August 2009 Fly-and-Ride (Airventure, Rockies, UT, NV, CA, Baja and more!)
So as some of you know by now, I had a month between the end of my summer gig and the start of my final year of school.
I was going to go back to Cambridge and write an article or something, but after working 10 60-80hr weeks over the summer, I thought better of it. I also received the happy news over the summer that I would be participating as a fellow in a program at school over the next academic year that would facilitate writing an article.
So what to do? Well, I'd never ridden Baja before, I'd never seen my sister's new digs in SoCal, I'd never ridden a street bike significantly west of the continental divide, I had a CR250R calling my name in Denver, I wanted to show Pilette (aka my wife) around CO and I wanted to see the EAA Airventure show in Oshkosh.
Well those seemed like enough items to keep me entertained for a bit - on to the logistics.
I didn't have much cash to spend, but did have some saved-up tuition money that wouldn't be needed 'till Sept. I didn't have a street bike really suitable for the trip (TL is in need of repairs that I didn't have the time or garage space to do and I'm getting a bit old and arthritic for several-thousand mile sport bike tours).
So a plan was hatched. I'd buy a bike somewhere within a day's ride of Oshkosh, fly out and ride to OSH. Then on to Denver, then west, then south and finally I'd sell the bike wherever I ended up when I ran out of time and if needed, fly back to DC or Cambridge.
After much angst and a few bikes that fell though, I ended up with a 2007 Bandit 1250S in Kansas City that a fellow adv'er had listed here and on CL.
I'd also need camping gear and such. In keeping with the low-budget plan, a $30 tent was procured at Target and Pilette found an old sleeping bag from her days as a Brownie or Girlscout or something like that. Good enough. I lacked bags to carry the stuff in. Some scrounging yielded a dry bag ($5 at the local thrift store) and an old hanging bag (dusty corner of the in-laws attic). The hanging bag had d-rings and such on it and seemed well suited to strapping to a bike. The dry bag should keep the sleeping bag dry.
I'd need more luggage though - somewhere to carry clothes, laptop, camera, shoes, hydration pack etc, so I ordered up a top case and tank bag and had them shipped directly to the seller.
On July 27th I flew to KC, forked over the cash, hit up the DMV (3hrs wait :doh ) and installed my luggage and bungee-corded my gear to the pillion seat. Finally I was on my way north-east toward Oshkosh by evening.
I looked something like this as I left the seller's place.
A teaser of what's in store (never mind the missing bit in CA - gps got wonky, I had to re-set it and seem to have lost a few tracks - just fill in the coastal bit and Ortega hwy in you head).
I didn't take many pictures on the way to osh, but here's what I've got...
I went across this bridge
The new Bell Star was working just dandy in the KC heat (which wasn't actually too terrible).
The city gave way to rolling hills and farmland
And I crossed a bridge and river again.
That night I stayed with a fellow inmate and drooled over his KTM and very cool house/garage:clap:clap Major thanks for the hospitality, breakfast and great company! (post up if you'd like folks to know who you are!) :hail
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The following morning I rode on to Oshkosh!
There were all manner of aircraft.
Manufactures showing off their new tundra planes
A classic Pitts Bip
An arctic expedition plane (might need them to drop fuel for me when I go for my overland motorcycle Antarctic record:devious).
There were planes that seemed too small to lift a single person (I've since learned that this particular plane was flown all the way from France to Oshkosh years ago, but that this year its owner/pilot had to work at Airventure, flying something slightly larger so this wee plane made the trip in the cargo hold of the owner's "other" plane - the A380).
And aircraft large enough to stand in for a crane
There were old bombers
And the Ford P51 display
There were futuristic Rutan designs, some new and made to escape this planet's atmosphere
Yep, it really flies
Not all of slick composites and built for speed, but this looks like pure fun to me
And a very nice mixture of slick composts and old-world horsepower (carbon-fiber airframe with a very old, 9 cylinder supercharged Russian radial motor).
And then there were RV's - the most popular kit-plane ever. Thousands flying and enough at Osh to take up over 5 acres of parking I was told.
If anything the 5 acres was probably an under-statement, this isn't even half of them...
This show-winning -8 is a classic in the RV world.
The Vans tent.
And a -6 in Vans AirForce Colors (like TLZ, but for these planes).
A Corvette-powered -10.
Another nice -8
A recently-completed -6 that's not yet painted.
