Tuesday, July 31, 2007
The final day. It was clear again and still warm. Also more humid than the last few days.
We loaded up and headed up US 151 to where it met US 41, then cruised right through Oshkosh and Green Bay rush hours with little difficulty. I kept it at a steady 9 over. After Escanaba, we stopped in Manistique, Michigan for lunch at Arby's and set our watches ahead for the final time. Then it was on to the border.
There was little traffic this time on the International Bridge. The very pretty border guard asked where we lived, how long we had been away and the value of what we had bought. When I said $2.00 (the side stand foot Gary paid for), she welcomed us home and let us go without checking ID. Norm took longer because he was talking with her about sidearm training and several other non-typical things. I would have like to have stopped and seen Mom, but it was after 5:00 PM and we were pushing daylight.
There was a flagman holding up traffic as we left town. The ambient air temperature gauge was reading 36C when we got moving, the hottest we saw on the return trip. Yikes. We carved traffic all down the north shore. A planned coffee stop in Blind River (named by Neil Young in Long May You Run) was scuttled because the Country Style was closed. As we approached Espanola, the one cell of the day, a pop-up, loomed on the horizon directly in our path. Maybe our luck had run out?
We stopped at Espanola for Timmy's Iced Cappucino. Since we would be splitting up when we got towards town, this was really the official ending to the trip. We closed it out the way we started it, in a Tim Horton's. Fitting. As Norm and Gary fueled, Sandy pointed out that this was another successful group ride in that we all seemed to still like each other. Normie continued to amaze me riding that Drifter with no windshield.
We hauled in the last 40 miles sparing no horses. Twenty miles from town, we went through an area where you could smell that it had just rained but, other than a few drops after that, we stayed dry. Normie peeled of on 144 and Gary left us downtown. We arrived in the driveway at 8:00 PM on the nose and Stella said we had covered 6,153.0 kilometers. Time and miles well spent seeing old friends, making new ones and putting faces to names.
August will be slow. There is the Freedom Rally here this weekend and then Interlochen later in the month. Other than that, there may be some local rides but this is usually the month we take it pretty easy before heading back out in September.
Monday, July 30, 2007
Sandy and I were up at 5:30 AM. The Weather Channel said it was already 72F and the radar was clear. By 6:15, we were packed and had our free continental breakfast. By 7:00, I had done my tire checks, the last one in our group was finally up and we were ready to go. After a farewell to Stewey, saying we would see him in Arkansas in September, we headed east on I-80.
After some discussion last night, we decided that we would forgo the pleasure of riding through Chicago and Gary Indiana and would come up the west side of Lake Michigan instead. I told Stella that we wanted to go through Escanaba, Michigan to force this route and told her we wanted the fastest way. One problem with the GPS is that, while you always know where the next turn is, you are never quite sure where you are.
It turns out that Stella plotted a route across Iowa that I would never have picked on the map. I think we turned off I-80 onto I-380 towards Cedar Rapids and then caught US 151, a fine four lane road leading to Dubuque, Iowa. The countryside was beautiful, the traffic was light and the towns were mostly bypassed.
On the serendipity note, as we approached the town of Anamosa, Iowa, there were billboards advertising the National Motorcycle Museum. What a pleasant surprise. We just had to stop. Anamosa is a very quaint little town and the museum is right downtown. We got there at noon, just as the tornado sirens were being tested. I wonder what would happen if a real tornado arrived at noon? In picture one, Sandy is examining one of the original Captain America bikes from the movie Easy Rider. They also had replicas of Billy's bike and the one Fonda used in Wild Angels.
One of my favourites was this Indian. You can see that Steve McQueen wasn't a fan of washing bikes, either. The museum was well laid out with different sections. There was a great selection of Vincents, Indians and Harleys as well as many key Japanese bikes. In the racing section I actually saw a Flying Merkel. The amazing Ariel Square Four was there along with too many other legendary scoots to list. In addition, there were many other motorcycle related memorabilia items. The place was well worth the $7.00 admission and I expect to be back sometime when I have more time to wander.
Two items, side by side, did especially catch my eye. On the left is a 1974 RD-350 Yamaha identical to the one Sandy and her first husband, Brian, had. On the right, in orange and black, is a 1972 R5 350 Yamaha. My first bike was a 1970 R5 in fuchsia and white. Yes, fuchsia. I had a matching helmet, shirt and socks. Real men were tough in those days. It was really nice to find these pieces of our personal history in there.
When we tore ourselves away from the museum, we went across the road to Tucker's Tavern for lunch. Then, about 2:00 PM, we headed for Dubuque following Stella's directions. As it was on the way out, some of the road was so new that she thought we were back in the cornfields again. And what cornfields they were. Following the countours of the land, the corn rows and other lower crops followed seemingly random geometric patterns. This is so much more interesting than the dull old square fields.
