Looking Back and Moving Forward!

Registered the Bike

Since I last posted, I finally got my new motorcycle registered!

I needed to get a VIN verification in order to register my bike in Colorado and had that done at G-Force Powersports in Boulder.

When I went to the DMV to register the bike, the clerk told me the title wasn’t completed correctly and neither was the VIN form!

I contacted the girl in “Paperwork” at National Powersports and she confessed that she was the one who had signed on the wrong line on the title. Also, printed names were missing for all the other dealers on the form.

I mailed the title back to New Hampshire for it to be corrected and went back to G-Force to have them re-do the VIN form.

When I got the title back a week later, I still didn’t think it was correct, but thought I would try again on the registration.

At the DMV, I handed over all my documents and kept my mouth shut.

Success! The registration was completed, I transferred the license plate from the old bike to the new one and a new title was ordered.

Riding and Patches!

I rode into work a few more times before the end of Daylight Savings Time. Now that it’s dark after work, I am just riding on the weekends as weather permits. I don’t see well at dusk, and there is no reason I have to ride at night right now.

I shared earlier that I had gotten a nice leather vest on one of the Meetup rides. I ordered a custom patch for the Mackay Clan of Scotland for the vest. I have a McCoy ancestor, and they were a sept of the Mackays. So, I have adopted the Mackay Clan as my own!

A couple of weeks ago, I took my vest and patches back up to Beaver Den Leather outside Loveland for the seamstress to sew on the patches. I picked up the vest a week later. I am a club of one!

mackay

Those two trips to Loveland are probably going to be my last long trips before the snow flies.

Looking Back

The weekend of October 14 marked a year since I failed the motorcycle course! I feel proud of all that I have accomplished since then.

Although very upset, I didn’t let that failure stop me from wanting to learn to ride motorcycles.

I got the 650 in November and drove up to Buena Vista (where my motorcycle was stored) several times over the following few months to train with my brother Hilary.

I passed the written test in April and scheduled my motorcycle skills test for May 1st. I drew a scale drawing of the test course and Hilary and I taped out the course in a parking lot in Buena Vista so I could practice.

May 1st arrived, and I was jittery from lack of sleep, fear and adrenaline. I failed the cone weave and was marked down 10 points, with only 2 points to spare. I was ready to cry. However, I aced the rest of the test and got my license! I did my first solo ride that day.

License in hand, I practiced riding in traffic, gradually increased my mileage, and started commuting to work.

After the 4th of July, I rode to Buena Vista, 140 miles. Hilary and I rode to Gunnison and back, another 160. Then I rode back to Lafayette, another 140.

I got the nerve to try out the twisty canyon roads west of Boulder and venture up onto the Peak-to-Peak Highway, loving every minute of it.

Then I joined the Meetup group and got some experience riding with other people.

I soon realized I wanted a bigger bike with more power and greater comfort, and found the 950 online.

Now here I am towards the end of the year with a new bike! I am looking forward to next year’s adventures.

motorcycle sunset

New Bike Has Arrived!

My last post was at the end of August, and much has transpired since then.

My mom and I went to Ireland again (our 11th trip!), from September 7th to 16th. We had a great time! I was thrilled to see a number of motorcyclists on this trip, outfitted for touring. It would be a blast to tour Ireland by bike, and that is one of my goals.

When we returned, my payment to National Powersports for the new bike had cleared my bank, but hadn’t yet cleared theirs, so the bike hadn’t yet been prepared for shipment.

On Friday, September 22nd, they notified me that everything was good to go and the bike was ready to be shipped!

I started getting a steady stream of updates from a representative of Haul Bikes, a freight company that specializes in transport of motorcycles. After the bike was picked up from National Powersports in Pembroke, New Hampshire, it got to York, Pennsylvania. From there, it was hauled to Wisconsin.

I was thrilled to be told that the next notice I would get would be to arrange delivery! They told me it would be sometime between October 7-9, Saturday, Sunday or Monday.

I then got a notification that it would be delivered between 1:00 and 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 7!

About 11:30 a.m., when I was in my garage cleaning the old bike to get it ready to sell, I got a call saying the driver would arrive in about 15 minutes! I told the rep, “Wow! He’s early!” She said the weather was mild and the traffic was light, so he made good time.

