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COLORADO TRIP '96

We woke up pumped, Susan, Erin and myself, anxious for our trip to Colorado. I hadn't prepared as well as I should have, as you'll find out later. We had to meet some of the others at Plano Honda at noon and we had our work cut out for us. I had to have everything, bikes and all, loaded in time to swing by my sister's to say goodbye to my visiting parents. With the bikes loaded (almost lost my Shadow if it weren't for sheer brute strength) and the Explorer packed, I remembered to check out the lights on the trailer (something that should've been done at least the night before). You guessed, they didn't work. I fretted all the way to my sisters and checked the obvious fuses when I got gas. I called Keith at Plano Honda (aren't cell phones wonderful) and his only suggestion was a couple of different trailer places. Time we didn't have to spare. Pulling up at Sis's house, I checked again and wouldn't you know it, they worked. I suppose that just pulling and reseating the fuse did the trick.

Our goodbyes said, it was off to Plano Honda to meet Tom Darter, Dean Anderson and Jay Shannon. We would meet Bob Maynard and Liz Cook en route. Leanne and Craig (Quickie, earned on last years trip) Rhoades with their kids Danielle and Ethan, Larry (Scooter) Studer, Steve Harris and Dan (now 3D instead of Biker Boy) McFarland left earlier in the day. We'd meet Kevin and Patty Weir, Lon Ricker and his SO Kyla at Royal Gorge.

We left as usual, on Shadow Time and were really on the road by 1pm. The whole drive to Amarillo was plagued with "check engine" lights, belching black smoke and horrendous gas mileage for our Explorer. I meant to have it tuned and checked out but didn't. Before dinner I was scoping out Ford dealers for the morning and my plans for an early start were dashed. I watched three straight hours of the bombing at the Olympics waiting on my wheels. Everyone else headed out, with Bob and Liz waiting on us. Back on the road by 1pm again. Thirty miles out of Amarillo the light is back on again.

We were the last to roll into camp and get settled. I'd developed a belly ache by then and it would dog me for the next few days. Everyone was excited and ready for riding. We took a small ride into Canon City for dinner and retired fairly early.

Sunday morning we had our first visitor. BJ Ondo from Colorado Springs stopped in to meet the Shadows. He had read about us in Cruiser Magazine and I'd talked with him over the phone prior to our trip. He was generous with his time and prepared us some ride maps. I asked if he'd lead us in our first forage into the mountains of Colorado and he jumped for it. We took a small jaunt up to Bishop's Castle. If you've never heard of it or seen it, you should. Jim Bishop started building a house of stone and friends said that it looked like a castle. Some 27 years later and he's still building it and now it is a castle. He plans on building a wall and moat around it once the main keep is done.

BJ took us to a quaint little eatery in a town that was not much more than that. It probably is normally a good stop, but we overwhelmed them and it took a couple of hours to feed the 16 of us. The owner's wife had fallen out of the wrong side of the bed that morning and after telling Steve that he could go to MacDonalds next time, Dan really wound her up by calling her a "B****". This sent her after her husband, who made Grizzly Adams look effeminate. He stormed right past Dan and went outside looking for the scoundrel that offended his cranky bride. No one fessed up to it, so we all made it home with our teeth intact.

That night all enjoyed a community barbecue at Larry and Steve's cabin, except for myself. I was still nursing tummy trouble and munched apples while smelling the bratwurst grilling away. Beers, laughter and BSing about the day came to a close rather early. More riding tomorrow.

Monday-Anywhere Day

Monday we started splitting off into our different interests, like the girls going shopping in Colorado Springs. The boys on the other hand had riding to do. Dan, Tom and Jay went on a 485 mile loop, while the rest of us settled on little shorter ride to Gunnison for lunch and then south down 114, coming back up through the San Louis Valley. It was on 114 that Kevin let me ride his ZX11 Ninja. Kids, this is something you really shouldn't do with out a full face helmet. My first ride at 150mph had the wind blowing the tears out of my eyes and when I backed off to 120, I got whacked in the cheek by a bug (it felt like the size of a small sparrow, but was probably a gnat). Rain caught up with us and stayed with us for the last 80 miles back. That would be the only time we rode in anything more than a sprinkle (except for Craig).

Tuesday -Pikes Peak

With the exception of Larry and Steve (they had bike problems to attend to), everyone was heading for Pike's Peak. Craig had Ethan and all of the women folk (except for Leanne) in our Explorer and the rest of us were going to meet them at the Peak. Before we got out of Canon City, Bob's ACE started vibrating apart. We pulled over and waited for him and in the interim, Liz called to see how her father was doing in the hospital. Unfortunately, he had died just shortly before, so the two of them pulled out to make arrangements for Liz's flight to Florida.

