Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Day 12 - Home

Last night Reagan received an email on her "crackberry" saying her presence on a conference call at 9am was requested. So we set the alarm again for 5am. The plan was different though, this time we'd take advantage of the free continental breakfast and a little coffee. Then get on the road by 6:30 and that's what we did.

So we headed south from Waco on 77. In Cameron we met up with Hwy 36 and continued south. This early in the morning traffic was light and drivers were friendly and courteous. We stopped on the outside of Cameron for fuel and then quickly got back on the road. The goal was get to Newmans Bakery in Belleville so we could have coffee while Reagan took her conference call.

We only saw 1 state trooper and no deer so speeds were, ummmmm, elevated. We arrived in Belleville at 8:35 with time to spare. The sky had been getting darker as a result of the hurricane down south so when we parked we went ahead and secured the bike in preparation for rain. Then got our coffee and sat out on the front porch of Newmans and watched the world go by.

Around 10 o'clock Reagan completed her call and said it was time to go. I had passed the time working on trip log data, making notes about today to this point and searching Ebay for some H3 LEB bulbs. Found them! All of this with the help of my trusty Sprint wireless card.

So we got back on the bike and headed south on 36 to Sealy. The sky started to spit on us on the way out of town, so when we got to Sealy we opted to jump on I-10 and cut over to 99. The sky kept getting darker but we made it home without any rain and even had time to stop by my favorite Exxon to fuel up and get a final receipt.

Now that the bike is unloaded, we've taken our showers and are generally getting into the swing of being home. It's sunny outside, you'd never guess there was a hurricane in the Gulf. From a rain stand point we got lucky on this trip, there were only 2 times that we road in sprinkles and it was never even enough to get things damp.

So how about some statistics.
  • 3,448 miles travelled in 12 days
  • spent $380.99 on gas at an average cost of $4.227 per gallon and averaged 38.24 miles per gallon
  • Best mileage was 52.01mpg when going through the Rockies
  • Worst mileage was 33.13 mpg coming home on Monday, luckily it was only for 176 miles.
  • factoring maintenance expenses our cost per mile was $0.145 per mile or $0.11 without maintenance.
I've posted our cookie crumb trail to the web for review and posterity, be patient as it takes a little time to download. Unfortunately it munged all the days together but it it does show everywhere we went.

Equipment used on the trip:

  • Not much new on this trip but I did pick up a $15 wine bottle cooler from World Market that makes a great insulator for my Camelback bladder sitting in the tank pannier.

  • Bought a bike cover while at the Rally. This helps to keeps out of sight and dry.

  • Also bought a new tire repair kit. This one uses some rubber mushrooms and seemed to offer a better seal so we'll try it. I may just keep both kits on the bike for double the "insurance".

  • Oh!!!! I almost forgot about the LD Comfort underwear I bought. At first you might just dismiss them as an over priced pair of Under Armour shorts. But they aren't, they are to UA as UA is to plain old tighty whities. I mean these things are great. Well worth the $50 a pair. I'm definitely going to get a few more pairs before my trip in October.

  • We got lucky with the bike tip over. We have signed up for MedJet. Had Reagan or myself really gotten hurt or if the bike had been damaged we could have been stuck. And they cover "situations" in Alaska so just in case....
Our hotel costs were higher than they could have been. We weren't going to stay in "Fred" motels but it took a little to break Reagan of her affinity for Mariotts. By the end of the trip we were staying in Super 8 motels. For the money they offer a pretty good deal. You don't need to use any special discount codes (hence no falling off bikes in parking lots), their rates are pretty cheap usually $45~$65 per night, free breakfast, usually have wi-fi but not always and the employees seem genuinely interested in offering you the cheapest rate. Last night, we saved $10 by sleeping in a queen size bed. Cool an excuse to snuggle :)

BONUS: While looking up something on the BMWMOA site, I discovered members get an extra 10% off on Super 8 motels and you don't have to call in to get it, just walk up and give them the code. How cool!

Since I have a few hours of my vacation left I think I'll take a nap.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Day 11 - Waco

Reagan got a good night's sleep last night and seemed much better this morning. Thanks in part to the Vicadin I'm sure. We wanted to get an early start so we could enjoy the cooler temps. So the alarm clock went off at 5am, yes we set an alarm clock. Remember it's hot outside. By 5:45 we were rolling down the road.

Follow the Yellow Brick road! That's what the gps said, well not really. It told me to turn on the Yellow Brick road though and that's how I pulled out of the parking lot. We left Liberal, Kansas (the home of the Wizard of Oz) and headed down Hwy 83. Before I knew it we were crossing the Oklahoma state line. It was still dark outside so for the first hour I kept the speed down around 55 and had on all my lights. I wanted to take it nice and slow just in case there were any deer in the area.

Just after 8am we pulled into Shamrock for a break. OJ and chocolate donuts for me, a honey bun for Reagan. This was the first breakfast on the entire trip where we were bad. We topped off the camel backs and continued south on 83. When we got to Childress, a left turn put us on Hwy 287 heading to Fort Worth. We stopped in Wichita Falls for fuel and another break. Following our earlier break in Shamrock the temperature had been rising, and by Wichita Falls it was definitely in the 90s. We loaded up on water and gatorade and then I got to pour water all over Reagan. She hasn't figured out the part of soaking her jacket in the bathroom sink.

Back on the road heading to Ft. Worth. We got into town around 12:45 and continued south on I-35W. Once south of I-20 we pulled into a truck stop for another break and to get Reagan some ice for her side. With the camel backs loaded and her side properly iced, we resumed our journey south. Finally Reagan came on the intercomm and said to find a hotel in Waco, she was done.

We pull into the Super 8 at I-35 and 77 and call it quits for the day. Total mileage for the day, 512 miles. The clerk says there's cake in the lobby between 3 and 4 so that's going to be our afternoon snack.

With only 200 miles to go to get home we'll definitely be home tomorrow before noon. Plenty of time unpack and do all the stuff so we can get back into the routine of work on Thursday.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Day 10 - Liberal

We got an early start today but not quite the start that we wanted. Just before 5am Reagan woke me up to say she wanted to go to the emergency room. The pain wasn't getting any better and she wanted to make sure she hadn't done something bad in yesterday's fall. So the first thing to do is figure out where the nearest hospital was. The gps didn't do much good as it said we had to go 30 miles to reach a hospital. Fortunately Reagan and the common sense to look in the phone book and found a hospital just around the corner. So we geared up and rode over there.