I was thrilled to see this big semi roll down my street:

haul bikes

I was sure I was going to have to uncrate my bike, expecting it to be in a big wooden crate like the Ark of Covenant from Indiana Jones!

The driver, Curtis, said, “Nope, we just roll it off!”

Here is Curtis unlashing my bike on the lift gate:

new bike unload

And here’s my new girl!

new bike

I have a temporary plate which is good until October 15th and will finalize insurance on Monday, October 9th. I will register the bike after that.

Even though I technically didn’t have insurance on the bike yet (!) I had to take her out!

I rode down Highway 93, up Coal Creek Canyon, north on the Peak-to-Peak, east on Highway 7 to Lyons, south on Highway 36 to Boulder and back home.

She rides like a dream! Very smooth shifting, great acceleration, strong brakes. Fuel injection really makes a difference, plus the fact that it has a bigger engine than my old bike.

I will have to decide if I want a higher windscreen. It was very windy on that whole ride, so I need some calm conditions to see if I’m getting more draft over this shorter windscreen.

I like the footboards, and need to get used to them, as well as the heel-and-toe shifter.

I love the locking, leather-covered hard saddlebags! They have much greater capacity than those small bags on the old bike.

One of the major differences is this bike has stock pipes and is MUCH quieter than the 650 with its loud, unbaffled Cobra pipes! I had worn earplugs when riding that bike, partly for the wind noise, but mostly for the loud pipes! Earplugs helped me hear the engine, normally muffled by the pipes. For longer touring on the new bike, I may wear earplugs to cut down on wind noise.

I will be getting out when I can as weather permits. Now, I am focusing on selling the 650 on Craigslist!

New Bike!

The leader of our Meetup group has a Yamaha Raider, which is a cruiser-style bike with an extended fork, giving it a chopper look. This bike has a big 1900cc engine!

As I was expressing embarrassment over my loud pipes and had shared that I wanted a new bike, he suggested I look at the Yamaha Stryker, the smaller sibling of the Raider, with a 1300cc engine.

The Stryker also has an extended fork. Online, I saw a positive review video about the bike. The reviewer mentioned that even with the extended fork, it still handles curves well.

stryker

I started looking for a Stryker, but used bikes were scarce, and more than I wanted to spend.

After taking a few more cursory glances at the Suzuki Boulevard, Honda Shadow, etc., I came back around to the V-Star 950 Tourer. My brother said the 950 has horsepower equivalent to his 1100. Also, the 950 is fuel-injected and likely has a fuel gauge! I will not miss having to work with a choke to get the fuel/air mixture right and stressing about how much gas I have left.

I searched used 950’s online and wasn’t finding many options in Colorado.

Eventually, I found a black one in Granby. I was underwhelmed about another black bike, but thought it would be okay.

In the meanwhile, I found a blue 950 online at a company called National Powersports Distributors, in New Hampshire. It’s a 2015 and only has 700 miles on it! They said it had just been received and wasn’t ready to sell, but you could let them know you were interested in it.

I bookmarked this bike, and then learned that the bike in Granby was sold. I sensed I was being led to the blue one!

I went back to the National Powersports site and clicked the button “I WANT IT.” I included a note saying I loved the bike and wanted to purchase it.

Within minutes, I got a friendly message from Gus at the company! He said he was delighted I want the bike and just needed my address to hold it.

I was so excited and happy, I took this picture of myself!

bike happy

The next step is the guys in the shop are doing an exhaustive inspection, to be followed by a test ride and thorough detailing. Gus will then send me an invoice, I will complete payment and the bike will be on its way!!! I was pleased to read reviews from many happy customers on their website.

I should have my new bike by the end of September, in time to do some autumn rides!

Here is an image of a bike identical to what I’m getting:

sample blue 950

Meetups!

I have participated in two of the cruiser Meetups and am loving it! There are just a few people doing each ride, so it doesn’t feel overwhelming. One couple rides an Indian Roadmaster, which was great to see!

Coal Creek, Last Shot, Left Hand

The first ride was from Boulder, down Highway 93 then up Coal Creek Canyon. I shared earlier that Coal Creek was where I took a corner too fast and wound up on the other side of the road. This time, I managed all the curves fine. We had four bikes going out, and I brought up the rear.

