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Old 05-20-2008, 04:27 PM   #1
vaara
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Southwest tour, part 1 (CA-CO)

Thursday, May 15, was my last day at my job; on 5/27 I'm starting a new one. So I went for a little ride. Some friends of mine are riding to Chicago for Memorial Day weekend, so I decided to ride with them approximately halfway, to central Colorado. My buddy Tom also joined us for the first 2 days.

Friday morning 5/16 we headed east. After enduring the usual Delta/Valley inferno, we stopped for lunch at the Lube Room in Dorrington, the last town before Ebbetts Pass, where we were entertained by the conversational stylings of Jeff, the Friendly Farrier (i.e. a guy who shoes horses). The "World Famous" Lube Room Burger was very tasty indeed. Then we headed up recently reopened Ebbetts Pass.

What's wrong with this picture?



There was snow.



Toward the end of our break we were joined by about 20 sprotbile riders, who apparently were doing "laps" of Ebbetts. After a snow fight and a smoke or two we were off, and so were the sportbikers, one of whom decided that a blind outside hairpin on a gravel-strewn goat track was the perfect place to pass me.

We got to Markleeville and fumed for a bit. The other riders were there too.



Then, between there and South Lake Tahoe, they passed us again. But that was the extent of the drama for this trip, except that after we got to the hotel in South Lake, we waited several hours for the other two to show up -- which, as it turns out, they didn't until 1:30am. In fact, we got to South Lake before they even left SF! Some kind of gear/equipment/gadget trouble, apparently.

After a rather unmemorable dinner at a pub on Lake Tahoe Boulevard (Womack's was closed), a casino chip's throw from the Nevada state line, we wandered down to the lake to enjoy the sunset.



Total mileage, day 1 (5/16) - 243.
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Old 05-20-2008, 04:43 PM   #2
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On Saturday morning we waited a while for Tad and Mike (the other two riders, both on BMWs) to get their act together, and left South Lake at the crack of 11:00am. Almost immediately Mike had to pull over to resolve some kind of gear/equipment/gadget issue. After a few minutes of this, Tom and I decided to roll on forward toward Carson City. They caught up to us soon enough.

The midday sun and heat were brutal as we picked our way through the dribbly outskirts of Carson City. It took a while for US 50 to justify its "loneliest road" moniker, but eventually -- after Fallon -- it did. Not to mention "windiest road," for a few times in the howling emptiness after Fallon, I was hit by malicious cross-gusts, one of which nearly knocked my magnetic tank bag clean off the bike. After that I slowed down to 80 or so.

We took a break at the junction of Nevada Highway 722, which provides an alternate route to the town of Austin.



We agreed that Tad and Mike would ride ahead of us, because I was seriously freaked out by the wind. So off they went down highway 722.



This was a pretty fun road -- twisties galore. Did I mention it was windy?



At the hilly, ramshackle town of Austin, which is almost smack-dab in the middle of Nevada, we regrouped at 4pm for "lunch" at the Toiyabe Café.



Here Tad shared the contents of a bukkake spam email he had received on his CrackBerry, which contained the phrase "thick burbling man-sap." Much snorting and spewing of foodage ensued. Here, too, Tom and I agreed that we wouldn't try to make it as far as our planned destination of Baker, NV, which was still 210 miles away.

After Austin, US 50 rapidly gains elevation.



Then, past a notably entertaining series of twisties, the usual Nevada "basin and range" pattern reasserted itself: 5 minutes of fun followed by 20 of rail-straight road. It's not unusual to be able to see 20 miles ahead.

At the Olde Weste town of Eureka, we took another break.



The nearby museum bears a plaque proclaiming its opening date as "AD 1986 / AL 5986." If anyone knows what "AL" means, please enlighten me.



An hour later, and close to sunset, we got to Ely and stopped for the night. However the first couple of motels we tried were full. We assumed -- correctly -- that it had something to do with the number of road rally cars in town, for as we later found out while enjoying margaritas, there was a road rally starting somewhere farther south the following day. So we had to settle for the Motel 6.

Total mileage, day 2 (5/17) - 358.

Last edited by vaara; 05-20-2008 at 04:46 PM..
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Old 05-20-2008, 05:21 PM   #3
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Sunday 5/18 dawned, as usual, bright and sunny, but it turned into a weird day in several respects.

At Ely, Tom turned back toward California via Tonopah and Sonora Pass; I continued east to rendezvous with the other two in Baker. We searched for caffeine, but found that the only espresso place in town did not open until 10am on Sundays. Talk about being unclear on the concept. I fortified myself as best I could with gas-station coffee and a stale donut, and said goodbye to Tom.

After a wrong turn, which took me briefly north on US 93, I found US 50 east and blasted off toward Utah.



