SW Colorado – Day 4

Pagosa Springs to Salida – 147 miles

I’m not sure what to say about this day, other than I’m glad it was a short one.  We woke up to occasional rain sprinkles and overcast skies.  It was actually pretty cold too and I knew it was only going to be cooler once we were riding.

The weather seemed to wait until just about the time we were ready to head out of Pagosa Springs before it really cut loose with the rain.  Gee, thanks!  As we headed up and up toward the summit of Wolf Creek Pass, I had to turn my heated hand grips on to warm up.  Brrr!

One of the coolest moments of the trip was being flagged down to stop by someone in the middle of the road.  All kinds of thoughts went through my mind, like someone had broken down or there was a person in need of assistance.  As we approached, I saw a man standing in the middle of the road with a stop sign on a very long pole.  Turns out it was a local rancher who was slowing traffic because he was moving cattle on an adjacent road!  I clearly remember a little calf standing next to its mother at peering at me with big brown eyes in bewilderment.  Now that is a sight you just don’t see in Denver!

Since it was raining and chilly for most of the day, we didn’t stop for any photos.  I felt the dread I always do when a trip is winding down and this day was no different.  I was, however, surprised to find that I was glad the ride to Salida was so short.  I guess I was still tired from the previous day because by the time we arrived, I was ready to be done for the day.  After we checked into our rooms in Salida, we went in search of some lunch and guess what?  It rained again!  I know my riding partner dreads the rain even more than I do so I was hoping it would only be a brief shower.  I did hear thunder while we were at lunch, but thankfully it was short lived and we made it back to the hotel before the storm got intense.

That evening we went out to a really cool brewery that had many different beer, cider and wines you could choose from.  They also had some great live music going on and the icing on the cake for me was a super cute dog that came with someone.  The little dog ran around saying hello to everyone as if we were all old friends and was a ball of energy and fun.  My dog fix was complete for the day!

The evening was one of those experiences that seems ordinary on the surface, but I was feeling grateful for all the positives in my life.  For the choices that brought me back to motorcycling and the one that sent my riding buddy into my life. Also for the chance to find Sassy last summer, because that bike has made riding so enjoyable for me!  All the travel I have experienced this summer reminds me to be grateful for a wonderful job and a fabulous boss who believes in work life balance.  I had left some unsettling news behind me when we headed out on this trip and it was a relief to focus on the fun we were having.  I needed a break to give myself time to process so that I could make reasonable decisions when I returned.  When it feels like life has kicked me in the teeth, I go toward gratitude to find my balance again.

 

 

SW Colorado – Day 3

Durango to Ouray to Durango to Pagosa Springs ~ 200 miles

This was another awesome day and one I’d been looking forward to for weeks.  It was finally time to ride the Million Dollar Highway!  I had been on the MDH once before, but only as a pillion during my first rally.  I remember some sheer drop offs and thinking whoa, that’s intimidating!

Our plan for this day was to ride to Ouray, find some lunch and then head back through Silverton and Durango and on to Pagosa Springs.  There are not many places to pull over, but there are a thousand photos in my memory of this day.  On our way out of Durango the Durango-Silverton train was starting one of its daily trips full of eager tourists.  I also saw a helicopter hovering overhead, carrying a water drop bucket.  I hadn’t heard of any fires in the area and didn’t see any, thankfully.  However, when I returned home a few days later I noticed a story in the local paper about the controversy surrounding the train given that it had probably sparked a large wildfire in the area last summer.  That could explain the helicopter – taking precautionary measures.

The ride over Red Mountain pass was amazing and yes, the mountain really does look red.  Most of the vehicle traffic was pretty reasonable about pulling over if they were going more slowly and not crowding us.  That said, there was a group of several motorcyclists that insisted on passing us; some of them passed too closely and on a double yellow.  What really irritated me was that just after they passed us, they turned around and went back down the pass.

We stopped at the one large overlook and took a bunch of photos, plus talked to some very cool people who were also passing through.  I remember the last few turns before the overlook as being exceptionally tight hairpins and wow, was that exciting! I also had the chance to test out a different riding mode on my bike.  I switched from “normal” to “sport” and felt a big difference it how it handled the curves.  I’m going to have to remember that for future twisty riding to be sure!