I found riding in staggered formation was easy. It just involves maintaining a respectful distance from the other riders. Around the twisty bends in canyons, you mostly go single file.

We turned south on the Peak to Peak Highway, and made our way towards Blackhawk.

Before Blackhawk, we pulled into Roy’s Last Shot, a biker bar/restaurant. One section of the parking lot was reserved for Harley-Davidson motorcycles, so we parked on the opposite side. The spot I took sloped downhill towards a fence and I had a little difficulty keeping it from rolling back before getting it shut off and getting the kickstand down. I was embarrassed when I lost focus and revved the throttle! Our leader (“C”) asked me if I was okay, and I said I was.

Another couple met us there, who were unable to meet us at the starting point.

We all had lunch, got to know a little about each other, and “C” shared some other ride ideas he has for us.

He suggested the Mount Evans highway, which is the highest paved highway at 14,200 feet! This would be fun and challenging.

He also mentioned the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenseburg as a possible destination. I have a soft spot for the Sanctuary! However, the entry fee is a little steep at $30, but it is a worthwhile cause.

After lunch, we rode back north on the Peak to Peak, through Nederland.

The original intention was to ride down Boulder Canyon, but that route was closed for a bicycle race. Then we decided we would take Highway 7 (along the South St. Vrain river), farther to the north, to Lyons. But the rain clouds had other plans for us.

It started raining on us, so we just took Left Hand Canyon back to Highway 93 and went our separate ways.

Mishawaka and Leather

The destinations of the next ride were Nostalgic West Leather in Masonville, northwest of Loveland and then to Mishawaka for lunch. Mishawaka is a biker bar/restaurant and music venue in the Poudre Canyon west of Fort Collins.

“C” had heard the leather shop was closed, so we aimed for Beaver’s Den Leather, near the entrance to the Big Thompson Canyon.

“C” and I were the only ones to meet at the starting point, and we worked our way over to Highway 287. Traffic was heavy and slow in Longmont and Loveland. Some other participants were to meet us further down the road, and we were running very late because of traffic.

When we got to Beaver’s Den, we met two other participants and found out the couple with the Indian had to cancel because their bike was making a funny noise!

I got a pair of cool fingerless gloves at the leather shop!

gloves

From there, we worked our way over to Buckhorn Road and rode north to the Poudre Canyon.

This route is lovely, flanked by craggy red cliffs and having meadows, pine trees and a lot of hills and curves!

When we entered Poudre Canyon, I was just as awestruck as I was entering the Big Thompson Canyon. The Cache la Poudre River flows through a steep-walled rocky gorge, paralleled by the highway.

Poudre Canyon

When we got to Mishawaka, the other riders easily rode their bikes onto the gravel pullout and parked. I attempted this, but got stuck. I could feel the bike going over to the right, and it went over, as if in slow motion.

The problem was, rather than letting go of the bike, I struggled to keep it from falling, and discovered later that I had strained an arm muscle.

A couple of guys in my group pulled it upright and I got it parked with the other bikes.

We had a nice lunch in the restaurant, with our table overlooking the river, which was shimmering in the sun. Two guys were lounging in the water, which looked refreshing on that hot day!

There were hummingbird feeders hanging from the edge of the roof, and we got to see these amazing little birds sipping the red nectar from the feeders, as they hovered like miniature iridiscent helicopters!

We found out that Nostalgic West Leather was open after all, so after lunch we rode back the way we came and stopped there, meeting the very nice owner, Joann.

I got a wonderful leather vest, so I am really becoming an official biker! I am collecting patches, and we need to plan another ride back to Beaver’s Den Leather, because they do patch sewing in the back of the shop.

I was concerned about getting low on gas, so on our way back, I stopped for gas in Longmont while the other riders continued on home.

All told, I wound up riding 140 miles. My bike did better on gas than I thought it would, getting 50 miles per gallon!

On Saturday, September 2, a few of us are going to have lunch in Longmont and then ride to Loveland for the Thunder in the Rockies motorcycle rally! This is primarily a Harley event, but “C” tells us other riders are not excluded. I will tell you about it next week!

Distraction, Bikes & Dream Tours

Distraction

As I’ve mentioned before, most weekdays I ride my motorcycle to work and back.

