Getting out west. 15 years in the making.

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by windblown101, Aug 6, 2016.

  1. windblown101

    windblown101 Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    May 17, 2010
    Oddometer:
    8,512
    Location:
    Star Tannery, VA
    I woke up and found myself missing the mountains of SW Colorado a bit already however I had a lot more yet to see and it would start with a run to the Great Sand Dunes National Park in SE Colorado which is nestled up against the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. After a quick breakfast I hit the road and before long got to the Parks Entrance. I had heard conflicting reports as to whether they still allowed motorcycles across the Medano Pass Primitive road so I inquired at the entrance to the park. The ranger told me it was open but that travel across it by motorcycle was discouraged due to the deep sand that had to be crossed. Personally, I stopped listening at "Yes, it's open...", ;)

    I saw folks that looked no larger than tiny specs against the dunes climbing them on foot. Like most pictures of the huge landscapes out here my photos can't even begin to convey the actual scale.
    [​IMG]

    Made my way over the the start of the pass and had to admit that the Ranger hadn't been exaggerating much about the nature of the sand along the first part of the trail. It was soft, dry, and fairly deep in spots. The combined weight of my bike and my gear made it a pretty good work out. As usual, I tended to take pictures in places I was comfortable stopping, and those were not the worst parts.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    After a couple of miles the road moved into the brush and trees along the base of the mountain and the shade brought welcome relief from the sun and the sand became firmer and easy to navigate. I took a quick break to cool off and relax having gotten through the sandy bottom without incident.
    [​IMG]


    The trail became tight and narrow in spots which warranted the other caution that I now vaguely recalled the Ranger had mentioned as I had ridden off from the Gate to the park - "Watch out for two-way traffic". I ran across a couple of full size trucks coming the other way at one point and had to practically lay the bike on it's side at the edge of the trail to give them enough room to pass. If two trucks meet someone would either have to back up a LONG way or drive up into the brush I reckon.
    [​IMG]


    The sign cautions folks to slow down in the several creek crossings to avoid downing their motors. That was pretty good advice because a few of them were deep considering how short of a crossing they were.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Before starting the climb up the mountain the road became a fast open flowing two-track which was a lot of fun to pick up the pace a bit on.
    [​IMG]

    The road up over the pass flashed by without me seeing anything I felt compelled to stop for a picture of. The other side of the pass is a well maintained gravel road that leads out to Hwy 69. I turned the bike north once on the highway and set my sights on Canon City where parts of moms family still live. I decided I would get a hotel and enjoy another night of Air conditioning as I entered Canon City and was greeted with temps reading as high as 105 degrees on my air temp gauge. Tomorrow I would ride north towards Garden Park and make a decision if I would pop in for a visit with my Colorado cousins, aunts and uncles that I hadn't seen in 40 years unannounced, or not.
    #41
  2. ScooterInVegas

    ScooterInVegas Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 5, 2016
    Oddometer:
    182
    Location:
    Las Vegas Nevada
    Sure is purty :-)

    [​IMG]
    #42
    Proud Highway likes this.
  3. windblown101

    windblown101 Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    May 17, 2010
    Oddometer:
    8,512
    Location:
    Star Tannery, VA
    After another good nights sleep I woke up and got ready to head out early. The plan for the day was to first run down to the Royal Gorge, then take Skyline back into Canon City, and then make a loop to the north, first along CR9 and along the "shelf" road to Cripple Creek, and then head over to Victor and south along Phantom Canyon Road and back to Canon for the night. Whether I would stop by the families ranch was till a question mark in my mind. First off, I didn't even know if I would recall the way. It had been 40 years since I had been here for a visit, I basically only remembered the entrance lay off of CR9 north of Canon. Secondly, I do a poor job of taking care of social responsibilities, I hadn't spoken to them since my mom had passed away several years ago. I felt uncomfortable about stopping in, but didn't feel like calling ahead as that would commit me to a visit I wasn't sure about making yet.

    As I made my way out the hotel lobby I stopped to gaze at their collection of old photos from Canon Citys past. Many look just like the pictures in the family photo scrapbook I have at home of this place of the people of Canon Citys past. I was starting to feel a rekindled connection to this place.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Ah well, thumb the starter and get moving...

