We decided to go to Kansas City this year for Thanksgiving. I had seen online that they were doing a 5K paddling race at Shawnee Mission Park and decided to be part of it. So I took a kayak from St. Louis all the way to KC just to paddle a 5K. I’ve been reading about these events online for a while and was quite exited to be able to participate in it as its normally during the week in a distant city.
Like always, I arrived too early. With about an hour to kill, I rode the unicycle some in the parking lot. Hoped the rain would quit (which it did for the whole race) and generally tried to stay warm. Once people started showing up, I felt like the guy that took a scooter to a motorcycle race. All fast performance boats, my boat, and a Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP). I knew I wouldn’t be last as SUPs are not known for their speed.
Pre getting in the water, we all aligned for a group photo.
Then we all got into the water for a quick warm up before the race started. Since I had some room in my boat, I brought a camera and grabbed a few photos.
With the race underway, I could watch the field pull away. The wind made me wish for a rudder as I didn’t get to go where I wanted as I was pushed around. Below is me being silly for the camera.
With Thanksgiving being such a traditionally lazy day, this was a fantastic way to start it!
The first half of this day was the most frustrating day of my whole trip. I started with me waking up and trying my best to sleep in. The motel was nice.
When I couldn’t take sleep anymore, I went to Dairy Queen for breakfast. I then walked to a hardware store and picked up straps for later and returned them to my room.I walked around town waiting for the bank to open and found some people moving a whole building.
At promptly 9am, I walked into First National Bank to see about getting cash for my new truck. It turns out that getting your money out of a bank account is rather difficult if you’re not starting at you’re own bank. While I had the cash, they didn’t know it and did not trust me. They were not interested in giving me a loan. It was suggested that I go to Western Union for the money. After lots of frustrating and waiting, I ended up setting up a new account for one deposit and withdraw. Then I had my mother-in-law go to the bank and transfer money to me. Thanks Carol!
With cash in hand, I was much happier! I called the owner of the truck. For the second time he said he needed to put a shirt on and then would come over. Once he arrived, we moved the motorcycle over and tried a simple test run and decided we needed help. We were going to the office of the motel when the proprietor came out smiling and said he saw us on camera and wanted to come out to help.
In the end, I started the bike and stood next to it and drove it up into the truck. I relaxed once I got the kickstand down and we started tying it down.
With my new fancy truck, I made my first stop at Napa to get a new headlight for the burnt out one. Then I started a very slow drive home. Windows were down and the radio was on. I attempted to roll the driver’s window up and it came off track and was stuck 1/4 of the way up for the rest of the trip. I stopped in a small town farm store to purchase an additional tie down as it was quite windy in western Kansas. So windy in fact, look at the dust obscuring the grain elevator!
I almost forgot to mention, I never made it to see Holly. Since the truck was an unknown, I wanted to drive on I-70 as much as possible in case it broke down. Along the way, I was able to see Henry in his apartment in Manhattan, KS. Then I made a quick stop at Hannah’s college dorm before stopping in KC for the night at my parents house before a final push home to St. Louis.
I did make it all the way home the following day in time to have lunch with Danelle. Then I drove to Flying Tiger Motorcycles to drop off my bike for repairs. I left them a long list of repairs and had the shop guys unload it from the truck.
It was a perfect if not slightly expensive trip. I hope to travel solo again in the future but with better results!
Today marked a turning point in my trip. My last major goal for this trip is to ride up Pikes Peak. Once that is accomplished, I just have to make it home to have a successful trip. I have three full days before I need to be home. It only takes one full day to get home, so I have a decision to make. But I’ve already made it. I will ride Pikes Peak and head to Wichita, KS to see my sister Holly and family. I’ve never seen her almost 1 year old baby girl. I could have some serious baby time before heading home!
I got toast and bacon for breakfast in the same place I got dinner last night. I talked with the waitress about Shelf Road. Everything online said it was a 4×4 road. She didn’t remember it being that bad last time she was on it and got me directions. I would ride out on Shelf Road and back the same way, ending up back in the same town.
Being fed, I packed up and headed off to Shelf road. One of the coolest features of it besides the insane drop offs is the window rock!
