Jun 19, 2013
Miles and Miles to Travel (1994)
[Long before there was a GWAG, I wrote all sorts of articles on spec for a variety of magazines and industry rags. This was an 1994 article I wrote for Rider Magazine. I had it sold to the magazine, before I ever bought a trip map, I thought. After it was all whipped together, I discovered my editor was gone and the magazine wasn't accepting any more trip articles. Bummer. Still, I made the trip, got paid an advance, and had an adventure.]
Three years ago I met the bike of my dreams. I figure that a few years before then, some Yamaha engineers got together in some muddy stream and said, "We need to do something for Tom Day. We have built a bike for almost everyone in America, but we haven’t done anything for Tom since the mid-1970’s. We took dirt bikes away from him when we jacked the seat heights to six feet. We even built the Virago for Elvis and he’s been dead for 20 years! Let’s make a Thomas William Day bike, OK?" They did, but they screwed it up and called it the TDM, instead of the TWD. Jingoish, I guess.
I can live with that. It took me two years to break down and buy a TDM and by then dealers were practically giving them away; especially the really cool--and red--1992 version. I’m sorry I wasted those first two years. I’m getting old and losing two years of fun wouldn’t have been worth the $3,000 I saved. I lost that much on my IRA’s in the stock market during those years.
This year’s vacation could have been a lazy plane ride to Seattle and a week hanging out with friends, but I own a TDM! I planned a trip that would prove to the world what a terrific bike Yamaha had made for me. I would do a 1,600 mile freeway blitz to Seattle and a meandering return trip that would take me over freeway, two lane asphalt, dirt roads and dirt trails. I hoped to travel every kind of road surface in the U.S. of A. I was convinced that the TDM was a cross country dirt bike disguised as a mid-life crisis crotch rocket.
I added a few personal touches that I wanted to test on a long trip. Because of a hand freezing problem a few months earlier, I attached Acerbis’ Rally Hand Guards to my bars. Clearview Shields (Golden, CO) built me a prototype of the TDM shield he is planning to market. Kerker pipes came with the bike when I bought it and I left them on, since they saved me about 30 pounds over the stock pipes. They added 30dBSPL to the road noise. I hoped that ear plugs would neutralize that disadvantage. After 15 years of dirt biking, I couldn’t bring myself to do anything to add weight to the bike; even something that would save my hearing and keep my enemies list low. The bike also came with a Corbin seat. Because I hoped they would add to the bike’s handling, durability, and mileage, I put Michelin A89X and M89X radial’s on the bike. A Chase Harper tank bag and saddle bags and a Tour Master tail bag did the luggage duties. Unlike big-deal magazine editors, I had to buy most of this stuff, so I made sure it fit the tour and the bike. The added weight and wind resistance from the luggage altered the bike’s handling, but I brought enough stuff to change residence. In fact, I ended up with too much mild weather clothing and too little roasting weather stuff.
Broke the corporate rules and only wore the top half of the dress code uniform. I came in my riding jeans and only had to dump the tie, dress shirt, dress shoes, and bad attitude to hit the road. Before I was released, I listened to every conversation, even ones that didn’t include me, for the phrase, "I guess you don’t need to hang around here anymore." I got the word at 3:00PM and was out the door 5 minutes later. My bags were packed, the bike was gassed and prepped, and I strapped on my helmet as I drove away from Hell . . . I mean "work."
Since today was our 20th anniversary, my wife and I met in Boulder for lunch. The traffic was miserable between Denver and Boulder. Bumper-to-bumper, 5mph, smog sniffing hell. My bike that can fly and I’m crawling. Almost two hours later, I arrive at the restaurant an hour late. My wife only got here 20 minutes earlier, so I’m not in trouble with a capital "T." We ate, talked, and said good-bye; anniversaries don’t get any better.
Finally, I’m off. Sort of. I hoped to travel northwest to Montana by two lane U.S. Highway 285. Bad decision. More bumper-to-bumper slow motion. Colorado’s Front Range is as bad as southern California. People with bad hair and bad driving skills everywhere. Another hour wasted and no miles traveled. I give up just before Longmont and head for I25, which was also packed, but moving at a reasonable speed. About 10 miles from the Wyoming border, the crowd began to disperse. By Cheyenne I was on open, empty road.
