Colorado Motorcycle Trip, part 2 – 9/20/2015

After my problems, the rest of the day was going to be smooth riding. I just knew it. In face, the perfect air and view on the San Juan mountains showed me they would be!

IMG_20150920_095611

Okay, so maybe there was something up with the perfect air. I know a fire when I see one!

IMG_20150920_112401

But a few miles down the road, I got an all clear.

IMG_20150920_113211 IMG_20150920_113458

They were doing preventative burning of the forests to keep them healthy. I stopped to ensure Danelle could see the photos as she loves doing these with her job. And still being ahead of schedule, I made a stop an an alternate route to Chimney Rock National Monument. I was interested in driving as close as I could and then considering a hike. As it turns out, its an active archaeological sight. I paid extra money to ride up a steep gravel road just to get a little closer, but opted out of the 2 hour guided tour. I didn’t spend much time off the bike but I came to ride!

Looking at Chimney Rock

Looking at Chimney Rock

View from the parking lot.

View from the parking lot.

After this detour, I had one more alternate route before my real fun began for the day. I had a map and plan to ride across the Royal Gorge bridge. I didn’t get a 100% feeling if I could make it or not based on online information, but I didn’t look too hard. I figured that would be part of the adventure. I found my turn off for the south side and was promptly greeted with a sign saying that side was closed. So I decided that the Royal Gorge wasn’t in my plans for this trip as I had one more big thing to do this day.

My grandfather “Daddy” always spoke of a road; Phantom Canyon Drive. He had been to Colorado several times and it was his favorite. Danelle swears we drove it on our honeymoon, but that was 15 plus years ago and I’m only about 5% confident that we drove it. So I wanted to be 100% sure that I took Daddy’s favorite road.

I had the camera charged and a photo of the highway intersection so I would not miss it. At the town just before the road, I gassed up, getting food and drink in case it took longer than expected. Then I set off.

I made my turn onto Phantom Canyon Drive and knew it would be a few miles before I got the the really fun part. But something was up. There was a road closed ahead sign. Something about the road being washed out due to summer flooding. Of course being on a motorcycle, it was quite easy to get around the first sign to get closer and inspect. I saw a jeep coming from that direction and figured it safe. Plus I took up much less space on the road and could go around a lot! And so, I”m a bad man…

IMG_20150920_175614 IMG_20150920_175640 IMG_20150920_175643 IMG_20150920_175803 IMG_20150920_175839 IMG_20150920_183633

The sign from the north side of the road.

The sign from the north side of the road.

And the video of the ride for those of you that are dreaming of when you can go yourself!

At the end of the ride, I consulted a map, not sure where to go. My best guess was right (east). So I started riding and just didn’t see anything. I came upon a truck stopped and pulled up. They had binoculars out looking at an animal. I asked which way to Victor, CO. I got a strange look and they asked which way I had come from. I explained I ignored the signs and went through Phantom Canyon. That got a look but they said the town was the opposite direction. So I rode down the gravel road to a flat spot to turn around.

As I was performing my turn, a different truck came down the road and I wanted to be out of the way. I started to cut my turn short to the edge of the road and got my front tire stuck deep in sand. It took a few minutes of rocking the bike before I got it unstuck and then stuck again in my haste. When I finally pulled into the town of Victor, CO I was tired. It was a very cool looking mining town.

IMG_20150920_185423 IMG_20150920_191440

Daylight was gone and I just found the only hotel in town with a note on the door to call. I walked into the bar next door and asked if they knew about the hotel. They told me it was a bit pricey, but to try 5 miles down the road in Cripple Creek, CO. So I headed out for my first mountain driving in the dark and found a mini Vegas.

IMG_20150920_212016 IMG_20150920_212059

The room was cheap and came with food vouchers. Once my stuff was in the room and Danelle and I talked, I headed to the restaurant. There I had my first sit down meal of the whole trip. A steak with fries. While I waited for my food, I called Hiatt as he was with me for my last motorcycle trip to Arkansas 5 years earlier. I talked excitedly to him about the things I had done this day with him, excited to share with somebody who would understand. When my food came, it was perfect!

I walked the casino before going to bed for the night. On my way out, I was stopped by an older gentleman. He asked to be forgiven, but did he overhear me talking about Phantom Canyon Drive? I told him it was okay and explained all about my day. Mervyn Cooper is from the Isle of Wright in England on a multi-week holiday. He is driving over the western US with his wife and son. He wanted to take Phantom but saw it was closed. Mervyn talked about Shelf road and suggested that I should take that as it would be just as interesting.  I told him I would do research on the road. After a long talk, he agreed to me taking his photo with his wife and we parted ways.

IMG_20150920_220054

I went up to my room for some quick research and much needed sleep!

Hogan Haake

Colorado Motorcycle Trip – 9/20/2015

Today was a day of pain, opportunity, and luck. It started out as the previous two had, in a motel room quickly getting ready before the sun came up. I had about an hour’s ride before I got to Silverton, CO, the northern gem of the Million Dollar Highway. From there south for at least an hour would be some of the most spectacular views of my ride. I was off to a gas station to fill up my bike and my belly!

