Take me home, El Capitan!
My Colorado Adventure August 2012... another Pirates Lair Ride Report

I just got back from one of the most enjoyable motorcycle trips I've taken in  years.. Thought I'd share some thoughts and pics of my most excellent Colorado adventure.

A couple of months ago, I was sitting at my desk thinking "I need a vacation and soon or I'm gonna end up in a clock tower with a rifle" when I got an email from Doug..aka Loggiebone inviting me to join a small group of riders who were gonna meet in Ouray (pronounced your-ray) Colorado on Aug 18th.  It's been stressful here at the 'Lair over the last 24 months. My usual positive attitude has been beaten down by endless 14 hour work days trying to keep the ship afloat in this bad economy and the omnipresent fact that if there isn't  a regime change in November.. all I've worked for for the last 14 years will disappear faster than Philip Michael Thomas' career after Miami Vice.  The timing of Doug's communique was perfect. Coincidentally...one of Amber's high school girl friends, Tabatha was due to for a visit at around the same time so with me out of town they could go do their  "girl" things together without me feeling like a third wheel.  Tabatha is a sweetie who  er.. pitches for the other team.. but Amber swears they're just friends..

Doug explained that he was planning to tow his Ducati Multistroodle to Colorado and had room in his trailer for another bike if I was interested with the only condition being that I pay 1/2 his gas bill there and back.  Little did I know at the time that his mega-SUV gets only 8 freakin' miles a gallon when towing.  Geezz.. I think the space shuttle gets better mileage. Anyway.. Doug lives just 2 hours from me so the plan  was that I could drop off my bike, he'd tow it the 1500 miles there,  I'd fly out to Denver, rent a car, then we'd meet up at the Ouray Victorian Inn. Almost a turn-key vacation.. And as I have a gazillion Delta air-miles .. my  1st class flights would be free... Woohoo! How could I say no??

Last week it all came together like a perfectly planned Seal Team 6 incursion. After a 3 hour flight and an event-free 6 hour drive from the Denver airport on the best stretch of interstate I've ever seen, I found myself  deep in the mountains of Colorado at the aforementioned Ouray Victorian Inn in the company of friends.. As if preordained, I arrived just 2 hours after Doug.. Amazing timing.  The group consisted of Doug, Charlie, Paul, Rob, Victory, Jeff, and Mike.  I'd met and ridden with both Charlie.. aka Kneedragger and Victory at the first I-BMW.com California rally a few years ago. Great guys with demented tendencies like myself. Rob and Doug are buds from waay back, but I had not met the others face to face although I think I had exchanged emails with all of them over the years.. I could tell this gathering would be just about perfect.

(Pic at right).. The Usual Suspects... From left.. Doug (aka Loggiebone), Paul Anstall (aka VSpeed), Jeff *** (aka K1Dude), me, Charlie Wickliff (aka Kneedragger), Victory Bell (not to be confused with Liberty Bell), Rob Gross, Sir Mike Callahan.

The Usual Suspects

The town of Ouray is nestled  between sheer mountain cliffs in a spectacular setting. Some of the buildings date to the early 1800s. It's the kind of town you might see in Colorado tourism pamphlets or a Thomas Kinkade painting. I'd love to spend Christmas there. I couldn't have asked for a better meeting place.  I found out later that Rob had been thinking about putting together a Colorado I-BMW rally for quite a while and this was kind of a recon get together to see if Ouray was a feasible rally destination.  For what it's worth.. he'd have my vote. As a rally destination I personally liked it due to it's remoteness, but others may not feel the same.  I've discovered that many at I-BMW.com have differing opinions than I do as to where and when a good rally should be held. Getting to Ouray from any direction is a challenge... All the better in my book. As it turns out, the reasonably priced Victorian Inn was very motorcycle friendly and the owners, Jan and Brian Lisk went out of their way to advise us as to where to get the best food, closest liquor store, local history, route suggestions, even going so far as to make us dinner reservations one night.. Good people.

