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Old 08-21-2011, 09:26 PM   #1
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Bob and Cheryl Bag 13 states and 6000 Miles

Ok....5902....but close enough!

My girlfriend Cheryl and I wrapped up a dream trip last August. The plan was to depart Milwaukee, WI, ride to the coast and hit Sturgis on our way back. We had 12 days to work with. Naturally, we wanted to hit as many highlights along the way as possible and the Million Dollar Highway, Mexican Hat, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon, Vegas, PCH, Redwoods, Yellowstone, and Sturgis (it is a Harley after all ) were all on the menu.

The Goal - The West Coast

It all started a month ago when Cheryl told me she had a business meeting in Medford Oregon. She didn't just mention it casually - she knew I would want to ride it. We had long discussed a big trip for the summer and she knew this was an excellent opportunity for us to combine business (5%) with pleasure (95%). Naturally I, after some arm twisting, agreed to take the bike.

Day 1 - 8/3/2011 - Departing Milwaukee WI

Now it's a road trip!

It was a beautiful day to ride - a theme that would repeat itself every day for the duration of our trip. Motoring west of Madison.

Southwest Wisconsin is a great area to ride. We elected to slab it for the first day to quickly cover familiar territory and get to the Rockies. Rest assured, the secondary roads in this area offer even more enjoyable views.

With only the Mississippi to cross, we are in our first state of the trip by morning.

The 1st of many state crossings
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Old 08-22-2011, 07:10 AM   #2
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looks like a good trip! You are off to a good start.

Nice Harley, btw...

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Old 08-22-2011, 08:22 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by mrbreeze View Post
looks like a good trip! You are off to a good start.

Nice Harley, btw...


About the bike - I was going to post more on that later, but seeing as you provided me with a segway.......

I know a Harley isn't exactly the typical ADV bike. Yeah, there is a couple of notable exceptions, RTWDoug being the highlight. But he used a Harley to prove it could be done and to take a different path than the typical adventurist (plus he's COOL!). I, however, chose the Ultra Classic because it is exactly the right tool for the job - the long haul on paved roads. It has plenty of capacity to haul a lot of junk, enough protection to tame the elements (within reason) well, and frankly, it fits my lanky body. I looked at the Goldwing of course. But, it is not as roomy for me, and the Ultra offers more ability to tweak ergos, so there you have it. Factor electronic cruise control, heated grips, built in rider/passenger communication, among other things, and the Ultra Classic makes for one truly excellent touring bike. Plus - chicks dig em!

So.....We made Iowa in no time. Iowa is not a bad state to cross if you do it the right way. We chose Hwy 151 to Cedar Rapids, where I know a decent coffee shop that serves food. 151 is a 65 mph 4 lane highway, but not technically an interstate. As such, the ride just seems more mellow than huffing along I-80 (which came later).

Things are different west of the Mississippi. Our gas stations have boring names like Quick Mart and Speedway. Here the two choices where Kum n Go or T (&) A.

Day 2 - After slabbing most of the way from Cedar Rapids, we found ourselves in "Colorful Colorado". The sign may come off as a bit sarcastic to those who have never been to Colorado. This corner of the state is a bit bleak and not exactly colorful. And yeah, there was a state between Iowa and here but......

I should back up and say the one interesting thing about Nebraska was that it was a main thoroughfare for bikers heading to Sturgis. We had a nice Mexican meal somewhere in Nebraska 750 miles from home, with a bunch of Hell's Angels. That's a good feeling - walking into a cantina with a petite blonde woman (wearing chaps and pig tails) after a long day of riding, to find it populated by a bunch of bikers who were at least 3 Margaritas into their evening. Unlike the hollywood version that might have played out, our evening was without incident, if not a bit of staring.

We entered Colorado in the usual way taken by travelers from the east - via 76. I have made this trip many times by car and bike, but I'm always excited to get that first view of the mountains.

