Bring your own fork

August 16, 2007 - Thursday

 Colorado Trip, Part III

Day 5
Estes Park, CO – Cortez, CO. 517 miles.

It’s been a loooong day today. I was up at 6:00 and on the road by 7:00. I decided to backtrack over the Trail Ridge Road again because it’s such a great ride and I thought it would be cool to see it again in reverse. And it was. I stopped at one of the scenic overlooks and snapped the best picture of the entire trip:

Rocky Mountain National Park

I took some other nice pictures coming through the park too. You need to remember that for most of these pictures, I took them while riding one-handed and pointing the camera in the general direction of something worth photographing and sort of crossing my fingers and hoping for the best as I hit the shutter button. Sometimes it paid off.

Trail Ridge Road
Trail Ridge Road
Trail Ridge Road
Trail Ridge Road

At the base of the Trail Ridge Road is a town called Grand Lake, where I stopped for breakfast at the Bear’s Dean restaurant, where I had a very generic chicken fried steak and underdone hashbrowns.

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When I got back on the bike, either I or my GPS unit lost its mind. I had programmed a great route into my Zumo that backtracked over the Trail Ridge Road again as I said above, then went off to cover new ground further south. The plan was to work my way down through Colorado to the Durango/Cortez area, covering new and hopefully interesting ground as I went, with the Four Corners monument being my ultimate target.

So I got on the bike, turned on the Zumo, and either I hit the wrong button or it went nuts or something, but the bottom line is that it told me to go “that a way” and I did. For about 120 miles. And as I was riding along, backtracking along roads I had already ridden on my way out to Colorado, I kept thinking “Wow, I didn’t realize this route backtracked so far.”

Along the way I passed the elk roadkill I had seen three days earlier and got a good look at what three days in the summer sun can do to an elk carcass. It’s probably fortunate that I have no sense of smell, because if the number of flies are any indication of just how much something stinks, then this elk was definitely ripe because the flies were out in force. Interestingly, the carcass was about 15 feet down the hill from the road from where it had been originally, and there were parts … missing. I think a bear had been doing some midnight snacking. I took some pictures because I’m twisted that way, but I’ll exercise some discretion and not post them. (Here, at least. I did upload them to flickr.)

Rather than rotting roadkill, I’ll thrill you with a shot of my bike a few miles on from the roadkill. There wasn’t another car for miles when I stopped to take this shot. I hung out there for a good 10 minutes with my bike parked in the middle of the road, just listening to the wind.

Road Glide

When I got to Glenwood Springs, where I spent the night on the way out, and the Zumo told me to keep heading west on the I-70 when I had specifically planned a route to the south, I figured something was off. And it was. I don’t know what happened to the outstanding route I had originally planned, but I wasn’t on it anymore. So I improvised — I told the Zumo to cancel the current route and find me a new one to Cortez. Considering how the Zumo had led me astray this far it may have been a bit naive and optimistic to let it lead me once again, but I did it anyway.

So the Zumo pointed me south (finally) on Highway 50, and a little way along I passed a turnoff to Highway 141, which a friend had suggested was a great ride, so I went that way. Man, what a ride that was. 150-some miles of 2-lane back roads that twisted and turned through a gorgeous desert landscape. It was incredible, on par with Zion National Park, even.

Highway 141
Highway 141
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Somewhere in southern Colorado on Highway 141
Self Portrait

Then the GPS messed with my emotions. I’m already wound up enough with being up here to scatter my dad’s ashes and going to flood memorials and whatnot, but then the GPS led me straight to the town my dad lived in up until he had to go into assisted living. I knew I was going to be in the Dove Creek area and hadn’t made up my mind yet whether or not i thought I could handle it, but the GPS made my decision for me.

Dove Creek
Dove Creek Superette

I gassed up at the general store my dad always went to (I asked the cashier if she had known my dad. She had and she said he was a really nice man and that everyone really liked him.), and on the wall outside was a listing of all the area campgrounds, which was convenient since I was planning on camping tonight. I picked one and plugged it into the GPS and headed for the outskirts of Cortez…

…where I got pulled over by a Cortez Sheriffs Deputy for speeding. I was apparently doing 57 in a 30 mph zone when he passed me going the other way. I watched in my mirror and when I saw his lights go on and he started making a U-turn to come after me I just pulled over and waited for him.

Fortunately, he was a nice guy. I was courteous and apologetic and when I mentioned that I was headed for the campground he told me that I should go to a better one and gave me directions. Then he gave me a warning and sent me on my way.

So here I am now in the KOA Kampground in Cortez, CO, and let me tell you KOA is THE BOMB. They have showers. They have a laundry room. They have a pool. They have campsites with electrical outlets that can power things like laptop computers. And they have wireless internet! Who knew?!? So I’m sitting in my tent writing these notes, checking email, and surfing the web, and all for $28. I’m doing this more often.

Here’s my campsite:
Cortez, CO KOA Kampground

And here’s the obligatory Room from Here shot:
Cortez, CO

…and the View From Here shot:
Cortez, CO

But I’m doing with a different tent. Early on in these notes a thunderstorm hit while I was writing and I had to hightail it into the tent with all my gear. So I’m sitting in here with lightning flashing and thunder crashing and rain coming down in buckets, and I’m here to tell you that this tent is NOT waterproof. It has a nice big leak right at the entrance, which just happens to be where the head-end of my sleeping bag is. So I’m going to have a soggy night ahead of me.

