Friday, October 30, 2009
It got me thinking about my first bike. I'm not exactly sure who influenced me into my interest in bikes. My earliest memories of motorcycles are of my Dad's cousin Jack and Evil Knievel. Jack had been in the Air Force and travelled all over the word, which is obviously very exotic to a four year old. I remember one summer he road into town on a bike and how much of an impression it left on me. I never saw him on a bike again and he never really came around much as it was. I don't know what brand of bike it was it it didn't matter. It was the epitome of two wheeled freedom and adventure.
The other formative influence was probably Evil Knievel. My dad was never a motorcyclist but he loved watching Evil jump. I have the image of Knievel's unsuccessful landing at Cesar's Palace burned into my memory. Every Saturday I saw it at the beginning of Wide World of Sports.
Of course there was the t.v. showThen Came Bronson. I think it was on two seasons when I was a kid but it's impact went on long after that. Or there was the Batcycle Adam West piloted, you know, the one with Robin's rocket sidecar.
Who knows where my love of motorcycles first started. It seems like all children have an instinctual fascination with motorcycles. I remember being stopped at a red light in Salinas, California a few years ago. I looked over and there on the sidewalk I saw a mother leading her daughter along by the hand. The little girl looked to be three years old and about the tiniest little thing I've ever seen. She looked over and saw my Vmax and stopped right in her tracks. Her mom started tugging her along but she stood there, pulling back, mouth agape and eyes wide. It made me laugh out loud and I remember thinking even then, "There goes a future motorcycle rider".
Friday, September 25, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
Monday, September 7, 2009
I finally got to take a ride I’ve been wanting to do since 2004. I lived in Denver for that year and my wife took me to the Mt Evans Road. It’s a fourteen mile road in Mt Evans State Park that winds its way up the mountain to come to a stop at 14,130 miles high. It’s what is known as a 14er to people who hike or climb. There are over fifty 14ers in Colorado which makes it the state with the most. Of those 50 some, two have roads to the top, Mt Evans and Pikes Peak. Mt Evans’s road is the only one that’s paved, which makes it the highest paved road in the U.S and the one easiest to climb on my street going 2001 Yamaha FZ1. One of the things I used to like to do in my other life as a contractor on the road was to visit the highest point in each state I visited if possible. As you can imagine, in a state with over 50 mountains including the second highest peak in the continental U.S. it’s a little hard for me as a non-climber to make that trip. As a result I’m willing to settle for the highest road.
I rode up to Idaho Springs on I-70 just west of Denver. Idaho Springs leads to the Mt Evans Park and also happens to be where my brother-in-law, Chris, lives with his 2007 Aprillia RSV4. I got to Idaho Springs in time to catch my nephew’s soccer game (which they won) and then it was off with Chris. It had been lightly sprinkling all day and just on the cool side. I had decided to wear my Joe Rocket mesh jacket and leave my rain suit at home, so while I wasn’t too worried I was hoping the rain would hold off. It did for the most part.
It’s actually fourteen miles of scenic twisty road to the entrance of the park. At about the 7 mile mark I glanced down at the gas needle and was quickly reminded that I needed to fill up before leaving Idaho Springs. Oops. Oh well, I was sure there would be at least one gas station somewhere around the base of the mountain. With that thought I motored on in happy, ignorant bliss.
The road to the park is really a great joy. It’s lightly travelled for the most part with quite a few passing zones for those times when there is someone in your way. It’s almost all uphill so it’s easy to go into the hairpins a little faster. If it has one drawback, it’s that it’s so scenic it can be dangerously distracting. Conifers and Aspen trees lined the road with plenty of breaks to look out over the valleys and the numerous mountains in the Rocky Mountain range. The air was fresh and crisp and getting crisper as we gained altitude. I can’t think of a more intoxicating feeling then riding a motorcycle through the mountains of Colorado.