We met Craig and his crew at the entrance and after negotiating a group rate, we raced up the Peak. It wasn't actually a race, like having a winner and all, we just really booked up that little hill. By the time we got to the top, a cloud moved in and it made the 40 degrees up there a little chillier. It wasn't long before we'd " been there and done that", so back down we scampered.

The original plan was to meet Larry and Steve at the Garden of the Gods. The Peak took longer than anticipated and by the time we finished lunch (Dan was well behaved),it was way past our meeting time. We still had time to cruise through the GOG and it was worth the trip. It was a fairly early evening as tomorrow would be a long day.

Wednesday- Mount Evans

All but Bob and Liz made the ride to Mt. Evans. We took the scenic route up Hwy 9 to Frisco. It was a short hop on the interstate through the Eisenhower Tunnel to Idaho Springs. We broke for lunch there at a place that specialized in Buffalo. Our meals were good and again, Dan was behavin'. I think it was 28 miles to the top, this time it was paved the entire way. I was on my bike and it wasn't behaving at all. I'd taken the air cleaner out of it just so it would run. I'd had it re-jetted in the spring and it was running way to rich (that's another thing I should've attended to). Erin was on the back and from 11000 feet on up, she didn't stop praying. The problem was that my bike would start to die, sputter and pop, then lurch forward. It always seemed to lurch going into one of those many switch backs. If you've ever been up in Colorado, you've noticed that there must be a state law against putting up guard rails. By the time we got to the top my nerves were frayed and God's ears were worn out.

On the way down, we stopped at Echo Lake for a break and coffee. It's a beautiful little restaurant and shop overlooking Echo Lake. From there the plan was to hop on I- 70 again, but this time take Loveland Pass and detour the tunnel. I was tired and sort of zoning, when a car pulled into our lane and putted along. I knew we were just a few miles from our exit, so I just chilled. But, that's when the mutiny started. Kevin took off first, followed by Larry and I wasn't to surprised. But then most of the rest followed suit. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Most of these folks were familiar with group riding, but I guess this area hadn't been addressed. Anyhow, my few loyal followers (they were probably zoning as well) and myself fell in behind the last rider.

We exited and started up Loveland Pass, but before I'd gotten a half a mile, I ran out of gas. I'd underestimated the mileage I was getting going up Mt. Evans. I quickly switched on to reserve, but it was to late, the carbs were dry. I turned the bike around and coasted down to save my battery. I wasn't having much luck getting her going and I looked in my rear view just in time to see a semi bearing down on me. I pulled in the clutch and gathered enough momentum to both get ahead of the truck and get her started. After reaching the bottom, I shut her down till I had a plan. Leanne had pointed to an emergency call box and I found out the nearest gas was 10 miles either direction, but Silver Plume (east) was down hill. That's where I was headed.

With Leanne, Tom Darter (Erin on the back of his Wing) following, I was scooting down I-70. The "Silver Plume One Mile" in sight, she died. I whipped over on to the berm, determined to avoid pushing an inch and coasted. Tom went ahead to scope the gas situation and Leanne followed me. I watched as the needle on my speedo kept slowly dropping. I pulled in my knees, put my feet on the rear pegs and lowered my head. As I pulled on to the exit ramp, I'd dropped below 20mph. Tom radioed that the station was just on the other side of the interstate. I watched carefully as I approached the stop signs at the end of the ramp, I can make it. Swinging left under the bridge, I could see the station. I was going to do it. I pulled right up to the pumps and sighed a big relief.

I popped the cap, grabbed the hose, flipped the lever and NADA,, ZILCH, ZIP. I assumed that I needed to prepay as there was a lot of activity around the station. Just as I grabbed the door knob to go in, I saw the sign. "CLOSED"! It was 5:45 and they had closed at 5:30 for inventory. Well, there were lights on and though I didn't see anyone, I knew someone was there and I started pounding. Finally some guy came to the door and said I needed to go a couple of more miles for gas. I said, " You don't understand, I don't have ANY gas, period." I continued to beg and plead, I might have even groveled. I finally wore him down and conceded to $5 worth, but it was going to screw up his accounting.

With a little gas in our bikes ( I shared some with Leanne), we took off to meet the rest. I was still a little burned and mostly exhausted. That explains ( it doesn't excuse) my forthcoming behavior. As soon as we got off at Frisco, I saw the gas station loaded with bikes. They were all gassed up and busy kicking tires. We pulled in, filled up and I went to the boys room. When I came out, I was asked if I was ready to "lead" them on home. I replied, "Nope, I'm not leading". I got on my bike and left. I guess I caught a few by surprise, as I could see the mad scramble in my rear view. By the time I passed through Breckinridge, most had caught up and were behind me. I still wasn't leading, they just happened to be following. It was a long day.