But at least I can stay up surfing the net…

Day 6
Cortez, CO – Los Angeles, CA. 763 miles.

I was up at dawn the next morning, and as I packed up to get back on the road I started rethinking my basically non-existent travel plan for the day. The only firm thing on it was to visit the Four Corners Monument about 50 miles away, and after that I really didn’t have anything planned.

I’d been thinking that maybe I’d check out the Grand Canyon — but I wanted to spend more than just an hour or two. I thought maybe I’d stop in my brothers’ birthplace of Winslow, AZ just to say I’d done it — but then I realized I didn’t really want to do it. I considered spending a day wandering around in Utah and enjoying the desert scenery — but I’d already done that on the way out, and it’s hard to top Zion National Park. So then I started thinking about making it all the way home in one shot.

The more I thought about it the more attractive it sounded. I was missing Beth and Zoe, so getting home quicker would be good. The 500 mile days I’d been a little concerned about as I planned the trip had turned out to be cakewalks, so I wanted to test myself and see how much further I could make in a day. And finally, I was really just kind of tired of being out on the road and I was ready to be home again. So I decided to go for it.

But first, I had to stop at the Four Corners, one of the biggest, dingiest, cheesiest tourist traps I’ve ever seen. And I played tourist to the hilt — I asked strangers to take my picture, I bought cheap-ass Indian jewelry for Beth and Zoe and my mom, and I bought a Four Corners T-shirt for myself. What can I say? I like cheese.

Entry to Four Corners
Four Corners
Trapped Tourist @ Four Corners
Four Corners Tourist Trap

But once I’d had my cheese ration it was time to make some miles, so I mounted up and headed west with purpose. From that point on I tried to stop only for gas. Tried, I say. I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep the night before, seeing as how I’d spent the night getting dripped on in a leaky tent, so I had to make a few wake-up stops along the way as well.

One of the stops was here, at the Blue Coffee Pot Restaurant in Kayenta, AZ. The special of the day was mutton stew with Navajo fry bread. The stew was really just soup, and I’m not fan of soup — soup is a beverage, not a food. And the fry bread reminded me of naan, which is also Indian fry bread, but Indian from India, not Indian from America. My sleep-deprived brain thought that was really fucking clever at the time.

Blue Coffee Pot Restaurant

When I got to Kingman, AZ, which was just about the halfway point home, I was really dragging ass. I was half asleep, hot, sweaty, and felt like crap. I really wanted to get a room at the local Hampton Inn, jump in the pool, and then sleep for a few hours. But on the other hand I also really wanted to get home.

So I did the most logical thing possible: I went to Dairy Queen and had a banana split and a cup of coffee, and that did the trick. With all that caffeine and sugar in my system, I felt good to go again, and go I did. I blasted for home, stopping only for gas the rest of the way.

I finally rolled into my own driveway around 9 pm that night after clocking just over 750 miles on the day. Six days, two thousand five hundred fifty two miles had all gone by in a blur and I was finally home again.

All told, it was a great trip. It was my first long road trip on a motorcycle and I loved it. Now I know what I and my bike are capable of, so I think I’ll be doing more of these road trips. They’re exactly as much fun as I thought they’d be.


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August 11, 2007 - Saturday

 Colorado Trip, Part II

Day 4 — Continued
In and around Big Thompson Canyon, CO

The first half of the day was the fun — riding the Glen Haven route twice — once with camera, once without — enjoying the view in Estes Park, being out and about in the Rockies on my bike. Fun. But the halfway point of the day was when the universe decided to, as they say, bring the pain.

First was the flood victims memorial flyer that I came across in Glen Haven. I asked around after I saw that, asking locals if anyone else knew about it — nobody did. The universe just put that out there for me, I guess. All this time I’d known I’d be there at the river on the anniversary of the flood — hell, I stayed on the river for the anniversary of the flood in some weird form of tribute — but it never occurred to me that there might be some kind of ceremony or service. And yet there it was.

But before that I had family business to deal with: scattering my dad’s ashes in the river and seeing my I-guess-you’d-call-them-estranged half-sisters in the process. We stay in contact, but very minimally. So that was a guaranteed good time.

Charlene, me, Christine

Charlene and I email occasionally, but I have virtually no contact at all with Christine. There’s a weird, fucked-up dynamic between them out there and me and my immediate siblings here in California, and I think much of it is driven on their end by assumption (I’m assuming) and misinformation and resentment and I don’t know what. For me personally it’s more about just being tired of all the tension and perceived anger and my natural first instinct to just pull back and isolate myself from it all. For my brothers I think there’s resentment toward my father that is bleeding over onto his 2nd set of kids (Charlene and Christine), coupled with some anger at them for some things they’ve done and said in their own anger and hurt. And as for my sister out here in California… Well, who fucking knows. She’s an alien to me and I am baffled by the way her brain works. So with all that, my brothers and sister here in California didn’t come out to Colorado to scatter our father’s ashes, it was just me and his 2nd set of kids in Colorado. So I was meeting up with Charlene and Christine with all that as a backdrop, so I was looking forward to that.

