2006 Bike trip to the West

Summary

It’s over but not forgotten. A great trip with many memories, one of which I could do without (the valve stem debacle).  I departed June 30 in the early morning and got back home about 1:30PM on July 21. The trip had been planned to include the national BMW rally in Vermont but I opted to delete that leg due to a lot of reasons including the heat that would be involved in that 2200 mile leg, the fact that once there I was 2400 miles from home, and I was missing Jennifer more than just a little bit.  Laughing

I saw a lot of country I’d not been in before as well as revisiting some favorite places.

SUMMARY:
Date of this writing: Monday, July 24, 2006  1:13 PM
Photo Gallery:  (I need to fix this)
Riding days: 17 (out of total 22 days)
From:  Horseshoe Bay, Texas and back
Via:  Arkansas, Kansas City, MO, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico
Stops and Sights: Family reunion in Arkansas, the Keels in Kansas City, Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills of South Dakota, Devils’ Tower, Little Bighorn, Beartooth Pass and the Chief Joseph Highway, Togwatee Pass, Jackson Hole, Teton Pass, Stanley, ID, Moab, Arches NP, Bryce Canyon NP, Zion NP, Telluride, Paonia, Lake City, Creede, South Fork, Wolf Creek Pass, Pagosa Springs, Santa Fe, Roswell, and the the usual route back home from there.

Cumulative data:

6995 miles in 17 days of riding out of 22 total days ( Avg 394 miles per day); Avg. driving speed 55.9; Avg. speed overall 42.1; total time on the bike 166 hrs, 41 hrs stopped and 125 hrs driving. The stop time includes lunches, photo ops, refueling, stopped in traffic (light, congestion, construction … whatever).

Longest day: 792 miles KC, MO to Mount Rushmore.

Weather: Pleasant in the mountains, very hot otherwise.

The roads:  Generally good but encountered construction in every state. Some of the construction was well-managed, some was horrible. Colorado was the best and a stretch in Idaho enroute Boise was the worst consisting of 10 miles of ruts, potholes and washboard in a total reconstruction section that was really torn up.

Problems: Speedometer cable broke at GPS 1710 and was replaced at GPS 5218, thus 3508 miles are not on the odometer; valve stem failure on the 16th enroute Lake City.

FUEL SUMMARY
Total miles per GPS 6995
Total gallons 161.136
Overall MPG 43.411
Highest MPG 52.27 Mountains at a relaxed rate
Lowest MPG 38.68 Little Bighorn to Red Lodge — hot and fast
Number of fills 33

Observations and musings:  I enjoy travelling alone or in a small group. Large groups are not fun. The days travelling alone were very nice and gave opportunities to get inside myself a bit. I also offers an opportunity to visit with characters along the way because people will approach a single rider or maybe a couple of riders more easily than a group. Many pleasant conversations were had along the path. I enjoy the camping but the constant setup and teardown of the campsite gets wearisome. I would like to make a trip where I stayed a couple of days at each spot, maybe 2-3 days. I took too much stuff on this trip as I’m prone to do when I take the trailer. I need a really small laptop to travel with as I constantly worried about having the big laptop, the one with all my programs and data on it. I backed it up in two separate locations prior to leaving, but still worried about it. With a tiny laptop I can pack w/o needing the trailer. I can also leave off the cooking gear unless I know I’m going to be doing that kind of camping.

2006 bike trip – details

FAQ and info about the July 2006 trip. Checking the blog, photos and map.

6.25.06

More details below, but if you want to “ride along” then here are the quickie instructions.

This site will be updated most days with wild tales and photos as I go.
Just look for the links in the left menu for  (need to fix these)
2006 trip
2006 trip gallery
2006 trip map

————————————————————————
Most of the planning is done for The Vagabond — 2006 edition. An ambitious trip is in the offing. Here is a photo of the bike (need).

Attached is an Adobe PDF file of the basic route which is (subject to change) in general terms, the following:

  • Home to Jones Valley, AR
  • Then to Kansas City, MO to see the Keels
  • Then to the Black Hills of South Dakota via the Badlands National Park and Mount Rushmore, up through Montana via Devil’s Tower to visit the Little Big Horn and ride Beartooth Pass, down into Wyoming to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, then west across Yellowstone to Boise, ID for Rally No. 1.  It’s the BMW Riders Association International rally. July 6-9. Depart by July 9.
  • Then Southeastward to Paonia, CO for Rally No. 2. That is the Colorado BMW Club’s “Top of the Rockies” rally. Haven’t yet figured out all of the enroute sights. July 13-16. Depart by July 16.
  • Then Northeastward to Burlington, VT (actually Essex Junction) for the National BMW rally.  July 20-23.  Probably depart by July 21 or 22.
  • Then return via Philadelphia (Independence Hall and that cracked bell, etc), thence the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park (from whence cometh the surname), ride some of the side roads along the Blue Ridge Parkway (I’ve done the Parkway proper), and on towards home  in an as yet undetermined route aside from those features.