Once we got to the entrance to the toll road I realized there would be no gas fill up for me. Trusting in the familiarity with the limits of my bike I decided to press on. That could have come back to haunt me, fortunately it didn’t. More on that later. There was a line of about seven cars ahead and the same number behind. There was a bright green Kawasaki Ninja and a Harley a few cars behind us so we weren’t the only bikes on the road. I paid the three dollar toll for motorcycles and found it so cheap I paid for Chris too. Cars are ten dollars which makes for one of the best motorcycle discounts of this type I’ve ever seen. The first part of the road continued along like the stretch from Idaho Springs but that didn’t last long. Before I knew it I was climbing out of the tree line at 12,000 ft and into an alien terrain one doesn’t often get to experience. The traffic was building a little and moving slow. This doesn’t prove to be too much of an obstacle though. The twisty bits have, by this point, developed the nasty trait of dropping off hundreds of feet nearly straight down. You really get to notice the little things going twenty miles per hour also. For a place that looks desolate, dry and hostile there are a slew of flora and fauna. I saw a fat marmot making use of what sun there was lounging on a rock.
At the 11 mile marker there was some severe road damage in an area that had the same problem in 2004, when the wife and I were there. It looks like it’s a result of a low lying marshy area. It’s quite a roller coaster but the FZ1 handled it with aplomb. On one of the final switchbacks there was a group of 4x4 vehicles with light bars and mountain rescue stickers parked on the corner. In a field was a group of guys in climbing gear and a stretcher. I never did find out what happened, you often see search and rescue teams practicing mountain rescues and I was hoping that was the case this time. A few turns later there was a group of cars stopped for a happier occasion. There was a bright white mountain goat chewing some thorny mountain shrub.
After roughly 45 minutes we made the top. The last two miles I had been feeling the effects of the thin air and was starting to get a little nervous. Once to the top I drank all the water I had brought with me, having suffered altitude sickness twice before. I didn’t have any problems (except shortness of breath) the rest of the time.
The view from the top was as spectacular as I remember. You really do feel as if you’re on top of the world. The sky was amazing. Some spots were clear, other spots had huge, towering gray and white clouds and snow was coming our way. It did snow briefly but after putting on the polar fleece sweater I had packed with me I was comfortable the rest of the trip. The Harley and Ninja pulled in behind us and the guy on the Harley was not as fortunate as me however.
He decided to not wear his gloves. Doh! Despite that they loved ride. Chris hikes the 14ers and has several already under his belt. He was excited to add another so we climbed the last 250 feet or so to the geological survey marker to make it official then headed back down. With no real traffic ahead of us and a downhill trip we made it down a lot faster, even with a stop to get a bad photo of some mountain sheep. It was almost a flawless trip from then on except for two problems. The first was the appearance of my low fuel light with about 21 miles to the closest gas station. I did a lot of coasting. The other, more serious issue was a brief attack of altitude sickness Chris experienced about half way down. We stopped a few times and Chris finally recovered. Even someone experienced is susceptible to altitude sickness.
I split from Chris back in Idaho Springs, got my gas and headed home toward a spectacular Colorado thunder storm in the distance. After a quick call to my wife to reassure myself that I wasn’t driving into a landlocked hurricane I was able to enjoy the beautiful light show the rest of the way home. Nine hours and 224 miles after I started the trip I was home, safe, dry and thoroughly satisfied.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
This was a short fun ride. I met up with my brother-in-law, Chris, at about the half way point. He lives in Idaho Springs and I live in Colorado Springs so we met at the mother-in-law's place in Littleton. It was sunny and clear when I left at about 8:00 in the morning so I took my Joe Rocket mesh jacket and left the rain suit at home. Of course this being Colorado, I would eventually end up wet (but just a little). We took off toward Deer Creek Canyon at the end of Kipling Blvd. There were several bicyclist's going up through the canyon, I'm not sure if this was a normal thing or if they were having an organized bike event. Colorado is a big bicycle state and the canyon seemed to be popular with bikes as well as sport bikes. As soon as we headed up the road several sport bike riders gave us the slow down sign. Cops ahead. Sure enough as we rounded a lovely tight corner there was "the Man" with a radar gun pointed right at us. Chris was in the lead and had the good sense to stick to the speed limit. Apparently the road is such a popular place for sport bikes it's a prime spot for Johnny Law too, we passed about three speed traps in less than four miles of road. While I don't advocate breaking the law or excessive speeding I do think that the speed limit in that canyon is set way to low to test even a beginner's skill. Before we even got through the end of the canyon I was promising myself I would be back on a week day when it's not so busy. We passed a lot of frustrated CBR, Ninja and Ducati riders.