    As I move north on CR9 I'm struck by how my memories here as a teenager visiting for a summer come flooding back. I see a sign for 4-mile creek and vividly recall playing in the creeks cool pools of water. I see the sign for Garden Park and recall my mother and her stories of growing up out here, and then I see the old one room building below and instantly remember it. It's the one room schoolhouse where my mother attended school as a kid with all the other children in the area from Kindergarden through 12th grade. The only thing missing from the scene is the hitching post that the school kids would hitch the horses they rode to school on.
    [​IMG]

    I traveled further up the road and I'm greeted by a familiar sight; the entrance to my aunt and uncles ranch and I pulled up to a stop.
    [​IMG]


    The decision I was sweating earlier about whether to visit or not has become a faded memory and without a moments hesitation I made the turn into the ranch entrance. As I ride the 1.7 mile long driveway to the ranch house I'm amazed how it seems each dip, each turn, each hay field I pass looks so familiar. I pull up to the ranch house and feel like I had just left it a week ago. Everything is how I remember it.
    [​IMG]

    Hmmm... I don't recognize that sign on the shed and walk up to take a closer look.
    [​IMG]

    Well, that's kind of cool. The sign is old and faded now but wasn't here 40 years ago when I last visited. I try to recall just when it was that my moms side of the family settled here and started ranching and running cattle between here at the base of Cooper Mountain, and the high country above. Sadly my memory can't put a date on it. Matters not I suppose, suffice to say it's been a long time.

    This old buckboard was sitting here when I was a kid and I recall my mom's great aunt scolding me for playing with the bear traps inside it, and then showing me how to set them properly so I wouldn't lose any fingers. That lady had sand I tell you, and a hard hand when needed, LOL
    [​IMG]

    I walked around the side of the house towards the kitchen entrance past a pile of finely split wood for the woodstove. I just knew that old stove would still be in the kitchen, my Aunt Helen loved it over any type of electric or gas stove.

    I knock on the door to the mud room at the rear of the kitchen and hear my Uncle Bob call out from inside of the kitchen "Come on in". And they they were, just as I remembered them, just a 90+ year old version of their younger selves. Looking good and hard just like the country they spent their lives in. I re-introduced myself and was greeted with a warmth that only family can offer, A big hug from my Aunt Helen and a hearty handshake from my Uncle Bob. We sat around the kitchen table and chatted for quite awhile and caught up with each other. It was a great visit. They told me my cousin Kathleen who is about my age had opened her own restaurant in Canon City and I promised to swing by and visit before I left for VA. After awhile we said our goodbyes and I snapped a few pictures before getting back on the bike.

    I remember this guy on the wall from when I was a kid. Then it looked huge, still looks huge actually... ;)
    [​IMG]

    The horses in the corral aren't as numerous now as they were back in the day but I'm guessing the ones they have would be ready to be saddled up and head up into the high country in short order if needed. As a kid I remeber heading up into the high country to brand spring calves and sleeping in an ancient high country cabin up there. A memory I won't forget any time soon.
    [​IMG]

    When I was last here my Uncle had an old Scout for back country travels. I see he's upgraded to an old Jeep now. I sneak a glance inside and sure enough, he's got a six shooter and a sharp knife sitting at the ready inside it. He never went into the back country without both. Likely a stash of emergency jerky in there somewhere as well if I know my Uncle.
    [​IMG]


    With my brief but exceptionally wonderful visit over I ride off to see what trouble I can get myself into exploring along shelf road...
    #43
  4. dano619

    dano619 Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2011
    Oddometer:
    1,322
    Location:
    sunny san diego
    What a great update, been following along from the beginning.......the way you tell the story about connecting with your past is awesome....when i was reading it i was right there with you like it was something i was doing, and i got a little misty eyed (hate to admit that from a big bad adventure rider, but?....thank you so much.....sweet :D
    #44
    windblown101 likes this.
  5. Duckworth

    Duckworth Taking the high road

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    7,549
    Location:
    Northeast
    I'm curious to hear what the issue was with the Tiger.
    #45
  6. windblown101

    windblown101 Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    May 17, 2010
    Oddometer:
    8,512
    Location:
    Star Tannery, VA
    I won't know for certain until I get a chance to tear into the motor which may not happen until this winter. But while on the subject of the Tiger I'll digress for a moment to tell the tale of how it got back home before I did. ;)