We went through Dubuque and across the Mississippi River into Wisconsin. As the T-shirt said, smell the dairy air. We arrived in Madison at rush hour where our route consisted of a series of busy interchanges. I don't know where we went, but Stella gave me lots of warning as to which lane to be in each time and what road to take. I am developing some confidence in how this works and I like it.
With less than 600 miles to go, we knocked off for the night at an exit for Columbus, Wisconsin. There was a Culver's Frozen Custard and a Super 8. In the photo, Gary checks that the bikes are tucked in for the night. We walked over to the Columbus Restaurant for supper and then Normie accompanied Sandy and I to the Culver's where he watched us eat Caramel Cashew Sundaes.
Back at the hotel, the WiFi worked fine so I got some things done. I checked NASCAR and Mom, relegated to 2nd place last race by Fox, got ticked and scored what I think is a record 402 points. She is back in first with a bullet.
I've decided that the paper notebook, in additional to being susceptible to getting wet, is too cumbersome. The thoughts I have when riding usually escape my poor old noggin before I can write them down at the next stop. I'm going to get an electronic voice recorder to capture my ramblings as they occur to me. This may or may not be an improvement.
We set the alarms again and turned in early.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
The alarm watch went off at 5:30 AM Mountain Time. It was 11C and, for once, there were no ugly clouds hanging around the mountain tops. We had packed the side bags last night, so it was just a matter of putting the bag in the trunk.
Stewey was headed back to Peoria, Illinois across I-80 and we decided to ride together until our paths diverged. Since we were a little late getting going (due to an unnamed member of our group who was slow to rise), we headed out with Willie Wonka, Carlene and Phin who were heading east from Denver on I-70. Our group had talked about going west and north the catch 80 in Laramie to keep out of Denver, but the realization that it was Sunday morning caused a re-evaluation.
We headed out as ready heading south for the Shell station in Granby. On the way, we passed Slammer towing the Weedeater trailer with his little SUV and Toby on his new Wing. After fueling, I took the lead and we headed south on US 40 towards Winter Park. Soon we were into heavy fog and I was forced to once again question the smarts of people who drive in the fog with no lights on. Part way through, I though that Willie had been a little quiet and realized that my CB radio was turned off. When I fired it up, he said he had wondered where I was.
The fog cleared before Winter Park, where we headed up into Berthoud Pass and over the Continental Divide. It looks different in the dry daylight. On the way up, we again passed Slammer and Toby, who got by us while we were fueling up. Down out of Berthoud, we caught I-70 East and headed over to Denver. As Interstates go, this stretch is more interesting than most. Denver was quiet as we approached the I-76 split and, with waves, honks and words on the CB between Willie and I, the two groups separated.
We rode I-76 downslope to I-80 and Nebraska at 85 MPH. At the 80 junction there was a group of Corvettes heading east. One had a plate that said BLUBYU. No, he did not. The weatherman said the clouds and precipitation would stay south in Kansas today, but who believes him anyway. The overcast kept the temperature down and we eventually went to rain suits, which were needed for a ways around Kearney and Grand Island. Later, most unsuited but Sandy kept her gear on to protect the crew. Then, past Lincoln, I saw a nasty cell and some elected to put some gear back on. In that time, the clouds directly in front of us moved and we slid into Council Bluffs, Iowa dry.
There was a Settle Inn in Council Bluffs that Sandy and I stayed at back in 2004. When we got there, it turned out that Stewey was an alumnus as well. We got rooms and wandered over to Cracker Barrel for dinner. Then everyone headed back to their rooms and flaked out. I was hoping to get some things updated, but the WiFi provider the hotel uses doesn't get along with my notebook. I've had this problem before with this outfit. I need to get something updated with my built in WiFi card but it is such a rare occurrence that I never seem yo get a round tuit.
Good first day. We're on our timeline. Stewey will be leaving us in the morning, ahead of schedule, to go south and visit an old school buddy who is married to a lady Stewey used to date. Sounds like an interesting time for him.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Thanks to Hail Mary "Bucky" Bucholtz for all the great work she did in spearheading this. Thanks also to the Colorado VROCers who helped and to Eric "El Nomad" Larsen for hosting the pre-WWR BBQ in Colorado Springs. My hat is off to all who contributed to this great success.
Special thanks to Willie "Wonka" Kohlenberger and his wife, the Lovely Carlene. Sharing the room at the Bluebird with you was a pleasure.
A number of people have posted Blogs and photos on the event and I thought it would be good to share them with you.
ZMean One and Thrillseeker's Blog:
El Nomad's Blog
Cheap Bastard's Blog
Malachi and Corvette's Pictures:
After breakfast, we hustled back to the Bluebird because we had set 9:00 AM as the time for the Tupperware Brigade group photo. Someone asked me why "Tupperware" and I had to tell her that they are plastic bikes. We had eleven Honda GL1800 GoldWings and one Honda SilverWing in the lineup.
