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AirForce 06-15-2013 05:21 AM

Went out West where the wind blows tall.
♪ ♪ “Up with the sun, gone with the wind” (Bob Seger, Travelin’ Man)
That was pretty much how each day went, up early and windy riding days. The genesis for this trip came from a Cycle World article on Must Ride Roads in America. The first one they did was the route from Mexican Hat, Utah to Torrey, Utah. I built the entire trip around that ride and a chance to see family and friends in Arizona. I also planned the trip around avoiding interstate highway as much as possible.
Day 1. Rolla, MO to Liberal, KS.
I was antsy and woke up early so I got on the bike and left at 0430. I figured it’s only 179 miles of I-44 and I’ve seen it many times before so why not ride it in the dark and get a jump on the days mileage. The route across Kansas would be Hwy 160 that took me through Coffeyville so I had the Eagles “Doolin’ Dalton” running through my head for a while. Don’t let anyone tell you Kansas is flat and boring. Well, maybe I-70 is, but southern Kansas has enough scenery to keep you happy. While fairly straight, the road between Medicine Lodge and Coldwater is the Gypsum Hills Scenic Byway that runs through rolling hills, mesas, and buttes. Late afternoon found me in Liberal, KS and the hotel clerk said there was the Mid-America Air Museum to see, as well as Dorothy’s House which was just around the corner from the hotel. After unloading the bike I went to walk on the Yellow Brick Road and then over to the museum. I found out at the museum that Gen Larry D. Welch, former Air Force Chief of Staff, graduated from Liberal High School. I was in the Air Force at the same time Gen Welch was our top dog.

AirForce 06-15-2013 05:28 AM

Day 2. Liberal, KS to South Fork CO.
After talking to a farmer in the lobby of the hotel, I decided to modify my route just a bit as the farmer recommended a road through the middle of many center-pivot farms. If you’re unsure of what a center-pivot farm is, just look out the window of a plane next time you are flying over Kansas. They are all the green circles on the ground. Yes, crop circles. Lots of them. The farmer also said 160 would take me near his home in eastern Colorado, which had been one of the hardest hit places during the Dustbowl. Part of 160 goes through the Cimarron National Grasslands and it was here I got to see my first Pronhorn Antelope of the trip. On the far side of the fence they are OK, but on the roadside they turned into extremely nervous critters which in turn got me very nervous. Into Trinidad and time for lunch at the Corner Shop Cafť for a very tasty BLT. Google maps tried to take me up I-25 when there was a curvy yellow line labeled “12” that went where I was going. Who wants to ride a concrete slab when there are curves to run?? Hwy 12 is known as the Highway of Legends and what a great ride it is! Running through the towns of Stonewall and Cuchara and passing through the Spanish Peaks Wilderness. Along 12 there were many large herds of mule deer which are much, much calmer than our local Missouri Whitetails. Thankfully. The day ended at 8200’ at South Fork where I’d booked a renovated 100 year old log cabin from Rich at the Chinook Lodge. Rich was from Kansas City so we had a good chat about Missouri. Dinner was at the Silver Fork where I had Buffalo Stew and a nice local brew. The waitress, Barbara, and I are both from Simi Valley, CA so I had another nice chat.
Dorothy's House in Liberal. I sent a donation while on this trip to the people of Moore, OK who lost lives and homes in the recent tornado

West of Liberal in the farms

Somewhere up on top of Hwy 12 (Highway of Legends) west of Trinidad, CO

Chinook Lodge, South Fork Colorado.