Riding any Colorado road in the mornings or night can leave a person bone chilled. The sun was out, but it was frequently behind the scenery. I realized that if I was too cold, I wouldn’t be in top riding form, and found it best to stop and put on my rain suit for extra wind protection. Here is what that looked like!

Finally warm, I was able to ride normally and happy. Its worth not looking “cool” to be happy and warm and the stop only took about 10 minutes. It didn’t take long till I further south and the road got very interesting as did my ride.

Watch the video below, and you’ll see around minute 4:50, I pull over to look out at an overlook with a waterfall. Its a great view, but when I get back on my bike I mess with it a bit cause it won’t start. Eventually it fires up and I go on my way. At the 7:25 mark, I have to stop for a traffic signal for one way traffic. It seemed that I was going to be there a while, so I shut off the bike again. At 9:55 you can see the traffic light turn green and me try to start the bike. It took about 20 seconds for me to get it to work including some frustrating hand work and attempting to wave on the traffic backed up behind me. But she did start and I was off.

My problem now was I knew that the next time I turned off the bike there was a very high likelihood that it would not start again. At this point in the trip, I’m ahead of schedule and willing to stop more to view the things around me, with a machine that doesn’t want to cooperate. Deep down inside I knew that the moment of truth would come and I didn’t want to ride in fear all the way to Durango without stopping.

Eventually the moment was right and I stopped on an uphill to see a scenic looking waterfall coming down from the mountain. Delaying the inevitable, I hiked around to get a good look.

IMG_20150920_092149

From the parking lot up into the waterfall.

IMG_20150920_092228

Back to the pull out I parked out.

IMG_20150920_092333

This is how the water goes under the road, they must expect lots of water in the spring!

Eventually I went back to the bike and it failed to start. But a few summers ago, I did a solo ride in St. Louis and had a similar issue. I rode out to Hermann, MO and stopped at the river to enjoy the view. When I got back on it wouldn’t start. After a Facebook post to the Concours Owner’s Group, I got a reply telling me to check the fuses, and it turned out I had blown one. So with past experience as my guide, I started to take off the side panel that hosted the fuses.

With the first panel off, I learned that I took off the wrong one 🙁 But I also saw the manual adjustment for the suspension that I have never tried before. So I took a chance and adjusted it. I wouldn’t know what this did until I could get the bike started and back on the road. So I put the panel back on and went around to the other side. I took off the panel and found the fuse box. Then I triumphantly took out each fuse knowing that I would find a blown one and could just replace it and be on my way.

When the last fuse was pulled and none were blown, I got momentarily flustered. I have no cell signal to call for help and I’m not sure what is wrong with my bike. I remember reading a story by Daniel Meyer about approaching a guy on the side of the road in Alaska beating his motorcycle gear because his bike wouldn’t work. Once the guy calmed down, they went over the bike system by system till they found the problem and got him going again.

With a little patience and a happy mood cause I was in Colorado about the farthest away from home I would be the whole trip, I started taking the motorcycle apart checking every electrical connection I could find and then testing to see if it would start. Eventually, under the seat was the ignition pack that when wiggled caused it to work once then fail. After some working of the harness, I was able to get it to work 5 times in a row.

IMG_20150920_093835 IMG_20150920_093843

With things back together, the ignition didn’t give me any more problems for the rest of the trip. Ohh, and the seat adjustment was amazing, making it more bouncy. My butt complained a lot less which made me happy. Come back in a few days for the continuation of the rest of this day.

Hogan Haake

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colorado Motorcycle Trip – 9/19/2015

Sunrise in Goodland Kansas.

Sunrise in Goodland Kansas.

I woke up to a brisk 41°F this morning. I didn’t want to waste any sunlight, so I packed quickly and got some gas station breakfast and headed out. I made it all the way to Denver and a little past on a single tank of gas, getting 220 miles without hitting the reserve. I was getting a bit nervous about running out of fuel because I was going up and down large inclines, but it all worked out. With another full tank, I looked for Squaw Pass road. Once found,the road quickly delivered breathtaking mountain scenery with amazing curves. I was laughing to my self!

It didn’t take long to find the road with signs to drive up Mount Evans, the highest auto road in North America. The gentleman at the toll booth took my money and advised me of some rough pavement around miles 8 and 9. Ohh, and to be careful… I enjoyed the ride going up to the half way at Summit Lake. There, I stopped too cold to continue. Time to add some much needed gear. And maybe the view was awesome too!

IMG_20150919_114914 IMG_20150919_114917

From here up, I continued much slower. I noticed at Summit Lake that I was having trouble breathing the cold thin mountain air. Its likely that I was also just so excited to be here hardly 24 hours after I left home! There were many hairpin turns that I was extra careful on as I wasn’t at 100% power. Eventually, I got all the way to the top of the mountain and was again greeted with an amazing view. But there was trouble at the top.

IMG_20150919_121336

Parked at the top, I realized that I wasn’t at the top. There was still a trail to climb if I wanted to actually be at the top of the mountain. Light headed (fat and out of shape) from the altitude, I started climbing the trail. I left my one piece rain suit on as extra wind protection as I was still cold. I was tempted to wear the helmet for my head, but thought that would be too much. So I started up the trail. About half way up, I was passed like I was standing still by a group of nuns that didn’t appear to be wearing any extra clothing for the cold. I no longer felt like the stud that conquered the mountain!