To add insult to injury, three of the GoldWings are carrying VROC plates on their Wings. Sherm was first in Oregon, we were second in Ontario and now Brillo has the Iowa plate. Kawasaki should take note that they are missing the boat in the touring market, but then even if they did decide to go ahead with a bike to compete with the Wing it would be difficult to compete with the established reputation Honda has developed.
I have a feeling that there may be still more Tupperware down the road. Malachi and Corvette took this one out for a test ride and seemed to be impressed. I'm not sure why Mal is in the front seat, though, since Yvette does a fine job piloting her own drifter.
You can see the weather didn't improve much today. The storms were hit or miss, as they have been since we got here. After the photo shoot, we went down to the coffee shop to get on line. Then Sherm decided that he would like clear skies Sunday and announced he would be leaving shortly after noon. A group of us, consisting of Brillo & Deb, Willlie Wonka and Carlene and Sandy and I decided to accompany him the first 45 miles to Kremling. We were joined by Jeff Goodall, who we haven't seen in some time, and his friend Troy.
The ride through Byers Canyon was sporting for Sherm as we saw him pass some slow movers and flow away from us. Willie and I were at the back and didn't get quite the same run. In Kremling, we bade Sherm farewell after he got pictures of us in front of a building with a huge Vote Libertarian sign painted on the side. We'll be seeing Sherm, hopefully for an extended period together, in September so it really was only Au Revoir.
I lead the ride back to the Bluebird. Jeff and Troy, trying to catch up by a pass, almost got picked off by a State Trooper who turned on his roof lights after he passed me (luckily I was in slowed down by another car). I think it was a warning to them but he never turned around. When we got back, they said Grand Lake had been hit with a storm that included heavy rain and hail but the roads were dry by the time we got back. Looks like my luck is holding.
Stewey had led a ride out that I wanted to do, but Sandy said we had enough riding ahead of us. They went south over Berthout Pass and then up over Loveland Pass. Those of us remaining at the Bluebird did more visiting and I adjusted my cruising pegs and took a short nap. Group rides were coming back in when someone raised the question of supper. I suggested to a few that we go back to the Bear's Den for something light. By the time it was over, we had the banquet room filled. Instead of our pretty blond Romanian server, we got her brother but she did show up after to help.
I was talking to a local Harley rider out on the deck. We were talking about the roads, the weather (he was snowmobiling Memorial Day Weekend) and the countryside. He said it was a good thing we missed the hail storm on Wednesday. I informed him that if he heard about four bikes caught on the side of the road, it was us.
There was one crisis as I arrived at the restaurant. I went to turn Stella on to show Stewey some features and she wouldn't start. Nothing, nada, zip. Dead Zumo. Back at the motel, I tried everything in the manual to get it reset but the screen stayed blank. Then I tried a trick I heard about on Zumoforums.com. I borrowed an allen key from Gary and pulled the battery out. After reinstalling it, I held my breath and pushed the on button. She was back. I would be able to find my way home.
The rest of the evening was a little sad as people were saying goodbye. After years of doing this, we have developed a perspective that we realize that this is only a temporary parting. As Harry Chapin said in Circle:
It seems like I've been here before
I can't remember when
But I have this funny feeling
That we'll all be together again.
No straight lines make up my life
And all my roads have bends
There's no clear-cut beginnings
And so far no dead-ends.
I usually say "We'll see you down the road".
There were only a few still up when I set my watch alarm for 5:30 AM and hit the sack.
Friday, July 27, 2007
We were up by 6:00 AM and I spent the early time sorting some photos and getting some blog typed. Some days I have no time at all to get this done and I am currently about three days behind, but I do like to look back later on and see where I have been.
By 7:15, we had wiped the Colorado dew off the bikes and a few of us (Wonka, Carlene, Sherm, Normie and Biker) had settled in at the Fat Cat. Sally was busy baking but she did stop by to say hello. Sherm had Scotch eggs, which weren't on the menu but Sally had told us about them the day before. The girl serving us said that Sally's Hot Sauce wasn't for sale, but Sally gave Sherm a bottle when he mentioned how much he liked it.
After breakfast, we adjourned to the coffee shop to get Email and post whatever we had available. Got a note from Terry that he covered the 1,800 miles home in two days with one ticket. He didn't say how much over the limit. Then we headed back to the Bluebird where we saw clouds to the north, south and east. While others headed out for rides, we hung around, visited and typed some more blog entries. At noon, a truck showed up with a large awning, tables and chairs that Bucky had ordered from somewhere. We got them all set up quite quickly, although the 8,800 foot altitude of the Bird does slow one down a bit.
The riders wandered back in as the day went on, many wet and a few lucky ones dry. Bucky took Slammer and his little truck to pick up food she had ordered. The way she pulls all this together makes me think of loaves and fishes. Here she surveys the result of all her handiwork.
