of the problem.

It’s just dirt. Fill dirt I believe is what they call it. No nutrients, and nothing wants to grow in the front yard. Despite the numerous attempts to fertilize, even having Chemlawn service, nothing good wants to grow in the front yard. Excavating the yard and making it waterless is the plan now, and the work I started this weekend is the first step in getting to waterless, or xeriscaping to be more accurate.

Hopefully the rain hasn’t made too much of a mess so I can try an get a rock foundation completed tomorrow evening. I was able to compact just over half of the area before quitting. Hopefully the rain hasn’t made the task more difficult.

Hopefully next weekend there’s an adventure.

Until then, cheers…

PPHD 5 in 1

Beautiful View
Here’s the short of it. From my driveway and back again, it was 730 miles. We, as bikers and riders drove/rode over or to 5 mountain passes: Cottonwood Pass – 12,126 ft., Monarch Pass – 11,312 ft., Red Mountain Pass – 11,015 ft., Molas Pass – 10,910 ft., and Coal Bank Pass – 10,640 ft.
On the morning of July 19, 2014, 325 motorcycles, most of which were Harley Davidson, rode out of Pikes Peak Harley Davidson (PPHD) in multiple groups with 470 riders. The ride, originating at PPHD, was to traverse five passes/summits on the way to Durango, CO. The ride was also a poker run, with three cards at the start and two more at the finish where an after party was held. First Stop, Cottonwood Pass.

What a beautiful day to ride. Leaving out of PPHD, our group (the one my bride and I were in) rode a familiar path up Hwy 24 to Buena Vista. We turned off the main rode to make the ride to Cottonwood Pass. As with most of our rides through this part of the country, the road a winding, but not too challenging. The final half mile was probably a little challenging, but mainly for the ride down. Once at the top, we were able to bask in the air at 12,126 feet. The view South and North were awesome to say the least, but it was time to head back to the main rode because we had a lot more road to cover.

From Buena Vista, we headed South to Hwy 50, where we headed west. Hwy 50 took us through Gunnison and on to Montrose, but not before we traversed Monarch Pass, a great place for a pit stop and a picture.
Monarch Pass
Arriving in Montrose, we made a turn onto Hwy 550, the Million Dollar Highway, which is named for the section from Silverton to Ouray. The road itself stretches from Montrose to Bernalillo, New Mexico. A little gee whiz for you regarding the Million Dollar Highway.

Most of U.S. 550 in Colorado is two-lane mountainous highway. It is one of only two north to south U.S. Highways in Colorado which runs West of the Continental Divide. Though the entire stretch has been called the Million Dollar Highway, it is really the twelve miles South of Ouray through the Uncompahgre Gorge to the summit of Red Mountain Pass which gains the highway its name. This stretch through the gorge is challenging and potentially hazardous to drive; it is characterized by steep cliffs, narrow lanes, and a lack of guardrails; the ascent of Red Mountain Pass is marked with a number of hairpin curves used to gain elevation, and again, narrow lanes for traffic—many cut directly into the sides of mountains. During this ascent, the remains of the Idarado Mine are visible.

The original portion of the Million Dollar Highway was a toll road built by Otto Mears in 1883 to connect Ouray and Ironton.
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Another toll road was built over Red Mountain Pass from Ironton to Silverton. In the late 1880s, Otto Mears turned to building railroads and built the Silverton Railroad north from Silverton over Red Mountain Pass to reach the lucrative mining districts around Red Mountain, terminating at Albany just eight miles South of Ouray. The remaining eight miles were considered too difficult and steep for a railroad. At one point a cog railroad was proposed, but it never made it beyond the planning stage. The origin of the name Million Dollar Highway is disputed. There are several legends, though, including that it cost a million dollars a mile to build in the 1920s, and that its fill dirt contains a million dollars in gold ore.

The Million Dollar Highway to Ouray was quite picturesque, but it was the ride from Ouray to Silverton that has made it my favorite ride yet, making the namesake of the Million Dollar Highway an incredible journey I will undoubtedly have to retake.
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Out on a Ledge
As for Ouray, it was originally established by miners chasing silver and gold in the surrounding mountains, the town at one time boasted more horses and mules than people. Prospectors arrived in the area in 1875. At the height of the mining, Ouray had more than 30 active mines. The entire Main Street is registered as a National Historic District with most of the buildings dating back to the late nineteenth century.

Silverton is a former silver mining camp, most or all of which is now included in a federally designated National Historic Landmark District. Silverton was the setting for some of Shaun White’s 2010 Olympic training. Taking advantage of the secluded locale, terrain and snow fall, Red Bull built a private halfpipe for the snowboarder. Silverton also boasts having the highest Harley Davidson store in the world. Yeah, we got the T-shirt to prove it.

