And When I was 60 I Was a Vagabond Biker

The “Northwest Passage” Odyssey of 2004

Well, a vagabond at least for a few weeks.
No, there is nothing to be ‘proven’ in a venture of touring on a motorcycle for almost 7,000 miles — merely a need to satisfy a ‘wanderlust’ that everyone feels from time to time.

This is the story of such a wanderlust that probably has merely whetted, not satisfied, the appetite.  It is the story of first a wonderful family vacation and then a trip with a good friend to do something that most people will never have the opportunity to do, or even to think of doing.

We saw the beauty of America, experienced the vagaries of Mother Nature, and engaged many interesting people along the way. It is my pleasure to share some of the experience through my inadequate words and barely adequate photography but if any of your wanderlust is thusly satisfied then I am pleased.

Near the bottom of this post is a list of links to many of the places we saw.

We covered Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Montana, Washington, Oregon, California and Arizona.

Some of the highlights included:

  • 8 days in Lake City, CO
  • The world’s roughest road (456 in NW Oklahoma enroute Raton, NM — but scenic!)
  • Camping in the Jim Bridger Forest just NE of Montpelier, ID
  • Jackson Hole, WY
  • Viewing the Grand Tetons
  • Yellowstone
  • 3 nights and 2 days of touring Glacier NP
  • Hike to Avalanche Lake in Glacier
  • Camping in the forest under Mt. Hood
  • California Redwoods and the “Big” Tree
  • Lake Tahoe, camped by the lake

Some of the best roads/routes were:

  • SR12 Trinidad, CO to U.S. 160
  • Southfork/Creede/Lake City
  • Lake City/Gunnison/CR742 over Cottonwood Pass
  • CO SR82 over Independence Pass to Aspen and on to Glenwood Springs
  • WY SR 530 along West side of Flaming Gorge Reservoir
  • U.S. 2 from Browning to West Glacier
  • Going-to-the-sun road up to Logan Pass in Glacier
  • U.S. 2 to Libby, Eureka, U.S. 93 back to Kalispell
  • Kalispell/US 93/SR28/SR200/SR135 to I90
  • Coeur d’Alene/US 95/Lewiston/US12 to Umatilla,OR
  • Oregon SR35/US26 around Mt. Hood
  • US 101 on the entire Oregon Coast
  • CA 299 to Redding/44 to Lassen/89 to Lake Tahoe

The “worst” of the trip:

  • Craig, CO KOA (can you spell T R A I N?)
  • Waiting for tire change in Post Falls, ID

and the most disappointing:

Columbia River Gorge which was long, hot and boring. Not up to the hype.

The longest day of riding was

Cedar City, UT to Santa Rosa, NM — 695 miles.

Most rain:

Albuquerque to Clines Corner.

Browse and feel free to log your own observations, similar experiences or comments.

(these links need to be cleaned up) Look at the PINK links in the left column to navigate directly to the entire “2004 Trip” section or the “Trip Images” or just the “CapnJ’s Blogs” about the trip. Or, you can click here for full trip album — caution — it’s big

gil — a/k/a ‘Captain Justice’

Original Itinerary with lots of links

The Trip of July 2004. Initial itinerary is:
Fri 7/2 (if not 7/1) depart. Arrive Jones Valley same day.

Sun 7/4 depart Jones Valley. Arrive Raton, NM – 760 miles.

Mon 7/5 Raton to Lake City, CO – 250 miles. Map.
We’ll pass thru the Creede area and the headwaters of the Rio Grande.

We’ll go over Slumgullion Pass which is about where Jennifer was asking just what I meant by the primitive campground on Lake San Cristobal near Lake City, which was formed out of the Slumgullion Slide.  To call it a gorgeous lake is a serious understatement.  Here is a view from about where we camped in “ought one.”

Stay at Henson Creek RV Park. We have reservations on the beach.  Some area photos.

Tue 7/6 Mess around town, arrange for jeep.

Wed 7/7 Tour of Alpine Loop — full day trip. More here.

