Colorado Freewheelers 2006

Start: Fay Myers

Check In Time: 21:17 Ending Odometer: 52945
Check Out Time: 0200 Starting Odometer:

Elapsed Time: 19:17 Total Miles: 1086

Averaged 56.3 mph

It was a dark and stormy night. Visibility was reduced to a white fog by the atomization of the rainwater as the surrounding vehicles bore their way north. The water droplets beaded on the face shield and reflected the lights of oncoming traffic in a diffuse spray of white and blue-white. As we sped up Rt 25 to Fay Myers and the end of the days ride, I reflected upon the beginning of the ride.

It began at 12:30am as the alarm roused me from sleep. Sleep that was fleeting when I lay down at 6pm in an attempt to store sufficient sleep credits that I would maintain wakefullness during the 24 hour ride that starts in 8 or so hours. Sleep came in fits. Sleeping for an hour then waking. Sleep for 90 minutes and again rising. At 10pm, I woke yet again and headed downstairs to see Rita and check the news for the weather. Lows in the 40’s over Cameron Pass, possibility of rain. Good thing I packed my Gerbings and my Aerostich is water resistant. I lay down once again and the habits take over and I’m asleep. At least until 12:30am.

I arose, hit the shower and wake Rita. Downstairs to get suited up, plugged in and roll out of the garage. Rita in the door to wave goodbye. She waves and shuts the garage door then waits at the front door. I wave as I ride off and she heads back to bed.

1:12am and I’m heading to the gas station to fill up. Head down to 120th street and Rt 25 south. Traffic is light as you’d expect for 1:30am on a Friday night. Rolling by T-Rex, there are a few cops out. Two on the northbound side making sure some drunk doesn’t take out a road worker. One on a southbound entrance ramp with a hapless female the subject of his attentions.

Take the exit for Arapahoe, head east to Dayton and the Fay Myers parking lot. The lot is pretty dark and you can see several bikes. About half as many as last year’s ride up to The Black Hills/Devil’s Tower. Perhaps the rain forecast has reduced the number of riders this year.

I roll into the end spot and Herb heads over to perform the pre-ride inspection. The front tire, put on new in Richmond VA the middle of June is down to its last 1,500 miles or so and shows evidence of dry rot. I look and sure enough, there are the minute cracks around what’s left of the tread. Shoot, hope t doesn’t disqualify me. They have sent folks home when bikes don’t pass inspection. The leader calls the group together for the pre-ride briefing.

Be careful. Don’t overextend yourselves. Call the number in your booklet if you decide to stop so we know where you are. If you’re intending on have the IronButt paperwork submitted, you’ll need to answer the questions on the back and provide the gas station receipts upon completion. Watch out for wildlife, especially since we’ll be going through Poudre Canyon in the dark. On the other side of Cameron Pass, there’s a bit of a dip in the road. The roads are a little rough south of Meeker. Mudslides on Rt 141. New paving and construction before Pagosa Springs. Good luck.

I go upstairs and register, picking up my pin, t-shirt (with the route map on the back), hat, and booklet. I also snagged one of the donuts on my way back out the door. Back at my bike, I get the iPod plugged in and the Autocom unit plugged together. In looking for Herb (who started the inspection), one of the other inspectors come over. He takes my card, tells me the front tire is borderline, checks the lights and signs off with the time, 2am and I’m ready to go (I figure that Herb didn’t want to bias his decision since we’re riding together and turned the inspection over to another inspector which is fine by me).

Herb is done and getting his bike ready. He rented a FJR1300 for the trip because his main bike only has about a 130 mile range. The FJR turns out to have about a 250 mile range which exceeds my Hayabusa’s range of about 200 miles. In preparation for the ride, I’d purchased a couple of Autocom cables so my Motorola walkie talkies would be able to communicate with his. He got his plugged in and we found that I could talk to him but he wasn’t able to communicate back. We didn’t really want to spend a lot of time yakking about it so we headed out anyway. We both had full tanks so we didn’t have to stop before hitting the road and we rolled on to 25. Northbound to the first corner in Ft. Collins.

While heading through the artificial light on 25 North, I did a little preparation talking to Herb and tried to set up some signals. He’d waved when he saw the police so I said that I’d acknowledge the wave so he would know I saw him. At 2:30am I announced the time and that I’d make announcements to make sure we were both alert. I saw him nod acceptance. At 3am as we were approaching Ft. Collins I announced the time and he didn’t hear me. Turns out the walkie talkie couldn’t take the lower temps (about 60F) and had shut itself down.

