The day was filled with changes in scenery, weather, and states. It began warm with dry rugged high mountain forest and ended the same. In between I experienced high mountain plateaus, high plains desert, just plain desert, rocky canyons, cool temperatures, warm temperatures, HIGH temperatures, clear bright skies, overcast skies, some drizzle, and a cloud burst.
After a hearty Grand Slam at Denny’s it’s off to Four Corners via Mesa Verde National Park. It was 30 miles to the park entrance. The ride began like most on this adventure, gorgeous. There was soon a stumbling block. There are two seasons in this part of the country, winter and Road Repair. We were in the midst of road repair.
10 miles down the road construction required several miles of one way traffic. Ordinarily this wouldn’t cause more than a 10 minute delay. Not today, once all the cars and trucks came through we continued to sit. After ten minutes, I got bored and walked across the street and watched a second string of vehicles come our way. What is going on? More time passes. We learn the cause of the delay when a couple pedal bicycles towards us. At first angry, I realized that bicyclists have to get through the construction zone.
My visit to Mesa Verde National Park deserves a separate blog. Look for it tomorrow.
From Mesa Verde it was ninety miles to Four Corners, where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah all touch. The wind was dreadful. At Four Corners another biker told me; “They call this Four Corners, because the wind is coming at you from all four directions.”
The monument is located on the Navajo Nation. They charge $3 per person to visit. Around the monument were no less than 50 Navajo vendors.
Two bikers parked next to me, one wearing a HOG Patch from Brunei. HOG is for Harley Owners Group. He is the HOG Chapter President for Brunei, an oil rich country on the island of Borneo. He and his buddy rented Harley’s in San Francisco to ride to New York.
Leaving Four Corners I head into Arizona on US 160 to US 191. It wasn’t long before the clouds began getting ugly and I got a few sprinkles. With lightening off to my left and right, I stopped and suited up. The rain stopped. 50 miles further along, I got out of the rain gear. Instead of packing it away, I tied it behind my seat. Just in Case. Until I got to Monticello, Utah there were rain chimneys visible all about, but I seemed to turn just in time to miss them.
The scenery on 285 and 160 was spectacular but difficult to enjoy with the traffic. There are little towns and homes all along 285. One of the mysteries of the universe is where all the thousands of “Snow Birds” go when they leave Arizona for the summer. Now I know, they go to US 160 in Colorado. I passed one RV Park where there were literally hundreds upon hundreds of RVs parked ever so close together and with only a narrow lane between rows. I don’t believe it possible to pull one out or put one into the rows without moving dozens. There was not a single shade tree in sight. For a hundred or so miles along 160 there are endless RV parks, fishing camps, rafting companies, and hunting lodges. All seemed full. Even with all the distractions, I was glad I took this route.
I bet you all thought you had heard the last of Jim Bob and his exploits. Well on that eventful ride in 2009, we were Four Amigos, JAK Kennemore, Larry Eade, Burny Matthews and me. All retired cops headed out to D.C. to honor fallen comrades. All except me from OPD. I retired from San Leandro PD. I had lunch at a small place on US 285 at US 50. 23 miles east on US 50 is Monarch Pass, Colorado at 11,312 feet. We crossed the pass in May, 2009; it was 22 degrees and snowing. The coffee shop at the summit was covered in snow, with a tunnel dug to the front door.
As usual, Jim Bob was doing his Alpha Biker thing. As we other three prepared to dismount our steeds for a photo op, Jim Bob rode away. Not a word, he just left. We looked at one another, none of us had a clue, but figured we’d skip the photo op of a lifetime and follow Jim Bob. When we finally got clear of the snow, we had ice on our clothes up to our waists. Finally stopping for fuel, Jim Bob told us; “The snow plow operator told me I should get off the mountain, so I left.”
Asked why he didn’t communicate with his three amigos his typical Jim Bob response was; “You’re big boys.” Not sure what that meant.
I had lunch near the intersection of 285 and 50.
I was wearing the last of the non-Harley T-Shirts I brought along to wear and discard. I never throw away a Harley T-shirt. I began to wear my new Harley Ts.
About an hour out of Durango, Colorado, I took a hydration break. I called ahead for a room. Yelp gave me a list of a half dozen motels. I called Best Western, $189 for a single. No thanks. Next on the list was an independent motel. A call got me a room, with free WiFi for $54.
From one of the scenic overlooks.
Looking back up from the valley floor.
Until I reached Durango, the only wildlife I saw was a turkey. Whoop Dee Do!
In Durango I saw two deer happily munching away alongside a city street. Pulling into the motel lot, I saw a D.E.E.R. As I maneuvered across the uneven and steeply sloped parking lot, a big D.E.E.R. came running in my direction. It crossed not twenty feet in front of me. Can you imagine the catastrophe had I collided with the D.E.E.R. and wound up in the hospital?
I had a rough night at the Best Western in Fort Collins. Right after I went to bed I started itching, ankles, elbows, and nose. When I got to Durango I picked up some cortisone. The pharmacist said it would stop the itching. Nope it didn’t work.
In 2009 while on a ride to National Police Week in Washington, D.C., I woke up with identical bites. I was covered from the soles of my feet to my waist. It was so bad I wound up in an ER in Asheville, North Carolina. Bugs always get me. If ten people are in a line and one person gets bug bit, that’s me.
These “bites” forced me home early. I called Kaiser, “You need to get in here right away. You probably had an allergic reaction, not bites.”