Proof that I made it!

Proof that I made it!

This is Summit Lake from the top.

This is Summit Lake from the top.

Those pesky nuns!

Those pesky nuns!

IMG_20150919_123246 IMG_20150919_123408

I asked somebody for help with a photo, not too bad!

I asked somebody for help with a photo, not too bad! She said it was “badass” as she took it!

 

IMG_20150919_123503

A view of the parking lot at the top of Mount Evans. Notice the observatory. Must be a nice view.

Video of going up Mt. Evans

Video of going down Mt. Evans

After a nerve wracking ride down the mountain, I went north up to Idaho Springs, CO. I was ready for lunch. Most people would stop at a local restaurant and take stuff in, but I had other ideas. So I found a Hardee’s and got my first official meal of the trip. But with the spirit of the trip, I went outside to the parking lot to eat and look at the scenery.

After a fast lunch, I was back on the bike riding again. I left I-70 about 10 miles west and took 381 in Georgtown, CO. I was afraid that I made a wrong turn. All the maps said I was going the right way, but the road kept leading towards a dead end. Eventually, it lead to a switch back that started climbing the mountain. I had no idea it was possible and was just along for the ride. Special note here, I expected all highways to have a 55 mph speed limit, but this highway was often 25 mph. Its important to plan accordingly.

There were some amazing places to stop along the way, that I want to go back with the family so we can randomly stop and see the sights! At the end of the pass, I stopped at Al’s Pits Barbecue. It was interesting enough to stop for a photo, but not to eat.

IMG_20150919_144817

This next stretch was long. I turned down a gravel forest service road and went till I felt I was completely alone. Then parked to take an isolated photo.

IMG_20150919_155044

I also was motivated enough to take a video of how lonely the road was. Of course at the end of the video, a truck comes by…

From here, it was an easy ride all the way to Montrose, CO. Once there, I went to 3 hotels before I found one with vacancy. It was over $130 for the night, but I didn’t want to miss out on a room and have to ride any more as it was quite dark out now. Danelle was a bit worried about me at this point until I called her. If it wasn’t for the Spot Tracker showing her that I was still moving, she may have been in a panic.

Hogan Haake

 

Colorado Motorcycle Trip – 9/18/2015

Today is the start of a multi day trip via motorcycle to Colorado. I’ve been planning this trip for a few months and the time finally arrived. The goal for the day was to get out of work and get on the road asap, making as many miles as possible the first day so I had lots of time in Colorado for riding.  The document below is the document I created for the trip. Its basically a city to city plan of where I want to go. There are a number of cities on the way out so I can decide if its worth pressing on or not.

HoganMotorcycleTrip2015

Around 10 am, I had finished all of my assigned tasks at work and asked my boss if I could take off a bit early for the day (was planning to take a half day anyway). Since it didn’t’ make sense to start anything new for an hour, he sent me on my way. I was quite excited to get home and trade the minivan for a loaded motorcycle. I put on all of my gear: riding jacket, gloves, armored pants, and helmet. I placed the printed notes from the word doc above in my tank bag. Then turned on my Spot Tracker, put my phone in airplane mode and headed for the interstate!

IMG_20150918_103641 IMG_20150918_103646

I took the photo of the odometer so I could keep track of the distance I would ride during the trip.

I had overcast weather and ended up putting on my rain suit about an hour into the ride and topped off the fuel tank and got lunch. Since I didn’t have anybody with me to complain, this would be the first of many gas station meals on this trip!

Around Kansas City, I encountered rush hour and had to sit in traffic, waiting for a fresh accident and lots of rubbernecking. During the traffic jam, I unzipped my Tour Master Elite II one piece rain suit to navel level. Eventually traffic started flowing and the wind cooled off my sweating body. But only a few miles further back at highway speed, the wind started catching the open suit and made it difficult to hang on to the bike. I was able to zip it back up one handed after a few tries.

If there is one thing that I dislike, its interstate toll roads. The only one I would encounter during my ride was on I-70 in eastern Kansas. Once at the gate, I had to stop and grab a ticket. But in order to stow the ticket, I had to take off a glove. On the end of the toll, I again had to stop and take off wet gloves. Then I grabbed the ticket and paid. It took me about the same time as 5 cars going through due to my equipment. Eventually, I gave up on the wet gloves and rode a short distance sans gloves away from the toll gate to the shoulder to get out a dry pair of gloves before continuing on.

I have not been to western Kansas since 2002, so a lot had changed. There were tons of wind farms collecting power from the wind all around me. I forgot how windy it got out there. In fact, I apologize to whoever ends with some of the trash from my gas station diner late in the day. I set the paper down on the motorcycle and it was gone before I could think to catch it.

I ended up going about 650 miles and ending up in Goodland, KS for the night. I found a nice hotel right off the highway. While I can ride at night on the motorcycle, I prefer not to if I have a choice for safety. Now I was in mountain time zone. What a great start to my adventure!

Hogan Haake