    As part of my deal with the KTM dealership they had agreed to store my wounded Tiger until I could make arrangements to have it picked up by a shipping company. Over the next few days several people would end up lending me a hand to get the bike home and their help will not soon be forgotten. First, I sent a message to a friend of mine here on the east coast who had recently been dirtbike riding out in Breckenridge CO and asked if his buddy who was hauling their bikes back across the country in an enclosed trailer had already gotten home to Maryland. It turned out that he hadn't. My buddy reached out to the fellow coming back with the trailer and he agreed to swing thru Decatur Illinois to pick up my bike and get it to Maryland. The bike made it to Maryland and my buddy went and got it when he went up to retrieve his own dirtbike. He then hauled the bike to Ashburn VA where he lives which is about 60 miles from my home in the Shenandoah valley in VA. My daughter and her friend then hooked up a trailer and rode down to Ashburn and brought it home for me. My buddy shot the picture below and sent it to me as my daughter was preparing to bring the Tiger back home. It was a huge load off my mind to know it was back home and safe. All before I even got back home myself!

    [​IMG]
    #46
  7. windblown101

    windblown101 Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    May 17, 2010
    Oddometer:
    8,512
    Location:
    Star Tannery, VA
    There's gold in them there hills...

    Like much of Colorado there are signs of old abandoned mining activity everywhere along this part of the Front Range. Prospectors would pan streams and then randomly start digging holes into the mountain sides looking for the motherload, most died broke. My uncle calls these small narrow holes into the rock "Rat Holes". In general, prospectors weren't highly regarded back in the day, they were mostly seen as poor deluded lunatics looking for a quick buck and ranchers as a rule generally kept mum about any prospecting they themselves might try their hand at during a lull in their work.

    Anyway, these "Rat Holes" are abundant and still easy to find and the area around Victor & Cripple creek are chock full of them. As I rode up towards Cripple creek I passed a few that were plainly obvious along the old road, and I spied this one just a bit further off the road, the darkness on the rock-face behind the brush caught my eye as a motored by. I stopped and took a zoomed in picture of it, and then decided to have a bit closer look naturally. :)

    [​IMG]


    A closer look at the entrance.
    [​IMG]


    It amazes me to think of just someone digging this hole into the side of a mountain back when it was likely dug. The desire for gold was strong.
    [​IMG]

    As I continued further up the road I spied the "hole in the rock" landmark that I recalled seeing as a kid on a trip to Cripple Creek.
    [​IMG]


    I ran thru Cripple Creek and Victor but they had both grown so much that I decided I preferred my memory of them from the past and kept moving. As I traveled south along Phantom Canyon Rd I was struck by how often the road would look like it just dead-ended into the rock-face ahead. The original route finders for this track certainly had their hands full.
    [​IMG]

    Another prospectors "Rat Hole" along Phantom Canyon Rd.
    [​IMG]


    I got back to Canyon City and looked up my Cousins Restaurant as I had prmoised. As I walked in I spotted her at the grill flipping what turned out to be one of the best damn burgers I've ever had. We had a great chat and I told her how awesome it had been to stop by the ranch and visit with her folks. If you're ever in Canon City I heartily recommend stopping in and grabbing one of these burgers. It's called Bunk House Burgers and they are truly delicious (and huge!)
    [​IMG]


    I made my way back to the Hotel and worked out a rough plan of action for the following day, my last day in the mountains of Colorado before heading east towards home. My thoughts were playing a melancholy game of tug-of-war between remorse at the thought of leaving this great state versus the slowly growing desire to sleep in my own bed and see my own mountains once again.
    #47
  8. dano619

    dano619 Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2011
    Oddometer:
    1,322
    Location:
    sunny san diego
    Thanks for update!!
    #48
  9. windblown101

    windblown101 Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    May 17, 2010
    Oddometer:
    8,512
    Location:
    Star Tannery, VA
    The following morning I stepped outside of the hotel in Canon City and was greeted by a day that promised clear skies and high temps. That's ok, might as well get used to high temps again. Not everyone can live at 9000'+ ;)

    Got the bike loaded up and headed towards Pikes Peak. I had wanted to ride over 14,000' this trip and despite a lot of time spent up to about 13,000' I hadn't checked 14,000' off the list yet and Pikes peak would be my last opportunity to do so. On the way there I ran across 3 riders on street bikes from California for a bit along the way, we had a bit of fun running some twisty pavement before parting ways again. The road up to Pikes Peak was pretty crowded I thought for a weekday (Should have figured that one out being it is peak tourist season) but I still managed to make pretty good time getting to the top. Once on top I found myself a quiet side of the peak to soak up the experience without being surrounded by others. Perhaps it's because one knows they are a touch over 14,000', or perhaps it's the rough and raw edged boulders that cover the peak, but it did feel different than all the other places I had been on this trip. The closest comparison might be Ophir, but still not the same by far. It's a rough and slightly alien looking place with a beauty of it's own.