At least the wind was cooperating, by being mostly absent. I made good time to Baker, which sits a few miles off Highway 50, right at the entrance to Great Basin National Park. Here, too, is an unusual little urban (and urbane) oasis -- the Silver Jack Inn.



The owner, Terry Marasco, bought the property with his partner about a decade ago and moved to Baker from San Francisco. The partner left, but Terry is still there, serving up excellent meals and baked goods -- and, most importantly, coffee. There's a motel, too, which is where Tad and Mike stayed after one of their now-customary late-nite arrivals.



Terry has been trying to sell the place, so get there while you can. From Baker, I headed off on my own while Tad and Mike made a beeline for Moab, where they were planning to go hiking the following day; our next rendezvous was in Breckenridge, Colorado, on Monday.

A few minutes after leaving Baker, I crossed into Utah and lost an hour. The road turned into Utah Highway 21, which made US 50 look like I-880 at rush hour. On several occasions I had to slow down to nearly a complete stop to avoid cattle in the road. There was a deer, too. I stopped at the ghost town of Frisco to stretch my legs.



My plan was to head down toward Bryce Canyon National Park to join Highway 12, and ride back up around northward toward Capitol Reef. So that's what I did. After a few turns, and a brief stint on I-15, I found myself in Panguitch. I had hoped that there would be a funky little café somewhere offering a "Panguitch Sanguitch," but no. So I ate at Subway. Here, too, the afternoon wind was picking up -- road signs were being blown violently back and forth, and so was I -- so I made the decision to take the windshield off completely and stow it in my topcase.

Immediately after leaving Panguitch, I noticed the improvement in the handling. The crosswinds were still pushing me around, but now each gust was more like a gentle shove rather than a violent wrench. I made it to the entrance to legendary Highway 12, and almost immediately the classic "red rock" scenery started.



The Utah DOT thoughtfully provides plenty of places to pull over and take photos.



Note the lack of windshieldage. The V-Strom has now morphed in a NudeStrom.




After a while the red rocks go away and are replaced by beige ones.

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Old 05-20-2008, 05:23 PM   #4
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Then, past the town of Escalante, you go around this little curve...



and then you see this.




And then, just when you think it can't get any better, the road plunges into the scenery.




But wait! There's more! After yet another dinky town (Boulder), Highway 12 starts to climb... and climb... and climb some more. It tops out at 9600 feet, in a snow-speckled birch forest, where you are greeted by this:



Pictures really can't convey how amazing this place is. Stop reading this instant and get on your bike and go there. Right now! I mean it!



Finally the road wound down into the town of Torrey, which -- being the gateway to Capitol Reef National Park -- is full of upscale-ish motels and eateries. However, I passed those all up for the opportunity to ride Highway 24 eastward through the park at sunset, and to shave 38 miles from the following day's ride. The sun threw the rocks into sharp relief.




By now it was about 7pm and I was getting pretty tired -- one drawback to not having a windshield on is that you then have to absorb all the wind blast, not to mention several billion bug hits. Interminably, Highway 24 rolled toward Hanksville, past all kinds of rocks -- red ones, orange ones, black ones that look like Ent faces, melty gray ones, and about 27 different shades of brown.

And just to make this weird but amazing day complete, when I got to Hanksville and found what seemed to be the only halfway decent motel in town, I saw that its "NO VACANCY" sign was illuminated, even though there was only one car in the parking lot. Puzzled, I rode up to the office door and saw that according to a posted sign, the owners, out of respect and love for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, do not do business on Sundays. I gladly followed their recommendation to try the crappy motel around the corner, which is called the "Best Value Inn." For some version of "Best Value" meaning $78 for a cinderblock room in a gravel parking lot surrounding a closed pool.

That said, the restaurant across the road was even worse. I almost felt sorry for the hapless European tourists who were eating there, flipping through phrasebooks to communicate with the waitress, but then remembered how much vacation time they get vs. how much we get. So fuck 'em.

And finally, my sleep was marred by a soft but persistent "tick" noise occurring somewhere (tick) in the room every 15 seconds or so. I stuck in some earplugs (tick) but they hurt my ears, so I just put up with the "tick," since I couldn't find the (tick) source of it.

Total mileage, day 3 (5/18) - 417.
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Old 05-20-2008, 05:50 PM   #5
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Monday morning, and I couldn't get out of Hanksville soon enough. In a departure from my usual pattern, I hit the road in a state of complete food and caffeine deprivation.



I un-deprived myself of both in Green River, then hopped back on I-70 for the long run into Colorado. At Grand Junction I had the idea of buying a can of something that I could then flatten to use as a sidestand stop, but it seems like the only things you can get in cans anymore are disgusting energy drinks. I had a purple one.

Back on I-70, the scenery got progressively more mountainous as the day progressed. To prove I was actually in Colorado, I took this picture.



