Day 15 – 8/13/09

I left Fort Collins this morning and headed north to Cheyenne Wyoming where I turned east on I-80. I’m on my way home now and expect to be back sometime Saturday. I didn’t take any pictures because the only thing around is corn – lots of corn. I made to just past Des Moines Iowa before stopping for the night.

States: CO, NE, IA
Miles Travelled Today: 741
Total Miles: 6,214

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Day 14 – 8/12/09

Gunnison National ForestI left around 8 am this morning and headed towards Gunnison CO.  This brought me through some beautiful mountains and canyons.  The mountains were just over 10,000 feet and the canyons were nice and wide with many ranches along the way.  It was cool, about 55 this morning, but made for a comfortable ride.

From Gunnison I turned north and rode through the Gunnison National Forest and San Isabel National Forest towards Leadville.  From Leadville, I got on 0I-70 and went past Breckenridge to Idaho Springs.  I seem to get very good gas mileage when I ride in the mountains.  Notmall, I average around 40mpg but today, I got 48 mpg from the hotel to Leadville and then 52mpg from Leadville to Idaho Springs.  I’m guessing that it’s because I’m generally going slower and really don’t use much gas decending from 10,000 feet to 7,000 feet.

From Idaho Springs I picked up Rt 103 to Mt. Evans.  There was very little traffic and it was a decent road winding along the bottom of a canyon.  Mt. Evans is the highest paved road in North America peaking at a bit over 14, 000 feet above sea level.   Leaving Idaho Springs, the road rises almost 7,000 feet in about 28 miles.  The park itself has a 14 mile long road that has some very steep and tight hairpin turns that were a bit difficult to negotiate.  For many of these turns, first gear was too fast and I had to slip the clutch uphill while turning the handlebars almost to the stops.  The parts of the road that were straight had no guardrails or shoulder – just pavement and then a dropoff.  Since the road was so challenging, I got very few pictures because I had to concentrate on driving.

Mountain GoatsAt the top, the view was spectacular.  You basically look down upon dozens of other mountain peaks giving a very unique perspective of the surrounding landscape.  Two mountain goats, a mother and her baby,  were grazing on the side of a pile of rocks atop the summit.  They seemed to be quite tolerant of people and at one point, walked casually past a group of 30 or so people about 10 feet away from them.

It was cool at the top – 48 degrees according to the Park Ranger collecting money at the entrance.  On the way up I really couldn’t see whether or not there were cars coming when going up and around the hairpinn turns.  Going down the mountain was actually quite a bit easier because you could see cars coming and could take the turns a bit wider when no one was coming the other direction.

After leaving Mt. Evans, I continued north towards Boulder and Loveland.  I stayed on backroads and rode through the Arapaho National Fores and the Roosevelt National Forest.  The ride between Central City and Boulder brought me through another canyon with steep rock cliffs.  I couldn’t take may pictures because there was a police car right behind me and while I really don’t know whether or not its legal to set the cruise control, and reach out and take photos on 40 mph winding mountain roads, I really didn’t want to find out by getting pulled over for taking pictures.  There were plenty of places to pull off the road but they all had a drop off from pavement to gravel and I really didn’t want to pull over and dump the bike so I continued on.  Plenty of cars were parked in these little pull-offs and I saw quite a few people fishing and also rock climbing up the cliffs.

I ended up catching I-25 and driving to Fort Collins where I found a room for the night.  To get home, I figure that I have about a 3 day ride from here so I’ll probably go up into Wyoming and then turn east and take the interstates most of the way back.

States: CO
Miles Travelled Today: 414
Total Miles: 5,473

Day 13 – 8/11/09

When I started out this morning, I was thinking of heading east across New Mexico.  However, when I got to Flagstaff, I decided to turn north towards Colorado and spend a couple of days riding through the Rocky Mountains instead.  In order to get to Colorado, I had to spend a few hours riding through the same desert I had visited last week.  Fortunately, it was only 90-95 which is actually quite comfortable in the desert.

As I was riding on Rt 160 not far from the Four Corners (a spot where the borders of Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico touch) I saw Highway Patrol car.  I checked my speed and I was going 65 which was the posted speed limit.  Just before he passed me he turned his lights on and I though he was going to turn around and stop me.  As I looked in my mirror, I saw that he had turned his lights off so I breathed a sigh of relief and continued on down the road.  Then, I saw why he had his lights on – there was a herd of goats grazing on the side of the road.  Apparently, he was just warning me about the goats.