The Kit Carson Hospital in Burlington, Colorado is a throw back from the days gone by. We had to be buzzed into the ER and then went to the second floor. There wasn't really a reception area, we just walked into the center of the ER with it's 2 beds. The nurses on duty were friendly and helpful and took Reagan's info and then started calling the folks on call. After a few tests they decided she didn't have any broken ribs or a bruised kidney and discharged her with a nice perscription for the pain.

It was 7am by the time we got back to the hotel so we grabbed some breakfast downstairs. Then it was time to pack the bike and check out. We were on the road by 8am local time. The route started simply enough, head east on I-70 and then south on 83 through Kansas. When we got Liberal for lunch Reagan was worn out and wanted to rest so we got a room and then I went to pick up her prescription. Total mileage for the day was 241 miles. Considering the trip to the ER that's a pretty good day, especially with the heat.

With some good rest and a few vicadin hopefully she'll be feeling better tomorrow. According to the gps we've got about 700 miles left to go. It's unlikely that we'll do it all tomorrow but we should be able to complete it in the next two days. Of course, Reagan has the option of jumpinh on a plain in Dallas or Amarillo if she wants to. With an earlier start tomorrow hopefully we can beat some of this heat. It's rather warm out there.

One thing this trip has shown me is that in an instant things can go from good to bad in a snap. At the Rally we heard about a medical evacuation service called MedJet. I think we'll definitely be signing up for that when we get home. If they has told us they wanted to keep her for observation or if she had has a bruised kidney, I certain would not have wanted the folks in Burlington. They were nice enough but I'd start to worry about the care over time.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Day 9 - Coming home

Well it had to happen, this evening the bike took a nap in the parking lot. But more about that later. First I have to talk about our day and where we rode.

When the sun rose we got up and started packing. After being off the road for 3 days we had to figure out how everything went back together. Thankfully we shipped a few things home that we wouldn't need along with some things we picked up at the Rally. So by 7:30 local time we had the bike packed up and we were checked out of the hotel. A fuel stop and an adjustment to tire pressures and we were ready to go.

We headed east on I-90 out of Gillette. The route going home is a little more direct to get us home by Tuesday evening. However, I wanted to see Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore since we were up here. I also wanted to go through Sturgis, SD and stop by the Sturgis BMW dealership just to say I've been there. Then we continued on to Rapid City and took I-190 south to Hwy 16 over to Mt. Rushmore. A quick stop there and then we continued over to Crazy Horse. We had lunch on-site since it was about the right time and their salad bar looked really good.

With lunch complete, we headed south on 16 to Custer and then picked up 385 south. This road has some nice sweepers and made the trip fun. This took us all the way down to I-80 in Sidney, where we headed east a bit, then southwest on I-76 and then back on 385 going south. We stopped in Holyoke and Wray looking for a room. There were no rooms to be had so we continued on to Burlington. The plan was to stay at a Super 8 that was in the GPS but when we got there we found a Comfort Inn instead. Since we needed one more night to get our $50 gas card we decided to stay at the Comfort Inn.

So I pulled into the parking lot to make a call to Choice Hotels and book the room. If I book the room online or over the phone I can save 15% with my AMA discount. I can't get that discount by just walking up to the counter. So Reagan and I are sitting on the bike, waiting on hold for the next available sales clerk when I get the bright idea to pull my laptop out of the side case. Of course, I go off the bike on the right (wrong) side and as I'm getting off the bike, it decides to follow me over. The next thing I know it's tipping over toward me with Reagan still onboard. It probably wouldn't have been a problem except that we were close to a curb and flower bed lined with those concrete border stones. Well as luck would have it we both landed on the concrete borders with Reagan taking the harder hit. After I checked to make sure we didn't break anything (on our bodies) I started working to get the bike up. Nope, that wasn't happening with everything loaded. Luckily 2 guys came out and asked if they could help. I tossed my pride aside and took them up on their offer and told them where to grab. The bike popped right back up on it's wheels.

We go ahead and check in without the AMA discount and unload the bike. My butt hurts and Reagan's side is pretty banged up. We'll have to see how she's feeling tomorrow, then we can decide if she's going to Denver for a plane flight or continue on the bike.

Today was a big day for Reagan. It's the furthest she's gone in one day with 583 miles. We stopped a total of 3 times for fuel since we fueled up just as we left this morning. It was also the first time she rode in 100+ degree temps. She learned the benefits of pouring water in the jacket for cooling. Oh and she got to fall off the bike with it standing still. Hopefully a night of rest will make us both feel better.

Day 7 & 8 - At the Rally

The past 2 days have been spent at the BMW MOA Rally and there hasn't been any riding other than to and from the hotel. We've bought a few things at "Rally special" prices and we've heard a lot of great seminars. The people have been great too. There was a great stunt show and Reagan got to sit on some bikes. She seemed to like the F800ST so the campaign for it as the second bike will have to begin soon.

I wish I could say good things about the town. The hotel doubled their prices when they found out the rally was coming to town. The restaurants weren't used to having customers and generally people just aren't very nice. Tonight we were locked in a restaurant by the GM because she was trying to close the place and it took over an hour to get our food. But then again what can you expect out of a town that's so small they don't even have a movie theatre.

Tomorrow we are back on the road and back behind the bars. So there should be some good tales to tell. Unfortunately we are going to make the return trip a little more direct so we can get home by Tuesday night hopefully.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Day 6 - Gillette / Rally Day 1

Today would be the first day of the Rally, but first we had to get there. And that meant covering the final 248 miles from Cheyenne. There was pretty much one choice, north on I-25 then Hwy 59 into Gillette.

We were up at 5am and on the road by 5:45. It's always great to be on the road at this time because you get to see the sun rise. This morning the sun hid behind the clouds but it still looked nice when combined with the rolling plains of Wyoming. With a speed limit of 75 mph we made excellent time up to Douglas. At first the temperature was comfortable but as we continued up I-25 it seemed to drop. Douglas was a great spot to warm up a little.