When they showed up at the river with Dad’s ashes in a box, and with his old friend Vic’s widow Pauline in tow, I wasn’t sure what the mood would be. Thankfully, it was friendly and low key. Whatever differences they had with me and mine were put aside, at least for the day. I was relieved. I felt a little bit awkward with them, given all the above, but I think we all came together well.

Scattering Dad's Ashes

We took the box with the ashes down to the riverside and I opened it up with a pocketknife. As I did so, I took a moment to note how surreal it all was — to be standing in that spot, on that day, with all that history, with my dad in a bag in a box, cutting it open so we could throw it in the water… The 13-year old I had been living there in the canyon 31 years before never could have dreamed this would be waiting up the road. It’s two weeks in my past now as I write this and it still doesn’t seem real.

My Dad in a Box

We each took a handful of ashes and threw them into the wind and the river. Me, Charlene, Christine, and Pauline each took our own moment, said our own goodbyes, took my dad in our hands, and scattered his ashes. We were surprised at how much was left after we had each taken our turn, so I poured about half the remaining ashes into the river and we watched as they formed a gray cloud in the water that bloomed as the current carried it away.

Dad's Final Resting Place
Dad's Ashes
Dad's Ashes

We stood there for awhile afterward, just talking and thinking and absorbing the sights and sounds. We shared memories about my dad, laughed a bit, I think each of us shed a few private tears. Then we drove back to my motel where we sat around and continued talking and reminiscing for awhile before it started getting late. They had to get back down to Loveland and I had to get ready for the flood victim memorial, so we said our goodbyes, promised to keep in touch, and they left.

After they were gone, I performed my own private ceremony with the remainder of my dad’s ashes. I had written a letter to him the night before saying all the things I wish I could while he was still here and saying my goodbyes, and I took that letter and his ashes down to the banks of the river directly across from where the restaurant once stood. I read the letter out loud to the river and to him, then I burned it and let its ashes blow into the river and poured the rest of his ashes in the river after it. It felt like the right thing to do. It felt like a good goodbye to my father.

Dad's Ashes

Then I went to the flood victim memorial service, where I got another kick in the emotional nuts.

There are two memorial sites set up for this in the canyon, but I had somehow never found this one before. The first site, which I’d been to twice before on previous trips and can’t find a picture of now, is a tribute to two police officers who sacrificed their own lives saving others in the flood. This memorial was a tribute to all the victims and I don’t know how I had missed it before. It’s exactly what I always throught the other one should have been.

Big Thompson Flood Memorial

144 people died in that flood, including 8 people who were in my dad’s restaurant, The Covered Wagon, that night. Three of them — Martin and Frances and their son Adam, were like family to me. They’re why I decided to scatter my dad’s ashes there in the river, and on that date.

Big Thompson Flood Memorial

So I’m standing there at memorial, waiting for the service to start, and people kept eyeballing me. It’s a rural area and most of the people knew each other, so I was out of place because I was a stranger. Eventually an older woman, Barb, asked who I was and who I’d known in the flood. I told her my dad had owned the Covered Wagon and she immediately knew who I was. Apparently my sister Christine had spoken to her once about buying a brick in our dad’s name there at the memorial and she put the pieces together from there.

With all that I’d been through that day and all that I had on my mind as I stood there at the memorial, I was pretty much on the ragged edge, emotionally. Barb knowing exactly who I was and what my link had been to the flood was hard enough and I was sort of struggling to keep it together. I wasn’t crying or teary-eyed, but I was close.

And then she said “I have some pictures of Adam to show you” and I just fucking lost it.

First of all, I hadn’t said a word about Adam, only that my dad had owned the restaurant, so her knowing that I knew him blew me away. Secondly, learning that there were pictures of Adam there was like a punch in the gut — I’ve only seen him in my memories for 31 years and I didn’t know pictures of him existed anywhere, let alone here. It was all too much — I had started the day thinking all I had to deal with was scattering my dad’s ashes, then I learned about this memorial service, then I met this woman who knew who I was and what I was carrying with me, and then I found out she had pictures of Adam.

I lost it. In a controlled manner, of course, but I did lose it. I had to turn away from her and walk back to my bike and I stood there for a few minutes fighting back tears and trying to get myself back together. And of course she followed me and was comforting and caring and reached out to me saying, “Oh come here, you’re not too big for a hug” and that just made me lose it worse, and then the fact that she was fighting back tears too just added to the party. So we had us a good hug and I went with her after the service to see Adam’s pictures.

He looks just like I remember him, but also younger. He was only 8 at the time, and I was 13, and childhood memories aren’t the most reliable, but those pictures were definitely the Adam I knew and remembered and still miss. He was a good kid. I’m glad Barb showed me those pictures.

By nightfall I was pretty much wrung out and just wanted to get back to my room and get to bed. I was checking out the next morning and considering heading south to Cortez, CO, which was near my dad’s last hometown of Dove Creek. I was debating heading down that way and maybe making a pass through Dove Creek as one final goodbye to my dad. So I broke out the Zumo GPS and my atlas and started planning.

And now, I’m going to wrap this entry up. Days 5 & 6 come in the next one.


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August 7, 2007 - Tuesday

 Colorado Trip, Part I

Day 1

Los Angeles, CA to Hurricane, UT. 415 miles.

