Archive for May, 2007

Canyon Run 2007 – Day 13

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

We left Iowa City early today as Donald was headed to the airport.

We put in an hour of riding before we stopped for breakfast in Iowa at the World’s Largest Truck Stop. If you have a semi and want to cover it with colored lights, this place is for you. They also have a large collection of religious t-shirts. The food was pretty good.

After breakfast we crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois and turned north along the east bank of the river. It was bliss to get off the interstate after 1000 miles or so, and to get the wind finally at our backs. We went through a number of small towns until at last we passed through Savanna and turned east onto Scenic Ridge Route. With a name like that, it had to be good, and it was good. Winding, climbing and dipping, the road took us through farmland to the farm of Kevin and Karen Ward. This farm lies about 100 miles from their home in Barrington, Illinois and is home to a pair of horses and a cozy farmhouse from the 1930′s.

The plan was to hole up at the farmhouse for a couple of hours, then proceed to Barrington. Kevin wouldn’t be home from work until later, so he figured we might as well enjoy a little quiet time here. Willo brewed us up some iced tea and we relaxed out of the wind for a bit. (The plan had been to hole up and wash the bikes, but the wind was just too strong to make it anything but a major chore.) Then it was on to Barrington, including another good dose of crosswind on the freeway.

We arrived at the Wards around 5 pm and immediately broke into Kevin’s excellent homemade beer (on tap, no less). Kevin and Karen had no shortage of delicious snacks (including a Mallomar clone called a Whippet that was very popular with everyone), and Karen prepared a delicious and diverse dinner for us all (I think there were at least three different main courses).

Today marked the end of our travels. The following days were a scramble of washing bikes, performing periodic maintenance (oil and filter changes, tightening bolts, examining brakes, etc.) and packing up the riding gear to UPS home to Seattle. But the bikes are ready for our return in September, when we’ll set off eastward again to Virginia for the Flyers’ Blue Ridge Run.

Canyon Run 2007 – Day 12

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

We breakfasted at the Terrace Grille in the hotel. This restaurant is decorated on every wall with detailed frescoes of Roman and tropical scenes. We sat close to one and are pretty sure it was hand-painted in place.

Apparently we were not supposed to park in this garage. When we tried to leave the attendant pointed at the “circle-slash motorcycle” symbol on the gate. Hey, we just did what they told us at the hotel. It took a 10-minute phone call with the supervisor for her to finally let us out – at the cost of one parking space.

We had hoped to avoid the wind by getting an early start, but it decided to start early too. Thus it was another 300 mile eastward slog leaning the whole way. Reports had the winds at 20-35 knots. Willo’s tank bag came loose again, and she also lost her iPod remote. This was too bad as it was a piece of junk and she was hoping to return it. The buttons on this remote had the habit of sticking “on” – so if you push the “volume up” button you end up with full-blast audio; if you push the fast-forward button you scan through an entire 18-hour audio book at munchkin speed. Do not buy a Monster brand remote for your iPod.

I was beginning to recant on my earlier opinion of the midwest as “not boring”. The land itself is beautiful, but everywhere else I’ve traveled, country like this is always followed by something else – mountains, ocean, river, something. This was all drum-roll and no cymbal crash.

We arrived at the house of Donald Chi in the early afternoon. Donald is in dental grad school in Iowa City, and he took us on a tour of the town. This was the perfect day to visit – school was out for the summer, so there weren’t too many people, but those who were around seemed young and hip. The day was warm but not muggy. The town felt like a miniature version of London or some other European city, full of coffee shops, pubs, bookstores and other interesting places. We paid a visit to the weekly farmer’s market, where we loaded up on cookies (not having any use for produce on the bikes – nor was there much, it being so early in the season). We found a great independent bookstore, where almost everything begged to be read. We dined outdoors at an excellent Italian restaurant. It seems we happened upon the tourist-brochure-perfect day in Iowa City, since in winter it’s miserably cold and in summer it’s sweltering and muggy. It was a wonderful way to finish the day.