Then it was back out and heading up Hwy 59, we were less than 2 hours from our destination. With a speed limit of 65 mph and no traffic I decided to kick up the speed a little. That was until we started seeing deer all over the place. First Reagan spotted 2 on the side of the road while I was worried about the dead one in front of me. Then we saw one walking in the ditch along the road and then 2 more trying to cross the road coming up out of the ditch. I decided we'd keep it at 65 and below. If it took us a little longer that would be better than not getting there at all. We saw so many pronghorns and deer after that that we lost count but at least the rest were on the other side of fences and not such a concern.

We rolled into town just before 10am and found the Cam-plex facility. We had arrived! Reagan and I had travelled 1,933 miles in 6 days. It is the longest trip she has taken on a motorcycle and the farthest I've travelled with a passenger. And the best part is that after our 3 days of Rally going we get to travel another 1,400 miles home but we're going to do that in just 3 days.

Rally Day 1:
Being our first rally we weren't exactly sure to what to expect. So we found registration thanks to the help of volunteers and then started walking around. The outside vendor area was small and didn't take long to go through and I was sort of disappointed thinking this was all we had in the way of vendors. But a little later we found the indoor vendor area and had plenty to look at. After a 2up seminar I won a door prize, purchased a few things and generally looked around. Then it was back into seminars before calling it quits today.

Many attendees are camping, and that might certainly be a great experience. But for our first rally and with all the other things we had to figure out with being on the road together for 12 days I think the hotel we are staying at is a fantastic set of accomodations even if they are price gouging this weekend.

The sun is setting, ice is melting in my glass of whiskey and we are at the rally. It can't get much better than this. Except, Reagan has already starting talking about future trips. Now if I can just get her to go with me to Alaska.... :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Day 5 - Cheyenne

We managed our best fuel mileage of the trip today, 52.01 miles per gallon! Woohoo. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Today was planned from the beginning to be a short day. We were going to Rocky Mountain National Park and didn't want to be rushed. However in the interest of tomorrow's travel to Gillette we decided to make it a little longer to save time tomorrow. Total length of today's ride, 229 miles. We took advantage of the continental breakfast again and this time Reagan made sure to eat. Then we checked out of the room and headed across the street for fuel. It was was just after 8 o'clock when I thumbed the starter and pulled away from the pump. Just like yesterday the plan was to go west to get out of the plains and into the mountains. But first we had to get on I-70 to get out of town.

Just outside of Denver we took hwy 6 into Golden and stayed on it. Outside of Golden, 6 turns into a great little river road twisting through the mountains. I found about this road from the Internet and was glad I did. It was a fantastic way to start the morning. The only downside was the ever present smell of gasoline. Last night I had pulled the tank off to work on the mic-mute module and I was beginning to think that I had split a fuel line. To make things even more entertaining Reagan came on the intercomm and asked a trivia question. In a down hill sloping tunnel which way do you run in the event of a fire? Oh great I can see it now, the bike is going to erupt in a ball of flame while we are passing through a tunnel and I have to worry about which way to run. Oh, the answer is downhill.

Hwy 6 runs into I-70 west bound so we merged back on and I took the first exit into a little town so I could stop at a gas station and sort things out. Once stopped, I removed the tank bag and low and behold the gas cap had not latched all the way. I was relieved and annoyed at the same time. I had just worried my way through a fantastic road over something that should have been taken care of at the fuel stop. Oh well, it was a chance to take a quick nature break and let Reagan get some gatorade. At this point I also discovered why she was going through so much gatorade. It seems a good bit of it was spilling on the bike as the valve wasn't completely closing.

Back to I-70 west bound until exit 232 then it was north on Hwy 40. It was clear that we were in the more touristy part of Colorado now as there was more effort in speed control. And you saw more little lodges and places to spend your money on stuff. But Hwy 40 also had it's perks as we got to climb to over 11,000 feet before decending. The road was in great condition with very little traffic. The curves were great and the scenery was fantastic. Of course the higher you go the colder it gets, not having my thermometer any more I can't tell you how cold it was but it was definitely chilly.

Just past Granby we turned right onto Hwy 34, we were just 16 miles from the park. There were signs of tourism all over the place. And there was more traffic. The scenery was nice, the temp cool, and the road was just sort of there. Not a super twisty stretch but not board straight either. Just a road to ride to another place.

At the park entrance we paid our $20 and talked to the attendant. She said that the Pine Bark Beatle population had just exploded in the park and that was what was killing the pine trees. It's sad to see so many dead trees in the forrest. So we continued into the park. Speed limit was 45mph, experience from Big Bend tells me to keep it at or below the posted speed. At one point along the way it seemed everyone was all over the road and out of their cars. Upon stopping we discovered it's because they were trying to take a picture of moose. We see the backside of the moose as he's trying to graze and figure there's got to be better things to see so we go on. There's a Goldwing couple in front of us and we end up following them all the way up to the Alpine visitor center. The climb was great although a little slow thanks to the cars in front of us.

We had talked about stopping at the visitor center to get some post cards and take a break so that's what we did. There was a neat snow shelf to look at and I found a cool post card with it's picture, I figured that was probably a better shot than we'd get with our camera so I bought it. We also had "second breakfast" next door at the souvenier shop. They had Smuckers "Uncrustables" PB&J sandwiches. Folks involved with the 3Day event know just how good they are. Yum! Then it was time to get back on the bike, we had a few hundred feet to go before we'd reach the 12,226 foot high point along the road.

Up the hill and around the corner and I thought we had made it since the gps read 12,000 feet so I pulled over into a look out and snapped some pictures. Then back on the road but wait, it kept climbing. Around a corner we got stuck behind a van load of people who just decided to stop in the road. When it was safe I passed them only to find the reason they were stopping had to do with 3 big elk bulls resting in the field below. Finally I got to see my elk, and he wasn't in the road. Reagan managed to snap a picture as we kept moving and then a little ways farther we found the rest of the heard, no bulls just cows. Again people were all over the road taking pictures.

Finally we reach the peak elevation of the road and it begins to slowly descend. And as we descend the temperature begins to rise. We get behind 2 Harley's with the lead rider really using his brakes alot. Finally we pulled off to let them and a car behind us get on down the road a bit. I didn't really want to have to watch a motorcycle crash if I didn't have to. Besides it was a chance to snap a few photos of the gorgeous scenery.