The plan was to make St. George, UT and call it a day. I ended up going further than that — made it to Hurricane, UT.

It was normal LA traffic until I’d been on the 15 for awhile. North of Apple Valley and Victorville it started feeling more like I was on a trip instead of just a long ride around town. Outside of Barstow there was a huge traffic jam — miles long, bumper to bumper. People were out of their cars, talking, looking, hanging, waiting. One guy in his mid-20s was standing on top of the concrete divider and pumping his arm in the classic “blow your horn” motion to 18-wheelers going the other way. He had one taker as I went by.

I-15 Traffic Jam
I-15 Traffic Jam

Me, I didn’t wait in the traffic backup. I rode mostly along the breakdown lane on the right, did a little bit of lanesplitting just for variety, but it was much easier on the side. I rode on the inside breakdown a little too (that’s where the horn kid was) but it was asphalt there instead of concrete and there was a lot of debris. I was afraid I’d hit a nail or something and get a flat, so I bailed out of that pretty quickly.

I finally came to the head of the backup, where a Land Rover Discovery had gone under the side of an 18-wheeler’s trailer. A helicopter was landed there waiting, but it was obviously going to be a long wait: they had cut the engine and the rotors were still. I got some pictures of it as I went by — the fire crew was still trying to extricate the victim. It looked pretty bad.

Accident on I-15 North

After clearing that, I stopped in Barstow for lunch, at a funky little mexican restaurant that had stuffed animals EVERYwhere. Tigers, zebra, bears, gazelle, etc. It was odd. Food was good though — but I hope the flautas really were chicken and not something from the wall.

Mexican Restaurant Menagerie

When I got to St. George I found some kind of convention was going on. They place was crawling with sales types — all in dress slacks, white shirts and power ties. I think they would have been in full suits but it was too hot. Some were, though. And they were EVERYWHERE. Crossing the street, blocking traffic, just crawling everywhere like ants. And it turned out they were all convening on the convention hall at the Hilton where I was trying to get a room on points. Hilton was booked solid — in fact they said the whole town was booked and that I’d be better off continuing on to Hurricane or Springdale.

I stopped in Hurricane because the girl at the desk had given me the address of a hotel there, but I wish I had pushed on to Springdale. I made great time and could have kept going. I decided to stop because tomorrow’s plan calls for going through Zion National Park and I didn’t want to be doing that at dusk. If I hadn’t had that planned I probably would have pushed on for another hundred miles or so. I was a little worried that I was being too ambitious in planning 500 mile days but I see now that that isn’t going to be a problem — 500 miles is a piece of cake … at least on Day One.

I’m holed up now in a Super8 motel room that I think I paid too much for — $65, when their advertised rate is $38. The clerk said that’s the weekend rate, but I think I probably could have gotten that rate if I’d really tried. Next time. And since I’m in a motel room, it’s time for the ever popular View From Here shots:

Hurricane, Utah
Hurricane, UT

Had dinner at the JB something-or-other next door, took a dip in the pool, and now I’m getting tired. I think I’ll go to sleep early and try to get an early start tomorrow. Tomorrow’s planned route calls for a stop in Torrey, UT which is now only about 4 hours away since I got further today than expected. I’m probably going to push on further — maybe to Rifle; that would be pretty cool. It’s about 500 miles, which I think is doable depending on how “scenic” the early part of the day is.

Day Two
Hurricane, UT to Glenwood Springs, CO. 517 miles.

I was up by 7 am, packed and out the door by 8. I headed east and 20 minutes later I was entering Zion National Park. It was beautiful. As I was planning this trip, one of the areas I wanted to ride through was southeastern Utah because I love the desert landscape there. Zion had everything I was looking for without having to detour half a day out of my way to see it. It was well worth the $12 entry fee.

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Riding through Zion was the big plan for the day. I didn’t know how much time it would take, so I planned a short day that would end at Torrey, UT — about 200 miles away. I got through Zion pretty quickly, actually, and then enjoyed the back country on the way to Torrey.

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As motorcycling days go, this was one of my top ones. At one point I had Barenaked Ladies “If I Had A Million Dollars” on the stereo, I was singing along at the top of my lungs, and smiling from ear to ear. Everything came together this morning and in that moment, everything was just perfect. The fact that Utah is a no-helmet-law state may have had something to do with it, but I’ll never tell because Beth would have a heart attack if she thought I wasn’t wearing my helmet. But I’ll say this — feeling the wind in your hair on a motorcycle feels decidedly different when the last time you felt it was 20 years ago and you still had hair.

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I ended up making Torrey by 1 pm. I stopped there for lunch (breakfast, actually) and to take a much-needed break. One thing I’ve noticed about these long trips is that I start getting goofy as I get tired — I start riding like a rookie and making stupid mistakes. Target fixation in the twisties instead of looking through the turns, duck-walking through gravel parking lots because I feel like I’m going to drop the bike, starting from a stop really slowly and wobbly — stupid stuff that makes me mutter at myself to quit being such an asshole. I was getting into that zone when I reached Torrey, so I knew I needed to get off the bike and take a break.