Heading into Denver is always fun. Traffic. Construction. Yep....big city riding. But, I do like Denver. And, I have a lot of family there which means free food and lodging! Some team other than the Packers plays here -

We had a nice time visiting but we had to turn in early because the real trip would begin the next day. Our first route takes us through the Rockies, to Gunnison, over the Million Dollar Highway, down to Durango, and then into the Mojave to make Mexican Hat by night. Here's the route -

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Old 08-25-2011, 03:31 PM   #4
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Early Friday we departed Denver. At 6:00 a.m. the traffic is manageable and the temps cool. We opted to take secondary roads for the most of our trip west. In this case, our first road was 285 heading southwest out of Denver. The idea was to meander through the mountains and valleys and avoid I-70. We also wanted to travel over the Million Dollar Highway.

The foothills are fun, but there is always traffic near Denver, even at 6:30 and heading away from the city -

As you get farther in, the topography changes all the time. Sometimes it's lush and green like the pic above. Other times its more like high desert areas.

Regardless, the views are always great - especially for a pair of midwest travelers.

After 285 we hung a right on Hwy 50.

This is Blue Mesa Reservoir just west of Gunnison

After Blue Mesa we entered Montrose. It was getting pretty warm, but we were excited to see the jagged peaks of the Rockies to the south which signaled our impending arrival to the Ouray and the Million Dollar Highway. We were hot, hungry, and thirsty. A local watering hole took care of that. We stopped in at the Horsefly Brewery. The wings were hot and the beer was cold - perfect!

Cheryl samples some "Bug Eyed Blonde" (no comment)

Cooled down and refueled, we mounted up and headed for Ouray. The trafiic in Montrose belied it's small size. It was very busy and the drivers were a bit nuts. We filled up at a local gas station and chatted with a couple who just rode up from Durango over the "Highway". They also mentioned the sh*tty traffic and said it's even worse in Durango. Oh joy. But, as we headed out of town, traffic thinned and the ride became more pleasant. As we climbed in elevation it also got cooler which was welcome. We didn't even mind the showers that quickly moved into the area. It was quite beautiful in fact.
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Old 08-25-2011, 04:29 PM   #5
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Well done guys. Some fine roads there.
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Old 08-26-2011, 10:41 AM   #6
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I'm in. This sounds like one of my bucket list trips, so I plan on learning from your experience. Thanks for posting it.
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Old 08-30-2011, 07:00 PM   #7
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Heading into Ouray.

Ouray is a nice little tourist town. Sorry, no pics worth showing. We didn't hang around and headed right for the first milestone of our adventure - the Million Dollar Highway.

The drops are steep. No guard rails. Cross that line, it seriously is over.

Heading North to south the drop is to your right. It can be a bit intimidating.

Once you get past the initial climb, you can relax and enjoy the scenery a bit.

Unfortunately, the truck drivers use the Million Dollar Highway too. They can be a real buzz kill. We were stuck behind these two for quite a ways. Top speed about 20 MPH and no one seemed willing to pass at the few passing zones.
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Old 08-31-2011, 08:55 AM   #8
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Here's a really nice resource to find byways such as the Million Dollar Highway -

We really tried to stick to the byways for most of the trip from Denver on with the exception of a day long slab from Sturgis back home to Milwaukee. It made for a very pleasant trip. Sure, we went a little slower, but that made it somewhat less punishing. Also, one gets to see so many things that are missed when riding the interstate. Factor in less traffic, semi trucks, and road construction, and it all makes for a much more pleasant trip. To me ten hours on the slab is hell and twelve hours of byways is heaven.


We finally got passed the line of cars and the two semi trucks. There were actually plenty of passing zones, but only we seemed interested in using them. Once past the rolling roadblock, the road was free of traffic for miles. After all, there are really no intersections for cars to funnel onto the road. The silver lining. We had the road to ourselves for about thirty minutes.