AirForce 06-15-2013 05:35 AM

Day 3 South Fork CO to Ridgway CO and he Million Dollar Highway.
I awoke to a gorgeous 30ļ sunny morning and loaded up for breakfast at the Spruce Lodge. A ‘Gooey Mess’ and company provided by Beatrice the Dog. A Gooey Mess is an English Muffin with scrambled eggs, bacon, and then drizzled with maple syrup. Dee and her husband cook up just the kind of breakfast you need on a 30ļ day when you didn’t pack your electric vest because it is late May. Hwy 160 runs over Wolf Creek Pass (way up on the Great Divide, truckin’ on down the other side) so now I’ve got that fun song in my head. Some of the curves did look like malaria germs and I refrained, for the most part, from flyin’ offa the shoulder sprayin’ pine cones, rocks, and boulders. The scenery, road, curves and all are spectacular and I’m just having fun. In Durango I get a fine slice of pepperoni pizza at Home Slice before heading up the Million Dollar Highway. I’ve heard about it for years and now it’s finally my turn to ride it. It’s not that far to Ridgway mileage wise, but it takes me 5 hours with all the stops for photos! At one point I see a dirt road going off into the mountains so riding a GS I decided a little gelande would be in order. Scenic? Yes. Difficult to turn a loaded GS around on a rocky single lane with a looong drop off on one side and sharp rocks on the other? Also, yes. A tad bit of sweat was worded up getting the big girl turned around and headed back for safer terrain. After crossing Molas Pass (10,910’) I catch up to a car with the license plate “ZPTDUDA”. If you figure it out you too will have this little song stuck in your head. My oh my, what a wonderful day it was. Traffic was minimal so they enjoyment factor was high. I stayed the night in the Adobe Inn in Ridgway and was absolutely stuffed on their enchilada dinner and margaritas. So stuffed I had to take a walk around town and see their Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum and the town square and surrounding area which were the location for True Grit. The John Wayne version.
Old watering station on the rail road

Looking down from the Pagosa Springs side of Wolf Creek Pass. Thank you C.W. McCall for contaminating my brain.

Million Dollar Higway, US 550
Mineral spring on US 550

Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum, Ridgway Colorado.

AirForce 06-15-2013 05:42 AM

Day 4. Ridgway CO to Window Rock AZ
Cold. Frost on the bike, but it’s sunny and I’m on vacation! Today I ride the rest of the San Juan Skyway over to Telluride and down to Dolores and Cortez. The scenery is spectacular as is the ride. Well, except for all the traffic!! But it turns out they are all headed for Telluride so when I turn off to the south I have the whole road to myself. Up on top the scenery reminds me a lot of my previous home in Alaska and I find myself getting a little homesick for the Great Land. Dropping out of the snow-laden mountains into Dolores helps me get back into the ride. I detour up a paved road that runs up Dolores Canyon and it is just full of great curves and horse and vacation properties and proves to be a very fun 40 miles. Stopping for a late breakfast in Dolores I find The Depot and order a HUGE chorizo breakfast burrito that holds me until a late dinner. Turning back to the east on Hwy 160 has me headed to Mesa Verde and the cliff dwellings. The cliff dwellings prove to be everything everyone has said about them. Amazing, confounding, and very moving. What I hadn’t planned on was the 23 miles of superb twisty road to get back to the cliff dwellings. All that for just a $5 entry fee. Is this a great country or what?!?! My plan had called to head to Four Corners with a backtrack to 491 and head south for the hotel in Window Rock, AZ. Looking at the map I made a big mistake. I can continue on 160 west, turn south on 191 and then left onto Indian 12 to see Canyon De Chelly. This only adds about 4 hours to the day, but is well worth it even if the folks were a bit concerned that I checked in 4 hours late. After the stop at Four Corners to take the obligatory “Hey, look! I’m in four states at one time!” photo (as well as reading about all the surveyors who established the lines and points of the states) I head for Canyon De Chelly. Riding through the Indian reservation it strikes me…this is the first time I haven’t seen a barbed wire fence along the roadside. It also means free range cows and horses are right next to the road. Luckily they seem pretty oblivious to the passage of the GS. Another thing I noticed on the reservation, virtually every road sign is covered in graffiti. Kind of disappointing given the beauty of the countryside. I pass by Hwy 13 and don’t even give it a glance. I’d find out what a mistake this was on Day 9. Canyon De Chelly, the Canyon of Changes. Spectacular, awe inspiring, breath taking. All adjectives that don’t do justice to the canyon in person. Add to the beauty the fact that for the most part I am alone at most of the overlooks so I can just sit there and absorb everything I am seeing. You can keep your Grand Canyon, Canyon De Chelly is much smaller and more personal. If you are daring you can even walk right to the edge of a 700’ drop with nary a guard rail or rope in sight. Just a simple sign warning you to control your children and pets. Or adults acting like children. I’m glad I make the stop even though I will be stopping here again in a few days with friends. Two stops here still turns out to be not enough.
Obligatory "Hey look!!! I'm in four states at one time!!!!" photo.

Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde CO

Indian 12 in Arizona. Can it get any straighter???

Canyon De Chelly, Arizona

AirForce 06-15-2013 05:44 AM

Day 5 Window Rock AZ to Payson AZ
It’s another early morning departure heading for Gallup and then down the Indian roads to 32, 12, 180, Alpine, Eagar, Show Low and on into Payson to visit family for a couple of days. Even though this is a “short” day, it is still filled with scenery, beautiful skies, nearly empty roads and very friendly folks in Alpine. Over lunch I listen to a cowboy bemoan the obstinance of mules, extol the virtues of a good cattle dog and the benefits of a solid horse when hunting mountain lions. This is not the corner diner in Missouri. Outside of Sunrise Ski Area I get held up for 20 minutes waiting for the pilot car on a road paving project. I spend the time talking with a retired Navy dentist and his wife from Flagstaff who are out on a back roads ride themselves. That afternoon I have a little reunion with my parents and uncle and aunt. All is well in the world today.
Salt River Canyon, AZ

Apache Trail from Roosevelt Reservoir to Phoenix. I didn't ride much of this as I really wanted to see family. Another day.

AirForce 06-15-2013 05:48 AM

Day 7 Payson AZ to Window Rock
Same route back to Window Rock and the same hotel. Not a chance! There is the Apache Trail and Salt River Canyon to ride today! From the alpine of the Mogollon Rim to the saguaro filled desert, Arizona just keeps changing and delighting. At least I didn’t have to go into Phoenix where I would have been delighted with 100ļ temps. Too much, too early. I seem to be gifted today. Every time I pull off to take a photo a bunch of cars go past and I am left with an open road in front and back so it seems that I have Salt River Canyon and 77 all to myself. Out of the canyon and into Show Low and no more curves. But that doesn’t matter because the high desert still has a beauty all it’s own. I have to stop for a few photos of laser straight roads. These are a surveyors dream. Set up, backsight, plunge, foresight, set point, move instrument, repeat. One quick stop in Gallup for a photo of the old Route 666 Devil’s Highway sign. I’ve heard it was renamed 491 because people kept stealing the 666 signs. This evening will be a good evening because my friend from the Marines and his wife are riding up to spend a day riding with me. Mark and I taught troops at Fort Leonard Wood, shot archery tournaments and bowhunted back in the late 90s. When he married Gin, I was his best man. So this would be another excellent reunion.

OK, explanation first. When I lived in Alaska I saw a postcard that just cracked me up called "On The Road To Tok" (google it) and I've been taking "On The Road To..." ever since. nuff said.

On The Road To Gallup.

Gallup NM

GrizzLee 06-15-2013 05:57 AM

Nice pictures. Looks like a really neat trip. Like the C.W. Mcall reference. That is some incredible country.

Word of advice here. Hard to read the text. You copied it in from some other place I suspect. The black font on grey background makes it very hard to read.