The other day, I was intending to drive my car to work, but couldn’t find my keys anywhere. I was trying not to get upset about it and thought back to what I might have done with them. I remembered taking them with me to work earlier that week on the bike, and thought it was likely they were on my desk at work.

It was getting close to the time I needed to leave for work, so I quickly changed into my bike gear and got on the road.

The trip to work was fine. However, when I was getting ready to turn into the parking garage by my building, I had to wait for a couple of pedestrians to pass. Shortly after they passed, I lost focus, revving the throttle and the bike lurched forward and from side to side. I had my feet on the ground, and in a moment it stalled. I didn’t let it go down, but my left leg was bruised in the process. I pulled in the clutch, hit the ignition switch, rolled it back and rode it slowly into the garage and parked it, grateful that nothing worse had happened.

Although I was shaken up by this, I think I was mostly embarrassed that it happened, and grateful that I hadn’t hit a pedestrian or the parked car that was in front of me. I realized I was still preoccupied about my keys. The lesson I got from this is that, when you’re on your motorcycle, no matter what else might be on your mind, you have to assure yourself that it will work out so you can devote your whole focus to operation of the motorcycle and be completely aware of your surroundings. You need that alert awareness for your own safety and the safety of others. If you are so caught up in some worry, it’s best to not get on the bike at all.

 

Group Riding

The weekend of August 12-13, I will be participating in a couple of group rides.

On Saturday, if the weather holds, I will be going out with a small group of seasoned riders. I found this group through Meetup. It will be my first group ride, and I’m a little nervous.

I understand the staggered formation that motorcycle groups form in traffic. I don’t know if we’ll have to do this too much, as we’ll be going from north Boulder down to Coal Creek Canyon off of Highway 93. However, I don’t want to screw it up. So far, there are only three other people going. They all have bigger bikes than I have, but my 650 can keep up with them for the route we’ll be going.

We’ll be going up Coal Creek Canyon (which I described earlier), to the Peak-to-Peak Highway. Then we’ll turn south and go all the way to Blackhawk for lunch. From there, we’ll head back north on the Peak-to-Peak to Boulder Canyon and ride back to Boulder.

I’m not sure how fast they’ll be taking the corners, and I know I don’t need to compete with them. I just have to go as fast as I feel safe going. If that means they need to wait for me, so be it. Or, they may have me set the pace. I just don’t want to hold people back!

On Sunday, I plan to join a women’s riding group in the morning if I feel up for it. I don’t know the route they will be taking, but they’re leaving from east Colfax in Lakewood.

 

Bikes

I mentioned earlier that I have started researching motorcycles, as I want to get a bigger one for longer tours.

Sport bikes don’t appeal to me for their higher centers of gravity and overall aesthetic.

I am going to stick with the cruiser style, but I don’t want a Harley. My DREAM bike would be an Indian Springfield, but that’s just a tad out of my price range right now!

 

Indian Springfield

 

I think for now I will just stay with the Yamaha V-Stars, as I really like my bike. The low seat, forward foot position and low center of gravity of this bike really appeal to me.

I had thought “bigger is better,” and was thinking I would go for a 1300cc tourer, but have decided that a 950cc bike will be fine. I really like the 950 Tourer, with the windshield and hard bags. Here is the 2017 model. I would add a back rack for more storage.

950

 

I will be looking for a used bike and have casually started looking on Craigslist, but won’t be ready to buy until October.

 

Tours

Arches National Park

Earlier, I shared that my brother Hilary and I are talking about doing a trip to Utah next year, including Moab and Arches National Park, probably in early summer. We haven’t decided the route yet, but it will be a big loop starting and stopping in Buena Vista.

From Buena Vista, we would ride south through Salida, Saguache and Monte Vista, then west through Del Norte and South Fork. We would then turn southwest to go to Pagosa Springs, proceeding west to Durango.

From Durango, we would head west through Cortez, then northwest through Dove Creek and cross over into Utah to Monticello. From there, we would ride north to Moab and Arches National Park.

After touring Arches, we would ride north to I-70, taking that back into Colorado. We would exit the interstate at Fruita, heading southeast to Delta and Montrose, then riding east to Gunnison. From there, we would summit Monarch Pass and pass through Poncha Springs before returning to Buena Vista.