I pulled off at a ranger station to shed my liner and let Reagan run in. Meanwhile I met a Goldwing couple from northern Arkansas. They were coming in from the north and hadn't seen anything bigger than a ground squirrel. I told them to be patient as the elks were a few thousand feet higher in elevation, when the gps said 12,000 they would almost be there. The wife was excited.

Finally we left the park still on 34 and stayed on it until we reached I-25. Much of the road followed a creek and so we had lots of curves, the only problem was the traffic and the lack of passing opportunities. So I puttered along, looking around and trying to stay cool. It was warming up and without a good 50 mph breeze it was getting toasty.

We stopped just before I-25 for a quick break and to put our ear plugs back in. There was a red BMW RT fueling up but didn't seem much into conversation. Ashame really, he had a cool USA themed paint job I would have liked to know more about. With plugs in and breaks taken, we hopped on I-25 and struggled with the traffic. The posted speed was 75 but we were doing good to go 65. It seemed people just weren't in a hurry and it wasn't like there was law enforcement or anything to slow people down.

Finally a few miles up the road the traffic cleared and the road opened up. I set the speed as close to 80mph as possible and just rode. We only had 50 miles to Cheyenne. We talked about pushing on to Douglas which would have been another 100 miles. Alone I probably would have done it, but since we had a reservation and I didn't know what the room situation was in Douglas we stopped as planned an enjoyed an afternoon nap. Afterwards we went into Cheyenne for dinner. Everyone knows you ride over 1700 miles to eat mexican food in Wyoming. But that's what we found and it was even good. The queso was made from pepper jack cheese and I really enjoyed it.

We have already filled up for tomorrow, hence how I know we got 52mpg today, so we'll get an early start in the morning. As Reagan says "we'll be getting up at the butt crack of dawn". That's my charming wife for you. But she's right we plan to be up by 5 and on the road by 6. With four and a half hours of riding planned we should be able to get there before noon so we can get checked in and attend a seminar starting just after 1pm.

My rant for the day:
What's up with not waving to fellow motorcyclists? It seems that most of the riders (mainly Harleys) don't even want to acknowledge us much less a wave. I know for a fact that they can see us as hi-viz green and pink are 2 colors you can't easily miss. The problem seemed to worsen the farther north we've travelled and now that we are in Wyoming riders will just stare at us like we are aliens from outspace. One guy was turning into a parking lot as we were pulling out, as we waved he just stared, I thought he might actually fall off his bike from staring. I don't know if this is some misguided only-Harleys attitude or what but it's just down right silly and rude. Reagan thinks it's because people up here aren't used to seeing riders actually wear the gear. They are all concerned with looking cool I guess. What ever. We'll keep on waving until one falls over.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Day 4 - Denver

I didn't sleep well last night and woke up early this morning. I could have been out the door at 6am local time. But since this is a vacation for both of us I tried to let Reagan sleep a little. I think I failed. We eventually made it across the street for breakfast at Max's Cafe and then checked out of the hotel. A quick dash next door for gas and we were ready to hit the road at 8:15 AM MDT. We managed a whopping 47mpg on yesterday's second tank of gas making it the best fuel economy on the trip so far.

Since we found out that the Coors brewery did not do tours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays we opted to take a more scenic route through the mountains to reach Denver. The route started by heading west on 165 out of Colorado City. After a few miles in the little town the road started to climb and the temp started to drop. It was pleasant and the scenery was great. The road started getting curvy and fun. Just 24 miles into the ride we took our first break at Bishop's Castle. Apparently some guy started building this castle up in the woods and opened it to the public. It's not a commercialized place by any means just a really cool example of what 1 person can do with stone, steel and glass. Sometime we'd like to visit the castle again while he's there working on it, I think it'd be neat to see.

After climbing throughout the castle it was time to get back on the road. We continued on through the San Isabel Forrest and enjoyed the curves. Up hill, down hill and around hills the curves just kept coming. Finally 165 runs out and we turn right onto 96. Eventually we come up to hwy 50 and go west a short way into Canon City. Reagan wanted to go see the Royal Gorge so we detoured over to the gorge to see what it's all about. It's $23 per person to get in the park and walk across the bridge. No thank you! So we got back on the bike and continued on heading north on 9. Eventually we merged onto 24 going west for a few miles and then continued on 9. So far the roads had been country roads and traffic had been almost non-existent.

When 9 ran into 285 we stopped in Fairplay for a break and some drinks. Reagan is convinced this is really South Park. I wanted a little caffeine to perk me up and a nature break was welcomed as well. Then we got back on the road heading north on 285. Apparently while we were taking our break the entire area decided to get out on the road because traffic went from light to heavy after our break. And to make matters worse there was road construction. Apparently up here they close off a lane and repave it. And that means they have to manage two way traffic on one lane. WAIT is the name of the game. We got lucky and our waiting was minimal today.

The closer we got to Denver the more we seemed to be heading downhill. At 2 points earlier in the day we had gone over 10,000 feet but now we were in the 8000 feet range and falling. And of course as the elevation lowered the temperature rose. It was pretty darn hot by the time we reached 470 on the west side of Denver.

The plan was to stay at the Howard Johnson off exit 266 on I-70. Unfortunately I didn't feel the bike would be safe enough to leave alone long enough to check in much less overnight. So went down the road to a Comfort Inn and got a room.

This was a short mileage day at only 235 miles. But it was a fun day and we got to see a lot of Colorado southwest of Denver. Probably the most disappointing part of the ride was Denver itself. It's a large town, people drive like crap, and it's not friendly. But then we've been staying in little towns for the past 3 mights so today is kind of a culture shock. I'm hoping tomorrow we'll be back in a small town. From now on the only way I'll go through Denver is on one of the Super Slabs and I certainly don't plan to stop, even for gas, if I don't have to. It's not a destination in my book.

On a side note, after getting into the hotel I headed out into Denver for a bottle of locally distilled Colorado Whiskey made by Stranahans. I first learned about it on the History Channel special and I have to say it certainly doesn't disappoint. However the hour long, 34 mile round trip into downtown Denver was another experience all together. People in Denver can't drive and pedestrians own the crosswalks so turning left is impossible. By the time I made it to the liquor story I was justly rattled. I got my hooch and jumped back into the fray.