Torrey, UT

After lunch I started feeling better so I hit the road again with a new plan: Rifle or bust. Since I’d already made my planned miles for the day I decided to take care of some of tomorrow’s so I’d have some flexibilty. I looked at the map in a convenience store (three of them, actually, and at such length that I think the counter girl was about to make me buy them) and calculated that I could definitely make Grand Junction, CO by dusk, and maybe even Rifle if I made good time. So with that plan I got back on the road.

The great thing about the route I took today up to that point is that it wasn’t super-slab riding — I was on state highways, not the interstate. Interstate riding isn’t about *riding*, it’s about chewing up miles and spitting them out. There’s no finesse to it, no beauty. But on the little 2-lane highways — now that’s riding. So taking highways 89 and 12 and 24 made for a great day of riding.

I was going to have to take I-70 into Colorado, which I wasn’t looking forward to for the reasons noted above. But I needed to make some miles and it was the quickest route, so I did it anyway. But I was pleasantly surprised. I-70 through Utah was pretty much what I expected. Sure, the desert landscape is pretty, but the highway is sterile and very much separate from the desert around it. But once I crossed over into Colorado it started feeling more like a state highway. It actually wasn’t too bad.

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It was only about 4:30 or 5:00 when I got to Grand Junction so I decided to push on to Rifle, which was 60 miles further. As I approached Rifle I put my spanky new Zumo GPS to work and told it to find me the nearest hotels. I found a Hampton Inn in the list and knew I could get a free room with my frequent flier points, so I told the Zumo to get me here. It was in Glenwood Springs, another half hour up the road, so I passed through Rifle and stopped in Glenwood Springs. And here I am now, in the Glenwood Springs Hampton Inn.

Glenwood Springs, CO
Glenwood Springs, CO

Mileage total for the day: about 500. I’m only about 200 miles from my final destination in Colorado, so I think I’ll use that flexibility I gave myself and take an especially scenic route tomorrow. Where I’m going is in the Rockies midway between Loveland and Estes Park and I was planning on coming up through Loveland, but now I think I’ll come in via Estes Park. I’ll take Highway 34 through Rocky Mountain National Park aka. the Trail Ridge Road, the highest paved continuous highway in the United States. It tops out around 12,000 feet, so the view should be incredible.

And now… Off to bed. Pictures to follow, maybe, probably. I’ll probably just go back and edit them into this, but in the meantime you can go check out my flickr set with all the pictures from this trip.

Day 3

Glenwood Springs, CO to Estes Park, CO. 205 miles.

I got off to a late start today because I knew I didn’t have that far to go, so there was no reason to push. Besides which, I knew I had to talk to the Hilton HHonors desk to make sure my room was covered with points, and I had to call the motel I was trying to stay at between Loveland and Estes Park — the Two Eagles Resort — to see if I could get a room.

The 2 Eagles is directly across the river from where my dad’s restaurant used to stand and I wanted to stay there so I could be, as goofy as it may sound, close to the spirit of what I was there for — memorializing my dad on the anniversary of the ’76 flood, and by extension memorializing my friends who died in it. The hangup was that I only wanted the room for two nights but the proprietor required a 3 night minimum, and we’d been going back and forth for weeks about letting me have the room for less than her minimum. Long story short: she agreed to rent me a room for 2 nights.

So. I got up at 8:00, made my phone calls and sorted everything out, farted around for a little while, and finally packed up and hit the road by 10:00. Since I was ahead of schedule and had given myself the flexibility to explore, I decided to take a scenic route to my motel. My original plan had me taking the interstate up through Loveland and approaching from the east, which was going to make for a boring ride (by Colorado standards, at least — it’s still a decent ride even with the superslab). My new plan had me riding a series of county roads in the high plains, going through Rocky Mountain National Park on the Trail Ridge Road, and coming in through Estes Park. Much more scenic, and about the same mileage and time. Go figure.

My first leg took me to a wide spot in the road called Toponas. I gassed up at the general store and continued on, heading east across the high plains on a small county road.

Toponas, CO

Probably half an hour in I came across some major roadkill: a dead elk at the side of the road. Skid marks told the story: it had been hit by a car or truck. Judging by the size of the skid marks I’d say it was a truck, and judging by the size of the elk I’d say it fucked the truck up good. Naturally, I took pictures.

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Road Kill

A few miles further on, I started scaring the shit out of myself. As I mentioned earlier, when I get tired I start riding like a newbie and start making stupid mistakes. I was well-rested today, but something had gotten into my head and I was nervous and tense about the day’s ride through challenging terrain, and so I started riding like an idiot early.

I was being way too tentative going through the turns, braking hard for no reason, riding the rear brake (very much not indicated in a turn), going too slowly, weaving through my line, etc. And then the icing on the cake came on the nice easy right-hand curve that I target-fixated on and ended up crossing over the yellow line and into the oncoming lane, where I would have been splattered if a log truck had been coming.

That scared the piss out of me. I started yelling at myself and cursing and generally getting pissed off — not that it helped. I didn’t make any more boner moves of that caliber on the day, but I definitely wasn’t riding up to my usual standards. I don’t know what the deal is but it’s really bothering me.

Aaaaanyway. I stopped for lunch at a little Mexican joint in a small town called Kremmling, then continued on to the high point of the ride: going through Rocky Mountain National Park.