The rest of the ride to Ouray was just as gorgeous and I kept wishing there were places to pull out safely and take photos.  But, as with the rest of my trip, had I pulled over every time I wanted to, I’d still be trying to finish. 🙂  Coming down the pass into Ouray, I started to feel the heat of the day and really wished I’d put my cooling vest on.  By the time we found parking for the bikes and took a lunch break, I was ready for some down time.  Since I had the Wolfman bag on the back, I found getting on and off the bike a little challenging at times, especially when I am tired.  On this day, my boot caught and I found myself almost tumbling into the road and oncoming traffic!  That was excitement I could have lived without.  Time to work on a better on and off strategy!

After lunch we rode back the way we had come, but the view was a little different from this direction.  We were also closer to some of the drop offs and I noticed myself staying a bit closer to the center line at times.  We took a little drive through Silverton since I had never been there either and then headed on to Pagosa Springs.

The last part of the ride that day seemed endless.  We gassed up the bikes in Durango and took a much needed water and cooling break.  We took Highways 550 and 160, which was only a 60 mile ride, but it felt like the longest 60 miles of my life!  I kept thinking surely we missed Pagosa Springs somehow, we should be there by now.  I guess riding the Million Dollar Highway took more out of me than I expected!

After arriving at our hotel, we made a plan for dinner and I was grateful it involved walking!  We also wanted to visit the hot springs there and thankfully they were open late so we managed to fit both of those in.  I think it was well after 11 PM when we arrived back at our rooms and I’m pretty sure I was asleep within moments.  What a wonderful day!  I would go back and ride that all over again in a heartbeat!

 

 

British Columbia – Days 1 & 2

Day 1 – Denver to Vancouver, BC (by plane!)

Day 2 – Vancouver to Squamish, BC – 106.9 km/ 66.4 mi

This trip my travel was uneventful, thank goodness.  I flew from Denver to Vancouver, BC with absolutely no issues.  Of my group of friends, I was the last one to arrive, so it was a relief when my flight left on time and landed a few minutes early.  A couple friends who landed ahead of me clued me into how to find the hotel shuttle and I only waited a couple minutes before it arrived.

That evening was a grand reunion for three of us and meeting a couple new people I’d only “met” via video calls to that point.  It was hard for those of us who met last year to believe it had been a year already.  It seems like the three of us have been friends for most of our lives.

We had an early night since everyone (even the ladies from Canada) had endured a long day of travel and we wanted to be well rested to begin our adventure the next morning.

Day 2 we met for breakfast then three of us took a taxi to pick up the rental motorcycles. I was very fortunate to have been upgraded from a BMW F700GS to a nearly new F750GS.  At dinner the night before, I heard that BMW had moved the gas tank back to the front of the bike and that made my anxiety level increase.  All I could think about was how I had struggled the previous year with the Vstrom and its front end weight.  I didn’t want another week of struggling to move my bike around.

Although only three of us were renting, there was nervous energy in the air before we started off.  I said to one of my pals that I was dealing with the ghosts of last year (meaning the bike struggles) and I was nearly in tears over it.  It seems silly now, but that was how I felt at the time.  We agreed to take it slow and easy through Vancouver and before we were out of the city limits, the 750GS and I were fast friends!

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BMW F750GS – my rental for the trip

Once we left the city I felt more comfortable and it seems like everyone was finding their place again.  We rode to the top of Cyprus Mountain and it was quite chilly and foggy, but very pretty!  We didn’t stay at the top long, but enjoyed a twisty ride down and continued on to our destination for the day – Squamish, BC.

Even though this was a short riding day, it was good to let the nervous energy dissipate and allow those renting to become acquainted with their new bikes.  We made our destination in Squamish for a late lunch.  It was nice to have time to check in, unload the bikes, plan the next day’s route and just relax!

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!

It’s The Brakes, Silly . . .

This is the next chapter in the saga of my bike, Sassy, leaving me stranded in the middle of Interstate-25 on a busy Sunday evening.  At the end of that post, the bike was sitting in my garage waiting for the next steps . . .

On the advice of friends, I reached out to the BMW dealer where I had purchased the bike barely a month earlier.  My expectations were admittedly low; the bike was used and I’d owned it for about a month. What reason could they have for agreeing to fix it at their expense?  Regardless, I decided it was worth asking for help because I literally had nothing to lose at that point.  I was pleasantly surprised when they not only agreed to repair the bike at no charge, but also to come and pick it up.  Customer service is a dying art for most businesses, but not for this one!