Colorado doesn't have a helmet law and it shows in the generally care-free attitude about safety gear not worn while on a motorcycle. Most of the time we saw riders in short sleeves and shorts, even young children as co-riders in the same attire. Even in downtown Denver I saw this same attitude toward safety. And there are a lot of people in the city using small bikes and mopeds. I'm pretty sure Colorado probably beats out Texas in several bad motorcyle accident figures. If not then I'm amazed. With the insanity of automobile drivers and even other motorcyclists in Denver I sure as heck wouldn't get on a bike without all the gear I regularly ride in because up here WHEN, not if, you are in an accident with an idiot you'll surely come out on the short end of the stick.

Oh and with regards to the whiskey. It is dang good. There likely won't be any left by the time I get home but you'll have to take my word when I say it's good.

This evening I had to work on the bike before calling it quits. We've been having problems with the intercom cutting out while going down the road. The problem was with the mic-mute module I had installed so I called the company and talked to the owner. He seemed to think it was a faulty connection and wanted me to check everything. So this evening I did and they were all ok. But when I checked out the actual module it was clear what the problem was, the lid had expanded and allowed mosture in thus coroding the circuit board. So I uninstalled it and will deal with the warranty when I get home. Nothing like taking your bike apart in the hotel parking lot.

Tomorrow, the Rocky Mountain Nation and then we head north getting closer to Gillette.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Day 3 - Eagle Nest, NM no Colorado City, Co

Today we slept in a little longer and didn't get up with quite the zeal of the previous day. Partly due to the impending weather and partly because we were on vacation and wanted to get some rest. But we finally got up and started getting ready to go. There was a free continental breakfast down stairs so I lugged some stuff down and stopped for breakfast. While loading the bike I met a fella from Houston, Mississippi. He seemed pretty interested in the Beemer and told me he had a cruiser and his son had a sport bike they had intended to trailer with them on their trip out west but mechanical issues prevented it.

After breakfast was done (Reagan just had coffee) we suited up and went across the street to fill up. Yesterday's travels' netted a 36.76mpg value at the pump. That seemed pretty much on track for the type of riding we did.

The weather was ominous. It was very foggy and rain seemed imminent so we put on our rain gear and took off. The fog was so bad that the XM Radio wouldn't even receive a station. But 10 or 15 miles west on I-40 and everything changed. The sky started clearing and after a reset of the gps I once again had XM radio.

As we crossed the New Mexico state line Reagan wanted a picture of their welcome sign so we pulled over and snapped the picture. While stopped I shed the rain covers and opened the vents on my jacket. Then it was back on the road heading for Tucumcari, NM. We stopped by the post office to mail some post cards and then headed out of town north on 104. This was a typical New Mexico road, long and straight. And a speed limit of 55 mph. Really??? give me a break what are they worried about, hitting a bug?

Finally in Las Vegas (NM) we turned north on to 518. It was getting close to our lunch time and Reagan was hungry since she had skipped breakfast. We looked for a place to grub but 518 out of Las Vegas doesn't have much in the way of local eateries. So we kept going. At noon (CDT) we rolled into Mora and found the Cowboy Kitchen. Of course it was only 11AM local time but we were hungry and they were open. The local folks were friendly and interested in where we were from. The lunch special was a Salsbury Steak for $5.99. It was a good deal and tasted good for a small greasy spoon.

With our stomachs full we figured we'd be in Eagle Nest within an hour and a half. That meant we'd be trying to check in at 1:30 local time. Since tomorrow would be a 300 mile push into Denver, we decided to push on and find a place closer to the Denver area. The exact town we'd stop at wast undetermined.

So leaving Mora we continued on 518 to Taos and stopped for gas. Our mileage for this leg of the trip was 40mpg, Wow! Then we picked up 64 to Eagle Nest. This road was wonderful lots of sweepers. We climbed to 9500 feet before slowly descending into Eagle Nest. The temperature was comfortable with my liner in. But as we descended I started opening the zipper vents to let a little air in.

We passed through Eagle Nest around 1:50 local time and turned onto 38 toward Red River. This road was more of a slow steady climb across a flat plain. I was wondering if I had made the right decision in continuing on. But eventually we reached the mountain passes and it once again became fun.

In Questa we turned onto 522 heading toward Colorado. Our travels to this point included wonderful winding roads along babling brooks, mountain passes and flat high plains. This was a great ride. The temperature was continuing to rise though and we pulled over to ditch the liners and continue on.

Before I knew it we were stopping to take a picture of the Colorado welcome sign. As I continued north on 159 there was something that was clearly evident. We were heading into rain. Not just a little, it was was real honest to goodness rain in the mountains. Just after passing through San Luis we pulled over on the side of the road to put on the rain gear as the rain was starting to come down. Then we jumped back on the road and headed north.

In Fort Garland, 159 ends so we headed east on 160. As I turned I noticed a local motel that we could stop at for the day, but I failed to ask Reagan how she was doing. Ooops! Note to self, in the future check with my co-rider more often. A simple nature break could have made the afternoon more enjoyable for her. By Fort Garland we were just riding in a light sprinkle but the road was wet so as we weaved through the mountains I took it easy and observed the speed limits. The further into the mountain pass though we finally cleared the rain and the road was drying out. So I cranked up the throttle a little and enjoyed the sweeping mountain twisties.

Finally as we were coming down out of the pass, about 16 miles outside of Walsenburg, Reagan came on the intercom and asked for a stop at the first possible point to shed her rain gear. So I applied the binders and pulled off into a driveway leading to a large ranch. We took 10 minutes or so to shed the gear and stretch. Since a nature break was needed we decided to detour to La Veta just 5 miles off of 160. OMG! this was one of those dreaded tourists traps. We stopped at a gas station, checked out the restrooms, bought some water and gatorade. Then headed into town to look around. The local lodge wanted $95 per night so we decided to head on down the road to see what we could find.

Back out on 160 we came into Walsenburg. We passed one affordable place that had a grand opening sign but Reagan vetoed it claiming it was a "Fred" motel. So we pressed on. I was really looking for something in the Choice Hotels chains so I could save a little money with my AMA discount. So we headed north on I-25 toward Denver. Finally we see a sign for Days Inn and Reagan gives me the thumbs up. So I pull into Colorado City. There's a Shell station, liquor store and local diner so we've got everything we need. The front desk clerk was pretty cool and hooked me up with a special $62 rate which was better than the $68 rate that he initially started with. All I had to do was talk about bikes and cars. That was easy.