I gas up at Cheyenne and continued northwest on I25. Cheyenne is the beginning of a wonderful relationship with Montana. Good road. Fast traffic. No cops. Great scenery. People are passing me and I’m doing 95! So I go faster. Every other vehicle is a bike. Most of them are going east to Sturgis. I spent the afternoon waving so often my sleeve wore out. Some of the non-Harley riders were traveling faster than greased Ninjas.
Past Cheyenne, still on I25, I can see for miles. Soft rolling hills that are only fenced near the freeway. Sheep and cattle graze together. Cars and bikes smoke up the road without a black-&-white in sight. I get a miserable 37mpg for this stretch, but I make good time. Thirty miles from Cheyenne the terrain turns spectacular. Nothing seems close, though. You can hang on to the throttle and still have all the time you need to enjoy the view. Huge piles of rock have heaved themselves on top of each other, to get a look at the Harley’s and the rest of us. Every Western movie I’ve ever seen must have been filmed here. I keep an eye out for smoke signals and stage bandits.
About seventy miles east of Casper I pass a "Converse County" sign and 1/2 mile later a "Game Crossing" sign. I had Nike’s in my bag and wondered if they would let me play anyway?
A few miles north of Cheyenne, the plains swell into rocky ledges that Festus and Mester Dillun would get sniped at by Native Americans (Whoa! I can be PC.) The weather is perfect, I have a full tank, and the scenery is terrific. You can smoke it here and still have time to enjoy the view. Everything is bigger and further than I’m used to, even by Colorado standards. I traveled 325 miles in my first half day of this trip and I’m beat. The TDM has been comfortable and nothing hurts, but a half work day plus the miles has done me in.
Douglas, the home of the Wyoming state fair, is a great place with motels, hot showers, a McDonalds, and good old high school boys smoking cigarettes and sitting on pickup truck hoods. And soul music blasting out of every radio I heard ("Just Gimme Some Kind of Sign, Girl"). You probably think the Kerker’s took out my hearing and I was having an aural flashback, but I swear I heard political commercials too. I would never imagine a county treasurer ad. Nope, it was soul music, even for breakfast at the local’s downtown restaurant. Can’t beat that.
Douglas doesn’t have a grocery store that stays open late or opens before the banks. I had breakfast, hoping I could find one before I let go of my motel room, but no luck. Just one small tube of hair shampoo, that’s all I wanted. But do you think I could buy one?
Driving across this beautiful, nearly unscarred plain, you could almost forget what a disaster humans have been to this world. The Dave Johnston Power Plant, just east of Glenrock, WY, will keep you within reality. This monster spews enough steam and smoke that you can see it for 10 miles. I though I was coming onto Long Beach, CA. I stopped to write this and a hawk screeched its way past me. Even old Dave couldn’t completely spoil this spot of Wyoming.
At Casper, I had to decide whether to stick with my planned route or get off of the freeway. I decided for chaos. I aimed at Yellowstone by way of US Highway 2026. After blasting along with no traffic in sight for more than 100 miles, I hit the reserve tank 22 miles from Shoshoni. Nothing but desert for 22 miles and I paid $1.29 for 4.3 gallons of the most precious fluid I’ve ever bought.
If you’re planning your urban wild life vacation, have I got the place for you. Montana has 10 people to part with and Morton has 5. Kick up your heels in Wyoming! I can’t believe AAA puts these places on the map. Dubois, on the other hand, has 985 and most of them are rich, judging by the huge log mansions, BMW’s, and Toyota 4-wheelers.
Wyoming must have half of the state employed at tearing up the highways. I sat in line waiting for them to change the guy leaning on the shovel for a total of 45 minutes in a 200 mile section of highway. Maybe that’s where all the rich folks in Dubois come from; the highway department. Our tax dollars attempting to be a work.
