Well, I am down to a month before I pull out of the driveway and head north… for 15 days. The trip is feeling mighty real now.
I needed to do one more shakedown cruise to make sure I had this camping thing down. I didn’t.
Megan to the rescue.
Megan is a photographer, MD, and super experienced minimalist camper. She followed me in her Prius, and gave me a crash course in using what I had already put together, and discovering a few things I hadn’t thought of. Thanks for the help, Megan.
We stayed in campgrounds, and didn’t do any dry camping. I do not expect to do more than one or two nights of dry camping on the trip, so that will be fairly easy.
Things I discovered on this trip:
The small ‘backpacker’ sleeping mattress is probably fine for a 28-year-old, in shape backpacker climbing the hills to the sky. For an old codger with Sciatica… not so much. The first sleepless, sore, stiff night was enough. Off to Walmart for a twin size blow up sleeping mattress. $8… and it changed the experience from disaster to wonderful. Battery pump saves time and breath.
Campgrounds are really fun. Meeting people on the road like yourself – short term or long term, making friends, sharing coffee and stories. It’s really wonderful. I had never thought much about staying in one, but now I am looking forward to them.
Riding in the rain takes a bit more concentration than riding on dry surface, and that takes a lot of concentration itself. Riding a bike with cagers all around makes the experience of driving more intense, more mentally aware. I rode in the rain a lot. Cold rain for summer. Just ordered waterproof gloves… because mine aren’t. Dang!
More people are willing to help than aren’t. I had some issues with the bike and the Harley guys at the Chop Shop in Durango were great. We diagnosed and repaired right on the spot and they didn’t charge me a nickel. In fact, they told me to check in when I got to Montrose if I was having the same issue and they would get someone down from Grand Junction to pick me and the bike up. Thanks guys, but we were just fine after the repair.
I wanted to make so many more photographs than I did, but the fact is, it rained about 50% of the time. I cannot afford to get the cameras wet, so I made do with some iPhone shots, and used the big camera when it wasn’t pouring or hailing. I realize now that a backup camera that can be used in the less than perfect weather is a must. Looking at either Sony or Lumix for a good, high-quality, midlevel camera with a single zoom lens. Maybe a Fuji.
Here is a short synopsis of the trip:
DAY ONE: PHOENIX TO DURANGO
Long day. Took the road less travelled, and spent a long time on it. It was already crazy hot when I got to the outskirts of Phoenix. 6AM and 98 degrees. Highway 87 led north, to higher elevations in Payson and Heber, and hopefully a lot cooler weather. It was. A little.
It was also the last cool weather of the day until we got to Durango.
The ride through the Res is always one I enjoy, and we stopped for a bite in Chinle. I wished for a bit more time to visit the canyon, but the many construction zones had eaten up a lot of time, and it was important to keep moving.
DAY TWO: DURANGO TO GUNNISON
We headed up to Silverton after getting the bike repaired. If you have not experienced the road between Durango and Ouray, you have missed one of the more spectacular trips you can make. Bike or car or whatever – it is simply breathtaking.
Oh, and no, there are no guardrails. Just be smart and nothing will go wrong. We stopped in Silverton to wait out the rain and I decided the best thing to make rain go away is ice cream. It just seemed right at the time.
We left Silverton for Ouray, and hit a big construction zone. A group of Texans had made Colorado their Corvette Club vacation for the summer and we were all stuck behind the flagman. I immediately began photographing the couples and their Corvettes. I also got a shot of some lovely Swiss bikers who were pedaling the Rockies for their summer vacation.
DAY THREE: GUNNISON TO CHAMA, NM
This was one crazy day. I had fixed the motorcycle in Durango, and now had to add some oil. The oil cap requires a tool that must be controlled by a third world dictator or something because we couldn’t find one anywhere. Walmart, Auto Zone, motorcycle shops… nobody had it and I simply could not get the cap off to add the oil. A mechanic at a quick lube place had something that worked. I made sure I was able to open it again before I left.
We rode south to Lakeside where I had planned on getting gas. It rained. All the way there. Internet service was out, so they couldn’t take CC, and I had only a few bucks in cash. I made a quick calculation and figured I could make Creed with the fuel I had. I did – on fumes.
Highway 149 from Gunnison to South Fork is spectacular, You cross three very high passes, and go through awesome wilderness. It must be even lovelier when it isn’t pouring rain with 500 yards of visibility. Even though, I loved every frozen fingered mile. From South Fork to Pagosa Springs takes you over Wolf Creek Pass – another crazy altitude adventure with lots of hairpin curves.
DAY FOUR: CHAMA TO SANTA FE
Finally, we had a short ride day. Not that many miles to get to Santa Fe.
We encountered the Rio Grande Gorge, which was a surprise as we came around the bend and saw the bridge, and we spent some time in the Taos Pueblo making photographs and meeting some local artists who live in the Pueblo.
Lunch was a green chile burger at Ricki’s, a small little cafe on the outskirts of the main town area. Good burger, Ricki.
We almost beat the rain out of Taos. Almost.
DAY FIVE: SANTA FE TO GREER
I wanted to get closer to home before I actually entered that last leg of the trip – the one where I ride into town with 110 degree heat. (Even though we planned it well, it was 110 by 10:30 in the morning so I was not able to escape that blast furnace.)
We took the most scenic way through to Greer, but we did have to jump on Interstate 40 to get through Albuquerque. Near Grants, we turned south to go through the Malpais Monument. The high desert was simply amazing, and the Monument had some incredible rock cliffs and walls.
We stopped in Quemado for lunch – another green chili burger, hey – it’s New Mexico – and then finished the ride into Greer. After setting up camp we visited Big Lake where it was quite cold… and – wait for it – raining.
The ride home from Greer to Phoenix was uneventful, and I got home about 11AM.
I won’t be taking any more rides in July – way too busy – so the next time I get on the bike will be to head on out to Alaska. I am excited. I think my bike is excited too, I can just tell she is.
I will cover the same roads from Phoenix to Gunnison, but after that it will be a new path for every mile save a few in lower Canada. All new roads, all new adventure.
I will be posting at every opportunity while on the ride. You can follow me here for daily (if possible due to wifi) posts, and also on Snapchat and Instagram.
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