Canyon Run 2007 – Day 11

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

Todd joined us early this morning for a last visit to the Concierge Suite, featuring a very well-appointed buffet. Then it was off to drive in one direction for a few days. Today we covered almost 500 miles, from Denver northeast on I-78, connecting to I-80 just inside Nebraska.

I was surprised to find Nebraska not nearly as boring as I’d expected. I thought I’d be seeing bleak, flat, desolate land, but it was pretty green, and paralleling the freeway to the north was a band of trees and periodic small towns – clearly following the course of a river.

What was difficult was the wind. We rode in a near-constant wind from the southwest, so we were forced to lean to the right almost constantly to compensate. Except when we passed…anything…at which point we’d have to sit upright or lean to the left if we didn’t want to shoot off the road. This grew very tiresome on the neck, and by the end of the day we’d had enough.

We wound up in Lincoln, Nebraska. We’d talked of finding a decent chain hotel and just calling it good, but I decided to push on into the downtown area. Lincoln being the state capitol, it was bound to have some decent hotels and restaurants for the politicians, lobbyists and other business people who came to town. Sure enough, we located another Marriott, the Cornhusker. More modest than the Denver Marriott, it was nevertheless very comfortable and welcome at the end of a long day. We were sent to the adjacent city garage to park this time, and this time we went through the gate side by side (we figured we’d only take up one space, so why pay for two).

Dinner was at a restaurant called Dish, which would pass for at least “good” in Seattle, and probably “great” in Lincoln.

Canyon Run 2007 – Day 10

Monday, May 21st, 2007

Today we breakfasted at The Bean in Gunnison. Very good coffee. One very nice server and one very sour server. Heading east we crossed another pass (and picked up a couple of bikes along the way), then angled northeast to Denver.

We reached Denver around lunchtime and found our way to Willo’s brother Todd’s garage. Todd works on German cars – mainly Audis and Porsches – tuning them for performance. While we lunched with Todd at a local biker bar (coincidence only – Todd doesn’t ride) he told us of a car they’d managed to extract incredible performance from running on E-85 (85% ethanol – a commonly available fuel throughout the Midwest), with relatively few modifications. Todd knows a LOT about cars.

After lunch we made our way to our hotel – the deluxe J.W. Marriott in the Cherry Creek shopping district. We unloaded at the curb onto a luggage cart and then followed the valet’s directions around the building and into the parking garage. The valet buzzed me through the gate but as Willo followed the gate descended and she caught it almost perfectly across the face of her helmet. The gate flexed as she powered right through it, no worse for the experience except for a smear of black rubber across her face shield. When we mentioned our narrow escape to the desk clerk, he thoughtfully upgraded our reservation with access to the Concierge Suite, with complementary snacks, bar, dessert and breakfast in the morning.

(We are subsequently considering adopting this as an upscale ambulance-chasing technique – at least as long as Willo’s neck holds out.)

We squeezed in a little furniture browsing in the neighborhood, then Todd joined us to explore our complementary drinks and appetizers. When we’d had enough of those we headed out to Ocean, a very nice Asian restaurant a couple of blocks from the hotel. We made sure to leave room (and time) to come back for dessert.

Canyon Run 2007 – Day 9

Sunday, May 20th, 2007

The last day of Canyon Run is traditionally a scramble north to Park City, as most of the Flyers have flights back east that tend to leave in the afternoon. Our plans were more relaxed: we would take two days to travel east to Denver, where Willo’s brother lives. We had a leisurely breakfast with the Beilmans (who were also in no hurry) and then departed.