Leaving Silverton, we continued South traversing and elapsing Red Mountain Pass, Molas Pass, and Coal Bank Pass along Hwy 550. The ride and view was none less stunning than the rest of the ride, but still, Ouray to Silverton has left an image in my mind that will last a lifetime.

At journeys end, we had arrived in Durango at the Elks Lodge that had graciously provided some weary riders a place to rest, eat, and unwind. And so the festivities and stories would be told.
After Party

The feeling the morning after was that of feeling sore and tired, but it was worth every bit of it. After breakfast, my bride and I hit the road for home, taking Hwy 160. The previous night, Hwy 24 had been washed out near one of the areas hit by the fire two years ago, which is unaffectionately called the burn scar. Hwy 160 from Durango to Alamosa was uncharted territory for us, so more new scenery to see.

The ride through the hills and mountains was no less impressive than the previous day’s ride as we made our way to Alamosa, and then home. Along the way, we passed Wolf Creek Pass at 10,857 Ft. and Wolf Creek Ski Resort. Another beautiful day of riding, albeit tender and sore.

Until next time, cheers.

PS. If there are any grammatical errors or punctuation errors, I do not care. I am tired. Good night.

Independence Weekend

Over the past three days, my bride and I traveled 748 miles, passing through approximately 49 cities and/or places with a name, to include No Name on I-70. Eagle, CO was our resting place for two nights.

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Our adventure began on Hwy 24 out of Colorado Springs, which took us through some of the previously mentioned towns and Buena Vista, which will probably get a mention in two weeks when we ride with a big Harley group. From Buena Vista, we continued on Hwy 24 that took us along a winding road that gradually inclined until we arrived in Leadville. The scenery was beautiful.

In the late 19th century, Leadville was the second most populous city in Colorado, after Denver. In 1874, gold miners discovered that the heavy sand that impeded their gold recovery was the lead mineral cerussite, carrying a high content of silver. Prospectors traced the cerussite to its source, and by 1876, discovered several lode silver-lead deposits. The city of Leadville was founded near to the new silver deposits in 1877 by mine owners Horace Austin Warner Tabor and August Meyer, setting off the Colorado Silver Boom. First they called the city “Slabtown,” but soon when it started becoming wealthy they changed the name to “Leadville.” By 1880, Leadville was one of the world’s largest silver camps, with a population of over 40,000. Leadville was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1961. It includes 67 mines in the mining district east of the city up to the 12,000 foot level.

Leaving Leadville, we continued higher up into the mountains. We came upon the Tennessee Pass, which is a memorial to the 10th Mountain Division.

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Farther up the road, after traversing high cliff roads and bridges spanning deep gorges, we came across the abandoned mining town of Gilman, CO. We were pretty lucky to have seen it from one of the curves we rounded. It isn’t accessible, but one would think it was inhabited not long ago, judging by the looks of the building. What I can tell you is this: Gilman was founded in 1886 during the Colorado Silver Boom. The town later became a center of lead and zinc mining in Colorado, centered on the now-flooded Eagle Mine. It was abandoned in 1984 by order of the Environmental Protection Agency because of toxic pollutants, including contamination of the ground water, as well as unprofitability of the mines. It is currently a ghost town on private property and is strictly off limits to the public.

After riding through sheer beauty, we made it to I-70 where we headed west to Eagle, CO to check in to our hotel. Once that was done, we took a quick ride west to Glenwood Springs, CO, which was about 30 miles away. The 15 miles prior to getting into Glenwood Springs is a ride through Glenwood Canyon. Awesome, plain and simple. The roads traveling east and west are different for the rider because one road is elevated, while the other runs along the river.

Up and about the next day, we headed back into Glenwood Springs, where we treated ourselves to pampering at:

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Glenwood Springs was originally known as “Defiance”. Defiance was established in 1883, a camp of tents, saloons, and brothels with an increasing amount of cabins and lodging establishments. It was populated with the expected crowd of gamblers, gunslingers, and prostitutes. Doc Holliday, spent the final months of his life in Glenwood Springs and is buried in the town’s original Pioneer Cemetery.

About 30 miles down the road is Rifle, CO. Rifle was founded in 1882, and up until very recently, it wasn’t known for much. Enter Sarah Larimer, a general assignment reporter for the Washington Post, and Rifle became a Facebook sensation for it’s pistol packing waitresses.