Right after supper, Slammer got a call from Toby. Their group had gone north through the National Park and then east and south. They were down on I-70 and a bike had gone down injuring the rider's ankle. The plan was that Slammer would hook the trailer he hauled out up to his SUV and drive the 50 or so miles over Berthoud Pass to get rider and bike. Sherm and I volunteered to go and help. Then the mission changed. Further calls revealed the bike wasn't damaged so we were going to take a rental car belonging to Rubbergator (Lisa) from PNW and we'd ride the bike back. I'd already volunteered so I couldn't back out now.
I drove the car with Slammer and Sherm south through Winter Park. Soon after we headed out, the rain started. Winding up through Berthoud, the rain continued and the temperature dropped. We passed Tobey and the gang on our way to the top as they tried to make the most of the dying light. They looked miserable and I wondered what I had gotten myself into as we crested the summit at 46F. Then it was down through more rain to I-70 where we found the Conoco station the bike and rider were at one exit down.
It turns out the casualty was Greg from Grande Prairie, Alberta. His ankle had been checked by EMT's who thought it was only badly sprained and he had it wrapped and iced. Lisa was also there and they all got Greg into the car while I suited up and fired up his 2005 1600 Nomad. I haven't ridden a Nad in three years, so it felt a little strange as we started out in the wet and, by now, almost dark. The levers weren't in the right spot for me, nor were the windshield and suspension. The levers would have been an easy fix if I had the presence of mind to check them before we set out, but I was stuck with the others.
A funny thing happened over the pass, though. While it rained all the way to the summit, it wasn't as intense as it had been. At the top, it stopped and just left me to contend with wet pavement on the downgrade hairpins. The long drops off the side didn't even bother me, although most did have guard rails. In Winter Park, where we stopped and I adjusted the levers, the roads dried and it warmed up so the rest of the ride back was quite enjoyable. The earlier gang had stayed wet almost all the way back, so I really caught a break from the weather gods. You can see Greg back at the public room at the Bluebird resting the ankle.
After hanging out for a bit and telling at least a dozen people that No, I wasn't going to switch back to a Nomad, I turned in at about 11:00.
Phin, Tobey, The Lovely Carlene and Willie Wonka behind Sandy at the Fat Cat Cafe
Biker and Abby Normal chow down at the Fat Cat
John Hanneman, Solo and El Nomad checking out the finer points of a Nomad
Ed Wing, Marlene, Scotty, Bucky (Hail Mary), Sandy, Corvette and Sherm at the Bluebird
Slammer is looking pensive (or possibly stuffed)
Stewey playing with Sherm's new camera as he and John H. look on
Borys (aka Deerslayer) talking to Melanie and Jamey
This was Melanie's first trip on her now famous purple 500 Vulcan
Bucky pulled together shelter, tables, chairs and a meal out of thin air
Here Wonka and Carlene serve the masses
Don, a Kiwi traveling with Gavin The Eskimo is Jazzman's neighbor
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Since we had to change hotels, we loaded the bikes up and headed to town where we heard there was a WiFi café. Sure enough, once we got through the first part of Grand Lake and got to the very pretty four block downtown, there it was. You can see that Sherm settled right in. Downtown Grand Lake looks very much like Jasper Alberta in my opinion.
Jim Ayers came in and said that the campground owner recommended the Fat Cat Café for breakfast so we moved down a couple of blocks and went in to see. The proprietor, a lady named Sally who came here from Lincolnshire, England twenty years ago, set a new standard for hospitality. In the picture, Sally is discussing breakfast with Jim, Sherm and Sandy. She creates many of her own recipes and they are excellent.
Back up at the Bluebird, people were starting to roll in from all over. After many greetings, we decided to go for a little ride. Sandy and I, Sherm, Jim Ayers, Bucky, Borys from Thunder Bay, Cheap Bastard and Mal and Yvette from Rifle Colorado set out south for a little hop. We fueled in Granby and then headed west on US 40 past Hot Sulphur Springs. As you leave the Springs, the road makes a left turn that ever seems to end and then proceeds to wind through a pretty little canyon carved by the Colorado River. The Mighty Colorado is pretty small way up here and you’d never suspect that this is what carved the Grand Canyon.
We had no traffic and ran a moderately quick pace through here with me leading, Sherm following and CB hard on our heels, pretty impressive considering he was on a Nomad. At the end of the canyon, we stopped and Sherm and I switched bikes for the return trip. He led and was off like a shot. There were several slow vehicles and we passed them in the short straights. After the run, Stella told me Sherm’s top speed was 95.5 MPH. I was very impressed with his tires. They are the same as mine except a stickier compound. I’d have them except that the price you pay for grip is longevity and I wouldn’t be able to afford to keep myself in rubber. Choices, choices.
Back in Granby, we stopped and switched back. Sherm says this little ride probably cost him $2,500 because he really liked the handling of the Traxxion and figures that he has to have it.