This trek is the “Peaks of America Tour” involving rallies by the three major organizations in the BMW world in America. Who knows if I’ll actually make the last leg, but I might! Cool.

vacation2006 — PDF of the intended route.

There will be regular updates to the blogs with photos and the map (see link above) will be annotated as I go.
Who cares?  If nothing else it’ll be a fine record for ruminations in my old age when I can no longer swing a foot over the saddle. If someone else finds it entertaining then I’m pleased.

The Cap’n.

Detailed reports from the trip

Departure June 30

6.30.06

Away at 6:28AM, a breakfast taco at Atwood’s and gone. Presently lunching at a roadside park about 30 miles short of Texarkana. It’s warm, but the cool vest is working perfectly. Should be in Jones Valley by 3:30 and in the swimming hole by 3:35!.

About 305 miles into the trip at this point. Decided to take I-30 for the sake of time. Bad idea! Dallas area, lots of construction. At one point the interstate was down to one lane. Flowing nicely here though.

Date of this writing: Friday, June 30, 2006  5:38 PM
Riding date:    Day No.  1
From:  Horseshoe Bay
To:  Jones Valley, AR
Via:  nothing important
Stayed at:  Jones Valley
Location:  Tent
LAT/LONG:  34.39115 -93.610167

Stops and Sights: Nothing to talk about until getting into Arkansas. It is a beautiful state once you get into the hills. First a lot of pines and a number of new growth areas. Finally into the hardwoods. In the Valley we have several species of hardwoods that are periodically harvested.

Miles today: GPS –     478.3       Odometer –  494
Ending odometer today:  88,127

Weather: Hot and dry

The roads:  Arkansas was pretty rough once TX-8 turned into AR-41, but then it smoothed out. Up 41 is not a bad route.

Food:  Hot dog for lunch, with an apple.

Observations and musings:  It still takes going 500 miles to get out of Texas and start having fun!  Tent is pitched. Looking for food now.

CapnJ Trip Report: Sounds and sights of the forest

7.1.06

Follow map progress at http://www.mapbuilder.net/users/CapnJ/19828
————————————————————————
Date of this writing: Saturday, July 01, 2006 7:16 AM
Riding date: Day No. 2
Location: Still in Jones Valley — on the occasion of the 85th family
reunion

Last night while all tucked snugly in the tent on top of the sleeping
bag (you see, it’s a down-filled mummybag that is rated to something
below 0!) I was surrounded by sounds and, even in the dark of the night,
sights. The rain fly was still safely tucked away in the bike trailer as
there was not even a hint of rain. Had it rained on me I would simply
have taken credit for bringing it in. Thus the “roof” of the tent was
open to the almost clear night sky and the stars were surrounded by the
sounds of locusts, crickets, small frogs, and occasionally the throaty
croak of a bullfrog.

For all I could see were the stars above and the only sounds were those
of the forest night. Moonless, the night allowed the stars their
resplendent glow. The senses then wrapped those sounds around the stars
and I was immersed fully into it.

Not far away, just over at the dining hall, the “young people” (that
would be the 20 and 30 somethings) were getting reacquainted and making
the memories for the tails they will spin when they, like I, venture
into their 60’s. I recall my own gatherings with cousins I hardly knew.
Those particular cousins I cannot now recall but new family
acquaintances have been made since my 39 year reunion hiatus which was
broken in 1998. I still recall having arrived on a motorcycle (the 1998
Harley Wide Glide) and the wonderment by some of the family at this new
arrival, a motorcycle-riding judge! Huh? Incongruous they thought.

This morning started with a brisk walk of about two miles. It’s about
70, maybe even a little cooler. The sky is clear and the birds are in
full voice as the world slowly awakens. I walk by the family cemetery
and say a quiet thanks to those who have preceded us and who made this
wonderful place where we have gathered for 85 years. As I write, the
sounds and smells of bacon frying and the warm coffee in my cup tell me
the morning is moving toward the day. Hunger pangs strike when I let it.
Will the food never get done?

Day 3

7.2.06

Sunday morning and the air is crisp. Yesterday was spent with family gabbing, meals for 100+ and a finale’ of fireworks last night. Jennifer finally arrived about 6:30 after a long drive and was very glad to be here.  Of all things, a bunch camped next to us had a roaring fire — yes, in the heat — but it has become a tradition and just because or reunion is not held in the dead of winter they’ll not be deterred.