We will have to decide if we want to do this route, or do the reverse, heading up to I-70, then down to Moab, and reentering Colorado to go through Durango.

I got inspired to do this trip because I saw an ad showing some motorcyclists passing through the amazing red rocks of Utah, and it looked amazing!

rider in Arches 

Jasper National Park

I recently read a great article about Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada in the Denver Post. As I was reading it, I thought “road trip!”

The author mentioned that a lot of visitors usually spend more time at Banff National Park, to the south. Banff is lovely, and many people flock to Lake Louise, a hamlet on the turquoise glacial lake with a picturesque chateau.

When tourists head north to Jasper, many of them wish they had scheduled more time there!

Banff is pretty touristy, while Jasper is less developed.

The 140-mile route from Banff to Jasper is called the Icefields Parkway, and the author of the article said you need to spend a whole day doing it because you’ll be stopping frequently to soak in the stunning vistas.

Although I would like to ride to Jasper, I don’t think I can work it in next year. It is over 1,300 miles each way, and I would need over two weeks to do it justice. Some day!

 

jasper icefields parkway

Boulder Canyon, Left Hand Canyon, Big Thompson Canyon & South St. Vrain Canyon

Boulder Canyon to Left Hand Canyon

I didn’t ride my motorcycle at all the weekend after my big road trip to Buena Vista, just rested and thought about what’s next in my motorcycling journey!

I have been commuting to work on the bike, almost every day, and Saturday, July 22 I did a 75-mile ride.

I planned to ride up Boulder Canyon to Nederland and take the Peak to Peak Highway north to Estes Park. From there, I would go east through the Big Thompson Canyon to Loveland, and return to Lafayette on Highway 287.

I noted that thunderstorms were in the forecast and clouds were forming over the mountains by the time I left at noon, but I headed out anyway.

From Boulder, I took Canyon Boulevard west up Boulder Canyon, which is steep in places with moderate and tight curves.

The road surface is generally poor, with cracks and small potholes. I frequently found that when I was preparing to position the bike before a curve that a pothole was right where I wanted to go!

I was a little tense about the road conditions, so the ride up to Nederland wasn’t relaxing.

When I arrived in Nederland, a rainstorm had already passed through, leaving puddles on the pavement. I stopped to put the liner in my jacket and headed north on the Peak to Peak (Highway 72).

I was glad to be on this stretch of roadway, as it is smooth and well-maintained. However, I was following the rainclouds north and the road was wet.

I rode in light rain, periodically wiping my face shield and I was cold. I decided I would just take Highway 7 east back to Lyons, as I didn’t want to continue in these conditions.

However, about 9 miles north of Nederland, I saw a sign pointing to Boulder, so I turned right onto a road called Nelson Street.

I had never been on this road, but decided to see where it led.

Immediately after taking my right turn, I found that I was on a narrow, steep paved road with a 15-mile-per-hour hairpin curve below me!

I kept the bike in second gear, negotiating down a steep hill past some homes. It turned out this is the north part of Ward.

I worked my way down, the road widened, and I found that I was on the Left Hand Canyon road.

I am glad I took this detour, as this road gave me a chance to increase my confidence riding smoothly around curves with proper technique.

I position myself for the longest sightline, slow if necessary before the curve, lean into the curve, and gently increase speed as I pass through the curve.

On one instance, I felt I was approaching a curve a little too fast and grabbed the brake as I was going through the curve. This is not good technique! When you are leaning into a curve and if you brake at that point, the bike will want to go back upright and you could veer out of the curve and off the road.

Later, on another curve, I could feel a little fear creeping in as I was leaning, and I could feel my right hand wanting to go for the front brake. But, I didn’t touch it. I just told myself to lean with the bike and trust the bike and my skills.

The canyon was beautiful, with steep rock walls and the road followed a creek. As the road descended, the valley widened and the number of houses increased, so I knew I was getting closer to Boulder.

Left Hand Canyon Road runs for about 10 miles, connecting the Peak to Peak Highway to Highway 36.

When I reached Highway 36, I turned south and worked my way back to Lafayette.

It was a good ride, but I felt pretty tired after it because of the road and weather conditions.

 

Big Thompson Canyon and Estes Park

Sunday, July 23, I rode north from Lafayette on Highway 287, passed through Longmont and continued to Loveland.

