Westward-Ho Sojourn - Aug/Sep 2014

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Road Trip Background

Most years about this time I usually take a long solo road trip out west on my Wing. It’s always a grand adventure and one that I always relish just being on the open road exploring new destinations and laying tread on roads less traveled. My wife doesn’t take the long road trips with me any more so solo has turned into my default traveling mode whenever she does let me slip away alone… but not this year. This year the lives of 3 other Wingers will intersect with mine as we all join forces and spend 2 1/2 weeks on the open road together out west. Craig (5thGear) from Virginia, Gene (Onan) from Missouri, and Bob (Monk) from Arkansas will join with me (DonnieOnTheRoad) from Tennessee as we all make our way west to Colorado, up through Wyoming, Montana and even pop into Canada for a couple of days. Return trip will take us back down through Rapid City, South Dakota and the Black Hills before we head back south toward our respective homes. With input from all of us Craig was the main planner for weaving together our route and I will journal our adventure every evening documenting our experiences, thoughts and pictures along the way. We all get along good together, have similar riding styles and have ridden together enough to know we can have a blast sharing the road together. That is the genesis of this road trip and hopefully it will prove to be a sojourn filled with friendship, adventure and the great unknown delivered the way it was meant to be … while traveling on 2 wheels. At least we all know it is better than sitting in a rocking chair on our front porches.

Link to my SPOT tracker if you want to know where we are at or the routes we took.


Thursday - August 28’ 2014 - To Sikeston, Missouri

The wheels are finally in motion for our meet up and epic journey to begin. Craig has made his way from his home in Virginia overnight to his son’s house just southwest of Knoxville and would make Dover, Tennessee where I’m at today around noon. My steed is ready and chopping at the bit to stretch it’s legs. Since I wasn’t having to leave out early I had plenty of time this morning to just sit back and relax while loading the bike up and just savory the juicy moments right before a road trip begins. Here’s my departing shot with the mule all packed and ready to roll out …

I rolled out around noon and met Craig at the McDonald’s in Dover. Craig had been through this area before but had not had the opportunity to ride “The Trace” highway that cuts through the middle of the Land Between The Lakes recreational area up Highway 49 out of Dover, TN into Kentucky. Since Gene’s house in Sikeston, Missouri was only a few hours away we had plenty of time to correct that and headed off up The Trace winding our way over to Gene’s house. First there was one … now there was two.

We made our way up The Trace but as the heat continued to rise during the afternoon we could see rain clouds and storms popping up ahead and all around the area. Temps were in the 90’s but after riding through a shower or two the temps dropped down to a comfy 75 degrees. We stopped off and took in the view of Kentucky Lake from along a little scenic by way near the main road.
Cloudy and overcast but very comfortable temps

It would have been great if that had remained the pattern for the rest of the way to Gene’s house but instead clouds started to group and by the time we got to Paducah, Kentucky the heavens opened up and we had to beat it for the nearest gas station cover. After a short delay to let the storms move out we finished the last hour to Gene’s house with no more rain. Pulled in to Sikeston, Missouri around 5:30 p.m. and will be resting here tonight. Tomorrow we pick up Bobby in Springfield, Missouri and continue on to Kansas.
Now there were three

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Friday - August 29’ 2014 - To Topeka, Kansas

We were all up early this day to enjoy a wonderful breakfast that Carolyn, Gene’s wife, fixed for us. With full stomachs we said our good-bye’s and climbed into our Goldwing cockpits and hit the road west rolling out of Sikeston, Missouri around 6:00 a.m.
View from the Wing’s cockpit. Please don’t touch any of the instruments
Smooth sailing along Highway 60 all the way from Sikeston to Springfield Missouri

I tell ya if you are ever looking for a good road with little traffic and hardly any Semi Trucks at all to go across Missouri east/west Highway 60 which runs along the very southern portion of Missouri is the ticket. This two lane divided highway helped us make a quick transition to the other side of the state in what seemed like no time. We rendezvoused with Bobby at our agreed upon location just east of Springfield around 10:15 a.m. and after handshakes and greetings all around the Fab 4 was now complete.

We quickly got around Springfield, Missouri and up on to highway 13 north to Bolivar, Missouri where we stopped for lunch and all got reacquainted. Rain clouds and storms were forming north of us so we determined to head west as soon as possible in hopes of missing most of the bad weather north. We ended up on Highway 54 west all the way over to Highway 75 and then north straight into Topeka. The planned route worked and we only encounter rain briefly and we were able to tuck in behind the front and before we knew it the skies were blue again.
Starting to get flat ... so this must be Kansas
Clear skies the rest of the way into Topeka, Kansas.