Kremmling, CO

The park wasn’t quite what I had expected. It was beautiful and spectacular and I don’t mean to take anything away from the experience, but I was expecting something more … challenging. First of all, looking at the road on Google Maps, it looks like a maze of switchbacks and looping turns and precipitous drops. Then, reading the hype about how it’s the highest continuous paved road in the US, well that makes it sound pretty extreme too. So these things made me think it would be like Beartooth Pass in Montana, which was a pretty intense ride. And it was like that in terms of scenery and the alpine environment, but as rides go it was pretty smooth. It certainly wasn’t worth all the heebie-jeebies I gave that made me try to get myself pasted by a truck.

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So, bottom line: really pretty ride, but pretty easy too. Oh yeah, except for that bit at the summit where they’re repaving it. There’s a stretch about half a mile long that’s just dirt and gravel, and mostly uphill from the side I was coming from, which makes for a slightly hairy ride on a Harley. But that was the worst of it and even that wasn’t that bad. So I’m just a geek.

Trail Ridge Road being repaved

Exiting the park put me into Estes Park and just a few miles up the Big Thompson Canyon from my final destination. So I decided to stock up on groceries on the way since I knew there wouldn’t be any easily reached restaurants in the canyon. So I had the Zumo tell me where the nearest supermarket was, and on the way to it I stumbled across Stephen King geek heaven.

Now, I’ve always known that the Overlook Hotel from The Shining was in Estes Park, and I’d sort of had it in the back of my mind that if I had time I might go looking for it on this trip — but it was waaay in the back of my mind and I didn’t think I’d really do it. But then I saw it from the highway. And so of course I had to go.

I parked my bike and practically scampered to the courtyard, where I whipped out my cell phone and called Beth. I was in full geek excitement mode as I told her “Guess where I am! I’m at the OVERLOOK HOTEL!!!” Beth’s response was decidedly lackluster: “What’s that?”

Oy. But I didn’t care. I corralled some random tourist to take pictures of me standing at the entryway, then I went inside and looked around in the lobby. I looked into one of the ballrooms and imagined Jack Torrance talking to the ghosts of the Overlook in there and talking about how “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” and chills went down my spine. It was full-on geek alert, let me tell you. I was as excited as an 18-year old virgin at prom, and believe me when I tell you that I have personal experience with just how excited that is — both at the Overlook and at prom.

Overlook Hotel

…and now I’m in my motel room and trying to sleep. In fact I was already asleep, but then the people in the next room arrived at 11 pm and proceeded to make as much noise as is humanly possible. It woke me up, so I decided to get up and start writing this, and about halfway through it they were making so much noise that I had to go knock on their door and ask them to pipe the fuck down.

I don’t know what was going on in there, but it sounded like either someone chanting prayers or a weird kid singing to himself while playing videogames or I don’t know what, but it was loud. And now, thankfully, they’ve shut up.

So now I can go to sleep. Again. I have a big day ahead of me tomorrow: I have to scatter my dad’s ashes in the river and try not to cry.

Day 4

Estes Park & Loveland, CO.

Today was an emotional one, with a lot of it ambushing me and taking me by surprise.

It started quietly enough — or not. There’s a couple staying in one of the other cabins here who are fellow Harley riders and they’re using this motel as their base of operations as they spend their days riding in the area. They hit the road at 7:00 this morning and their motorcycle firing up is what woke me. So fine, I got up and started my own day of riding.

Ah, but you’re looking for the View From Here, aren’t you? Here’s the room:

Big Thompson Canyon, CO

…and here’s the view:

Big Thompson Canyon, CO

And now, on with the story. I got up and set out in search of breakfast. There are precious few restaurants here in the BigThompson Canyon; instead it’s overrun with campgrounds and hotels. I knew there was a restaurant a few miles upriver in the town of Drake, so I headed that way. But as I arrived in Drake (and by arrived I mean “didn’t blink and miss it”) I was distracted by a shiny fork in the road with a sign indicating another small town called Glen Haven down the road that-a-way. I’d read something online about the general store in Glen Haven having cinammon rolls “as big as your head,” and since I have a pretty damn big head I figured I’d better go see that. So to paraphrase my close personal friend Robert Frost, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Or something like that.

So I detoured up the road to Glen Haven and immediately regretted not bringing my camera with me. I saw many sights worth photographing, which is what always happens when you leave your camera behind. What usually doesn’t happen is that you go back and get your camera and do it all over again, but that’s what I did, so I have the pictures after all.

There were a few road signs scattered about advising that the area was “Free Range,” which meant that you might encounter cows lounging in the road. I didn’t see any, but I did see a house whose owners obviously don’t own any cows. I knew this because of the big sign by the road that read “COWS NOT MINE!!!” I got a picture of it, too, but it’s so out of focus that you can’t even make out the sign, let alone read it.