Back at the Bluebird, there were still more new arrivals. This is where the Kaw Pasture, AKA Reunion Headquarters, is located. You can see that the weather was changing. Mal told me that, in Colorado, if you don’t like the weather just wait five minutes. Rain hit shortly after this was taken.
About 5:30, we started to wander down to Pancho & Lefty’s restaurant in small groups. Eventually, we had about half the tables occupied by VROC. They had live entertainment but it pretty bad. Sandy and I skipped Mexican for chicken tenders and a hamburger, which were quite good. We had eight people at our table and they automatically added an 18% gratuity so we made sure to leave the exact amount of the bill The server would have made out better without doing this. It was also just one ticket, so Cathy from Greeley and I spent time working out who owed what.
At another table, I caught Chuck (PNW), Stockbridge Richard and Six Pack Jack from Georgia and Grumpa (PNW) in the midst of experiencing Pancho and Lefty’s. By the way, for those who are not Willie Nelson fans, the place is named after a song.
On the way out of town, we saw our long lost roommates Willie Wonka and the lovely Carlene. They rode their Wing in from Illinois. They followed us back to the Bird. The lot was full when we got there and we spent the rest of the evening watching a brilliant display of lightning on the horizon and mingling. Willie and I were about the last to turn in at midnight.
One note on the bikes. We had almost 15 Wings here, which show that VROC riding tastes are changing even while the socializing tastes remain the same. The Tupperware Brigade is growing rapidly and this should signal to Kawasaki that they are losing business by not having a full touring bike in their line-up.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Terry was up at 3:30. Because he had left his watch on the bike and we had no alarm, he guessed it was morning so he had a shower and got ready to head for home. He was surprised when he realized how early it was, but figured it would be a good start to a long day. He was on the road at 4:00 AM.
I stayed up and worked on some Blog entries. It’s very easy to get behind on these, as any of my readers is well aware. At 6:00 AM, we went down for breakfast. I went out to check the tires on the bike and two things happened. The liquid ink pen I carried in the fairing virtually exploded when I uncapped it due to the low air pressure. I got ink on myself and on parts of the bike. It will clean off. I also met a couple riding a silver ’05 Wing like ours, headed to the GL1800riders.com gathering in Montrose California. We talked Wings for a while.
I got a call from Mary ‘Bucky’ Bucholtz, who had been late getting to Eric’s last night. She is the ramrod of WWR and also was the mover and shaker for the first VROC world gathering back in 2000. She now works for NASA in New Orleans. Bucky wanted to know if we wanted to ride to Grand Lake with her and I said sure. I called the Bluebird Motel to see if they could take us a day early and was surprised to find that they couldn’t, so I made a reservation at the neighboring Black Bear Lodge.
We had planned to leave at 10:00 AM but Mary arrived at 9:30. Shortly after, she led us out through Garden of the Gods to Highway 24 and took us through the first little canyon before letting me take the lead. She was on Eric’s ’00 Nomad and was just making friends with it.
We rode up over Ute Pass and then up to Wilkerson Pass, which, at about 9,300 feet, is the gateway to South Park, which is behind Sandy in this photo. From there, we rode down a long straight road to a crossroads named Hartsell.
HOB Café & Saloon – Hartsell Colorado
We had lunch at the HOB Café & Saloon. As you can see in the photo, the portions were generous but the water was rationed.
After lunch, we came out and looked up Highway 9, the way would be going. It looked pretty black. Another GL1800 pulled in with a couple from Illinois. This was their first long trip and we all put on rain gear together. They accompanied us through light showers skirting some nasty rain to Fairplay, where they stopped and we went on up 9.
In Alma, we got stopped because construction has the whole town reduced to one lane. Unfortunately, the rain also started again at this point. Rain on a bike while sitting still isn’t any fun. From there, we climbed Hoosier Pass. The road was nice, with sweepers as opposed to switchbacks. Over the summit, at 11,539 feet, we started down until a flagman stopped us. We spent about ten minutes there as the rain stopped, and then we continued to Breckenridge, a very upscale ski town. Gary said he could smell money. I missed a turn, but Stella got us right back on track. Shortly after, we ended up at Dillon on I-90.
This was decision time. We weighed our original plan of going up through Loveland Pass, which was under very black cloud, against continuing north on 9, which looked better. Some days, you just never know what the right choice is. We skirted another big rain cell as we rode north to Kremmling. There was some rain but we ran out of it fairly quickly. Things were looking good until we reached Kremmling and turned east on US 40. This is where this post title kicks in and we figure we probably decided wrong in Dillon.
As we headed east, there were two dark, scary cells ahead of us. It looked for a bit like we might be able to run between them, but it wasn’t to be. It started raining and, within a mile, we started getting hail. Not little friendly hailstones, but ones that were up to ½” that made an awful racket when they hit our helmets. I pulled over with absolutely no cover and we huddled their for about 20 minutes until they precipitation turned to solid rain. A trooper slowed, but Normie gave him the high sign and he continued on.