I’ve been out for a brisk 30 minute walk and plans are being laid for kayaking later. The river is low but passable. This part of Arkansas is as dry as Central Texas.

The Boston Mountains of Arkansas

7.3.06

Discovered a part of Arkansas I had not been in. Left Jones Valley about 8:25 this morning, up 27 to Mount Ida, West to Y-City to catch 71. Ran a while on 540 around Fort Smith and then took the “Boston Mountains Scenic Loop” — Exit 29 off of 540 — and it’s gorgeous. I’m putting a map pin at a lunch stop where I’m writing this. A recommended route for anyone travelling North and South in the Western part of Arkansas.

Follow map progress at http://www.mapbuilder.net/users/CapnJ/19828
————————————————————————

Date of this writing: Monday, July 03, 2006 10:40 PM
Photo Gallery at http://tinyurl.com/lhkql
Map at http://tinyurl.com/gf3on
Riding date: Day No. 2 (day 4)
From: Jones Valley
To: Lee’s Summit, MO (outside of Kansas City)
Via: Mt. Ida, Y-City, U.S. 71 and the Boston Mountains scenic loop
Stayed at: The Keel’s

Stops and Sights: Did stop at a nice roadside park in the Boston
Mountains North of Fort Smith, Arkansas. Was somewhat struck by those
mountains. The road was very (nicely) curvy and a decent surface.

Miles today: GPS – 490 Odometer – 403
Ending odometer today: 88,530

Weather: Hot and dry

People: In Jasper, MO I stopped for a refreshment and met a group of
riders. Local guys headed out to some stock car races. Got to talking
with one of them who came up and quickly introduced himself and took
interest in my trip. Turns out he is a local preacher and allowed as how
he too looked for justice, but from different places. Very gregarious
fellow and he bid me God speed which was quite appreciated.

Points of Interest: Boston Mountains Scenic Loop. Tour of Kansas City,
MO and the “Plaza” shopping area (Jennifer: you are forbidden to go
there … very dangerous place!).

Events: Ron and Vicky took me out to a great BBQ place. As good as I’ve
had. I had a sampler plate that included, now this is a true story,
“burnt ends.” Never heard or thought about it, but it’s just the
slicings of beef that have a burnt end. We started with some of the best
onion rings I’ve ever had. Outstanding. Had a great visit with them in
their lovely home, a tour of KC which is a very pretty town (especially
for a large city), and the great BBQ.

Happy Birthday U.S.A. – Mount Rushmore

7.4.06

Date of this writing: Tuesday, July 04, 2006 11:11 PM
Photo Gallery at http://tinyurl.com/lhkql
Map at http://tinyurl.com/gf3on
Riding date: Day No. 3 (day 50
From: Kansas City,MO
To: Mount Rushmore
Via:
Stayed at: KOA
Location: Hill City — 5 miles West of Mount Rushmore
Stops and Sights: Rushmore. The first glimpse of it was fantastic.
Seeing it in person is a totally different experience from what you see
in pictures. After all, this is the icon of the first 150 years of this
country. I had hoped to get here and see the fireworks display, only to
find out that it was held last night! Oh well, maybe next year.

Miles today: GPS – 765 Odometer – 792
Ending odometer today: 89322

Weather: Left KC in the rain, light but steady. Temp never got over
about 75 the whole way.

Stuff I’ve seen: Mount Rushmore, of course. Travelled up I-29 along the
Iowa/Nebraska border to Sioux Falls, then West on I-90. Two of the best
interstates I’ve been on. Rolling farmland most of the way. South Dakota
is very flat in the East, then gorgeous mountains nearing Rapid City. I
did not expect the Mount Rushmore area to be in such heavy mountains.
The sun was dropping below the mountains as I got to Keystone and I was
quite chilled. Elevation was in the vicinity of 4500 ft. so it was nippy.

For many miles along I-90 the had bailed the grass in the median and
other highway ROW. Pretty clever. I guess that up here you scrap for
every bit of grass you can in anticipation of the winter.

Although I’m disappointed at missing the fireworks, there is yet
something special about being at this place on the 4th of July. I did
get my celebratory apple pie today, but no hotdog. I’m looking forward
to checking out Mount Rushmore, and then riding some of the famous
canyons of the Black Hills. Then onward to Montana.

Mount Rushmore and Keystone, South Dakota

7.5.06

I don’t know what I was expecting of the area, but this group of mountains is exceptionally beautiful. One of the places we read about in all of our early school years is Mount Rushmore. mountrushmore

We’ve all seen photos and read about it but you just have to stand there and look up to wonder “how did they do that?”  The facial features are remarkably smooth and the detail is outstanding.  The construction story is available on the web, of course, and there is an entire display about Gutzon Borglum, the master craftsman of very hard stone.