After checking in, I jumped on line and signed up for a Days Inn reward card. I've stayed with the chain before and been pleased with the rooms and rates I get when I just stop in while on the road. It's better than with my MoTow or AMA discounts with other chains. So if I'm going to stay at the chain I might as well benefit a little.

With everything in the room it was time to have a drink or two, and then shower before dinner. A quick upload of the gps showed that we had traveled 459 miles in the day's travel. That's the farthest Reagan has been in one day. The lack of enough nature breaks and not expecting to travel so far today made things a little hard for her. She was seriously wiped out.

The plan was to go to Golden tomorrow and tour the Coors brewery. The only problem is that they don't do tours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays so the tour is out. I also tried to get a tour of a local Colorado whisky distillery but that may not work out either as they only offer tours from 9:30 to 11am by appointment. I left my name and number, if someone calls early enough we'll hop on the road and go check it out. Otherwise the plan is to take a nice 222 mile ride up through the mountains west of us and stay in Denver. Of course who knows tomorrow we may change our minds, but at least we have a reservation in Denver for a room.

We have a problem with the intercom system. I think it's related to the mic mute module I added and will try to contact the manufacturer tomorrow. If worse comes to worse, I'll just uninstall it tomorrow evening. But I really don't want to have to pull the tank while we're on the road. At least it's only a 30 minute job and I have all the tools.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Day 2 - Vega

This morning we slept in a little as I was up past midnight working on a client issue. Yes, I was supposed to be on vacation but sometimes you've gotta do a little work for the greater good. Besides this way the client can't complain in October when I leave for a 2 week excursion out west to run around New Mexico.

We were out of the motel by 7:30. The instrument panel indicated I needed gas but said I had 40 miles left and since I have at least another 40 past that I decided to push on in hopes that I'd find a Shell or Exxon along the way. The route was simple, we headed up 83 to 380. We stopped in Aspermont around 8:50 at a local restaurant next door to a motel. We walked in about the same time that a few others did and the place was instantly filling up. Turns out there was a reunion in the next town over and many of them were coming to this restaurant for breakfast. I had oatmeal, toast, bacon and OJ. Reagan had coffee and an egg sandwich. Then it was time to get back on the road.

There was a discussion about whether we should back track to the other side of town and fill up or continue on. The gauge said we had around 15 miles left (it had reset since we left Abilene) and I knew I had another 40 past that. So we kept going.

From 380 we took 70 north out of Jayton. The only gas station in Jayton was closed. When we reached Spur I was pretty worried as I didn't think we'd have enough to make it to the next town. The GPS said there was a gas station just off our route outside of town. When we arrived they were closed on Sundays. So we headed back to 70 and as luck would have it there was a Fina station in Spur. It wasn't in the GPS but it was open and that's what I needed. We filled up with 8.67 gallons of fuel. Yes the tank is rated at 8.7 but I've put 9 gallons in there before so we weren't really on fumes and would have made it easily to the next town with gas. But I didn't know this at the time so it was nice to fill up. Moral of the story, when riding out in north Texas fill up while you still have plenty of reserve. Calculations showed we got 35.22mpg on this tank of gas versus yesterday's 37mpg on the first tank. I think the wide open flat runs past Abilene with speeds of 80mph probably had something to do with the decrease. But it was so flat, so straight and so.... empty.

With a full tank it was time to head to Palo Duro Canyon State Park. So far the weather had remained cloudy with only the occassional sputter of rain. But that would change. By the time we reached Matador we had a pretty good misting going on. Not really enough to get you soaked but enough to start making things damp. We stopped for a quick break and started talking to a local rancher. He figured we brought the rain with us and was happy for it.

Next we took FM 2009 which had some nice twisties on it. Since the road was moist and I had all the weight of the luggage I decided to keep the speed moderate. But it was still a nice change. Then we picked up 97 to Flomont where we headed north on 599. By now the scenery was changing and there was enough elevation change to keep things interesting. We ran into 86 and took that through Quitaque.

Just past Silverton we turned onto 207 heading north. The rain was definitely making things wet by this point but we kept going. A little ways up the road we went through the most amazing canyon I had
ever been through. It was only a few miles but we road down into it on
one side and back up out of it on the other. Simply awesome. FM 207
will definitely pop up on future routes if direction and time permits. We caught 285 over to Wayside and finally road out of the rain for the day. Then it was I-27 up to Canyon where we took the 103 exit up to 1541. When we turned onto 1541 the road sign said 8 miles to Palo Duro Canyon. The sky was cloudy but non-threatening and the temperature was comfortable. It was going to be a great time to see the canyon.

The attendant at the front gate was friendly and took our $8 then gave us a receipt and a map. Reagan was a little concerned about the 10% grade sign but I wasn't stopping now. We went to the visitor center for a nature break and to look around. That's the farthest I had gotten the last time I was at the canyon, so I was eager to go ride around. Especially after seeing some of the information at the visitor center. A quick purchase of some post cards and out the door we went.

We hopped back on the bike and headed into the canyon. There was a steep decent with customary switchbacks and then we were in the floor of the canyon. Lots of scenery to see. We checked out some of the cabins they have for rent. Maybe we'll do a trip near my birthday and stay in them. That would be cool. We followed the park road all the way around and then looped back the way we came. With a great overview of the park completed we headed to Amarillo to see the Cadillac ranch and to find our hotel.

Riding up I-27 is like any other super slab so there's nothing to say. Except going 70mph really seemed slow. I wanted to take I-27 to I-40 instead of taking the loop to the west. Once on I-40 we past the Drury Inn where we planned to stay and headed toward the Cadillac ranch. As we passed it there were lots of people there in cars and RVs. So I asked Reagan if she'd like to see it in the morning. About the same time we saw a billboard for Boot Hill Saloon and Grill in Vega. That happens to be the restaurant started by Rory, a contentant on the Food Network's Next Food Network Star. Since it was time for an early dinner and Vega was only 25 minutes up the road we pressed on.

