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Days 11-12, July 23-24 – The Long Ride Home, Part 1

No matter where you go on vacation, you always have to head home sometime.  We (Larry, Barb and I) loved the resort at Estes Park so much, we actually tried to get another night, but they were sold out.  (Check out the pictures, taken just outside our room…)   

We continued on 34 through the “Big Thompson” canyon (along the same river that was outside our room), all the way to I-25.  However, almost 20 miles of it had recently been black-topped, some of it with fresh oil.  The bikes seemed to be ok, but whatever oil we got will be hard to get off.   

Riding up I-25, and then on 59 after Douglas, is just rough, barren landscape.  Not much to talk about.  I did notice that, in Colorado, there is a Cheyenne Mountain, which is an integral part of our anti-missile defense system.  AND, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, there is a real missile base.  Hmmm; I wonder if they every play make-believe war games, and, if so, who wins?   

Perhaps the most interesting thing that happened on our return to Gillette was that my bike hit 95,000 (ninety-five THOUSAND) miles.  It was just north of Wright, Wyoming, and I stopped to take the picture.  95,000 miles on a 2000-model-year bike means I’ve gotten a lot of riding out of this machine.  I’ll also hit 96,000 miles somewhere around the Snoqualmie Pass, but I don’t think I’ll take a picture of that.  J   

Getting back into Gillette, I called my buddy Gary Woods, and suggested we do dinner.  I wanted to meet his wife and family.  Gary and I went to the local Pizza Hut, and called Colleen. Colleen gathered up the kids (Trevor, 7, and Michael, 17?)  and came to meet us.  We ordered pizza, and Gary and I split a pitcher swapping stories.  Gary has always told me that his Colleen is much like my Anne, and he’s very right.  After dinner, we headed to Gary’s house, to look at pictures and more stories.  Around 10:00, he took me back to the Sanneman’s, who were very patient with me bouncing around so much.  We watched some TV, talked about my early departure, and said some good-byes.  A very nice evening.   

When I awoke and got dressed around 6:30, Larry was up and ready to go get a Starbucks and doughnut with me.  We had our last face-to-face chat for a while, drank our coffee’s, and I left town right at 8:00.  I had a blast with Larry & Barb, and will always remember this great trip with good friends.   

I got to Sheridan around 9:30, and tried to call my uncle Bud and aunt Lucy.  But I didn’t have their phone number, and none of the 3 “Clark’s” that I tried were home or them.  Too bad.  I probably should have planned to visit them, and brought their number for sure.  Next time.   

Half-way from Gillette to Redmond is about Missoula, where I planned to spend the night.  About 60 or so miles out of Butte, the winds and dark clouds started acting up, and it lasted until about 60 miles the other side.  I became rather tired of fighting the winds, but didn’t really realize it until I stopped, and my arms felt 6-inches longer, and I felt I was walking around like a gorilla.  The hotel had internet access, and I’m able to up-load pictures to the www.weltner.net web site, as well as send out emails.   

Tomorrow is another long-haul day: 500-ish miles.  But I’ll be glad to get home to my own bed, to see my lovely wife, and all the other things that matter when you come home from a trip.  But it has been a great trip. 



Day 10, July 22 – Passing through lots of Passes  

After packing up and getting ready to go, we quickly concluded trying to do Pike’s Peak would be an all-day event, so we needed to put that off for another year.  No problem.  Our route to Estes Park went through the Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as at least 4 passes, most over 10,000 ft in elevation.   

Leaving Colorado Springs, we went on Hwy 24 through Manitou Springs.  We made up for not seeing the Cliff Dwellings at Mesa Verde (where there were forest fires) by stopping at these Cliff Dwellings and historical artifacts from the Anastazia People.  These particular dwellings were transported from the 4 Corners region of Colorado, to be related to the Garden of the Gods, Pikes Peak and other attractions nearby.  They were, quite frankly, better than I thought they might be (after I was told they were transported from the 4 Corners area).  Larry, Barb and I had our pictures taken in some windows, and also browsed through the gift shop for a long time.   

Our first pass was Ute Pass, at 9,165 ft, along Hwy 24.  Next, also along Hwy 24, was Wilkerson Pass (9,507 ft), which brought an impressive vista of a wide open valley, bounded by other Rockies further west.  Continuing west on Hwy 24, we stopped for gas and lunch in Hartsel, and then headed north on Hwy 9. Next on the route was the town of “Fairplay”, which is the inspiration for South Park, the TV cartoon.  The next pass was Hoosier Pass, at 11,541 ft, and presented the great view of Breckenridge, the famous skiing center. The next town of “Frisco” reminded me of Lake Tahoe, because it was very “Yuppified”, and near a beautiful lake.   

Next was a short, 25-ish mile ride on I-70, and the craziness we have come to know from Colorado drivers.  We took a rest stop at Georgetown, a famous silver site, and then proceeded to our turn-off on Hwy 40.  This was a very spectacular stretch, which crossed the Continental Divide at Berthoud Pass (11,315 ft).  We took pictures here, too.  When we got to Granby, we went right on Hwy 34, and quickly got into the Rocky Mountain National Park.  I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever been in this park before; I might have been, but I can’t remember.  My parents took me to lots of National Parks.  If I had been to this one before, I should have remembered it.  We saw elk and other wildlife, much like you might find at Yellowstone Park.   