[Bob Kirby in fashion headgear]

kirby headgear

[the hotel cat]

hotel cat

The first stretch took us through Capitol Reef National Park, whose winding road leads between dramatic rock formations on either side. Next was 100+ miles of less interesting scenery, punctuated by the stunning Lake Powell overlook opposite the Hite marina. Lake Powell was considerably more full than the previous two years, but still fell well below the bottom of the Hite boat ramp.

lake powell 1

lake powell 2

Traveling from Lake Powell to Blanding, we came upon an automated stoplight at a construction site. This being Sunday, the workers were somewhere else lounging and the light was flashing red, not steady. Unfortunately the three vehicles ahead of us remained frozen like deer in the (stop)light for what seemed like forever. We finally tired of the tedium, whipped out our biker bravado and pulled out around them and down the gravel bypass. We encountered no trouble and I waved them on once we reached solid ground on the other side, but for all we know they’re still waiting.

After lunch in Blanding we headed north to La Sal junction and then turned east, repeating our ride to Bedrock and toward Telluride. This time though we were chasing thunderstorms. When we stopped for a break at the Bedrock store we had to take shelter from two serious squalls, and when we set out again it was with some trepidation. Being on a motorcycle is no insurance against lightning strikes. But we survived, and after riding north-east to Ridgway, we continued north to Montrose and then turned east and climbed sharply to Gunnison. The road between Montrose and Gunnison is curving and dramatic. North of the road lies the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, with its own unique rock formations and a beautiful high mountain lake.
In Gunnison we sought out a “good enough” lodging and ended up at the ABC Motel, run by an inebriated, chain-smoking Russian. It wasn’t quite the kind of place where you’re afraid to touch the carpet. Almost, but not quite.

Canyon Run 2007 – Day 8

Saturday, May 19th, 2007

Departed Page, AZ at 8 am this morning, with the group intact. Steve and Steve peeled off to return to Phoenix, and the rest of us headed down to Marble Canyon and south of Vermillion Cliffs to the Grand Canyon North Rim entrance. Speeds (and spirits) were high – into the 90′s on the dial (or 80′s on the GPS). Following a gas-up at the North Rim junction we headed north towards Fredonia and Kanab. During this stretch I managed to crank the V-Strom up to 113 mph on the dial (about 102 on GPS). But when I let off the gas to slow down, the front end began to oscillate pretty severely, and it only got worse the more I let off the gas. I was getting pretty nervous, so, realizing that slowing wasn’t the answer, I got back on the gas and the oscillation stopped, at which point I was able to slow down more gradually. I vowed to stop my silly experiments.
We arrived at the Bryce Canyon entrance, and stopped for lunch at Ruby’s. Willo and I were both pretty exhausted – thirsty and tired from 200 miles of high-speed riding. After lunch Frank and Barbara separated to head back to Denver, where their bikes are being stored. We lounged with them for a bit while the rest of the group went either into Bryce or onward to Torrey and the hotel. Then we departed ourselves for Torrey. We were too tired to really enjoy Bryce and didn’t want to just give it a quick skim.

As we headed north through the Escalante Grand Staircase, we decided to stop at the Kiva Coffeehouse, which we’d driven by numerous times but had never had the opportunity to explore. This being a kiva, or underground dwelling, the parking was on the roof. Inside we ordered up iced lattes and amused ourselves by doing a bit of work on a partially-done puzzle. Of course there’s always just one more piece to find a place for, and by the time we finished the puzzle we realized we’d been there for a couple of hours.

We took off and climbed through the Dixie National Forest north of Escalante – one of the best roads anywhere, we feel. The curves are so perfectly engineered it’s hard to make a mistake, and riding it is like dancing with gravity. Unfortunately, riding it at 6 pm is also dancing with danger, as this stretch is a favorite with the deer. I only spotted one but Willo saw a group of about 9. Still better than when we came through in 2002 – that time we saw perhaps 50 deer and a small group of elk.

We arrived at the Lodge at Red River Ranch at about 6:30, and I had a little fun riding the V-Strom up the dirt/gravel road. First chance I had to practice some of what I learned in dirt bike class.

Canyon Run 2007 – Day 7

Friday, May 18th, 2007

Today we were to depart at 8 am for Mesa Verde. Unfortunately, the rest of the group was ready to roll a little early and by the time we arrived at the parking lot everyone had left. We were somewhat disturbed by this, but made the best of it and decided to have a Bob & Willo day. We tailed the group to Mesa Verde and rode into the park (including ten miles of half-destroyed road).