Thur 7/8 Depart — Jennifer: 938 miles back to HSB … arrive Saturday. Map

I will be headed to the Paonia rally and not far from Lake City will pass the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.  Jennifer will remember the fantastic road from there past Crawford where Joe Cocker’s place is, and on to Paonia.

That’s about the plan for the first stage. From Paonia I’ll trail along with some of the “rolling rally” to Spokane Washington before I break off to head to Portland, Oregon for my judicial conference (edit: did not happen — came to my senses!).

The “Rolling Rally” group’s schedule:
7.11 Sun. (PM) Paonia, CO to Vernal, UT (210 mi)
7.12 Mon. Vernal, UT to Jackson, WY (320 mi)
7.13 Tues. Jackson, WY to Pine Creek, MT (196 mi)
7.14 Wed. Pine Creek, WY to St. Mary, MT (340 mi)
7.15 Thu. St. Mary, MT to Spokane, WA (315 mi)
7.16 Fri. Spokane, WA (0 mi)
7.17 Sat. (PM) Spokane, WA to Winthrop, WA (188 mi)
7.18 Sun. Winthrop, WA to Queets, WA (324 mi)
On Saturday I’ll peel off for Portland and leave the group. Will be in Portland until 7/21. I like the rest of this route … may use it for my own return.

7.19 Mon. Queets, WA to North Bend, OR (378 mi)
7.20 Tues. North Bend, OR to Shingletown, CA (368 mi)
7.21Wed. Shingletown, CA to Lee Vining, CA (364 mi)
7.22 Thu. Lee Vining, CA to Cedar City, UT (422 mi)
7.23 Fri. Cedar City, UT to Cortez, CO (444 mi)
7.24 Sat. Cortez, CO to Tucumcari. NM (430 mi)
7.25 Sun. Tucumcari, NM to DFW

Links to “stuff we might see” and places to stay along the way:

North Cascades National Park

Olympic National Park

Glacier National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Grand Teton National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Capitol Reef National Park

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Zion National Park

Cedar City, UT C of C

Crater Lake National Park

Grand Coulee Dam

Jackson, WY Lodging

KOA Cedar City, UT

KOA Jackson West – Teton Village

KOA Livingston (Pine Creek) WY

KOA St. Mary, East Glacier, WY

KOA Vernal, UT

Lee Vining, CA

Livingston, WY Lodging

Port Townsend / Keystone Ferry Schedule

Port Townsend / Keystone Ferry Fares

East Glacier Lodging

St. Mary Lodge

Trinidad, CO Lodging

Vernal, UT Lodging

My maps

(this posting may need work … this is an old posting that is being pulled into WordPress)

Playing with maps. The first link below is from This is all an experiment (isn’t life?) and the map is a work in progress, ok?

Where has my bike been?

MyMaps at Click the icon to go to all my maps at

If this works, it should show my ‘july 2006’ travel map, as I update it. If the map does not display below, make sure the URL is entered as (the last “/” is necessary, and if a PHPsession ID is added, get rid of it … lastly, you may need to scroll down to see the map). MyMaps (july 2006) at Alternatively, click this button to get the july 2006 map

My first motorcycle cross-country trip

(this will be a work-in-progress as there is a LOT more about this trip …)

This is not ALL about that one trip, but a piece of it that was prompted by a message on the IBMWR email list today. The discussion was about rain gear and it had turned to the relative merits of double-flapped zippers.

Reminds me of my first cross-country ride. It was 1978 and a bunch of friends with whom I’d been riding enduros with said they were headed to Pikes Peak on Labor Day weekend, why didn’t I get a street bike and come along. So I went down to the local Honda store and picked up a brand new CB750-4 with full Vetter fairing including lowers, scotch-guarded my orange insulated jump suit and away we went.

As has always been the case, I was the grouch with a schedule and pushed our group to leave Aspen in time to make our next destination. It was about 3 in the afternoon and off to the South we headed. Toward Independence Pass. 3PM. Mountains, gaining elevation, at now close to 4PM. What happens every afternoon in the mountains around that time? It rains.