The Acerbis Rally Handguards and Clearshield custom wind screen paid for themselves between Yellowstone and Bozeman. I drove through a heavy mist which progressed to a driving rain and climaxed with bullet-sized hail. I changed gloves on the move, attempting to stay out of a pack of semis following me. When I lifted my hands out of the protective cover of the handguards, my hands were pelted blue and soaked in seconds. I made the change in the Clearshield’s air pocket and was able to ignore the storm till it played out a few miles south of Bozeman. My gloves were only a little damp at the edge of the gauntlets. The windshield kept my chest and below out of the rain and I was as comfortable as possible through the storm. When I stopped at a filling station, I joined a pack of riders (mostly Harleys) who had been hiding out for the past hour. They thought I was crazy to go back out into the storm, but I was comfortable and wanted to find a motel before they filled up.
Bozeman was a disappointment. In honor of Robert Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance), I really wanted to stay there. I suppose, equally in honor of him, Bozeman didn’t want me. Every hotel was full, except for a casino/motel that had a $200 bridal suite available. I didn’t feel that desperate. Just before giving up and finding a tree to curl up under, I found a motel at Whitehall, 60 miles west of Bozeman. I found two motels, actually, both were hidden a few miles south of I90 on state highway 2. I spent $18 and slept like a baby.
The next morning I cruised though the Idaho pan handle's canyons and enjoyed the perfect, cool biking weather. I stopped at one of the "Sturgis Coffee Shops" for a free (minus donations) breakfast and got the straight stuff on the local scenic roads. I sped up when I passed a sign bragging about the Rock Falls’ "Bull Testicle Festival" ("Have a ball!"). You never know when there might be a shortage and the locals are hunting for substitutes.
In Missoula, Montana, I met a guy on a full dress BMW K1100. He gave me some road condition advise and told me about a Flathead girlfriend who had the "perfect place to hold a martini, while she was giving him a blow job." He was visiting Misoula to see her again. Once again, I had to face the deprivation of my own life. I have never known any Flatheads and I’m never going to be rich. This guy said he always buys bikes in pairs so he can guarantee himself someone to ride with. He started riding on a pair of Kawasaki Big Horn 350’s and has progressed to a pair of BMW K1100’s. I own a pair of socks, but I don’t share them.
At this point, I want to mention one of the high points of this trip. Since I left Colorado, I have seen one highway patrol car in nine hundred miles. That guy passed me and the pack I was trailing like we were parked; and we were doing 90mph! What a country! Who needs the Autobahn? We have 650+ miles of I25 in Wyoming..
For the first 800 miles of the trip, I had picked up the habit of dashing between filling stations for the first 120-140 miles at whatever speed seemed appropriate and, after I hit reserve, I mellowed out to 60-70mph; praying for a filling station. This was a dumb tactic from Casper to Yellowstone, since that cut my range to a margin that made praying a constant responsibility. But, mostly, it was the most fun way to travel. My worst mileage was 35.6mpg and my best was 44.6mpg. The worst mileage came between Coeur d'Alene and Moses Lake, Idaho, a section of flat, hot, desert where the traffic was flat out, non-stop. The best was driving down the peninsula between Hoquaim, Washington and Portland, Oregon. The scenery was so incredible there that I stopped to take pictures and wallow in the ocean every few miles, but I still smoked the territory between clear cut forest sections. Mild mannered driving and chest-on-the-tank blasting got nearly the same results, so I let nature have its way with my right hand.
Between Coeur d'Alene and the Cascades, I didn’t stop for picture taking. You wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between that area and lots of Kansas. I liked Coeur d'Alene, but west of the lake to about ten miles of Spokane is one long, traffic congested city. It reminded me too much of L.A. and that made my head hurt. Then the desert, which also reminded me of L.A. I gotta go. I cooked in the 100+ degree desert. I stopped at every rest stop and watered myself down. I stood in the sprinkler system of one of those places and I swear I heard bacon sizzling before the water finally lowered my body temperature. The air wavered all around me and the asphalt was soft as putty. Good thing there are no corners in that 240 mile oven.
I stopped at the Rainbow Motel in Ellensburg, Washington. Nice good motel and an experienced bike owner whom to to BS; he’s been on trips across Canada and gave me some good ideas for next year’s trip. I ate some greasy fast food before I fell asleep.
Again, I woke up later than I wanted and hit the road hungry. I’m starting to get into the habit of putting in a few miles before breakfast. It feels good to ride right out of bed and it feels even better to work up an appetite before breakfast. I stopped at North Bend, Washington, just before heading up the Cascades. I wandered around, taking in North Bend Days and listened to a killer country guitar picker for a while. Then, I hit the road with both barrels firing (You can say that when you ride a twin.).