But the real beauty of the park is how the road travels on the crests of several great mountain ranges.  Up and up and up we went, through twisties and switchbacks.  The vistas were great, and we would stop for pictures frequently.  Finally, we’re at what seems like the top, around 12,000 feet, and we travel at the top of the crest for what seems like an hour.  The road was narrow, and off either the right or the left side were shear drop-offs.  Winds were blowing, and it was difficult to keep the speed up.  I was also a bit worried about my front disc brakes, but didn’t really have much problem.   Our route down was equally impressive with switch-backs and views.  What a wonderful ride.  The closest thing I can compare it to is the rim road around Yosemite.   

The town of Estes Park, just outside of the Rocky Mountain National Park, is just a little hamlet.  The resort operator recommended a little place called “Beverly Hills”.  I was buying dinner. We got good, homemade food, and took dessert back with us for later.   

My ride today was a bit of a dream.  You can’t imagine how small Snoqualmie seems once you’ve been up 2-3 or 4 times higher.  And, going over several of these in one day, well, I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.



Day 9, July 21 – Panic in the Garden of the Gods

I’m generally an early riser, so I had no problem getting up early for a fast run up to Denver before Larry & Barb woke up.  The place that would have my diabetic supplies was supposed to open at 9:00, and Denver was supposed to be 45 miles away, so I figured I would try to be on the road by 8:00, there by 8:45, and back before 10:00.  Was not to be. 

I actually had breakfast among a bunch of Mennonites; they might have been Amish, but they were traveling by bus, so I think they were Mennonites.  News of the London bombings on the TV.  How sad; the true measure of terrorism is when even relatively ‘small’ disasters cause so much grief.  I got on the road by 7:45.  Good thing, too.  Denver is actually more like 60-70 miles away.  And I had to stop for gas somewhere.  The real panic of the day, and, frankly, this whole trip occurred trying to get around Denver.  People drive 70+ mph, and drive bumper to bumper.  Very scary.  I was next to a truck that slammed on his breaks, created a cloud of blue smoke as the tires skidded, and then whammed on the throttle again in order to not get rear-ended and in an accident.  Very scary.  The directions I had were good, albeit without any indication of distances.  Found the distribution site, which was really nothing more than a “Mail Boxes Etc” kind of place.  Nobody there, and it didn’t open until 9:30.  Wandered around, had some coffee, killed time.  Finally showed up at 9:29, had a fax about me, and a form or me to fill out.  They gave me my supplies, and I was once again in the Denver rat race.   

When I got back to our hotel in Colorado Springs, Larry & Barb were gone.  I went to my room, and promptly fell asleep.  Awoke to the knock on the door, them telling me that they were doing laundry, and also checked out the local Harley shop.  No problem; I went back to my nap.  Awoke again around 12:30, hungry for lunch, but no Larry &  Barb.  Found them in the parking lot.  They, too, were ready for lunch, so we did the “Old Chicago” right next door.  Good food.  Asked if we could get some ice from them for our cooler, and they said no problem.   

Our plan for the afternoon was to visit the “Garden of the Gods”, a picturesque and unique rock formation, which is actually a city park.   We took the guided tour, and then went around the park on the bikes.  It was nice to hear the history, and then experience it in the open air of the bikes.  Took the long-way around to Balancing Rock, and took many pictures.  Stopped for a coffee and water at the century-old “Trading Post”, and enjoyed the various exhibits there, too.   

Coming home, I wanted to stop at a Honda shop.  I can hear my front disc brakes squealing, and its time for new pads.  But we had to find it.  I had looked it up on the internet, but didn’t have an exact address.  Sure enough, I went left when I should have gone right, and went 15 minutes in the wrong direction.  It was so hot that we decided to heat home.  In 6:00 traffic.  Man, was it hot.  Very frustrating, not knowing exactly where you’re going, and making wrong turns, in near-record breaking heat.  But we did survive.   

I’ve been trying to call my wife, Anne.  Tomorrow is her birthday.  I miss her very much.  She’s with her sister in California.  She has her cell phone.  If you call 425-941-5176, please wish her a very happy Birthday, and tell her that I’m very lucky to have her stay with me for so long.  If you’d rather send an email, it’s anne@weltner.net, but she won’t get it until Sunday.  If you could help me out with this, I’d really appreciate it. 

Dinner at the Outback tonight.  Good steak.  I’m hot and tired, and should go to bed.  Tomorrow we run Pike’s Peak, and go to a resort north of Denver (Estes Park), hopefully without trying to go through Denver in the process.



Day 8, July 20 – The Durango / Colorado Springs Dichotomy  

Durango is certainly an interesting place, and one I should come back to when I have more time.  As it was, we had 300+ miles to make in a day of record-breaking heat, so we elected to try to get an early start, and didn’t spend much time there. 

At breakfast, Larry noticed a group of particularly ugly cars outside the hotel, apparently lining up.  By their behavior (and odd paint jobs), Larry assumed they were taxi’s, waiting for fares.  When I went out to start loading the trailer, I asked what they were.  Turns out they were pre-production factory cars, from Michigan, out on an extended test run, apparently trying out different configurations and so forth.  They couldn’t tell me what kind they were, but also said, “you can probably tell just by looking at them.”   Ford Focus’s?  Something better?  I’m not a good judge.  Maybe you can look at the pictures and tell.  