Thursday -Rafting

7:30am was the departure time for the rafters. I didn't want to give up riding time for that and in retrospect, I should have. Kevin, Larry, Bob and all of the women folk (except for Danielle) had a ball. They went on a half day trip that went through Royal Gorge and they all loved it. Next time! Steve and Dean took a ride west, Craig and Ethan explored the southern entrance to the Gorge. I poked around the camp and then headed in Craig's direction. I was looking for a view of the Arkansas where I might be able to get a picture of the rafters. There was a decent dirt road that headed in that general direction,so I took it. After a few miles it started getting less than decent. A few more miles and it was getting darned dangerous (for Susan's bike, I haven't told her yet that I took it, so it's our secret). It was full of ruts and washboards, rocks and bolders. It went up and down and was loaded with hairy switch backs. About 8 or 10 miles in, I began to wonder if there was an outlet, if I was going to be bushwacked or just end up lost. A few more miles and it started looking civilized again and soon ran into pavement. Fortunately, it dumped me out in downtown Canon City. Whew!

I took a short nap (needed at my age) and was awoke by the mighty rafters upon their return. Most scattered to do other things, but some wanted to ride. Dan and Jay were still out on the road completing a loop they started in the morning. Dean and Steve were, god knows where. Craig had the bike for the afternoon and needed to ride. He talked Larry and Bob into riding and I decided "what the heck". Craig wanted to ride to Gunnison and that was 2 hours out. I knew I wouldn't go that far, but I'd ride till I felt it was enough. We passed Dan and Jay on our way into Salida and they doubled back. We took a break there so Larry could find an ATM. That's where I decided to head back and so did everyone else except Craig. He needed to ride.

That evening some of us gathered at Kevin's canopy to watch the lightning. It put on quite a show. We all wondered where Craig, Dean and Steve were,especially Leanne. Craig finally showed after riding in through some of the storm. Fortunately, he only ran into ran the last 10 miles or so. Tomorrow would be our last day of riding. We hadn't been told that Dean called and they were making the loop to Durango. We retired not knowing where they were.

Friday - Cripple Creek

Tommy had headed back Thursday morning and the Rhoades and Bob left this morning. Erin and Susan headed off to Manitou Springs to shop and get a parking ticket ( everyone else was parking there she said). Dan hung around Canon City ( I don't know why). Kevin, Patty, Larry, Jay and I went to Cripple Creek to find our riches. Not! I thought I was going to hit it big. I was wearing my Eagle shirt and the first casino that caught my eye was the Double Eagle. Larry wanted to go to one of the busy, smaller casinos to start out. I saved some of mine for the DE. It was the last place we planned on going (save the best for last) and when we walked in we found out that it was so new, only the hotel and restaurant were open. Oh well! I had decided a head of time that $50 was all I was going to risk. I quit at $40, so I figured I left $10 ahead.

When we returned, we found that Dean and Steve made it back okay. They had a super ride and spent the night in Pagosa Springs. Besides Steve's battery giving up the ghost near Gunnison, the only hitch they had was passing a sheriff over a double yellow line. They were lucky and only got talking to. Most spent the rest of the evening packing. Jay, the Weirs and the Russells went out to eat. Reality was sinking in. Our time was almost up.

The Last Day

Larry woke us up around 7am. They were ready to hit the road and needed to load the few things that they were carrying back for us. Dean and Jay were packed as well and ready to follow. Dan was still sleepy eyed, but ready to go. We were going to poke around and spend some of the morning with Kevin and Patty. After all, it would be probably a year before we see them again.

We met them at the little trailer outside our campground for breakfast. Tommy first checked this place out and I wished that we'd gone sooner. The came from Oklahoma and rented this little chunk of land and sold food all day. Sort of like a chuckwagon. They made the best breakfast burrito. Egg, sausage and potato, wrapped in a tortilla and smothered with green chilies topped with cheese. They insisted you didn't pay till you were done and only if you liked it. It was terrific.

We said our goodbyes and were on the road to Texas. Yep, the "check engine" light was on again and I had to stop about every 120 miles to fill up. I had to stop every 60 miles for someone to empty their bladder. I was forever stopping. That's why it was 2am before we pulled into Plano.

Next year we are going to be looking at Estes Park, Jackson Hole and maybe back through Durango. I'll certainly have the Explorer running right by then. Hope you can join us.