The 125 mile trip from North Bend to Seattle is pretty amazing. I swear, there is a spot where the freeway has desert on one side and 75 foot firs and forest on the other. The mountains leap out of nowhere and this part of the freeway is a royal blast on a bike.
Just before I passed over a bridge and started heading up the east side of the Cascades for the last section of desert mountains, I had my one and only "incident" of the trip. I’d stopped at a "scenic viewpoint" to admire a man-made reservoir and had just enjoyed the fact that, at near sea level, my TDM could do wheelies in three gears exiting the parking lot. A few hundred feet from the exit a large dog or coyote ran onto the highway and stopped right in my path. Grabbing more than my usual two fingers full of TDM brakes, I decelerated from fast to stopped in well under a zillionth of a second. The mutt looked at me, barked, and picked another lane to scratch his ass. I crossed the bridge a little more slowly than the rest of the traffic while I shook out the dampness in my jeans.
I rolled into Bellevue, Washington about noon and parked myself on a friend’s couch for a few hours. That night, we took in a pier-side concert, War and Tower of Power, and a lot of Seattle’s downtown sights, by car. I still loved my TDM, but I was beat. I think the desert did it. For two more days, I goofed off, played basketball, and enjoyed being away from the road. I visited the Microsoft "campus" and was depressed at the "information highway" working conditions. Very prison-like. I was hanging in my friend's office when Bill Gates and a collection of application executives came wandering through one evening close to midnight. I got to hear Bill reprimand a few millionaires for their sloppy code; line by line. In retrospect, it’s difficult to remember which parts in my memories came from Microsoft’s offices and which parts were from the "Underground Seattle" tour. By Tuesday I was ready to roll again.
After saying goodbye and tending to a little business, I headed out of Seattle a little after noon. I planned to take the scenic route down the peninsula, after getting there by the Kingston Ferry. Bikes, as they should, get priority on the ferry. Pass the line of cars and head for the front parking slots. It’s about time someone recognized our superiority. I could ride these boats for the rest of my life. What a great boat ride and I get to take my bike! The day was clear and cloudy, at the same time. I could see Canada and the U.S. clearly.
It’s good to be on the road again. I have no idea where I’m going or when I will get there, now. The directed part of the trip is over now and I’m on my own with only the wind and handlebars to follow. I guess I’m expected back in five more days, but I can’t think about that. I can only follow my front wheel.
This is my first chance to see a rain forest. I could go to Canada, by ferry, or to Oregon, by road. Those are my choices, because I won’t backtrack. I’m through with freeways for a while. The tallest mountains are shrouded in clouds and rain. I can’t see detail, only hazy forms. It looks like I’m going to get wet. I should have patched the hole in my rainsuit’s crotch.
I found some other bikers to talk to about Washington’s highway 101 and the places I should watch for. Mostly, I played tourist and enjoyed the boat ride. As the boat lined up for docking, I walked back to my bike and stuffed my gear into the bags. Since there were no pedestrians on the boat, bikes went out first. I stopped at the first station in Kingston to fill up and walked across the street to an auto parts store to buy a can of tire seal. I’d been meaning to buy that stuff for 1,6000 miles and I don’t know why I was inspired to do it then.
It’s amazing how fast you can learn to resent the "amenities" of culture. Things like fume catchers on gas pumps, pre-paying for gas at self-service stations, cops on every corner start to eat at you till you are ready to go somewhere isolated. Kingston had that affect on me. I checked the bike over and headed for the western Washington beaches.
Fifteen miles later, I was stuck at the Port Gamble toll bridge waiting for the "men leaning on shovels" to let me pass. There was some noise about construction in the area, but all I saw was two people with stop/slow signs and some parked trucks with shovel-leaners nearby. Twenty minutes later, we were moving again. I made it about ten miles past the bridge before I noticed an instability in the rear end of my bike. I stopped and found the rear tire was low. I rotated the wheel on the kickstand and found a leak, but no sign of a nail or anything in the hole. I pumped the tire up and took off, slowly, for a phone.