One can only post so many pictures of the Rockies before they all start to look alike. I think you get the idea - a ride through the Rockies will be beautiful. My advice is to try and plan it mid week. But, as mentioned, trucks use some of the routes we like to travel and they can really harsh on your ride. Also, I won't bore you with shots of Durango, and, I must say, the main drag was not especially noteworthy. As the couple back in Montrose had mentioned, there is a lot of traffic. We did not encounter the homicidal drivers that we were told we would be there (that came later) and I'm sure there are parts of Durango that are fantastic. However, we had ground to cover so finding those areas were not on the menu. The main thing I remember about Durango is that the aprons to the gas stations are incredibly steep and I wondered how cars managed to keep their bumpers.

Heading west out of Durango we rode past Mesa Verde National Park and into Ute Mountain Indian Reservation territory. The mountains of the Rockies gave way to the high desert and mesas to the south.

The high desert has it's own kind of beauty. It's not for everyone, but I like it. Being from Wisconsin I'm used to lush green rolling hills and fields of corn or wheat. That I can live with on a daily basis. I'm not so sure I could say the same about the desert. I'm also used to humidity, which is not at all present west of Durango. I felt like a sponge that had been left to dry in the sun. No amount of lotion or sunblock seemed to help and water/Gatoraide was consumed in quantities to stave off dehydration which happened anyway. It was in the upper nineties at least. The Ultra's thermometer indicated something closer to One Hundred degrees, but the hot motor bolsters that account.

It had been a very long day. Denver. The Rockies. The Million Dollar Highway, and lots of desert heat. Home seemed like a million miles away and a memory from the past even though it had only been three days. We had crossed out of Colorado and into Utah as well as the Navajo Nation. It was with great relief that our destination grew closer. We were, loving every minute of the ride, but after hours and a lot of exposure, we were getting tired.

To the right Moab. To the left Mexican Hat.

Not much farther now
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Old 08-31-2011, 06:59 PM   #9
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I'm here

Love the dessert shots. I especially liked the second one--the one with lots of sky.

Thanks for sharing.
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Old 08-31-2011, 07:01 PM   #10
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great thread

Thanks as well for sharing. Great read!
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Old 09-02-2011, 02:11 PM   #11
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The sun was getting low in the sky but it was still around 100 degrees. We were fatigued but still appreciated the beauty that surrounded us.

We arrived around 7:30 at night (the Garmin is on central time in the pic above). We were hot, tired, and hungry. Needless to say, the first thing we did, even before checking in to our hotel, was to gas up. No, not because I'm so interested in a quick morning getaway (I just didn't care at that point). It was to get a nice, cold, dewy 6 pack of whatever the hell beer they sold in that God forsaken place. Yes, after 13+ hours of mountains and desert heat, this place was God forsaken! Dry! Hot! In the middle of nowhere, one horse (gas station anyway), 2 bar town!

Fast forward 15 minutes - we have checked into the Hardrock Inn in Mexican Hat, UT. The staff was nice, the room clean, and most importantly, it had A/C and a fridge. OK. Equally important was running water. Preferably cold. The first beer was opened.

Fast forward another 15 minutes - After having a shower and a beer (yes - at the same time) life is good. The ride was great, we were on schedule (a loose vacation type schedule anyway), we were not fighting ( As long as she did what she was told!..... :) ), the bike is great, and I have 5 more beers. Of course, Cheryl had something to say about that and she claimed her fair share you can be sure. While she took advantage of running water (yeah - after me. She was molesting the air conditioner while I showered - her choice), I took a stroll out to the porch. The sun was low, and the temps falling. I'm sure you all know the satisfaction of feeling refreshed and taking that short stroll to survey your surroundings. Beer (or refreshing beverage of your choice) in hand, the smell of the summer air mixed with the feint scent of clean hair and clean clothes. And if you are really fortunate, a damn fine cigar in your other hand. I was not that fortunate. However, I did fully appreciate the beauty, serenity, smells, and tastes of my current situation.