Otherwise, :clap

AirForce 06-15-2013 05:58 AM

Day 8 Window Rock to Monument Valley (with excellent detour!)
An early and very cool departure. Mark puts the GoPro on the front fender and we hope to get a few shots. Unfortunately it misses the really cool shot…sheetrock flying off the roof of a Suburban. No one was hit so we continue to Mark and Gin’s Detour. Hwy 13 shows on the map as being dirt road, does not show it being scenic, and shows it being mostly straight. ALL LIES!!!! 10mph corners, 15+% grades, gorgeous red rocks, stunning sky (I know it’s not part of the road, but it was still stunning!!). We spent quite a lot of time taking photos and rerunning fun corners. Many times. If you are around Shiprock, NM or Canyon De Chelly, this road is not too long and is WELL worth the added miles. You’ve done more miles for worse before. We revisited Canyon De Chelly on the north side and although the weather was not as perfect as before, I really don’t think anything can detract from this park. The ride now takes us north to Monument Valley across Indian 59, 160, and 163. Mother Nature decides to test us with some truly vicious side winds and LOTS of blowing sand. The GS does OK until a semi passes going the other way. I have to take a tack into the pressure wave from the truck to keep from being blown off the road. Most of this part of the ride was spent with a lot of pressure on the left bar and running at a definite list to port. Monument Valley is overcast and everything I expected!! Moments after checking in and unloading I leave Mark and Gin and their shiny Harley’s (Gin isn’t comfortable off the pavement anyway) and go for a ride in the park. First gear only as I’m constantly stopping to admire the view, quiet, and take photos. I can see why John Ford filmed here, the landscape steals every scene. Bigger even than The Duke himself. When I get back to the room to clean up for dinner, Gin informs me that “RVs and motorcycles are banned from driving the dirt road into the park”. If you don’t know the rule exists, is it still breaking the rule? No one told me to turn around while I was there and I didn’t do any burnouts or flattracking so I figure no harm, no foul. Late evening and we don’t get the classic sunset photos because of the overcast, but Mother Nature grants us a few moments with the monuments bathed in sunlight. Thank you!!!!!

On Hwy 13 heading to Shiprock NM. My friend from the Marines, Mark and his wife Gin and me.
My favorite 'Bike Pic' from the trip.

Three happy riders.

Quick explanation on the following photos. NO ONE TOLD ME BIKES WERE NOT ALLOWED IN MONUMENT VALLEY!!! Until after I returned. My bad. "It's better to ask forgiveness than permission".

Taken from the balcony of our room.

AirForce 06-15-2013 06:06 AM

Day 9, Monument Valley to Torrey and Capital Reef National Park.
You HAVE to get up for sunrise at Monument Valley. Just about the entire hotel was out on their balconies and I think most of them probably hadnít been up in time for a sunrise in years. The hotel room was $240 per night (two queen beds, first floor, right next to an exit and the bikes, YES!) and worth it. I think it would be very interesting on a crystal clear, full moon night. Mark and Gin want to recreate a photo they took years ago with their first bikes so we spend some time setting up to get the angle and position just right. A few personal photos done we head to the ďPanoramaĒ point north of Monument Valley where the road disappears into the distance of the monuments. Itís easy to find, just look for where everyone is pulled over. The three of us and another two couples wait patiently for the Korean tourists to finish their supermodel photo shoot with all 6 grandkids, grandparents, parents, etc. They are on vacation as well so we did wait patiently for them to finish and move the gaudy rental monster motor home out of the picture. Then we got out photos! Unfortunately for me, this was as far as Mark and Gin could go and they had to head back to Phoenix. It was very special to ride with them if even for only a day.
Now I get to the genesis of this tripÖthe Cycle World blurb on Must Ride Roads in America about the road from Mexican Hat to Torrey. I built this entire trip around this one leg and it truly does not disappoint. Turning onto 261 at Mexican Hat takes you along yet another straight road that is headed right for a huge bluff that has no road going up. At least one you can see. There are signs bearing dire warnings about the road ahead, sharp curves, gravel, switchbacks, etc. Sure you have to creep up the Dugway but it is worth the little bit of effort. Photo opportunities abound! A note to all shiny bike riders who donít want to ride the Moki Dugway because it is dirty. Dust wipes off!! The left onto 95 brings me into the rain Iíve been skirting since I got on top of the mesa. It turns out to last only 10 miles so it isnít even worth stopping to don the wet gear. The bonus is the weather provides a striking sky for photos. Hwy 95 most definitely is a Must Ride Road and words cannot begin to describe how wonderful the ride is on this day.
The end to the day is the previously unknown to me Capital Reef National Park. The Grand Canyon, Canyonlands are almost overwhelming in their size. Bryce is spectacular, but you are on top. Capital Reef is right there where you can touch it. Just off the roadside and in your face. I found it to be my favorite because it was quiet (not overpopulated with tourists like myself!) and very personal. I took more photos here than any other place I visited and took a couple of short hikes to stretch legs and get a different experience. That evening was spent at the Rim Rock Motel with a baked spaghetti dinner with a Polygamy Porter from Wasach Brewing. I guess you could call it a Spaghetti Western.
Harleys chasing the GS
I've seen this picture so many times that I HAD to stop and take a few of my own.