I made it into Port Ludlow and called AAA for help. After an hour of debating with Washington’s AAA and Colorado’s AAA phone reps, I learned that Washington isn’t in the United States. They have "a different series of policies" for motorcycle coverage and I would have to pay for the tow and Colorado would reimburse me. (I’m still waiting for the reimbursement.) A really well equipped and professional driver carefully picked up the TDM and drove me to Port Townsend, where I paid $85 for a motel room on the beach. I could have picked a lot worse places to be stuck. Nice town, great view, great restaurants.
I got to Port Townsend after the local Honda dealer had closed, but I was there before they opened in the morning. I could tell you that Port Townsend Honda & Marine was one of the high points of the trip and, if I hadn’t been forced to visit them, it could almost be true. They were professional, cool, and fun to talk to. Tom Noyes, star mechanic, let me use the opportunity to look at my bike from the bottom side to best use. I tightened bolts, checked for leaks, and fiddled around while he struggled to fix the collapsed Michelin. And struggle he did. Michelin radials are not built to fix. The inside surface is so convoluted that he had to grind at the inside of the tire for a long while. He still wasn’t happy with the smoothness of the surface and the patch didn’t seem to be sticking well. We added suspenders to the belt and put in a tube. My kickstand bolt had tossed its nut and worked its way almost off of the bike. He ground out a custom locknut and re-threaded the bolt. I bought another can of air and tire goop and hit the road about lunch time.
I expected the trip down Highway 101 to be beautiful, unusual, and inspiring. I’ve stared at pictures of the rain forest in National Geographic's for years and was expecting the experience to be something I’d remember for the rest of my life. Sometimes it was that kind of experience, sometimes it was really depressing. So much of the forest has been clear cut that it hurt to look at the ruins. I enjoyed the remains of the forest and the beaches, but my memory of that portion of the trip is damaged by the thousands of acres of stripped clean mountains and beaches piled high with the discarded carcasses of huge fir trees. Those images pushed me to rush through a section of my trip that I had hoped would be special.
On the other hand, the stretch of 101 to Hoquiam along the bay is incredible stuff. I passed house boats, skiers, a huge Hitachi barge, and rotting historic structures, while I swept along the edge of the ocean on a great twisting road. I didn’t stop much, but it was hard to keep my eyes on the road for the great view on both sides of the road. Since there was almost no traffic, that wasn’t a major disadvantage.
I didn’t slow down as I passed Portland and kept running until I exhausted myself. By then, I was on the east side of the Cascades and I spent the night in Hood River, Oregon. Considering that I hadn’t started until after noon, a 500 mile day meant pretty hard traveling. At least my patched rear tire held up solidly. The other advantage to staying on the move was that I missed out on the long lines of people waiting for whatever the men-leaning-on-shovels make people wait for. There was nearly 100 miles of cobbled-up highway between the eastern edge of Portland and Hood River and, since I passed through that at night, I didn’t have to park in the heat with the other tourists. I don’t feel that I missed anything valuable in Portland.
The next 150 miles toward Boise, still on I84, were fun but hot. From Hood River to Boardman, the freeway parallels the Columbia River and I hopped from one side to the other—I84 to US Highway 14—whenever the whim struck me. I wasn’t in a hurry and both roads were fun to travel and free of men-leaning-on-shovels.
I took a side road, county highway 142, away from the river at Lyle, Oregon. The road was nothing special and the temperature shot up fast away from the river. Thinking that I could navigate my way back to highway 14, cross-country, I headed south on the first dirt road that looked like it had been traveled in the last decade. It whittled down from a wide two lane to a narrow single in a few miles. In another five miles, the single lane turned into a pair of worn ruts. The TDM’s suspension handled the ruts and holes, but the bike’s weight was convincing me that it was no dirt bike. The Michelins were even further from off-road usable. They allowed the bike to slip in every possible direction and got no bite at all on the sand. So I went faster to compensate. I figured that if I was going to crash, I might as well crash solidly. When my arms and legs were burning and barely after I’d switched to reserve, the road changed back to a decent single lane. The trail-to-farm road route repeated itself until I was back on highway 14. I have no idea what that road was used for, it went nowhere other than the route I took. I watched my back to see if Rod Sterling was announcing "The Twilight Zone" the whole way. Weird.