When we arrived at the first pueblo overlook, I discovered my camera was missing. I remembered taking it to dinner, but not bringing it back to the hotel. Once we got back to cell service I called the restaurant and happily they still had it. We considered our options and decided an extra 70 mile loop was no big deal, so we rode back, got the camera, had lunch, then resumed the original ride.Weathering a few rain squalls, we passed Mesa Verde, reached Cortez, CO and turned south toward Four Corners. We skipped Four Corners (it’s really not that interesting) and turned north to Bluff and then Mexican Hat, where we gassed up. At this point a few clouds moved in and the day, which had been pretty hot up to this point, became pleasantly cooler. We headed south into Monument Valley.

Once or twice each day on these trips, one is reminded of just how vast this area is, and how much empty space there is between the roads. This was one of those stretches. Monument Valley stretches for dozens of miles in all directions, and while the dramatic rock towers are the most attention getting element here, taking a moment to refocus and appreciate the enormous amount of unspoiled space here can be humbling. We have ridden through Monument Valley several times in the past, but this was the first time it wasn’t the middle of the day, and scorching hot. It was humbling.

We reached Kayenta, where a number of Navajo dogs greeted us at the gas station. One sadly had a muzzle full of either porcupine quills or cactus spines. Life is not good for the Navajo dog. Nor unfortunately for a lot of the Navajo people.

kayenta dog

kayenta monkey

From Kayenta it was roughly 100 miles to our destination of Page, Arizona, on Lake Powell. While this stretch lacked the dramatic rock formations that make up much of southern Utah, the ride was beautiful thanks to the light from the setting sun, and the cooler temperature. We stopped a few miles outside Page for some sunset photos…

page cattleguard

page butte

page road

We arrived at about 7 pm (6 pm Arizona time), and once the Flyers realized they had DITCHED – I mean accidentally left – us, they were very nice and apologetic about it.

Canyon Run 2007 – Day 6

Thursday, May 17th, 2007

We rolled out of our Moab lodging at 8 am and headed into town for gas. On the way we found Rich Marin pulled over by the side of the road. Something was wrong with the rear end of his bike (Bob Kirby’s former K1200LT). He waved us on and showed up a short time later at the gas station. When he stopped, a puddle formed beneath the rear wheel. The bike had lost its final drive bearings – a known issue on the LT – and the bike was dead in the water. Rich decided to call the Salt Lake BMW dealer and have them pick up the bike, and bring him a replacement. He delegated pathfinding to me. The route was familiar enough – turning east at La Sal junction, descending into Colorado via Bedrock (and the historic Bedrock Store) and continuing east to Telluride for lunch.

The Bedrock Store was enjoyable as always – the classic metal signs just as classic, the aging outhouse slightly more decayed. Unfortunately my camera chose this moment to quit working, so it was no more pictures for me for the day.

bedrock store

frank takes photo

We met up with Deb, Mardie and Kim in Telluride and enjoyed a fantastic lunch at Rustico – replete with the only (so far) decent espresso outside Seattle. After lunch we looped north to Ridgway, then south to Ouray (say “you-ray”) and over 11,000+ foot Red Mountain Pass. The road up to the pass is terrifying – no guard rail, steep drop-off, and we’re on the outside edge most of the way up. On the other side we descended to Silverton and took a break for coffee, funnel cakes, and kissing the safe, solid ground. Then resumed course to Durango, where we stayed at the General Palmer hotel.

We dined across the parking lot at the Palace restaurant. Dinner was punctuated by a lively mix of political discussions, reminding us that some things are better left said when you’re not on a long trip together. All ended well though, with no limbs or eyes lost. I brought my resurrected camera, this fact being instrumental in the following day’s events…

Canyon Run 2007 – Day 5

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

Today was the first official day of Canyon Run. We rose early for a planned departure at 8 am. To add spice to our morning, the power chose to fail about 7:30. Fortunately a fresh pot of coffee had recently been made, and we were able to construct breakfast out of a vast array of cold options.