Upon arrival we were the only ones in the parking lot and it was unclear if they were even open. But finally we found a small sign on the door that listed hours of operation and dinner was served from 2 to 10. It was after 3 so we were set. We walked in and sat in the bar area as it didn't seem we had a choice. They could have easily rented out the space as a walk in freezer. It was down right cold in there. We decided what we wanted and placed our orders. The decission was a little difficult as her menu seemed a little unfocussed but it all looked good. Reagan ordered the Onion soup and a burger, and I ordered a burger with jalapenos. I didn't get the Bruechetta because of the salmanila scare of late but now I realize they've also had problems with jalapenos. Too late for regreats maybe they could have thrown in cilantro for extra measure. The food was good but desert was awesome. I highly recommend the Apple Crisp. It comes in a mason jar with ice cream and whipped cream on top. Very tasty indeed. Rory was in the restaurant working and even served Reagan's soup. Considering we were the only people in there at first it would have been nice if she had actually engaged us in conversation. But considering her proximity to I-40 she probably gets alot of traffic that don't know who she is or could care less.

We decided to stay in Vega and Reagan would go to the Cadillac Ranch on a future stop. Ah! another trip to plan... While we were eating I used my laptop and wireless card to book a room at the Comfort Inn and saved 15% with my AMA membership. So we got on the bike and ran back down the little stretch of old route 66 to take a picture of the sign. Then passed Rory's place and pulled into the Comfort Inn next to I-40. The hotel clerk had a smile on his face from ear to ear and was very friendly. He checked us in and even told me to park in a specific spot just outside the frontdesk's window so he could keep an eye on the bike. Then it was time to unpack and lug everything up stairs. No elevator but then I did have that apple crisp less than an hour ago.

So far we've gone 731 miles on the trip, we've met nice people, seen great sites and had fun.

Tomorrow Taos!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Day 1 - Abilene

The vacation is under way. We left the house this morning at 6:38am. I have to give Reagan credit for rushing me a little otherwise it would have been closer to 7 by the time we actually got moving. But with her motivation we were on the bike and rolling. A quick stop by the post office to mail a letter for the business and the vacation was in full swing.

We had a mission on this first day of the trip. That was to reach Snow's BBQ in Lexington before they ran out of brisket. That's right, they are open until they run out and then they close until the next Saturday. With 3/4 or so of a tank of gas we didn't waste time fueling up, besides I wanted to get out of Houston so I could get some real 100% petro instead of the b.s. 10% ethanol crap. Ignoring the GPS we rode down 90A to 99 then up to FM1093 out to Wallis. Then north on 36 until we got to Belleville.

Reagan wanted/needed her dose of caffeine so we stopped in at Neumans Bakery for coffee and a kolache. For 7:45 in the morning it was pretty busy with the locals. The bike crowd hadn't made it there yet so we were in and out by 8 o'clock. The excitement while we were there was next door at the insurnace place. Apparently someone forgot to lock the door. When we arrived officers were walking through the place, and when we left an officer was talking to the fellow who appeared to be the owner. It was big time excitement for the BPD this Saturday morning.

So we continued north on 36 until we got to Brenham and Hwy 290. Then it was a left turn to point us west on 290. As we merged onto the highway a Honda ST1300 riding 2 up passed us so we followed them for a bit. It was easy to keep them in site as she was wearing a pink helmet. I kept waiting for Reagan to point out that SHE found a pink helmet. I guess the Shoei is pretty comfy. Any way I digress, so we continued down 290 and end up in some construction that's got us down to one lane and going 55mph. The Garmin was on "shortest distance" so when we got to Burton it diverted us up 125 to scenic 390. I figured that was better than 290 to 77 considering the construction. Once we got up 390 a little ways it started taking us down back country roads. At least twice I saw signs for "Pavement Ends" just before the gps would have me make a turn. Reagan was starting to wonder about that gps and the pilot up front.

By 9:30 we rolled into the little town of Lexington, home of Snow's BBQ. As expected there was a line out the door waiting to get the tasty Q that Texas Monthly rated as the number 1 BBQ in Texas. Most of the folks in line had read the same article, shocking! We ordered 1/2 pound of brisket, a link of sausage and a potato salad. In all the ordering excitement I forgot to order a side of beans as they are free. Hmmm, guess I'll have to go back. The man with the knife was slightly reluctant to serve us from the brisket flat he had just taken out of the foil as it was a little dry. But it was lean and that's what I like in my brisket. Upon sitting down I picked up a very tender piece of brisket. It was almost as fall apart tender as my own, almost. But not quite as juicy. The flavor was very good and the second bite proved that it also went well with their sauce. Their sausage was a little course ground for my liking but it definitely had that home-made taste to it. So it took a little under 3 hours and 128 miles to get there. Is it worth it? Sure it's BBQ and it's a ride. The next time I go, assuming someone goes with me, I plan to leave a little earlier so I can enjoy a few other roads along the way. But you don't want to dilly dally too much, when we were there they only had 7 briskets left. Considering they appeared to be cooking 10 ~ 12 pounders and there was a constant line coming through I doubt they were serving brisket at 10:30.

So with good Q in our stomachs it was time to knock out the remaining 244 miles to Abilene. The temperature was of course rising, our time critical goal had been acheived and did I mention our tummies were full. We jumped on 77 and got back to 36 where we continued our northern journey. By noon:30 I was ready for a break. Reagan thought there was a Shell station with booths up ahead in the next town. No such luck so we contined on to Commanche. She was hoping for a grocery store or such near our resting spot and in Commanche we found just what we needed. A DQ next to a Shell station with a Family Dollar and Brookshire across the street. We hit the jackpot. So we stopped at the DQ and parked in the shade. Then went inside and I enjoyed a Dr. Pepper Float while she just had a Dr. Pepper. Afterwards she ran across the street to get some things while I filled up the water bladders with ice and chatted with a fellow rider who was in the cage today on a family trip. Once she returned we geared up and finished up the last hour and 20 minutes of the ride.

So as the clock hits 2:30 we are checking in at the Whitten Inn. Not too bad, 8 hours and we ate three times along the way. DQ was about as much of a chain as I want to eat on this trip. The plan for the rest of the day is to take a nap and then head over to Lytle Land & Cattle for a steak.

Tomorrow we're heading to Palo Duro Canyon but Reagan has already said if it's too hot she'll just see it another day. Oh boy, another excuse for an overnight trip!

Friday, July 11, 2008

T minus 1 day and counting

Today is the eve of our vacation. That means there's all sorts of things to do before we leave in the morning. And it seems there's all sorts of work that needs to be done as well. My clients had things that needed to be done before I left. Of course that means there will be some nice checks when I get back.

