Alaska – Day 2

All around Anchorage!

When planning this trip, I intentionally came in the day before the tour kicked off so that I could have some time to take the bike out and explore Anchorage a bit.  Our group was scheduled to meet for dinner that evening and I wanted a little extra time to settle in and adjust.  After arriving so late the night before (or, so early that morning), it ended up being a great decision.

At the time I made all my arrangements, I had no idea that a friend from the PNW tour last summer was also on this trip.  We discovered each other a week prior in the private social media group that had been set up for the members of this tour.  Being in early allowed us to spend some time catching up and we even had time to ride a bit together!

During the PNW tour the year before I had told my tour mates about the Tour Of Honor and so my friend joined me in visiting a couple of sites in Anchorage.  I’d thought about doing these at the end of the trip, but finally landed on the day before.  This ended up being another wise choice and I’ll explain that in a future post.

After we hit up the two Tour Of Honor sites in Anchorage, we took Alaska Highway 1 south until we were ready for lunch.  We stopped for some photo ops and kept saying wow, we’re in Alaska!  We had a lovely ride along the coast of the Cook Inlet.  We’d hope to travel all the way to Hope, Alaska but sorting out the rental bikes took longer than anticipated, but was time well spent.

Alaska Highway 1 south

View of the Cook Inlet

That evening the entire group came together for the first time.  There was a lot of laughter and speculation about what we’d be seeing in the week ahead.  After dinner we all headed back to the hotel to catch some sleep and prepare for the adventure the next day would bring!

SW Colorado – Day 2

Montrose to Olathe to Montrose (again) to Telluride to Mancos to Durango – 199 miles

This was one of my favorite days of the trip for a few reasons: 1) I finished my Tour of Honor sites, 2) it was July 4th and I LOVE fireworks, 3) I visited Telluride for the first time and 4) the beautiful, amazing scenery.

I wrote about this before, about my riding partner being such a good sport and agreeing to go along with my plan to visit the last two sites I needed for my Tour of Honor ride this year.  He also went along with my plan to finish on July 4th because it was important to me.  Yes, I may be a little spoiled in this regard.

I’m not going to write again about the ToH sites since I already did that in a separate post.  I want to focus this on on the rest of the trip and my goodness, how beautiful the sights on this day.  I had never ridden this part of Colorado so didn’t really know what to expect.  What I noticed though is that the area around Montrose reminds me of Moab, UT with the red dirt and the way the mountains look.  It was very cool to ride towards Ridgway, Colorado and experience a very different view – the mountains seem much more jagged here.  Had I pulled over for every view I wanted to photograph, I’d still be on this trip over a week later!

We had planned to stop in Telluride for lunch and neither of us gave a single thought to the fact that it was, indeed, July 4th.  I was busy enjoying the mountain views when I noticed traffic stopped ahead of us.  I assumed it was an elk jam or something since that often happens in Colorado.  Even when I saw police cars directing traffic it didn’t sink in. Then I noticed detour signs closer to town and it hit me – ahhhh, July 4th parade detour.  Oh rats!  We both needed lunch and were turning hangry in a hurry, along with beating ourselves up for not thinking about this ahead of time.  There were no spaces to fit two motorcycles, so we ended up splitting up with my riding partner getting the worse end of this deal.  After he parked, he had the unfortunate job of helping me find a space.  The first one was slanted the wrong way – when I put the kickstand down, the road sloped away to the other side and I was sure the bike was going to topple over.  He took off in search of another space while I held the bike upright and tried not to panic. He found one for me nearby with the road sloping in the right direction, but it took some fancy riding to get into it.  My buddy kept his cool while giving me directions (now turn the handlebars this way, now back up, ok now come forward, now turn the handlebars the other way, now back up again) until we had Sassy safely parked.  I was reminded in that moment that I am fortunate to have such a great riding buddy who is patient and doesn’t lose his cool when I need help!

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Cozy parking spot for Sassy!

Of course, since it was July 4th and the parade was wrapping up, the restaurants were busy and neither of us felt like walking all over town to find food.  We ducked into a place nearby for a couple burgers and tried to be patient while the line moved at a snail’s pace.  The locals seemed to have some secret password that allowed them to sit at the bar and order food which we were told was not an option.   It seems like a paying customer is a paying customer but it wasn’t true in this case.