Well, in this case it not only rained but began to hail as well. Now having grown up in West Texas with REAL hail this little pea-sized stuff was not too impressive. It was loud on the helmet but not otherwise too bad. I scooted toward the tank to tuck as much of my body behind the fairing as possible and avoided most of the direct hits from this nuisance-sized hail and all was well.

At least I thought all was well until I realized that some important equipment was freezing! I had ducted the hail into my lap and the engine heat coming up between the tank and seat was melting the pile of ice that had accumulated right at the crotch area and, of course, was seeping (nay, was flooding!) through the zipper area of my trusty jumpsuit. Not near the protection that we now wear while riding our wonderful Beemers.

Yes, we did make it up Pikes Peak. Tough climb for a normally-aspirated (that would be carburetor versus fuel injection for those of you who’ve never heard of a carburetor) engine. From the Peak I recall we went westerly and that evening came to a restaurant near the river advertising fresh trout. We whipped in there and gleefully ordered, knowing we had hit the mother lode of Colorado cuisine.

In no time at all out came trout for everyone. Whole trout baked with herbs and all the trimmings. As we each began to dissect our delicacies Charlie began to chuckle. Now why would a grown man chuckle at baked trout? And the chuckle grew, and soon grew into mild hysteria. What?

And then, right before his and our eyes lay the mere shell of a trout baked to oblivion, apparently, because the skeleton was wrapped with the now thinnest of skin encasing hardly any meat at all. Either this trout had been on a really serious diet, or had been overcooked to an extreme because there was no meat in or on this carcass.

Then I began to laugh, either at Charlie or at his trout. Then Jerry, the Charlie was set off again, and pretty soon our whole group was reduced to hysterical, tearful, uncontrollable laughter. Now then, the rest of the patrons were a bit taken aback because we had come in with all of our riding gear looking (I’m sure) a bit rough and maybe even tough, and here we were, suddenly laughing like a bunch of school kids.

Along comes the waitress, and ultimately the owner and all the could do was laugh with us and head to the kitchen for a replacement meal for Charlie. Actually, the fish was good and his was a fluke of some sort, still not fully understood. For years after that our lives were peppered with trout jokes — and that’s not easy.

(more to come)

2006 Bike trip to the West


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.

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.

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.


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


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


Follow map progress at
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

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


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


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

Date of this writing: Monday, July 03, 2006 10:40 PM
Photo Gallery at
Map at
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


Date of this writing: Tuesday, July 04, 2006 11:11 PM
Photo Gallery at
Map at
Riding date: Day No. 3 (day 50
From: Kansas City,MO
To: Mount Rushmore
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


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


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


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


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.



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
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 …)

Northeastern Burnet County

We had a good ride today with J.R., Vance, Tom and Norm. We went East on 1431 to Cow Creek Road, up the road to Oatmeal, thru the boonies into the SE side of Burnet, then 963 to Oakalla, 221 and 116 thru Copperas Cove and up to 580, then back down to Lampasas and home.  I then went to REI to pick up my shipment of wicking underwear Smile which Vance thought was funny, but I think he was actually wishing he had some by the time we got back as the temperature was beginning to rise.

We stopped at a creek crossing on Cow Creek Road DSCN0277.JPG — you DID know there was a creek on Cow Creek Road, right! Always have to find a photo-op.

The actual route is shown in two pieces in the PDF files listed in the attachments.

I had seen the turn to Cow Creek Road many, many times but this was my first time down it. The surface is not too good, but the ride is gorgeous, along the creek which runs in a solid limestone bed.  A lot of it is lined with cottonwood trees and often a high bluff towers over the creek and roadway, providing hiding places for the indians that no doubt once occupied the area.

Moving on northward, we went out 963 to Oakalla , north just a tad on 2657 and then right on 221. Much of the route into Oakalla and then onward on 221 is canopied with overhanging trees providing a much-needed relief from the otherwise relentless of the sun.

Total trip from home was 167 miles. Back at Java Bean we enjoyed a frappacino — I had mine with mocha for a much needed blast.