The view

It wasn't long before beer was not enough, however. Food was needed. There seemed to be two choices - a very crowded outdoor steak joint, and the gas station. We walked a few hundred feet up the road to the restaurant. Not too much traffic except for some late travelers and a pick up truck full of hooting local dudes. Not that I didn't appreciate their whistles and high praise of my ass, but it kinda pissed Cheryl off. Jealous I guess. Anyways, we put in our names at a place that boasts that they cook their steaks on a swing. We were told there would be a 15 minute wait - not bad. We saddled up at the bar and had another cold one while watching the "swinging steak" show which consisted of pony-tailed old guy watching steaks that were placed on a swing that goes rapidly back and forth over an open pit, much like a child at a playground, but with fire. Now, I have grilled a steak or two. In my experience, when I place a steak directly over a hot fire, it takes about 15 minutes to cook, give or take. We did the math on this process and figured that it would take about 3 days to actually cook a steak using the “swing” method. We finished our beers while watching the same steaks not cook on the swing. Beer cans empty, we opted for plan B - gas station burrito. I know that sounds like a let down after "swinging steaks", but all I can tell you is that as hungry as we were, it was the best green chili frozen burrito I have ever had. We killed off what remained of the 6 pack and turned in by 10 PM. It was a great day.

Roads traveled – From Denver, heading west and south – Hwy 285 to Poncha Springs, Hwy 50 west to Montrose, Hwy 550 south, over the Million Dolar Highway, to Durango, Hwy 160 west to Hwy 41 (middle of nowhere), which turns into Hwy 162 west (ish), Pick up Hwy 191/163 at Mulberry (didn’t see anything but an intersection and stop sign – it is pictured above), and then rolled 163 into Mexican Hat.

Miles Traveled - 516

Time Traveled - about 13.5 hours

Temps - 55f-105f estimated

Beers Consumed - 5 each

Burritos Consumed - 1/2 each

Okay – some of you are probably wondering, why Mexican Hat as a stop over? I can’t really say. I know I have heard of it, it sounded cool (figuratively), and the mileage worked out. FYI - It is named after a rather unimpressive rock formation along the highway. I guess when you have a whole lot of nothing, you choose a name based on what you do have. Another reason to stop there is it is gateway to Monument Valley, which we would travel through the next day.

Our route for Day 4 - Mexican Hat to Vegas! (you can't just put a period after the word "Vegas") via Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon.

Mexican Hat.
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Old 09-02-2011, 03:10 PM   #12
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Old 09-02-2011, 04:08 PM   #13
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I am glad you are touring the west....SW Colorado and the Pacific Coast are my favorite riding areas. It's always fun to read the experiences of people who are doing it for the first time!

"Converting oxygen to carbon dioxide since 1951."
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Old 09-03-2011, 08:31 PM   #14
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Another day, another early start. It's easy for us because -

A. - We are still very excited to get out and see things we have never seen
B. - Our internal clocks are still on Central time, which buys us an extra hour

This is day 4 of our 12 day (at least) adventure. In some ways it feels longer because we are so far from home and in surroundings so different from what we are used to. In other ways, it seems like just yesterday that we left.

Today I am especially excited to visit 2 places - Monument Valley, and The Grand Canyon. I've seen pictures of Monument Valley and know that it is often visited by traveling riders. I've had a fascination with the Grand Canyon since I was a kid. My family really didn't travel too much. As I get older, I feel a need to explore and see the planet that I inhabit. I am fully aware that I am preaching to the choir here. I have been a lot of places around the world, but I thought it foolish to not visit amazing places right in my own back yard. I was once humbled by a client from Africa who was amazed that I had never been to New Jersey. He said I live in such an amazing country. Why on earth have I traveled to Argentina, but not New Jersey?? At the time I thought, hell, I think I can live my entire life without seeing New Jersey. But, after awhile his words and meaning sunk in. New Jersey Is now on my list as well as every other state that I have not been to. In fact, by the end of next summer I intend to have all 50 under my belt. But, not before really cool stuff like the Grand Canyon!