Just past Glenwood Springs, I-70 enters an incredibly steep, narrow canyon. As in so many other places in the west, you find a river, a railroad track, a local road, and an Interstate all crammed into the same quarter-mile-wide space. The road was pretty fun, too, for an interstate, but there was lots of traffic. So overall it was something to be endured, not enjoyed.

Owing to a severe case of get-there-itis, I didn't take many pictures today. But here's one, near the town of Eagle.



And another one in Vail, where I had a leisurely late lunch.



Past Vail, the road crosses Vail Pass, at 10,600 feet. Mmmm, mountainy.



This is known as "mud season" in Colorado.



A short while later I exited the freeway onto Colorado Highway 9, which leads through the spic 'n' span tourist town of Frisco (yes, another Frisco), past a frozen lake, through a construction zone, and finally into Breckenridge, where I pulled in around 4:30 pm.

Tad and Mike, predictably enough, didn't arrive till 9:30, which made getting dinner a bit of a challenge, because of the 20% of Breckenridge restaurants that are open in May, only one -- a pizza place -- is open past 10. But all's well that ends well, and we took full advantage of our lodge's hot tub and agreed that all things considered, it had been a great trip.

Now I'm in Breckenridge enjoying some R&R, and Tad and Mike are somewhere in Nebraska. Poor Tad and Mike. Tomorrow I'm heading home, via Durango, Cedar City, Tonopah, and Yosemite.

Total mileage for day 4 (5/19) - 350.
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Old 05-20-2008, 09:52 PM   #6
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sweet pictures peter. hope you are having fun.

OMG, i have to work, while you are having fun.
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Old 05-20-2008, 10:20 PM   #7
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Nice. I only wish our "off-work" times had aligned better. This would have been fun ride.

Do you think the V-strom is extra prone to wind? Like how does it compare to your old ST or FJR?

Ride safe & See you soon!
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Old 05-21-2008, 12:24 AM   #8
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If you have the time (and it doesn't need much more)...
North on 25, and a little east, can take you to;
The Chief Cray Horse monument,
mt. Rushmore,
Devils tower (sturgis and keystone are up there too)
Wyoming Badlands
The town of Cody. (cool ghost town at west end of town.)
A VERY cool "Hoover Dam prototype" a few miles west of Cody
Yellowstone!

I went to Montana after that, to visit some friends. This route would probably only add a day, maybe two, to what it sounds like your plans are.
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Old 05-21-2008, 04:27 AM   #9
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Nice Pics, and loved the commentary "But, wait, there's more." and your reference to the
Europeans surplus of vacation time was classic. Thanks!
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Old 05-21-2008, 07:16 AM   #10
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This route would probably only add a day, maybe two, to what it sounds like your plans are.
I had originally planned to go that way -- gotta fill in some more states on my map thingie -- but there's a cold front coming through later today, and I'd rather be on the southern end of it than the northern end. I've been to many of those places before, anyway... though the same is true of the southern route.

And this way I can go through Tioga Pass.
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Old 05-21-2008, 07:20 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by weitfahren View Post
Do you think the V-strom is extra prone to wind? Like how does it compare to your old ST or FJR?
I do think it is. For one thing, it's significantly lighter than my ST, and taller too. I'm sure it doesn't help that I currently have too much weight distributed toward the rear (OF THE BIKE!); I can definitely feel the front end skipping around when it's windy. I recently put a SuperBrace fork brace on it, and that has helped a bit.

Not sure what else I can do to stabilize/weigh down the front end, except maybe gain a bunch of weight.
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Old 05-21-2008, 07:42 AM   #12
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That is super! Love that sunset pic, and the rest of them as well
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Old 05-21-2008, 03:52 PM   #13
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Lucky! That sounds like a great route.
Too bad you didn't stop in Torrey, my friends own a burger joint there called Slackers. Also, in Green River the best burgers and such are at Rays tavern.

Great pics, and have fun in the Durango area. I've done that route a few times and it is some of the best scenery ever (IMO). Either the Million Dollar highway toward Silverton or the back side of that Mtn. and take the loop that goes to Telluride. Both are equally picturesque. But I think you might be going the opposite direction toward Cedar City.

Anyway, sounds like a great trip, I want to see more pics!

This makes me very anxious to get on the road... but I have to wait until July, that is when I go to Glacier!
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Old 05-21-2008, 04:24 PM   #14
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Unfortunately, it looks like I'm not going to be doing any of the above... snow is predicted in Ouray (along the Million Dollar Highway) tonight and tomorrow, and everything between here (Montrose CO) and the Sierra has "chance of rain/T-storms" predicted every day from now till Saturday.

*sigh*

And just to make things even more fun, I seem to have left my iPod and phone chargers behind somewhere.

Oh well, that's life on the road...
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Old 05-21-2008, 04:37 PM   #15
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WTF happened to the windscreen? did it get torn off in the wind?

and where are all the sex pics?
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