After we got to the motel John (BMXDad on the Gl1800riders.com forum) came by the motel to say hi. He lives here in Topeka and was actually on duty as he’s a police office here in Topeka. He informed us he had planned to intercept us on the way into town and pretend to pull us over as a joke but he missed us as the SPOT tracker was a little behind our actual position. That would have been funny if he had gotten a chance to do that. As it was we all just ended up talking for a while and visiting.

We are resting tonight in Topeka Kansas and none of us are looking forward to the most boring, flat, hot and windy Interstate in the know world tomorrow. That would be Interstate 70 all the way to Denver. Once we get that leg out of the way the real riding can begin in the Colorado Mountains as we hope to get to the top of Mt Evans on Sunday.

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Saturday - August 30’ 2014 - To Denver, Colorado

The Long and “NOT SO” Winding Road was the name of the song we were singing today as we reluctantly rolled out of the motel parking lot and committed ourselves to Interstate 70 west and the straight 500+ mile shot to Denver. I reframed from taking to many pictures on the way because ... well ... because there is literally nothing to take a picture of except for a straight highway and landscape designed by the inventor of the pancake (flat).
I grabbed this one before we got to far out of Topeka when trees were still part of the landscape. After a while nothingness set in and the only interesting thing we encountered on the road today was this Rat Car.
This thing had everything on it you could imagine. Pretty trashy in a good sort of way :-)
This was pretty exciting ... Wind Turbines ... Oh joy. What’s that up ahead? ... Never mind just more Wind Turbines.

Actually the 500+ mile crossing of I-70 went pretty good for us. There was no rain at all and temps behind the front that passed through the other day kept the temps down somewhat. We only saw highs in the upper 80’s and the biggest surprise of all ... the wind wasn’t a major factor! It did put in an appearance later in the afternoon for one leg of the journey but by and large it was a pretty calm day across this wasteland ... sorry ... I mean Kansas :-)

Gene accidentally knocked off his plastic throttle boss from his grip. I guess it wasn’t on there very tight and he bumped it the wrong way and now it’s interstate 70 debris. We ended up stopping at a Harley Shop just east of Denver to pick up another one for him. We really classed up the place when our 4 Goldwings hummed in to the parking lot ;-) There was another minor mishap the day before when Craig’s phone cradle busted loose. Fortunately, he didn’t lose the phone and that evening Gene and Craig went to a Home Depot and got the necessary parts to fashion him a more secure cradle for his phone.

Tomorrow, I think for all of us, is when we feel this road trip really kicks in to high gear as we take the back way up to Mt. Evans and the weather looks like it’s going to cooperate for us. Spirits are high in hope of finally being able to carve up a few twisties and get to some nice scenery with cooler temps.

Resting tonight in the Mile High City but we’re not inhaling ;-)

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Sunday - August 31’ 2014 - To Estes Park, Colorado

This was a very special day and surely one we will never forget. It will forever be one of my favorite highlights of all the riding and places I’ve been over the many years I’ve been riding motorcycles. I think we all approached the day with some trepidation having heard about the narrow damaged road, extreme elevation (14,270 feet), no guard rails, uncertain weather, high velocity winds, lack of oxygen and finally tight hair pin turns you couldn’t always see around. Gene and Craig had tried to make it to the top on a few other ocassions but had been turned away for weather or other reasons. Bob was the only one of our group that had been to the top before so he was out ace in the hole and he filled us in on all the details of what to expect.
Here he is giving us the big thumbs up on Squaw Pass Road - Highway 103 as we moved towards Mt. Evans. The scenery was starting to get really good as you can see from these pics ...
Trees were still around at this point
I always knew my Wing was special and this approval from above proves it :-)
The road to Mt. Evans awaits

It was funny once we left the motel this morning and started getting into some curvy roads we almost had to retrain ourselves on how to lean the Wing in a curve again having just ridden in a straight line for 500+ miles through Kansas yesterday. We quickly fell back into out favorite mode — lean left, lean right and repeat and before we knew it we were at the entrance to the park road. It was early morning and the weather seems to have cleared just for us to make this run up to the peak as there was a good amount of rain in the area except for where Mt. Evan was and we took full advantage.

I’ll tell you right now if anyone out there reading this is thinking about making this same run up to the top of Mt. Evans on a motorcycle it is Not for the faint of heart. It was pucker factor on steroids and your focus stays fixated on the road and staying on it. My heart was pounding all the way to the top and as I proceeded I continued to ask myself was this a good idea or not. As it turns out it was a great idea and an extremely exciting ride up.