Leaving town, we saw (and heard) the steam trains heading on their run up the mountain.  There was not one, but four trains, and they left such a cloud of smoke that the Hwy 160 was covered in black smoke for quite some distance.  I probably should have stopped and taken a picture or two, but we really wanted to be on the road.   

The 100+ degree temperatures have had a deleterious effect on my insulin pump and delivery system.  My “tender” is something similar to an IV, only it is subcutaneous, or just under the skin, not into a blood vessel.  But the heat makes the site of the injection fall off from sweat.  I brought two more than I might normally need, but have gone through them.  I called my pump maker, who has a place where I can get some more in Denver, and I’ll make a run up there tomorrow morning.  I’ll have to buy a whole box, much more than normal, but with the heat, that’s what I have to do.   

A place where I took many pictures was a very high (10,000+ feet) pass, Wolf Creek Pass.  First, the rocks there reminded me of the Castle Craigs in Dunsmuir, California.  Second, we got stopped for 45 minutes outside a tunnel, where they were doing road work on the other side.  Very warm, but not in the 100’s.   

Just after the pass, still on 160, we got into the high dessert again.  But, probably due to the time of day, the temperatures were more tolerable, something like 85-95.  We cruised through dozens of towns where the elevation exceeded the population.  No bother, really, other than having to change from 65, to 55, to 45 and then to 35, and then back up the scale to get out of town.  Eats a lot of time.  Very boring, too.   

Where Hwy 160 meets up with I-25, the temperatures rose dramatically.  Suddenly, we were in the 105 degree heat again.  Fortunately, we only had about 70-90 miles of this before we reached Colorado Springs.  While Durango is a small tourist town nestled into the crevices of a mountain base, Colorado Springs is a big, spread-out metropolis.  Very, very different cities.   

Unfortunately, there are two Hampton Inns in Colorado Springs, and we went to the wrong one first.  Didn’t get checked in until about 6:00.  Again, we had the smoking rooms.  Again, we asked that they be sprayed.  (I think they called the treatment, “getting ozoned” or something.)  Took one-half an hour per room.  We didn’t want to go to dinner until the treatment, because we wanted to get cleaned up first.   I used the time to call my insulin pump people, and make the arrangements to get the supplies in the morning.  

Finally in the rooms, we agreed to meet in one hour for dinner.  I got the laptop ready for email, and stripped down to nothing to clean up.  “I’ll just check email first”, I thought.   Then, before I knew it, there was a knock at the door.  45 minutes had passed with me just looking at email!  Arrrgghhh.  Larry checked his email while I got dressed.   

Intended to go to the “Old Chicago” pasta and pizza place.  30 minute wait, so Larry decided to check out the wait at the “Outback”.  They, too, had people out in the street.  Just for the heck of it, Larry and Barb walk over to the Hooters next door, and call me on my cell to tell me they got a table right away.  Now, most people know I’m far to shy to go to Hooters.  I must say, it is hard not to stare.  I don’t know how I will go to sleep tonight.   

Tomorrow we go to the Monument of the Gods, supposed to be a fun, interesting rock formation series.   

Good day, good friends.  The kind of day vacations are supposed to be full of. 



Day 7, July 19 - The Dance to 4 Corners and Durango

In a day when you go over a pass which was 10,000+ in elevation, and then walk around a 4-corners monument with the temperature at 110 degrees, you know you’ve covered some ground. 

I left Durango and the Gold Rush event with some trepidation.  Before I went, I had felt sure that some of the staff did not really want me there; but, in actuality, almost everybody I met was surprised at my change in position, and had wanted to sit with me to discuss things about the GWTA.  However, I had my plans to go see the 4-corners area, and see other parts of Colorado, so I took off.   

Larry, Barb and I met for breakfast at 7:30, which is early for Barb, intent on getting on the road before 8:30.  We had the trailer packed and ready to go by 8:15, and we were off.  Our route today took us 90 miles down south on Hwy 50 to Ridgeway, 30 miles over the Dallas Divide (8,970 ft), and then 87 miles down 145 through Telluride and the ski areas of Lizard Head pass (10,222 ft) then down to Delores and Cortez, which are pretty much dessert.  It’s about 40 miles of 65 mph freeway from Cortez to the 4-corners area, which links Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.  It’s in the middle of nowhere.  And it’s hot there: it was 110 degrees while we were there.  I actually didn’t like it that I had to pay $3 to the Navajo Indians to spend 15-20 minutes at the 4-corner monument, but I guess that’s what it is.  I bought post cards, but not enough, I discovered.  Oh well.  

Throughout the day, I was trying to compare the geography to places I have been.  Much was like the Methow Valley, only the rock out-croppings were way more red than that.  Much was like the area between Wenatchee and Quincy, with rocky cliffs running by a clear river.  Other parts were much more like eastern Washington, with more green and mountains.   

We had also wanted to go to the Mesa Verde area to see the Cliff dwellers, but time was going by, and we were exhausted from the heat.  Instead, we just headed straight for our hotel in Durango.  To the air-conditioned rooms.  And a BBQ dinner.  Ahhh, what bliss.  There are some things you just don’t appreciate until you experience the other side.   