    [​IMG]


    I wondered about the lone piece of timber I spied jammed in among the rocks. Who had hauled it up the mountain, how long ago, and why? Looks like it's been here for as long time and will probably look mostly the same many years from now. Things at altitude seem to be forgotten by time.
    13925039_1071925682862621_8193270823359773209_n.jpg

    Time to move on. On the way down I stopped for a few more pics.

    [​IMG]

    These little flowers lead a rough life. Was about 59 degrees when I came past.
    [​IMG]

    I'm glad I took the time to make the run up. Totally worth the ride, and the nice cool temps were a bonus! Now it was time for an afternoon swing thru Garden of the Gods because I was told it's a "Must do" and then on into the Rampart Range to prowl around a bit more before starting the trek east.
    #49
    KLRalph and ONandOFF like this.
  10. windblown101

    windblown101 Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    May 17, 2010
    Oddometer:
    8,512
    Location:
    Star Tannery, VA
    I swung into Manitou Springs. It's a busy little tourist town just west of Colorado Springs. I'm sure the people there were having a great time.... personally, I couldn't wait to get gassed up and get out. Perhaps all these days of riding mostly alone have made me people phobic. ;)

    I made the run thru Garden of the Gods but it was so crowded I didn't stop for pics and merely used it as a gateway to get onto Rampart Range Road and head north. Rampart Range Road is a very well maintained dirt/gravel route that follows along the peaks of the (you guessed it) Rampart Range. I'm stuck by how each mountain range has it's own personality and this one has a look all it's own as well. The rocks are large but more worn that those in the SW part of the state. Adding to the the difference in landscape is the massive damage still in the early stages of recovery from a fire that had swept through much of the area several years ago.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I took a turned east onto FR322 towards Monument and the road got less maintained, narrower and a bit loose. I was having a blast on it. The GPS indicated it ran down past a reservoir just to the west of town. However after I got quite aways down the road I ran across a Ranger who assured me it was not a thru road and I'd have to backtrack and run down FR 320 instead. Fair enough, it was still a nice diversion from the well maintained gravel/dirt road I had been on. ;)

    I take a last look from up high as I prepare to head down the mountain into Monument and start the long ride east. I'll miss these mountains.
    [​IMG]
    #50
    MapMaster, sierrastone, Mrob and 2 others like this.
  11. windblown101

    windblown101 Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    May 17, 2010
    Oddometer:
    8,512
    Location:
    Star Tannery, VA
    I got into Moment and after gassing back up decided that I would go ahead and make my way towards the Kansas border and make my run through Kansas under the cover of darkness when temps would be cooler. It would make for a long 24 hours or so in the saddle since I had started riding early this morning but it would also get a good chunk of the ride through the plains behind me. The next 24 hours would be a bit of a blur as it turned out.

    Staged up at a truck stop at the eastern edge of Colorado waiting on the sun to set.
    [​IMG]

    I rode into Kansas on Interstate 70 with the last rays of light in my rearview mirror and darkness ahead. During the night I would take about an hours nap on a rest stop park bench, and then another one on the ground leaned up against the bike along an interstate entrance entrance ramp. Around dawn I hit the western outskirts of Kansas City and was running out of steam. I looked for a cheap hotel to hole up in but the first two had no rooms available at 6:30 in the morning so I took another hard look at the GPS and saw a lake with a park not too far off. I rode over to it and had the place to myself. Nice park, gazebos, a beach, lake, and solitude. I caught another nap on a park table under a gazebo along the side of the lake.

    13934747_1071988022856387_6359567256350632459_n.jpg

    13912298_1071988072856382_8218660104030105100_n.jpg

    Looks "Fishy". I wish I had a pocket fisherman with me.
    13920693_1071996249522231_2792080565550362659_n.jpg

    Around 9:30am a fellow showed up in a truck and we chatted it up a bit as he set up his fishing poles looking to catch some catfish and then around 11am it was getting pretty warm even in the shade so I figured I might as well be riding and got back on the bike to continue east.



    Nightfall found me in Smithfield Kentucy. I found a campground just as they were getting ready to lock up for the night. A shower and some clean clothes sure felt good! I had yet another nice lake view to enjoy. Slept like a guy that hasn't had much sleep in over 36 hours and ridden 1442 miles since he last laid down on more than a bench or the ground. soundly!