Then the fun came as I headed to Austin. Hot. Very hot. Did stop by Lone Star BMW and they graciously worked me in for a new front tire which was necessary before any more serious tripping. But did I mention it was hot?

Blitz to Branson 2006

(lots of broken photo links. Gotta fix those.) Note: Clicking on a thumbnail will open the larger version of the photo.

Executive Summary: to Branson, MO for the 12th annual “Blitz” to Branson, a BMW rally held at a hotel! About 1700 miles, about 675-700 one way without sight-seeing with the extra miles being a Saturday ride in the area and some diversions on the way home.

Having not been to the “Blitz” for several years, it’s time and the itch is definitely there.  I have actually planned ahead for this trip and the call of the road was answered also by Robert Voglino, Mike Atkinson and his son-in-law Dale. After a hearty breakfast at the famous Blue Bonnet Cafe in Marble Falls (is there any other kind of breakfast there?), Robert, Mike and I set off for Waco to rendezvous with Dale.  I’m on the trusty 1999 R1100RT, Mike on his newer R1100RT and Robert on his Kawasaki which he rides like it’s a sport bike.  As we drive up, Dale is re-attaching the “not so new” rear tire with the hopes that the bike shop got one in which we’ll pick up on the way.

Posing for a departure shot blitz2006002.jpg we look to be ready.

Dale’s tire did come in and after a quick mounting of the tire and replacement on the bike Dale is quick with the tools we’re finally off.

We’re doing the usual “how fast can we get out of Texas and start having fun” trek up Texas 31 past Tyler, up 155 to Avinger and eventually U.S. 59 to Texarkana. It’s plenty hot so we pull into a shady spot somewhere in East Texas Somewhere near Texarkanato decide how much longer to push. Hardy souls that we are, we press on to Arkadelphia, AR.

I don’t know Arkadelphia so I turn into the first opportunity which announces not one, but two motels. The first is horrible looking from the outside but the second is decent.  After a good (but very late) meal at Cracker Barrel we turn in for the night. Finding the Cracker Barrel was interesting as my usually very fine guide skills failed (albeit temporarily)  and we ride all over Arkadelphia, but the meal is worth it.

The next morning The coffee was decent the sky is clear, the coffee is hot, and it’s time to hit the “Arkansas Scenic Byway” which is Arkansas 7. The best part of it starts right there at Arkadelphia so we are ready.

I love the Waffle House chain. There is just something kinda neat about watching a good short-order cook do his thing, and most of them at the Waffle Houses are pretty good. Sliding up to the counter blitz2006008.jpg we order up pancakes, eggs and all sorts of stuff. For someone who doesn’t like breakfast, Mike also orders up.

On Scenic 7 one of the first scenic stops we make is at the “Rotary Ann” scenic lookout point.  blitz2006010.jpg Being good Rotarians all, we perk on the name.  Turns out, it does indeed refer to the (now somewhat archaic) term for the wives of Rotary. blitz2006012.jpg The rest stop is a project of the Rotary Anns of an area Rotary club. blitz2006013.jpg It’s very nicely done and at an interesting point where an ecological reforestation project was underway.

Some of the reforestation results can be seen here blitz2006011.jpg where the far hills show the signs of having had the underbrush burned off, trees thinned, and replanting where needed.  Prior to reaching this rest stop we are riding alongside a substantial area of burn that looks as if it was controlled, sort of.  Some of it makes us wonder if indeed it was controlled but upon arriving at the rest stop we see forest service and fire personnel who are taking care of business. The beauty of a forest of mixed hardwoods is outstanding so I’m glad to see this kind of effort. I like a pine forest also, but the mixed hardwoods with their variety of textures, varying shades of green and the colorful displays in the fall are hard to beat.