We’re staying in Hampton Inn’s, because Larry & Barb’s daughter Dianna works at one, and we get the employee discount.  BUT, because we’re last on the list, and the hotel is full, we have smoking rooms, much to the chagrin of Larry and Barb.  For the price, I’m not going to complain one iota.   

Turns out there is a Kawasaki Voyager (another touring motorcycle) convention going on here.  We talked in the CB to some folks from Seattle.  Pretty cool.   

We have a long trip tomorrow: going to Colorado Springs, about 300 miles, but a good part of it is through the dessert.  We plan on bringing lots of water, and stopping as often as necessary.  Larry did not get a good night sleep last night, perhaps because of the wine we drank.  I slept well, but was still tired in the heat.  I hope to get to bed early tonight. 



Day 6, July 18 - Gold Rush and the Colorado Monument

Timing is everything, they say.  Day 6 found me chasing time, all day long.  

Started out when I got up early, and discovered that the Registration for the GWTA Gold Rush (the original reason for my trip to Colorado) opened at 7:00 am.  I had set up to meet Larry for breakfast at 7:30.  If I hurried, I could get registered before breakfast.   It was neat getting to the registration early, and seeing my friends from the National Office, Jennifer and Tara.  And others on the National Staff of GWTA were there and very friendly to me, too.  I had been a National Staff person, too, until April.  A falling out with the person who put Gold Rush together caused enough strife and stain that I thought perhaps they should find someone to replace me, who could get along better with the Gold Rush organizer.  Perhaps I could have handled things better; water under the bridge now.  Now I was just another GWTA member; I was happy to have the friends I do on the National Staff, and I hope to keep them in the future.   

But my renewing friendships took me longer than 7:30.  I got back to the hotel (just across the street from the convention center) right at 7:30, but missed Larry, who was looking for me.  We finally get together, and, after eating our breakfast, he decides he’d like his own registration bag, rather than have all of our stuff in one.  No problem.  We wander back, and get another.  By the time we get back, Barb is there.  We have nearly 2 hours until the Opening Ceremonies (with a laser light show), so I go back to my room to brush my teeth and perhaps take a short nap.  I wake up just 5 minutes to the 10:00 start time, and end up rushing over to the convention center.  Can’t find Larry & Barb.  They do the “Oh Canada” and the “Star Spangled Banner”, and I see them.  We sit together for the mostly-fun opening, but Larry takes offense to a slight jab to a Harley that could be a prize in the National Raffle ticket sales.  Oh well; I didn’t even catch it.   

After Opening Ceremonies, we wander across town to where the vendors are, at the Double Tree.  Not much in the way of vendors, really.  But I do see more friends, and I’m glad for that.  Didn’t get to spend much time with anybody, because I was running around to and fro.  While having a drink inside, one of my old National Staff friends comes up, and I buy $5 worth of raffle tickets from him.  I explain that this guy still liked me, so I had to buy them from him.  He tells me that 99% of the National Staff wishes I was still there, which makes me feel better.  Bitter sweet stuff.  We then went to lunch at Denny’s, and I went back for the chat with the Executive Director and Chairman of the Board.  Not well attended: maybe 30 people came.  I learned a few tidbits, but mostly it was things I already knew, or had no interest in.  Not a total waste of time, but somewhat.   

Larry and Barb had gone on a ride to some wine tasting places, and brought back some to drink tonight.  We loaded the bathroom sink with ice as a make-shift cooler, and then went on a ride to the Colorado National Monument.  Such a spectacular geological site.  It was like the Grand Canyon, only we’re inside of it. Only 27 miles in length, it takes a long time to ride it because you just have to stop and take pictures.  But you could never have enough film, or batteries in the case of a digital camera.   

Again, I had misjudged the time.  I wanted to get back for a dance at 6, but we had spent a great deal of time taking pictures.  I eventually decided that I had to take off, get back to the hotel to change, and get some dinner, too.  Didn’t get to the dance until about 7:30.  But it was a real drag. Nobody was dancing.  They were doing Karaoke, but it was lousy.  No fun.  I went back to the hotel, but Larry & Barb must have gone out to dinner, and were no where to be found.  So I decide to start writing my (this) daily journal.   

I have to look at the bright side: I saw a large number of friends, renewed other acquaintances, bought some GWTA shirts I wanted, and saw the Colorado National Monument via motorcycle.  Who could want more in one day than that?   

Life is better when you think positively.  I did have a great day after all.



Day 5, July 17 – Grand Ride to Grand Junction 

Day 5 of my 05 Adventure found me up early.  I had had a low-sugar condition the night before, and I wanted to get a good breakfast to make sure I would be ok for the day.  I was up at 6:15, showered, made the coffee, and waiting for Larry on the deck of the timeshare condo by 7-ish.  Larry & I had agreed to let Barb sleep in, and we would go find a breakfast place.  I had decided to bring the laptop, too, in a wish to find a place to wirelessly upload my daily chronicles.  

Larry and I went to “The Egg & I” restaurant, where he had a great omelet, and I had so-so Denver scramble.  But, interestingly, what we talked about were family Thanksgivings and other holidays.  We each had some rich memories to share.  Very neat.   