The bags are almost completely packed. Our cases have been laying in the floor all week with most of the stuff in them. Just a few last minute items in the morning and I should be able to latch them on. Reagan has once again proven that she is the superior packing artist so she is taking the smaller side case. Of course in my defense I am packing the tools in my case. But it's my large walking shoes that actually knocked me out of the small case.

Earlier today I ran some errands to take care of last minute things I wanted to do. I drained about 1/2 a quart of oil as I had over filled it last weekend. I went ahead and put in some Zmax oil and fuel treatment to see if it makes any difference. Then I went to the bank and stopped by AutoZone for some vacuum hose to complete my canister-ectomy that I had started last weekend. I passed by the Kwik-lube to get an inspection but they had several cars waiting so I went on, maybe when I get back.

Then it was over to the Hallmark store for a neoprene wine tote. The only problem was they don't carry them any more. So I headed over to World Market in hopes of finding something there. Indeed they had something that would work, maybe even a little better than the neoprene. It's more like a collapseable cooler with a plastic liner on the inside. Since all I wanted was something to block the heat and wind for my camelback bladder inside the tank pannier this should do the trick.

Now it's just a matter of double checking my packing and waiting for the morning to get here and our vacation to begin. I think I'll have a frosty cold adult beverage while I wait.

Tomorrow's post will be from Abilene, Tx if all goes as planned.

T-12 hours 44 minutes

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Pre-trip weekend prep

The 4th of July weekend was a greatly appreciated 3 day weekend. Last weekend was our big bar-b-q and next weekend we are heading to Gillette, WY for the rally. So this weekend I wanted to get the bike prepped and of course do a little riding.

Since we didn't have to go to work we slept late before getting up and walking. But once done with our morning walk I got outside and started on a 12K mile service interval routine. It was about 9:30 when I finally got started. First the oil was drained then the transmission and final drive fluids. Then it was time to start filling things up. The final drive was easy enough thanks to the little bottle I got from a beauty supply shop. Then I filled the transmission without much of an issue. Since this was a 12K service interval I needed to adjust the valves before filling with oil. So I pulled the valve covers, refreshed my memory on the procedure using Jim Von Baden's maintenance video, and then proceeded to complete the adjustments. At this point things were just going too well...

As I was putting the valve covers back on I looked for my ratchet and torx bit that I used to loosen the bolts but couldn't find it. At first I assumed I picked it up and carried it inside with me. Nope! I start looking all around the garage. Nothing. Another check inside at my desk, still nothing. Finally I drag Reagan outside to help look. We are both looking and not finding anything. Finally I'm standing near the bike when I glance down at the bike and notice the ratchet resting on the foot peg. Genius!!! I resume my work and finish things up with a throttle body sync. In the end it took me about 4 hours plus another 1.5 hours of searching for a stupid ratchet.

While I was oily I changed the oil in Reagan's bike. It was pretty dirty, much worse than mine. I think I'll start changing it every time I do a 12K service on the BMW.

We got up later than normal but still early enough to enjoy the cool morning. The plan was to ride up to Belleville for breakfast at Neumans. Reagan had some new iPlugz in-ear monitors from Ear Inc to try out. And of course, I never pass up to ride, especially since I didn't do any riding the weekend before. The ride was uneventful, 99 to 1093 to Simonton. Then north to Brookshire and up to Bellville via 359 and 529. We got to Neumans just a few minutes before it got busy. After some coffee and pastries we headed over to the Bellville Meat Market to get some sausage. I tried their dried Jalepeno sausage and will get more the next time I go through there. We head back down 36 to Seally and then cut over to ride Racer's Road before getting on I-10 at Brookshire. The plan was to run over to 99 and get home a little quicker so we could run some errands on our way to a party.

However as we passed the Katy Mills Outlet mall, Reagan decided we should stop to get her a shirt for the party. No problem, we loop around and go to the mall. Then it's back on the road and headed home. Quick showers and we are headed out the door in the truck.

Since the party we were headed to was over in Clear Lake I figured it'd be a good time to stop off at Gulf Coast BMW to look at the new Olympia riding gear. They didn't have the new Recon 2 transformer pants that I was hoping for, but they did have the Stealth one-peice suit I was also interrested in. I thought the suit would be nice for riding around Houston in traffic when I have appointments to go to. I can wear my microfiber pants and shirt underneath and step out of the suit when I get on-site. And the mesh should be a little more comfortable in Houston traffic. Since they had the suit in a medium and it seemed to just fit me, I figured what the heck. At $299 it seemed like a decent deal. With the purchase complete we headed over to the party to learn about home brewing beer.

Sundays we normally go to breakfast with the Fort Bend Riders and this day was no different. Reagan decided to ride her bike so she could go see her mom while I went riding with the guys. After breakfast only Gary wanted to go ride so we took off. At first I wasn't really sure where I was headed but when I got to Fulshear I had a plan. I was heading to Fayetteville, Tx. So we did Racer's Road and then cut over to Seally, headed north to 949 and went west until it met up with 1094. Then right on 109 and onto 1291. FM1291 is still one of my most favortite local roads. This day though presented a little extra excitement. As I came around one of the right handers there were large birds all over the road. I squeezed the brakes and then got on the radio to make sure Gary would slow down behind.

Those birds definitely raised the pucker factor. We roll on into town and stop at the gas station for a break. After some visiting it was time to head home. I was hoping to checkout a gravel road that I hadn't been on since getting the GS. At Frelsburg we turned south on to 109 to Columbus. The sky was looking dark and it was starting to rain, so we decided to skip the gravel road for the day. Once in Columbus we turned east onto 90 and then cut over to 102 to head south to Eagle Lake. Then it was east on 90A until we got to Gary's turn off. Then he peeled off and I continued on until spur 10. A quick ride up 59 to Frys then it was time to go home and get a nap. Another great quick day ride.

In the evening Reagan and I get out the side cases and the top case and figure out how we're going to fit 12 days of gear on the bike. I tried to be the chivalrous and give her the larger case. But in the end I used up 1/3 of her side to pack tools and stuff. The prepacking showed that we should be OK with a little extra space for things we might find along the way.

Now it's just a matter of waiting until next Saturday morning when we pull out. T minus 5 days 7 hours and 50 minutes until our Saturday 6:30 am departure.