Having learned the cooling vest lesson from the day before, we both put ours on before heading out after lunch.  We picked up Highway 145 outside of Telluride which would take us to Dolores and past the huge boulder that came crashing down onto the road a few weeks prior.  Rather than blast it apart, our state highway department has decided to rebuild the highway around it.  Thankfully the construction detour wasn’t too long because the boulder site turned out to be less exciting than we hoped.  We continued on to Mancos where we picked up my last Tour of Honor site, gassed up the bikes and tried not to melt in the heat.

It was in Mancos that I learned my mapping software on my phone was not going to guide me into Durango.  I don’t know if it was poor cell reception or what, but there were no maps for me!  I was very grateful that our hotel in Durango was only about 30 minutes away.  It had been another long and hot day and I was ready for a break!

After checking into the hotel and unloading the bikes, we rode into Durango to find some dinner and walked to watch the fireworks. It was interesting to put riding pants over shorts and then try to change footwear standing on the sidewalk!  I was very grateful for my Vario cases so I could stow my boots, pants and jacket and walk away knowing they were secure.

The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays because I really enjoy fireworks!  Durango did a nice job and we also enjoyed a live band for most of the fireworks show.  Seeing so many beautiful sights in Colorado and then finishing off the evening with fireworks and music will make this a July 4th to remember for a very long time!

Lessons learned: when traveling on a holiday, check your plans ahead for any parades or other delays, then make a back up plan!

Tour of Honor – Finisher!

When my riding partner and I started planning our southwest Colorado trip, we discovered that we would be near two of the Tour of Honor sites – Olathe and Mancos.  We agreed that visits were in order and I was super excited to see my goal of finishing within reach.

As routing each day came to the top of my to do list, I realized that it was possible for us to visit on July 4th.  That became important to me, to visit and earn finisher status on July 4th.  I’ve written about it here before, but there are many, many veterans in my family, dating back to the Revolutionary War.  My riding partner is also a veteran.  I understand and appreciate the sacrifices they made to ensure my freedom.  Since we can never thank them enough, honoring them on this day seemed appropriate.

I’ll write more about the southwest Colorado trip with a day by day post as I usually do, but on July 4th, we left Montrose and rode to Olathe for the first memorial.  Thanks to mapping software it was very easy to find.  This was my first visit to Olathe and it was just as I expected – a quiet, peaceful little town.  The memorial is in a lovely park that is well maintained.  We spent a few minutes here taking in all the names and wondering about their lives.

We had a pretty full day of riding after we left Olathe, but in the late afternoon we arrived in Mancos, our final stop for the day before our hotel in Durango.  This time my mapping software was close but not quite as spot on.  It announced I had arrived and all I could see was an open field on one side and a large hill on the other.  Um . . . ok.  We kept going and soon found a cemetery at the top of the hill.  I had heard from another rider that the memorial was in the cemetery so I knew we were close.  Finally, I saw it, overlooking the town and we made our way in.

This memorial has a beautiful place on the edge of the cemetery, overlooking the town of Mancos.  The front has many engraved bricks with names of the veterans and on the back an American flag is painted .  It was very hot in Mancos that afternoon, I think 95 is what I saw on my display.  Thankfully there was a lovely shade tree nearby where we could still see the memorial and ponder what these veteran’s lives had been like and read in awe all the places they had served.

I felt a huge sense of accomplishment and gratitude as I took my final photos and submitted them for scoring.  There will be more memorial visits this year, but to have reached my goal on July 4th was special!  I wanted so badly to finish last year and fell short.  I was unsure about signing up again this year because I was so discouraged.  Now I’m glad I did and next year my riding partner is considering it as well!  Since he rode to six of the severn memorials with me, he would have finished also.  We truly enjoyed each of the sites we visited and felt a connection to all those being honored.

Next up for me are the two (maybe 3) memorials in Alaska.  Why stop at seven just because you’ve reached finisher status?  🙂

Alaska? Yes, Please!

I’ve been dreaming of Alaska for years now.  Literally, years.  I believe I even wrote something earlier about how it was still on the list but wasn’t likely to happen this year.  Well, sometimes life surprises us, doesn’t it?  Around the time I was changing jobs, I decided this was the year to go for it!  Go out of that limb and ask for the time off as part of my new job offer.  They said sure, that shouldn’t be a problem.  Wait, what?!  Oh my word, I am going to Alaska!!