We’d caught up and passed a group of riders and then caught up and passed another single rider and could see a couple more ahead of us as we went through Ft. Collins. We were behind them as we made the turn onto Rt 14 and I followed one into the gas station at the entrance. Another rider was already at the pump. Herb had continued on but turned around when he saw I wasn’t there. Always good to get filled up when you can, especially when it’s a 100 mile ride to Walden and the next real possibility of gas. Unfortunately the pumps, while on, needed someone in the booth to actually start them. The guy on the Harley wasn’t sure he was going to make it to Walden either and was weighing heading back to fill up or go on. Ultimately he dedided to continue to Walden. Frustrated though, I hit the bathrooms (that would be the shorter green bathrooms behind the station). We saddled up and headed out.

It was still dark as we wended out way up Poudre Canyon. I’m behind Herb for the first mile or so before I decide that slowing for each curve is just too cautious for me. At a good spot I roll past Herb and continue on a little faster waiting for Herb every once in a while (well, waiting until I see his light in the distance). Most of the curves are awesome even at night. I’m riding a little more cautiously but still able to hit the curves at a satisfying speed. I’m keeping an eye on the temps as well. It’s a little chilly at 44.7F degrees but with the Gerbing’s, it’s still a reasonably comfortable ride.

At the first question checkpoint, I pull over waiting on Herb. The question was “What’s the name of the gas station at Rustic”. Making a note, we take off heading to Cameron Pass. About half way up we passed the Harley rider that was at the station with a wave. As we got into more twisites, we came upon a pair of riders. When we got to a place where I could pass, I started but ran out of room before passing them both and got between the two. At the very next longish place (double yellow), I passed the first rider too. I didn’t want to split them and made a pass that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise done but in the dark you can see oncoming lights better.

I pulled off at Cameron Pass and Herb came up just a few moments later. He chatted with the guy taking a smoke break and then we headed out, Herb in the lead. At one of the corners, Herb went in a little hot and ended up on the other side of the double yellow. While I didn’t go over the double yellow, it was a surprising corner.

As we approached Walden we spotted another rider ahead. It was weird in that I only saw a little bit of white in the distance then a flare of red as the brakes were hit. Ah, the tail light was out. When we got to Walden, we pulled in to the station on the right. Another rider was there so we were pretty sure the pumps were working even though the store was dark. Herb and I let the other rider know about the tail light. Herb had a bunch of bulbs but didn’t have a replacement tail light unfortunately. The first rider took off then the lights went on in the station. As we got ready to go, the Harley rider we’d passed pulled in to the station. He’d made it to Walden successfully. Someone on a touring bike pulled up and made the left towards Steamboat Springs. After another couple of minutes, Herb and I took off.

The ride to Rt 40 was pretty much ok, if a little straight. We almost missed the first turn onto 14 but made a quick u-turn and got going in the right direction. It started getting light with the first wisps of sunlight showing in my rear view mirrors. We passed the guy on the touring bike and then got to the Rt 40 turn. We went past Muddy Pass and up to Rabbit Ears Pass. We passed a couple of other riders as we went through Routt National Forest and started down to Steamboat Springs. The lake, generally low or dry most of the time, appears to be full. Due to the recent rains I’m sure.

Rolling through Steamboat Springs wasn’t too bad. It was light now and people were stirring. We were able to answer the second question while rolling through town. “What is different about the speed limit signs in Steamboat Springs, RT 40?” I’m guessing there are a lot of out of country folks that come here because the signs had MPH as well as KPH noted.

Craig was the next corner and we made it without too much trouble. Herb wanted to stop for breakfast so we stopped at the McDonalds just before the turn on 13 south. Herb grabbed a bite and I replaced batteries that had died and snacked on a handful of nuts and M&M’s. Herb and I had agreed to swap bikes at some point to see how they rode. This was a pretty good spot being light and somewhat early in the morning. So when we were ready to go, Herb hopped on the Hayabusa and I hopped on his FJR.

