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Wandering Biker

“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost…

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Thu
17
Sep '09

La Junta, CO to Concordia, KS via Bent’s Old Fort NHS and Nicodemus, KS – 422 miles

My first stop this morning was at the Comanche National Grasslands office in La Junta to get a National Park Passport stamp for the Santa Fe National Historic Trail. I stayed in the motel room  and waited until 9:00AM to go there and was dismayed to find that they opened at 8:00.

From there it was out of town about 7 miles to Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site. This is a reconstruction of an actual 1840s trading post on the Santa Fe trail. The interpreters dress in period clothing for tours of the fort. Here are some pictures.

My next planned stop was Nicodemus National Historic Site in Nicodemus, KS. At 11:00AM I checked the GPS in my cell phone and it indicated that I wouldn’t get there until 4:45PM, which didn’t make any sense since it was only 245 miles away. There is a time zone change and I wasn’t sure if the GPS was taking that in to account. I was also unsure of the closing time, since some of the National Park sites close at 4:00PM during “winter hours”.  I decided to forgo lunch and rest stops to see if I could get there before it closed.

I managed to get there at 3:45PM….which turned out to be plenty of time since they didn’t close until 5:00.

Nicodemus, KS is the oldest continuously settled all black community west of the Mississippi river. It was settled by former slaves fleeing Civil War reconstruction in 1877.

Since I had gotten to Nicodemus early I continued on….well actually I didn’t have a choice…..there is no lodging there. My route took me very close to the Geographic Center of the Continental US so I had to stop by and be sure it was still there ;) . As you can see from the pictures it is, but there is not much there…

I had dinner at Dairy Queen and found a room for the night in Concordia, KS.

National Park Tour progress so far – 5 sites, 2 states.

Wed
16
Sep '09

Durango, CO to La Junta, CO via Great Sand Dunes NP, CO – 343 miles

Time to head out of town. I get up pretty early, but there is no rush as I can’t really get started until 9:00AM. I compact my stuff back into the bags that I can take on the motorcycle, go out to the storage unit and load up the bike. I try and meet up with some friends from work for a breakfast burrito but they are unavailable. The breakfast burrito is really good anyway.

First stop is the Honda dealer to get a rain jacket. Hopefully this will keep me dry when it is too wet for my supposedly waterproof riding jacket. I need to rant on that subject sometime.

Next stop is the San Juan Lands office right in Durango to pick up a stamp for the Old Spanish National Historic Trail.

Finally get out of town close to 9:45. Stop and get gas in Pagosa Springs, where the price has suddenly dropped since tourist season ended. It gets cold and starts to drizzle as I head up Wolf Creek Pass. A couple at the motel told me they saw it snowing on some guys on motorcycles a few days ago. I believe it.

Coming down the east side of the pass there is some construction. After waiting a bit we get through the construction and there is rain up ahead. I’m not quick enough getting off the road and it is already raining as I stop and put on my brand new rain jacket. That certainly was a timely purchase! There isn’t enough rain to tell if this is the answer to my woes, but it is promising.

I run into more rain east of Alamosa and there is a nice thunderstorm right in front of me as I make the turn up to Great Sand Dunes NP. I ride through that storm and it has stopped raining when I get to the entrance station. When I get to the visitor center I go inside and get my book stamped and when I come out the sun is showing enought that I can get some pictures of the sand dunes.

On the way back to the highway I run through the same thunderstorm, but it isn’t quite as heavy. Heading east on Highway 160 I stopped for a picture of Blanca Peak, one of Colorado’s 14,000 foot mountains.

I make it to La Junta after closing for Bent’s Old Fort NHS so I just find some gas and check into a motel.

National Park Tour progress so far – 3 sites, 1 state.

Sun
13
Sep '09

Durango, CO to Mesa Verde NP, CO to Durango, CO – 113 miles – Start of National Park Tour

The purpose of today’s ride was to purchase my National Parks Passport book and to get my first stamp to start my National Parks Tour.  Mesa Verde NP is fairly close by so it was a short trip. At the entrance station I purchased an annual National Park pass which lets me get into all the National Parks, National Historic Sites, National Monuments, etc for one low annual fee. I’m sure it will pay for itself on this trip.

The road from the entrance station to the visitors center is a very twisty 10 miles and I was dismayed to see a motorcycle down in front of a guardrail about halfway in. There were already three ranger vehicles there so I was waved on by. Hope it wasn’t serious.

I got my “passport” book and a stamp from the park to start my National Parks Tour and then toured the park for a bit.  Here are a few pics.

Woohoo! My National Parks Tour has started.

National Park Tour progress so far – 1 site, 1 state.

Sun
13
Sep '09

National Parks Tour

The Iron Butt Association has many different motorcycle rides that members can complete to earn certificates. One of these is the National Parks Tour.

“Purchase a “Passport to Your National Parks” book…”

“Visit at least 50 National Parks, National Monuments, National Historic Sites, National Recreation Areas or any other site or park listed in the Passport book in at least 25 states within 1 year. You may start any time you like and finish any time you want.”

During the next few weeks I will be riding from Durango to North Carolina and back and am going to try and complete as much of a National Parks Tour as I can. I still have an entire year from when I start to complete it.

Sat
29
Aug '09

Durango, CO to Telluride, CO to Durango, CO – 220 miles

The GF wanted to go for a motorcycle ride while I was in town. We talked over a couple of options and decided to go to Telluride as she had never been there. She was also the official photographer for the day and did an excellent job taking most of these photos while riding behind me and an even more excellent job of not dropping her cell phone while taking them.