This isn't stock :evil
And an exquisitely painted -4 (the owner/builder did it himself as I understand it).
Lets see... a few more airplanes of note
They asked me to fly this P-51 in the show for them (I wish!)
A gorgeous SNJ-5 (AKA T-6 Texan AKA T-6 Harvard) - the best part, it was for sale for a very-reasonable $175k.
Big radials are a thing of beauty :love2:
This thing made an appearance, it was definitely huge.
I'm told the A380 captain is also the owner and pilot of the tiny plane pictured earlier (the single seater with the twin two stroke single cylinder motors). Seems he flew the tiny plane all the way over from France in the past, but this year it made the hop in the cargo hold of the A380...
The Pitts Model 12 is one of my all-time favorite fun planes. It also uses the Russian M14 supercharged radial mentioned before.
And this is the world-record for the largest American flag ever flown by a sky-diver - who knew?
And this husband-wife team put on quite a show. A big radial biplane, a great story-line, a great aerobatic routine and to top it off (literally), a lady on the wing!
I left Oshkosh as the sun was setting and stayed with another fellow Advrider about a half-hour south where I enjoyed more fantastic company, quality garage-hang-out time and all around wonderful hospitality. Many thanks are in order:hail (post up!)
From there I saw a lot of this
I motored on
The scenery wasn't terrible and as would be a trend, road construction was never-ending.
It went on like this till I was about 20 minutes from the South Dakota state line. There I hit a wall of heavy, cold rain. My rain gear is old and not-so-waterproof any more and I didn't bring any heated gear or very warm clothes. I was wet, cold and not too happy. I pressed on, but didn't take pics. I got colder and colder. I couldn't stop shivering. Eventually quick bite to eat to attempt to regain some warmth. When stopped, I found a garbage bag and put that on under my jacket for a bit of extra wind protection.
Still cold, I pressed on. I rode another 65 miles or so in the rain and stopped for fuel only to find that I couldn't find my wallet anywhere:( The sun was setting, I was in the middle-of-no-where South Dakota freezing cold, in the rain with no fuel and no money at all. Not good. I was able to find the number of the McD's where I had stopped earlier and gave them a call. I was so extremely happy to hear that they had my wallet. Still, it was 70 miles away and I was very nearly out of fuel.
There were loads of bikers around though and one kind looking soul must have noticed my distressed appearance and asked if all was ok. I told my story and without prompting he gave me $5 to get me back to my wallet. I was never so happy to see $5!
With my $5 worth of fuel I turned around and rode back up the 70-miles of I90 I had just ridden down, still in cold rain. They had my wallet and it still even had the cash in it. Seems I had dropped it in the parking lot when I was donning my garbage bag and another biker found it and gave it to the cashier.
Freezing cold, I desperately needed to warm up a bit before heading back west again. With my new-found wallet I purchased a hot chocolate. I also met a dude on a Harley in the parking lot. He was very friendly, we sat together and both drank hot chocolates. He wasn't your typical butt jewelry, bike-in-the-trailer sturgis HD dude, no his Harley looked really beat and he'd just gotten off it - the only trailer involved was the one he was towing with his bike.
Turns out he was from Texas and had just ridden the Dempster in Alaska on his HD. In fact, he had 176,000 miles on his HD that he'd bought new 6 years prior! He said the thing was sort of crap and broke a lot, but that he still liked it anyway;) He had great stories of his trials and tribulations taking the heavily loaded HD though Alaska where, according to him, most folks stick with knobby tires and dual sports. Seems belt drive doesn't fair well on unpaved surfaces - he went though several and had some choice words for whoever thought belt-drive was a good idea for a motorcycle...
Refreshed from the hot chocolate and good company, I quickly dismissed thoughts I'd had of calling it a day and finding a hotel right there or tossing my tent up on the side of the road. No, I decided that I'd keep with the original plan and press on to the Badlands, I was on a mission!
I rode a bit (still raining), got fuel (still raining) and rode some more.
I put my head down, tucked onto the tank bag, wound the throttle lock up to a very respectable cruising speed and let the big 1250 propel me across the rain soaked, barren land of SD. I didn't stop except when I needed fuel and I kept those quick.
The camping spot I intended to stay at was strategically chosen. It was very remote (even for the badlands) with about 20-miles of dirt road required to reach it. There were no hookups, no electricity and no water. This all of course ment no RVs, no annoying tourists and no generators.