A view from 10,000 feetAfter stopping in Cortez, CO, I headed north on Rt 145 towards Montrose CO.  This took me through the San Juan National Forest and up into the mountains.  The Colorado Rockies are beautiful.  Much of the ride took me through a valley with steep mountains on both sides.  There were lots of small ranches down in the valley near the river/creek that was at the bottom of the valley.  Gradually, the road climbed up higher into the mountains until I reached about 10,200 feet above sea level.

Telluride Lodge As I started decending the mountains, I stopped in Telluride to see the ski resort.  Telluride is a nice small town that is obviously inhabited by people with money. The town has very nice houses and shops along the main street, bike paths, and its own Visitor Center. There were quite a few on/off ride motorcycles on the streets so I’m guessing that there are trails throughout the hills.

After leaving Telluride, I headed to Montrose where I found a motel and had dinner. Tomorrow, I’m thinking of going up Mt Evans – the highest paved road in North America.

States: AZ, CO
Miles Travelled Today: 457
Total Miles: 5,059

Day 12 – 8/10/09

I left at around 7 am this  morning and headed towards the Joshua Tree National Park in sourthern California.  Along the way, I passed a large wind farm where there were hundreds of wind power generators.

While the Joshua Tree National Park doesn’t have the same spectacular scenery as some of the other parks I’ve been to, it does highlight the beauty of the desert.  The main features of the landscape appear to be large piles of huge boulders surrounded by desert.  There weren’t many people at this park so it was easy to park and I didn’t have to fight the crowds as was the case in Zion.

Abandoned Gold MineI went for a couple of short hikes – one through Hidden Valley (about a mile) and another to an abandoned gold mine (about 2 miles).  While it was hot, it was bearable as long as I drank plenty of water.  As I walked towards the old mine, I found it difficult to floow the trails.  There seemed to be trails going in every direction thoughout the desert.  I took some pictures and headed back towards the parking lot.  It seemed to be evern harder to follow the trail out of the desert and I was a bit concerned about getting lost and having limited water.  I did make it back to the bike and continued my tour of the park.

Route 66 through the desertBack out on the road, I travelled part of Route 66 through the California and Arizona desert.  It was a long, hot ride down straight, flat roads.  I always have a few bottles of water with me as I ride through the desert.  It doesn’t take long for a bottle of water to become a bottle of hot water when it’s 100+ degrees outside.

I ended up stopping about 30 miles west of Flagstaff AZ.

  • States: CA, AZ
  • Miles Travelled Today: 488
  • Total Miles: 4,602

Day 10 – 8/8/09

Kaydee, Steve, and I headed out to Perris, CA at around 8 am this morning.   Our destination was the Perris Airport where Steve and I had reservations to go skydiving.  We were doing a tandem jump meaning that we get strapped to an experienced skydiver and go down together under a single parachute.

We arrived just before 10 am and started signing waivers to promise that if we die, we can’t sue them.  They even went so far as to make us watch a 10 minute video featuring an attorney who explained that essentially, there was no way we could ever hold anyone other than ourselves responsible for doing such a stupid thing as jumping out of an airplane.

With payment and legalities out of the way, we to recstarted our training.  Jim was our instructor and the guy we were going to be jumping with.  He described what to expect and how we should position ourselves as we left the plane, proceeded through freefall, opened the parachute, and finally, how to land.  It really didn’t seem all that complicated.

Since there was only one instructor available, we decided that I would go first and Steve would go second.  I suited up, went through a quick review of the training, and boarded the plane.  The plane was packed full of people – probably about a dozen other skydivers.  As we reached our final altitude of 12,500 feet, people started jumping out.  We were the last ones out.

The hardest part was that initial leap out of the plane.  Once we began our freefall, it was really quite exhilarating.  I’m told that we did about 50 seconds of freefall before Jim yelled out “PULL, PULL” indicating that it was time to pull the rip cord and deploy the parachute.  After a firm deceleration as the canopy opened, all of the wind noise experienced during the freefall stopped and there was utter silence as we floated towards the ground.  Jim handed me the controls and we did a few turns before I gave control back to him for the final approach and a nice soft landing.

What an incredible experience.  There’s really no way you can explain how it feels to jump out of a plane and hurdle towards the ground at 120 mph.  Will I do it again?  Undoubtedly.  It was the most thrilling thing I’ve ever done.

Here are some pictures.