This is the scenery near the town of Mancos, CO.

The next two pictures are of Sleeping Ute mountain, a famous landmark near Mesa Verde National Park.

We stopped in Delores to get gas and the GF happily hopped off the bike proclaiming that her butt was numb. I’m afraid the back seat of my motorcycle is not very comfortable and it must have been a painful ride most of the day. The GF is a trooper though and she hardly complained the entire trip.

It got cloudy as we headed up into the mountains. The next two photos are of Lizard Head mountain.

There are some impressive mountains and rock formations on the way to Telluride.

When we got to Telluride we had lunch at Smugglers brew pub and did a little walking around downtown Telluride.  I forgot to pay the parking fee while we were there but luckily we managed to leave before the “meter dude” found us.

We did a quick tour of Telluride Mountain Village and headed back to Durango. It felt pretty good to get off the bike after a long day. Since we had eaten so late in Telluride we just grabbed some snacks at the grocery store and headed back to the motel room.

Fri
28
Aug '09

Durango, CO to Ouray, CO to Durango, CO – 142 Miles

US 550 from Durango to Ouray is known as the Million Dollar Highway. It is one of my favorite rides and I usually ride it a few times a month during the summer. There are several different stories explaining how it got that name, but the most popular is that it cost a million dollars a mile to build it in the 1920s. You can read the Wikipedia explanation at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Route_550

The weather report said that today was going to be a great day with a high of 83F in town and I just couldn’t think of a good reason not to go for a ride.

It felt good to get back on the motorcycle, but the traffic this time of year is kind of heavy with all the tourists. I stopped to take pictures a few times when I got behind a particularly slow group of vehicles. I apologize that these are not the most scenic parts of the drive, just where I stopped because of slow traffic.

Tue
25
Aug '09

La Junta, CO to Durango, CO – 296 miles

Today was an easy 300 mile day back to Durango. I left the motel in La Junta expecting to pass by a convenience store on the way out of town to get a soft drink. Unfortunately the was no convenience store convenient and there is absolutely nothing on CO 10 between La Junta and Walsenberg.

Got into Durango about 3:00 PM and got a room for the week. Hopefully I have better luck finding a place to live. At least I’ll get the mail and spend some time with the GF.

Mon
24
Aug '09

Kansas City, MO to La Junta, CO – 553 miles

After spending almost a week with my friend Leslie it’s time to head back to Durango to check the mail and visit with the GF and friends. Had a great time at Leslie’s. She had Friday off and Saturday we were able to catch up with an old college roommate I hadn’t seen in over 15 years. We went down to the Power & Light District, ate a great dinner and a few adult beverages.

Leaving Leslie’s I set the GPS to shortest distance mode as I really didn’t have to rush to get back to Durango. It directed me along the interstates until west of Salina, KS and then I got off on some 2-lane roads angling south and west through western Kansas.

The following picture is pretty much the view I had all day. An arrow straight road with a grain elevator off in the distance.

I continued on into Colorado, where it was still flat, but turned a little greener. Approaching La Junta, CO I called a Super 8 and asked about the room rate. The rate was good, but by the time I got there the No Vacancy sign was up. I ended up at very clean mom & pop place and had a good meal at a chinese restaurant nearby.

Tue
18
Aug '09

Colorado Springs, CO to Kansas City, MO – 581 Miles

My friend Leslie asked me not to arrive at her house in Kansas City until 7:00 PM so I set my GPS to use the shortest route instead of the fastest route and headed out across the plains of eastern Colorado.

I was out in the middle of nowhere when I spotted what appeared to be a large pile of snow next to the road. I thought that was just an odd enough thing to see in August that I went back and took a couple of pictures.

I touched it just to be sure it was snow and not styrofoam or something. It was cold and had some icy sections to it. I wondered where it could have come from until I got farther down the road and came upon this.

It was about a mile wide as I drove through west to east it and stretched from horizon to horizon north and south. I don’t know if this is actually snow or the remains of a very large and deep area of hail. Either way it was a pretty strange thing to see in the middle of August.

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. I had a CD of driving songs in the CD player set to random and when I was about 50 miles from Leslie’s house the song Kansas City played. I love little coincidences like that.

Mon
17
Aug '09

Durango, CO to Colorado Springs, CO – 307 miles

After a couple of days of rest and relaxation in Durango I am still not having any luck finding a place to live with a month to month lease. I owe my dear friend Leslie in Kansas City a visit and she is willing to let me couch surf at her place for a while.

Decided to take the car (no boos and hisses please) so I made a trip out to the storage unit to grab some more stuff to take with me and had lunch with my friend Dr. Erika Chopich (www.innerbonding.com). We had great burgers at The Old Tymer’s Cafe in Durango.

Stopped back out at the storage unit on the way out of town to grab a jacket, so I didn’t really get on the road until almost 1:00PM. Not really a problem. I’m not expected in Kansas City until tomorrow evening.

Nearing Wolf Creek Pass I run into some construction and get out and take some pictures.

The rest of the trip to Colorado Springs is pretty uneventful. I pass the place where I had my bad scare two weeks ago and I recognize it immediately.

I have a very nice room at a Best Western near the airport, but the air conditioning does not appear to be working. I’ve tried opening the window but that still isn’t cutting it. I hate to have to change rooms after getting settled in, but this is unacceptable.