Luckily the rain stopped just as I got to the dirt portion. I picked my way down the dirt road in the dark on the heavily loaded bandit. The bandit actually was quite planted for a street bike in the dirt. I, somewhat to my amazement, found my campground in the dark. I wasn't able to find directions or a reliable map prior so it was a bit of a crapshoot, but I had a general idea of the area from my travels last summer in the badlands on the 919.
I found the first inviting area, parked the bandit and pitched the tent. It was a bit of a pain in the dark, but I was so relived and satisfied to have finally made it I didn't care. I slept like a rock despite having only a sleeping bag an thin tent floor between me and the rocky soil.
I awoke to coyotes making noise and some very fine scenery.
Peeking out my tent at the Bandit the next morning
The fabled target-tent
I decided to go for a hike up the bluff overlooking the campsite.
Seems Mr. Bison had a similar idea. Fellow campers said he wandered right though the middle of the campsite earlier that morning (I slept in till 6:45am as I'd had a rough day...).
I leisurely broke camp and made my way to the Blackhills, taking time to ride though the Badlands a bit more on the way.
There were probably hundreds of Bison roaming around in this remote part of the park. They seemed particularly interested in blocking my way. The large dude in the center was unimpressed with my attempts to scare him off with the horn and yelling:lol:
After about 20 minutes, the critters moved out of the way.
My Garmin and the park map didn't show a way of getting from my campsite to the road just south of the badlands that I knew would connect me to the Blackhills without bothering with the pesky slab, but I remembered the dirt road of plague-infested prairie-dog doom from my last trip and decided to try to find it from the oposit direction. Last time I was on this road there were 70mph winds and I was nearly blown off while riding the 919. This time, conditions were much better!
I rode past the rather scenic prairie lands
And the rather weird-looking "bad"lands.
And was definitely on the right track for the plague-infested-prairie-dog-road-of-doom
Pilette flew in early Friday morning. I got some odd looks and several comments while I was waiting to pick her up with the Bandit. The airport security guy said he'd never seen anyone picked up by a motorcycle.
Pilette had some flight-drama - late plane, luggage hassles etc but eventually made it with her stuff. She packed impressively well and everything fit on the bandit just fine.
Friday we rode down to Co. Springs for a "chuckwagon" dinner and Western show at the Flying W ranch. A great ride down though mountain twisties, complete with a Black Bear sighting, great food and great entertainment. There was a dude on a fiddle named Tony who was totally amazing and a fellow mensa geek:laugh I had him sign my helmet. They also had motorcycle-only parking complete with a "No Cages Allowed" sign - my kinda place:thumbup
Saturday we decided to hit Mt. Evans at some point. Pilette's first exposure to mountains Colorado style.
Pilette had initially wanted to run all the way up to Cheyenne WY to visit a Bison ranch. She'd never seen such critters other than in a zoo and was quite keen to check them out. Unfortunately we realized that we'd simply planned too much for the few days she had in CO and something had to be cut and the Bison were it.
As we were riding up the mountain on I-70 toward Mt. Evans I spotted the Buffalo overlook pulloff and pulled off. Pilette was elated to see the Bison!
Most of the Bison were on the other side of the road, but that matters little when you are packing a 300mm lens on a 1.6 crop sensor body.
Then a couple of Bison were spotted on our side of the road (shot with the standard lens I think).
The Bandit and I at the Bison pull-off.
A roadside flower
After Bison-lust was satisfied we continued on.
She was impressed with the view on the road to Mt. Evans that she had to climb around for a pic
This is the shot she got.
The road there isn't half bad.
The views only improved as we climbed further up the mountain.
Pilette and I donned warmer stuff part-way up Mt. Evans. It gets cold at 14' feet, even in the summer.
We hung out with these critters.
Pilette thought they were pretty cool.
Some decided to block traffic.
Others hung out on the bluff above the roadway.
The Bandit struck a pose
The scenery continued to get more spectacular.
The Bandit insisted on another pose
And so did I
Pilette tried the Bandit on for size
I was not to be left out
All this water
Had to go somewhere.
The scenery grew even more majestic until it seemed that even the rocks were posing for pictures.
And this little fellow as not to be left out.
Down in this meadow
Pilette spotted this fellow
And after a closer look
Found he was not alone
The world was beautiful from Pilette's point of view too.