Not My Cows

Further on in I encountered highway workers laying down fresh tar on the road. Out in the middle of nowhere, free range country fer fucks sake, and I get stuck in a traffic jam. Go figure. At least I wasn’t stuck behind the bicycle…

Back Road Traffic Jam

When I finally got through the traffic jam I nearly got pasted by the tar truck. The whole line of cars (and bicycle) was following the tar truck down the one open late and they were going about 5 miles an hour. I decided to pull off and wait for them to get ahead, rather than riding my clutch and inching along with them all. I stopped, got off the bike, took some arty nature pics, then I got back on and headed up the now-clear road again. Only trouble is that I took so long to get going again that the tar truck had apparently turned around and was coming back my way, because I came around a blind curve to find him coming at me in MY lane. He swerved and missed me, fortunately, but I took a moment to reflect on my recurring theme of going wide on turns and crossing into the oncoming lane. At least this time it was HIM doing it rather than me — not that that would have made any difference if he and/or I had been going any faster.

SANY0211

Anyway… When I finally got to Glen Haven I found that this is a town with an insecurity complex of some kind.

Not Drake

It’s not enough to tell you that they’re Glen Haven, they had to add the not-Drake distinction. (For what it’s worth, I liked Glen Haven better.) I also found the General Store, which unfortunately was out of cinnamon rolls. So I had a sandwich for lunch instead. (Yeah, I know — I was supposed to be looking for breakfast. Remember, please, that I went through this whole thing once without my camera, then went back to do it again with it. That took me past breakfast and into lunch.)

SANY0219

The emotional ambushing I mentioned earlier started at the general store. In the store window was a flyer for the 31st Year Remembrance Service for the victims of the Big Thompson flood I’ve mentioned here before. It was happening today, in about six hours, and I knew I had to be there. So now I not only had my dad baggage to deal with, I also had Martin and Frances and Adam too. More on that later…

Memorial Flyer

Aaaanyway. Continuing on, I followed the road out of Glen Haven to Estes Park. It was your nice, classic country road, but it had two nasty back-to-back double uphill hairpin turns. Negotiating those while staying in my own lane without dumping the bike was a nice challenge, but I was up to it. And my reward was this:

SANY0222

Just a hundred yards after the second switch-back, you come over a rise to see this, the whole Estes Valley laid out in front of you. This picture doesn’t do it justice, so trust me when I tell you that it’s spectacular. It may be one of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen. I think I’d kill to own property there.

Later on I met met my half-sisters and scattered my dad’s ashes, then still later on I attended the flood memorial service, but right now I’m tired and I want to go to bed and that’s a lot of heavy stuff to write about, so I’ll post the rest later.


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July 16, 2007 - Monday

 The View From Hollister

I’ve been doing a lot of riding on my Harley lately and I’ve gotten involved with a club that I’ve been doing a lot of that riding with. We all rode up to Hollister, CA on 4th of July weekend for the 60th annual Hollister Independence Rally, which also happened to be the 61st anniversary of the infamous “Hollister incident” that made the club I’m riding with famous.

Most of us camped out while we were up there, but a few of our guys stayed at a hotel in town. I was all set to camp out — I even brought an extra tent for anyone who needed one — but I ended up lucking into one of the hotel rooms in town the first night. So continuing the View From Here tradition, here’s the view from room 134 of the Hollister Inn in Hollister, California.

First the room:

Hollister, CA

Then the view:

Hollister, CA

Now that I think of it, I guess I should have taken a View From Here picture from the tent the next morning, too. Oh well, maybe next time. Because I’ll tell you what: this was my first time camping in something like 25 years and I had forgotten how much fun it is — especially on a motorcycle. I have a motorcycle trip to Colorado planned for the end of this month and I may try to do some camping along the way instead of staying in hotels like I had originally planned.

That is all.


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October 13, 2006 - Friday

 The View From Tempe

I’m back from Phoenix, where I actually stayed in Tempe. There’s a lot of that for me in Phoenix, apparently — go there but not go there. Go figure.

Anyway, here’s the ever-popular view of the room:

Tempe, AZ

…and here’s the even more popular view out the window:

Tempe, AZ

I’m pretty proud of how I was able to focus on the window screen in that picture. I certainly didn’t want to be able to see and comment on the porn video shop and lingerie modeling joint that would otherwise have been clearly visible. No, I wouldn’t want that…


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October 11, 2006 - Wednesday

 The View From Anthem and Montreal and St. Louis

I’ve been remiss about posting my View From Here pictures again. Mea culpa and all that Latin crap. Since the last entry showing the fabulousness of Wichita, KS, I’ve also been to Phoenix, Montreal and St. Louis. Truly, I am a world traveler — if by “world traveler” you mean someone who travels only in the upper portion of the North American continent. But no matter, you’re here for the view. So…

First we have Phoenix, AZ — or rather the small suburb of Anthem:

Anthem, AZ

…and that’s where my camera’s batteries died. I had to take the view picture with my camera phone and I can’t get reception to download it right now, so… Imagine a beautiful desert landscape … with a hotel pool in the foreground and a Denny’s in the background. That’s what you have to look forward to here in the next day or so.

…and then I got all francophile with it and went to Montreal, QC, where they all speak French and when the hotel desk clerk asked if I spoke French, I responded “Si!”

Here’s the quaint little room with its quaint little double beds…

Montreal, QC

…and here’s the view of the Frenchy-speaking outside:

Montreal, QC

…and finally the wonderfulness that is St. Louis, MO. I have a weird mental block about St. Louis — I always confuse it with New Orleans. I have no idea why — until this trip I’d never been to either, they have nothing in common, they’re not even in the same region. But still, in my head, if you say St. Louis I think new Orleans … and vice versa. So the Cardinals play in the bayou and St. Louis was hit by a hurricane. Go figure. But here’s the photographic evidence that I’ve been to one that wasn’t the other … not that that’s going to help me tell them apart.