There was a Starbucks next door, but they didn’t have wireless.  They recommended a bookstore / coffee shop in town.  While there, we invited a nice lady from Yonkers, NY to sit with us, and had a delightful conversation.  The laptop I’m using is a 6-year-old Gateway, which is surely one of the slowest systems on earth.  Takes about 10-15 minutes to just boot up and load Internet Explorer, Word, and FrontPage.  Only then can I send my mail, and upload new pages to the weltner.net site of my travels.  (House-keeping note: please do visit the www.weltner.net site to see pictures of my trip; a button off of the main page will take you directly to the 05 Adventures.)  (Another house-keeping note: many folks have emailed me concerned about my comments about not wearing a helmet; rest assured, I always wear my helmet while going down the freeway on this trip.  However, when the temperatures are in excess of 100 degrees in town, it is easy to fall into the habit of not wearing it for around-town trips.  Because of the large number of messages, I will endeavor to wear it all the time, no matter what.  Thanks for your concerns; I appreciate your thoughts.)   

We were on the road by 10:00, through a very scenic part of Colorado between Steamboat Springs and Wolcott.  It reminded me of Eastern Washington, but there was much more exposed rock and vertical uprising.  The two-lane road curved through numerous small towns, and I did stop to take a picture or two.  We then got on I-75 and stopped for lunch at Eagle.  (Larry wisely asked me to check my blood; it was fine, but it was also a good time to stop for lunch.)  We also went to a visitors center there, and got several brochures about scenic spots around Grand Junction.  From Eagle, it was just a short trip to the most spectacular run of the day, through Glenwood Canyon.  The deep carving through bright red rock assaults your senses and makes you wonder how such a beautiful place was formed over thousands, millions or billions of years. I-75 goes right along the river here, and is an engineering masterpiece melding art and function.  I don’t know exactly how long the canyon goes, but it seemed like 20 or more miles that we traveled in the bowels of the ancient river crevice.  Simply breath-taking.   

We stopped for water at Rifle, and read about Christo’s ‘70’s curtain across the canyon there.  $650,000 in ‘70’s dollars, for a curtain that only lasted one day.  Larry wasn’t impressed, but I had to explain to him that this was art.  Larry just doesn’t understand the message behind the medium, I guess.   

It was a straight shot from Rifle to Grand Junction, less than 65 miles.  Found the Hampton Inn in short order, and we all decided to rest before dinner.  At 5:30, I was ready to go to Palisades for the GWTA “Family Reunion”, but Larry and Barb decided to stay.  No problem.  I had trouble finding the Civic Center, but eventually spotted the couple hundred motorcycles.  Got pictures of several friends, and met several new ones.  After a couple of hours, I headed back to Grand Junction (about 10-12 miles) with a group of bikes from Illinois.  Was looking for my friend Burt Wagner (from Chicago), but didn’t find him.  Oh well; I’m sure I’ll find him tomorrow.   

Larry & Barb found me when I returned, and we all went out to get a beer.  The main street of Grand Junction has lots of artwork on it, and we wandered around looking at the various pieces before we found the local brewery.  I wasn’t impressed with their “Rabbit Ears Amber”, but thought their “Colorado River Pale Ale” was OK.  I’ll ask for a sampler before I order next time.   

It was a grand ride to Grand Junction.  I’ll always remember the stark beauty of the Glenwood Canyon. 



Day 4, July 16 – Cruising to Steamboat Springs

Day 4 of my 05 Adventure found me being “that guy”.  You know, the guy who is always late; who wants to stop at this and that; who can’t seem to get ready; the guy you’re always waiting for.  Today, I was “that guy”.   

First, I normally am up and at ‘em early.  My internal alarm starts going off at 5:00, and I’m ready to go do whatever by 6 or 6:30.  Not today.  I slept in past 8:00.  I have no idea why.  Then, when everybody else seemed ready to go, I couldn’t get my stuff packed.  People kept bringing me stuff I had forgotten.  It was embarrassing, too.   We had said we wanted to get an ‘early start’, which I think meant gone by 9:00.  Well, we were on our way to breakfast (in Gillette) by 10:00, and not on the road until closer to 11.  Poof!  There went our early start.   

Then I wanted to stop to put ice in the cooler.  Went to get gas, and got ice there.  I also wanted sun screen; the temperatures were over 95 degrees already, and I decided to ride without my leather jacket.  Barb put some of hers on me, because the little store at the gas station didn’t have anything above SPF 4.  (What good is SPF 4, anyway?)  Bought some more water, too; a 12 pack.  (More on this later.)   

So off we go.  Gillette down 59 to Wright.  Along the way, we saw a huge herd of Buffalo (being raised for their meat), and I stopped to take a picture.  (“That guy…”)  From Wright (where Gary Woods and I had had lunch), we went west on 387 to Edgerton and Midwest, catching 259 and I-25.  Along this route, we stopped for the sign about the “Bozeman Trail”, and read the signs about unitized oil fields in Edgerton/Midwest.  From there we went to Casper for lunch, at an interesting A&W that was over 50 years old.  (We just had root-beer floats, fries, and lots of icewater.)  Gassed up, replenished the ice, and bought some lip balm for my poor blistered lips.  Less than a mile down the road, the cooler chest came un-done from the trailer, and spilled the contents all over the highway.  (“That guy…”)  Larry helped me collect as much as we could get easily, and we (together) made sure the cooler chest was secure before we headed out again.   