On the Road to Monument Valley

Moki Dugway.

NotAllWhoWanderRLost 06-15-2013 06:08 AM

Thanks for the great report and amazing scenery. I'm looking forward to the rest of the ride! :beer

AirForce 06-15-2013 06:16 AM

Day 9, Part Two. Photos only.
Hwy 95 Utah

Colorado River along Hwy 95

Ghost Rider, Utah

Capitol Reef National Park, Torrey, Utah

AirForce 06-15-2013 06:26 AM

Day 10 Torrey to Moab.
Even though Hwy 24 will not improve your cornering skills, there are still beautiful views everywhere. The only bummer about this portion is that I have to ride on I-70. Interstates are not my favorite way to travel. Iím headed to Canyonlands because of a dirt road I saw on google maps. Canyonlands itself is HUGE and sort of overwhelming. Schaeffer Canyon proves to be much more personal and the perfect reason to go to Canyonlands. If I have one thing Iíd do differently on this trip it is to spend two days in each National Park. As it is I get a taste of all of them. Schaeffer Canyon is an improved dirt road that snakes more than the Moki Dugway down, down, down into the canyon. Do not put a wheel wrong as disaster would woefully understate what would happen. Still, there is plenty of room to pass a sightseer, or the mountain bikers. I encountered one woman coming UP the canyon and I have to say I was VERY impressed at the speed she was doing. I think she passed a Jeep or two on her way up. An impressive ride to say the least. I rode farther into the park just to see the other overlooks and was surprised to find numerous fun corners. Even though the speed limit is low, it was a joy to lean a bit after so many miles of bolt upright riding. Arches National Park was next. With weather closing in and light fading there werenít a lot of photo ops so I rode most of the park with the plan of coming back at first light. Arches, arches, arches and balanced rocks are everywhere! The rain did one favor, it drove all the other tourists back to their vehicles so I had a few places all to myself. I stayed at the Inca Inn, a renovated 50ís style motorcourt motel, that although a bargain-priced motel proved to be an excellent stay. A fill up at the Shell station and a nice dinner at the Moab Grill and Iím ready for sleep.
On The Road To Moab.
Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Schaeffer Canyon, Canyonlands National Park
Looking down, down, down into Schaeffer Canyon.
Arches National Park, Moab Utah
Skyline Arch
Balanced Rock

AirForce 06-15-2013 06:33 AM

Day 11 Moab to Mesa Verde.
Up at 0530 to headed into Arches before all of the tourists wake up, and more importantly to get there for early morning, low light photos. Plan where you want to go and get up early, you wonít be disappointed. I found all of the parks to be more enjoyable when they are quiet and think winter would be the perfect time to visit. After hiking to Landscape Arch, seeing Delicate Arch in the distance, Balanced Rock, Park Avenue, and Skyline Arch the day before, I spend the morning at the Windows and disappointment is a word that is gone from my vocabulary. Three non-english speaking photographers had scrambled to a viewpoint and were patiently waiting for the perfect shot. I was not as patient and took a good shot because I wanted to see more arches and get a broader experience than one photo. To their credit, they probably got the photo of their trip for their patience. After the completely well-worth-it early morning rise and trip to Arches, Iím off to Mesa Verde. Again. If you are going to pass near a park, why not put a few additional miles and time on and visit? Iím glad I visited earlier because Mother Nature threatens with storms, lightning, and even hail. The hail and rain donít last long enough to ruin the day and barely even dampen the day. Spruce House is on the list for todayís visit. The first day I didnít walk down to the dwelling, but today I get up close and personal. Superlatives and adjectives just lose their power to accurately describe what the feeling is walking in history such as this. The evening is spent at the slightly run down Far View Lodge that is in the park. Sure $130 sounds like a lot for an aged hotel room, but it was in the park and I had mule deer feeding just off the deck. Not bad at all.
North Window, Arches NP

Double Arch

"HI!" from Turret Arch.