Here’s the not-New Orleans room:

DSC00112-1

…and here’s the still not-New Orleans view:

St. Louis, MO

And I’m in Tempe, AZ as I write this, so look for a fresh new view from here entry tomor– Oh, let’s be honest, it’ll probably be a week or two. So now you have something to look forward to. Or not.


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September 22, 2006 - Friday

 The View From Wichita

I was in Wichita, KS a few weeks back and never got around to sharing the view with you, Constant Reader. My humble apologies.

Here’s the room at the luxurious (not) Four Points Sheraton – Wichita Airport:

Wichita, KS

…and here’s the view. And, yes, that’s my PT Cruiser knock-off in the parking lot.

Wichita, KS

PT Cruisers are very popular cars. I used to work with a guy who loves them. Me, I hate ’em. I think they look like hearses for midgets.


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August 26, 2006 - Saturday

 The View From Hillbilly Country

I took me a little tour of hillbilly country this week. First up was a client in West Jefferson, NC, where the dominant industry is Christmas tree farming. That made for an interesting landscape, actually — it’s really pretty country up there, with scattered lots of pine trees growing in neat rows on the hillsides. It must be beautiful up there when the snow falls. I also saw quite the unique sight while I was up there: at the side of the road, framed by tree-covered mountains on all sides, hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean, parked on a wooden frame with no trailer in sight, was a 25-foot sailboat with a For Sale sign propped against it. Wacky.

Of course I didn’t get any pictures of any of that. But I did get pictures at my hotel in nearby Boone, NC.

Boone, NC

Boone, NC

Following North Carolina, I was set to work with some clients in Kentucky, but they cancelled, so I got to come home early. I still had to go to Kentucky, though, because it was cheaper to go home early from there than from North Carolina, so I flew to Louisville and spent the night in a complete dump of a hotel — it was so bad that the cab driver warned me to “Watch yourself’ on the ride over from the airport. Nice. I stayed here for about five hours, then caught the first flight out for Los Angeles at 6:40 a.m. — and then went into the office until about 4:00, which made for a roughly 18 hour day. Nice.

Here’s the room:

Louisville, KY

And here’s the view:

Louisville, KY

Trust me when I tell you that there’s a high likelihood that hookers and drug dealers are somewhere in the background — in both pictures.


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August 16, 2006 - Wednesday

 The View From Springdale, AR

Greetings from Springdale, AR. I decided to switch it up this time and I’m staying in a Doubletree Club Hotel rather than my standard Hampton Inn. Same great Hilton parent, better amenities — and, surprisingly, at a lower rate. Woo.

I got here much earlier than I expected — 2:45 rather than 6:00 — because I wrapped up very early in Fort Smith. The woman I was training was… How to put this delicately? A pain in the ass. She very much didn’t want to be trained on the new software and wasn’t shy about showing it, was bitchy and unpleasant to me in general, and periodically would just turn away from me in mid-sentence to check her email and make phone calls. Plus, she had a lazy eye, so I couldn’t quite tell if she was paying attention to me or staring at the ceiling. Given her poor attitude, my money’s on the ceiling. And I think she thought I was gay — she got this sour lemon type expression when she noticed the earring in my right ear, so I made a point of camping it up after that — lots of pointing at things on the screen with my pinkie and flamboyant gestures and much talk of “and this is a fabulous feature…” By the time I left I started thinking I was gay.

Anyway, she was a PITA and kept me cooling my heels for an hour this morning when she was late, so she was trained accordingly: high speed, high level, sorry if you didn’t catch that let’s move on. I was out of there by 12:45. Seeeee ya!

And now I’m in Springdale. And I’m wondering what the hurry was. Check it out, see if you can find a reason I hurried:

Springdale, AR

Springdale, AR


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August 15, 2006 - Tuesday

 The View From Dog Vomit — aka Fort Smith, AR

As a dog returns to its own vomit, so too do I seem to keep coming back to places I’ve already been. I’m in Fort Smith, AR this time — again.

I was here three years ago, in September of ’03, when I was here for nearly two soul-sucking weeks. It was one of the first entries (#5) in my world-famous View From Here series, and also the site of the not-quite-as-world-famous Flickr photo set A Visit to Waffle House. I stayed in this very hotel, too. In a different room, but same hotel. And down the road at Waffle House, where I had dinner Monday night, Sam is still working the grill. I found that somehow comforting … and sad for Sam. This time, mercifully, I’m only here for three days. Sam’s been on the grill for three years. Damn.

I hadn’t started doing pictures of the room yet last time I was here, so I don’t have anything to compare this room’s picture to, but trust me when I say this room’s better. It has a flat-screen TV and a fridge and microwave, and most importantly: high-speed internet now — last time it was a slow dial-up connection. Progress is good.

Fort Smith, AR

The view has improved too. Last time I had a great view of the parking lot out back, this time I have a great view of the Fridays’ parking lot across the street.

Fort Smith, AR

I’ll be checking out in the morning and then heading north to Springdale, AR in the afternoon. Watch for another exciting View From Here entry from, well, there.


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