Taking 220 southwest, the temperatures were easily above 100, probably more like 106.  Much of this way, I thought we were traveling in God’s great, big ice cream container of various kinds of chocolate swirls, raspberry, and Neapolitan; the geography just seemed to be scooped out, leaving us to see the edges of the rock layers and their variously colored strata.  We went to “Independence Rock”, where people heading west had to pass before July 4th in order to sure to get past the Rockies before the onset of winter.  The rock itself is also know as the “Registry of the West”, because people would carver their names in it, with data like their age, the date, and other stuff.  Very interesting place.  Also met some other Gold Wingers heading to Gold Rush in Grand Junction.  They were from Rapid City, South Dakota, not far from where we started in Gillette.  They were only going to Rawlings for the night, and then on to Grand Junction.   

Our next stop was a short ways down the road to “Muddy Gap Junction”, where we bought more ice for the cooler, to keep the few bottles of water we collected cool.  From Muddy Gap to Rawlins, we criss-crossed the Continental Divide multiple times.  I stopped to take pictures of one of them.  (“That guy again…”)  From Rawlins we went on I-80 for a short ways, then exited to Hwy 789 to Baggs.  This lonely highway also crossed the Continental Divide, and ran along what sometimes seemed to be the top of the world.  There was a lightening storm going on in the distance, and we were occasionally pelted by water bugs (rain drops).  Just after Baggs we came to the Colorado state line, and I wanted a picture of that, too.  From there to Craig we discussed on the CB whether we wanted Mexican food or Chinese food: Larry supports several coal mines in the area, and could recommend these two choices.  We decided on the Mexican, because the had such good Ice Tea, according to Larry.  He was right, and it was a good dinner.  Craig to Steamboat Springs down Hwy 40 wasn’t very far (41 miles), but it was becoming twilight, and we were eager to get stopped.  After 400-ish miles, with someone who wants to be “that guy” all day, we were ready to stop.   

Steamboat Springs is really a ski-town for the winter, but it was full of tourists / visitors for a softball tournament (we think).  I’m rather impressed with the time-share arrangements, but Larry and Barb are somewhat disappointed, having higher expectations than me.  I will say that not having any internet connections seems out of sorts for 2005, but perhaps that’s just me.  

I’m happy to be here, and I’m hoping I’m not “that guy” tomorrow. 



Day 3 - Doing Devils Tower

Day 3 began with Larry suggesting that we go down to Albertson’s for some good Starbucks coffee.  Because this is Wyoming, helmets are essentially optional.  And, with the heat over 100 every day, most riders don’t wear helmets.  So, I decided, when in Rome… 

We got to Albertson’s, sat and drank our coffee, chatting with the baristas and other customers.  We talked about Cat (who Larry works for), their future technology, and what Larry wants to do with them.  Cool stuff.   

We went out because Barb wanted to sleep in for the first day of her vacation.  Getting back to home, Larry checked the rubber on his rear tire, and decided he needed a new one before we took off for Colorado.  The local Harley shop had one, and worked him in.  We ran over there; I had never ridden at highway speeds without a helmet before, and it was a strange experience for me.  (We took a different way home.)  Since we had the morning of time, I used the time to complete my paperwork for the Saddle Sore 1000, and send it off to the Iron Butt Association.   

Some statistics from my trip:  I went 1053 miles by my speedometer, used 33.9 gallons of gas, for an average mpg of 31.  I figured that, doing 75 mph most of the time, pulling a trailer, 31 mpg isn’t too bad.   

During lunch, I find out that it is Larry and Barb’s 27th Anniversary.  So we sang “Happy Anniversary” during the lunch.  After lunch, I pushed their son, Tom, into riding the Silver Wing 500 I had given him a couple of weeks before.  I would have thought he couldn’t resist riding, but he really hadn’t ridden.  So Larry had him doing starts and stops in front of the house, eventually shifting into second, and down shifting and so forth.  But it was the middle of the day, and very hot, and Tom got tired.  No problem.  So we all shifted to inside, where it was cooler.   

Time caught up with me.  Staying up late, the oppressive heat, and other excitement made me very tired, and I took a nap.  I woke up with Larry coming home from the Harley shop with the bike.  We decided to do he Devils Tower run in the afternoon.  Only about 70 or so miles, it was a relatively easy run, through great country.  Coming up on it, it simply takes your breath away. You go over a rise, and wham! – it’s right there!  We got to the gate, and they let me in for free because Larry & Barb had a year pass.  We saw lots of prairie dogs, and toured the visitor center.   

Devils Tower rises 867 feet from its base, and stands 1,267 feet above the near-by river which eroded the surrounding sedimentary rock, leaving the tower.  In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Devil’s Tower the first National Monument under the Antiquities Act. Scientists thought at first that the tower was the core of an ancient volcano, but recent data suggests it is instead an igneous intrusion.  It is a spectacular piece of America, which I had not seen before today.   