A few days later, we coordinated the bike pick up and transport to the dealer.  The next afternoon the service manager called asking if I had made any adjustments to the brakes.  I said no, of course not.  First, I do not know how to do this and wouldn’t have attempted it alone. Second, the bike had less than 3k miles so I assumed no adjustments were needed.  They explained to me that when the bike arrived, they discovered the back brake pedal had no “play”.  In other words, they were ‘on’ all the time and anytime I touched the brake pedal, they clamped down even harder!  The slower ride with more stopping on that fateful Sunday proved to be too much. The rear brakes overheated and the brake pads ‘glued’ themselves to the rotors!  This also explains why after the bike sat for a few minutes, I could push it to the shoulder.

When the bike was repaired and I arranged to pick it up, I was a bit nervous.  Was this going to happen again?  Could I trust that my bike was now safe to ride?  My anxiety was high, I admit it.  What I didn’t yet know is that another wonderful experience awaited me at the BMW dealer.  Not only did they explain the repair in detail, they walked me through it on my bike. They also apologized, more than once, for missing this detail during the time they were checking the bike out before I purchased it.  My anxiety melted away!

Since I started riding, I have heard the advice about building a relationship with your bike.  Learn what is normal so that when something is off, you can have it looked at before it leaves you stranded (hopefully).  Since this bike was new to me, I had no idea that the brake lever barely moving wasn’t normal.  Now I know and this one won’t catch me off guard again!  I’m very grateful to have Sassy back on the road and running normally.  Here’s to many beautiful autumn days of riding before winter comes to stay.

Fall Colors and Guardian Angels

Note: this actually happened nearly two weeks ago now.  I wrote this post the next day while the details were fresh in my mind.

This past weekend was a banner riding weekend for me, at least until the very end.  On Saturday I rode to Glenwood Springs, CO to visit one of the Tour of Honor sights for my state.  Since this ride goes over Vail Pass at an elevation of about 10,600 feet, I wanted to plan it so the summer tourists were gone, but the snow had not yet come.  I decided last weekend was the last chance based on my schedule, so I went for it.

The ride and weather were absolutely gorgeous!  The leaves are turning in the mountains and I enjoyed a lovely day of riding under bluebird skies with the hillsides covered in yellow, orange and red.  There was some traffic but it was manageable compared to the summer season when I-70 turns into a parking lot in places.

I stopped in Dillon to take in the view and give my body a break from the seat and the road.  It was only at this point that I decided yes, I am going to Glenwood Springs today, I am committed to doing it.  I set the mapping app on my phone and off I went!

A couple hours later I found my way to the Tour of Honor memorial, discovered a convenient place to park and took my photo.  Knowing I had a nearly three-hour ride home, I didn’t stick around long but opted to head back.  My trip home was uneventful, which was nice.  I took a couple more breaks than on the way out there, but I felt it was worth the time to be safe.

For Sunday, I made plans to ride in the mountains with a friend and we had a wonderful time! Different state highways, different views but no less gorgeous than those of the day before.  We purposely took a slower pace, but I was still feeling the miles from Saturday by the end of the day.

I had split from my friend after dinner and was only a few miles from home when the bike started to feel strange.  I was having difficulty shifting which initially I put off to me being tired after two long riding days.  However, as the traffic on the interstate began to slow, my bike seemed to be slowing more than expected.  I was soon at a dead stop, unable to move even an inch, in the middle of Interstate 25 with Broncos post game traffic and a quickly setting sun!  Thankfully a lady in a very large pickup truck stopped behind me and put her flashers on to alert everyone to go around.   She was willing to help block me as I moved to the shoulder, but the bike WOULD NOT MOVE!  I shut it down and called roadside service for a tow truck.  A few minutes later, as I waited for them to find help, I started the bike back up and moved it to the shoulder!  Whew!  At least now I felt a bit safer.