Coming out of the mountains we are now in Jasper (that would be AR, not TX). Now biking is not too different from “real” life in that everything is planned around meals.  It’s about lunch time — well, close enough — and, luckily, I’ve been here before. Not just in Jasper, but HERE: blitz2006015.jpg.  This small deli has hand-made sandwiches made by a funny old guy in a Tam O’Shanter who is all business. He seems out of place here in Northern Arkansas but he makes a good sandwich.  Suddenly, while checking out, my eye is drawn to the side. There, sitting lonely and defenseless in the case, is a chocolate chip cookie sandwich filled with a white cake icing. Robert quickly agrees to help me scarf it down.  The monster cookies is quickly put out of its misery. After lunch we continue up Scenic 7 through Harrison, AR and on to Branson. Then there it is. The dreaded route 65 traffic headed into Branson. It was either 2003 or 2004 when we last did the Blitz and the roads are identical today as then. A summer 2007 expansion is promised by huge signs along the way. It’s now about 3PM and hot. Glancing down at the RT’s temp gauge reveals a constant 6 bars pushing to 7 every time we slow down.

But we finally make it to the rally site — the Branson Towers.  Many are already gathered and the hotel front is all ours blitz2006017.jpg.  The “ours” would be the Internet BMW Riders club — a club that exists only in an internet email list and the imagination of the Presidents.  Yes, it’s plural, because each is a President.  Avoids the necessity of committees, you see. Here are a few more of the gathering Presidential carriages: blitz2006018.jpg Total mileage to Branson (by GPS) is 686 miles.

Remember I mentioned those meals?  After checking in, kicking tires with some old IBMWR friends and checking to see who has goodies that I don’t have on my RT, we walk across the street to the All American Cafe for a meal. Finding a sign on the front door indicating a/c outage leads me to ask if we can eat outside on the deck. Recovering from initial indecision and frustration, Alana decides that’s doable and away we go. She’s even a decent photographer. blitz2006019.jpg. The food is quite decent and satisfying. Later that evening we will enjoy another Blitz tradition — the ice cream social.  $2 gets you cobbler with a huge scoop of ice cream.  blitz2006021.jpg

Saturday brings rain early, but by 9:30 it’s looking better. Storm clouds still linger to the East so it’s easy to take Robert up on his suggestion to  head West and South to Table Rock Lake.  blitz2006024.jpg He had learned that the Hudsons have a time-share there so we are curious to see that the lake looks like. Turns out it’s huge. It’s like a hand with 15 fingers splayed out in every conceivable direction.  We continue a meandering route around some of the lake and its many peninsulas, finally heading more West and South, ultimately finding ourselves in that wonderland “town in a canyon” Eureka Springs.

Once again it’s mealtime so what do we have to do? Eat of course. I again have been here. Not just in Eureka Springs, but HERE: blitz2006027.jpg where we dine on the deck. blitz2006026.jpg.

Someone just this morning told Robert of a wooden-planked bridge and also a federal trout farm with gargantuan trout. The “Golden Gate” bridge at Beaver, AR is pretty easy to find. blitz2006028.jpgblitz2006029.jpgblitz2006031.jpg

And sure enough, it’s wooden-planked: blitz2006030.jpg I have my three companions do a little ride across the bridge to get some perspective of its size and here we have the fearless three, braving yet again the “funny” feeling wooden planked road surface. blitz2006033.jpg.  Using my dandy new Nikon L4 almost miniature digital camera with movie mode, I even capture them in action  — see attachment below. Caution, it’s a 1. something gb file (.mov format).

We then wind our way back North into Missouri once again and work our way up to Hwy 248 and back into Branson. The total excursion is not all that long, but we found some wonderful new roads. I have never before been West of Branson except across hwy 86 just out of Eureka Springs straight East to join 65 and into Branson, and while this area is more populated, it’s still quite rural and the roads are excellent. In fact, Robert remarks the wonder of roads being built by engineers and nicely banked. Dinner this night finds us at Charlie’s Steak, Ribs & Ale where the common-drive fan system is fascinating blitz2006035.jpg along with the other rustic decor.blitz2006036.jpg

Saturday at the Blitz is always fun-filled with the ring-leader, Voni Glaves, pictured here in the red. But then she’s always in red. blitz2006037.jpg Voni is a redhead, rides a red bike, and wears red leathers. And she does ride. In 1999 she established a new women’s record in the BMWMOA mileage contest at 73,660 miles in six months.  Her husband Paul is a pretty serious rider as well and here is the only bike in the world — his — that has more gadgets on it than mine does. blitz2006038.jpg.