I got some good pictures of the sun going down around the tower.  We headed home sort of late for me.  Had dinner, and decided to wash some clothes before taking off tomorrow. 

Visiting the Devils Tower was a big experience for me.  I will be back here again.  It was a great day to be on a motorcycle, seeing a great American treasure.



Day 2, July 14 – Bumming with Buddies 

Woke up to the sound of Larry making coffee.  Larry knew that I would be so tired after the Saddle Sore 1000 that the couch alone would suffice as a bed.   He was right.  As we’re sipping coffee and catching up, my buddy Gary Woods called and suggested we meet for breakfast, and I hang out with him while he was working in the numerous coal fields around Gillette.  I took a shower (whew!) and got dressed, and we headed out to Perkins to meet Gary.   

Gary brought his video camera, and was making scenes about what we did all day long. (Most of the pictures I have from this day can be accredited to Gary.)  A very nice thing about good friends is that they likely get along well with your other good friends.  I’ve noticed this recently with my buddies Al & Joel, and the same thing occurred with Gary and Larry.   Gary and I have been close for over 30 years, but we don’t see each other much.  This was the first time in 6-8 years, in fact.  But we’re able to take up just where we left off from the last conversation.  Both Gary and Larry were entertaining themselves telling Jerry stories, usually at my expense.  It was heart-warming to be able to sit with two buddies, and have them seem to already know each other strictly from their experiences with me, and be able to get three-way laughs the whole time.  

Unfortunately, some of our conversation concerned another friend of Gary and I, Brad, who had come out from Oregon looking for a new start in life, but had been unable to tame his alcohol demons.  I had been looking forward to seeing Brad, but Gary didn’t know where he was, and feared he was either living under state of Wyoming hospitality, or on his way back to Oregon.  (Turns out he was right on both counts…)   

After breakfast, I rode with Gary in his coal fields exploration rig down 30-40 miles to near Wright.  I was literally amazed and baffled how Gary could find his way around the burned clay red roads, turning left here and right there, with seeming little or no landmarks or signs to guide him.  Along the way, Gary would explain both his family history in the area (which was quite colorful), as well as the geological quick-course.  Turns out that this area was affected by volcanoes from Yellowstone, which left silicate ash everywhere, as well as being the bed of a massive formation of water.  The sediment of the bed (probably from volcanic ash) covered ancient forests.  It is these ancient forests which make this area the “Saudi Arabia of Coal”, explained Gary as we ambled along at 60-70 miles per hour down narrower and narrower dirt roads.  Gary would explain the various mining methodologies as we would pass them, in one case noting that one of the big processing operations is the largest single user of electricity of its kind in the entire US.  

After about an hour of meandering through herds of antelope and jack-rabbits, we came upon a group of trucks performing a core sampling.  They would dig down 50-60-80 feet, looking for how deep the coal was, how thick of a layer it was, and the general quality.  The family operation (father, wife, son, grandson and a few others) digs 2-3 holes a day, trying to determine the best location to start a mine.  Gary’s rig follows, sending a radio-active probe down the just-dug hole, producing a visual report of the gamma resistance and potential quality/quantity of resources at that site.  With my hard-hat firmly attached, they let me wander around the operation, ask questions, and see how it all happened.  Pretty cool.   

It took the first crew an hour or more to dig a core hole.  We had time to kill, so Gary and I climbed a small butte in the area, with a great look-out of 30 or more miles of the Wyoming countryside.  During the climb, Gary would tell me about the conflicts between cattle ranchers and homesteaders; his family had history with the cattle ranchers.  There were some interesting times back then, when arguments would be settled with pistols as likely as not.  When we got back to the core drilling crew, they had apparently decided this hole did not need Gary’s rig for analysis, and it was time for a late lunch.  We went down the road to Wright, visiting a Buffalo herd operation in the process.  We ate at the local eatery, and downed a couple of beers, telling the poor bar maid some of our history together from 30 years ago.  My sides were sore from laughing so much.  

We called in to the core drilling crew, and they had knocked off early, too.  So Gary and I went searching for our buddy Brad, looking where he had last lived to see if anybody had seen him or knew where he was.  No luck.  So Gary dropped me off back at Larry’s place.  I spent some of the afternoon doing my report of the Saddle-Sore 1000 day, and updating the web site.  About the time I had it all up-loaded and sent out, and we were heading out the door for dinner, Gary called.  He had found Brad.  Yes, he had been a guest of the state for a few days, and now was in a motel at the other side of town.  Gary gave me the room number, and I promised to go looking for him after dinner. 

Had dinner at the best place in Gillette, called Humphries.  It’s essentially a Sports Bar with a camel theme.  Waitresses wear shirts with phrases like, “Life Is Short, Hump Hard”, and “Will Hump For Food”.  Great steak.  Afterwards, we took the left-overs to Larry’s daughter working at the Hampton Inn, and then went to find Brad.  He was at the motel, looking a little worse for wear, and clearly not happy about life.  I took him to dinner, and we talked about things.  He’ll be heading out to Oregon as soon as he can put together the necessary resources. We talked for a long, long time, but never brought up the subject of his addiction, which was clearly the root of his issues.  Not much to say or do, I guess.  I’ll just keep praying for him from time to time.   