The FJR has some pretty good power and I was able to keep up with Herb without much trouble. Herb was treating the Hayabusa pretty lightly. Understandable because of the flickability. Just the slightest turn of the wrist had the bike jumping forward. The electrically adjustable windscreen on the FJR was pretty cool. I had it up for a bit then had it back down all the way for the way I like to ride. The bike had the same problem as other do. I’m just not comfortable riding ramrod straight and anything else causes some back pain. I was somewhat relieved when Herb pulled over short of Meeker to swap bikes back. His biggest complaint? It was fricking cold being in the wind.

We encountered the wild animals between Craig and Rifle. Several dead deer in the road and ditch, easy to spot due to the birds feasting on the recently killed corpses. In one place I spotted a deer standing on the side of the road in the grass and in another, two deer were in the road heading towards the steep hill to the left. In thinking of other encounters riders have had with deer, I slowed down to almost a stop figuring the deer would bolt back across the road. Fortunately they were able to climb the steep embankment and we went by without issue.

The Hayabusa’d made it 201 miles when we reached Walden and it looked like the bike could probably make it to Rifle but it wasn’t a sure bet. We stopped in Meeker and I filled up at the first station. On the way out of town the next question could be answered. “What is the name of the burger joint in Meeker on the north bound side of Rt 13?”

As we entered Rifle, I pulled into a gas station. Mainly for a soda having not had my morning caffeine. I also hit the bathroom. Herb parked next to me in the space. When I got out and ready to go, Herb found he couldn’t start his bike. No response from the bike at all. I parked my bike and suggested the battery might be low on fluid, the problem I had on the Transalp when I drove it from Oklahoma. First we tried to use the Gerbings Cable and his Power cable which had the same connections. We leaned the bikes close and as we touched cables, a spark jumped. Ok, so next we decided that I should push the bike to see if we could jump start it but after two attempts, it refused to start both times. I went back to my bike and Herb called me back. He was pointing to his kill switch, which was off. He started his bike and again we were off.

We headed down 6 and jumped on 70 west. At exit 44 Herb headed off and we got back on 6. We stopped at a turnout and figured out that we’d exited too soon but 6 went to Clifton anyway so we just kept on going down Rt 6. About half way to Clifton, we rolled through what looked like a parade setup. Just a few cones and a couple of cops taking about a block. Short parade I guess.

At Clifton we made a left onto 141 and the another left following 141 south. Just past the bridge, we pulled off so we could get out of our warmer early morning gear. After turning back on to 141, I pulled over again to pull out my sunglasses. It’s always something.

Now on to the meat of the ride. From the turn from 50 to 141 and all the way to Gateway, the roads were excellent (a little bouncy in places) and the views of the Uncompahgre Plateau and the Uncompahgre National Forest were awe inspiring. I’ve taken pictures of larger scenes and my camera just doesn’t do them justice. I’m going to have to investigate a better camera 🙂 Because of that, I didn’t stop to get any pics of it. But I did tell Rita and we will go out there again so I can share it.

The ride in the valley between Uncompahgre National Forest and The Manti-La Sal National Forest heading towards Gateway was one of the best rides I’ve taken. The air was cool, the roads were nice and sweeping and it was just a fun ride all the way down. There were a few other bikers out riding but very few cars. With all the room, there were lots of places to pass so you were never held up for more than a few minutes. As you approached Gateway, you dropped farther down into the valley and of course, the heat increased.

Gateway was the stopping place for the riders two weeks earlier who were scoping out the route. The town itself seems to have shrunk down to a specific motorcycle resort. There were special parking places for motorcycles that even had 1′ square metal plates on the ground at motorcycle intervals so you could park without sinking into the asphalt. There’s a large motel behind the general store and lots of space. It has a weird way of getting to the gas pumps though. From the entrance you had to loop around behind the general store to the front. There was some construction so perhaps it’ll be corrected soon.

Leaving Gateway, we continued on south towards Naturita. While it was warmer, some of the twisties were even more fun. We passed several riders on this road and of course when we stopped in Gateway, those riders either stopped for gas or kept going. When we left Gateway, a rider on a red sport touring bike fell in behind us. He and Herb kept up with my flying through the curves (marked mostly at 45 and 35 with a couple of 20mph corners) for most of the ride through. I’d slow down at a straight away until I saw lights back at the turn and then I’d head on out again. At the intersection at 90, I stopped to check out my map and make sure we were going in the right direction and then waited on Herb. First the guy on the red ST machine went by then several minutes later Herb came around the corner. He’d stopped too to make sure he was going the right way.