From Loveland, I took Highway 7 west through the Big Thompson Canyon to Estes Park.

The Big Thompson Canyon road is finally open after major construction following the most recent flooding of the canyon in 2013. Prior to that, the canyon was the site of the worst natural disaster in America, when torrential rain flooded the canyon and 144 people were killed.

One of my motivations to go through the Big Thompson Canyon was to appreciate its beauty. The other is to honor those killed in the flood.

The road towards the canyon was good, and there were, as expected, a large number of vehicles going this way towards Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.

I had seen pictures of Big Thompson Canyon, but my mouth dropped open in awe when I entered it! The road passes right by the river, and the canyon walls loom steeply on each side. When you see this narrow canyon with its steep sides, it is easy to understand how torrential rains upstream could easily turn the river into a wall of water!

big_thompson_canyon11

The road twisted and turned, gradually rising in elevation until it exited the canyon and after a few more miles, I reached Estes Park.

Predictably, Estes Park was filled to the brim with tourists. I parked on a back street and went to a coffee shop, where I rested for about 40 minutes.

When I finished my break, I headed out of town on Highway 7, back onto the Peak to Peak Highway.

The clouds had gathered again and I rode south in a light shower which at times grew heavier. I had to stop twice to tighten my mirror!

As the clouds loomed and thunder bellowed from the distance, I stopped to put the liner in my jacket.

South St. Vrain Canyon

At length, I reached the junction with Highway 72, which heads south towards Nederland. I continued east on Highway 7, down through the South St. Vrain Canyon, which I had ridden earlier and enjoyed.

In Lyons, I turned south on US 36 towards Boulder, and went down Broadway all the way to Table Mesa Drive. From there I headed east and returned to Lafayette, a total of 123 miles.

Next week I will share more about bikes I am considering and some proposed tours for 2018!

Road Trip!

Saturday, July 8 – Lafayette to Buena Vista

As I have mentioned repeatedly, I have been intending to ride my motorcycle from Lafayette to Buena Vista and back. Well, now you don’t have to hear me blathering on about that, because I just did it last weekend!

I loaded my leather saddle bags and strapped a pack to the back of the bike with bungee cords. As an extra precaution, I wore a bright yellow vest over my mesh motorcycle jacket, to make me extra-visible.

Saturday I left Lafayette about 9:15 a.m. When I was only a couple of miles from my house, I had to stop because my left mirror was flapping again! I dug out my wrench and tightened down the bolt as tightly as I could. I am not sure why this loosens and what to do to keep it tight, but I’ll keep my wrench handy!

I rode the route I had done before out to Conifer. I took Highway 93 south to Golden, then Heritage road to Hogback Road south to Morrison. From Morrison, it’s a short jog south to US 285. Then it was up Turkey Creek Canyon, where I stopped in Conifer to top off the gas, about 50 miles from home.

I continued southwest on 285, enjoying the pleasant day. The highway passes by woods and rocky hills and connects several small communities along its corridor.

A few miles north of Bailey, the road passes down Crow Hill, a steep hill with sweeping curves. The small town of Bailey is at the foot of the hill, and at this point 285 heads northwest.

This part of the highway is particularly beautiful, as it navigates through a series of long, narrow valleys. At the west end is the “Long Meadow Ranch,” with a beautiful and peaceful green, grassy meadow, having a river running along one side of it and trees around the edges.

From Grant, the highway starts heading southwest and climbing in elevation until it reaches the 10,000-foot summit of Kenosha Pass.

When you round the bend after the summit, the broad expanse of South Park is below. South Park is a high-altitude “basin” bordered by snow-capped peaks. There are a few cow pastures and grasses grow along the creeks, but the rest of the landscape is covered with sagebrush and short scrub.

South Park is notorious for being windy a good bit of the time, and I wasn’t looking forward to experiencing this on the bike!

The wind hit me as soon as I reached the valley floor, buffeting my head, as I made my way through Jefferson, a village a couple of miles from the foot of Kenosha Pass.

This first half of South Park has a lot of wide open spaces with few nearby hills to break the wind. As I approached Red Hill Pass, the wind became less of a problem.

I knew when I reached Red Hill that I was almost to Fairplay, which lies about 3 miles southwest of the pass.