Part of the decision, too is that I finally feel ready to take on a group tour like this.  I had considered it two years ago and felt that I did not yet have enough riding experience.  I changed plans and went on the PNW tour last year which was designed to be a teaching tour for newbies.  I’m glad I did, since I not only made some lifelong riding friends, but it gave me the confidence and experience I was lacking.

When I saw the dates for the tour this year and realized that the trip falls on my birthday, well, that grabbed my attention and I knew it was meant to be.  I also had a few conversations with the tour leader and others from the tour company to be sure I am prepared for this.  I feel confident that it is going to be an amazing experience.  I am going to arrive a day early so that I can take the rental GS out for some play time and also snag my last two Tour Of Honor sights, which just happen to be in Anchorage!

I suspect this is not a trip I will be repeating again as the cost is not insignificant.  Even renting and planning on my own, it’s an adventure with a large price tag.  I am so grateful that I’m able to experience this trip and that all my hard work and long hours as a contractor last year have paid off.

My focus right now is the British Columbia trip and reuniting with my two buddies from the PNW tour!  It’s only weeks away and now the reality of that is sinking in.  Once back, my focus will no doubt shift to Alaska and really feeling the excitement of that trip.

As always, I’ll be sharing insights and details of my trips once I return.  And photos, too, of course!  This is going to be an exciting riding season and I can hardly wait for all the experiences ahead of me!

Tour Of Honor – Colorado Springs

This was the second stop on our weekend ride a couple weeks ago.  I thought I was going to Veteran’s Park that may have a monument or two in it.  I looked on Google maps and it seemed like a pretty large park.  What I didn’t realize from looking online was just how large and how many monuments!  I’ll include a few photos here, but these are certainly not all of the monuments.

I was pretty stunned when we arrived and parked the bikes.  I could see this was a large memorial park and I was not expecting that at all.  We found the monument we were searching for and then decided we wanted to spend some time here taking in all the others.  I can’t even describe them all and I only hope the photos do a decent job.  This is one amazing park!  I have photos of all the monuments and had a tough time choosing just a few to share here.

After leaving here, we went to a nearby cemetery to pay our respects to a friend of my riding partner’s who had passed a few years ago.  He had wanted to try and visit and since we were already in Colorado Springs, I insisted we go.  I never want these rides to be just about my Tour; to me it’s important that we both enjoy the trip and I could tell this was important to my friend.

We also rode back into the downtown area and found a nice bbq restaurant for a late lunch.  BBQ seems to be our food of choice most riding days and I don’t know why, but I’m not complaining!  It did feel good to be off the bikes for an hour and finally address the hunger pangs.

Originally our plan had been to return to Denver before sunset.  We had a good laugh about that as we were still in Colorado Springs at 7 PM and knew it was at least a couple hours back unless we took the interstate.  We discussed it briefly and decided no, we still didn’t want to ride the interstate just to return faster.  One of our rides last fall had been on the back roads from Colorado Springs so we knew we were likely to encounter deer, some cooler temperatures and little traffic.

I lost count of how many deer we saw on the way back home.  Thankfully all of them were well off the side of the road and easily seen.  There was also a coyote, a handful of wild turkeys, many, many farm animals and some alpacas!  Oh and one of the most incredible sunsets I have had the joy of experiencing.  Maybe it was the joy of the day that made it seem to incredible, but I had a tough time keeping my eyes on the road as the sun was setting.

This was just over a 200 mile day for me and I felt every one of them by the time I left my riding partner’s house and headed for mine.  But it was one of the most amazing riding days I’ve had in Colorado and that made it so worth it!  Also, this was Tour of Honor site #5 for me – so only 2 more to reach finisher status this year.  The next 2 will likely come in Alaska later this summer – stay tuned for details on that adventure to follow in a later post!

Tour Of Honor – Kiowa

As I mentioned in a previous post, my plans for last weekend included visiting a couple of Tour Of Honor sites here in Colorado.  At that time, I had no idea that this trip would turn into such an amazing day.  So amazing, that I am splitting the experience into at least two posts so I can give each visit the credit it deserves.