This sticker pretty well says all you need to know about BMW riders. blitz2006039.jpg

And here some of them are gathered for the Saturday night fun. blitz2006040.jpg Voni and Paul are about to “preside” over the silliness. Awards are given for the rider coming the longest distance, the youngest, the oldest, the one with the least miles or the most miles on the bike they rode here.

One of the more colorful of the group is Helen 2 Wheels (Hell on 2 wheels, get it?). blitz2006041.jpg.   She and Voni make a pretty good stand-up comedy pair before the night is over. Their “Voni’s now a bad girl” routine blitz2006045.jpg was pretty cute. She’s retired from teaching now and can let her hair down. And Helen’s now the good girl? I don’t think so!

And speaking of colorful, I did not get his name but this fella is 82 years old and still riding. blitz2006043.jpg

Alas, it comes time to go and we leave Sunday morning about 8:30. Now the night before, I had posed the proposition that we could get home in one day if we just got up a little early and didn’t waste time.  That idea was shot down pretty quickly as everyone had planned for Monday off and we might as well take it. So we head off pretty leisurely back across the bottom of Missouri and down into Eureka Springs, Arkansas and down the “pig trail” as it’s called, AR 23. The weather is almost clear and the air is cool, just right for riding. Down below Ozarka after crossing the Mulberry, White and Buffalo rivers, I make a snap decision at AR 22 to go East to Paris (Arkansas, that is). Hey, if we are taking two days, let’s see some scenery. I’m planning from Paris to take them over Mount Magazine, the highest point in Arkansas. We eat on the square right across from this fabulous courthouse. blitz2006046.jpg From there we do the mountain, more wonderful roads and vistas, then even further East on AR 10 to 27 and down to 28 where we start back to the Southwest, arriving at Mena around 2 or 3.  After traversing most of the Talimena Skyway we’re on U.S. 259 (one of the better U.S. highways) and on to Broken Bow where now it’s hot and we’re sweaty. blitz2006047.jpg Suddenly, the talk shifts to getting home that night. It’s 5:30 now and we’re a mere 400 miles from home. While talking about keeping options open we press on. Interstate 30 appears and we jump on that for speed and after dining at Furr’s in Sulphur Springs we realize we’re only about 300 miles from home and it’s only 8PM. For Dale and Mike, Waco looms near.

We push and get to Waco where they drop off about 11. Robert and I discuss it and after fueling we decide to go a little further and see how we feel. It’s now 11:30 but the air is cool and the traffic is not too bad. “A little further” turns out to be home, some 800 miles after we began this morning to make a 2-day trip out of it. Tired, but happy to be home and sleeping in my own bed, I quickly drop off to sleep and am unconscious until morning.

Colorado 12 passes tour

(the originally intended route is further down)

12 Passes Trip
Via Jones Valley
Click here for photo gallery.

My 12-Passes trip began with a trek to Jones Valley in Arkansas for the annual family reunion.

July 1
Left home 7 Am. Got hot Very quickly & by Tyler at noon it Was well into the 90’s headed for 100. Then rain. Thank goodness. And I was in it until past Texarkana. With a donut breakfast in Lampasas & but a single chicken thigh somewhere in far NE Texas, I arrived in Jones Valley hungry at 4:30.
470 mi. 9:16 time. Avg. speed 50.5.

I then spent that Friday night, Saturday and Sunday in the Valley. Was up until about 2:30 Monday morning yakking with some cousins and eating sausage cooked over a roaring fire on the end of a freshly cut sapling branch. July in Arkansas and we had a fire? Well, there’s just no better place to swap lies than around a camp fire.

July 4
Depart J. V. At 7:20. It was early, given the late night before. But I was exhilarated with the notion of meeting the guys in Dumas and heading for Colorado.
I had a gentle rain until I hit I-40 just East of Oklahoma City.
Talimena Skyway was gorgeous this time – no fog. Last year I had dense fog across there that all but totally obscured the view.