The shadows got longer
We motored on
We went to Idaho Springs in search of food. On Wade's recommendation we hit up Beau Jo's pizza. I went for a Ham and Onion Mountain Pizza and it was almost without doubt the best non-home-made pizza I've ever had:drool: If you are within a thousand miles or so of this place, its probably worth the ride.
We enjoyed more ADV'er hospitality and stayed at B&B-ish place an adv'er hooked us up with that was an exit west of Idaho Springs. It was super cool and so was the company. We played some Nintendo, despite sucking in real life, I pretty much pwnd everyone in tennis:) Major thanks and post up! :bow :clap
Sunday we met up with Wade from TLZone and his 599-riding buddy to ride Loveland Pass. Wade put together the route and it was fantastic!
There was a turn or two in the road. The Bandit actually handled quite well, even two-up and toting enough gear for both of us for 3 days. The long, low Bandit is just pretty unaffected even with a total load of around 400lbs once adequate preload was dialed in. The motor lacked a serious top-end rush with that weight, but the torque was enough to propel us out of corners in a very respectable manner. The peg feelers were a touch shorter by the end of the day;)
Rolling into town behind Wade.
After meeting up with Wade we planned to hit up Blackhawk or Central City for lunch then we were off to a B&B/Hostel in Winter Park.
We eventually succeeded in achieving the plan, but not without drama...
We needed to go a few miles east on I-70, but traffic was really terrible. We waited around a while and both started to bake. Some creative lane selection was employed to get us to the next exit. The Zumo's (aka Jill) avoidance feature was utilized and it promised to route us to Blackhawk without any more I-70 nonsense.
We rode up the road at the next exit as instructed by Jill. Several miles of a nice twisty mountain road - all good so far. Then Jill says turn right, I didn't see any road to the right, doubled back and found that se was talking about a tiny dirt road. Not the what I wanted all loaded up. I figured it was slated to be paved and Jill never got the news that it wasn't:O
We pressed on, Jill re-routed us yet again. The next re-route was also a dirt road, no other means of connected with our intended route were shown. We decided to go for it. The road was narrow and rocky, we pressed on. The "road" got steeper, the front floated a bit on some sections. The rocks got bigger - line selection became critical, then ruts started to form. By now we are on something that's more of a full-blown ATV trail. The Bandit is pretty versatile, but a hard core off road machine it isn't. The trail got worse, we gave up and turned around.
The previous dirt road was starting to look really good, at least it was graded. We gave it a shot.
After a few miles of very steep, but graded dirt road it turned to ATV-trail two-track. We pressed on a bit further but that eventually died out, leaving us fully loaded on the bandit in the woods on a dead-end atv trail. The map showed a small road continuing but it simply didn't exist:doh
Those two roads were the only option to get where we needed to go other than I-70, so after a 3-hour off road bandit tour we were back where we started. Traffic on I-70 was a little better, but not a lot. We pressed on.
Eventually we made it to Blackhawk for dinner. The Central City Parkway and rt 119 (I think) was ultra-scenic and a very nice ride. We also appreciated the looks of Central City and Blackhawk. The food was pretty good and very cheap (gotta love Casinos), but the wait service was slow, rude and stiffed me by $3 on my change. :angry:
Pilette has wanted to try her hand at Gold Prospecting for years and now was her chance. We'd read good things about Vick's on-line and decided to give it a shot. From the road it didn't look like much, actually looked a bit sketchy, just a couple of beat-up trailers and some junk laying around. We bravely entered. We have pics, but they are on Pilette's camera. Jesse ran the place and was a very cool mountain-man of a guy. Lots of good stories. Pilette panned for gold and even found a little, though I'm sure less than the $10 they charged to try, but it was cheaper than the movies and way more entertaining.
From there we made our way to Fraiser just outside Winter Park. We'd booked a room at the Rocky Mountain Inn and Hostel. The only non-free accommodations of the trip in fact. I didn't expect too much as it was less than half the cost of anywhere else I could find in the area and there was the hostel bit in the name. As it turned out the place was fantastic. We had a huge in-suit room with a very large comfortable bed and a balcony looking out onto a scenic mountain meadow with the mountain itself as a backdrop. There were railroad tracks near-by, but the train only went by once and it wasn't late so no worries there. There was a grocery store across the street where we procured food and supplies for a low-key Pilette Birthday Celebration - cake and ice cream! It was good, we kicked back at the Inn and enjoyed ourselves and good company of some fellow travelers. I think I ate a whole pint of Ben and Jerry's - YUM!
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