Originally my plan was to head first to Colorado Springs which is a couple hours south (via state highways) and then to visit Kiowa on the way back, since it is further north.  After discussing this with my riding buddy, however, we agreed to head to Kiowa first and then spend more time in Colorado Springs.  It turned out to be a nearly 12 hour day for me – not all of that riding of course, but it was nice to take a leisurely ride and enjoy the sights along the way.

We decided to let the temperatures rise a bit before heading out as spring mornings in Colorado are usually quite cool.  It took us a couple hours to arrive in Kiowa, via the smaller state highways, but the traffic is so much easier to navigate and drivers tend to be a bit more cooperative.  Or maybe it just seems that way to me.  For me it’s less stressful because there are few semi trucks and cars are not trying to run me over doing 80+ mph.

As we headed east from Castle Rock, I noticed the scenery turned from city metro to country and people slowed down a bit more.  There were many farms with all kinds of animals and I find that environment so peaceful and enjoyable.  I’d never been to Kiowa before and while I knew it was a small town, I didn’t know what else to expect.

Coming into town, I easily saw the monument we were looking for; it honors all service members from Elbert County and has images on each of the four sides.  We pulled into the parking area and I staged my bike where I could take the photo of it, my rider flag and the monument without being in anyone’s way.  After taking the photos and submitting them, we took a break to enjoy the monument, have some water and just take a break from riding for a few minutes.

Standing in the parking area we saw many motorcycles coming into town and then we noticed a rather large bird in a tree across the parking lot.  My friend went to investigate and discovered it was a great horned owl, trying to take an afternoon nap!  Of course, we only had our cell phones with us and the owl was far enough away that any decent photos were impossible.  It was quite a sight to see this watchful bird looking down on our every move!

After a little break, we headed south toward Colorado Springs.  Again taking quiet, lesser traveled roads we had a chance to enjoy a wonderful view of Pikes Peak.  We passed many farms and fields; it felt a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

I’ll share the experiences we had in Colorado Springs in another post because it’s going to be a long one.  Let’s just say I was not at all prepared for the visit to Veteran’s Park and it took my breath away!

Lastly, if you are keeping track, Kiowa was site #4 on my Tour of Honor and Colorado Springs was #5, so I am way ahead of last year and only have 2 more for my goal of finisher status!

Tour Of Honor – Visit #3

I hope I’m not about to jinx myself by saying this, but I am already far ahead of last year on my Tour Of Honor visits.  My #3 site visit to Cheyenne, Wyoming happened a couple weeks ago and has already been approved and scored.  My riding buddy and I are planning to visit two more sites tomorrow and those details will be coming in a separate post later on.

So, for my third site visit, I chose Cheyenne, Wyoming.  It’s a pretty quick trip up Interstate 25, but I chose instead to take the more scenic and less chaotic Highway 85.  Yes, it took twice as long, but to me it was worth it to avoid all the crazy drivers and semi truck traffic.

A couple weeks ago, I set out mid morning by myself and it was good for me for a few reasons.  1) I felt I was relying a little too much on my riding partner and I needed to prove to myself that I could navigate and travel on my own.  2) It was a nice, scenic trip with little traffic which is just what I needed to clear my head and really go to my two wheeled happy place again and last but not least 3) I saw some amazing sights and felt a sense of accomplishment doing this trip solo.

Highway 85 travels through some smaller, rural towns here in Colorado and my Google Maps app kept trying to reroute me back to the Interstate.  I just ignored it and enjoyed the slower pace and traveling through some towns that I’ve never seen before.  Just before I crossed the state line into Wyoming, I even saw some antelope on the side of the highway.  That was a cool sight!

The tour of honor site in Cheyenne is a Merci Train boxcar in the parking lot of the American Legion post.  If you’re not familiar with the Merci Train boxcars (as I wasn’t), check them out on your favorite search engine – it’s quite a cool story of friendship and generosity as well as WW II history.

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Merci Boxcar in Cheyenne, WY

Tomorrow if all goes well, I will add two more sites to my Tour Of Honor visits, bringing my total for this year to five and leaving only two more to reach my goal of finisher status.  Having fallen short last year, I feel more confident in my ability to finish and much more confident on my bike and with my riding skills.

With my “girl’s trip” in British Columbia, Canada fast approaching, I am motivated to put on some miles to prepare myself for that week of riding.  The Tour Of Honor has been a great motivation to get out there and explore and supports a great cause too!