I stopped in Fairplay, topped off the gas tank again and got a snack. Only 35 miles to Buena Vista! From Fairplay, the highway heads due south.

At Antero Junction, US 285 joins with Highway 24, and then heads up Trout Creek Pass. I was happy to start the short climb up the pass, as this carried me off the windy plain of South Park. The road is pleasantly twisty as it makes its way into Chaffee County.

One day and 140 miles down!

Sunday, July 9 – Monarch Pass and Gunnison

My brother Hilary and I decided, since I was going to be in Buena Vista with my motorcycle, that we ought to do a ride together! He suggested we ride over Monarch Pass to Gunnison for lunch, which we did on Sunday, July 9.

We left Buena Vista about 10:00 a.m., riding about 25 miles south to Poncha Springs. From there, we headed west towards Monarch Pass, midway between Buena Vista and Gunnison.

The road was level for a while, passing farms and trees, but soon began climbing. The incline wasn’t so extreme that I needed to shift down from fifth gear, and the curves were moderate.

We reached the summit of Monarch Pass, which is at 11,312 feet above sea level! The surrounding mountains were breathtaking:

monarch 1.jpg

After a break, we rode down the other side, around some tight curves and reached the base of the pass. It was then about 30 miles to Gunnison. The land we rode through had moderate hills and was covered with sagebrush. The air smelled of spicy sage and green grass.

We had lunch and got gas in Gunnison before riding back the way we came to return to Buena Vista. We discovered my bike was getting lower gas mileage than my brother’s bike. This may be due to my smaller 650cc engine needing to work harder to maintain highway speeds. His bike is an 1100cc.

The west side of Monarch Pass is steeper than the east side, and I found I had to shift down to fourth gear and putt along at 45 miles per hour.

Here I am at the summit on the way back:

nancy on monarch.jpg

When we stopped to pick up some groceries in Salida, Hilary noticed that one of the bolts holding on my exhaust pipes had nearly worked its way loose! We suspect the technician who worked on my bike did not secure it very well, as it would not have done that on its own. So, there we were, in a hot parking lot, with Hilary tightening the bolt in close proximity to the scalding hot pipes! He managed to get it secure, and we were happy to get back on the highway and cool off.

We had a nice ride back to Buena Vista. Another 160 miles down!

Monday, July 10 – Buena Vista to Lafayette

I left Buena Vista Monday morning about 10:30. The 35-mile trip to Fairplay was uneventful except for having to swerve around a big chunk of retread that had come off someone’s tire. Shortly before arriving in Fairplay, I saw a skinny black twisted thing that looked like wire wedged around my fork. I hoped that this wasn’t part of my bike!

I stopped in Fairplay and found that the thing in my fork was just a small piece of the retread that I had picked up. I pulled it out of the fork and got going again.

I then rode up and over Red Hill Pass and worked my way back north towards Jefferson near the foot of Kenosha Pass.  Wild roses lined the road, filling the air with their lovely scent.

Outside Jefferson, I was delighted to see a huge meadow filled with tiny yellow flowers and purple clover on a field of green. All along this stretch of roadway, the sweet smell of clover was present.

I decided to stop in Bailey for gas. This is about the midpoint of the whole ride, 70 miles from Buena Vista.

After summiting Crow Hill, I rode back along 285 towards Conifer. As I approached Conifer, I found that rain had recently fallen, and the temperature dropped.

I contemplated putting on another layer and stopped in Conifer for coffee. While I sat at the coffee shop, the sun came out.

I got home to Lafayette in the mid-afternoon.

Another 140 miles!

Total mileage for the whole trip: 440!

 

What’s Next?

I plan to do some more rides this summer, including the whole length of the Peak-to-Peak Highway from Black Hawk to Estes Park.

I will also be going on a women’s motorcycle group ride in August. This will help me see if I would like to do other events with this group, which meets monthly. Also, it will give me experience riding in a group. I feel that I will generally prefer riding solo or with one or two other people, but I have to at least try this!

I have caught the motorcycle touring bug! For touring, I need a bike with a bigger engine, with more power for hills and greater comfort for long trips. I am reading online reviews of bikes and deciding what I want.

My goal is to sell my 650cc and get a bigger used bike (1100cc or 1300cc) by the end of the year. The Yamaha V-Star 650 has been a great entry-level motorcycle!