Continuing on, we got to Naturita and then on through Dry Creek Basin State Wildlife Area and over Gypsum Gap. The roads were straighter so I was able to wick it up just a bit. I found myself sitting much like a jockey on a race horse due to some of the bumps in the road. Still I was able to reach some respectible speeds. There were still quite a few nice curves up ahead and I took them at a more reasonable pace, but still enjoyed throwing the Hayabusa around the corners. Once we reached Rt 666, the ride turned back into the IronButt ride we were on.

Herb had said back in Gateway that we were going to stop in Durango for a break and lunch but we decided to stop at the Sleeping Ute Rest Area. To take a break and hit the bathroom. My fuel was getting low again and I thought I’d let Herb know and it just turned into the lunch break. We called our spouses (amazing, we had a signal), ate our lunches, hit the restroom and generally hung out for a few minutes. We both shed our pants in favor of cooler riding. I had bicycle pants on and Herb was sporting shorts.

As we were getting ready to go, a guy walked up and asked if we rode the bikes far. We explained that we were on a 1000 in 24 ride and that we’d both ridden on some pretty long trips. He said he’d been driving his minivan for some time. He was Guatemalan and had driven probably 3,000 miles. We chatted for another minute or so and then headed on out.

We bypassed Durango, making the right turn and continuing on 160 east. It wasn’t late but we had a couple hundred miles still to go. For just about the entire ride, we hadn’t even seen a police car. I think it’s because they were all on 160. We passed several police cars pulling people over or passing in the other direction. Still, we were hauling a bit. On the way to Pagosa Springs, a cop we were passing pulled to the side of the road and gave us the hairy eyeball as we went by. I watched as he turned around in the road and started to follow. I kept an eye out and wondered what I should do. Either continue riding until he catches up and pulls me (or us) over. Meanwhile, while I’m watching my speed and slowing down to a reasonable speed (speed limit +/- 5mph), Herb’s very slowly starting to get some distance on me. In my rear view, just as I went over a hill, I saw the cops headlights begin to flash but as he comes over the hill they’re off again. Now I wonder what’s going on? He slowly catches up with me and Herb’s still slowly moving away until he’s a bit away. The cop sticks behind me as we get into a construction zone. Oh no, he’s not going to wait until we’re in a “double fine” zone before pulling us over. That’d be pretty bad. But nope, he’s still just following. We come up over Yellowjacket Pass and there’s another cop on the side of the road who’s pulled someone over. It looks like he’s done though as the other cop drops in next to him. Now I figure they’re both going to light us up now that there are two of them and two of us. So I keep my speed down for several miles until we go through Pagosa Springs and then we pick up speed again.

Heading up to Wolf Creek Pass and we can see the weather’s turning bad. We hadn’t encountered any rain so far but it sure looked like we were going to find it shortly. We passed just a couple of cars on the way up, being careful due to the road being slightly damaged. I considered stopping at the summit but continued on instead. Not far after that, I could see that we were getting ready to hit the rain so I pulled over to the side of the road, put away the camera, made sure everything was buttoned up and put the cover on the tank bag. I put on my Gerbing’s jacket liner and exchanged my yellow gloves with the Gerbing’s gloves. While Herb put his warmer pants back on, I hiked up the hill and relieved myself. We got back on the bikes just as the big drops of rain started splatting on us. We went through the worst of the rain in just a few miles and it tapered off to the normal after the dump shower.

We pulled in to South Fork and found a gas station so we could fill up. Herb hit the bathrooms and then I did as well. I’d discovered my Gerbing’s wasn’t working and I figured the incident back in Rifle had popped the inline fuse. I broke out my tool kit, removed the front seat and pulled the 15 amp fuse. Sure enough it was popped. I threw it in the trash and then went to get a replacement from my kit. Unfortunately it was gone as were the couple I stashed in the electrical kit. On longer trips I also carry several in a bag but that’s at home. So I check out the Blue Sea fuse box and figure I can pull out the fuse for the accent lights. I put it into the inline fuse and put the bike back together. As I finished (it only took a few minutes), Herb started his bike and went around the pumps. A moment later Herb comes over asking for help lifting his bike. As he went around the trashcan, the left side saddlebag caught on the plastic can and he pivoted and the bike dropped. I grabbed the grab bar and he grabbed the front and we hefted it back upright, careful not to throw it onto the other side. Kickstand down and we took a quick look. The emblem was gone from the left saddlebag but it turns out it had been dropped before (it’s a rental) so it was already missing. I got myself back the rest of the way together, we hopped on 160 east and headed for sunshine.