With us merely being heavily rained on, we got on our way. Mary rolled out first. There was a westbound bus honking at us, but we were already rolling. Within a half-mile we found out what he was trying to tell us. The road was covered with about 4” of hail, a fearsome sight. Mary continued on riding through a tire track left by a vehicle and I stayed with her since there was now nowhere to stop. This continued for about three miles, although it seemed like forever at the time. Then the road was only wet and we were only in a blinding downpour. It’s amazing how relativity works. We met a snowplow headed the other way to deal with the hail.
It rained to Granby and then eased as we headed north the last 16 miles to Black Bear Lodge, but the weather god wasn’t done with us. I was now leading as we ran into another severe downpour that eased just before the motel.
Sherm and Charlie (CC Rider) were waiting for us there. Moments after we got in, the deluge caught us. We got settled in our rooms and hung up our drenched gear. Sherm was sharing with us and the owner brought us a rollaway bed for him. Shortly after, Stewey and Cheap Bastard pulled in. They ran from Colorado Springs via Mount Evans and hardly got wet. I cut my hand opening Stewey’s beer bottle with my Buck Knife.
We went downtown to the Bear’s Den for supper. They put us in the banquet room and our server was a pretty Romanian girl who was over here for a vacation and working to pay for it. Bucky came in and gave everyone New Orleans beads. We didn’t even have to flash for them.
Back at the motel, we talked to a couple on a Suzuki Intruder from Illinois and then turned in. I think the lights were out about 9:15.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Rocky Mountain is a large facility selling Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Victory and a few other brands. Gary got the boots, although he needed one size larger than he thought. We looked at other stuff but all we bought were a couple of feet to go under our sidestands. I left my last one in the Lazy River Campground in New Hampshire.
We debated whether we should head for Garden of the Gods or take the cog railway to the top of Pike’s Peak. You can see the 14,110 foot summit behind Terry. He wasn’t keen on trying the auto road because of the last five miles of dirt, which would have dictated an extended cleaning session. We decided that it would be better to get to the railway. Stella took us right there and, although the car lot was full, they had a nice, close place for bikes.
We were there in time for the 10:40 departure, but the train was full. We got standby tickets for the 12:00 train and settled in to wait. Just before the 10:40 left, Sandy went down to the ladies room by the train and heard someone call her name. There on the train was our friend Stewey from Peoria. He was also headed for Eric’s BBQ later today. We shouted and waved and then he left us.
The waiting was OK. We talked to some other tourists and relaxed in the shade. About ten minutes before noon, they started calling standby numbers and ours came up. We climbed aboard the last car and got ourselves seated. At 12:00, the train moved out on time. Mel the friendly conductor gave us a running commentary on the train, the mountain and the history, This is the highest of three cog railways in the US. It gets its name from the gear that pulls the train up via the toothed section in the middle of the track.
Looking out from the train towards Colorado Springs
The first train ascending above the tree line
The clouds set in just before we got to the summit, one hour and ten minutes after leaving the station.. It was in the low 40’s, not uncomfortable to me but others were chilly. We got coffee or hot chocolate and wandered around. Looking at things and people. There was a slight break in the clouds and we did manage to see some of the vista. At 2:00 PM sharp, the train departed back down the mountain. We arrived at the station at 3:10.
We headed back to the hotel and I called Stewey, who was staying a couple of blocks away at the Days Inn. We decided that he would come over and we’d leave for Eric’s BBQ about 4:00 PM. It was easy to get to his place with the help of Stella, who didn’t trip over and moved streets this time.
We were the first arrivals after a friend of Mary’s. There was a steady stream of arrivals after that, local area VROCers and some travelers. We knew some of the local people and met some new ones as well. Mark’Cheap Bastard’ Hicks of Slapout Alabama was there and Ed Wing, who led me to the original V2K gathering in Durango in 2000. Eric broke out the food and started grilling burgers, brats and dogs. It was a very nice start to WWR week. Thank you Eric.
Sandy was tired and Terry was leaving for home early in the morning, so we headed back to the hotel. Actually, I headed back twice because I had to go back to Eric’s and get my forgotten sunglasses. We were in bed by 9:00, party animals that we are.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Gary and Norm woke up way too early this morning. It seems somebody set their alarm clock on Eastern Standard Time. For some reason, they blamed us. I can’t imagine why.
The plan today was to take some back roads across Nebraska and arrive in Colorado Springs tomorrow. Terry was also supposed to leave us today and head home. However, over breakfast, we worked on him and he said that he would stick with us if we could make it to Colorado Springs today. OK, it was no problem to scrap the four optional meandering routes I had programmed into Stella and tell her to take us to The Springs the fastest way. The route was now down I-29 to Omaha and across Nebraska on I-80. Our normal high speed commute.
It was near 80 and cloudy when we set out. The radar showed storms northeast of us sliding down to cross our path. As we ran southeast towards Omaha, we were headed right into it. Luckily, we turned west on 680 and 80 just before it got serious. Around Lincoln, the skies cleared.