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Shooters and it’s new notoriety is a bit overwhelmed I’d say. It’s a quaint little diner with burgers and such, but other than armed ladies, that’s all it is. Buy hey, good for Shooters. Soak it up while you’re 15 minutes of fame last.

Much further up the road and down into the desert is the town of Palisade, CO, home of some of the most delicious peaches you will ever eat.

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On the morning of the third day, we headed back to Glenwood Springs to travel Hwy 82 to make our way home via Aspen, CO.

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As with all of the other roads we traveled, beautiful is best describes the ride.

We made our way through Aspen, which, is not for the common person. Just passing the little airport lets you know that this is a place for the rich and famous. I’m not sure if they could have parked any more private jets in and around the airport.

Thankfully, we were in and out of Aspen in minimal time so that we could start our ascent to Independence Pass.

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Independence Pass it is the second-highest pass with an improved road in the state, the fourth-highest paved road in the state and the highest paved crossing of the Continental Divide in the U.S.

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The pass was created by glaciation and erosion over thousands of years. Before European-American settlers arrived, it was in the territory of the Ute Native American tribe. One of the earliest sightings by a European-American was in 1806, when Zebulon Pike, mapping the southern boundary of the Louisiana Purchase, spotted the gap in what would later be named the Sawatch Range from the upper Arkansas River valley.

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The road down the eastern slope was not as challenging as the western slope. If I were to make the journey to the top again I would choose the eastern approach due to the ease of access and the wide open approach to scenery.

Hwy 82 butted up against Hwy 24, so we had come full circle. When we made our turn just south of Buena Vista that would lead up to familiar territory, the holiday traffic was absurd. Bumper to bumper, stand still kind of absurd. We quickly made a U-turn and headed back to the turn. We headed south to Salida, CO where we could pick up Hwy 50. By the way, Salida was a railroad town and a significant link in the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad during World War II.

Once we got onto Hwy 50, we followed the Arkansas River east until it was out of sight and continued on to Canon City, CO. Familiar grounds once again. From Canon City, we traveled a short distance to Penrose, CO where we caught Hwy 115 back home. The short of it, it took us less than five hours to get to Eagle, CO. It took us around eight hours to get home. We would probably still be stuck in traffic had we not made the change in course.

It was an incredible adventure with my bride, despite the traffic on the way home. The time with her was well spent. Happy birthday baby.

Please note, there won’t be a post next week as we are taking the weekend off to work in the yard and get sunburned. In two weeks, we ride a 5 in 1 poker run, that’s five passes/summits in one day on the way to Durango, CO.

Until next time, cheers.

Be Careful Out There Bikers

Over the weekend, there was a hit and run accident on Hwy 24 that involved at least one motorcycle and a pickup truck. Commenters on the story say there were two motorcycles and 3 riders, all of which will be ok. Seeing as our local newsies don’t always follow up on their stories, we can only assume the driver of the pickup is still at large.

Chances are, the driver of the pickup was in the wrong and fled the scene due to any number of reasons to include drunk driving or driving without a license. The accident itself got me to thinking about the riders I have seen on the road, not counting the crotch rockets.

You make choices when you ride, choices that can have consequences. You ride with or without a helmet, a choice we have in Colorado. But why does one person on the bike have a helmet and the other doesn’t when two people are riding together? Mysterious when you think about seeing a guy with a helmet and his girl or kid doesn’t have a helmet.

You’re always taught to be seen when riding, but why do I see solo riders on low profile bikes wearing next to nothing, or wearing all black to match their bike? Sure, they look cool, but out on some two lane highway in the hills or mountains they may not be that easy to see, especially when transitioning from a shadow to the sun, topping a hill, or coming out of a curve.

I saw a fellow biker on a beautiful midnight blue Street Glide the other day. The guy was wearing Chuck Taylor (Converse) shoes, shorts and a t-shirt, and some goggles. If he were to have gone down, his eyes were the only thing somewhat protected, and due to what he was wearing, he would not have gotten any style points from the ambulance crew, but I guess his injuries would have been easier to spot. Not this kid, even when I do ride without a helmet, my body is covered.

My bride and I didn’t ride this weekend. We took the weekend off to rest and relax, consider some yard improvements, and test drove some new cars to potentially replace what she currently has. It wasn’t as fun as a Hog ride, but we enjoyed the time together.

We will be riding over the Fourth of July weekend, so I’m pretty excited about that. We’ll be in the area of Vail, Aspen, and Glenwood Springs, covering a lot of miles up and down the mountains. Hopefully Mother Nature cooperates.

Until next time, cheers.