Last night I stayed at the fanciest KOA I’ve ever been in. It had a full restaurant, a pizza/ice cream parlor, lodge, two movies each night, and a lot more.  It’s the Palmer Gulch KOA and is the closest KOA to the memorial. After registering I finally found my tent site only to discover a group of people gathered around the fire ring at my site. Turns out they had pitched their tent the day before in a rain storm and got it too close to their fire and had scouted out a then-empty site. I encouraged them to stay (two couples, a sister, and 3 small children) as they were roasting smores. We visited a bit and I was rewarded with a piping hot, gooey smore. A perfect prelude to the steak dinner I would be enjoying in about an hour.

Sleeping was not a problem after my 765 mile sprint from Kansas City, MO where I had a wonderful evening the night before with friends Ron and Vicky Keel.  Ron was a seminarian serving at Trinity for two years and about a year ago graduated, was ordained, and now has his own church in Blue Springs, MO which is near Lee’s Summit where they live.

This morning (it’s now 7:24AM local time) I awakened to about 50 degree weather with a partly cloudy sky. Wonderfully crisp mountain air. I’m having breakfast at the moment and am about to attack some of the famous canyon lands of the Black Hills of South Dakota.

The Badlands

7.5.06

After the awakening in 50 degree weather and a great breakfast of ham and eggs it was time to ride. Now I’m about 1600 miles into this trip now, so ride more? Of course. That’s the object. And it was time to master one more objective: to ride the Badlands of the Black Hills of South Dakota. I headed South on U.S. 16-A toward the Custer State Park and found the ride to be outstanding. Probably the best ever.  There were clever bridges bridges1

bridges

and one-lane tunnels

and wildlife in the road (well, not too wild — they would hardly move. animals

I really don’t think I’ve ridden any better roads anywhere else, and that includes most of Colorado and New Mexico, Utah, Oregon, Northern California, the Carolinas and Tennessee.  The route took me through Deadwood but I felt there was not time to stop. Looks like an interesting town.

From Custer I headed to Sturgis and and Sturgis Motorcycle Museum.  It was well worth the 5 bucks admission to see 80-90 motorcycle from every vintage and in every condition you can imagine.

One special photo was of a Vincent Black Shadow (that one was for you, Dave):vincent

Then it was time to head to Spearfish, the long way Smile. Back down 14-A to near Custer, West on 85, down 14-A, then 85 on to Four Corners, then 585 North and eventually to Sundance enroute the Devil’s Tower which is one of the objectives of this section of the trip. More on that later.

Devil’s Tower

7.5.06

Remember Close Encounters of the Third Kind? That’s Devil’s Tower in there and that was another objective. Check off that one. It is a most interesting geological feature with several theories on how it was formed.  It was getting hot so I did not try to walk up to the base as is possible.  As you approach the area it just jumps out at you the first time you have a view of it.

dt1

dt2

The visitor center and parking area is right under the tower as you can see in this photo. There are others in the gallery.

From there it was time to move on down the road. Having had a late arrival the night before I was anxious to get settled at a decent hour. Gillette, WY was far enough.

Summary:Date of this writing: Wednesday, July 05, 2006  10:35 PM
Photo Gallery: see link at left
Map at http://tinyurl.com/gf3on
Riding date:    Day No.  4 (total days 6)
From:  Mount Rushmore
To:  Gillette, WY
Via:  Devil’s Tower
Stayed at:  Green Tree’s Crazy Woman Campground
Location:  Gillette

Stops and Sights: The Badlands, Devil’s Tower

Miles today: GPS –     324.7       Odometer – unknown
Ending odometer today:  who knows?  it broke!

Cumulative: 1957.6

125.8 of those miles were in the Badlands

Weather: Cool, never over 85, and mostly high 70’s. Partly sunny

The roads:  Good

Food: Some great fajitas (oh, and an Amber Bock) at a mexican food place that was within walking distance.

People:  Met “Dale” at Devil’s Tower. He was on a /5 Beemer. Had owned it 33 years. Said when it bought it he declared he would ride it till it broke — and he’s still riding.

Observations and musings:  I continue to be fascinated with this end of the world. Tomorrow will bring me to the Little Bighorn and of course Deadwood is where Wild Bill Hickok is buried. Wyoming and Montana see so big — bigger even than Texas — because everything is spread out and wide open. South Dakota was a total surprise to me, varying from rolling (and mostly flat) plains to the fantastic mountains. I’m missing Jennifer and know that she would love to be seeing this with me. We’ll return.

(to be continued …)