I made it to Boardman, Oregon and headed southeast, away from the river. Thirty miles of hot, flat plains and I’m back in high desert. This is beautiful country. I checked out the Oregon Trail tourist spots and had a great time looking on all directions until a little south of Baker City. It gets hot and Kansas-like quick here and I wicked it up to get where I was going as fast as possible. I made it to the Idaho boarder about noon. Gotta love an early start, but I’m seriously hungry.
Idaho was burning. The whole state was either cooking something or on fire itself. Just before the border city of Ontario, I began to smell French fries. By the time I could see the city, my helmet was filled with drool. There is a huge Ore-Ida potato chip factory in Ontario and the whole valley smells like a monstrous McDonalds. By the time I was free of the actual source of that odor, my helmet lining was saturated with potato grease and I lived with hunger for another fifty miles. Which carried me into the next burnt and burning territory where fields on both sides of the freeway were flaming and billowing smoke. That cured the hunger pains, in a few miles my eyes were burning and my tongue felt like I’d been eating lit cigarettes. At Boise, I was downwind of of the Sawtooth and Boise National Forest fires. Sometimes the smoke cloud was as thick as fog. The smoke cloud was as thick as fog from slightly east of Boise and that cloud stayed with me, in some form, to the Utah border.
I made it to Boise mid-afternoon. I was out of the burning fields and into the burning forests. Boise was cloudy with smoke from the national forest fires. The heat was especially oppressive, combined with the smell of burning trees.
I stayed with an old friend that night and we planned on an early morning and a trip to Sun Valley for the next day. To prepare ourselves for that, we stayed out sampling Boise’s nightlife until way-too-late-o’clock.
Dave and I left early and the sun was shrouded by smoke for most of the trip. I followed his car for a few miles and got bored. When we left the freeway, I left him. Highway 20 out of Mountain Home is a fun ride over some good road and great scenery. I waited at the highway 75 intersection for Dave to catch up and we meandered into town together.
Sun Valley, the place that drove Hemmingway to suicide. Now I can say I’ve been there and understood that. The rich and slippery come here to shop. The wannabes come here to shop, too. In their spandex uniforms, the women who wannabe "trophy wives" parade up and down the sidewalks, hustling their stuff. I was constantly reminded of the joke about the priest asking the babe if she would do it for a million dollars, then a penny, as he tried to determine her price; having already determined her morals.
No, I didn’t like Sun Valley. This is not a fun place to ride a motorcycle. There are cops on every corner and they are collecting "road taxes" like the roads are about to go out of style. My bet is that if Hemmingway had lived only a few miles south, in Ketchum where the working class lives, he’d have lived to a natural death. Ketchum has a much better class of people, fewer cops, and serves better breakfast.
I started the day off with breakfast in Hailey, said goodbye to Dave, and cut across a county road east on state highway 20 toward Craters of the Moon National Park. If it hadn’t been for Dave’s suggestion, I wouldn’t have gone this route. A few miles east on 20, I stalled at another group of men-leaning-on-shovels! There is no escape from these people It doesn’t matter how remote the road is, they are there; holding up traffic, leaning on shovels, and smoking cigarettes. Where do they find all the shovels? I’m pretty sure that, if you could disappear all the shovels belonging to public works departments, there wouldn’t be an employee left standing. Or they’d actually be forced to do some work to keep from falling.
Craters of the Moon is about the weirdest excuse for a national park in the park system. What it sounds like is what it is. Black, volcanic rock piled everywhere. As you approach the park, the desert begins to be more regularly dotted with this stuff until you are finally completely surrounded by heaps of stuff that looks like it was dumped here by the Intergalactic Department of Sanitation. No kidding! I did the look around the park, looked into the oven-hot caves, burned my arm on one of the handrails, and headed for the air-conditioned, clean-bathroomed Visitor’s Center. I came, I saw, I TDM’d my way eastward.
I linked up with I15 at Blackfoot, Idaho and turned south, toward Utah. More shovel-leaners. I tried to fool them by cutting off on Highway 30 at McCammon, but they were waiting. Twenty minutes later, I’m blasting past cars and semis on almost totally open road. Another nice highway, as long as the shovel-lovers stay away.