At 10:44 picked up a voicemail message that Norm had crashed. Beth called at 12 to say he had some wrist and possible clavicle involvement — not too serious. We later learned that the shoulder was separated but back in place later, and a hairline fracture of the wrist. Bike is hurt a little, to an unknown extent. Robert & Mike departed from near San Saba at about noon. That makes them at least 3 hours behind.

Now taking it a but slower due to the delay of Mike and Robert, so perhaps will absorb a little men of the Scenery. I continue to be impressed w/ the beauty of Oklahoma in stark contrast to the dust bowl imaqe of my youth and early schooling.

7:15 arrived Dumas. Got a motel room so that we would have a fresh start with a good night’s sleep. Hard to imagine camping in Dumas. This would be our last motel room until the last sprint homeward some days hence. I had been camping since last Friday.
583 mi. Avg 49.5 Time 11:45 Cumul. 1052

4:30 msg. From Robert And Mike that they were in Sweetwater. An additional hour was lost when Robert left his Key on and ran down the battery. OK, that’s two events. What will #3 be?

Only had about 2 hours of serious heat during the trek from Arkansas, and then a nice cloud cover came up to make it a much better trip across Oklahoma than last year. One quickly discovers that in Dumas on July 4 there few eating opportunities! I now wish I had opted for the steak instead of the mexican plate as the local beanery. Filling nonetheless.

July 5
Departed 8:32 in cool weather. Easy trek to Trinidad, CO. Lunch there & then off on Scenic 12 to intercept US160 and head west to Southfork where we stopped for dinner due to running late. Southfork? That’s not part of the 12 Passes route, but we had determined to go west to Lake City instead of straight up 285 through Salida. Robert and I love Lake City and Mike had never been there so the first modification of the route was made. Why running late you ask? My right bag came off! Incident #3 I guess. One of the “ears” had been damaged some time ago and the repaired bracket gave way. Thank goodness for the Ace Hardware store in Alamosa and that this happened while it was still open. A bit of rope and the proud Beemer was strapped together again. Alamosa … ugh! That’s where the starter failed last year. That’s the sole failure on the Beemer in 80,000 miles and now the bag thing. Must study maps to find another route to Lake City next time.

Decided to go to Lake City and resume route at Gunnison. Add another pass — Spring Creek Pass just before Slumgullion.

Camped beside the creek(Henson Creek) again. My tent is less than 10 feet from the water’s edge. The flow is good & the water is ripping at the rocks. With temperature dropping rapidly, the sleeping should be excellent.

July 6
239 mi. Avg. 30.3. Lots of stops
7:53 max 87.7 Cumul. 1746.0

Woke up to cool weather but no rain overnight. Slow getting away watching Robert do one more version of packing his bike. I must take a picture for reference if he ever decides he’s hit the very best method. He now has a piece of 1×6 board under one of his packs! Had I not graced the Beemer with a roped-on bag I would have to laugh at his rig. Did Monarch Pass. Awesome. Stqzred for lunch in Salida. Well, not exactly Salida but Ponca? Near there. Awesome blueberry pie a la mode! Washed it down w/ some of the best coffee of the trip.

On to Independence Pass which is always a thrill.

Shortly after departing Twin Lakes enroute the pass I rounded a corner only to be confronted by a rocky mountain sheep. It was a sizeable ram right in my lane, obviously thinking it was his. I yielded instantly & he headed back up his hill, apparently happy that I had shown proper deference to him & the several ewes who were waiting slightly up in the brushy hillside.

Short stop in Aspen for Some $2.98 per gallon gas. Beautiful town but I cant even afford to dnve thru!

Called ahead & found a nice campground just South of Carbondale (BRB Crystal River RV Resort). Our tents are pitched beside the Crystal River which is roaring along rapidly.

We’re about 1/2 day behind oar optimum schedule but will pick up the pace tomorrow.
We continued the intended 12-Passes route but at Granby, decided to modify it and include Rocky Mountain National Park in lieu of some of the passes now lying to the South of us. It was at Robert’s gentle insistence that we did this, and were we glad! It’s an awesome park with a fantastic road up a mountain that is nestled in the bosom of other mountains and the road and overpowering beauty give the feeling of climbing God’s stairway to the heavens.