Flyers and their bikes assembled in the Marin driveway. The trailer was loaded, and we variously rode or were towed backwards out of the driveway, and set out on our way. Rolling out of town, we noticed the inbound traffic backed up for at least a couple of miles. We were glad to be heading the opposite direction. We took a new route this year over Wolf Creek Pass. The road wound upward past aspens, conifers and remnant patches of snow to the pass at about 9400 feet. It was sublime. We descended the other side and ran smack into a cattle drive. Wisely judging that bikes vs. cows = cows, we stayed put until the cowboys had driven most of the herd past us, then slipped past the remaining bunch.

cattle drive

We stopped for gas in Duchesne. Knowing (or believing) we would be stopping in Price for lunch, 60 miles later, I decided to wait on the gas. Unfortunately we reached Price about 11 am – too early for lunch – so we pressed on an additional 60 miles to Green River. I got a little nervous as I approached the 200 mile point, but we made it to Green River in another 20 miles and all was well.
After lunch some of the group chose to take the straighter road to Moab via Crescent Junction, while the Beilmans, O’Connells, Arthur, Willo and I went another 20 miles on I-70 so we could follow the Colorado River to Moab the back way. The ride was hot but spectacular.

colorado river 1

colorado river 2

colorado river 3

colorado river butte

About 15 miles in we reached our motel. Arthur and the O’Connells peeled off, and we and the Beilmans continued on the the Moab junction, then turned north to Dead Horse Point state park. The road in to the park was a blast – a few slow cars to pass, but otherwise smooth, fast going. Dead Horse Point is awe inspiring – the viewpoint is very high and offers a panoramic, unobstructed view of the complex maze of canyons, with the river snaking through.

dead horse 1

dead horse 2

While photographing I set down my bottle of water and we wandered off. When the time came to leave, the water was nowhere to be found. After hunting around for a while I had a brainstorm and checked the garbage. Some well-meaning tourist had decided to clean up after me. Fortunately garbage water tastes just the same as regular.

We raced out of Dead Horse ahead of a thunderstorm and managed to miss most of it – only in the last few miles did we get hit by a couple of squalls. Back at the Red River Adventure Lodge we met up with Steve Larsen and friend Steve Pittenridge, who had ridden in from Phoenix.

Canyon Run 2007 – Day 4

Tuesday, May 15th, 2007

Today was a slog – 320 miles from Sun Valley to Park City, most of which was interstate. Unfortunately the only reasonably direct way between the two is the string of interstates that run from Jerome/Idaho Falls east and then south to Tremonton, Utah and then Ogden. Today’s mission was “endure”. Luckily iPods made the intolerable tolerable. At Ogden things get interesting – we turned east and headed up into the mountains. Utahans (is that right?) respond to hills the same way horses do – they hurry to get the top as fast as possible. This can be a little disconcerting if you’re not used to it – the trick is to adopt the same mindset, and so avoid being run over.

After a chunk of uphill rushing, we came to the town of Morgan. Exiting at Morgan we headed toward East Canyon, the enjoyable “back way” to Park City. Last year at this time the East Canyon road was still closed due to snow, but this year it was open (warm and sunny, etc.) and we reveled in a dose of real curves after the day’s dreary straights.

(Stopping to remove layers in East Canyon)

East Canyon

We finally arrived in Park City around 5:30 and found our way to Rich Marin’s new house on the golf course.

As has become customary, we were treated to a delicious cooked-on-site dinner by Josh Yenny, official American Flyers chef and soon-to-be restaurateur (or so we are told). In honor of his continued hosting generosity, Rich was presented with a crown and scepter appropriate to his office.

(Rich with golf ball retriever and “helmet” (novelty helmet – to be worn only for protection from golf balls))

Rich in helmet

This annual trip also marks the birthdays of founding members Walt Lynd and Frank O’Connell. Josh presented them with a cake, complete with working motorcycle decor (which Frank enjoyed):

Cake

Frank