The speed limit on I-80 is 75 MPH. I used to think traffic really moved along here, but I set the cruise at 85, according to the GPS, and nobody passed us at that speed across the entire state of Nebraska. Norm amazed us by the way he held in at that speed with the heat in the 90’s and a headwind. Without a windshield, he fits the definition of Tough Guy.
We rolled by the landmarks. The Kearney Arch, the old car museum and the military vehicle display went by in short order. At one point, Terry went onto his reserve fuel tank and I asked Stella to find gas. She said it was 25 miles until the next station, which wasn’t good so I cut the speed back to improve our mileage. Within a few miles we came to the exit to Brady and found a little old gas station and a Dairy Queen. Gas, food and friendly service. This worked well for us.
Past Ogallala, we turned on I-76 and entered Colorado. The road was down to one lane for many miles as they rebuilt the other side. It was inconvenient, but the road needed it. Near Sterling, we passed a grass fire. With nobody watching or fighting it, we didn’t know if it was controlled or wild. On this stretch, the temperature reached 38C or 101F.
In Brush, we stopped for gas and a cool drink. Terry had to help Norm get dressed before we headed on. Then we continued on towards Denver. Stella told us to take E470 south around downtown Denver. She didn’t tell me it was a toll road. Four booths, costing a total of $9.75. The strange thing was that, except for the Interstate connections, it cost $0.75 (exact change) to get off at an exit. Finally we made it to I-25 and found traffic backed up. After a mile of crawling, we got past the spot where the police Hummer had the left lane blocked due to an accident. Then we picked up speed and found this to be the fastest traffic of the whole day. At one gas stop, we talked to a couple from Texas on a GL1800. He was wearing a Leakey T-shirt.
In Colorado Springs, Stella told me our Nevada Street exit was on the right. So did the sign. Imagine my surprise when the new exit went by on the right. I said some bad words and got off at Garden of the Gods Avenue. Good thing we missed Nevada Street. The whole street has been condemned. We ended up at an Econolodge on GotG that had a pool and a WORKING HOT TUB. Megan, the desk clerk, let us park under the awning at the front door and they put orange traffic cones around the bikes. The WiFi worked too. After over 700 miles, this was a good place to be.
Terry, Sandy and I hit the hot tub and pool and then we went next door to the Tam O’Shanter Irish Pub for food and some drinks. Glen, the young bartender, had several Lynchburg glasses for drink Jack Daniels and a coke chaser, so I had one. The glass was actually plastic, unlike mine, and I told him plastic would be good on the road, so he gave me one. Before we left, I convinced him that he was a libertarian.
We went back to the room, watched a bit of TV and went to bed.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
We were awake at 5:00, up at 6:00 and riding by 7:00. It was clear but rain was showing in the radar coming over Minneapolis moving southeast. I took the lead and we went west on 8 for a while before turning south heading for Eau Claire. We lost Norm briefly in one town when he got sun block in his eyes.
I had entered SR 178 from Cornell to Chippewa Falls because it looked like it wound down by a river. This was a good choice and if you are ever in the area, consider giving this a try. Then Stella took us through Eau Claire at street level. I'll be more careful in looking for by-passes in the future. We finally got out of town and followed SR 85 to Waubasha where we crossed Ol' Miss and entered Minnesota.
SR 60 from the border to SR 20 was another winner. Thirty MPH corners and good pavement gave us an excellent ride. The photo was taken at a scenic lookout over the Mississippi Valley. Then it turned ugly as it straightened out and it looked like someone had repossessed some of the pavement. We stopped at a new A&W in Fairibault (they pronounce it Fariboe, the correct way). A sport bike rider told me that getting caught going over 100 MPH in Minnesota will now give you an automatic six month licence suspension. OK, I now have an upper limit.
We continued on 60 to Worthington where Stella took us all through town because I had set it as a waypoint and the official town location was off our beaten path. Another nuance to be aware of. I'm learning all kinds of things with this unit. Then we were southbound into Iowa where 60 turned ugly again. Luckily, we were soon on new four lane road. Unfortunately, it had been relocated and Stella had fits because she though we were travelling through cornfields.
With temperatures in the mid-90's we stopped at LeMars at the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlour. Le Mars claims to be the ice cream capital of the world. You can see the crew bellied up to the ice cream bar ordering various sundae concoctions.
From Le Mars, we made the short hop to Sioux City. On the way, we passed a Harley rider on a bike with ape hanger (high rise) handlebars. I guess he didn't like being passed because he speeded up and wouldn't let Norm in. Then he passed us and made a gesture. I chose to ignore him, which was good because several of us wanted to go after him. Nothing to be gained as far as I was concerned.