We decided to space ourselves out quite a bit to prevent bunching up and I was first follow by Bob then Craig and Gene were even further behind. Here are a few of the pics taken at various spots on the way up and at the very top. I wanted to stop at several places on the way up to take more but it was just too dangerous to do so.
This was looking back at part of road leading into the area
Several little lakes like this one dotted the area
Imagine being so close to the clouds you feel like you can touch them

After climbing what seemed like forever I finally reached the summit with Bob right behind me. As soon as we parked the bikes we knew we would not be staying up here long. The wind was howling (We all agreed it was probably around 40 mph with gusts to 50 mph) and it seemed like at any moment any of the rain clouds nearby could come this way and that would spell real trouble getting back down. We quickly took some pictures and prepared to head back down. Here’s a picture of me that Bob took. It was all I could do to hold on to the bike to steady and plant myself
This was taken from one of the overlooks at the peak.

I was really hoping to get all 4 of us up there at the same time for a group picture but that wasn’t to be. With the wind howling and the temperature around 35 degrees we were more than ready to head back down. As we were heading down we passed Gene and Craig on their way up. Gene had his video camera on and he capture the entire last 5 mile ride to the summit. It’s an awesome video and I will be looking for a way to share this video either on my web site or the thread on the Gl1800riders.com web site about this ride in the future. Not enough time now to figure out how to do that. We all made it safely back down to more normal elevations and we gathered at the Echo Lake Gift shop to compared stories of our experiences riding up and while at the summit. What a really cool experience. Absolutely loved it!

The rest of the day we would be taking our time winding our way on all the great curvy roads between here and Estes Park where we planned to spend the night. The roads were really excellent except there was one big problem. It was Sunday and Labor Day weekend to boot and traffic was horrible as you might expect. We made the best of it and did manage to find a few spots where we could let the Wing run free for a least a short amount of time. However, by mid after noon Bob cried “Uncle” and we decided to give up and head toward the motel early.

We did finally hit some rain on the way in and it even hailed on us briefly at one point. Not Fun!

Few more pictures from this afternoon ..

And finally ..... Yes I got the T-shirt

Resting tonight in Estes Park, Colorado ... what an outstanding and heart pounding day!!!

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Monday - September 1’ 2014 - To Rawlins, Wyoming

Experienced a senior moment this morning while I was packing the bike. It appeared for a few minutes to me that I had left my jacket and liner somewhere back out on the road as I was unable to find it any where. I frantically searched the bike, then back to the room to look and then the bike again. It was no where to be found. Fear set in right away especially since I was unable to remember where I might have left it and HOW I could leave something like that at a restaurant or a stop some where along the route the day before. It just didn’t make sense. Well, as it turned out it didn’t make sense because I hadn’t left it anywhere but exactly where I had placed in and that was in the rear trunk of the bike. For some reason my mind was thinking I had looked in there but I hadn’t and panic set in and I just assumed it was lost. Fortunately I came to my senses and actually looked in the trunk several minutes later and there they were - right where I had put them. Whew! Weird, how quickly your mind can jump to all kinds of false assumptions. I’m sure we have all had moments like that on the road right? ... Humor me please :-)

With that scare out of the way Bob and I had a good laugh about it and then we joined Gene and Craig and off we went up the highway to the entrance to the Rocky Mountain National Park. Being old guys we all were in possession of the Senior National Parks Pass (one of the few bargains still left in this world) and we got in with no charge and started up Trail Ridge Road. The weather again cooperated and it was a spectacularly beautiful and clear day but windy. We quickly got up to the Alpine Visitors Center and I snapped a few pics.
Sunrise over Rocky Mountain State Park along Trail Ridge Road
Is that gorgeous or what? Elevation close to 12,000 feet
And of course we couldn’t enjoy this view without this ...
At wonderfully paved road that winds through all this beauty.

From there it was back down the mountain and the road was so picture perfect.
Beauty around every turn
Passed several lakes Big and Small. This is Lake Granby
These small ones pop up ever where at elevation.

We stopped mid morning for coffee and hot chocolate where Highway 34 meets Highway 40 to warm ourselves some. The mornings were cool but not extremely cold. We then proceed up some twisties north on Highway 125 which would eventually take us up towards Wyoming.

Highway 125 was a pretty good twisty road when we first got on it but too soon it opened up in to a vast flat land and the road a little worse for wear. We then jogged over to Laramie, Wyoming so we could explore Highway 130 Scenic Byway that ran through Sugarloaf Mountain. It was very scenic but the road wasn’t quite as good a quality as we had hoped.
Bob ahead of me along Highway 130 west out of Laramie, Wyoming
View from the summit on Highway 130 in Wyoming

From here we only had to fight a very stiff wind all the way into Rawlins, Wyoming where we are resting tonight.

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