Eventually we popped out on 285 and headed south toward Pine Junction. From here we headed down County Road 126 towards Deckers, site of my last ride. This time we were headed in the opposite direction. This road was less crowded and less heavily patrolled by the Police. We were still keeping the speeds reasonable. Chris just got a new Aprillia RSV and was getting use to the feel of it. CR 126 is a beautiful stretch of sweeping curves, long down hills and beautiful views. As you would expect, we passed whole buffalo herds of bikes, everything from more Ducatis and Ninjas to Harleys and Goldwings and several BMW dual sports. I like riding on the weekends for the feeling of community you get.
We made our way to Deckers and stopped for a few photos then headed for that stretch of dirt road that connects CR 67 to Sprucewood. It's a short four miles on decent graded road, treated with manganese to keep the dust down. Waiting for us on the other end was a decent meal at the Sprucewood Inn. It's a little hole in the wall diner catering to the trail riders that pass by on a popular dirt trail that runs right in front of the inn. There were several dusty families with satisfied looks on their faces coming and going for some pretty decent mexican food.
By the time we ate the clouds had rolled in and we took off a little faster. We got to Sedalia and split, Chris for Denver and me for home. As I topped Monument Pass I got a little rained on but had such a good ride I didn't mind. It's nice to have someone to ride with. I like to ride alone most of the time but it's always good to have someone that can share in the experience of a great ride.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been talking a lot about how the state’s leaders need to live just like ordinary citizens do: within their means. To that end, he has proposed addressing billions of dollars in projected deficits by selling off state landmarks, cutting off healthcare to children and adults, closing parks and more.
But the movie star turned governor clearly isn’t one of the ordinary Californians he is talking about. Before giving a speech about the budget crisis in Sacramento this morning to small business leaders, he took a few seconds to banter with an audience member about making a deal to buy some new motorcycles.
“And so I heard even there is someone out there that is from a Harley-Davidson shop in Orange County. Who is that? It's you? OK, I'm going to come to your table very soon after my speech and we'll make a deal to buy an extra few hogs, because I love motorcycles and I ride them every Sunday, OK? So it's good to have you here.”
Later in his speech, Schwarzenegger spoke of the people in the state who, unlike him, are unable to afford the motorcycles they already have.
“This is something that businesses have to do and individuals have to do in California. When they are in financial trouble they have to sell off their motorcycle or their boat, because they know that it doesn't make any sense to have a boat at the dock when you can't feed your family.… And that's exactly what California has to do and this is why we are having on the block today for sale San Quentin, Cal Expo, the Coliseum and the list goes on and on and on.”
-- Michael Rothfeld
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Deckers is actually at the crossroads of where I should have turned. I decided to follow Goggle not the directions of the motorcyclist obviously familiar with the area. This led me across some more great twisty road but also to Platte River Road. For the next 17 miles I was making my way down a very twisty, very dusty dirt road. Fortunately it was a well maintained dirt road, one that I had been down a few years ago when my wife and I were looking for ghost towns. The bike actually handled the washboards better than her Tacoma. The ride was scenic as all get out and I stopped and took several photos. I eventually ran past this creepy old abandoned hotel Lisa had taken me to before. I finally came out on paved road. It turned out to be the road I would have taken if I had followed the local's directions back at Deckers. The road sign said Deckers was ten miles, I had gone about 25 extra miles, 17 of them on dirt. I guess there are two ways to look at it, I had to go 25 extra miles or I got to go 25 extra miles. Anyway, after getting the bike up to speed and just getting back in the groove, I came to my next turn - back onto gravel! This was an interesting road with some steep inclines and narrow stretches hanging on the side of the hills. It struck me as a logging road almost, albeit nicely maintained. I passed a few SUVs and received a few curious glances as well.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Monday, May 18, 2009
I left the house at around 11:30 a.m. and drove through the neighborhood toward I-25. It was around 65 wonderful degrees out. When I hit I-25 I was just starting to get into the swing of it and thought I might ride on up to Woodland Park, not too far down the road. I was almost to Woodland Park when I saw the sign for Divide, which wasn't too much further up State Route 24. And of course as I was going into Divide a sign alerted me to the fact that it was a mere 18 miles to Cripple Creek. Lisa, my wife, and I had been there a couple of times and found it quaint and historic. I thought it might be a good place to get a few photos. Going into Woodland Park a truck started changing lanes into mine, I surprised myself with my horn reflex (for all the good it did). The guy panicked and started swerving back into his lane, then realized there was no longer room there and came back in front of me anyway. Fortunately that was all the time I needed to slow down and get out of the way. The guy waved and since there was no harm I figured no foul and waved back to let him know there were no hard feelings. I try to remind myself that I've done stupid things while driving myself.