Getting ready to hit the road. It's amazing that 12 hours ago it wa shotter than hell. Now it's about 60 degrees

Many travelers showed up after we arrived. The motel was booked weeks ago, so book early if you want to stay in Mexican Hat. These probably belonged to folks heading to Sturgis

The sun rises over the mountains behind us

Sunrise is a perfect time to enter Monument Valley from the east. There were many people pulled alongside the road taking pictures. This is Hwy 163

There are a few travelers on the road (It is Saturday after all), but not many. This lack of traffic gives me the opportunity to make an ass of myself and go for the Glamor shot

And time for the requisite homage to Neil Peart's Ghost Rider (a good read btw). It's hard to do it justice without a center stand

Back on the road. It's an amazing area. You want to ride here

Lots of critters that can wreck your day if you aren't careful. We saw wild horses everywhere

The sun is getting a little higher and the temps warming quickly - but still not hot.

I'm glad for the lazy curves in the road. I want to look at the scenery. The buildings are a small town in the middle of nowhere. Yes, there is a casino there.

The red earth gives way to more subdued tones as we move west out of Monument Valley

And into Arizona.Our time in Utah was brief, but amazing. What a beautiful state

Required artsy fartsy shadow shot

The white pillars were a hint to the color change we would experience as we rode into the day

The scenery changes from red and spectacular to bleak and white. Still amazing in it's own way. It's getting warm too.

All of the sights pictured above were seen by 9 a.m. I believe. We stopped in Arrowhead to gas up the bike and ourselves. We pulled into a McDonalds where there was a line of 7 or 8 CVO Harleys all lined up. Our dirty, plain Jane Ultra looked like a 5 dollar whore parked next to a line of high end call girls in custom paint and chrome. They had all the CVO doo-dads that add about 13k on top of what I paid for my bike. Nice, but not my bag. We noticed, to our surprise, that they were sporting Wisconsin manufacturers plates. It was an easy guess that some Harley big shots were out for a ride, again, probably on their way to Sturgis. We grabbed some coffee and a cinnamon roll and ate outside. Soon, the Moco guys strolled out and went to their bikes. Cheryl, an extrovert, walked over and chatted. I was more interested in getting the much needed caffeine in my blood stream, the lack of which, probably didn't make me the bubbly, "Howdy Pardner" kind at that particular time. Turns out they flew into AZ and picked up their decked out rides, which would explain how clean they were. And they were, as guessed, on their way to Sturgis. They were a friendly group of guys. Two of them worked for HD, and the other guys were on a rolling holiday provided by HD. Nice to have the right friends! Chery mentioned the beauty of the CVO paint jobs (they were pretty damned impressive) to which the head guy responded to me that I should buy one. Yeah.....right. I said I would, but then I would have to hire someone to keep it as squeeky clean as his was. I was hoping it came off as a friendly poke, but truth be told, I thought he was a bit of a dick for saying that vs thanking me for buying the, not at all inexpensive, 2011 Ultra that we were on. Again, lack of caffeine makes me a bit cranky. I somewhat recovered with a laugh and a smile, as well as some praise for their rides. They rolled out and we all wished each other safe trips. I'm not sure what route they were taking, but I hope it was through Monument Valley. It would be a shame to miss that.

We fueled up the bike and headed west on Hwy 160 again. If you look at 160 on a map, it covers a lot of ground. After the spectacular Monument Valley, we were not so much inspired to snap off a lot more pics. We were saving that for the next big milestone of the ride that day - the Grand Canyon.

We turned left

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Old 09-04-2011, 02:00 AM   #15
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I'm in!! Great report so far!!

Work sucks, let's go ride!
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