The riding?? Sublime. I love that word and so seldom get to use it in a sentence. As I have the navigational skills of Helen Keller on a moonless night, I put my trust in Doug (and his Garmin) to be the ride leader for all 3 days and surprisingly... he never failed us. Not that I was expecting that he'd get us lost or surprised that he didn't. .. although I was.  His pace was perfect and the choice of roads couldn't have been better.  I think he had studied Steve Farson's book .. The Complete Guide of Motorcycling In Colorado and it paid off in spades. While the routes were  l  o  n  g  due to the layout of the area.. usually over 200 miles a day... Colorado proved to be as good as I had always heard and better than I was expecting.

Ouray, Colorado

Day 1: We went up into the mountains which could have been easily mistaken for Europe. At over 10,000 feet the temps would drop into the 50's but overall the weather was ideal. Unlike the Carolinas, the trees in the area were lush and healthy even at high altitudes. No acid rain or beetle infestation damage. Pristine. The entire day was spent bending from one curve to the next and clearing my ears with the altitude changes. I'm not sure if we saw a single cop all day. Certainly nobody got a ticket and not for lack of trying. We ended the day by coming back via the "Million Dollar Hwy."  I'd heard of it, but wasn't sure what or where it was. Now I know. Apparently due to the rough terrain, it cost the state (i.e. taxpayers) a lofty1 million dollars per mile to complete and it is impressive.. and a bit scary. Ever seen that show about the world's most dangerous road? They always show the Yungas road in Bolivia that just clings to the side of a sheer cliff and there's barely room for a car to pass? The "million dollar" highway isn't THAT bad, but there are no guard rails and almost no run-off so if you go off ... you're dead unless you are wearing a parachute. In some places it's easily a 1000ft drop.

The road winds for miles through steep mountains and the views are simply incredible. Jeff, who lives in the area, told me that when cars go off,  they usually don't even bother towing them back up. I thought he was bull shitting me until day two when I was out riding on my own..I stopped on the side of the road for a swig of Dew and bite of granola bar and glanced over the edge and saw a car far below .. rusting away... on it's roof. No doubt the passengers had had a bad day. The fear factor  that this stretch of road invokes negates the need for speed limit signs in my book. In the rain the road slowed me to a sloth-like crawl and I've been riding for almost 40 years. You blow a curve on this road and you'll be in a world of shite and white light.

Day 2: It rained for most of the day.. Mostly a light drizzle so I knew I couldn't keep the pace of the others (I'm a diva in the wet) so I went out on my own... I put in less than a 100 miles, but it was slow, relaxed, and peaceful with low rolling clouds encompassing the peaks and many pull-offs.. I saw temps around 47 degrees at altitude. Picture taking was seriously compromised.. That was the main downside to me. While crossing one high pass I got a nosebleed from hell. Had been having trouble with my sinuses since I got off the plane in Denver.   Blood  instantaneously started cascading down my face like the Yangtze river in monsoon season. WTF!!??  Before I could find a spot to pull over,  get stopped, and get my helmet off, my gray beard and mustache was red and my bandana around my neck soaked.  Blood was all over me. To an outsider it probably looked like I'd been in a  merciless fight with the entire cast of the Expendables or I'd just murdered somebody and thrown them off the cliff.  It took me almost 20 minutes to get it stopped. Fortunately I carry a bunch of wet wipes and I used them all just to keep me  from looking like Jeffrey Dahmer's cuz from NC. After this event, I have a new found respect for hemophiliacs.

Day 3: This would be a day to remember.... There would be only 3 of us today. I ate a light breakfast which in hindsight was a huge mistake. Doug chose a route up Hwy 141 towards Mesa, Colorado ending up near Grand Junction and then back down Hwy 50 to Ouray... The 260 mile loop would be one of the best and worst rides of my life.. After a boring start of at least 40 miles of flat featureless landscape, things started to change.  After an hour or so Doug, Paul, and I found ourselves riding a serpentine road along side a river at the bottom of deep canyons. Sheer cliffs on either side. This little river must have eaten through the strata over millions of years. In my minds eye ... this was a true western landscape reminiscent of a John Ford western. The walls were vivid colors earth tones.. reds, browns, and tans and they changed color and texture depending on how the light hit them. We saw few cars for the next  2 hours. Around each curve another canyon more beautiful than the last.. and around the next... even more so. Doug, not being the avid photographer that I am pushes on with only the occasional stop..

10,000 ft Pass.. In the rain..

