18 July 2013

Back To ABQ

Last day on the road (almost) and we had the Million Dollar Highway in front of us, plus a lot of high-level riding.
Green fields either side
This guy was landing - watch the powerlines
From Montrose we tracked south to Ouray.  Getting close we came across a curious convoy.
One car, then three Harleys and a Spyder, then three more cars, all traveling 10mph under the limit.  Strange in this country.
We managed to overtake the trailing cars but the road in to Ouray was narrow and winding so we slowly rolled in to and through town.  The limit in town was 25mph but thses guys took it at 15.
Hard to go past
Just before getting out the other side the car pulled off and the bikes continued.
We pulled up.  One to set up the video and the other to let them go ahead through the upcoming tight twisty road.
Naturally, we just got everything set up and a semi came through.  Sigh.
So we had a bit of a slow ride through the first part of the tight twisty road with steep dropoffs.  Not because of the semi, which we managed to overtake. Not because of the Harleys, they stopped for pictures.
But because of three BMW GS bikes traveling unusually slow.
I was beginning to wonder if we had been magically transported to another country.

The scenery is quite spectacular.  High mountains with loose surfaces.  Low clouds covered most of the high stuff today.

An open part of the MDH let us get some free road

Tight corners anyone?
 Through the other side we got to Silverton and thought that was the last, but there was more.
They have one too.  Guess what they mine here.
The road rose up to the 10,000ft mark again and we stayed at this height for mile after mile.  On good roads it was a lot of fun if a little cool.

Finally we went down a very long hill behind a tanker that didn't use its brakes once and were on more level ground.  Around 7,000ft the roadsigns proudly proclaimed every so often.

We were now on Hwy 550 and heading for New Mexico.  A very good four-lane divided road that has one major difference from the big Interstates.  No traffic.  To speak of anyway.  At the 70mph limit we were overtaken about four times and overtook the same number in a hundred miles.  So different from over in the east.
First sign we are almost "home"

New Mexico has its own spectacular sights.
At San Ysidro about fifty miles out, we spied a familiar figure on a Triumph Tiger.  Jack did a U-turn and led us in to Albuquerque.
At one traffic light stop he leaned over and said, "Nice bike you've got there."
I replied, "You like it?  It's yours."
Well, after 7,000 plus miles the tyres were just about shot so why not.

A couple of days in ABQ now before we head home on Saturday.

17 July 2013

Sittin On Top

Well that's what it felt like.

Yesterday when we got in to Colorado Springs we could hardly see the mountains.  So many clouds it was not a good time to go up there.
But this morning dawned fine and clear.  The gates don't open until 7:30 so after a light breakfast, we set out.
Arriving at the gate to Pikes Peak Hwy, we were about sixth in line so didn't have long to wait to pay our $12 each.
The ride up was exhilarating.  Started out easy going but as we approached the top we were above the clouds on a road with no side.  On our side!!
Sharing the road with graders didn't help.

Road to the sun?

Hug those yellow lines

Lack of oxygen.  That's what makes you crazy.

Some pretty summer flowers are out
 We were one of the first vehicles to the top.  And the views were fantastic.  At 14,110 feet above sea level it was quite hard to breathe.  Not only me, but the bike too.  It handled the climb quite well until it hit 14 thousand and then just had no power.  But we were there by then.
We stayed up there for an hour or so taking photos and buying t-shirts - as you do.  
Then it was time for the ride back down.
That was fun too.
Road goes every which way.

Typical corners.
I found I maybe use the rear brake too much as the pedal went spongy after a little while.  Time to use the front only for a while and a little engine braking to let it all cool down.
By the time we reached Crystal Reservoir, it was all good.
 Back down again, we headed west for a while, deeper in to Colorado and the Rocky Mountains.  Very picturesque countryside, every shot postcard material.

Going past Black Canyon there is a bit of roadwork going on with substantial delays.  First time we've seen polystyrene foam used as road building material, but who are we to argue with Americans on road building.  They're pretty good at it.

Lotsa Polystyrene.
 We finished up the day at Montrose with a late storm wetting everything.  Luckily we were well ensconced in our digs.
Lets hope it all blows over by the morning for our ride on the Million Dollar Hwy.

At the Summit, that coffee cup.

16 July 2013

2 Days in One

Mainly because yesterday was just another superslab day and nothing much to it.  Just making the miles.

Got to say I am not a fan of the big interstates.  The only reason people use them is to get somewhere. Whereas we prefer to be getting somewhere.  See the difference?
Everything works at a frenetic pace.  If you drive slow - you know, at the speed limit - you will get run over.  Cars will happily use your space to do an overtaking maneuver on someone else.  The only "safe" way to ride is at their speed or just above.
Anyhow, here's a few things we did manage to see.
Lots of road signs

People with all sorts of spares

Police trying to be incognito

A big blade.

In Omaha they don't have enough freeways yet.

Low flying jets to scare you.

And a big memorial arch.  Not sure why.
We ended up only doing 367 miles for the day.  We started out late because we watched the MotoGP and stopped for a while for the Little Black Bike's due Walmart Carpark Service.

A nice motel in Kearney, Nebraska and we were well rested for today.
Enough of the I80.  I'm slowly mastering the new Garmin so I planned a route taking a zig-zag way through to Colorado Springs.

Aussie Karen did attempt to take us on to I80 to start out, but we can't blame her for that.  We went south though, instead of west and after about 10 miles she got the idea and stopped ordering us to do U-turns.  She picked out the right towns and followed my plan very well.

Much better roads at a more leisurely pace.  Just 65mph.
Lots of cornfields currently growing under irrigation.
Our motel hadn't provided much of a breakfast so we decided to find a diner somewhere along the way.  We went through several small towns not finding anything at all.  No big chain restaurants on these backroads.
Finally, in a mid-size town we found a nice little restaurant that did breakfasts.  Inside we found a wonderful collection of cookie jars.  Simply amazing.  The breakfast was good too.