I popped out on I80, from US 30, and rode it fifty miles east to the Flaming Gorge, Utah, exit, state highway 530S. The first 30 miles into the park are nothing special. You can see the bare edge of the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, on the distant west horizon, but the terrain around the highway is flat, dry desert with high and hot winds. 530S travels over a plateau past the Flaming Gorge Reservoir and the winds are steady and strong. The sky looked like rain, but the air didn’t feel like it.
I quickly got bored enough to haul out my detailed map and make a shot at some dirt roading. The "detailed map" was far from detailed enough. The road I picked, turned into a barely rutted trail, which vanished altogether on a slab of rock. I took a chance and went straight across the rock and, 1/2 mile later, I was on a trail again. But was it the same trail I started with? The map didn’t seem to follow the same pattern as the road. I was still going west when I was sure I should have turned south and east, heading back toward the highway. I flipped the map around a while. I drank some water. I took a nap. I decided to keep following the ruts and fifteen miles later I found paved road. The experience with the Michelin’s made me nervous while I was away from traffic. I decided to curtail those experiments until another trip with different tires and more tools.
About 40 miles south of I25, 530S turns southeast and the view improves immediately. The next 90 miles is littered with switch-backs through cliffs and the reservoir constantly in the background. Highway 44 and 191 are some of the most incredible stretches of the Rockies. This is a combination of nearly forested terrain and desert. The sky is cloudy and the temperature is perfect for riding. I blast and stop, blast and stop, all the way into the forested area south of the park, where I hit...more men and shovels. Another twenty minute wait. But this time a really cute girl was hanging onto the stop sign, so it wasn’t a total waste. I’m finally in a forest that isn’t burning. I hope my Kerkers’ spark arrestor is working. I don’t want to be responsible for torching the last tree in the west.
Because I want the last day of my trip to be easy, I decided to blast out the miles between this edge of Utah and western Colorado. Once I turned east at Vernal, Utah, this wasn’t a hard decision to stick with. I’m not much of a desert fan and this is desert. It stayed hot until about 7:00PM and then it was really warm. I had a full moon and no cloud cover, so the land was well lit even after dark. I drove all the way to Craig, Colorado, before stopping. I think Craig has a lively nightlife. I heard sirens off and on all night. It didn’t mean anything to me though. I had traveled 680 miles, all desert. Parts of my body may never move the right way again. I can’t feel my butt, even with the Corbin’s protection.
I stuck with my drive-a-while-before-breakfast routine. I drove the 90 miles to Steamboat and arrived in time for sidewalk sales and what looked like a motorcycle festival. I saw bikes I had only seen before in magazines, European magazines. Brand new Motoguzies, BMWs, Ducati's, Paris-to-Dakar replica Hondas and Yamahas, Buells, Triumphs, and zillions of Harleys and Harley-clones. It was a lot like my buddy from the westward portion of the trip had been cloned, there was a pair of everything! I was out of film and my picture taking motivation was drained, so you’ll have to take my word for it. But I’m really looking forward to Steamboat’s "Motorcycle Weekend" now.
Looking at the map, it’s pretty obvious that I didn’t need to make up as much time as I thought I did. That happens every vacation. At least one day out of every trip, I get a burr in my butt and go "mileage berserk." Drop the hammer and ignore every worthwhile sight in my way, because I "have to make up for lost time." Some of those times are lost forever now. I have smoked past moments that could have been precious for all of my life. All I have to show for those times are miles traveled. I did that a little less this trip than usual. Maybe I’m learning.
The rest of the ride back to Denver was nice and uneventful. I stopped at Winterpark and rode the ski lift up and the Alpine Slide down. I bought this vacation’s last tank of gas and relaxed for the final two-lane miles before I hit interstate. That was a good decision, because I70 was bumper-to-bumper, crawl-and-stall traffic almost all the way to Denver. The road was littered with highway patrol, steaming engines, and angry cagers. I cut off at the Red Rocks Park exit and took side roads to avoid the traffic for most of the way back home. Back to work on Monday and daydreams of 3,700 miles on a TDM will have to keep me sane till next year . . .