    13925198_1073109782744211_3330182064501320245_n.jpg
    #51
    sierrastone, KLRalph, Mrob and 2 others like this.
  12. computer_freak

    computer_freak Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2016
    Oddometer:
    363
    Location:
    Dutch
    Buying a new bike during a trip. That's hardcore. Great trip!
    #52
    windblown101 likes this.
  13. AnimalDr

    AnimalDr Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2013
    Oddometer:
    34
    Location:
    Baker city, Oregon
    With the luck you have, was it smart to park the new bike under that big rock? Be my luck to have it slide off and crush the bike !
    #53
    windblown101 likes this.
  14. ONandOFF

    ONandOFF more off than on

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2009
    Oddometer:
    18,014
    Location:
    The Shenandoah valley of Virginia
    Caught up! That was a nasty storm cloud with multiple beautiful silver linings!

    Since you were pondering whether to do so, I was tickled you stopped in on your family. I would have felt disappointed if you hadn't.

    Fantastic trip and report. Very real. Thank you for posting all that! I thoroughly enjoyed it.
    #54
    windblown101 likes this.
  15. DRONE

    DRONE Dog Chauffeur

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2007
    Oddometer:
    9,979
    Location:
    Tacoma, WA
    Very much enjoyed your RR. Thank you. You appear to be a pretty skilled rider.

    You may have seen this about your Mom's school, but your Aunt Helen is quoted on page 9 of this PDF (page 5 of the continuum to Section 3).
    LINK
    Quite a couple!
    I was in the neighborhood of their ranch this summer when I ran up the Shelf Road from CC to CC (Canon City to Cripple Creek.) I have some pics like yours where it looks like the road is going to dead-end into a wall of rock.
    #55
  16. windblown101

    windblown101 Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    May 17, 2010
    Oddometer:
    8,512
    Location:
    Star Tannery, VA
    I loaded up for the last time the following morning in the post dawn light as the early morning fog lifted off the lake and I pointed the bike north. Later I ran into a steady rain for only the second time during this trip as I rode up rt 20 towards Buchanan WV. I swung east at Rt 33 and made a run thru Seneca Rocks, stopped for some gas and a picture and then made the final push towards home.


    A break in the rain during refueling in Seneca Rocks WV gave me a chance to snap a pic of Seneca rocks touched by the late day sun with storm clouds as a backdrop.
    [​IMG]

    The wounded Triumph and it's upstart stable mate will have to compete for a permanent spot in the garage after I have time to repair the Triumph.

    A few misc photos I hadn't posted above of parts of the trip. Might as well get them all in one place....

    13909367_1073937625994760_5639338753419678030_o.jpg

    13909367_1073937625994760_5639338753419678030_o.jpg

    13925589_1073936779328178_5105770551040348368_o.jpg

    13923730_1073938115994711_4891963613051418322_o.jpg
    #56
  17. windblown101

    windblown101 Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    May 17, 2010
    Oddometer:
    8,512
    Location:
    Star Tannery, VA
    Thanks for the links! Yep, they've stayed busy over the years. I don't know how they managed to squeeze it all in. :)
    #57
  18. Mrob

    Mrob Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2016
    Oddometer:
    597
    Location:
    N. VA
    Excellent thread. Just read the whole thing through. Really enjoyed and glad to see you made it back safe. I had been meaning to ask you what ultimately happened to the ol' triple. Nice to know you still have it and can get her in running order again. Had I known it was coming back to Ashburn I would of been glad to pick it up for you. I'm only a few miles away.
    #58
    windblown101 likes this.
  19. mica

    mica Weekend Adventurer

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2008
    Oddometer:
    4,186
    Location:
    Berryville-ish, VA
    Great RR!
    #59
    windblown101 likes this.
  20. windblown101

    windblown101 Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    May 17, 2010
    Oddometer:
    8,512
    Location:
    Star Tannery, VA
    Thanks folks. Enjoyed writing it. Hope you were able to forgive the million typos that may or may not ever be addressed. :)

    The whole ride ended up being 18 days, 5400+ miles. Altitude ranged from 500' to a bit over 14000'. Temps from 31 degrees to 105 degrees. Would I do it all again? If i could afford to, you bet! All the ups and downs are what gives life a flavorful spice. It was a long time coming and worth every minute.
    #60