Old style decor added to the atmosphere

Hundreds of cookie jars on all the walls.
Still in the far west of Nebraska, crossing miles of cornfields we were running low on fuel.  Finally found a fuel depot down the back of a tiny town.  The old-style pump was connected to a card-swipe maching.  Fun to watch the tumblers spinning.
When the tank was full, it showed $1.46.  Huh?  A local who was waiting assured us our card would be charged $14.60.  It will be interesting to get the next statement.

Wide open plains and scary trucks.  The truck was in the servo.
 We now faced a long ride on long roads with a strong side wind.  Sometimes it was quieter to sit with head to the right of the screen.  Until it hurt.
Otherwise just grin and bear it.  It was a nice day after big rains the previous night.  Locals were telling us of 2 to 5 inches in these parts overnight.  A bit of wind wasn't really going to worry us.
The long road slowly climbed.

Through some tiny towns.  
You'll notice a distinct lack of traffic and reasonably good roads.
The roads steadily gained altitude and we eventually got over 6000ft.  Then we came across one of the biggest windfarms we've seen.  There were many hundreds of these big windmills.  We tried, but eventually gave up counting.
Dwarfing the wheat harvest machines

As far as the eye could see.
We eventually battled the wind in to Colorado Springs.  Can't see the Rockies this afternoon, they are shrouded in clouds.  Here's hoping for clearer weather (with no vortices) in the morning.

417 miles today and so much nicer riding on the byways.

14 July 2013

3 Days In One

OK well I've been a bit slack the last few days.  Been too busy having a good time to catch up with the blog, so here are the last three days in one.

From Dunkirk, on the shores of Lake Erie, the morning after the stormy evening was clear and clean.  Even so, we were a bit late getting started, but then didn't really have far to go.
Once again avoiding the busy toll roads, we traveled along the southern shore of the lake.  Not that we saw it much as even the closest road strays away quite a lot.
Eventually we came across a cherry stand - we had been seeing them a lot - and the temptation became too much.  Stopped to pick up a bag of them.  Of course there was no where to store them on the bike, so we went down to the lake shore and sat on the beach and scarfed the lot.  Yum.
Lake Erie Beach.  Not quite the golden sands of our Qld beaches.

But the cherries are nice.  We had some sweet black ones.
Then we turned inland towards Cranberry traveling through farmland.  Greenest of green most of the way.  I am struck by the intense greens of the local countryside.  Nothing like home.
This for members of Northern Gateway Ulysses whose mascot is Tweety Bird.
After one long traffic delay we finally got to the Marriott at Cranberry and checked in.  Lots of IBR supporters, family and friends were there and the rally organisers were setting up for the final scoring.
One lairy Goldwing trike.
We were up bright and early on Friday morning to welcome our rallying friends home.  A small crowd of well-wishers had gathered at the circular entrance where all the finishing bikes were turning up in dribs and drabs.
First instruction to all the riders, who had ridden through the night, "Put your side stand down."  Then the rest of the instructions.  Not one bike fell over in the driveway, though a few threatened.
The small crowd gathered around each bike for warm welcomes.

First Aussie in was Peter.  Here getting his odometer reading logged by the official.

This bloke could barely hold his bike up and standing was a problem.  A few of us were on hand to help out.

Second Aussie in, Ian is greeted by his Colleen and Sharnie, wife and daughter,

Third and final Aussies Annette and Shane Cudlin cheered here by Ghosty, holding the flag.

We thought it quite possible that this rider had deflated completely. But it was just his suit.

Typical rally bike dashboard

Getting close to cut-off time, some riders had to run in to stop their clock.
After they were all in and accounted for - some didn't make it in time - they all disappeared for a well-earned sleep while the scorers got to work.
Later that evening there was a huge banquet and all the riders, their families and supporters were there.  Each finishing rider was called out in reverse order, no one really knowing their final placing until they heard their name.
Our guys acquitted themselves quite well.  To win this rally is really a super-human effort and to finish is something really special in itself.  So far there are only around five hundred finishers of the Iron Butt Rally. That's less than the number of people who have left earth to fly in space.
So these four Aussies are special indeed.  Only three other Aussies have completed the test.  Shane and Annette have now done it twice.
Ian, Peter, Annette and Shane proudly display their trophies.
All that over it was off to bed and next morning bikes departed in all directions.  Ian back to Atlanta to store the bike and back to his job in Africa.  Peter down the road a bit then fly home to Newcastle.
The Cudlins will travel around the USA for a couple more weeks at a more leisurely pace before putting their bike back in a container and flying home to Taree.
For us, it is a trip back to Albuquerque to return the Little Black Bike home.

Time for superslabbing.
The quickest, if not the most picturesque, way to ride across America is on the Interstates.  These well-made roads criss cross the country and are the lifeblood of the transport industry.
They also keep the heavy transport off the often prettier highways and byways where we normally prefer to travel.  They are often  tolled.  In fact today we spent almost as much on tolls as we did on fuel.  Our first fill up cost us $11.  Our first toll booth cost us $16.50.

The states fly by and the Clinton towns still show up everywhere.

An innovation in aerodynamics.  The buffetting approaching these trucks seemed a little less than normal.

A couple of these getting power from passing transports?
 We managed to do 717 miles today in just 13 hours 12 minutes, with three longish stops totaling 2 hrs 23 minutes.  Not a bad average.

And lastly for this post, some views of the bikes of our three finishers, including some well worn rear tyres that were new just eleven days ago.
Peter's Yamaha FJR1300A

Ian's BMW R1100RT

The Cudlin's Yamaha Super Tenere 1200