A majority of the ride is fairly straight but once you get a couple miles out of Divide headed south on CO 67 it starts to get interesting. I finally got to break in the new tire. At least until I caught up with a guy and his girl on a cruiser. Cruiser riders are, to me, like a liberal family member. You love them but you have to ask, why? I think all motorcycles are great, all brands, all displacements, it doesn't matter. The few times I've rode a cruiser I felt like I was going to be blown off the back. It's just not the riding position I prefer. In addition, I like to go fast around the corners without dragging metal parts.
So I backed off, not wanting to make the guy nervous. I always hate it when someone faster and on a better bike is tailgating me. I pulled off for a few pictures and was able to play catch-up the rest of the way to Cripple Creek. Once there, I stopped for a few quick pictures, made a fast pass through town and headed home. About halfway to Divide my camera's battery died, which worked out for the best. I could forget about scenery and concentrate on the best part, the ride. Once I got into Colorado Springs I saw a guy in a truck do the same thing to a car that the driver in Woodland Park did to me without the apologetic wave. It happened right in front of me and I was thinking twice in one day is twice too many.
All in all, another great ride. And I broke 25,000 miles on the odometer.
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Tuesday, May 12, 2009
I saw a report on the morning news as I was getting ready for work. It was a story about a group protesting at soldiers' funerals. The protesters had signs saying "Thank God for IEDS" and other non-sense. "God hates your tears", I wonder how God feels hearing that? I was curious who these idiots were so I did a search and it turns out they're members of the westboro baptist church from Topeka, Kansas. Their website, which I won't provide a link or a name for, is full of the filthiest, most vile, hate-mongering b.s. this side of Nazi Germany. I don't have the words to describe my thoughts. My initial reaction was disgust of course, but than it was disbelief. I was sure it had to be a sick joke the kind frat boys, who don't know better yet, would pull. There were statements the sole purpose of which seemed to be for nothing but to provoke a fight. Apparently anyone who has never come out publicly against homosexuality is burning in hell. I'm not violent by nature but I hope some day I come across one of these guys in an alley. Fortunately, it seems to be mostly the preacher, Fred Phelps and his family. Probably inbreds.
On the opposite side are the Patriot Guard Riders. Their story is pretty interesting, they formed over night as an answer to those idiots, the wbc (as they call themselves). They might be a little awkwardly named but on the list of "Who Rides With Us" you'll see several church organizations as well as non-secular groups. I'd like to think that means they are doing it not only for the GIs but because they are against the message of the wbc. Makes me proud to be a motorcyclist. For as depressing as the existence of the westboro baptist church is it's good to know that just as quickly there even more people willing to stand up against these idiots.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Shortly before we moved from Missouri I went out on a warm weekend for a ride. I was excited, so much so that like a kid at Christmas I got up before the sun had come up. I grabbed the map and camera and took off. About half a block from the house I noticed the bike was handling hard. I got off and did another walk around and the tire was completely flat. I guess I should have used a tire gauge instead of the old eyeball gauge. With the cost of moving and some other expenses we’ve been incurring I haven’t been able to pay for a new tire yet but I’m determined to get one this weekend and prepare for my first trip of 2009. I’ve already got my route picked out.
I’ve made a pledge that I will get back to doing what I love. Riding has always meant more than just going for a ride. If you know me you know I don’t talk in new age hippy lingo but riding is relaxing in a way nothing else I do or know of is. It’s spiritual. During that time in ‘03 and ’04 when I was riding everyday and everywhere, I had a breakthrough and my riding skills probably doubled (this after close to seven years of riding at that time). I need to get back to that place, I feel like I don’t age on a motorcycle.