Unfortunately the Gerbing’s still didn’t work. But we were out of the rain shortly so it didn’t make that much difference I guess. We hauled our way east on 160. In the distance I could see rain marching across the plains. Then I saw this rather cool view and decided to stop for a picture. The rain was dumping to the north with a rainbow in front of it, a lighter rain to the south-east and behind the curtain of rain, the peaks of Little Bear and Blanca along with Ellingwood Point and Mount Lindsey. Just an awesome picture.

After Fort Garland, we started up towards and then over Sangre de Cristo Pass and North La Veta Pass down to the plains leading to Walsenburg. It was cool at the beginning and then warmed up a little as we came down the pass. We stopped in Walsenburg for gas. We were commenting that we should be back to Fay Myers by about 9:15pm but also that we might want a bite to eat. We figured on stopping in Pueblo and then continuing on. We finished gassing up and had to wait for a few minutes until the train finished passing through town. We headed up and got on Rt 25 north.

Even though I’m pretty quick in the twisties, Herb’s got me beat on the interstates. He was hauling at 85mph pretty steadily. We zoomed through Pueblo without stopping. Thirty minutes later we zoomed through Colorado Springs as well. We’d hit a few bits of rain on the way north but after getting through Colorado Springs, we hit a pretty large cloudburst.

We’re in the left lane, doing 85 to keep up with the traffic (and there’s a lot). Rain and spray from surrounding traffic is hitting my faceshield. The headlights from oncoming traffic is making it even harder to see. The brief spots where the road is higher than oncoming traffic significantly increases visibility and I feel lots better but it’s not long before the road levels back out and I see white spots in front of my eyes. I can see Herb’s taillight so I’m determined to keep him in sight.

Most of the traffic just throws up a bit of a spray, leaving a misty fog which, when my headlight shines on it totally whites out that area of the road. But we’re approaching a truck that’s towing a boat. He’s actually throwing out a wake. The spray covers me from head to foot. It’s about this time that my Aerostich starts to leak around my left thigh. It’s not bad, but a cold trickle isn’t the nicest thing to feel.

I’m behind Herb and thinking to myself, “hey, if Herb heads off to the shoulder or into the bushes, I’m going to just follow him in because I can’t see much more than tail lights and head lights. The road’s just a blur.” So I focus a bit more and can make out the lines in the road and feel better about my lane position. Herb moves to the right lane and I follow. Then I see him look over his shoulder and move to the shoulder. Good thing I’m not blindly following. (Herb had lost me and was looking around for me when he headed over to the shoulder.)

On the other side of Castle Rock, the rain stopped and we were on more or less dry roads. We got to Denver and C470, then past a few exits until we got to Arapahoe Road. We made the right and then down to Dayton. We pulled into the parking lot where the guys there got our ending times and mileage and put them on our passbooks.

Upstairs we checked in, turned over our passbooks to be registered and yakked with the couple of riders that were there. The guy on the red ST was there and amazed he made it here before us considering the speeds we were doing. They normally have Subway there at the end of the ride (normally I say, this is just the second time I’ve done the ride 🙂 ). I grabbed a pepperoni and salami sandwitch and just enjoyed the heck out of it.

We found out that 5 riders had bailed including one that had gotten into an accident around Grand Junction. We expressed our concern and hopes that he would be ok as would the rest who hadn’t checked in just yet. We were also told that some of the riders went in the opposite direction and didn’t encounter any rain. Good to know for next time.

There was one other Hayabusa rider. He completed the entire loop in about 15 hours.

Herb and I exchanged handshakes and some joshing about the ride and we headed on home.

All in all it was a pretty good ride. One of the problems I encountered was with the helmet. A breeze was shooting right up to my left eye drying it out. Even two days later, my left eye is still a little bloodshot. I’ll need to figure out something to prevent that in the future. It really made the end of the ride more uncomfortable.

I think Herb and I have complimenting ride skills. I like twisties and will take them at a comfortable (for me) speed and Herb is comfortable wicking it up on the straighter roads. Next year we’ll have to make sure our communications gear is working well before the ride though. We’re already discussing a BunBurner Gold.

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