I'm happy to share with you what was the trip of a lifetime for me, my "13,000-miles-in-30-days" journey last August. This trip evolved from a dream I've had since highschool. Yet although my parents gave me a great deal of freedom as a teenager, cycles were not a factor in their equation of life. Once I had reached the age where I could buy my own, I had lost 1 friend and saw another seriously injured to accidents, which put a damper on my dream for years to come. At age 45, I started to think differently about it, and have had one serious accident myself that I walked away from with no ability to understand or explain why. If that didn't make me quit, nothing will. I'm glad I followed my dream, and plan to live it for as long as I can ride.
Starting from home in Munster, IN, I teamed up with another rider from Chicago. A huge emotional high - not only had I looked forward to this for years, I also totaled my bike on my first attempt the year before on the first day. I planned this trip for months. My daughter and only child was married just the day before, on Saturday, July 31st. I was starting the longest vacation of my career. The weather was perfect. Man I was SO pumped! Seth and I met at Interstates 80 and 55 in Joliet, IL at 10:30 pm on Sunday night, August 1st. We rode until 5:30 or 6am, stopping for a break in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and rolling again by 10am.
The approach to Estes Park from the east on Hwy 34, Big Thompson Canyon Road, was incredible, finally getting into some twisty curves passing white water and steep, rocky cliffs, tired but highly adrenalized. This proved to be but a mere taste of what the coming days would bring. By 7:30 pm we arrived in Estes Park, CO. We didn't take pictures along I-80 or I-76 enroute to NE Colorado, thinking it best to put the flat land behind us and enjoy a more relaxed pace from here on. Traveling 1030 miles in less than 24 hours, we qualified for the Iron Butt Association's Saddle Sore 1000 ride. Now ready for some awesome Colorado steaks and a couple of beers, then a good rest.
Leaving Estes Park we entered Rock Mountain National Park, and crossed the Continental Divide via Milner Pass on Trail Ridge Road. Imagine what was going through the head of this flatlander accustomed to Indiana corn and soybeans with no turns at all except at an occasional exit ramp. I was like a kid on his first 4th of July:
Next stop, a hearty Colorado breakfast at the famous Grand Lake Lodge, just on the south side of the park on Hwy 34. Here is the view from our breakfast table:
After filling up the stomachs and the bikes, we headed down Highway 9 through Arapahoe National Forerst and into Silverthorne:
From Silverthorne we took I-70 to Glenwood Springs. Although not fond of interstates, this is one stretch of interstate that is truly beautiful and worth the trip. Particularly the stretch through Glenwood Canyon between Eagle and Glenwood Springs. This highway is truly an engineering marvel. The two different directions of interstate are separate and cantilevered away from the side of the mountain, and often give the feeling as if one were flying through the canyon in an airplane. If you're ever here, don't pass this one by just because its an interstate.
From Glenwood Springs we headed down Hwy 82 into Aspen and across Independence Pass. Independence Pass, besides being awesomely beautiful, required focused attention. Stay well to the right on the narrow turns as the oncoming trucks have a tendency to cross the center line to keep their trailers off the rocks:
Seth and I parted company at Highway 24 as the Navy and Uncle Sam were calling Lieutenant Commander Seth back home. I headed down to Highway 50 and started making my way west toward Montrose. One of the most awesome sights of the trip were two huge mule deer bucks that stopped all the traffic on Highway 50 as they sauntered across. This next shot is the bridge across Blue Mesa Lake at the Dillon Pinacles, in Curecanti National Recreation Area.
At Montrose I started making my way south down Highway 550, also know as the Million Dollar Highway - and the view is truly a Million Dollar View! Spent the night in a cabin at the KOA in Ouray, CO.
The next morning I crossed the 11,000 foot Red Mountain Pass on my way to Silverton. This pass is one incredible place, and is a bit reminiscent of the craggy precipice that Sam and Frodo had to scale on their way to Mordor. Don't get too involved with the scenery here unless you park the steed, or you might find yourself taking an unexpected shortcut to a lower (a much, much lower) elevation:
Meeting people along the way is also one of the great things about motorcycling. This Colorado State Motorcycle Trooper walked up to me here in Silverton at the Java Shack. He commented on how "that red color really stands out". I grinned back and said, "I don't know if that is a good thing or a bad thing coming from you". Turned out the Java Shack was his wife's business. We spent the next half-hour drinking coffee and I got a lesson on how to work all the gadgets on the trooper's bike including the radar, and a briefing on how hard these guys have to train to keep their two-wheel quals:
Here is a shot from Highway 550 of Electra Lake in San Juan National Forest. Perhaps not fully convinced, yet at this point I have started to at least consider the possibility that there might actually be other things worth looking at in the USA besides corn and soybeans:
After stopping at the 4-corners monument, I made my way through Kayenta, AZ and headed up 163 into the Monument Valley area of Utah.
Deciding to take an even more scenic sideroad, I headed up highway 261, only to stop and turn around in 10 miles. The pavement ended and the grade became too steep for my big Goldwing. This would have been great fun on a dirtbike, but not on a rig that tips 1100 pounds with me and my gear. There is something almost sureal about Utah. You are confronted with literally thousands of square miles where nobody lives, and hardly anybody besides you is even there. Something very different strikes me, a huge contrast compared to the window view from my skyscraper office in downtown Chicago, there are NO people anywhere for as far as I can see - mind-boggling!
Heading up Utah Hwy 95, this is the view of the Colorado River at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. This picture doesn't begin to do justice to Utah's breathtaking splendor:
I stopped that night in Torrey, after passing through Capital Reef National Park on Hwy 24. From the Arizona to border to Torrey is 250 miles, including my "turn-around" detour. In this entire stetch, I would bet that I saw no more than 20 or 30 cars. Utah is one big beautiful expansive wilderness.
Starting out at sunrise, I headed south on Highway 12 through Dixie National Forest. I had to stop at one point as I came around a turn as a bull elk and several cows were standing square in the middle of the road. Also saw several deer and antelope. The early morning hours are great for wildlife. This is a beautiful stretch of highway.
I stopped for a couple of hours in Bryce Canyon but didn't stay long as I had planned to spend the night here later in the month on my way back home:
Leaving Bryce, I headed into Zion Park:
More pics of Zion later, as I spent more time here on my way home.
Crossing into AZ at Page, the Glen Canyon Dam and Bridge. The engineer in me finds bridges fascinating.
Heading down Highway 89 south, took Highway 64 west and entered Grand Canyon Park through the east entrance. Here are a few pics from the area of the park called desert view. This is the first time I had ever been here in my life. You walk through the parking lot and this panorama unfolds, I should say explodes, before your eyes. I had never literally had my breath taken away before. Nobody should ever die without seeing the Grand Canyon:
I spent the 4th night in the Bright Angel Lodge right on the south rim of the Canyon.