The East entrance to the park comes out at Estes Park where we stopped for a light dinner at the Taco Bell/KFC. It was there that I suggested that we had seen the best of the best, that making the 12 passes was unimportant, and that with some stretching we could be home by Friday night. This was Wednesday about 6pm that we determined to make this final modification to the plan.
Thus we struck out for Raton, knowing that from there we could make it home in a day.

July 7
Arrived Raton About 12:15a.m. Friday
559 mi. 37.5Avg. 14:54 time Max 90.1
Cumul. 2304.5
Odometer sitting on 81819

July 8
Up early and off for home. We had only gotten to sleep around 1:30 this same morning but were pumped and having a case of “get-home-itis.” We were on the road by 8:45a.m. Texas time.
698 miles, Avg. speed of 56.8, max 107.4 with a total time of 12:17. Cumulative trip odometer per the GPS is 3002.5 miles. The bike’s odometer now sits on 82,540.
I was glad to get home and headed straight to the shower. Jennifer got home from work shortly thereafter and was glad to see me in spite of the mustache/goatee beard that had sprung up.

It was a great trip, just sorry that Norm missed it. Robert and Mike are easy to ride and be with. I saw some places I had been before on trips over the years, each of which is a wonderful memory that I’ll hold forever. And I saw places I had not before gazed upon, and the Rocky Mountain National Park is especially now burned into my memories along with the fondest of them. I feel for those souls who have never enjoyed the thrill of touring the open road on two wheels and am grateful for the many opportunities I had to do this. I’ve traveled with many fine companions and Robert has been one of the best, and Mike too although not as frequent.

I’m proud to have shared this trip with them, this last 2-wheeled tour of mine.
I’ve decided to hang up my touring boots and go on to something else with four wheels, possibly a jeep. But I’ll see you on the road somewhere nevertheless.

Captain Justice, out.

Here is the originally intended route:
Here it is. 12 passes in 4 days, as written up in RoadRunner, June ’05.
The route of the loop itself is shown below. Attached is a PDF file with a Street Atlas routing.

Once in Walsenburg, here’s the route:

W on 160 over La Veta Pass (9,241′) to Alamosa, Monte Vista
285 N to Saguache
CO 114 toward Gunnison over North Cochetopa Pass (10,100′)
E on US 50 toward Salida over Monarch Pass (11,312′)
N on SR 291, join US 24/285 thru Johnson Village
then W on SR 82 to Twin Lakes and over Independence Pass (12, 095′) to Aspen
82 all the way to Glenwood Springs
E on I-70, the pick up 6 at Gypsum (parallels I-70)
6 becomes 24 at Eagle, follow 24 over Tennessee Pass (10,424′) to Leadville
Out of Leadville, SR 91 over Freemont Pass (11,318′) to I-70,
then near Silverthorne, SR 9 to Kremmling
ALTERNATE: just S of Silverthorne we can go S on SR 9 toward Breckenridge and eliminate the northern loop.

Go E on I-40 to Grandby, then S over Berthoud Pass (11,315′), intercept US 6 / I-70
W on 6/ I-70 over Loveland Pass (11,995′), pass Silverthorn and Dillon
Take SR 9 S to Breckenridge over Hoosier Pass (11,541′) to Fairplay
Go N/E on 285 over Red Hill Pass (9,993′) and Kenosha Pass (10,000′)
285 to Bailey, take SR 68 S to Deckers. Has many local names until Deckers, then SR 67.
Continue to US 24, go W over Wilkerson Pass (9,502′) to Hartsel.
S on 9 to Colorado City. It’s 9 to 50, W on 50 to Texas Creek.
(If you go a bit East instead, there’s the Royal Gorge)
At Texas Creek, S on 69 to Westcliffe, take 96 E to 165.
Follow 165 to Colorado City on I-25, S to Walsenburg.
The end.

The loop is 996 miles total, Walsenburg back to Walsenburg.