It was quite late (after 11:00) when I got back to Larry’s.  Larry and his wife Barb were out on their back deck, enjoying the cool night air.  They had made me a bed in Larry’s office.  We talked more about our plans for Friday (going to Devils Tower), and our trip to Colorado, and other things, too.  Soon it was time for bed. 

Another great day, full of news and great views, bumming with buddies.   


Day 1, July 13 – Saddle Sore 1000 

Doing a Saddle Sore 1000 (going 1000 miles or more in 24 hours or less on my motorcycle) has been a dream of mine for some time.  I had planned to do this trip for the last several months, getting more and more excited as the time of my departure (early on the morning of July 13, 2005) came closer.  My trip outline had me going from my home in Redmond, down 1057 miles on I-90, to my buddy Larry’s in Gillette, WY.  Larry was to meet me to escort me in on his Harley the last part of the ride. 

The short story is that I made it, in 21 hours.  The long story follows.   

I decided to try to get an early start, so as to have more / better light at the end of my journey.  I was up at 2:15, took a shower, and packed the trailer.  Truth be told, however, I had not gotten a good night sleep.  I had awoken several times, and was frankly very tired, but still very excited to be going.  I got out of the house around 3:20, hoping to hit the gas station, get the attendant to be my official witness, and get down the road by 3:45.  I asked, Tony, the Chevron gas station attendant, but he didn’t want to sign any thing.  So I went into the 7-11, and Oralia, behind the counter agreed.  “S. Dyson”, a customer desperate for some milk at 3:30 in the morning, came in, and was also a witness for me.  J  I finally got on the road at 3:45.

I-90 over Snoqualmie was pretty easy; even getting past Ellensburg was pretty easy.  Nearing Vantage, the sun came out and it was beautiful.  Stopped for gas in Quincy, at 6:00 am.  Blood sugar was lower than I would like (less than 50), so I decided to eat something, and drink a cup of coffee. 

Not far from Quincy, I started having the first bit of sleepiness, that would plague me most of day.  I noticed myself drooping, and nodding off.  Scared the heck out of me.  Big time.  Pulled off at Moses Lake at 6:37, and got another cup of coffee, and tried to rest for 20 minutes.  Got back on the road, and made it to Ritzville (before Spokane), before it happened again.  Pulled off in Ritzville at a little café (Jakes) 7:30, sat in a booth, and asked for coffee.  Woke myself with my own snoring; I had fallen asleep in the booth waiting for the coffee, which was now cold.  They refilled my coffee with hot liquid, I gulped it down, and headed down the road with just 20 minutes of rest, but I felt WAY better.  Made it all the way to Post Falls at  9:00 am (for more gas), and was feeling much better, the best I had felt all day.   

Riding through the northern part of Idaho reminded me of a previous trip with my son Matt.  I had missed getting a picture of the “Welcome to Idaho” sign, and decided to get one of the entrance to Montana.  There wasn’t one.  Instead, I got a picture of the sign at Look Out Pass, with is at “Exit 0” at 10:25 PST.  That part of Montana is also a pure delight: mountains, rivers, lakes, curves.  Simply one of the best riding areas in the northwest.   

However, I started to nod-off again around Superior.  I quickly got off, and got another cup of coffee at 12:15 MST.  But the locals kept asking me questions about the bike and my ride, and I didn’t get any sleep.  Coffee tasted good, and I felt rested enough to get back on the road.  My goal was Missoula, about mid-way on the 1000 mile ride, and time for lunch (1:24 MST.)  I felt DRAMATICALLY better after lunch, and made it almost to Butte before having to pull off (because of getting too tired). Called my buddy Larry from Butte at 3:52 MST; he was going to leave from his place in Gillette to me in Billings.  But Larry hadn’t had a good night sleep, either, and suggested he meet me in Sheridan, WY.  I knew exactly how he felt, and I was feeling so much better, that I didn’t mind a bit. 

Got to Billings for dinner at 7:39 MST.  Denny’s.  Slow, slow, slow.  In line, 2 other bikers came up behind me.  The waitress asked if it was for 3, and we all said that would be fine.  Turns out they were from Courtney/Comox, Vancouver Island, Canada, the same town where I bought my bike from an estate sale.  Turns out they knew the owner of my bike!   (I got it with less than 200 miles, but he had had several ‘Wings before mine.)  We talked about my trip, and their trip.  Soon, an hour and a half had passed, but I was feeling so much better, and so much more rested, that the 136 miles to Sheridan was no problem at all.  Didn’t get out of Billings until 9:17 MST.  

Got to Sheridan at 11:14 pm MST, fueled up, and found Larry very quickly.  (We were at different gas stations; my bad.)  Had more coffee, talked about the trip, and we decided to have Larry’s son Tom ride with me in case I was getting too tired, so he could poke me.  But just the simple act of following Larry made my ride so much easier, that I wasn’t very tired at all.  

Filled up with gas, got the receipt, and filled out the witness reports at 1:39 am, MST.  21 hours straight on the road, with a few breaks for food and coffee.  I am now ready to send it all in and get certified as an official “Iron Butt Association” member, the Worlds Toughest Riders.   

I’m pretty happy about all this.  Larry tells me I was snoring loudly in less than 5 minutes.  Hmmm.  Must have been tired. 



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