At around noon Colorado time (2PM my time) I'm starving and can hear my stomach growling over my engine.. A few times I pull over and wip out my camera while Doug rides on, but as I'm rushed.. I get few  "keeper" shots. Those take time and thought and usually a full stomach.  I make a mental note that we've seen no restaurants or gas stations since we filled up after breakfast. We push on... canyon after canyon... spectacular beauty everywhere rivaling the best I've ever seen in the US.  The terrain alternates from looking like Texas to Arizona to California to Utah.. It is/was so diverse. The road offers excellent traction due to the pebbly surface so we ride with total confidence. I'm simply overwhelmed with what I see before me. The land is so primitive that  it had to look exactly the same 200 years ago. I half expect to look up and see Indians on horseback high on a ledge looking down on us as we pass through their territory.   I'm wondering if these views are affecting Doug and Paul as much as me?... I'm wondering if we broke down out here how long you'd have to wait for help?... I'm wondering if they are as hungry as I am? I'm wondering if Amber and Tabatha  are in the shower together sudsing  each other up... gently.. slowly... delicately...?.. er.. where was I??  O, yea... Just when this canyon riding couldn't get any prettier (or my stomach any emptier)... the scenery changes yet again...

We leave the canyons behind and a massive green valley opens up with beauty rivaling Yosemite Nat Park.. To my left is a 100 story shard of dark gray, angular rock shooting up at an impossible angle.. It looks like a "Borg" ship (from SNG) crashed here a million years ago and this is all that remains.. It's massive and looks alien in this wondrous valley.. We ride though it's shadow.  My hunger pain has evolved to a whole new level. I feel like my stomach is gonna implode like a dying dwarf star. I notice light dimming around me as the swirling vortex within my stomach sucks in the very light and dust around my bike. I try not to think about it. To the right another massive wall of rock, reminiscent  of  Half Dome in Yosemite.. I want to stop and take a picture.. I need to stop.. if I don't stop I will regret it later.. but... I'm at least 3 hours past lunch time and the next town may or may not have a place to eat.. Fuck taking pictures. I try to convince myself I will come back some day with Amber and my camera. She would love it.  We ride on.

Victory, Pirate, Charlie, and Paul..

We pass though the secluded valley without stopping for a single shot and all the while I know I'll never be able do it justice with mere words when I get around to writing a trip report. This report. The place affected me viscerally and I knew then and there that  I'd dream about it sometime in the future.. Remember the court scene at the end of  "Contact" where Jodi Foster is trying to convince everyone of the wondrous things she'd seen on her trip in the alien space portal device, but as her helmet video didn't actually record any images.. no one believes her..?? That's how I was feeling...

As we leave the lush valley and reinter rocky terrain, the temperature goes up exponentially as the land flattens near Grand Junction. My gauge is reading 95 degrees as we pull into a mom and pops restaurant for a 2:30PM  (their time) lunch.. The sign outside the diner says 102 degrees and I'm wearing full, non-perforated leathers. Small pebbles and cigarette butts lift off the ground and hurl towards the black hole in my stomach. There are 4 circling buzzards overhead and I think they're looking down on me..  The service is painfully s l o w, but the club sandwich brings me back to life. After eating and cooling off  Doug, Paul and I are facing 100 boring miles back to Ouray... the terrain will be flat and brown and ugly.. through small towns (with cops and radar) so we can't make any decent time.. My ass hurts, I'm dog tired from the 170+ miles of curves we've just finished, and it's 95+ degrees.. In the back of my mind I know that once this day is over... I'll have some wonderful memories... And isn't that the point of these gatherings? To make memories?..

We get back to the motel and after a quick nap and shower I load up my bike and gear in Doug's trailer before we head out for the last meal of the gathering. it's a good one.. Friends, great food, wine... It doesn't get any better than this..I turn in early as I leave at 4am in the morning for the Denver airport.. What a great trip.. My soul is refreshed. My thoughts of politics and worries for my biz and the country vanquished for a few precious days. Thx Rob and Doug for making it happen...Enjoyed riding with all youz guyz..

Lastly.. A special public thank you to the love of my life, Amber who not only allows me to pursue my two-wheeled adventures with nary an iota of marital guilt, but actually encourages it.

On Hwy 141

On Hwy 141..

And that's all I've got to say about that... Pirate out...
Jerry D. Finley
Captain / Pirates' Lair