In Sioux City, we found a Comfort Inn for a reasonable rate. They had a pool but the hot tub was out of service. All of us except Norm hit the pool. Then Norm and Terry went out to a Chinese buffet while Gary, Sandy and I ordered Domino's Pizza. The WiFi was working, but I didn't get time to get the Blogs updated before bed time.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Sandy and I were up at 4:30 AM this morning. The weather was clear and the temperature was 10C. I would call it a good morning to ride. All our gear was in the bike by the time Leo showed up at 6:05. We arrived at the Tim Horton's meeting point at 6:40 and the whole crew was there well before the 7:00 departure time. From the left, we have Norm, Leo, Sandy, Terry and Gary.
We hit the road at 7:00 AM sharp. Gary led and held a pace at about 120 KPH. About 25 miles out of town, we met two OPP cruisers headed the other way with the lights on. This let us know that we wouldn't be encountering any police until well past Espanola so we kept up the pace.
We made a fast comfort stop in Espanola and continued on. Outside Spanish, as we were moving into a passing lane to overtake some slow traffic, I caught sight of a new black and white cruiser as it went by us the other way. He didn't seem interested in us despite the pace we were moving. One nice think about a bike is that, if you are close to any larger vehicles, you won't register on radar. On the way to the Soo, we passed a large number of bikes headed east. We tried to think of some event that they would be headed to or from, but nothing occurred to us.
In the Soo, Gary needed to drop off a piece of sound equipment with Shirley of the band Spyder's Web. Stubborn Stella took us right to the house. While there, Gary and Terry set about fixing a loose headlight on Gary's 2000 cc Vulcan. He had been hearing a strange noise since we left Sudbury and, after looking all around, this was what the culprit turned out to be. Then we headed to a nearby Tim Horton's where the gang and Shirley had coffee while Sandy and I made a quick visit to see Mom. My brother Rabbi had just arrived from Edmonton so we got in a bonus visit.
After reconnecting with the group, we headed over the International Bridge. Traffic was backed up because there were several trucks lined up for their booth, extending onto the two lane bridge and the cars couldn't get by. So the auto booths were empty and, as you can see, we waited. Silly system. When we finally did get to a booth, the Border guy was very chatty. We spent time talking about Colorado since were headed there and his son lived there.
Finally over the bridge, I led down I-75 and across M28 to Newberry. I kept the speed reasonable since I am familiar with the State Police in this area. While we were stopped at McDonalds in Newberry, a trooper pulled in behind a Honda ST1300. I talked to the rider afterwards and found he had been clocked at 76 in a 55. The trooper knocked that down to 60, but it still cost him $80. The same speed only cost us $30 back in 1988. I took it easy as we turned south on M117 and, before long, we passed the same officer who had stopped another northbound vehicle.
From 117, we headed west on US 2 to Escanaba and the west on US 8 towards Wisconsin. I was surprised that when we crossed into Central Time Zone Stella didn't change automatically. She knows everything about where we are and I thought this would be automatic. Maybe I don't have her set right.
We passed quickly through Vulcan, Michigan. I should have stopped for a photo but we were through there and into Norway in a flash. In Rhinelander, Wisconsin, Stella took us right through downtown. Not sure why we got the scenic tour but there are some things I still need to figure out about how to operate this. Forty miles later, she did put us right into the hotel parking lot in Prentice (pop. 676). We saw our only deer of the day just before we turned off.
There was an A model Vulcan already there. It was Sue, who is also known as Cobber's Mom. She travelled the 50 miles down from Minoqua to say Hi after reading my post on where we would be staying. Sue accompanied us across the road to the Boondock Bar & Grill for supper. That's her in the photo with Norm and Gary. A rose between two thorns.
After supper, Sue headed back home. It isn't wise to ride after dark here because of all the deer. I was going to get on line, but it seems the motel WiFi access point was only configured for 802.11G. Gary got on fine but my older 802.11B wasn't able to find it. No big deal because we went to bed quite early.
Friday, July 20, 2007
Got the cash. Checked the tires and oil. Checked the tire pressure gauge (something I've been meaning to do) and it agreed with the new gauge. Cleaned the crud off the front rim. Wiped the bike down. Took the Honda and 30th Anniversary badges off the front and back of the bike. Tightened loose nuts on the Baker Wings. Programmed the GPS.Loaded new tunes. Packed all the gear except for a few minor things that need to stay out until tomorrow. Put key numbers in the cellphone.
All I need to do now is do the updates and transfer my live files to the little notebook computer.
There are six of us leaving town on five bikes at 7:00 AM tomorrow morning. Biker, Abby Normal, Sandy and I are Colorado bound, while Terry (on his pristine '99 Valk) will ride out a couple of days and then head back home and Leo (on his R1150RS) will ride part of tomorrow with us.
Since tomorrow is Saturday, we booked rooms at the Countryside Inn in Prentice, Wisconsin, about 540 miles out. The route after that is negotiable but we plan to be in Colorado Springs on Tuesday for Eric's get together.