When I saw the Dermatologist, he said; “It’s probably an allergic reaction, but I really don’t know what it is.”
I got to Thunder Mountain H-D in Loveland, Colorado at 8:15 a.m. for an oil and filter change. They had me back on the road at 10:15 a.m. The largest dealership I’ve ever seen, this picture does not do it justice.
In addition to this building, they have an amphitheater that seats several hundred. And yes, I did buy another T-Shirt. That made three. I didn’t know what to do with my collection of Ts. Somewhere in the vicinity of 150, my wife has this selfish idea that her Hope Chest should not be filled with Harley T-Shirts.
Riding gave me plenty of time to think about all those T-Shirts. I came up with a plan. I had quilts made for my children. I managed to get quilts made for all four in time for Christmas.
Above is the personalized quilt I had made for my son Paul. It is a combination of Harley Ts and shirts from his life. I especially like the Isla Guadalupe T. It is from a Great White Shark Dive the boys and I went on a few years ago.
Before reaching Denver, I had the bajeebers scared out of me. Trying to keep up with a LOL (little old lady) driving a Prius at about 85 MPH, a tractor with an empty flatbed trailer tried to drive over me. It took me back to the 2009 ride to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. In Arkansas another LOL warned me and my three OPD buddies to be careful on I-40. She said “those darn truckers think they own the road”. She was right. Not quite into Tennessee a tractor with an empty flatbed blew by me. I wonder how fast he’s going. I tried to pace him. At 100 MPH he was still pulling away, I decided it wasn’t important enough.
I got around Denver and headed south west on US 285. It was as attractive as the maps suggested. What I didn’t know was just how popular US 285 and US 160 are. I was in traffic for at least 200 of the next 300 miles.
The day was far from over but time runs short. I’ll finish Day 10 in a few days – See Installment #2.
My day started at 6:45 a.m. when a loud thunderclap woke me. Happily there was only one, and it rained less than an hour. Long enough to get soaked riding to a coin operated Laundromat, where they had raised the laundry rates for bike week.
Back at Motel Kozy I checked out. I hoped Spearfish Canyon at 9:20 a.m. would be traffic free. It wasn’t, but at least traffic was lighter than later in the day. Spearfish Canyon is one of the reasons I came this way.
The first 10 miles was wet and slippery from the rain. While ambling along at 30 MPH, a squirrel ran in front of me. I had a split second to make a choice; “Do I swerve to miss ‘em, or go straight on?” Swerving and hitting the brakes would have probably resulted in going down. “Sorry squirrel.” I ran over his tail. I ruined his day, but he survived the encounter.
Spearfish Canyon is on US 14A. 20 miles up the canyon it dead-ends at US 85. A left turn takes you to Deadwood. On a whim, “why not go right, I’ve been to Deadwood a dozen times. I’ve never turned right. I wonder where it goes.” So a right turn it was. US 85 took me to Cheyenne, Wyoming.
US 85 was a great ride for about an hour and then it turned bad. The temperature was a cool 80.
This was taken 20 minutes before it turned bad.
Not long before this picture, I saw movement ahead on the right. I’d been going about 50 MPH because the ride was so nice, slowing wasn’t difficult. The movement was a fawn, (D.E.E.R.). As I approached it took a step towards the roadway, I slowed even more. It turned back towards the woods, then it turned back toward the road and me. I was down to 10 MPH and almost upon the critter. It jumped up, turned and ran into the woods. I continued slowly for about 100 yards. When you see one deer, you often see a second. Where is Momma D.E.E.R.?
Here is a shot after it turned bad.
The temperature was 100+ the rest of the day.
I saw several groups of antelope. I left cruise control on 75 for about 200 miles. Stopping in Lusk, Wyoming (You don’t ever want to visit Lusk) for lunch I pulled out the maps. I saw that Fort Collins, Colorado is not far below Cheyenne.
The maps showed that once out of Denver, I could ignore the Interstates for days. I wanted to visit Four Corners, where Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico all meet at one point. I could stand in all four states at one time. Added fun would be crossing the Continental Divide at least two more times, and a couple of scenic highways. It was 450 miles so I could make it in two days of easy riding. God Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise as my dad often said.
After lunch, the ride to Cheyenne took two hours, but I had to stop twice for water, plus drinking the bottle I had on the bike. Gassing up in Cheyenne, I guzzled two bottles of water. I had a hard time staying hydrated. Checking in at the Best Western in Fort Collins, the clerk handed me a bottle of water. It was gone in two gulps.
I called the local Harley-Davidson dealer about an oil change. They got me in the next morning. Usually I get an oil change every 5000 miles, but this had seen some pretty heavy riding conditions. My good buddy, Larry Eade, sent me a reminder to change the oil, thanks Larry.
I planned to turn north on US 191 after Four Corners. This would take me through Moab. Then it would be I-70 until I reached Salina, Utah. I always call my Granddaughter Salina, when I go through Salina. From there US 50 would take me to Reno where I’d take I-80 home. The entire trip ended up being 4,500 miles, less than what I wanted.
US 50 across Nevada is called The Loneliest Road in America. Trust me it is. I’ve ridden it west to east twice. This was my first east to west trip. Crossing Nevada, you stop every time you see a gas pump. There are very few, and it tests the limits of my Ultra. Last time across, there were stretches when we went upwards of 20 miles without seeing another vehicle. If you think about it, one realizes that there was probably 40 miles between the two vehicles.