Shelf Road gets its name from being carved into the side of the mountain. Here are a few photos that prove its name!
And if you want more info on Shelf Road, here is the sign.
Back at Cripple Creek, I drove by an active mine. You can tell by the photo below. I stopped to see a display about how the process works, and its rather involved. But you’ll have to go there yourself or google it if you want to know more.
Here is the video from Shelf Road
And now I worked my way to Pikes Peak. The last scenic item to view on my trip. I don’t wont to drone on about how amazing it is, so I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. And the donuts on top at the gift show are yummy!
On the way back down the mountain, I stopped for a short hike and took a selfie and one of the drop off.
With the peak out of the way, I was free to head towards Holly’shouse. I was poised to make great time. I met the interstate and headed south to Pueblo, where I could catch US 50 most of the way home. Things were running great and traffic was moving over 80 mph. In Pueblo was the first time I saw significant sign for marijuana. Once on US-50, I started pacing a large diesel pickup truck that was going very fast and made the time fly.
I was starting to run low on fuel and decided to give the pickup a break from being followed. So I pulled off and fueled up. It was then that I noticed something horrible!
Antifreeze was dripping out of my bike at the gas pump. I went ahead and fueled up, then went inside. There I got normal stuff plus two large containers of water to refill the bike. I was hoping it was fixable or at least a small leak that could be dealt with. Back at the bike, I rolled it to a corner of the gas stating to see what I could do.
I had a single multi-tool with me and got it out. It saved me earlier from an electrical fault. I tried to take off the screws for the fairings on the bike, but the screws on it were all of a different age and quality. Meaning I would need about 4 different drivers to have any chance of getting them off.
I decided I could just add some water and ride very slow all the way home and have a good laugh later. My plans would stay the same. Back on the highway, I got in top gear with as little throttle as possible to prevent the engine from warming up. I figured the faster speed would provide wind cooling.
It didn’t take long for the temperature gauge to tell me something bad would happen shortly. I pulled off to the shoulder and decided to re-think my plan. My cell phone had no reception, but there was sporadic traffic on the road so I wasn’t totally lost, except I didn’t know where I was. I decided I could let it cool down, add more water and limp to the next town. So I added water and got back on. I got moving in third gear and would run the bike quickly up to 70mph and turn off the engine coasting down to 30 mph before starting it and speeding back up.
I did this act about 30 times to go 10 more miles to the next town, Las Animas Colorado. Once I got into town, I pulled into the first gas station. There, I parked the bike, knowing my trip was over. I walked away with tears in my eyes to try and compose myself. As I was almost under control, a large bald man with tattoos all over his head, face, and arms called over to me “Your’re bike is leaking”. I wasn’t worried he would hurt me, but I didn’t want confrontation. I explained that a radiator lead was going on and I just needed a U-Haul. He stopped and looked at his fingers counting. Then gleefully stated that there was four blocks down on the right and that he would pray for me. Not the interaction I was expecting.
I got to the U-Haul 30 minutes after they had closed. I found the owner’s cell number and called hoping small town business would happen. After about 15 minutes, I gave up on the return call and called Danelle to tell her what was going on. She was sympathetic, and had already started looking for a solution. She found the only ad on Craigslist for a cash truck that could possibly bring me home. I called the guy and left a message. I decided I needed a hotel for the night and rode the bike over to one of 2 in the town.
The owner of the Santa Fe Inn was nice and apologized for not having more breakfast options, having the cheapest room of the whole trip and breakfast, a win! I did get a call back from the guy with the truck and he agreed to meet me at the motel. I did a test drive of the truck and it seemed that it just might get me home to St. Louis. The truck was filthy inside and out, but it was transportation. I told the guy as long as he helped me load the motorcycle, I wold buy it. He agreed. So I said I would call the following day once I had money to pay for the truck.
I finished off the night with a celebratory beer knowing I would still be getting home with a new to me truck…
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!
Okay, so maybe there was something up with the perfect air. I know a fire when I see one!
But a few miles down the road, I got an all clear.
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!
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…
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.
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.
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.
I went up to my room for some quick research and much needed sleep!