Abandoned airfield south of Moab on 191

Grain silos heading into Cortez

Spruce House, Mesa Verde

AirForce 06-15-2013 06:40 AM

Day 12 Mesa Verde to Taos.
What a start to the day!! Sunshine and an empty, twisty road leaving the park. Another added bonus to staying in the park is leaving with no traffic. From 160 east I turn south so I can pick up 64 to go across New Mexico and into Taos. One of the great joys of avoiding the interstate is finding roads like 64. Mountain climbs, graceful curves and switchbacks, and a motorcyclists dream. The snow on the mountains and roadside only adds to the trip. As does my fourth time crossing the Great Divide. Riding into Taos I am greeted with roadsigns for Alien Cow Abduction and VERY WEIRD buildings in the desert. The buildings are so weird it looks like a Star Wars set and you expect the bar crowd to come walking out of one at any minute. Luckily there is a visitor center with a young lady who is far more attractive than the Star Wars extras to explain what is going on. What are they? Earthships at the Greater World Earthship Community about 2 miles west of the Rio Grande. Houses built with tires, bottles, aluminum cans, etc that are self supportive. Flat roof for precipitation collection, solar panels for power, earth-bermed for heat and cooling, greenhouses for food and more than a little Taos/Star Wars style. The last ride of the day is The Enchanted Circle from Taos to Red River to Eagle Nest and Angel Fire and back to Taos. The Red River Run is next weekend and a few riders are trickling in but other than that the road is pretty much deserted. Oh happy, happy, joy, joy! My hotel for the evening was picked based yet again on it not being a chain. The Sagebrush Inn is soooo much more than that! A family-run 1930s adobe with more charm than you can imagine. I get to stay in one of the original rooms that is two floors below the room Georgia OíKeefe painted in during her stays. Food is awesome, the fire in the room is wonderful and I would definitely recommend this hotel to anyone visiting Taos.

On The Road To Taos

I do NOT want to know what aliens are doing with our steaks-on-the-hoof

Earthship home.

Not a bridge over troubled waters, just a bridge over the Rio Grande.

Room in the Sagebrush Inn. HIGHLY recommended!!

AirForce 06-15-2013 06:46 AM

Day 13 Taos to somewhere in Oklahoma or Kansas.
After the final grin-inducing road (64 from Taos to Cimarron) with a little stop at the Vietnam Memorial near Eagle Nest and one minor terror-inducing moment with a male Pronghorn Antelope, Iíve reached that portion of the trip where you are no longer thinking about the trip. The fun stuff is over and now thoughts of work are creeping in and there is just the long ride across the Oklahoma panhandle. The past few days the news is focused on the tornado in Moore, Oklahoma so my plan is to ride hard when the weather is good and avoid any more nastiness Mother Nature might choose to dish up. Unfortunately, it is that season. While battling yet another strong side wind, Iím tucked behind the little GS windshield when the car approaching me starts flashing red and blue lights. Whoops, Iíve let the speed get the better of me and I get an Official Velocity Verification/Certification from the Oklahoma State Trooper. Just a warning for 74 in a 65, but the first time Iíve been pulled over in 21 years. The trooper is kind enough to pose for a photo to mark the occasion. The rest of the ride is uneventful and ends at a motel near I-35. The panhandle of Oklahoma turns out to be one of the Been There, Done That parts of the ride and one Iíll choose not to do again if I have the option. Southern Kansas was better.
Vietnam Memorial, New Mexico.
Dustbowl country, Oklahoma
Best Self-Portrait I've ever gotten.
Oklahoma State Velocity Certification Official.
Day 14. Home.
This day is spent riding roads Iíve driven many times and I need to get home to two yards that have had lots of rain and sun over the past two weeks and will need more than a little attention. Also, once I started thinking about work again, the trip was pretty much over. Thankfully that didnít happen until Day 12 so I got 12 fun days on the road with no thoughts of work. Overall, I did 4750 miles, saw much of the country Iíd read about but never actually seen, rode with good friends, stayed at very nice hotels and mostly ate really good food, saw family, and generally had an absolute blast!!! Itís kind of hard to end a vacation, but the reality is there is work to be done to pay for all this fun, and work to be done to save for the next bit of two-wheeled fun.
♪ ♪ ďThose are the memories that make me a wealthy soul.Ē Bob Seger.

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