My guardian angel in the pickup truck made sure I had a tow truck on the way and waved goodbye. About that time, a Colorado State Patrol officer came up at a high rate of speed and pulled off on the shoulder too. Another motorist had reported a stalled motorcycle in the middle lanes of I-25 and CSP dispatched the nearest officer to my location.  After making sure I was ok he shared with me that he had come to find me with lights and sirens, doing about 100 mph.  He was well versed in the traffic issues in this area and was concerned that he would arrive to find me and the motorcycle squished into the pavement.  He was relieved to find me alive and on the shoulder with a tow truck was on the way.  He made sure I didn’t need anything else and left to handle another call.

Right after the officer left, a friend I had messaged called to make sure I was truly safe and had the tow truck on the way  I talked to her for a few minutes and then the friend I had been riding with showed up in his truck.  He brought me a bottle of water and suggested we sit in his truck while we waited for the tow truck driver.  It was a relief to be off the shoulder of the road, especially as it had started getting darker.  I felt safer and less like a sitting duck.  When the tow truck driver arrived, my friend and the driver carefully loaded my bike on the flat bed and we followed it home.  I decided to have it taken to my house since the motorcycle shops are all closed on Sunday and Monday.  I didn’t feel good about having it sit somewhere for two days where it could be a target for being stolen.

Sunday night once everything had calmed down and I was alone, I had time to reflect on just how fortunate I was.  The lady in the big red truck didn’t have to stop for a stranger, but she may well have saved my life by blocking me from the traffic behind us.  The CSP officer didn’t have to respond at a high rate of speed with lights & sirens blaring, but he, too, recognized that I may be in danger.  The friend who called to see if she could help, could have gone on with her Sunday evening with her family.  Instead she reached out to ensure I was safe and kept me company while I waited for help. My new riding buddy didn’t have to jump in his truck and head back out as soon as he got home, but he wanted to know I was safe and that my bike and I made it home.  My tow truck driver, while one of the few folks who was being paid, treated me and my bike with the utmost care and respect.  I am so grateful for each of these guardian angels who kept me safe and reminded me that there are always people ready to help if I just have the courage to ask!

Ciao, Bella!

When I bought the new (to me) BMW last month, I knew that also meant selling my 05 Suzuki Vstrom, “Bella”.  As excited as I was about the new bike, I was dreading the sale of my first bike.  I put off listing it for a few days, feeling guilty about it.  My loyal bike had never left me stranded and had done everything I asked.  But, the reality is, I don’t have  garage space for two and I REALLY don’t need two dual sport bikes.  I knew Bella would be spending a lot of time in the garage and that didn’t feel right.

Once I listed the bike, I had some interest pretty quickly.  However, most of these folks wanted me to sell them the bike for trade in value or less.  Some even tried insulting me or the bike to get their low offer accepted.  The first serious buyer I had started pointing out problems as soon as we met.  Oh look, it’s pretty scratched up.  Yes, it’s also a 2005, not a 2018 model.  He made me a low cash offer and stated that if he decided this was not the bike for him, he would turn around and sell it.  He also admitted he was going to look at another bike that afternoon. I turned down his cash offer and told him to go look at the other bike and decide.  No surprise, he texted me later that he purchased the other one.  Good!

A few text exchanges with other barely interested buyers later, I got one that sounded promising.  We emailed a few times, he asked great questions and seemed geniunly interested in Bella.  We arranged to meet one afternoon and I recruited a friend to help me cart the extra seat and accessories to the meeting place.  When this potential buyer arrived, he got a big grin when looking at the bike and talked about how excited he was to see it.  Ahh, this is more like it!

He sat on her, and then asked if it was ok to take a spin around the parking lot.  I already liked how he respected me and my bike.  I was hopeful.  He came back, we talked maintenance and then he made me an offer.  He was anxious to get license plates and take the bike to the mountains that weekend.  I knew this was the right new owner for my Bella!  I expected to feel the same sadness as with the previous potential buyer, but I didn’t.  Instead I was excited that my old friend was going home with someone who was excited to have her and couldn’t wait to begin taking her on adventures.  We settled up the paperwork and Bella went to her new owner.  He easily loaded her on his trailer, secured the bike and away they went, to their new life.

I will miss my old friend, we made some great memories together.  Some of my best riding days were with this bike, but also some of my most frustrating due to the weight and height.  I hope our paths cross again someday, maybe on a twisty mountain road.

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Ciao, Bella!  You were my first love and I will cherish the lessons you taught me, always.